Her Chair


My mother must have been tired

of being mother, wife, some patient’s

nurse, tired of a house of dust


and abandoned appliances

drained of their usefulness,

of house keys, doormats,


throbbing of my father’s TV

and ringing telephone, his primitive

remote slipping beneath easy


chair cushions. Home from work,

seeing spilled toys, clothes, books,

my dolls with their dead faces,


why was she never tempted

to leave, seek quiet somewhere

besides our crumbling house


with its falling kitchen tiles,

gift-paper skeletons of past

Christmases, fossils of my father’s


home improvements, his threadbare

underwear, soiled dress shirts, jeans?

Home from the hospital wards,


long shifts of tending and mending

strangers, didn’t she have a right

to refuse us dinner, refuse us


everything? But she came home,

full grocery bags intact despite

her walk from the bus stop,


despite our bathroom clutter

of toothbrushes, washcloths,

kitchen with the broken-clock


oven, living room

with no recliner for her,

no easy chair for her hard work.



* * *





            –fear of dolls


Their eyes never close,

these daughters without

mothers—toxic flesh,

curls made of anything


but hair, mouths shaped

into gaping holes

that cry with no voices.

I never wanted that doll


advertised on Saturday

morning TV—”Baby Alive”

whose creepy face

worked an imaginary


bottle, sucking and wetting.

Little bottle, little diaper,

all of it plastic, none

of it real. What was she


preparing us girls for—

with her pink spoon and

food you mixed with water,

only to have her eliminate


it moments later? My

childhood friends coveted

her, tried to shove her

in my arms, but I’d


push her back, not

wanting her ever, no

matter what color

her skin, texture her hair.


Who needs a baby,

I thought, who will always

be mute, mimic of life

never living, never breathing?



* * *



Sex: A Lesson


Be attentive—there are nuances

you don’t want to miss: heady steam


of your lover’s breath, heavy as

midnight fog, vulnerable skin


beneath an upward-tilted chin,

lips awaiting lips. Big landscapes,


little plains, twists of curves, crepe-

paper wrinkles: all need more


than furtive love, clandestine

attention. Whatever strategy


you choose—head-to-toe,

shake, then shiver, soccer stadium


shoutouts—goals are to be savored,

not labored, although lovemaking


is labor, its wages not of sin,

but of surrender, of sinking in,


making room, limbs loose

long liquid, bodies fluttering


with blood-pulse and heart-thrum.

Traction meets attraction,


sweat meets sore, solace meets

satiety, all our hungers heavy


as whispers, fleeting as centuries,

slick as our wayward fingers.


* * *


Rondeau Redouble for the Women Left Behind


The women mourn and hoist the coffins high,

limp bodies of their husbands trapped inside,

their shoulders strong, their burdens to the sky,

their sons gone off to war. The coffins ride


upon the strength of women who have cried

for lives they could not save, though they would try

with prayer books and candlelight. Dull-eyed,

the women mourn and hoist the coffins high,


dressed in damp widows’ robes, they sanctify

this meager stretch of beach, this grasping tide.

Six women to each box, they dignify

the bodies of their husbands trapped inside,


yes, brothers’ bodies too—no males to guide

the village out of misery, no men to mollify

the constant threat of death, of genocide.

Their shoulders strong, their burdens to the sky,


their voices snagged in hymn, they glorify

the Savior leading them to riverside

where they will let these burdens go. Goodbye

to sons gone off to war. The coffins ride


until they sink into the splash, collide

and bang against the riverbank, deny

an easy grief. Such pain too raw to just subside,

the women mourn.


* * *



Ode to Sandals


How I’ve missed your open

comfort, your leather against bare skin,

summer sun on straps, holding


my feet in with the ease

only you provide. All this brutish winter,

with its jagged winds and icy


spiteful sleet, I dreamed of you,

of slipping my feet into you and striding

off into a new adventure,


getting lost in damp grass newly

wet from a neighbor’s trippy sprinkler.

You hate formalities, and I


love your aimless sexy ways,

keeping me vulnerable

but shod, strapped around my ankles


like a gladiator’s, jubilant

as I skip over stones and muddy puddles,

sidewalks and streams, toes


bold to get wet, all the world

lush with drinking spring, humid breath

of summer lurking beneath.


You make me strut, greatest

dancer in the kingdom. I slip you on and off

like a changeling, wear you barelegged


with swirling skirts. You care

not for how much I weigh, if my back aches.

Contained by you, my feet swell with joy.