Saturday, December 8, 2007

Looking up

This is my mom when she was 16. She grew up in
Waban, Massachussetts.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Liz Southwood at 16 in New England

This is my mom when she was 16.

Tea Time

//tea time

Teatime, rain pours on roof,
lit lamps reflect in crystal bowl
hugging pomegranites,
persimmons, which also glow
like a bowl of embers by the green tea,
the Imari plate with chocolate chip cookie.

New Dress

//new dress

You should look like a poet,
wherever you go,
I read somewhere
in a book of
advice to poets.
How do poets dress?
I do not know.
In a black velvet beret
and flowing white silk blouse,
Usually I go to three or so
stores, try on
a few dresses,
decide my jeans
and silver earrings
will do after all.
stepping off a store escalator,
I saw a plain and simple dress.
It was my size,
it was my blue,
my length,
my material,
unpressed linen.
I fell in love
and put it on.
Three salesladies
“It’s your color.”
“It fits you perfectly.”
“It looks wonderful.”
It’s true.
I feel like a poet,
in my dress of linen, blue.

My Recorder Choir

//my recorder choir

Early Hints of Heaven

The recorder music we play is so heavenly -

Ancient church music like Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.”

Wearing bleached surplices over black cassocks we glance

Between our music and the choir leader’s hands which dance

The time. My hands start to shake when I begin to play

But calm down as I am suddenly carried away

And am caught up in the melodic musical wave

As our recorders’ birdsongs swell, sweet pipes, through the nave.

And the music seems to have been already there

As if waiting for us to pluck it from the air.


//hurt working on
Yesterday, we four,
who’ve lunched
regularly for years,
met in a chic French restaurant,
charming with tiny lamps,
a vast mahogany armoire.
Over the doorways
were dried flowers
dyed scarlet and French-ultramarine blue,
arranged into Seurat-like parasols,
frothing with shiny white ribbons.
Through the doorway to the kitchen
I glimpsed gleaming copper pots,
from which delicious fragrances flew.
In a half hour or so
the small, tres agreable French waiter
produced three bries en flaky croute,
a muddy green, fresh vegetable soup,
chewy bread and an immense salad.

We four old friends
talk each other through life’s hurts,
the latest, newly diagnosed breast cancer,
Stage 2.
Earrings and three wedding rings flashing,
one sips wine, the rest drink water.
We do not dwell
on old losses,
but coo gently,
soothingly, trying
to HELP her deal
with this new problem.
Hearts aching,
we offer dinners,
to the doctor.



In a bleak moment of despair,
as prayers rise like doves in the air,
and of rushing wings, you’re aware,
then hope’s suddenly everywhere.

Honey Locust Spring


When spring arrives here every year,
like a miracle, overnight
honey locust blossoms appear,
twin to wisteria, but white.

Their sweet scent wafts through my bedroom
screens, clustered blooms, white caps on a
sea of green leaves. The flower-bloom
makes of the tree a big bouquet.

The newborn leaves, a soft, spring green
in the purity of morning
light, have a luminescent sheen.
The breeze sends them to-and-fro-ing.

Bees drift, mobiles brushing each bloom.
The tree is vibrant with their hum.
Birds trill, squawk, and coo as they zoom
about, to twigs and branches come.

Once in a while during the day
I step outside to stand below
the tree, breathe deep, watch flowers sway.
I’m high, my delight overflows.

Hawk In Winter

When lightning zigzags past the locust tree,
as graceful as Chinese calligraphy,
crystals on twigs gleam iridescently,
the trunk, like obsidian, glows darkly.

As graceful as Chinese calligraphy
the hawk, glancing below, soars through showers.
The trunk, like obsidian, glows darkly.
In bare boughs are hidden promised flowers.

The hawk, glancing below, soars through showers,
as raindrops, like mirrored mercury, slide.
In bare boughs are hidden promised flowers,
tender twigs, new green leaves. Aloft she glides.

As raindrops, like mirrored mercury, slide,
hawk wheels, looks through the tree. She cannot see
tender twigs, new green leaves. Aloft she glides
around the dripping wet, rain-darkened tree.

Hawk wheels, looks through the tree. She cannot see
through the thick, white mist drifting in the air
around the dripping wet, rain-darkened tree.
Winter, chilly winter, is everywhere.

Through the thick, white mist drifting in the air,
crystals on twigs gleam iridescently.
Winter, chilly winter, is everywhere
when lightning zigzags past the locust tree.

Elizabeth Southwood
May 1997

Bricks And Holly

Bricks and Holly
by Elizabeth Southwood

After the doctor told me,
I felt as if
I'd been slammed into
an endless wall of
large black-tar bricks.
They filled the air
my breath, my being.
Showers of tears
came and went.

I swallow pills
that cost too much.
You hold me.
I hold you.
seeps through me,
like peeking
at the last page of a mystery.
There are things I now know I'll never do,
like go to Machu Picchu.
It doesn't seem to bother me.

I need to
slice apples,
bake mince pies,
while you cut branches
of prickly satin: holly,
for our Christmas table
from the tree
in our earth-scented,
rainswept yard,
Southwood page 9 of 10
with round red berries
like jeweled blood.
We hold each other.
Your smile
is my present
for eternity.

Honey Money

Honey Money, A Pantoum
by Elizabeth Southwood

The woman on the hill makes a little money
by growing thyme and lavender.
She has beehives for bees who make honey,
sells sweet honey to the connoisseur.

By growing thyme and lavender
she receives soft, muted-green dollars.
Sells sweet honey to the connoisseur,
many dollars for medium-sized jars.

She receives soft, muted-green dollars,
dull, smooth nickels, thin silvery dimes.

Many dollars for medium-sized jars.
Worth every cent, the honey’s sublime.

Dull, smooth nickels, thin silvery dimes,
she collects money - green, silver, copper.
Worth every cent, the honey’s sublime.
Busier, she looks healthier, tanner.

She collects money - green, silver, copper.
Her money feels honest because of the honey.
Busier, she looks healthier, tanner.
She plants her yard with flowers loved by the bee.

Her money feels honest because of the honey.
Her list of customers grows steadily.
She plants her yard with flowers loved by the bee.
Her honey’s flavor improves constantly.

Her list of customers grows steadily.
She plants more flowers every year.
Her honey’s flavor improves constantly.
Thick and gold on toast, it has no peer.

She plants more flowers every year.
She has beehives for bees who make honey.
Thick and gold on toast, it has no peer.
The woman on the hill makes a little money.

The Imperial Collection

The Imperial Collection
At The Asian Art Museum
by Elizabeth Southwood

We rented tapes,
hung them around our necks
like miniscule, fashionable purses,
listened to them as we
crowded around Plexiglas containers full of
ancient carved jade, rhinoceros horn,
intricately chiseled cups,
or smooth symbols of heaven
like tiny, jade, moon gates for dollhouses.
Fathoms of painted scrolls
of mountains, gardens, and rivers,
with groupings of ladies and warriors;
the scrolls, ivory with age,
stamped with Chinese-red seals
of early emperors,
enclosed in well-lit, tilted display cases.

We sat to rest a moment
on a leathery bench,
watched the deluge of viewers pass by.
A crone in green in the crowd
noticed our bench, crossed over,
pushed down beside me.
She had fierce eyes, like a homeless person,
a musty thrift-shop smell.
She turned to us and asked, “Did
you see the Great Wall
Southwood page 6 of 10
in that scroll of snow-topped mountains?”
My husband asked, “The scroll
where the mountains
look like the dogs with wrinkles?”

“Or bunches of rolled up crepes
or steepled fingers,” I added.

We three stood up, eddying the crowd,
crossed the room,
peered at the scroll.
She poked my arm. Her thick arthritic finger
pointed at the scroll like Scrooge’s last ghost
towards the vision of his future.
“See,” she said vaguely
as she disappeared.

Now, all I saw was
praying fingers
made of palest gold snow.
I shivered,
envisioning the slaves
who built the Wall.

Marrying The House

Marrying The House
by Elizabeth Southwood

at the lovely sight,
she looks downhill
for the first time
through falling night,
sees pinpoints of gold,
lustrous as new wedding rings.
An endless veil
of flashing lights
flows below
the Milky Way
above the dark aisle
of the Bay.

The yolk-gold moon flings
saffron pearls
across the water
twice, once seen through,
once mirrored in,
tuxedo-black window

The bed is new
like the house and view,
with a puffy featherbed,
and, white as wedding cake,
a starched, lace-cotton spread.

She cannot sleep,
and nudges him
on warm, smooth skin,
feels a current
spring between them,
calming, soothing.

Morning paints
luxuriant leaves
on their bedroom windows,
cool green, with a drift
of thinning gold.
Dawn plays music,
spanking breeze
and chirping birds.

Enfolded by
a house their own,
they are content


//friday the 13th


My neighor went mad one day in her white lace negligee.
I was cutting roses for my new Swedish crystal vase.

She ran outside in her negligee, with a wild-eyed look.
My roses glowed: a rose-tinged white, cloud pink, and dark crimson.

She screamed she’d dreamed that she would die on Friday the thirteenth.
If I pricked my thumb, would a good man come or would I sleep?

Later, on her front porch, she hunched in an old torn blanket.
A man I’d known in school walked by just then. He joked. I laughed.

When her husband came home from work, he called an ambulance.
I jogged with my old friend, gave him some of my garden peas.

Later that week her husband called, said she would not survive.
I asked my friend for dinner. My crystal vase held roses.

She died a week to the day, on a Friday, the thirteenth.
My old school friend laid a comforting hand on my shoulder.

What I took for granted was gone in the tick of a clock.
A tide of such sweetness rose in me, breathless at his touch.



