Archive for March 2015

Warning! (National Poetry Month Ahead)

March 31, 2015

It will likely take a group effort to get me through this year’s April National Poetry Month!


Once again, I am going to celebrate the art of poetry this April by trying to make my own little daily contributions to the field.

I appreciate that reading more poetry–or better yet, memorizing more poetry–might be a better form of celebration.

But I am more a creature of impulse than contemplation–a doer, in other words, rather than a thinker.  Not a doer, I’m afraid, of big or heroic deeds, but of little scratchy tick-tock efforts such as running a pen along a page or tappity-tapping a keyboard.

I am especially a doer when it comes to relatively arbitrary acts that involve a fair amount of repetitive self-torture.

Which just may come in handy over the next month.

Inspiration–Bah!   I actually rather like calisthenics, especially the kind that,with some odd jerks of the head, spasms of the wrist–might almost veer on dance– (albeit a rather clumsy dance!)

So… so…. I ask your indulgence!

Visuals (as in pics) may be poor.

Verbals (as in words) may be weird.

But (as is the hope with any alchemy), perhaps with enough tries, some magic will arise.

Or at least, some laughs.


PS – I am heartened to be part of the group at Real Toads this year, where there should be a prompt a day; a great help in times of brain ache.  I have an awful lot going on in my work and home life right now so really don’t think I could even contemplate writing a poem a day outside of a group effort.  I urge you to check out the site and wonderful poets there.


March 29, 2015

Manchester by R.A.D. Stainforth


We both were in love
with an other–
not an ideal basis
for a relationship, though everyone likes to have
a witness to
their suffering–
still, there must have been
something else–his  sarcasm,
my sensitivity
to sarcasm,
his self-indulgence, my
self-deprivation, as in, when there were graduate school dinners
he insisted upon cigars while I boycotted
not just the pudding but also the cheese accompanying
the port meaning that all this happened
on cobble-stones
in the UK where
we ended up not in love,
not (oh my lord) in bed, but
in that kind of long-armed limp-led dance where, when I did not appear
for several days, he made
a search, and when he went undercover, I sent
notes–all the time knowing that each of us
was nothing
compared to the other–
that one who did not seek, write–but who, when he happened
to glance over
his beautifully sculpted nose looked
just beautiful–

unlike us, whose noses
when we walked in the rain (or maybe even not)
dripped, who guffawed
when we laughed, that is, who groaned
even as we laughed, and this, you see,
was the language we spoke to one another–
this friend and me–guffaw–which is not a language
spoken by just anyone–ha!–
not, at least, without an accent–no, you have to groan
in your bones to speak
it properly; you have to
have grown up
with rejection, to have learned by heart ache
the short “a” in cat, the long “o”
in rote, that “oo” sound
that makes up the moon that you jump over
again and again
as if you were a sodding cow, and as if, you know, cows
could jump, cows with legs too thin
for their bulks, and those long-keening


Poem of sorts for The Mag, hosted by Tess Kincaid, photo by R.A.D. Stainsforth.    Also linking to Real Toads open platform, hosted by Marian. 

Demeter Denied

March 28, 2015



Demeter Denied

All went awry, it seemed, with the pomegranate,
but the fault lay not in a fruit of blood-red grain
but in the fruit of woman’s womb, still knotted
after years.  Your son’s your son, she cried,

‘till he takes a wife, but your daughter–(she cried)–
should stay all her life.  And so the Goddess naughted
growth, cupping seeds on a palm of granite
furrowing soil against its grain,

as she sought the cleft of earth where her dear grain,
daughter, had strayed, where a burst of pomegranate,
some purpling explosion of spray, had cried
out to her and where her vines had knotted

with the deep. The clouds above the mother knotted
grey and the ground froze where she now cried
not–how could she leave me, the threshed grain
and no tree would dare a pomegranate–

Till the Gods themselves cried back and forth ‘enough’,
and the sun like a pomegranate rose red,
and the grain once more
knotted gold, all for at least
a little.


