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This Life

is a coin
whose worth
depends upon
the pocket
it travels in

Many pockets
only count it
rare and precious
once they’re fraying
at the seams

Every coin
in every pocket
has two sides

Heads is me
Tails is you

(or maybe
it’s the other
way around)

All I know is

flip it right
and it lands
on its edge

and spins
        and spins
                and spins


Play Notes: Wrote this for fun on my birthday, March 26. 



First Hug


Someday soon we will hug again,
even if we weren’t big huggers before,
and for the rest of our lives
we’ll tell stories about our first,
just to relive where we were,
and who it was,
and when,
and how good it felt,
and how relieved we were
after a pandemic year of drought
that our thirsty bodies still knew how
to swallow each other up
in this strange and tender thing we humans do,
binding beating heart to beating heart.
We’ll tell how the entire world
shrank to that one embrace.
We’ll tell how once we finally let go
we pulled each other back 
into the shelter of shared breath and flesh
and stood there, hanging on and on, 
storing up the feel of all we’d missed
against the fear of losing touch again.


Play notes: I've been quiet a while. Life has been intense since Dad died. Mom has been hospitalized three times with what we in the family suspect might be Broken Heart Syndrome. But this week she got her first hug since last April, from a staffer in her elder care community. Oh, that was great medicine! And I knew, hearing her tell the story, that I needed to write a poem about it. May you enjoy your first safe hug soon.

Looking Up

     Before the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn
     December 21, 2020

Bright as stars
the distant friends
travel low
across the sky,
creeping toward
each other
by slow degrees,
as if centuries
of wandering alone
through empty space
have made them shy
to meet again.
The moon conceals
a knowing smile
to see them
drawing near,
while here
we pause,
look up
through night,
crowds of
lonely silhouettes
hoping for
a cloudless view,
to watch
the tiny lights align—
this, we pray,
a great celestial sign
that one day soon
we will reunite
with those
whose touch
we miss,
so far away,
in separate orbits.


Play notes: I drafted this in December around the time of the Great Conjunction. Due to atmospheric conditions where I live, I couldn't see it. Hope you did!

Ladder


            for my father

The night before you died
I dreamed a wooden ladder
rose straight into the sky,
propped against only a wall of air
yet sturdy on its feet, like you
in that faded old photo, tall and lean,
knee-high in a field of ripening beans.

I wasn’t with you at the end
but I know that when you left your bed
you mounted that ladder, young again,
body light and nimble, clambering up
the rungs worn smooth by shoes
and stained from use like wooden spoons.
After a few uncertain steps,
your long legs took them two at a time,
a rapturous climb to glory,
up past the crowns of maples and oaks,
up past the tops of barns and silos,
up past the soaring vultures and hawks,
up through the thin cool veil of clouds.
Now and then on your way to the stars
I see you pause upon that ladder,
look down from the heavens,
not to gauge how far you’ve come
but to gaze with love on what you loved.


Play notes: My father, Lynn Allen Cole, died of COVID-19 on January 3, 2021. I started this poem the next day, based on a dream I had the night before he passed. (Dad, I know you didn't much like poetry unless it had to do with farming. Maybe you can tolerate this one?)

Diagnosis

            for my father

Hanging up
from the call
I set to cleaning
the floor,
the sink,
the counters,
the fridge,
as if the grim
words
I heard
were grime
I could
scour away,
a pail of
dirty water
I could
pour down
the drain.
You were
father to
fields and barns,
too much
a man
to spend time
in a kitchen.
Yet for all
my scrubbing
this is where
the stubborn stain
of your suffering
remains.


Play notes: My father was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Christmas Eve. He is now under hospice care. Love you, Dad.


Promise


How to bless you these wild precious days?
Throw open the door before you knock.
Receive every shade of who you are.
Seat you at the table before you’re hungry.
Greet the light that shimmers in your chair.
Pour your tea like ceremony.
Wait upon the words you say
like the soundings of a bell
not rung since ancient times.
Speak truth to you, keeping faith,
even when its sharp edge glistens.
Help you walk the ground of your soul
and soar the heavens of your mind.

My joy in you overflows every cup.
Not even sorrow or fear can hold it.
In this world together, by miracle or fate,
we lean into its pleasures and pain,
each moment between us a living shrine.
I won’t ask for your blessing.
Already it is mine.


Play notes: I wrote this with intention, wanting a poem to share in this season of celebration. It needed, I felt, to be a blessing. Thank you for blessing me with your attention.

Embroidery

I weep to hear
my mother weep
telling how her mother wept
forty years before,
not enough money
in her tin
to buy my brother
a wedding gift.

Thus are the
tears of the mothers
visited upon their daughters
through generations.

We blot the grief
from our mothers’ cheeks
with rosebuds and pansies
hand-stitched on hankies
by the needles of Eve.


Play notes: A family story, recently shared by my mother, is at the heart of this one.