Feeling Like a Freak

A little red mark,
the size of a raspberry
on the inside of my elbow
upset my mother
when I was born.
“I never had a mark on me,” she said
over the years
gazing anxiously at it.
“It’s probably from
your father’s side
of the family.”

I was too busy playing dolls and
roller skating to think about it,
but when it was as big as a strawberry
she made some little white covers that
snapped closed over it.
They matched my pinafores.
The cover slipped and got grimy when I climbed trees
or jumped in autumn leaves.
Friends, grocers,and Clem,
the red-faced cop by the school crossing,
noticed and asked,
“What’s wrong with your arm?”
Strangled with shyness,
I’d mutter,
“I have a birthmark.”
I began to feel like a freak.

Then the doctor, who smelled like medicine,
took the little white cover off one day
and threw it away.
“You don’t need it covered,” he said.
Looking at me with a smile, he added,
“That’s where you were kissed by an angel.”

I don’t know when it went away. Liz Southwood, June 30’96

Wind And Flowers

//wind and flowers

The sweet May roses scent the air.
Maverick breezes ripple trees,
wind blows rose-fragrance everywhere.
The sun gilds dancing birch tree leaves.

Maverick breezes ripple trees,
firethorn looks laden down with snow.
The sun gilds dancing birch tree leaves
like tinsel with its silver glow.

Firethorn looks laden down with snow,
with bridal-like, billowy bloom.
Like tinsel with its silver glow,
the birch tree gleams, a joyous groom.

With bridal-like, billowy bloom,
the white blossoms a rose enclose.
The birch tree gleams, a joyous groom.
For sacrament: this crimson rose.

The white blossoms a rose enclose.
Wind blows rose-fragrance everywhere.
For sacrament: this crimson rose.
The sweet May roses scent the air.

by Elizabeth Southwood, May 10, 1997



April 1997
The river flowed icy and black
as a stiff wind whipped tree branches
making the waving, bare trees crack.
The tops of the trees did cancans.
A sweet, dark-eyed girl about six
saw a strange creature flaming red
across the river, pointed, asked,
“Who is that?”
Her older brother
said, “I think it is the devil.”

“Come on over here, I’ve got treats
for you to try, delicious, sweet,
The ice on the river is thick.
It’s safe right across the middle.”

The devil whirled, and the wind wailed.

Gripping hands, they stepped on the ice,
but as they approached the center,
the thinner ice began to dip
and crackle. They began to slip
away, slid under cold water.

Now on winter days when children
walk by the haunted black water,
sweet voices seem to call to them,
“Stay off the ice on the river.”

by Elizabeth Southwood



Gravel, plastic pipe,
a retaining wall of
wooden planks newly placed
on the property line to try to keep
their basement dry.

Up the hill, in our yard,
a puddle appears,
doesn’t percolate away.
We trudge out and see
it every day,
gleaming like wet moss,
or dew on summer-morning grass,
clear water, reflecting
clouds and blue, a constant pool.

We empty bottles of food dye,
down water closets.
The water remains mountain clear.
No connections there.

We puzzle over this unwonted wetness...
Is it a spring,
ground water,
a broken pipe?

Is it pure, with miraculous qualities?
Was it caused by a nudge
from the San Andreas fault?
Or a freshwater high tide
pulled hard by a moon that was full?
Did the earth tip the other way
and slosh it up the hill?
Why now?

by Elizabeth Southwood

Wedding Ring Poem

wedding ring poem

Winter White (c) 2000 by Elizabeth Southwood

She glides down the aisle,
rustling in white lace which streams
like snow through midnight.

As her foremothers did.

He raises her lace veil.
They touch cool lips in a kiss,
a sacred promise.

As her foremothers did.

Silver bells chime in
icy air. Cold gold wedding
rings ring chill fingers.

As her foremothers’ did.

She aims her bouquet,
made of fresh garden snowdrops,
at laughing bridesmaids.

As her foremothers did.

Dressed in winter white,
they duck showers of bird seed
as they run through snow.

As her foremothers did.


A kiss is so small,
but can flame like forest fires
when the match is lit.

When I could not sleep,

October Quail

October Quail

Workers were here
3 days in a row,
measuring, staking
the view lot behind us.
For 32 years we’ve
looked over the back-
back, always knowing
it wasn’t ours.

Like a court battle
you can’t pursue
if you want to eat,
we can’t buy the
view. We’re losing
it but when it’s built,
we’ll finally see the
view that ours is
meant to be.

For now, seven large
October-first quail
busily strut through
the lot, not knowing
a house will be in their way.
And I hang on to a branch
of our rough old plum tree,
knowing that nothing is ours.


under a tree
bathed in dappled light
soft as candlelight,
filtering through pale apple-green spring needles, soft cones.
The one you love no longer postpones
his declaration of love, his desire to spend
his life with you. Your feelings transcend
contentment, comfort on a quilt on needles of pine,
suffused with kindling sparks that glow into a bloom like wine.
That moment you feel a flaming oneness
as feelings, bodies, thoughts coalesce,
creating in this world so often comfortless,
however briefly, an ecstatic success,
a loosening of the usual restrictions
that ordinarily keep you tied up in inhibitions.
At dusk the meadowlark celebrates with sweet song,
soft spring pine needles plucked by breeze sh-sh evensong.

Death Watch

//death watch

Death Watch

They’ve been watching him try to catch his breath,
to breathe, five years, since his seventieth.
He drags portable oxygen around,
to dinner, to plays. He is never found
without his gear to help him suck air.
He dresses like a fashion plate, with flair,
a rose in his lapel, a scarf draped just
so, his glasses sparkle, he will adjust
his silver mustache like Hercule Poirot.
He loves to read, lately it’s Tom Clancy,
exotic adventures catch his fancy.
He’s enthusiastic about what he’s read,
never loses interest because death’s ahead.
If he’s missing a button, he will sew
one on, learned as a marine long ago.
He still pulls weeds, gets a healthy glow.
Gasping, he’ll climb on his exercycle,
an effort, his most difficult obstacle.
His doctor forecast his death years ago,
but he’s fighting his last fight, won’t let go.
His old wife and his children do not know
how they’ll bear it when he cannot say “No.”
We think of him as a fine example
of a man whose spirit’s unquenchable.

Death And Buried

//death and buried

Dead and Buried: Repost as Fear of Burial

Thinking about death and being buried,
cannot help but make me feel worried.
I am now and then visited,
have my calm thoughts disquieted,
by dislike and fear of what is ahead.
Among the legions of the dead,
I find - especially on a rainy day
at a funeral - that I, with dismay,
flinch appalled at the thought
of my friend in that wet plot.
I tell myself they do not know -
still, I feel some vertigo.
I fear death, but know I have to die,
and since I do I’d rather lie
(neither boxed so I’ll mummify,
nor flamed to ash, then spread like lye)
recycling under a coverlet
of lavender and violets
in a garden thick with rosemary,
sweetness that is salutary,
like Rupert Brooke, poet sublime,
who, scythed by war, lies under thyme.

Ms. Smithington spent the night out
found next day she’d married a lout
but since she already
had married her steady
she’s a bigamist, out-and-out.

Dancing In The Grass

//dancing in the grass

On nights when the moon was full, DANCING IN THE GRASS, BY ELIZABETH
she used to dance in the grass SOUTHWOOD OCT.2'97 (C)
in her thin white-cotton nightie, (2nd place out of 750 Oct.12 '97)
take deep breaths of
cool night air, swing her hair,
wonder if she'd marry,
and watch the moon
rise over the bay.

Tonight a full golden moon
looms in the dark,
lays a rippling patina
across the bay.
Her thin, old-gold wedding
ring slips around on
her delicate hand.
Blue-glass stars sparkle
like her solitaire.

"In olden days parties were
held at the time of the full moon,"
she says, as they sit
on the patio, she,
like a Spanish dancer,
in a midnight-black,
soft cashmere shawl,
brought by him from Russia,
"so guests could find
their way home."

"So it's the moon's fault
I'm here," he teased.
"Come, dance with me,
barefoot, in the grass,"
he said, "before we call it
a day."

Choosing Colors

//choosing colors

Choosing Colors

In Eden there were green apples
and slithering transparent snakes
and multi-colored Adams and Eves
when red apples shook in a rage
demanding to know why
green apples
had been chosen
to tempt man,
since the red felt themselves to be
inherently more desirable.
Then the green apples
spit seeds furiously
sputtered, “A red was shot
off of William Tell’s head,
and strewn by Johnny Appleseed.”

As Eve and other mothers know,
gently nodding sage heads,
one kid cuts the piece in half,
then the other one chooses first,
so in Eden and
on William Tell’s head, you’d have
an apple of green one time,
then red or black or white or gold or brown.
Eventually, a caterpillar would take a turn as snake
and Eve would tempt Adam with an eggplant casserole.

So a crazy kaleidoscope keeps turning,
with everybody yearning after greener grass,
or blue-er
until some somehow chosen representatives miraculously agree,
“Choose which one you’ll
be, as apple, for example, a red MacIntosh or
a greenish-pinkish Japanese Fuji.”

And if you choose velvet you can’t be washed, so choose velour.
And if you’d like to purr, choose to be a cat.

Blue Christmas

(C) 1996

The water today is
cold, ultramarine blue,
polka-dotted with white.
Oars creak as I row.
The cold, damp, salt wind
whips my hair into my eyes.
I've nothing to eat,
feel a coal burning a hole in my gut.

The sound of church bells comes and goes
with the intermittent winter wind,
across the bay, like skipping stones,
announcing Christmas-morning communion,
tintinnabulations from the white, weathered spire
of the church where I sang in summer in the choir.
A chorus of seagulls circles me, calling shrilly.

