Poems by Lee Woodman 2016

Lee WoodmanLEE WOODMAN has had a distinguished career in the arts and media production and has held senior leadership positions at the Smithsonian Institution. Her radio and film awards include five Cines, two New York International Film Blue Ribbons, and three Gracies from American Women in Radio and Television. In her poetry, she brings her keen eye, unerring ear, and formidable linguistic talents to the world of personal experience and emotion. Alternately tough and tender, she turns her focus from the heritage of an old family cabin to the see-saw relationship of lovers and spouses. Lucidly and unsentimentally, she unearths long-buried trauma; gleefully, she revels in simple pleasures. Her technically stunning, energy-rich, and often humorous poems speak to everyone.


Waiting on the Wall

A child clambers up the brick wall of the compound,
her feet finding toeholds in the crumbling mortar
Settled on the top ledge, a flat perch, she has a perfect
lookout along the roadway at 34 Nizamuddin East

10 AM
Tall trees drape over the wall, waving at brown-green grass
on the house side; they drop dried leaves and faint blooms
on the roadside pavement. Guests are to come today; she
imagines their car, packed with suitcases and a tin of biscuits

11 AM
Most likely they will arrive via Ring Road, passing by monkeys
at Humayan’s Tomb, but all is so slow and silent this Saturday
Reaching up, she pulls down the long white beans of the khejdi tree
and blows the dandelion puffs from their supporting branches

A pye-dog sniffs along the roadway, the white spot near
his neck rides lazily up and down his bony shoulder
as he slinks forward, going nowhere in particular
A mynah bird and black crow peck at berries nearby

1 PM
The wind is warmer now; it riffles soft hairs on her legs
Two ladies sway by in saris; they carry large shallow baskets
balanced on their heads. She peers down at neatly stacked
dung cakes. They return whiffs of sweet brown burnt odors

2 PM
She is sad that the friends have not arrived; they will only
stay one night before leaving for the airport
A hopeful rumble of an old taxi passes, but it means nothing
She smiles at the tiny brass god swinging from the rear-view mirror

3 PM
A green rickshaw with orange plastic awning comes forward,
the thin father pedaling the cycle with difficulty;
his young boy with black eyes sits facing backwards,
crowded by piles of aluminum tins they are taking to the bazaar

4 PM
Long branches of the peelu tree bow more slowly, for now
the breeze has stilled; A second black crow caws in the distance.
Lounging in her thoughts, she did not expect a horn to beep rudely
Her small legs scrape against the wall as she scrambles down

Creator’s Heaven

Speech was given to [humans]
to disguise [their] thoughts


If speech is given to disguise our thoughts; then
so does Art give us tools to test them out—
No protesting prayer can snuff or flout
the silence and forbearance of the tradesman,
whose sharp scissors and soft brushes strain to heighten.
A demanding life throws hurdles into night:
the hungry child, a sinking roof, the dying light;
yet, confident, we trust the dawn might brighten
Brave morning streaks with hope another time
Toward a grace note, composers lean in passion;
Lithesome shadows gesture words in mime
We chase the form to which we are beholden
The burden brings transformation, so sublime—
and keeps us faithful in the kingdom of the sun.

Ashbery takes O’Hara to Lee’s

I know you plan to go tonight to Five Spot,
But how about a slightly different plan?
A friend of mine lives right near in the next lot
She’s invited us to dinner, so let’s go man

Former dancer, now she’s into theater
I’m pretty sure you’ll see things eye to eye
Her place is boheme, and she drives a beater
Blue jeans suit the scene, no need for neck-tie

We have a lot to finish with our poem here
I like that rhino/cymbal thing of yours
Perhaps we keep at it when we get there;
Musicians will be working on their scores

At any rate, I know you’ll love her curry
A change from hamburgers and milkshakes
The folks at MOMA may be in a flurry
But your exhibit really raised the stakes

Bring along your scotch and your typewriter
She’ll stir some aloo saag and vindaloo
We’ll have a hoot with our best kind of soul mates
Play blues and jazz on her piano too

Cento: The Self, The Soul, The Body
(Standing on their shoulders, I listen to all the voices chant)


And I am the arrow…

In a case like this, I know quick action is the main thing.

