Archive for June 2014

Hobby Lobbied

June 30, 2014
Johannes Vermeer, "Woman Holding a Balance",  around 1665

Johannes Vermeer, “Woman Holding a Balance”, around 1665

Hobby Lobbied

Amazingly close to the date she gave birth, my mother,
who never showed,
applied for a job.
She held a large purse
over that part of her
that was me
because her soon-to-be employer
automatically paid new mothers
substantially reduced pay,
whether or not they missed
a single workday.

When she started the job,
three months after I was born,
my mother kept mum about me
for more than a year, not alluding to my
existence all day, any day,
so that she would be paid
in full.

The employer believed, see,
that new mothers
should stay at home.
I’d like to believe that my mother
would have stayed home if she could,
but the fact is
my mother needed to work
for the money
and for more than
the money.

But my mother’s needs are not wholly the point
of this poem.
The point, which I would like to be sharper
than any knitting needle–certainly sharp enough
to pierce the corporate veil–is that I–and every woman I know–
have been affected by this crap since
before we were even born.

Employers are not
intrauterine devices.

Corporations are formed
to make money, my friend,
and to limit the losses of
those making it,
while women are formed for more
than making
as wonderful as
they are, as lost as we would be
without them.

Here’s a poem of sorts written in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision today.  (The photo above if of a painting by Johannes Vermeer, woman holding a balance.)    I think it’s bad law;  I commend Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for her intelligent and spirited dissent.  

Different Ways To Think About It (Campus Rape)

June 29, 2014

Different Ways To Think About It.


This is a woman.


Think of her as something like a man.
Meaning that you are not allowed
to touch her
in any number of assorted places,
without her say-so.

You might define those
“assorted places” as
“sordid places”,
but, truly, it’s best to think of them
as anywhere on her body.


Think of your frat buddies–
think even of yourself–
of all those times you passed out
on a couch
and did not consider it consent
to have things shoved up you.
Women are like that too
and it’s called, sexual assault.


Think about meeting someone,
a friend or acquaintance, maybe
on campus, someplace
supposed to be
maybe, okay, at a bar–
But the person seems
nicish enough
that you do not treat them, straight off,
as a felon–


Now think
of their weight on top of you,
their pressure at your
their grip upon
your windpipe.

Think of not being able to scream, speak.

Think then of being made
to swallow it all.



Here’s a poem not written for any prompt, though I was vaguely thinking of the Real Toads prompt of Kerry O’Connor–avant edge–since I thought the drawings, made the poem more unusual. 

Note that I understand that the issues of campus rape and date rape are more complex than presented here.  (But, to my mind, if the woman has not consented, it’s still rape.)

Also, if anyone is interested, I posted another draft of yesterday’s poem–I think it is a weaker draft, but anyone keen on process, or who felt the other poem too negative about the 80’s (unintentional)–





Avant Garde (NYC – 80s)

June 28, 2014


Avant Garde (NYC – 80’s)

When I was young,
it meant rolling around on canvas,
and those floaters that tagged your eyes
in the turn of taillights, nights,
and yes, people dabbling
at heroin (just to say they had),
in the rent-stabilized apartments we’d
(that girl who dragged the plaster
off one wall, the exposed brick looking
so hip–)
everyone loving Burroughs,

Then came death
the violet of a cancer
that should have been rare,
germs that should not
have seeded pneumonia,
and what had shone and buzzed and
danced, like the sparklers
children wave, trying for the letters of
their names
before the glitter goes,
seeped into a search
for t-cells–
and the streets were darker
than purple
and cold poured through
those bricks
as we rubbed our hands over our arms,
all of us,
no matter how many layers
we wore.



Here’s a drafty poem for Kerry O’Connor’s not-at-all-a-prompt on With Real Toads on the avant garde–I’m afraid I took a very uncreative route–but I have been thinking a great deal lately about the 80’s and the onset of the AIDS epidemic. (In case anyone is confused, I’ve never used heroin!)   The pic not exactly right–but what I have.  Thanks.  


IF YOU ARE INTERESTED ONLY!!!!!!! I am posting another version of the poem that I had decided got just too long and was too defensive, in that I seemed to be trying to justify the artistic aspects of the time.  But for anyone interested here is the longer version.  The poem is not really meant to focus on the gay community–though some of the artists that came to mind were gay. But the artists I am referring to below are Julian Schnabel, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Herring, as well as William Burroughs.  


