Two Poems for Autumn

09/07/2009 at 9:09 pm | Posted in Just for Fun | Leave a comment

Here are a couple old poems that want to have a permanent home here.  Plus I miss having time to write at you guys!  I’m working for The Lion King and planning for some recording this winter.  Fingers crossed that the money, the time, and my sanity align.

I have had poetry on the brain this month; I’ve gone to several readings and shared a concert with Anchorage poet Keith Liles, which was a lot of fun.  Here are two old poems of mine that just wanted to be posted somewhere permanent, so here they are, for my reference as much as anything else. And constantly being revised.

All my best to you —


What I’ve learned from Boeing
(with thanks also to McDonnell-Douglas, Airbus, Piper, and Aeronca)

They terrify, but they’ve taught me, these towering painted tubes.
I am a restless pupil. I keep one unblinking eye out the window, always,
to make the ground stay where it ought to,
to eject if I must.
My lessons will not take not take not take,

so I rescribe them, so I make flashcards,
so I repeat and repeat again:
I’ve learned this much is true:


One. We fold up the wheels to fly. No don’t let’s go back

We dial down the engines to cruise.
We cannot continue up and up and always up —
we will plateau, twenty minutes in, and when we do, you’ll feel a clenched fist pull your stomach straight down a thousand feet, every time,
and then we will descend, every time, which is worse,

every time.

Two. There is a backup plan:

should the hydraulics fail, the wheels can still extend and retract five times before they’re exhausted.
We have two engines, but one is enough.

Three. The sun rises with you
and sets later — the day is longer — from way up here.
Some seasonal changes can only be seen from above.
Everything looks its proper size, the busy things little, the ancient things looming.

Four. Clouds indicate excitement ahead.
The little bumps will make you jump, but they won’t take you out.
True turbulence inspires shouts, involuntary, hallelujah, as it acquaints you

with the naked strength of the forces that keep you impossibly

Blasts buffet our tiny bodies and we remember our relative importance and we shake

Five. It is possible to keep one’s calf muscles flexed and taut for all of nine hours without ever relaxing. Or noticing.

Six. Do-overs and go-‘rounds are horrific
but smart.
The alternative,
stubbornness —

Seven. Weight is no governor of airworthiness.  There are other forces at play.
Thrust overcomes gravity, logic, boggles every obstacle.

Eight. Airplanes want to fly.  It’s harder to land than to launch. In fact,

A stiff breeze on the tarmac will lift each bird with longing.
Best tie them down ’til takeoff

or they will.

And sure as sure is sure,
I am not the captain
and he will not let me steer
or even make suggestions. Nine.

Ten. Try though I might with cold concentration to keep us


we land every time. (As we must.  My foolishness knows no bounds. My stomach will not be persuaded.  Stay up stay up stay)

And last (take note, write this down, quick, eleven, keep breathing):
we must do as much

falling as flying —

exactly, to the inch — to go anywhere.

I’ve got it, it’s all down all down, I abbreviate wildly,
trying so hard so hard to transcribe this thund’rous three-hour lecture,
while with chapped lips
I swallow lukewarm air in quarts
and bless my terror:

I bless the takeoff, the touchdown, and that time in-between

three hundred souls
inevitably bent on anxious meditation
scratching at the meaning in this hollow bird,
all of us, all of it

crammed with prayers and promises.


Test Strips
Colored Crises of Conscience

Deep down darkroom where I’m Queen of all you see —
manipulating images — at last a lone and quiet and free
to wrestle all my inner demons.
The smell of fixer soaks my hands. My
crystal ball, the test strip in the tub
slowly glows its prognostic-stripes — three seconds, six seconds, nine,
wow, double digits, so so dark — my feet hurt
too much to wonder. Choose quickly. Set the timer.
I fix the paper, ferry it into the light and
sit for the first time in hours (I must. Just a moment. Wait).
Her skin in shades of gray unmakes me. Ghostly
or sunburnt? I get to decide. Like back in

high school, in Washington, in the rainforest of the nation,
where the sun-god shon so seldom it tempted my soggy imagination
toward degrees of browner white.
C’mon, all the cute girls do it,
spend their time, their parents’ money, to go to the mini-mall but return from Cabo.
To fake’n’bake or no? That was my question.
Of course, not really my question — I
couldn’t afford those radiant hotbeds of rest

free lunch kid book of tickets dangling

and if I could I’d just get skin cancer,
like as not; at least premature wrinkles. Still

in summertime I chose my SPF:
45, 30, 15 — flirting with danger —
wondering if sun really cured acne, wondering
if those girls (boys) would notice me
if I looked orange like them against the Blue-gray Sound.
Bleach my hair. Take diet pills. Learn to walk that way. Quit
acting so damn smart. Pretend to hate my teachers. Then
would I escape these minor crises of conscience,
wondering now if it’s a sin for me to
keep my lily-white Scandinavian/English/Scotch-Irish skin?
To like it sometimes, even? Bitch, racist,
don’t even think that. White is trite.

In Hawai’i they stared for good reason. I was
wrestling with issues of sov’reignty in museums, studying the Queen’s jail cell, not
lying out by the pool. Hah. At work they asked me
why I had nothing to show for my trip, gringa. I grinned, I laughed.  Rolled down my sleeves.

So now what do I do with my own photograph?
Three seconds, six seconds, nine seconds, twelve.
Reimagine myself.
Could I slip out of the grip suffocating white liberal guilt
if I just drift, just

let myself follow the
sun — hell with cancer, loosen up, bitch
— and stopped carrying 45 like a gun
in my backpack? I guess I’d survive
and eventually get tawny and chic. As if.

Well, maybe just one second more. There. Maybe
freckles would scare off the zits. There. Maybe
my man would survey me proudly, bless me:
Look at you, you’ve got some color!
This photo at the beach would look so much sweeter —

but the heart of my matter is, you’ve stared down this demon before.
Here in California it takes so so so much effort (and sunscreen and shut-up
and forced, cold laughter) just to
like myself the way I’m meant to be:
Healthy. Just healthy. Just…one more second.


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