IMG_7361The novel Clio’s Mobile Home is a facet of my creative work. Several characters in my novel write poems; I am serious about writing poetry. I also work on short shorts, and short stories. They are all modes of thinking about identity, transcendence and beauty in contemporary life. Art keeps us aloft, but it is more than decoration. Its force can be astounding. The artist becomes an instrument, and art lives to tell the tale.

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Flux, March

The pristine snow,
abandoned, sinks —

a sooty skin.

Broken objects
rise up. An arm, 
stairs, cardboard
boxes shocked
by fetid air,

my head 

pushes from the
mud, the primordial

churn, seething, 
thick with salty

Shit or fish 
sauce?  Call
it March.

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The Guest

For three weeks, I was a guest: to different showers
And toilet flushes in the West, to coffee houses, to apps,
to rosemary as box shrub.  A guest to my suitcase.  
To hot tubs and skin in the garden of my tiny cottage. 
Guest to stretches of blacktop like a zip, Lily Valley Church and Rainbow Donuts.

Guest to the mirror: my daughter hosted me. 
Hit me in the gut.  Made me think of another paradigm: host/parasite.
I made a typo and wrote paradise. 

Then I friended Monterey cypress. They lean and question, 
buffeted by circumstance. I saw the bright grass after a morning rain, 
speckled as skin of a fabulous lizard.  Small guests, nothing but.

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Hey, Stranger Stranger

I could have been quaint
and asked a stranger about those drooping
white blossoms, pointed leaves and slender stems,
flowers upside down, dripping like milk.

Instead I tasked my phone and asked
a stranger stranger, who gave me fifteen
fast photos of the flower before my eyes.
Snowdrops.  They look particularly splendid 

when planted in drifts. Siri is right,
though she doesn’t grin, dirt under 
her nails, pink tinted glasses on her head
ready to tell you anything.

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Scrappy February

Blue sky with blacktop in the early morning.  
A flock of birds takes a surprise curve over my glass,
a car-toting mattress heads to unload 
on the strip – the dump, salt heap and peaks
of scrap metal.  An old fire truck slinks
past its final resting place.  What if we crank open
the window, not afraid of death taking
notice, take in February as it is –
unshaven, mottled skin, held by 
roots and armpits, calm and rough built 
before the season of erotic grooming?

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Rubble, Rumble, Toil, Trouble

Rubble, rumble, toil, trouble.  All week long, a poem wrestled with me, and I within it.  It held me tightly in its grip, everything onomapoetic with rubble.  Emotions far outweighed thought: I grabbed at words, poor human with a pen, hoping something might eventually be interpretable. 

Early Thursday morning, it released me.  It hatched me like a clean and happy chick.  You know the feeling, lying there dazzled and wondrous at nothing at all.  

In this post-ness, there is no big vision. The nuzzling of two green things inside a streak of sun: a chlorophyllic fingered leaf lays its consolation on a celery green couch.  Estranged family.  The live plant remembers that the cloth, the weave, flax, linen, may have been an ancestor.  The roll of a warmbody in bed on a cool morning. The squeal of a trumpet in a big band.  The bend of a head.  Tenderness in the gesture, an open field of peace.

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Blue, Gunshots, Eating Shoes

Pops of blue.  Against what.  Skeins of gray.  Lure of monochrome.  Screens of violence.  At 5 am I watched a match between two women, battling over tennis balls in Melbourne. Seven shot dead in Jerusalem after praying.  Grainy witness to the Memphis flaying.  Keening and pleading for his mama.  Around the world in an hour.   In a dream around 7, I was eating the soles of a pair of black leather shoes, peeling off pieces.  These delicate shoes, full of eyelets, usually sit in my closet.  After my first rush of radiance, ecstatically led by someone offscreen, the dream began to think: disgust side by side with beauty: the shit.   Appeal and revulsion, beautiful and the monstrous. Nestled in.  And the hilarity of pragmatism: would I walk like a bird, scratching out a steady path with half the shoe gone.  Missing pieces.  Was I practicing for starvation in Leningrad?  During the siege in the 40s, they scraped off glue from shoes and tables.   Also, I was observing my oral French.  Somehow that mattered.  A traveler’s exile ends in language.  Wrens meet at the branches of a bush beak to beak, nose to nose as if mistletoe.  Pebbles on a gray slate play with their shadows, not a cat and mouse game, one will always prevail.  The open emptiness of cobalt blue.  Pop pop pop. 

