Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day is for children (like us)

From Florilege des Amours de Ronsard by Matisse

You were a poem
fully formed

when I was learning
to read on my own

And if violets were blue
before we met

Roses are red
ever since.
And it really is 
as simple as that

Though you would
say it better,

my love   

Saturday, February 8, 2014


(Detail from Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa. Photo credit here.)

I want to lick
the skin
of a toad

I want my eyes
to go 
big and dark

until the light
is all there

and blind,
I'll weep

the ignorance
of bliss  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


(Bullfight III by Pablo Picasso)

Still that naked child inside 
squeezing her eyes,
striving only
to please.

My first memory in life?
A time where I did not.

But the future sways
like the matador's cape
in Hemingway's hands
or Picasso's brush

calling me out
with every flash
and snap

of passion,
and sacrifice.


Friday, January 3, 2014


sunrise to sunset
time is the iron shackle
and the last crusade

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Star Stuff

(The z8_GND_5296 galaxy, via Hubble)

"Now they have a picture of a galaxy that's 30 billion light years away," she said, staring out the night window.

He didn't look up from the book. "Huh." 

"It's red," she said. 


"That's how we see it. Because of the spreading wavelengths across vast distances. Long wavelengths? Red. For this galaxy--with this degree of redshift--we're talking a birthday of some 700 million years after the Big Bang. When our universe was still just a baby."

"Is that so."

She turned to him. "Every atom in your beautiful body was forged from a dying star."

He looked up.

"There are more atoms in your body than there are stars in the known universe."

He put down the book.

"It makes you think," she said.

"What does it make you think?"

"About the notion of soul mates. Pheromones. Compatibility. Strange attractors. All that good stuff."

"How, exactly?"

"Maybe a greater percentage of the atoms in our bodies come from the same star. Born from the same cosmic womb."

"And so humans are attracted to one another based on some kind of atomic awareness of this. Some kind of pull . . . an unidentified energy, let's say."

"Why not?"

"But we met online. We were falling in love before our atoms could even 'sense' each other."


"So there goes that theory."

"No. They just found a way."

"Our atoms?"

"Smart little buggers, yeah?"

He laughed. "What's gotten into you?"

"It's Carl Sagan's birthday."


"Our world's just a pale blue dot, right? Our atoms traveled impossibly far and long to become us. They braved stellar winds and vast deserts of existential emptiness. What's the additional distance from Seattle to Saginaw when we're talking 30 billion light years?"

"You did wear a red dress in your profile picture."


"No. Not actually."

She walked toward him.

"The heavier elements in our bodies came from the really big explosions. Like, supernova big."

"Is that so?"

She sat down on his lap. "Heavy."

"And hot."

"And home." 

"Is this what Shakespeare meant by star-crossed lovers?"

"Some of the atoms in my body, and yours, used to be Shakespeare."

"And Einstein?"

"Sure. E equals you and me . . . squared." She kissed him, then whispered in his ear, "My point is, we're all just recycled star stuff." 

He wrapped his arms around her and looked far into her eyes. 

"We're incredibly lucky." 


Happy belated birthday to Carl Sagan, who would have been 79 yesterday. Go watch his beloved Cosmos clip again. What an endless source of awe and poetry.

Friday, November 1, 2013

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the treats
that were in
the pumpkin

and which
you were probably
for dessert    

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
a mother's love   


This one's for our daughter, who loves the original poem. I hope Halloween was sweet, and not too cold, on your end! Our kids took in far more Twix than tricks. 

(I only had one Milky Way. I swear.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

John Cage: 4'33"

(Bleu III, by Joan MirĂ³)

The man and woman walked the auditorium's halls during intermission, opening a series of doors until they came across a large closet, stocked with costumes and abandoned props. The pair slipped inside and shut the door.

After an hour of Stravinsky, the rest of the audience sank mercifully into their watered-down drinks and conversation. Nobody saw the couple's smiles drop the moment she took his neck in her hand. Searching his eyes for the match he'd struck. A shade of color half deeper than her own. Breaths thick with carbon as she pulled him near and nearer, but still--and still--too desperately far.

Slowly, he backed her against the wall. She arched her back against its chill, breasts nearly brushing his black lapel. The epaulet from a naval uniform tickled her shoulder, and the thin strap of her dress slid down.

Her head glanced to the side. His eyes held. The lights flashed on, then off, then on again, as his lips sank to her neck and the heat coursed through her like a socket's scream.

Intermission was up. 

The older couple seated in orchestra left hadn't cared for Stravinsky. Season tickets or not, the man wasn't keen on coming out this evening. His hip ached when he sat in one position for too long, and now he had Cage's silence-as-art to suffer through. He liked Bach and Beethoven. Mozart and Schumann. If that made him plebeian, so be it. He'd been called worse in life. 

