What Did You Say?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did you say?

I cannot hear you

Please

Turn the volume up

On the TV

Cannot hear what anyone is saying

Either

Never mind commercials

 

It is called

Sudden Hearing Loss

Suddenly my left ear

Was like

Plugged

Far off sounds

Filtered through

Crazy     weird

Ah

But the hearing

Test

Did not lie

Suddenly

There was     indeed

Sudden Hearing Loss

In my left ear

 

Well     okay

Things could be a lot

Worse    a lot

Worse

photo credit

What is Wrong with You

 

 

 

 

Tigray     of Northern Ethiopia
Ukraine     borders Russia

They have become the background of
My hours
Hours
That seep into my
Days
Hover over my
Nights

What is wrong with
You
Abiy Ahmed
Vladimir Putin

I have deposited you
On the scrolls of
Infamy
That haunt memories

From
Millennium to millennium

Your bombs   your tanks
Your soldiers
Willing to follow your
Commands
To destroy     Life
As every woman  man

And child
Once Lived it

What is wrong
With you
What cancer
Devours the essence of your
Humanity

-April 18, 2022

Hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandmother is old, she is frail

I am one-hundred years

She says, though only ninety-seven

Her fingers trace patterns on the lap robe

And she watches as they move

To the right, to the left

I am nervous, she says

I am nervous

Then her hands lie open

On her thighs

Palms touching the blue wool

She lifts them up, then down

Slowly, again and again

I sit in a chair

Close to the one that enfolds her

Cover her hands with mind

And feel the flutter of her nerves

Like a thousand butterflies

That struggle for release

From their cocoons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Written 1982, from 2001’s Poet’s are the bravest.

With Nana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a memory of childhood

She leans over my bed

She lifts the blanket cover

And puts her hand between the sheets

Then

Flutters her fingers in the darkness

Where I sleep at the bottom

 

It is Wednesday

The nurse has half-day out

Nana comes to wake me from

My nap

Pulls up the window shades

Sees the place near my pillow

Where I tear the wallpaper

Off the wall

Says nothing

 

The peacocks

At the Lincoln Park Zoo

Wail

I cover my ears with my hands

To muffle the noise

She takes peanuts from a paper bag

Holds one in her fingers

Between the iron bars

And waits

The ducks come to snap the peanut

From her fingers

Like the cook jabs potatoes

With a fork for baking

 

She says I may have a peanut

To feed the ducks

Holds the paper bag open for me

But I am afraid to put my fingers through

The iron rails of the fence

She laughs

Says

Don’t be a goosie

They won’t bite

 

It is Wednesday afternoon

At the Lincoln Park Zoo

She wears a woolen suit

And ruffled blouse

Her gray hair under a feathered hat

I remember the feel of her cotton glove

In my hand

And the sound of her shoes

On the pavement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Written 1982, from 2001’s Poet’s are the bravest.

A Paris Play

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now

I’m going to tell you the story

Of my coming home to Paris

Where I’ve never been before

In this life

 

This I remember

It begins with rain

We dance with it over Le Pont Saint-Michel

Gray clouds hide me from Le Louvre

 

The truth is certain places nudge my soul

I grab at them too lightly to hold on

This one slides down my gullet before I can hold it back

I feel the passion of recognition explode

 

Dina is with me in this play

She leads me down an alley in the Latin Quarter

We are on the left bank of the fourteenth century

A white dog scratches at the door

Of our hotel

 

On the way, I gather faces from the lights of shops

From chairs in cafés, from flower stalls

Arranged on lips of narrow streets

I gather voices, the sound of words, language

Feet on cobblestones, the late afternoon air

On my cheeks

Pull them into my mind as fishermen

Haul nets full of fish onto sand

 

It is the first hour I am here

A man runs to a gendarme on the corner

Waves his arms, points his finger

Disappears with the gendarme down our alley

We are on the left bank in the fourteenth century

A white dog is scratching at the door

Of our hotel

 

Daughter, let the bathwater run

She is not a child to be bathed by her mother

Her childhood recedes again

She is a woman like myself

It is she who has brought me to this city

 

A blue slate roof lies across from our beds

Stone walls below it so close

We could brush them with a long handled broom

We are taking off our clothes

The bathwater runs

It is time to draw the blue flowered curtains

I go to the window and look down

 

Center stage directly below

An archway leads into the old apartment house

Under the glue slate roof across from our beds

The gendarme is there

Then four, ten, twelve gendarmes

Dark uniforms, box caps, visors hiding eyes

They talk in twos

Split, regroup, talk in threes

Gallop, canter, ride on bicycles

Into our alley, up to the archway

Twenty, thirty, forty gendarmes

 