I found a fish hook yesterday
on the church steps. It is heavy,
with a thick brush like barbers use to
lather whiskers, its lethal hook
hidden in long, stiff bristles,
probably pig.

The rector suggested
I keep it. "It's good luck," he said.
I tucked it in my pocket,
feeling hopeful.

I tied string
to the fishhook,
put an old dory in the water.
It was left tied up to a dock, under a tarp,

for the winter,
by the family in the house
closest to the inlet.

I've slept in it
for a few days,
ever since I turned in my car
after I lost my job
I'm almost out of money
My parents are building homes
for poor people in Europe.

I stack newspapers
on the bottom of the boat
and pile my clothes
over an old sleeping bag
under the tarp.
So far, I'm warm enough.
I wash in the sea.
My hair is sticky, my body crusty with salt.
I tried to use fresh water at the church,
but I don't know what numbers to punch in
to unlock the door.

I drop anchor.

My fishing line is tugging like a kite:
I've caught a flounder
by its seemingly translucent tail...and another...a
dozen or more, some by the mouth,
the rest hooked by jagged metal
on various parts of their silvery anatomy.
The wind is coming up.
Waves smack the side of the dory, splash in.
I bail, row back to the dock.


I've a driftwood fire now,
with rocks supporting
the sputtering, fragrant flounder.
Christmas music - harpsichord and recorders -
sounds sweetly, faintly, through the cold night air.
The windows in
the old white church glow
gold, scarlet, cobalt blue.
The congregation is ready for
the Christmas potluck.

Christmas Day

//christmas day

Lack of Funds, But Lots of Trees
Goodbye to gifts,
to sending Christmas cards.
Goodbye to baked oysters on Christmas eve,
to beef, Yorkshire pudding, fruit cake, and eggnog.

They hung the canvas she’d painted
of a fir in the forest with lights,
put out the small, shiny, holly tree;
the costume-jewelry tree on black
velvet in a silvery frame;
the top-of-the-tv
ceramic tree with lights.

Three days before Christmas Day a son
was lent an artificial tree,
brought it home, put it up in
the usual place. It looked lovely
with their ornaments.
Christmas Eve he
drove by a Christmas tree lot
after work,
saw the unsold trees being
given away, stopped,
chose a 7-foot fir,
lush, fragrant, well-shaped.
No ornaments were left,
so it stood bare.

A hush settled as
the six trees,
small, large, made, given, and lent,
seemed to bow together into
a circle of greenery,
radiating Christmas peace....



Christmas is delicious,
the most fun
for little ones,
but if you’re older,
a gray-haired householder,
a grandparent
using linament
to ease aches and pains
so that you can remain
in the mainstream
even in weather extreme,
the sound of a choir
will in you inspire
intimations of heaven’s joy,
especially if it’s your boy’s boy.
his young soprano skimming along
on top of an old Christmas song
with melodious allelulias,
while your voice cracks like Methusalah’s.
If the little ones are far away,
you share by phone their holiday.
Gleeful children up at dawn,
older ones greet noon with a yawn,
the novelty for them has worn off,
but even though they may frown and scoff
at the younger children
you know they still have a yen
to be surprised with some nice present,
faces lighting up at the sight of contents.
If you go for a walk on Christmas day.
though it’s cold out, gloomy, and gray,
the fragrance of roasting turkey
may incite thoughts of gluttony
as it permeates the air,
promising feasts everywhere.
I’m thankful that we have each other,
even at a distance we feel together.
This lovely day has shared its spirit
forever, its magic exquisite.

Scaredy Cat

//scaredy cat

Scaredy Cat

We have a cat
whose emerald eyes
look infused with belladonna,
and stretch owl-like
when he hears an unexpected noise.
He awakens from a Sleeping-Beauty coma,
as a daddy longlegs passes by.

Attention! He stares
like an inspiration
for a Keane-style portrait
when he hears
footsteps on the front porch
or the squeal of the screen door
as it is opened.
He sits like a cat
from ancient Egypt,
centuries of wariness
in his alarmed emerald look.
His radar ears flip.
Then, when he sees it’s us,
he casually meows,
pats a petting hand
with a paw,
and falls asleep again.
His emerald eyes
hidden as if in
a Pharoah’s tomb.

Cat Face

//cat face

{~!~} @@)
Our yard is not only ours.
We share it with beautiful, midnight deer,
who gulp windfalls of apricots and also feed here
on peaches, roses, and redwood bark,
destroying without a by-your-leave
the products of trimming, pruning and spraying.
Birds too, poke about, vaccinate
fruit with their beaks,
claiming droits de nature,
while it’s still on the trees, poking
into the soft, ripe flesh,
instinctively knowing just when it is best
and somehow letting all the rest know
when to direct their flight to our trees.
Under the earth the gophers burrow,
tunneling, turning into 3D brown lace the once-solid
earth of our place, feeding their big-toothed faces,
pulling plants underground while nibbling
away on the sweetest, tenderest root of the day.

Why don’t they eat weeds? Why do they
attack garden treasures, the growing things
that give you pleasure? Why don’t they feast on
poison oak, Bermuda buttercups, and those horrible,
neon-green and white, tall, sticky, prickly weeds?
Even our cat nibbles daintily on grass, when he feeds
in the yard, never weeds. Are weeds repulsive like
cod liver oil? Why does he from them recoil?
When I think of the icky, smelly food he covets,
I’m surprised seeing a flourishing weed that he doesn’t love it.

Cat A LA Frost

//cat a la frost

I can't ride without prejudice,
driving Route One's sheer precipice,
without feeling squirmy with fear,
without showing any cowardice.

I'm certain that I'll disappear,
over the gravel-topped cliff here,
under the swaying cream-blue sea.
High as a hawk, way down I peer.

Head North there's less anxiety,
I can ride with impunity.
When we're heading South to L.A.,
I am afraid for our safety.

I cry out, "Slow down," and I pray
for courage on this, our last day.
From now on, please, a safe highway.
From now on, please, a safe highway.

Father's People

//cafe au lait freeway

(Cairngorm....a yellow or brown
variety of quartz, used as a gem)
Webster's New World Dict., 2nd edition

Father’s People

I thought of a ring
I used to have
as we drove North
today, when I saw
the dune-colored
hills alongside of the freeway.
The quail-gray road
ribboned through hills
that were mostly
the shade of sand
but sometimes
darker, like
shot with gold.
The center
of the road was a row
of oleander bushes,
shaped like Celtic huts of stone,
pink and red and white,
against laurel-green leaves,
reminding me of fine, soft tartan,
set off by the gray of the freeway.
To the West, thick fog
hung in the tops of fir-
green redwoods,
and with the
bluebell sky, that view
felt Scottish to me too,
like a Highland mist,
beyond the cairngorm-
colored, gold-flecked hills.
The voices of my father’s people
with their
Scottish burrs
chattered in my head,
over the sound of Enya
singing, “The Memory of Trees.”
A picture rose of
my father’s mother
under a white-oak tree,
pointing at mistletoe
in cold December gloom,
wearing the ring
and dressed in blue,
while ravens cawed
as they flew away
and my father climbed
the ladder.

When we got home today,
I made us Scottish
shortbread for tea
and thought about my daddy.

Broken Promise

//broken promise

Broken-Promise Sonnet

The vows that I’ve made to myself are few.
They were not written down and I forgot.
Over the years I have not thought them through.
If I’d made a list, it would help a lot:
do meditation, yoga, or tai chi,
drink green tea plain, do not use any salt,
do not waste time on reruns on TV,
brush my teeth after eating chocolate,
try going each day for a 3-mile walk.
I have decided at least once a week
I should write a sonnet, practice some Bach.
It is time to reform, be strong, not weak.
I’d rather sit about reading novels,
chomping on M&M’s and nonpareils.

Bookstore Poem

//bookstore poem

We love books
and need to go
to bookstores
whether we’re on the net,
in our home town,
or in a hotel
in Mendocino or Joliet.
After touching base with a bookstore,
a new novel in hand,
we feel rich, like we’re sitting
on a comfortable chair
in a cozy, lamplit room
with a crackling fire
while twigs scratch eerily
on mullioned windows
in the foggy gloom,
even if we’re in
a rent-a-tent
in Yosemite
reading by
a Coleman lamp.

When roaming
aisles of books,
or seeing old friends
like Grisham and Austen
we are as confident walking about
as salmon leaping upstream.
It’s like finding a
treasure chest, and we
anticipate reading cozily,
which adds to the bookstore’s
nurturing air. We don’t feel
like strangers there,
usually buy
some new, must-have
book to add to the bunch
we own as if we have time
to do nothing but read for a month.

Body Heat

//body heat

A warm and loving man,
with sweetness in his soul,
refreshing, clean as an autumn wind
with a voice
that’s pleasant as a cello.
He makes my gut shiver
with pleasure still,
after years,
even when asking, “What’s French
for summer?” while doing
a crossword puzzle.

When I first saw him
run from the bus he’d walked
me to, on a cold, snowy Boston
night, where our eyelashes were
starred with snowflakes,
I knew I wanted
to know all his ways,
be with him as he aged.

He soon knew too.
Straightforward as an
old recorder song, with
an irresistible twinkle,
he laughs
at me, marvels at me, wants to keep me in his
home, doesn’t care what I wear
or how recently I’ve combed my
hair, flatters me, tells me I’m beautiful,
craves me,
makes me his home.
I hunger for him too.
he gives me body heat.

Windy Hill Villanelle

//windy hill villanelle

Windy Hill Villanelle

Wild blueberries grow by the sunswept sea,

plump, sunwarmed, Cape berries of indigo,

on Windy Hill, a special place for me.

