“I read poetry to save time.” — Marilyn Monroe
Mom and Marilyn
My mother and the Argentines loved Marilyn,
the kitten smile, the take-me glamour.
In Buenos Aires they stand in line for hours
to get to touch the shimmering green gown
beaded with six thousand rhinestones
that Marilyn wore the night she sang
her breathy happy
birthday to Kennedy.
Mom treasured a recipe from ’54 —
a pineapple upside down cake —
because on the reverse of the yellowed clip
Joe DiMaggio bestows a wedding kiss
on Marilyn’s inspiring lips
and on her hand, an eternity band
of 35 diamonds.
Mom Sets Foot In Another Country
Here and here, she’s not allowed,
although she can just see in,
as through the windows of a house
she once lived in, in another country
where she made coffee first thing in the morning
for sixty years, and now this thing called coffee
is bird tracks on the beach, the birds themselves
departing skyward, eroding sand.
Archaeologist, she figures
how the woman in yesterday’s kitchen
would stand, where she would put
the dirt-brown dust in the pot
and where the water. How
new the world is!
She tosses out the cups and saucers
after breakfast because they are used.
Mom at Sea
Mom sits on the couch where we put her,
small boat moored on a brocade ocean.
A cloud settles; each day it covers more of her face.
Mom Comes to Me in a Dream
face down on the carpet. It’s Mom,
complaining about being left in that state.
I start over to her. Yes,
it’s one of those dreams
where you need a thumb’s perspective
on interstellar space.
Michelangelo’s God gestures toward Adam:
There they are, on the ceiling,
fingers drawing further apart—
at arm’s length, so to speak,
though face to face.
Quite the gap to spark. Time
for Noah’s flood and his ark,
for the multitudes in twos, and the dove
bringing back the olive. Not godforsaken,
God help me. I sit her up. It’s morning.
Mom Comes to me From Past and Future
East on 580, south I-5 and 99, I drive
The Valley, past growers’ billboards
for nuts and fruit. Twenty years from now
I will see a pistachio
and think: My mother is dead.
Among rows of irrigated almonds
an old Ohlone pounding acorns on a rock
looks up across centuries
to where I pass on the Interstate.
How my arms upraised to pull back my hair
look like my mother’s. How I fold
one glove into the other so they are holding hands
and tuck the tidy package in the jacket pocket
as she would do. How when Scott says,
inoperable brain cancer this afternoon
it’s Mom I see announcing at the pool
that she’d an illness to trump her friends’
arthritis, hip replacements, and cardiac infarcts.
She said it the same way she’d tell you she
was first in her class in Walton Girls Latin.
Then she tripped on the beach chair
and glared at me as I helped her up.
It’s the illness, I tell myself, and the next day
at Henri’s buying tomatoes: When I want tomatoes,
I want tomatoes, grabbing the bag from me, packing
tomatoes to outlast her. Can’t you do anything?
They would have cried if they’d been animal.
Mom Sees a Lake
What does it look like
from there, Mom? You have
no god, no taste for fiction,
no mortar to brick immortal story.
We hang on to your words,
to any indication of soaring
above this bed.
Mom Asks, Doves Assent
After a while, there’s nothing to say.
Mourning doves have built a nest
in the locust at the end of the terrace
after a short courtship. You wait on your back
in the small bed of your marriage,
propped on pillows, for instructions.
How does one die? — bit by bit,
but it takes practice. Your whole life
you sharpened your pencils, did your lessons.
Good, say the doves,
good, good, good, good girl.
Second place in the Nimrod / Hardiman in 2004, published in Best New Poets 2005, also in Conjugated Visits, published by Dream Horse Press