March 05, 2007

At Home at Stars

Why do I find this moment so exquisite, so rare?
‘S’Wonderful,’ the blonde woman plays on a fine old Steinway
I taste the salad–exotic greens, Gorgonzola Blue, candied
pecans–and sip a smooth dry Chandon cocktail.
in this most elegant of San Francisco restaurants
The piano notes slide like fresh oysters into
the almost breathing space,
this room filled with flowers,
the primary colors of circus posters
and champagne adverts from the 1930s
I am here, dressed in a Nordstrom suit,
black, slender, slit at the leg…
I wear the medallion my father gave me
many birthdays ago,
and a diamond dinner ring from Brasil
At long last, I belong here,
my venue, the opera,
my transport, a restored British motorcar.
I sit by the piano overlooking the lovely people,
streaming through the satin room
and I want for nothing
no company
no compliments
the music sparkles into my heart
I am

98 in the Shade

98 in the shade
as ravens circle up to the sun
Heat shimmers from the slickrock
the air is hot
Here in the shade
a rattler waits
under a juniper tree
for the afternoon wind
Here in the shade
I sit still
look at marks
some old ones painted
on the sinuous canyon walls
that rise, sheer, before me
Still, like the air
still, like the lizard, the snake
out of time in this dry canyon,
I sit watching the pictures on the wall,
waiting for them to speak.
I could stay here forever,
become stone
and never know more of the stories
than I do right now.

–Cedar Mesa
Grand Gulch Wilderness, Utah

March 05, 2007

What I Got from AM Radio


It never occurred to me
in all these years
of listening to rock and roll
that I signed up a long time ago
for perpetual teenage torture.

It was always a bad moon rising
over my hopes
that some cute boy would ask me out.
Always running on empty into the parties
and out alone onto mean street
wishing a guy with tatoos
and a Harley wanted to sweep me away.
always attracted to poor Italians,
from the wrong side of town,
outsiders born to run
from whatever
was white and good and proper.

And who did I think I could be?
wearing black from the time I was twelve,
wishing for sex and romance
but cooped up in the suburbs
with nothing to do but listen to my AM radio,
feeling lost and
out of all the places I was supposed to be…
there was nowhere I was really supposed to me,
not at home in the afternoons
because no one was there
and no one particularly cared
whether I was there after school
not hanging out at the soda fountain either
because the guy there didn’t like any of us much,
and told us so
although there was never much of an us,
not at a club or a friend’s house either—
I belonged to no place,
had few and fickle friends…
So it was just me and the AM radio
and paper dolls I made of a dream girl
I called Lorraine

who had long hair
and lots of clothes
and nothing much to do,
like me,
but pretty.

So is it any wonder
that I wanted the passion
they sang about in rock and roll songs?
that seemed to stream through the cruel eyes
of the tough boys wearing black leather jackets,
who loitered around the Loew’s downtown,
who themselves had nowhere to go but the streets,
but never my streets.
My streets were full of empty green lawns
trimmed up to English gardens,
and lined with silent houses
divided by hedges,
streets where no one ever even walked their dog,
streets that no one ever wrote a song about
or I never heard one
listening to the radio day or late at night,
alone in my suburban bedroom,
waiting for a cowboy or a hood
to take me away.

March 05, 2007

My Father Died in Texas

My father died in Texas
bound and tied to dreams of love
developed dancing to jazz and going downtown
in the suburbs,
to the movies
died still longing for Ava, Rita, or
any bleached blonde dame
languorous on a chaise,
martinis dry,
the air thick with sex
wanted a Varda girl for a wife,
bubbly breasts bursting out of gingham pinafores,
legs going on forever down to ankle strapped stilettos,
nibbling a peach.
I am my father’s girl even as I age,
wishing that I too were blonde
with a tiny waist,
a hundred men at my door,
showering me with roses,
offering love.
Oh yes, I would love to have had Bogie
and perhaps Robert Mitchum sharing my satin sheets,
but actually
I’ve crafted another version of Hollywood dreams
and likely will die
longing for the likes of James Dean,
hard bodied,
and misunderstood,
standing against the wind
out on 50 in Nevada,
somehow never before
touched to the soul
by love
until I come along,
riding a stallion,
the sky on fire.

