Poem: Spring is Not

Spring is not the first whisper of snow
on a cold December night.
It is not chilly evenings with twinkle lights
strung to keep the darkness at bay.
It is not pine trees or poinsettia.

Spring is not pajamas with cozy fleece feet.
It is not heated blankets or flannel sheets,
wool socks, or turtleneck sweaters.
It is not ice, newly formed, on barren fields.
It is not a winter wonderland.

Spring is not a snowflake.
It is not holly wreaths, a shopping list,
peppermint, tinsel, or presents under the tree.

Spring is not mature and it is not a ski chalet.
It is not your aunt Ned’s hand-knit scarf.

It is not the turning of leaves
red, green, and gold.
It is not cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie
or a football game.
It is not cozying up with a book,
yoga pants, a cashmere blanket 
or hot cocoa and a roaring fire.

Spring is not dark or dismal,
death or decay.
It is not packing up and putting away.

Spring is not asleep.

It does not smolder in the midday sun.
It is not lemonade or ice cream
or the endless flat white heat 
of a fairground parking lot.
Spring is not a shining swimming pool.
It is not sparklers, hot dogs, 
or red white and blue.

Spring is not to be trusted;
it is not a twilight sky.
Spring is not a homecoming
or a sleek September tan.

Spring is not 
for everyone.

Poem & Collage for the Sun in Taurus

Deck: Sharman-Castello Tarot

A garden mermaid stands
succulent in her certainty
containing what is needed

each current has its own agenda
and water will not flow
to suit your desire

we harvest new ideas
put plans into action
stand close and watch
for tight buds to flower

sometimes it seems easier
to ignore the ants
under the windowsill
or aphids on the foxglove

nature’s details prevail
and the only sure defeat
is to expect perfection

can we learn to accept
the constant turning
the seasons, the endless
wheel of the year?

Always there is the longing
to honor each expanding bloom
as sand drips in the hourglass

we must learn to love the moment
even knowing
that the moment must end

In each other we see
a waterfall of creation

our river of dreams
may hit rocks of reality
and burst into being

in this fertile ground
the seeds we thought
too strange for planting
may yet yield
an abundant harvest
given favorable conditions

as spring discovers it’s full glory
the bees see flowers
fat with pollen
shining with enterprise.

Baby Lettuce

A poem for the new moon in Aries

What can we harvest in early spring
so quickly after planting?

tender lettuce and baby kale
stand ready to be plucked
there are many varieties of tomato
that grow well here, yet

we will never reap if we just
gaze at seed packets and
tend plots in our imagination

once things were more clear
we relied upon expectant rows
to generate a bumper crop each year

that cycle is complete.

What worked back then
will not work in this climate
we are left with untilled soil
waiting for fork tines of the future
to break through.

It’s tempting to let it all go and toss
out handfuls of wildflower seed,
but then the wild nasturtiums
remind you how expansive
wild can be

there will be ways to reap
what we have sown,
the necessary work is hidden
underground there is no glory, yet
it is here the foundation lies

dreamtime disappears
like a bright koi underwater

the need for action cuts
like a scythe through the last stalks
of last winter’s wheat

and underneath we see the soil again
dormant under dying crops
fortified by months of decay

the world shouts celebration
as spring’s buds bloom
but this is just one season

we can’t plant everything at once
there is a time for each idea
to have a moment in the sun
be tended to and watered with affection

the moon waxes and we plant intention
these are seeds of unknown origin
growing with roots tapped into intuition.

In This New World

In this new world,
I watch the rain for hours.

I know the sparrows by their
brown striped chests,
and golden crowns.

In this new world
there is time

to watch a butterfly
unfold her wings
in the warm rays of morning

or to trace the shadow
of the house next door
as the sun cuts across the sky,

Each day
the patch of light
on the back porch
grows brighter.

In this new world,
I check each day to see
if the plum tree
has blossomed.

I measure the size
of the puddle where
the gutter is rotted through

and look for snails
among the cabbage leaves
in this new world.

Now, we have left the hive
and spend hours
in the backyard
chatting with the bees.

My hands are in the dirt

My hands are in the dirt

the ground is soft
from seasonal rain

after the shadows
of deep winter
trap me inside

yellow Oxalis flowers
are a blanket

my fingers seek
the weeds between
tendrils of stonecrop

and tiny echeveria fallen
from the mother plant

February storms
may still destroy
newborn crowns

the sliver of sun
over my neighbor’s house

breaks raindrops into
pastel prisms

assurances of spring

Time to Write Again

photo by author

Time hangs like
in amber.

Our sweaters layer like
the rings of trees,
revealing how long
we’ve been waiting.

Events need to happen
to write poems about them.

Something more than
making waffles every morning
how the tomatoes lasted
well into November this year
the way we watch a film noir
from 7-9 am each Sunday
waiting for the football
games to begin.

We are relying on
a new trapeze of trust
to hold us
learning how to balance
on a high wire
with no end in sight.

The false floor falls out and
mountains of sand
form dunes beneath us
it is slow going
either up or down
our shoes fill with grains
and feet sink ankle-deep
with every step.

