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.
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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)

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Record of Life

42A39B67-64DC-4E1F-907C-381F60EAACBEIf you use your nights to forget your days
and then forget to write your nights
where will the record of your life be kept?

take leave of nights long looted
of amnesia and mere filling
and make a monument
to your unforgettable days

not by some big gesture
but by letting enormous hellos
and open skies
pour through you like water
through endless fingers

then you will be the pen and the paper
the indelible ink
the book that flies off the shelf
haunted wild with life

Of Mood and Molting Under Unborn Sky

art2Under this unborn sky
rainless rusted
without benefit of peach
or persimmon stains—
an anonymous creature remains
of mood and molting

The night stacks itself thick
with jugular memories
born husky
and hooked to root
rough-hewn and lunatic

The creature lopes
revoltingly towards
what appears to be a tool of war—
perhaps it’s the moon, perhaps a dull rage or lust—
at the edge of the shadowed field
wielding it at first like an axe
then like a song
soon hooked to remembrance
itself hitched to hue and heft

Clouds gather robust and looming
heavy with dust and promise, proving
once and for all—
once they’re moving
even silhouettes can spawn revolutions
wet with purpose

The Moon Has a Long Memory

D804C643-2D73-475F-9C19-A33FC1F67128Welcome dark
in unpursed lips singing
forget the day
all pale doing

of center night
and darklish wooing
lay its leaping skin
around you

Deep nocturnal breath abiding
blowing skirt of darkness hiding

The moon has a long memory
and hasn’t forgotten your true name

It is mere habit to shrink
when the sun sinks

Have you tried standing up
and meeting the gaze of the Swordsman
when he asks you what luster’s tucked under
your supernova skin?

Have you considered lifting the lid
off your day-time self
stitched tight oh too tight and oh—-

Or are you only a lover of butterflies
despiser of bats?
One of the half-time lovers of the world?

Then by all means, bless your mangled life
half-bitten and hungry

If not, pour pitch black down your poor back
and feel your arch grow

The moon has a long memory
and hasn’t forgotten your name—
the one you uttered so assuredly
back in the season of jumping
before the great gremlins of approval
stole it from you
under the fog of forgetting

Be big with midnight
and tempt the stars out
with cheshire desire

Behold, some belly bold
cries your full name from the old
deeplier than ever told
Perhaps it is your own

Welcome dark
in unpursed lips singing
forget the day
all pale doing

of center night
and darklish wooing
lay its leaping skin
around you

Ashes on the Soles of Their Feet

footstepsUncivilized love baked beauty
into the skin of the already wounded

every now again they find ashes
on the soles of their feet
wondering,
“Where was it again that we walked?”

and a trace of delightful magnetic storms
stirring ungulate electric
flickers in the night as deaf dreams

before again lurching through alleys
with fitful lanterns

she had blown the whistle
and he arrived with a rainbow wand
insufficiently attired

and as they ran past the tourist desk
with peals of mad and happy notes
laughing under tornado skies

they spit sparks
until the house split

and burned down
with a roar that fed
the night sky like a beast

eating the last of its young
before turning its teeth
on itself

but where they walked
no one can tell

everything is gone

and only their feet have memories

Legend of River Woman

IMG_1103She stepped out on the back
of the night
shining the lending

no one knows what calls her out
dressed in flowing gown
of sky black and mountain blue memories

the sea?
the moon?
the play of her own flow?

A legend was born on the river
on the face of the wet rocks
blushing the white kiss of the moon

in the hour of birth
before the birds break
their succulent silence

and in her crawling
the river crawls

and in her drifting
the world drifts
across the wakening land

Heron is her first—
he knows without talking

the legend born here
before the humans came

owl heard it from jackrabbit
who heard it from mallard
who was told by a furry friend
of otter’s who knew heron’s sister
the red-cheeked merganser

they heard it because they too
were born of the legend
and it flowed like ripples in her gown
a silver memory over the land

the river and the spirit of the river

the one within its banks
the other at the tip of the leaf

the tongue of the otter sipping
the sun drying the feathers of the cormorant

and the kiss of the wind
inside you

one flows around these rocks
the other flows as the rocks

swirl of the swallow
shape of the soul

the legend continues