unable to move I gasp, turning tumbling down rabbit holes meant to not be remembered at dawn
Pulling up behind my darkened house in their shiny black El Camino, bass booming—a thunderous storm descends upon my unconscious fragile form. I don’t hear their footsteps as they scribble scramble through the muddy murky darkness toward sleeping me.
wondrous whispering willows lean in to reveal secret truths, sacred words hidden behind the cloudy half-lit moon
Steadfast friends, The Sand Man and The Grater share midnight missions of messy madness. Sneaking in at night’s exact middle, they come silently ruffling my soft, warm blankets. Unknowing, I am fully helpless to the whims of these nighttime lurkers.
when did missing sunshine turn my insides colors, making a mockery melody moment within my comfy covers
They simply divide and conquer, each moving around my room to deliver their own precise brands of nightly justice. The Sand Man sprinkling dream dust into closed eyes, invoking silky soft dreams of rest, while his counterpart sharpens his claws.
don’t be afraid little ones they say as monsters lurk under billowing bed sheets with cutting wits
I’ve never seen The Grater’s form, but I’ve felt his silver touch as he comes to dance with my worries. It seems rather unfair he’s allowed access when the doors and windows are so carefully locked with shiny brass deadbolts.
nothing blends into something, twist the knob, turn the handle, flip switch after switch without the keys
He presses his shiny sharp grates into whatever skin he can reach, slipping under the quilted comforter held tight by my sweaty fists. The words come with him—frightening little whispery repetitions singing songs of my insecurities/fears with feverish unrelenting cruelty.
he’s never coming back to you you’ll be left alone with dark silent shadows under creaking floorboards
The Tooth Fairy has seen his lumbering shape peeking out from the sheets—flashing silver eyes and sharpened talons. She folds her transparent wings tightly together, snatching at long ago lost baby teeth—forever forgetting her pouch of golden coins.
shivering, shaking, my body fights back but movements do nothing to protect openings—internal portals of pain
Heaviness, his tell-tale calling card, will linger around me when I finally fully wake from the night. Throwing off blankets, I yawn as the echoes of his work stick tight on red, raw skin. Failure feels immediate and imminent.
tomorrow always comes without command or permission, blasting hazy new thoughts refracted backward, inward, outward toward light
Breath deeply. Stretch. I mustn’t stay still for the poison will set and I’ll stay in bed. Fight to the shower to scrub the sticky words off with fragrant suds, washing his work down silver drains back to the darkness.
shake awake fingers, dance to life toes, and say farewell to nightmares until fractured, the moonlight returns
The Waldorf school my daughter graduated from last week names each class after a tree. That tree becomes the class name, a symbol to rally the class together and form them into a cohesive unit. I wrote this poem to honor her teacher and the Linden tree class. The image was drawn on the chalkboard by her lovely teacher on their very first day together. I hope you enjoy it.
Under the Linden Tree
I. Branches and Leaves
Swept forth into the strong branches of the Linden tree, you call out “look at me” and “it’s not fair” straining to be heard among the others. Within your fellow heart-shaped leaves you found symmetry, serrated edges—your pointed tips sharpened by your proximity to magic.
Noisy bees circled, drawn by your sweetness, your softness transformed by storms into hardened beauty carved into any form you like. Tilia, basswood, lime— your names ring out like justice and peace dancing around the base of graceful towering magic.
Seasons danced happily through your green leaves, braced together and held firm by the juggling trunk’s deep roots far deeper than any tempest could shake. Tiny creamy yellow flowers burst forth in bundles, hanging tight to the tree with ambrosial scented, delicate magic.
Youth green fullness, brash and vividly bold, gave way to golden autumn’s crisp firmness curled tight together clinging on for one more precious moment. Yet, breezes come to transform one into many, flying on fitted spiraling wings from your fertile orchard, singing the forever song of Linden magic.
Blown into an orchard, banded cord thick with butterflies, steady roots plant deep in slippery soil ripe with crawling, noisy seekers crying out with “whys” and “how comes.” Beneath the Linden branches the red-winged cardinal’s two-part whistle sings of beginnings, suns, moons—ancient woody magic.
Gathered together under loosely woven branches communing and feasting wildness transforms into dancing movement. Light streaks through limbs to cover crowns as Jack Frost frolics with snowflakes as hands, melting hardness into puddles of kindred kindness. Leafy bunches become conical, balanced magic.
Ridged, furrowed scaly bark grows and smooths until shining with etched runes it reaches across fast-moving water to capture sacred geometric truths within bright colored folds. Bears prowl near, scratching fears, stretching up toward cascading waters, ravens, dragons, stones–Earth magic.
