Long now have I loved you
And love you must I do
For you alone I long for
And you alone are true
The days ahead I pine for
As in days of old we've spent
And now again this day
I find myself content
To be again your bride
As on the first day given
Myself I hand to you alone
With trust for love unhidden
For love will keep the fire aglow
And love will keep the fight
Long now will I vow
To keep the promise bright
I'm an eagle in the bright sky
playing with the wind. I soar,
so much a part of this enduring blue.
Clouds intermingle folding softly
into this early morning dominant hue.
Now the sun comes in with tints
of yellow so comfortable in the arms
of trees showing darker blue. Whispering
winds ripple the river in reflections
of rainbow colors. I see the purples
and pinks and greens, not as arcs
in cloudy mist, but as fragments
playing hide and seek in the river's
conversation with itself. I let loose
a feather, my gift to the deep blue,
whole and complete needing nothing else.
(Inspired by "Morning on the Seine, at Giverney",
by Claude Monet, painted in 1897)
Gusts and ice pellets,
then slant of snow
blur the window,
attacking the hollow oak, once
cradling my childhood swing.
I wander for a few moments,
smell fresh-mown grass,
finger plum blossoms beneath
unblemished sky, and follow
Yesterday, a straw hat
covering my gray hair, hung
in the mud room. Today, as I rub
my dry arms from itchy wool,
early dusk settles on the keyboard.
Unworn white lawn mitigates
black sky. Winds through the cedar
cease their swoosh, snowfall lightens.
The tea kettle blows fog.
As I rise, my knees jerk from
advancing age. I pass through
a spider thread, avoiding my old hound
who snores into tomorrow.
Sitting down for tea, I sip ennui,
and reach for a novel, popular during
my prime, in large print now.
On Groundhog Day, 2016, a lady needed a hand,
going to the grocery store, to find certain brands.
I went along to give directions and help carry food;
in order to obtain a few groceries I consumed.
I had a dentist appointment; she said she'd give a ride,
So we went to the grocery store, and got inside.
We ended up going to two grocery stores to shop,
I was wondering if this shopping was ever going to stop.
She bought me lettuce, chicken, and some fruit,
we dropped off the groceries on the same route.
As we got out of the car, she gave me a scare;
she checked for her car keys, thinking they weren't there.
But then she found them, and we put the stuff away;
and she took me to the dentist, and the skies were gray.
Rain poured down, the freezing kind was pouring,
I went to the dentist office, thinking it was boring.
But they brought me in quick, and cleaned my teeth,
I had no cavities, which brought me relief.
Then it was out into the freezing rain, like a storm,
I lost my hat, and my head was wet and not warm.
I saw a man in a wheelchair that had no umbrella,
all I could do is try and pray for the fella.
I caught the bus, but by then I was soaked,
was this that little rascal the Groundhog's jokes?
Is this a sign we'll have more Biblical floods?
A car drove by and splashed me with mud.
I caught a bus, and then I caught a train,
I got back to my apartment, avoiding the rain.
My bag was drenched, I threw it away,
I had important stuff in it, so I prayed.
Two fictional books where storms were the backdrop,
both a little damp at the edges at the top.
Same with my sketchbooks, a little weather-beaten,
but the artwork inside was protected, time to do eating.
The groceries were in plastic bags fresh for consuming;
I ate some chicken, while thunder noises were booming.
I went to bed early, sleeping in my warm bed,
which is why I assumed the groundhogs must be dead!
Oh, no! She's coming! Where can I hide?
In her eyes she has "that look."
My granddaughter is coming and, in her hand,
Is the great big yellow book!
It matters not that I'm trying my hardest
To put a meal on the table while it's hot;
With a grin on her face, she begins to read
From the big yellow book without stop.
Though I plead, "I am too busy now,"
She says it will just take a minute;
Then she reads joke after joke after joke;
I should not have let her begin it!
But I notice a twinkle in her eyes of blue
As she manages to make me smile;
She successfully tickled my funny bone,
And I am sure we will eat after while.
So if a teenager comes your way,
And you notice she has "that look,"
You have no choice, get ready to smile
As she reads from the big yellow book.
More than just meter and rhyme,
It's people, places, things and time.
A poem is conjecture, insinuation and innuendo
It's that old faded yellow curtain in the window.
A poem is barbequing on the 4th of July out on the ramp,
A poem is running through the living room and accidentally knocking over
your mom's reading lamp.
A poem is studying all year 'round for a spelling bee,
A poem is more than the mind can imagine and the eyes can see.
