Lady Lazarus in the Bath

I have done it again.
One week in every seven
I ruin it.

Bones in the basin
And the sodden skin
Above it; I roll

On a beaded spine
And stain the fever liquid
With my rust.

The water in the
Curtain's shadow--
Once faucet-sweet--

Now might be the ocean's.
I leave my poppy-petal
Pigment in the tub.

These are my roots
My lashes now.
I may be tarnished silver;

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was scared.
It was an accident.

Now in voluntary
Madness I submerge,
Then, dripping my undoing, stand:

Out of the water
I rise with my wet hair
And only ashes to wear.

original poem here.
photograph by Pennie Naylor.


The Commuter's Ablution

Sane women do not fantasize
about stepping
--bloused, pearl-studded--
into the plaza fountain
in December.

Sane women,
she explains to herself
once safely past the water,
Sane women go in naked.

art: "The Fish Gatherer" by Aron Wiesenfeld.


The Grasshopper in Winter

The grasshopper on the ground is dead--
not by boot, or hooting bird,
or by sultry spider--
but dead
as the grass, passed away,
and the hop that ceased.

His armor is accounted for,
though curled in the afterlife
into some aquatic thing.
The hop is gone,
but perhaps in that small beyond,
he swims.

art: "The Warrior in Winter," by Julia Jeffrey


Meeting Salvador

At first I thought
it was cicadas calling my name.
The song rose and fell neatly
with the rest of the summer's ruckus.


Not cicadas. The sound sped ceaselessly
from a second-story window.
From my plastic perch in the garden
I saw the pacing shadow
of the shy noisemaker.

He wrung his hands, released
the moan, which, escaping, crashed
and beat its fists against
the hot fence of my name:
Gala. Gala. Gala.

"Salvador Dali's love for Gala, a woman 10 years older than he and the wife of his friend Paul Eluard, exploded when they met; he realized numerous extravagancies to capture her attention, such as waxing his armpit and dying it blue, applying goat excrement to his skin and wearing a red geranium on his head. His emotion was such that, every time he tried to talk to her, he suffered uncontrollable laughing attacks."


The American Dream

We wink at the fox
with the bird in his mouth;
"Clever fellow," we say.
But outrage dawns
with the sunrise sight
of a vacancy
in the henhouse.


Commuter Lessons

My first week in the city
I learned to dress, check
the mirror, then undress, don
coat over camisole, lest
in the crosswalk trot
to the Metro stop
I bathe myself in sweat.
High heels and blouse go
in the canvas tote.
Sneakers go on the feet.

Week two was a city-face seminar.
Here I am, direct from New England,
where for an hour each morning
and one every night I watched the road,
peering for deer, defensive,
alert and observing.
Do that here and you'll get stabbed,
if you aren't arrested first.
Keep your eyes to yourself, girl.
Look hard at those sneakers.

Just this morning I learned the secret
of the reflector-jacketed man
who offers newspapers
at the top of the granite M stairs.
He is not a paperman.
He is the prop master,
equipping savvier commuters
with something not-sneakers
to stare at.


Selected English Gaps

1. For Smiling and Shaking One's Head
There is no word
to type in response
to a very long joke
with a terrible,
wonderful punch line.

2. For the Realization of Sensual Potential
There is no word
to sing to the world
when the body,
in love, becomes
what it can be.

3. For She Who Is Both Widow and Orphan
There is no word
that fits in the mouth
for the mother
whose children
are gone.

"Starry Cover" by Milo Moyer Battick, 2009. Ballpoint pen on old dictionary page.


tensixteen (sub)

i am
cold, under-u

my tongue
tastes of copper:
the under-
side shines
with heavier elements.

the skull in my head
‘s rounder; some-
where there
‘s a green thread
knows why.
the wire night
stretches on
and bed
‘s as yet

all tea
‘s too weak.
‘s already lied twice.

i’ve thrown stones.
still no word.

so: dissolve the fissures.
so: swallow the spade.

photograph by flickr user Lady Vervaine


Found Verse

The night is full of frogs and brakes
and planes en route to London;
But morning's sounds, when I awake,
will not tell where they come from.

The night is made from motorbikes
and large aircraft descending;
the dry leaves glide in gutters dry
to their own happy ending.

