Below are three of my favorite published poems:
My father blew up mountains on weekdays,
paving roads for the masses,
spiffing up the wild, daring countryside.
And so he fed a wife and four young darlings.
He also fed the corner bartender,
then slept through his weekends home,
while my sisters and I dressed Barbies on the front lawn.
We did not know about blowing up mountains,
paving desert roads,
scattering lizard towns.
When I was still a girl, my father finally broke his bottles, snuffed his cigarettes,
marched down dusty roads,
"Onward Christian Soldiers" on his breath.
He taught younger men to blow up what was left of mountains and the desert.
Well, my sisters think he is the cat’s pajamas,
my father now all straight and easy, closing in on seventy.
They bake him special pies at Christmas, kiss him on the lips in public places—
while I support the corner bar, sleep weekends into Mondays
and blow up stone-carved mountains in my soul.
I run paved roads for mental health, scatter lizards when I see them,
and wear my dad's pajamas when the night becomes too cold.
Dad and Mom, Wedding Day
On a Portrait Called "Brooklyn"
I am not this chair that holds me stiffly,
nor this cotton dress, gray and hiding weathered limbs.
I am not this window,
nor the empty rooftop housing pigeons, smothering nighttime lovers’ whispered giggles.
I am not this tiny table, circle draped in flattened satin blue,
nor flowers wilting, held in arms of porcelain.
I am a girl
dancing on rooftops, drinking red wine from thick tumblers,
falling into sleep, curled in arms of passion spent.
I am a girl
whose lover bore a soft pink rose bouquet, petals shaking,
half a hopeful smile tugging at his mouth.
I laughed and turned away,
tossed them gaily in the plain white vase
and swiftly dressed the table in a sheet of navy blue.
Successfully, I hid the scars and smiled.
Now faded love,
who never peeked beneath the cloth, gliding supple fingers slowly, gently
across the scratched and blemished surface of my heart,
who never knew to press full lips upon the wounded pine.
Solitary table, drooping flowers.
I can feel the sunset move in years across the pane.
I cannot lift a tumbler, cannot taste red wine, cannot curl to sleep or feel the arms of love.
I cannot even see the wilting petals.
Bent head nodding, bleary eyes see nothing but a lap with crumpled fingers,
curled to grasp that dancing girl
and draw her back to life.
Room in Brooklyn by Edward Hopper
Holding Down the Fort
(that summer they all went off to Hawaii and left Dad and me alone, apart)
We are holding down the fort: California.
You are the feet and I am almost at the shoulders;
Four hundred miles of snaky coast and forests block my vision.
The world is on vacation and you and I are holding down the fort, California.
I wish that I could see your clear blue eyes, your cowboy leathered face, your open smile.
I'm so afraid that you will die while they are gone away;
then California would tumble heels over head, waking up in Canada.
They will return and I would be to blame.
My fingers cannot reach four hundred miles, so I pray "Our Father who art"—
for surely the Heaven must be closer. Can you hear me at the shoulders?
I want to hold your hand again, to reach my arms about your folding neck;
I want to touch you—I cannot.
Four hundred miles of coast is just so far…
Our father art the feet.
You will say come home.
I say I cannot—I would cry.
I would tumble the state into Mexico. No.
I must be the shoulders.
And so we stand here tall and wait for them.
We hold our breath and meditate, send prayers along the wires,
for we cannot hear with ears.
We are holding down, are holding down…
We are holding down the fort, California.