I don’t understand myself, only segments of myself that misunderstand each other—

(I sit) on meadow and river and wind-wandering and weed-winding bank,

one foot of the sun steadies itself,

(and) as I cast out remorse,
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh, and we must sing.

No one should ask the other, “What were you thinking?”

I lie there in the air as if flying rapidly without moving, and slowly I cool off.

Dad’s Dictionary
You’ve maybe not heard of a doinker or pelly
Or known that your gumpa is really your belly—
So here I share some of the ancestral gems
He’d comment on hairdos and menus and hems

As far as doinkers, (those signals in your car)
Hack a left he would tell you, it isn’t too far
Then stop at the gas station, fill up with Shell,
drive like Hell he’d advise…oh yikes, au revoir

But first, they sell muckets inside, please go
get some; he specially loved Budweiser. Here’s
a few pellys—pay at the counter, just ask for Kelly
She’s blond, she’s bosomy, and he adores her

She don’t take guff, makes him wiggle all over
About her wardrobe, he defines turtle skirts; they
just cover the snapper he exclaims—he’s a flirt.
Just a minute he says, I got to go giggle

And heads for the men’s room before proceeding
to the liberry where he’ll browse some mazageens
He’ll chat up the lady librarian, Claire,
“You got your wig on backwards” (her hair)

Then back at his cottage, he turns on the squalk
But the newscasters barely can get to their talk
And mom in the kitchen is making some humbug
He offers to take out the swill, in his gumboots

He chaws up his dinner, and thanks dear old Pooch
She hates other nicknames, like rude “Ruth the Goof”
He lets rip some gas, and downs some more hooch
And then looking innocent, queries “Who zoofed?”

In the Zone

Are these ideas mine? Or do they come free from spirit?
We come to the track—start a pace in humdrum spirit

In grey sweats, circle clockwise on days that are even
Heart and legs pumping blood, no thought of random spirit

Only minutes pass by; our minds distracted, sounds blare
How many laps yet? Still nothing, nothing! dumb spirit

Earthbound in muscles and sneakers; the soul doesn’t fly
Surrender…ease into the rhythm…don’t shrink from spirit

Deep cadence, unbidden— ankles start beating meter
No awareness of clock ticking… just ears welcome spirit

Headband wet with thoughts, I run to my scribbly notebook—
Indelible images: Gracious wisdom, Spirit!


Last night, when I came
home, quite relieved,
the chairs lined up stiffly
at the dining room table.

It was July. I traveled far for
the interview, with my backpack,
my boyfriend, arriving
not too late, just dusk,

and I knew, for sure,
she’d turn her face. Feigning
interest in the trip, knowing
its importance, she chose

to arrange napkins and goblets.
Jacques poured his own
glass of water; the ice cubes were loud,
all the table settings waited, it seemed,

for her to ask: How did you get home?
I waited: watched for the condescension
to bring low the dirt on my blue jeans,
crushed, not from the chance ride.

Was it so beyond her, a small
willing silence to shield my shame?
This moment I understood the disgrace,
(the blush) was hers, not mine.

(After Kathleen Jamie)

Partial Footprint

The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A world of difference on that surface,
a footprint there etched in our brains
Our tide rises, our tide falls, but
not the moon, no not the moon
The boot left rounded toe impression
densely packed, with clear straight ridges
And yet, the lower heel is missing
from the moon, not on the moon
So sure are men the print will stay there
until the moon itself shall die
They say no water, no wind goes there
Dark the moon, so dark, so dark
we think we have the final story,
assuming facts that fate might fell
Perhaps the astronaut leaned forward
The dust will tell, the dust will tell
The day so cruel, the night so frigid
Sharp meteors obliterate; no
soft hands will guard the footprint while
dust will fill, the dust will fill

