Base of support, foundation for aliveness
In a pile, it looked like pick-up-sticks,
this Indonesian king bed in the garage sale.
Put it together in our first bedroom;
we laughed, sipped scotch, stroked, blended.
Constructed several odd wood sculptures until
it bedded itself.
Then he saw an ad;
a mattress so stable you can jump on one side
and a glass of red wine at the other end
would never spill.
We never got that wine stain out.
After his death, after the frozen time,
as my life slanted, trembled,
I bought one that slants, adapts.
Reduced from king to queen.
Marriage again, never part of my plan,
surprised me, returned me to king size.
An uncomfortable mattress, bought in a hurry.
Did we already sense the cancer?
Death again, frozen again.
Learn to look forward again.
Fresh bed, base for new.
Slants, folds, ready for
that coming helplessness.
Golden pine wood walls,
dark green rocking chair,
pale yellow sheets.
My fingers stroke their gentle ridges.
Through the picture window
we see the ocean, feel the pounding surf.
we are now in peaceful ebb.
Vibration perfumes the room.
In My Beginning
In my beginning, in that original flare,
I emerged from the nest of her womb,
the cord clamped, scissored.
Fullness of breast and sunshine.
My breath patterned to the rhythm of her voice,
All my world warm and one;
sky and earth my airy shell.
Teeth emerge from virgin gums,
first footfall on the grass,
first hug, first lie, first guilt.
Future shadows now discerned.
Bones and veins expand;
Shadow images burn toward light,
claw their way to speech.
I sort the many-sided sounds she says,
learn the verbs of ambivalence,
excavate words left desiccated on the desks of the dead,
animate their candor.
As independence grew,
so did my need to swirl those words,
warm, shake them. Bend them in my way
till they emerged,
mother-eyed and liquid.
Rain, Dances and Teas
The wildness was always there ―
nude dances in the sunlit rain,
dashes through traffic to pick the flowered weed,
performances audienced by one.
But now ―
but now ―
it manifests in paler forms ―
bright tights worn in an empty house,
wild exploration of exotic teas
explore the path of contemplation.
Is the wild tamed?
Look ― the cool rain falls.
The time is now.
Remove your clothes.
Be wild outside.
Rear View Mirror
My life moves backward.
Hours go by –
specters of my undigested gone,
my past recalls itself.
As in a dream I hear
what you said,
what I said,
what I should have said.
The heedless way I walked away.
How I flounced down the stairs,
head bloodied at every step.
Does this retro-grief hold power?
Do these latter-day repentances breed balm,
forgiveness for those poisoned darts
flung into time?
Now – reflected in this twilight calm,
this cosseted world on which the seasons
hang their banners, with the semblance
of the serene. I wonder.
I thought I could run faster.
Gusts of rain pound the metal roof,
plasters leaves against the sunroom dome.
I remember the timbre of your voice,
the tenderness of your arms.
I sense you with me
(as tender and intentional as
your palm on my breast).
The branches of the leafless tree
scratch the window
Where does she go, the quiet breeze
who releases memories
from her backpack? If I wait,
there is a chance
I’ll see her wander
in the yard, pick
up sticks and vines,
weave them in her fingers.
Seattle to Cheshire, Connecticut
Dear Judy, They finally knocked down the gym,
your favorite spot in this school.
It was so good when we taught here together.
Gym classes now on the field, in the woods, ducking poison ivy.
When it’s a hard rain and they need cover,
all rooms and covered areas claimed, even the library.
Are you happy you moved to your east coast, all enclosed school?
God, organizing this construction’s a pain.
In the dawn hours I look up at the hills, snags of mist caught in their hair;
they feign its early times, reading and math not yet invented.
You asked about the Issaquah Alps.
Turns out the name was a joke by a bunch
of local hiking/drinking guys in the ‘70s
and somehow hung on.
The park on Cougar Ridge is the old Nike missile site,
as we’d guessed.
