Sheila Dinwiddie: Riding the Ring of Years, The Full Text

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 Riding the Ring of Years
The Full Text

She stepped outside her door

She stepped outside her door

morning paper early,

into a world made private by the sleepers inside,

her heart’s hope chest     locked away            airtight.

stepped into an apple green April day

when the clear air stopped her,

made her catch her breath and remember the year

she first discovered spring.


The year she held the sky in her arms,

hid in trees, upside down

clothes falling past her face unashamed

sucking the thick breath of lilacs into her lungs,

and swollen with the purple air had to explode

or exhale again.

The year the molecules turned gypsy in her blood

and she found country roads

for no-hands bicycling wild figure eights

laid out almost parallel to the ground.


When she knew the power in her arms and legs and felt

herself knowing, she was too young to word it then,

later it came. “I’m big and great and wonderful, I am,

the earth’s my bed to bounce on, I will spring up to the sun,

HELLO GOD, here I am, come out and play with me!”

And god said


“I’m coming,”

speaking through the beaming sky

and she felt a promise had been made, but couldn’t wait,

went home, grew up, and years passed with just a

little time for April fooling.


Letter From An Unknown Woman

Well sisters, here I am.

I’m the unknown woman you’ve been looking for

And I’ll stay unknown because I’ve been dead

Four and a half million, or thousand, or hundred years

Or two           it’s all the same

No records have been kept.


But I can feel you looking for me and it makes me sad.

It’s nice to be important.

It would be good to be found.

Imagine being discovered when you’re millions

Or thousands or hundreds of years dead!


I wish we could hear each other better.


Though there’s not much of me left around.

Keep on believing that I did some fine things

and thought about everything that was going on.

I just didn’t write it down.

It’ been so long I’ve forgotten why.

Maybe I couldn’t write

or maybe it didn’t seem important at the time.

A lot of words were written down

About weapons and paint brushes and those that pointed them


But my hands were full with children

I know you know that much

and then again, I died young.


Well little daughter, sister

rumor has it you’re coming into your own

and you want to know where you came from.

You woke up in the fix that you’re in and

you want to know how it happened.

Don’t ask me! I’m dead

and I’m wrapped in blank winding sheets.

Don’t ask your teachers! The most they can say is

“Hmm, it seems that no records have been kept.”

So let it rest.


Discover me in your imagination instead.

Remember, the wind that blew and the sun shone on my world too.

I lived, I struggled, loved and hated just as you,

railed at restrictions just as you.

True, left little mark, but marked my sister’s strength

and pain and Yes! We taught our daughters and they theirs

until their mothers taught you!


Did you think it was all ribbons and recipes at the well?

Or down by the river washing?

Our discontent was as divine as your own.

Where did you think your skills, your strength,

your wisdom came from?


But don’t try to prove anything on our behalf.

Just study these mummified remains you’ve unearthed.

Take me as I am,

wrapped in empty pages of unwritten history.

And understand that you can be proud of me,

Knowing no particulars,

As I am of you.


Because if you can hear me,

You can feel me

Resurrected in your bones,

Dead millions, or thousands, or hundreds

Of years, or two



Prayer and Meditation

I go to the water                  death tired.

The wild live oaks bending over backward

in the easterly bay wind

humble me with their resistance.


I used to think I owned this beach.

I’d steal up after dark to wade

and pray in the shiny waves.

Now sex and beer have squatter’s rights.


I cross to the park hoping to find

somebody’s let-loose children.

They’re gone. Nothing left but

empty swings that make no sound.


For hunger has moved in.

glares from the bushes

evict me leaving my lunch behind

on the crumbling picnic bench


Back inside locked doors

and rolled up glass

talk to the sun about shelter gone

and the privilege of ignorance.


Drive home with a fervent plan

for next year’s garden.

Talk about hard ground and vegetables

with the rain.


When Golda Died

Stood firm, stood firm, stood firm

then died.

Loved politics in her kitchen.

We only met in the news

but my life heard

“A woman is head of state.”

My neighbors heard, “A woman is head of state.”


(Turn them upside down and they all look alike.”

my father once said.)


A woman is head of state

And I will learn to drive.

I will return to school


A good woman who was head of state has died

(Turn them upside down.)

I will hope.                            And say amen.


My Religion Is Yellow

My religion is yellow, hot generous daffodils after

a miserable winter. My religion is photosynthesis.


My religion is children with their soft shelled freedom

has not always been but is now order, as onto canvass from

within the artist. My religion is immediate.


My religion is memories, mine and everyone else’s;

sex with its giddy and welcome interruption to my religion

which sits alone watching the ecology crumble.


My religion watches the color retreat from my hair and

shudders; or something on top of my religion shudders.


My religion smiles at strangers, speaks too frankly for

anyone’s comfort, even my religion’s.


My religion bows to little braveries: spit wads,

recycling, pink hats, voting third party, jogging.


