pas de deux

we sit, poem between us,
debate the power/virtue/use
of first-person & third. you seek definition,
want to hold these words closer,
know them     know me.
table between us, we sit
as if on separate shores
try to gauge the river’s depth/temperature/current,
what it might take to reach the other’s shore,
prevail the eddies,
traverse the stones
without losing balance
or direction
or each other.

• • • •

Published in don’t blame the ugly mug anthology 2011
Photo by Kazuo ota on Unsplash

body language

a tart wash of sun streams through the double paned glass
summer’s inconsolable push
like a child’s desire.    a pat   a hush   not nearly enough
to quell fear   want.  
empty echo     early morning reverie. 

’neath a rising tide of silence   scratch of pen to paper: 
commiseration of ink and sweat about the cost of a single step. 
these vain attempts to dress wounded hours 
expose the frailty of language 
while regret eats through the day like acid. 

this acrid spell    burden of expectation scraped raw
each bend    stretch    a reminder 
simple poetry of sinew and tendon 
lost to the confused grip of past and present
the innate way fate twists meaning. 

what’s unwritten has different value   lessons 
embedded in cells like rings within mighty redwoods
hidden save for the cut of the logger’s saw
— but who could translate    wood to paper
strength to vulnerability

it’s all a foreign language now

• • • •

Published in Anti-Heroin Chic, February 2021
Published in Magee Park Poets Anthology 2008
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

winter’s approach

if i could read the grains of sand
on just one beach
i would know the prayer songs
of sweet salt breezes
the hidden truth of tidepools;
i would know everything & nothing.

asleep on the couch
your dreams flutter
escape to the roof next door;
i wonder if they too watch
the exquisite death of rose petals
falling to the ground.

surrounded by your quiet slumber
i forget the frailty
of this moment & the next;
doors that stick in winter,
unanswered mail,
the mourning of dahlias
ruined by first frost,
hobbled by the cold
like bones.

• • • •

Published in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Volume XVII (2006)
Photo by Magyber Miranda on Unsplash


a routine check   six to nine months   
lesson in the velocity of stage four cells

the sudden gravity of it thrusts you into the pilot’s seat
navigating crosswinds   struggling to keep him aloft. 

ten years ago it was you facing a storm front   
pulling out of a nosedive, earning your wings. 
milagro the doctors called you.

       death is proud and holds a grudge. 

cabin pressure drops    the engines roar beneath you   
maybe we’ll beat this.

       there’s not always time to file a new flight plan.

the pills make his angular face a soft circle of moon
the chemo takes his hair 

you see him still as your love at 19, laying in st augustine grass,
writing names in the clouds 
guessing destinations of planes above. 

       how swiftly can a jet fall from the sky? 

you hold on   anticipate the moment tires hit runway   
the bounce   the screech. 

now you worry: 
how long before his face disappears 

• • • •

To be published in The Loch Raven Review, April 2021
Photo by Leio McLaren ( on Unsplash

i would rather write about peace

it’s far too cold for wandering alone without a coat,
just harsh enough to stay at the window looking out,
hand pressed against the pane.

the streets are full of strangers carrying burdens
no one can guess. there are no replacement parts left;
i see it in their faces.

(some days i don’t fret so much about nuts and bolts,
planned obsolescence; other days this machine
of flesh won’t let me forget.)

once you’ve left the house there’s no turning back.
it doesn’t matter that you have a spare key,
that’s not what will save you.

curl up like a beggar sheltered in the church vestibule,
but leave your faith behind; you’ll find time enough
come morning to believe.

those bruises; they’re not from sleeping on concrete
or fists against skin. you got them from the soft places
where you thought you were safe.

it’s ok to make plans if they ease you, just know:
traffic alerts are meaningless, love is homeopathic
and fear is musky like pheromones.

as long as the bombs land somewhere else, we’re free.

• • • •

Semifinalist, New Millennium Writings Contest #18, 2004
Honorable Mention, New Millennium Writings Contest XX, 2006-7
Published in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Volume XVII, 2006
Published in Magee Park Anthology, 2006
Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

ash tuesday

         a truncated sestina

cleansed at last of burial ash 
you return to tell of angels falling from the sky
the fire where you lost yourself as day turned to night
in brittle madness
streets brushed with unspeakable dust clouds   embers
burning the city silent 

how your subway car suddenly shuddered silent
the ground above heaving as towers fell to ash.
trapped below, none of you knew. only embers
of wild confusion igniting distrust.    even there, with no sky
you tasted the coming madness
humanity’s dark night.

you helped a pregnant woman to the street like night
joined the tide of muffled footsteps, silent
exodus across the bridge    toward what? this madness
knows no borders.   eyes burning with tears and ash
you walked blind   9am daylight wiped clean from the sky
dawn of a new era hissing like embers.

back turned on a vision once sought, embers
of love swath the night 
like neon in the sky 
rain down in silent
questions: what was true, what was ash.

         on the third anniversary of 9/11

• • • •

Published in Anti-Heroin Chic, February 2021
Photo by Jeffrey Blum on Unsplash

circular breathing

there are only moments now
when illness is forgotten
when the woman i once was 
returns to my skin
and a trick of imagination
sees me sprint to the corner
in time for the light
hike the trail up cowles mountain

she is the phantom
this is my grief
this siren in the shadows
teasing dreams of muscles
warm and limber
stretching the truth of expectation
twisted recompense
late spring.

only she knows
how rest comes when sleep will not
how i follow my breath
its circular motion
draw stillness
from the hummingbird’s flight

how i stumble toward grace
offer prayers     give thanks
wait     for moments rich
with forgetting

• • • •

Published in The Comstock Review, Fall/Winter Awards Issue, 2002
Photo by Mark Olsen on Unsplash

star lilies

soil still between your fingers, you lead me through the garden. it is early
morning. crisp air and the fragrance of your favorite blooms stir my
senses. we speak in metaphor, seduced by words left to interpretation.
you cut me star lilies and freesia. you want your magic to linger.

i invite you in. find vases. watch the sun play on your hands, now clean,
as you lovingly arrange garden gifts. a bud opens as if delighted to be in
this small upstairs apartment.

you know the face of my passion, trace the fine lines of my longing with fingers
experienced in coaxing flowers to bloom.

content to linger in transitory moments, we play under the arc of laden boughs,
pretend there is permanence in the mere curve of letters, cut flowers, a kiss.

beyond the well-tended beds of your garden, winding paths lead to
the question you turn from. we lose our way. i return home knowing
you will not follow.

upstairs, the star lilies. their fragrant flesh becoming translucent.
soon petals will fall, one by one.

• • • •

Published in New Millennium Writings, Winter 2000-01
Photo by james garland on Unsplash

the dancer

you’ve entered my life with the ease of a dancer
gliding your way across this set
a breeze creates soft rustle of night leaves
through my heart a song whispers your name

your movements    leaps     lunges    dance of the lover   
rhythmic chant of body and earth
a tribute to two moving together
making their own breezes through the air

lie quiet, love    you have brought me your gift
i will hum my song
through my dreams beside you i know your own heart
speaking softly its night dance with my own

you go to your weekly    life     calls us all
what remains with me is a kind of silence   
a kind silence resounding in joy   
it’s as deep as the sea 
as wise as canyons
as old as mountains standing silent   majestic   knowing

i surrender myself to the knowledge of mountains
(they have survived so much more than i) 
and look up to see against the brilliant sunrise 
a lone dancer paying tribute to this world

• • • •

Published in Between Sheets, #9,
California State University Stanislaus, 1978
Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash