Simplicity Pattern


In the days when mothers sewed their daughters’ clothes,

a woman still lovely, weary now

but willing still to dream

of pretty party frocks and patent leather pumps,

sends her girls to bed.

It is late April,

when gold-flecked forsythia and tender-lipped forest violets

dress the spring earth.

As the sisters sleep, she lays out on the kitchen table

the Simplicity pattern’s tissue promise of carefully stitched shirtwaists.

Her hands hold the pinking shears

and with each cut a third-grader’s surprise

becomes delight as she tries on

the white-and-yellow checked dress,

full-skirted, matching belt,

rickrack at the neck and trim for the cap sleeves.

The older sister steps into the violet dress,

fashioned as a fifth-grader’s princess raiment

and down the road they walk,

almost too elated to notice

the fast-flowing brook tumbling over rocks,

the robins and finches whistling to them

as Newfield Road merges with Main Street

and they see the red brick school

and the children on the playground

and the yellow and purple of their full skirts

swirl with the fresh new air of May.

Did we tell her we cherished her hands

that cut and fit and stitched the colors of spring;

her pride, that sent us off in new dresses

to dance around the Maypole;

her gifts, more than I can count

or even remember?

It was in the days when love was spoken

in the tissue rustle of a Simplicity pattern,

in the careful choice of purple cotton and yellow and white checks,

the unnecessary expense of rickrack to make the dress special,

the matching fabric-covered belt to cinch the small waists

and add an extra flare

to the dancing skirts of the daughters’ new dresses.

A Father Takes His Daughter Fishing

Only once,

but it was enough.

He rowed out onto the blue-gray lake.

It was good to push off from the dock.

His arms were strong

that Saturday morning

but tired from the night shift

at the mill.

He rowed to the spot

where the fish were biting.

She sat in the bow

and told him stories.

Because he was listening,

she unraveled Anne of Green Gables

from the knotted skeins of her heart

and stretched out the swashbuckling

sword-brandishing of The Three Musketeers,

filling the small boat

till there was hardly room for the fish

that weren’t biting after all.

He listened to this daughter

and wondered where the fish had gone.

The sun is too high in the sky, he thought,

the fish are resting in the cool water

at the bottom of the lake.

You have quite an imagination, he said.

I worry about her, he was thinking.

How will she ever learn to catch a fish?

. . . just as she hooked a trout

and jerked the pole

and the obliging fish

flew through the summer air

and flopped at their feet in the skiff.

And she never forgot

that he smiled,

held the slippery prize,

gently drew the hook from its lip

. . . and threw it back in the water.

So small, he told her.

We should let it live.

Recycle the Moon

Recycle the Moon
(Full moon, December 19, 2021)

Wrap your arms around her belly 
and (on the Solstice, December 21)
when she rolls through 
your bedroom window 
and lingers, hovering over your dreams,
cushion your head on her soft pillow chest,
watch her wistfully as her smooth, 
round back glides horizon-bound.
You wish you could go with her, 
but she has work to do:
Each night she sheds a layer (December 22)
Delivers a package (December 24)
Gives away a slice of light (December 26)
Sweeps the star-spangled sky (Dec. 28)
Dances till dawn (December 31)
until, unburdened of her own bounty 
she goes home, closes the door 
(New Moon, January 2)
and—well this is her secret—
Is she sleeping, baking lemon pie, 
composing a symphony, writing a poem?
You are curious to know: 
Does the moon, like you, want to be new?
Inside her sky-bowl she ponders and stirs, 
adds lunar alchemy until she’s ready, 
then opens the door just enough (January 4) 
so a sliver of silver slides through,
coy as the petal of an evening primrose.
And you hear the young moon’s 
saucy talk and flirty laughing
and you watch her belly growing 
big and bawdy and round (January 12)
and you wrap your arms around her 
and she’s the same old moon 
you knew before,
recycling her light, 
renewing her promise to return.
(Full moon January 17, 2022)

The Small Plums

The small plums

on arching limbs

clutch the branch

from which they grow

plump and purple.

Far too many, I admonish the tree,

you astonish with your superfluity.

But then, what do I know?

I only hover nearby,

circling the throne of your high summer glory.

Too crowded with the weight of survival,

some plums let go their hold

still green.

Some grow fatter every day,

more purple, sweet and round.

