Poems

I’ve been publishing a poem a month since I started my blog.  Many of these poems have had a second or third look in my writing group, so they have changed (hopefully for the better) since I first posted them here.  I have included on this page the original version as well as the updated version (when applicable).  I’ll continue to add to this page as I write new poems and make changes/improvements.

December 2011

(original)

VACANCY

I’m starting to see myself as I am: a woman
without children.  Each period’s an eviction
of possibility, of a life, half his,
half mine, making itself at home, carving out
a space inside my body.  No positive spin,
no positives for months, even after
the injections begin: a sting, a bruise, first
on the left cheek, then on the right.  It feels better
than resentment or self-pity, almost feels
like progress.  But it doesn’t replace
the jealousy, surely visible just behind my eyes,
a flickering neon sign advertising absence.

~

(updated)

VACANCY

I’m starting to see myself as I am: a woman
without children.  Each period’s an eviction
of possibility, of a life, half his,
half mine, making itself at home, carving out
a space inside my body.  No positive spin,
no positives for months, even after
the injections begin: a sting, a bruise, first
on the left cheek, then on the right.  It feels better
than resentment or self-pity, almost feels
like progress.  But it doesn’t replace
the longing, surely visible just behind my eyes,
a flickering neon sign advertising absence.

January 2012

(original)

Angel

She made it with her hands, old pantyhose,
an empty bottle of Joy.  Grandma’s lace
for a collar, a halo of antique pearls,
she’s forever yellow-yarn blonde, modeled

after girls now grown, having lost
much of their lightness.  Tradition says
the youngest child gets lifted to the top
of the tree and sets the angel on her perch

where she remains, eyes closed, hands folded
in prayer, until the tinsel and trimmings
are packed away for another year.
If those embroidered lashes fluttered open,

the eyes would be my mother’s sea-foam green,
looking down on what she’s left behind.

~

(updated)

Angel

She made it with her hands, old pantyhose,
an empty bottle of Joy.  Grandma’s lace
her collar and a halo of antique pearls.
Forever yellow-yarn blonde, modeled

after girls now grown, having lost
much of their lightness.  Tradition says
the youngest child is lifted to the top
of the tree and sets the angel on her perch

where she remains, eyes closed, hands folded
in prayer, until the tinsel and trimmings
are packed away for another year.
Another year without my mother here.

What evidence of her is left?  Sixteen boxes
of Christmas in the attic.  Her clothes bagged
at dad’s request, and jewelry divvied up
among her daughters.  Every photograph

and piece of furniture she arranged;
she hung the wallpaper and curtains.  Her
collection of teapots remains behind glass,
a someday inheritance, like what’s left

of the hand-me-down antiques.  Where has she
gone?  A plastic bag of ashes holds no kind
of clue.  So we put the angel on the tree.
We remember all the good things she made.

February 2012

(original)

Uninhabited Terrain

Even a dead volcano feeds the land,
cultivated soil producing a bountiful harvest.
I am dormant; the seeds of life
never sown, fields tilled but left unplanted.

From a distance, the curves of the horizon
give me away: my belly flat and hollow
as an underground cave; my breasts, perky
as they were at sixteen, reduced

to merely sexual objects, fulfilling
half their promise.  They are barren
mounds of flesh, enough to fill
my husband’s hands and greedy mouth,

though empty as my womb.  His suckling
is rewarded no nourishment.  I am a desert.
No fertile hills adorn the landscape
of my body, only dunes of sand.

~

(updated)

Uninhabited

Even a dead volcano feeds the land.
I am dormant; the seeds of life
never sown, fields tilled but left unplanted.

From a distance, through the surveyor’s lens,
the curves of the horizon are evidence
of desolation: my flat belly, hollow
as an underground cave; my breasts, perky
as they were at sixteen, reduced

to merely sexual objects, fulfilling
half their promise.  They are barren
mounds of flesh, enough to fill
my husband’s hands and greedy mouth,

enough to give and receive pleasure,
my skin responsive to his touch, my hunger
deeper than the void, though fleeting, futile

and empty as my womb.  His suckling
is rewarded no nourishment.  I am a desert.
No fertile hills adorn the landscape
of my body, only dunes of sand.

