For Maurice Abravanel
Jewish conductor of the Utah Symphony for over thirty years
Framed in gold, he hangs above their young heads,
above their stiff posture in the lacy dresses and stiff black pants,
above their smooth arms clutching satiny violins.
He stands straight-backed but comfortable in
his black tuxedo and white bow tie.
He approves of the quick breaths
and flying nimble fingers.
His has danced on keyboards in
Berlin, Paris and New York.
But then, in the high desert valleys of Utah,
he chose to shape an orchestra,
and a community,
with a baton.
Now he looks out under lined brows
at the young of the valley
earnestly playing Beethoven and Mahler.
He stands above them and remembers Milaud and Stravinsky,
the National Medal of Arts and the Tony Award.
He remembers when he couldn’t pay the concert master,
or the cello player,
Years in Greece and Switzerland have faded.
He has given his years to this people
he never become part of.
He stands, overcoat draped over his arm,
holding white gloves
gazing over sleek heads,
Included in Sand & Sky: Poems from Utah anthology, 2017
He fell like God’s hammer,
and slapped the water
with a sound that snapped
all heads to the lake.
A shiny black gargoyle of parts and angles
wrestled in the circling water.
Then, the great ebony wings
pushed the air down
in one stroke,
and rose high above us.
The silver dash of the fish
hanging from his
(This poem was published by Waterways in 2008)
I, from the ochre of the desert,
would have called it a waterfall,
or a creek.
But it was too small.
Those more schooled,
would have called it a rivulet,
or more precisely a rill or rillet.
We stopped the car to stand
above the spring-swollen creek,
surging in the V of the tree covered hills.
And then a movement,
away from the creek.
Between trees just beginning to bud,
standing in a carpet of coffee colored,
a tiny spill of water.
over a rock,
into the ditch.
Crystal clear, and cold.
I looked higher, another sparkle,
This one from under the otter brown leaves
and higher, another fall of water,
and higher still,
My eyes climbed
higher and even higher,
leaping from rivulet to rill,
up the hillside,
until my vision finally blurred
at the top.
Then, all the way back down,
Published in Fresh Breath (Poetry of Tennessee)
You Would Come
Today between duties and tasks,
we played a simple little game, my son.
I was on one end of the room, you on the other,
practicing your stiff-legged run.
A giggle, a laugh, a twinkle in your eye and
you’d hurtle across the floor – both arms swinging.
I’d catch you on the other end, laughing together,
soft cheek against a rougher one – my heart singing.
You knew that I’d be there. I knew that you’d come.
What faith between we two.
You having confidence in me and me having
confidence in you.
Years will steal your toddler’s step
and leave a firm stride instead.
You will stand tall against the sky
and deep thought will fill your head.
I have no answers for those long years,
I’ve never trod that road.
But many have told me that the way is
uncertain and heavy is the load.
If I, as Solomon, would be granted one wish –
it would be this, my son.
That you would know I would be there,
and I would know you’d come.
(This poem was published in Poetic Eloquence in 1996, and again in SHEMOM in 2008)
Thank You for Knowing
To Helen Johnson and Almira Seymore
Was the betrayal easy?
Did your husband’s smile of approval,
allow you to sleep at night?
How could you speak out
against the vote –
against what women might become,
against your own capacity?
Was it easy walking on cobblestone streets
built by fathers, brothers, husbands –
paved with stones of condescension, control,
restrictions and expectations?
Was it easy to accept the guiding hand
helping you over the puddles?
To Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton
We know it was not easy to slash a new path
over rough unbroken ground,
for those who would follow.
Frightening to stumble and right yourself.
When you could not sleep at night
because the cause burned
in your belly,
when you endured jeers and cat calls,
jail and censure,
did you ever doubt?
From those who benefitted from the
battle of seventy years,
we could stand alone.
(This poem (without the strange formatting) won first place in the American Association of University Women’s Division of the Ohio Poetry Contest in 2006)
Fruits from Italy
It hangs in my kitchen
a remembrance of my gentle father
who came home from Europe
Ours was a house of few pictures.
Money went for school shoes
But in our living room was
the oil painting.
Basketed grapes spill
ruby, amber, olive, and indigo.
Pale peaches, golden pears,
a tall carafe and burgundy wine
under an azure sky.
We didn’t drink wine.
