I had a prentice, once. She came across 
the river, bright belief like starshine, sharp.
I taught her names; to listen, still; how words 
quick-hum inside the oak, how they can build
and howl like lightning splits the sky, and spill.
We strung them fine on heart-string rope to make 
a blackbird song.
		  She’s gone. To have her back!
but autumn spells and heartsease hold her now.


A little blank verse for the Yeah Write May poetry slam.


All that long-lighted day I watched her
rope-spinning, flinging it bridge-ways
across the clear river, bee-hum loud
in the glade. Rain held off and held off
as it did in such a summer (a wizard’s trick
or maybe of the crone herself). A girl gathering
words like blackberries, fingers mouth juice-
stained and she never saw me in her headlong
desire but oh, I would have told her heartsease
is not worth the price. For a word I would have
told her an eased heart is nothing, songless.
But she came by belief and all that light-
long day I watched her, aching, for it was
only a step to the crone’s hut and now
she’ll never find her way back.

Crone’s Bargain

Here’s heartsease, and you give me
your desire. I keep it in blue jars,
well-sealed. Just one pinch warms
me through a year of winter windy
nights, good as a peat-fire or cat-purr.
I’ll take the rope, too, strongly spun
of heart-strings and paper. Once
you leave the forest you’ll not need
it again, and ’twill serve me well
as a clothesline. Those shriveled words
in your bucket? Keep them.


It was only a step into the forest
to the river running fast and clear
and I knew that summer trick
of spinning strong rope
from paper and heart-strings
twirling it high and far
to snag lightning-split oak
where wizard-words swarmed
like bees, spilled like blackberries
to fill mouth, pockets, buckets

It was only a step from the forest
to where the crone sold heartsease
for desire, a mere bucketful of words
and a spinning strong rope

Planning a Pilgrimage to Yeats’ Grave

More than nineteen autumns

have passed since I fell in love

with Ireland, with words—

brilliant creatures lyrical

mysterious, beautiful


I don’t know if I can claim

that I’d never before desired

a bee-loud glade; nor can I blame

you entirely for my choice

and my pride to stitch

and unstitch these lines

rather than scrub kitchens

break stones


(Soul, clap your hands and sing

to find again these phrases, to hear

with older ears the cadence

of the dim, green isle

Heart, skim back the years to see

a pulsing belief in faeryland, star-laden

seas and terrible beauty…)


I will go soon to Drumcliff churchyard

by the road, an ancient cross

there I will gaze and pray that I know

the song of linnet’s wings

peace dropping slow


I don’t know how better to pay my respects than to steal favorite lines from his works—“The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” “The Man Who Dreamed of Faeryland,” “Adam’s Curse,” “The Wild Swans at Coole,” “Easter 1916,” “Sailing to Byzantium,” ”Under Ben Bulben”

Forest Song

I’ve come to love the silence. (You will come

to love it too.) Slip into the forest, hush,

and listen, away from the brook’s mindless

chatter. The world is loud, your thoughts

are loud; your love, your pain, your dreams

are loud. Put them aside and listen. Come

deeper in, all moth-wings and moon-dark

and I shall not speak, but hold you. This tight-

strung thrumming below blood-beat (feel

it) is your food and clothing and shelter. Sink

and be still, feel this earth-skin turning

with arms of leaves to enfold you. Hush

and hear the spider-silk weaving

(listen to love it too).


Sometime Sacrifice

It is a clean place in the low countries,

all gleam, gold and azure between framing

cliffs, water-smooth reflection of white

town walls, sea-blue church spires, billow

clouds and distant in-sailing fleet.


What price, this peace?

What price, these burghers trotting

staid on horseback, wimpled wife

with her back to the half-door?

What price, the wide-open gates

and stream of people wending

curving path to crowning castle?


On the near green hill is violence.

It is a lonely scene, above the town,

screened from worthy citizens’ view.

If they looked up, they might catch

a glint of sun on armor or downstabbed

spear. They don’t look up.


The dragon is also blue and gold,

another part of the landscape.

Did he once come looming, blocking

the sun or kindling in the last glory

of sunset? Did they deliberate long,

in cliff-top towers, on the appropriate



The princess prays but does not look

afraid. The knight dispassionately

does his duty, only his streaming

crimson sleeves a hint of where

this will end.


It is a clean town on the sea,

and for this the dragon must die.

The idyllic day continues unruffled,

like the water.


 Inspired by We Drink Because We’re Poets: Write about a favorite painting. I was looking at Rogier van der Weyden’s Saint George and the Dragon, painted 1432-1435. You can see it and learn more at the U.S. National Gallery of Art’s website.

Literary in the Forest

Miss Havisham, dear Ophelia, let us flee

this dark house, the cruelty of misplaced

desire, the paneling of which is suitable

only for our coffins. Let us find another wood,

a brighter home of our own choosing, lush

with fern, moss-hushed, honeysuckle glinting,

scenting the sunlight and the hill-born(e)

breeze. Let us step from the shade into glade

of pink foxglove, listen for rocks’ water-song

and silence of trees.

                                            There is no revenge in pity,

no sympathy in surrender, so cast off your wrecked

dresses, your sodden tresses; care not about full-

filling hours. We will study butterfly wings, speech

of birds. We will deck ourselves with wild roses—

or toss them at the b(r)ook.


I’r Castell

To stand in this place is not to feel

the weight of history, but the treasure

of its humanity. Go on a mist-damp day

in early spring; climb through the woods

solitary, roofed and walled and floored in green.

The gate, wood-massive and iron-barred,

stands open. Pass through it and become

part of the place’s past. It is not whole,

but propped up, unreconstructed. The wind

scours and wears the stone but the footprint

is still there; listen for the echo, trace it.


Pace the vast space of the bustling kitchens

and see the girl trudge with sloshing bucket

from the well. Climb higher on centuries-worn

steps to the wall. The soldier huddles in his cloak,

blows on numb fingers. Look over the parapet,

see the line of carts and carters below, groaning,

hauling grain and meat and fuel and fodder.

Look up, to the tower. The lord in his solar

gazes across the valley, self-satisfied or afraid;

his pale daughter frowns at her needlework.


Now close your eyes and hold this, glowing,

as if you’ve drunk the magic draught

from a light-filled cup. Soon you must return

to your workaday world, but here in this space

you are someone and somewhen else, wonder-full.

The birds sing in the nearing forest, the wind

caresses the stone, the tattered flag

flaps, the fortress stands empty and alone…

until you come again.