How to Eat an Ocean
Cradle into your dune
Trace the traveling horizon—

Blue-black ribbons in the distance
interlace with cobalt, dancing in diagonals

Incoming tide lifts
its shoulders for the big breath

Curling forward, lungs exploding,
it tosses showers of crystals skyward

Waves fold over in relief, releasing
lacey waters to roll up the sand

Frilly hems draw arcs on the shore,
leaving shadows of wet in the tow

Sandpipers swoop forward screeching,
peeping, skittering, chasing the outflow

Equally quickly, they reverse in lockstep,
Long beaks pecking in broken shells

Water recedes through their thin legs,
rustling backward to draw breath again

Multiple inhales form tunnels of bulges,
Rumbling wave after wave into wave

Sprays of seaweed drop inkblots on shore
Green strands of hair sway silently as

sun throws a white shaft of light through the clouds
Shimmering sapphires top aquamarine—

Inhale, bulge, exhale, chase back
Inhale, bulge, exhale, chase back

Sink again in a banquet of sand
Brush briny crust from the side of your eye

Stone Bridge

I walk across that long flat stone before I sit
Cascading waterfalls, descending from above,
quiet me

Less distracted now, listening more,
I turn my eyes from the near glow of magenta azalea,
to gaze again on that long flat stone

It lies resolutely still, as eternities of water fall over
The stone knows it is a bridge,
for it can see underneath itself

Silent, cool, lying prostrate in its rightful place,
it recognizes baby granite pebbles in the pool below
Gently, its voice rumbles downward

Little stone bodies, with the same yellow and blue markings
that fade on the flat stone’s top layer,
are waiting for their story

Fantasia Carousel

We know painted horses by heart:
gold “prancers” with two feet in air,
red “jumpers” who leap with fanfare
Our Wurlitzer springs to the start

Mirrors flash, bejeweled in art
Wild flowing manes start to flare
We know painted horses by heart
Gold “prancers” with two feet in air

Lover entranced by a sweetheart
leans from his steed— debonair
Spears the ring with great care
to offer his dear counterpart
She knows all the horses by heart

Thank you Bob Marley
My guests look expectant,
like ducks near the edge
of a pond
I planned to feed them
small pink bowls
of curry
But they huddle in my apartment
waiting to be fed
and cared for
All folding chairs are
lined up in the hallway, like
soldiers awaiting their watch
When will the bell ring
to announce the beginning?
My eyes jerk open with a start
Woke up this morning
Woke to the risin sun
There was a bird perched on my doorstep

The computer glares at me,
its back-up drive
across the way, disconnected
Where are my printouts, the playlist,
the intros? I can’t find my
mike, my podium
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
He gave this message to me–ee-ee

The bird swoops in like
an efficient chambermaid
All chairs aligned, all guests seated
Chattering cheerily, he offers champagne,
a napkin draped over his royal blue wing
Pink bowls flutter down
The microphone appears
and calls up two generous guests
to lead the crowd
The clapping begins, while ducks join
in the chorus,
knowing just what to sing
Don’t worry bout a thing
Cuz every little thing’s gonna be alright
Don’t worry bout a thing
Now every little thing’s gonna be alright

(uhn cheh cheh, uhn cheh cheh)

Lunar Cellar Door pulls the Spritely Linguini Waves—but Confiture?
From the shore to the moon, upward winds
drag small shells along the ocean floor

Spritely lunatics pour out warm channels that syphon—
twirling the jet streams that

keep swirling in spirals, and blindly returning to
black holes and sentries of stars

Languid and limpid, linguini melts in the undertow

Waves accelerating waves propel the surface, the churning still turning


Blue torso swims backward diving into the furls; she knows when
to enter the vortex, she knows how to fold in the curl

Heed Danger in beauty—stay in rotation; the doorway of circular currents
can jam

No more pull, no more flow, the sick haunt of congealing—
Confiture becomes torture in a box.
Sticky seeds cling.

Three Giants
We pause for moments of silence and praise

to ponder the meanings, to alter the ways

we understand words, and realize their meaning

or express new ideas, in new modes of hearing.

