Category Archives: Poetry

Finally, She Could Not Love Him

He showed me a picture
he took of her
one long-ago July
as she crouched down
to marvel at the frogs,
small and green
and undisturbed
by the curiosity
that filled the afternoon
like sunshine.
It was the day they met,
he said—
and he didn’t know
there would be other days
they would meet
in the future—
days that were separated
by months, seasons.
He said she told him
things she didn’t have
anyone else to tell—
things that made him
the happy-enough life
he went home to—
things that made him
want to leave it behind.
And he wondered
if this woman
could ever love him
the way she loved
the man in her poems—
the poems he imagined
himself into—
and I asked him why
he’d never told me this
and he explained
it wasn’t until now
that he could say for sure
without breaking down
that the answer
to his unasked question
was no.





“Morning by the Stream” by T.C. Steele, 1893

The Botanist, Part II

When you walked outside
to examine the growth on the magnolias
we planted in my woods last year,
I was supposed to be starting dinner—
putting the water on to boil—
but I walked to the window and watched you
hover over the new leaves—
watched you kneel down to touch them gently
like one of the children we never had.
I knew you’d be leaving soon
after we ate the green beans and the rice
and the five bluegill we caught at Griffy Lake
so I needed to study you a little while longer
to let your image burn into a memory
I could take with me to bed or to work
or to this blank page
where I’ve always taken you, caged you—
This sacred and only place you’ve ever been





Painting by Isaac Levitan, 1880. “In the vicinity of the Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery”


Today the weather
is a grumpy neighbor
I’m trying to avoid
so I don’t get the mail
or disturb the wasps
trying to use the mailbox
as a place to make plans.
So far they are only annoyed
by the twice daily disruption—
first the delivery
then the gathering—
and not once have they
attacked or even moved.
They just appear there
each time I open the door—
never more than a handful
and never in the same spot
so I know they’re alive
inside their plump red bodies
that are like drops of blood
with long black wings—
something almost hideous
about the way they look
in the dark shadow of the box
because I know
what they could do
if their peaceful protest
turned into a riot—
and every day I expect them
to grow in numbers
which is why I have ready
a can full of killer
every time I reach in
to extract the stack of bills
that never includes
a handwritten letter
from a lost love
telling me something
that would cause my eyes
to water and sting.




An Understanding

We rode down together
in the elevator,
the housekeeper and I,
from the 22nd floor.
We are careful
not to catch each others eye
as she pulls her braids into a ponytail
and I pretend to look
for something in my purse,
and I find it as the elevator stops
at the 11th floor
and at the 4th
I almost tell her why I’m here
and why I’m not supposed to be.
I want to tell her I understand
the way she feels about
changing sheets for people
who are on paid vacations
or who are here on company business
that covers room service
and valet parking.
But I don’t tell her how wonderful it was
to sleep on those sheets
with a man
who asked me to come
who asked me to exit
into the hall only after it was clear
no one could see.



“Morning Sun” by Edward Hopper, 1952


Oh miserable universe—

proof that beauty
is not created by a god—

a god
who could will into everyone
a joy
unspeakable, unalterable
if that is how he chose
to wield his power—

it is the blistering ordinary
of any given day
that crushes us
beneath its promise to be all
we can ever really hope for—

unions will begin—
ordained by the same god
who will orchestrate
their ending
in some far-off
inconceivable future—

and only a few of us
will be baffled
by the blind surrender—

by the way choice
is something most people
don’t believe they have.






“Getting Up” by Berthe Morisot, 1885


Out of Reach

He said it was years after the fact—
years after he walked away
before he realized it was the right thing to do.

He spent years waiting for her to leave him—
her husband.
He waited years for her to become his.

She went so far as to make promises on paper.
Promises he thought would be proof, one day,
that she loved him back—

that she wanted the rest of her life
synchronized with his.

But always—
always there was something blistering
between them.

Birthdays, anniversary’s,
graduations, first loves, a driver’s license,
a new car, a job hunt, motherly responsibilities—

all these events that accumulated
into an ongoing delay.

Even her beauty became tiresome.
He found himself not-quite-in-love-as-he-once-was.

And he began to breakdown, he said,
comparing it to the way one sip of tequila
leads to another.

And all of a sudden
he was incapable of moving—

and he said he realized it had been a while
since he felt drunk on her.
He’d been so long in the hangover—

and all he wanted to do
was get clean and put that bottle out-of-reach
on the highest shelf.




Letting it Burn

Hours have passed—
just you and the fire
that needs you
to keep adding
and you oblige
first with small limbs
that have fallen in the winds
and then with the old lumber
leftover from your dream
that came true
and you were so careful
to rake away the dry leaves
leaving a center
a circle
that could contain a small sun
in your control
and you know there’s no limit
to what you could burn
but the thing you need
to turn to ash
is that fantasy of perfection
the one where you go home
one day
to find the man you’ve loved
for a very long time
waiting for you
as you walk
through the door.