Songs From September

Ecclesiastes 3:1
There is an appointed time for everything.
And there is a time for every event under heaven


My garden dreams lie
under a blanket
of burnt pine needles
and saffron leaves.
Rain without thunder
the chilled gazebo
and poison-green grass.
Grapevines twine
hemlock trees.
We hunt for pungent fruit
in forest foliage.
A summer reprise of
deep velvet nights
tourmaline days
drive us
to trim bushes
and fill
the wood box.
September has come
too soon,
before summer’s romance
like my rose garden.

SISTERS: The Shape of Life

They came from Oregon to Chicago, traveling by coach and train over the smooth miles.
The sisters’ locks were now gray, their fingers gnarled with age. I met them in Michigan. My mother’s blue-green eyes sparkled with anticipation. She hadn’t been in Kentucky since World War II when my father was stationed at Fort Knox. My aunt had never walked the trails of her ancestors.
I had expected an unfolding of stories. The words came of their Kentucky born mother, and the tears she’d shed remembering the hollers of her Appalachian childhood.
From our days of wandering and meeting kin, grew poems.

The Kentucky River
a plaintive melody.
The blood
of past battles
dark rocks
as a woman
sips the landscape
with a dry soul.
Blue eyes
the vintage
of whitened
splatters like blood
the name of a forebearer carved
in limestone.
A lifetime
of waiting
etches the wander’s brow.
Eighty-one years,




A  homesick mother’s tears
drew her daughters to
a land where dogwood tentacles
grip gray-green cliff sides.
Mist tendrils curl
through the hollars and coves
of Owsley county.
Twisty mountain roads
rush heavenward
sky kisses limestone
and shadows play
among waterfalls.
Faerie land of
primeval forest,
where cabins cling
on the blue maze of ridges.
Deer dance free
between fragrant pine,
proud hardwood stands
and haloed dogwood.



Steel skies ease
Into cerulean
White-gold light.
Aims north
Muddy ground
Into grassy fields
Like a Disney cartoonist
With a magic brush.
We wait
The unfolding
At chartreuse shoots
Pulsing through dirt.
Life reborn
At our fingertips.

Winds dance
With the perfumed narcissus
Sending winter’s mustiness

Seeds sown in hidden places
Create vivid landscapes
Manifesting tares and fruit.
Weeds become husks
Devoid of life
While fruit,
Cultivated with tears
Grows strong,
Reseeding the earth
With hope.




Drums pulse
Through the night dark.
I close my eyes,
Feel the smoothness of cotton sheets
With bare toes,
Grieving for the woman,
Children, parents
Of the man whose heart stopped
At 5:03 a.m.
When the sun was
Still east of the mountains
And the moon hiding
Behind the monoliths
That brood over the valley.
The pulse of the drums
Concusses the night winds
Plays in my mind
Like a heartbeat
From the earth.
A matatu accident
Was the whisper
In the market.
Flipping when a tire blew
It rained people over the roadway
And into the ditches.
Sleep is elusive
As the drum’s song
Haunts the night hours,
Throbs during the day,
Will continue until
Samuel is buried
With his fathers
In the hollow of ground
Where monkeys play.
Hide and seek.

My Father Thought Sideways

My father thought sideways. It happens. Probably stemmed from the shrapnel imbedded in his head on a hillside in Italy. March. In a dismal rain. 1945 proved a momentous year for my father. Invalided home as the war was ending. Brain surgery. Newborn. A boy. Moving with wife and baby. Restarting college courtesy of the G.I Bill. I came along when the dust had settled and the poetry began to flow again.

It was the poetry that cascaded through my childhood like the rapids along the Columbia before man belted the river with concrete. My earliest memories are words rippling together. We tiptoed through the house because his ever-present headaches raged. Heads weren’t created to have metal plates inserted. I don’t know if his vibrated but first sopranos in the church choir and the concert violinist next door made him wince. I was five when an office was created in the attic on the opposite side of the house from the wild-eyed boy next door and his yappy dog. They drove Dad to Thurber and P.G. Wodehouse. By the time our Julliard trained neighbor, Mrs. Gilkey was across the fence, Dad spent his mornings marinating words in his dust-green aerie.

Beyond Dad’s office was a door leading to the real attic. Where suitcases, trunks, boxes, and pipes nestled in floaty insulation. Don’t sneeze! Don’t step off the wooden two by eights that held the house together.

We crawled on rafters to avoid falling through the ceiling to our bedrooms, terrified that each knee wobble would bring us to the edge of doom. And we showed off the space to visiting cousins who sweated with fear as they followed us to Dad’s old army trunk. The one tucked to the right of the door and wedged under an eave. The paint had faded from green to the color of mud, grass and blood stirred with silver rain. We’d lift the lid and wait. Fingers eager to explore palpated the contents. Dad’s brown officers cap usually came out first because it resided on top. Kids would put it on, oldest to youngest. In a hushed silence the boy cousins would stare at Dad’s helmet. The one with the shrapnel hole to the right of center.

“Can we touch it?” they’d always ask. My brother would gingerly roll it from the far back corner then reverently lift it for them to stick their fingers into the jagged edge. They’d turn it over, suck in their breaths and stare at the red-brown of the dried blood.

My brother has the helmet, now. I don’t want to know where he placed it. When I close my eyes I still see the attic and the shadows as if something remains hidden in the dark.

         THE HELMET

            A thin white scar
Mars my father’s
Skin, bone,
Among the cedars
In Italy
He lay
In the cold
His blood
Into a
His helmet
Dust covered
In the attic
My cousins
Stick their fingers in
The jagged-edged hole
Tears grow
In my throat.

                                               Written for Dad



Spreading of the Skies~Job 37


By millennia,
By torrents,
You claw the earth’s crust
From Madagascar
To the Red Sea.

I peer
Into the equatorial blaze
Where dust devils
Churn red volcanic soil.

In the middle distance,
Cool, thick-shouldered
Longonot rises
Death stalks
On a narrow path;
Ears tuned to lion sighs.

Bleached land seas
Roil over the valley.
Through the heat haze;
Shimmering Mt. Margaret,
Blue skirted Ngong Hills,
Kiss the sky

 Fragments of Eternity, Memories of Africa

                                                     From Unpublished Poetry


All families have stories.
Ours drift from continent to continent
Stops in North America, Breezes through Asia,
Lingers in Africa, Tours Europe,
And returns.
We wandered purposefully
Not called, Sent.
Seeking people,
Longing for everlasting love,
We hold hands with the dying,
Share water with the thirsty,
Pray for hearts wounded by indifference.
Point the way to the true healer
The peacemaker, the lover of souls.