Hildegard’s Way

Marked by

light, shades, colors

death: fiery lightning flowed

and glowed, gift of vision leaping



The NaPoWriMo prompt for Day 21 was an erasure poem. I “erased” around these words from a booklet called Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard, which I picked up last weekend while hiking the “Rüdesheimer Hildegardweg.” 

Ars Poetica

I expected more
but you will sit dozing
in the garden
as if this spectrum
from green to forsythia
were reason enough for being

You won’t rise to the rhythm
of truck-springs, dove-throated
scoldings; you come begging
on moth-wings for dew-drops
or even candleflame, snapping
up any crumb of praise dropped
between cracks while prating
of moonlight and blackbird song

If this kind of drowsy bee-hum
is the nectar you had in mind,
who would sip from it?
It tastes of mower-drone
inelegant clang and clatter
of construction on the next corner
whirr of what—saws? And the chairs
need repair; weeds sprout in the flags

My dear tone-deaf old thing
the blackbird is trying to teach you
while you lie there dreaming
you can sing
and fly


The NaPoWriMo Day 15 prompt is to write a poem that addresses itself.

Reading Rilke’s “Evening” Before Sleep

It reminds me of my youth; and alternately

my aging. This heart that drops stone-

complacent or lifts like mountains in

new birth: stirring, violent. You

look at me (do you see beyond what mirrors?) and

together we seek the burning secret of a star.


A “golden shovel” poem after the last line in Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Evening.”

To the poet who breathed her last in this cave

This hollow place with the tide-breeze sighing—

Can I believe that the goddess brought me here

and say that when young dawn stroked rosy fingers

over the damp cave walls I saw your markings

and wondered how they aligned with the stars?


I unwrapped this tissue-linen and found nothing

but small bones, bird-fine and hollow, dyed shells

that I rinsed in tide-pool water and gazed at, wondering.

Can I believe that if the goddess brought me here

it was to interpret your breathings, the soft sigh echoed


by tide-breeze that vents this star-gazing cave?

Can I believe you once lived here at all?

Because I find only tissue-thin bones, salt-streaked

shells and they don’t align with your markings.

I wait under empty skies, dry-eyed and wondering.


When young dawn with her rosy fingers strokes

these open hands I will, with what care I can,

arrange these dyed shells, your bird-hollow bones

into a cairn below your markings. If I can believe

the goddess will bless the shrine, I will take this life-


breath and follow fading starlight onto the open sea

once more.


With apologies and gratitude to Jenifer Cartland at Poems from in between for this inspiration.

Amadae is dead

1. What of those who remain?

She stood by the cave mouth, weeping—No,
Ana is not one to weep. But her shoulders
curved the weight of grief she has carried
from before she knew she should grieve.

2. Ana calls it lightness

When the world lifts suddenly
from your head and you discover
all the ways you suppressed
and suspended happiness…
Is it only that he is gone
to the fathers of his people,
his body gone to mother earth?
Is it only the way he always looked
to the tree-sky when we talked
and my heart is an empty gourd?

3. How was I to answer?

To say, Rose gave me this tale and the end
was inevitable as the crumbling dirt at our feet?
She had always hoped her contained diamond
hope. Could I not have given her that diamond
just once, in the daylight?

4. Rose has no sympathy

I cannot give you what you want,
but only a whisper, a shadow beyond
the corner beyond the next corner.
You follow the breadcrumb trail
and find it peters out; you hold the thread
but stumble on the same stone
on the black cave floor. There is no
lightning gift of the gods, no comfort
in my flesh—what flesh? You dream
of soft caresses but wake cold-still
and forget everything I said.

Ophelia (from Rose-Witch)

She stood at the lakeside, pale

skirts summer-twilight glowing,

hair loose and light about her head

as if in water outspread. Wavelets

ankle-lapping. I called out


but oh, God, she would not listen.

She just ran and I could not

follow, all dark and I couldn’t find her.

The slap and slosh and cold water closing…


(We sat on the wall and talked,

we lay in the grass and loved.


You princes always prating

of other islands in other cold seas—

Forgive me, good sir, I am bound

for better or worse, for airier realms.)



Saving the Innocents: A Fragment

I have brought you here for this singular purpose:

We will rescue the innocents I’ve marked.

You toss your Keats and declare yourself ready,

but I know how you cower, dreaming or not.

I know this riffling of pages, birds plunging

from the cliff, after-silence of low moaning wind.


Two projects are conflating here today: a nebulous, rambling, and mostly plotless prose-poem or poem-prose I’ve been calling Rose-Witch AND my continuing inspiration-tag with Jenifer Cartland of Poems from in between. I had written this line of hers in my notebook: “I ask you how will your innocence hold up.”