memorial for a brilliant woman

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guess who will be in two places at once?? The amazing Shann Palmer!!!

I'll be at the James River Writers Writing Show at 6pm moderating the panel for National Poetry Month, the winners of the JRW/Richmond Magazine annual contest

AND AT (actually my daughter will be in my place)

Springtime’s Rhymes

Thursday April 26
7:00 p.m.
Cochrane Rockville Branch Library
16600 Pouncey Tract Road
(804) 749-3146
All ages. Local poet Shann Palmer will
read her original poetry, followed by an
open mic where you can share your
own poetry or that of a favorite poet.

Refreshments provided by the Friends of the Rockville Library.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Poem-a-day 13


She was the kind of Texas woman
who didn’t have two cents to rub,
but if she could manage to find
a handful of shiny nickels, she’d win
enough at a slot machine in Vegas
to buy groceries for her family for a week.

I was walking with her when she conjured
a twenty from under a fist-sized rock
on Rincon Road in nineteen sixty-nine,
I rode shotgun when we had to pray
our way home on a shallow sniff of gas
in the worst rainstorm that summer.

She could puff a breath on her fingers,
then take out ten pins- ball scooting
down the alley like it was hypnotized,
ready to slam itself against the back wall,
she’d take sucker bets without a miss
for hours, even trick shots with a blindfold.

She lost only two things: me, to a yankee,
and her life in single hand. She tried hard
to let ride for another round of hold 'em
but cancer is the house that always wins.
When her will was read, luck wasn’t in it,
she must’ve used it all up in the end.

Friday, April 13, 2012

2012 Poem-a-day 12

something in the way

she moves into my line of sight
& takes the air out of the room,
the piccolo part out of my Souza.

It’s hardly enough razzamatazz
to make it worth anyone’s while,
least of all 1st trumpet, 2nd chair.

What’s a flourish without a high
scattershot melody hung out
over the brass-by-golly bravado?

An unfinished chord progression,
that’s what, Sherlock, parse the parts
get the blow going, toot sweet!

Stars and Stripes have been known
to choke even the most cynical heart
we like to tear up at the rallentando.

So keep your hands to yourself, sister!
Music may not be as tough as poetry,
but it’s what I’ve been doing, a long time.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

2012 Poem-a-day 11

I'm removing 1-10 tomorrow night. Enjoy them now before they go back in the shop for detailing.

To everything

Tireseus walks the summer wall
naked before the fish and waterfowl.
He is whatever the wind decides.

Before morning comes, the sun
predicts the day, I set the table,
prepare breakfast in tender light.

My journey has been full of magic
& visions, I only stopped to shower,
wash clothes, and break bread.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2012 Poem-a-day 10

Family Tree

I looked my brother up on google,
found his son is in jail for battery/
domestic abuse, he might be married;
far across the country in another world
where time stalls, my sister’s daughter
bounces checks and doesn’t pay bills.

We don’t talk at all, we five siblings
damaged by circumstance, memories
of welfare food and our passive mother,
a father who couldn’t keep his hands
off us, used the belt, fists, boots, fear,
to crush us under his influence.

Over the years we’ve passed paths
so infrequently I wouldn’t cross the street
to avoid them, I’d never know their faces
by sight, or be able to identify bodies,
barely know the names of their children,
where they shop, if they like arugula.

I’ve heard they are in touch, the four
who stayed to bury our parents. I ran
so hard I made a few bad choices
dwarfed by the one good decision.
I have no regrets, except my children
will never know who my family was.

I am an immigrant to a new land,
full of stories and artifacts, telling
what I think should be remembered,
little injuries concealed in anecdotes,
hoping genetics can be circumvented
by education and unconditional love.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

2012 Poem-a-Day 9

Silhouettes on the Shade

fills the room over and over,
45 rpm stuck in replay set,
mom and dad argue about
cigarettes (nobody bought any)
dig through the kitchen trash
for butts long enough for a puff.

They don’t notice the music
or me, under the piano reading
a science fiction paperback
to the steady pace of shouting,
afraid of being noticed, or worse,
becoming the next target.

Stay in the shadows, little girl,
time will pass and so will they.
Blame may follow all your life,
but try to stay a step ahead,
and it’ll fade way before you do,
like a song from an old movie.

2012 Poem-a-day 8

The Nature of No

Understand the true fact of rejection;
of course, strength is the desired virtue
though often even the best scenario
results in little or no effect at all.

Do you need more information?
A loved B, B cheats on A, A forgives
again and again with diminishing returns.
B doesn’t get it, A doesn’t get it.

Even you and I get stale after too little
meaningful conversation, contact.
Misery can have a cumulative effect,
indifference becomes status quo.

Better to bar the door once it’s shut,
close the blinds, pretend no one’s home.
Wallow in whatever you must until
you can remember how to live again.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

2012 Poem-a-day 7

no love lost

nor found in the fields of war,
these are the body baggers,
the silent ones who gather
broken soldiers when smoke clears.

oldest children do the job best,
they carry weight from birth,
guilt a familiar companion,
all their prayers tired out.

they don’t talk while they work.
try to forget when they’re done,
a good day is when the wind blows,
the sky overcast, clouds busy.

