The Frost

after Miguel Hernández, 1910-1942

Already less in January sun
than when I woke late,
crystal work on every blade of grass,
yet here is Hernandez,
his head at least, dead twenty times over.
And I see other poets—
Nietzsche, Neruda, Mandelstam—
abused branch-shapes traced
by shadow. Time to begin
the slow work of birthing again,
from the pain of labor,
tokens of peace.

Warm thoughts, rice soup,
all the little white flags
any mother knits, ripping out,
as she goes, her mistakes.
Little loopholes of melt,
a pair of long arms.
Hernandez might I feel my way
into your green body?
At ease, soldier,
be remembered, be embroidered.
At ease, soldier, it’s winter.
No flies suck the bullet wounds
of your eyes.

All We Took

The rains begin to beat against the glass.
Summer flowers replaced by umber leaves.
All we took for granted in our ease.

A cycle, a circle—how else learn loss?
Plump cheeks, tanned legs, soft skin are but a sieve.
The rains begin to beat against the glass.

As metaphor the same four seasons pass.
Each childhood’s novel—what is there to grieve?
All we take for granted in our ease.

Monsoons come to loose the rose, its green caress.
Branches held hostage, harsh winds moan through sleeves.
The rains begin to beat against the glass.

I feel my body turn back into moss.
A spell of blues deletes my will to live—
and all I took for granted in my ease.

It’s cold in the bedroom where I undress,
more difficult than ever to believe.
The rains begin to beat against the glass.
All’s taken for granted when at ease.

The Significance of Olga Penney

She lived up the street, on Northway, where,
before I left for college or, as Mother would say:
she flew the coop,
I learned that Leona, a robust woman
seen only on rare occasions, walking uphill—
Leona, Olga’s mother, was a holocaust survivor.

My mother fit this statement into in betweens,
those times she was not at work
or hauling bags of groceries into our house
to cook dinner after work.

A mystery, that Olga, the only child
of a mother whose parents went to the gas chamber
when they thought
they were going to take a shower.
In my child mind, I pictured not bodies
piled in a mass grave, rather,
I wondered about Olga’s grandparents.

I had my Bobbie and Zaydee, my Bubba.
Did Olga not have anyone to give her peppermints
and chocolates? To spit on her head,
as the infantile Bubba did, when we children
entered her foyer in Montreal, full of dread
over those three quick spits
to keep us from the evil eye.

I remember we pleaded with our parents
not to take us there, into the house
that was half a house, in the French provinces,
where my childless aunt wrote stories
for children and treated us like royalty.

In fact there was a red carpet,
it wound all the way up to Bubba’s bedroom
full of netted hats. But I digress.

Of Olga it could be said she seemed ghost-like
in her purgatory as the daughter
of a holocaust survivor, and the fact
that there were no relatives left, not a single aunt,
no cousins, no uncles, simply de nada,
never bothered me. We went north to my Mother’s
birthplace, Montreal, where my cousins
teased me about having a southern accent.
Then we flew back south to suffer mosquitoes and water roaches
below the Mason Dixon line.

I noticed my Quebec cousins said ay?
after almost every sentence, and also garaaage.
If Olga had nothing in the way of family,
if I never tried to become her friend
or ask her those questions
my parents held as secrets, it didn’t bother me.
I grew a body with breasts and narrow waist,
kept the diphthongs, and only became depressed
after my Prince George’s County Maryland drama teacher
raped me in tenth grade.

To tell the truth I didn’t much remember
much about that either.
It’s called amnesia, I learned later,
and protects a girl from shock. Perhaps shock
is a valuable evolutionary tool. It kept my mother
from saying too much—
kept her generally from saying anything
at all except those sayings:
There’s no use crying over spilt milk,
If wishes were horses,

There are none so blind as those who will not see,
and other Pollyannaisms I memorized
without understanding
that she, my mother, in her strong and placid body,
held the seeds of shock as well,
her refusing to enter the museum at Auschwitz proof.
While the others went to see memorabilia about the Holocaust
she simply sat outside and knit.


Detailed here, beaded
upon a wave
like a necklace
of pearls, that strand I wore
for occasions long gone,
I like to think time is a string
of moments. But the ocean
wears everything down.
Stiff-winged shorebirds,
stay close to the surf.
Veer away from nightmares—
they beak and break me
in half, bent like grass.
Wade through the body
of memory, its small treasure.
Pull my depression
from its root in the sea.