of Tapes and Table Manners

I ignore the manners sometimes
to his chagrin 
but how do I want the memories
of this table to form and last
through terse reprimand or comfort
in sharing of days and thoughts
There has to be a balance found
I think
somewhere beneath the crumpled cloth
napkins we used to tie around our heads
which was strangely tolerated
and I had forgotten about
until my sister gave the toast
at my first friendly wedding
with a napkin tied around her head 

I spent an entire drive North
recalling all the songs 
from every cassette mixed
when that process still involved
impeccable timing and a patient thumb
Elvis, Chuck Berry, Paul Simon
prominent among so many
Which reminds me that Crosby, Stills,
Nash & Young So Far
was the first CD I ever owned
given for my 10th birthday
It used to make me chuckle
that I never stood a chance

Intangible unowned collections
just don’t hit the same
as a painstakingly gathered token
of love handwritten
Bandje voor Bar

Those smash like The Boxer’s chorus

You shined my shoes and drew
my portrait, framed
it as well as my first watercolor 
Always thought I was the best
at everything, not
an insignificant weight
Never let me win at chess
but dropped your jaw
my first day back from club
with het herdersmatje
Schaakmat  

You said you grieve
for the love your parents 
didn’t know but tried
to find and you
trial and errored your way toward

Teach your children well, they sing
so good so far.

November 4, 2020

De Volgende Keer

You still looked so omniscient.
Formidable even as, for the first time ever,
I watched you pause for breath
and rest your head.

You sang every word along
and my voice broke only once
on Maantje’s familiar lullaby,
Morgen heb je weer nieuwe pret.

The line too much for me just then
and yet so right for your voyage home
to God, three children, and your Carel.
En, was ‘t een mooi boek?

You told another favorite
story of little me and the stranger
who dared to call me Wijfie.
Ik ben niet jouw Wijfie!
Ik ben Oma’s Wijfie!
En dat ben je altijd geweest.
En dat ben ik nog steeds.

May I one day be granted this
to let my body seek its rest
while my mind can still recall
the sweetest things and happenings.

In this tenderest time acknowledging
your century and bonus year,

not to say goodbye, Omi, but
tot de volgende keer.

-October 14, 2020

Polyvagabonded Neurosci

She has a lot of nerve.

Polyvagal, vaguely defensive in its technicality…

The soul term is preferred. 

Carrying through little tributaries

all the physiological sediment

of a solemn girl’s fading

marble pillared history.

Curved muscular freckled arm

its hair triggers darker in winter

slight archeological brush

storms seismic alarm.

Fist curled she strikes irony 

when her autonomic nervous build

bends its nose to grind, 

mines under conscious autonomy.

No exoskeleton so we hardwire

our vertebrate defenses in our minds.

Fight, flight, freeze when

sympathetic neurons fire.

An imperfect system when size

is slight and built to nurture,

without wings, and not invisibly

still with hand-covered eyes. 

She always in movement,

sidesteps and right hooks her paintbrush,

soars her voice from where she stands,

frost warmed by para exhaled filaments.

Filare. Filum. Homeostasis. 

– October 11, 2020

of Cate Blanchett at the Hirshhorn

They look old, tired, sick
pornographically detached.
Past artistry gone over the edge
burnt filaments, so self-indulgent.

Mildly poisoned,
hypnotized by the mirror’s glare.
Apathy is one hell of a drug.

My madness has not been reckoned with.

When I was rock ‘n roll
I ignored my talents.
When I hold my talents
I’m not rock ‘n roll.

Eyes open.

– March 1, 2020

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Bird Bones II

If time were fleeting
like bird bones belied
by the irreverence of flight.
So tiny, insignificant
easily cracked and splintered
yet there they soar
triumphant.
Time does not flit
only we do
like a desperate moth’s
last dance
against the sheer curtain of dawn.
All in flight,
soaring and flitting.

– October, 2019

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Circus

The beginning of a morning
still life
oxygen molecules throughout
exhaled by the aspens pointing upward
a rocky terrain
but I have my boots.

Stepping up, I have no umbilical cord
just a navel, let myself let go.
Not so good at discerning
between boundary and defense
Le Petit Prince,
“It is the time you spent on your rose
that makes your rose so important.”

On the crest my own rose, I climbed here
with my boots
taking up space, demanding, questioning
beans traded and seeds planted.

I can still hear the music that plays
when Emma Thompson hears Dame Eileen Atkins,
“And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die.
Nothing but a breath, a comma…”
Wit’s singular scene
planted
changed my major.

To earth we return physically
metaphysically who knows
But lives we feed forward for the ones
we leave behind
various seeds strewn so we can go,
gently.

Circus. Noun. Hysterically punctuated.
A ring,
a rounded open space.

– February 7, 2020

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Uncredited

She said she came so close back then.

Her driver’s license still shows the girl
fresh-faced, Native and black
when two more credits
meant mortarboard and gown
but that Baltimore Spring
early labor sprung baby
hospital gown for the fresh-faced kid
two credits shy to graduate.

She carries the weight
of her mother
three kids
a fourth enwombed
and two credits
leaning heavy on minimum wage.

She came so close, so close.

-October 11, 2019

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Leaflings and Breath

I’m watching the mulberry tree
exhale puffs of pollen
slowly, rhythmically
like a sleeping person pushes breath
through semi-closed lips
heavy and warm
unselfconsciously audible.

I didn’t plant it there
it just grew
strewn by the birds
perfectly poised against the fence
to block the blight next door
and lend foothold
to the invasively sweet honeysuckle.

Its leaves are ordinary
modest in the autumn
they brown, curl
fall without colorful fanfare
no blossoms in the spring
just pale green
leaflings and puffs of pollen.

Just existing here in my corner,
both of us rooted.
It indifferent to me,
and me watching it breathe.

– April 29, 2019

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Unclosure

It never occurred to me to grieve
the bricks, painted frames, moulding anno long ago
a crackling crushed white shell bicycle path
where fenced-in deer ate from our hands
Irrationally picturesque but real and still

Inconsequential but then looming hill on de Molenweg
conquering of which was once a triumph
my kid bike a boldly boyish green
our soapbox a plywood death trap
We courted danger with our legs outstretched
screaming like banshees
If you could find the pedals to brake in time
before soaring into two-lane traffic on de Eemnesserweg
Then you won

I didn’t know it was a severing
of roots and my umbilical cord anno a decade prior
just a Transatlantic bungee pulled taut
We flouted community with our arms outstretched
screaming like banshees
Intent to return with a new language and stories
of imposing sounding but kind of sickly Washington DC
We thought then

Here now, home in the dark
when the leaves smell wet and autumnal
Loss and detachment lightly sear
yearn for undoing, for pre-jump ignorance
of the disappointments yet to come

My small village an illusory womb
forever in tact because I left
prematurely and politely

January 10, 2019

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Step

I vacuum and blanket
the seats in the car
He says it’s germs
but maybe just a test
I don’t care much, I’ll do it
How often do I mop though?
His socks are dirty
I have a lot of pets
so I’ll mop again

Can I make an experiment?
Yes
Can I help you bake?
Yes
Do you want to sit next to me?
Yes I do

I’ll bend backwards for you
It’s a good thing I yoga though
With that strong spine
I step up
and step up and up and up
to some platform
built not by me
that is somewhat solitary
Stand there in case I’m needed
Sit back down when I’m not

– January 4, 2019

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