A bad day is when a new worker
can’t hold in the horror, gagging,
invoking a deity with every breath,
there are no gods here, no gods.

They work side by side till done,
lost in whatever thoughts they bring.
At night they toss in ugly dreams
clutching old letters tight in their fists

2012 Poem-a-day 6

Sweet Slumber

must be hiding under the bed tonight,
maybe it’s gone over the transom
in the next room, I don’t hear the kids
stirring anymore, only the rustle of wind
knocking branches against the windows.

Too cold for Easter Sunday 6 am service,
sunrise won’t come soon enough to warm
the brave few who’ll wake up early to watch
a fire built on the sidewalk near the garden,
we’ll light the paschal candle and run inside.

That’s where slumber will tempt, in the pew
with the lilies casting sweet spells of scent,
the candles flickering in morning shadows
as the sun’s fire rises over tall pines,
joyful alleluias sung, by God, with grace.

2012 Poem-a-day 5

Fanciful attraction

What a time it must have been, mamma,
when big cars full of cheap gas
took to the pavement, in the summer
you could drive about anywhere

in a halter top and linen shorts
with cuffs and ironed creases,
you were a pretty girl looking for fun,
face freckled, brown hair in a knot.

When you met daddy, did you
go to Corpus Christi right away,
heart full of hope, have corn dogs,
and cold beer on the beach?

The war was over and plenty
was the word on everyone’s lips-
he was handsome, on the G.I bill,
full of adventure and laughter.

it’s not easy to think about
you as a young secretary,
smoothed-faced and careless
taking up with a sweet talker

like him, you didn’t worry at all
about someday and what if,
no one ever does in the beginning,
when the light dances on the water

making the moment look pretty good
even heading home with me in your belly
cruising north till the salty water
disappears behind a stand of lanky pine.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

2012 Poem-a-day April 4

100% Dacron dream

an American fantasy, like that red Corvette
when you got back from ‘Nam summer of ‘69
stationed in Killeen, Texas a few hours
from Pasadena and the girl you stole
out from under your own brother’s nose.

Okay, it was metallic blue but sounds better red,
and he didn’t want to be stuck in a rut (his words)
so you showed up with comfort and kisses,
opportunistic fellow that you were, the lucky sort
who did three tours and never got a graze.

Dacron might not stretch but stories do, the way
memory gives in to best and worst scenarios,
prettier people, better times, but all I can recall
is the running toilet and your snores in the hotel
off Spencer Highway not that far from home.

If I’d known how to get to the sky, I would have
but the song hadn’t been written yet, and you?
You went blind in Napa Valley, while I learned
to sail on the Chesapeake Bay, sunning myself
under a multicolored spinnaker, unfurled.

2012 Poem-a-Day April 3rd

A Plate on a Stick

In constant rotation, it has one job-
don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall
dependent on someone else’s skill,
always ready to take the blame
when it crashes, the plate endures
blessed by the certain assurance
it will be caught whole in the end.
don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall
The rhythmic chant defines:
the spinners’s hands, sticks, plates
in symbiotic motion, unconcerned
with the inevitable pull of gravity,
the shudder growing to a wobble,
don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall
but everything does eventually.

Should I have locked the door,
begged you stay? Caught up
in the spectacle, I kept spinning,
thinking you would always be
there to catch me when I fell.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

2012 Poem-a-Day April 2


I’d ask you in but the place is a mess,
really needs to be painted, vacuumed,
the giant bolt of fabric for new curtains
lolls in the corner of the hallway,
uncut, a good intention mismanaged.

Say the expected lie “It doesn’t matter”.
We both understand you’ll tell someone
the scene: unfolded laundry on the chair,
the scattered Sunday paper, used dishes-
details you will align as if they were ducks.

Reconciled to this dynamical system,
it is a balagan with nuvobohemian flair,
exchanging traditional for quirky kitsch:
the two-foot decorated Christmas tree is iconic.
still up in April, unlit in deference to Easter,

Company never sticks, or is it the spectre
shuffling backwards toward the kitchen
who keeps the conversation indifferent?
Our grandmothers would be horrified,
kneeling women who scrubbed sidewalks.

I won’t bend my knees, not even to pray.
There are photos of when I was single:
candles in the bathroom, arrangements,
leaning out for love, they will lean that way
forever, you should have seen me then

Sunday, April 01, 2012

2012 Poem-a-day April 1st

Here we go again!! crazy me, crazy, crazy me.  April 1st Day one:

hey dave

It’s been too many dead ringers since
serious words puddled in my throat
seeking your ear way north of Richmond
while I fretted about whether spilling
selected personal details down your shirt
makes sense.

Everything important starts
in common circumstance, then slips slopes
to land seat-first in a steady boat-
the point being thinking about
just talking with you
grounds me most days.