Grandma’s Patterns

691E99DB-B274-45C8-A026-A1DF395A4770Nights are getting cold. Glad I have my grandma’s blanket. My grandma has Alzheimer’s now and when I visited this summer I am ‘nice young man from California’. She doesn’t remember me or most people now. I wish I could tell her what she means to me. I wish this poem could do the trick. I don’t understand dementia. Like all my poems, this is a love poem.

Pulling Grandma’s quilt around me
I perch on a rock
this cold October morning

Must have been in my late 20s
when she crafted this
there’s a picture somewhere
of her and I
holding it up

I try to count all the different fabric and designs
and lose track at 44
44! That’s my age now
and still grandmas matter

Stripes and shades of blue
and red stars and greek torches
simple little squares from time to time
not to mention red lotus flowers in cosmic radiance

All held together by stitches
shaped like a river meandering through mountain valleys
like the one along which I live now

(little pine trees, like those in the grove, where we ran wicked
cousins of innocence and freedom)

The thing about grandmas is they’ll love you so much
they’ll give you more than you’re supposed to have
like pickles and popsicles and gum
(background spring flowers)

enough toast and soup for everyone
(navy blue, cups of gold)
and christmas stockings stocked with enough candy and peanuts
to last through Groundhog Day
(holly and diamonds)
though we did our level best to
get through it by midnight
(white skates and gloves)

enough pillows and beds
for all who ransacked her farm house
(red and white checkerboard)
boy, that must have been chaos!
(fireworks, blue on red, red on blue)

enough space to get hurt too
(bright red background)
Oh, how she must have been scared
when I fell through the window
and blood poured from my knee (dark red splotches)
collateral damage from fort-building with cousin Amy
(little bright circles)
or when I ran the little tractor
up cousin Diane’s legs
(Bright purple splotches, like bruises)

We’re ok grandma, really
You rest now

She took to the couch
falling asleep to romance novels
(hearts, pulsating)
resting on her chest
pale yellow lamp light
(snow flakes)

but time enough the next night
to play cards
on the slick brown dining room table
(small spiral gold)

Nowadays, Grandma doesn’t remember as much
about making these patterns
(flowers–blue, gold, red)
nor sometimes for whom she made them
(red lines on white, like fences around the fields,
keeping some things in and some things out)

But I do
and they keep me warm
on cold and dark October nights
and crisp, October mornings
(little red hearts on stems)


When That October Whale Arrives

90779C34-24BD-4A78-9CB6-7B58C984EFC4Consider: More things chirp than not—
a fact not lost on me when the grey whale comes.

On the 8th fret I loiter
looking downstream toward the common chords
where all the meandering noodles
end up in time,
that great pincer.

So why don’t I want to resolve
among the 1-4-5-1?
What works works.

Umbilical whoosh and porous I,
out of near storm fuse and fury
harvest all the inborn plenitude
while this stalking moon waxes reciting Heraclitus
as her bloody comrade.

Filled, I want to spill the fullness
into the sky and her heart
despite myself.

What basket could contain it all?

Sometimes a path is covered with leaves,
sometimes snow,
sometimes blues,
sometimes funk
while the fretboard meneuvers itself
into cool dark scales
the shape of fallen logs.

What they call love,
I call the wings of a tree
multiplied by autumn
divided by decay.

But will they forgive it all,
when every syllable is a conspiracy
against (towards?) the crimson leaves
and a fresh breath?

My memoir, should it bloom, is short:
a trickle, a broken twig,
a hoot-chirp or two,
a dark lake, a fabulous solo,
an evocation/evaporation.

I’m sorry, I meant: spark, undertow, wet ash, black coal, purple sun, compost.

The order of things used to be important
and plateaus serve a purpose.

Have you ever tried to run off a ditch
when the whale arrives?

By Invitation Only

9E7915B3-A2AA-49B3-BAC4-C378A008FBDFEverybody is here by invitation only.

In these parts she’s the host—
the great river, whose ears are never closed,
hears autumn knock gently
with crimson wings
on her front porch.

But I find myself on the back porch
and fall doesn’t even notice me.

Here at the party,
there are no mutters or stutters
though when I’ve filled myself
with all the wrong things
that’s all I can manage.

I’m no good at small talk, but
I can’t abide my own slinking—
so I’ll sit and listen,
I say, I plead
to somebody whose has ears
and eyes, but no face.

Now I’m in it for good, I promise.

This time, I’ll open everything,
I whisper to myself, braving the light
streaming through the door.

But because she hears everything
she just grins and carries on,
the life of the party.

I’m in it for good, I promise.

Widening One Wave At A Time

45D49B59-7F0C-40EB-8135-F226C8136E40On the edge of the west
the sea’s many voices
sibilate across the waves
and through the Sitka spruce

It’s wide sound no one can hear
without also widening hearts

The moon poured herself down
on us pouring ourselves together for the first time
among the sands and hands
discovering some us,
that until autumn’s first moon
had been only a you and a me

In celebration, we became a wild coyote singing back to the sea
then returned to our selves
a wave or two wider

Now Means Now

780F1ADB-641A-4574-AF04-B33F0F07D21BWith each shimmering golden wing
each leaf aloft on autumn wind

then dropped to ground in crimson flight
in the season’s sinking light

like confessions of an ancient tree
whispering longings to be free

each dragonfly, hovered, huddled
and river’s curled lip is uttered

silver across the stones at dusk
and fall climbs out its summer husk

with each merganser’s arrowed head
bobbing towards the western shore

a ripple races back and forth
across the water, and even more

it enters and somehow endows me
with a never-ending singing “Wow,
it’s now and now, and now!”