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at twenty I wrote a poem
that would be a song sung
by a woman in her twenties when I was sixty
at thirty I wrote a poem
that was a dream I had at twelve
of a woman who is eternal
at forty I found that place
between the biding time and fully awake
which activated at fifty
when someone showed up
and showed me that point in my dreaming
when they first arrived, and how it all looked
through their eyes
so that when I turned sixty a girl of twenty
would know there would be ears tuned
to the song she would sing
because it was their voice
who brought it to her
in the first place
and always will...
WHEN RAISED BY PRINCES
This is what happens when royalty
which exists independent of the empire,
which springs from the loins of the tribe itself,
makes it past the checkpoints
& other measures meant to filter them out.
This is what happens when that royalty
follows the trail of impossible chords
& turns of phrase unearthed
by the simple human condition
shared through this common experience:
doves cry all along the watchtower
and we are destined to be left standing one day
beneath a collective purple raincloud.
& I wouldn't have it any other way.
That's how it is with families.
We do what we can to raise each other up
the best way we know how.
This was the scent that marked the end of summer
and the inevitable waltz into autumn's
colorful dance of crisp air and sweaters:
Cousin Tommy's delivery of
his annual bushel of gravensteins
from the tree at the end of his drive.
This was an afternoon of peeling and slicing -
always with the sharpest of paring knives -
never, ever with one of those newfangled things
made for the woman too helpless to handle a knife.
This was the trip downstairs to the big freezer
with trays of sliced apples to quick-freeze
while applesauce simmered upstairs
on the stove top and canning jars sterilized
in the hot water bath drawn for the occasion.
This was the cooking lesson given
at the kitchen counter
because every good woman must know
how to make a pie crust from scratch
and how to fill it with the perfect thin slices
tossed in sugar, a pinch of salt
and some lemon juice.
This is the scent that each year fills my kitchen
and for an evening transports me back
to that table where I watched the good woman
take that first satisfying bite and felt the season
wrap its arms around me and deliver on its warm
sweet promises once again.
“Fuck Atlas,” she sighed,
pouring another glass of wine
and adjusting her tiara.
“He doesn't interest me nearly as much
as that dude who wandered through the dark
looking for an honest corporation.”
I didn't have the heart to tell her
she had it wrong
or perhaps she didn't have the heart to tell me
she had it right.
The Barefoot Corporation is slouching toward Bethlehem
and we are freezing to death in the heat of global warming
that cannot be agreed upon. Pundits quote experts
that I have no lines for, as the Expert Poem
has already been written and discarded
as inadmissible evidence
of this endless effort
to divide us along lines
that keep us in
unable to draw a circle at least
a hundred feet round
and use what we find within
to think our way
i cannot take my eyes off
& by noon i am drunk
on her perfume
this wild bouquet
between my teeth
the aisle of spring
as if this all wasn't new
not at all concerned
Of Cabbages and Kings
December licks the winter garden with an icy tongue
and I am left to wonder if there will be too little green
to gift neighbors with on the eve of newborn Kings.
Despite tales of old and promises of eternity
I begin to suspect this is no longer the season of wonder
of miracle births and hope for resurrection.
The focus was long ago shifted to the gifts
that were brought to the manger
and now we must recreate that legend in order to stay asleep
in the dream that it was really all about the shiny things.
I do little more than celebrate the birth of a modern King
with cabbages I dig from this impossible soil
and see my worth defined by how much green I produce.
The King nods his head in approval
and defines the fallow gardens unwilling and therefore unworthy.
More cabbages are laid at his altar in support
of his exhortations as I eye the compost bin
and wonder how much of what he says will fit inside.
I contemplate the prospect of living on nothing but cabbages
for the rest of the winter and realize I would need
to wear loose fitting clothes and keep all the windows open
to accommodate the bloat and vent all the gas
that invariably builds up.
Mom's Angel Cake
Sift one and a half
cups sugar. Measure
one cup cake flour
before sifting. Sift
three times with one
half cup sugar and a
half teaspoon salt. Whip
twelve egg whites until
foamy. Add one teaspoon
cream of tartar and beat
until soft peaks form.
Add one cup of sifted sugar
one tablespoon at a time and
continue to beat after each
addition until thoroughly
incorporated. Fold in
one half teaspoon each
vanilla and almond extract.
Sift in fourths the flour
mixture into the beaten egg
whites and gently fold in.
Pour into an ungreased tube
pan and bake at three hundred
fifty degrees about 45 minutes.
Invert on a bottle and allow
to cool completely before
attempting to remove from pan.
Every year on August 6
we have my mother's favorite cake
with strawberries and whipped cream
and we remember. Although some
may disagree with me,
I think the only complaint she
really had about this country was
that they bombed Japan on her
birthday. It became her preference
thereafter to spend that day
contemplating those who were
already in the arms
of the angels.
(with special thanks to Robbie XII)
autumn regains composure,
smooths her rumpled skirts
and casts a sharp, cold glance
morning brings no offerings
to the lovers.
what lingers in their hair
what remains a fixture
when they part, is the silence
autumn crosses her legs
as i walk past her blue eyes
into noon. (my hands, white,
shake with a seasonal indifference)
the lovers, trembling with
an equal cold they have
prepared as excuse, lift
their hearts for one last
measure of rehearsed joy
muttering about the cost
of oil, i leave the furnace off
& autumn snickers.
she quotes the price for any
source of warmth this season
nothing is spared
in the silence.
all things, within reason,
as the lovers escape
their nightly promises
although it is refuge
from this cold i seek,
autumn offers me her hand
& i take it, a gamble
i hadn't anticipated making
until considering that
no matter how many times she leaves
she will always be back
summer excuses itself &
steps out onto the porch
for one last look
at the falling sun
before taking up with the fog
muttering something indecipherable
about the allure of mysterious women
summer's child begins to suspect
this may have been her last season
of running in shorts through tall grass
wanting nothing more than to hold summer's hand
feeling somewhat foolish
she lingers over a fashion magazine
studies eyeliner & rules
for white linen and labor day
as the fog leaves traces of its spoor
on the window sill
& she considers following it
to that place she has never seen
anyone return from
summer sends a postcard
with no return address
& she thinks she finds the point
in between the lines
where he hints at the reason
for seasons in the first place:
cycling in & out
to the rhythm of the sun
& the moon
because, sweet child
it really is all about change
after all . . .
the wind comes in for breakfast
& i will go out with it,
kicking up dust
the waitress closes the door
& the wind lights a cigarette.
i order hash browns & eggs
over medium while the wind,
impatient, taps its foot
the wind comes in for breakfast
bringing decisions that
HAVE BEEN MADE
and there is little i can do
about it but drink my mint tea
the waitress brings the check
and there is that moment
of hesitation. . .
dutch treat? i ask the wind,
but it won't look me
in the eye
the wind comes in for breakfast
& leaving no tip, shows me
the road, saying
Lopez Island, Washington