In the garden, a chickadee pecks at you,
kisses the ground nourished by your ashes.
paws, emerald eyes —
now burned to a chickadee prize.
The tangerine poppies have turned blood orange;
like lit Oriental lanterns
as we look for you
in nature’s patterns.
Is the bird’s song sharper from feeding on you?
Have you fertilized flowers to a deeper hue?
Cattails rise like questions in the morning dew.
Like a velveteen hand smoothing fronds with April tears.
Like paint splatters on canvas dripping summer suns, autumn rusts, winter oxblood, spring pinks.
Like the blade of an ice skate slashing its veins in winter wind.
Like the lead weight of a mirror reflecting physical beauty which ends.
Like the sparkle of crystals from an overturned sugar bowl.
The rain chuckles and asks: “Did Leif Erickson turn over a new leaf?”
Then the rain goes psycho, pals with the wind and blows leaves hither and non.
Leaves twist and turn in the rain, shout to each other: “Is this the winter of our discontent?”
Leaves cling fierce but lose family members.
Do leaves mourn?
I hear leaves waltz with the rain at night, patter a child to sleep,
fragrance dreams with velveteen prayer.
Like a gentle hand April rains return to soothe.
Felt inspired to make a collage. I call this Venetian Fairy Tale. Hand-painted paper background.
The trip to Venice still lingers in memory. Luckily, we were not flooded. La Serenissima floods 1/3 of the year. It is a regular practice for them to set up ramps and you are advised to bring tall boots.
Here’s one of my unearthed poems:
Venezia leans and lists,
an ornamented, lacey, Byzantine eccentric
caught in the lagoons.
She is a jilted bride –
Miss Havisham in a yellowed wedding dress,
her Adriatic stanchions
as rats nibble at the cake.
But Venezia refuses to stop the clock.
Her Bell Tower rings – cracked but hopeful.
In a café, the Italian slurps his zuppe di cozze,
downs another grappa,
sets fire to his brain as a musical strain
echoes from canals,
the boats of gondoliers.
I imagine the fire of his dream:
Venetian maids of yore
lie supine on the shore,
tresses fanning out in hues of gold, orange, blue.
Their siren songs set him aflame.
Until he returns to the 21st century,
spots a woman flocked by pigeons
at St. Mark’s Square.
And here’s YT, being flocked:
An exuberant zucchini pushed through the soil.
I did not toil.
A bird, you see, dropped a wayward seed
between the peonies.
Cumulus clouds drifting dusty seedheads –
as if a yearning ancestor carried them from skeletal beginnings,
they dance on the wind
germinating and growing and weaving chains of childhood memories.
Up close to my nose, the butter-mustard tang of the dandy
reminiscent of crazy salads prepared by Italian aunts,
lion’s greens dressed and tossed at picnics, splashed and anointed with chianti,
spilling from bowls on the oilcloth beneath a summer sky.
Knowing no bias for neighborhoods, they poke from city sidewalks,
from the cracks of suburban cul-de-sacs.
There is something uncommonly common
about the dandelion.
When I was an ear I swallowed everything whole:
Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was dark maple syrup down my cochlea.
Mother sizzling onions in the frypan was a foot-tapping dance through circular canals.
Sisters slammed doors, quivered bony labyrinths.
The buzz of Father’s knife sharpener sawed at my drums.
When I was an ear, leaves crackle-teased my tympanic membrane on my way to school.
When I was an ear, rosary beads clacked and prayers flapped like bats.
Down the aisle the whoosh-whoosh of the nun’s robe.
The small desk creaked open like the door of a haunted house.
Lessons pulsed The Crusades and Marco Polo.
Horse hooves thumped and water plashed
as Crusaders clashed and Marco Polo sailed to China.
When I was an ear, a squad of lead pencils scratched sums.
I was on alert, something about a test.
The visceral dread – the proverbial fingernails down the blackboard.
The splash of vomit.
I plugged with wax.
Five vomits times four vomits equals twenty vomits.
Feet shuffled in.
The shoosh shoosh of sifted sawdust to mask the puke, then mop it.
When I was an ear, Hope was the bdddddiiiing
of the school bell ending the day,
the joyous rumble of the idling schoolbus shepherding me home.
We admired ancient Egyptians.
Painted boxes, families who cared enough to draw birds,
carry cakes and ale to their beloveds.
We did not cremate her.
We buried her like a sacred Egyptian,
tucked in relics: a lavender heart, garnet ring, Celtic holy card,
the papyrus of her poetry, photos of her Depression childhood.
When the parakeet died she found just the right shoe box.
She folded its blue feathers in with toys and seeds,
painted popsicle sticks green and formed them into a crucifix.
All that winter we waited.
In spring the potato vine blossomed
and stretched over our bird grave.
She believed in rituals — even miracles,
spoke of ancestors clawing sod with bare hands,
turning over blackened spuds.
Their larders bare, nothing to fortify them but prayer.
Nightfall and she waves goodbye from her lace-curtained window.
I hold the wave in my sight, round a corner of the city street.
A family custom to gesture from windows.
A sadness at parting, a not-letting-go.
The tinsel draped fir tree, cranberry garlands and bulbs hidden deep.
My fingers comb the nap of her red velvet couch.
The click of my heels and the tock of her Black Forest clock.
Melted, disfigured choir boy candles sputter out their flame.
Her face shows in tatted, round doilies, antique mirrors.
When I am out at night, I wave to her, I wave to the moon.
Panicked that I’d lost my heart,
I use my GPS device to track its location.
Somewhere between brain and breastbone
I am navigated in a new direction:
“Follow the course of the road from the cerebellum along the pituitary.
Now turn left and then turn right at the atria for three beats.”
Tracking the route, I am delayed at the hippocampus.
With a name like hippocampus how can’t it be a fun place?
Long-term, pleasant memories surface:
the ice pond where I skated as a girl,
my first kiss from a boy,
swigs of Boone’s Farm Apple wine,
kelp smells scenting a faded jeans jacket creased with beach sand.
I want to dwell in the hippocampus.
“Course correction, course correction,” my GPS robotically signals.
“You are living in the past. You are not in the now.”
What fun is the Now with its reality of creaky knees, aching feet?
I steer towards hoola-hoop days – spry and supple hips and hearts
and am led to my sisters – both no longer girls — masters of the rolls and twirls.
We sisters approach, tentatively now: thinning hair, a wobbly gait, faulty hearing.
Our impatience and anxiety with each other –
our nervous laughter —
fearing that my tongue will speak the reality of my own truth
and I will offend.
I could be seduced into believing myself and my kinfolk are strangers –
that my heart has disappeared.