From there I can see the white beach clearly -

feel wind, hear waves pounding, watch the tide flow.

Wild blueberries grow by the sunswept sea.

One day, my favorite man came with me.

I stammered and forgot things that I know

on Windy Hill, a special place for me.

My heart beat loud as the throb of the sea

when he said, “You’re shy as a wildwood doe.”

Wild blueberries grow by the sunswept sea.

It is where he first told me he loved me.

“I love you,” he said, “I won’t let you go,”

on Windy Hill, a special place for me.

A Windy Hill kiss tastes of blueberry.
We kissed carefully, our mouths indigo.

Wild blueberries grow by the sunswept sea

on Windy Hill, a special place for me,

by Elizabeth Southwood, May 1997

Blue Christmas

//blue christmas

Cold, winter-dark blue,
the bay today, polka-dotted with white caps.
Oars creak as I row,
damp salt wind blows,
I’ve had nothing to eat,
feel a coal burning a hole in my gut.
Church bells carry over the bay
on the salty, winter wind,
from my old white church
where I sang in the summer choir
wearing my one summer dress - -
blue and white polka dot.
hidden by my black gown and surplice.
We lived in bathing suits and jeans.

I found the fish hook the other day,
on the church steps.
The rector said it was okay
to keep it, “It is good luck,” he said.
I found some string, tied
it to the fishhook, got the old dory
into the water.
The neighbors aways left it under a tarp for the winter.
It’s where I sleep since I got downsized.
My parents are building homes
for poor people in Europe.
I’ll drop anchor here,
drop the line too.
It tugs like a kite - a flounder
by the tail....and another -- a
dozen or more, some by the mouth,
some hooked on their fins.

The wind is coming up.
Waves splash into the dory.
Is that somebody
walking on the water towards
me? No es posible, Senor.

I pull the dory onto the beach with
the high tide. I’ve got a driftwood
fire now, and hot, cooked flounder.
The stained glass windows at the old, white church glow
in the night. Heavenly Christmas music
flow on the cold air. I’ll go
over there. I’ll share my



You have been betrayed
for money by some who
walked away, sticky with lies,
who couldn't meet honest eyes,
whose smear of incremental merde
wiped across our lives,

Mother Oak


The old green oak
as the sky shades
from wild rose to
snow-shadow blue.
There’s a glimmer
of silver from the hook
embedded in her solid trunk,
the smell of nasturtiums
and newly cut grass.
They hear her murmuring,
like a reminiscing mother,
“I remember, I remember,
how you two,
dewy young, swung in
the hammock,
your mahogany hair
long and blowing,
his shout of a laugh,
mockingbirds warbling.
You lay quietly too,
now and then,
happy alone together
while I fanned
or shaded you.”

laugh as they tip the hammock,
and make it sway.
They toddle yawning off to bed,
clutching the favorite toy of the day.

She pushes a tendril
of white hair out of her eyes.
They tuck the visiting grandchildren into bed,
go back outside to recoup
from the day,
gently swing
on the strong,
the oak
and the plum tree,
which are, like them,
tied together
They glimpse the North Star twinkling
through the oak’s
murmuring leaves,
a lullaby
in the deepening dark.

Banana Slugs

//banana slugs

Jealous Banana Slug - Haiku

Being jealous of lady bugs
about whom no one snorted “Ugh”s,
a banana slug lay in wait
for someone he could supplicate -
one he could tell his problem to -
admitted ugliness and goo.

Then a poet jogged by on cue
and wrote the poor slug a haiku:

(Banana slugs slide,
((one)) I see, in dawn dew, ((two))
they’re hard to abide.)

and after he had read it through,
he felt fond of their yellow hue
and he liked their glistening too.

New Year Eve's Kiss

//back rubs

New Year’s Eve Kiss

Nobody knows it’s ‘97
on this whirling world, up in heaven,
it’s only on this earth the New Year
is a big deal, you have to be here.
In heaven, they’ve arrived, they are there,
about the New Year they do not care.
Heaven’s surely our paradigm.
We all hope to be let in sometime.
Time is endless, also brief, timeless.
But we are aware, and try to compress
rapidly speeding time which goes faster,
wear watches to avoid disaster,
like not sharing a kiss on the chime
of midnight, drinking a toast old-time.
While they float about in heavenly bliss,
down here on earth, we toast and we kiss,
with evident joy proclaim a New Year.
Actually, I’m glad to still be here,
though the folks in heaven, it is clear,
share in the bliss of a kiss all year.

Please Stay Home

(c) 1997 Elizabeth Southwood

//please stay home

Please Stay Home

I’m staying home today. Won’t you?
I’ve been a working robot
for so long. I want to drink my coffee,
eat hot croissants with jam,
with you, leisurely....before the holidays
usurp autumn, turn it into Hallowe’en,
Thanksgiving, Christmas shopping.
Our house, pleasant as a B&B,
calls to me, this time of year,
to stay right here.
When we got up today, I knew
I couldn’t bear to leave.
I heard the wistful
coos of doves, saw hummingbirds
drink water from a sprinkler,
dark pewter clouds
blow in from the west,
cover sunlit streaks
of silver sky,
a hint of mist.

We need a day to sit,
not spend in drudgery,
to see the beauty of the fading year
before it disappears.
Look at the blue-green
eucalyptus leaves undulating, rustling
in the breeze
pouring through the canyon.
Their pungent fragrance clothes
the tired summer dust.
Firethorn heavy with berries licks
the patio wall,
French lavender’s in rampant flower,
buckeye nuts -
glossy, dark-chocolate -
hang in pistachio-green pods.

This is all I’m going to do today:
put eucalyptus
in this Wedgwood-blue bowl
on your Grandmother’s
white crocheted tablecloth,
to look at
while we drink coffee.

Take a deep breath.
How the eucalyptus
sparks the air!



A pples, ripe, jicama-crisp, are the sunlit green of waves.
U nder the honey locust trees are spread moon-yellow leaves,
T hatchy, crackly as the empty birds' nests under the eaves.
U pon sparse grass in adobe earth, raked papery leaves
M ake golden piles, dug into compost like shredded corn sheaves,
N amastes from the baring trees to autumn's chilly breeze.

August Rain

//august rain

August Rain

A scorching August morning
in the Sierra foothills,
I swam in a Wedgwood-blue
mountain lake,
set in blond hills,
ringed with cypress-dark pines,
the site of a former Indian graveyard,
(I heard somebody say
as I left the water.)
Meanwhile, I floated, relaxed,
watched the sky
as dark clouds gathered,
lightning flashed,
thunder cracked close by.

Horrified, (a graveyard!)
I stood on the shore,
arms outstretched
in the silver downpour,
trying to wash away
with pure Sierra rain
my intimacy with corpses.

The time before is gone,
roaming in the restless lake
with the Indians whose
peace has been disturbed.
Their ghosts float in my head.

Anything Goes

//anything goes

Getting Well

There are many cures
or directions to take,
when faced with a problem of health.
I can see hints, supposedly,
of what is coming up for me
from the I Ching or Tarot,
and, hopefully, make it go
away, today. If it does not,
I read frequently, I can treat anything
with homegrown herbs:
make a comfrey compress,
for example,
for a broken bone,
it says in Culpeper or Grieves.
Then, again, there are the stones.
If you tuck rose quartz in your pocket
a friend told me, it will abet
or cause a cure.
I can have a massage
to remove stress,
but the stress of the cost
would make me nervous.
Some have their feet studied,
or shoulders kneaded
to calm nerves,
walk mazes
buy a new hat,
take up a hobby,
be hypnotized, talk,
go for regular walks,
talk about Gestalt,
play tennis,
take up golf,
try tai chi,
do TM,
or live Zen,
go on a sea voyage,
drink a hot toddy,
take a nap,
eat chocolate,
laugh themselves silly,
go to a 12-step group or several,
lie about in mud baths,
analyze their parents’ mistakes,
load up on antioxidants,
drink green tea,
fast periodically,
drink healing water from Welsh-
spring style fountains,
write illnesses
down on slips of paper
and tie them to a close-by tree,
What a variety
of healing options is open to me.
if I have the need.
I expect to stick with the one
who tells me to take two aspirins
and call in the morning.
And my prayer tree.

Animals in Yard

//animals in yard

Whose Yard Is It?

I woke up quite late one recent spring night;
my bedroom was bathed in golden moonlight.
I heard something crashing into a bush,
and went to the window quite curious.

I saw a fawn stumble and disappear
into a phalanx of deer gathered near
the back of the yard under the plum tree,
where an old buck was pointing at booty.

To their left by the strawberry garden,
mockingbirds, bluebirds, towhees, and robins
perched in family groups amidst ripe berries
waiting for midnight to start their orgy.

The gophers that tunnel our yard and thrive
on roots of parsley, zucchini, and chives -
lolled on some springy lavender cotton,
a sweet-smelling herb they’ve never eaten.

I saw some slimy paths reflecting light
and knew the slugs and snails were, no doubt, right
under the low, thick branches of a pine
waiting for the sign telling them to dine.

As I watched out the window, mesmerized
by the army of creatures that comprised
attackers on good things in our garden,
I wished something had a chance to ripen.

by Elizabeth Southwood

After Death

Liz Southwood

//after death

Just Guessing
Where goes the drifting leaf
fluttering from its tree
to spend its afterlife?
It melds into the earth,

and so, of course, do we.
Does consciousness of the
cool summer shade it made
or its shhhshhhshhhs on
windy days go away
to some shady green
celestial glade with a
silvery, sunlit brook and
hymning birds and bees?
Or does its spirit stay,
familiar cadences,
birdsongs giving calming
heartbeat peace? Not raked, the
leaf naturally nestles
with its peers, rests in its
native place, enveloped
by the spirit it grew
when it lived on its tree.
Disintegrating first,
it recombines into
everything, flowers too.
We’re all composed anew.




