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Tug the Rigging

This poem was inspired by Mary Oliver’s “Don’t Hesitate,” and I shamelessly stole part of her last line – “Joy was never meant to be a crumb.” – for my own.

Tug the Rigging

Tug the rigging, wrap it tight

around your fingers. Pull

the mainsail close to your chest. Catch

every drop of wind. Let

the bow rise. And starboard side.

Rudder and keel emerge, streaming

with ocean. Wipe the salt

from your eyes. Cry out

in fear if you must. Maybe

you spill back into the sea.

Maybe this craft lifts

you closer to your yearnings

than you have ever been.

Later, time for rest and dry land.

Arch your back toward the sun.

Joy was never meant to be a crumb.

Mourning

Mourning

Was it last night I told you

I had some mourning to do

but wasn’t sure

how to do it,

how it would look?

As if mourning

was patient, would make

an appointment. As if mourning

was a rainstorm

that I might prepare for

with galoshes

and a rubber coat.

 

As if grief wasn’t greedy

and didn’t love

to sneak up on a person,

when she thinks she’s safe

miles above the world

in her airplane seat. As if

it wasn’t determined

to swallow her up

to hold her down

while she chokes

on dry pretzels

and sickly sweet apple juice.

 

Was it just last night I told you

I had some mourning to do

but didn’t yet know

how you could help? I’ll let you know,

I said. As if I might simply ask

to borrow an umbrella.

 

 

 

 

 

Secrets, Free and Wild

Secrets, Free and Wild
It’s true that some won’t love you.
But I will.
You, crouched in the dark.
You, with mirror eyes.
Waiting. Watching. Wanting to be safe.
The coast might never be clear.
Yet here I am. Here we are.
Let’s brush the dust from your hair.
Let’s put on something sparkly.
Drop that haunted expression.
My dear, let’s do the haunting.
And the dancing, and we’ll make
our own safety. Not in dim
corners, but in each other’s
arms, shielded from the sting
of shame and other bullets.
It’s true that some don’t love you.
But I do.
And I choose to live, with you.
We two, a pair of secrets,
free and wild.

I’ll Take You

 

I’ll Take You

I know your particularities. Coffee, light
and sweet. Flowers, ranunculus please. (Never roses.)
Cold beer and hot shower will cheer you up
most days. And you could live forever
on spicy chips, Twizzlers, and avocado
with salt and spooned
right from its black leathery skin.

To say you have quirks is too generous.
The fact is, you’re often infuriating.
You drive too fast. You say you love,
then completely neglect,
your houseplants. You leave crusty dishes in
the sink. Stay up too late, don’t say
what you mean, but then talk too much.
You’re stubborn and contrary and
you’re always changing your mind and
I often want to shake you.

I used to strive (without success) to love you
exactly as you are. But now,
I think, there’s not a thing
about you that’s exact at all.
The trick is in the turning.
The seeing you again, and new.

Because when I say you,
I mean me.
And you’re the only me I’ve got,
so I’ll take you.

Old Enough

 

 

Old Enough

I’m old.

Michael Keaton as Batman old.

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” old.

Crush on Susanna Hoffs old.

 

I’m grey hair old.

Insomnia old.

I’m laugh lines old.

I’m cool with these laugh lines (most days) old.

 

I’m know what I like old.

I’m going after what I want old.

I’m trust my old heart old.

 

I’m old enough to be impatient.

Old enough to be new.

Old enough to know there’s no time

to waste.

 

I’m short skirt old.

I’m I don’t care if you like it old.

I’m old enough to have my own back.

Old enough to have yours, too.

 

I’m old enough to be reckless,

in all the right ways.

I’m old enough to worry whether this is all enough.

Old enough to know, most days,

that I am.

Fuzzy At Best

 

Fuzzy At Best

When the ball strikes the line

does that mean in?

Or out? How many cards

can I trade with the dealer?

And how many lives? I can’t

remember. We both know,

my grasp on the rules is fuzzy at best.

But if you open that

rulebook –

weighty as a bible, stuffed

with onion skin pages –

one more time, I swear

I’ll flee to the bar,

and gleefully forget everything else.

If we’re going to play a game,

I’d rather make it up

as we go.

Love Letter to Humans, Even Me

This semester I’ve made it a goal to contribute to a weekly poetry forum at my school, Vermont College of Fine Arts. It’s good for me to produce something each week that I send out into the world, even if it is a very safe and supportive version of the world. Here’s a poem I’m pleased with that I wrote earlier this semester.

Love Letter to Humans, Even Me

One never knows.

One hears of accidents on bridges.

Earthquakes toppling buildings.

Which is to say nothing

of the tremors that topple us from within.

Some of us stooped

and some of us broken

and yet we go outside.

To work to visit to breathe fresh air.

It is so beautiful

and so brave.

I love us all for this.

Another Poem for a Flower

 

Another Poem for a Flower

Anemone, adorned

in purple ruffles like

a Queen.

