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
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.
CAN YOU HEAR ME? I’M YOUR MOTHER!
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
I AM YOU!
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
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
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
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
in red wagons.
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 swims across
our front porch
The late night yard
humms a summer song
The rumbling highway
quiets to whisper
While still trees grow
into the darkness
Out of decay
Out of mulch
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
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
it’s piles of ironing
always feeding time
it’s bleeding it’s crying
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
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.