Oak Harbor, WA
Living room windows are many things:
reading glasses one of them.
Ten feet of glass hold cement
the size of Big Foot’s coffin,
framing Fir trees that split the yards
into rumors of turbulent turf. Here,
museums of dog DNA left by night’s
anxious tongues save dreamers from harm.
And so, the days’ rinse & repeat does
what to wash away the fear of setting
each other on fire? Lord, I am a cold,
wet cloth on the face of a burning world.
Or at least that’s the last thing I saw
During the Pandemic, I Turn Our Shed
Into a Writing Studio
Because space. Because the universe
of my family was burning nebulas
onto my paper and every poem
was unwritten and pulled into a blackhole
I never saw coming. Because
coffee cups on my poetry books,
not on coasters. Because television, radio,
a conversation about breakfast, French toast
or eggs. Because those I love are loud
and happy and want to tell me a story
about our cats. Because lawnmowers
can live elsewhere. Because a neighbor
gave me an old desk. Because I added
a window for light. Because a little insulation,
a space heater, and a long extension cord
from the house. Because sometimes we need
to sit with quiet. Because I know how to
paint, tile the floors, make space for art.
Sophomore Year in the Midst of a Pandemic
I had to move out of the college dorms. Stripped away from my friends,
Away from the coffee shops,
Away from the classrooms,
Away from the study spots,
Away from the house parties,
Away from all social interaction.
These are supposed to be the prime time in our lives. To do stupid stuff, to be young.
I am now in my childhood bedroom.
With the old paint and posters on the wall.
Surrounded by things that remind me that I am no longer an adult again.
In the beginning, it took a while for me to adjust that I didn’t have my freedom anymore. Living
in the heart of Seattle and now living in the suburbs somewhere in Washington. The springtime
on campus is so beautiful.
But this is the new reality. We are living in a pandemic.
Studying through a pandemic.
Studying in my childhood bedroom instead of the artsy coffee shop with my close friends.
I miss it, I do.
But I understand that nobody could’ve predicted this,
That we just need to do our part to stay at home,
To go back to doing the things we really miss.
The Unheralded Junco Becomes a Star
These months without our teams, we convert
a dose of sport-spectator energy
to the closer study of our feeders hung
for kitchen-window viewing. We predict
a Pacific wren, a western tanager, a waxwing.
Someone a little flashy or rare. With a crest
or dazzling yellow plumage. Always the crow
will be captain, the Steller’s jay and starling, the crew.
A robin who tugged off a strip of birch bark, presumably for his nest,
almost won, and I love the Calypte annas, but they aren’t in contention
since the salvia's out along the side path,
hidden from us while we eat.
How to explain my choice
when it is not the brightest who wins my affection?
Not the life-list novelty? Not a record-setter?
How, from the rear, emerged an unexpected hero,
an unassuming little gray-brown body,
black-headed, with a surprise of white
in its tail at departure?
It chips at the seed cake I made.
It pecks in our clover yard.
It hops up the front walk as if to join us inside for tea.
It likes what we set out for it in wire baskets,
and flies in and out of our lives repeatedly
each day if we’re lucky. A wild thing
for us to see.
A place to relax
Now it is a place of work
How can I go back?
Thunderbird flaps his wings as I prune near the pond, lost in thought. Aviary drumbeat awakens me from arboreal slumber as I rise.
I’ve learned to trust oneness with pond and garden, so I float on lilac scents, drift to the beat of wings.
It’s not what I’d think or any plans that I’ve made.
I brush tips of evergreens as I float to cirrus clouds. White mountains below are shockingly bright. Himalayas beckon me as stars burn holes through black sky with crackling distraction.
I drift until I wonder why I’m wet, see I’m on a skiff blown by hurricane winds. I really don’t care.
A turquoise eddy ahead becomes a whirlpool I cannot avoid. I gush downward to a bright blue jar that overflows with mammoth rainbow-hued marbles lying along ocean's bottom. They roll out of sight in turbid graywater. Swishing sounds and swirling colors surround me.
Water rages with thunderous force but I casually mount a surfboard, glide toward the round smoothness of more mega marbles. Crash into them but am surprised by softness, slip back to whooshing water madness. Struggling, I swallow what surprises me by tasting of apple.
I am flummoxed by familiarity. Certainty is sudden. Marbles are continents.
I pop put from the sea to a tall masted ship, one of three close to an empty shore. The first mate speaks a familiar but foreign tongue. I have a crew to command and must be decisive.
