A Promise

For my mother

There have been strange visitations
You felt only now and then, when
The dog lay in the middle of the road
Refusing to walk, sensing you about to faint;

Or when you got up from the table
And the house moved with you
As if on a merry-go-round, the porcelain
Spinning in a brief, silent film.

Someone read the map of your brain
And found there ravaged side-roads:
“Interval development of subcortical infarct,
Of the upper left frontal operculum, chronic now.”

She looks in the mirror

For Alisa

Her lovely head carries all the summer gold
And I follow her from room to room
The way one chases sunlight in winter.

She stops at the mirror and looks at us both
Through the sky of her eyes, which we know
Erupts in storms of tears that clear as quickly

As they arrive. She looks deep enough
Into me that I can read her on my own:
“I want you to see what I see,” she says.

The mirror memorizes our faces,
Mine ageing, hers framed by an endless
String of pony tails, pigtails and braids.

The Arrow of Time

We are in the backyard
With our children at night
Looking at the stars:

“The light of the Orion Nebula
Began its journey to us
At the time of the Roman Empire.”

Time expands, now we live
Fourteen billion years after
The beginning of time.

Space widens and grows
Larger, the space arrow
Follows time’s arrow.

Energy, which is heat,
Decreases, it’s much colder
Now in the Universe,

“Even on a hot day like this,”
You say. But it’s hot
Inside the nebulae–

Those “beds of young stars”
That are cooling down
As they grow into adulthood.

Letter from New York

My dear Jane, here the morgues are full.
Our dead have become a logistical nightmare.
Churches closed their doors. Priests offer
Virtual prayers to those who can access the ether.

This morning I am thinking about virtual prayers.
You say there in London you relive your childhood,
World War Two: shortages, community gathering in,
Exchanging words of encouragement.

But here in New York the sick line up along
The avenues, coughing, waiting for the hospitals
Where doctors without protective gear
Must tend to them, no matter what.

For the time being

We are fine, they say, for the time being.
Enough food in the pantry, the prescriptions filled,
No need to go out of the house,
Except to let the dog run in the yard.

Our road has fallen silent, we can hear the trees
Near the river, it feels like a long Sunday
But without the church. There is plenty of time
To watch the trees bloom. When was the last time?

The elderly are used to sitting the days.
But we are also fine, the younger ones, for the time
Being. We have time to play with our children,
Bake, wash the curtains, and make love again, finally!


In the morning, when I walk outside,
She is waist-deep in tomato vines
Collecting the first batch in a glass bowl;
Cucumbers hang below yellow flowers,
Purple chili shine from a flat bush
Under green bell peppers.

He takes me by the hand to the garage
Where he now has a fridge, a sink, and a grill
In the place where he used to keep tools.
Three of the walls are still large altars
With pictures of us children, each one a wall
And a vase of flowers, an icon, or a cross.

And now, the words

I struggle with the meaning of the word resurrection:
Go do your work, word, I say,
All the way back to your root. Then return to me
To stand by these children fished out of the luminous sea
So that I could see your face
In horrified eyes, not saved, but filled with almost-life.

I used to be resurgere, rise again, the word says
Sounding like rain on my grandparents’ house.
Remember, it says, dragging your refugee self
Out of the rumble of trains at Roma Termini,
And wanting to once again be free:
These children rise out like admonitions.