POEM: Hommage a Mary Oliver

You do not have to get over it.

You do not have to saddle up and hit the trail

and light out leaving behind everything you once loved.

You are allowed to let the wounded bird of your heart

sing silently in the dark for as long as it wants.

Tell me about hurt, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile there is a hot cup of tea, or coffee.

Meanwhile the birds at the feeder, cardinal, bluejay,

goldfinch, are waiting to be fed.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear air,

can still catch your attention as you cross the street

as the cars wait for your passing

as you look out the window from your desk.

Whatever your wound, no matter how long it takes to heal,

the real things of life will wait for you to catch up

with them, will call to you to refill the feeder

and drink your tea before it gets cold.

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

(Originally written in response to her death in January 2019; reposted today in honor of her birthday.)

POEM: Solstice

If only for one day 

If only for one moment

Like the tombs and 

Monuments of Neolithic Europe

Stone places with mysterious names

Brugh na Boinne, Bryn Celli Ddu

That on the summer or winter 

Solstice allow one ray of light 

To illuminate the interior

Passing through a distance 

Of stone and darkness

That has to be walked, or crawled, 

Like an unbirthing, 

Returning to the Earth 

Mother’s womb—

If only for one day, one moment

Go into the darkness 

Of your heart and let it 

Penetrate, the light 

Of knowing and feeling

That you are loved.

POEM: The Turing Test

Let us propose a game.

A man and a woman, call them A and B, go out of the room.

A third party, man or woman, call them C, proposes questions 

transmitted in writing. 

The purpose of the questions: To determine which party, 

A or B, is the man, and which party, B or A, is the woman.

A and B shall both attempt to deceive C

by giving answers appropriate to the opposite sex.

Now, let us consider this question:

Is a man who loves other men

a man or a woman?


Let us propose a variation. 

Here is a computing machine, call it A.

Here is a human person, call them B.

A third party, call them C, proposes questions 

transmitted in writing.

The purpose of the questions: To determine which party, 

A or B, is the computer, and which party, B or A, is the human being.

Can a computing machine convince a human being 

that it also is a human being?

Now, let us consider this question:

Is a man who loves other men 

a human being?


Here is a man, a person, a human being. 

He is very good with computers.

He served his country in the war. 

He fell in love with a man 

that he met in front of the cinema.

They committed acts of gross indecency.

Is a man who loves other men 

a man or a woman? Is he 

a hero or a traitor? Is he 

a human being or an object of gross indecency?

Was his death a suicide or an accident? 

This is the Turing test.

(Alan Turing died on this date in 1954, having served his country during World War Two and then been branded a criminal by that same country because he was homosexual.)

POEM: We are coming

They came to us with open hands, whip marks 

on their backs, broken shackles on their legs, 

and said, We are human beings. Treat us as such.


And some of us said, Yes, you are, and took their hands.

And some of us said, Shut up, nigger, and called for 

the tear gas, the fire hose, the dogs.


We came to you with open hands, with flowers 

in our hair, with the words of a preacher, and said, 

We are all human beings. Love is the only way.


And some of you said nothing. And some of you said 

tear gas, rubber bullets, Martin on the balcony, 

thirteen unarmed students at Kent State.


We come to you in numbers, tears in our eyes, 

signs in our hands, and say, Black Lives Matter, 

justice for Freddie Gray, no more police brutality, 

hands up don’t shoot


And some of you still said nothing. And others 

said riot gear, tear gas, rubber bullets, 4-wheel drive 

driving over resistant bodies, torches in the humid night, 

You will not replace us, some very fine people.


We come to you with masks on our faces, not 

to hide who we are, but to stave off disease, 

we come to you risking infection, risking 

a death of not being able to breathe, like 

Eric Garner, like George Floyd, we come 

in masses like never before because we have 

no jobs, no protection from the disease, no 

compensation for our losses, no comfort 

in our grief except a man who tear-gasses 

citizens so he can walk a few yards in triumph

and hold over his head before cameras a book 

he has never read, that does not say what 

he thinks it says, we come to you saying 

We the People, and those of you who are not 

still silent, hiding indoors, you say by your actions 

You are the Enemy. We, your neighbors.


We are coming for you. Not with weapons, but 

not with flowers, not with violence, neither with 

peace, not the peace you demand, which is order, 

which is death–we are coming for you as the wave 

comes for the shore, shaken by the movement 

of the ocean floor, the turning over in the deep– 

the tsunami wave that pulls back and pulls back 

before it unfolds, breaking down everything in its path.


We are coming.

