Monday, August 29, 2005

after the retreat

the writers' retreat at ghost ranch was wonderful! many talented women writers in poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. and the desert is so dramatic with reds and browns and soft sun in the evening. a week of poetic bliss before the semester started today.

but i love the classroom and all my students. in the fall i teach an intro to poetry class that's a treat, and i can tell from the student discussion today of how poetry differs from prose that this class is going to be great.

if i had a school poem i'd post it. i don't, though i have a poem that mentions school.


Judith drives a Peugeot
into my life of cheap jobs.

She tenders marriage of possibility
speaks of Greece and romance
the Caribbean and love

offers to share her house
built practicing the law.

Her proposal answers years
of my living on the edge.

I put on a wife’s smock.
Judith would not see it the way a man does
in his own reflection.

She is not a renegade
would not break our vow
to shelter and warm each other.

Judith thumbs through cases of alimony
buries herself in briefs
hands me a list of honey-dos
before turning in.

She ransacks my closet
throws out clothes she doesn’t like
screams at me when I mention school.
I forget to pick up her laundry
she storms out and slams the door.

Like a nightingale who sings in darkness
I write till I’m weary
of a partner who fucks me blue.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


This poem appears last in my chapbook,_Southern Girl Gone Wrong_, published by Foothills Publishing last November. (See link to the right.) I think the poem appropriate to post today since I'm in Albuquerque and will go to A Room of Her Own Women Writers Retreat in Toas, NM, at Ghost Ranch on Monday, August 22. (See AROHO link to the right.) Next week I may not blog regularly since access to computers is limited.


Between El Paso and Phoenix dust devils swirl
to Beethoven’s Fifth while sun burns my eyes.
Living in this forsaken land is unimaginable
until I see shadows fall on desert hills
beneath a stretch of sky. And I think of Georgia O’Keeffe

traipsing across New Mexico with easel and water colors dislodging
dark days of New York her lover old enough to be her father
posing her day after day in his studio

infatuations in black and white portraitures of impeccable restraint.

The year I’m born Stieglitz dies. She escapes to open plains
and cloud vistas where nothing presses
no camera traps no skyscraper blocks.
She expands into space

the whiteness of bone on red hills.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"Mothers for Peace"

Cindy Sheehan inspires mothers for peace as well as many thousands of other peace lovers. If you're interested in reading more about last night's vigils nation-wide, hit the True Majority Link to the right.

Virginia Woolf says in "Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid": "Unless we can think peace into existence we—not this one body in this one bed but millions of bodies yet to be born—will lie in the same darkness and hear the same death rattle overhead."

A pacifist mother-poet and dear friend, Barbra Minar, helps us "think peace into existence."

Mothers for Peace

Listen to me, People of the Council
planning war
if you nursed a crying baby
holding his head in your palm
singing songs your mother sang to you
if you held out your arms
to keep his first steps safe
and cried for him
when he broke his arm
if you laughed with him
at monkeys in the zoo
and ran beside his bike
while he learned to ride
if you showed him
hawks nesting in the oak
and taught him to deeply love his brother
if you watched him grow
until he was a man
praying daily for his safety
then People of the Council
you would offer this child
a cup of water
not a bowl of blood.

barbra minar
august 2005

Monday, August 15, 2005

"Making Peace"

To read Denise Levertov is to salve the soul. She speaks from a place of deep caring and spirituality. Her poems weave the sacred and everyday into a pattern for hope. While she never calls herself a feminist, her work insists on the place of politics in personal life, and hence in poetry.

Political poems are so difficult to write. The poet wants to balance position and poetry as Levertov does. Her work embodies the dictum of William Carlos Williams: “No ideas but in things."

Making Peace
Denise Levertov
A voice from the dark called out,
"The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war."
But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can't be imagined before it is made,
can't be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.
A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.
A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses. . . .
A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light--facets
of the forming crystal.

copyright 1987, from _Breathing the Waters_ and _What Could It Be_, Levertov
copyright 1982 from _Candles in Babylon_, Levertov
NY: New Directions

Friday, August 12, 2005

"voices in wartime"

i just read lisa williams' poignant essay at book coolie. her comment about war and septimus smith reminded me of what a friend's son said:

"mom, you need to get a passport because if i'm injured, they'll send me to germany."
he's a recent enlistment,and she's a horrified anti-war mom.

