Poetry Month – April 10, 2024 – On The Altar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DREAMY WOMAN

It was a Vineyard wedding
In September
The wind had flipped out of the north
The ocean turned navy blue
Still, we all traipsed down to the beach
To tan our goosebumps
And become weekend best mates.
She wrapped herself in a blanket
propped her head on terry cloth towels
Opened her hardcover book and read
She rarely talked
Or took off her glasses
The whole weekend
She might have been a spy
or a distant cousin
or a former girlfriend
Every story that weekend was hers
The bride and groom divorced six months later.

There was something about her. Why else would I have taken her picture, printed it and carried it around with me for decades? Yes, decades. Back then, I cared very much what people thought of me. I wanted to be the book everyone was reading. (Cringe) Not her. Inscrutable. Self-possessed. Her very own person. I think I learned her name. We may have even talked. I don’t remember and it doesn’t matter. I think what mattered was glimpsing a different self.

Poetry Month – April 9 – On the Altar

The Wolf of Monte Alban

THE WOLF OF MONTE ALBAN

This is the picture behind the picture:
I am the Anglo tourist wandering through
the world heritage site called Monte Ablan
He is a Mexican man sitting on a rock wall
My skin is pale yellow
His is weathered leather
By his feet are small sculptures of animals
All of them have long, large noses.
Like his, in fact.
Estan perros? I ask
He holds one up.
Es un lobo.
Vente pesos.
I put the big nosed wolf in my purse
He puts twenty pesos in his pocket.
Click.
He waits for the next tourist.
I drift off, through what was once the main plaza
of a long ago civilization.

Sometimes you have to let a poem go. (Particularly on Poetry Month) I keep wanting to say more. Or figure out what I’m trying to say. It’s something about walking through these ancient sites and experiencing a weird juxtaposition of being side by side to another time, of imagining another dark skinned sculptor selling his wares in 300 B.C.E. and maybe a lighter skin woman, passing through, buys a strange little figure to take home to remember that moment, that place. I don’t think civilizations and these small transactions have changed at all.

Poetry Month – April 8, 2024 – On the Altar

THE ZEN OF THE COIN

When you can’t decide
Between
Left or right
Up or down
This shoe or that shoe
This movie or that one
This snack or that.
When you are stuck,
Flip a coin
That’s right.
Toss it high
Up, up, up, and
Around, but
before it lands
before you look
get quiet,
remember the direction
of each side:
Heads-go home
Tails-stay out another hour
Now look at the coin’s answer
Are you the tiniest bit glad to obey?
Or do you wish for the other side?
There’s your answer.
You’re a winner either way.

 

The Art Guys created this little ditty. I can’t remember what they called it. Wooden Nickel?. Does it matter? All that ever matters is the whimsy. In everything. It’s a flip of a coin.

Poetry Month – April 7, 2024

GREAT FORTUNEWhen all the words are
Written
Rehearsed
Memorized,
When all the sound cues
And light levels
And blocking
are set,
When all the publicity
And advertising
And phone calls
are done,
You go to a Chinese restaurant,
The one on Airport Boulevard
Someone said it was good
But you don’t remember the food, only
The cookie with the fortune inside.
The next night,
The house is packed
The reviews are wonderful.
The bouquet of roses is bountiful.
I had so much cake
I ate every bite.

When you write something and you can feel an audience take it in and respond with laughter, hushed listening and raucous applause, there is nothing quite so magical.  I feel especially lucky that I knew it right when it happened. Which is why I’ve kept the rose and the fortune on my altar for so long. To remind myself that wondrous events must be savored because those are the times you can have your cake and eat it too.

Poetry Month – April 6

THE GIFT

When the four-year-old boy got
The invitation from the soon-to-be five-year-old girl,
he walked outside to his father’s scrap wood pile
picked out two pieces of wood
small enough to fit in his hands but
large enough to be something
when nailed together
by his ‘but you might hurt yourself’ mom
which made him so mad he
Almost didn’t paint it
Almost didn’t go to the party
Almost didn’t give it to the birthday girl
Whose ‘but look what he made for you’ mom
Kept it all these years.

 

Motherhood. I seriously wonder how my mother lived through raising four daughters. I mean, worrying about their mortality every other minute is enough to bring you to your knees. Combine that low level anxiety with the preciousness of minutes, days, hours slipping away and the furious whiplash of their growing independence, it’s a wonder we don’t lose our minds because our hearts are completely given away. Which is why I held on to this little gem of a gift. To remember the sweetness, the intention, the effort, the innocence of love.