I wanted life to be
like tranquilly drifting
on a soothing, jade, translucent sea.

But, while peaceful
as a gull riding wind currents,
I was as if swallowed
by a mountainous wave,
somersaulted and gagged
by gelatin-like water,
scraped against soft gold sand,
bashed against
squid-ink-and-rust-colored rocks,
disgorged when nearly drowned.

Awkward as a crab,
I crawled onto damp, packed sand,
gasping for air,
limp as slimy seaweed,

Inadvertent Abandonment


Inadvertent Abandonment

I spent a winter with an aunt

Walking home from the evening train
on autumn nights in heavy rain,
the north-east wind combing my hair,
cold and wet in the icy air,
humiliated when all my
school friends are picked up, therefore shy,
I smile, and babble, “I’m only
here tonight because it’s healthy
to walk in the rain on cold fall
nights.” Right. It’s because auntie’s all
drunk, passed out, snoring loudly, sprawled
on the floor.” Would they be appalled?
I don’t have friends over to stay.
I can imagine what they’d say.

I have a friend whose stepmom too
orders her booze delivered to
her house by taxi once a week.
When I was over there last week
the two of us found it and sneaked
into her closet where it stood
covered with a rain coat and hood,
I very carefully poured it out
while she kept up a good lookout.
The next day she came home with me,
while mine snored off her latest spree,
we poured the bottles down the drain,
gurgle, glug, glug. She didn’t deign
to ask, looked utterly confused,
speculative. I was bemused,
giggling inside for many days.
What happened to their stowaways?


Luminous trail tails

streaking flash’s flight through black

night - meteorite!

Thanksgiving Without The Kids

Thanksgiving Without The Kids

They stroll with hands entwined,
wide-brimmed, white-cotton hats
tilted to block out slanting sun.
A striped green-and-white awning
creates cool shadows.
On a CD, guitars strum,
drowning the hum of ceiling fans.
Ropes of scarlet garlic hang
next to thickly strung red peppers
from hooks in the ceiling.

They carefully choose a few
honey-flavored Fuji apples
while standing next to
a pony-tailed mother
in a tennis dress,
herding children.
Her youngest, she guesses,
is about the age of
their granddaughter.

Over her Ben-Franklin glasses,
her eyes dart here and there
like a hummingbird
through the fragrant, cool, shadowy air,
pause at bins of dried fruits -
plump, sun-flushed apricots,
cranberries glowing like holly berries.
She feels vibes
from the stained-glass
palette of colors
as when looking at certain Picassos.

He slows to a stop
among greens: lettuces, broccoli, endive,
pungent basil. There are mushrooms,
tiny as matches,
big as tortillas.
He breathes in the forest coolness
with relish as if at the
top of the Falls at Yosemite.

They carefully choose
makings for their Thanksgiving feast,
a zucchini fritatta,
head home,
as pink clouds
fade to gray.

3RD PLACE WINNER: (changed thrum and from hooks)

They stroll with hands entwined,
wide-brimmed, white-cotton hats
tilted to block out slanting sun.
A striped green-and-white awning
creates cool shadows.
On a CD, guitars strum,
drowning the hum of ceiling fans.
Ropes of scarlet garlic hang
from hooks in the ceiling
next to thickly strung red peppers.

They carefully choose a few
honey-flavored Fuji apples
while standing next to
a pony-tailed mother
in a tennis dress,
herding children.
Her youngest, she guesses,
is about the age of
their granddaughter.

Over her Ben-Franklin glasses,
her eyes dart here and there
like a hummingbird
through the fragrant, cool, shadowy air,
pause at bins of dried fruits -
plump, sun-flushed apricots,
cranberries glowing like holly berries.
She feels vibes
from the stained-glass
palette of colors
as when looking at certain Picassos.

He slows to a stop
among greens: lettuces, broccoli, endive,
pungent basil. There are mushrooms,
tiny as matches,
big as tortillas.
He breathes in the forest coolness
with relish as if at the
top of the Falls at Yosemite.

They carefully choose
makings for their Thanksgiving feast,
a zucchini fritatta,
head home,
as pink clouds
fade to gray.

Changing The Bed

//changing the bed newest

Adjustments (latest version - March '98)

I do not know
how a day will go,
why meds help,
my moving,
my whispery, muffled voice,
my swallowing.
I recollect croissants,
buttery, warm, and crunchy,
coasting down my throat,
as easily as drool
slips out.
Now they stick
and nearly choke me.

This morning
a rain-rinsed breeze puffs through
my open bedroom windows,
so fresh and cool I'm inspired
to try to change the bed today.
I wonder if
I can pull the cover off the duvet.
The meds are working well today,
but my hands are limp as a happy cat.

Through the open window,
I see sunlight gleam
on dripping, silvered
eucalyptus leaves
relish the whiff
of scent,
long to take deep breaths
and stretch my legs.
If I attempt a walk,
will I move
awkwardly as Frankenstein,
lose my balance?

There's a thousand things
I'd like to do, but can't.

Winning version: (with a couple of changes)


She does not know
how a day will go,
why meds help,
more or less,
her moving,
her muffled voice,
her choking
when swallowing.
She recollects croissants,
tasty, warm, and crunchy,
slipping down her throat,
easily as nursery rhymes
poured out when sing-songed
to her babies.
This morning
a rain-rinsed breeze puffs through
her open bedroom windows,
so fresh and fragrant she's inspired
to try to meet a challenge,
and change the bed today.
Can she pull the cover off the duvet?
Will her hands cooperate?
Or does she have to wait
for help to separate
the linens,
her hands useless
as two leaves.

She sees sunlight gleam
on dripping, silvered
eucalyptus leaves
relishes the whiff
of scent,
longs to take deeper breaths
of the wind from the sea
which nudges white-cotton clouds east
through starch-blue sky.

If she goes for a walk,
will she move
lose her balance,
fall backwards
or when turning?
She's read
that music will supposedly
help her to move more easily.
She inserts a CD
and becomes a white crane,
courtesy of tai chi,
and feeling warmed up,
decides to chance a walk.
"Later," she thinks, "I'll try to change the bed
to music

The Beholder

//the beholder

"The Beholder" (latest version)
by Elizabeth Southwood
(c) March 1998
nto May6
The widow taps her stick as she shuffles
with rounded back around her dusty house.
She's lived there 60 years. Her pale, gleaming
eyes, which stare without sight, reflect silver
like a winter lake. Her hands used to be
always busy, weeding or planting. She
found feathers, driftwood, thistles, and blossoms
she made into wreaths and decorations.
She bought thrift-shop sweaters for a dollar,
unravelled, washed and colored them with herbs
or roots gathered while hiking, knitted them
into pullovers with a designer's
flair or into Irish-style cardigans
with carved wooden buttons. Her biggest thrift-
shop coup was the never-worn ultrasuede
suit of Tiffany-blue she found at St.
Vincent de Paul. From soft, thin yarn she dipped
in dye, she knit an elegant, matching
sweater. Wearing this nonpareil outfit,
her eyes glowed, her cheeks flushed pink with pleasure.

Her house's scent is ancient potpourri.
For company, she turns on the tv
her daughters gave her when her husband died.
On cloudless mornings of blazing sun when
she can make out shapes, she steeps green tea, which
she pours carefully into a cup she
used to hold high to look at the glow of
sunlight through china like through shoji screens.

There's a niche cut in the wall above a
smallish splashing fountain in her white front
hall. When she could still see she dried and hung
there a garland of eucalyptus, rose

quince, lavender, mists of whitest statice,
placed it by a caramel ivory
Kwan Yin who called to her years ago from
a shadowy corner at a garage
sale, choosing her like a cat its owner.
At night the niche is lit with golden light.
She seems to see a few gold sequins dance.
The clouds of statice prickle her hands
as she bids good night. She loves, she savors
the scent of the lavender, and smooths the
ivory with an artist's reverence.

Elizabeth Southwood
Page 2 "The Beholder"

Swans On The Strand

//swans and gurus work on

this one?? (May 6) - retirees question?
In the crowd
of those attending
her new apartment house mixer,
she's a period
at the end of a deleted
sentence. Her voice
is soft, like her graying hair.
She's developing a relationship
with the cement-gray wall
behind her.
When she speaks,
what she says, she knows, is
caught in a spider web
of time and carries the aura
of another era.
She's crinkly as an autumn leaf;
not like the others,
whose cheeks are smooth as acorns;
who laugh politely
while making plans for rollerblading
on The Strand.
She longs for someone
her own age to talk to.
She'd been told there were retirees here.
She pinches the base of her thumb,
feeling as out-of-place as Alice,
only old instead of humongous.

Within a month, she's strolling
out of her fenced and blossoming patio
in a picture hat and flowing,
flowered diaphanous dress
along The Strand with her equally elderly beau,
waving sedately at all her young neighbors
as they whiz past on their Rollerblades,
and smile at the beaming duo.

Now and Then


We're in a taxi
heading up Park Avenue.
We used to take the subway
in a crush
of others pressing
up against us.
Today we're briefly
here where
we lived a year,
some years ago.
We were so young,
it's been so long,
the folks here then
are mostly gone.
New York is full of strangers
with smooth faces.
These new young sprint
across the street
on sneakered feet,
bright-eyed, joking,
while we,
although exhilarated
by our trip,
stare intently,
past with present.

