Suns and Mothers


“He feels he is not valued so he will risk destroying himself to deprive her altogether.”
–D.H. Lawrence

“I am your mother,”
she insisted tearfully.
Of course
I love you!”

“There is no
of course!”
I countered.
“Love is nothing
if not an effort!”

Later, I confess —
like an ass,
and to prove
my deathly point —
it was my pointless intention,
my purpose,
to stop —

drinking distant, acid toasts to my
suppurating ego,

treating time and life
as a waiting room
for my caterwauling pride —

only to learn she
was right all along.


“if we love each (shyly) / other, what clouds do or Silently / Flowers resembles beauty / less than our breathing.”
–e.e. cummings

A zygote,
150 cells or less,
compared with the many thousands
that make up the brain
of an ant, and yet
such consternation.

Three months we waited,
enduring weekly ultrasounds,
truculent doctors proclaiming
thirty-four weeks the
goal for continuing to live.

Bedrest and vitamins,
television, and the earned
possibility of sleep,
all to make that
zygote Zach, three pounds of
greater love,

and possibility of greater violence than
I once thought possible.

Contemplating hard-won nothingness,
only to discover there would never
be nothing again.

And another,
two months in hospital this time,
punctuated by daily doctors
and the maybe of tomorrow
and home.

But then there is Lucas and a tunnel of light,
and the question of how in the world
this world will ever understand what
it has wrought and received.


“Ye do it to me.”


Against this world overwrought:
right, left,
and up above,

we discover other mothers,
grandmothers, seraphim-dreaming
of our health and happiness;
the frequency of phone calls and flowers,
the back-fence considerations of

marital imperfections and maternal expertise,

the nuptial invitations
of Christopher and Sarah,
made to laugh so all that may hear
may laugh with them.

And there are Rory and Rowan and Molly
to balm the loss of our so-small ones
made big by time and trial;

there is
Ivi reading off the deck, listening to
Lucas sing and loving Dylan;

Sunanda offering Lucinda Williams,
premium parking and the art of accounting;
Susan recounting travels to Scotland
and Baltimore and beyond,

all to value other
little big ones.

In a world that clearly doesn’t care,
there is caring and concern and consideration;
in the struggle to feel valuable,
there is value freely, blindly offered.

There is an intelligible world,
at least within this perimeter;
there is the never nothing in this
desert of deserving.


“come on sweetheart / let’s adore one another / before there is no more / of you and me.”

Now, we are Mum.
We are now Dad.

And in them,
through them,
we have always
been each other.

We are now the
children of our own,
and each
other’s, children,

and we are now
the only parents
sharing histories
we can neither
recapture or escape.

And it is of our course
that we
love each other.

There is no more time to pretend.
There is no possibility of any other outcome.

It is love, of course,

and it will breathe clean,
returning, jagged-joyful
gasps until long after there
is no more of you and me.

[for Ivi, Sunanda, Susan, and Julie, of course]


Montreal, 2015.

Eyes So Open


“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.”
–Song of Solomon

Awareness follows love
inside the smile
that betrays your eagerness —

the kind anticipating
no need for rest.

You were preceding tiny,
but even your mother
couldn’t detain you
from starting too early.

Your parents swallowed
hope like gentle wine,

felt it
holding life
like an offered chalice,

and passed it to you
in the kissing breath
that now makes your
eyes so open.

[for Patrick Young]

First the Shoot



“Of its own accord, the land produces first the shoot,
then the ear,
then the grain in the ear.” –Mark 4:28

Long after, in the rocks,
he found what he was looking for,
and waited.

but the secrets
stayed stone.

He felt
first the shoot,
like disappointment,
rooting in his bowels,

then the nausea,
like hunger poisoned,
twisting his belly.

Straining, he began to hear
the whispers of all
he could not say, and
feared he would
go mad before
he understood.

Even when they grew
louder, he worried they
would distract him,
leave him penniless and lonely.

Only when his vision failed
and his body lay reduced
did the whispers
begin to shout —

listening now full-eared,
he smiled,
closed his eyes,
and felt his stomach
begin to fill.

[for Mark Chalmer]


A Break, Today


“Gaps in front, the newly dead, piles of red meat.” –The Killer Angels.

A mile and one half
from Chamberlain’s unfathomable
charge, fixing bayonets
outfront of empty muskets;

A throw of stone
from Pickett’s, taking forever
Garnett, Armistead, Kemper,
and too many young
boys to count;

A distance of spit,
seven score and fourteen years building,
from neither consecration,
nor dedication,
nor hallowing:

There are piles of red meat for the people,

frozen by the people,

pendulous bellies of the people,

and myriad poisons that
shall not perish from
the Earth.

Gettysburg, December 2017.


Saliva still with the sting
of that house raw gin,
hearing cracked
and callused chords
filling up with
bullfrog bass.

Mississippi dreaming
on this Memphis morning:
Chicken fried steak;
sunny side and grits;
blackberry lemonade.

The main route into Clarksdale;
to Greenville along the One;
120 miles down where
God wants his killing done.

Beer and duck in Vicksburg.
Holding 55 on the 55
to the Big Easy
and home.

[Mississippi, April 24, 2016]

Lost & Found


             “Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdito.”

Tonight is the saddest line:
it is, for example, a whisper torn against
a yearning sky; a premature hush across
an expanse of expectation,
shattered in the distance with
not even a glimpse of her infinite eyes.

Do you think that you did not have her?
Do you worry that you have lost her?

A tombstone night stippled with shards.
An open, stifling yawn of want and wondering,
forsaken but not alone.

He is an unbitten apple,
a blind, unseparated blend of red and
green, grinning
and stutter-stepping

like a started symphony
found while waiting.

[for Kristen, Tim, and Aidan Pearce]

Montreal to Ithaca

And, from far and close,
there are brothers, blood
and borrowed, before
a half-century of beginning.

There is sharing,
beginning with a Montreal car.

There are eye-opening Moscow
mules and questions at random,
friends and lovers, and
Sadie and Ajax.

And there is Ithaca, like
sought-after music found;
siblings joined;

a crisped night in
country darkness,
and still a winding road
to follow.

[for Paul and Robin Tuttle]

April 19, 2016


Hors de langage


You tell me poetry
written in English
holds no power
over you.

Comparé avec la poésie
écrite en français,
il n’ya pas assez
de rêve,
      de passion.

The language slithers
and twists as
you read,
comme un serpent:
                séduisant mais
                difficile à tenir.

Prend patience, Nathalie:
the best poets are dreamers.

Their blackened pages hold
visions meant only for you,
et les rêves
               sont toujours
               hors de langage.

[for Nathalie Schwartz]


The Feet of Another


Slide your feet
into the sand
and feel the
perfect fit of

It forgives:

it won’t remember
if you move above it,
but holds you, moist
and solid, connected
with beginnings.

The sun looks to you,
burning and curling
your skin
with its thinking —

the water tries,
effort upon effort,
to wash the
peelings away.

Your hair changes colour,
follows the water
in anticipation.

Your eyes and ears
fill prematurely, but
it doesn’t matter —
even if you could hear

hear the steady sand,
see the scent of
killing water,
it is all too pleasing
to stop.

Smiling now, your
teeth coat and blend
with the dust.

Your tongue dries
to blow across the
feet of another.

[for Dr. William E. Taylor, 1927-1994]