At 49, this is the produce I resemble most—juicy heart and mind, blood red intentions, a tempered shell that keeps out naysayers, but lets in light, fingers plucking sweet kernels from ancient, bitter casings.
I renounce the lie of inadequacy in others and myself, knowing we are all divine, like the sacred fruit, whose calyx evokes the Star of David, whose interior patterns were woven into high priests’ robes, and carved into temple pillars.
I take what I like from the old laws and leave what no longer serves me, refusing to retreat, run or hide, allowing the seeds of my soul to burst and splash.
My nectar is an aphrodisiac, an antiseptic, a dye.
“Pomegranate” appeared in the 2010 issue of Two Review, Cold Press, Anchorage, Alaska.
A Letter to My Daughter
When the world tries to pry your fingers from the slippery rim of your own instinct remember you are here to teach as well as learn. Do not be timid. Grow tall as redwoods, fierce as a shark, and carry a wide ocean heart. Howl when you must. Peel onions and cry, examine thoughts that rattle your skull. Dust underneath your bed. If you have to be sick, make sure the toilets are not clogged, nor the sink overflowing. Remember your ancestors, hold their stories in your hands like stones, sink into your gut and let it quiver, like your granddad’s fingers as he lights his pipe. Suck an orange, roll out a pie crust of clear intentions, trim your bangs, hunker down, tell a lie, bare your fangs, bite down hard on the fleshy arm that holds its hand over your mouth—but do not be surprised to find it is your own. Bleed and swell, welcome coins and consciousness. Fly south with the geese, take your place at the front of the formation; make it easier for those behind you. Dust your hiking boots, hit the trail, fret not over wind erasing your footprints. Even as you stumble, cough and curse, know you are headed in the right direction—right and wrong are pancakes easily flipped. Bake an angel. Blow out candles, become a year wiser. Feast! Invite guests or dine alone. Sweep for the untidy, wail for the orphans, beat pillows, curl your eyelashes and cry your mascara onto canvas. Life is an abstract impressionist painting: one moment a waterfall, and the next, a bolt of lightening cracking open your sky.
“Letter to My Daughter” appeared in Lilith, Vol.37, no.4, Winter 2012-13, Lilith Publications, NYC
My grandmother inches her way
to the edge of the sofa to stand.
She leans forward, chest against knees,
freckled hands by her thighs,
and pushes herself onto wobbling feet,
her torso curved, a question mark.
She straightens slowly
and looks at me,
knows I've been watching,
holding my breath,
hoping she wouldn't knock
her balding head
against the edge
of the glass table.
She steadies herself
in her walking shoes.
Years ago she smiled
when I said, "I like that you never
wear grandma shoes."
She still doesn't.
Not the kind little old ladies wear:
pin holes and open toes.
But she doesn't wear
patent leather heels anymore,
and she's cut her hair
and stopped dying it brown.
Polyester stretch pants
have replaced silk skirts
and nylons with straight seams.
She's no longer a piano
student at Juilliard
or choral director,
or the keen-eared matriarch
who, driving, heard every word
whispered in the back seat
of her newest Cadillac,
her leather-gloved hands,
no longer on the wheel—
nor is she bargaining,
like she used to,
with merchants in Mexico
over blankets, guitar strings, and jewelry.
She isn't eating gelato in Italy anymore,
or reading my future in a deck of cards.
She's no longer dragging me
to every Cathedral, museum
and city bus tour in Europe—
or reminding me not to slouch,
or suggesting I study medicine,
or kissing my cheek
and declaring me scrumptious!
I take her by the elbow.
We shuffle toward the bedroom.
"I don't think of you as old," I say.
and for a moment
we are both young again.
“Bedtime” appeared in Grandmother’s Necklace, Epic Press, Belleville, Ontario, Canada
The Words of a White-Bearded Man
(Found poem taken from a BBC interview on www.islameyat.com)
When a husband beats his wife
he must follow
The husband must not break
his wife’s bones or teeth,
or poke her in the eye.
He may not curse her—
nor raise his hand high.
He must beat her
from chest level
and make no marks.
There must be no more
than 10 beatings.
Beating is permissible
when a wife refuses
to have relations
with her husband.
He should begin
beat her as a last resort,
his unrepentant wife.
Allah revered wives
and it was the prophet,
Muhammad, who said,
“Don’t beat her in the face
and make her ugly.”
These rules honor the woman.
A Disaster You Were Not Part Of
It was autumn, too cold to swim.
Your father and I were like waves,
full of arch and curl.
We’d been out with friends,
including Dave, a medical student.
It was the trip home, the trip south
that makes me want to stop speaking.
We passed a car crash on the side of the road,
pulled over, stopped, approached—
and I heard breath like I’d never heard it before.
It was labored, a breath walking straight into death.
A slab of windshield stuck out a young man’s neck
as if his head were being served on a platter.
Help us Dave, I thought, but our friend,
Whispered and stared,
Their bodies should not be moved.
There were two of them,
a man and woman, like your father and me,
the forest fragrant with eucalyptus and pine.
I’ll never forget their faces,
that blank expression
in the dead woman’s unsuspecting eyes,
gazing straight ahead,
as if it were just another day.
I need the ears of angels,
the limbs of a willow,
and the fingers of a pianist
to unlace my husband’s heavy boots.
When I try, he steps on the hand
I gave him thirty years ago.
Marriage blasts us
when I forget to listen,
Sadness rolls down his marble face.
Love makes it bearable—
love and knowledge
that a bit of salt
seasons every heart.
Attractive salary and benefits offered to an applicant who dares dream even when unrealized aspirations lay piled like bones. Experience with monkey wrenches and a wide-angle lens preferred, but not essential. Preference will be given to a woman whose mind works like a Venus flytrap, or other flesh-eating plant, but whose heart is a nest of moss and fern. No crowns of thorns, please. We are seeking a soul who refuses to crawl through her days. Apply only if you are willing to soil a few white sheets, sing in ten languages, light fuses, and live beyond the edge of sight.
Note: The phrase “beyond the edge of sight” comes from Mark Strand.
Returning Home from A Residency at Scripps College On My Fifty-first Birthday
Today I am the Morning Glory
with its thick roots, preference for sunlight—
a climber transporting psychedelic seeds.
I am also the peacock with its fanned tail,
though I do not care whether I am seen—
just that I remain open.
We are all wide-winged creatures
with ten thousand eyes
and magnifying glasses
embedded in our hearts.
Kindness erupts like volcanoes,
love oozes, and bare-footed seekers
walk hot coals, stomp old stories—
shed them like snakes crawling out of skins.
How could I not have known
light is everywhere in the tunnel
when you carry it.
Today I am rose petals and resurrection,
sweet peas, violets, and vacations.
I dream of my ancestors,
dwell among spirits and awaken—
the words thank you echoing in my ears