POEM: Devotion


I want to set my heart on fire
and offer it like incense. I hope
it smells like frankincense
and myrrh. I want to throw
myself at a god’s feet, not
in subjugation, but in
adoration–because my knees
are too weak for this beauty.
I want to be gathered up
in arms that are stronger
than any mortal man’s could
ever be and cherished.
I want to bask in the sunshine
of unconditional positive regard.

I can stand up again and walk
on my own two feet. The heart
is a self-renewing organ,
the original phoenix, sweetly
burning till it’s consumed,
then rising from its own ash.
I can give it away again and again
and still have all the heart that I need.
I am neither a prisoner nor a slave.
When I offer myself, I know I am offering
what I have that is of highest value,
and what I receive in return is equal,
and greater, coming from the god.

Take my heart, divine one, this
renewable resource, this well of
mystery, the inner altar, the place
where everything is gathered and
distilled–eat me, drink me, burn me,
taste me, all that I am is yours
that I might live for you, from you.

(Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay)

POEM: The source of all your power

At its longest your hair
covers your shoulders,
the curls of it over your bones
like sea-foam over the rocks.
When you gather it up–
“Why is it a man-bun?” you ask.
“Why not just a bun?”–
it exposes the bones of you
and how fine the skin is
stretched over them; for an instant,
seen from the back, you might
be mistaken for a woman.
But loose and unbridled, half-
blended with your beard
(which has grown in ginger),
it makes you all man, Samson
or Hercules, its length and
thickness and heaviness
the very proof of your virility.
You smile as you undo your bun.
“Well, yes, it is the source of all my power.”

POEM: Berlin, November 9, 1989

A number of blogs I follow on Tumblr posted images from this date: The destruction of the Berlin Wall. Those images gave me this poem.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.
Our poet said that, Robert Frost, the quintessential
Yank who was born in California
(and what could be more American than that?).
There is a groundswell, a shift in
the tectonics; there are roots, rocks
that freeze and swell and crack.
A wall is a human thing. It means nothing
to the flying crow, the crawling bug,
the leaping fox, to the nature spirit.

Yet the something that doesn’t love a wall
may also be the human spirit: the grandmother
who hasn’t seen her newest grandchild
because she cannot pass the wall; the lover
who has not embraced their beloved
because they cannot pass the wall;
the friends who no longer drink and talk
by night, laughing and discovering,
because the wall rises up between them.
The thing that doesn’t love a wall
may be human hands with shovels,
with sledgehammers, human hands
and human feet, human love and
human rage. The thing that doesn’t love a wall
is love itself, which crosses separations.

They learned that in Berlin, in 1989.
If we put a wall here, where nature only
put a river, if we put stone and steel
or concrete or barbed wire where only
water runs, if we try to build a wall
around the human heart and make it proof
against compassion, against love, against
justice, well, listen to our American poet,
listen to the quintessential Yank:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

POEM: To the Queen of Heaven


Let it not be said that there are no goddesses in heaven.

Let it not be said that all goddesses are of earth.

Let no one deny the sovereignty of Juno,

queen of heaven, lady of the sky.

Praise to Juno whose domain is the heavens.

Praise to Juno whose mantle is the clouds.

Praise to Juno whose handmaid is the rainbow.

Praise to Juno who both stirs and calms storms.

Praise to Juno, wife and mother, queen and matron,

protectress of all women whether slave or free, rich or poor.

Praise to Juno, equal to Jove, wise as Minerva,

steadfast as Vesta, free as Diana, beautiful as Venus.

Praise to Juno, protectress of women, shaper of heroes,

guardian of the nation, noblest of goddesses.

Ave Juno Dea!


A poem, inspired by recent events

A voice from the lake

Psst. Hey, sweetheart. Over here, in the lake.
It’s okay. No, you don’t have to get in the water.
Just listen. Listen. I have a sword. Do you like swords?
Some little girls do, I know. They aren’t just for boys.
Nothing is just for boys or just for girls, by the way.
Don’t let them tell you that. Don’t believe them.
I have this sword. It needs some cleaning,
but it’s in pretty good shape. Hasn’t been used in a while.
Would you like to have it? I think you’d take good care of it.
You seem like the type of girl who could be trusted
with a sword. I’ve been keeping it hidden, waiting for
a special person. The right girl. A girl who would be
fair, who wouldn’t just wave the sword around
and smack whoever she wanted. Fair, but strong,
too, strong enough to keep the sword safe from
bullies. Bullies are always trying to take other people’s
things, am I right? You look strong, and smart, and
fair. I’ll give you the sword, and if you get tired of it,
just bring it back here to me, okay? Good luck.

Hey, little girl. Yes, you. Do you like swords?