The Song of Cardinals

Image courtesy of Will’s Company
An early morning, dogs walked,

Time to sit. Read the news.
Enjoy a cup of coffee and listen to the birds sing.

A twenty-two year old woman falls into a coma,
dying later at the hospital.
The police say she suffered a heart attack,
claiming their goal was educational only—
to teach her the proper way to wear hijab.

Now in Iran, women
bravely cut their hair and burn their hijabs
in protest of Mahsa Amini’s death.

I listen to the songs of cardinals
as they come to peck at the seeds from feeders
swinging from tall shepard hooks in my neighbor’s yard.

My hands shake as I lift my coffee cup to my lips.
No power. My hands hold no power. My body holds no power.
No power to help the women of Iran. No power to protect them
from the brutality of the “Morality Police.”

I can not help but think of my own daughter of twenty three,
only a year older, just a year.
A moment of gratitude for her life,
For a moment, a sense of relief
that here in the U.S we have no “Morality Police”
Or “sharia” law— for my daughter’s sake….

But the moment of relief drifts away
on the song the cardinals sing—
We live in the state of Texas,
Which now holds dominion over her body.

My hands shake
Powerless at the moment
Only at the moment.
Power rises as does anger.

The state, the nation, the world counted on fear to make us powerless.
Yet now, injustices kindle the flame of power within us
And nothing can stand against us once we unite.

Bandaged, She Walks

image courtesy of
Bandaged, gauze coved, blanketed--

She never thought of bandages
until one wound oozed infection,
a malevolent fluid.

Thus, she learned of cleansing wounds,
bandaging them for protection,
changing dressings.

Twice, she thought her wound healed, scarred over,
rejoicing, removed her bandage.
Twice, her scar split open, infection returning.

Resigned, resolving keep her bandage always,
Refreshed daily, keeping infection at bay.

The Devil’s Face

image courtesy of virginia white


Pouring rain while the sun shone on a summer’s day…
I will never forget that moment, that day –
when I saw, without doubt, 
The devil’s face.

A day of fun on the Eastern shore of Maryland where my mother’s husband’s one sister, the nice one, had a place,
I was seven maybe eight,
spending the day playing in the sand and saltwater surf, gathering treasures of shells,
some broken and some whole, all worthy treasures of a child.

Late afternoon, driven by hunger to the picnic tables, where the smell of burgers cooking
mingled with the smell of my little kid sweat and Coppertone with which my mother had slathered me.

Let me see your shells. His sister asked.
I displayed my treasure trove of shells.
His sister oohed and ahhed at each one.

Then the sound of a slap. A back hand. Twice. 

Frank! Frank! His sister yelled, freezing his raised hand
mid-air before he hit my mother a third time.

My mother walking slowly, calmly toward me, taking my hand in her own and leading me inside
the house to the bedroom where our bags were.
We have to go.  We don't have time to get you cleaned up.  Just put your cover-up on. Okay?
Nodding. I did as told.  
Then we walked out the front door of the house.
My mother carrying our big beach bag and holding my hand.
My sand bucket, shells left behind.

We walked.  
Walked until the skin between our toes blistered from our flip-flops, 
cars whizzed by us.
My mother’s face blossomed in bruises.

It was not the first time I’d seen her wear his flowering adornments.  She made excuses, falling 
Or walking into a wall. She had never been so clumsy before.
I’d never borne visual witness to it all before, but I'd heard it when I was supposed to be sleeping.

We came to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, halfway across a cop stopped and got us in the patrol car.
He drove us as far as he could.  Would have done more if my mother had let him is my guess.
Their talk too low for me to make out words from the backseat.
The officer walked into a restaurant and bought me a coke.
The sweet fizz quenching thirst.  My mother drank water.
The officer was trying to talk my mother into something,
exactly what I did not know.  I could not recognize the words
buzzing by my ears.  They made no sense in the string of sound they produced.  My ears still cottony feeling from the road noise of the bridge, from the stinging skin sound of slaps.         
Then the officer tried to get my mother back into the patrol car, but she said we’d be alright.  His shoulders sagged, I remember. He dropped his head and looked at the ground.  Then nodded and got in his patrol car and drove slowly away.  My mother took my hand and we walked again.  My legs were heavy.  But still we walked.  My mother’s eyes focused straight ahead, and I resolved to be just as she— straightening my back, lifting my head, focusing my gaze straight ahead.  We walked.  
Then a blue pontiac squealed by and stopped ahead.  Frank got out of the driver’s seat and began talking right away.  Saying he was sorry, he’d never do it again, wouldn’t we get in the car, things didn’t need to be this way.  He knew a little place just up the road. Let him buy us dinner he asked.  We still passed him, passed his car.  Finally, my mother gave in.  She put me in the back seat and got into the front seat of the car.  
It started pouring rain, but the sun was out.

“I’m sorry about hitting your mother,” he said.  “I’ll never do it again. I promise.  Do you forgive me.” He looked over his shoulder at me.  His blue eyes frosty, the end of his eyebrow curled up where he had pushed his hair off his forehead, the red in his hair glistening in the sunlight. I nodded my lie.