Three giants we hail; their brilliance implore:

St. Oxford, St. Roget, and then we explore

the rhymes of St. Merriam, gladly we take

the sounds in which lyricists also partake.

To these three masters, we appeal, we implore,

we bid, we cajole, we importune some more.

Humbly we welcome their finer alternatives,

astonished how they have still more to give—

We keep on summoning just the mot juste

They deliver with gusto, a motto of trust.

Victorian Nightgown
It seems symbolically right:

She wanders through walls in diaphanous white—

A collar of broderie anglaise holds up her neck,

above the ruffled yoke that covers her chest like an awning.

Shell buttons crawl downward

looking both ways for

frilled cuffs hiding the secrets of her wrists.

Will her foot trip the bronze handle

of the trap door?

Coach Class, Aisle Seat

They said you died of thrombosis
How shocking!

Did you not know to walk the aisles,
bend over, whirl your arms?

I can’t imagine someone so tenacious,
audacious, perspicacious, outrageous,

could stay seated so many hours.

You were a stranger to me until
yesterday when I saw you reading
the Baxter Bulletin in the airport lounge

Then through pages on my
laptop, I heard your uncommon words,
calling so many truths

I fell in love.

What were you thinking under
those Bose headphones?

Were your thoughts a tangle of
live wires? Were you lancing cold swords
in a rant?

I saw you give up your first class seat
when we took off—

to a woman, an older soul in coach,
striped shawl, pinned in front, black hat

She slept well I’m sure.

I passed you in the aisle on
my way to the restroom

In your no-lines notebook, you wrote:
“I poetry…I Arkansas,
Sometimes these verbs coalesce,
sometimes they trot off in
different directions”

Your scribbling was large—huge even—
It did not have to be typed;
the echoes left a tail stream

We’re told to find a voice.
And stick to it—That’s wrong, that’s clearly

Such beauty in the many songs you sang at your peril:
so nuanced, so muscular, so singular, so plural

The plane landed and I saw you
roll your luggage down the runway

Trailing on the tarmac, I saw you fall

Your body pointed toward Departures,
but your head turned outward for us all

Trees have Longer Lives
I know the voluminous Hemlock tree on my mountain,
But it will always know more than I.
It used to stand shoulder to shoulder with young hedges that have since bowed,
Over years, it sent very long roots below— not to lose anything, just to stand strong.
Many trees nest with families, stand tall in the tribe,
But this one stands alone, needing no groups, needing no allies.

What we glance at, this tree has seen:
boisterous bickering of blue jays and squirrels;
black bear with brown muzzles, showing fur in their seasons;
Siberius Iris, bursting perfume through raindrops;
overjoyed children, bubbling with laughter;
sad conversations between lovers no longer,

And the tree absorbs it all:
The attacks endured, the sun saluted, the sorrows sustained—
It carries it all, the leaves clapping their memories.
I hope to never see its rings and scars,
but to revel in its branches reaching ever higher, blowing us messages.
For it will have longer thoughts than we, and
Longer longings.

My Dinner with Athena
OK, Athena, we need to talk
I mean a real dinner, not just a walk

She shows up in gossamer white, silk green shawl
A huge golden pendant in shape of an owl

She lays down her sword right under the table
tosses her curls, and fingers her sable

I start with my questions but she stops to confer
Does the kitchen have sea bass with olives for her?

He nods, but of course, (and in voice very low)
Says the wine is divine; we should try Orvieto

Interrupted again by her toasts to her orchards,
And then by boasts of her pansies and orchids

I start to forget why I wanted a mentor
She obviously overlooked just why we met here

So I have to endure the tales of her party
She held it outside, just right of the sanctuary

Roast lamb on a spit, the flames burning brightly
Her fans all brought gifts; they know she’s quite arty

She relished the game of putting that guy down
(the one with the pitchfork and bevy of girlfriends)

They both were aware of the upcoming showdown
But fearless, she knew she would win in the end

Oh, Athena, could you take a small break please?
Here’s what I’m thinking: I need you to focus

Just how did we get here; just what do you know?
She takes a small sip; her eyes start to glow—

And she chants:

Look! Life is dangerous, thrilling and glorious
Work hard in your fields, but don’t make it laborious
Make marvelous magic, be tough and ambitious
Keep reading and reading, be slyly capricious
Help all your babies, give parties for friends
Do magnificent deeds!