From deep inside the line she said
this is not a poem
and so I stop, but still

pissed off because, you know,
Bukowski never edited
his shit.

Life After Falling While Filming a Teen Drama

photo by author

It was a stunt
we hadn’t practiced
that erased
my memory at 30
and left me wondering
why I was wearing
a cheer uniform in the ER

Then there was a doctor
who said short
and long term
and what
was there to do
but go home

to a stranger’s apartment
with an unknown
man who said
he was my friend

and showed me
pictures of us
on the beach, and
getting morning coffee

and the one of me
with Sal shading
her eyes against the sun
her eyes the same as mine
so I believed him

what made me remember
was not a fact but a feeling
an intuition of sorrow
a space of absence
that was memory

when I said
I love you
it was met
with silence

our union was
a thing that ended
long ago
signed and certified
a document forgotten

so what is this
that is not love?
this compassion from
one to the other?

what are we
without our memories
gathered with intent
held in shadow
boxes on display

the attic of my mind
is empty

we are here now
our love is here.

This poem is based on a snippet of an NPR radio show I heard where a woman falls while filming the pilot of a TV drama and ends up having total amnesia. She had divorced her husband but has no recollection of it, and he ends up caring for her during her recovery.

Some Birds Perish in the Learning

Will we look back
upon this year
with perfect vision?

Might cartoon
balloons of thought appear,
transparent minds
blooming like dahlias?

Let’s pack up old language
to lighten the scale.

The clenched fist of time
poured hundreds of years
tipping the whole machine
toward ivory towers.

Now inner workings
are revealed—
we see suffering
behind the grinding gears.

To weep, exclaim in agony,
turn your face in silence
will not stop the steely teeth
of systems that never sleep.

Some birds perish
in the learning,
pushed from the nest on wings
like flimsy scaffolds,
the attaching muscles
new and tight.

Speaking new words
won’t kill me
fresh language may be clumsy
on my tongue.

I will share the branch
in poetry, in life
rest beside me on the bough
and we can harmonize. 

The Owls and Us

collage by author

It’s late fall and there are many things flying about
starlings tweedle and chirp from the telephone pole
where this morning as I am taking out the trash
I look up and see a great horned owl
silhouetted against the lightening sky.

I jump and run to get my husband
and he joins me on the cold brick of our front porch
It’s Tue, he says, and we both agree
this is the spirit of our cat, recently deceased.
How does the call go? he asks, sheepishly,
since all last autumn we walked
the streets and narrow alleys
of our neighborhood, calling for an owl
who would sometimes call back,
sometimes appear overhead on whisper white wings.

Last year we saw a couple nesting in the eucalyptus grove,
two dry-leaf colored lumps on one arching branch
and listened as they called to one another.

Once I was on the back deck crying
over some old wellspring of pain, and looked up
to see the cobalt sky, and the owl flying
across our yard from east to west.

Once we were lost driving back roads at dusk
sniping at each other in annoyance
and an owl swooped down like a blinding angel
across our windshield.

Once we were night walking
and you said it was an owl, but
I think it was a black-crowned heron
that erupted out of tree shadows
like the surprising strength of our grief
and knocked you to your knees.

Selection in Relation to Sex

photo by author

If female birds had been incapable of appreciating the beautiful colours, the ornaments, and voices of their male partners, all the labour and anxiety exhibited by them in displaying their charms before the females would have been thrown away; and this it is impossible to admit. -Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

In a BBC special featuring
the mysterious mating dance
of birds of paradise,
tropical jewel-colored
birds that thrive
in the steaming jungles
of New Guinea and Australia,
David Attenborough narrates
the elaborate process
of sexual selection.

Here’s the black sicklebill
a sleek ebony bird, his yellow eye
piercing the camera
as he swings his wings
up over his head
in one smooth practiced motion.
He’s warming up, David explains,
before the camera draws back
and we can see the full spectacle
of this bird, his long jet tail
swooping away from his perch
on a broken tree branch
rising up from the trunk like a fountain.

Then, with a final flourish, where there was a bird
there is now a kite, a cobra’s floating hood.
He has pressed his wings together
above his head to form a tide, a fan,
a fish writhing and twisting in a stream
where there was a bird there is now
a fluttering ribbon of love.

He lowers his wings and is a bird again.

He repeats this ritual
on his chosen post
several times a day until
he attracts a mate. Not only that,
but he has practiced each element
of this intricate dance
day after day for years,
since before he even had
the right equipment.

Now he assembles and displays
all of his worldly knowledge
he demonstrates his glorious virility
he hopes to secure his legacy
he wants his dance to be danced
by each black sicklebill for generations.

Evolution dictates
that form precedes function
Darwin believed that
beauty itself
is appreciated,
the energy expended to rise with a flourish
to transform ourselves in the name of desire
to capture the eyes of our lover.
We must have beauty to survive.

Unlike those birds, you
do not have to wear a crown
of brightly colored feathers
or transform yourself into a fan or flower
for me to look your way.