Electricity Towers

here’s a poem from my book  How the Hand Behaves:



Pouring through the wires like words,

magic I will never understand.

Sleight of hand pulls images out of air

like ghosts,

imprisoning them on the screen in the box.

Is the picture tube filled like my brain

with gusts of faces?

When I touch it, the tingle, the crack,

the static rises to meet my hand.

Warmth and light, magnetic fields

imprisoned like genies

pulling my liver

away from my back,

rearranging my cornea,

what wish could set them free?


 imagesIPYGIPGQ from ABC Science





illustration by artistclarf

I love fairytales, and became fascinated by an obscure one: “The Nixie of the Mill Pond.”

The above artwork comes from that tale.

This poem spins out from that tale as well.


Here’s a poem that appears in my book  Vexed Questions:






the youngest,

pursued by the pond,


grew up waiting for someone

to do things for her,

grew up smiling

with a whine in her voice.

Never lost her high little girl laugh,

a titter, helpless shrug of the shoulders

cover the mouth with the hand


I can’t get this computer to work…

I can’t open this bottle…


The older ones wanting

to throw her into the cistern,

the damned dreamer,

wearer of the multicolored cloak.



The Wren

Carolina Wren on my windowsill by by Marianne Roken Del birding

photo by Marianne Roken



Here’s a poem from my book Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky:


The Wren



is foreign to the wren.

She is all present in her garbling song,

She is all knowing as she carries thin sticks to her nest box

She is all loving in the dawn

She is powerful in clover to the tiny bug

but the crow could swallow her,

and she would fit into my hand.

She is eager, not tense.

She is present, not passed,

She is perfect, not single,

and no helping verbs accompany her.

Her song is a breathtaking flood,

lilting , unlikely OM

to the wrenmother


Carolina Wren by Wendy Luther Dickey

photo by Wendy Luther Dickey



Jeff Wall Untangling


Here is a poem I wrote after viewing Jeff Wall’s large photograph of the same name in the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington DC, back in 1997.   It appears in my book Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky:



Greasy yellow hose, thick as a child’s arm,

blue rope thick as a dogwood trunk,

white rope grey with dirt, thick as a child’s arm.


Hopeless tangle on the workroom floor,

writhing tangle on the workroom floor,

writhing serpents on the workroom floor,

distinguished by the colors of the rope,


writhing serpents on the workroom floor,

blue intestines on the workroom floor,

old sea sailings on the workroom floor,

yellow hose thick as a child’s arm,

frayed and broken ends of chestnut mane

together tangled into argument

of complex sentences, equivocations,

qualifications all in a mess

on the workroom floor.


Strippers and sanders on the shelf,

unplugged witnesses of argument

say: how will it be undone?

Man attentive to untangling

stares without strategy.








Anne Sexton’s Last Reading


Anne Sexton Love Poems book cover

I was a young poet when I saw Anne Sexton give a reading at Goucher College in Maryland  USA.  It was 1974, I believe.  She committed suicide the following day.

I wrote this poem about that reading.  It appeared in my book  At the Year’s Elbow:


Anne Sexton’s Last Reading


Seven years later I remember

the long red dress

clinging to your lanky frame,

a slash of blood

in the middle of the stage.

Your poems,too,

like slashes of blood.

How impolite of me

to stare at them.

You hung them in the air

with your

low nonchalant voice,

arranged them with

garish foreign hands,

garnished them

with cigarette smoke.

“Unless God keep the city,

the watchman watches

in vain.”

You said it was from Kennedy.

Now I know it is a psalm,

and now I know

that two days later,

you killed yourself

in a closed garage

with poison smoke

unnoticed by the watchman.

Rains of my regret

cannot wash

the blood from

your poems.


Anne Sexton

Blue Winged Teal

Blue-Winged Teal, Birding Center, Port Aransas, Texas


Here’s a poem that appears in my book  Life List:

Blue-Winged Teal


Small dabbling duck,

wallow in freshwater ,

mince your steps on the sticky fronds

of April,

rest your blue bill on your speckled chest

like a dignified dowager,

looking down her nose.


Fashionable in your touches of sapphire

on breast and wings,

your color is more blue than

what the paint store calls teal,


something more moody than


more matte than satin.





Sunset over vineyard in the Carneros Region, Napa Valleyphoto by Gary Crabbe

I wrote this poem about 30 years ago. It appears in my first book, At the Year’s Elbow:




The vineyards tumble

down hills

like children

in the summer evening

before their parents

call them to bed.


The vineyards green and heavy

promise wine,

glinting secret in casks,

or raisins,

the disappointed ones,

the grapes

who settled for less.


Raise sins,

rays ins,

wrinkled and sweet,

fly like,

sticking together

in boxes.

Dry and dark,

poor raisins,

never wine,

no longer young

and full of juice.

Over sweet

memory of summer

in mince pies.


 from seriouseatscom

photo from seriouseats.com