Just yesterday, your spine was bent.

Stooped and sad.

 

I feared the worst.

You’d been neglected, left

to dry. So though

I thought it futile, I slipped

your stem into a glass of water.

 

This morning, you

reach delicately muscled arms,

you show the world your splendor.

A drink, and time, have brought you back

to life.

How Fast the Way Home

We departed in the dark. The kids spread blankets over their laps in the backseat. I clutched my coffee mug. An audiobook helped us pass the driving time, over roads that became increasingly crowded, until finally we rolled into an almost full museum parking lot. The museum sat on a large, flat field where families had already begun to lay out their picnic blankets and folding chairs.

The field was covered in dry yellow grass, and populated by shiny aircraft and lazy bees. We wandered around – on the playground, through the museum exhibits – to fill the hours before the big event, the total solar eclipse.

When we noticed a change in the quality of the light, we hurried back to our chairs. We passed people looking at the sky through glasses, cameras, even colanders. We walked as quickly as we could, kicking up clouds behind us, as we resisted the urge to look at the sky.

I gave out the glasses – three pairs, one each for the kids and me. We looked up, then, and saw a dull orange circle, like a copper penny, with the slightest interruption in its circumference. The moon had begun its intrusion.

The air was festive and chatty. Music played over loudspeakers, songs chosen for their kitsch factor – “Bad Moon Rising,” “Dancing in the Dark”- but a quiet rippled over all of us as we felt something shift. The color of the sky darkened to a twilight blue at the dome. The wind picked up, blowing my sweater around me. I shivered, and a thrill went through my belly.

The sun had but a crescent left. My daughter said the sun reminded her of the moon when it’s waning. A boy behind us called out, “The diamond ring!” Above us, a faint band of light circled the moon’s shadow, and a last, bright gasp of sunlight blazed for the blink of an eye.

A cheer went up as the moon covered the sun. The light was twilight dim. We pulled off our glasses and stared at the wildly hairy corona. Tears sprang into my eyes. I grabbed my kids’ hands. I know the eclipse is a truly scientific phenomenon, but the word “miracle” kept coming to mind.

It is miraculous and scientific, both. All of us people, brought by our curiosity to sit in the bee’s field on a summer morning, are miraculous. We orbit each other, sometimes touching, sometimes moving apart. Isn’t it miraculous when any two of us, among the millions that co-exist on Earth, share a moment?

The celestial bodies parted almost at the same moment they met. The unveiling of the sun was quick. Gone was the anticipation, the mystery. We knew where we would end up. The way home is always faster than the trip to the destination. Almost immediately, the sky brightened and we were warm again. There was no sign of the rare alignment that had just occurred. We turned ourselves toward home, and I still held two hands in mine.

Savages, “Adore Life”

Savages “Adore Life”

It started with an image:  Savages, onstage in New York City. Immediately, I searched for online videos, then stared at the screen as if hypnotized. Every aspect of their music and style was intense and gorgeous, full of energy and strength. I don’t know much about punk. I only knew that Savages music stirred something in me, and I wanted to listen to more.

I pre-ordered Savages second album Adore Life in January. When I told a friend what it was called, his response was that the title didn’t seem very punk, which I think means that it didn’t sound angry enough. But, here’s the thing: anger is everywhere. There’s little that’s interesting or transgressive about it. Anger is what the cool kids do when they’re afraid. Anger is how we keep each other at a distance.

This music is the antithesis of the easy, the complacent, and the guarded. It questions, and yes rages against, expectations and assumptions.

I understand the urgency of life
In the distance there is truth which cuts
like a knife
Maybe I will die maybe tomorrow
So I need to say
I adore life

Savages “Adore”

There couldn’t be a more transgressive sentiment than this one. These lyrics are not about playing it cool, hedging bets. There are, in fact, no bets to be hedged. There is nothing but this life. We spend all of our moments, one way or another. If we spend them badly, they are gone from us just the same. These lyrics challenge us to live and to love with our whole hearts and bodies. Each of us has that choice.

Several months ago, inspired by Savages drummer Fay Milton (amazing beyond the power of my words to describe), I took up drum lessons. When we play music, when we listen to it, when we let ourselves be moved emotionally, spiritually, and physically, we affirm that we are here, that we are connected. We affirm our irrevocable right and innate responsibility to take up space and make plenty of noise. The drums, being some of the most space-taking and noise-making instruments around, are a helpful tool for practicing this. And I can hardly stop smiling when I’m playing, I feel so alive.

I adore music for the power it has to change me, as if the right frequencies could actually reverberate through my bone and tissue and liquid, and rearrange my molecules. I adore Savages for making the kind of music that makes me stop what I’m doing and listen.

And I need to say: I adore life.

Check out Savages videos on their website and on YouTube, especially this favorite of mine, a live performance on KEXP. Don’t watch if you like your molecules where they are.