3. Moss


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Nineteen and unbreakable,

Because there was always something

To catch onto when he fell,

Until yesterday.

I guess it’s true: Desperation reaches

For whatever it can, whatever

Presents itself a savior.

Could be a rock, a branch,

Anything, at the right time.

It’s not surprising,

He reached for the moss

As his foot began to slip

From the waterfall’s slick face.

The moss,

Only an arm’s reach away,

Easy to touch,

But unable to stop his fall.


2. Moss


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I found one word,

As we hiked Palisades Park

To the waterfall.

This word coated everything:

Fallen logs, arched branches,

Boulders, and the paths

We slipped upon.

I was shocked. Really, floored,

When, at the end of our hike,

We came away with the same word.

I asked you, and you named it,

Then, I proved to you

I had already written a poem–

Now thrown out for this:

How lucky am I to see life

Like you do? The one I love,

Not wowed by the waterfall,

Or the burbling brook,

Not the caves,

Nor the down-trees,

But the moss that covered that world,

Like your love for me,

Softening it all.


Even One Word


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Today, I’ll hike to the waterfall

To look for a sentence

or, even one word–

One moment of wonder

Captured, and brought back

To this quiet house

With its walls and windows.

It’s out there, somewhere,

Waiting, like wonder does.


Older Sister


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Write a poem about me,

I want to see how you see

Me, she said. As if it were

an easy thing to produce–

Like a photograph,

Or your child’s crayon drawing,

Mother, father, sister, brother–

Stick figures, holding hands

Under the sun, and a tree

Full of red circles.

Okay, I remember the line.

It was an imaginary one you drew

To divide our shared bedroom.

You and your crap, there

Me and mine, here–

Of course, I’m paraphrasing,

Taking liberties in my poem

At your expense. And already

I can hear you arguing:

She was a slob,

She was annoying,

I wanted to be an only child.

What does it matter now?

Here we are forty years later,

Drinking wine and chatting

About poetry. You, eventually,

Got your own bedroom,

And life happened to you

Apart from me.

So much life.

We rush away, don’t we?

Or, at least you did–

And then, you were back,

But more broken.

Sister, Tell me

What other word could envelop

So much fighting and jealousy,

Yet, describe this need I have

To confide in you, too?


Hawaii Painter


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There you were again,

On the beach of Mauna Kea,

With your towels and brushes,

And your intense fascination

With red boats.

I took your photo,

Because it’s easier than painting,

And I’m writing this poem,

Because it’s also easier than painting

The way you searched the canvas

For perspective: stepping away,

Then closer, strokes from below,

Then from above. Okay, I’ll say it,

It was like you were dancing,

And taking liberties with the distance–

From the water’s curvaceous edge,

To the tip of that blood-red canoe.


Hawaii Cat


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You called out

beneath plumeria.

So like mainland tabbies,

But missing

The tip of your ear.

You laid out

On the concrete bench,

As I stroked your back,

With my full palm,

And said, Sweet Hawaii Cat,

You’re sweet, Hawaii Cat.

I called for you today,

But got no answer–

And I started to miss,

Not the waves, sand, sun,

pineapple and plumeria trees,

No, it’s you I miss, Hawaii Cat.

It’s you I miss.


Pele’s Souvenirs


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Even the T-shirts are tired of themselves,

But don’t take the lava rocks.

Pele’s curse is a real thing:

Cancer, heart-attacks, financial ruin.

Just ask Karen, who took coral and sand,

Then lost her dogs, her house, and her husband.

He gave me a heart-shaped rock,

And I got kidney stones; it’s true,

Pele has a bad temper.

Thousands of pounds of rock

sent home to the island each year:

Place this back from where it came,

They scribble out to some unknown.

Absolution, it’s that easy:

Your hollowed-out heart,

An envelope, a stranger,

And a cruel goddess

Who is supposed to forgive.


Poem Then and Now


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You always flew on wings

adrift of sky and dreams,

A journey to find–

What was it you said?


It’s not enough to be alive,

If you don’t feel alive.


Yes, that was it.

So we watched you leave,

As the sun struggled

To get clear of the clouds,

At least, those were the lines

In the poem I wrote then.

But all I remember now

Is your back–

And how you didn’t turn

To wave goodbye.


Death of a Butterfly


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There are people we meet

Who are old;

They get older.

Her green house,

our gray house,

separated by a few feet

And a porous shrub.

The black and white manx

Meandered between her yard,

with its ancient birch,

glorious hydrangeas,

And ours,

with its withering grass.


The Divided Child



Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.

Even in their jubilee

There was this:

Who was more right,

More loved,