Poetry Matters

sharing a love for language

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.


Day 37/365:  Cardinal in the Snow

Image by ehpien via Flickr

First splash of red:

a cardinal, color of sunrise,

shimmers in the snow crusted hedge.


Sharp crack of breaking ice echoes

across  the far field.



from bare trees

behind the brick house

a thousand starlings rise.


For Mrs. Von Till

Her studio: elegant and austere as a Steinway;
walls deep burgundy, mahogany cornice.
Above the fireplace: one blue iris.

A student stumbles through
Chopin’s Waltz in C# Minor.

“The piano” she tells her student
“is just a thing of wood and wire.
You are the instrument.
Again. Please”

The student begins.
She places her hand
beneath her student’s right elbow
and gently lifts her arm.
Suddenly free
from weight of forearm,
wrist, bone and finger, bird-like,
rising, music fills the room.

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.

Memory Tries to be Kind

Memory tries to be kind,

softening the hard edges of the past,

adding color to dull things,

letting the trace of pain recede.

Then something intrudes;


the scent of cut grass or

perhaps of dry wood

and  I return

to things no longer desired:


your name

sitting on the tip of my tongue,


filling my mouth like smoke.


I thought blindness would come

over me gradually,

like the earth’s shadow

slowly covers the moon

until the eclipse is full.


I expected that I would be

an old man with his red tipped cane

carefully tapping the sidewalk.


I never expected this


this overwhelming brightness;

that I would be

a swimmer lost

in a sea of light

praying for shadows.

The Yard at Night

Late at night the trees flare

like green guttering fire.

The air is thick

with the smell of burning wood and wet grass,

with the rhythmic chant of  cicadas.

The stars transcribe long slow fixed arcs.


Soon the sun will rise.

And the elderly couple next door

are in their yard again,

dancing naked, howling

at the white stone moon.

Christina’s World


"Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth

Image by goldberg via Flickr


I wonder,

What is your world like Christina?

I return again and again

To this one painting.

In your pink dress, the color of a dried lobster,

Thin arms straining, back arched awkwardly

Unnaturally twisted, left shoulder pushed forward,

You pull your resistant body

Through a sea of yellow-brown grass.

From his studio Andrew watched you pull yourself from a cemetery

Through this field of dry grass toward a distant farm house.

Haunted by your determination,

By the slow measured movement of your body,

He drew your arms, your hands, your fingers, over and over,

Straining to capture this one moment, this gesture, with exactness.

Finally in tempera he painted this:  Christina’s World.

Is this your world, Christina?

What do you see?

Your face is turned away from us.

Do you see an arid field, lifeless, airless?

A field of unyielding loneliness?

Or a field of soft golden grass,

A familiar deep in-breathing

Of solitude, of home, of undisturbed peace?

Or is it both?


Information about Christina’s World, including Andrew Wyeth’s description of the color of her dress as the color of a dried lobster shell is from The Art of Andrew Wyeth, by Wanda M. Corn, published by the New York Graphic Society, Boston, 1973.