Saturday, April 30, 2011


Mnemosyne stands over the silver drawer
with a blank look - spoon, knife, and what
is this? "Aphasia," she chants, for words
slip away, but others can't doubt her wit.

When the girls were young, Erato would
mess about in the produce aisle. "Euterpe!"
she'd cry, but nobody doubted her then.
Nine girls! Zeus away with somebody new.

Friday, April 29, 2011


The owner of the Castries cafe
looked like Derek Walcott, and
underwater the coral looked
like brains and the fish swam
around my body, every one
missing me by the same precise
distance. I stuck my hand
forward, trying to trick them,
but their sonar blips moved
faster, as though I wore an
aura. In the little town up
the hill we went to a jump up
and danced through the back
entrances of outdoor bars,
but not up the stairs where
we were invited but our taxi
driver shook his head no.
A boy said he would always
take care of me, though I
pointed at my wedding ring
and at my husband bobbing
nearby. He cradled his heart
when we danced away, heads
ahum with rum and steel drums.
As Mary put beads in my hair
on the hotel beach her sons
outbragged each other - how
to hypnotize a chicken, how
to survive without a coat
when it's cold - 70 degrees.
We were on vacation, they
walked out the entry of
their cinderblock house
near the Pitons. At the market
I bought a batik shirt with
crooked sewn buttons. The van
stopped for sand crabs, we
drank more rum and watched
wind surfers plow the bay.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


On Trying to Match the Clapping
Rhythm of the Nubian song
"Nagrishad" (as recorded
by Hamza El Din) in a 6th Grade
Classroom Where No One's Nubian

You clap out six eight-beat measures
using this pattern of x's.
Tar and riq have separate rhythms.
You do not clap every measure.
You'll lose the beat if not your feet
as you try. My European

ears! American rock! Even
Bach would have trouble. Paul Simon
loves polyrhythms - African
beats. I cannot sustain Bartok
or even Dave Brubeck's "Take Five."
I am at home in 4/4 time.

The kids invented notation -
all 48 beats in one line,
shouted "ha" for unclapped spaces.
We all said, "I can't hear!" or "I
got lost!" foreign to this music
no matter how loudly it played.


To make poetry you'll need a pen
and time, at least three minutes.

Write parodies of poems you love
until you love your own words.

When you can't write, draw pictures.
When your drawings devolve, wait.

While waiting, remember to breathe.
Poems won't play with dead people.

Waiting is no fun. You will do
anything to stop it, even write.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


City Light charts electrical usage
with rectangles like the rods
we used in elementary school
for arithmetic - units were
white cubes a similar size
to Monopoly houses. Both easy
to pop in your mouth in pairs
or trios to knock against teeth
and tongue on a dismal morning
like lozenges or river stones,
like forbidden candy. Orality
is not original, but library
paste was lumpy and sweet
and easily stolen. I cannot
eat my light bill though I want to.


Never begin a reading with a doubtful
stance or no one will trust you, however earthy
and earned your lines. What you’ve spotted,
trapped in ink can vanish in faux pas. Stamping
is ill-advised at the lectern. Counting copper
and pot metal coins makes listeners crabby.
Stick to onomatopoeia – or try barking!
No dairy, no drinking, no fried
anything whose rumbles or joggling
the mic might transmit. Your rapid
breath should convey that we’re spying
on a truth that you’ve just now met.


couldn't get onto the internet yesterday
my in-house on-line expert was in meetings
turns out he'd turned off the internet


Sunday, April 24, 2011


I was born without a caul, without
witches predicting that I'd see spirits
or be spirited. I ejected early,
and spent several days in an incubator
More about this later.

Unspectacular, I learned to read
at six, at eight we moved to Florida.

My second decade was remarkable
only in that I thought myself
remarkable, as most of us do.
I went to college, I dropped out,
went back again, again, again.

Having lost a boyfriend, I went
into primal therapy to reunite
and found my high school sweetheart.
We revisit the incubator, no
more about this later.

Whelped twice, fabulous people,
my daughters. My husband too.
Me, I'm acceptable,

have passions, get giggles,
forget names, babble, drive
more than most people, am game
for lengthy conversations,
love my family, poetry, teaching,
morning light across a pool
in which I'm swimming.

I used to buttonhole anybody
with my autobiography, looked
forward to chanting my particular
sorrows. My lazy eye, congenital
hips. I'd rather hoola hoop
than tell you more - I expect
to live more than I tell.
I wish you well.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

For kids in high school angst poems are the rage
they tend to cutting scars, malaise and doom
We all were Hamlet when I was their age
for death was what had meaning, YES! the tomb

Our high school life was silly, full of sighs
and fumbled mumbled crushes at the breast
and fevered hopes - the parting of the thighs
when east was far and wiser than the west

My every whim and passion struck me mad
and every sadness felt bereft as blues
upon the fainting couch its cushions plaid
(The last line I made up - here, take my shoes.)