When the dark-haired, bony
driver speaks,
then shrugs, parks, and points to
where we're going,
we struggle stiffly

from the taxi.
Our fate has mostly
come and gone.
We enter
the museum.

Are Father's Necessary


When our children were born, my husband's eyes glowed with dazzled joy.
His voice soothed like a pine tree’s sigh when he talked to them.

As they grew he held them up in the air so they could fly,
galloped them around piggyback, and took them to the zoo.

By firelight, he read each night, “Goodnight Moon,” and “Tintin.”
The wind rubbed squeaky twigs on windows, buffeted the house.

He loved to be with them, paid attention to our kids,
whether they were capsized by the storms of life, or winning.

He happily hid Easter eggs, loved to buy them presents,
taught them to play tennis, to be honest by example.

He never called balls out that weren’t, in tennis or in life,
but he said of those who did, “Dust must have blown in his eyes.”

He threw a tiny football to our grandson when he was two.
The ball floated, a falling leaf, into the little fellow’s arms.

He tends the roses that nod in his cultivated garden.
Their fragrance rides the breeze. We breathe scented, rose-sweet air.

My children are blessed that he is their father. I am too.
God's grace flew with the wind that blew him to me long ago.

Via Palou

//via paluou


You asked about the man in the dory
in this painting I did that summer. Well,
one hot July day I carried my sketch
book down a lane that I think was called Via
Palou, which led to a river close to
where I was staying. Not far from the water
was a dazzling white, three-story house, with
a Spanish tiled roof, and closed white shutters
blocking out the burning sun. Clumps of flowers
grew alongside fragrant yellow fennel,
on the bank between the stucco house and
the copper-green mix of fresh and salt water.

I chose a soft pencil from my pencil
box, sat in the shade in semi-lotus
mode, against the trunk of a sturdy stone
pine to sketch the ancient, quaint and quiet
place. A gull shrilled, a shutter was opened
and a woman, her shining midnight hair
streaming around her in a deep and
shadowy window, like obsidian
gleaming, polished, turned a Wedgwood blue
pot of deep rose ivy geraniums
around to face the air. They spilled over
onto the wide window sill and down the
white stucco wall. The colors were an
exclamation point on the chalky white.
I felt awkward sketching her house while she
was arranging flowers there and turned away.

The wind came dancing up the river,
ruffling the water, blowing on the ivy
geranium blossoms, sighing through the
stone pine. I sketched the water now. It lapped
the bank with gentle slaps as the tide came
in. I saw a pine-green dory, its oars
dipping cleanly as it approached me from
the sea. Shipping the dripping oars, a thin,
blue-jeaned man with a preoccupied air
and dark hair jumped out of the boat and dragged
it up on the bank, then pushed open the
solid looking door of the white stucco
house. I heard the gurgle of moving water
and caught a glimpse of a lion fountain
in a pink-jasmine flowered courtyard. Then a
deep voice called out, "H'lo," to the bell sound
of a woman laughing, as she replied,
"I'm up here." The door closed and all was quiet
except for lapping water, the sighing
pine, and shrilling gull. I sighed then too.

A Day On The Bay

//day on a bay


In new boat shoes,
pressed shorts and shirts,
behind dark glasses,
hair freshly cut and newly dyed,
the eight arrive with wine
and cheese, homemade crab cakes,
still-warm brownies,
to spend a day on a boat on a bay.

Each once had
a spouse who'd,
so to speak,
taken away their seat
when the music stopped
as they'd circled
in marital musical chairs -
leaving them alone among strangers,
trying to cope.
Bitter references to former mates
punctuate their chat
with painful periodic jolts,
like unseen pieces of broken glass
inadvertently stepped on barefoot.
The power boat bouncing on the waves of the bay
creates a wake
that fans out like the bridal veil she wore
years before, one of them ruminates.
They steer past lobster traps
that, if hit, will disable the boat,
like the hurdles that tripped them up
in marriage.

Dropping anchor in a cove
near a bigger boat,

they check out the two
who emerge from below,
in faded tartan bathing suits,
who do not give the expected wave
and disappear again into the cabin.
Gulls shrill. Wavelets slap their hull.
The two boats slowly swing about,
deliberate as Kabuki dancers holding fans,
in the turning tide,
while the eight munch on crunchy crab cakes
and sip cold chardonnay.
One bares her sunblock-pale
arms and legs
to the early summer sun.
"Why?" she wonders,
"Why?", then laughs at someone’s joke
and catches someone’s eye.

Now We Wait

//now we wait


Dots just bigger than
(...) periods
form a triangle of
laser marks,
one over your sacrum,
one on each hip.

Our vocabularies
have been expanded.
“Gleason,” is the fortune teller,
the tarot card,
the I Ching.
If your Gleason score is high, you worry.

New combinations
of letters
are engraved on our brains,
familiar now as ‘A-O.K.’
“PSA” is the one to watch.
It has to be checked every three months.

Typically, we’re knocked off balance;
this time, when the treatment --
shots and pills
and radiation --
causes hot flashes
and you feel your strength
oozing down a rabbit hole.




We kick through soft sand by the rain-gray sea,
climb on jagged rocks the color of tea.
Clouds of shell pink disappear
behind a whitewash of swift-moving fog.
A lighthouse beacon flashes
on steep gritty steps carved in the cliff,
picks out the path through tall sighing grasses
which leads to our rented house.

A fog horn’s two-toned signal sounds.
Wind sneaks in under doors
and whistles around the chimney.
The heater grumbles and groans.
We browse through a shelf of old mysteries,
then read to each other from a forgotten Christie.

The cold floor is sugared with sand.
The damp-sheeted bed dips in the middle.
Holding each other
is, nevertheless,

We wake to sun gleaming on twisted evergreen trees,
and dancing across the water.
Gulls screech and dive;
running terns claw-print damp sand.
A rustling pussy willow hedge hides the house next door.
We breakfast on the fieldstone patio
beside terra cotta pots of red geraniums.
We feel our spirits blossom in the warmth of the sun.

Cat Sleepy

//cat sleepy

Drowsy cat snuggles
beside the rocking chair. He’s
very careful where.

Thousands of lightning
bolts hurled at us by the sky -
but none of us died.

The sky was jumping
like Independence Day Night;
the sky came in first.

Getting Ready

///getting ready

getting ready

I’ve had time to think,
right on the brink,
of the end of life.
I’ve become reaquainted
with the girl I was,
the one who stared at
a sulphur sky just before the
hurricane of 1938 filled
our town with thrashing trees
throwing branches down and
snapping electric wires which
writhed about and sparked by
the side of the road.

I left the library that day
with three or four books
at 4 o’clock and stared at
the chrome yellow sky, as I
stood on the cement sidewalk
next to a Longfellow-style
New England white house,
mysterious behind a high hedge.

I was the oldest child,
born on a 13th
wanted to be 3rd or 7th,
born on any other day,
so I would be lucky.
I met a 7th child half a century
later and he wasn’t any luckier
than I, except that he got to fight
in THE WAR while I collected
newspapers for the girl scouts,
because of Hitler,
though I no longer remember why.

I walked solemnly along the aqueduct
that day so I could stare at the weird
yellow sky.

I remembered that girl the other day
when my friend who was a 7th child,
drove by. I loved to walk, I’ve realized,
and did, when I could.

Parkinson's Changes

parkinson's changes

(c) by Elizabeth Southwood 1998

Melting like snow,
neurons go...
Her nerve fails her.

Like a flamenco dancer's
back, exquisite,
her foot arches - with cramp.

She painted neatly
as Mondrian -
now her method is pure Pollock.

She meditated in lotus,
balanced in stork -
now brain storms shake her.


Cream butterflies flit
past tangerine nasturtiums -
butterflies at rest.

Plum plucked from gnarled tree,
bitten, dribbles purple juice,
signing my white blouse.

Plums thud on the grass
already tasted by birds.
We nibble what’s left.

Glowing scarlet rose
petals kite up in the wind,
skitter over yard.

Cat moves sedately
away from oak, turns, charges
with sharp scimitars.

We all heard him groan,
he who’d purred and spoken mew.
Our tears stain his fur.

Male quail on the fence
watches little ones grubbing,
senses us through screen.

He trills in “our” yard,
feasts on warm sweet summer plums,
huddles in cold rain.

Black shadows move in,
make themselves at home, hiding
bright Greek whites, clean blues.

The trains in the night:
they carried Holmes & Watson,
Count Vronsky, Anna.

Through Copley Square, from
and to, I walked - with you in
starched blood-spattered white.

Her breast, cancerous,
gone, cells like fast-spreading lice,
below smooth young skin,

Fish scales glitter in
sunshine, as fish flop about
on bottom of boat.

On her thin gray hair
she clips a pink peony,
smiles flirtatiously.

Kissing away hurts,
mother knows works. Little one
watches, learns it does.

Leaves fall from the trees.
The sun shines through. Dusty yards
miss the shade’s cool dark.

A cypress tree sways
in the wind while a dancer
clicks her castanets.

He caught her eye, she
blushed, he tripped, she fell, he coughed,
steadied her and laughed.

-15 -
The songs you once played,
which haunt our old piano -
loud on moving day.

Books and cups crashed off
shelves, and milk puddled the floor.
Our refuge, chaos.

Baseball pitcher stands
like a matador, timing
his pitch; throws, bat cracks.

-18 -

Trophies gather dust.
Memories of tennis courts,
of running back, forth.

