PASSING A DESERTED HIGH SCHOOL IN THE NUCLEAR
SUNSHINE OF A FALL AFTERNOON
I ought to study signs and portents.
Had I known that the feather I picked
up outside the grounds of the high school
on Sunset Boulevard would lift me
above the football field and take me back
to those dreadful days, I’d have never
picked it up.They stand for ascension,
you know, Feathers do. The chanting of
wraith cheerleaders rang loud in my ears.
my stomach folded in on itself.
I hit the ground running. It was not
a day for flying. Had I known that
rocking an empty chair brought bad luck,
I’d never have touched our old rocker
to hear it creak.This is the reason
I lost my wallet when I bent down
to pick up that damn feather. It was,
I tell you, not a day for bending down
in front of deserted high schools on
the first day of Fall’s disappointments.
“RACHEL IS WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN…”
I imagine I can see
scratched and scarred places on
my children’s bodies.
They are the places where I
used to live. Look carefully
and you’ll see my ghost, looking
for the rest of my family,
for that other life
I thought I would have. Careless
I read them like books, thumbing
through their pages that did not
love me—loved others—
but not the smiling, passive
woman who seemed only to REact
instead of grabbing the bull
by its proverbial horns
(a pithy observation),
and running for those famous
hills, their little hides in tow.
Oh, I have been penitent
all my life— all of their lives—
far from paradise,
further still from lenity,
landed under the spaces
in their memories, waving,
calling out to their bodies
“Here I am. See me.
In spite of your memories,
I am more than your laments.”
I see you turning in your bed,
you itch everywhere and there
are no bedbugs, no fleas, no insects.
Something does this to you each
and every night. It is not love.
It is certainly not peace.
I see you at the kitchen sink.
You are washing the sink.
It’s not dirty and you spilled nothing into it.
But you see filth each and every day
that you come to the sink.
It is not Obsessive/Compulsive Syndrome.
I see you lying by the pool.
You are slick with tanning oil.
There is no sun. The sun left long ago
when times got tough and people got
greedy and ate the sun. Now there is only gray light.
It is not fog.
I see you holding the head of your
last lover in your hands. It is not a fake.
It is a totem. You keep it next to your reclining
chair in front of the TV. The smile
on the face of your last lover
is not a pleasant keepsake.
I see you at the dining room table.
You are not eating there. You are not
making a scrapbook. You are drawing
a picture on the table. You dip your finger
in mayonnaise and draw boxes
in three dimensions.
I see you at the aquarium. You are watching
the sharks make circles as if
they were in the sea. You tap on the glass.
They don’t acknowledge you.
You tap dance. You scream at them. You spit.
No one notices.
I see you at the altar. You are fingering
a chalice made of clay. You are eating sticks of incense,
lighting them first, then eating them
When you speak, smoke comes
from your nose and mouth.
Incensum istud a te benedictum, ascendat ad re, Domine,
et descendat super nos misericordia tua.
May this incense blessed by You, arise before You, O Lord,
and may Your mercy come down upon us.
I see you turning in your bed, you itch everywhere
and there are no bedbugs, no fleas. Something does this
to you each and every night. It is not love.
It is certainly not peace.
You scratch a final time and lay quiet.
Now you understand everything.
Et verbum caro factum est et
Habitabit in nobis And the word was made
flesh and dwelt among us.
for Larry Kramer, Poet (in loving memory)
I don’t understand snow,
never having lived
in snowy climes.
I don’t depend on what
is underneath it
to reappear in Spring.
I don’t feel its curved
silence or relish
the perfection of every flake.
I haven’t seen a pink
sunrise reflecting off
it or the intense contrast
between the night sky
and the white ground.
I’ve not known snowy fields
or spiked angry branches
with piled snow.
I am better acquainted
with strong winds
below the canyons and
the crystalline heat
that follows— a calm
that speaks of ghosts
and lost loves.
I am far more intimate
with air so cold you
cannot leave it outside,
but can only bring it
with you from your
bones into your house.
The voice of snow
must be very different
from the voice of dry winds
rather than alto and
And, since I have
not heard it trilling
and falling so light
on the ground, I can only
wish it well and continue
to embrace what I know.
Often, as I undressed, you said,
“Take your time and hurry.”
I did and your overwhelmingly white smile
sparked and twinked at me—an invitation to the dance,
a jeté assemblé into the banquet—and, later,
carnage without tears, sacrifice & homage
to a madonna’s brief time on earth.
These poems are from the book “Blues for French Roast with Chicory.” 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.