I try to empathize, mostly I fail.
Oh Poe, oh Charlotte Bronte, read my mail!

Friday, April 22, 2011


high school kids clustered
around the classroom file cabinet
after we turned it sideways -
magnetic poetry words -
BIG ones, five minutes per team.
The kids weighed the words
in their hands, one group slapped
words against the metal file cabinet,
kept those that stuck - some
looked for words they thought
of and some used the words that
were there. What do our
expectations say about us?

Thursday, April 21, 2011


fog obscures lanes at
the outdoor pool,
so I wonder if it's open
snow on the ground
icy remnants on
windshield. I pay $4
walk into locker room
strip and don my suit
and flip flops,
douse my hair
under shower water
join the shadowy churn,
exhaled whuhs, skitter
of kickboards against
concrete wall lip.
I lick my goggles
put them on, push off.
I could I think
reach and pull, flutter
back and forth all day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The principal says sorry, the track meet competes
with publication party, sorry, it competes.

My voice rises to angry protest then despair
poetry isn't practical, it can't compete.

In Slanted Truths kids write the truth, I want them to
shine at the Community Center not compete.

The morning dove mourns this morning, sad coffee house
music sighs as I complete this. I don't compete.

What if all the track athletes, the spring sports supports
came to the celebration, refused to compete?

What if all the soldiers became real warriors
dropped their weapons and lifted their pens to compete?

Laura dreams all the people gather to hear poems,
embrace beauty rather than the urge to compete.


mostly it's a ghazal
(rhymes with puzzle, gh pronounced like French "r". Unless you're speaking Arabic.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


"you see I have always wanted things to be beautiful
and now, for a change, they are"
-Frank O'Hara, from a poem sometimes titled "Poem"

Pledge allegiance to our only
entropic world,our excited
devotion for sake of excitement,
our arbitrary, delightful smiles,
our surfeit of sincerity.

Cleave to our words' combustive
clusters, our nerves' acceleration
at loon flight, pomegranates,
miniature boxes, castanettes.

Give us Lincoln Logs,
silly putty, Kewpie dolls,
sleeved Crayolas - the old colors
from childhood's Palace of Art.

May we wriggle free
from hifalutin stances,
indulge our ill-considered
trances, love what we love
not what we are supposed to --
we'll be ghosts too soon enough.


Monday, April 18, 2011


Yellow is the hydrogen burner
we circle obedient as yellow chicks.
My friend held up a Crayola
to explain yellow to the paint mixer.
This, she said to him, I want this.
He got it wrong and wrong
until he mixed color wheel yellow
but kinder, the yellow now
of her kitchen's abundance
of my yellow car and my baby's
yellow overalls gone dingy
over thirty years so her baby
cannot wear that particular
yellow nor the yellow swimsuit
oddly ribbon shoulder-strapped
that was baby mine. That is no
longer yellow but goldy-pink. Yellow
fades to a flash and scribble,
lightning burned
on your eyelid, fresh egg yolk
for only one day. Yellow
my mother who said, "I am
a coward, and lazy. I always
have been." Yellow gift, legacy,
longing. Middle C on the xylophone
yellow as teeth of the resistant
child, yellow as a quaalude,
as undiluted pee. Yellow stained
carpet yellow as Play Doh.
Sunflower yellow, daffodil
nodding by the university,
crocus, tulip erupting from
brown mud berm in the Skagit
Valley. Yellow for caution,
or for going very fast if
you are Starman. Yellow
construction paper spring
flower cut for your face
to poke through, sweetest
yellow was your baby hair
I'd have twined in a locket
in the Victorian era when
yellow roses meant all bets
were off. The florist says
they mean friendship and joy.
Joy dish soap is that yellow.
Yellow soapdish, yellow
construction hard hat,
yellow yellow flower
of Ginsberg's industry
and mine.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


by now the recipe book has fallen into
butter which has melted onto
floor and across my fresh apron,
its ripped right pocket
slick with grease and intention.

Onions sit naked beside
risotto, part of culture since Sanskrit.
Onions - no orbs as elemental -
nacreous pharoahs ate them
clear cooked by kohl-eyed women.

See how I slip off skins like
them, those nameless cooks, who wept as I
weep over these two white spheres that
tease my nostrils,

brittle bones of my bloodhound's
decrepit hips that lumber at
least, to lean sideways and lick
onion and butter from floorboards.
Body, you are temporary as this
onion I've flayed, turned
on flame for.

Through crisis, cooking's
sweetest anticipations live
on, our hunger
bud-like as this artichoke
densely closed over its
inner fur we scrape
most cautiously to avoid
nightmare in our throats.

