in 19 and 26, was a God-fearin' heavy drinker.
He'd start the day with prayer and a full bottle.
‘bout time the bottle was half-clear
Ic’rus was mighty cloudy. But the Lord was never far
from his mind so he'd preach. One night
he climbed a tree in his sister's yard
like Zaccheus trying to see Jesus
hollerin’ Repent! Repent! Repent ya goddam sinners!
Didn't hush till somebody took a shot at him.
On that and many a night, soberin’ up around two a.m.
the Lord more on his mind than ever, he'd run
like hell to preacher's house, beat on the bedroom window
till the weary mountain reverend stuck his head out
to assure Ic’rus his sins was forgiven.
One night, preacher's wife, tired
of these moony confessions, tore out on him with fire
poker in hand screamin’ Ic’rus you'll be churched
if you don't stop this nonsense! Now go and sin
no more and don't come back here till you're invited!
Takin’ serious her threat
Ic’rus pared down his drunks to two a week, never failed
to thank preacher's wife every Sunday though he never
was invited to her house. He took to livin’ by his wits
in the woods, bathin’ in the river, still rantin’ ‘bout redemption
earnin’ him the nickname of John the Baptist - JB to his friends.
Which was fittin' because knowin’ gamblin’
was dangerous but not believin’ it a sin,
he got a little too good at poker, spent
his last night on earth around the wrong cook fire
takin' too much of the wrong people's money
so they helped him win his place in family lore
by leavin’ his head in the hollowed out stump of a tree.
from String Quilt
I dreamt about her
the beloved cousin who died.
She smoked a cigarette,
and laughed at my bubbled thoughts
as I sat in a hospital gown
on an examining table
festering about the exchange
my doctor and I might have.
My mother’s father who died
when I was twenty-six, whom I miss still
also once laughed from the other side
but not in a dream exactly.
I was more awake
when his dead voice floated
to me over the phone
and he chuckled when I asked my question
about God. It seemed like a proper question
until he laughed.
Some who have sailed away
have not laughed in my dreams. My father
his father, as tossed and distant
in death as they were in life.
Others have never returned.
It’s not the coming back or the lack of it.
Their laughter is the thing.
What’s so funny?
Is it because I am just an oyster
letting the whims of this fickle ocean
Hard on the outside, inside, soft.
Easily dislodged from resting places
until there seems to be no place left,
I grind, I work, encase the irritants,
coat them, hide them
trying to make from them wings
to fly or legs to stay.
Instead, I make stupid pearls.
from String Quilt
The Far Edge of Summer
gets here earlier
each year and as July
closes around me
on this rocking pier
I listen, heavy-lidded
as low squeaks
sounds of ducks
and splashes and motors
of boats become smaller
as if I am stretching away
connected to this world
by just the thinnest
ligament of memories
these fading sounds awaken:
how we made up
our own names
for places – Eagle Island
Goat Island, Bloody Nose Cove.
We were the age my daughter
and her cousins are now
when we spent all day
on the boat, never calling home
never being called
to account for ourselves. We skied
and swam and talked about
fishing, but fishing
was too quiet for us by then. This lake
helped me escape.
Now, traitor, it frightens and mocks me
for the old woman I am becoming.
I squint up from my book
at the youth in my life
who stroll by me
they won’t have to launder
yet. Young rascals who don’t care
they are twenty minutes later
coming off the water
than I told them to be.
I watch their brown young legs
wick past me
up a grassy green hill.
Iodine Poetry Journal
I have crept from room to room
like a lazy nomad’s wife
to wander quietly
to hide, by nothing more
than the absence of light.
My head does not seek
soft pillows or places
when you are in your dreams
hunting a path or a gate,
some way to escape
before the haunting comes.
I keep my eyes open
and wide, on the ghosts.
My rest seeks no pattern
approval or instruction.
It asks for no help
and no help is given.
Carpe diem quam
minime credula postero
the great poet wrote long ago.
Carpe noctem was left for the lunatics
only. Carpe noctem slogan
for ambitionless woman.
But ambition is lunacy
wearing its day clothes.
So what if my days
wax and wane in a way
unwritten in your books;
so what if sometimes
my dawn shares my supper
and looks silvery white like a pearl.
Dedicated to my fellow night owls