Soldiers for Love

Her best friend is eight.
Wants to be a soldier
she says.  A sadness in her heart showing
through the patina of her disquieted face,
clear brown eyes as deep as ancient Camelot
cast upward in search of an answer
to war.

She worries about everything,
especially this blonde and blue
soldier boy.
She knows the smell of bloodshed.
She has lived this war before–
little old soul packaged in seven years
pale skin, auburn curls, sprinkled a golden gossamer
burgundy lips speaking ancestral prose.

She can tell us our past, but
does not know our future.
She understands, but no longer remembers
how the worst in us returns to earth
in the red blood of children, spilling hatred at our feet

we fight the other, words to guns, holy books to missiles
we fight ourselves, words, separation, starvation, deprivation, and guns.

She sees the best in us
comes from love
for the blonde and blue-eyed soldier boy
with the freedom to choose his own way
to fight
for love
with words
or guns.

Tiny Voices

She stares out from the kitchen
searching for words that only form
in the silences between here and there
little valleys of space while driving
cannot be captured

She sees mountains
laundry, toys, artwork, books
television singing away all the words
light like snowflakes on the tongue
quickly melt away

reverberating chaos swirls ’round
moves with her from room to room
until the noise becomes a deafening block
of nothing and time slows to a still

for only the opening of a sweet little brown
feminine hand reaches through, touches her lips
like the last slice of ripe mango–
only this can break through the tornado of lost
thoughts, words, stories, and jumbled pieces of her

tiny voice inside, quiet again
listening to the tiny voice outside,
smiling, always smiling, at her mother
since the day she came home


To all the Girls without Fathers on Father’s Day

If he’s gone now
or was gone early on
if he was never there at all
if he was there but didn’t see you

if you have a hole where your father should be

I grew out of the shadows of that empty space too.
I am a whole woman, here to tell you,
no matter where he was, or where he is now
sweep up these words, the pieces of all the world’s empty or
unfinished daughters on Father’s Day
plant them in your empty space, so love can grow,

you know? Because you don’t have any more days
to hunt, for whatever he wasn’t or isn’t anymore
or whatever you want him to be. Let the chase and wild-eyed dogs cease.
You only have now. Even if you never glimpsed him at all.
He already gave you everything

Hands and heart, eyes and soul, of a woman capable

Love and be loved if you choose. Step out. Barefoot and skirt twirling into the street,

arms to the sky and smiling because on Father’s Day,
you became whole and balanced spinning on one toe into a world just waiting
for you to be open, to hear the voice, the one inside of you
that says I miss having a father, but it will not stop me
from dancing into my own comfortable skin.

On Father’s Day, even without him, I will once and for all be me!

The Moon in Mexico

Somewhere deep in childhood
a time in Mexico
warm blue ocean, whir of foreign tongue
a girl’s dream began
building castles in the sand

Something more than shells came back
hidden in her lifeblood, in the cascade of golden hair
always a connection between waves and shore
always a love story born
by tide and moon

So when I saw you for the first time
I recognized the fiesta in your eyes, the waves in your smile
moon glowing from your heart
whispering to my senses in distant languages
all grown up now from the girlhood dream

There you are, sand on your cheek
helping to conjure up new girlhood dreams
with these tiny constellations we created
“I love you Mama Luna!” they say, but
are seeing your reflection in me

It is you who came to us from the Mexican moon
on the glittering ocean flowing into a young girl’s dreams.

Mark of a Dove

(for Ella)

Hiding your heartbeat behind mine
wishing to remain our secret
curled in the winter’s den of our love
until the spring thaw

You emerged from hibernation
a tentative spring tulip
questioning the world
seeking the butterfly and the rain

On your soft brown root
the pink mark of a dove, a stamp
from the lovebirds nesting on the windowsill
confirming you as our gift

A baby we will call Shai
still connected to both worlds
passing in dreams between the two
like the flutter of angel’s wings

When in your mother’s arms
on your fourth day,
you laughed out loud, some secret jest
I will never know

And when you are one
and the trees are to you like shooting stars
I know you have come from that other world
spirit of a dove

On the Road

Sooner or later

she’s got to realize,
1969 at two and a half,
blonde pig tails, and
embroidered bell bottoms
was a banner year.
The best of ‘em.

When she said,
“I a hippie.”
She really had a good idea
of self–
back then.

These days, it’s just a run
for the money.
Watch your words, your back, and your
bank account. Forget those new
running shoes, I’ve decided. No shoes
will do just fine for this next part of the road.

What I want to be when I grow up
is everything I ever knew in the
sparkle of dandelions growing in
my backyard. I a hippie.
Not workin’ for the man or
the woman in his suit.

No, this jungle animal is breaking
free of this food chain. Dean and
Marylou would dig it. Time
for me to hit that high note too.

Under the Bridge

where the monsoon flows

over desert river rock
where nothing grows
but from the red clay floor
and the heart of a girl no more
a wise Inukshuk rises.

His steady hand pointing
toward the rising sun
his native soul sifted
from the bones of
whispered poems

Sonia Sanchez on the wind
my homegirls guiding
chalk poems on the walls
before flash flood and
raging rivers

left the beds dry

Bring it
big life
Bring it!

Island Exposed

I am an island
and you are the sea

Only you.  Surrounding me
under me, lapping gently over

smoothing my edges
until one day I feel exposed

and realize you are adrift.
Nature out of balance,

a tide out too long.
“I am the ocean.”

you want to say
but don’t

“I am tired of gazing at your weathered trees,
your stony beaches.

