poems

 

Quarantine in Overview

I have reached the back cover 

of my journal, blackened three 

yellow legal pads, I’ve soiled 

dinner plates with my dreams, 

self-published my poem in the 

blank pages of The Bluest Eye. 

 

I have taken to my basement 

walls to chart my meditations, 

the branches of my imagining.

Saddle Brook County Park

What would be my heaven? 

Trimmed grass, fresh with streaks. 

Trash cans just emptied, 

their bodies stretching shadows on asphalt. 

 

A swing in residue motion, 

slowing to stillness, 

its rubber seat still warm 

with a child’s joy. 

 

Distant voices and 

closer birds,

hushed and hastened gossip, 

circles coexisting. 

 

A forgotten soccer ball, 

a rusting metal bench, 

heaves of a passing jogger. 

 

Gradients of light 

as evening settles, 

from my parked car

around the pond’s winding walkway

through its forested trail

to the field

and back again. 

Heavy lids,

blue to a yawning grey. 

 

Night sounds clatter in the 

plastering dimness, 

a paradise lulled to rest.

If

If 

my heel balances between floorboards, 

halved by the middle creases, 

my foot will not slip into lava—

no quicksand will swallow my limb—

the flatness of my arch 

will not coat in the pollen 

fetched from the day’s 

outside stepping. 

 

If 

my nail pierces my palm, 

I can pretend a wasp found asylum in me, 

burrowed into my openness—

abandoned me with a kiss so sobering,

I felt its sting

long after it left me in  

my aloneness.

 

If

coffee chars my mouth,

my tongue turns to graphite

and I speak in stencil drawings,

calligraphy in licks.

If I make a face, you will laugh.

 

If

this space stores memories,

my days file between ventilator gusts—

I pen through moments,

my tongue marking revisions,

indentations,

tasting freshness at junctures

as they pass.

What We Watch

Do you, too, see wings in trees?

Cardinal feathers ruffle far-off branches,

somewhere

swaying in an outlined oak.

Surrounding twigs, a stencil etch from this perspective—

embers poke holes into a canopy. 

 

Do you, too, watch shadows across your porch? 

Lamp light dim,

morning glow draws in charcoal lines.

A backyard swing

sketched from its model’s hanging—

the seat catches wind, 

a portrait swells and retreats.

 

Do you, too, make shapes with your fingers?

Lips pucker between thumb and palm, 

a chapel erects from intertwined hands.

Wrists hook, fingers stretch, 

and a butterfly joins our play. 

 

Outside, 

a swallow tail docks on my window—

its toes kiss the glass, 

its tiger print wings span back, 

a rest between flight. 

It scans my sculpture hands,

my skin pale under kitchen lights,

and it launches—here, then gone. 

Shavuot

Ruth—look, how our garden has grown.

Basil bushels in our backyard,

stems entwined from weeks of nurture, rest.

Leaves yawn, 

roots stretch

the sleep from their limbs.

 

Our porch, a museum of color. 

Amber petals backbend, heaven-facing,

crimson glints 

under morning rays,

emerald leaves embrace 

cardinal sprouts—

a celebration 

 

we observe from our corridor.

 

We extol behind covering.

This feast of weeks—these four walls, our Earth.

 

The sweetness of health

is in orange slices, 

the richness of life 

in cheese and cherry wine. 

Masks muffle our songs, Ruth, 

but we savor the honey of

hallelujah between breaths.

Yellow Wallpaper

The lining of my living room.

Silence strips its finish, 

stillness thins its shine—

Confinement streaks 

in tassels

from ceiling tile to floorboard.

 

Whose jaundice fingers 

reach between frays?

Nails julienne the air, 

wave to me. 

 

A yellow tongue

laps at the stillness,

scratched and gouged and splintered, 

a desperate whisper.

 

Eyes peek from behind the wall,

and her gaze pities our bondage.

Regard this imprisonment, 

these bars between you and me. 

 

She—legs marred by paper restraints.

Me—I can’t unsee, stunned into stillness.

Together, we lament our separation. 

 

I could still be golden, 

her eyes seem to say.

Structure

Our oven timer palpitates its ticks.

Moments—They skip in dysfunctional time.

Offbeat, their cadence—a sputtering chime.

Distrust the countdown our timer depicts.

 

Seconds elapse, but they falter and pass. 

Study the timer and measure its count. 

Catalogue time in a careful account—

How many ticks will this moment amass? 

 

Routine lays waste to the blending of days.

Timer, beat steady—Give form to this phase. 

From the Baby Shoe Lost at the Park

Will you remember me?

How my fabric held you, 

my child.

My strings enclosing you,

soundly, protectively.

Will you remember me

cradling your sole,

inviting your first steps 

on this graveled sidewalk?

 

Your mother’s hands 

pinched your palms, 

but I balanced you upright—

I nestled your weight, 

the wholeness of your gravity, 

and you pressed down, trusting. 

 

When did I lose you, my child? 

When did my laces loosen, 

release your heel

from my folds and

abandon you to Spring air—

How did I expose you, so soon?

 

I lie fetal now.

This sidewalk, my bassinet. 

My insole catches pebbles 

kicked from passersby,

 

and I remember you.

Your toenails, ingrowing,

tickling the underside of my canvas.

Visitors

I’ve made friends 

with the willow leaves outside my window. 

Buds span from an outstretched hand—

They wave to me,

and we play hand games

from both sides of a barrier. 

 

They sway, between games,

and I’m familiar with their movement.

I’ve watched before their undulation,

their careen in the breeze. 

 

A red cardinal nestles, sometimes, 

between its branches. 

I watch her perch, a visiting companion.

Watch her chin lurch upwards, and she surveys—

Watch her lips open, and she whistles—

I can sing with her, her song.

Her favorite scale, her rolling vibrato. 

 

These friends, outside, 

they always return. 

 

Such a thin division, 

between my friends and me. 

 

Their presence welcome 

before the stillness of our kitchen. 

Variations of the Rain

            In quarantine, 

            we distinguish shades of morning showers. 

 

Multi-faced rain—

Each downpour, you bring a novel hue: 

 

The white skies of misty days, 

when clouds coagulate into plaster, 

a lid over fogged earth.

The silhouette of trees

like stencil against

your alabaster backdrop. 

 

The polka-dotted summer rain,

when grey splotches stain a periwinkle overhead.

Your showers freshen us—

breath under blue offer

refuge after

passing floods of your grey. 

 

The charcoal of your 

merciless days. 

When we wake to drum beats 

against our windows;

When we hear drips of you 

invading our home 

unwelcome through cracks in our rooftops;

When we search for morning 

and night has left residue.

Your darkness showers into our eyes—

We hold you in our breath 

until your drum beats cease

and we exhale you into stillness.

 

In quarantine, rain,

you join us through window screens—

your shifting moods a presence

in our isolation. 

 

            Today, I watch crimson leaves

            brush against a linen sky, 

            shivering bristles in mist. 

 

            And I wonder 

            if they, too, plead for relief 

            or if they relish the fog 

            and find clear moments sweeter 

            after mornings like this.