Animals, we must eat. Mouths
secrete digestive juices,. Stove
perfume I claim is human. No
rumor more joyful than fresh crab
washed and cracked on yellow plate,
hint of lemon in drawn butter.

Usual accompaniments: bread done
up with garlic to
make the table say home. Repeat
minutest motions each cooking session,
switch ingredients, but sequence like
stairs must be climbed each by each.


line first words are line last words from "Onions" by William Matthews


I pulled up the back hatch having
pulled up at my friend's house,
light so thin it looked drawn
by a pencil ran along the lake's
far shore. Alpacas ran to greet
me along the fence. The rabbit
I thought had died chewed
hard kibble in its cage
the other side of this couch
and what have I to say?
The wind generator whirs arms
outdoors as the ceiling fan
turns above me. Last night's
frog whir has been replaced
by bird chirrup bursts. No
typewriters erupt here.
I could find a bucket if
I had to. I could find a mop
and I could wield it.
This field ends in scrub,
branches are bare on birch
and willow. Transportation
ought to be transcendental,
existential shift in meaning
out this south window.
I'm still here.

Friday, April 15, 2011


A poet folded the laundry
into a book of poems.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I believe in metamorphosis,
fragile ornamental butterflies with sealed mouths

my lover's compassion in midnight wakefulness -
death-nausea, that I will disappear in dreams -

raptor-swoop from behind, benign tranquility
savaged as by pirates, my Mom's longing dimming

too, soon gone. Hard laughter. After, allelulias'
capacity to comfort comes in ancient tongues,

orcas' breech, wind's salt-taste gasp, the raspy gunnels -
I pledge to run into the hubbub, not abstain.

estuary, cassowary, temporary -
every perfect peach uneaten cautionary.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Let us venture into planes’
butt-ends,onto bridges
in our miraculous cars,
outdoors through double
doors into sunlight
where other voices brush
our ears rushing past,
let it be enough today,
that sunlight glinted
blindingly through clouds
just one moment,
that kiwi canes swell
with leaves and that the mailbox
held not one single bill,
and let it be an omen
that last night’s fortune
cookie promised travel
so we believe another minute
in tomorrow, so we smile
and tip cooling saki cups
at the Pan-Asian restaurant,
set our chopsticks on wrappers
we folded into half-diamonds,
while around us others break
attempting speech,and let us
be kinder to them and kinder
to ourselves, run our hands
along bookshelves and pull down
another book we’ve never read,
another chance to hear another
from within the hubbub,
to make sense like laughter,
like a child whose hands
touch our faces like warm
blueberry pancakes, sticky
with urge into what’s next
that so easily peels off
like madrona bark and drops
onto the park bench where
we sit together our unshared
thoughts travelors with different
languages, our passports expired.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Oh earth, oh fragile orb
of wreckage and tranquility,

pirate prating in myriad tongues,
tense speck in this compassionless

universe, wretched precious.
Your vigorous echoes swoop

through space with humanity's
cacophony, our myopic wars.


Monday, April 11, 2011


Cumulous clouds pack the sky,
their undersides ashy damp.
Our dogwood plumps at branch ends.
Ten years ago we though it died.
Woody cream-green petals, soon.

We hacked back arbor clematis
now nothing blooms, the kiwi
feelers loom high above the house.

The optimistic window decorator
at the Men's Consignment Store
has strewn rabbit pellet-sized
easter eggs on the window sill.
Festive, I think, expecting mice.

It's spring, tra-la. Purple bells
bud along their bracts, green
as asparagus, and dandelions.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Everybody saw her, the lively girl,
and yet she jumped about singing:
I was close, closer in than you imagined
but was waving not drowning.

Lucky girl, she never hated seriousness
and then she thrived.
It must have been too warm for her, her heart leapt,
we agreed.

O, yes, yes, yes, it is not too warm ever
(Loudly the living one jumped about singing)
I was close, close in all my life
and was waving not drowning.

(mirror poem experiment with "Not Waving but Drowning" by Stevie Smith


Perhaps the aquarium octopus will
remind you to breathe. Use one
finger only to poke urchins in
the touch tank. Beware of divers
in Hawaiian shirts and horned
hoods. The shark hangs above
you and sea horses buck and whir.
Remember the cow fish, be kinder
to your ugly sibling. Fondle
seal pelts in the front lobby
or pull the parachute over you
and pretend you are decompressing
from a long space journey. This
could be Cape Canaveral and these
flamingoes might be real. Sound
fish are drab and they squabble
over scraps in the diver's hand.
Darkness makes us all irritable.
Hawaiian fish do laps around
their tank, bright and flippant
as eels are reluctant to be seen.
Do you know what I mean? These
jellies in their plexiglass
bagel orbit small children
whose footprints gum the blacklit
viewing rectangle on the floor.
Color sea mammals with yellow
markers with no lids and little
pigment. Do not try on diver
fins or allow clownfish to be
painted on your face. Push
the red button to hear orcas
but not the pale blue one -
it plays recorded ferry boat
and motor boat from under water.
Outside the window a superferry
departs for Bremerton. Do not
buy stuffed or mermaids
in the gift shop. Lounge long
in the underwater pod and drift
with the intermittent light
from outside as rockfish cruise
the tank. A sturgeon lies
on the bottom like a sunken ship.
The river otters play frenetically.
They know something you don't.