Winds blow birds nests nestled into grooves worn smooth by patient hands. Across distances the song remains strong, drawing the Linden into itself, singing melodies deeply woven through delicate leafy veins forever connected, forever entwined, forever part of sunlight’s loving embrace, warmth wrapped in bonded magic.
Last week, I heard Neil Gaiman and Michael Gallowglass read poetry in person. Both experiences were vastly different and I learned quite a bit about why I’m so drawn to this form of writing. It’s like a powerful treasure hunt of meaning, and when it’s done well, it lingers with you and leaves its mark.
My poetry class ended, but I think I’ll continue to share poems each Wednesday. Most likely it will be something related to my weekly short story, but I’m not going to limit myself. I hope to experiment with different poetic forms and find my own voice.
This week I’m sharing six poems. The first two are ekphrastic poems written as class assignments, the second two are free-verse poems written to accompany my short story The Red-Haired Beauty, and the final two are a nonet and triolet written as an afterthought for my latest short story Playing Games.
Thank you to everyone who continues to read my blog and give me feedback. It means the world to me.
The Blue Woods
Ancient woody arms with hunched-back shadows, press through darkness to where children walk alone.
Follow the moon with cold bare-toes pressed firm. Ignore whipping sounds clawing at innocence.
Into blinking dark night’s warm bosom, shaking-unsteady, my dearests—for nightmares aren’t real.
*This was based on looking at the cover art of “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”
To Be Them
Mother says keep moving, the waters can rise up again in an instant, but I want to see twisting wires, and climb to the top like kids without parents do.
Mother says don’t question our lot, our struggling, fumbling life but the faded colors of towers built for them, mock me—joy not meant for those who look like me.
Mother says be kind, but they come to hallowed ground, our sacred birthplace. Blood mixed soil infused with ancient seawater—ancestral fragments of us, but they do not see us.
Mother says don’t hate, like brother does when we find pictures of smiling pink cheeks, white hats on colorful cars. They eat fluffed candy without thinking of who lives here.
Mother says don’t wonder what cream smothered on white skin smells like. Or how they keep clothes sparkling while screaming through steep dips. We know the real danger is us.
Mother says find things to sell them on return, but the waters might never stop coming. She still believes we need them to survive. She doesn’t see hope in me.
Mother makes more jewelry for thin necks and tiny wrists, but if they don’t return maybe they can drape my thick dark ones, and she’ll call little me beautiful too.
Mother cries for lost toys crushed by the sea. Not me. I hope they stay away, in their honey- colored love boats. So we don’t disappear back into shadows again.
*This was based on an art image of carnival-type rides fallen into disrepair
Saliva pools inside puffed pink cheeks as the squishy bubble bursts between molars, exploding juices down my scratchy throat. Burning it fizzles inside; soda pop madness, sweet as jars of candy swiped from dark corner shops while peers sit behind rows of school desks. Her face, the one swallowed by the slinky shadow creature while I walked unknowing into the wrong silent place, comes now with painful throbbing to sing words I’d heard long ago but forgotten, and to brush the stray hairs off my sticky cheek with soft fingertips. The thoughts of love once mine, unasked for but given anyway, are pinpricks of pain, nerves awakening after pinched off so long, messages to tell my body to really feel. I stuff more into my mouth, craving sensations of the forgotten, much too much, but oh how my true name echoes and changes everything.
Plucked from our icy home deep within the salty brine of life’s starting place, we slumber in grains of sand tinier than eyes can perceive. Minute flecks of light, rays of sun mixed with moonlight, we live far below scuttling claws and slippery flippers. You called us forth in an instant, brought by proximity to the shadow of The Shadow’s mark upon your soft imperfect body. We saw you weeping into our waters and felt compelled to stir and rise. We exist, persist, to seek balance between all things. Shifting, we move matter within moments with forces older than time, faster than light and sound. You can’t see until we let you the realness of your truth. The faces and moments feasted upon and stolen from you within the sacred silence it lurks behind. Teasing, we form into physical shapes, tempting you to taste of your life, plopped into waiting warm mouths, sliding into the depths of bone and muscle, wiggling and writhing—alive. We unleash captured memories to dance on the surface of your consciousness, tangos of truth you knew but which it hid within the folds of time.
she’s waiting for me when the bell rings faded yellow sweater smelling of home unknown to me except in dreams, no wings she’s waiting for me when the bell rings my name upon her lips she does sing with bluest eyes framed by glasses of chrome she’s waiting for me when the bell rings faded yellow sweater smelling of home
Mother’s Love | A Nonet
my mother knows every inch of me her child from any time or place we fold into each other her arms a warm blanket of protection from the bad dreams of shadowy death my mother heals every inch of me