A poem is your next door neighbor coming over to borrow some sugar or an egg,
A poem is the little boy who fell down the elevator shaft and broke both his legs,
It's grandma's old housecoat hanging on the back of the bathroom door.
A poem is all that and so much more.
A poem is the past, present and things not yet seen.
A poem is the nuts and bolts of life in Cabrini Green...
You find yourself bending
to the first sun-bleached lucine
big enough to stand out
from dainty debris of the sea.
Surf recedes, and low tide reveals
a trove of treasure washed ashore.
You feed the fever
you've been fighting for years,
pluck from the craggy beach
prizes few of us want—
missing spines, flared lips, jagged remains—
vestiges of a violent past,
the tide cutting and pounding,
resounding in the names:
ark, whelk, conch, coquina.
Each stoop returns in your hand
shells weathered, pitted, broken
and in your eye, pride
in such perfect imperfections.
The spent munitions spread
across streets and alleys
entice children looking
for something to play with,
all their toys among
the collateral damage of war.
Their hungry mothers, frightened
their offspring will be drawn
to combat, dread the sight
of these deadly souvenirs,
reminders of all they have lost:
husbands, sons, home; reminders
of why they can't afford enough
food for their famished their children.
The mothers remember
when their own fathers
took them to the beach,
the delicate shells they collected,
not these hollow shells
that left so many hollow people
roaming the shattered streets
and alleys of their hometown.
(First published in Prairie Light Review)
What you never forget
is that you weren't the one who changed
you weren't the one who left
in the middle of the day
without giving notice that this kiss
was the last one to be expected
What you never forget
is that you carry your share of guilt
you also could have done more right
or at least less wrong
and so there are no accountings
no assignments of final blame
What you never forget
is that the memories are good things
are among the gifts given you
to last a lifetime of sunrises
get you through the darkest nights
and share at every chance
I believed my choices would be marriage, possibly die in childbirth
by 16, or have a godly alliance with Christ as my earthly spouse.
Promise of a large dowry for my older sister assured she would wed
a lord. For me, my father presented a fair dowry of money and land
to the nearby convent two years ago on my 14th birthday. Though
I fancied a young man, my father ignored my pleas, my weeping.
Instead of a servant waking me, my eyes now open with a rooster's
crow. I kneel down next to my slab cot, arms outstretched to form
a cross. Before morning bell for lauds, I flog my back and arms
to help cleanse my soul from desires, from thoughts of Christopher.
After breakfast my tasks include scrubbing our refectory table, buying
cloths and dishes, supervising table settings and meals. Once a week,
I collect soot in the oil lamps for the monastery monks who copy books.
Free from rearing children, we perform charitable acts for villagers,
distributing food and clothing from our convent doors. We are
instructed that women cannot perform Church rituals of hearing
confession or saying mass. We are lesser than men, made to feel
unimportant. I must confess my feelings of envy, yet to whom would I go?
Wouldn't Christ think it odd that women could not speak as disciples
even though He has no separation of women and men in his teachings?
Dear Jesus, I must stop my grieving. Please, help me!
(Not Very Quiet, Issue 1, September 2017)
In other moonlight
he finds a quick cure
for the break.
But where the darkness dawdles
through canopies of old trees
and lingers long in rooms once theirs,
she takes her mending slow,
like a shattered arm immobilized:
splintered ulna and radius reset,
plaster casted, hung lumpish
in a sling fastened at her neck,
pressed hot against her breast.
Every ordinary task is complicated
his muscled arms are absent;
it's just that one of hers
is all tied up with the unhasting work
looking into each other's eyes
we exchange amorous glances
this is pure love
I blurt out joyously
how do you know
she is looking at you
my wife asks
because I am looking at her
evidently our conversation is Chinese to her
under the tree full of autumn sun
holding a nut in her hands
and raising her fluffy tail
this beautiful squirrel
with her big eyes wide open
quietly looks at us
no, at me
I sit and listen in the midst
of my son's crowd, speak
a bouncy banter.
We kill time
with the Simpsons before
David plays jazz.
In jeans and casual jackets,
we drink Coors,
check the wind-tossed sky,
the flash of lightning, hoping
in spite of the weather, a crowd
will pour through the door.
After a while, I hear a shift
of tone, a carefulness
I hadn't noticed before.
In a conversation of augmented fifths
and ninths, the friends address me
in safe thirds. I listen more carefully.
