FACTORY GIRL – A LETTER
In my job I use
what they call the volmer —
tiny torch open and close
stitching with a little syringe of light
white as a drop of sun. I try
not to look but two white spots
burn at the back of my eyes.
In one — all the other
jobs I’ve had — inn rooms
someone else’s stain.
In the other years
of nearly starving on the farm
never enough, no wheels, no
way to town.
these two white spots the men
who wanted something and me
just trying to make it work.
implies something remains
but want is all it is.
in little squeezes of light,
that whisper and cut
are months and years my history
in this brazier that captures and holds,
hardens and glows.
published in The Dos Passos Review
Vol.6, No.2 2009
not turning, standing still
the snow turning his black hair white
suspended in a bronze gong’s
chime not turning
phrases in his mind but letting the notes alight
and write their own lines; seasons turn; standing
in his summer hut
all night grasshoppers churn their tune
Basho writes by the harvest moon’s
not standing still but turning
on highest mountain top he sees
the red carp sun straddle
east and west turning to catch
its either light standing
in Fuji’s red snow while tiny boats
drift below; when the snows melt turning
his muddy feet to riverbanks / plum blossoms
turning in the warm breezes light
with spring, Basho not answering
the call to another cup of plum
wine Basho stands unsteady in a tiny boat,
turns it to moon’s broad reflection on the pond
leaning over to kiss it and he’s gone
published in Poet & Critic
Vol. XIII, No. 3 1982
SWEET ARE THE USES OF ADVERSITY
Sweet are the uses of adversity
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in its head.
-- William Shakespeare
Sweet are the uses of adversity — the office
culture I have grown around, the
strategic plan, draft document, political
message meant to motivate — a skill,
a skein of words I have grown
as an appendage, developed skin around.
Sweet are the uses of adversity — provide
Jesuit, Franciscan, community, university:
the education I had to my children.
Sweet are the uses of adversity — the mate
for twenty years, a skein
of months, laughter, jokes, sorrow, bitterness between us and I
have pits and fissures and blooms and growth
I’ve grown skin around to stay.
Sweet are the uses of adversity: the modern
whizz, car chase, crammed calendar, lack of peace, the pace
a price to pay for all we have — far from want, we will not starve.
Sweet are the uses of adversity as used
by the hopeful who alit
at Jamestown, Plymouth, any yard
where they planted food and buried
their young, their many dead. A certain determination
swelled; they stayed. And I
— another pair of hands, another hauler
of the great barge forward —
see the head of land, hear sloshing waves,
know my part of the coarse, warty flesh, intent
on that jewel glint.
published in Agenda
Vol. 41. Nos. 3-4 (double issue)