And all the storms

(In memory of Edna St. Vincent Millay)

That your heart gave way in the end, my dear,

is no surprise. You were not wearied suddenly,

rather four seasons brought their storms to bear

and left you out to weather, or nearly.

That your soul was satisfied with Beauty’s

harvest, we do not know, but saw you’d leave

Love’s feast for a steady draft of the Muse’s

cup. You knew what you and she would weave.

And is this a contradiction?

A work of fiction? Would anyone regret

proving the power of Love’s addiction?

A good quick end, stubbed out like a cigarette,

the still-warm ash of life’s affairs

flicked down a flight of uncarpeted stairs.

 

 

(First published in Mezzo Cammin, Volume 11, Issue 1, June 2016.)

The page turner

She seems like a minor inconvenience,

a child conceived for their lovers’ duet,

only fugue-daughter, her sole purpose

to flick a page at the nod of a head.

Did the same hands that fracture ordered keys

linger on her mother’s glossy belly?

Did she carry her with confident ease

as that miniature form began to swell?

Domestic rhythms, crescendos of will –

it seems like a natural progression.

Though it takes no extraordinary skill

to turn a page, a thankless profession,

it’s her I applaud as they take the floor:

no ordinary child could read that score.

 

(First published in Southword, Issue 31, 2017.)

Babushka

 

I loved the game, the gentle unscrewing of self,

the soft creaking of the wood, a regular denuding.

First, the outer shell was cracked, swollen arthritic bones

snapped

and by invitation

we went down to greet the costumed women.

They are clothed as we remember them.

We finger them tenderly,

descending until my nail can’t find a cut,

until I hold you in my hand, tiny, complete –

satisfied.

Then, when your fantastic ordinary life is arrayed,

like a xylophone for me to hammer out your tones,

in a dancing line of blinking stones and just-blossoming jasmine,

set by girdles inscribed with golden mottos,

a caravan of chips and cracks,

a row of innocent eyes and wicked smiles,

the process in reverse, the smallest doll is covered.

I am careful to complete the formalities, in case it is the last time,

aligning the hips and the arms,

until by gradual compaction, the past is hidden,

darkened in a pregnant piece, a family toy.

 

(First published in Biscuit Publishing, 2003 Prizewinners; Goodreads Newsletter, July 2015 Contest, Finalist.)