earthbound, today–dVerse Quadrille

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it would be to touch
the earth instead of
the emptiness of air and the endless
freshets of wind?

Mary Oliver
Song for Autumn

earthbound, today

like leaves
slumbering on earth’s sweet body
protected from buffets
of unrelenting winds

I find my center
in the warmth of your embrace
listen to the pounding
of your heart

you hold me close
in the freshness
of early autumn air
and I surrender

Photo: Victoria Slotto

Photo: Victoria Slotto

Today, Dee invites us to consider the nearing approach of autumn by writing a Quadrille using the word LEAVES. A Quadrille is a poem of exactly 44 words, no more, no less, exclusive of the title. Should you like to join in, head on over to dVerse Poets

Mood-Making Meter–dVerse Meeting the Bar

Photo: Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse


The sun is up,
come, let us play
in garden’s blooms—
what do you say?

See lady bugs
and buzzing bees;
the sun peeks through
the aspen trees.

Make daisy chains
or pies from mud;
drink in the scents
of pink rose buds.

We’ll play till night
then count the stars
till mama calls,
bids us indoors.

And then we’ll dream
of the next day,
for school is out.
Come on, let’s play!

I’m hosting today at dVerse Meeting the Bar where we are discussing how meter influences mood. I wrote this poem in strict dimeter–two beats per line. I will let you tell me the mood. The basis for my prompt came from Mary Oliver’s “The Poetry Handbook,” her how-to book. Even though she writes, for the most part, in free verse, if you pay close attention, she uses meter, albeit freely. This poem is sing-song because of its strict attention to both meter and rhyme. She suggests mixing it up a bit to avoid that effect but, since this is clearly a poem for little ones, I’ve made it that way. That enables them to memorize and appeals to their sense of rhythm. I hope to have time to post a second with different meter and mood.

Please join us today and if you do, don’t talk about the mood you are trying to create. Let the reader guess and hopefully share their thoughts in comments.

the darkest of dark

Photo: Labeled for non-commercial use

Photo: Labeled for non-commercial use

the darkest of dark

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a Gift.
Mary Oliver

It is still the darkest of dark night, yet already the wrens have begun to chant lauds and the dove coos longing…or it it loss?

The sounds of the wakening world, the scent of last night’s rain that anointed the blossoming lime tree, the hunger to join the burgeoning dance of life, draw me into light before the sun has a chance to peek over the horizon and confirm hope.

night shakes off darkness
morning stretches lazily
kisses a new day

Written for Grace’s prompt at dVerse Haibun Monday in which she gives us four poetic quotes, asking us to chose one and write a haibun related to nature. You will want to read these wonderful quotes to meet the request of the prompt. They will be available at 3:00 PM, EST when the pub doors open to welcome you and your poetry.

The first phrase of this haibun is from Oliver’s poem, “It Is Early,” found in her latest release, “Felicity.”

sometimes there are no rules

Photo: Victoria Slotto

Photo: Victoria Slotto

sometimes there are no rules

as when the call of doves defy the wintry morn
or roses flower on desert sand and
in the furrow of a craggy mountain.

sometimes there are no rules–
as when sweet love blossoms in wrinkled bodies
or when the heart knows ecstasy before the face of death.

sometimes there are no rules–
and thus i fly on silver wings
to touch these moonlit branches.

oh, can you hear the songs of stars?

Title taken from Mary Oliver’s Poem: “Three Things to Remember”

A slow start to writing this year, so I turned to Mary Oliver for a jump-start. It’s been a crazy few weeks.

the cricket’s song is surely a prayer



the cricket’s song is surely a prayer

the drought-deprived truckee
slows to a trickle,
slogs along toward city center.
gladiolas begin to droop,
daisy’s wilt.
on the vine, clusters of grapes

we sit in the dark in silence.
count stars and sip chilled pinot gris.
the quiet fills with cricket cries,
an urgency to mate
before the chill of a first freeze—
a prayer for continuance.

