umbra

night and day i speak to the sky
crows line telephone wires
as if witness to this,
this reaching past cumulus clouds
this wish to be carried past pain
past the past pressed upon each day

at the shore of my pacific
sand shifts under my feet like fickle hearts
ever moving toward something new 
like you lost to me now
mere ripples of sound and motion
abacus beads
adding subtractions

bowed limbs
like question marks
punctuate the air
cleave the mystery of
paths harder to forge this 
muddied season

despair falls upon me like rain

• • • •

Published in San Diego Poetry Anthology, 2019-20
Photo by Chris Stenger on Unsplash

maybe god rides a harley

for iafay

across night i travel to sterile rooms 
where crises play out under harsh fluorescence. 
where the aftermath of a single moment
is a staccato of scissors 
cutting clothes from torsos,
medics working in orchestrated chaos —
the stuff of late-night news.

a clock on the wall ticks
each moment a lifetime.

i pretend to read yesterday’s headlines 
set my shallow breath to sounds around me: 
knitting needles   coin-fed phones
street traffic dissected by automatic doors

a doctor’s footsteps…
i look up to read your fate on his face. 

• • • •

Published in Magee Park Poets Anthology, 2017
Photo by milan degraeve on Unsplash

night vision

the past keeps sending me inscribed invitations; 
i read them but never RSVP. it’s rude of me, i know, 
but between the lines i find irony in formica, linen & good china,

women who wear heels to garden parties,
heels that sink in soft summer grass. 

i was a child of university: grammar in my cereal bowl, 
syntax on the barbeque   publish-or-perish professors 
smoking pot in the back room while we splashed in the pool. 

behind the smiles & cigarettes   tomes of transgression 
tucked away like drafts of unfinished novels 
they thought i’d never see

there was a cottage on the beach 
where arguments might drown in the swells,
where night’s high tide would sweep
under the deck as if to return treasures taken
or wash away those charming 50s façades.

now there’s just sandpipers, 
the lagoon with its darting insects 
& memories in every tidepool 

brine is a fine preservative.

• • • •

Published in Waymark Voices of the Valley #5, 2015
Photo by Raquel Moss on Unsplash

looking back

looking-back-two-young-girls-holding-hands

for joan simmons

we shared a Southern California sky from opposite sides of the city
the lies of our lives hidden beneath play

i wonder now if our reverie didn’t meet
in that place no one dare name

if you saw my wicked dance with death
took his seduction as your own

i ask myself
what did we talk about how did we meet why did we drift apart
how did i come to learn of your fate so long past?

we splashed about in the same fickle currents
yet i emerged and you went under

i imagine you like Woolf, slowly and with purpose
walking into the water

but i know you chose a gun instead 
leaving others to pick up the pieces

no doubt about their trigger fingers

• • • •

Published in Magee Park Poets Anthology, 2015
Family snapshot of Cheryl and Joan

inside out

come spring, you abandon the garden
cling to reasons for moving past this breath.

my gaze wanders to a cobweb in the corner —
i can’t say how long it has been there.

outside, the wind is a frantic heart.
inside, the air, still as death.

• • • •

Published in So Luminous the Wildflowers, An Anthology of California Poets 2003
Photo by Jene Yeo on Unsplash

coda

cruel memory’s stubborn resolve rises & falls
like incantations      you ride the pitch & tone
through nameless days.

i could tell you the course of a river can’t be changed
but you’ve seen his face in its quiet reflection
felt the pull of shifting streams.

some days you are the strength of those currents
others lost in their fickle eddy knots in your hair
too long uncombed.

it matters not if it’s water or song      this swell of chants
unlikely visitations       only that it brooks your sorrow
of those last days when even your love could not save him.

you tell me you’ve been where the river once flowed
banks alive now with black-eyed susans      how it’s their spring
not yours     how their hollow eyes hold your gaze.

innocence long buried in unmarked graves, you ride the rapids
of an uncertain future. as for love     there is less of it now
but more need; even the poets have lost their way.

• • • •

Published in Spillway #13 2007
Photo by Dustin Humes on Unsplash

prayer beads

quiet as the dawning sky, i sit
anticipating birdsong, unsure about the sun.

this stillness, my pilgrimage.

at memory’s pool
i kneel, drink in your visage
mindful not to disturb the surface,
alter the spell with even a ripple of need.

you leave gifts at my door —
bits of song;
slightly faded photographs;
pages torn from an unfinished manuscript;
untitled maps.
i cannot decipher them without you.

i have caught you like rain on my tongue
released you in beads of sweat
returned to the quiet again and again
to light candles, burn sandalwood
remember what i know.

in pools of light i hold your words, a rosary,
feel your desire in the smooth roundness
of each bead, cast prayers of strength,
wait for a sign.

• • • •

Published in Magee Park Poets Anthology 2009
Photo by Marco Ceschi on Unsplash

tango

past & future tango through the hours
of a father who soon won’t know my name,
mother in stage-four reprieve.
this cadence of crises plays
in the background
like an old 45 on repeat.

in the quietude of morning, foghorns hold me
like bowed notes of violin & cello;
i stand mute within an opus
of memories; past & future tango by.
coda looms in the wings.

this year finds spring pushed aside
by an aging winter’s arias of snow & ice.
these long nights at a cold window
evoke years syncopated by estrangement,
tempo of anger & silence, rest & repeat,
past & future’s blithe tango through our lives.

soon the seasons will settle,
as did life between us.
i will say the things i need to say,
those things i’ve told myself will lure songbirds
back to the garden.
those things that will let me
place an LP on the old turntable
& tango effortlessly into tomorrow.

• • • •

Published in A Year in Ink Anthology 2013
Photo by Rafaela Biazi on Unsplash

pas de deux

we sit, poem between us,
debate the power/virtue/use
of first-person & third. you seek definition,
want to hold these words closer,
know them     know me.
table between us, we sit
as if on separate shores
art/logic
try to gauge the river’s depth/temperature/current,
what it might take to reach the other’s shore,
prevail the eddies,
traverse the stones
without losing balance
or direction
or each other.

• • • •

Published in don’t blame the ugly mug anthology 2011
Photo by Kazuo ota on Unsplash

body language

a tart wash of sun streams through the double paned glass
summer’s inconsolable push
like a child’s desire.    a pat   a hush   not nearly enough
to quell fear   want.  
empty echo     early morning reverie. 

’neath a rising tide of silence   scratch of pen to paper: 
commiseration of ink and sweat about the cost of a single step. 
these vain attempts to dress wounded hours 
expose the frailty of language 
while regret eats through the day like acid. 

this acrid spell    burden of expectation scraped raw
each bend    stretch    a reminder 
simple poetry of sinew and tendon 
lost to the confused grip of past and present
the innate way fate twists meaning. 

what’s unwritten has different value   lessons 
embedded in cells like rings within mighty redwoods
hidden save for the cut of the logger’s saw
— but who could translate    wood to paper
strength to vulnerability

it’s all a foreign language now

• • • •

To be published in Anti-Heroin Chic, February 2021
Published in Magee Park Poets Anthology 2008
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash