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"There are things we live among and to see them is to know ourselves." George Oppen, "Of Being Numerous"

 

                     THE MERMAID WISHES FOR A DAUGHTER

 

 

Here’s the tide, ebbed for you, sponges

for blisters, fins
spreading a fan,
shade from the sun.

 Glide with a pelican, take green

            for eyes, ear ropes
            of shells between
            strands of sea oats,
 

curl in a basket of sweet grass

that spins, then stops.

           My arms reach down
           to you in the rocks.


Green Daughters

 


                        Photograph of Amanda Pinckney by Eleanor Brawley



THE MERMAID WATCHES OVER THE OCEAN


 

Under fixed stars, my daughter ships past

the horizon on a shrimp boat headed

for harbor. Palmettos sway

                       in the shift of morning and whisper, What                     

                              will the land do with her? She

who chatters a dolphin’s

call in her sleep, skims

whitecaps with terns, knows

which waters paint the night air

with flying fish and senses when fist

sized turtles begin foaming from dunes

to follow the moon’s milk down to the sea.

Will she shrivel in some city, dry

as a clam on sand?The gull

lifts his black head and laughs.


Cave Wall,Number 4

Green Daughters




                                                                       

    

                                        



AMERICAN TOURIST, NORMANDY

 

 

No greener grass cradles this vast sea

    of crosses flowing north, south, east, each row

        facing west. Straight white paths,

           some markers topped with a six-pointed

     Star of David. Chiseled on marble,

  

name after name until you face a stone

   of the Unknown. Under clipped trees, clouds

      like parachutes, chimes muffling a battle hymn,

you walk toward the Wall of the Missing

    where a guide, speaking French,

 

is leading a group. They pass, a man stops,

   looks right at you and quietly says, Merci,

      then in English, Thank you so very much.

 You, in your hat and sunglasses

    on this June day. You, who have not hung

 

 like a puppet on the bell tower of Sainte Mere Eglise,

    have not been pinned to the hedgerow bluffs

and tumbling walls of Omaha Beach,

    never jumped from those now decaying Mulberries,

       Sir Winston’s floating harbors, into the ocean’s churn

 

 below this ground. You have not clawed up

    ninety foot Pointe Du Hoc through all the dying

       of all you know. Safe and dry above the water,

          you stand looking down toward the cliffs

   of Utah Beach, home to a scatter of gulls

 

 while somewhere on this hundred seventy-two acres,

    among the nine thousand three hundred

eighty-seven stars and crosses,

   someone’s baby cries, a sound that lingers

      then washes out to sea. 

    

Kalliope 2009
The Beast and The Innocent



 SONGLINES

For the animal shall not be measured by man… they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time…--Henry Beston, The Outermost House

 

 

In Alaska, searching the wolf by day

and longing by dark for his howl,

I spot a body, gray fur sunk into bone

beside the rails as the train speeds deeper

into Denali, a wilderness where

all things move with the seasons.  The pink

of fireweed dies to floating cotton

 

as August lengthens.  Canis lupus --

science named him -- will plow snow to tear

the white weasel and hare, nuzzle

young in the camouflage of a den.  And over

summer’s green-gold tundra, trail

caribou, mile after tangled mile,  plunging

streams that redden and twist with salmon.

 

This mythic, hunted animal – the Pawnee’s

Spirit Talker, the west’s Lobo -- listens

for raven to call from a sky

not yet stolen. When the same sky

streaks with twilight, somewhere

voices rise to it and to each other,

a wild harmony haunting the unknown.


Wild Goose Review, Winter/Spring 2014

The Beast and The Innocent

  

 

 

 

THE BEAST AND THE INNOCENT

 

 

Of course, dogs and cats go to heaven,

my mother announced from her deathbed.

Welcomed into heaven, my childhood cat

will groom Grandmother’s canary, feathers the same

yellow as the black cat’s eyes, the bird

 

he ate when I was seven. In paradise

pointers lap at duck ponds while cockatiels

screech and perch on each dog’s white and black

spotted back. Heaven’s way is,

 

as we have heard, the lion lying down

with the lamb. A place where Christians kindle

the eight candles of Hanukkah, Muslims unfurl

prayer rugs for Hindi and the roped Tibetan prayer

 

flags flutter good fortune for the Chinese.

The wine and wafer bless a round wooden table, a feast

celebrated with unleavened and leavened,

mango and oyster, babel unlimited. And the spaniel

that killed my brother’s rabbits will lie

 

on the wide-bladed grass of my youth, all manner

of four and two-legged creatures leaping

over him, some stroking the red and white silk

of his fur for pure pleasure, for the grace. 


Imagining Heaven Anthology, Spring 2009
...and love Anthology 2012
The Beast and The Innocent
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"... the only courage is joy."
James Wright 
 
 
 
 
 
 

TRAWLING



Uncle dangled his useless

polio leg from an island

dock and flung the net. Later

thick hands popped

heads from creek shrimp

translucent until bubbled into rosebuds. 

Cousin Julian curved a red tool over shrimp

backs, lifting shell and tail

with one flick. Water steams

and Mother’s at the sink

with a toothpick,

deveining black lines


down the drain. After crushing

claws and shell with a nutcracker -- Cheating,

said my aunt who hammered a mean

green coke bottle -- Father pried

then discarded a crab’s

blue-gray triangle

from the underside, picked up his highball

of bourbon and told me, Don’t

eat the dead man. I


have disobeyed my father, consuming

the past, cutting

through layers to reveal the heart,

chopping lives into vignettes stirred

from the guarded black pot –

take this, taste that –

the sweet, the bitter, the wine

finally mellowed, the fish drowning

in lemon and oil, five pounds of gray coils

pink from the boil. A frenzy of plucking

fingers -- Done, Grandmother said.


Charlotte Viewpoint Magazine, Spring 2010

The Sound of Poets Cooking Anthology

Green Daughters




CLAPPER RAILS


Thin, dark, flitting invisible

through reedy creeks, these

calls and cackles gleeful

the sun has seeped into trees. A raucous

crowd, near, but not of

the ocean. Who cares if your eyes

ever glimpse a flurry, one

or two fluttering their wings, less

 

graceful than chickens careening

old barnyards. Marsh

hens, natives called them, tracked

and trapped, such

poultry made a foul

meal. So tough no one

dares fry or bake. They ride

tides, float eggs in pluff-mud and shrill

black waters. You know

they are close, answering each

other over oyster beds,

blue crabs, every

scuttling appetite, the night

grasses alive with hoots

rising, a party you love

to be near, not of.

 

Wild Goose Poetry Review, Fall 2008
Green Daughters


Photograph of Clapper Rail by John J. Pringle






 

THE SPINSTER CONSIDERS HER OPTIONS


 

For a long time now I have tried to think

of a nice way to kill Papa. He's stubborn

as God, just as remote. Other old men

die. He's lived on, hunched over his Latin

and Greek. Pulled those study doors together

while Mama scraped to get us by, so thin

when she died you could read a newspaper

through her hand.


I take in boarders now, put food on a table

crowded with men lonelier

than I am.  They’re afraid

of Papa. He stares down any fellow

who dares to speak

or hold a door for me.

 

I've no stomach to poison the tea --

just want him gone, God forgive me, clean gone.

Cousin Albert, his favored nephew till that day

Papa stumbled on us in the garden.

Only a baby bird we bent to watch.

Albert took the evening train

back to Lynchburg. For a time

I heard from him by post.

But really, that was all so long ago.


Not near enough automobiles to hope

for an accident on Papa's walk.

Though, regular as rain, Mr. Thornben's Packard

hops the curb, driving being so strange

and all. Fire’s too risky. Papa would get out

and my box of letters from Albert burn instead.

Dusting in the study this morning

while Papa read, I noticed his oak bookcase

 

had begun to tilt of late. And late

it is. The boarders will soon arrive

for

before I have to stop and run to see

what on earth has made that awful crash.

Then I'll call our Dr. Penefield. Surely

Cousin Albert will come for Papa's service.


Kakalak 2006

The Beast and The Innocent