Good Friday Ritual

Photo: Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, California by Frank Iley

Photo: Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, California
by Frank Iley

Remember back when we were kids?

Mom would load us into the back seat of her ‘53 Buick

and haul us off to Calvary Cemetery.


A stop at our favorite flower vendor,

the sweet scent of stock,

sickening, filled up the car.


We’d visit your mother

and the grave of an unknown soldier, a few rows down

for my father whose body was, who-knows-where.


At noon she’d hush us up

to observe the three hours

and hand us tuna fish sandwiches on Wonder bread

soggy by now ‘cause of too much mayo.


We’d eat in silence, giggling,

not knowing how to spend the time,

not knowing how to pray.


Today—no cemetery.

Today—no mushy sandwich.

Today—she won’t go.

“I’ll be there soon enough,” she says,

but you are there—alone.


I wrote this yesterday for Day 18 of National Poetry Month. The three hours refers to a traditional practice of spending noon to three PM in silent prayer, in observation of the time Christ was said to hang upon the cross.

Memories of a Friend

L’essential est invisible aux yeux.
     Antoine de St. Exupery, Le Petit Prince



I hear the clink-clink of his guide dog’s harness, the steady trusting pace of boots as he approaches, the scraping of the chair across linoleum, a plop and sigh as he takes a seat.

“I know you’re there,” he says. “I smell roses. It’s been a while.”

“Too long. Close to thirty years. Can you believe it?”

His gravely voice betrays the wear of time, as we lapse into memories and the raucous sound of laughter—all we have in common now.

“Remember your trip to Rome?” I ask. “The David?”

“Oh don’t go there. What could the others have thought? A blind priest enjoying sculpture by touch and first thing I do is stroke his…” We roar again.

“And how you “saw” us?”

“Oh, never the touchy thing, like some blind people do,” he says. “You were a beagle. And then there was grim bear!”

In the background I hear the fall of water in the courtyard pond, the caw of crows and the twitter of a finch and think of grim bear.

“Do you regret your decision?”

“Sometimes,” I admit. “When I have worries about money or who will take care of me when I am old. I miss the built-in time for quiet and for prayer,” I say. “But no. It was for the best. You helped, you know. You saw so clearly what I couldn’t see alone.”

And then he asks, “Have you forgiven?”

Today at dVerse Meeting the Bar Brian Miller asks us to consider blind writing–that is, using any sense to create a scene, a poem EXCEPT for vision. I started to write this as a poem but it just didn’t work, so I hope I will be excused for a bit of creative non-fiction prose. This is an imagined encounter with a blind priest friend who helped guide me through a life-changing decision. The quote from The Little Prince is (as I remember it) “What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

Keeper of Memories–Writer’s Wednesday at the Bardo Group



In musty basement dark
of that old house upon the hill
an old man finds a tattered leather case
(dimpled faux-finish, I now see)
caresses it as though it were his lover,
while I stand by and watch.

Gnarled hands fumble
at a rusted clasp that keeps
the contents from intrusion.
In spite of trembling that I know so well,
unwanted company of his later years,
he eases the lid on its loosened hinges.

Pungent aromas escape to fan
familiar once-upon-a-time remembrances
of when I was a child.

Images flash forward,
rape my ears, my eyes
and cold smooth surfaces, my touch,
so that a melding of sensations
hurl me back in time
to when I sat in expectation,
and listened to the quiet.

He brings the contents now to view.
No longer does she gleam,
yet there beneath patina tinged with tarnish
I smell music.

Clutching her now against his concave chest
he shuffles rhythmically across the room,
remembering, no doubt those evenings
spent upon the porch in twilight murmurings.

Once settled in between the cushions
of a tattered, dusty chair
he raises up the precious object to his lips and blows.
Diminished breath invades her inner being.

But I am overcome by remnants,
not of sound, but scent
that lingers still within the archives of my soul
in saxophonic exclamation.

 This is an older poem, which I hope will lend its title to my next collection of poetry.

I’m linking this to The Bardo Group‘s Writer’s Wednesday which I’m hosting tonight with the prompt for sensory description. The prompt will be available tonight at 7:00 PM PST. 

Photo: 123rf

Photo: 123rf

Ruminations–dVerse Open Link Night



Citrus trees are coming into bloom
swathing us with fragrance—
visions of a California childhood,
of dreams once dreamt.

Visions of those seeds,
dormant now on desert sands,
longing to be borne anew
upon the breath of Santa Ana winds.

I wish I had smell-o-vision for the photo! I’m linking this to dVerse Open Link Night where poetry flows, begging to be read. Hope you will stop by. The doors open Tuesday, 1500 EST.

A Server of Memories

Photo Credit: V. Slotto

Photo Credit: V. Slotto

It tells its stories of decades past, stories infused with the scent of frying bacon and eggs basted in better— its fine-hewn blade that slipped with ease beneath the crispy whites. And just-brown pancakes awaiting the slather of melted butter and maple syrup (before we knew better). Stories of a family gathered ‘round blue flames of a 1950’s stove each Sunday. Planning for the unraveling of a new day and vying (without luck) to decipher the morning’s sermon delivered in a heavy Irish brogue. I found it yesterday, huddled between the tines of a fork, buried in the back of a deep, cluttered drawer at the old house. The handle, worn now, yet serviceable, red, ridged texture cradled in the palm of my now-wrinkled hand, serving up remembrances of simple days, days before these hands touched pain, held loss. The crack along the back, like earths’ seismic proclamations of changing landscapes, changing lives. Its stainless steel paddle smooth as ice, pressed against my flaccid cheek, a recollection of Mama’s touch upon my fevered brow. And breakfast. Who would have thought it would take this long to find it? Who would have thought I would be the last?

