A Prose Poem

Summer Circles Green

Summer circles green and my hair is growing another color, silver/white like tinsel or Christmas tree ornaments or snow on the slanted roof of the artist’s yellow house, who paints her daughter blonde, reclining as in a lawn chair, her oiled canvas stretching now in a museum down the road, where we, on Sunday mornings, relax like swans, drinking flavored coffee from blackened mugs so the darkened rims don’t show.  I despise the dirty rigs on my own blue mugs, like arctic circles, tea rings, skim milk spilling on the wooden floor beneath the picnic table benches.

Summer circles green and my hair is growing another color, preparing cob-webbed gowns we wear like gauze bandages, covering the cigarette burns on our wrists and upper arms, slices of roast beef for the noonday meal, when we should be eating turkey along with last year’s yellowed photographs, boxed memories of three years’ madness, the hospital gowns, green and open in the back, displaying what we’d prefer to hide behind some sturdier covering.

Summer circles green and my hair is growing another color, asking impossible questions about misplaced rooms and lilacs beside the brick house that stained my childhood brown, brown hair like dirty ponds in winter, though I pretended it was red, imagined I was burning, wondering—will I ever be consumed like bread crumbs scattered to the pigeons that roost on slate roofs, cooing, calling—

What I wrote when I was sick——

I promised to begin looking at the years when I was most sick with bipolar disorder, the most symptomatic.  During part of that time, I attended a day treatment program for the chronically mentally ill and wrote the following poem about theat experience:

Day Treatment  (Poem #1)

It’s Monday and again
we sit in chairs, sprawled
against straight backs,
mid-morning group at day
treatment, talking about
black holes:
                fear of abandonment
                fear of non-being
the endless longing to return
plato’s parable about the cave
                the dark place
                the shadow
                the holy
                the horrible
                the hot coal
carried close to
each of us
so we are, all of us,

This is what my head says . . .

 Today I thought I’d share a poem I wrote when my bipolar symptoms were in evidence–one that, I think, illustrates the chatter that, even now, I push aside but hear vaguely in the background–a whisper that back-drops and wall papers my expereince of almost everything–every bowl of cereal I eat, every peice of paper I pick up,  every book,  every door I close or open or slam shut, hoping to silence the sing-song.

This is what my head says . . .

The back of the truck
     is let down and I am
     in the street again
                lines down
          the center of the roadway
                yellow voices
The color of a dress I had
     age three
                yellow roses on the bodice
                yellow roses on the table
          where the place is set
                for us to eat zucchini
                and avocado and other vegetables
          with green skin that must be peeled
                away before consuming
Before comes earlier than after
               as does the obvious
              preacher talk
     of Jesus saving other people
                from their sin
Sin is always in the third person

on leaving Haiti: an elegy

on leaving Haiti:  an elegy

this is a country we come to
          only in grieving
            only in leaving
            cheek of child
                left open
               to the rain
           a city of edges
all middle America thinking
     all forms of ceremony
        and white cheese
        with the dying

(un)Sunday’s (un)poem post

The poem below is about an (un) family–one that appears to be something that it’s not–a family where things seem to be order–but are, in fact, far, far from ordinary.  It’s about family dysfuntion on a massively deceptive scale. 

We wear nice clothes.  We drive nice cars.  We go to church, to school.

But–we are, in fact, none of those things. 

We are the inversion of family.


everything begins and ends
     with appetite
                                the edge
of the photograph
     where the girl’s
     arm ends
                                and the tablecloth
begins again its
     grammar of red
                and white
father / mother
in their places
     knives to the right
     roast chicken
                                relics of
10,000 family dinners
                                that swim
     white cat
     cadmium yellow
to the windowsill
     on the east side
               of the house
                                where we
have set blue mason jars
     absorbing particles
                of spring
                                the early
     face of april growing
                in the yard
seeming untime
work room
wood floor
tangle of limbs
always never

Text, Texture, and the Nature of Memory

I’ve been thinking a lot about memory this week.  How we remember.  What we remember.  Why we remember some things but not others.

And in process, I remembered a poem I wrote some time back about my own expereince of memory, especially my experiencing the past as text. 

In it, I allude to Anna Ahkmatova, the celebrated Russian poet who was so highly censored under Stalin , she resorted to writing her poems on cigarette paper, memorizing them with a  friend (friend’s memory as carbon copy), and smoking the evidence of her crime against the Soviet State.

Here, I also allude to the texture of memory and the texture of texts themselves.  It’s interesting to me that in English the word “text” is inherent in our word for “texture”–a sematic given.


The past comes

back in bits

colorless as glass

ground almost to dust

so that any sense of shape

seems irretrievable


The taste of it lingers

                in my mouth like

                                something burnt





Dream of Ahkmatova

                stanzas scratched out

                                on cigarette paper

                                during Leningrad winters

memorized by a friend

burnt in ashtrays

saying what we don’t


                                only know

like skin


(Something to be touched)


Text (ure)

                is everything

(The formatting of the poem is not correct, but I could not get WordPress to recreate my Word document without changes in spacing.  I finally decided to pass the poem along regardlesss, hoping its message would speak to you despite the irregularities.)

In the Shelter of One Another (Part 1)

“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”
— Irish proverb








If we don’t shelter one another, we are lost.  If we don’t shelter one another none of us has a home; none of us has heart, has peace, has rest.  If we don’t shelter one another, we are alone, alienated, adrift.

Believing this to be true, struggling to understand community and what it meant to care for one another, I wrote the prose poem below some years ago, wrote it in the voice of a woman who had the experience described:

 My apartment has a view of the city skyline

 A street lady keeps coming to visit me.  She’s looking for her son, leaves me notes.  I called the police.  They said to call if she comes again.  She hasn’t come again, but when she does come, she tries to get in.  

Of course, she can’t get in. 

She only rattles the door.

Would you have responded differently to the woman’s visitor?  What would you have said or done?

Tomorrow, in the spirit of these questions, I’ll bring you a guest post, written by my dear friend and fellow writer, Mindy Shannon Phelps.  Mindy’s post will further address this issue of “sheltering”–offering another voice of witness.

Hope you will come back tomorrow and listen to Mindy.  Let’s help her feel welcome!

Losing time, a . . . gain

Wall to wall
                memory is platformed
                into rows
Now asleep
Now awake
Now a place not namable
                                a jagged interlude
                                of spine
I am here, I remind myself
                this bed
I am now
                                two faucets
                                one sink
I count
                lose count
Begin again