There are hundreds of islands,
new, different, in love with me like you.”

You say none of that.
You silently retreat.

“But, I love you,”
I say.

There is no ripple to that

Only blowing dust in a desert
that was once the sea.

Speaking in Tongues

She sees the poets in the streets
Hegemonic voices penetrating  old walls
Oh, she may be a poetaster
Skipping ’round the outskirts of the throng
Planning to filibuster her initiation into the bloodless dusty stacks
They find her red flag brazen and her
White flag brash.  When she squeezes her way to the  podium
Creative writing workshop 101
Her child artist loses function of its neocortex
Yet consciousness prevails, her Phoenix spirit rising
Before them a grotesque vaudevillian puppet
They cock their paper mache heads as if to say
“Is she speaking in tongues?” And when they carve up her sectile limbs
She does not bleed, she bows to the interconnectedness of their feet
”I am but an extension of you”
Like dawn chasing the moon.


Yesterday, when going through an old email in-box, I came across one from In Our Books, the blog that my Danish friend Andrea Heiberg and her friend Ina started together.  It isn’t very often that they post, and Andrea hasn’t posted in a long time, so I thought I would check it out.  Ina posted about a free poem-a-day service that offers if you subscribe.  She receives a poem in her in-box everyday, and yesterday was one by David Kirby.  

What was so meaningful about getting this poem sent via In Our Books, is that it is about touching the feet of our elders to tell them that they are like a god to us.  There is a line in the poem about wishing to have your elders that have passed with you again so that you can touch their feet and say,  “Namaste,” “I bow to the God within you”, or “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you.”
It was extremely touching to me, because my father passed away almost two months ago, and yesterday was his birthday.  I was really missing him.  I did wish that I had him back in front of me so that I could say Namaste to him.  But, it was even more special because before he passed away, when I visited him, I rubbed his feet for the first time.  I am so glad to know that there is another meaning to touching the feet of your elders and that I had a chance to do this for my dad before he was gone.  Even though I did not say those words out loud, my actions had another meaning.  This is incredibly special to me, and I will be sure to hold onto that idea and to the poem.  
Thank you Ina and Andrea for leading me to that place when I needed it yesterday.

Get Up, Please

  by David Kirby
The two musicians pour forth their souls abroad
                         in such an ecstasy as to charm the audience
             like none I’ve ever seen before, and when
they finish, they rise and hug each other, 
                         and then the tabla player bends down
and touches the feet of the santoor player in an obvious gesture

of respect, but what does it mean? I don’t find out
                          until the next day at the Econolodge in Tifton, GA,
             where I stop on my way home after the concert
and ask Mrs. Patel, the owner, if she has ever heard
                         of these two musicians or knows
anything about the tabla and the santoor and especially the latter, 

which looks like the love child of a typewriter
                          and a hammered dulcimer only with a lot of extra wires
             and tuning posts, and she doesn’t seem to understand
my questions, though when I ask her about one person touching
                         the other’s feet and then bend down
to show her, she lights up and says, “It means he thinks the other

is a god. My children do this before they go off
                          to school in the morning, as though to say, ‘Mummy, 
             you are a god to us,’” and I look at her
for a second and then surprise us both when I say, “Oh, Mrs. Patel!”
                         and burst into tears, because I think,
first, of my own dead parents and then of little Lakshmi and Padma

Patel going off to their classes in Tift County schools,
                          the one a second-grader who is studying homophones
             (“I see the sea”) and the other of whom is in the fourth
grade, where she must master long division with
                          its cruel insistence on numbers lined
up under one another with exacting precision and then crawling

toward the page’s bottom as you, the divider, subtract
                         and divide again and again, all the while recording
             on the top line an answer that grows increasingly
lengthy as you fret and chew the tip of your pencil
                         and persevere, though before they grab
their books and lunch boxes and pile onto the bus, they take time

to touch Mrs. Patel’s feet and Mr. Patel’s as well,
                          assuming there is such a person. Later my friend
             Avni tells me you touch the feet of your elders
to respect the distance they have traveled
                          and the earth they have touched, and you
say “namaste”not because you take yoga at that little place

on the truck route between the t-shirt store
                          and the strip club but because it means “I bow
             to the light within you,” and often the people being
bowed to will stoop down and collect you as if to say
                         “You too are made of the same light!” 
Reader, if your parents are alive, think of them now, of all the gods

whose feet you never touched or touched enough. 
                          And if not your parents, then someone else.
             You know someone like this, right? Someone who belongs
to the “mighty dead,” as Keats called them.
                          Don’t you wish that person were here now
so you could touch their feet and whisper, “You are my god”?

I can’t imagine Keats saying, “You too are made
                          of the same light,” though I can see him saying,
             as he did to Fanny Brawne, “I have been astonished
that Men could die Martyrs for religion—I have
                          shudder’d at it—I shudder no more—I could
be martyr’d for my Religion—Love is my religion—I could die for that—

I could die for you.” My own feet have touched
                          the earth nearly three times as long as Keats’s did,
             and I’m hardly the oldest person
I know. So let this poem brush across the feet of anyone
                          who reads it. Poetry is
my religion—well, I wouldn’t die for it. I’d live for it, though.

About this poem:
“Anybody can stitch a bunch of parts together to make a creature – the secret is to know when to apply the current. In this case, the limbs and torso of my poem were just lying there when a stranger slipped them the juice. So here’s to music, poetry, and chance encounters that give you exactly what you need, especially when you don’t know it’s coming your way.” 

—David Kirby

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