Wednesday, July 15, 2015


This day eight years ago,
my belly swelled
like the sun, my belly

tight, lightning,
enzymes and blood and

gravity doing her fine work,
just dancing,
celebrating the pilgrimage

water through a straw
the monitor of a pulse
sterile floors

when you flew into the world
the clouds opened
the rain sang

when you flew into the world
the light was open
a slip, water off a leaf

unexpected and true,
the light of Saturday,
rain after months of drought

the clouds swirl and shift
a shuffle of light and dark,
your breath

like thunder, your breath
of decades and battles,
planes that

fly over Belgium, planes
gunned down while you
slipped out

unscathed, would we all
have such fortune,
children and grandchildren

their volume swollen
rainbows, thunderstorms,
puppies and currents

tectonic plates,
the spirits of wolves and
desert coyotes

wild rabbits that drt
across drivewarys,
the moose you stood beside

in Jackson Hole, both of you
so quiet, so confident,
moving stridently through
this world.

Life is opening and closing
like sunshine,
like the old silver wristwatch

like her little baby
hands, like his gnarled
yellow toes, like the

rise and fall of sunshine,
the way water releases
back into the earth
after rain.  

Pop Pop

I can't get rid of his breath
Like dream sleep but worse
Snakes are rising up from the earth
All these years I've been waiting to see them
And now they block the path
Sultry and steady and grounded
Dry dry earth
Dry still earth
Talk to your people up there
Tell them it's okay
He's ready
She wonders what's keeping him here
They say it's a gentle way to go
How much time does a drop of water buy
Then rain
After so much thirst
Paints the town green
Smells of change
They've finally left him alone
No shouts or laughter or chatter from the bedside
No ridiculous stories or mad cap reminders
We will be fine
I will take care of them pop
You don't have to do this anymore
I'm thinking about sugar skulls the children make on day of the dead
I'm thinking about the mouth
Free from teeth
From lips
Just a space for breath
Long labored breath
I'm thinking of the shape of the skull
Hairless, almost translucent
The white gray sheen
The tiny pulse that shakes at the base of your neck
The huge hollows of your closed eyes
Your big lovely eyes
The eyes of your grandchildren burst like summer storms
The eyes of your grandchildren hold that same tenacity
How to make something from nothing
The trucks rumble down the interstate
Jersey too is the color of a summer storm
All steel and pavement
Overgrown greens and sticky heat
One summer you show us the house on the shore
and I try to picture your strong, masculine
frame in one of those ridiculous
old fashioned swim suits
Baby blue stripes
A tight fitting tank
I see you and your brothers
Spill from the porch and
Race towards the sea
They've been calling your name
But you barely remember
They've been calling your name
But you're so far gone
The last one
The winner
The oldest
The richest
With the prettiest wife
She will learn to manage her own money
She will finally find a job she loves
How heavy can you be?  
The snakes burrow beneath
The tides recede
The sky will not stay this same gray

The death rattle is right in my frequency
Like the vibration of trucks
Rolling up the road
The way I fear earthquakes
Irrationally and at my core
Waiting for death is like
Waiting for birth
The monitor of a pulse
Quickening of breath
Water through a straw
From the overlook
You can see heaven
Poems are soft gods
Like pecans and peaches
Their texture and sweetness
A tree split in two and blackened by lightning
The delicate stalks of fireweed
A golden girl runs down the golden trail
Her golden and smiling dog
I wish I knew the names of more wildflowers
Next time I'll buy a book
Take a picture
Take a hike
Smell more roses
Gods grace is everywhere
Today my pictures are all out of focus
Eliana’s thick curls smell like this meadow
Solomon’s spine is this path
Scratch my back mama
Scratch my back
Some women have very low expectations for their men
Have you ever really paid attention to a cheekbone
A soft rain on the valley

Sometimes I hate the lines beneath my eyes
Sometimes I love them

Let’s draw Pop Pop’s
airplane in the sky
propellers and wings

Let’s draw Pop Pop’s
airplane in the sky

Poppy’s Plane

The Bitteroot mountains are the
cover of a doorstep pamphlet
Know Thy God
a swollen rainbow fading behind
angular and organized peaks

Your God flew planes over Belgian fields
the air heavy and gray
children safe in their beds

Your God was in the faces of babies and dogs
in the scent of Old Spice and the time
it takes for a proper shave

Your God was a car driving west
your teenage sons lanky legs flank
the front street, the truck stops and

open fields, mesas and vistas and
remarkable terracotta earth.

Your God was the green calm of a golf course,
the sound of a big band, all horns and tuxedos,
dapper and refined.  Your God was a good deal,
a salesman, an entrepreneur, wit and decision.

The face of your wife,
your daughter,
your granddaughter,
their particular and fleeting needs.
How high you’d fly for their happiness.

Your God opens her warm hands,
the star of David,
Fatima’s palm,
a yin yang of gold
the cross of Jesus

Your God opens her warm hand,
her breath soft like sunshine

Opens her hand and begins
to move you slowly upward,

you are so light
in her arms

and the green of the grass
washes over you
the blue of the Jersey shore,

the red of battles and bloodlines,
oranges of the west
and so many sunsets,

silver is your beloved
her years of dedication
her relentless and full love

pink of the children
their shouts and laughter
even at your bedside
their relentless movement,

yellow like your son and daughter
the golden flecks in their eyes,

there is no other love like this.

When you finally let go,
a stillness fills the room
and weight is lifted like a veil

So many years of living
between two worlds
as your mind slowly slipped
then words
then movement

until your strapping and
strong heart
is pushed
past the front steps of the
house by the sea
the brick and tree lined lane
of South Orange
an open airfield in Normandy

past the lots of Newark
and mountains of Montana

until your courage
begins to reach
beyond your frame

filling the skies with thunder
finally bringing the rain

Sunday, July 5, 2015

In Cali

In California, the brake lights spin slowly,
the family spills like sand, through neighborhoods,
across borders, so much like me, like them

though we know so little of this, the wide streets
and wisteria, skinny palms so considerate and
forgiving and people, people of every color and size

their languages and voices and menus fill us up like
so many years of quiet, of sameness and I know,
this is why I bring my children to my homeland,

to know their grandmother and her wise and rule-
breaking ways, to know their aunties and cousins,
the seas and sunsets and lemons as big as their heads,

a fancy musical on a real stage, the black boys sing
acapella out front and Eliana watches enraptured,
Solomon darts around massive fountains and the valet

costs more than dinner, though I sure do love to hear
mariachis and how sweet to sit all together at Buster's
and share smoothies, the same one we ordered in

sixth grade, perhaps there are a few things that actually
stay the same, my love for them all, my ridiculous
preoccupation with place and how we get from here to there.

When the huckleberries hang swollen in the woods, I call you back towards me, the kids play dreamlike and quiet in the tall grass, their shrieks muffled by the creeks roar and I can't believe we even did this, can't believe that we ever made it here.

In May

 Our May is milestones moving, moving so swiftly, like the balsam root, out so bright, her fields upon marvelous fields, yellow shine and deep brown eyes and then, just like that, the leaves fall back to the earth, stems cold and vague like time.

In May you turned five, the wheels on your bike so fast down the gravel path, all you really want is to be with us but we party anyway.

In May we build a fire and pitch a tent, the children could do this for hours, the sticks and marshmallows, painted rocks and giant boulders.  I love the way the fire still burns in morning.

In May your dad still looks straight ahead, flags are lowered for his time in the war and he sucks on a popsicle, the sugar drips down his face like sticky tears.