Avant Garde  (80’s- NYC)

When I was young,
it meant, yes, rolling around on canvas, nude;
yes, a Jesus of broken crockery,
yes, a pissed-off cross,
and yes, people dabbling
at heroin,
there in the rent-stabilized apartments
we’d snagged, there
where that girl dragged
the plaster off one wall, (just opposite the bathtub
in the kitchen) the exposed brick looking
so hip–
everyone loving Burroughs,

But it also meant
the floaters that tagged your eyes
in the turns of tailights, nights–for you too
were part of the canvas–
the astonishment of crowns
along the way, the scrawls of Samo, Herring’s babies
crawling the streets,
the twist of hair
danced with
abandon, the chance of legs black-lavendered,
the swooping blur
of the free, the short breaths
of the new, the excitement of the

And then came death
a violet cancer
that should have been rare,
germs that should not
have seeded pneumonia,
and what had shone with the embered swoops
of those sparklers
children stroke across the night
spelling their names before the
glitter goes
drained into a search
for t-cells, and the streets were darker
than purple,
and cold poured through
those exposed bricks,
and we rubbed our hands over our arms,
no matter how many layers
we wore.



Who’s My Dada? (Will)

June 27, 2014


Who’s My Dada? (Will)

(A cut-up of Shakespearean phrases that have entered
common parlance.)

The wish is
to wear my heart on
all corners of the world
though I am a native here,
manner-born (then sinning)–

A pound of
paradise swoop
inches the milk
of human sea change.

But, oh–on this stage
of free woe and
hanging kindness (a tale),
father the deed
and, on thy sleeve, comfort
thine own true–


Okay, I confess that this is a bit of a goof–I like Dada visual art, but have a harder time with the poetry, but here is a poem that I made up from cuts of Shakespearean phrses that have gone into the common parlance.  I literally scribbled a bunch down on the train and then cut up the pages very randomly with scissors, excising many words and dissecting little bits of phrases, then dropped them on the floor and picked some up.  My husband has said it does not seem to mean much–judge for yourself!


This is belatedly for a dVerse prompt by Victoria on Dadaist poetry.

The photo is a detail from a light sculpture by my husband, Jason Martin. It seemed to go with the idea of paradise swoop.

Night Brain

June 26, 2014


Night Brain

Hey you!  Night Brain, who cares no whit
for morning’s vows all ‘round,
whose desires drive this body
(though arousal runs aground)–
Be it
for yet another sip–
with my head and plate-full–
or one more check of blue, back-lit,
scratch of escapist soul

that itches like a pox inside,
mosquito swallowed whole,
mistaking screen/glass for the light
at the end of the tunnel.
Night Brain!
How you willfully lame
me–  Night
Brain….  I sit in the glooming
now–waiting for you to confide
in me–whisper what’s looming–



Here’s another (more or less) set of Robert Herrick stanzas for an old prompt of Kerry O’Connor’s and also a “conversation” poem for a new prompt of Kerry O‘ Connor’s, both on Real Toads.   (Yes, I call this one a draft–probably any Herrick stanzas of mine need that appellation.)

City Lights Nights

June 24, 2014


City Lights Nights 

There’s a blue by night building’s edge
needs nothing electric
to neon.  My heart speaks ‘glow’ back,
sings the body eclectic.
But, Blue–
Though heart will pick and choose
its tack,
there’s no pick that will stop
darkling, the shut of day’s door’s wedge
on window-littered blacktop.



A very belated poem for Kerry O’ Connor’s wonderful ‘play it again Sam ‘ post on With Real Toads to write something in a Robert Herrick format.  I am also linking to the dVerse prompt by Marina Sofia about things that could shatter and rebuild one’s world—I don’t think this exactly fits, though it is about an evening world and how small beauties (or big ones such as sky), can lift and darken one’s moods.

I am sorry that I have been so terribly absent of late.  Very busy in my non-poetry life.  I miss you all!  k.

Ps I did not get a blue picture! Maybe tomorrow!

You. Me. Her.

June 18, 2014


You. Me. Her.

In couple’s
we pretend to talk
of how you/me

As if we were
a couple–
As if she were unrelated
to this relationship.

She, who is so hip,
me, who is simply
hippy, hippier
(not to be confused with hippie, hippie-ier–
anything connected to
free spirits or
free love,
which right now means

At night, when we pretend to be silent,
she slips between us, pushing away
those simply-spread hips of mine,
those your-child-bearing hips,
something important rips–


A poem of sorts to link up to Mama Zen’s “Words Count” prompt on With Real Toads to write about something inspired by the rule of three, in 90 words or less. NOTE–not autobiographical or related to my current status in any way!

