london

 We arrive sleepy and bent -  
a crumpled wad of desire
for something new.
These wet hot streets -
a vistors reckoning -
grief.
But that is what you carried here
my dear -
packed neatly in your bags -
folded, creased, alert.

I tried to find the thing
that made London her own.
But, belonging to everyone
and spread so densely
through street upon alley upon court
with flesh,
she's a union of nations at once -
scurrying about in search.

The homeless prefer, it seems,
to sleep in broad daylight
beside a riot of words.
There are no shoes,
a tired beard,
an altar of water bottles
left at his feet.

I thought about quitting marriage
when I couldn't summon joy - 
as if London should ring that old bell
back into awakening.
But it was dinner time again - 
and every other door
an open mouth for feeding.
So we dine
so we sleep
so we rise once more

and when you say good-bye
i love you at last.

					

#67

what would you do, heart 
without a cell phone ringing 
or me texting and snapping and retrieving
one hundred and fifty times a day?

what would you say, heart 
without me having to answer
every forty emails, deleting forty more
and bothering so much with Siri?

what would happen to you, heart -
in all your soft glory -
if you could just beat and love
and beat some more?
intuiting the vastness of stars
before night even falls.
catching his breath
before she walks into the room.
embracing my child before he walks
    away.

i remember when.
there was a feeling.
so much to feel       really.
    so much
more.

 

#63

people are dying -
and also there is cancer
like a maniac      bully
breaking our hearts.
i wanted to feel something - 
one time for itself - 
without another something
to hold it up against 
or toward.
but what's so is the tragic beauty
of everything we love - 
        dissolving in front of us
as we become.

 

#60 for sarah

in the evenings, when even the bones are tired
and every bit of energy that could be conjured
has been - 
there is still a young rapper in his room -
discovering the magic of words -
and another boy, taking a vacation
from the wonders of the cosmos
and finance
to play a video game with a friend.
the noises are absolute.
my dog curls up like a pinto bean - 
his big ears on alert.
something inside me hungers.

so much of a day spent doing
remains undone
until the heart has had her chance to rumble.
the fingers their chance to skip
               across the black pavers - 
at last awake.

#59 for margaret ann

your dying is a lazy mountain waterfall
without an end.
i am looking under rocks -
in between the manzanita and madrone -
under moss and lichen -
hands deep in a hollowed oak
trying to find the empty.

but there is still too much.
an overwhelming overflowing of your aliveness - 
a certain surely still at home 
i am here
about it.
a lie. 
or not.

you left me a ruby rimmed with diamonds -
a crimson and aqua rug -
some china and a desk.
ee cummins,david sedaris,the best loved poems of jacki o.
a life of scripture, "everything that is yes"
love.

we pretended to bury you yesterday.
but you were there at lunch
running the show.
and now i am thinking about what is lovely
and there you are again
and me
and we.

the attic

we have always liked to organize things
differently.
you file beautiful 
next to exquisite and lush and tradition -
your systems become tasteful displays of abundance - 
while i like to purge
and name the spaciousness something pretty.
you bring the color 
while i remove the things that filter it.
you have big soft hands and a warm heart
and room to hold every little thing that is sacred
close.
my hands are dry from all the scrubbing
and i try my best 
not to hold on 
to things. 
still, i will leave your home every time
with my arms full
of certain special gifts
i could not have lived without. 
a poem clipped from an old magazine -
an ancient alligator suitcase - 
the rusted locks and tired lining
proof that you can stop time.
and i would.
stop time.

i wonder how many times i have taken  
the fake poinsettias down - 
tripping over my own feet
and the heavy curtains that line the closet -
the ladder leaning against the wall 
like an old friend
i have used twice a year
forever.

the string of christmas lights in a round hat box
that i will not test this year
breaks me.
but i do not cry. 
only some of them would have lighted. 
and i would have wrestled them around the tree
like i do every year,
finding out a little too late
that one string needs to be replaced,
again. 
you would point out the holes 
where the light is not enough.
where it is dark.

we will fill the tree with color again -
every year with your box of color - 
we will fill the tree to overflowing - 
all the sparkling glass balls and crystal boxes, 
the shiny bundles of red berries 
and intricate ornamentation - 
the precious hold-it-in-your-hand beauty -
the loveliness of things
made meaningful by your keeping.

this time you say go ahead and give the poinsettias away
and we act like it is no big deal.

someday when we have grown weary of the attic
i will ask you for the ladder.
this is how she taught me
i will say
to make beauty worth giving away
and memories worth keeping. 

i will have tiny clippings
of poems and articles cut -
things you saved
and stored
and finally delivered
as if it were no trouble at all
that you cared enough
to save it.

this year we'll get the tree early
and maybe spill red wine on the sofa
or not use coasters. 
we will have known better
and that will be what counts.
that because of you
we will have known better.

