Why I Write Poetry   June 26, 2020

I suppose it is because I always feel

the pressure of a list of things to do

that I write poetry. In through the eye gate,

processed by the brain, and quickly,

the first time, out through my fingers

holding a pen or pressing tiny keys

the words emerge, the thoughts emerge.

They emerge and I see them like the mother

sees her child in those first seconds of life,

a beautiful thing.

But like the mother/creator,

there is no time in the beginning

to think deeply about them. That takes

hours or days or in some miraculous space,

only minutes to know I have not got it right yet.

Those words are like the butterfly net

missing the butterfly because the

colorful strong wings carry it higher,

faster than my net can trap it.

Maybe I need a ladder,

or a to look again at the reality,

or time to recreate in my head

those thoughts, those feelings,

that drove me to paper the first time.

And sometimes, I line out the first words

when they are the honest ones

and now I must find more honest words to say

what I really only think I meant

that first time that will be

more honest, somehow. More transparent.

Ars poetica:    June 27, 2020

Even the word ‘art’ pulls me back and forth

– like a moth to the flame.

I want to look at art.

I want to create art.

I feel guilty about wanting to sit in front of a painting

as big as a wall, as small as a book,

for paintings are too much like

books without words.

I feel guilty, as though I must rush

the experience because there are ‘meaningful’

things to do, work to do, the kind that stains your

shirt with stress sweat, black the right color for it.

My mother taught me to work hard.

But I want to believe that God was an artist. After all,

who else could create such an array of colors,

the shades of difference so minute only the

eye close watching can see them.

Only the close participant in the art

can feel it, for it wants to awaken

every sense because God made it that way.

Still I hear the call to be busy about that which,

matters only in the immediate. Ah, perhaps

it might make tomorrow possible.

But art makes tomorrow pleasurable,

so it cannot be wrong and I must not

feel guilty. I must revel in this freedom

I, only in this very moment, know.

Inspiration  June 27, 2020

Inspiration comes to me through the senses.

Through what I feel with my fingers or with the thickness of my body.

Through what I see with my eyes and then imagine with my heart.

Through what I smell with my nose and remember with the frontal lobe of my brain.

Through what I hear, the temporal lobe of my brain makes sense,

tying the new to the old sounds and those sounds slide over

to that part of my brain that feels in response to all of the senses.

I feel sadness when I see a purple gladiola because there were too many

at my brother’s funeral and my mother said they always made her think of him.

A Sacred Place  June 27, 2020

I think of inspiration as an act of God,

a knitting together of all that is in me,

all of my learning by or through experience,

all of my learning from books and papers and speakers,

and the new experience. Real learning comes from

the manipulation of the brain pairing old and new,

like with like, the sensory with the history

and lessons of old sensory.

Inspiration, for me, happens when

God rings a bell in my brain

and I am free to think new thoughts made up of old

 everything seen in a brand new way,

as though God is giving me the latest in eyewear

 at the same time He gives me the latest in hearing aids

 and the latest in yoga or meditation skills.

 And the fog, the cloud, the smoke

is blown away and for moments I see afresh,

a sparkling happens, a luminescence that enlightens

and I must get it down before the wind blows the thought away

or it falls into the box of puzzle pieces I cannot sort out later.

Why do I write?          June 27, 2020

I write to understand what I think, to understand why I think it,

to catch it before it flies away and even I forget it.

If I don’t write it down, I will remember

that once I had a thought.

I was standing there in the bedroom and the thought

pressed its way up through the chores yet to be done,

up through the chores done, the delights experienced

and those waiting to be experienced, a thought worthy

of remembering of exploring,

but if I do not write it down,

all I will remember is that once I had a thought.

My role as a writer   June 27, 2020

I write to let it out, all the words, the stories,

the how-to lessons, the things I think someone might like,

or want to know how to do,

to make someone think.

And sometimes I write

 to hold on to history before it evaporates

like water in a glass left out for days,

water you meant to pour into a plant,

and you don’t, so the plant dies.

The Breeze at Dawn in response to Rumi’s The Breeze at Dawn

  June 28, 2020

We cannot see the wind, the breeze,

only its effects as it passes,

but you know that.

Leaves in the tree caressing one another

or smashing, crashing into one another

as if God had a point to make,

a warning to take the sh, sh ,sh

of the leaves seriously

or miss the prize of the soft

breeze, his warm words of love –

of I have been here all the time.

And I am lonely.

I want to walk this day with you.

And if you will listen, I will whisper

the way, the paths and you can choose.

One will feel easy, comfortable and you

will go to sleep just the same as you wake.

Still afraid of what might await.

You don’t know me yet.

The other may be steepened and over

a rock-strewn track, waiting to twist your ankle,

rain-clouds waiting to turn the soft brown dust into mud.

Aloneness and misunderstandings waiting around

that bend in the road.

No illusions these impediments, but

I laid them there as a trust,

to show you I will never leave you,

nor forsake you, that you never have to do it


I will hold you up.

That is what I whisper to you in the morning.

Wait a moment. Don’t just leave me here.

