The Opposite of Hubbard Squash is Love

Drive up Route 7 and you can find

Shute’s Pumpkin and Squash Stand

where we buy Autumn Crown,

Honeynut, and Long Island Cheese

squash. Maybe even Hubbard.

Once I grew Hubbards, their fat

bodies swollen beneath mottled leaves.

I’d put them on a shelf in the cold

closet or in basement boxes full

of crumpled newspapers, save them

for last, because they were so hard

to cut. I’d carry them up, haul them

away from the thumping wood

furnace, put them into a bowl

of light on the kitchen table. Days

like that are only dreams now,

something I conjure up as I press

a knife to tough skin. Keep the door

closed. Keep the windows shut.

It’s finally raining. Watch the sea

rise. So many needles have fallen

this year. Drought or global warming?

You can’t be casual with a Hubbard.

Make your first slice close

to the neck, hope for tenderness.

published in West Trestle Review, Sept/Oct 2022

In Our Country the Rooftops

fall apart, blind alleys turn cursive and unreadable, houses become

labyrinths and children cry in cages. In our country we make lists:

what to buy at the grocery store, which dust cauldron we clean today,

how many of the homeless die of neglect. There is something pale written

on the back of my hand. A map. Or the word sea. Or only the blue veins

of my own existence. I sit on the couch and think about climate change,

believe in the dazzle of young girls, in the waggle of sunflame

on upturned faces. On my list of things to do today, six items.

There is a chance I will neglect them all. My heart is a salt bag that bursts

where water tongues the beach. In our country the sinewy branches

of trees cry. I am guilty of living in a house of boards. My table once

tree. My desk. My hands like birds. Everywhere feathers. And yet

I move through the escape-route-width day, unclip my mind.

The weather channel says no rain, only wool clouds, stern wind,

long, slow blowing air, come to rest in clipped grass, to spin again,

dispassionate, over the ruined rooftops of our country.

published in About Place, October 2021

Old Bodies

Chest press together.
Legs shift, find space.

My hand follows an old path— 
the groove of his back—from
shoulder to sweet curve below,
marked with the day’s scent.

I think of what I will become 
later in a box tucked in white-branched clay.

Each day I lift my face
to sun, carry its heat with me.

Like the spruce tree, I bear the breeze.
Like the tree, the wind batters me.

The world will etch me in ink,
but that’s a vain thought. It knows
nothing of me. I am no more than
pebbles or a rain-flecked stream.

In our bed there are no keys, 
no locks, no doors, only

the heat we generate, the wet tongued
moments that carry us through
bruised and yearning days.

Published in Rogue Agent September 2022

I Try to Talk to My Dead Mother About the Election Results

I Try to Talk to My Dead Mother About the Election Results

Black shadows fall
From the lindens tall,
That lift aloft their massive wall
Against the southern sky;

And from the realms
Of the shadowy elms
A tide-like darkness overwhelms
The fields that round us lie.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Today I look beyond the black
dirt of your grave, beyond the bones, into the shadows
of who you were. I touch your face with my fingers, fall
silent as you open your eyes. My grief from
the election seeps from me. Overhead the lindens
speak of nothing else. Your voice stays tall

among the weeds. You were a Republican. That
worries me. But you were my mother, too. Lift
the shovel and help me. Toss the clods aloft
as we watch the flickering red and blue, their massive
bars splayed across the screen. Take down the wall,
the membrane separating living and dead, push against
the heap of history—speak. Side by side we watch the southern
states: Florida, North Carolina, Georgia. A gray sky

flows over us both. You put your arm around me and
I turn my face to your shoulder. The streets shine from
melted snow. How far we are from the realms
of heaven and paradise. How full we have become of the shadowy
dread of these strangers, once our neighbors. Winter elms

stand gray against a hard bore sky. All around us a tide-like
pull. We dig like mice after seeds trying to understand this darkness.
No matter who wins or loses, the gulf between us overwhelms
us all. My mother’s steps falter as we traverse the fields
of muck and ruin. I ask too much of her. Nothing that
she knows can help me now. I am bound round
by the fall of ax, the squeal of tires. Soon it will be time for all of us
to weep. A great nation no longer. A place now of foreboding and lies.

Published in Frost Meadow Review, Volume 7

Howard’s Mill Burns

Turns out the fire got it all. Not much insurance. Not enough
to start over. Howard’s workshop gone, the crowded
bench, scattered with wrenches, mismatched parts.

His son-in-law comes, helps him sort through the mess,
set aside what might still be of use. In the end
Howard knocks it down to keep trespassers out. In the spring

he’ll set it on fire again, then bury what’s left.  Now
half the roof  sprawls wide, an upside down V, 
with shingles crooked and missing.  A metal desk

with its one drawer closed, squats on its top.
Peeking out from underneath—the white door 
that never hung straight, always caught as you tried

to enter. All of it like some giant broken nest, taunting me, 
a dark scar on the snow. Scraps entangled with the bare arms 
of bushes. Gossip has it that faulty wiring caused the blaze, 

some jury-rigged circuitry. Howard was known for that, 
piecing together odds and ends, making do—sloppy but functional.
Now nothing will replace it. He’s taken to standing in the roadway

looking at the charred planks. At eighty-five he remembers when
it was a working mill. The stringent smell of sawdust, the whir of the blades, 
like a coat he once wore. Tattered now. Nothing that will keep him warm.

