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the waitress

Inspired by a line in The Five Spot, a poem by Billy Collins which appeared in the May 2014 issue of The Atlantic. This was one of the luscious poetry prompts suggested by someone in my wonderful, hilarious weekly writing group.  The line: “as the waitress lit the candle on my round table in the dark?” (Collins, lines 20-21)

The waitress lit the candle on the round table in the dark.

She’d had worse jobs. For weeks now, she has been working nights as a walk-on in poems. Often as a waitress or a young mother pushing a stroller. Last night, she was an old Italian man selling vegetables beneath a red striped umbrella to protect her from the sun. She easily played the part of man or woman, young or old, but in every situation she had sensitive skin, prone to pink.

She wasn’t always human. She had been a dashboard Buddha, enigmatic and serenely plastic. Nights before last, she had been a red squirrel, a sea turtle, a mermaid. Then, she’d been a sailor lost at sea, and the dolphin who saved him, and the palm tree closest to shore where he washed up on the beach.

Her feet hurt at the end of every shift. She often envied the poet who got to sit around, sipping tea or whisky, feet up, writing.

The poet had it easy. Nothing but dreaminess and words tumbling out of dictionaries.
But, on the other hand, more than once she’d been a dragon, breathing fire, flying. No poet could say that, could they?

say it with flowers

because their voices—
or shouting
are nets to catch our gaze.
Science explains color shape scent
were built for pollinators
not for people
But people are
snagged on beauty
slowed down for a glance
or an hour—
laughing babies
Growing things. Fleeting things.
Made for a different and particular purpose
but with energy to spare—
Side effects may vary


lone gunman and
troubled youth
and unobstructed
access and policies
and lobbies and
legislation and
control. Control.
Inside each mother’s
heart there is a dragon
The dragon’s roar builds
deep in the chest
before it spills out
into this world of words
and children. You too,
if not a mother,
you can wake that
dragon buried deep
inside. We need
enough dragons
that nobody
can ignore
their roar

Country Life, With Kids and Chickens

nobody mentions it—
dried corn cob in the yard
half chewed by dog or chicken or
some mysterious other
Step over it
but bend to pick up
skein of pale pink yarn
nestled in the grass.

while you wait

Words left, again.

So keep reading poetry
in all the little crevices of the day
and breathe. Notice weather. Pet the dog.
Look up when strident birds insist.
Pay attention to faces, postures, see who laughs,
who is quiet, bent over algebra homework, smart phone, sketchpad.
Notice what people hold in their hands.
Oh, and breathe
We should all breathe
while I wait for a poem to arrive
And you wait for whatever it is you’re hoping…

winter news

Here, earth moves with the weather
winter shifts and cracks, freezes
and refreezes every surface

Outside the funeral home
a row of etched headstones
waits. On our walks,
we review the carved names
of over winter deaths

Across town, in the cemetery,
year after year moves through
and changes the marble landscape—
this spring, the statue of mother Mary
has shifted and now tilts forward
as if she is ready to leap
into the springtime air

No Wonder You Want To Sleep Through The Alarm

All over town, people
wake in the dark
and plan the day
some even write lists
with such innocence
as if it will unfold
the way they wrote
Then one kid spills
cereal all over the floor, another loses a shoe
and the happy dog full of cereal hurries outside
to keep their regular appointment and bark at the early joggers,
with those bouncing headlamps. Birds start to sing
brown rabbit darts across the yard
lights come on in kitchens
you’re out of milk and bananas and
I reassure the dog that he is very brave
then, take another COVID test

no-mow May

two news stories yesterday
about no-mow May
Reporters interview environmentalists
and one practical John Deere repairman
who warns that by June
grass will be too tall to mow at all

What then? Wide swaths of lawn
become field, become meadow.

The honeybees are picketing
in front of all the tractor and
mower stores, marching
up and down in front of
every lawn care business
Buzzing with hope.

One old farmer remembers decades of
spring plowing, the gorgeous smell,
the startled worms, the luxurious deep brown
color like the pelt of some soft hidden animal.
But that was long ago
before the farmer fell under the spell
of the bees. Now he only listens and nods
through May, hums along with the yellow blare of
dandelions and the happy plotting of pollinators

because life is loud and there is no time today to organize that worldwide protest against noise pollution

Life is Loud
always with its engines and alarms,
barking dogs and talk
laughter, complaints, broken mufflers,
and all that incessant noise of thinking.

poems are quiet
a low hum beneath the action

today’s poem

Today’s poem
will conclude
with birds,

but first—
why do I bother?
why should you?
(and you should,

a daily poem
is a reminder,
a sticky-note from
the world to you

what you notice
is a gift, one of many—
with practice,
you can learn to see
the exact moment
Lit up and Glittering
moment you ought to pick up.
Anybody could notice it.
but you are the anybody who did.

And nobody
including you,
might ever notice it again
or remember it, this tiny
particular moment—
even if you write it down.

Write it down anyway.

as you write, they begin
or you begin to hear them—
morning chorus,
birds singing in the darkness,
in the still bare trees

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