- 19 -

Motes dance in sunshine,
illuminated like snow
falling through porch light

West Wind


age was ripe.
She was too well-fed --
doted on truffles,
drooled over English toffee.
She had no dread
for the future of anybody
on her deathbed.
She turned her head
and died alone.
She hadn’t put
aside an inheritance
for anybody.
No heirs disputed
over what she’d owned.
Her capacious, costly, dowdy clothes
went to her cleaning lady,
in lieu of money,
her house to pay
for care of
an imposing mausoleum
where she planned to
lie serene as any ancient queen,
with warm stained-glass
hues painting reds, greens, and blues
on an iceberg-lettuce colored
molded tomb
from jutting chin
to hands folded in prayer
and turned-out feet.
Nobody wanted anything
to remember her by --
not a teapot, not a silver spoon
was coveted.

Her first cousin,
decrepit, thin,
with a sweet, still pretty face,
and a sparkle in her eyes,
was generous with her pittance
and her love.
She buried her cousin
in the gloomy mausoleum on
a chilly, overcast day.
Faint, shuffling
as she walked,
she stumbled with her
granddaughter, Ci-Ci,
an observant seven,
who reached up,
took her hand and
balanced her
with a comforting touch.

Old Granny walked
then with aplomb,
like a queen escorted
to her throne,
and never minded that
her clothes were
from a sale at church,
though put together
with customary flair,
a dash of pixie,
a sort of charming air
which caused some to
look at her a second time
and ask, “Where did you
find that suit or scarf
or ribbon in your hair?”
She left her pittance
to her kids, sorry it wasn’t more,
and asked that her ashes be scattered
in her garden on a sunny day when the west wind
blew, where birds still feasted on berries
and pecked among the roses.



coddled eggs and toast
husband’s smile and words and hugs
kids in a good place
no telephone
The Bishop’s Wife
tiny helping hand
large helping hand
big pillow
cookie party
Sunday morning
chatting with friends
windows washed
gasoline in car

Sept 11

sept 11

September11, 2001

She rose early that day,
felt something in the air.
Her radio was busy talking,
and she hobbled across the
forest-green rug for the tv clicker,
just in time to see the first World
Trade Tower erupt in a flare,
like a magician was pulling flames
from a ice-tray,
flames high, dirtying the glowing blue air.
A second plane
disappeared into the building.
Flames erupted.
How did we know it was
terrorists, smashing our world?

From California we watched
it over and over, sick to our stomachs
as thousands died, storm-dark smoke
curled and grasped with malignant force
through the cement canyons of
New York where lamps shone through
green leaves at dusk and we’d ridden
through Central Park behind a clip-clopping
horse and our first chiild was born high
above the Hudson and we ate hot chestnuts in
front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
and had tea at The Plaza and saw famous
people in underground parking garages.



Few passers-by notice the house behind trellised jasmine
Do wet butterflies dry their drenched wings under a blue moon?
Her thick towel does not dry while winter rains pour down.
Clammy dampness everywhere, drains spouting like broken dams.

This weather is inopportune,
worse than Indian monsoon,
El Nino's the one
that has me undone,
I wish it would go away soon.

Incurable Illness

//incruable illness

She didn’t drink or smoke,
did yoga, t’ai chi,
and jogged,
stayed slender,
used sunblock,
At first she wept
endlessly, tears leaked,
ran down her cheeks.
She pulled her quilts tight
at night, curled fetally,
felt perpetually the feeling she’d now and
then had as a child, of being ill
enough to stay in bed a spell,
with warm and crumpled sheets,
missing school, worrying about school work.
Since becoming a mother,
she'd almost never been sick.
She's gotten used to it, though,
the way you do.

At first, only her family knew.
Her husband, a good man, said,
“It’s a privilege,
a pleasure,
to take care of you.”
He helps her endlessly.
The kids don't understand
her limitations.
Some friends are still her friends.
Others query awkwardly, "How ARE you?”
They really don't know what to say.
She knows they mean well, but
she wants to forget
for an hour or two.
She wants to say,
“I’m still me.
Roses nod in my garden.
My husband loves me still.
I’m reading a good book.
We’re having apricots
from our tree for dessert tonight.
The kids are doing well.
(Knock Wood).
The moments she treasures
are the moments she forgets,
meets herself again.



MAY 1, 1998,
Back Yard Tanka

White honey locust
blossoms dangle in clusters
over blue iris:
mother birds sharing food with
squawking, open-mouthed babies.

In the garden now, blooming
blooming white honey locust
blue, purple, red and black iris
red, yellow, pink, white roses
pink escallonia
white holly
hot pink flowering quince
pink Indian hawthorn
tangerine nasturtiums
blue/white phlox
deep pink, white Jupiter's beard
lavender ivy geranium
white potato vine
white madonna lilies
yellow Scotch broom
white Japanese iris,
the wind sighing.

Where Are The Girls?

//where are the girls

“Where Are The Girls?”

“Play your flute
until the shadow
of the branch lies alongside
the well,”
she told her son.
He picked up a flute
of bone of crane
and blew a tune
with ancient wind
in its soul,
while near him
his baby sister

Later, the well
in deep shadow,
his mother
sent him with other boys
to sit below leafy rustling trees,
and play his flute,
while crickets shrilled
in the suffocating summer night
and a little girl screamed
for a while.

Hope Chests

//hope chests

Hope chests
used to be advertised
in a weekly magazine
my parents subscribed to
when I was a girl.
They were meant to hold
tablecloths, sheets, guest towels,
placed neatly, sprinkled with dried lavender,
among the linen folds in the chest
which was routinely shown in the ads, I believe,
at the foot of a white, dotted-swiss, canopied bed.
I think there were matching window curtains,
bouffant skirts on dressing tables,
cozy window seats,
and vases of roses on available surfaces.

The hope chest could double as a seat during the day,
I think the ad pointed out,
serve as an extra, temporary,
place to hide presents, or to keep blankets,
until it was needed to store linens for the future household.

At night the future bride could lay
her neatly folded bedspread on it,
casually toss her bathrobe over it
like a model with a fur in a fashion show.
I felt incomplete without this tiny dowry,
this box of dreams, this place to toss a robe.

The girls in the ads gleamed with joy,
so glad when they got engaged,
and their grooms, I seem to remember,
glistened with evident ecstasy,
apparently beaming because they had chosen someone so wise,
with the foresight to have a cache
of lavender-scented linen,
a treasure chest of tablecloths and guest towels.
They were ready to have company,
relieved, as I would never be,
that they didn’t have to start from scratch.

by Liz Southwood


Being unnecessary
except to you and me,
is actually
The people I find
that still care
about me are
the ones with
whom I’d rather

I drove with an
acquaintance to a
dinner party recently,
quite a nice gal actually,
and she was unable to think
in a week and dead in a month
of something like Mad Cow Disease.
And I am still here, writing a poem
to you with my shaking hands.
There is hope!!

Ma compagnie
n’est-pas desiree
par toute la monde
et ca me faite calme.
Les gens qui m’aime
sont les uns avec qui,
je prefer etre.

Je sais quelques gens
qui ont trop et pense
qu’ils aurant jeunes
pour eternite. Nous
ne sommes pas seuls.
J’ai passe le temps il
y a un mois avec une amie
plaisante. Dans sept jours
elle ne pense pas et dans
une mois elle etait morte
d’une malade comme Mad
Cow Disease. Et je vous
ecrire aujourd’hui cette
abomination, sans doute,
de la langue francaise
avec mes mains qui tremblant.
Il y a espoir!!

Egrets and Frogs

//egrets and frogs

Egret and Frogs

A single egret
picks at old cartons and waste
in water where there's
a chemical taste and frogs
have the wrong number of legs.

Giving And Receiving

//giving and receiving


She coveted pink pelargoniums
like those she saw climbing
on the symmetrical cypress tree
by the splintered rail fence
round her neighbor’s garden.
He was kneeling, weeding one day,
snowy white hair blowing and gleaming,
while a blackbird choir sang in the tree above him.
She told him how she’d searched for pink.
He snapped off a leafy, blossoming stem,
and gave it to her
with a gardener’s generosity.

She broke it into pieces
which she rooted in a water glass,
then planted beside a sun-warmed trellis.
Soon she had a fall of flowers,
scrubbed blue sky above,
rain-greened grass below,
a mecca for whirring hummingbirds.

One winter night of record cold,
his ivy pelargonium froze,
shriveled on his cypress tree
in its shaded corner.
Hers survived, continued healthy.
She rooted robust stems for him,
placed them inside his garden gate.

Now pink flowers once again
nod in the western breeze
and cascade down the side
of the cypress tree like a breaking wave,
within view of her sunny, blossom-covered trellis.

Garden Club Memories


Quail call the hill home, and hummingbirds too,
quail as they click through rainbowed morning dew,
while the hummingbirds dart and whir about
in the flinging spray of the sprinkler spouts.
Songbirds pierce fruit on trees: peach, plum, loquat.
What they've found is a kind of Camelot -
a secret, steep hill, with a winding road,
wild-flowered canyons where winter brooks flow,
paths hidden next to buckeye where children
of each generation find them again.

Early moms wanted the hill to remain
a place where loving spirits could sustain
the feelings and joy from important things
like when the first robins sing in the spring,
the pink that reflects on cumulus clouds,
why fragrant, velvet iris are so bowed.
They gathered and formed a protectorate.
No snake pushed apples for Adam to eat.
The ladies imported experts to teach
how to divide bulbs, when to pick a peach.
They brought out their best china and silver,
concurred with parliamentary procedure.
They saw a hill view from each separate home,
at meetings held in spring, fall, winter gloom.
They raised money for projects deemed worthy,
like giving each year to save redwood trees,
or plant flowering cherries at the school.
Having learned what plants liked drought, wet, or cool,
they gave successful plant sales and advice.
Fine plants were sold at a very good price.

