We Will Have Ghosts…

…poems from the collection, publ. 2011, Weedy Editions

July In the Roman Forum

A gray woman steps from a taxicab,				
a gray woman, head to foot,
									
a basket in her hand, and tools 
she carries natural as her skin.

A thick light links the space between the driver
and her--substance and the sparkle of air, 

and a ritual comfort between them.

I wish I could get it back,
that sense of them, that taste.

I believe he will come back for her in a while.
She does not smile, but energy spreads

from the easy purpose on her face, the athletic
grace of her trim shape. She steps

past ruins to join the plot of ground
she chose for growing something

succulent, brimful, a small square 
of zinnias in this gray dust,

basil and thyme, tomatoes and peppers,
lavender. Oleander grows thick and enticing.

I imagine she might loosen
the ground around their roots, pour water

into their mouths, know their leaves.

I stay a while to see, and watch her 
cultivate sharp-angled beds

near a half-column and a long-empty well,
an old empire sighing off in the fused distance.

She, so far from tired, so certain in her pace,
points a steady path to that one place.                            
 Mother Refuses a Funeral

Her going will be a silence,
a door locked, a house re-keyed,
the sprinkles of her powder 
dusted from her dressing bench, 
her shoes aligned; threads for needlepoint 
sorted and tied, a plumped and corded 
handwork pillow,  an envelope 
sealed and stamped, an indexed file; 
refusal to answer, neglect to call.
No words by clergy, no visitation:
as though she had a cold, nothing to wear,
an argument with the world, a solemn task,
she will be indisposed, will not receive guests;
will keep to herself, that day. 
           
Dove Flight

For weeks I didn’t water Mother’s fern 
that paled beneath the eaves . Among the wilting
fronds two doves sat still in solid watch,
ceramic thieves, eyes round and dark and stern. 
One day the male was gone, the mother crouched
beside two downy young, necks thin with spring.
I ached at their beginning, fed from her mouth,
and watched for flight. I didn’t see their wings--
one day the nest was empty, just in time
to drench the fern and coax it back to life.
All this coming and going such a fragile rhythm:
water and sun, withhold and give, nurse and free .
My mother in a darkened room had packed for flight.
Her face like polished marble, set past sight.

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