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.

In the Absence of Reunion

I have been looking at time

down the wrong end of a telescope

I have been gone only a moment;

I have been away forever


(The calendar pages keep turning, the year

swells, shrinks, fades: sow, plant, reap, sleep)


It’s not that I can’t feel

but I’ve suspended my heart

that can’t touch yours by look

or by daily sharing of bread, of space


(Far away from me, you grow up and grow old

and become a person I would have liked)


Of course you can no more hold still

than either of us can will the earth

to stop spinning. You were the star

in that time-lapse of an opening flower


but now we are dried, mounted, framed;

discounted by the casual observer,

unrelated. These piles of photographs

are unable to convey any essence of life

so I stare at them, willing myself to be moved


Inspired by We Drink Because We’re Poets: Moments. I got off-track from the prompt–kinda went opposite to a single moment–but this is where it took me.

Abyssus Abyssum Invocat

There is a chasm between two souls

deeper than the deepest ocean rift

and more full of watered mystery


To have given birth is not enough

To have carried and nursed is not enough

To love with this whole fractured being is not enough


We have a deeper communion, perhaps

with Other than with each other

That knowledge is not enough


I’ve often dreamt of your drowning

torn from my arms and lost in black water

It is the deep calling to the depths in us


Shall we take the plunge? Shall we sink ourselves

to the very floor of the abyss—abandon all

claim to one another and therein find our kinship?


*9 May 2015…A year since I wrote this, I’m realizing it’s a Mother’s Day poem of sorts…

Inspired by We Drink Because We’re Poets Prompt #9: Write a poem inspired by a Latin proverb. I was interested to find that there are at least two interpretations of this one, “deep calls to deep” (taken straight from the Latin Vulgate translation of Psalm 42) and “hell calls to hell” (meaning, loosely, that one bad thing leads to another). I’ll have to prefer the first sense.

Mornings at Home

It would be the morning the boat left

(not the one she dreamed, coffee-mug in hand

gazing out the window at the season’s first rose—

the morning he returned and the floor still sticky

from yesterday’s juice spill)

or any morning after


Every afternoon an excruciating exercise in desk-sitting

watching the sun cross, sink, disappear

Every evening a ticking away on the wedding-present mantel-clock

and old news the worst news: death, war, nature’s havoc

Every night a dark-staring contest and the house creaking its joints

some small balcony-creature scritching at the door


It would be the morning the boat left—

the third of May—the docks a hundred miles away

and she would be home with the juice spill

every morning now looking just like the last


Inspired by We Drink Because We’re Poets Prompt #8: “Write an ode to Mornings…anything goes.” I skipped the “ode” part and embraced the “anything goes.”

Always a Popular Place for Lunatics

Rain splashing on metal and leather,

and running down. This camping in heather

a mistake; he had no notion whether

the storm would abate. He felt for the feather

and clutched it as he lay, remembering.


In that space was a curious curving

for near the moment, his mind went swerving

to some happier time. A method, perhaps, of preserving

sanity (all too late); he had made a vow of serving

the arts that had brought him to this hill.


Swept from black tables and made to dance—

so his master now owned him. Without a backward glance

he had entered magic’s dark waters; mere chance

that his brain in one lucid moment might advance

this truth: The ravens had been the first warning.


Inspired by We Drink Because We’re Poets Poetry Prompt #7: Complex instructions here. The short version is, line 10 from a book, rhymed into a stanza; repeat as desired. My first lines (and title) come from JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL, by Susanna Clarke.

From the Shipwreck

Gold will rise. For monarchs most catholic

an edifice of soaring peace, limitless idea

gilded silence, echo-stone, hidden art

O stranger, let your heart-breath

bless the spirits who bought this spire

these airy arches, color-stained

patterns unceasing below the altar

Forget not our bones beneath the sea

and pray for our souls before you sail


Inspired by We Drink Because We’re Poets, Poetry Prompt #6: Write a reverse acrostic using one or more of selected words. My choices were shipwreck and cathedral…but I gave up on shipwreck, sorta.