I didn’t ask until I was older.
It came from Italy, my mother says.
Where your dad was in the War,
His commander said,
“To the victors go the spoils.”
He didn’t believe that
but when they captured an Italian town
and the people were gone . . .
I see my young father’s sagging shoulders
and anxious face
His buddy elbows him.
Aren’t you going to send anything home
to that cute little wife?
These people aren’t comin’ back, ya know.
My mother continues,
Hitler had a second home in Munich.
When they got there
many of the soldiers
crated up sets of dishes,
and pictures and furniture
and shipped them home.
Your dad sent only a few teacups
‘AH’ was engraved on the handles.
Where are they now?
Lost. She shrugs. I was just glad to have him home.
That picture probably isn’t worth
I gaze at it and wonder
where it hung—before,
in the other house,
the other country, the other life.
It hangs heavy on my wall,
(Published in 2015 in “Fresh Breath” anthology.)
Death on a Post-it Note
Lock the doors,
turn off the computers,
gather books that have strayed.
and dim the library lights.
I stoop to pick up a yellow post-it note.
Fingers poised over basket — I stop.
The handwriting is spiky
“Mt. Carmel” – I know that hospital,
large and looming gray.
“Rm. 2106” – second floor –
emergencies and surgery.
“Nurse Holbrook – ICU”
I breathe slowly.
“614-863-0146 — Call Connie”
Who is Connie?
An empty space and my eyes
slide to the bottom.
“Pleasant Valley FH – 614-803-4491
Viewing 7-9 Friday”
An unexpected peek into
a stranger’s six-line life.
I have been where I was not invited.
I drop the note into the basket.
(This poem was published in Still Crazy in 2009)
“Tell me about your father.”
His clear blue eyes are steady, measured.
This tall man who intimidated me
when I stood on defiant legs next to his
He is broken by the disease and a
wife who soon will not
I want to say lightly, “What about my father?”
But his eyes hold mine.
I know what he is asking and I tell him
about my father who was
by the same monster that lurks in him.
I tell him there was no
“The pills and shots,” I say. “He faded. He slept
in his chair and then his bed, and then he
I am finished.
“Sometimes he was anxious,” I say. I cannot say
afraid.” Fathers are not
“There were pills. I don’t know what they were.
His face is impassive. “Will you find out?”
he asks softly.
(This poem was published in an anthology by July Literary Press in 2004)
I will take you across the water, Lord
but show me no miracles.
My loaves and fishes are yours
with no coin of Caesar.
Peter and I pulled nets together,
and he rose to meet you on the water.
He casts his nets in other seas.
His voice is mighty.
Do not heal the wound from the gutting knife,
I am comfortable with the pain.
The nets drip silver in the moonlight and
the lap of water on wood is a lullaby.
Show me no miracles, Lord.
(This poem was published in Irreantum in 2003)
Grey planes drone an alto,
above the throaty voice
of the city.
doors with broken
in back alley
Rhythmed river, lapping on the
quiet wharf. A solitary
note holds the blue-black sky. One
silver horn skims the water and
(This was one of the first poems I had published. I wrote it after a trip to New Orleans where I was blown away by the feeling of warm humidity that hung over the city all night long. For the first time, I felt like I really understood William Faulkner’s (Southern writer) writing. The poem was published in 1995 by Calliope.)
I almost missed you,
in shades of winter-world brown,
Shaggy chocolate clumps hung to a sleeker coat,
like mud and damp earth, blending into the riverbank.
I stood watching the snow-melt river
gush over the smooth rocks – icy cold.
Chill wind ruffled my hair, and I heard the
whine of car engines pulling the mountain behind me.
You swung your heavy head towards me,
and my eyes moved up the riverbank.
You stood knee-deep in flowing silver,
a gangly adolescent on knobby knees.
Tearing at the red twigs that promised summer green,
your rhythmic chewing didn’t slow.
Walking carefully upstream, your hooves settled,
after each small slide on the smooth rocks.
I looked for your protector – a world-wise mother,
but steep cliffs rose behind you.
Were you, like me, on your own this early spring?
We watched each other in silence.
(Having trouble with WordPress and the spacing. For some reason I can’t pull the line into place. Published in Whisper in the Wind in 2008).
