Archive for May, 2012

The Transit of Venus, June 5, 2012

The Transit of Venus,  June 5, 2012

Transits occur at lengthy intervals.  At the time of the 1882 Transit, Emily Dickinson

was contemplating publication of her poems.  The next Transit will be in 2117.

In a rare alignment of planets,

Venus eclipses the Sun.

It is sunset and in the West,

the Transit is in progress.

Venus touches the edge of the sun.

A mysterious black drop appears,

a ligament of darkness between the

Sun and the Planet…

Then Venus,

orbiting between Sun and Earth,

appears as a black dot

and crosses the face of the sun.


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Goin’ Home

Goin’ Home

It’s been 24 years since I’ve been home.   In May 1988, Roger and I married; we went to England for our honeymoon.  Less than two weeks after we returned my mother had a debilitating stroke.  She’d been able to come to the wedding, frail and shaky, but she’d come.  She was 75 and suffered from a lot of issues related to years of smoking.  Like death from a thousand cuts, her mobility was reduced, her breathing was labored, she coughed, then she lost sight in one eye due to a blood clot.  Still, she smoked. 

I moved her to Wisconsin, which was a nightmare going through Minneapolis on Northwest Air.  She died a couple of weeks later, on the evening of her 50th wedding anniversary.  The nursing home made announcements everyday about the day and date to help orient the residents.  After she died I found a clipping in her wallet about a girl she’d gone to school with who was celebrating her 50th anniversary.  It was important even though she and dad fought all the time…well, she fought, he just sat there, which only added to the problem.  She needed that anniversary to affirm her life.  She had not worked after she married and her children…well, that’s for another time. 

After the funeral in September 1988, after sorting out the house with my sister-in-law, after getting a lawyer and a realtor, I left and never went back.  My life was starting over. 

Going Home, the place I grew up and lived from age 4 to 22, is Fargo, ND.  I hated it.  I hated everything about it.  I think that’s common.  People either love or hate where they grew up.  The ones who loved it stay or long for it.  The ones who hated it never want to return.  But it is in me anyway.  I know, for instance, that I love open spaces.  Mountains make me nervous.  What are they hiding?  I know that I don’t mind the cold as much as many people and I absolutely love snow.  I cannot imagine living somewhere it does not snow.  It is magical to me.  So quiet but it changes everything. 

I looked for a blues poem I wrote for a friend who is very sentimental about ND.  I don’t get it, but she loves the place.  She was stronger than me.  She wanted to change things, change people’s minds.  I didn’t have the energy.  I can’t find the blues poem, but here’s a poem about going home that I wrote after a trip to Provence with my husband.  His home is Wisconsin and he loves his life here.  But he hates his hometown.

 Going Home

 I sit next to you,

knee to knee.

Thoughts flow:

your bonjour goodbyes,

and curses at a scooter’s roar;

markets scented with lavender. 

Finally, our silent morning escape

through the city to the airport,

and the sunrise over Nice.

But you are already home.

Part of you never left.

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Saved a Turtle, Offed a Chipmunk

The other day my husband was driving on a street that curves around Tiedemann’s Pond when he braked and said, “Turtle!”  I hopped out of the car and stood behind the turtle, which was pretty large, about 5 by 7 inches, my feet in a V, keeping him going in the direction of the pond.  You never pick up a turtle.  They pee.  And sure enough, the little guy peed all the way to the curb where he hit a definite road block.  I picked him up just enough to scale the height and he toddled off toward the water.  We felt good.  Saved a turtle….probably.

On Monday, our anniversary, the neighbors came over to share a bottle of champagne.  I told them to sit on the deck and I’d be right out with more chairs. 

Before I continue, it must be made clear that we have spent hundreds, no thousands, of dollars repairing chipmunk damage to the window well that is off our deck.  I loved Chip and Dale when I was growing up.  I am a very peaceable, life affirming person.  But I had to put my foot down after paying the last repair bill of $1200. 

So here’s what happened.

Mary! What’s this?

An animal in a bucket. 

I think it’s dead.


Yes, Abigail.  Yes.

I drown chipmunks in buckets.

Yes, it’s surely dead.


One, two.  There’ll be more.

They are so very stupid,

falling in like that.


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Thinking about Guatemala

Thinking about Guatemala


On this morning of such beauty:

clear blue sky and sun,

a dry breeze from the north.



A girl, who cannot imagine me,

rises, packs her blanket and trinkets,

slips into sandals

and walks to the market.


Soon, her sister and the baby come.

Heads touching, the girls’ hands are busy.

If a customer comes, the youngest rises.

She watches, offers this and that.


Maybe something is picked out,

or nothing at all. 

She sits back down.  The baby,

pulled close to her mother’s back,


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A Job for Mary

I found my ideal job!  It’s true.  I had no idea such a thing was possible, but it is perfect:  Resident Restaurant Poet.  I read about this job in a recent issue of The New Yorker in an article about Macau.  A Michelin star restaurant hired a poet to write a verse for their VIP clients.  Woo Hoo.  I can do that!  I’ll bet the poet receives very nice tips and a great meal, too.  Imagine. 

I’m at my post at La Lune,* and let’s say the Worthy Monsieur Pied enters with his Dedicated  Servir and Faithful Beurre Chaud.   I could write something like this:

Please sit near the three-sided mirror

where I can watch you from all sides.

Like a faceted diamond,

your qualities are revealed

on each cut edge, 

and are multiplied in the

repeated images that extend

into the universe of the night.

Do not leave before sipping the tea

that we all drink here to forget

that our worth is so small

while yours is so great.

* I know, Macau is Portuguese, but I don’t know any Portuguese.  Do you?  And, yes, the girls are back.  They are Dot and Emma, named after my grandmothers.   They just returned from their winter vacation and are looking forward to a lovely and cool summer Up North.

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Two More from the Old Cleaner of Cat Puke

Here are two poems I wrote in response to a call from Verse Wisconsin for poems of protest relative to the Wisconsin recall election.  Since these poems are more about bureaucratic life than about protest, I did not submit these two.  I was inspired by Chinese paintings and poems that hide the artist’s true political views inside the artwork.

The Devoted Civil Servant

The Devoted Civil Servant tugged on his vest

while he listened to his new boss

a blonde woman thirty years his junior, sent to test

his loyalty, but all he felt was loss,

tired at the thought of starting over again

two years before Social Security kicked in

and he wondered where he would park his brain

so he could maintain his Unflappable Chin.


A Paragon of Filial Piety

The pretty young lady, so recently hired,

was given a task for which she had no talent:

to select the people who had to be fired.

Being educated in the ways of foxes,

she quickly devised a clever little game.

To select the workers, she precisely noted

how everyone spelled their name,

and then carefully counted the letters.

Any names shorter than her sister

Sabrina’s, were marked for removal.

Her list to-be-fired was much longer

than the number she’d been given,

so she saved the names she’d acquired

in case they had to be re-hired.

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