Where is the cutting edge,
the forward motion? We converse
in C major, squarely metered.
I sit back stunned. The lack
of dissonance strikes a new chord.
When did Youth leave me and move on?
I adjust my position on the barstool,
lean into her absence, wonder
how I never saw her go.
A favorite small grocery
just closed, and last year, the pizza joint
that served beer by the pitcher.
Every day another empty storefront.
Friends we used to meet each spring
for breakfast in the hills of Derbyshire
are both demented now, and cousins
across the sea have downsized or died,
no more to be seen at the pub.
Others pull oxygen tanks around the house,
play endless golf, do sudokus over breakfast.
Some watch the sky transform itself
in a daily solitude of rain and wind,
the scudding clouds of dusk.
This morning we observe beyond the window
two small birds, one a bit more rosy-chinned
than the other. They peck and hop
among the sedum, where some honeyed center
invited them to sup. An invisible thread
drew them to that mounded succulent,
to each other, to our faces behind the glass.
Our ragged garden is for them
only a pause in flight, a migratory stop
en route to the neighbors' summer feeders
or gentler climes. Purple finches
are not purple at all, just blushed a little,
immersed in the budding greenery.
They will fly off any time now,
having foraged for whatever
seeds and sweets they needed,
disappearing into peripheral shrubs
without even saying goodbye.
(First published in Slant)
I slowly walked the shore, wondering if God
could have given me more - a soft cool breeze
to acknowledge my turn, would be without ease.
The Spirit of God calmly said, "Seems odd
of God to create such a stupid clod."
I ought to know that I'm a little sneeze
compared to the awesomeness of God. Geeze.
Those seeking God - THINK! - you're as small as sod.
When morning's rays gently wake me again,
How I pray, lest, I should succumb to sin.
How I wonder at His great love for me,
When I know He is there in time to send
me on my way, knowing even sod may win.
With God's insight. Win we will. Or will we?
Sometimes it's like that: the kind
of journey when I walk
where deer prints mark a path
fringed with scallop-bottomed
mushrooms and speckled stones-
a microcosm of beauty and solitude
at each bend and in every breath
that reminds me I am not even
halfway to anywhere
with so much to examine, hold onto
before the urgency to repack
for life's next destination, another place
to meet myself at the still point.
Undo a kiss
pause stand up
turn left and walk
south towards the door
to the evening sun
lace up your ice skates
move one foot
glide into night as if
your life depended
on it until you waltz
until you hug yourself
until you find where
you first were born
in the wrinkled arms
of your father's embrace
(Previously published in
DuPage Valley Review)
His words came out all jumbled,
like an uncompleted cartwheel
I thought he was speaking
in another language
Gymnastics with words
"What did you say?"
His answer again gibberish
I can't... I can't
He fumbled with the next word
as if trying to do a flip on a parallel bar
and landing too soon into the mat
As usual, I was there to rescue,
a gym spotter, catching those
twirling words, making sentences
out of his thoughts
Seconds later he realized,
I couldn't... talk
Something prevented him from speaking;
a task we jump at too often
Our lives now, more than ever, defined
by lack of performance; unsteady on two feet
Instead of leaping over a vaulting horse
we end up on the floor before ever reaching
the obstacle. Our impediment—age
and the unavoidable notion
that, at any time
one of us
will perform that final fall
The lugubrious shape of a half-blind,
burly old man, half bent to earth obsesses me,
who on the Ohio State campus
spears stray papers, cans and butts
with a nail-ended stick.
He lurches, walks stiffly,
a true scavenger ridding the quads of debris.
Cleanses life, puts rubbish in a burlap bag.
He moves as it seems to me
with profound, heavy purpose.
I'm haunted by his life
as ivy-strewn towers, books,
professors and ideas mingle
in a world beyond him.
But it's his own dark burdens
in his bent, half-seeing, weary attitude
I claim as mine.
Oh rag-picker, paper-picker,
stalwart keeper of domains,
I won't betray your merit
as time bends us to earth
as we pick what gems and scraps
there are from magnificence.
tiny brown wren
no bigger than a minute
leaves her nest
seeks out insects
to feed her young
loud grackle lands
close to her home
she shrieks her anger
flies and pecks
drives intruder away
a brown striped chipmunk
on the ground beneath
searches for food
arouses her ire
she dives screeches
tail held high
the chipmunk flees
no matter the size
when danger nears
to defend her young
she thinks she's an eagle
Everything billows: chiffon gowns, long hair.
