It’s been two years, one month, three weeks,
four days.
Since I sat on the edge of her bed
reading “Dover Beach” aloud
for ears pressed firmly
to the final page of life.
Patches of strength
curling their corners
like bandaids over wetted skin.

And I thought I could.
Make crepes that smiled from the pan
and press her Irish linen
without the steam of tears
and tuck it out of sight.

We matched like new pairs of socks
in my underwear drawer
or widows holding hands at Sunday Mass.
I’m sure she knew I smoked
and never said a word.
But turned faux pas like broken lips
of china cups around to face the wall.
It’s been two years, one month, three weeks,
four days.

And I thought I could.
Sit on her bathroom floor alone.
Use wine to take me places I needed to go.
She had this way —
of revising defeat —
of pouring waterfalls of misery
into margarine tubs
and sending me home,
steering straight.

I still feed the daisies she left
with watered gin, and they flower
even in September’s shade.
Each book she bound with patient flesh.
Advice a gilded potpourri
sprinked like sugar
over bowls of regret.

We both agreed that bridge
was a waste of precious hours.
That poetry and shoehorns
wedged crippled toes
into the “best of times.”
It’s been two years, one month, three weeks,
four days.

And I thought I could.

*First Published in New Thought Journal

Allergies to Ivory

I understood your allergies to ivory,
anything close to white. Perhaps it was
a form to sign inside the morgue.
Vivid frost of lonely winters
after cancer shook the house,
left you only furniture
and pitch black night
without much velvet in its grain.
The livid shade of feckless hope,
of failure knocking at the door.
The color was that pat, that clean.
Death is the ultimate bleach.
The parking lot had memories
of times your shoes kicked a tire,
then returned to dust a shelf of china cups
that rattled in an avalanche.

“I’ll call you on the phone,” you said,
“but I can’t walk the ghostly halls.”
I understood the jail rails of steel beds
and gurneys that carry a world away —
then lie and do not bring it back.
That room with little on the walls but
voiding charts and memos to a passing nurse
who had no answers in her hand
but gentle ways to close the book
as raison d’être lost its glue.
I would have picked the dye myself.
Every lily told a tale
of love as poisoned manuscripts.
Anything in dirty chalk
was just too close to missing angels,
open graves, and pale moans.

*First Published in Epiphany

Yolki Blues

I am the yolki flower, the shade of an egg.
I arrive in a burst, albumen and sack,
after first treasure of rain.
I promise you things.
Your soil is deaf to my voice,
a signal of centering force.
I am Israel’s daffodil, a trumpet the poets
have bellowed through dust.
You are the frost with your habits and hands
holding a gun to temples of peace.

I shimmy with sunlight and birth.
Yet, darkness is all I’m coming to know.
Why are you plodding on trails
of a tomb in the guise and the guess
of slicing an earth meant to be shared.
Insisting on fences and walls kilometers long.
Old battles and shrapnel are eating my leaves.
In other wars, no stones, no wires
were enough to contain a rampage of terror.

A pendulum swings, cracking the clock.
This flavor of hate shrivels my flesh.
Piranhas are grabbing whatever moves.
Our quibbles are ancient sheep
gnawing the throat of an innocent lamb.
It didn’t work for Berlin,
where the Dipper shoveled a grave
and Pleiades became a fixture
of glory removed in bullets exchanged —
where shadows grew sharp,
sticky with blood,
in palettes of crippling swastikas.

*First Published in Offcourse

Grammy’s Tools

The clothesline, Grammy quipped,
is a tree house string with a can
where women gather to swirl
a rumor in lukewarm tea.
Watch your back! she warned.
The birds have ears.
They’ll carry a secret around the block.
They learn to sing from listening.
Grampa grinned from old cocoons
of hammocks on the shaded porch.
Aware she was his brick and tree,
his every grain of reasoning.
Amazed at how tortilla flesh
stood up to welcome mats of graves.
Amazed at how she passed the sun
from fingertip to fingertip
as if it were a flaming torch.

Those full-lipped white magnolia smiles
wove lasting garlands in my hands.
She spoke directly to a rose
as if its infant needed her.
Flowers learned to kneel in moisture,
then revolt again toward light.
Epiphany was just a page
of cotton shirts, blood removed,
sleeves relaxed like bygone ghosts.
Her stomach wiggled when she laughed —
bowls of tested gelatin.
An apron for her negligé…
the teeth of a washboard for silk
and a good book of dreams
to balance a menu of hail.

*First Published in Stirring Magazine

Down Those Stairs

The basement was always locked,
locked tight as a nut in a bolt.
From here the magic grew,
a guess gone wild,
a brothel of abandoned hours.
Having nothing to say,
we pressed our ears to the walls
until a story, a ghost
dropped seeds for inquisitive eyes.
Sweating like glasses dripping in heat,
we parted the cobwebs,
their living room drapes —
knew by instinct tied to time,
this place was a sunken ship
where chandeliers once burned
their tenuous suns.
A million crevices and caves,
eros of a question’s lid,
underwear drawer of a house,
forbidden but calling our hands.

Bridges we found to the sea –-
piers of an ancient storm.
A dusty chair missing a leg,
someone’s palsied, pilfered dream,
its cushion a tongue
that spoke with silence and tilt.
Too young to embrace satin dark,
accept an unanswering world
of strapless luggage,
boxes wet from a flood
like faces in an old folk’s home,
a dirty handkerchief that knows —
we listened for marching mice,
making the best of jetting
across their little roads.
Here the beams were odysseys –-
rod and staff reduced to twig.
We left the door of fear ajar
so tiny streaks of light could talk.
On the other side of the slab
colors were even and clean –-
drafts of red spaghetti sauce
promised us no poverty.

Final Picnics

“I want to go!” was all you said,
as if you were slamming a book.
So I laid out your hat,
a tube of pink lipstick and blush
replacing the color
drained from my cheeks.
Death struck me then
as pottery with handles loose.
To you it snapped like fingernails —
a casualty of brushing up
against the hardness of a life.
“You don’t need eyes to see a forest.
The picture stays in your lungs.”
I packed a red checked tablecloth
pretending the dice weren’t close.

At the edge of a grave,
even the desert looks green.
Country roads spit gravel back
like bacon cooking in a pan.
You needed the custard of clouds
while I busied my triggers
shooting at hail.
The end was soft alyssum grains
finding the gust of a faithful breeze.
Sweat on your brow
could have been streams,
could have been rain licking the moss.
A stone divided by will
is still a stone in reckoning.
Innocence was telling me
to drive around the avalanche.

*First Published in Megaera

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