One day when I was young
My father whispered
Did you know
That the safest place
In all the world
Is in your papa’s arms?

I tucked the words inside my head
And went to bed each night

These are the days
I find myself half-smiling
Remembering those moments
Of happy whispered promises

And those endless childhood nights
When I never once
Dreamed of growing up.



We talked at the café
looking out into the night
sneaking serious glances
in between
playful smiles

I followed you home
and invited myself to
stay for a bit

(you didn’t seem to mind)

At your house you
finally let me in

(but only for a while)

I spied the bottle of whisky
underneath the desk in your office
way up in that lonely, messy

Your books on literature
were stacked on a shelf in the corner
of your private room

(one, on sonnets, was upside down)

We went downstairs
listened to music
you made me laugh
again and again

Then I saw
your melancholy eyes
and your flushed cheeks
after I knelt down to
kiss you and
feel your warmth
against my face

Time was suspended and I
slipped farther down
into the mystery
of our tangled, temporal

Seems you were
on my mind
that night and
some others

We were
lovers sometimes
enemies too

yet even in friendship
I often ached
to understand


Long Ago

I close my eyes and I remember
how we once made each other laugh.
I lived for your smile, which signaled
another moment of our life together, forever,
for a while.

Our youthful dreams intertwined
as we practiced being one.

Then she came.
A bundle of unspeakable pride, utter ecstasy,
and daunting obligation.

Trying to be my mother, I watched as you
learned to become your father.
With a baby to raise
we found ourselves drowning
in images from the past.

Her crying was relentless.
I was weary – you, impatient
the two of us struggling, together
yet growing apart and living each day
in our increasingly
separate worlds.

I whispered.
Alone, you heard nothing.
We stopped breathing
and instead choked
on unspoken words.

Too many unanswered whispers
and I slowly went mad.

Inside my loneliness I felt teardrops
as thick as the milk
feeding our child.

And I heard the echo of my own voice
calling your name
as she slept in my arms.

Where was I?
I can’t remember.
Where were you?
It doesn’t matter anymore.

A time of unbearable sorrow
has already diminished in intensity
as I realize how much
our baby has grown,
how beautiful and strong
she has become.

I look at her face and
see you, her father,
smiling back at me
just like so many years ago.


Outlining: a poem for my mother (and father)

stop growing old
just for a moment
or at least help me understand
my role, my stance
as I find my footing and search for space
between our tentative boundaries.

where do you end and
where do I begin?

I see you: at once an infinitely strong
and courageous woman
who adored her husband and
held our family together
with endless bowls of steaming white rice
and the swirling sounds of music
classical and elegant
sometimes dark and mysterious
this became your gift
enriching our minds, caressing our souls
just like your soft hands and tender kisses
when we were good, or hurt, or eager to sleep.

I look again, and glimpse a face that’s
wrinkled and confused
occasionally distant, yet still familiar
I catch my breath and gaze
the maternal beauty is still there
underneath the weight of time.

now spread across the kitchen table
are letters, bills, and looming decisions
a multitude of worries about how to manage
the gift and burden of
living so long, without him.

where do you end and
how do I begin

even to imagine
a life without you, too.


Musings on Fifty

I will wear my wrinkles well
and let the gray come to my hair.
I will resist the temptation to
measure my worth by the lack of soft skin
around my middle.

I will remember my mother and my mother’s mother
and my other grandmother and all the aunts
and I will feel privileged
to join a club of
supremely strong, wise and
beautiful women.

I will not bow down
while looking into the mirror
half-expecting to see a younger image.
I will smile with each memory of youth
that reminds me of how much
I have learned
from so many glorious mistakes.

Yet I will allow myself to pause
just for a moment
as I realize
how our bodies begin to fail us
just as we are beginning
to understand life.

Family ca. 1967

My mother’s worries are fear, love
and anger.

Dad drinks another shot
wiping his brow as he
gently strokes her
soft, dark hair.

He turns for a moment, and she
takes the bottle away.

Another game of hide and seek.

My brother and I
lie still in our beds
awaiting the darkness
and after that

The bright morning sun and

Family Ties

Papa was tall, silent, and strong
he wept only when he drank
as the liquor flowed, so too the tears.

Pointing to the bottle of scotch,
he’d whisper about love and spirits
and pain.

With his tall body swaying back and forth,
back and forth,
my father was like a tree
being pushed by the wind.

Even as a child, I wanted to catch him
or maybe just



I grew up and I drank
shouting, weeping
angry at my father
angry at myself
for feeling so alone.

Years have passed and
I am sober.
Yet even today
there are bold and intense
flashes of anger
like a volcano, erupting.

I look and I recognize
the expression of fear
on my daughter’s face

Just like the one I wore
when I was growing up

And so I bend down and