Many Doorsteps

That Doorstep

That doorstep trips you up every time.

Look down, the key is under the bucket.

Look up, watch your head.

Watch, don’t let the cat out.

Look behind, or the screen door will hit you.

Put your bag down; it tips over.

Look down, the key is not under the bucket.

Look up, bang your head,

Hold the screen with your elbow,

Kick the door with your heel. No one answers.

The cat sits between your legs.


The Stoop

The concrete is hot. It must be summer.

The streetlight sputters on. It must be evening.

The Mallory’s slide open their window. There must be a breeze.

Cousin Jimmy has his guitar. There must be no work.

Mom and Mary Ryan sit down to rest their feet. Dinner must be cooked.

I sit on the bottom step, feet planted on the sidewalk.

A cat between my legs.


The Wheelchair Doorstep

Someone must see it is raining.

Someone must be working the door.

It can’t be long now, can it?

Surely someone will come soon.

I back up, rev up my arms and rush the doorstep.

The tiny front wheels catch the lip and tip me forward.

Surely someone will come soon,

See me in the rain outside

A cat upon my lap.


That Last Doorstep

He’s lain there unmoving,

Waiting for God knows what.

The nurses lied on his chart –

He has not eaten in days.

His eyes have not opened,

His throat has not moaned.

He’s lain there unmoving,

Waiting for .…


He is waiting for the precise moment.

Relax, he’s been waiting a lifetime for this moment.

The exact right moment.

Some sound in his silence

Listening for that precise breath

To choose to be his last.

Before stepping over.

I nestle under his chin,

Feel my purr echo in this chest.

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Time Does Not Repeat Itself

Oh no, time does not repeat itself,

It spirals, perhaps, one turn reverberating on the others,

But time does not repeat.


Nature’s variation is endless,

Orderly, yet endless.


Everything done will be undone.


Everything undone waits for rebirth.


Ask an earthworm, ask thunder, ask your skin.

Nothing, not even time, repeats itself.

Rest in that.

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Grandma’s Prayer


’twas a sad time what with the animals dying

and the children sick and the full moon waning.


The fields were laid to rest and

Even the prata were frozen well below the ground.


The Good Folk huddled in the shidhe,

Not making a blessed sound.


Barley, damp and rotten, lay black on the fields,

Two cows hidebound and lowing.


What punishment was this?

For what sins were we paying?


Prayers to the good Christ, and

Milk to coax the Good Folk.


Cross yourselves three times everyday,

Put the pine cones, feathers and nuts beneath the tree.


May the gnomes and the Devil not pass this way again,

May the Childe Jesus and Sweet Aghna, settle in our crib.


’twas a sad time we pray not come again.


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On the Porch


Listen to the quiet between the passing cars.

Listen to the quiet after the neighbors argue.


Feel the rough pod before you break open the milkweed.

Rest before speaking.

(Under the blister, soft skin is healing.)


Under the noise you will hear

The soft breathing of God waiting

For you to touch Her.

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Tim and the Tiny Man

Tim looked down as he came over the knell

And a tiny man with shears was squatting there.


Tim stopped in amazement and stared,

And as he did, the tiny man leaned over his shadow.


Tim’s shadow stopped right at the tiny man’s feet

And the tiny man began to cut away the shadow of Tim’s head.


Too amazed to move, Tim stood and watched

As the tiny man carefully removed Tim’s shadow head.


Tim’s amazement changed to fear and dread.

Smiling, the tiny man rolled up Tim’s shadow head.


Tim began to jump in alarm, as did his shadow,

Except for the head which the tiny man carried away,

While waving a thank-you and good-bye.


(with thanks to an Irishman who told a story)

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Black Woman God

Black Madonna of Czestochowa


.Creation is the fruit of thy womb.

Painful memories and the souls’ dark spaces –

The fly in the spider’s web –

No suffering is ignored,

No despair unfelt by you,

No grief belittled.


There is no place where Your face does not appear.

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A great Waiting

Visions of jeweled trees are visions.

Visions of dreaming gods are visions.

I have one vision.


With open eyes I see life in quiet stones.

Every pebble sits.

Every green tree sits and breathes.

Everywhere is a great Waiting.

Rage, anger, sadness are everywhere

And everywhere stillness, love and surrender.

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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.


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.


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.


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.

I don’t care, I still hate autumn.

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The Wound

Rupture breaks through the skin,

Bleeds, leaves a gash, cools.
Comes to rest.

On my back the cooled flow
Creates a ridge, a gap.
I watch the searing glow solidify,
A map of its path across flesh.
I scratch the scab to see inside,
The raw wet pain of my body,

Your body in pain, this thin place,
Where we each live, the wellspring
We share.

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What It Is

What a Tree Is

“Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there….” Yeats

Nothing is just what it is.
Look at that tree.
See centuries of meaning on its bark,
Put there by poets since cave dwellers.

Those meanings stay secret
Without poets. Poets reveal them:
Scribbled on napkins and notebooks,
Composed in showers, in the park,

The poets find longing and history,
Myth and other Truths, like yeast in bread.
Look at that tree:
The aching cragginess of its branches,
The leaves shaken off and discarded.

Did you know trees lose their leaves each year
Because one winter, they would not shelter a sparrow?
Except for the pine. Peel that story right off the bark.
Give it to your children to keep. More will grow.

Two monks sat silently
Under a tree, their disciples around them.
Finally, one monk pointed up and said to the other,
“They call that a tree!” And they laughed
And laughed.

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