Amber and the Bee
Melanocomous like Persephone,
Industrious as a honey bee,
She culls nectar from a dictionary.
Long live the glorious memory
Of that night in the capitol when humble, she
Won myriad hearts on live TV.
She stood, she smiled, she spelled, and she
Was modest, brilliant, young and we
Watched and watched and laughed with glee
Till she left the stage with a hallali.
On Mailing Alpha is for Anthropos to Greece
Dearest Post Office,
from your prosaic portal
(after tender goodbye glances)
I ship my precious cargo
across oceans of desire.
for my parents on my birthday, December 2013
My mother with child,
Dad driving the Chevrolet.
Pull over! she cried,
And the baby came, screaming.
Hold her close, just hold her close.
Five Haiku for Stephanie
Near the preschool cubbies
A pretty woman noticed
A couple in pain.
From an old coat she
Saved seven copper buttons
Like pirate treasure.
On the vast beach she
Finds seaglass, broken pieces
Of the summer sky.
In the stillness of grief
She watches tears condense
On new blades of grass.
Her love encircles,
Rests lightly and glows
Like a crown.
for Penny Randolph
Shifting shapes of sand;
Pitch pines born from wind and fire;
Waves smashing like glass.
Poem for Chris
“Bring me my work boots, I’m going to the farm,
The fields and animals need my care.
I’ll carry a baby lamb in my arms;
The lamb will be glad to have me there.
“Bring me some notebooks and pencils too,
And books to read when the day is done,
I’ll want to write poems when the work is through
And the sky is bright with the setting sun.”
You lie in the sun on a summer’s day,
On a hillside sprinkled with Queen Anne’s lace.
The lamb is happy you’ve come to stay,
He wanders over and licks your face.
On First Skyping with my Daughter at College
I see her framed in my computer screen,
And dressed in clothes I bought her at J Crew.
Her roommate’s home but silent and unseen,
I wonder if she Skypes her mother too.
My daughter’s teeth are white, her eyes are wide,
How do I talk to this beauty on TV?
I see my own small image on the side:
I’m blurred behind glasses. What does she see in me?
Were I to write her letters they would sing
The mother-love that rises in my heart
And bubbles up immortal like a spring,
Revealed not in my face but in my art.
Ezra Pound’s Advice to Mary Barnard, in Sapphic meter
for David Gordon, in memoriam, July 2012
Really learn to write quantitative Saphhics,
Ezra Pound admonished the younger poet.
Master these, he said to the girl, and I shall
Love and adore you.
Sweat to master Greek to avoid being girly,
Learn by heart all Sappho that you can manage.
Metric work’s the rock the prevents you drowning,
Cling to it firmly.
Later you’ll be free to write looser verses.
By the way, don’t tell anyone you know me,
Best to keep it close ’til you grow in stature,
Since they despise me.
Commonwealth Graduation Poem
The time has come for mermaids to depart,
Their hands are holding swords, their piscine tails
Churn the waiting water as they start
To show the strength beneath their flashing scales.
The teachers stand forgotten on the shore,
The beach is strewn with four years homework done.
The mermaids flap their shapely flukes once more,
Then swim triumphant toward the setting sun.
On Discovering A. E. Stalling
for Owen Grey, summer 2012
He saw I loved things Greek, asked if I knew
A poet who had studied classics too,
And lived in Greece a foreigner, like you.
I saw the books she’d written, honors won,
Her husband and her Argonaut-named son.
I envied her for all that she had done.
I went to find her poems, and I read
Of riding over asphodels, she said
She understood the flowers of the dead.
I read her sadder rhymes, they touched my heart,
And it is not too late for me to start
Composing verses, learning from her art.
Dear poet, you have made me love and care
About you, feeling homesick living there.
Accept my admiration and my prayer.
Ode to Miss Rebecca
Written for the dedication of the Rebecca Playground, October 2002
There is a little lobster boat in Gloucester, near the sea,
She sails westward, through wood chips, toward a willow tree.
Her lines are clean and graceful, refined at every turn,
And her name is written proudly proudly, in black letters on her stern,
She hasn’t got a motor, a sail or an oar;
The men who built her knew she would never leave the shore.
They knew she’d never sail on oceans or in streams,
Her captains would be children, and her catch would be their dreams.
But Miss Rebecca, you have sailed beyond these wood chips here,
You have sailed into our hearts and memories we hold dear.
On the oceans of our longing, your course holds true,
You have changed the storms of tears for skies this blue.
The child who gave this boat her name has gone to heaven now,
But we can feel her presence, like a rainbow off your bow.
A Bartlett’s Island Sail
Squid Cove was chiseled from the coast of Maine,
A wordless world of seals and loons and gulls,
And riding there on triple anchor chain,
A wooden sloop, a white, majestic hull.
My father, the boat’s builder, brings us here,
Aboard the tender rigged with red, lug sail,
My mother reaches out as we draw near,
And pulls us up along the starboard rail.
My father hoists the sails and we are free,
The final anchor leaves its bed of sand.
The captain trusts his helmsman, so do we:
The varnished tiller’s in my mother’s hand.
A tiny island guards the harbor’s mouth,
Our personal Ithaka, crowned with spruce.
We round the seaweed headland and point south,
My son, when told to, lets his jib sheet loose.
My daughter just lies on the teak in the bow,
Her eyes are closed in the dazzling light.
What was once my station is her place now,
It is her turn to dream and mine to write.
Our keel cuts through waves in the sparkling bay
To the half-moon beach where we always moor.
As my mother rows the others in, I stay
Aboard the boat to dive and swim to shore.
That icy water has the strength to heal,
It washes all regret away and when
I walk onto the stony beach I feel
Like Aphrodite being born again.
Now other beaches hold me, other shores,
But I am always with them all the same,
My mother knows it as she pulls the oars:
The letters on the lifeboat spell my name.
Wedding Poem for Eliza
Muses help me sing celebration verses,
Tune the brass piped organ because tomorrow,
Sun or rain we’re going to see them married:
Dan and Eliza.
Liza, dress in white like a cherry blooming,
Gather bridesmaids round to attend you sweetly,
Venus, foam-born child never went without the
Graces beside her.
Slip a smooth, gold coin in your silver sandal,
Tie a fresh green sprig to your bridal flowers,
Wear your dark blue eyes as a charm to guard you
Always from evil.
Family, friends, come, fly to the southern city,
Beat the strong-winged birds in their fall migration,
Feathers, down, plumes, beaks aren’t the only way to
Open long-stored wine from her father’s cellar,
Choicest French wine bought when Ver Planck was consul,
Put aside all sorrow or thought of sorrow,
Drink to Eliza!
Let us drink now standing to Dan and Eliza,
Wishing them deep joy in their life together,
Toast their love, faith, youth and their lifelong union.
Dan and Eliza.