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How a Surreal Squirrel Alerts Us

SQUIRREL Meret Oppenheim

True discipline would have me attending to Winter Gray, waiting patiently for its secrets, listening to pale nuances of voices, sitting with dull flashes under a clotted cloud blanket. This season’s abundant rain and gray have worn down my thinking – first step achieved in an “art of erosion,” as poet Alice Oswald calls it! But alas, its proper song isn’t singing for me yet….

I go to other amusements, to what flummoxes me with love and delight.  For instance, a squirrel caught in mid-metaphor, courtesy of artist Meret Oppenheim.  Her retrospective at MoMA shows an imagination that loves the witty twining of reality (the German-born artist, who died in 1985, is best known for her fur-lined teacup, “Object.”)   How does Oppenheim evoke such squirreliness with a perfectly pitched strip of fur attached to a beer glass?  She gets the tail’s quivering stillness, erect in its S-curve, plush, sensual —full of lover’s escapades, all leaps and feats contained in that moment. Its finer thoughts, ancestors, its tasting notes of nuts, belief in better days to come – everything is contained in that pert tail.  Utterly distinct, yet refusing the idea of being utterly separated and distinct.

The mind leaps.  The squirrel leaps, now inert, now live in our imaginations, now live on the tree outside my writing window.  Its nails play the keys of dry bark; clinging sideways, it freezes in utter silence, eyes fixing me in a staring contest.  Abruptly it turns, its gray hairs fly in streaks of black and tan across scaly gray bark and lichen, the opening chapter in the life of gray.

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Through New Year’s open doors
a host of voices echo, Say Yes!

Back then, I was weary of Non: 
Don’t run down the stairs! Don’t cry!

OUI! Formed in France where I broke apart 
and transformed, child in my belly, “I” to “we.”

 The exquisite shell of myself shattered by my own egg.
A future lifetime of “we.”  As we all should be.

To the new year, OUI.

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Mellow the Morning After

The morning after, the room exhales
its smoke and mellow wax.
Bivalves cradle each other on a forgotten plate.
Lip prints, crumpled napkins, the tint of sun

like an unmade bed — all that happened, happened,
in an instant of excess;
like a poem, it wings itself 
without words, long life or perfection.

The slow unpeeling of a lemon 
on a painter’s canvas will not convince us
to mind our decadence.
Time does pass — that’s why we celebrate.

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Viva My Magenta!

Pantone’s 2023 Viva Magenta

Magenta?  I swoon, no matter how much naysayers insist I should pay attention to the end of the world.  Pantone may have anointed Viva Magenta the color of 2023, but I’ve been living in that color since the cusp of adolescence.  In a series of evolving poems, I’m exploring the how, what, why of colors.  Here, from childhood memory, are some lines with jolts of pure precision about self-construction:

streams of plastic beads in orange and pink
over my childhood window,
wall of color, and what of the palette I made of my skin,
vocabulary of my first identity
a bolder version of girl that I envisioned

black-haired, black-eyed, skin olivy (my mother
called it green) 
Picasso glazed a green girl before a mirror
Manet working magic with black 
I did magic with magenta, painting a hot-pink babe

The same poem includes a royal sighting: an image of the way colors erupt and disrupt with their beauty.  

Stunning, that man stepping from the commuter train cutting a cool
diagonal across the macadam —
his skin deep and black, his baseball cap magenta
vibrant, shivery, majesty shielded by his own boldness turning his palette into talisman
daring pink to blush and daring pale to scatter
‘pretty’ to man up in Red Sox country, to visionary 
himself a living painting 

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