Your sketches of last summer’s sailing trip came.
Great one of Mattie rowing her skiff Brain of Pooh.
And the one of you, Jeff and me at anchor at Star Bucket.
I can taste the scotch and smell the tobacco
as you declared you were giving up giving up smoking.
Star Bucket – hidden cove, steep cliffs,
more bright and clear stars than we could count.
A spirit home.
The stories we told.
You remembering Pop’s old books, embarrassed
at how much he’d paid for The War to End all Wars
when he’d gotten home from the front.
Jeff, laughing, told of a friend who’d said
he hadn’t had a good leek since Paris.
Me remembering us, curled up in front of your fireplace;
your mom, peeking in, declaring that
nothing significant was ever said after midnight.
I can narrow my eyes, be there.
You and me, half in love with each other,
me fully entwined in Jeff’s spell
and you, smiling over your drink,
three quarters in the same joy.
Those fractions cast an invocation that hummed.
Jeff’s down at the dock now checking the engine and oiling the teak,
getting ready for this summer’s trip..
Can’t wait till you get here.
My jagged world is mended when we’re together. Love, Sue
Sometimes Parts of my Past Slither Back
Like a clowder of cats, the past
skulks out the broken screen
Yet a few feral ones turn, slink back,
sulk behind the couch,
hover in the shadows.
They prowl. One slips under a pillow,
nightmare at the ready. Others wait behind
the wedding picture on my dresser,
in the aroma of banana bread,
the blue bowl of beef stew,
sharp scent of lime cologne.
Sometimes the feline ones pull together memories
in yarn-like strands. Tatters of the past,
once a cats-cradle of confusion,
embarrassment, rash choice,
confusion, argument, rift.
As a cat with a mouse in its mouth,
the past presents itself as new.
The Quest Continues
I seek a bright opening
in the greyness of daily.
Leap into the dawn,
amble through the thistle field,
a call to growth.
I seek a chisel
and the strength to use it;
to chip away encrustations.
How was my openness
Why did the desire to please
flow like lava over my spring?
I seek to be reborn,
to do it again,
this time with abandon, delight.
If deaths shadow me,
betrayals accost me,
I will raise a force field
of blackberries, thistles and dragonflies;
an empowering saint who proclaims
Woman of Barely Achievable Goals
Gold glints flash as the fur ripples,
claws slash like knives.
Ranger launches herself
between bear and child.
In oily smoke the plane hovers;
pilot seeks a space,
an opening for water on the flames
without being herself incinerated.
There is another courage.
in this muddle of a world.
In the murky confusion of birth and growth,
through the haze of complications,
there are some few with
the strength, honesty, bravery
to not be pulled astray.
Their clear calling stays steady
through the smoke, pain, confusion.
In the many lures to settle, negotiate, make do,
they find they can’t.
Their true self
in its integrity
won’t twist or compromise.
See that woman? The one who holds one cat, strokes the other?
She has a clearer vision than most are granted,
or, perhaps, greater insight into what could be.
Strength, honesty, perseverance.
Others get distracted, laze in foggy vision, easy aims.
Her road had been hard; bogs, sand traps, thickets
have pulled her down. And she has risen.
She has the steadiness to look directly
into the hot furnace of her humanity,
the strength to face melancholy truth
with honesty and grace.
While she delights in connection,
she honors her integrity; is at peace with her uniqueness.
Honesty, high standards,
visible in all she does.
Teaching, clothing, friends, humor –
all blaze with the richness of full life.
Her life has not been tranquil, effortless,
but she’s stands upright, honest, clear.
Audacity to fully live, to be
Beyond Surviving My Past
Someday I will love
Who grew up in the shadow of death,
learned to do the dirge two-step.
Someday I’ll see through
the fog of self-reflection,
beyond the helter-skelter of busyness.
under the double cream surface I’ve crafted
to the truth below.
