No Small Feat

No small feat for Grief to doff
his mourning cloak, the velvet
heft of it, and its scarlet naught

emblazoned in cross stitches, insignia
for not enough. He might easily
have kept it on, remaining wrapped

in sorrow, for surely there is enough
sorrow in this world to dwell in. If we
could earn a crown for every soul

we found shrouded in despair, why
we'd be richer than a dozen kings!
Which explains why moths grow fat,

and tailors are by nature cheerful,
day in, day out, their nimble fingers
stitching habits of our own choosing.

from: Kingdom of Speculation



Poppy

In the heart’s field of stubble
blooms a lone poppy. Look at it.
Carve its valor on memory’s slate:
upright, solitary, red, despite not knowing
if, or when, it will perish from the world
of flora. Indeed, this is my Land
of Israel, staunch in the face of reality,
refusing to become a work of art: a single
poppy in the heart’s field of stubble.

from: Scorched by the Sun



Flock

The Lord is my shepherd
He rides a red tractor
His work boots caked
With earth and dried dung

He leadeth His sheep
Beside the green pastures
His black dog yapping
To keep them in line

They bow their heads down
To nibble the clover
And lap still waters
They do not want

Nor fear any evil
Grazing in shadows
Their guttural baahs
Akin to amen

from: The Royal Baker's Daughter



There For the Grace

There for the grace of god there
for the grace there for the window
the housekeeper carelessly left
ajar for the five-year-old boy
who fell from the fifty third
floor there for the musician his
father and his guitar there for
the mother the mother and there
for the cruise ship out for a cruise
the cripple whose wheelchair
was pushed and tumbled down into
the Mediterranean there for the blue
of the sea the starling finch
and the hyacinth there for the lover
who follows the script who touches
the lips and within the mystere there
for the sweet inhalation of breath
for the arm casually raised to brush
back the hair there for the grace
of god for the grace of earth we go


Girl Trades Baby for Prom Dress
--National Inquirer

How smug we feel, we who measure want
in dollops but imagine her, wanting
to distraction and to be so trapped.
That’s how much she wants the blue
chiffon with blue spaghetti straps,
blue rose pinned to her waist and shoes
dyed to match. She wants the gardenia
wristlet, to dance under the bluest moon,
a chance to be elected queen, to neck
in a rented limousine. A horse
isn’t hers to give, nor gold,
nor tea. Kings have traded more,
been called heroic. When Anna
abandoned Sergei, wasn’t she tragic?
These days I feel my own parched
throat, the bedrock crumbling.
For the fecundity of your embrace
I too would pay, and dearly.

from: Marvelous Pursuits



Her Soul to Keep

Little girls welcome the beast
to their bed. He shuffles in
to the background song of father
snoring in the old four- poster,
mother baking bread in the kitchen
below, mattress buttons scratched
by little-girl toes. His great
fur face presses the pillow, hot
breath reeking of turnips and
shankbones. Dreams open wide
to the wolf’s weight, the pig’s
wet snout, that strange white
hoof inside cotton panties.


Miracle of Bubbles

A woman drives to the video store
to rent a movie. It is Saturday night,
she is thinking of nothing in particular,
perhaps of how later she will pop popcorn
or hold hands with her husband and pretend
they are still in high school. On the way home

a plane drops from the sky, the wing shearing 
her roof of her car, killing her instantly.
Here is a death, it could happen to any of us. 
Her husband will struggle the rest of his days
to give shape to an event that does not mean
to be understood. Since memory cannot operate
without plot, he chooses the romantic -- how young
she was, her lovely waist, or the ironic -- if only
she had lost her keys, stopped for pizza.

At the precise moment the plane spiraled 
out of control, he was lathering shampoo
into his daughter's hair, blond and fine
as cornsilk, in love with his life, his
daughter, the earth (for "cornsilk" is how
he thought of her hair), in love with the miracle
of bubbles, how they rise in a slow dance,
swell and shimmer in the steamy air, then
dissolve as though they never were.

from: Cautionary Tales



Margiste Protests

If I were a man they would sing
of my daring, call me Margiste the Bold.
No lioness did more for her cub. Gladly
I'd give my scarlet hose for a song
of my daughter, Aliste of the Narrow Feet.
Instead they sing of Bert aus Grans Pies,
Bertha Broadfoot, Berta the Debonaire.
Why should she have been Queen of France,
were both girls not blonde, not fair?
Both dimpled, both winsome, both mantled
with golden hair? Both sired by Hungarian
King Floire? (His wife, Blancheflor, so noble,
so pure, she always gave to a fault to the poor.)
Berta was Highborn, Aliste a mere serving girl.
Yet for eight years she played Queen to Pepin
the Short. He was well-satisfied.
My cousin Tibert (incompetent dolt)
swore that Berta was slain. I piss
on Berta! I piss on her big feet! Fooled
by a pig's heart! Burned for bearing a girl
with narrow feet! I don't care a mint leaf
what Pepin calls me now (‘old hag, the Antichrist’).
He once covered my daughter from evening till dawn.
Let them kindle for me a great fire with thorns!


The Soothsayer Is Summoned To Interpret Blancheflor's Dream

i. The Dream

In this dream the dreamer knows
she is dreaming. Holds a wide-
toothed comb in her hand. Soft
thump at door. Enter a bear.
She pulls comb through dark fur.
Strong odor of musk, honey,
cloves. Dreamer sings lulla,
lullaby, go to sleep my plump
sweet. Bear sucks on paw.
Paw becomes raking claw.
Tears cheek, rips right arm,
begins to gnaw at dreamer's
rib-cage. Scatters bones on floor.
Dreamer finds mirror. Torso
a carcass. Right arm dangles
from its socket. Face half-
gone. Bear sees bear. Mirror
mirror. Bear bear. Thump thump

ii. The Interpretation

I bind phylacteries with ribbons
to my arms, with cords to my legs.
Combine letters of dreamer’s name.
I climb to the rooftop, pay heed
to the direction of smoke. Examine
the excrement of a cat. Study
the sky. Make note that moon
in fourth quarter. Omen of death.
Comet appears in sign of Scorpio.
Open book at random. Scrutinize
all data. Interpretation: extreme
danger to dreamer's daughter. Long
voyage required. Dreamer pulls hair
in lamentation. There is no pleasure
to such work.

from: Berta Broadfoot and Pepin the Short: A Merovingian Romance