Sample Poems

From The London Magazine, April, 2017

For Mary, Sotto Voce

Mary Cassatt painted mothers
as monuments,
well nourished, flourishing
entwined with their babies, themselves,
at the bath, in the nursery, kitchen,
at the opera, on the lawns.

They wore white, carried fans
or parasols, the more white the better,
white touched with blue paint
to make the white whiter.

Mary lets us come close
to her world of women.
We want to touch arms, red-blond hair,
take the baby onto our laps, take tea.
We want to watch the opera next to her
then say thank you, Mary, you know
and show the world full women.

You said you wanted
to be someone, not something.
Even more than yourself, you gave us
back to ourselves as well.

From Following Hay


I came across a Rhapsody last night.
Sight reading, my slow fingers
remembered— these keys were first yours.
Dad presented this piano one Mother’s
Day—you swept onto the bench
and played Deep Purple—knew it by heart.
I heard so much about what he didn’t give you.
This little spinet became my practice piano,
one we moved across several states with
Dad’s rising ambition, raises in pay.
When you died, it took one last  trip, longer
than the rest, from Kentucky to California.
The mover said it slid a bit  going over Sierra snow.
But the blond Baldwin needed merely a tuning.
Its white keys don’t sit quite straight, some
slightly raised, and four are chipped, where
Juliet banged before she  started lessons.
Honest, I didn’t see her do this—you’d have
spanked her—some say these flaws lend
character to the ivory. The granddaughter you
never knew plays the Rhapsodies today,
much the way you played, breathing in
the crescendos, tenderness tucked
into those unexpected open intervals
of the right hand. 
Late Harvest
Though never did I seek it in my time—  
I found the stable full of rhymes and boys,
limed, serifed, written bold upon— who embroidered
moonfall, fell upon me at dawn. Called forward
by the many miracles of mouth and sibilant song,
delivered to new ports opened on the Black Sea:
Odessa, Kiev, traveling as Empress Catherine,
whose favorite sang late. Crests of iolite wave lapping
minaret and snow-white shore. That voyage south
did end, Catherine fluttered down, as did the brown
barn, fallen upon its hemlock knees. Late April snow
heaved it down. Boys fell out of lofts, sky, or dead
from too much earth, some choked in vines.
A buried harvest sizzles, shushing, hushed—still mine. 

From Wild Mercy 

Five Holstein heifers clomp to the top
of the far hill. They climb in a straight
line. Where spring grass meets sky.

Then down the other side, one follows
another, carefully lifting their ankles,
so not to heave forward.

The sky against the hill, they make their
way, delicate silhouettes, like rivers that
demarcate the edges of states,

like Grandmother Florence and her sisters,
Bertha at the end of the line, walking
into church. Heavy bodies, thin ankles, damp

from the walk downtown, solid shapes against
stained glass windows. They mark where
everything important meets. Then we sing..

From Body Rhymes

The Train to Bath

In praise of the boy who
rode the train to Bath
and gazed at me ‘til Wollingsford.
He sat tall and straight, his shaggy head
across from mine, higher than mine.

He was England, youth of promises, decrees,
beveled cheekbones of the Royals,
hollows where I could lay my temple.

Arching to see him go, I watched his long back.
Silence. I slumped in my seat.
Then the train whistle, the lurch,
and to my surprise, his return
with an armful of yellow roses.

He will take them to his love.
We looked. Or his mother. We smiled
at the same time, knees almost touching,
jostling along without words.

We stopped at Bath.
We glanced, our eyes close, as I stood up.
He stood up too. As I turned to go

he touched my shoulder,
handed me the yellow flowers.
His smile stretched around me
for the rest of my life.

From This Water

Turning Seven

Just last year you said, "We hug
and say hmmnn, then lean
back our heads and look at each other
for a long time. Isn't that fun, Mama?"

Now you throw yourself into me less,
You sit in chairs, read chapter books,
sometimes tell me to go away.

We used to read stories every day
in the sun on the yellow couch.
You write your own stories now.
Your made-up spelling you call "kiddish,"
preferred to my "grownish."
Sometimes you tell me not to interrupt.

You were puzzled, months ago
why the girls chase the boys at school.
Today you tell me not to look
at your new book about Joel
behind your bed.

So I must confess, when you hurled
your long arms and legs, nearly topping me
last night, flung your head into my chest,
long walnut hair splayed over my neck,
paused there full of saturated smiles
and soft eyes like our cats in the sun,
I held on a little, to my big girl.