The Rockets’ Red Glare

Preaching to the Converted

The Houston flood is killing and destroying. Yes?

The refineries are spewing toxins in the air and water there. Yes?

North Korea blew up a hydrogen bomb. Right? Flew missiles over Japan.

Nazi attempt to squirm out their holes.  Yes?  [Let me hear you say, “Yes.”]

The western forests are burning up.

300,000 Muslims [illegal immigrants, Yes?] are being slaughtered in Myanmar

by Buddhists.

.

Relax.

.

Luckily,

in response,

we will deport 800,000 young Americans as illegal immigrants. Yes?

.

Because

that will make the waters recede,

the toxins turn sweet;

the bombs will misfire,

the Nazis retreat,

the fires end

and make everything great again.

.

Oh say can we see through the rockets’ red glare?

 

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Grandma’s Friends

Maeve and Hugh came from the Old Country

and didn’t smell very good.

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My father hid behind a chair

and popped up, “Are they gone?”

while they were still in the doorway.

Mom married him anyway.

.

With their brogues and silly thoughts,

they were like playthings

after they left down the stairs.

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Hugh called and asked for Maeve,

“Me?” said Dad. “I’m me, who are you?”

“I’m Hugh.”

“No,” said Dad. “I’m me, who are you?”

Etcetera, etcetera….

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Grandma fed them tea

and listened to their silliness.

They were so far from home and family and good Cashel dirt.

The kitchen floor was covered with newspapers

and at night

she’d roll up the tea crumbs

to keep the floor clean.

 

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578 million, eight hundred eighty

 

If a life were a quilt

would I have 67 squares?

or 720 for each hour in each month?

Let’s see

that would be 67 years

times 12 months

times 720.

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Life is much longer than I’d previously thought.

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No, one square on one quilt.

One big empty square for my niece to scribble on.

(Which would be life square number 345,600 when she was three.)

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I’d have to have the 501,120th square with wedding flowers.

And another square for the day my dad died,

And one for the hour of Gregory’s AIDs diagnosis.

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For the days I spent watching stupid TV,

too many squares to count.

For the hours of gardening and of making love,

Too happy to quilt.

.

Friends made a wedding quilt for my husband and I

(Square 233, 280 on my life quilt.)

It had a knee cut out from Allyn’s jeans,

An embroidery of “The Ghoul” who we’d watch stoned,

A swatch of a bridesmaid’s dress,

A peace symbol.

Gregory ruined his square by leaving an iron on it.

I forget the others right now.

They will come to me in a dream.

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Blue background with little white flowers.

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Yes, my life covers 3,473, 280 square inches of land.

More than enough to garden in, more than enough to wander in,

More than enough to be buried in.

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Ballad of a Needle

If I had an needle I’d sing you a song about a dress.

It would be the pretty blue and white one Mom sent me out to play in.

But, there were benches to climb on and railings to hang from, so

She gave me bloomers to wear under the dress and over my undies.

But I could not hang from railings because people would think that

I’d hang from the railings even if I didn’t have bloomers on and that would be awful,

And shame the family.

So I puzzled about why to have bloomers at all.

..

Or I’d sing you a song about the dress that was blue,

A jumper with a white blouse with a Peter Pan collar.

This all girls wore everyday to school.

Thus began my total disinterest in fashion.

And my preference for ease and comfort,

To my mother’s dismay.

What beautiful dresses she wore after a lifetime of hand-me-downs!

..
How about a song about a wedding dress?

It was a beautiful blue and white with beautiful white straw hat.

The maid of honor wore a purple dress and a bridesmaid wore black.

..
Dresses I wore are far and few between.

It’s like looking for needles in the haystack of memory,

Looking for a needle that could slide between events and clasp them together,

Gather them into a cloth I could cover my present with,

Hold against my cheek and drift off under their weight.

..
Can I use my grief as a needle and sing a song of loss?

Not about a dress, but about the people who dressed me?

Not about jumpers, but about the friends who touched me?

Not just about dresses, but all the clothes that embraced their soft bodies?

..
If only I had a needle,

If only I could sing.

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What Is New to Me Now, at 68

(Annual Greenfield Word Festival 2016)

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What is new to me now, (don’t bother me with cell phones, legalized weed),

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What is new to me now is constant war with no intervals of peace,

What is new to me is the eradication of the illusion that intervals of peace existed between wars;

What is new to me is the eradication of the illusion that racial justice was within sight,

What is new to me now is the necessity of Black Lives Matter;

What is new is the eradication of night sky and of silence;

New to me is the realization of how much work it takes to make fleeting gains,

And how fleeting those gains can be.

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What is new to me?  the death of unions, global warming, fracking, intelligent design (whatever the hell that is).

What is not new to me is how little great speeches mean;

What is not new to me is how much poetry means to some of us;

What is not new to me is how much poetry is disparaged;

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What is new to me is the sound of my voice reading poetry.

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I Hate Autumn

I hate autumn.

The colors, the wind, the chill, the wilted plants.

Autumn is the drama queen of the year,

Always in crisis,

Flinging beauty about recklessly.

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Autumn gets under your skin.

Sneakier than winter, more glamorous than spring.

Deceitful, unlike steady, predictable summer.

Your body rebels, gets hungry, dry, tired.

Bones really can get cold.

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Hard earth, rotten crab apples, smacked pumpkins,

Cold floor in the morning, hot floor by the fire.

Autumn brings discomfort, irritation, stinky sweaters,

Dark afternoons, garbage tipped over, the cat goes

In and out, in and out, in and out baffled by the cold.

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Okay, so the kids scrape through the crunchy leaves.

The dog is friskier, the sky is blindingly clear,

The stars almost touch the garden ground.

The roof stops leaking. No more mowing.

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I don’t care, I still hate autumn.

 

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Philip

My restless, fitful cousin

Punched a black patient in the hospital.

At Thanksgiving dinner he offered advice he’d gotten

From a prostitute the week before:

“The best part of sex is right after the orgasm.”

..

One eye had been poked out by a paper clip

when he was in grammar school.

He took a bad trip on Spring Break in Florida

and angel dust took him to schizophrenia.

..

His mother woke up one night and saw him

Standing over her holding a knife.

He stands in the living room now, big,

One-eyed, scary. Everyone’s left the room

Except my father and I, asking him

..

what else he had learned.

 

 

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