What I had not anticipated was the cat.
Named for the black-as-despair day,
born last in a litter the mother carried
into a blizzard. Only survivor, Friday
shuns human touch, belongs
to nobody said my landlady
who couldnâ€™t explain why she left
the cat with the house. I leave
food in the loft. Friday drinks
from the creeks, her head permanently
cocked. When her night cries
wake me, Iâ€™m tempted
to try againâ€”lure her
into the house, soothe with warm
milk, tame with kindness. But gold
blazes in her eyes, a story
I know too well.
Laughing Heart Lodge
â€”for Barbara Lange
I canâ€™t tell itâ€™s a heart
that slash of red on mottled rock.
No bigger than a manâ€™s thumb,
this stone on the edge of my desk
tilts away from me.
Inscribed on the other side,
a name, â€œLange,â€ the date, 1995,
fading now, the summer of Sunday
afternoons with Barbaraâ€™s people
at Laughing Heart Lodge, pot luck
and poetry,Â the hum of a crystal bowl
singing us into harmony.
Barbara collected people
the way some collect shells,
choosing not the perfect,
but the intriguing, the broken,
the scarred, and the sacred, like Ocean,
the Poet Laureate of some county
in Florida, who wrote odes.
Ocean once gave me a massage.
In an open hay field ripe for harvesting,
I lay naked under a white sheet on his table
while Oceanâ€™s hands surfed my neck, shoulders.
A light breeze swept away August heat.
In the distance, the Black Mountains
rose up around us, their ancient peaks
rounded now. It was the summer I said yes
when a visitor asked if I was a mountain girl,
the summer I discovered Barbaraâ€™s sanctuary
and began my search for the divided pieces
of my life. At summerâ€™s end, Barbara gave us stones
sheâ€™d painted. Mine appeared split
from some larger rock, curved
like a question mark, or half a heart.
Prayer for the Farmer at Laughing Heart Lodge
Bless his pure white hair
swept into a ponytail, clasped
with a pearl barrette. Bless the
hoops in his ears, the simple
choker around his neck,
his hands, rough hewn and calloused
from hefting hay. Bless the long drape
of his khaki skirt, the way he moves
so easy in his skin, I almost expect
heâ€™ll offer his hand, invite me to waltz.
Bless the way he settles
in a straight back chair, legs crossed
letting slip high heeled clogs
that hid pumiced soles, pink
and smooth as marble,
Aphrodite feet that make me want
to touch each one in turn, stroke
the ankle, leave the toes
for last, each nail filed short
and squared, buffed to shining.
Bless the gold ring
that circles a single toe.
Oh, bless these bare feet, enough
to make a Baptist out of me,
enough to make me kneel
before a bowl of warm water,
and beseech him, Tell me,
The Good Mother
In the photograph, cornstalks
tower over her, a jungle of plenty.
Her smile stretches into dimples,
fluff of curls frames her face.
Her children, boy and girl, lean
their heads against her knees and grin.
She wants everything to stayâ€”
the children she gathers into her lap
reading to them the same story
each night until they know
the words before they leave her lips;
her husband who works a steady job,
comes home whistling and sober,
his breath on her neck sweet as fresh corn.
Silk tassels wave in celebration and
no one sees the crowâ€™s shadow,
darkening the disappearing rows
like someone elseâ€™s destiny.