The greedy gardener,

thinking they are hers,

worries they will rot

for want of human hands

to pluck them from their bough

until, standing at the early morning window

she finally sees:

three birds pecking at plums

as a squirrel whisks along laden limbs.

Fruit falls and

dewy skin breaks open

for any fly or sparrow,

worm or beetle,

mouse or perhaps

for no one

but the fat-bellied glory of August.

Come Sit Beside Me


sit beside me

on this dark step

and wait with me

for the moon to rise.

Listen with me

to the silver words

as the moon cushions

the blue darkness.

Our hands join.

Our shoulders touch.

The blood alive

beneath our skin.

The warm night air

flowing in and out

of our lungs.

Do we hear the same music?

Do we see the same living shapes

in the constellations?

I put aside this idle curiosity

and bask in the rhythm

of our simple, silent


Mullein in the Time of Pneumonia

A tightness prompts

a constricting

that pulls a string

that moves in a creeping current

up to my throat

but the air tickles and

try though I might

I cannot suppress the cough

that barks into the night.

I slip out of bed

to sit alone in the chair

beside the sky-dark window.

It is then I hear in my lungs

the murmur of living Mullein,

even though her stalwart stalk,

budded in summer with buttery blossoms

stands dry and brown

in winter’s garden.

Stay with me, Verbascum thapsus,

for I am lonely with fever

and fear edges my breath.

Blanket my chest

with the soothing sage-gray

of your lush and velvety leaves.

We can be allies, I proffer:

help me heal

and you will always be welcome

wherever you set your roots,

be it in the lawn

the lettuce bed

under the apple tree or

among the pumpkins in their patch.

I never doubted her promise

or questioned her advice

and now, old friends,

with every spring

and grateful lungs

I watch for her return.

Each in Its Season

Each in Its Season


It is barely April

and the much maligned dandelion

is among the first arrivals.

She comes hurling herself at our lawns uninvited.

Is that why she is unwelcome?

Radiant little being!

Look at her glowing cheeks

and love her for her steadfast devotion.


Meanwhile, we watch impatiently

for our garden darlings:

the tender tulips of May

the pomp and peonies of June

the irises so independent

lilies lithe and lovely in July’s heat.


Following these divas

the umbels of elders flower

like points of sweet cream dappled in a basket

and the heady scent of valerian

soothes our sleep through open windows.


Soon Queen Anne’s lace

fringes every field and meadow

and ornamental jewelweed

sways tall and taller, pink and laughing

at the stalwart efforts and dense yellow of goldenrod.


And then the asters of August,

appearing right on time,

first as questions,

later as purple answers.


Each in its season.

Each with its reason.

Why here,

why now?

Choosing to live

is all.

Sea Lavender

Limonium carolinianum        

 Her territory:

the essence of temporary,

the uncertain, beaten, worn

and ever-moving, ever-changing breath

where sea and moon

exchange their greetings.


She thrives,

indeed can only survive

among shore rocks and marsh grasses,

her roots anchored

in soft and spongey sea mud.

The air she breathes is cold and salty.

Her taut, thin stems,

wrapped in seaweed

and the papery remains of crabs,

branch into spikey statements

of tiny blue-gray flowers,

sprays of pale delicacy

that hint at her tough tenderness.


She’s weathered a lot of storms,

has many tales to tell.

But she saves them.

And when all the other flowers

are dead or dormant

and it’s winter

and we look for warmth and stories,

there she is,

reminding us

that the tide advances

and the tide recedes,

so send your roots down deep

and hold your head up high.








Great Bear

Go then, Great Bear, to your den beside the frozen pond,

and there retreat as the Cold Moon

traces its arc in the star-frosted sky.


Sleep now, for winter is long,

your breathing slow and shallow

as the sun tosses its golden coin

and turns to catch it.


Dream, now, of roots and berries,

of the plant medicine that will heal us when we awaken

with the sun’s return.


Rest, as Ursa Major, your spirit cousin in the sky,

points the way to Polaris

and shows us each

the way to our true north.


The Owl of this hour of wonder

–as old as the year–as cold as the frost—

–as weary as the trees as they let go their leaves–

Perched on the limbs of fading light, she has dozed through the days of December.


Imagine her now turning her head to gaze wide-eyed into this darkness.

With the patience that wisdom bestows

she makes a slow survey of the moonlit path to your door.

Grandmother of the forest, Guardian of the graves on the hill,

keep watch with us

as we light our candles

as we kindle our fires.