On Rindge Ave., Cambridge Mass. Photo by Olive Pierce 1974. ©Family of Olive Pierce.

The Sky Pale

You see the picture of Angie, sitting
with Vincent and Ted? And that’s me, Bug, looking happy –
a Jesus miracle – with my gritty feet,
arms crossed, cool as a popsicle.
Emmett and Jackie, the knuckleheads, fooling around
on the railing.

The night before?
My father and mother, yelling,
doors banging, ice cubes rattling.
It’s the money: she lights into him, he’s folded up, worn out,
angry-sad because she doesn’t stop.
I’m sitting on the top step, outside my bedroom.

I wouldn’t care – same old thing. But the baby…
He cries a little, so I sing to him, and now he’s a
a kitten, his breath in soft purrs.
I could go back to bed; instead I grab my piggy bank
and hurl it down the stairs. So they’ll know:
grown-ass people, wake up their own baby boy.

Never mind the little girl.

Early morning, I sneak outside, hang with Angie.
She’s quiet, fading in and out.
We sit there, watch the moon slide into dawn.
The sky pale and pink. The boys got nothing going on.
Angie says, what you smiling at, Bug?
And it’s true – I’m happy.

We wait like that,
wait for the trash truck, come creaking round the corner.

I write poetry off and on, usually as a way to probe the emotional content of a story that is elusive and resists a more prosaic telling. I have written several ekphrastic poems, which are by definition prompted by a selected piece of artwork.

The poem above, The Sky Pale, referencing a photograph by Olive Pierce in the holdings of Maine's Portland Museum of Art, was among those chosen for the museum’s ARTWORD event in 2019.

The anthology Balancing Act 2 published in 2018 by Littoral Books, celebrates the work of 50 Maine women poets and includes four of my poems. You can find Balancing Act 2 HERE.

The poem below was published in Little Star, A Journal of Poetry and Prose, issue #6, 2015.

Russian Scientists Bore Into Ancient Antarctic Lake

(Dr. Luckin, director of the expedition, said, ‘For me, the discovery of this lake is comparable with the first flight into space.’ There have been much–disputed hints that life might still exist there. NYT 2/08/12)

We live in a pale globe, haloed in the light of underwater moons. Like the blood of a medusa, we are diaphanous; woven of silken threads, spun from microbial skeins, soft as smoke. The skin of our world glows overhead, a membrane holding in fluid and song. We have words; not to say out loud, just to look at. We press them into shapes or memories and release them. The word called blue can be sky or long afternoons. Brown can be sand pebbles or an empty heart. Like birds, blue and brown can soar and glide. They can spin like star motes or flatten, like feathers in a storm.

We dance. The space between us is sacred. The space around us is eternity. We never ask questions. We do not begin or end.

We are crying. There is too much noise, a dark thrum, like music that is wrong, like music with sharp edges.

We are afraid to look: the words break like black ice; splinters of red pierce the grey green sky. Our eyes hurt; we want to shut them, lock them tight as fossils. Our ears are curling up, like seashells. Words like drill or science or discovery pulse through the water like words for pain. We are dying.