Michelangelo in Hiding

in the Medici Chapels

A small room to the left of the altar
a trap door and down. You hide
and wait for world’s forces to forgive
to find art is more important
than power’s shifting tides. You sketch.
With charcoal, with your finger.
The corners full of shadows, footsteps
on stone above. A tiny window for light
and it is not always light.

day one day five day twenty
day six twelve nineteen

The food is cold the cell is damp how long
will you huddle here? Haunted by what
you have yet to do, by all those stone hearts
waiting to breathe

Inspired by this article about Michelangelo and by PAD Chapbook Challenge Day 16, a “haunted poem.”


Février. The days growing longer but still threatening snow. We took the train from Frankfurt bundled into coats, scarves, the wrong seats set right in our sorry mix of German, English, French. Suitcases bumping cobbles, gray skies; our hotel sunny yellow, its courtyard still filled with green and breakfast elegant on spindly tables—croissants, café au lait—we could have been a painting. Sleet at the Eiffel Tower, rain on the Champs-Élysées and a tea-shop for warming. Lights winking on in the dimness, jardins, musées. We pored over maps, streets radiant, curving, narrow, grand, the river and all its bridges, names hopelessly garbled in our cold laughing mouths. How it never translated to street level; how we felt glad to wonder, to tell ourselves, now we are here.

Too Early to Tell

Time was
I put on gloss
and polish, finishing
touch—a mask
for what rattled
undone, inside.
Best face forward
(all turmoil is let be).
Who are we
to each other
beyond gloss and polish?

Today’s PAD prompt is to write a memory poem. I got distracted by the cosmetics ad (with a bright tube of lipstick) that popped up at the edge of the screen.

Niet Hebben

You will know without telling
the cause of my despair.
I cannot put it into words—
you must return me to life.

The cause of my despair
is in those nights, music-fired.
You must return me to life
under stage lights, roses, cheering.

In those nights, music-fired
I sang for you, for all joy in singing
under stage lights—roses, cheering
like wine, like love pouring.

I sang for you. For all joy in singing
we let slip the weight of brocade
(like wine, like love pouring)
to fill every corner of our need.

I let slip the weight of brocade;
I left the stage lights burning
to fill every corner of our need
time and again. Did you not see

I left the stage lights burning?
I cannot put it into words
time and again. Do you now see?
You will know without telling.

Still thinking about those undelivered letters. This pantoum is for Jane.

Suburban Tech

Dear Sirs, you’ve lost control
of your traffic. These platoons
of driverless cars, routed
from the highway
and through my yard?
There are ghosts enough
in the concrete rows
of former cornfields—
the sky too blue
the clouds too white

Inspired by PAD Chapbook Challenge Day 10, technology/anti-technology and by this article about the future of transportation.

Undelivered Letters @ The Hague

Piles of time, preserved—inky voices
     She sat a desk like this
stilled but for angle or curve of a word
     by candle and inkpot
wanting to mean but never received
     quill-scratching her heart
pleas and declarations, like bones
     life beating hard, alone
sealed in a box

Inspired by this article about a recently discovered box of 17th-century letters–never delivered.

Another Morning

I have a heart
submerged so long
after the ties have loosed
their hold, we still cling
to the surface of that family tale
like children learning to swim
clutch the rough pool edge
trusting it will save them
from drowning

A week into two November daily writing challenges, it took three prompts to get even this much: “submerged” from the PAD Chapbook Challenge and “Where is your heart” and “Their hold on me had long since loosened” from Yeah Write.