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Poetry Competition, Iran (circa 1600) [Sep. 18th, 2017 10:42 am]

Painted on square pieces of lacquered brick,
two poets kneel opposite each other
shaded by the canopy of a tree
with broad leaves and delicate, pink flowers.

At the right, in a saffron-colored robe,
head lowered over a sheet of paper,
one of them lifts his pen from an ink pot,
preparing to write a brand new stanza.

The other, in a cerulean gown,
a yellow scarf wrapped around his back,
stretches out both hands in front of him
as he recites a freshly composed verse.

Behind them on the emerald lawn,
wearing a dark vestment adorned with flames,
stands the judge who listens to each contestant
before she decides which is the winner -

and what a difficult choice it must be,
for you can feel almost equal refreshment
from their lyric voices, like a cool breeze
that moves through a garden on a hot day.

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Black Widow [Aug. 3rd, 2017 01:31 pm]

We spent the day packing up her cottage,
a cute mid-century modern structure
that looked like it could vanish in a puff
of dust if a strong enough breeze blew past.

I was carrying one of the last loads
through the kitchenette and out to the car
when I heard her call me from the bedroom.
Her voice wavered slightly, as though fearful.

She had stopped in the middle of her task,
rolling up a carpet from Kazakhstan,
and pointed at the floor in front of her
where a spider lurked by the rug's fringe.

Its shiny abdomen gave it away -
dark as pitch, round as a drop of poison -
with long, spindly legs and a tiny head.
We shuddered instinctively at the sight.

Neither of us wanted it dead. I tried
to wrangle it inside a paper bag,
but it would not be easily trapped
and scuttled off whenever I got close.

Such a small thing, yet so deadly as well.
I am not proud of how I used a broom
to sweep it onto the floor, then stamped out
its life under the toe of my sneaker.

Although I think we both felt relieved,
and she thanked me for taking care of it,
I saw her face contort with a hint of sorrow.
I have to say I shared her sense of remorse.

Later that evening, we told this story
to her parents over dinner. Her dad
expressed dismay when we finished our tale,
almost like the spider had been a friend.

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A Nun's Devotional Work [Jul. 25th, 2017 12:16 pm]

In the book she illustrated,
Judith stands behind Holofernes
and drives a spike through his neck -
causing blood to gush out, which stains
the page of this medieval text
so that even the words themselves
are seen to turn from black to red.

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In the Shadow of Mount Umunhum [Jun. 26th, 2017 07:03 pm]

If there were a shadow to be found
this afternoon, which there is not.
Anyhow, today is the kind
when shade provides little relief,
sun so hot my eyelids feel scorched.
This heat wave has lasted a whole week!
All I want to do is get outdoors
on days I have off, but as my brain cooks
in the cauldron of my skull,
I realize a hike was a bad idea.

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Strawberry Season Back Home in Vermont [Jun. 17th, 2017 12:27 pm]
Viewed by a Guy Who Now Lives in California

After a long winter and a wet spring
when sunshine was scarce enough for concern,
the first strawberries of summer are here
to be enjoyed during a brief season.

A friend share a photo of them online:
plump, sumptuous, red as rubies
but more precious due to the way they nourish
those who waited through months of dreary weather.

Their profusion in California -
huge fields along the coast by Watsonville,
sold at grocery stores almost year round -
seems outlandish to someone from Vermont

          and makes me forget how sweet this fruit can taste
          when it is only on hand a short while.

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haiku for Issa's birthday [Jun. 15th, 2017 01:26 pm]

The sun is hot -
a crow hides in the shade
of a persimmon tree.

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Farmers' Market [Jun. 11th, 2017 03:39 pm]

There is no map of the Farmers' Market.
Every Saturday, the arrangement of stalls
is different, so you need to figure out
where Radical Roots sells baby carrots;

you must search again for where Evening Song
displays arugula and pea shoot greens,
where Three Bears Bakery has ciabatta,
where Whaleback Vineyard offers apple wine.

Some would call this an opportunity
for a planner, or a cartographer,
to help shoppers locate the goods they seek -

but I value the weekly change in landscape,

            how the path you choose through the vendors
            lets you discover for yourself a prized find.

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Compost Bin [Jun. 5th, 2017 05:53 pm]

for Abbey

You told me you want one for your birthday,
though I have to say it seems an odd gift
to present you with a receptacle
for containing the waste from your kitchen:
your crushed egg shells and moldy orange rinds,
used-up coffee grounds and bell pepper seeds,
corn husks and basil stems and onion skins.
But anyway, I did get one for you.
Think of me when it comes time to turn over
the pile of rot, mining the barrel
for fresh mulch to spread throughout your garden -
and maybe think of me again at harvest
when you gather your strawberries and mint,
your tomatoes and lettuce and beans.

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Agility [May. 21st, 2017 12:34 pm]

You look it up in the dictionary,
expecting to find there a description
that matches what you saw earlier today
when a sparrow flew down from a tree -
how it went nimbly between the branches
then fanned out its wings once it got clear of them
and traced a spiral to the ground
where it landed with the grace of an angel.
The definition you read is brief,
even terse, though it does include the terms
you use to speak about such motion,
and as you consider this word's origin,
you start to wonder if perhaps it came from
someone's need to tell of a bird in flight.

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Stargazers [May. 11th, 2017 04:53 am]

Freshly cut from a local greenhouse,
their aroma perfumes my apartment -
nectar with a hint of cayenne -
a scent that takes me back to childhood
when they grew in mom's lily garden
below the stone wall in the back yard,
proud stalks of them among Turk's cap
and other Asian varieties,
buds that happened to mature each year
in the middle of summer
right as the Perseid shower began -
petals open on a humid night,
a dozen upturned blossoms
watching meteors streak across the sky.

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