Letter to Emily Dickinson

Trapped in a white world
by nothing but choice

a space not universal
grown and cultivated

by your breath on the candle flame

music that rose up from the cellos
of the earth and called us

in our night clothes
in the midst of the Sun God’s

eternal night

words born of the silence
in the Sistine Chapel

sparkle of the sun flecked meadow
mist of the velvet forest

I pluck and bestow my heart

a pink petal on a white rose
speaking only to you

like the sound of the rain
typing this epistle to you

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After the Rain

It rained in the desert
the night before you left this world.
I should have known.
We all should have known.
When the heavens open up like that,
they’re taking something back in return for the blessing.
Something or someone larger than this life
with a spirit that could not be contained.

Little did we know,
your handstands
were really just you, holding up the world
for the rest of us to taste.
You did not belong to us.
You gave us back ourselves–our yearning,
our determination, and grit—you lifted us up
to meet our own challenges face-to-face.

When the rain stopped in the desert,
you were gone. In the time it took
a shooting star to fall to earth.
Gone, but not without leaving
your imprint across the world.
It is within us.

When we sing, when we dance in the moonlight or
run on the beach, when we smell fresh linen,
or wear it soft on a hot day,
when we write a poem for the person
who inspired us more than most.
Thank you friend, for opening up a window
to the words and a world in need of poetry.

Can you see from that view,
your growing legacy in the flame
of every candle lit in your name?
For you, who brings us to life over and over again
even when this part of yours has come to an end
too soon. I give you a poem. You gave me
the rain.

Glazed in esteem beside the white parchment

black pen and blank journal
like the red wheelbarrow
on which so much depends

keeper of dreams
delicate wrapper of the future
and the past

a field of flowers clouded
with darkness and shadows
a battlefield of mistakes

defeated by knowledge and
gratitude for lessons learned
seeds of regrowth

black pen and blank journal
let your secrets escape
to shine their light

on a world bereft of poetry
flowing through the veins of society
and fill its soul once more

Be a Poet, I Dare You

Sometimes it seems like a challenge—
Other days a threat, or a warning.
Maybe simple honesty stings unknowingly
like a threatened scorpion
Subtext: you’re no Sanchez, Lorde, Clifton, Cisneros.
You barely belong in this class.
No.  “You’ll never get in.  You’re a middle aged white woman,”
my mentor said.

Was that a dare you laid at my feet and told me not to cross?
Were you even aware of the shrine I built for your work upon
my own heart?  I gathered these droppings I laid
packaged them neatly to see if their spindly legs would hold
on plain white paper.  With my life story and letters
from people who have no clue, I risked it all
and didn’t get in—to the one who lets everyone in
even old white women.

Still, there is always a bud of hope
blooming under those pages in the trash.
A hope that one day you will read a piece and
it will mean something–
enough to get taped on the wall.

I am a Poet

Crawled out of my corner
No longer a prisoner in my own house
Un-blending from the shadows
Claw mark patterns, and red brick textures
Peeled from the coffee house wall
No need to bellow the truth
Tattooed on my breast since birth
Like an intricate badge, a hieroglyph message
Carved in the rings of ancient trees
Even when deciphered
Needed literal and serendipitous translation

Here I am
Here I write
A story no one has ever told
When the sun is rising and all of man
Silent as the morning after the big bang
I discover life teeming; not all around, but within
Suddenly aware of mathematical rhythms
Playing themselves into song
Singing and dancing out loud
What I was afraid to say all along

I
Am a poet
It is who I am
Who I have always been
Who I will always be
Whether or not the world knows
It is so

All the Best Poems are Hiding

In the never-ending summer of mid-September,
an early morning cacophony of psychological torture.
An angry metal band of crickets with the volume cranked
bashing out the same repeated death notes.
Man and nature–inescapable in summer with pre-sunrise barking dogs
ceiling fans and condensers, lawn mowers, weed whackers, and motorcycles.
Even in the joy of late night lasting pool parties with screaming girls and top 40 jams,
I am forced to beg.  Straight down on my knees, closed eyes, prayerful tears in the corners, for the cold dark silences of winter.

Winter cannot be called unassuming.
Let the mighty storm blow!
Once and for all, it shuts man up, leaving his lip all quivering.
It can muzzle his riotous machines with one snap of a storm–all is silenced,
but for the crunch of feet in snow or the fizz and pop of a sparkling amber fire.
Winter has no need to wake us early with daylight to seize.
Winter rolls its frosty blanket over us and we recover in sleep from harsh
sun burns with cashmere sweaters on the skin
from booming summer thunder with silent snowflakes
alighting on a strand of hair across the forehead
like little words falling from thick folds of gray clouds in a winter sky
where all the best poems are hidden
suspended in an arc of silence,
until they become full, and sprinkle
down to earth into a poem
waiting for sound to fade

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.

A Violent Act

It is every poet’s right
to commit violent acts
of terrorism on the page,
whether crimes of passion,
or result of oppressed rage. 

If she breaks that line
hatchet in hand
blows the poem apart
with an adverb that makes
her awkward critic un-
comfortable 

Well, accuse her then.
Try her for bad poetry.
Convict her of violent acts.
Sentence her to unknown status,
criticism, and mockery.  Strike her
lines with blood red. 

Every pause in the breath with
unconventional punctuation,
she stands tall at the edge
of a cliff and breaks
lines that others call violent
as they murder her right to expression.

Message in a bottle: Mars Sea of Tranquility

Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle (Photo credit: TonG Fotoart)

Have these lines settled into
homes around my eyes, mouth, forehead,
so I can no longer ask the question
receive a serious answer,
or even be considered
for a moment
silence? 

I am willing to toil in this garden
day and night
leaving my children pulling at my elbows
for dinner and bedtime stories
if only someone can tell me a good reason
why the rule for a line break cannot be broken

Tell me o wise distinguished pedigreed academicians
with your words from the catacombs,
how punctuation can be used in poetry,
but must be grammatically correct.  Tell me
how to breathe in and out.
Tell my heart what rhythm earns your grace.

Or am I to add to these lines
these splitting hairs
in more and more notebooks that
when piled high, will not even reach the dirty basement
window?

I am but one body that will perish and all of my lines
rooted or homeless, quiet and un-cherished
will likely fall away
to dust