Monthly Archives: May 2014

[Mother’s Day] Vanishing Tracks (II)

Note: This is one of a series of poems for my mother from my book Vanishing Tracks. A Tibetan Buddhist teacher I knew used to say that if you imagine that we are all born again and again, then even the person who seems to be our worst enemy was at some point somebody’s mother, and recognizing that possibility can make us treat our fellow creatures, human and otherwise, with more compassion. While I post this poem today to honor my own mother, I also honor all mothers, and our memories of them, and their important place in our own identities, no matter how many (or few) times we think we’ve been here before. //JSS


Vanishing Tracks (II)

What is resilient in us is resistant to memory
When the memory goes she will be some other self
Still resilient to the sailing light and shadow
And hungers and exhaustions of love
Made maybe even more immediate

When the resilience goes what is that then

When the resistance goes what is that

Just outside her heart she hears a sound in the night
I am out there knocking on the dusty porch
I have brought a friend with me
When she opens the door will she see herself
Holding my hand?

Do you remember when the car door opened up
As you drove and I hung out there clinging to it
Legs dangling hollering your name?

Do you remember hollering my name
In encouragement
As you sat in the bleachers to watch
the smallest second baseman ever?

Do you remember the rides on rainy days to school
In the golden Rambler you called Goldilocks
Your children and their friends sitting forward
And backward like sardines to fit more of us into the back seat?

You spent so much time doing these things you have the right
Not to remember

Nothing can change what you have done
What is has made in me
I will remember these things
For you and when I can no longer remember
Nothing can change what you have done

Everything I can remember makes up only a small part of your life
The rest of it now becomes more you to me I see that now
You become your childhood your mother in that picture
Is you now as you look at it which is not
A bad thing as you tell me laughing
Your nephew becomes your father in that picture
Standing beside you younger than you somehow
It doesn’t matter
He has always stood beside you
From the moment he died when you were thirteen he was there
And you grew older as he remained a young father
I only understand now
how you see that picture

The mind’s tide’s becalmed
The beach endless
These memories now rise
Or settle
With little difference in depth
To the step of the moment that splashes


It is Before

It is Before


Cool spring wind. It is before crickets.
Before the night sit-ups and downward dog.

It is before cobra pose and crow pose, the time
of sky that carries a moth the color of birch bark

To my desk who will land on the rim of my eyeglasses
mistaking reflection for source.

It has the scent of yesterday. It is
before the century I was dropped in the middle of,

before the one I’ll finish well ahead of
its resolution. Before the silence that follows

the wind, spring wind say where you came from
who you woke before me in the native tongue

of her flowers and the throat of her open
windowsill and the hair your whisper shifted

across her ear as she slept? It is before
her I tossed love into the wind like a kite

on a twine of trust, before I lost sight of it,
and still long before I have given it up.

[publications] New Orleans Review, “Roadside Attraction”

Today my poem “Roadside Attraction” was published on the New Orleans Review site. It’s on the site’s main page, and also has its own little link here.

My thanks to the editors there who saw fit to give this poem and “The Push Pull” some exposure to the NOR’s readers.

The poem is based on an experience driving home from Kure Beach near Wilmington, NC in the twilight hour, as the carny atmosphere is just starting to light up on the main drag between the beach and the city.

The Space

The Space


At a stoplight this morning daydreaming facing south.
Gazing at the left turn light for traffic heading east

I see green and for a moment in the space
between sight and cognition I’m confused

my foot leaves the brake pedal I look in the rearview
expecting to hear a horn behind me then the space

compresses  my foot stamps back on the pedal
awareness leaps the gap to vision reminds it

the light is still red on my side nothing has moved
in my lane but the trip through that space

eye to brain foot to pedal assumption to
action that space stretching out

lengthening that is what I fear

Small Talk

Small Talk

In the foothills by the one road
leading up a mockingbird leaps

into shortlived flight from grass to low
branches: on its fully extended wings

the white wing markings meet
into a lowercase “o” which is

the foothills’ song: quiet
unmarked and not to be mocked