With Nothing Behind
But Sky: a journey
Looking for Jamal
joy we sit we cry
we confess we are sorry
we are anxious we are tongue
tied we are heart bound we are
safe we are falling off the cliff of
our heart into a pool of unswum water
so blue through the gate headfirst into cape
of our lives china splinters silvered translucent under
an eclipsed moon oh watch us jump over mercy leap with
our capes like wings that leave us splendid as never before
we hover on a scarf of air wafted in from somewhere
have never been but plan to go as soon as possible
we are speaking untying our tongues
longer sorry and then we come down
go to where we came from but
is different we are
our minds are blue
and falling and nothing
The Privacy of Wind
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With My Father
He always took me with him out in the boat
on those long northern summer nights
and I loved it, not the sitting for hours
under all the many moons and showy red lights,
but the going—the creak of oars in the locks
like entering an attic of silence
where no one could reach us,
water beads lined up on the edge of the oar
like a string of pearls before they dripped back
into the liquid mirror that held us all. I realize now
how many poems I thought up but never noted
in those hours while we stared the bobber down
praying for a catch. I used to play games to pass the time,
for it was not the fishing that pleased me
but being with my father
in his joy. If I blinked my eyes thirty-nine times,
on the fortieth a muske would strike, that fish
my father’s dream he took to heaven I think.
When I held his arm at his passing,
clung to his hand like no fish ever had,
he let go and I slipped off, like that.
If I blink thirty-nine times, on the fortieth
maybe I’ll catch a glimpse of him.
in California State Poetry Quarterly, Fall, 1998
and in an Anthology titled “Fishing With My Father,”
Penguin Press, 2005.
the world is too large to fit on a page,
the woods eventually closing us out. I must stop
giving myself these impossible tasks.
Sometimes a life is too much to fit on a page.
I tried today, tried to describe his coming
and going, our laughing and grief.
Sometimes a day is too complicated to fit on a page,
how it suddenly changes from bursts of red trees
to gray, no matter how great the love.
Sometimes a love cannot fit on a page.
It needs a city to contain its edges and alleys,
not an open woods filled with bears and high peaks.
Let us be dark for awhile. Sometimes you need
a whole night to weep. After all, the moon is full
and the world once too large to fit on this page
has become terribly small.
Published in The Healing Fountain: Poetry Therapy for Life’s Journey.
Geri Giebel Chavis and Lila Lizabeth Weisberger, eds.
St. Cloud, MN: North Star Press, 2003.
Widow Discovers Her Tires Are Bald
When the “Check Engine” Light Comes On
before he slipped off, he asked
if I had the loose piece of side chrome attached,
the oil changed, he didn’t want his car falling apart,
never mind me, the unmechanical one, who rode this life
alongside him, each with our own separate tasks
and now they’re all mine. I think the car might need oil
again, like I could use, some zip, but can’t figure out
where the hood latch is. On my knees, I squeeze my head
under the driving wheel panel, such a mystery of gadgets,
so many mysteries to solve to keep things running in his loss.
No latch to be found I sit back on my heels,
then notice the tires are almost bald,
something like my hair coming out in clumps these months,
and wonder how that happened overnight. I barely
go anywhere while he just up and vanishes—
with no directions. Maybe he’s been traveling
while I sleep, letting the good times roll.
in Rattle #19, Summer, 2003.
poem carved in rock at Douglas Family Preserve.