In memory of my father, nearly Father’s Day 2003

March 05, 2007

LA Sunday Morning

it was 8:30 and the LA streets were empty,
the air
everywhere there were flowers–in the trees, in gardens, on the hedges–tulips, daffodils, begonias, ,
colors everywhere and birds singing.
loping easily and proud
right down the centerline of Montana Street,
is a coyote-
thick coated and beautiful, still wild,
casually self-assured that
he belongs here,
was here way before any of us–
he came by me as I walked-,
came closer than any coyote I’ve ever seen before
in the desert
or the Rockies
Doesn’t he realize this is Los Angeles?
Does he care?
I was thrilled.
I saw a golden eagle circling above the palm trees
and I followed every street to the end,
In a cul-de-sac high above a wooded canyon
I find a home abandoned to the wild oat grasses
the paint is peeling and the shades on the windows
have cracked, dissolved into a kind of ancient lace
I look inside and there’s a coffee pot,
a sauce pan on the stove
then a very, very old woman moves her wrinkled hand into view,

As she stirs her breakfast porridge,
I imagine a whole life spent here,
spent at first in a home
once freshly painted white
children in the yard,
gambolling through the daffodils,
swinging into cherry blossom springtimes
so many years ago

all so very long ago, she remembers
as she moves the kettle from the flame

Her hand shakes but she is well enough
and the sun streams in her window
overlooking no longer the high rises of downtown LA
but simply a tangled desert canyon,
with coyotes down the road.

March 05, 2007

I Would Wish Her Another Mesa

As I stand
at the edge of the canyon
I suddenly remember
an old soft-focus black and white
my father took of his city bride
astride a palomino
his raven-haired bride
with dark Indian eyes
She is beautiful and strange at once
she is
into some vague and wonderful future
this man promises

She is out here on a precipice
overlooking the whole sandstone West
no clouds to shatter into rain,
nothing will ever hurt her again
right now
she rides like she was born on the mesa

Who knows what happened next
what my father did
or what she lost
did she even know how her dreams dissolved
like a darkening scene from an old Western movie
Who knows how she found herself
back home in the East
settling behind sooty windowed factory walls
at work
in an office with no view at all

I would wish her another mesa,
another mountain ride,
I would wish her fulfilled
of the promise
she dreamed so many years ago
as she rode above the canyon
and smiled or maybe ached
for youth and the West
for whatever she had never had.
–Canyon de Chelly

March 05, 2007

House and Home

For three years or so,
really in order to know,
in order to make order of a scattered life,
I have been making
structures in the shape of houses,
though I have found
no Simplicity pattern to follow
have found
no Good Housekeeping seal
to vindicate my plans
I simply find things lying around
–ordinary things–
stones from the trail
sticks and branches left bundled on the curb
brown paper bags and twine from the grocery
iris leaves
bones, even.
I gather these things,
weave them,
tie them together,
join them into houses
I hope will make a home.
I am trying
at last, it seems,
to be a homemaker.

March 05, 2007

The Chair

The chair
she sits in every afternoon
embroidering for the day
some fine young man
will come to her daughter,
will come to the cathedral,
come to give her grandchildren
stands empty now at noon,
vacant by the geraniums
she set outside this morning
stands near other chairs just like it,
empty on the cobblestones of
the village
that time has not touched
for seven hundred years,
the village of rock walls
built above the golden fields of
Medieval manuscripts

At the cafe, men sit gossiping
or walk slowly,
at ease under the olive trees,
until siesta
when the men disappear,
and no one else
comes outside

no one, that is, except the women
who for a time
come out to their chairs
come away from
the washing,
the children
come out to the narrow streets
Each woman
sits in her chair
each woman
sews for her daughter,
sews the ancient patterns
into fine linen
sows her daughter’s life
the fabric
of the past.

–Casole d’Elsa, Italie