poems

 

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.

Observations in Lockdown

No corner goes undusted. 

Pace between corridors—

These four walls, a palace. 

Work-zone, chef’s line, 

place of rest, 

place of worship. 

 

We notice new corners. 

Polish them, sterilized for our pacing. 

 

Our calves brush the edges of days. 

Mornings blend as we walk

from one room, and back again—

a timeless holster.

History inhales, and holds.

 

Windows are new things.

Masks for new kinds of skyfall.

Barriers between collective them,

and nuclear us. 

 

We scrub them—

through screens, we watch a season change. 

 

What discoveries hide in these walls? 

Which lie atop counters? Which shrivel under floorboards? 

Which are shrouded by custom, 

our routine eyes? 

 

Ruptured habits—

                    Between a door frame,

                    my toes catch a homebound finding:

                    a scratch in our porcelain. 

                    Take note, and pass.

On the Virus

Glitter-like. It spreads like that. Specs translucid 

cling to us, our fickle strands.

 

Our hands outstretched, startled.

Flecks splatter in our palms, and stick—

invisible. 

 

Glitter under sheets—our fate embalmed in latex.

Glitter, it crusts—it smears in strokes, and glazes.

 

We dwindle, but move. 

Apart, we persist. 

 

Tomorrow will glisten an iridescent shade.

New artistry, forward-viewing.

The Siddur in Our Kitchen

My Saba’s prayer book 

idles on a pedestal 

of magazines and opened mail, 

receipts and peanut crumbs, 

its borders, embroidered, 

a mantlepiece for 

yesterday things. 

 

It reclines against routine, 

drapes a holy face 

over coupon clippings—

 

And I see my Saba in its binds. 

Hear his humming 

swell from the pages, pressed closed.

His scar, a crease in the spine.

His smile glints in the cross-stitching.

 

And he soaks his perch with his prayers, 

my grandfather on our kitchen table.

Melting Snow

When pearl turns invisible, 

its glisten reduced to translucence

and alabaster drips 

through the porch cracks. 

Dims the wooden boards 

during its downfall. 

 

Does it bring with it splinters, 

the manifest brilliance? 

Does it soak its route 

and gather trinkets,

chilled remembrances

of grounds which it stood upon? 

 

Patches downsize 

under the morning. 

Silver layers strip,

its droplets

hung beneath the shade 

of the porch’s underboards. 

 

Another manifest—

Sharp in its being, 

a jagged snapshot, for now.

On Recovery

I will be okay.

 

My mother gifted me 

her mantra, her syrup reprise—

Saccharine coats my fatigue, 

my thoughts and slow steps, 

candied by her mantra. 

 

I will be okay.

 

My heels soak its words, 

toes submerge between its honeyed spaces.

Knees, immoble—

I am forced to breathe, 

and I breathe its sweetness. 

 

I will be okay. 

 

“Lean into corners,” Ma tells me, 

“and cushion their peppered crevices 

with syrup.”

 

“Taste the sharpness

bitter at the base of your throat, 

but taste first the syrup, 

my mantra’s sweetness.”

 

I will be okay. 

I will be okay.

On a Poem

I matchmake my meaning. 

Words coalesce and

test their phrases, 

taste pronunciation,

bite their tongue on slanted rhymes—

Blood dyes my meaning. 

 

Note their mingling, my words—

curious, ambiguous.

 

Clasping over em-dashes, 

forging a single expression. 

Dissusable semantics. 

A construction unique to their form. 

 

Their verse question until written 

declarative,

intangible until printed—

and even. 

Scribbles threaten longevity,

page tears corrupt sense 

of being, 

fragile art. 

 

Thrive in your drafts, 

jotted existence.

Find meaning in your deletion

if you don’t make it past 

 

this rough couplet

this rushed conclusion. 

On Wearing Glasses

Outside these ridges, there is blur. 

 

Wisped irresolution, unfocused wonderings—

Prints of unknown things

fuse in my periphery, 

rim my sight with inquiries, 

a halo of curious colors

a glance from distinction. 

 

Remain sideways from foresight. 

Encircle me in cloudy palettes, 

questions and catechisms. 

 

Let me daydream in fog, 

eye roll from focus—

a prescribed perspective—

and muse in my blindness, 

the mud crusting my eyes. 

 

This blur, a visceral framework. 

A constellation—I sketch in obscurity. 

Form shapes from the smears,

on canvas of cloud tufts. 

 

My lens, a crutch. 

Prosthetic. It bends beneath 

the weight of my imaginings. 

On the Armless Statue on my Living Room Counter

She leans, 

hip juts in clay skirts, 

a cloth cast, wrapped. Glazed domestication. 

 

Her waist pinched in naked air, 

goosebumps smoothed by artist hands 

and oven heat.

Hair pleated. Braided permanence. 

 

And her eyes cast down, 

and she always remembers her 

Missing. 

 

Phantom elbows bend,

shadow fingers mingle at the torso. 

Raise lilies for her motion, in memory. 

 

Her reminiscing, an apparition. 

Her imaginings, a coy thing. 

Envision what was, 

her fantasies. Haunt her. 

 

Stone dreams 

of fingers twitching, 

arthritic pain, 

palms pricked by lily stems

and sharp leaves, gripping.