Friday, February 25, 2011


Clearing the dishes from the table, Mary stacks them neatly to the left of the sink, large plates on the bottom, bread plates next, saucers on top. Cups stack in pairs to the left, handles turned to the right. She draws a dishpan of hot water, adds a squirt of Ivory liquid to the sink, a second one to the faded dishrag.

Following the decades old instructions of Mrs. Douthit, her seventh grade home economics teacher, she washes glasses first, turning each under the hot rinse water to remove all the suds. Then she stacks them on the side of the drain board, tilted off the edge to break the water seal that would leave streaks on the otherwise crystal clear surfaces.

Next she gently lowers the china into the dishpan, turns on the tap to add enough hot water to submerge the stack, and leaves them to soak while she sponges off the table. Returning to the sink, she gently caresses each dish, scooping the dishwater with the same care she once used to bathe her sons. Placed in the dish rack, they create a temporary sculpture of asymmetrical beauty.

Silverware and pots and pans lack the elegance of the china and crystal. She sometimes thinks to leave them to soak, but never does. When everything is dried and put away, she hangs her yellow apron on the hook by the refrigerator, pulls the Betty Crocker cookbook from the shelf, and begins preparations for the evening meal.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

O'Keefe at 50

Wrangler Orville Cox with Artist Georgia O'Keefe 
Photograph by Ansel Adams

I want to say more but I'm without words.
I love O'Keefe, her work, her spirit.
I want to be her, to be like her.
To live long, to live true to my dreams.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

For a While

She once drowned (almost)
once loved (for a while)
she grew strong but never cold
   warm but never weak
she kept commitment at arm's distance
choose good sex over security
thought she would live forever
    defy the odds
she searched death records of her ancestors
ignored the ones that left early
from sickness or suicide
clung to the ones who met
80 or 90 or 100 face to face

it worked (for a while)
she grew younger, stronger
clearer, more clever, more relentless
   until she wasn't
then she sat in the corner
fingered her beads
and waited for death's release

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Who Does She Love and Why?

Herself first, of course
then the father, long lived, now gone
Picasso and Frida and James Dean
and the mother who left her time and again
The grandfather, not blood-kin
but always her steady ship on troubled seas
and the grandmother who held her and sang

The stepmother who tried
who only beat her once
then showed her love
the way she knew best
by teaching her to cook and clean
and can vegetables from the garden
and how to be a grownup woman

Who does she love and why?
The granddaughter who shares
her love of dancers
the man who thinks her beautiful
the son who means well
but sometimes disappoints
the only one she has left
so is easily forgiven

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Townsend's Warbler

he waits for his mate
flycatches for beetles
caterpillars, wasps

bathes in the fishpond
skipping from lily pad
to palm frond

soon they will fly north
to nest, returning in autumn
to continue the cycle

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Good Sense

Lorraine sits in the dark, unable to move, unable to will herself into bed. The tv doesn't work anymore and she can't tell if that's a good thing or bad. She hears children playing ball in the street and her thoughts drift to her own childhood, so long ago it seems like something she saw in a movie.

She hasn't kept in touch with one single person from those days. She went once to a reunion, the kind that tries to gather folks from a whole decade. It was just a haze of unfamiliar faces. Thank goodness her sister and brother-in-law came with her. She made them dance with her--not the slow dances of course, but the twist and the hully-gully and the stroll.

It could have been worse. She could have been the one that wore a dress that was too tight and too short and drank too much and threw up behind the bathroom door.

What had she expected? A romantic encounter with an old boyfriend? A reunion of the girls she hung out with? Misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. Kids that other parents warned their sons and daughters to stay away from. They all had the good sense to stay away.

Friday, February 4, 2011


each winter their mounds of sweetness
rise from the citrus bins
ripe, luscious to the tongue
they quickly disappear
leaving aficionados to mourn the loss
and seek solace in the common navels

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Too Easily

she wraps her heart in tissue paper
hides it in the leather pouch
left by the mother
who gave her heart
to too many
too easily
then died alone
in an abondoned pickup
out on highway 43