Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Memorial Day

 Hello dear readers,

This poem is for my good friends Howard and Eugenia. It is online at the new MacQueen's Quinterly now:

Memorial Day

The week before Eugenia died, she cooked Swedish meatballs and made dirty martinis for Ray and me and her lover Howard, younger by two years, 93 to her 95. And two months before she died, Eugenia made a video saying—

Let me compost the roses
when I die.

A year later, and two weeks before Howard joined her, Ray and I visited him in late May with my cousin and her friend from Washington State and we made BLTs with the bacon Howard had bought for his week of lunches—generous Howard didn’t mind, he knew I would replace it—and on the ride home the friend said—

I would have flirted with him
if he was 20 years younger.

One month after Howard died, his daughter sent an envelope stuffed with ashes not for rose mulching, but for scattering off the ferry on the holiday trip we always made—Howard, Eugenia, Ray, and me—to see the Christmas lights on the Embarcadero and have a drink at the St. Francis and watch the ice-skaters, every year saying—

We could do that if we wanted to.

And when Eugenia started moving just a little bit slower, we gave up the long trek to Union Square, having our drink at the Ferry Building Hog Island counter instead, then crossing the street to watch the skaters glide and stumble, laughing at the children in their bulky mittens—

Yes, we could certainly do that.

Today, we hang off the back of the boat moving between Marin and San Francisco, me with my camera and one eye out for the boat authorities and Ray popping the top off the coffee cup crammed with ashes of Howard and rose petals from Eugenia’s garden.

When it’s my turn, I want to be like Eugenia, like Howard, no mantelpiece urn, no columbarium

but scattered with roses whirling and dancing off the back end of a boat with friends and wine into the bay’s churning depths

into the mystery.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Somewhere and Sunflowers

 I could say Somewhere there be sunflowers. I could be cute, but not today. Today I just offer these two that were published online in Antonym in April.


On the radio a story about the fresh air policy
in German schools
windows opened every twenty minutes
and left open
for five

to let air circulate
among the spirited children
who can’t be trusted
to keep their masks on

Later, I read about the British
tb epidemic in the 1940’s
the sanatoriums in the mountains
where the sickest patients
slept on verandahs hoping the fresh air
would scour their ravaged lungs

while waiting for a cure
an inoculation
a pick and axe to mine the troubles
out of the internal cave
of their wasted body cavity

Tonight the president sings —

Covid Covid Covid Covid

to barefaced followers
How many hold the scourge
in their most delicate tissues,
mouth, tongue, mucous membranes
eyes, disguising hostility
as truth

While we hustle from car
to home, groceries clutched tight
masks on snug
We give up on not touching anything
except each other
We scrub scrub scrub the germs away
fearing the cold that drives us inside
not so strong as British tb patients
not so trusting as German schoolchildren
Soon, we tell ourselves, things will get better
Somewhere, we tell ourselves,
there is science
there is hope.


Sunflowers, Rain and the Plague

On the hutch
in front of my window
sunflowers slow dance
gaze through newly rain-washed
panes, moving together
in the artful confines
of their hand-blown
glass vase

their yearning yellow heads
tracking the sun
the world outside
lurch like a drunken
blue rain asymmetric
as a heart
skipping a beat

In our flattened world
we eat three day old tuna salad
wash four day old
dishes so we can
do it all again

Once Plague was something
from history books
when hygiene was careless
for both the living
and the dead

Now we struggle
to remember
the day of the week
and to change the sheets
take out the trash
comb our tangles
as if the world were easing
into spring

like any other year.