Building the Dollhouse

Firstly, and to my surprise
it gets me out of bed, mornings.
Planning the work—all this trim
cutting, paint, glue. What to do
while waiting for things to dry.

I wish I’d known sooner
not to keep these projects
out of sight, out of mind (spiders
gliding between rough-ridged
roof and basement window).

No, put it smack in the library
incongruously turquoise and yellow
in the mellow, bookish front room.
Cover the writing table with stuff
like paintbrushes, sandpaper, tape.

We said we would. We will.
From piles of unlabeled wood
like any noble endeavor, bit by bit
imperfect. You need to cheer
each day’s slight progress now

that we’ve stopped pretending
you care about construction.
Waiting for the decorating
you are here for color consults
to tell me when I have blue in my hair.

Garden Door Revolving

Not truly revolving
on the whim of a cat—
only the human is automatic


Hummingbirds dart through
a whirl or two
by the feeder. Faster
than any soon-to-close


What greater joy
than looking ahead
wondering through
the other side?
A communion
with the wisdom of cats


Taking these things in turn,
I plan a larger garden.
String staked out, rectangular
like door-panes laid flat.
The days unspool
birch leaves teasing the sun

To those who will live in this house, afterward

Give it life again. Be bold
in empty rooms the echoes are stilling
of what we made, what we talked over,
plans, the building of it: paint, floors,
curtains, yard. Wildflowers, vegetable rows,
perennials now overgrown with vines.
Get to know each creak and pop,
the cold corners and where a breeze will be
most welcome. Which window bursts pink
with bloom, which frames unfailing tulips;
how squirrels run the line
from garage to house with stolen tomatoes
or the neighbor’s peaches. The deck swept
clean and awaiting fall of maple leaves,
the golden slanting light; here a cat
might like to bask or seek shade.
Where snow will drift and pile,
how ice can encase every slight branch
of the crabapple, every perfect red fruit

Returned from Overseas

What do you say to the earnest smiles
the hearty aren’t-you-glad-to-be-backs?
It was no exile from the first day you knew
you didn’t need to pretend to belong

You thought your skin must be stamped with it
a continent of rivers so swelling your breath
that you’d be forgiven the slow answer but
can’t they see you have no word for home?


Inspired by a new call for submissions at Silver Birch Press.

Cabin Fever

This house is bigger than we need.
I think we would have been happy
in anything; we caved, craving
shiny-newer-better: normal

progression of creature comforts.
This house is bigger than we need.
There are no strewn toys to trip us;
the kids melt into their own rooms

and I sit at my desk or perch
on a chair, musing, deciding
this house is bigger than we need.
My wandering view, window-framed

circumscribed by another yard,
rows of sameness. I must climb stairs
for grounding glimpse of sky, to see
this house is bigger than we need.

Better late than never for Jane’s quatern challenge?


These boxes where we keep old bits of self
old cassettes in their cases, gathering dust
re-taped and hauled from house to house

The wild songs we packed down and forgot
and the instruments unplayed, unstrung
these boxes where we keep old bits of self

Corners crushed, cardboard crumbling—
but we stack and shove and shrug at the piles
re-taped and hauled from house to house

Are they dreams we can’t let go, so
pack them on ship and train and truck
these boxes where we keep old bits of self?

And if we opened them, would we know
how they rot or worm or lose all sense
re-taped and hauled from house to house?

We are not finished. Let’s make some room.
Let’s burn and scatter the ashes of youth
these boxes where we keep old bits of self
re-taped and hauled from house to house

A phrase from Quickly that caught my attention: “boxes where I keep.” 

Once, Upon a Cat

We are silly in love
like new parents, praising
lap-leap, chair-leap
keyboard walk of tiny paws
fishhook claws that pounce
unguarded ankles

What immortal hand or eye
framed infant tiger’s
curving spine to fit, perfect
in my one hand? Bright
companion of this dark hour
your heart-full purr fills forests

Lightly, for Day 4 of the PAD Chapbook Challenge; prompt “Once Upon a (Blank).”

Hoping for the Homestead

There’s no need to settle—
ever migrating, we light
on a blossom song
until we’ve drunk our honey-fill:
apricot, linden, clover
and by the lakeside listening
for night music, we dream
of trails wending west and west

Inspired by Margo Roby’s Poem Tryouts, “The Streets Where You Lived,” and including parts of names of several streets on which we’ve resided: apricot, linden, clover, lakeside, trail, west; with “night music” standing in for Mozartstrasse.