The Bookbinder’s Wife

North Country Press in Unity, Maine, will publish my second collection of poems entitled The Bookbinder’s Wife in late fall 2017.

My first collection, The North End, is still available from the publisher, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered from any bookstore. Included in the new collection will be new poems from the North End, the neighborhood in Worcester, Mass., where I grew up. Below is one of those poems …

Prescott Street

A post card came today––
a black horse with snow on its muzzle.
In the bottom left corner

Black Ice, Publishers
One Hundred Prescott Street
Worcester, Mass.

I am carried back by the black horse
to a canyon of brick echoing the click
of my child shoes as I walked home

alone from Saturday Mass, when
dread hung from factory windows,
where nobody worked on weekends.

It was a tomb, a gauntlet from Grove
to North. I walked with my heart
in my throat and tried to whistle.

The envelope company’s tractorless
trailers hunched against the brick
buildings, watching me as I walked past

over the tracks where sometimes a train
car stood solemnly waiting for Monday
to couple with one of its kind.

Faster past the electric transformer
fenced in by Danger. High Voltage.
Keep Out. Johnny Tripoldi didn’t

and he was killed. His house was across
from the cemetery with its order and
beauty of grass and stone and avenues

named for trees: elm, spruce maple.
I turned left onto North Street:
Noise, dogs, dirt, kids––home.

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A Veteran Comes to Mass: 1953

I hear him before I see him moving
from vestibule to sanctuary railing
at God knows what he shakes his finger.

The priest pauses with his back to us.
Arms uplifted like patient wings, he waits
for this railer

bald like Elisha who called the bears
out of woods to tear the teasing boys

to leave. Might this one too call animal powers
from beyond the doors of the sanctuary to rend
the altar boys and children who stare?

Choir quiet, congregation shifting, the railer
turns his burn-scarred face to us.
Does he wonder where he is? What army

this is that faces him down? As he stumbles
down the middle aisle, still shaking
his finger in admonition

the ushers look at the floor as he walks by.
The priest resumes the Kyrie, and the closing
door clamps off a shaft of light.

Homing Pigeon

I thought I heard a child upstairs.
This house too new for ghosts
I thought it must be the bird I heard––
the brown and white homing pigeon
you bought at the Common Ground Fair.

I hear it again, wings beating
against its makeshift cage, fashioned
to thwart its flight.
Water dish flipped, grain scattered
a wet mess to greet you when you come home.

You at 17 wanting your freedom, throwing your clothes
and loud music around your room like grain
and water. How soon, little bird, will you fly away?
And will you return like the homing pigeon
to this place where you early learned to fly?

Fooling My Mother

Deep summer hung purple
from brambles in the blackberry patch
as we ate berries three at a time
grew violet mustaches and birthed freckles
in the space of an August afternoon.

Our teeth accustomed to Turkish Taffy
Bit-o-Honey and squirrel bars
we marveled at the sweetness freed
by a simple caress of the tongue.

The dropping sun reminded us
of what our mother had said,
Fill up your pails.
I’ll make jam and pancakes tomorrow.

Too late. The berries almost gone
someone said, Fill the pails with grass
with berries on top. She’ll never know.

My brain drips blackberry juice.
My fingers are stained beneath the skin.
If I squeeze my heart with my hand
it comes out purple.

Marginalia

I open to Rilke’s “Blue Hydrangeas”
and see written “July 1976”

in the margin. I marvel anew
at his blue letter paper washed out
like a child’s apron no longer used.

I marvel too at the 25 years
that have brought me to this place,
how in 25 more I’ll be an old woman.

MacIntyre translates: “One feels
how short the little life has been.”

Indeed, but then the blue renews
itself in one last cluster.