Poetry Matters

sharing a love for language

O Dark Rose

Once I touched a rose that was so smooth
like dew light slid off its petals. Dark-
ness hung like smoke above it – the work

of one who loves a paradox. A work
designed to deconstruct the beauty of smooth-
things and cold as spilled milk on a dark

table. Intrigued I touched this dark
rose, its soft tissue fading, a work
bitter beneath my hand and yet so smooth.

O how I long to forget, so smooth, your dark work.

The Old Guitarist

Consoled by the melody
the old guitarist begins
to change colors.

Putting away a brighter palate
the painter selects pale greens
and shadowy violets.

Then he closes his eyes –
sees only blue
upon blue.

The old guitarist leaves
behind the complexities
of flamingo
bows his head
to play a song
that only
arthritic fingers
can play.

When the last round
sound drifts away and
the guitar strings stop
their vibrations

nothing remains
except this pale image
fixed on a dark canvas.

the color of cinnamon

the cry of terns rises
over the dunes like the sound of the sea
drawing sand into itself surging receding

beneath jagged stars and an orange moon
the air smells of salt and anise while I mumble something
about undying love still you are not listening
to me but to the sound waves make

I dream I am white foam
returning to the sea having left you
risen and naked walking across the dunes
your skin shimmering the color of cinnamon
your voice sharp and distant
as the cry of terns

To Cilantro

You love to startle me,

turning up in unexpected places.

You are ever present in salsa,

beneath the mango and papaya

clinging to chopped tomatoes.

In my soup your tiny green leaves

float under the sliced potatoes

spoiling my lunch. I find you in my salad,

camouflaged, hiding among the mint leaves.

Yesterday I found you in Avocado dip.

And then, and this time you did go too far,

your pungent thick odor met me at the door

before dinner. You spent the entire afternoon

alone in the kitchen with my wife.

You appear so innocent, with your tiny thin stem

and pretty green leaves. But you do not fool me.

I have found you out!

You are relentless.






Maker of Pho


All morning I watched you work,
more focused than a Tibetan monk
bent over a sand Mandela,
slicing onions into thin half moons
gently guiding them into red wine vinegar,
blackening ginger root over guttering blue flame
releasing its essence, trimming
scallions, bean sprouts, carrots, carving
flank steak into thin transparent slices,
prepping nouc mam, squeezing fresh lime
into dark brown fish sauce, transforming it
to deep red, adding water, chili pepper, sugar,
skimming fat from the surface of the broth
for hours, until it is clear and light as air,
adding rice noodles, anise stars, cinnamon sticks,
fragrance of spices filling the kitchen,
and then, while serving,
adding thin slices of beef
which cook as we look on.

So quickly it is gone.
We stare at our empty bowls.
Your Mandela, so carefully
crafted, has served its purpose.

I confess, I hope you will begin again,
soon. Very soon.

Letting Go

A ceramic urn filled with ashes
sits beneath a window.
A woman sits in the room
in silence, knitting.

It’s November and the Sycamore trees
along the river are loosing their leaves.
In the stiff breeze they twist, break free;
the trees are letting go.

Fallen leaves float on the river.

Letting go of air and color
they surrender to the water.

Sometimes my life feels like
one long lesson in letting go.

I remember my father
letting go of my hand.
We were fishing. Twisting away
I ran toward the river.
I still see him behind me,
our thin poles held in one hand.

I practice letting go.

Imagine letting go of all of this:
the urn, the silent room.
The river, the tress, all disappear.
Nothing left but light, then
the light disappears.

It is time to let
go. It is time
to let go.
It is time

To My Muse

Before we begin, please

know this about me – wherever I am

I know I should be somewhere else.


Where it is I do not know. But

wherever I am your specter rises – pale

as a ghost drifting above dark grass


through which I must walk. But O

how I hope I might stay here,

– at least for a little while – with you.

A Photograph

First you notice that her eyes – very large

appear much older than her face.

They look neither at the photographer nor at you.

………………………………..Rwanda survivor reports…

Behind her a child,

red dress and braids flaring

chases sea gulls.

……………………………….that the crunch…

Behind the child the sun rises

brilliant yellow in a pink sky

above a pale green sea.

……………………………..beneath her wheels…

Then you notice that her eyes – very large

look neither at the photographer nor at you.

They appear older than her face.

……………………………..was human.

Lunch Lady

Under a yellow umbrella

the hot dog vendor stirs

her cauldron of bubbling sauerkraut,

air thick with the smell of sausage.


Children running from kick ball

and hop scotch, mesmerized,

stop to watch hot dogs slowly turn

above the glowing orange grill.


Adults reading their papers,

pay no attention

to her quiet incantations,

and never notice the moon

rising in her dark eyes.


Early evening shadows

fill the lower valley like dark water

trees sway in its slow moving currents

birds drift like fish.


From a gate at the edge of the path

that leads down into the valley

a man studies the lighted windows of farmhouses

gold flecks against the blue-green rise of far hills.


A jet passes high overhead,

thin vapor trail shimmering in moonlight.

I am alone- he thinks – truly alone.

Solitude is my home.


Three hawklings rise above his head

fly off calling to each other.

He returns to his hermitage

and writes in his journal: happiness.