Cigarettes are not my religion-alcohol, grease, sugar,

red meat are not my religion – they are my habits. My habits

are stronger than my religion. My religion is remorse.


Envy, jealousy, loneliness, are not my religion: they are my fears

Therapy is my religion: family systems, gestalt,

rogerian. My fears are holes in my religion.


Roofs are my religion – pointed ones – and restaurants.

Food is my religion: fixing it, growing it,

eating it, offering it, accepting it.


My religion is mending and the mender.


My religion is women – and men – full of tenderness

spunk, forgiveness.


Poetry is my religion

which is everything.



Time is the line of braided space

we hang our living on.



Divorce is a blade

that saws a family in two

like cutting a worm.

Both ends can reproduce

lost parts from within

but maybe they won’t.



Here, the hot green smell

of growing fields

There, war’s rust and putrification

Impotent against the paradox

Weed garden

Weep nation


Empty Nest

They came one at a time and left the same way.

No one home but me and now I’m leaving.

A sag of bones and silver hair

headed out for some excitement

before it gets so quiet

I could hear a pin drop.

Pull up roots and wrap them around me

like a skein of yarn

and just go.




is seeing an old movie again

after a cataract operation.



are lost loves returned

conferring honors


with tricycles

pulling coffins

in red wagons.


No Whining

                       When it rains and the roof leaks

                         When dreams don’t come true

                         Over fender benders

                         Over fingerprints on the storm door

                         Over being misunderstood

                         No whining over broken windows

                        Or broken promises

                        No whining over failing grades

                        Or wrinkles or cavities


                        No whining about lost elections

                        Lost loves or green house gases

                        Even if the sky is falling

                        Or your feet hurt

                        Or your children curse you


                        No whining after surgery

                        Or before taxes

                        No whining if we stumble and fail

                        When we are all wrong

                        When Karma catches up

                        When aphids eat the roses

                        When tomatoes turn black on the vine.


                        Wail if your child dies

                        If someone gets a dreaded diagnosis

                        If you cannot relieve a loved one’s suffering  


                        No whining over disagreements

                        Or the weather

                        Not when your prayers are not answered



                        Cry when a child cries

                        Over soldiers pitted against soldiers

                        Over hate     Over rape


                        Cry over torture

                        And soup kitchens

                        And tent cities


                        No whining if the car won’t start

                        Or you miss the bus

                        The dress is too tight

                        Or you can’t find your socks


                        If you can’t figure it out

                        Over swollen body parts

                        Or you can’t drive any more

                        Or see as well

                        Or hear as well

                        Or walk as well




                        Just another way to whine


                        Cry for what grieves you

                        When the dog gets too old

                        When you cannot relieve your best friend’s pain

                        For the last of the spring flowers

                        For sad teenagers

                        For old neighbors who move on


                        Always No Whining

                        No matter what!                             


A Breeze

A breeze swims across

our front porch

heading east

The late night yard

            humms a summer song

The rumbling highway

quiets to whisper

While still trees grow

into the darkness



Out of decay

comes mulch

Out of mulch

comes vegetables


The Crone’s Poem

She stands in her doorway

catching her breath from the years that brought her here.


She stands in the doorway

counting her children

rocking the memory of her dead son.


She lingers in the doorway

with those that came before her

and prays for her children unto seven generations.


She leans against the doorway

counting her seasons and seeking amends

feeling spring flexing in her veins


She stands in the doorway

seeing tomorrow

then plunges in.


It’s a Girl, Girl, Girl

It’s a girl, girl, girl

it’s a boy, girl boy

it’s a family

it’s a full load

going forward

creeping forward

toddling forward

running forward

settling down

skipping forward

it’s piles of ironing

feeding time

always feeding time

it’s bleeding it’s crying

it’s fighting

it’s wrapped around you

it’s you wrapped around it

it’s raising cattle for slaughter

it’s raising saints for god

it’s smiling into familiar faces

it’s being quickened by the All

in well-known faces

it’s being the open gate

for the human race

it’s a pit stop

for the wounded

it’s a hope

it’s a love

it’s a life        jiggling your dreams

like eggs in a basket

it’s marrying them off

burying them off

sending them off

tending them off

it’s a girl it’s a boy, boy, boy

it’s their families

another crop of cattle creeping forward

fluffing you up

sending you forward

running forward

toddling forward

loving you off

tending you off

burying you off

it’s a love

it’s a life

jiggling all dreams

like eggs in a basket

it’s a pitstop in a round race.



You, of the clear eyes, and faithful heart
You, who made your own way over
Hurdle after hurdle
You, who brought me back from the brink
You, who help pull me back together
You, who taught me to harmonize
Who tried to teach me to play guitar
You, who folded me into your family
As we folded you into ours
We, who made promises we kept
Who are wearing out
Let me thank you

with dinner and tela-baseball in bed
With Soaps and tela-ported movies
no matter the word we cannot remember–we are each other’s’ memory–and we will never forget this, our love song.



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