Friday, April 08, 2011


the dark dreary tedium of February
for the fourteenth month in a row
takes pity on us today
and for the moment it is spring --
oh pink popcorn cherry blossoms against blue sky
oh magnolia flowers thick as artichoke blooms
oh outdoor chair cushions come out
from your spider-patrolled lair,
oh dine with me on pbj's al fresco
as the sandpaper voiced corvids serenade us.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


Here's the adage: do the right thing
and here's the deal: we don't.

Oh Spike Lee and Jonz we're all sidemen
on this bus. For love and ova

here go the riffs on timpani and organ.
How might we wake up Gueneviere not Morgan?

Oh Medusa we are gorgons for all our fancy
skirts that spiraled in our allemandes.

It's damp but evening's long
and here's that moon again.
Oared through the sixth without a poem so there will be two on the seventh.


Before the motor car, before the wheel, the norm
as we knew it nettled with night stars, we hale
through thunderstorm and hail, surviving olive
and haystack, all invocation before nations
and nuthatches left us dizzy. Before Emile Zola,
the victrola, diet cola we didn't know the ton
and to stress test the bridge we walked across.
Before the cross, the coin toss, when it was jive
to sing and jingle to dance, when no one got old
but we were often cold as cows went to calve
without our knowledge and nobody went to college
we rested more and left the door open to rams.
Before the plague and buttress were the swarm
and to keep warm we burrowed into one another.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

O clove,
excitement blares
from your
cradled orb
I crush for stew
or sizzle whole
in oil before
sliding in
the fish.
You blaze yellow
as margarine dye,
as a sun hat
on Guam.
Your aroma
is exotic as
landing by thousands
on Lake Victoria.
Your pungency
from my cloth as
I polish
the dining room table.
You leave marks
like tiny snake bites
when I push
you point first
into an orange.
You transport me to
the high desert
of Southern
Oregon, to the pier
where I dined
with friends at
Fort Cochin.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Riff on Rutgers' Poems

Poetry is playing harp on an underground subway platform
Poetry is listening to the alternative music station
Poetry has taken the last of the toilet paper
Poetry wants to be taken seriously (it's joking.)
Poetry longs for a decent leek and potato soup
Poetry never remembers its social security number
Poetry invites a wipe out
It brings violets when it comes to visit
It never wears gloves
Poetry missed the talk on failure - that's success!
Poetry wears thick-soled boots and a floppy hat
Poetry answers when you ring the doorbell
It answers when you wish it would go away
Poetry looks like hell in the morning
Poetry detests bullies
Poetry is a bully
Poetry eats with two hands, but uses a napkin
It can leap tall buildings
Poetry knows who you are
Poetry lives under the viaduct
Poetry can swim underwater for years
Poetry burns
Petry bakes the tangiest lemon bars
Poetry has bad dreams
Poetry arrives, and arrives, and arrives

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Cascades' dry side view - Mountains striated
with chalk, rivers hard-running, chopping sound
from downstairs beside the ribbon-long lake.

The dryer works fine but the washing machine
can't spin without resetting the dial. The freezer
sweats and wets the concrete floor. Invisible

webs brush our faces as we bring in groceries,
the spiders disgruntled by our return sulk
in corners and scuttle along the baseboards.

No dead mice curled like c's under the covers
to break my heart, no deer pellets or bear dents
in the lawn,though brown mounds announce a presence -

A vigorous hello to spring.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Am I alone here at the dinner table
my index finger swathed in an Archie
McPhee jesus bandaid, impeding
the progress of this possible poem?

Real outdoor work today
sweeping pine needles down
the driveway to the burn pile
early spring home biomass
heating experiment after dark
in shorts, butts to the smolder.
We're not so much older than
last year after all. Tra la.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Happy National Poetry Month (now it's legal to write)

White pelican tucks black wing
tips to her breast as she glides
over wocus and cattail,
golden eagle’s broad shadow,
dragonfly’s milar shimmer,
great blue heron’s pointed toes,
goiter, ancient, awkward rise.

Cottonwood, aspen – thirsty
trees that shade a slender snake
as it winks into tall grass.
Two white pelicans dabble,
raise beaks to sky to swallow,
converse like squeaky hinges.
Dabble, swallow, speak. Repeat.