(And that was the end…)

She never arrived at how we all got here
She was late for a meeting, and got up to go
She waved from her chariot, looking resplendent
But murmured (I think) something really transcendent:

May the gods keep you well!

Jeez, I love that woman

Peace Park Museum

A fireball blazed,
like a small sun,
seven thousand degrees centigrade

Skin, like melting glue,
dripped off the bones of
boys and girls in factories

Small labels
spell out names
telling where they were at 8:15

Her son’s body
clutched a charred lunchbox
burnt into his abdomen

Melted glasses,
fused to the ridge
over his eyes

Someone told her
Shin lay crying over and over
for water

Children in uniform
practicing their English
shyly approach

Clipboards in hand,
they ask earnestly
what we think of war


Yellow banana
So ripe with expectation
Rotten worm inside


Birdsong at evening
blows softly through my window
Crack of thunder stuns


Water fountain flows
Running smooth and clear on tongue
Dark rust drips from mouth

Visit to Varanasi

As we find our way down a steep filthy alley,
a bony cow with dung on her hind hip brushes past us

Our guide, Bena, waits in a wooden rowboat below,
her head loosely wrapped in a light purple shawl

Two thin oarsmen row us out, bumping through clusters of boats that gather at sunset,
vying for sightlines from the river

We look back toward the shore, where blazing funeral pyres dot the landing. Behind them,
stacks of lopsided dwellings squeeze between crenulated temples,

all crisscrossed by swarms of slant electrical wires. Streams of light from the piers throw rippling reflections, like darting fingers reaching out to us

Bena tells us the miniature clay lamps that she set on the weathered floorboards
are for us to set free in the black water, a holy way to bid farewell to the dead and dying

I notice the tilt of my upturned wrists—my downturned cupped hands tremble as I lean over the side and lower the lamps into the Ganges one by one

The first lamp carries a candle for my father, who forms his own vanishing stream with the current

The second carries three yellow marigolds for my mother. She follows swiftly, forming waves of rivulets back and forth across his wake

The Tyger Turns

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings did he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire? (William Blake)


Perhaps it was tectonic smashing
Plumes that boiled, flying ash
Or relentless sharks of riptides
dragging downward…undertow.
While we hear exploding fireworks,
have we opened up our eyes?
Hades might well conjure danger
Horrid phantoms sneer and slide
Zeus throws tempests, all for glory
In what distant deeps or skies?

Lofty thoughts must spiral skyward,
float on airstreams, leave the ground
Do we always see the artists?
Racing past us, stoking fire?
Sprouting color, blooming sound?
Melting jewels for larger vistas,
dodging crowds, avoiding closure.
Shun the frames that can’t contain
Dissonance gleams, transmogrified
Burnt the fire of thine eyes


Ask of those who break the gateway
Look at Bosch who mystifies
Naked satyrs holding pitchforks
Sharp-beaked eagles peck at eyes
Mortals turn to Rites of Spring
Igor sends us through his lyre
Ancient message, stamping truth forth,
brimming with ancestral drums.
They swirl heavens in the gyre
On what wings dare he aspire?


Get all power from the windstream
Gather momentum, Ocean floor!
Seek beyond the minds too cloudy
Send huge waves right past the shore
The Tyger turns to see what’s aweful,
his sapphire music to inspire
Beasts can translate dreams and symbols
Vision creatures take the dare
Let fly lions, ghosts, and vampires
What the hand dare seize the fire?

