In the Pines

In the pines I will refuse

To join in anguished guilt and mourn

Rather will I sing the news

That in the pines I am reborn.

I am reborn and shout aloud

Dance fandango tap and tilt

While in the pines there is a cloud

Around my head all spark and gilt.

In the woods I plow the field

Plant cuckoo winding purple vines

Watch the forest quake and yield

Play more music in the pines.

But still I hear the pines rejoice

Reborn a cuckoo, sing your voice.

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See the three apple buzzards

across the road, I call to Izzy

but she is mad at me

so looks opposite.

It’s not every day you find those birds

I explain.

Izzy’s ears twitch. The three

buzzards rustle frizzled wings,

wind their heads from side to side

searching for mice.

Izzy likes mice

herself so

scats to my window. A Chopin etude is playing.

The buzzards preen their feathers

Izzy licks her right paw,

velvet and scratch. Her tongue

buzzes apple red.

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In a Storm

Surprise they

whisper as I crouch under

locust trees whipping like frenzied buff-

alos, branches crackled and knuckling

while fiery steam loco-

motives of wind transfer coals and char-

coal tincture into the Orion

stratosphere. Surprise they

bellow as I belly up to

gravid meteors of yore

tumultuous past lives, each rum-

inaction better than

a buzzard or cock-

roach. Surprise they tremble, tumbling

out of the tomb, mum-

bling astonish-

ment as I blink and wink and nod.

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I wish I were a duck, I whisper

to Izzy as we huddle

in my blanket watching

out the window

eyeing the lake, its surface

a mosaic of floating ice

swept by the north wind. Trees

rattle & deserted bird feeders

sway, while mallards swim

carefree as beetles in July & cats

& people sit & shiver.

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I Looked Out My Window

not sure

if I was dreaming

or mental

actually it was just

psilocybin nipping

my tongue. Back then

we were living

in a rusty

trailer stacked on oil cans

teetering on a farm

road in hippie

town, moved there when my husband

(if you want to get melodramatic)

done me wrong.

the baby and I escaped

okay but had no money, got by

on welfare and food

stamps in coupon books.

I bought an old Pontiac

for $100 a month

left it on the side of the road

when it broke. (Figured

they’d find it eventually).

One night after I put the baby

to bed I dosed myself

sat rocking to Billie

Holiday on the record player

frozen up the whole

time watching phantom armies rage

stallions and hussars and spears

and pennants surge and swarm

across the cornfield, stuck

in my visions until the sun

rose and the baby woke

and the dust motes danced

good morning.

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Watching the Lake

out my window

a whitish blur of ice

dazed against the glare

dizzy deep like a crackly slap

whipped against a mouth

full of cold teeth.

A tear lets loose

down my cheek

Look at the ice, I cry

see how the light shines almighty bright

squint close

and pray the gods of chill and blindness

turn the ice

narrow it to nothing

bring me the ducks.

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Sleep Number

I slept in a crib where ants danced in despair

I slept with my head in a jar of pickles

I slept with foam rubber

I slept curled against a transistor radio playing chance sound

I slept with my cousin but couldn’t stop laughing and today I am an old lady and he is an old man

I slept with a Frenchman who looked like Punch

I slept in an attic beside the Bodhisattva of Compassion

I slept under a grasshopper leaf with my baby

I slept like there’s no tomorrow.

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Learning Anthropology in the Bronx

When I was a kid you called someone

an Indian giver if he wanted

his jump rope or baseball card back

and you had no intention

of handing it over

at least not graciously

maybe if he punched you

instead you just ran away

with it clenched in a fist

shouting Indian giver over your shoulder

but maybe his mother

talked to your mother

and she made you return

this thing, treasure,

bounty that was a gift but maybe not

so you developed this knowledge

that Indians did not make

reliable gift givers and neither

did the kid down the block.

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My Reader

Before I publish any poems

I show them to my husband

because his opinion

although not dispositive

is worth considering.

When I write a poem

full of arcane

symbolism and manufactured

words he will say,

very deep, too deep for me

and smile half-abashed, half-sarcastic, half-

laughing with me not at me.

He admires poems that have a simple narrative

especially ones about our cat Izzy.

It’s like in Zoom workshop

as soon as somebody holds up a cute dog

nobody wants to hear your stupid poem.

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I Stand Accused

of having a mordant sense of humor.

Unsure if I should be flattered or shamed

so looked up the word:

signifies a sharp or biting quality.

Not so bad.

I feared it would involve decaying jokes

and laughter from the grave.

Only means I am a Pekingese dog,

shrill and nippy,

biting the hand that feeds me.

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