she and i, along with several others, saw the documentray "voices in wartime" last month.

it’s a wonderful film that grew from sam hamill’s site, "poets against war." the film focuses on poetic response to conflict, largely the response of soldiers serving in action, and is grounded in a very humane point of view.

here’s the website where you can read about it:


why don't we, the wealthiest nation on earth, guarantee health and pharmaceutic care to our residents?

why do we spend young lives on "weapons of mass destruction"?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

_Letters to Virginia Woolf_

Mid July I spoke of Lisa Williams' _Letters to Virginia Woolf_ as a lyrical memoir that faces the complexity of adolescence, divorce, death, war and childbirth with heartfelt intelligence, reminding us that struggle and loss often lead to an appreciation of life’s wonder. Here is an excerpt from Williams' book:

Dear Virginia Woolf,

The fertility waiting room was packed with women who chewed gum, crossed and uncrossed legs, their faces covered by the pages of magazines. In that waiting room there was always an eerie silence, interrupted only by a nurse calling out a woman’s name. It was a silence bordered by the voices of the receptionists answering a constantly ringing phone. As women pushed and pulled the big black front door open and shut, the silence seemed to close up tightly too. In other moments it was as if the silence ascended to the ceiling, hovering invisibly over the heads of women, sitting and waiting.

“I went under the sea. I have been dead, and yet am not alive, but let me rest still” (MD 104). The words of the shell-shocked soldier came suddenly to me, soothing the emptiness of the moment.

This Friday, August 12, Book Coolie will publish a short essay by Willaims on how Woolf has influenced her. Looking ahead to Williams' essay, today Book Coolie has an excerpt from Mulk Raj Anand's _Conversations in Bloomsbury_.

Here's the link:

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Night I’m Sharon Olds

Promising gin, revelers entice me
to the writers’ conference party.
People glance at my blank badge.
Giddy from martinis, I channel
letters that curl and rise through my fingers
like cigarette smoke.
Tag this self Sharon Olds.

A man with receding hair thanks me
for naming his poetry
honorable mention.
His words mount and fall
like gasps of an asthmatic.
I want to press my lips against his lips.
Breathe him into first place
and cover his body with laurel.

I list toward the featured playwright
buoyed by his circle of novices
who swoon to every syllable uttered.
He stares at my loopy famous name.
Winds his hand over my shoulder.
"Where are you now?"
I mutter In the crook of your arm
and offer him a taste of juniper.

The above poem first appeared in _The Tusculum Review_ last spring.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


i'm touched. someone enjoyed my poem and let me know. feel as if i should thank her. here's a poem written for an old friend. c


"Breathe into your belly.
Let your mind follow your breath,"
she whispers,
pressing the balls of her hands into my shoulders
my body flattening into the table.

She holds the weight steady,
urging me to surrender myself to the touch.

"Breathe into your belly.
Let your mind follow your breath."

I remember my first love.
She too believed in the power of hands,
small hands that cupped my heels
in a pool of lavender oil.

Like a priestess, she knew how to anoint me,
how to caress each toe until it squirmed,
until the foot tingled.

She modeled self-restraint,
tasted the joy of giving joy,
anchoring her fingers on the top of my foot
so her thumbs stroked my sole,
deep and steady.

I wanted a lover with long, slim fingers on a wide palm.
Instead, they were stubby, creased,
raw from working in flowers.

"Breathe into your belly.
Let your mind follow your breath."

But she changes under touch,
her fingers imagined tapers lighting my way.
They move firmly, deliberately,
over my ankle, my calf until her fingertips press my thigh.

Her hands hold me gently, lovingly,
as she bends down washing me.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

my niece and I

usually, i post a poem or muse about what i'm reading, but today i'll start by talking about my niece. almost thirteen, a laptop fanatic like me and quite cute. we're in LA, checking out the local scene like the walk of fame and melrose. she took many close-ups of stars from britney spears to john travolta. now, given her verbal dexterity and agility on the internet, she may become a poet yet. the daughter of my brother for whom i wrote the poem below.

My Brother’s Language

I trap honeybees in a jar.
My brother reaches into the air

and catches them in his hand
opens his fingers as if unfolding a flower.

I wait for them to fly away
or sting him.

When hundreds swarm
our screen door,

he curves his arms around the nest
and carries those bees to clover.