Here’s a drafty sort of poem for Bjorn Rudberg’s prompt on With Real Toads, to write a “quartina” or an abbreviated sestina.   (I’m not sure I’ve got the envoi exactly right–on the other hand, I think Bjorn invented this form, so I hope he’ll be indulgent.)

This one is based upon the myth of Demeter, the Goddess of the Harvest, and her daughter Persephone, who was stolen away by Hades.  In her mourning search for Persephone, Demeter let all crops die out–finally, Helios, the Sun God, revealed to where Persephone was, but by the time, she had eaten a few grains of pomegranate in the Underworld and was bound forever to return a few months of every year (during which time her mother mourns her absence again.)  (Pic of pomegranates is mine.  All rights reserved.) 

June Upstate (Beginning of Vacation)

March 27, 2015


June Upstate (Beginning of Vacation)

I call it spring,
because my children were
still lamblike
and we uncurled on a wool blanket
edged by grass that sprouted as wisps
rather than blades

and their hair downed
my arms, their heads resting so they too
could see the book, which I sometimes held aloft
a little like our own cloud, but more
like our own sun–what we
revolved around
that first country morning
as we moved the blanket about
an apple tree, in and out
of heat and cold,
brightness and wind,
the way the sky itself moved–
sometimes holding
our breath–for it was an exciting book,
a novel–
sometimes not speaking
in a way that was different
from listening, even me, not speaking,
who read aloud—for it had sad parts

after words,
in a stiff unfold (as if our spines
had become the book’s spine),
our skin prickling (as if just then feeling
wool’s scratch),
and blinking at the overclouding blow
of afternoon,
we pulled ourselves back
into this single, unpaged, world, kneeling
as we rose.  


A poem for Corey Rowley’s prompt on With Real Toads about a perfect spring day.  Spring doesn’t begin till rather late in the Catskills.   (The pic above was taken in more of a May time, but it truly is still spring in June in that all could freeze again before then!) 

This Is A Poem About

March 25, 2015


This Is A Poem About

the vagaries,
of words.

Sure, some show
what they mean–ice floes:
ice that flows;
ice that, even stuck, floats.

Spoon: curve cool
in your mouth, still warning
not to bite down.

Or, spoon:  the warm fit
of your flank, peace beyond
the swoon.

Penis:  the stretch before
the close;
vagina or -al:  I/hinge/in winged.

Sorry–I say to those of you uncomfortable
with moist words
in this dryish confabulation,
but it too does its work–no one as sore
as the sorry, as sorry
as sorry me.

Then there are those words
that just won’t
say themselves,
whose sounds don’t sign
their crossroads, vowels don’t knell

This moment tries.  This–assertive,
but oh, how that long mo fools us, its promise
already at
its end.
Went somewhere

faster than an ice floe
caught upon a spoon, cool
in your mouth, hot
at your flank.


Draft poem for With Real Toads Open Forum. 

Couldn’t resist reposing a picture of my dear departed Pearl as she jumped down onto a passing ice floe one evening in NYC a few years back.  (Both pics are mine–all rights reserved.) 


Crocodile? Alligator? (Arboreal Uncertainty about the Family Tree)

March 22, 2015


Crocodile?  Alligator?  (Arboreal Uncertainty about the Family Tree)

The tree, which traditionally only studied matters
ornithological, had neglected to ask the large lizard its genus,
and, ever after,
regretted the precipitous gulp.

Though there were ample other reasons for regret–
the creature had thrashed about with remarkable dexterity
for the barked,
nearly severing
a major root system.
(The phloem at the bottom of its trunk still felt loose.)

