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.
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
Izzy’s ears twitch. The three
buzzards rustle frizzled wings,
wind their heads from side to side
searching for mice.
Izzy likes mice
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.
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-
ment as I blink and wink and nod.
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.
if I was dreaming
actually it was just
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
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
and pray the gods of chill and blindness
turn the ice
narrow it to nothing
bring me the ducks.
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.
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.
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.
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.