Now comes their leader

He wears a black suit

Orders gendarmes through the archway

Orders them around on the street

Orders a passage cleared

An ambulance creeps into the alley

Comes to a stop

A stretcher rolls through the archway

I am stuck to the window

A magnet against a brass pot

Can’t move

Dina’s bathwater laps around her body

I hear it behind me

A man in a loose, white jacket

Parks his bicycle behind the ambulance

Walks slowly through the arch

I slam the blue flowered curtains shut

She is too young to witness this death

 

On my knees under the window dipping into my suitcase

It is my turn for a bath

She runs the water for me. It rushes

Into the tub. I won’t look at the ground

I promise myself I won’t look

We talk about summer in Aix-en-Provence

The lake at Annecy, spring wine

But it is too late for me, I can’t help myself

I look out again, I look down

I look right into this face Jesus Christ God Almighty

I look at him

 

He is the color of dust

He is wrapped in orange plastic

He wears a red stripe under his chin

He is put into the ambulance

He is taken away

He is very young and my love for him

Finds its place in my soul

Dina comes out of the bathroom

Hot water is ready for me

In our hotel room

Life goes on

 

Awake in the middle of the night

Empty streets, quiet after a storm

This is Paris, entangled in my guts

Beloved as a child at my breast

Music that weeps deep inside of me

Touches my heart, lightly, lightly

This is the story of coming home

To a place I’ve never been before

Dina is with me

Once again

*Written 1986, from Poets are the bravest, pub.date: 2001
Photos of our favorite Paris Hotel: Hotel du vieux Paris

 

 

Jenny

 

 

 

 

 

Jenny’s pot

Needs a rescue

From the high shelf

On the turquoise bookcase

That hangs over my desk

In the bedroom with the melon painted wall

Of our Santa Fe house

Jenny

A gentle lady from Acoma

Made this pot

Larger than her other pots

But as pots go

Not very big

Jenny called me Darling

And every August

Would sit with her pots

On a side street off the plaza

Being judged not good enough

For a booth inside the boundary line

Of Indian Market

Maybe she didn’t care

Her smallest pots sat cradled

In the pockets of an egg carton

Selling for two or three dollars

A pot

I loved Jenny

And would buy her tiny pots

To give friends

At home in California

But then she’d choose

An ornament shaped like an owl

Or a plaque with birds on it

And with both hands

Place it into mind

And say

This one’s for you     Darling

Take it

And the price would be the same

As all the little pots

Put together

I’d just bought

 

One early morning at Indian Market

As the sun climbed over the Sangres

And turned on daylight in the Plaza

Someone came to tell me

Jenny died

Gone in winter from a cancer

That gave her pain

I cried for Jenny

In front of the booths

Facing the Palace of the Governors

Cried in the middle of a crowd of people

Who had never heard her name

Who may have wondered

Over their seven a.m. cup of coffee

“What’s eating her”

Afterwards at home near the beach

I went around collecting Jenny’s pots

From my friends

Gathered them like the last roses

In October

Explained my need

And gave them someone else’s little pots

In exchange

No one seemed to mind

Jenny’s pots live a quiet life

In California

On the middle shelf

Of an old pine corner cabinet

Nine-hundred miles

From the origin of their clay

 

Now in Santa Fe

Near the top of the bookcase

Jenny’s gift to me

Sits high above my reach

Almost forgotten     unseen

I need to rescue it

Lift it down from there

Bring Jenny back

Into my awareness

Think of her everyday

And if I am grown

From that time

What was beautiful

In Jenny

May become beautiful in me

*Written 1987, from Poets are the bravest, pub.date: 2001

Love Letter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael     where are you

They found your car

On the edge of a cliff

Above the ocean

Near Daly City

And your brown leather wallet

On the front seat

But no one found you

 

I think of you often

Even after seven years

You’re legally dead now

You know

 

Once years ago

When we were kids

The sole of your right moccasin

Came loose and flip-flapped

All the way down Michigan Avenue

And the rest of us thought it was funny

To step on it if we could

You in your holey jeans

And plaid wool shirt

And then long after that time

You owned a three-story house in San Francisco

That I cleaned for you when we’d visit

Because you gave up your bed

So Steve and I could sleep together

And I’d hear the foghorn

Blowing from the bay

All night long

 

Michael

I had a dream about you

Soon after you disappeared

You were young again

You wore a powder blue jacket

With gray flannel pants

Clothes you’d never wear

When you were alive

But I saw your beautiful eyes

And you smiled at me

With nothing to hide

As you sat on the stump of a redwood tree

In the middle of Muir Woods

And there were people around you

I didn’t recognize

When I woke up

I was missing you

But understood this was a dream

That connected our two worlds

And you came to tell me

You are alive and well

In yours

*Written 1980, from Poets are the bravest, pub.date: 2001

Winter and Spring 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note: In March 2003, U.S. forces invaded Iraq vowing to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and end the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein.