Toni, for dVerse Poetics, is asking us to share those lazy, hazy days of summer known as the Dog Days. She gives us a good overview of what exactly this means in astronomical terms. Stop by to read her informative post and drop off a poem of your own. The pub doors open at 3:00 EDT on Tuesday.

The title of this poem is borrowed from Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Cricket and the Rose.” She seems to be my major go-to for inspiration these days. If you get stuck, I suggest scanning the work of a favorite author/poet, looking for a line to jump-start your own poem.

this is not a poem about a dream

Photo: V. Slotto

Photo: V. Slotto

this is not a poem about a dream

when, at night, the wind howls
and branches of a dead oak scratch the skin
of our world,

when rain puddles on the brick path,
in smeared reflections of an other
-worldly moon,

when screaming silence drips
steadily, steadily
in the gutter, on the roof,

and the old neighbor-dog howls in the distance
conjuring up an image of
grandmother’s banshee

and the rhythmic cadence of real-time fear
beats, beats, beats
on the window

when beating still
in a desperate soul who’s
alone in the darken corner his room,

alone in the chill
of a sweat-drenched bed,
alone in the bleakness of
an empty life

that’s thrumming,
thrumming, thrumming
to its hollow demise

then (i tell you this—)
this is not a poem about a dream
though it could be.)

The title and the final two lines of the poem are from Mary Oliver’s poem Five AM in the Pinewoods, published in House of Light.

Linked to dVerse Meeting the Bar where Bryan Ens is guest-hosting. He asks us to explain our choice of poetic form. I enjoy form poetry, though I most often turn to free verse because it allows my thoughts, that come from who-knows-where, to flow quickly. I chose a couple of poetic devices in this to create intensity:

  • Repetition
  • Onomatopoeia

I also omitted use of Upper Case, also to promote a sense of stream-of-consciousness thinking. When I’ve fallen out of the rhythm of writing daily–in this case, due to other responsibilities which are slowly easing–I turn to other poets for inspiration. I selected a quote from a Mary Oliver poem to set this one in motion–without any idea of where it would propel me. Erasure poetry is also a great way to jump-start the inner poet.

if i were a lily, i would wait all day

Photo: V. Slotto

Photo: V. Slotto

if i were a lily, i would wait all day

for the gentle nudge of a summer breeze
bending me to its will

for the luminous glimpse of a ruby throat
sated by my nectar

for the heady scent of a neighboring rose
gracing me with her presence

for the taste of rain that falls at last
to soften thirsting earth

for the setting sun that signals the end
of my brief but beautiful life

i would fall to earth, become one with her
surrender, await the unknown

The title is taken from Mary Oliver, Published in A Thousand Mornings: Poems

Linked to dVerse Open Link Night

Your Wild and Precious Life–dVerse Meeting the Bar

Photo: Victoria Slotto

Photo: Victoria Slotto


Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver

A flock of starlings startled me this morning
flying randomly between city sky scrapers
before settling into formation
and heading toward the mountains.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

A perfect fence, white pickets,
with perfect shadows.
Is it there to hold in or keep out?
Or is it just there?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

In May, along the river walk,
an abundance of pink wild roses, snarly branches,
rival our well-planned gardens
with their playfulness.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

My sister’s husband deferred retirement
so they would have more money.
She died the month before their trip to the Amazon.
He cancelled their plans and never went back to work.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Written in response to the prompt I’m offering for dVerse Meeting the Bar–Patterns. I’ve included patterns in the structure of the poem, using a short verse from one of Mary Oliver’s poems as the refrain. As a topic, I’m aiming to challenge over-reliance on the importance of patterns in our own lives.

And speaking of freedom and maybe a bit of the wild life, the Burners are invading Reno–that is, those who will be attending Burning Man, an event that celebrates art and culture. During this week, the Black Rock Desert, a Playa about 90 miles north of us, will become the third largest city in Nevada with upwards of 70,000 attendees. Check it out!

The Pub opens soon, 3:00 EDT. I hope you will join us with a poem based on this idea and look forward to reading your work.