June 23, 2020 poems

From My Bench: a series

From My Bench

Dragonflies zip through the air like helicopters on surveillance duty.

I har the coded conversation of birds singing across the water,

and I wonder if each species understand the other

and some graying hen minds the chicks

while the mothers meet in the tree over my head.

The white blotches on the other bench and

the corner of my picnic table evidence a

coffee klatch of birds or would they have

had a flying bug klatch?


Memories play funny tricks, don’t they?

I peer through the trees lining this dirt road

and can make out the dry rock bed

of a creek that comes and goes.

There, I see my Aunt Caresta,

and she’s holding my mother’s hand

and they’re laughing, my aunt

and my mother, girls not

grandmothers and I want

to snap that picture,

but it folds in on itself.

All that remains are

the rocks, too long and too

wide and too thick to give up

their mass to the spring floods

or summer hurricanes and

thunderous storms chewing away

the banks leaving the occasional tree

balancing over the water, bare feet on tiptoes,

toes curled into the rocky bank, a tenuous hold

like my hold on some dreams.

The tree knows that one day

the torrents will tickle those rooty toes

free and the tree will lay down in surrender.

After a while, the creek will

float that tree on down a ways where it

will grasp another bald head, and

they will share stories until

some boy pulls them apart

where the current thrust them

up against the bank to dry.

And he will build a fire and

the trees will sing out in

thin whistles and sighs,

their last stories.


A fish jumped, or was it a frog?

I don’t know. I looked up only in time

to see circular ripples, wavelets

following each other out to where

they bummp into the sturdier wavelets

generated and driven by the wind.

I watch and in scarcely moments,

there is no evidence, no wrinkle in time,

to borrow from Madeline L’Engle,

to show the fish or frog who risked the jump.

But wider waves, the ones driven by the wind,

they are persistent. I see no break

in their intent as they swim on with unified

breaststrokes down the lake, swimming

round the fishing boat, bobbing the lure

through the clump of weeds and leaving

brown shadows on the distant shore.

That moment

It’s a common sound – the wind blowing through the leaves

in early summer. The sky is blue and clear, the air warm,

and I honor all the women before me and who will come after,

who will pause as they pin a shirt or a towel to the line,

and think If only this very moment could never end.

So Many Voices

I hear so many voices up here on the mountain,

voices of the long dead immigrant coal miners

from Scotland and Ireland and England

hoping for a better life.

I don’t think they ever imagined

they would spend their last days up here

hidden in this little village, pop-up village

when a hunter found a lump of shiny black stone

someone named coal.

So they came to work and build houses

and churches and play games and sing songs

and die, when scarlet fever took their children,

a mine accident a husband,

a childbirth accident took a wife.

I know.

I read the tombstones,

still speaking grief into the air.

Big Lamoka

A swimming hole, a round spot in the creek bed

where little kids played in the shallow side

and grownups and teenagers swam to the deep side

diving in from their perch on the high rocks

where the rushing water spills into the pool.

In the summers of my early childhood

we took bars of Ivory soap with us

and my mother would oversee the shampooing

and the baths that helped justify the trip

out to the cool of the mountains.

We learned to swim there

out to my father, into his arms

clinging to his hairy chest,

black ringlets of safety

arms then of love.

A teenager, I introduced my boyfriend

to the bedrock polished smooth by the

spring floods and where we would lay

out our picnic and he would build a

Boy Scout fire to cook our hotdogs

and roast our marshmallows.

Sometimes crowds would beat us to the

water and we would go to Little Lamoka

where the swimming hole was scarcely more

than a wide spot in the creek, a deep hole

twelve strokes long and four wide.

It was on the rock of Little Lamoka

that he took a rock and a screwdriver

to carve in the letters JK with a plus sign

and CB underneath. We visited it

a couple days ago and you can still

read the letters even though someone else

filled in the K to make an R.

But I didn’t want to get into the water this time.

I didn’t want to sit in the flat spot where my feet

could touch the water or go down

to the edge where I would inch my way in,

careful not to slip where the rock was slick

with thin summer moss.

I didn’t go in because I could still see the couple,

the man and the woman, scarcely more than

teenagers, arguing at the edge of Big Lamoka.

I don’t know why they were arguing

or why he hit her or shoved her or

put his hands around her neck.

The water was icy cold and

she must have hit it with a splash

that surprised them both.

And somewhere between Big Lamoka

where she went into the water

and Little Lamoka where they

found her body that spring,

she died.

Someone put a cross with flowers on it

at the edge of Big Lamoka where

we used to park our car.

And maybe the same person or

someone else put another cross

and more flowers and a sign that

said In Memory Of with her name there

next to the path we took down to the water.

And I don’t want to go into the water

there anymore.

I know it is new water there now,

new water rushing out of the mountains

cold and clear and fresh, unstained

by death.

But I see it still and I remember her

and I am angry that he hurt her and

and so filled with grief that I cannot,

I will not, feel the joy this

mountain stream once offered me.

2 thoughts on “Things I wrote when no one was looking July 1, 2020

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