The music of what happens

Today is my mother’s birthday. She would be 106. She died when she was 95.

Here is a poem from my book Vexed Questions:

The Music of What Happens

Vinegar and rust,

from whose body did you come?

Something friable,


meets fantastic

meets a static victim

standing there,

waiting for the bullet to hit the orange.

Startled, baffled

by the Catbird’s cry

the politician with cache

with carte blanche,

turns into a

cadging codger.


the great Horned Owl

calls across the hay dry meadow in

the parkland in the dark

of four am,

who summoned me?

In her bedroom in early October

Toward midnight,

sitting up to breathe better,

propped up like a woman in labor

looking in through the gate of eternity,

 my mother spreads her arms ,

shoulders squared to meet God.

Art by Tonya Engel

Shabby Truths

Artist: Anna Valdez

Here’s a poem from my book Vexed Questions:


The shabby furniture belies its joy,
the wrinkled steel of shabby venetian blinds,
 shabby toy left in the corner’s dust,
 shabby try at reconciliation,
 shabby attempt at concealment,
 shabby sweater vulnerable to drafts,
life in the shabby lane, where all is frayed
and everyone’s afraid, a frayed remains,
a shabby, ratty scarf.

Shabby first drafts, littering the floor,
shabby tabby, too sick to preen,
gravy, shabby Navvie
Gunny, runny, tattered, blunt,
shag haircut so attractive in my youth,
shabby scorn scores a cutting hit,
scored cores
litter the hard yard
of dry garden.

Theory breaks into
Thee or me,
God or three or okra,
ore or our hour.
Shabby curse: Go float a kite on a cliff of desire
on a brook where blackberries
strangle the bank.

Shabby truths:
The throat can kiss the sharpest word.
The eye can bruise the coolest arm.
The word can cling like soft brown mud.
The ice can hug the window sill.
The clouds can swing the stars away.

Each time you wear it

Here’s a poem, a sort of sonnet, from my second book, Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky.

It’s directed to an old friend.


The clothing did not fall from you in tatters,

nor did your feet swell these 40 years.

The Goodwill store sells everything that matters.

Forget the Lord and Taylor, all your fears

are smothered in the well worn corduroy

The warm grey sweater sent to you with love

Each time you wear it I can feel your joy.

Reject stiff clothing, that which does not give,

the labels biting back into the neck.

the slippery polyester you once wore.

Embrace the blouse so fine it feels like silk.

The cotton blouse whose ironing was a chore.

Choose vibrant reds and purples from the rack.

Discover cashmere that the rich gave back.

The Presence of Crows

Here’s another poem from my book Digging for God;

The presence of Crows, Halifax

I’ve been longing to see the flash of black,

gold, white, the evening,

the evening grosbeak,

but all I see,

all that greets me from the lawn

are crows – murders of them.

One befriended by the lure of peanuts,

less wary, less skittish,

but bright black eye shining

in shining black head

eyes me

black feet walk toward me

toward the peanut at my feet.

How near will he come?

He has a call I’ve not heard before

from any bird.

Is he calling for company to share the peanut?

It’s a rolling of sound out of his back,

a wave of sound like a human sound,

invitation, a comment of welcome.

In this northern country

I long to see the birds

who never come our way,

but all I get  is

an abundance of crows.

The House of Change

Here’s another poem from my book Digging for God:

The Snake Plant

Roots so strong

that they break the clay pot

they live in.

Are sins my skin

which stretches as I grow,

and splits and falls away,

so that the roots are free?

Are my sins the bonds

which keep me small,

or hold me together?

The House of Change is red clay,

bigger inside than out.

Scouring the mineral deposits,

cleaning the crusty dirt

took the skin off my hands.

Towards March

Here’s a poem from my book Digging for God:

Towards March

Trees shake their shoulders restlessly.

What to do with those wandering

songs we used to sing?

Singing about Autumn in a Summer Song…

What is the season for leaving

when is there no more leaving?

Wines age gracefully, though

some sour

when opened.

You should drink some of them

six hours after they are bottled.

Old love

here at the creek ,

wild phlox bloom still.

Garden Cloves Huddled

I am aiming to post a poem of mine each day this month. Hope to sustain it!

Here is one from my book Digging for God:

Garden gloves huddled

in a paper bag hanging on a hook

by the window where the ice clotted

bare branches quiver

and the sun sends their gnarled shadows on the snow below.

Garden gloves clean , soft, bleachy perfume,

stained brown and green,

some holy fingers clutch each other

While they wait.

February Dawn

More snow this morning. I am reminded of this poem from my first book, At the Year’s Elbow:

February Dawn

Orange wakes.

I stir and stretch my orange arms.

My toes touch

the edge of the sun.

Copper faucet pours orange,

Orange streams

through sun-bright glass,

Heats the cool green walls.

Bedspread patterns


swirling in the blaze.

The globe in the sky

turns white once more.

I button tired schoolclothes,

Sway out and away

on the icebound path –

but orange footprints burn



photo from Arctic Images

Here’s a poem from my book At the Year’s Elbow:


The deaf snow speaks

in sign

like a prophet.

His fingers remark the landscape

swiftly, stolidly.

They say

This time I am serious.

He cups his thick hand

on the birdsnest,

he levels the driveways,

leans on the trees,

pulls the sky down

to the earth –

nebulae swirl

by the second story windows.

This time I am serious.

This time

you will hear me

photo by Matejphoto

Sister Ann Robb Writes a Letter

Here’s another poem from How the Hand Behaves. The speaker is not me, but one of my sisters, when she was dying of cancer:

Sister Anne Robb Writes a Letter

Having turned in my stamps,

signed on to silence,

I dream

the old friends

open their empty mailboxes.

In dreams,

they come to visit,

dressed oddly,

staring and shy.

In dreams,

they shout out to me

from the other end of the church.

I trace their names

in the sand of my palm

and God

washes them

into Himself

The religious imagineer

Where the fire and the rose are one

Gaudium et Spes 22

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