I once stood small
on water-numbed feet,
facing the crashing waves,
straining for a glimpse of Japan,
or whatever was on the other side.
the cold wind-damp of the ocean
blows my hair
and I smell the salt and kelp.
Hungry for smoked salmon,
cold crab, and warm clam chowder.
I am home again,
after fifty years in the ocher of the desert,
years of red rocks and prayers
for mountain snow packs
Yes, the gnarled mesquite is home too,
but a clear-eyed home,
color washed with experience,
I stare at the gray horizon,
now knowing that I will not see Japan.
I look for foreign freighters,
and the spout of a whale,
hoping the thundering breakers,
will quench the thirst of my
(This poem won second prize in the Chollo Division of the Chaparral Poetry Contest, and was printed in their book titled, “Chaparral Poetry Forum” in March of 2014.)
Cool desert breezes flirt at the window
and tug at the hem of the drape.
My heart sits happily and enjoys the silence –
my mind knows that it’s late.
Only now I hear the crickets murmur.
Now I smell the hay.
Only now I see the things that must have been
there all day.
I try to see the summer sun. I want to watch
the storm blowing.
But somehow there’s always things to do and
places to be going.
A list of important things that must
efficiently be done.
I’ve never learned to top my list with –
“Watch the setting sun.”
How do I tell another how it is to sit alone
and watch the smoldering coals.
How do I tell another in this world of accomplishments,
time scheduling and goals?
If your soul mate knows the peace of silence,
the fragrance of the rose,
You don’t have to explain or justify –
If your soul mate knows time schedules and has
never heard the fairie drums,
He’ll try to be patient with your nonsense and tell you,
you’ll be tired when morning comes.
For reality is harsh and demanding, It takes all we
have and asks for more.
We’ve never done enough. We’ve always fallen short.
We’ve done it all before.
But in these few precious hours between the dark
and the coming day.
I can hear the wind caress the trees and
smell the new mown hay.
Perhaps someday on the top of the list I will write,
“Watch the setting sun.”
But until that courageous far off day, I have tasks
that must be done.
So goodnight to the crickets, the whispering,
and the fairie drums.
Sure enough, I’ll be tired tomorrow
when morning comes.
(When I was raising 10 children, I often felt like this. 🙂 Published in “The Advocate) in 2007)
I heard you snarled when employees came late,
that you worked them to the bone.
I heard that you were rabid when contradicted,
and often yelled on the phone.
I heard you held your management on a short lease,
but you seemed like such a nice guy.
Work for you? The idea gnawed at me.
I wanted to give it a try.
Well, you do growl when things go wrong,
and snap when I don’t toe the mark,
but we get along just fine.
I bite before you bark.
(This poem was published in “The Nut House” (how appropriate) in 2004)
“Choose your fund carefully,” you said.
“And then stay with it. No load is not always the best.”
I stood in white,
commitment circling my finger.
“Invest on a regular basis.”
Your wisdom dispensed at seminars.
Long talks, passionate nights,
working together with laughter.
“Reinvest the dividends—don’t spend them,”
Matt and Susan called you daddy.
The blue chip stock rode the bull
laughing in the living room.
“If there are slumps—ride out the market,” you said,
growling like a bear.
On chubby legs, Susan ran giggling
to the swing.
“Invest in growth stocks.
There must be sacrifices, but they will pay in the end.”
Weekends alone with sick children.
Growth in patience.
“The risk factor should be low, if you follow the plan.”
That’s what you said.
Yesterday, you sold out—paid the broker’s fee—
and were gone.
Portfolio not diversified enough?
(This poem was published in “Words of Wisdom” in 2004.)
Flat heat stretching to the horizon,
undulating waves blur the mountains.
Hot wind blows grit into her mouth.
She spits, and wind blasted,
it smears her cheek.
She wipes with soiled apron
and shielding her eyes,
Now only rivers of sweat flow.
The dress clings, she turns, melting
into the shadow of the house,
listening for the horse sounds
riding the wind through
the dry swish of
withering corn stalks.
Corn of hope, planted behind
the protection of the dam.
Blighted promise, gone
in frantic rush to the flat.
Baked before the kernels
could form, the new corn
She hears him coming.
One more summer, he’d
promised. If the crops
fail, we will go.
She can hear
the soft plod
of the horse,
ankle deep in
(This poem was published in Ibbetson Street in 2005 and will be published again in Utah Sings in 2015)