French City Mystery (a fragment)

Colored by rain one morning
depending on sadness
sighing high houses in the mist
bridges piled on the river
(everything yellow
and falling


We’re here! NaPoWriMo Day 30, prompt is poems in translation. Many years since I studied (not learned) French, but I had fun with the two or three words I recognized in the early stanzas of Charles Baudelaire’s “Les Sept Vieillards.”

Marking the edge of one of many circles

They speak their language and we listen
on the train, perhaps or at a café
lulled by the perceived music, drawn on
by one word in a dozen that stirs familiar
our ancient roots. Of course their talk
is as mundane as ours, all the daily needs
to communicate, to demand, make known
the self; but they in their world, we in ours—
messy, but for the moment not burdened
by meaning.


NaPoWriMo Day 25, prompt is to begin with a line from another poem. First line from Mark Jarman’s “Chimney Swifts,” which I discovered in the Bright Wings anthology. I also borrowed the title from Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”


What town is this we travel to?
And what will we eat,
how will we live?
Is it even the same sky?

And what will we eat
If we don’t know the words?
Is it even the same sky
touching trees, endless deep?

If we don’t know the words
how will we sing our dreams
touching trees, endless deep?
Will our neighbors speak us welcome?

How will we sing our dreams
in this language hard and new?
Will our neighbors speak us welcome
and can we understand?

In this language hard and new
how will we live
and can we understand
what town this is we travel to?

Day 25 prompt for PAD Chapbook Challenge is “echo poem.” 

Thomas Jefferson’s brain

on display today in London
bastion of civilized contradictions
fossils skeletons stuffed specimens
on the spectrum from dinosaurs to dolphins
seen through all these shades of humanity

from Adam man alone has the past as burden
a future dimly seen through history twisted
mislaid misrepresented cut down on a whim
like a thousand-year-old tree collected labeled
arranged by color and date and purpose in glass

cases to admire our own wars and weapons
teeming termite-hills of fear and greed
the paper trail of our forbears magnificent
jumble and the thing I want to do I cannot

make heads or tails of these Latin lines
translate virulent wonder into beauty
a POINT neat and prim as Jefferson’s
handwriting logical legible underscored

for the good of all people

I am processing a weekend trip to London which included a visit to the Natural History Museum, the National Maritime Museum, and the British Library’s exhibit on the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, where I was captivated by Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Heartsease for Desire

I believed in fairytales
that words had power
to call up forest, river, oak
deep places of wolves and ogre
kings, the blackbird boy enchanted
pouring pathos into song until
I would take him to my breast
find him changed to joyful lover
in the rain-hung green-washed glade

We strung the words awhile—my master and I—
making shining things, berry-jeweled strings
that held no power, for though the blackbird watched
he never came to earth and in the rainless heat
my desire built like storm, pitched me headlong

I lay under bee-hum, dreamed
of my blackbird boy, followed
him branch to branch
into wolf-eyed forest until
in shadow of sagging hut
I saw the crone


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


You wrote

me notes, folded

as precise as your mind

laced with wild whiffs of hope, mown grass

spring sun


(Youth claims

those joys looking

forward—oh, uncertain—

the lemonade kiss of maybes

to come)


You wrote

Te quiero and

I translated loosely

too late (nothing preserves love but)

these words


This is my attempt at 3 linked cinquains for the March poetry slam at yeah write. And hey, this is my 150th poem on this blog!

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”