Third Wednesday
Spring  2018

like the sky I’ve been too quiet

I sit in the forbidden room      a chair by your bed    holding my weight in stones, in sorrows in uncountable grains of touch you can still speak  so I lean over to catch   your voice in my mouth to swallow these        bits warm               in beak  and you tell me I was always the quiet one  and you don’t know about all the words layered in me              like rotting leaves  so many things I have said inside the cavern of my chest full of nervous screeching   bats flitting around   while  things I don’t say pile up   light   cuts across your blankets and I am afraid to touch you because you are a pillar of pain     and this is the bad thing this is the moment I remember and write over and over and over always that light and my own body screaming from every rivet    I promise now   to go over      the years to scratch the earth of your love   for me  to erect those landscapes eclipses rays       shimmering like milk  in sky   —so I say— but this poem   goes down the same   mournful path and     out the window              blackbirds have come to eat what I have  scattered on blurred  and foggy     ground                                       

                            *from “Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient)”
                                 by Kaveh Akbar

Crab Creek Review
2018 Vol. 2

All That Remains

when your shoulder becomes the arms
of a willow, branches hiding grass shadows

when your collar becomes a cloud, a conundrum,
a cauldron that clenches below your face

when you keep sadness below folded hands
like an insect you do not wish to escape

when secrets from your past rise like water
lapping, lapping at your waist

when shoe buckles turn to stones, 

when you stand in a murky world

you won’t find the truth sitting in a chair
peering at you from beneath wicker legs

he’ll be waiting for you there in an alley, he’ll be
grinning from behind a desk, he’ll laugh at you

in the locker room where you won’t hear, he’ll
put his hand on your thigh, your knee, your neck

he’ll slide like a fish between your legs
when you are least expecting it

Vol. 30.1

The Unsuspecting Gardener

It began innocently, the way most things do—
the seed planted in good ground, the ovum
splitting again and again, the first cigarette
held to your lips between three fingers
in the fluorescent light of the bathroom stall—

when you reached too far to pull the last weed
from beneath the narcissus, their heads
already dead and gone. Somehow the tilt of body
wrong, you plummeted to the brick walk.
After, you limped into the house, surveyed

the leg, which in days ahead turned purple,
blue. The cost of growing old, you thought.
An inconvenience. Nothing that stopped you
from cooking dinner, making the bed, speaking
to your daughter on the phone. And Thursday,

the day you always went into town for groceries,
laundry, a visit to the local bookstore—you did
that too. Even went out for an evening of music,
as your lower leg swelled and hurt
more than it should. How could you know

that your very bones had betrayed you—
the orderly birth of white and red cells turned
into pandemonium, a blossoming of random
blasts, good for nothing except chaos—invisible
cancer growing? No lumps on your breasts

when you raised your arm and felt around,
no bleeding or black lungs. Only a bit of tiredness,
a new drag to your step that could have been age,
that could have been anything—a virus, a slight
cold, the humid air weighing you down. 

Volume 30.1

Raising the Ghost Year

We swept into the new year—danced the blitz—
then staggered home to the hills of Los Altos, not as high
as we’d like to have been, the lost days falling from our arms.
Four of us crowded into the cabin, slept on floors, 
all black and white and gravelly gray. Remember the way 

you kissed me then, as if the world didn’t mean anything
and yesterday was just a song on the hit parade?
I bawled and bustled, wrote poems, heard the Grateful Dead 
singing a storm, watched someone stir pots of soup in the park.
You sold the Saab, thyme spread like crazy in our garden,

and all we talked about was getting back east. I saw
December 31st riding on your shoulder. A ragged shadow 
did a flash-boom dance across the backyard. I couldn’t
shake free, found myself sheathed in months and Mondays, 
sealed up in numbers. We dropped acid, counted out

our food stamps for the next day’s meal, rode north
to harvest redwood driftwood from the beach in hopes
of selling it on city corners, the exhaustion of the day before
like a tattered shirt on our backs, the smell of humanity
rising, cars parked one behind the other, buildings

black as melted tar, but the road a shining path.
Those days all scattered now. A whirlwind of years
plucked and thrown along the street. Eventually we made it
back east, split, took up ordinary lives, turned pages,
looked at books, lost  years, papered in feathery days.

Atlanta Review
Fall/Winter 2018

Harold Tripp’s Daughter Tells a Story

Sometimes we hid under the beds when he got like that,
his anger raining down over the floorboards, hard kernels
of hail, a storm that pushed through him every time he drank.
We knew nothing about the island then, how he lived on a boat,
pulled from his dying mother’s arms, his bitterness reflected
in blank spaces between buildings. I kept thinking he’d get better,
instead he beat on us like the sea, as if we were rocks, the storm
sinking all our ships. Him just whaling, whaling, and us never knowing 
why—our mother caught in the upstream current, bruised about
mouth, nose, ribs aching from the momentum of his blows.
We grabbed at the bedposts, hoisted ourselves out the back windows,
all the time no help for our hating him, no way to understand
what the world had done to him, our pain like crows’ shadows
slipping across the shuddering back of the world.

Issue 25   Summer 2017