MISSING

The Lord’s Prayer went missing today
on my knees no words to say.
Often a name, a place 
evaporates as I reach for it.
Whole chunks of books I’ve read
when opened, I’ve lost the thread.
 
I used to drive with knowledge sure
of roads from today and long ago
my sense of place, a source of pride.
That map in my brain is gone.
This troubles me.  It isn’t clear 
what’s normal.  What I should fear.
 
I trust the journey - friends, family, God
and if I must – will seek in books, maps,
stories, prayers to fill my lips
and ease my grip upon this world
and what remains – the precious gift
of days and hours, I ‘ve yet to claim.

ORIGINAL SIN

To which sins shall I confess?
Panic when as an infant, you’d hold your breath and faint?
Complicity moving away from Grandpa?
Weakness, letting you visit your father who was still drinking?
I apologize
         for the dogs you did or didn’t like
         for shopping trips where you spent money like a Sheik
         for not punishing your $300 pre-Christmas phone bill
         for loving you when you were your least loveable.
We refract the light that spawns us
Blue permissiveness from black strictness
Green sprouts from shiny white bread
Time unearths our original sin,
imperfection.
 

ADRIFT

Adrift in time,
days wash by
without regard
for date or name.
A whole week
vanished in August.
There is nowhere to go.
No one wants our dollars.
Once we modeled democracy.
Our story now's a dark comedy.
The President says the virus
will vanish like a mist.
No problem, he’s got this.
Magical realism is fine for
Isabel Allende and
Gabriel Garcia Marquez,
but has no place in a country where
       people die alone in crowded hospitals
       city folks swarm to the country
       morgue trailers line city streets.
A pandemic’s not a minor event,
a slight inconvenience.
It stops the world.
No magic can blind us
to the growing 
pile of corpses.
 
 

SCOTTIE

Warm at my back, black Aberdeen
dreams his fourteen years
chasing - never catching 
cat and deer.


Awake he seeks me if I 
leave his sight.
Howls the agony of
my upstairs to his down.


His almond eyes
give the lie to a gentle way
companion in migraine
patient with children.


He cannot hear me
when I call – stares heavenward
for long spells.  Smells better
than any dog I know.


I carry him upstairs,
set him on my bed,
turn out the light.
Warm at my back, black Aberdeen


Goodnight.

REDUCTION IN FORCE

As I walk the old railroad bed away from town
violets and periwinkles peer from bright green ground cover
and the funky protozoan scent of the Raritan fills my nostrils.
A cardinal’s scarlet flashes from a Sycamore overhead
and two gold finches,like acrobatic dandelions,
frolic through the green haze of trees. 
The path is lined with skunk cabbage, daffodils and buttercups,
their mix of intention and happenstance so like life’s.
High above, almost out of range, a hawk circles.
The hum of the nearby Interstate hardly matters here.
Its slinky spasms and urgencies are no longer my problem.
I’ve traded those for the white flowers of May Apples,
emerald velvet of moss and the disappearing tail of a red fox
trotting into the trees.
The world of commerce and its stresses
computers, paperwork, clocks  
and what they count
roll off me in a grateful sigh.
 
I have lost my job and gained the world.
 
 

SELF-MADE MAN

No one comes from nothing.
Who birthed him – potty trained him
taught him to tie his shoes?
The concept’s blind to the myriad
lives that touch our own -
    The workers who create roads
    The teachers, who teach math and language
    The plumbers who keep the sewers working
    The linemen who climb poles to keep the lights on
Who made the shirt he wears?
His shoes?  His socks?
His BVDs?
Rich or poor we all rely on weaver, seamstress
garbageman and priest
to help us through our days.
In this time of plague, we’re reminded
no infant can change its own diaper. 
 

WOMEN

We arrive with our eggs

carried like loose change
until time and sperm meet
and a baby grows where
nothing has lived before.

We cast the best eggs first
save lesser ones for later
like unmarried daughters
spinster cells - homely but
good at housekeeping.

The price for children is pain
mental and physical.
Childbirth is the well-kept secret
of forcing a bowling ball
through a buttonhole.

Unmentioned too are cramps which
yield only to tub, hot pad
or drugs - the feeling of one’s
innards being yanked out
like a dropped transmission.

And Lizzie Borden days when PMS
changes our minds to war zones.
Anger and profanity replace finer
feeling and a flat tire is reason
to call the suicide hotline.

Did I choose the wrong gender?
I wonder until 20 hours in
when they hand me you, made in me.
A miracle to erase
the memory of pain.
 

NESTS

The whole place we built by hand
not just paper and paint.
We hung rafters from the sky
a chimney and bright metal roof
which sang in every rain.
We walked blank land and invented
life anew in the Blue Ridge
as if anyone ever starts again.
Years later a blind date remarked
“You’ve spent your life on houses.”
True. Like a nest-obsessed bird, I’ve
painted my way from town to town
designing space for friends and music,
tables to sit at and chairs to read in.
I envisioned a family unlike
my scattered patchwork
which rarely gathers where I live.
All that time and work
for a life dreamed of
a love desired – perhaps that’s
why birds have not just nests
but wings.

PROMISE

Please no box, no steel
to seal me from the earth.
Return me when it is my time
to all I was and wish to be again.
Release me to be born anew,
green and wonderful each Spring –
shoots sprouting from my heart
each part of me blooming.
Promise me.

HEARTS

I did not know when I birthed my son
that he would take my heart with him.
 
At night, desperate for rest
half asleep, barely present
I’d attempt to nurse him.
The choice frustrated us both.
 
One night when he cried, I took
him downstairs to my rocker,
made tea, made us comfortable
and realized he was my life.
 
He grew. I watched my heart
learn to walk, read
navigate friendships, school
and grieve a first love anew.
 
He became a man
who with his spouse created
three children into
whom he placed his heart.
 
Together, powerless but present
remembering our own youth
we watch their spirits grow
as they navigate their lives.
 
We’re participant and spectator both
since we freed our hearts
to beat, break and love
inside our children.