The night left me in ruffled nest
with one tear on my shoulder;
the daylight hours will serve as rest:
at sundown, I grow older.

photograph by Li Hui


In the Beginning

She de-
sired him,
which is to say
removed his father
from the picture.

In her thirst
she overlooked
the clink of highballs
in the cupboards.

His father thundered
in the study. She
shut the double doors.

photograph by Inès ☆



Two weeks before the move
You look hard at every cup,
Each one of your threadbare towels.
You envision sitting down on a rug far away
And pulling these things from a box.

Then you imagine a monastic existence,
A rug with no boxes. You've left
The cracked cups at the dump,
A bag of nice sweaters at Goodwill.
In the empty room you are proud
of the nothing you have. Then

In your mind the new doorbell rings.
Your neighbor has come
To introduce herself,
And she brought you yellow flowers,
In a cup she made herself.

photograph by Catherine Jamieson


Divorce, Part I: The Appearance

My husband arrives late, slides
into the space beside me on the cold wooden bench.
Like it's Christmas Eve, like it's
a bar mitzvah we're waiting for,
he reads his book, and I search faces
for stories. Two rows up, a man
lays his hand gently
on his wife's back, stares
at her baby-weight-swollen feet.
We are all here for the same reason.

My husband chuckles into his book,
points at the sentence I should read.
I whisper in his ear the name of the town
where I'm moving. I double-check
his paperwork. I drop one
of my own white pills into his open hand.

The heavy door closes. With brittle knees
and thin breath we all rise. The judge
calls our names first.

photograph by E.L. Malvaney


Tag with the Big Questions

You run and run, your mouth so dry.
You grope for a home base,
crying Who, and How, and Why,
and When will it be safe--

And then some unknown
tackles you, with arms measured to fit.
Why not somebody else, you say,
and the Answer says, "You're it."

photograph by Genevieve Goffman


What to Do When a Poet, Now Dead, Releases a New Book of Poems

in memory of Deborah Digges

Read the editor's note.

Reflect that this manuscript
has been respected. Wonder,
when you read that they tried
to preserve her intentions,
how much of her handwriting spattered
each page.

Read the epigraph--something
obscure--well, that's how
she would have wanted it.

Read the apologetic jacket,
the back cover with its
flat, detached praises.
On the back flap, her photograph.

Look hard at the headshot
as though her eyes, warm even
in a black and white rectangle,
have some explanation.

Close the book.

Try again tomorrow.

Painting: Cloud #16 by Ambera Wellmann


Warily Pleased

My poem "Laying Out a Yellow Dress the Night Before First Grade" has been accepted for publication in the brand-new Pitbull magazine. As one of the journals that accepted a poem of mine went under before printing that issue, and the other never seemed to go to press, I'm glad, but skeptical. It's nice that it's been accepted. We'll see if anything comes of it.

photograph copyright Vasilyeva Ekaterina


At Summer's End

The cricket in the lavender
doesn't ever seem to sleep.

All night he chatters, and next morning
he's still got plenty to say. I don't know

how long crickets live, but surely
last night was at least one year of his life.

What could be so interesting,
so complicated that it takes

a whole year to tell?
I sit in the crabgrass. I've got time.

photograph by Molly Wizenberg


The Holding Pattern

After a long day of waiting
on standby in San Antonio,
I win a window seat. I sit.
The aluminum cradle rocks
as baggage is hefted
and temporarily dropped. More delays,
sings the pilot in the speakers.
Thunderstorms over Atlanta.

Eventually we leave.
The heatsticky clouds
are black potholes in the air.
Gold lightning laces dark earth
to dark sky. My world
turns sideways.

Gravity, you greedy girl,
give me a few more minutes.
I will be yours again
before this storm
is over.

photograph by Marko Tarvainen


Gus at Sixteen

When we are seven and he is four,
Gus drowns himself every day. "I'm thinking,"
he says, and the lifeguards learn
to disregard the screams. Gus floats

face-down in the shallow end,
with his hair like corn silk, hair that
goes green in pool water. His sister and I
do handstands beside the corpse.

