bright bookcover

for my Aunt Jan who is…

Beautiful isn’t it,
the way some beaches are sand
and some are small, smooth rocks and
the way the water bends like molten silver
when the weather is hot and
it’s late in the afternoon?
the way the sky tears down the middle
for lightning and mends again later on
how breath turns white in the cold and
how the world’s roads move across the land
no matter what
Beautiful, isn’t it,
the way love rhymes with glove and
silk rhymes with milk and
rage rhymes with cage?
the way the light stays on and on
during the Summer months and
a different kind of
when Fall makes it fade early
the cleanliness of bones in moonlight
when the desert is silent and without wind
the cool rind of a honeydew melon
and the perfume inside it inviting taste
the way a woman hums to herself
while she gets dressed and
sighs one hundred sighs
when she undresses
the accident of passion,
the brush of hands, then mouths,
then bodies doing more than brushing—
flesh on flesh
to music older than the stars
the smell of soap
and burning wood
and frying onions
and a diner far up the road
that you didn’t know was there
Beautiful, isn’t it,
the smooth red bark
of the manzanita plant and
a long teardrop earring
that touches a woman’s neck
and how Beautiful
a full cupboard
jars of delicious things
There is the Beautiful
ice sculpture
with perfect pink shrimp surrounding
and the Beauty of buttered potatoes
Beautiful the strange trailing roots
of water lilies and
the zippers on dark leather jackets
the figurine
of the two-headed saint and
the red satin lining
of the box it came in
a new book, a new shirt,
new sheets, a new pen.
the lover that used to matter,
the one that matters now,
and the ones that never mattered
a pain that stops,
a cut that heals,
a scar that was earned,
not inflicted
a hand sitting in for
your mother’s hand
a dance, a smile sitting in
for the ones your mother
could not give
Did I say how Beautiful
is the purity of a
man’s shaved head
or the long, dark hair,
a man might have—like
a river down his back
a drinking glass so clean
it looks like water
holding itself
a runner, a cyclist,
birthday cake
a childhood that might
never have been but was
the way you read
or hear this poem—
your eyes wishing
for everything,
wanting this to be one thing
that will not be content,
one thing
that will not be captured.


The deity that rises in my dreams
has long, pale feet like mine and bitten nails,

is the overseer of all known things.
She has metal taps on her shoes, dances

Coraboree throughout the night. She smells
like opals and Ovaltine. I wake up,

superstitious, gathering my charms and
medallions close around me, counting and

naming friends, family. I can’t afford to lose anyone.
My larder is near empty as it is.

Sometimes I think of Robinson Jeffers;
he called these “the falling years.” Why do I

know what he means? Last night I dreamed that the
deity and I were squatting on the

ground, examining the dainty bones of
a small snake I found behind a falling-

down supermarket in Baker, CA.
The ontogeny of this dream is un

known to me. But, I am certain it has
to do with my sins. My sins: I waste so

much time staring into the center of
Nothing There. I should be dancing with the

deity but my children stole my dance
shoes. Look, between you and me and Jesus,

I wasn’t using them. I waste time by
seeking eternal life in various

self-help gurus’ open-all-night signs.
I waste time worrying about how not

to waste time, how not to age, how not to
weep. I accept everything—nothing. My

deity is like me, part Jew, part not,
tethered to the Church of Rome. Maybe I’ll

auction myself on Ebay. I clean up
pretty good, but I’m not handy. Still…

when I woke this morning I remembered
in an instant that I’m a woman of

a certain age who cleans up pretty good
but is not handy. My 6th grade teacher

told my parents everything anyone
ever needed to know about me:

“Martina’s social skills,” she said, “are
somewhat limited. She should work on this.”


Hear that—that thumping inside your chest?
That is the triumph of blood over
tribulation. Get familiar. You’ll
hear it many times during your
haunted, long-gone life. You will open
the tin of each day, see your choices
laid and stacked before you like sardines
and there will be that thumping. You like
to think that the accouterments of
your past have earned you a future, but
that thumping tells you different. You like
to think that today’s good deeds ensure
tomorrow’s pleasure fields. If you listen,
that thumping will return you to what
is real. The earth turns, the murderers
are the murdered, angels stomp their feet,
spit desolation from their rouged lips.
Thump-thump thump-thump…there it is again—
the footfalls of your conscience echoing
in your chest. It would be wise to pay
attention while you can: the stars are
grains of spilled white rice, the streams you cross
are ribbons of icy vodka,
the owl—blind in one eye—watches you
search the streets for meaning, the sun cusses
the cloud that keeps chasing him, catches
then hides him while the earth shivers. Pay
attention while you can: thump-thump
thump-thump. Drift and fail. Drift and fail says
the soul of the cosmos. Drift. Fail.


Our West-of-England Tumblers had caramel stripes
on their feathers and smooth bald heads.

Their feathered feet fell soft where they landed
and the loft we built for them was as much a home

for me as it was for them. During rains, we all
watched a cloud-cluttered horizon. Those birds

warmed me so that I didn’t need a jacket.
They came close, perched unsteadily on my ankles,

took the occasional seed from my hand.
Thinking of them now, I remember the joy of naming them:

Gable & Lombard, Tracy & Hepburn,
George & Gracie, Louie & Keely.

How I impressed myself with telling which bird
was which. On sunny mornings, in the loft,

we opened the windowed perches
to watch them shoot straight up

to attack the sky, tumble 4 or 5 times
and then fly off over places unknown to us.

In the evenings they returned with bits of this
and that on their fanned feet.

I think of driving home from work in those days,
dusted with fumbles and failures and a few

here and there.

This is not just a story about birds of a feather;
it is about a quiet place with

murmuring winged things and warm bodies
seeking nothing more than each other.

“You mustn’t yell at them” said the woman
who sold us our first pair.

“They will fly off and never come back
if you do.”


By the scent of Night Blooming Jasmine
By the scent of brewing coffee
By the scent of a newly-painted bench

By the sound of no water in the L.A. Basin
By the sound of jingling tags on a dog’s collar
By the sound of Eurasian Collard Doves
crooning “pay attention.”

By the taste of cheap razzleberry jam on the
veranda of my tongue
By the taste of sauteed brown trout
By the taste of cold Chai Tea—almost
(but not quite) cinnamon

By the feel of the cat’s meaty softness
By the feel of the bright constellations
raining down on my toes and heels
By the feel of friendships that end badly

Fate’s ocean is everywhere, all around me.
When you pass your 70s, no life jackets fit,
you are alone in the water. I see it in my dreams:

my timeline comes unhooked, floats off on its own.
I grip a bit of flotsam, hanging on too tight
to recapture my lovely timeline.

My knuckles are white from hanging on
and the timeline doesn’t care, doesn’t give
a tinker’s dam for my vexation.

Vexation without representation—
isn’t that unconstitutional?

Time is not measured in the minutes it takes
to fall from night into night, from dreams into dreams.
It’s really about the last few minutes of daylight
and how much dark you can stand.


The evening assembles, takes its own time.
The streets open to the insomniacs.
There is a “Super Moon” inching upwards.
Angry, it demands larger living space.

The streets open to the insomniacs.
We did not get the world we wanted today;
angry, it demanded larger living space.
There is the slamming of car doors, cooking smells.

We did not get the world we wanted today
Hear the clink of ice, the rush of liquor
There is the slamming of car doors, cooking smells.
The desperate wait until dark to start singing.


These poems are from the book NEVER COMPLETELY AWAKE. You can purchase a signed copy of the book directly from me by going to my Contact Page , or a non-signed copy by purchasing from my Bookshoppe.