Talented members have contributed
to the pleasantness of the neighborhood:
Three Garden Club cookbooks over the years
have printed recipes - delicious fare -
spreading the fame of the leafy hill’s cooks,
the money earned given to do good works:
the best-looking mailboxes ever seen
adding agreeable tidiness to the scene,
the volunteer fire department
supported by us to a large extent.

The membership is like fine potpourri,
a combination with good synergy.
Old members enjoy chatting with young ones,
reminded of how their own days were once
filled with small children. The young members too
find continuity in the crew
of ladies who are now growing old,
simpatico as they see life unfold.

We can't believe how fortunate we are
to have found this special place for ours,
this hidden hill covered with trees that some-
times dance in cool wind from the sea, or loom
through fog like the red-roofed temple in mist
in my painting by an unknown artist.

Readers, A Pantoum

January 9, 1998


We come home with two piles of books
just before a deluge of rain.
We each have our own special nook,
the place where books to read remain.

Just before a deluge of rain,
we rush in, light a fire near
the place where books to read remain,
that corner uniquely our sphere.

We rush in, light a fire near
the area that's claimed as ours,
that corner uniquely our sphere,
where we curl up by the hour.

The area that's claimed as ours,
where by custom we drink our tea,
where we curl up by the hour,
each devouring a mystery.

Where by custom we drink our tea,
in winter by a crackling fire
each devouring a mystery.
We share bits that we admire.

In winter by a crackling fire
we each have our own special nook.
We share bits that we admire.
We come home with two piles of books.

Red Sand Take Out

//red sand take out

Neither of them could breathe that night.
They leaned against the thin, folded-over pillows
and held each other.
"It's the dust," she said.
The shower, which contained a hopping frog,
and only dribbled,
dribbled all night.

Promise of Autumn

//promise of autumn

Promising Change - A Tanka Trio - Gold Hon. Mention Oct. 8 '97
by Elizabeth Southwood

Golden leaves drift from
trees, marking off Indian
summer. Our inert
cat becomes alert and bats
at a leaf that teases him.

Green magnolia leaves
reflect sun's glare. Window shades
slap against casements.
In indigo dusk, my hair
moves in the streams of cool breeze.

I draw the drapes, put
on a soft slate sweater, turn
on the living room
lamps. A chorus of crickets
sings. Showers are predicted.

BoatHouse in English and French

Boathouse Bateau-Maison
By Liz Southwood De Liz Southwood

The rain had fled. Ls pluie est parti,
I went to jog. je vais pour un marche.
When I got back, Quand je returnera
my house had slid, ma maison a glisse
but not my dog. mais pas mon chien.

My dog did bark Ma chien fait aboiement
to tell me that m’a dite que
on a big raft sur un radeau large
my house was stacked ma maison etait empile
and now a boat. et maintenant une batteau.

My cat survived, Ma chatte a rescape,
was eating fish. etait mange le poisson.
Our cul-de-sac, Notre cul-de-sac
all liquified, tout liquifie,
provided this. a donne cela.

A small island, Une petite isle,
as if ad hoc, comme ci ad hoc
loomed from a lake, surge d’un lac
a steep highland comme Haute Ecosse,
of local rocks. des rocs local.

My home there moored, Ma maison y amarre,
a fine houseboat, une maison-bateau beau,
where my small stake ou mon petite poteau
of land once stood, de terre a ete autrefois,
I lived afloat. je reside a l’eau.

Young Wives and Mothers

Young Wives and Mothers
by Elizabeth Southwood

When time stretched
endlessly, she’d found a dress with
a holly-green sash that showed off her lithe waist,
white pumps edged with matching polka dots.
“Lucky” clovers around a sweetheart neck
framed shadowed collar bones.
And mascara fringed her eyes.

rumpled and wrinkled, with wavy silver hair,
in a son’s outgrown midnight-blue sweats, she finds
old pictures of herself with friends
and sees their sparkling youth,
their untroubled eyes,
their confident eyes,
herself in her green and white dress,
in the courtyard at Allied Arts,
among beds of marigolds
and the sun gleaming in the spray
of the fountain.
And most of their tears unshed.

Lantern Poems

//lantern poems

by Elizabeth Southwood

Today her phone rang twice:
Two friends she’s missed
called to chat a catch-up while.
Each asked if she was writing still.
“Not much,” she said, “Since he was diagnosed,
I seem to have nothing to say.

“ What I do instead is pray.

“He’s been bleeding thirteen months,
but he’s feeling good.”

Hanging up, she sat down to write,
her writer still inside
until she tried:

“Lord, let his tests be good,
and let his thorns be loose.”

Old Path

//old path

Old Path
by Elizabeth Southwood

Like shade from white lace parasols,
below the overhanging trees
sunlight and shadow dance a reel.
Wind sways the leaf-green canopy.

The path we jogged on long ago
is still the one we stroll along,
while those new neighbors we don’t know
lope right on past us, being young.

When I’m at home and I recall
the fragrant bay and twisting oak,
I feel the aura mystical
that’s present in the woods we walk.

Color Chemist Leaves The Paper Mill

The Color Chemist Leaves
The Paper Mill
On A Winter Day
by Elizabeth Southwood

The color chemist left the mill,
stooped to avoid an icicle.
His child was along for the ride.
He saw the miniscule trickle

of the chill brook freezing beside
the mill in wooded countryside.
A waterfall, close by a bridge,
then caught his eye. Did he decide

it would not be a sacrilege
to toss some dye on that white ledge
of thick ice with its frozen flow
as arctic as a glacier's edge?

His eyes sparkling, he gauged his throw,
cast for his daughter a rainbow
which bloomed on pristine ice and snow,
a stained glass window al fresco.

Lemon Passion

//lemon passion


Ever since we moved
here and found a lemon tree
in our yard,
I’ve had a liking
for lemons.
On cool days in autumn
I serve lemon with tea
from an old samovar
on a table beside
a mahogany armoire
I keep polished with
lemon-scented oil,
as my husband’s mother did
before me.
He and I, drinking tea,
sometimes eat cookies
made with last summer’s crop
from our once frozen,
now revived, lemon tree,
a smooth, translucent,
buttercup-colored custard
in butter-flavored crust.

Like scarlet bougainvillea,
lemon trees can go dormant
after a freeze, for a year
or two, then surprise
you by growing anew.

When I get too thin,
sometimes I spoon
in the middle of the afternoon,
when it’s too late for tea,
pale-gold lemon curd from a
glass jam jar,
heavy as a paperweight,
that was my grandmother’s.
I relish the tart, sweet
taste on my tongue.
We both do,
sharing spoonfuls.

Tennis-tea, half lemonade
and half tea, revives me
on sweltering summer days,
whether sipping my way through a mystery,
or thinking about that morning.
As white clouds turn pink,
we drink harmoniously
in lengthening shade, refreshed
by the cool glasses of tennis-tea
and the fragrance of new lemon blossoms.

Misty March Morning

//misty march morning


Papery, raspberry-red
and the last,
dark-rose quince blossoms
fluttering down
are the norm here
this time of year.
Today, a ghostly mist drifts
through our courtyard,
past our windows.
The house next door
looms like a Bronte crag,
a shadow through fog.
The city below,
down the hill,
is gone from sight,
veiled in white.
The air outside
when we bring in the papers
is quiet as a yawn:
birds silent,
planes grounded,
traffic muffled,
Interrupted only
by a foghorn’s
warning moan,
and the dripping
of condensed fog
from gutters.
We decide not
to take a walk
on our shrouded hill.
Instead, we bundle in down
to keep the chill
from our bones,
sip cafe au lait,
do crossword puzzles
by the light of our
blue and ecru

Nature Tankas

//nature tankas

Is April hiding?
A cold wind blows from the north.
In spite of the chill,
the old honey locust is
crowned with a lettuce-green mist.

Water thrusts this way,
a luge of hot Pacific
current, El Nino,
bringing us mudslides, chilly
houses, snow-white Coleman light.
A possum runs in
the ditch by the road as I
jog. I hear rustling
leaves. Later, he peeps through our
window as we watch TV.
Bellyflower Tanka Trio -- GOLD HON MENTION AUG. 8, 1997
Crickets look down at
bellyflowers, daphne-pink
or daffodil-gold.
In sun-drenched fields, shady lawns,
the puddles of color show.
For bellyflowers
to be seen, it’s said around
here, you must be prone.
If you’re alone, prone, looking,
you might elicit looks too.

I use a thimble
when I place bellyflowers
in a vase. Bonsai
trees with some planted in moss -
like spring in the Sierras.

When I was swimming
in the ocean one day near
Pollock Rip, a fish
swam by and then a big ship.

A countrified, musical lady
Hummed Bach in a glade that was shady.
Lo, a rattlesnake came.
She was heard to exclaim,
“The snake’s got my hum, I’m a fraidy.”
A miss with a narcissistic thing
Meditated early each morning.
She placed a large mirror
Where no one could see her
And peeked at herself while reflecting.
An angular, jocular spinster
Liked bells from the Abbey Westminster.
Her cat hated the same
Though he loved the old dame.
Also, given catnip he nipped her.

- 22 -
Bridge is our first-Friday anchorage.
Old friends, cards, tallies, our equipage.
The Jacoby transfer
Used by adventurers --
For it, I need an interpreter.
- 23 -
Pencils are sharp, and cards are put out.
Beneath a bed the cat keeps lookout.
Ladies are arriving,
All of them surviving
By sharing, letting it all hang out.
- 24 -
A “Venus” like the Botticelli
played bridge when visiting in Delhi.
Her problem was this one:
She found that everyone
thought she had come from a pearl shelly.