He chuckled, looking out the window.  “Do you know what they say about when it rains like this? Pouring rain but the sun is shining.  They say it’s when the devil beats his wife.” He looked
at me from the rear view mirror.  My mother was silent, staring straight ahead.  He moved the car forward.  
Then I prayed for God to allow me a mission because I knew what he looked like, I had seen the devil’s face.

The Coffee Mug

shattered on the floor
my favorite coffee mug
nothing big, not much of a thing,
just my favorite coffee mug--
sunshine yellow, with coffee beans,
and a coffee spoon printed inside at the top
along with a line from my favorite poem,
“I have measured out my life in coffee spoons”
yes, trite, you might say, emblazoned upon a coffee mug
but still, yes, I loved the mug, love the poem.
and there it was—
shattered upon the floor
there she stood,
apologizing—ad nauseam—
saying she’d buy another to replace it.
But it was not to be found.
Of course, the store didn’t have them anymore.

The mug was the first broken thing.
The first of a few, if it wasn’t liked,
didn’t fit into the ideal 
of what could be
forged of me
if pinched in the grip of tongs 
and held in the fire long enough
to be broken down to a molten,
malleable state, pounded upon the anvil, 
shaped, dipped in water to sizzle cool enough
to start the process over again—
for easy fracture.

Many things ended up broken, 
shelved, stored in closets—
pictureless frames and frameless pictures,
parts of me 
hidden away, never to be seen
sitting on shelves
in black closets—

until I emerged
chipped but no worse for wear
unbroken into the light.

A Razor Sharpened Tongue

image courtesy of

When the devils dwelling

within humanity’s heart

show themselves

through the horrors

of animals beaten, tortured

starved, or treated                   

with the willful disregard

of neglect–

I do rage,

wishing, at the very least,

for a razor sharpened

renegade tongue,

with which I could do damage–

wreak havoc,

slice and dice with it,

and after I’m done—

take all my slicing

and all my dicing

into arms strong enough

to carry the weight

of cruelty bled out,

drained of all its bloody

need to hurt, ignorant

of the suffering it has caused,

and toss it all into a funeral pyre

built to destroy all these

blood drained devils dwelling

within humanity’s heart.

Finally, finally leaving us to treat


other creatures,

our world

as if we truly do

have the souls

God has given us.

But it would take more, much more

than a razor sharpened tongue

to cut all the devils out.

so I turn my hands

to help, comfort,

aid as I can—

small drops,

yes, very small drops

to wash the darkness

of all the devils out.


Weekend Writing Prompt #267: This weekend your challenge is to write a poem or a piece of prose in exactly 31 words using the word “Return”.

I envy the monarch’s, the hummingbird’s arc of return,
infinite, eternal.
My jealousy consumes as I have
no return, no cycle—
Only the damnation of this linear thing,
finite, directionless.

Always There

Photo by Tina Nord on

As I prepare the hummingbird feeders
To place in the yard,
My mind gathers the threads of my what-ifs,
Thinking to knit
Some alternate reel
Of these last few years.
But my what-ifs unravel
As my hands no longer possess
The dexterity to knot 
The ends and edges
Of time I never found
To circle the earth,
Looking for you
As I took wide gaited steps,
Covering as much ground 
As possible.

Yet still, knowing
Had I found you,
My words would 
Have stumbled
Over each other,
Clumsy from lacking sense
Of time lost, wasted—
	And yet, I think of you every day, after all these years.

The you before the world shrank with color draining away,
The you before the new penny color of your hair faded to white,
The you with warm blue topaz eyes reflecting sunshine prisms,
	Not the ice glinting gemstones they became.
And I—
	I had fresh, pure words,
	Weaving us a blanket of innocence and love
	As we curved toward each other in youth.

But I cannot stride the world anymore
In search of you.
Thus, I let you go,
Hoping you find softness
Like the hummingbird
Who brushes her cheek against 
The petals of a dinner plate hibiscus
In search of nectar.

The Promise of a Nation

Photo by

Anger paralyzes,

I search for words—

Pour what I feel

Into them—

But my anger

Melts them,

Turns them molten metal,

Defiant to the forms,

The constraints,

The molds I attempt

To use to shape

This gob of white hot liquid metal

Into meaning

For feelings

Overwhelming me.

Paralysis crushing,


It is what they want—

Make us heavy once again

With chains and shackles,

Place and close the Master’s padlock,

A designation of second class,

Something much less than they,

Round our necks once more,

Making of us an example,

So others live in fear

Of what they come for next

And so acquiesce—

Staying silent, eyes lowered,

Hoping to escape notice

By allowing them to feel smug and safe.

My anger burns bright white stripes,

Others will not die bleeding the red.

Remember the stars provide the light

Of what we know is right.

We will not live on our knees

Or on our backs, being beggars

For shredded scraps

Of what is the promise of our nation.

Handmaid’s Tale on the Horizon

Brevity of years
Right, paid in blood + death, destroyed
Fiction drips history

Brevity in 12 words