Category Archives: Poetry

The Piano Lesson

She was comfortable at the piano

playing for yellow palomino manes

for rains and the wet-kiss of storm,

for doughy clouds which gather, become houses

and horses, and are dispersed again.

She kept her own time

until

he stood behind her

like somebody’s older brother, with one hand

pressing her shoulder

trying to get her in sync

with the tick-tick-ticking pendulum

so she sits up

straight, fingers

stumbled across keys, caught

in cracks.  She falls in after them.

He never smiles, only rakes

pointed fingers through greasy hair

and like a snake sliding

on a purple belly, extends

a flickering black tongue.

She wonders why

she must change

her beat

to his.

Can you guess what my instructions to this assignment were?

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Puddle Wonderful

To see the original photo, click on the image!

Last week I wrote a piece “On Sons & Thunderstorms.” Several people commented that they liked the line “puddling with joy.” That made me smile because I actually borrowed that line from myself. In fact, that piece was inspired by a poem I wrote a long time ago. I thought I would share it with you.

What is a Sun Shower?

the heavy too-sweet scent of

woman’s perfume dribbling from gray skies

or a bumblebee, fat and

zig-zagging through air, cutting the

wetness with buzzing certainty;

a black string pulled too tight, too

tight to

the  b  r  e  a   k    i   n    g        p     o      i      n       t,  expectant with

tension, an invisible pulse or

heartbeat crashing around ears and

trees. too close when your teeth buzz, it is

too far when you are trapped in bed, sweet yellow galoshes squeezed in a dark closet.

it is luck before a wedding,

a bath for my umbrella.

nothing more than G-d’s tears.

nothing less than the earth gone mint-chocolate mud, gurgling,

and puddling

with joy.

What makes you puddle with joy?

I’m Afraid

this morning

the little things scared me

i remembered

i’m afraid

of the dark and

dirt under my fingernails

stepping on thumbtacks

and the windows of my car getting stuck

in the down position

or the up position

i remembered that i’m afraid of rats and

cheese aged over 100 days

roaches

microwave rays

i’m afraid of potatoes

because i see

a similarity

between them and me:  i have too many eyes

work in disguise

have felt the earthy rot

from within

i fear i’m too noisy

and then {i fear} I’m leading too quiet a life and

i’m afraid

of that man

who enters daily

through my eyes

{he could leap out of bed and never return}

i’m afraid of dying

in an absurd place

near a tobacco stand or

on a street corner where

old people linger.

i’ve a fear of drowning

being held upside down

under water, tangled in seaweed

and ocean.  i’m afraid

of dawn’s outstretched arms

and the morning which screams

a promise between overlapping teeth

I’m afraid that

“Chicken Little” was right

{and the sky is falling}

i’m afraid no one will keep

the door open for me and

i’m afraid of being alone on the other side of the door.

i’m afraid of standing

beside buildings, so tall

not because they might fall

on me, but because cigarette smoke

and hate

drift upward

choke the sky

i’m afraid of the way my heart dangles carefree

on a string

and i’m afraid

that if you look in my eyes

you might see some ancient madness there

i’m afraid of being wrongly accused

afraid that i haven’t suffered nearly enough

but mostly i’m afraid of

my right hand, the way it guides me.  It is

much older than i, comes down gray as

an eyeball

is godless

and without it

i am not here, never was.

My mother once told me

that i should

never tell anyone

what scares me the most

that they would surely

use it against me

so if you ask me

if i am afraid,

i will deny everything.

Truly, I am afraid of posting something that is pretty controversial. I am afraid that I will lose subscribers. I am going to do it on 3/13. But I’m really scared. Tell me what you are scared of.

On Valentine’s Day & Half-Birthdays

It’s Valentine’s Day, and the person below is officially 12 & 1/2.

This poem was written in celebration of him.

the boy is all cheeks. 

he sits on a slope, fingering the grass

along the edges of an old flower box, grass

the mower blades always miss. 

tall green spikes with tips

still intact and pointing upward, stretching

toward sky, the daffodils open

their yellow mouths, lean in toward the boy

sing-songing words

only rocks understand.  

he is speaking of his contentment,

telling the triangular lupines about his day:

his pancakes at breakfast,

his discovery about doors (that they open

and close), about the milky smell of his blanket, or

how right it felt to be held

the hour before. it is a moment

without the crunch of car tires, a moment

without demand. no one needs

to be fed or wiped or comforted. it is a moment

without clutter, no toys on the floor,

no books needing to be stacked. 

nothing to straighten or fold. it is a moment

to keep. the boy is mine. 

the world is purple flowers.

Do you celebrate half-birthdays?

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Words To My Students Whom I Adore

springtime classes, originally uploaded by Wolfram Burner.

People generally remember a favorite teacher, but what they may not realize is that we teachers also become very connected to our students. We aren’t supposed to have “favorites,” but there are one or two who always weasel their way into our hearts because of their talent or wit, their work ethic or their ability to get their peers back on track. Over the years I have collected many favorite students. They were not always stellar English students when I taught them, but they have all become stellar people. This poem was written many years ago while teaching at Metairie Park Country Day School, but it epitomizes how I feel at the end of each academic year.

To My Students

We pepper the field
sprawled in comfort,
air on faces
in hair, on cheeks, freckled
and sun-kissed, we
relax together, separately
seeking inspiration and
silence in a too noisy world
saturated by too many good ideas
already created. Children shriek
around us, the squeak of
swing-sets swinging, pony-tails
bobbing, we were children
once too, clawing at the dirt
unafraid to scream or spit
point or stare, but now
we care.
These months
we have explored
together, through heat
and humidity
through the wet-kiss of storm, we have
connected, grown closer
a tight group of bodies
and minds which dip
and soar like butterflies
over cornfields. It is springtime
already and they
blossom before me, open their petals
stickily preparing for bigger gardens.
As we sit scattered across the field
surrounded by outside smells
I miss them already,
these people that I love.

Tell me about one of your favorite teachers!