#50

We drive in traffic 
at night
to see papa - who
at almost 93 years old -
is the first to call you toots.
Irv's a good kid
says his grandson -
the other calls him homey.
A Haagan Daz enthusiast,
he drinks hot coffee 
from a red Solo keg cup
and holds his own 
against top ranked players
at daily Bridge.
We will dip a chip in guacamole
share a hunk of cheese
and build a future we worry losing. 
Time makes everything delicious and awful.
We love him like banana pancakes.
(Written by Larry Ben Jonas and Danielle Salk in car on whim. )

#47

i spoke to an old friend today
who belongs at the beach
but lives somewhere else.
and i wanted to erase time for him
and destroy space
so he would be here again
in a town that loves him.
"they have no idea who you are, do they?"
i asked, thinking how absurd
you can be famous in one town,
and a total stranger in another.
"No they don't," he said
and i wanted to cry for what they're missing.
we are these little worlds to each other
meaning so much
depending so much
on each other for our rotation.
i think when you remove one of us 
from the solar system -
all of the other planets wobble.
or, at the very least -
i mean to say -
i miss you.

#40

Forty is a magic number
like 7 and 11 and 13.
Forty is when you are closer to fifty
that you are to twenty
and you just cannot believe it.
It is also when mean people start to not matter
and your real friends show themselves
and your occupation is only part of who you are.
It matters who you love when you are forty -
because you realize you may be half way home
or on the back nine
or however you say
to old to screw around anymore.
It matters who loves you back now also -
more than it did before -
because who has time anymore
for half-assed love affairs
and broken promises
and the greatest insult of indifference?
Forty is great because you really start to care
about things that matter -
differently than you could
when you were thirty -
and you've lived enough life to simply reply
"because i said so"
when someone asks you why.

At 46, I'm thinking 'hells to the yeah'
just watch me put in some crest strips 
and hit Facebook -
i'll write a poem all about the life.

#39

i watched a child reach for a star
and i could understand how she thought 
she might make it hers.
i watched an elderly man 
                    shuffle
a little to the left
        to clear a path for youth
and i could understand
how that might sting.
i watched the crease under your eye 
          disappear
when you stopped smiling -
and i realized i might lose you.
there is nothing like time
to heal a wound
and to inflict one. 
i know you are mine
and that you'll be mine forever -
but there is a certain finality
to the crease under your eye
when you are not smiling -
and it makes me realize -
forever is not long enough. 

#38

sometimes people ask you a question
and then get mad at you
because they don't like the answer.
sometimes you give someone your trust
and they give you back
a knuckle sandwich.
sometimes you think every little thing
is a-okay in the world
and then you wake up.
sometimes it hurts to laugh
and feels good to cry
and you have to ask
am i little crazy?
someone who really loves you
will say "no."

#37

sometimes i think about what it was like
when i was three.
you were four and a half
my brother -
showing me the ropes.
when you taught me how to ride a bike
you put me on it 
and just let go  -
i was pointed down hill. 
i rode as fast as lightning
until i hit the curb
and flipped over the bars
into the bushes.
you hoorayed and clapped so hard 
i felt certain i was a hero
and didn't dare to cry.
so much of how i came to believe
the world was good and safe
was because you were always there -
pulling me in and out of danger -
keeping me steady on my tiny feet,
yelling pedal! pedal!
run dani!
fly!

#33

it seems like every night
i am chasing the minutes left
wondering what happened
and how it is i missed so much.
at one time they were so little
and every single day seemed to last forever - 
i was just so tired. 
now i am wide awake
and they are big
and 2 became 12
and 4 is 14
and i keeping asking them to stop.
stop growing.
stop leaving.
stop breaking my momma heart
at the very same time you fill it up.

i think it is awful that
if love its a verb,
it's easy to be too busy to love.
i'm signing up for do-overs.

#31

the rain is back
this time like a no nonsense bag lady
collecting hours 
and their passing.
i wanted to say something important today
but there was turkey and cranberry mold
funeral potatoes and green beans
crispy onion, corn  and cream -
plus cookies and cake and pie.
that shut me up
like a million lazy minutes
and all i could say was
thank you.
when we decide to age together
and i mean really age -
without all the trying - 
i hope you will remember that i am cute.

#29

last night i played hooky -
not on purpose -
but because how do you stop
or even think to stop
and write a poem
when you are living right
in the middle of one?
He is 92 and was married for 67 years.
What's left of her, besides memories
is tucked away in drawers -
clip-on earrings, vintage prescription lenses
empty bags
in side of empty bags.
socks.
he wants me to have some pieces of hers -
gives me gold and diamonds
precious metal and stone.
i want the tarnished chinese wiseman
in the costume jewelry drawer.
i will wear it
i say
until you move into my house -
old man.
we will grow young together now.