We drop anchor, I handpick the best, leave trusted ones to care for the ship. Have no hope to return. We row away from the bay, nearby trees twice as big as I’ve known.
We row until well-worn hands have hard-earned blisters. We row until land is a dream, all that I knew a memory. I join the wind.
I rise on the back of Thunderbird and float through wispy white clouds. Hypnotic wings flap me awake. I know he is right and continue to prune.
This House Has Seen
fun” by visitors
and passersby – the house
Lived and loved and embraced
and yelled and screamed in delight.
As well as anger with this family
for fifty odd years.
Kitchen redolent with smells divine.
Pungent, garlicky with pork,
fishy with brine and smoke.
Unbearably sweet with apples, cinnamon,
mango, honey so fresh the nectar
carries still the scent of bees and lavender.
The walls share space
shaped by hands over many years.
Spaces of men and gods,
promises of life;
of sky and stone
and earth warmed by sun
sheltered by those cedars
planted by the boys in childhood.
Bamboo and hedges of unknown
Caressed by life of azaleas petunias, banana,
tomato, squash, peppers, even lemon trees nurtured in pots
through challenging winters of sleet and snow.
In this space,
Squirrels daily race the dog to safety
In the cedar, knowing she never wins but
granting the thrill of chase to
breathe life to her dreams.
Jays and crows scold demanding food or something.
Robins and tiny sparrows
Break the night stillness
with sounds of enduring life, for that is the
order of things in the outdoor spaces.
rice and chicken and pork and shrimp
and Persian saffron, crimson with promise of sex and life.
Transformed into Spanish paella
fashioned with a hint of Ilocano and Ktunaxa
For good ethnic balance in this
household of voices singing
Family and family and family.
The walls -hung with paintings
Of children, women, flowers
Eternal glimpses of
to contain joy and
pain, love and passion within.
The weeping of agony and loss
Overcome always by the soft, smooth warmth
of your being, coaxing greater
Cries of passion and love
Escaping confines of this house.
a small but significant footnote
forcing time to breathe, sleep, contemplate.
Long from now we will tell
Of the time of great fear,
Overwhelmed by the Greater Joy.
My Pandemic Life
Since its Thursday, do yoga series 5; check Amazon deliveries; weed the lettuce; check the on-line medication order.
Listen to news. How many newly dead in the state? in the nation? in the world? Check CDC website for updates. On-line newspaper updates, Facebook updates. Send donations to Church and to Food Bank.
Since its Thursday, remember Zoom cocktail party with F & V at 5:30. Check level of gin.
Wash hands. Change from singing “Row Your Boat” to “Mary had a Little Lamb.”
Ignore the calendar. Don’t count the days.
Check school district website. Is there a change? If schools are open we want to be there. Research Kawasaki Disease.
Since its Thursday, put on gloves, mask, take car for its weekly drive. Don’t think about the olden days, when drives to restaurants or movies were every day easy.
Buy new hair trimmer; I’m sure it was the trimmer’s fault that J’s hair turned out that way.
Find flour. Buy some on Etsy? Email K for bread recipe. Search for Mother’s recipe. The scent of baking bread evokes stability, safety, security.
Since its Thursday, do Facebook post so the rest of the family knows we’re still alive.
Tell R about dream of trying to attend five different on-line funerals at once. I’m learning part of our love used to depend on our coming home to each other from different work worlds. Find some new reasons to enjoy each other.
Check with F. Can she Zoom babysit Sunday afternoon? R and I need some time together – alone as a couple.
Call bank. Check on options for partially paying the mortgage.
See if any TV channel has Korean baseball.
Since its Thursday, put out the ballerina costume; tomorrow is my Bin Isolation Outing.
What is happening to our hearts?
In our hearts?
We wake in the night to think of our loved ones.
We feel the enormity of our love for each of our dearest.
We call. We forget what had appeared broken.
So too even unto ourselves.
Love reigns as she opens our eyes to the beauty in each of our beloveds.
And in ourselves.
As we know, when we encounter those we don’t even know, what we share:
A longing to touch. To connect.
Moments of thanks, and preparation, should we need it, for goodbyes.
As we slow, to enjoy preparing and eating.
As we plant, in our victory gardens,
little rows of hope.
As we see young fathers walking with their children.
How long we have waited to rediscover the simple.
To come home.
Seeing our homes and having time to dig deep into dusty corners,
To clean and polish,
Touch our homes with affection,
Until they gleam.
Through panes messages are collected
while door to door delivery drivers are
warm houses melt into cool space
as the walls that protect us confine us