Sunday, April 12, 2015


Here are the simple things you ask yourself at 39
do you stay for the gold watch?
does your son need to be toughened up, 
the daughter toned down?
do you choose
do you choose to ignore it all?y

Monday, October 13, 2014


do you mind
if i devour you?
you are like
a bright yellow
egg yolk.
when i am
nearest you
i feel
the sun.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A morning interlude

My son told me this morning
Of a hurt long ago
We were working
But something reminded him of a hard name
That had been spoken
The story brief, and in the telling
Not such a hurt at all
But he looked down at his coloring and sighed
When I was telling, he said
I colored outside the lines
I wondered myself
How often
I might have done the same

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Death of Helen Burns

no amount of time
can change me
when I think of you
I feel my heart in my chest
like a wounded animal
it staggers
it cries blood and
heaves viscera
I am no huntsman
you know my tiny hands
I cannot give it rest

I'm struck as I reread this passage in Jane Eyre by Bronte's focus on the outdoor world.  She describes a young Jane set free across the wild moors from dawn until sundown, while the whole school is consumed with sickness.  The wild flowers, the river, the sky, the low mountains - all are described beautifully.  Only as complete blackness descends does Jane finally enter the house.  Jane tarries the longest outdoors - sending companions away, staying in the garden to plant some roots by moonlight.  She is reluctant - one senses even Bronte as the writer is reluctant - to enter the sickness and to confront Helen's death.  I wrote this poem thinking about Helen. But I was also thinking about how any love poem I write from Jane's childhood would reverberate through the years to also encompass Jane's relationship with Rochester - which also features a staggering loss.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Honorable Rev. Brocklehurst

I'm continuing my work of writing poems inspired by my rereading of Jane Eyre.  Brocklehurst seemed one-dimensional to my younger eyes, but this time around some of the details of his character were a little more chilling - his fixation on the girls' stockings and hair.  Inspired by my LOFT Poetry Out Loud class, I tried to write a poem from a perspective other than Jane's own.  This was an attempt to get into the man's head - perhaps voice his side of the tale.  Many of the details are from the book - Jane herself notices Maria Brocklehurst's name on Lowood's front edifice on her very first day at school.
The Honorable Rev. Brocklehurst
they are so little these girls
they cannot see
but I watch them.
I take their cares to my breast.
my own mother
was always leaving.
I brought her the coat
and she took it from my hand
and didn’t notice
the difference
between her son and the man
she paid
only coppers.
she left her name on silver trays
on buildings
on men.
I took the coins
I bought them needles
and bid them be handed out
only one by one
that they might remember.
I remember
my mother’s curls,
my mother’s laugh,
the maid who did not
darn the stockings
and the blows that fell.
she was the first girl I
ever kissed
she laughed and squirmed
- a little thing.
I watched her fall
beneath the blows.
my mother didn’t notice her son
or the man.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


should it matter
that you are here
a church yard stone
does it matter who
unmade me
or that I was unmade
the stream
the low ground
our bare feet left there
filled with water
they did not last
there were white stones
no bridges
in crossing them
our feet
stained them black

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Re-Reading Jane Eyre

Since I began my poetry project I’ve been re-reading Jane Eyre s-l-o-w-l-y.  Usually I have treated the book as a mad race to the scenes with Mr. Rochester (it’s a love story after all).  Keep in mind that I first read this book when I was just thirteen.  As I’ve added life experience my interaction with the book’s earlier scenes have changed.  The childhood scenes at Gateshead are painful now to read as a mother.  I’m struck by the clarity with which Bronte describes first post-traumatic stress disorder and then depression (before these terms were invented) in a child of ten.  The scene where Jane describes looking at a pretty plate she’d always wanted to touch and not caring, is heart-breaking. 

As a mom now, I find John Reed more menacing than ever.  A large boy of fourteen, recently sent home from school.  A thick, fleshy boy on the verge of manhood who has been used to indulging all his tastes and appetites.  Trapped in the house with him, is a thin and stunted Jane, who has been for years a convenient outlet for John’s sadism.  As a grown woman now, it’s not hard to see where this will all end up in a few years.  Perhaps that more than anything explains Jane’s miraculous escape (as it seemed to her at the time) to school.  It must have been obvious to the physician (apothecary) called to treat Jane’s bruised and cut head after her seizure in the Red Room.  He professes to be concerned for the child’s nerves, but I’m not so convinced that’s the only worry.

Aside from the new menace I feel from the opening pages - I am struck by one other thing that I missed through all these years.  Bronte chose to give both the torturer of Jane’s childhood and the cousin/potential suitor at the end of the narrative the same name.  The second character is St.John Rivers to be sure.  But it can’t be coincidence (even for a common name) that Bronte created this echoing connection between the characters.  They practically book nd the narrative.  Bronte (subtly – she was a minister’s daughter after all) connects St.John’s zeal with the abuse Jane suffered in her youth.