clear sunlight

clear sunlight cuts

through fall’s cool smolder.

there’s a warmth hidden

in those leaves,

hidden everywhere.

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handshakes

Outside the prison camp
Issa’s name becomes my password
my secret handshake.
I don’t know these men. I reach out
shake hands, my name is Sarah.
Yael adds “she took care of Issa,
the Issa who was shot
crossing the border.”
They shake my hand again, as friends.
(If anyone took care of him
it was Yael.) They all know Issa,
or at least who Issa is
except one man, confused
who knows a few too many men
shot crossing the border,
not that far from here.

Expectations

Expectations

Oh I’m blessed but greedy.

With a slice of warm apple pie

on my plate, I worry

it won’t be apple-y enough.

I watch the sunrise over Annapurna,

over the Fishtail and Machhapuchhare,

and worry they won’t turn pink and gold.

Expectations leave me begging for scraps.

Looming over my left shoulder, and the town,

Machhapuchhare remains rock and ice.

The sun keeps on shining.

The apple pie is gone from my plate.

Cow Trails

Leaving the pagoda

I strayed onto a herd trail,

blazed by the cows themselves

(I stepped in it) it led,

of course, past chittering

monkeys to bulls, they stood

placidly chewing their cud.

I often lose the trail

and follow cows, seeking God

in all the wrong places.  

I Count My Days

i count my days
weeks lose their meaning
the month is one third gone
then half, two thirds,
accelerating
to much time to pass
and not enough at all
my days are read from checklists
my checklist reads
to check on her again
and so I do
so still and shrunken
i double check that she’s not dead
her pulse is there
but no response to pain
she barely gags.
the fabric of time shifts
slowing to accommodate
her fading days
good-bye mrs. T, i say,
leaving, then to the nurse apologize
for talking to the almost-dead.
oh she heard you, she smiled,
i almost imagine it’s true.

women’s work

for e., a local elder

My mother taught me
to sew
and I pull the fragile skin taut
across your arm,
take the needle from the kit
and sew
the way she taught me
to mend pants

your own work is known
around here
the doctor wears a kuspuk
sewn by you

my work doesn’t hold.
i hear from the team
your line pulled free
from your vein
and my stitches.

all that remains of my work
is sound of your voice
and the echo of
your rare embrace.

Coming home

Coming home to the sweet familiar
I returned, a stranger.
Coming home to the soft light and sticky rain,
coming home to my familiar language, fluent words
entwined in this city’s strange and ceaseless roar.
I buy too much wine and olives
and imagine I am home.
A young black man bends down, apologizes
“excuse me, I’m sorry miss” before he’s even near me,
as he bums a half-used cigarette from the sidewalk.
I flinch anyway, and he vanishes.  I don’t like this script.
I speak Hebrew to a clerk by mistake.
This subway car and this life hurtle forward.
Another life ago I traded home for something
I can no longer define.
I’ve heard what I seek is already here,
I only have to stop searching
so damn hard.

(still in the backlog)