March 2012

Ambitions

To have a clothesline and a yard to put it in.
To shake the wrinkles out with one wet snap.
To hold the clothespins in my teeth and pull the line
for little hands to reach.  To watch the children chase
their silhouettes between the rows of flapping sheets.

To cartwheel in the grass, tickling palms and bare soles.
To push a swing high and fast with giggles and squeals
in time.  To construct kingdoms of cardboard and tape.
To play until the day is dark and droopy eyes
are kissed to sleep.  To revel in a quiet house.

To wash a dish the way my mother taught me: run
the water hot as you can stand.  To chop and slice,
sauté and bake, enough to feed a multitude.
To give out chores and gratitude.  To keep a home
that’s clean and safe, and full of laughter, love, and light.

To plant a garden.  To sink my hands into the warmth
of sun-soaked soil.  To pull the weeds and carrots
from the earth.  To walk the rows of vegetables,
accomplishments that I can touch and taste.  To sow
and tend and harvest.  And to do it all again.

April 2012

Haikus

This is a picture
of me holding a baby.
She is not my child.

We are both smiling.
That dark spot on my sweater
is a kiss of drool.

My sister is there,
too, her daughter between us.
I am just the aunt.

May 2012

(original)

State Fair

The year Mom died, Dad took us to the fair.
It was August, and the late summer sun
scorched my neck and shoulders, too
exposed in a strappy tank.  I spent the rest
of our trip aware of the radiating heat, hoping
pink would soon fade to a golden tan, a song

for Midwestern summers I could sing
when I returned west, a sign of how I’d fared
during my weeks at home.  My hope
had been to get my dad out in the sun.
After a good house-scrubbing, he deserved a rest,
though we’d cleaned less than I wanted to.

He made it hard, every dusty trinket too
meaningful to throw away. The mopping, rinsing
dishes, vacuuming, all the things my mom had done, now rested
with him.  Added to his 60-hour week, it seemed unfair,
but he didn’t have a choice, and any reason
my sister or I could give, in the hope

he would accept some help, well, that hope
was punctured with excuses: working nights, sleeping until two
or three in the afternoon.  He rarely saw the sun;
when would someone come who wouldn’t wake him, sing
while cleaning, or move the furniture?  The whole affair
would bring him too much grief.  He needed rest.

We couldn’t have his heart arrest
like Mom’s did.  My sister and I were left to hope
he’d find a way to take care of himself and fare
better than we expected him to
without her.  We’d lived out of earshot of her song
for years, the closest of her sons

and daughters an hour’s drive away.  But the sun
of her life had set, and she could rest
in the heaven of her choosing.  We wouldn’t hear her sing
in church, the vibrato of her high notes lending hope
to those who knew pain and sickness, too.
Dad took us to the fair,

maybe to forget his solitude, or in hope
of remembering sunnier days, releasing
prayers, unsung, like all the rest.

~

(updated–because I screwed up the ending)

State Fair

The year Mom died, Dad took us to the fair.
It was August, and the late summer sun
scorched my neck and shoulders, too
exposed in a strappy tank.  I spent the rest
of our trip aware of the radiating heat, hoping
pink would soon fade to a golden tan, a song

for Midwestern summers I could sing
when I returned west, a sign of how I’d fared
during my weeks at home.  My hope
had been to get my dad out in the sun.
After a good house-scrubbing, he deserved a rest,
though we’d cleaned less than I wanted to.

He made it hard, every dusty trinket too
meaningful to throw away. The mopping, rinsing
dishes, vacuuming, all the things my mom had done, now rested
with him.  Added to his 60-hour week, it seemed unfair,
but he didn’t have a choice, and any reason
my sister or I could give, in the hope

he would accept some help, well, that hope
was punctured with excuses: working nights, sleeping until two
or three in the afternoon.  He rarely saw the sun;
when would someone come who wouldn’t wake him, sing
while cleaning, or move the furniture?  The whole affair
would bring him too much grief.  He needed rest.

We couldn’t have his heart arrest
like Mom’s did.  My sister and I were left to hope
he’d find a way to take care of himself and fare
better than we expected him to
without her.  We’d lived out of earshot of her song
for years, the closest of her sons

and daughters an hour’s drive away.  But the sun
of her life had set, and she could rest
in the heaven of her choosing.  We wouldn’t hear her sing
in church, the vibrato of her high notes lending hope
to those who knew pain and sickness, too.
Dad took us to the fair,

maybe to forget his solitude, or in hope
of remembering sunnier days, whispering fare-
wells and prayers, unsung, like all the rest.