Someday my varied threads,
leaves, yarns, bones,
the detritus of me,
will rise up,
re-weave in freshness.
My mother liked to toss
a disk of wax into the flames.
The tongues metastasized to azure, emerald, gold.
My brother and I awoke from our
cocoons of warmth in bed,
raced down stairs through frigid cold,
school clothes clutched tight,
huddled before the fire as the wood disclosed its warmth.
The shock of being hot on one side only
frozen on the other rotated us,
for cold tummies envied warm spines.
Later, in another house,
with a different mother,
deep in the pine and isolated woods,
I stayed up late to be alone,
companioned by the fire,
the once-consuming blaze of pain now shrunk.
In the ashes, twisted past and steadied present entwine and meld;
a bed to nurture nursling starts.
Sparks burst from the dry apple wood.
The room rumbas as the flames sway.
This ally from childhood;
my elemental friend.
Let Me Explain
I just didn’t know.
I who came into bloom in the 60’s,
who was a nice girl,
innocent of the glory of
feeling my thighs aflame,
the sweet shine of engorged maleness,
risen for me.
my lips my centered my passion.
It was as if, when his hand touched my thigh
a nerve triggered
my jack-in-the-box mouth
to say, Oh, I think not.
We nestled in the warm leaves
surrounded by snow banks, in sight of his college.
I drank from his flask
cuddled, kissed – and kissed.
I was sure; there was
a boundary at my waist,
below which sensation
could not exist.
Oh, but later –
pomegranates and oysters!
When the curse nice dissolved,
when my body exploded,
when I lived in bloom.
Let Me Warm Your Hands
In the frame on the table
in which everyone touches
I remember –
fingers interweave with hers;
casually bump, laugh my apology.
Here, let me warm your hands with mine.
Careless, she grabs my arm;
we dance in the street.
Never saw death dances near us.
Faces close, eyes close, touch with ease.
and a kiss!
oh – a kiss.
I feel the stretch of muscles; sweet ache as arms pull oars
through the waters of this alien country.
He is back in the cabin.
But I am suddenly, achingly clear;
what we have done must be undone
Alone, my boat glides, slips soundlessly over the calm.
On the lake bottom clouds float by.
Leaves of shore trees gossip, chatter, echo my unease.
Distant, poignant tremolo of the loon.
In vivid sunlight the lake abruptly stills.
Earth’s rotation, gravity, dissolve.
The lake evaporates; my boat in strange suspension.
Above, clouds mass and frame me; mists of ambiguity.
Below, grey-green rounded rocks reach up in summons.
Their symmetry facinates me; the astuteness of spheres.
the aged rootedness of stone.
This place, all life at peace; coherent.
I sense the balance, rhythm, flow;
open-ended, subtle, simple, fluid,
unlocked from the inside,
Caught in the elegance,
I am in accord.
Then, like an exhale,
the skies expand; rocks recede; waters return.
My rowboat drifts along the shore.
Alive, I have choices.
I breathe my gratitude
for this blessing,
for this hallowing.
Their smiles, placid as a secret lake,
tranquil as ripples over pebbles.
In their kitchen, cookies filled the earthen jar.
I was always welcome.
That house with small rocking chairs that fit the aunties.
One a widow, the other a spinster.
On the shelf, silver teapots turned to gold.
Hints of an old truce laced the air.
Tea was served with cookies in cups as thin as eggshells.
No music there, just calm.
Best when conversation permitted my escape.
Explore the attics where servants used to sleep.
Peek in bedrooms scented with face powder.
Hide behind the velvet sofa; pretend to be a cat.
I heard muddled reminiscences I could not understand.
How she and her lover fled as Grandpa chased.
Hit the man with his buggy whip.
Brought his daughter home to this prolonged quiet.
They were good to me. Fond.
We never spoke of the aged wine stain on the carpet,
the small burn mark on the crocheted bedspread,
brittle letters in the dressing table nook.