Fiddler Crab


The live ones
quick, pop out
               of sand holes of their own
               crazy-making.

They dig (and
when the sand
               is wet) roll sand balls
into piles, a semi-circle
               around their hole-door.

In the same way

it’s a ghostly thing, really,
               the way they blow
end over end, lightweight
               and dead.


--First appeared in Agni Online



Promise Me


You will sit on the grass

And watch the cemetery men

Come down the hillside.

You won’t be bothered

If they bump my box, you will stay,

Be last instead of them.

You will believe what you always have 

In peace and the procession of seasons

To ease the pain (what else can be said, really).

You will sit on the grass

If you aren’t already beside me

(like this morning)

Legs intertwined into mine.



Math Problem


My daughter doesn't like decimals and I don't care.

Not tonight. There will be no homework fight.

She is 10. Not .10 of 100 or 1% of 1000. Not a slice

of a pie or a fraction of herself or who she will become.

She is whole number, a factor to deal with, and some

days I would say she is Prime, a product of Herself x 1.

My daughter doesn't like decimals and I don't care.

Not tonight. It is twilight, and she is playing outside.


---First appeared in Oak Bend Review



Walking to Old (Japan, 1983)


I met an old woman. I watched her, hunched,

ready a space for the dead to eat

white rice in a smooth black laquer bowl. 

I suppose she slid in under me -

like the steps of our festival steps.


I met an old woman walking to the public baths,

metal basin and cloth

pressed firmly against her hip.

I suppose she slid in under me - like splendid wet heat

letting down her wrinkled skin.


I met an old woman in a striped farmer's jacket,

bent, beneath a cloth sack 

flattened down her spine.

I suppose she slid in under me - like tired bones.

Have you worked forever?


I met three women - in passing

I suppose they slid in under me

like a road.


---First appeared in Red Hills Review



Like a Stick


I am driving. Thinking.

How a heart gets whittled down, bits flicked.

Like a stick, by a knife.

In the living room Ruby holds her homemade 

spear high. I am Artemis the Huntress! 

She is 10:

Goddess: of the Moon. The Hunt.

Protector: of Women. Wild Animals.

Virgin: Immune to love's manipulations.

I do not know Greek myths.

But my children do. This stick means more

to them, and their friends.

I am driving. Thinking.

How a heart gets whittled down, stripped.

That I know why Artemis appeals.


--- First appeared in Salamander



I killed it


It lost focus - 

excited, or old

Either way, death smacks hard.

Its guts, red tangled in fur

hit twice

front and back wheels 

both.

The sun is brilliant

swallowing up the morning commute.

It is cold.

If I had stopped -

hovered my hands above its entrails

it would have warmed me, exhaling 

itself over the road.


--- First appeared in Soundings East



Thursday Night with My Daughter in the Emergency Room


I don't know our religious affiliation

or

when she ate lunch

her height, if she pooped yesterday

what she weighs.

I don't tell we don't always eat 

regular meals

we microwave and graze.

I know she ate chips and salsa at 4

why her socks don't match.

She doesn't know what a bowel movement is, or

how to catch her pee.

The doctor knows appendicitis is different

in kids.

Not always middle to right, but

sometimes the left side too.

She knows now that an IV 

stays in 

that it can be scary here

and the man down

the hall

is legless

yelling diddle diddle dee.

Blood, liver & heart

any part of me to her

I'd offer up.

Discharge papers take awhile.

Until we leave

we remain

2 peas

perfectly out of place.


---First appeared in Margie



In His Sleep


J. made a sound in his sleep, sad, like

he had lost something. And he has lost things:

his mother too young, his old Kentucky home.

The sound lasted a second. He tightened his jaw.

When he sleeps I like to look at him, his long legs

like the ocean, blue jeaned, flat out.

J. sleeps best in the afternoon sun.

He looks like summer waves, if a person can.


---First appeared in Harpur Palate



In the Provincetown Dunes


I've been walking hot in dune prayer, wandering

over sand hills and craters. There's no one here

and alone is an odd place after awhile

with no one to point me down the dune buggy road.

Dune trees scrape my shoulders, cause my trail to meander.

An old woman lives out here.

She puts up a flag for mail, or water.

For what she needs. I can't see her,

there's no flag either. I lick a salt stripe

off my forearm, mixed with the faintest taste of hair.

If I die out here they'll find me soon enough, my camera

filled with pictures, smiling self-timed.

I've been walking long in dune prayer, squinting

into glare. I thirst for one straight path back.

My legs are tired now. But prayers don't lead us home, do they?

They just burn - like sand steps.


--First appeared in Tiger's Eye



Spiral


It is what I wish the heart was.

A Guggenheim.

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Hawaiian fern

curl to a logarithmic swirl.

To keep its prey in continual sight

the falcon circles its flight

like I stare into shells. Even 

snails know the ratio

that relates a Kansas twister 

to the mountain goat's helix of a horn.

Gravity pulls us in/orbits/spins.

We all know there is calm in the eye.

Instead we beat. Pulsate.

We're electrical.

It's what I wish the heart was. 

Not a muscle.


---First appeared in Coe Review


Photograph by Edson F. Scudder
Photograph by Edson F. Scudder