Congress (Seemingly Sold, Seemingly Byzantine)

June 14, 2014
Pants On Fire

Pants On Fire (As In Liar Liar)

Congress (Seemingly Sold, Seemingly Byzantine)

It was ever a country of old men.
Some young have come of late who are even more
stale, though they proclaimate with a vigor
not often seen in rigor mortis.  What then
was wrong, what they know to have been wrong,
they sing odes too, anthems with bombs bursting–
as if bombs were bubbles like those pursing
stuffs so closely held–their real estate long

shots, their inside bets in stocks, that donor
whose requests made so much sense (and dollars)–
Such faux outrage, such gyréd hollers–
the high dudgeon they rub like a boner–
No compromise to help the poor–for,
a human right is but a paltry thing
compared with that that goes ka-ching–  Ka-ching
to keep a pol awake–on the House floor.

Here’s a poem of sorts (yes, a draft, in that it’s just this minute taken shape) for Kerry O’Connor’s wonderful challenge on With Real Toads to use octaves–like Yeats.  I would like to try for a more lyrical poem, but here’s one that makes (very minor) references to Yeats ‘ great poem, Sailing to Byzantium, in honor of the prompt.

Note that with all my poems, the pauses are not to be taken at the ends of lines unless punctuated, i.e. with a dash or period or comma.

An odd pic, but one I had–no time to make new tonight. 

Order (Of Sorts) Instilled in Difficult Play Date

June 13, 2014


Order (Of Sorts) Instilled in Difficult Play Date

Terra Cotta
was not exactly
terra firma.
Not like play-doh
which could make my say-so
for I was a pro
at play-doh
and the ability
to form beings
out of clay–elephants, turtles,
little blue guys–
grants, in childrens’ eyes
a God-like guise.

But terra cotta
was what we had to hand,
an old birthday gift
of stiff mud (tan),
and would have to do.

Messy, still, absorption
as we molded, between our palms,
it came
in little wet lumps
with eyes, ears,
rocket ship cones,
taking us for whole
half-hours completely out
of this world.

Here’s a rather silly little poem for Fireblossom Friday, on With Real Toads, to write something prompted by the work of Guido Vedovato, a naive painter and sculptor, whose works may be found here. In my case, the inspiration was his very sweet sculptures that look as if molded from clay. I used to take immense pleasure making play doh objects and, yes, even terra cotta–though it is a much much harder medium–with my children and their friends when they were small.

Note that although Vedovato’s sculptures (particularly of horses) were the inspiration for this poem, the above picture is of a little terra cotta elephant made by me. His images may be found at the website, where they are protected by copyright. (Mine are too, by the way! Ha!)


June 12, 2014


My grandfather was grievously wounded,
World War I.

Perhaps, because I never met him,
it took me years
to get the story straight.

Who did he fight for?
Was Sweden even in the war?
Or was it Germany, where he’d studied
as a young man?
(This thought I always tried
to banish–but how could it be for the States, I’d wonder,
when he could only just have come–)

But war is its own country,
and all I really understood
was that he’d marched so deeply into it
that he was reported killed in action,
and his name engraved,
while he was nursed unknown,
on a monument to
the fallen.

For years, I imagined
that monument to be
in Stockholm or thereabouts–even connecting the mistake
with his emigration–
My idea: that the strange reception he’d received
on returning to the place
where he’d been given up for dead
had caused him to leave
for good.

But the truth is:
Sweden was neutral in the war,
he fought for the U.S.,
the monument sits
in a leafy park in Minnesota.

After learning all of that, I imagined him visiting the park
of a Sunday,
a sly grin on his face (akin to the laugh
of someone who looks up, bruised but intact, after
a prat fall)
as he stood in the shade of tree and column
tracing his name and the date
of his supposed demise.

I don’t know why I imagined the grin.
Maybe because he was known
for a twinkling sense of humor,
or maybe because when certain family members (my brother)
told the story, they were usually trying
to prove something–God’s grace–
and their voices and eyebrows
rose with the animation of someone convinced
that, finally, they had me,
their proof irrefutable.

But I don’t believe my grandfather was particularly religious,
and God and World War I
are pretty hard to link.  In fact, all I can think
is that I’ve got the story wrong again, that in real life,
my grandfather could never
have stood there and grinned.

For surely. there are other names
carved in that stone–
the names of men whose mistake
was being ordered
into fire, being entrenched
with disease–  their error
turning 18 before the 1900’s did.

After his real death, my grandfather came back
to Minnesota one more time–
so, my dad believed.
To console him, he said.
Don’t be sad, he told my father
on that ghost visit, don’t
be afraid.

In the parks in Minnesota, leaves twinkle
when they capture sun, so glad of it.




This is really a story and not a poem.  I should probably break up the lines into prose.  And it is way too long.  And late for the prompt that inspired it–a prompt on family history from Grace on dVerse Poets Pub.   I am also linking this to the open link day of with real toads hosted by Kerry O’Connor.  

Thanks for taking the time to read.

PS – the pic is a gold finch or oriole crossing the road.  (I don’t know what made them to do it.)  All rights reserved.