Friday, August 11, 2000

Rain at four am

This poem originally appeared in Circle Magazine, August 2000.

The rain wakes me. Begun in
tinney patterings, like cat feet on the stair.
Then heavier, a fat rain,
puffing, pouring in a silver sheet
off the back roof.
Windows, wide open, welcome in the mist.

I wrestle with the quilt, hot and heavy with
night sweat. Entangling folds of linens
reach to trip me.
Come back, they whisper, to the dark safety
of the dreaming. Don't leave us for the
dangerous morning.

But I am already gone--
facing the storm.

A wet wind slaps my skin. I drink deep of
moist air, while the million fingers of rain
tickle my face and run knowing hands
wetly down my body.
I am dancing in the downpour,
sticking out my tongue to catch drops
that always escape--
to soak the nightshirt clinging
with abandon
to my breasts and belly.

Monday, May 1, 2000

La Bella Donna

This poem originally appeared in The Akros Review, a literary journal of the English Department at The University of Akron Spring 2000 issue

The good wife picks out the eyes,
scrubs their jackets clean,
and sets them to boil—
potatoes for salad.

She picks out his tie,
hands him his clean jacket,
and watches him out the door—
ready for the important meetings.

The scent of his cologne lingers
mingling with the smells of the kitchen,
haunting her.

The white potato,
solanum tuberosum.

You can never tell about a potato
Slicing into them, she finds
it is the perfect-looking one that
has the rotten heart.
And she wonders
if he will be home for dinner.

Later she will stir the dish that sat out
far too long.
And she thinks of solanum nigrum
deadly nightshade—
first cousin to the potato,
and wonders
what sort of salad it would make.


This poem originally appeared in The Akros Review, a literary journal of the English Department at The University of Akron Spring 2000 issue

Great-gram told stories of world travel—
dancing in Kyoto under cherry blossom shadows,
collecting hearts and tea cups.                       
In New York flaunting her
short-cropped, red-dyed curls and
flapper-beaded dress, she smoked cigars
for the shock value and killed the taste
with whiskey, neat.
Late years she spent in Sydney
softly singing along with the tenors in
that seashell of an opera house.
Even in the nursing home,
when white curls framed her parchment face,
she sang bawdy songs to the old men
and flirted famously.

Grandma told stories of a Dakota farmwife.
She fed seven children
and fifteen field hands
three meals a day,
even on Sunday.
When she moved to Milwaukee
she couldn’t part with her gardens, so
the empty lot next door became
her vegetable paradise—
where she put us through weeding hell.
Her mantle clock chimed like Christmas,
on her glass shelves Goebel children paraded
while she served us tea with brandy and
studied Victorian elegance.
Mama told stories of following my airman father,
base to base, cross-country—
Georgia to Texas to Michigan,
with all she owned in two tired suitcases
and a cocker spaniel in the back seat
giving birth.  In Detroit, by daylight,
she was a efficiency in hospital white.
By night, in smoky jazz clubs,
she’d whirl around dance floors while Daddy
drank Irish coffee and romanced the waitress.
By the flicker of late-night black and whites she  
whispered about Fred and Ginger, Deanna Durbin,
and her hard-lost dreams of Hollywood.

My daughters will tell stories of their mother—
the smell of morning coffee over a wakeup call of
Showboat blues and Madam Butterfly;
trekking through the backyard jungle, stalking
tomatoes and basil for sauce, green peas that
we sit and eat raw; therapeutic
tea-parties to talk out broken hearts;
then being dragged off in fantastic costume
to Renaissance balls, learning set and turn
and the proper way to curtsey, with
hands held out
for courtly kissing.

Strong Hands

This poem originally appeared in The Akros Review, a literary journal of the English Department at The University of Akron Spring 2000 issue

She has strong hands that twist clay--
Georgia red dirt clay,
terracotta the color of an Italian summer,
pale porcelain like geisha faces.
Grey dust, red dust,
brown crumbly dust,
mix with water.

The wedge on the wheel dances and
this clay creature shimmies up,
born of the wheel and her
strong slip-slippery fingers.
Wash it in fire,
swaddle it in liquid glass,
kiss again with flame, and
it is finished—

She holds this newborn vessel,
inspects it close and,
still unsatisfied,
smashes it with
her strong hands.