Photo: NYT

Photo: NYT

Fragile Beauty

Fragile Beauty
A Tribute to Poet, Jane Kenyon

Photo: David Slotto

Photo: David Slotto

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near and drawing close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.

Jane Kenyon
“Peonies at Dark”

As night approaches
we sit in silence
sipping beauty in our garden.
Sparrows feed greedily
as hummingbirds circle our heads
before approaching the nectar, descending
to drink deeply in the waning light.
The heavy mood forgotten
we look to new beginnings
in the darkening June evening.

You turn to me.
I sigh and take your hand
and in the taking release fear.
You are there, and in the night
you remain my light.
The answer to my questions, no one knows.
So now we trust in new beginnings.
You lead me to a fading flower,
lift up its fragrance to my nose.
I draw a blossom near and drawing close

inhale its dying beauty
breath deeply of its tenuous life.
What lies ahead will surely hold our deaths,
another reminder of fragility,
nature’s stunning beauty.
Throughout our lives we live as learner,
probe the center of a flower as though
it holds truth’s secrets, and it does.
I pull the blossom close now and in the shadow of our birch
search it as a woman searches

to know the love she shares,
the lives she touches day-by-day.
I think of Jane, a poet who observed
the details of each moment, giving birth in words
as though a child to live its own life.
Too short her own, and harsh her earthly race
to happiness. Preoccupied with death, like her,
I turn to whom I love and cherish all I know
of gentleness, of care. And in the space
(I find) a loved one’s face.


It’s hard to believe that it’s been 3 years since Brian and Claudia opened the doors to dVerse Poets Pub and invited me to join them as a team member. These have been poetry-drenched years–an invitation to write more poems than I ever thought I was capable of, an invitation to drink deeply of the inspiring work of poets from all over the world and an opportunity to learn so much about the art and craft of poetry through the thoughtful work of my fellow team members and the reading/self-education that hosting compelled me to pursue.

Yesterday,  we were invited to write an ode to a poet.  For this second post, I’ve cheated a bit, following neither the proscribed form for an “ode” and by choosing a poem I posted a while back, based on the work of Jane Kenyon–an American poetess who died too young and who has mirrored for me the power of close observation–observation of nature and of everyday life.

Jane Kenyon, 1947-1995, grew up and lived her early life in Michigan, moving later to New England. Her poetry is simple and emotionally evocative. In the reading, one discovers a story of her too brief life, told in exquisite detail. Kenyon battled depression off and on, lived for her family, and died of leukemia. The theme of death weaves through her work. She was also a proficient translator of Russian poetess, Anna Akhmatova.

In this poem, I’m not always sure where Jane begins and I end. It goes without saying that, along with Mary Oliver and Stanley Kunitz, Kenyon has been a huge influence in my own writing and my own living.

We hope you will join us at dVerse Poets’ Pub for the week-long celebration of our anniversary. It will be a “Ball”

Nurture–dVerse Poetics

The ants rush toward sweetness. I take away the melon, but first I spill a little melon juice on the counter.
Mary Oliver
Sand Dabs, Eight


A drop of Buddhist grace seeps in my core.
I hesitate then spray to check those ants
but guilt ensues, weighs heavily in my soul,
Yet, should spider dare invade, I squash.

Last week I wept—a neighbor’s trees chopped down.
I wept for feathers scattered in our yard,
for eggs unhatched, abandoned in their nest,
for grazing cows and sheep, doomed to be slain.

And do we know for sure grain feels no pain?
That brainless lobsters know no suffering
when dropped in boiling pots for our delight?
Does life exist to feed on other lives?

But soon enough I, too, shall go away—
my life snuffed out much like a candle’s flame.
And so the cycle’s endless rhythm flows,
as well it must make room for seedling’s growth.

Photo: Teri Herzog

Photo: Teri Herzog

A second offering for Mary’s prompt at dVerse Poetics–to write poetry inspired by a quotation.