On Rhyming

There’s the modern rhyme of Nabakov

which the Police have paired with cough–

as in “he starts to shake and cough”–

Sting was a teacher, hence Nabakov.

We maybe should have started out with you,

which lovers and singers rhyme with blue.

These lovers are gone and also never true,

which gives the writers lots to rhyme with you.

The best rhymes, my poetry teacher said,

were in Don Juan, which we then promptly read.

We recited rhymes to hear what Byron said,

our lack of rhyming prowess conjured dread.

Byron called us ladies intellectual,

a backhanded rhyme with hen pecked you all.



You’re across the room when my voice
makes the fitting connections in its
draped room, parting the folds, singing out,

but you did not hear me, I see you did not
stir from your task, the lamp suffusing you
with its light, its particles in their

infinitesimal flicker. And you’re with me,
close, in the dark, my voice a hush,
I whisper near your ear, but you haven’t

heard me, I know, your hands on my skin
making their sure approach: and now,
you’re across town when my voice travels

in the air, mouth just inches from a transmitter,
and if you hear, I can’t see you, you’re wherever
you are, with friends, my voice wireless,

disseminated among strangers. I am driving
too fast past mountains with mist clinging
to their snowy tops, barns, farms, power

stations fly by, I can barely hear myself,
my force an almost spent spring, everything
making a din of its own speed: I want sound

to still in its peaks and troughs, and you
to hear this voice, seep of a little lost river
gone underground, its soft course and flow.



men, friends, came, called as brothers
to lift the chair from its down-the-stairs
station into the bed of a truck, hauled

down a highway to a room where he
would heal, or that was what we all hoped:
and placed in the far corner, by a window

where one could spy a field, a mountain,
a white horse, a train: so the hush of
afternoon, where he slept and she folded

her legs up into its soft angles: then
her neck tilted to one side, their quiet
hallowing the light sifting in.

Dear Emily,

Today on my walk I saw poppies, unbloomed, lining the sidewalk. It is my favorite place, a square designated by a log fence and sometimes populated by small, ceramic gnomes. Just now, the world is ariot with blooms and buds. The poppy heads are baby green and fuzzy. The look like alien mouths about to pop open. But then do, and they transform, first intoxicating with their blaze of red and orange. Then, you may boil them to make a tea, or others find a way to take the drug directly into their blood. Do you understand? I don’t. The woman who owns this land once offered me some poppy seeds, seeing how I loved them. I can stand and adore them for hours. I took the seeds but never planted them.

Sometimes you come upon a scene and it steals your breath and that, that should be enough.

My Preferred Poisons

“Please name your preferred poisons.”
— Wendell Berry     “Questionnaire”


What is the one that ends up in the river?

Washes down from factories and such?

Dioxin? Yes, I would prefer a razor

like Dorothy Parker, who made much

of the difficulty of death. So easy

now, with the plethora of toxins

conveniently at hand, a busy

woman might encounter ricin

in the mail, lead in a glass of water,

a variety of options beneath the sink.

We say we’ll deal with those later,

but even air should make us stop and think.

We ignore the poison effects of how we live

until we’ve not another breath to give.



I’m the one with deflated inflatable packing materials
slip sliding as if on a micro cushion of supercharged
cool air, just another way to say that I’m the one

with the cold feet: the one whose weather vane
points to wet all April long because a long cold spring
reminds me of Elizabeth Bishop, walking as far as

my proto crypto dream shack, which I never walk
as far as because I’m the one who’s sitting at a window
facing away from its view, the red maple’s leaves

efflorescing and the red poppy still dreaming of it
absurd haze of color, its dark purple eyes. The mail
I’ve boxed for months, a newspaper draped on the arm

of my easy chair, my own arm inked in fugitive tattoos
—I’m definitely the one whose empty boxes tilt
and whose books incline to both disorder and vertigo,

whose packet of ink cartridges, purple, and the purple
pen itself are a reminder not of form but of chaos,
a still life—Detritus with Implements—lush with seed.

The clarities

The clarities

                        November 2016

There was a before and an after. There was
an evening that was really a night before
the night actually arrived, and it darkened
and got darker. After, there was a morning
tinged with despair. With disbelief. That door

between the night and the morning shimmered,
aura announcing, in its hallucinatory way,
the coming prehension, what was about to change,
or what had changed already, I had not yet
not taken hold of it. For weeks, I woke to wonder.

Then turned to see it in bed with me, practically,
puffed like a pillow, but noisy, unbearable.
For some people the before also rang their ears,
not so different from the ranting after. For some,
the story stayed just the same, the very thing

I had to grasp, to seize. To stand with it.



that ginger, that Jack, the ice providing
the shift and melt, an architecture
through which it would filter, dilute,
a conversation like an echo, an alley oop
far down court, and to get it on the
rebound required running ahead of my
own measure–outside the day wore
itself right out, the sun flickering down

and out and the chill rising all the way
up from the ground. I tell you, for
a moment I saw myself at my own end.

but the music, scintillating through
the making of change and the settling
of a tab, organized that, and the ice

flavored itself as ginger, as whiskey,
the thin straw, no black flag, no sign.

Thoughts on Travel

There was that time I went to Thailand on a whim,

I went to Dublin and to Prague and to Madrid.

I wanted to drink Guinness in a pub and then to swim

in the Irish Sea (I failed), but what I did

was to drink vermouth in Granada and furthermore

I toured Alhambra, saw the Prado and

consumed more Rioja than is wise. I swore

that I would dance in Spanish sand

eat paella, drink Cava, learn to speak

the way the Spanish do, with heart and tongue,

but instead I learned to cry and turn a cheek

to the lash of idioms. Oh, I was young,

don’t judge me as you do, I had my fun

but now such days are through.

horoscope haiku

driving west, the sun
blinds you: you will not see your
road, what’s before you

storm yesterday, cloud
Sunday. why weather as the
surest clairvoyant?

advice instead of
a fortune: slip of paper
crushed in my pocket

I need quiet and
hours and untwisted toes, a
tune, a shore, the sea

the card I pick says
change. I put it back. The next
card, dream of water.

rose at the window
rambles     broom buds yellow       rude
rough     wind breathes through both

last night, sleep stuttered
broke settled resumed      the light
a curtain, fluttering