Father’s Rolltop

Pulling his faded limp trousers off the night hook,
with help of taped-up walking stick
He rocks unsteadily to his desk, stretch socks
hugging fat ankles
He balances on the writing surface with chubby hands,
one misshapen, missing the tip of a thumb

Lifting the roll-top, scarred by many years of use,
he pulls out stacks of papers from underneath the tiny drawers
He eases down slowly,
trusting the burgundy leather chair with steel casters
will receive his leaden weight

Before he settles in to write,
he leans towards the nearby window
A red suspender slips off his shoulder
So close to the panes, in fact, it grazes stale chips falling
from much-painted frames, graying turquoise barely covering the pink

An Old Boston pencil sharpener that he nailed in the sill
offers up its roundabout of multi-sized holes, but the handle is rusty
Grumbling, mildly irritated, he worries:
Will my pencil sharpen ever? Does this mind have thoughts to share?
Will this desk support more speeches?
Frustrated, he sweeps the paper stack away, as if disgusted by the dare

Until—a flock of purple finches, hopping and screeching
arrive on the scene, forcing him to look outside again
This, too, is their homeland, they have business to share
Unruly juniper is not just his playground,
The birds expect to find seeds to peck there

And, as always, they alight all at once, in a whoosh
toward the hemlock that offers him shade
Finches, too, have written their stories
Their quills tipped in raspberry, always leave marks
He feels a renewal, and now feeling bolder,
adds words to their chapters, and sends them aloft

Adrenalin Dog

I heard a dog bark—in my dream—
The freeze within my chest
was like the time my father set fire
to candles on the mantle
The cotton snow leaps up—and flames
race screaming cross the room

I heard a dog bark—in my dream—
My breath went short and raspy
Was like the scuba test—the frigid
quarry sucks us down, the tank
drains far too quickly

I heard a dog bark—in my dream
My wrists shook, shaky drumming
Was like the ski tow lifting me
high above the safe rail
The engineer who sees me fly
cuts the switch, I faint, not die

I did not have that dream last night
but morning on the highway,
my tires punctured full of nails
and trucks in every lane
I felt the barking through my veins
that pulled my arms to safety



Gamine creature in the
state of innocence,
I napped

waking to see Joanie Perry, my moppet friend,
her shiny black hair, a
sunbeam during my dreaming


Shaken alert by girlhood,
but not by puberty, a friend’s blood
marred my lack of guile

I stayed alone in their
home when they carried Kristen Gemla
away, wrists sliced


Call courage now,
call courage! Budding breasts and
round red glasses were my passport

to teenage America
The uneven unwrapping of an unformed pioneer
A brain to reign in, a body to unfurl


Free artist emerging, slowly,
my daring dance of melting stone
had no need for arabesques

Flat thick acrylic brush
produced a pink bicycle for
riding solo


into majority—I lay alone on
light blue chenille, windows wide open
A breeze of divorce blew through my head

Overcome by hive of industry,
grateful for the cutting edge,
I shortened my images and tightened my script


More Apollo now than not, I search
for totems—tiny rolls of paper, written
in my own tongue

Rescued by humming, cathartic humming,
I unfold layers of a life cycle
Crib visionary, I captured dreaming to blossom forward

Essentially Reliable, but prone to flirt

Plain style and quite compact,
Legacy knows how to act,
obedient in fact

AWD for snowy climes,
cruise control, no bells or chimes
Reliable, sublime

Sparkly emblem with six stars,
the regulars know who they are,
in other countries, too, quite far

But, now hone in on singular—
Grey-green tint and twisted mirror,
rusty scrape on left haunch, rear—

This renegade just loves to tease,
parks in parallel with ease
Spies a spot in which to squeeze

Aha! A chance for sneak attack,
eyes the junker one space back
Plots to get the inside track

Sidles up to one in front,
backs up feeling proficient
Kisses headlights, favorite stunt

Now what is there left to do?
Time to drive off, game is through.
A honk! Hey, he speaks Subaru…

Quiet Car

“Grandma, do you think about your breasts?” This from an eight-year old chrysalis, 45 pounds

maximum. We were reading a book on puberty, How to Take Care of YOU, Vol.1. “Well,” I

remembered, “I most probably did, but I was very small and late to mature.” Not a second passed

before she declared, “I think about mine all the time.”

Two days later, I rode the train from Union Station, DC to Penn Station, NYC. Passing through

the countryside, the Acela whirred past tall bald telephone poles lined up solidly along the tracks.

