Many of the following pieces were published in the Book of the Mermaid (2001) and Nine Waves (2003)—both volumes are available through Sutter House, P.O. Box 212, Lititz, PA 17543.
Additional poems can be found here.
Two Poems of Boyhood and a Love Song
We were seven, Johnny, Denny, Mikey, and me.
Like the Lone Ranger, like the Cisco Kid,
we wanted a campfire to warm us in the wild.
Our houses had no hearths, no fireplaces.
We had the new invention, TV.
Not tongue of flame, not incandescent amber,
but flicker and flutter of seem and make-believe
static’s subtle crackle, flecked with snowflake,
fine white flour silting up our dreams.
We skipped into the woods. We went in deep.
A logging road gave us autumn grasses,
yellow, dry as paper--these we stacked
below a leafless tree.
Mikey struck a match, the pile puffed.
What happened next we never saw on NBC.
Rotten trunk and brittle limbs became
a dragon, darting flame, fire tearing
patches of dazzle from branches,
burning bushes leaping in our way.
Too late, too late I thought of Smokey Bear.
We ran to save ourselves, we ran and cried,
we knew the firestorm would take our homes
and burn to ash our Western Flyer trains
our toys, our model bombers, fighter planes,
our little soldiers, sisters, all we treasured.
We ran and ran to tell our Moms who called
the fire trucks--they came careening from
the town, screaming down Concord Road
their sirens weaving ribbons all the way.
And we were spared, our things, our homes,
where Moms relieved, where Dads severe now sent
us pyromaniacs to bed, but let
our gloating brothers and sisters stay up to watch
the Walt Disney Show.
Ten acres of Delaware woods laid waste.
Those flames, they burn inside me still,
O year of Fire, year of Miracle
from “Webster’s Second” Part III
. . . . . . . . . . . . . When I was eight my Dad
bestowed on me his grand old Funk and Wagnalls,
(the one he used in college, I believe),
and said that once a week we’d play a game:
after a random search we’d find a word
that neither of us knew, and learn it well.
He bade me open up the bulky book
at any place I would; he made me shut
my eyes and put my finger on the page.
I lift my lids. I raise my little digit.
An unknown word appears. As if by magic
I called it into being: peridot
(rhyming with fairy knot), precious stone,
a gem, pellucid green, and I, too young
to know, a color I could never see.
No matter. The word did conjure up the stone.
It’s still imbued with that imagined hue,
unfading lumen, star of my third eye.
Many a time I’ve looked it up again,
to trace it backwards to old French and thence
to faridãt, old Arabic for gem.
That game we played no more. The damage done,
the gem became my Judas word, the lure
that made the others swim into my ken.
In the month of March, which batters through
This many branched and leafless bower
My heart was pierced when I beheld
A solitary flower.
It was Hepatica nobilis,
Whose uttermost cerulean blue
Copied the color of your eyes.
It made me long for you.
I amble through the winter woods,
But March still loves to play her tricks.
She showers on my head warm rain,
And thaws the frozen sticks.
Vibrato. How a raindrop shivers
Down the skin of a white birch tree.
Reminding me of one December,
Of wet hair, curling and free.
And through the naked boughs of March
I glimpse a castle’s towers, high
Above the gorge. And from a turret
Melting in the sky,
A solitary chord I hear—
Of anguish struck upon a harp.
A long and solitary chord
That slips into my heart.
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