When is a sound not a sound,
but a feeling?
When is a presence so still,
yet quivering with purpose?

I sat in a humming place,
only sensing
the flight and landing of the bees.

Between my ears, so much music
is battling for real estate —
so I invited the bees to fill the space
with their neutral, universal tone.

They ignore me
and simply do what they do;
I am pleasantly null
in their presence,

cleansed and ready
to attend to the next flower.

Worst Friday

I have not been very diligent about posting Easter poems, so here is one from last year.

Deb's Few Words

That one day was a bum deal all around.
Betrayal: check
False accusation: check
Torture: check and check.

Just a few days prior to the Very Worst Day,
The people were excited!
Running around, hosannah-ing right and left,
“Oh Jesus we love you you’re the best”
but soon calling out the name of Barabbas.

The Most Awful Day pressed on.

Even worse than the torture
was a sudden deficit of disciples.

Deny deny deny.

Did he know things were going to go sour
so quickly? All indications are
yes. Still…

As always, it was the women
who showed up, really showed up.
And that one apostle whom Jesus loved.

By then, all that was left was the forgiving
and the dying.

IMG_2258Painting by Robert Valienti-Neighbours

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To My Mother

He took me aside that night
before he washed our feet.

“You know what you must do.
It was written in our book before we
were born.”
I tried to look away, my sadness was so great.
But he would not let me.

“My brother, we are one. Know this:
You are forgiven.
We both drink of this cup.”

I leave this note, and these coins
that they thought were my reward.

My brother knows my heart.

The hatred of the ages
is as nothing.


The Turning

The air feels different today, the light
has turned toward the west.
The soft butter-gold of winter shifts now
to blue, the spectrum opens wider,
the days grow longer.

is bundled like light,
both wave and particle.
Months and years rolling, rolling.
Seconds, minutes falling upon us
with measurable points of contact.

I spent a minute in despair
and my light dimmed to brown.
I spent a second in blind anger
and it faded to black.


I spent a year in learning
and the great field of my soul
went to shades of green
I had never seen.

I spent a month in giving
and my heart’s light glowed

The year turns as I turn,
the light falls upon me to refract
and re-color.
I am clock, I am prism.

This part of me is always free.

Choir Loft

Belinda hoped tonight would be a rehearsal where she could fade to the back row. Always having been one of the “good” ones in other choirs, she was now surrounded by disconcertingly talented singers. Most of them 20 years her junior. She was now self-conscious about her vibrato, and ruefully remembered how she and fellow youthful soprani had snarkily imitated older singers’ wide, wavering vibratos. Chickens, meet roost.

The audition had gone well (feeling a little rusty, she had chosen an Italian art song that the accompanist could probably have played blind drunk with one hand), and Belinda went into the first rehearsals feeling pretty confident. But the music the conductor selected made her feel uneasy and off-balance. Close, dissonant harmonies; odd meters; foreign vocal techniques that left her feeling old, out of touch. Consequently, she had been making up excuses to avoid practicing. And when she did practice, she made so many mistakes! And why were there so damn many sustained high A’s? A few years ago, she wouldn’t have blinked. Perhaps she should have tried out as an alto, but she had always had trouble reading inner voice parts. Just couldn’t really hear it, you know?

So Belinda came to rehearsal feeling sickly, unprepared. A cold terror seized her gut when the section leader said they were going to do quartets this evening. Her only hope was that there were so many soprani, they would probably have to double up; she could pair up with one of the confident young girls, and follow her lead. Or she could duck out to the ladies when it was coming up to her row.

She was so distracted that she barely noticed the first couple of quartets singing one of the challenging passages in an impossibly difficult piece. Everyone clapped enthusiastically, gave critiques, praised the singers. It is true, they were not perfect, but they gave clear evidence of having practiced the passage. Belinda had barely looked at it, let alone worked out the alternating meter and (let’s face it) downright unpleasant harmonies.

Glancing over a few seats, she locked eyes with a woman of roughly her own age, who had been smiling and listening. She nodded, Belinda thought kindly, and seemed relaxed and unworried, tapping her foot lightly and breathing with the singers.

Suddenly, it occurred to Belinda: she had years, years of experience behind her. She had sung masses and requiems and cantatas of equal or surpassing difficulty. She had ALWAYS loved to sight-read! That’s all she needed to do, really, both listen closely to and shut out the other parts, simultaneously. That was what she had learned to do all these years.

All of sudden, she was up. Deep breath. Go.

Salad Days

Jill sat at the glass-topped table, aimlessly moving a piece of lettuce around the plate, like a wayward jigsaw puzzle piece that does’t match the box photo, not at all, whose idea was this anyway, stupid lunch with Flynn that just wouldn’t serve any..

Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. Flynn didn’t show, and so she ordered this salad that she didn’t even want. Who cuts these black olive slices into precious little stars, anyway, some underpaid college student no doubt trying to work her way to a degree that is useless and probably marrying the totally wrong kind of person to get out from under the loan debt, who would stand you up for lunch even as the divorce papers…

Anyway. The grackles fussed over a discarded disk of bread, a lazy bumblebee (hah! she knew it was not lazy at all, such a human misperception of the life of bees, for godsake they worked so hard for so little, just a bit of yellow powder clinging to their…) hovered near the slightly ratty bougainvillea. Perfect landscaping for this nondescript little bistro Flynn picked for their, what, maybe last ever lunch together. And Flynn. Where was he.

Well then. Jill pressed her fingers to her wrist. Pulse, a little accelerated. She could feel a moistness on her forehead that foretold a headache coming on (Oh, come on, really now, she had been disappointed so many times before, rack this one up to The Usual…).

The problem was, she knew that after this flurry of dispiriting missed meetings and misdirected anger, they would be friends and probably no certainly this was for the best. Still. He could have at least picked a better restaurant to make his final, dismissive statement.

Jill relished the last drops of iced tea (formerly iced, rather), sucking noisily through a straw and enjoying the glances of fellow undiscerning diners. A warm glow spread through her stomach (maybe this headache would lay her low) as she rose, left some money on the table, and left the lettuce and little star shaped olive for the grackles to share, or not.

Hot Sweet Nirvana (for Ian)

The only thing that makes me rise
Is the pull of a cuppa hot joe.
I’m pretty much a shambling schmoe
‘Til its molecules unshutter my eyes.

I know it should be clear blue skies,
or the hectoring of a morning crow,
or my lover’s touch so sweet and slow,
or the cat’s plaintive, spoilish cries.

But: what if nature abhorred caffeine?
And suddenly: no more java.
What then of this shallow, de rigueur routine?

Could I make do with a bean that is fava?
I feel that would force the golden mean
fallacy; so no sacred bean, no nirvana.