Time passes. Us girls get out of the pool
to unwrinkle our fingers: suddenly
we've gone through puberty. Tonight in some lake somewhere
a dreamy Gus is lost in thought.
His poor new girlfriend is screaming.

photo: "Emmett Darling" by Sally Mann



I am a hot bottle of the things you don't consider.
Rushing forth, inescapably boiling, I'll soak your cuffs
in an impotent flood
and puddle out of sight
of the Wet Floor sign. Come slide a little in me,
my asbestos friend.
If I am scalding, you should be burned,
who waltzes unharmed in good lava.

painting by Bobi + Bobi



Traffic is stopped on Old Shelter Rock Road,
Where usually there is no traffic.The minivan

Couldn't have been doing more than thirty,
But the motorcycle, crushed and grounded,
Gleams dully on the street.

Someone has covered the rider's face with a shirt.
He's laying on his back across the yellow lines,
Knees up like he's reading, or watching
Clouds go by.

photograph by Kou Hattori


Tink's Lament

What is she, this Wendy-Bird,
that falls and calls so prettily?
I've sung for years
in your silver-tipped ears
but 'twould hurt you none
to be quit of me.

She cannot fly; she has no light,
no flowers in her gown;
Yet for her name, you'd learn to write
and set your dagger down.

She'll leave you, boy, and take with her
the hearts of all your men;
And like a boy, you'll forget her,
and be all mine again.

This giant girl will make you cry
and scold you when you crow;
So leave her there, this Wendy-Bird--
the sky is ours. Let's go.

Illustration by Trina Schart Hyman


Laying Out a Yellow Dress the Night Before First Grade

She sleeps. You're pacing, tidying
the corners of her room. One loveworn giraffe
near the dresser, a flattened ankle sock
by the door. The sock, the color of crowded chicks
you watched in the coop this morning.
Peeping, vibrating, one great mass
of parentless fluff, the chicks fed
from their new trough. Small beaks.

Such businesslike eyes. They circled one oblivious bird,
her crabbed foot caught in the water dish.
She hadn't hid the smear of red. Chirping still,
the sweet chicks frenzied. You sat frozen,
one hot hand to your mouth
until your husband found you.

Tomorrow morning, your daughter will ask you
why not the red dress.
You will say there was a stain.

photograph: "Naptime, 1989" by Sally Mann


In Spring

Everyone’s cold. To-do list
stretches miles and I won’t
get out of bed. Email from a sane man
screams I AM AFRAID
and I’m dropping small tears
on your shirt but you’re
not in it. Kids outside
are doing what they’re supposed to,
screaming, pushing, falling down,
and I see your frown in a photo
and it’s frostbite on my bones.

You’re gone. Can’t feel
my feet, but lavender fingers ache.
Grief counselors preach acceptance:
You aren’t coming back.

I say, take me, wakening earth,
take what’s left of this frozen stone.
Close that wound up. Let spring begin.

photograph by Allie Taylor


A Complete List of My Regrets (So Far)

1. Brad—
Lenox? Linden?
definitely him.

2. And two months ago,
when I had the chance,
not stepping over
the ankle-high fence
to take your hand
and stand with you,
laughing, under the biggest willow
on Saint Stephen's Green.

photograph by Esther Moliné


Sea Green

The shores at Shankill
are mostly deserted;
rocks roll in the waves
as the far sun sets.
You pull paper plates,
a bottle from your jacket;
I dig in my bag
for the late lunch you packed.

Olives; hard sausage, cubes
of white cheese, bumping
cradle-gentle in their green oil.

You're fishing deep dark pockets
for the silver forks you fingered;
in my head I'm reading
wet words
from your last letter. That same picnic,
the same stumbling surf, the same far sunset:
the same circumstances,
and some other me.



Man, you are man, mosaic--
One shimmering image, three kinds of smiles,
Ten frowns--

We think of loss
As a hammer; juggernaut;
Bowling ball; forest fire;
The river, shaving stone. I

But loss
Is an a
mbush, and each wind
Blinds me anew
With handfuls of sand

That were tiles

That were blue

That were gray

That were blue

Green eyes.


Widow at the Orthopedist

He takes my right hand gently,
touches each fingertip. I look at the door.