Since that distending swallow,
the tree had taken a great interest
in all things snout-shaped,
under-or over-bitten–

the word alone might still
raise a flutter
if it had given its leaves the slightest leave–
But it was a hard wood, and would not let its emotions engage
in the type of blow-back it associated with only
the most unstable life forms–
the unrooted seas or those mini-oceans of irridescence
that shimmered across those who waved, wandered,
wriggled, weeped
(damn willows)–

There would be–it always swore–nothing of the pigeon
about its limbs.

Though still, deep in its heartwood,
it pondered–
what had made it see such red
at the beast’s slow creep?

All it could remember was an old saw–
not something to live by–

and a smug grin that, for all its ties to the primordial,
knew nothing of the jaws
of trees.


Really more a drafty prose-poem than drafty poem!  For The Mag, a photographic blog prompt site of the very stalwart Tess Kincaid.  I believe this is Tess’s photo (as did not see other credit.)  No copyright infringement intended. 

The Koala Tea of Mercy

March 21, 2015
First Koala

First Koala (And Really Only One I’ve Ever Drawn!)

The Koala Tea of Mercy

The koala tea of Mercy is not strained,
(for though they sport two thumbs upon their paws,
sieves don’t suit those marsupials.)

It droppeth as the gentle rain,
(that rarely falls on Sidney’s convents
or Brisbane’s–for there, what’s heaven-sent

often hails upon the place beneath–
scaring the koalas to the top
of their eucalyptus, which doesn’t stop

the mightiest of the mightiest–
that is, a South Pacific deluge–
but the brain of a koala is not huge,

their thrones perhaps as complex as their crowns.)
At least, the tea’s a salvation
despite its slightly twigged sensation.

No, the koala tea of Mercy is not strained;
yet twice-blesses those who drink its brew:
her who takes, who gives–that me, that you–


This poem is based upon a joke made by my husband, Jason Martin, a few years ago–a long shaggy dog story that had to do with the Sisters of Mercy, Australia, who (in the joke) supervised the making of koala tea, which, was not strained (due to the inherent disconnect between koalas and tea.)  Honestly, it was a very funny joke, although, at the time, I could only focus on the fact that Australia isn’t a famous tea producer.   Process note–koalas do have two opposable digits on each front paw, and I believe three others, and extremely small brains for their size.  The Sisters of Mercy have convents in Sydney, Brisbane and Papua New Guinea. 

I wrote this for Margaret Bednar’s “Play it Again” prompt on With Real Toads, referring to an archived prompt by Kerry O’Connor to write a Constanza, which is a form SUPPOSED to have just five stanzas, the first lines of which form their own poem.  (The first lines are also supposed to rhyme.)  Too much for me.  (Process note–I still have the flu!  Forgive any delirium!)

Here is the original Shakespeare, Portia’s wonderful speech extolling the virtues of mercy in The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I. 


Your Prompt Attention Requested

March 20, 2015


Your Prompt Attention Requested

Where are You, I wonder,
who Writes me as
Dear Beloved,
and who, in your Devotion to Christ and your
Departed, need
my Help.

Me (Dear Beloved) being the One
and Only
to Whom your Inheritance from Said late Dear Husband–
Hundreds and Thousands of [Insert Currency Here]–
will be Released,
if only I will Provide

You will then gladly TransFer
[between Forty to Eighty] per Cent, which
in addition to the Winnings notified to me yesterday
in the Microsoft National Lottery,
will Amount to a Tidy Sum, not subject to Duties,
as previously promised by Timothy Geitner, then Secretary of the U.S. Treasury,
from his yahoo3216 Account.

You write with the soft Tones of one
who wears a silky-synthetic Veil tied low
upon her forehead, but, still, I see you
as male, taut
as an Igbo mask, only the radii of eyebrows ringing
your forehead, focused cheekbones leaning
into a keyboard whose taps I hear
over the flap of papers
regularly re-awakened by a wooden
ceiling fan, their intermittent ripple held in place,
though not firmly, by a cup of light sweet coffee, which,
though sitting at a casual slant,
does not spill.

