Things fall apart.
The bird falls from the sky,
the branch splits from the apple tree,
leaves and feathers mix
with the dust at my feet.
I scoop them into my hands,
into that hollow part
where the ache began.

I press my palms tight
and the imprint is of you
when you had wings
that were whole,
and the imprint is of her
when she stood,
and the hollow place makes
a nest
like the one where
we once lived
all together.

I cannot hold

your anger. The soup bowls fill with it,
the curves of spoons.
I am full of bowls,
empty bushel baskets.
The wind of your words blows through them.
Where are you? There, across the table,
You cut an apple.

1972 Your Mother

You slice the segments
you want to recall; call me as witness hoping
we’ll declare her hysterical together.

She was always- always-always in a panic, she was
always- always- always hindering.

Somewhere in a magazine you’d read you could hang speakers
from the ceiling. The sound would be Just Right that way,
German Lieder and Irish lullabies reverberating
off the walls.
You imitate her,
high and squeaky,

Oh, no! Don’t do that!

That hanging, it seems, could have killed us all.

1981 Your Mother

kicked me out at the worst possible time.

You lived in your rented office by the Space Needle,
washed at the men’s room sink,
slept on your desk,
sold encyclopedias,
drove a cab
(things you’d not have done for us),
kept a rope in a file drawer

I’d started a work-study job — the Opera,
wanted you proud: the champagne soirees,
me trying to chat with divas.

I met you at Center House, slipped tens into your briefcase,
took you to the Ring cycle in English,
and knew that I was not enough.

1963-1980 Your Mother

Other lawyers’ wives went to work;
She wouldn’t hear of it.
Spent and spent and spent.
Thought she’d have more sense.
Didn’t understand the practice of law.
She said,
“You have to get over this crazy idea
of being a lawyer.”

A bowl, turned over on the tabletop
travels in the rhythm of the tremor.

Your mother, your mother, your mother
Your mother, your mother, your mother
Your mother
stare at the salt shaker,
napkins wedged in their dispenser,
stubs of French fries.

I thought I held the power,
the apple-daughter’s key.
Why could I not unlock you from your rage?

I couldn’t
I couldn’t fix
I couldn’t fix it.

A break in the proceedings


Fix her,
Fix you,
Fix money,
Fix law —
I couldn’t.

You shouldn’t
have to. It wasn’t

You are astonished.

I didn’t know,
you say,
The strain it was for you.

I’m sorry.

 All Along

 I’ve thought you were the prosecutor
pacing the courtroom floor,
conducting your cross-examination
like Perry Mason.

All along, I’ve thought
I was the sole witness,
palms hot,
searching for just the right phrase.

All along I’ve thought
I was sworn in
only to find the defense absent
and me leaping like quicksilver
from the stand,
pulling temporary brilliance
from the walls.

All along I’ve thought –
but now, the room begins to shift,
beginning with the patterns on the doors,
which slide across and past us
like shadowflight.

And I am captive here
to words I’ve always thought
you did not know –
a suspended sentence, hanging
like dust motes
in the air.

From Considering FlightBrassweight Press, 2006

We Eat at Denny’s Late