June 2012

It’s when I think of all the things I’ve missed
that life bears down on me with all its weight.
I want someone to guide me by the wrist.

My mother, if she were here, would insist
I focus on the things I can create
and not obsess on all the things I’ve missed.

But now she’s gone; I’ll add her to the list.
She’ll never hold my child—that’s my sad fate—
and she’s not here to guide me by the wrist.

The life we’ve always wanted can’t exist
without science to help us procreate.
It makes me think of all the things I’ve missed,

like pregnancy announcements with a twist—
Surprise!  I didn’t know ‘til I was late.
I want someone to guide me by the wrist

away from all the grandmothers who’ve kissed
their grandkids’ cheeks while I accumulate
the souvenirs of all the things I’ve missed
and yearn for a child to guide by the wrist.

July 2012

To a father not yet made

A piece of you exists.  It cannot
be pinned down, cannot swim,
cannot climb.  It has no limb
nor eye nor teeth.

We will meet in a laboratory,
in the hollow space of a needle, after
our bodies have gone.  We will make
a life outside ourselves.

She will be returned
to me, a clump of cells, carried
and birthed and placed into your arms.

You will draw her maps, these
pieces of you and me.  You will teach
her eyes to search, her limbs to climb.

But not yet.

August 2012

Last Will

My grandmother’s ghost had come
to reside in her body long before
she was declared dead.

Blind, mute, beyond the years
of sliding backward through her life:
answering to Rodney, the nickname given

by her jazz-bandmates; goosing Santa
at the nursing home Christmas party;
calling me by my mother’s name.

When the time came, she refused
to eat—to be fed—and withered
into her pillow three days later.

She found a way to slip free
of the body that imprisoned her,
Houdini-style, a final act of will.

September 2012

Playing Gods

This is the game:  We choose
our gods, the idols of our conquests.
You, the plastic Moses, shielded
behind a tablet of rules.  Me,
machine gun Buddha, laughing.

We rain down our wrath
in firestorms and floods, crush
non-believers under our thumbs.

Or woo the fallen with promises
of wishes granted and life
ever after.  Either way, the goal
is the same—rule the world.
Play people like the pawns
we move around the board.

You win.  Twice.  The game
is packed and put back
on the shelf.  We say we’ll play
again, before the next birthday.

And Buddha laughs:
menacing, maniacal, merciless.

October 2012

Match-making

They don’t mate for life, you know.

My husband wishes they would, insists
some code is imprinted upon them
with his first wearing, pulls them out
of the laundry one by one, inspecting each
for clues about its preferred partner.

I watch him, amused, matching mine
at random—first come, first served—
in a rare display of nonchalance.

No sock widow mourns
the loss of a hole-ridden husband, I tell
myself, but embraces a new life:
a child’s button-eyed playmate
or mother’s helper, un-dusting the crevices.

He would match them as we had been,
create an internet dating profile
for each mate-less sock (likes: slow walks
and slippery floors) and let
the search engine algorithm do the rest.

November 2012

The needle goes in.
A pinch.  A sting.
The plunger pushes
medicine into muscle.

The needle goes in.
Relax your fist.
Blood is pumped
into vial after vial.

The needle goes in.
A pipette micrometers wide
pierces the cell membrane,
injecting a single sperm.

The needle comes out.
A drop.  A trickle.  A bruise.

The needle comes out
and leaves what could be life.

December 2012

Entropy

There are infinite ways to be broken.

We each have scars:
the one on his hip marks
the site where they stole bone
to repair his gum and teeth;
my eyebrow was sliced
open when a chain-link fence
was thrown back in my face.

Fevers burn, bones break,
muscles ache.  Viruses invade,
weakening our bodies.

I’ve scratched my skin raw,
chicken pox confining me to the couch
for two weeks in kindergarten

My thoughts have spiraled into
negativity and fear, the years
after college depressed, numb, sad.

And now we are barren,
two longing to be multiplied,
my empty uterus a kind of wound.

There is only one way to be whole.

2 thoughts on “Poems

  1. I rarely like poetry. I find it tries too hard, especially when it rhymes. With that said, you’re is beautiful! Thank you for sharing. And I hope we both have little bambinos soon!

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