What My Ears See (1980)







When the telephone rings

I answer     hello?

Small child says hello back

In a patient mother voice

I ask


Who are you calling?

Who do you want?


Child’s garble forces me to attention

More questions


What is your name?

How old are you?


Child says she is Yvonne

She is four years old

Behind her voice

I hear raucous noise

From a television

It makes me think

Of a Jackson Pollock painting

A wild canvas of colors

With this child

In the middle of it


Where are you Yvonne?


I push my voice into the wires

Shove it against the TV racket

The tangle of colors

Into her ears


What city do you live in?

What street     what house?


I’m at …


Her words disappear into the shrillness

Of the TV

Swallowed up     unknown     unheard

Then clear as a piece of Lalique glass

She says


Are you coming to me?


A feeling of sadness begins

As I answer her


I don’t know where you are


Where are you?

Who is with you?


The chaos behind her becomes louder

The colors wilder     more violent

I raise my voice asking her



Yvonne     who is with you?


She pushes her voice into the telephone

Away from the clamor

Tells me


No one


Hangs up

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash








There is tragedy

In this world

Devastation upon devastation

I cannot begin to describe it

I will not try

Enough to tell

My heart’s sadness

My mind’s despair

My feelings of being

On obsolete sidelines

Watching in the modern age

Of television

Exhausting struggles

Of those in its midst

The ravages of this


Its havoc     destruction

The heartbreak


A question     this question

Sticks like glue

To every part of my being

There are far far too


I would ask of it

Why     Why     no vaccine


It is like a serving

Of a specially loved


Any kind

They partake of

But they turn away

Tho their stomach growls

From hunger pangs


In the year


Half the population

In the known world

Died from Bubonic Plague

Called the Black Death

No vaccine     no vaccine

To save them

Some who could

Escaped to the


In cities     small towns

Carts were pulled

Up and down

The crowded filth laden

Cobblestone streets     lanes


The call     Bring out your dead

Bring out your dead

Echoes into this modern


There is a difference

A huge difference

It does not have to be

This way

It doesn’t have to



There is a gift     a blessed


In this     the twenty-first


I am grateful for it

This miracle     this one word


photo credit

Still …

“It was the best of times

It was the worst of times”

Words Charles Dickens wrote

To begin

“A Tale of Two Cities”

It is the worst of times

In the multitude of cities

That fill the map of the

United States of America

A pandemic clogs the


Of our country’s life

Even the word     pandemic

Brings feelings of panic


An avalanche

Sweeping swiftly

In and through

Every corner of our


To leave some of us

Still standing

Lives of too many


Snuffed out


Oh my children

Never would I have


Your world turned so


Against itself

It is difficult

So difficult

To accept the reality

Of this turmoil


Still—in its midst

I hear the mourning dove

Calling     calling

Still—I watch the phoebe bird

Erratically flit here     there

Catching bugs on the


The sun rises after every


Casts a muted glow

Against my closed window


And every late afternoon

Still—I am aware

Of a slow darkening


The Natural World

Follows its own path


Oh my children

Listen only to those

Who speak Truth

Follow the Light

Of your own inner


And know with certainty

You will remain safe


Never led astray


Riot (1968)




We’ll weep, Black Sister, we’ll weep together

For her whose home is dust.

Charcoaled ashes from riot weather,

A bitter wind of mistrust.

Hatred lies smoldering, pungent, and deep,

Shifting like sand.

Will she have a memory to keep

In this abounding land?

Must we, like Antigone, daughter of despair,

Live without sweet reconciliation

And beyond deeds of repair?

They’ve forgotten, those men of the law’s creation,

Whom the law should heed.

They’re not for you, Sister, so we must weep.

*from Poets are the Bravest, written 1968