I wouldn't have come.
It's never hurt this much before

Every day? he asks, turns my palm
to the white ceiling. Cross pens clink
in his breast pocket.

No, I finally manage. Some days
I don't feel anything. Some nights
numbness is what wakes me up.

Everything is just so slippery.
Nothing will let me hold it for long.

photograph by Lara Korlara


To Endymion

Really, when you think about it--
though I guess you wouldn't--
this is the most perfect
of perfect loves.

No Thursday night after nine years
will I catch you
with my sister. In dreams
you have us all, my dear. In dreams,
I don't mind.

No Sunday morning in January
will you barge in as I'm waxing;
never will you watch me
dig broken glass
from a hunt-night's feet.

I'll always be just this radiant
to you, my moonbound boy.
Besides, beloved, if you

could speak,
you wouldn't be
nearly so charming.

"Diana and Endymion" by Walter Crane.
More on Endymion here.
This poem needs a lot of work. Any suggestions?


From the Journals of Sylvia Plath

I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.

Still nothing. I don't know where it's gone.


The Lovesick Ornithologist Justifies Her Plane Ticket

Iron containing short nerve branches in the upper beak of birds may serve as a magnetometer to measure the vector of the Earth magnetic field (intensity and inclination) and not only as a magnetic compass, which shows the direction of the magnetic field lines. Whether this magnetic map is consulted, strongly depends on the avian species and its current motivation to do so...research has...suggested that magnetic compass and magnetic map sense are based on different mechanisms and are localized at different sites: The magnetic compass resides in the eye, the magnetometer for the magnetic map lies in the beak.
Dr. Gerta Fleissner

So that's it then, lovebird of mine:
our eyes alone won't do it. Point A
to B, I see it, sure,
but won't find my way to it.

I'll fly and fight and never tire
until this ocean's crossed;
but 'til we're mouth
to mouth, my dear, I'll be
as good as lost.

original bird-compass article here.
photograph by Claire


Interlude: Other People's Poetry


It is no night to drown in:
A full moon, river lapsing
Black beneath bland mirror-sheen,

The blue water-mists dropping
Scrim after scrim like fishnets
Though fishermen are sleeping,

The massive castle turrets
Doubling themselves in a glass
All stillness. Yet these shapes float

Up toward me, troubling the face
Of quiet. From the nadir
They rise, their limbs ponderous

With richness, hair heavier
Than sculptured marble. They sing
Of a world more full and clear

Than can be. Sisters, your song
Bears a burden too weighty
For the whorled ear's listening

Here, in a well-steered country,
Under a balanced ruler.
Deranging by harmony

Beyond the mundane order,
Your voices lay siege. You lodge
On the pitched reefs of nightmare,

Promising sure harborage;
By day, descant from borders
Of hebetude, from the ledge

Also of high windows. Worse
Even than your maddening
Song, your silence. At the source

Of your ice-hearted calling --
Drunkenness of the great depths.
O river, I see drifting

Deep in your flux of silver
Those great goddesses of peace.
Stone, stone, ferry me down there.

Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963)
illustration by Arthur Rackham


Hurricane Season

The ship set sail in September,
puffed with whatever the summer left over.
Clouds clotted on the horizon.

He was cheerful, rum-cheeked,
captain of the great tall thing.
I was a mermaid lashed

last-minute to the bow. 
With white painted hands 
and featureless breast I was there

to pray away the storms,
an empty-eyed envoy to Neptune
to prevent what my captain pretended

wasn't coming. And so I prayed,
arms at my sides in the sick gray surf.
I prayed, no tongue

in my wooden mouth,
as the ship sucked
into the sea. 

My captain spun the massive wheel
as though the sails would save him.
I was swallowed and spit out.

The bowsprit creaked. 
The ship tossed the captain's body
like a baby. He was dead weight.

The boat went down,
and as the whole mess groaned
his face swept past me,

blank as my own.


So many years, 
we've reincarnated. He's 
the archaeologist fighting

to save the rotting wreck.
I'm the biologist
five hundred feet down, 

drinking cool air like it's water,
learning from the shipworms
just what sunk ships

are good for.

photograph by Ana Cabaleiro
inspiration here

 photo copyright.jpg
envye template.