This is the story of my lapse from poems for National Poetry Writing Month. One morning before even getting out of bed, I composed one or two poems (say, a poem with two parts). But when I went to post it later that day, I couldn't find it. Couldn't find it the next either, though I turned the house inside out. I despaired and gave up. Then this morning, my husband found the poem, which had slipped down behind the bedstand. I see it's not great, maybe should have stayed put under the bed, but it's got me back on the NaPoWrMo wagon. I figure this is like a diet. You can't just give up because you fell off the wagon. So here I go. This one is the kind of poem we were told once never to write, an ars poetica. A poem about writing poems. Sort of.

Ars Poetica after Adrienne Rich 

And this, beloved poets
is where our hearts, livers, and lights still
dwell unbeknownst and vital

Some ponder colors for a new wall
and the lemon oil gleam of their pecan table.
For us, it’s enough most mornings to have walls
of whatever color was left and if no table,
the counter or that cheap desktop she wrote of.

Our brother paints his walls
Mission White. He has always
been on a mission to cover up.
Our sister’s mission is distance.
Ours, to praise and bitch.

There’s, of course, poetry:
awful bridge rising over naked air

Or worse, over water, like the interminable bridge
of  the New York Throughway I will myself
to get on, get along, get over,
no drugs like an aunt takes to manage
the short span in New Hampshire. 

I practice the no pink elephants trick,
in this case, the no Oakland Bay Bridge
collapse of tangled trusses, no massive
crunches of cars. I replace them
with all those driving lyrics of the sixties

and seventies when I worked in a record store
and did not drive: move on down, move on down,
and even the Beatles version of “Roll Over Beethoven.”
Poetry like that. Gliding over the Hudson, splashing
down to tread frigid water

in a lifejacket of lines,
alone or with passengers,
one warbling, “Nearer My God To Thee,”
five Deadheads doing, “Day Tripper.”


All my poet friends and I are looking for pizazZ
By working out at the pome machine each daY
Counting, listing, and composing, mumbling, “Lummox,
Dunderhead, my pome machine is so broke, woW!
Every idea I ever had seems, LuV,
Fled from my brain, off in the bayoU, in a mumU
Getting on the bus without me, abrupT,
Hightailing away, the sonnets, haikus and glosaS.
I need though, thirty days of this, altogether,
Jump-starting my way from the ghazals of IraQ,
Keeping at it through haiku, free verse, wishing for an apP
Like those that exist for other tasks, arriving at last tO


Walking in my old neighborhood,
just beyond my distance vision,
I sort of see a school bus stop,
two children clamber down,
probably grip that silver hand rail
to take the last
high step, as I had to
to make it down and off
at this age, about seven. 

They separate,
and now I see one is a boy,
and one is a girl.
The boy runs to the mother
who walks out from behind
the brick garage. 

Two doors down, a smaller girl
opens the screen door and calls
to her sister, a bulging backpack
across her shoulders,
a handful of papers in her right hand,
in her left, a plate
with a cupcake she balances
as she trudges up the hill,
smiling—trudging and smiling,
smiling and trudging
as the younger stands at the top
calling for her, smiling, waiting. 

Surprised by joy—
my own and theirs and ours—
but then, not ours,
my eyes blurred as I turned home
where you do not wait,
nor as far as I can see,
any where.

6 A.M. APRIL 6th

Paul calls me to the
dark west sky where the moon, streaked
with darker branches

shines on Sippo Lake.
reflects life now and here, not
moony, nor eclipsed.


Not that I hate you overmuch.
It’s less of hate than love defied.
Howe’er our hands will no more touch.
We’ll go our ways, the world is wide.
                                    --Paul Laurence Dunbar, “After the Quarrel”

You sent a final answer from hospice.
We thought the wording strange, not quite your own:
the you who knew us, knew us. (Did I miss
your point again: kiss off?) That long lodestone,
your absence, tugged. We’ve lugged it thirty years.
Your confusion stunned us, not your tone.
We blamed your brain tumor—it’s just a hunch.
So philosophic, calm, you claimed no fear,
remarked aside how you were out of touch.
Not that I hate you overmuch.

She had met me in March cold, New York,
snapped some pics, felt gorgeous in the light,
and thought to send them, joked of growing old.
Our fourth was off in California, never
with us, busy with her work as ever,
though not forgetting, either, not denied
that bond from five long months, together
by accident and yet, how strong the hold.
My feelings for you best might be described
As less of hate than love defied.

We have been pondering on those days for months,
asked others what it meant, that tale we spread
like icing, our sweet tale of four, our stunts
through Spain—grifos, Goya, burros you fed
pizza, our eight hands on new guitars.
There were Three Musketeers. But four? Nonesuch.
So weird. We wonder even now what led
 us to be friends. Our disavowal of cars?
Our love of language, food, songs, going Dutch?
Howe’er our hands will no more touch.

We found your death online as one now does,            
recalled you left us once before for good:
bid her farewell and my last letter was
unread I heard, and yet I understood,
not why but what the silence meant, and knew 
we’d go our ways. The world is wide.
“I don’t feel sad but feel a void I should
by rights not feel,” my friend sums up.  Me too.
We went our ways, and now besides,
we’ll go our ways, the world is wide.

I have struggled for a few years now to write a glosa, a Spanish form, in its most formal it uses another poet's four lines(at the head), each one becoming the final line of the four 10-line stanzas that follow.

Fragment of a conversation with Adrienne Rich, Wednesday, 28 April 1976

from my diary: 
A party in Oberlin.  A male professor cornered Rich, asking questions about translating and translators. Rich politely said, “I really can’t talk about translating any more,” slipped out past him, walked across the room and wedged herself between me (a high school teacher in town) and an Oberlin senior, and asked us about our sibling relationships.

Me:               You mentioned a sister as a recurring subconscious theme. Is your sister younger?*
Rich:              Well, a bit. I’m nearly 47 years old and she’s 46, so
                       there’s really no difference.

Me:                 Yes, but wasn’t there at one time?

Rich:              Oh yes. And it took us quite while to work that out. She was always the pretty one and I was the smart one and we had to learn that we could be whatever we wanted. I think the oldest has it hardest—don’t you?
Me (laughing): Well, yes, but I always that that was my opinion. My
                        brother and sisters tell me differently.

Rich:               Oh, you’re oldest too?

Me:                  Yes.

Rich:               And God, I’ve done it to my oldest son too.

*I had taken to Rich's two readings that day my copy of her  Poems Selected and New 1950-74, which is dedicated to her mother and to her sister Cynthia. During one reading, Rich had said that the poem "Incipience" was to her sister and that the poem "The MIrror in Which Two Are Seen As One"  was "about the blurring of relationships between women [including] sisters." 








30 Poems in 30 Days (well, 30 drafts) 

Day 1

With thanks to Kate Fox, who said, you have to get a poem out of this.
And a note to readers: A cento is a poem made up of lines from other poems; all of the lines in this poem are from the 96th line in a long poem, or the 96th poem in a long series, so for example one of these lines is from the 96th Psalm, one from the Pearl Poet, one from Dante. I have rearranged this, oh, a thousand times this morning, retranslated, still  working.


A reminiscence of departed love
had a sweet regretful power,
the splendor bright of that display:
a lute, a drum, a flower...
          And limitless are leaves,
          stiff or drooping in the fields,
          let the field be joyful,
          live for generations,
                 imitate the shade of my mother:
                 the golden eternity of blissful safety.
          Within us is a universe as well.
          After such great wonder
          other eyes will see spring,
                 what I have seen transcends.