Empty Hand

I opened my hand but found it empty
Until I saw the woman from church across the parking lot
Who needed help with her groceries
She had an old cart whose wheel stuck
So I picked up the two bags and slung the cart across my back
Like a guitar I used to have as a teenager
I smelled apples and cherries and pecans in one bag and told her so
My gait slowed to match her shuffle as the sun warmed our heads
Blessing our conversation til we arrived at her door
When she invited me into her house
I crossed the threshold and was bathed in coolness like Southern sweet tea
Which she poured as I put away her goods in cupboards and an old icebox
That sat in the corner like Methuselah waiting for the flood
We sat at her table, linoleum floor peeling a little near the leg of my chair
Ice cubes clinking as they melted and hit the insides of the glasses
I stood up when she pushed her chair back but
She told me to set and wait a spell
On the counter I noticed her pocketbook and thought to tell her
She shouldn’t leave it out in the open
Where anybody might come see it through the window
In her hands was a beat-up little box which she laid in front of me
Taking off the lid she showed me one by one
Four photographs, edges curling
As she gently extracted each one
Tears pooled in my eyes
The same face swam in front of me in each picture
Sometimes smiling, sometimes serious-like
But always in a crisp, dark uniform and cap
I know she was talking to me but I couldn’t hear the words
Cuz my ears pounded
Next thing I knew she placed in my hand a star hung on a blue ribbon and
Curling her fingers over mine to close my hand
She kissed my cheek and told me to come back any time
And she’d make me an apple pie
I’m not sure how I made it back home next to the rail station
But when I arrived I pulled back the curtain
Rummaging through my bag I pulled out
A cap
Just like the one in the pictures
And putting it on
I lay down
Listening to the trains pass
And held on to that star
My hand empty no more.


Accustomed to the quiet sounds of night
That bleed into the morning hours, I wake
Upon the changing rhythm of a breath
Caressing skin. My lips I part to take
A sip from wells that quench the fire within
And harness promises murmured in thirst.
But waves of dawning emptiness I sense
As windows to the soul reveal a verse
of ghostly sorrow, tear-stained clouds of pain.
The breath now choking back a sob so deep
Inhales instead the stale and smoke-filled scent
Of reckless sex and harsh regrets I’ve reaped.
I slowly lift the money from the stand
And clothe myself for my next sarabande.


I fell into my computer yesterday
Once inside wireless vibrations pounded through my body
Weightless I watched particles of myself
Float in a sea of foreign hieroglyphs
My hand reached out from some unknown location to connect the dots of my outline
But it couldn’t reach far enough
My heart was thousands of miles ahead of  my head
I panicked thinking I would never recover it before I died
And then where would I be?
But I realized someone else held it tenderly
Someone I couldn’t see
Someone patient who knew I’d catch up some day
Until then I would have to collect little pieces of myself
Scattered bits of longing and laughter and love
Putting them into place before I could climb out on the other end
And be whole once more.


Closing my eyes, tired from the daily onslaught of
Mercury driven inboxes and faces pushed against my windowglass,
The umbrella of my eyelids snaps open like black raven wings
And explodes in colors,
Dripping pictures onto the sidewalk before me
My foot becomes a streetcar clicking down the cobblestoned streets
And as I glide along this chalky slideshow of circus performers
A bear standing on its hands wearing a little green hat wiggles its toes at me
And giggling
I turn forward where green flows to blue
Into a lake where my lover rows me across
Eyes sparkling fireworks of secrets I’ve yet to discover
I dip my hand into the water
Only to find I’m holding the reins of a merry-go-round horse
Her strong neck arches as I kick her forward and
She flies off the dizzying whirl of mirrors
And gallops into a forest of scarlet poppies bordering my carnival
Slipping off her back I kneel at her feet and worship
My childhood while it nuzzles my cheek reminding me that
I can be Mary Poppins anytime I want.

For my daughter

To tell my daughter I’d do it differently would be

To tell her that I’d never want her presence in this world

And so instead I tell her that through my choices

I was blessed with her presence, her essence, her being

And that if I did things that hurt her in this life, it was only because I was still learning

Learning how to find a voice so she’d be proud

And wake up one day, sooner than I did and say

“I’m here, this is MY time, look out!”

And travel into the world in her little red sports car

Hair flying, sunglasses like Audrey Hepburn

Poised on her hopeful face

And at the end of that road where her great-great-grandmother’s Blackfoot spirit waited

She’d pull over and feel the soil of her future

Her choices would be in the palm of her hand

Where the universe planted its seed more than

A millennium ago to grow slowly, stretching its veins through her past into her tomorrows

And when her daddy finally comes around to tell her how beautiful she is

She’ll laugh cuz she won’t need any man’s murmurings low in her ear

Her toes will feel the sand beneath her and dig deep

Til she hits the treasure chest buried before her birth

Filled with generations of feminine wise-cracks and jury-rigged escapes

Her eyes will light up and she’ll comb her fingers through those jewels

Lookin’ to see which ones she can take with her when she has her own daughter

And once she does, she’ll make her own mistakes

But they’ll be a balm to her

Knowing her Mama truly loved her even though

She wasn’t perfect.


Regrets I hold when jesters do I choose
To unleash dormant dreams, sublime desires
Of touch and taste and sound and sight and scent,
Those catalysts of private wounds on fire.
Much softer are the weeping shadows where
My spirit chooses to retire and heal;
Embalming sadness with moonlight and soil
A lonesome shaman blessed as he did kneel.
My spirit, spent of color, floats o’er head
And waits for dawn to paint it gold and blue
With slashes of green leaves and blossoms red
Allowing blood to flow and life renew.
But should I face another promise made
I doubt my soul would avoid its cascade.


I hear the snick of open top

And scurry quick my door to lock

Against the flood lacking intent

To drown my fleeting innocence.


But swift it bleeds in rage and fear

No remnants but moonlit tears

That stain my pillow tightly clasped;

Prayers try to heal my choking gasps.


Instead they forge a twisted sense

Of Daddy’s love, a recompense

Which fashions wings with feathers bent

That somehow manage life’s ascent.

Mo Ghaol Bith-buan

Yer spirit lodged itself into my wame

Too long before t’was noble to confess.

Ye found me in the muck, a crippled dove;

Then kissed me soundly, now my life is blest.

Mo dhu, yer eyes of sky could be my death

Through drowning in fierce love you freely gift;

But knowing ye’ve become my very breath,

This heart, a hollow vessel, sails swift.

When gazing at ye ripened with our love,

Fresh need assails to harbor you, mo chridhe;

Before you no smile matched my vision of

A soul mate hewn to answer nightly pleas.

Ye’re poetry, a balm, in my arms; thus

Ye’ve healed my limb and soul, embroid’ring us.