Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Milk and Honey

Shadows stretch their jaws,
but dusk becomes a toothless beast
when devouring milk with honey,
so that upon night's velvet throat
might hang a pearl of moon
with heart of opal

Monday, December 29, 2008

Letters (Part Five)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-
time relationship across the miles. Here
are Parts One , Two, Three, and Four. )

Dear Patrick,

Are you still in the infirmary?

I can't tell if you’re being straight with me, or not. Are you only a little sick, or are you trying to protect me? Now I’m the one needing details. I want to know everything. Please, darling, plug all my gaps.

There is a smudge on your envelope that looks like blood. I keep thinking TB. Or a wound. The mind will shape a devil from the slightest inkblot. Yet perhaps it’s not your blood. Perhaps it’s something from your nurse’s hand. Iodine? I'm sorry. The not knowing has me a little frantic. I dreamed all in red last night.

Yet how wonderful that you have found someone from home to nurse you! I couldn’t quite believe it when I first read your letter. And so nice that Hannah should be nearby when you both return to the States. Maybe I will meet her someday. That’s heartwrenching about her sweetheart. I cannot imagine. Is she very broken still? Two years isn’t long enough.

Darling, I’ve started volunteering for the Red Cross. Something to help out, and get me out of this house. We’re collecting pints of blood in a mobile unit downtown, and a few of us ladies are rolling bandages and knitting clothes. Little things. But with each stitch I purl, I keep thinking, Maybe this will find its way to Patrick. A cap to fit over your ears. A scarf to hug your neck.

Of course, it’s all hideously selfish of me. Like you should be the only one who matters to me in this world. But it helps to think I might be keeping you warm. You know how I love my fantasies. At least here’s the smallest chance they might also be right.

Let me know how you’re truly coping, won’t you, Patrick? Yes, I tend to look toward a rosier future. But it does not follow that I want you shielding me from the muddier present. I won't lose you in some shadow world. And I see nothing without a finger on your pulse.

Take care of yourself, darling. I wish I were Please take care.

And if I’m worrying over nothing, forgive me again. It's the nature of this beast.



p.s. Christmas was a happy day, my love. Your mother showed me photographs from your childhood. How sweet you were! Strange to think we were separated back then, too. We just didn't know it. And yet, I thought I saw something wanting in your eyes. Even then.


Part Six is here

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

If the heart is a light,
let love be the sleigh
that streaks the night
and finds its way

Unwrap dawn of its
reindeer dreams,
and seek the gifts
that glow between


Merry Christmas!!

Thank you for all of your gifts to me this year.
I hope everyone celebrating enjoys a warm,
magical day with family and loved ones.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Letters (Part Four: The Ghost of Christmas Present)

(Letters is my series exploring a
war-time relationship across the miles.
Here are Parts One , Two, and Three. )

Dear Elise,

Thank you for the kiss, my dear. I’d like to say it cured me.

Yes, I’ve been stuck in the infirmary for almost a week now. It’s frustrating to be so immobile, so useless. But don’t worry. It’s nothing awful. And don’t get too excited, either. It’s nothing awful. They won’t be sending me home for the flu.

They’re taking good care of me, although I am a nuisance when so many are in far worse shape. The nurses here are excellent. There’s even one who hails from Nelsonville—can you believe that? Fifteen miles away, in that distant universe which you have come to hate, and which I so dearly miss. I don’t know why that should be a comfort to me, to know someone who traveled the same roads as you and I, who swam in Dow Lake. But it is. Any slight connection shines a little light into the hole. Her name is Hannah. Her sweetheart was killed back in ’42. Midway, I think.

My dear, I’m sorry your Christmas season has been such a loss. Can you do me a favor? I have a record I want you to find. They’ve been playing it regularly on the radio over here. Judy Garland sang it in a film, I believe. It’s called, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Such a bittersweet number, but those last lines get to me. I want to share them with you.

Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

I know it’s not enough, Elise. Hope is a flimsy boat on which to sail such choppy waters. And fate is too damn hard to corner. But we are muddling through, dear girl. Each day brings us closer to the reunion you so clearly see, and each day takes us farther away from that morning at the train station I keep trying to forget.

Hannah tells me that the daily mail is being collected to send out. I want you to receive this letter before Christmas, and so I will sign off. But do make an effort to be happy on the big day. Please, Elise. If not for your mother, then make that your Christmas present to me. The one all these miles, and all that black water, cannot cheat us out of.

It’s what I need right now. Your happiness.




Part Five is here

Friday, December 19, 2008


And with their kiss she
flew from red lips to sing of
the songs inside them

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hunt

He tracks the trail in a silvery light,
my footprints slashing a dizzying path
across snapped twigs and crushed leaves,
his bright eyes suckling the hunter’s fever

Iron muzzle dips into angels' powder
as he pauses to inhale a glen so feral,
hungry to soak up a scent of betrayal
culled from warm blood, buried petal

I catch the eye of the lusty eagle,
stationed above this lair of cunning,
and she drops into the bush behind him,
rustling dead leaves with slickest candor

He hoists his weapon in a reckless contort,
forsaking thought for premature retort,
that cockeyed bullet tickling feathers as
I raise crescent bow, calmly drawing

The arrow halts with a comical quiver,
as he drops to knees in bleak surrender,
while still the snow so softly piling bleaches
all proof of this Prey, who once was Hunter

You mortals have honored me with a Moon,
and burdened my body with Chastity,
but for all time, I remain one Diana,
Goddess of The Hunt

Monday, December 15, 2008

Letters (Part Three)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-time relationship
across the miles. Here are Parts One and Two. )

Dearest Patrick,

I feel unworthy of Christmas this year.

Mother put up the decorations (including that hideous Santa with the crossed eyes), while I drowned myself in self-pity and eggnog. The sprig of mistletoe was the last straw. I ran crying from the room. Of course, Mother thought I was insane. And maybe I am. Or maybe it was just the liquor. I can’t tell anymore. Days are like dreams…I drift through them. Hoping to meet you somewhere in the haze.

Oh, darling, if missing you were a disease, I’d be dead by now. I’ve never known how to be halfway. It’s always all or nothing.

But you deserve more than soggy fantasies drained from uncertain rivers. Your letter brought that (and you) home. And so I will shed this dissatisfied skin, and try harder.

Yes, I finished that scarf for your mother. It was rose, like the wine we drank on our first date. Do you remember that? How clumsy I was, how much I spilled down that silk blouse. You laughed (I wanted to kill you)…until I laughed, too. I was already drunk on your eyes, which never left mine. How quickly we traveled from high laughter into that valley of knowing. Time a mountain so easy to slide down. Not even breathing.

You asked about our tree. I still take walks down there, although its naked limbs make me shiver in the noon sun. It is beautiful, though. Even without you. It seems to hold up the very sky. And that’s something to feel supported by. So thank you for making me mindful of its presence. That’s my real Christmas tree. No ornaments needed to mar its native beauty.

My bath? I’d like to say you made me blush, but you already know how shameless I am. I think it’s enough to acknowledge that the thoughts and feelings that soap my heart are always rather…dirty. But I better stop there. I can see your ears redden from here, my love. Which makes me laugh for real.

I’m not sure if I’ve given you what you wanted, Patrick. I have a hard time focusing on these small features of daily living. So let me end with that most perfect of details. A kiss on this page.

I’m standing under the mistletoe.




(Photo of mistletoe
courtesy of Hilton Pond)

Part Four is here

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Light

I return to the forest when the city releases me. I find my breath in a light that doesn’t need.

There are no vultures circling above. Those are the shadows of clouds, nodding their remembrance of me.

We both wore different shapes back then. But I was the wispy one.

I pity the leopard frogs, buried by muck at the bottom of this pond. Hiding until their spring thaw. Blind to these smoky leaves, all drizzled with sun. Deaf to the wind, threading needles of pine.