I do not write you Back, though you ask
so Little–name, Address–not even at this point
social Security Number–even though it is Quite Nice
to be called Beloved, to be promised Millions,
to imagine such
a fan.



A drafty sort of poem for Suzie Clevenger’s prompt on Real Toads to write a poem about computer Spam.  Maybe because I’m an attorney, I get many letters asking my help in releasing all kinds of large payments.

I have a flu–yech–so forgive late visits back and not-fitting photo.

Three Daughters

March 19, 2015

Molecules 1

Three Daughters

“I am a curséd man,” he said, with full marks for
the -ed, “because,” he said, cross-legged, dhoti
both wrinkled and taut, “I am the father of
three daughters.”

His hands followed the line of the shrug,
then sank like the smile beneath the black float
of  mustache, as,
from my opposite banquette, I tried to maintain an attitude
of intellectual exploration–
”don’t you love your daughters?”

“I love them too much,”meaning in my understanding
of Indian English–‘sure’–
but “meaning,’ he went on, “I must work all the days of my life
to make their dowries–”

The dowry was the price he would pay for
having his undoubtedly hard-working girls taken off his hands,
which pinched the air, long-fingered,
as if plucking words from the landscape–
and I too smiled sadly, this still a more encouraging discussion
than the one I normally had with men in Indian trains,
which always started with whether I was married
and ended somehow in my asking the most important quality in a wife,
a question which they answered without a beat–
(sometimes through teeth stained red with betel nut,
other times the teeth not stained, but always showing)–

I can’t help thinking today of that curséd man, sitting in the
amber light that fixed that train car even as it traversed
a subcontinent, as I read
of the poor cursed woman in Delhi who strangled her three
young daughters, “submitting” as the headline said, “to despair.”

Reading next of the proposed government budget in my own country–
where dowries once were also part
of the barter of women–and where girls are still often enough
discarded, though we are advanced enough to discard boys
about as much, the idea behind all the cuts for women and children
being some notion that if women are just kept flat on their backs,
families will stay intact–

Look, I’m not saying that these things–Indian dowries and the GOP– are
actually connected, except that they both make me sick,
sick of the trade in women, sick
at the base of a womb that held two daughters, sick at the heart
of a third.


A very drafty poem that is simply a rant going about my head.   I appreciate that it may not truly be a poem.  The drawing above is by a friend of mine, Diana Barco, taken from my book of poems, Going on Somewhere.  The photograph below is mine, taken a couple of years ago in Ahmedabad, in India–all rights reserved by Diana and me!  


Dimly Perceived

March 17, 2015

Dimly Perceived

You would think a person going blind
would turn inward; at least set sights
on reknowned beauty,
but I find myself staring fixedly
at the bright blink of dishes I splash
at a scratched white sink,
without thinking overmuch
of either the timeless or
my soul,

and often on my train–
the Hudson line–which passes through
one of the world’s great riverscapes, I escape
into a teeny screen, its gleaned print winking
at my squint–

which is the gist of this–
that I am not so much looking for an answer,
as an answer back,
a response to my blurred toss
in this postmordial, mortal, pond,
an acknowledgement that you (meaning me)
are still here/really here/here now
and that I (meaning you) hear you (that’s me

the problem perhaps being
that the Hudson and its hills don’t always speak
in decipherable tones,
while the screen knows well
how to spell my name;
the dirty dishes too are personally insistent–
”you missed that crud on my back, Blindie!”
one important vowel sound off
what I was called in my heyday–

though, of course, there’s a part of me,
the part that would turn like a tree to sun
rather than a dog to hand’s pat,
that knows I should look
at mountains more,
that they might teach me
about staying power and what it’s like
to have rocks for eyes,

That I should look out to the river too
as it washes
its both sides.


For Real Toads, Tuesday Open Link.  (Above a pic from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, and below, some divide in the Hudson River, taken from the train–you can see train light at the top and track at the bottom.  All rights reserved.)