Life With Horace

poetry & essays


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the onion revealed

with all its skin removed
and moonstone lotus arms pulled back
the onion has no center
only tear provoking sharpness
seeping from its pores
but you and I have hearts
that feed our souls and break sometimes
laid bare in throes of love
or simply listening to the echoes
of a whispered thought
a memory of longing sweeping back
to fan regret at loss
we wear our years like onion skin
the proof of who we were opaque
of how we danced or soared
looked at the world from eyes that saw
time infinite us invincible
too quick to jump into the flow
of forces greater than our will
to hold them back
where war or danger
grabbed us by the throat and shook
tossing what was left aside
or living tamer slower lives
bumps and buffets taken as they came
no matter what our start
we all arrive at later’s trailhead
wondering where our eagerness and joy have fled
energies no longer at our ready beck
resignation sometimes held at bay
and yet our beating core
holds all of it on layaway
to draw on if we can
so when I lie with moonlight
shadows raked across my skin
and you reach out with forge hot hands
time falls away leaving elemental us
certain only of this moment
and its gift


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scattershot season

like random bursts of color
or drought licked leaves
my transformation waltzes slowly
through the thickets of impatience
skirting good intentions
wanting every item on my
inner laundry list of psychic tweaks
checked off in double time
to quit the job of Tantalus’ understudy
reaching for the ease I see in others
never tongue tied in the light
of those whose minds and gifts
can freeze me in my tracks
as adolescent echoes chase me down
my blurted words so many zombie zits,
I crave deliverance from this dread
to stamp distortion into weightlessness
and see it float away, swept on by
migrant wings that set me flying too


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the empty hour

driving south with dogs and moon
my sole companions
through a world now shuttered, faceless
not quite dead, a piece of time
between the dregs of night wound down
and any thought of lighted day
no nameless lurkers crowding thoughts
as unaccustomed full face brightness
pushes back those waves of menace
rushing from the black hole dark
until their clinging dread recedes
then trickles off the shouldered road and trees
fades dark blank glass and shadowed cars
to question marks, a thousand lives imagined
in the moments we pass by
my honor guard lies nose to tail
the comfort of their smell and noisy dreams
has wrapped my shoulders well against the chill
and we move on

_____________________________
we all know this time of night, and driving through it in the light of a full moon changes everything.


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conversation with a horse

it starts again where it left off
no steady stream of cogent thought
but snips of words implied
and whuffing breath upon my hair
a toss of eyes, soft nosing in my hand
fingered lips come for their gift
and stay to glean the remnant juice
I stand between them
under arching heads and necks
unafraid and shivering with joy
our steps retrace
an imprint starmap dance
away from stepping heavy hoof
and back, to look up
into eyes that hold infinity

_________________________
for Pamela Moshimer Rickenbach, Mithra and Brian, and the horses of Blue Star Equitation.


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things I didn’t know I loved

I didn’t know I loved the deep
soil spirit under reedy marshes
connected to it through my bones
by a vision of roiling changing life

I didn’t know I loved to sing
that songs we sang would make me cry
joy in a quick moment on the backs of notes
voices together light to dark

I didn’t know that I loved dogs, people, places,
color memories, until they were gone
layered goodbyes dimming
sunlight to dusty motes on gray air

I didn’t know that I loved touch
I thought it dormant, dried but not forgotten
only to find a fire so ready lit my blood sang
even as I would cry aloud

I didn’t know that I loved words
that they would fill me
pull me with them words from my eyes
words from my simmering core

I didn’t know that I loved life
sweet along with sharp and hard
rushing in over tidal flats escaping just as fast
that I could cherish it not just live it

_____________________________
this list poem is from a marvelous poetry workshop taught yesterday by the poet Doug Anderson. we read “things I didn’t know I loved” by the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet. the exercise was to write our own list poem by the same title.