A train unleashes a mournful charge while crossing Longview Run. My mind tracks the journey. All that coal skating easterly. Black cores squeezed by pressure and time.



Shoes thick with mud, I stretch my arms to the sky. And slip free.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fire and Ice

The face is something rigid
as the cold masks its fissures

The neck is something hidden
as the scarf wraps its present

The heart is something bird-like
as the ribs preserve its cage

The gut is something chemical
as the ice smooths out its flames

Alas! when passion is both meek and wild!
the poet Keats once penned

In the ashes
of snow

Monday, December 8, 2008

Letters (Part Two)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-time
relationship across the miles. Part One is here)


It rained today, and I thought of your letter. That flood of words you were so good to pour my way.

And yet, it was a cold rain. You know the kind. Spitting mad that it wasn’t soft snow. I didn’t feel cleansed, or renewed. That kind of cold is only good for carving the void.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want fantasies, Elise. As lovely as they, and your sweet intention, are. I don’t want to think about what could be. I want to think about you, in this moment...and this one, too. That’s how I’ll feel closest to you (and I need to feel close to you). Tell me what you do with all your hours. Fill up my head with your easy chatter. Because this moon of ours isn’t talking. Even as I keep asking.

Did you finish that scarf you were knitting for my mother? How does our tree look now that it's winter? What feelings soap your heart when you’re lying in that bath? In these precious revelations, I can hold you.

So forget this dream Elise. The one I see every night, when I close my eyes and enter a kinder, more merciful world, without the cracking fear, and chronic boredom, and wet, oozing sores on my feet. Because she always leaves me when I wake up. When it’s time, again, to march.

All I want in this world is you.



p.s. Could you send another photo, my dear? This one is getting a little worn.


Part Three is here

Friday, December 5, 2008


Brittle goblins
of thoughts
gone rot
shall pull and wrest
until they lumber
a hollow silence


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Dance of the Snowflakes

“You know what I love about the ballet?” she said.

Snow sank through the lamplight.

“The tight tights?” he said, shoulders hitched near his ears. “The bulging . . . bulges?”

She puffed on her hands, and eyed the auditorium doors.

“Close, but no.”

“I mean, it is called The Nutcracker.”

She jerked her knee towards his groin.

“Christ!” He laughed and shook his head. “You're no Sugarplum Fairy, my dear.”

Her smile spread beneath the scarf. He brushed some snow from her hair.

“No, it’s the passion I love,” she said. “But passion harnessed. And balanced on the tip of a toe.”

His brow knitted.

“But passion isn’t that plotted. Or that surgical.” He threw his chin toward the chattering crowd, some sucking on their nicotine fix. “This is why I don't like ballet. It seems like someone’s idea of passion. Some agreed upon plan that we’re all just going along with. And I’m supposed to engage with it like it’s the real thing?”

The outside lights flickered. Intermission was over.

“Yeah, but if it weren’t so tightly choreographed, there would just be a mess,” she said, taking his arm as they filed toward the door. “And people might get hurt.”

“I can see the honesty in that, at least. It would be a beautiful mess.”

She dragged him away from the line of people trekking inside. Pressed him against the cold stone of the auditorium’s wall. A fused breath melted the snowflakes dropping between their lips.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” he said.

Her hand found someplace warm.

“I like it when you argue with me,” she said.

His arms discovered a waist buried beneath the layers.

“But you’re proving my point,” he said. “Right now. With your very impulsive hand. And my very impulsive. . . you know.”

She stood on her tiptoes, her mouth finding his ear.

“Nope. I've been staging this since the start of Act One.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Rose-Colored Vision

There is a rose inside
our irises which blooms
within these visions,
casting branches
as nerves
stretching their arms,
and clouds
as soft muscle
spreading for fingers

These are not
the false blinders
of old song,
bent illusions,
but time’s recognition
that thorns may scratch,
but skins will heal,
leaving knots so defined
that one can grab

And both might climb