They looked authoritative, supporting electrical wires and directing the train to its destination. As

we made a stop in Baltimore, a short telephone pole named Amelia, not embarrassed by the knots

and nobs on her chest, took the seat beside me. Noting the sign above NO CELL PHONES, NO

LOUD TALKING, she whispered, “They will be surprised. I’m going quickly to take my place at

the head of the line before we get to New York.”

The train cradled on, and both of us, aided by headphones, dozed off. When I awoke, no one was

there next to me. At least an hour had gone by. Glancing ahead at the tracks, I could see the

countryside would soon disappear. The old familiar poles were still directing the way, but before

we approached the cityscapes of New Jersey, a different pole came into view— gangly, with

sprouts and branches emerging from the knots and nobs. She was not focusing on the tracks on

the ground at all. In fact, she was holding up the sky.

Story Tower
(after Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherazade)

Dear Nicolai,

Window on window
Balcony on balcony
Story upon story

I begin

There’s a rhythm to our days now,
a respite in the end
We know this lilting story

We climb the stairs again

Your oboe takes us forward,
We heed recurring themes
A clump of twine unwinding

with currents underneath

of sad, sad tones emitting
So loud, yet soft refrain—
Reminders of the sorrow

Reprise becomes reprieve

We raise the shades of mourning,
still waltzing underfoot
The pace of daze starts racing

A chase about to come

The leaving too familiar,
arpeggios gone rogue
Each day a chapter lengthens

Each year the epic grows

We need one thousand stories
to fall in love so slowly; here
standing on balconies with windows,

I remain

Boxing Ring
(after Mark Rothko’s Green and Maroon 1953)

Sitting in the Rothko Room—all walls, no windows—
alone, staring at
green upon maroon, framed by windowsill blue

I’m pulled, pulled into that green,
eyes blinking, to see a
white ghost return repeatedly, oscillating

Invisible crowds roar behind me, cheering
for the bully.
They are believers; for them, this is a true match

The gauzy white champ is dizzy,
reeling from swollen
black mitts, that keep arcing around

Shouters press toward the maroon platform,
edging toward
brown bristling ropes that divide us

All quiet now; I cover my ears to release my eyes
Green blurs again and flurries
Black blobs punch in and out, but they are formless
The white ghost never retreats to a corner

With quickening clarity, the stage flattens out
Deep velvet blue-green prevails
Carmine-maroon rectangle remains
Firm blue frame holds it all together

Yet—a minor drip of white blood leaks over the base of the sill.

What Children Know

The first thing she said as the five of us
settled into a circle on the delft blue rug

A book is not a game!

No one had seen the magic stone yet, but
when Grandpa pulled it out and cradled it softly,
two sets of wide blue eyes lifted;
a pair of hazels waited while he said

She who holds this creamy marble heart
holds sway
only she may speak

Passing the hefty heart-shaped stone quietly to Emily,
he watched as Grandma read

What’s important about the rain?

Cupping the treasure, knowing her power,
Emily became the Buddha
and confidently murmured

It feels soft on your cheeks, like tears

Hardly as gentle, but quick and shrill,
Avery blurted her thoughts as well.
Grasping the stone, swinging it wildly,

I agree with Emily! Rain
makes grass all tingly

She passes the magic with the pomp of four-year-oldness.
Now the cool calm stone lies solidly
in the hands of her timid twin,
while the pages turn

What’s most important about the apple?
(the picture shows a red one)

Truly bewitched, Hailey must gather her strength;
a sprig of blond bangs falls across one sparkly eye
and she whispers, just thrilled

The green skin pops sweet and gets wet
when you bite it!

So fleeting, these circle moments—
Grandpa, so pleased with the discussion—
Avery runs up the stairs to play “Hungry Hippo”
Emily takes it all in
Hailey just clutches the heart

She will keep “The Important Book” in her own room.
Grandpa and Grandma get ready to depart;
the heavy stone goes home with them.
Little do the children know the heart paperweight came
from Dorothy, who died in October.