Friday, May 30, 2008

#10 Ultrasound

These curves of mine I see
now as ocean waves of sound, whorls
of waves circling, layered, geometric,
as much a part of me as wrist or foot,
my breasts reduced to photographs, impaled
black on white wall. We view tissue
where curves once tilted and seduced.
Once, just once, I swam free
through salty ocean waters, the waves
a memory across sheet after sheet
of diagrams, a strange continuous reality
that has nothing to do with my body.
I stare in hope and dismay
at what technology reveals.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

#9 Quitting

It’s not so much about quitting
as letting go. I’m remembering
a photograph of Helen Keller,
taken a few days before her death,
her eyes turned inward, as if she were
seeing something we only wonder at,
that photograph glimpsed once and never
forgotten, a hint at journeys not yet taken,
where all that is familiar falls away;
even the closest loved one cannot come with you,
and the night holds no terror.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

#8 Heartsore

Be still, heart.
I know you beat for others yet
this heart is mine also, redness tinking through
my veins. Don’t stop just now, or press in
tighter and tighter, but keep pumping
for yesterday we saw an eastern blue jay,
its crested head
still for a moment,
matched only by two cardinals chattering
and circling around each other, soaring
from porch to porch
on this street of row homes.

This week's prompt from Sunday Scribblings on the words "soar/sore" led me to write a poem about living with family again. We're visiting for a month here in Philadelphia, and this tiny house will have eight relatives over the next two weeks. I'm noticing how many meals need to be cooked, how many dishes need to be washed, and how many dearly loved relatives revert to those days when older parents did all. We'll leave June 3 but this poem (late, late, late) helped me create a little distance, even as I dive in.

Monday, May 12, 2008

#7 Who are you?

I see you, stranger with the
cell phone, eyes somewhere else,
perhaps talking with a lover and driving,
the car in front of you moving too slowly, or
in the supermarket, pushing your cart
and talking, talking in that loud intimate tone
that excludes and informs, as you crash
into my grocery cart, eyes blank with surprise:
Who are you?

I see you, dear friend, talking to
anyone at all when they call,
while I wait and pretend I’m floating far away
from this cell phone zone as we barrel along,
a fixed 80 miles an hour on the freeway.

How quickly the cell phone,
like my laptop, becomes an excuse
for not talking at all.

This week’s Sunday Scribblings prompt is the telephone. I remember the sensuous of dialing a telephone number, just four digits, pulling the heavy circle down and letting it ratchet back, sending its signal down through the line. When they added three numbers and dropped the letters from our phone number, we said no one could possibly remember seven digits, let alone ten digits that included the area code. And then I was a teenager with the phone tight against my ear, laying on the floor while babysitting. I met my first boyfriend in a two hour marathon on a black manual dial phone. I learned of my mother’s death by phone. I then called my sister for a conversation filled with long distance silence. Today I call my aunt who suffers from memory lapses. I don’t think she can remember her phone number at all, but she remembers my voice, though a continent separates us. And I’m a fan of Skype, an internet-based phone that lets me memorize the face of my daughter, she whom I haven’t seen face-to-face in nine months and who comes next week to Philadelphia; I’ll track her arrival by cell phone.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Short story published . . .

Just an announcement to say that the online e-zine Fickle Muses has published one of my short stories, "Rusalka", a mermaid story set in Russia at the turn of the century. I'm beginning to wonder how we ever decide what to write about. Some writers talk about the "muse" grabbing us. I usually begin with a germ of an idea, but where it takes me is often surprising. If you go read this story, please leave a comment or sent me a note. Thank you! I'd love to hear your reactions. Beth

Thursday, May 08, 2008

#6 Weather Report

Today the warm air pressed April
and May into rainy Thursday
with a promise of
humidity to come, summer
heat suggested in lilac scent.
Cherry and dogwood trees bloom,
the pink and white petals
dress any passerby
with bridal anticipation.

I learn of Indian jack-in-the-pulpit;
its roots and pale green leaves
ease night terrors.
Fern fronds uncurl into warmth,
underneath, a line of tiny brown seeds.
Out on the grasses come Canada geese;
Yellow-brown goslings follow.
Even a cardinal flashes
red across the clearing. I return,
healed from winter.

A spring visit to Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia led me to this poem in response to today's Poetic Asides prompt to write a poem on weather.

#5 Diagnosis

A round circle
the size of a dime
talks to me,
as if ever I could see
down bloodstreams
into eternity.
And shall I swim then
to heart’s content,
from my deepest dreams
taken, yet to deeper dreams

This poem came last night almost in a dream. I've been thinking lately about whether to stop writing poetry and just focus on the novel as some writers believe we can do one but not both. But I really enjoyed being part of an online writing community last month through Sunday Scribblings and Poetic Asides. So I'm hesitating. I'd really like your opinion on poetry vs. fiction and whether writers can pursue both.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

#4 Maya, mother mine

Maya, mother mine, beauteous
Hollywood starlet, couldn’t bowl, burned
biscuits every time, loved us kids and loved
to dance. She once crossed a freeway
to grab a beer and flew
80 feet in front of a truck.
A little wobbly thereafter,
this wild woman died far too young from a fall
into the ocean, a sneaker wave
no one expected. In repose, still
innocent, still unforgettable,
still my mother.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

#3 I have two sisters . . .

I have two sisters, one dear,
one lost somewhere in Texas.
I’m not sure exactly when
we stopped talking, maybe the day
she tried to steal a television
out the back window. She was so pretty
people stopped to stare.
We couldn’t walk through a grocery store
for the men who followed her.
I went off to college.
She joined a California commune.
She visited the Tate house two weeks
before the Manson murders.
I became a teacher.
Sometimes when the phone rings,
I think I will hear her voice.

Friday, May 02, 2008

#2 Family

All I have is this picture
taken on a porch sometime around 1896,
at Fort Reno, Oklahoma.
My grandmother dressed in white
with tight little girl curls
framing her face;
her father sits in military dress,
almost at attention, his eyes unfocused.
My great-grandmother reclines in a hammock.

I stare at this picture,
frayed around the edges, searching
for family.
His mother sits in a rocking chair
on the far right, separated by a pillar.
My great-grandmother at sixteen
stares at the camera,
perhaps insolent, perhaps indolent, perhaps
pregnant with an unwanted child.
Family stories say
her mother-in-law was strict.
I don’t know.

My grandmother, that little girl in white,
ran away with a traveling salesman
when she was sixteen,
all the way to California
just before World War I,
perhaps carrying this very
tiny blue glass perfume bottle,
its top decorated with a tassle that I pack away.
I fold up a receiving blanket
embroidered with white silk,
and look again at birth dates marked
in an old baby book. Family.

This poem comes from Sunday Scribblings prompt on family. I've long wanted to write about this photo. You can click on the photo to see a larger image.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

#1 Philadelphia Spring

Yesterday, cherry tree blossoms graced
streets and sidewalks,
turning these row homes into
something grand. People came out on linked
porches to marvel, somehow lighter.

Today, it rained, the pink
turned to gray. Block after block,
row houses remain. Difficult
to see family here, where wilderness once
prevailed. Difficult today to see past
one woman’s ranting, “You don’t look

Today's prompt comes from Sunday Scribblings: to write of family. I'll be thinking of this prompt all week; today I started with our family neighborhood here in Philadelphia.