Poetry Matters

sharing a love for language

Category: Free Verse

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

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.

Children’s Hospital, Waiting Room

From this side of this window-

through this glass looking

down seventeen stories  –

the world is a odd place.


The smell of rain

has become a distant memory.

Taxi cabs – thick bugs.

People- so much seed

scattered on a hard path.


Who would have thought

a tiny swish rising

through a stethoscope

could so change  everything.


Here we are a congregation

Of the suspended –

Inhabitants of a sanitized purgatory –

A communion of those who wait.


Here the priests and prophets

wear blue scrubs

and white paper masks.


Why, I ask, is it that your tiny heart,

no larger than your tiny hand,

should refuse to grow?

What providence has brought us here?

What karma? There is no answer


so we wait.

We wait for our names to be called.

We wait.


Line of willows

along the path.

Snow. Wind lifting

thin branches sighs:

frost, alone.

Below: field opens,

snow drifts

dry as sand,

color of ash,

beyond: river flows

dark slow water.

Snow dripping from

pines measures the hours

in small hills

that disappear in the wind.

I close my eyes,

think: white, silk.

Keeping Vigil

In November I watch the sycamores

along the river turn amber to brown.

In the stiff breeze leaves break away

fall into the river, drift in its eddies.


In April minnows return to feed

in river shallows. Turtles appear

sunning in long lines on fallen logs.

Couples return  to walk the river bank.


I sit by this window

with skeins of yarn, running soft thread

through my fingers, waiting, watching,

wondering if you still dream of home

as often as I dream of your return.


Noah’s mother hands him to me.

He has that warm milky  newborn smell.

As I tip him backward

his violet eyes, perfectly round, open.


I dip my hand into the font

cupping water in my palm. I raise it,

water dripping through my fingers,

running down my arm.  I pour a thin stream

onto his  forehead.  Tiny rivulets run

through his hair, down the sides of his face.

He looks into my eyes.


I repeat the words the church has spoken for 2000 years:

“ I baptize you In the name of the Father…”

Words are such thin fragile vessels, not sufficient

to bear the weight of what we sometimes pour into them.

I dip my hand again, again pouring water,

“and in the name of the Son…”

Words begin to crack.

A third time water runs down Noah’s face and hair,

his skin,  smooth as an eggshell.

“And in the name of the Holy Spirit…”

I place my hand on his forehead

To speak words of blessing.

The air is filled with fragments

of broken words, letters and syllables

falling to the chancel floor.


I return Noah to his mother. Tears

form small pools under her eyes

and run down her face.

The family returns to their pew

feet covered with tiny shards.


I sit, trembling slightly as I often do after such things.

I lean over to wipe a few stray vowels from my shoes.