Schoolchildren at Abbey Ruins

The somber silence speaks of ages past
when ancient chants and incense swirled in air.
Here monks with bread and chalice practiced mass.

Schoolchildren peek through time-warped glass
at the twelfth century, in gray habits they’re obliged to wear.
Their somber silence speaks of ages past.

These midget monks cluster in emerald velvet grass,
absorb teachings on St. Benedict and prayer.
Once monks with bread and chalice practiced mass.

Hauling backpacks, these fresh-cheeked monks contrast
with crumbling arches and pillars, leading nowhere.
The somber silence speaks of ages past.

Bread, water await the students in the undercroft. Cloth mats
checker the vast dirt floor. Soup steams in earthenware bowls.
Once monks with bread and chalice practiced mass.

Roofless, walls pray, bony fingers to the overcast
heavens, while God, behind froth-thick fog, hovers, aware.
The somber silence speaks of ages past
when monks with bread and chalice practiced mass.

~ July 11, 2001

 

elusive words

ELUSIVE WORDS

Silver rain falls
        in stinging skewers
            as I traipse

beneath street lamps.
    Their warm glow
        tosses haloes

over my head
    like ideas for poems.
        I hunch, cross my arms

over my Shetland wool
    sweater.  It’s not that
        I’m against

the pyramid-slant
    of the watery slashes,
        the wrong words that splat

randomly on the empty page.
    I just wonder
        why the reams of water

in this cold air
    aren’t snowflakes
        sprinkled like powdered sugar,

a smattering 
    of white freckles
        on my florid cheeks,

pearl-like words
    on a blank
        black page.

 

yearnings

YEARNINGS

In the orange ozone of blush desert
among slant-faced grasshoppers and lizards,

I’m dandelion disenchantment and
a hymn flickering to firefly heaven.

I’m a diamond girl in a salad bowl,
a page torn out of a landscape, a song

lamented. I am blurred nostalgia.
I am a chameleon, dreaming change.

In the tattered fog of morning glories,
tinkling silver bangles intoxicate

and entice me like hyacinth incense
from my faithful cornfield complacency,

from my straightjacket simplicity days
of middle-aged motherhooded marriage.

I become a table-dancing wildcat,
a nomad of our emerald-green earth.

I become a river-riding cowgirl
and a chinook wind unraveling snow.

I’m a capricious ramble of crooked
corridors — like I used to be in youth.

Then the quiet roar of the garage door
snaps me back to black and white prediction

of wrinkled burlap skin and silver-tipped
medium brown hair of oblivion.
~March 10, 2001

arctic epitaph

ARCTIC EPITAPH

In polar waters of midnight sun,
     their underwater voices clamor,
tapioca-thick in August ice.
     The sequestered men, blue fingertips

all desperation, scrawl final words, 
     claw at the curved walls of the Kursk, 
invincible metal tomb. 
     Barents Sea inhabitants, alarmed

anemones, urchins and sea squirts 
     stare in silence at the groaning, 
clanking immensity in their midst. 
     On the surface of the frozen ocean,

gulls and terns wail a ruby rhapsody.
     The Russians, sluggish and secretive,
tell inept lies in whirlpool circles
     while time, breathtakingly, slips away.

In memory of the Russian submarine, The Kursk, sunk in the Barents Sea 12 August 2000

~ October 2, 2000

she who was once the helmet-maker’s beautiful wife

SHE WHO WAS ONCE THE
HELMET-MAKER’S BEAUTIFUL WIFE
A sculpture by August Rodin 1880-85 at The Hirshhorn, Washington, D.C.

Her skin flows –
          lava, rippling
down her frail neck, rib cage, legs –
then solidifies, bronzed.
          Gravity – hypnotic –
tugs at her deflated breasts. Punctuated
by sunken nipples, invisible aureoles, they lounge
against her ribs, her tired mound of belly.
Her hair hangs in a horseshoe on her back.
Her kneecaps jut in knotted knobs, dark
and pockmarked as peppercorns.

The pitted surfaces of her skin
refract the museum light,
          deflect her despair
to her companions – Crouching Woman,
Head of Sorrow, Kneeling Woman Combing Her Hair.
The Hirshhorn docent points at her,
while students scribble in notebooks,
          raincoats tossed over their arms.
Rodin insists she was once beautiful,
and maybe she was, but today
and until bronze disintegrates,
her essence hides within a craggy oyster shell,
pearly, air-thin bones under loose-fitting skin.

     Inside her hollows, she just remembers
wandering to her husband’s shop
on woolen summer evenings,
moonlight glancing off canary grass,
a whippoorwill’s lament in liquid air.

          Goosebumps blossomed
on her skin as she watched his shoulders
strain in the light from the fire.
She silently slid her fingers over the cool ridge
of a helmet, her own reflection – beguiling –
in the metal-mirror curve.

She loved to seduce him on those ancient evenings,
the helmets – like a crowd
     of   floating,   gleaming   heads – peering   
               silently,
as she and her husband
          made tangled love
                    on the dusty floor.

~ July 12, 2001