Arms circle over heads, blues and whites become
Nothing can be pinned down: not the silky
slippers, nor the light.
Everything is vanishing, as flying legs leap offstage
and a smile lasts only as long as a note.
Bright blossoms, satin dresses, dance your joy
and hope that Degas can capture changing lilac shades
and regal youth; dreams of eternal music.
In this illusion, the painter lives, eyes trained
on a scene that can last
only if his brush is pure and sure.
(Published in Prairie Light Review,
Vol. 40, No. 1, Fall '17)
He stretched forth his trembling hand,
and pointed with his gnarled finger.
Tell me what you see?I see a tree.Then look again grandson.
What do you see?I see an "apple" tree.
His head fell to his chest.
Is that all you see?Well it has leaves, and apples, and branches.
He slowly shook his head,
and made the frown face.
Well what do you see grandpa?I see shade from the burning sun.
Shelter from the rain.
Food for man and beast.
I see a provider of oxygen.
A conserver of energy.
An air purifier.
I see a home for wildlife.
Forecaster of seasons.
Preventer of erosion.
But most of all, I see a friend.
So tell me again.
What do you see grandson?
You're my little boy, filled with love
In your presence, overflow of affection immerses us all around
God has blessed you with many gifts from high above
Your countenance is sweet, lovely and so profound
"The Lord is my shepherd", you often pray
You sing with me, "Hush-a-bye Mountain"
I watch you through tears of joy as you play
You pour out yourself like a refreshing fountain
Be safe and always be protected by God
He'll never leave you no matter where you are
He'll guide and guard you with his staff and rod
You're Christopher (Christ bearer), my angel, and a shining star
At times when you're sad over little things
I wish I could take away the tears
Don't worry my precious, fly on eagles' wings
May joy fill your heart, may God keep away any fears
Beneath my rusty steel
fires burn—the only warmth
for outstretched hands
that have no hope.
In tattered clothes
they wonder when
the next shelter
might become available.
For now there is
no room in the inn
and they are thankful
for my strong stable.
a shredded Sealy
offering little relief
from the bitter cold.
Commuters race home
to generous meals and
laughter among loved ones.
or perhaps ignoring
the homeless, the hopeless
beneath my rusty steel.
Watch an ivory ship cruise a cold sea, a few millimeters distant from enameled mountains.
Open the door. Gold leaf tendrils circumscribe a two-face timepiece whose heart-tipped second hand ticks past a flaw in the glass, while two arms circle hours, minutes, and a winding stem awaits the key chained with two gold strands that end in a knot on a ring at the neck of the bottle where three turquoise teardrops sleep in the head of the key.
Feel its fit. Turn until your wrist is checked. Snap the lid. Prepare your smile in the mirror.
The humpback whale and her calf
appear to swim in our ocean of air,
their sculpted fins touching in perfect
equilibrium above a base of bronze.
I admire their stayed movement, this
posed ballet between whale and calf,
this example of tender mother-love
that the sculptor has created out of metal.
I close my eyes and try to recall the first
ocean I swam in, try to feel the tug of
the umbilical cord that once anchored
me, try to remember my mother's touch.
(This is an Ekphrastic poem inspired by
a bronze sculpture created by Octavio
Gonzalez. It won a prize in the Highland
Park Public Art Poetry Contest.)
are we not? With stems
rooted upward into the deep?
Your soul, a kindly conduit,
umbilicates your body
into the placental night
that is fathomless and
fully empty of
where and when.
Take away the night? Absurd.
One night minus one night
equals one night.
Afraid of night?
Dread the shadows?
Learn from them.
Shadows tell stories,
emit fragrant meanings,
take you deeper than your feet.
Especially observe inner shadows,
even if they speak no words—
hear them out, and hear them in.
Look beneath shadows—
drop through into wider shadows
and feel safe in full bewilderment.
Afraid of unknowing?
Make your peace with it,
and your days may smile.
When you know definitely,
the vast night will remind you
that you know nothing.
When you wish for powers,
the night may wisely
hold them back.
But to be still with night
may bring you as much truth
as your heart can hold.
Night wants to abide
underneath your day
while you work—
Let night have its way,
its gentle way—
soften into its fullness.
Night is the container
of nothing less
(From Knocking on the Sky)
Copyright Notice: Copyrights for all of the above poems remain with the individual authors. No work here is to be reused without permission from its author. To request permission, contact a member of the ISPS Web Committee.
Note to ISPS poets: Poetry posted on the Internet may be considered "published" by some publishers and agents.