Sample Poems

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SAVORING THE COLD IN A LIGHT SWEATER

Before bed I step off the porch, feel the give of grass
under my slippers, its chill emanations.
The moon has given itself to a purple cloud

slow-coursing Eastward—unseen, now seen, now not,
and again. It’s freezing and I don’t care. I can’t draw down
my smile, halt my perusal. I swallow in big gulps

the sky’s cold countenance. Shiver in the ecstasy
of discomfort, its feral physicality—mine, the firs’ and
boxwoods’, owls’ and bats’. Revel in the hollow bounce

of fox call over the field, cackle of old-boned limbs—
maple, chestnut, oak—the sensual struggle toward heat
we’re engaged in. All awareness turned up like

out-decibeled song, out-beautied dark, trees’
topmost crinoline jig-sawing the full moon’s encore.

***

From Whatever Measure of Light (Aldrich Press, 2016)

__________________________________________

MOTHER

When your world shrinks to two rooms of whatever furniture
will fit, your hummel collection, and a drawerful of photos
which you sort and give away in handfuls to whoever comes
to visit; when a box of birthday chocolates outlasts

your desire to open it, and the nurses tell you you-can’t-take-
your-afternoon-walk-alone-and-certainly-not-without-your-cane-
anymore
, you may find yourself anticipating the rising moon
outside your single window, pining for its heart-piercing beauty

that lifts you in the same sighing it did the Buddha, and Jesus,
and your mother who taught you to gaze upward, thrill
to the brilliant expanse. And now you hurry to knock on every door
on your side of the hallway, point your fellow residents

to their own private parcel of light. Know in that moment
you live, still breathe deeply the fullness of your night.

***

From Waiting for the Light to Change (WordTech Editions, 2013)
First appeared in the Michener Museum’s exhibit Making Magic: Beauty in Word and Image (November 2012-March 2013 run), Doylestown, PA.

______________________________________________
A Blight in the Growing Season
—Holicong, summer, 2008

They come, finally, from the South,
after months of rumors,
our catching the notice in the papers:
burly men in Wranglers and hard hats,

lining our road with their Ditch Witches,
Porta-Johns, their Ford and Chevy pickups;
tramping over the field just yards from our home
to make a six-month living far from their own.

Kindly men, we’re to find, waving to us
in the sun as we pull in and out of the driveway;
earnest men with families, apologizing
for the intrusion; caught by financial need

in a mission to upturn the green lands
from Texas to New York, displacing the deer,
the fox, the hawk and owl from border to border
to border. On the first day,

their grim machines thunder a campaign
across the unsuspecting glen, green
and blinking with butterflies, while we watch
from the porch, steps from the buried pipeline

–its widening the narrowing of our back yard.
Chill blades shear through the hearts of oak
and birch, cut the dogwood off at the knees,
while mechanical arms like stolid pall bearers

carry the corpses upright to the edge
of the clearing…toss them
to their unblessed graves. The three-story
pines thud to the earth that shudders

under the blow. And we watch
as their branches quell in the dust; smell
their tangy blood leaking on the breeze
which, newly widowed, goes suddenly mute.

***

From Waiting for the Light to Change (WordTech Editions, 2013)
First published in Ibbetson Street Press, #31, 2012

______________________________________________
WATERMELON AT THE WISSINOMING MARKET

The glory of the chaos was lost on Mr. Potts
that morning. Even Gran’s stretched-in-horror
bottom lip turned up in laughter when she realized
she couldn’t stop it—watched, helpless,

the 20-pound slide from my little sister’s hands,
its sklushing to the linoleum, all seeds and pink water,
blunks of green and white rolling toward the stacks
of aluminum lawn chairs and beach umbrellas on sale.

Dogs pulled their owners by leashes for a tasty lap,
a toddler splatted through in tiny sneakers, and
thrilled kids gathered, wide-eyed, grateful
they weren’t the one who’d produced this show—while

Mr. Potts barked orders at Eddie the bagger and my
recovered sister wondered out loud if I’d try next.

***

From Food, Wine, and Other Essential Considerations—an Alphabet (Aldrich Press, 2014)
First published in Schuylkill Valley Journal, spring, 2014

_______________________________________________
SPOIL OF WAR

I
You learn your father fought in the war because you listen
from the top of the stairs when the fervid “Young Dems” meet
in your living room Tuesday nights. You gulp the stories
that pour amid the laughter and bottles of Bud and long silences:

“I remember that poor bastard, Pirelli, man—falls off
the back of the tank at Dunkirk, slices his ass
on a jag of stone–gets a damn Purple Heart!”

Whelan chimes, “I got back in March—my mother had kept
the Christmas tree up, lights n’ all. No needles left,
but the tinsel still draped—my gifts there waiting on the floor.”

Your father adds his tale of bunking night after pungent night
in a soaking foxhole under a tindalo tree in the Pacific—the ping
of beetles bouncing from the helmet he covered his face with.

This is funny every time he tells it, every time you beg him
to tell you more about the war. It’s the only story he ever tells.
What’s been withheld because you’re only five,
because you’re only seven, is revealed one Saturday morning

when you’re ten, when a forgotten Reader’s Digest on the back
of the commode tells of Adolph Eichmann. Frightened, you
ask your father if this is truly true, and he sags to his chair,
stares at you—his answer in the knocking pipes, the heater’s moan.

***

From Waiting for the light to Change (WordTech Editions, 2013)

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