Written for dVerse Open Link Night. Join us and drink deeply of poetry.

After the Rain

Photo Credit: J. Korbetis

Photo Credit: J. Korbetis

Diamonds settle on mounds
of Dianthus while
sparrows splash with joy
in sparkling puddles.

Fresh scents suffuse morning
light: lemon
honeysuckle, spice.
Verbena and persimmon.

Today, I touch the moment,
but think of yesterdays
when once we walked
in rain and sand beneath

a canopy of stars
we tried in vain to count.
The promises you made
did not endure forever.

And now, alone, I ponder
life transformed by dew,
taste the sweetness of
tomorrow and a memory.

A FICTIONAL poem linked to dVerse Open Link Night. Hope you will join us. The doors open at 3:00 PM EDT.

Free at Last? dVerse Open Link Night

Image: WikipediaChildren's March in Birmingham.

Image: Wikipedia
Children’s March in Birmingham.

Memories washed clean, hung out to dry,

assume the scents of urban loneliness or Carolina Jasmine.

That summer in the Bronx—the smell of hardwood wax,

humidity and sweat. Of poverty.

Boys cut loose, and girls, to play in fire hydrant bliss.

Mid-60’s turmoil, caged animals at the Zoo.

The smell of fear then siren blasts impinging on

monastic silence. Raucous demonstrations,

steaming asphalt immolating sacrificial offerings.

The smell of blood poured out, torn children’s flesh,

In spring, gunpowder from an assassin’s deadly fire

cut short that dream and yet it still unfolds,

aromatic memories washed clean, hung out to dry,

our dirty laundry—reminding us.


Linked to dVerse Open Link Night. Stop by and bring a poem, or just browse. We’re open on Tuesday, 3PM EST!

Process Note: During the Children’s March for Civil Rights in Birmingham, Alabama, racial hatred hit a climax when the mayor ordered the police to set loose police dogs and the fire department to spray the children with fire hoses, full blast. Images captured by the media heightened the country, including President Kennedy, to the horrors of segregation. (In contrast, in the Bronx heat, poor children released fire hydrants and played in the spray. I was there at the time.)

Be Free–dVerse Meeting the Bar: Craft and Critique

I miss the you
you used to be
before your mind
took flight from me,

before dementia
had its way,
painting your world
in bleakest gray.

Where is the fragrance
that you wore,
or stories of
the world war

that took your loved one
from your side
leaving you widowed
alone, with child?

You still speak of
the love you found
a few years later
the second time round.

“The heart has room.”
you used to say,
“for second loves
and better days.”

Where is the joy
you brought to each—
your family and friends,
all those within reach

who found in you
both wisdom and grace?
You opened your heart,
with a smile on your face.

Do you remember
the parties you threw,
the mess the day after,
the hangovers, too?

The strength you found
when you joined AA?
Gratitude flooded
your life from that day.

I miss the you
you used to be.
I want you back,
I want you free.

I spent much of my nursing career working with patients who had dementia. This poem, written in the 2nd person,  is a response to the prompt over at dVerse.

Caring for a parentThis is very much a first draft and I welcome your critique.

I hope you’ll join us at the Poetry Pub where, today, I’m honored to be tending the bar.

Photo Source:  Photographer not specified.

Impossible Dreams

Venus reflected in the Pacific Ocean

Image via Wikipedia

Impossible Dreams

The week before, outside the window
of our rented cabin
Venus shone in late summer brilliance.

You slept across the room,
your breath sucking in dreams
of  future love.

Awake, I listened to waves
defining edges of our world,
a world drenched in hope.

Beneath the soggy surface of sand,
crabs scuttled
doing that which sand crabs do.

Remember how we used to watch
for bubbles on wave-
kissed shores?

There we’d dig to catch them
then free them back
to their inane existence.

But that was years before
when we were kids. This, however,
was the week before

I turned away from child’s
play to grasp the choice that I had made,
a certain choice (so I believed).

Tonight, outside my window
on this sleepless winter night
Venus still shines in desert skies.

I’m happy to submit this to dVerse Poets’ Pub, Open Link Night, hosted by the incomparable Brian Miller. I’m  glad to return to my blogging buddies, if in a somewhat limited capacity. I anticipate only doing 2-3 posts a week for a while and hope to be able continue commenting, if in a somewhat short, pithy manner.

Process note: this poem is inspired by the week I spent with my family on vacation at Newport Beach just prior to leaving home to pursue my dreams at the tender age of 17. It needs to be edited, so your constructive critique is most welcome. Thank you.

As You Lie Dying

As You Lie Dying

Photo: Google Images

As you lie dying,
the shadow of a palm
outside your window
peeps in, enters,
slips across the comforter,
nestles in its folds,
covers your pain.

In the distance
a couple bats tennis balls
back and forth across the net.
No strain.
An easy volley,
back and forth again,
like our ideas,
ricocheting back and forth.
Yours, then mine.
Divergent memories.

One fact we both hold true.
The night earth shook Tehachapi,
our lives were rent.
And nothing evermore
would be the same.

Outside your window now
a murder of crows descends to feed.

This poem is written for Open Link Night at dVerse Poets’ Pub. Tomorrow at Write2Day my prompt will deal with memories. When my sister was dying, we learned how different our recollections of the same events were. Our previously widowed parents married one another when we were both seven. (Her dad, my mom.) The night of their wedding I spent my first night away from the home that we had shared with my grandparents. That night there was a significant earthquake. You can figure out the rest. 

Stop by the Pub and enjoy the poetry, the poets and who knows what else!