*

My dear

What challenging times these are

Daunting     devastating     incredible

But believable times

We are living in

Has it always been so

Have there always been men

(Notice     I do not include women)

Men who keep threatening

Someone somewhere with something

Men who live inside their heads

Ride their egos to the brink

And isn’t it the rest of us

Who over and over again

Try to pull them back

Perhaps the reason we are here

Do you agree

What a journey it is     my dear

As I follow you through the years

As you light the way

You do light the way     you know

On this upward climb

Like a spiral     a migration circle

Around and around

Higher and higher

And yes     these are challenging times

Yes     it has always been so

How would we learn

How would we grow

How could we become

Who we’ve become

Without them

This is truth     absolute truth

Don’t you agree     my dear

*From Thunder from the Mountains, pub.date: 2007
Photo credit: https://bit.ly/37y9XRP

Amiga de mi Corazon (1991)

Title inspired by a poem, Pal of my Heart, author unknown

given to me in the late 1970s

by Jacquelyn Fowler

 

 

 

 

“Oh Wendy

No need for fake flowers

Do hope you haven’t searched for them

I want no more

Death does not need things

It stands along”

—From a letter written by Jackie, August 1991

I say to Jackie

Tell me what I should bring you

From Santa Fe

She answers flowers

Those big paper flowers

In purple and turquoise

And the red of my old Mexican serape

So I find paper flowers

In purple and turquoise

And the red of her old Mexican serape

I find them in pink too

And I find them in yellow

Bright as field mustard

Blooming in February

On the hills of San Clemente

And I carry them home

To her

In a brown shopping bag

With Artisanos

Printed in blue on its side

 

Put on your concha belt

I say to her in my dream

Pull on your suede boots

We’ll go to Chichicastenango now

And buy an olla for your flowers

Or we could fly to Peru

And climb the high snow peaks

The ice peaks

Where spaceships land behind midnight

In light from quartz crystals

That reflect a trillion stars

That reflect our years

God will listen to us there

 

She and I know each other

Across a thousand generations

Of Seagulls

Our sons have become men

Our words turn the ocean’s breath

Into poems

While a tin angel

Rusting in the night air by her window

Sings a te deum 

 

Amiga de mi corazón

Amiga de mi corazón

I have no more words

I have no song

But here are a few ordinary

Paper flowers

I carried home in a shopping bag

Tell Death to look the other way

Look the other way     Death

When I give them

To you

 

*From Poets are the bravest, pub.date: 2001

An Overview of the New Administration (1968)

 

Editor’s note: The 1968 United States elections were held on November 5, and elected members of the 91st United States Congress. The election took place during the Vietnam War, in the same year as the Tet Offensive, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, and the protests of 1968. The Republican Party won control of the presidency. … Republican former Vice President Richard Nixon defeated Democratic incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey. [Source: Wikipedia https://bit.ly/3pUyAOO] The following poem was written amidst the frustration, anger, and fear that permeated American hearts and homes.

 

Who will give warning this time

Is there anyone who will take the hot coals

Into the hands and throw them into the winds

And let the hot ashes fall onto the ground

 

There isn’t any corn to feed the children now

Only stubble of stalks and hard dry skeletons of silk

If you put your ear to the ground

You will hear the far off rumble of voices

Once there was a time we could hear the corn grow

Now it is the rumble of voices that gathers the harvest

Now the rumble of discontent grows into black clouds

That pour the hailstones into our outstretched hands

That melt into nothing

 

There is no one to give warning

No one to listen

The rumble we hear from the earth

Has grown into a roar and spreads like lava

Over the ground

And soon the ashes from Watts and Chicago and Harlem

The hunger of children and the tears of Vietnam

Are swept away

And all that is left is the wound into which

We all will bleed

 

*From Poets are the bravest, pub. date: 2001
Photo credit: https://bit.ly/3tQdBhg