The conductor strode onto the stage. The audience clapped. At least modernity was an impatient affair. All of 4 minutes and 33 seconds, from the start to what, he assumed, would pass for an ending. He glanced at his watch. The second hand sighed past six and swept back up.

The piece began. Piece, being generous. The orchestra was made into a mockery of itself. He sniffed, rather too loudly, and his wife gave him a look. Shrugging, he stretched his leg into the aisle. 

Coughs sounded like gunshots in the cavernous space. Someone's cell phone vibrated. At least his ears were still sharp. He looked over at his wife's profile. A study of indifference. As mute as the pearls hanging off her ears.

Her hearing was going. A bit irritating for him lately. The number of times one had to say something in order to be understood. Not her fault, and yet . . .  

A sort of scratching came from over his left shoulder. Rhythmic. Repetitive. An eyelash tickling the pillowcase. Something of that magnitude. 

He leaned back and found the noise persisted, beneath the gustier hum of the building's electrics. Glancing over his shoulder, he detected nothing untoward. A wall. The sconce. A set of double doors. The brightly lit exit sign, in case of a fire. 

All these docile people, rushing for their lives. He tried to imagine it. Their force, crushing him.

The conductor raised and lowered his baton to indicate the start of the second movement. The performers turned blank sheets of music, breaking the tension in the room momentarily. Several people readjusted themselves. A few chuckled or cleared their throats. He did none of these things.

Instead, he leaned back further, into the pocket of bewitching static. It was a mouse in the attic, this scraping and knocking. A scurrying of electrons, some rapture of friction. 

An abandoned cell block of his memory lit up. His chest tightened.  

The pulse of life, with its charge and shock and sometimes spasm, bolted through. He drew his leg in and sat up in his seat, fully erect. Aware. Alert. He looked around himself, blinkingly. 

His wife, with her eyes closed. Lost in memories, perhaps. Regrets, possibly. How many of those included him? Had he told her she looked pretty tonight? He couldn't say. Where was she wandering to?

Where had she walked that he'd never touched? 

Woman sounds now. Sharp cries of mounting pleasure, haloed by a pressing need. He shook his head, but the breathlessness blossomed. Muffled, like a conscience. But as deeply acute. All his heat rushed his cheeks and center. His breaths were shallow. 

He was a man yet. A diminished man, but a man. Reaching over, he took hold of his wife's hand, resting limply on her knee.

Her eyes opened. She looked at him. 

Third movement. Final movement. One minute, in all its rapid movement.   

The tempo of the friction--the rhythm of the cries--grew faster and pitched higher.  She was tipping. Perilously close to the fracturing point. Taking his wife's hand, he placed it between his legs. Her eyes widened, staring at what her fingers touched as the woman in the wall split open, as her cries dove off their plaintive peak, swept into the surge of her lover's tide, out of time's rotating door, where a hall of silence received them.  

From behind them rose a giggle. 

The woman he loved looked into his eyes. Her hand closed around him as the audience began to clap and cheer.

The conductor bowed. Their foreheads touched.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Quantum Entanglement

Some collisions
across space-time--
no matter how brief
or well defined--

imprint on the one
the other's reverse,
maintaining contact
through mysterious bonds.

Like the reach
of his eyes
through her sleep
deep at night

stirring the water
of her dreams,
changing the chemistry
of what he can see.

There is no leaving
what will not be lost.

The stage may go dark,
and the music fall shy,
but once entangled,
the dance is such

that if one goes left,
the other,  
light years away, 
tilts right.

Einstein called
this phenomenon
"spooky action
at a distance."

I call this

Monday, July 1, 2013

For Chris

I could have let you
fade away

It would have been
easy to do

I never held your hand,
after all

Never heard your laugh
in my ears

Didn't even know, for starters,
if your eyes were brown or blue

But no.

Something on this screen
made me look up your name

which seems right

because for me
and for us

is where you lived.

And now that I know
--now that I've seen what
I should've known before--

that your life could not
be contained by

a world of make-believe,
emoticons and avatars

or by two sons you loved 
so fiercely

Now that I know
where you went

and how you chose
to arrive

Now that I feel
how blue
blue really is

I wish to God I could
rewrite an ending
that had firmly taken
hold of your hand


For my friend, Christine Eldin, who was the light and the glue and as fine a person as she was a writer. I'll meet you on The Strand.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


("The Lovers," by Rene Magritte)

Through the jaws of time,
he tossed her a line

anchored around
a carnivorous tooth

The cave closed in
(with her)him

and stranded, she scrawls
her Babel of runes

on the weeping walls
of a darkness so starved

it chews on its tongue
for relief