The Birthday Present
This new tractor was large and sturdy
but most of all it was red.
Things moved quicker painted red,
like fire engines, and there had been
two red candles on that cake
that had disappeared so fast.
Red. Big people spoke to him
but the tractor spoke louder,
of cold tile floors in need of plowing.
The wheels turned smoothly as the blades
dug up acres under the kitchen table
so he ignored the ache in his knees.
He wiped his forehead.
It would be a fine harvest!
He kept his eyes on the end of the row
while the wheels turned smoothly,
the engine hummed softly
and said red, red.
Petals of roses, flamboyant and soft
float from the earth
when their duty to the bush is through.
As the sun leaves the sky
they gently flame the horizon,
and like scented seraphs they
herald the stars.
If I were a sleepy cygnet
(Sometimes I wish I could be)
I would wake in the early evening
to fly over the silver sea.
I would wait for the sunset to be mirrored blow,
Broken somewhat by ripples and dappled
Then I would soar for a while
through translucent clouds.
I wanted to say something
wonderful but the words
ran together like water-
colors in the rain and
turned muddy grey, the bright,
new thoughts that colored my
mind. So I opened a tin
can of stale talk
and smoothly blurted precooked
answers that faded in the air.
On My Father’s 50th Birthday
When my father read he’d push his lips together
very tight, till they stayed that way without
a book around. I liked to ask him questions at
night when he was alone reading in the living
room, watch him take off his glasses, lock his
fingers. He always had the answer I wanted,
though not briefly.
He felt so guilty for making us
live in the same small town he grew up in
that he told me and my sisters never to
become lawyers. We promised. We knew lawyers
were nice people, but people with mouths tight
like Daddy’s, and they thought so much at lunch
that they either wore bibs or took off their ties.
He was relieved and almost 40 when my brother
was born. On John’s seventh birthday he
bought two BB guns, yet I never wondered
why he didn’t buy himself a doll on my
birthday. When I turn 19 this December
Daddy will tell me how lucky I am to still be in
college and give me something he wants himself.
I’ll thank him, tell him I’m so glad to be home
and kiss that mouth and when the streets are
quiet and it’s dark outside I will go in the living
room and ask him a question.
I thought about you
today in the middle
of psychology while
a filmstrip about
human behavior clicked
on the white wall
of the auditorium.
The thought rose
in my brain like
a balloon at the rodeo
on the top of my mind.
I felt good for just
that moment today,
said something and
the balloon burst.
Its empty corpse
fell to the bottom
of my imagination.
and regal rectangles;
Patchworks of gold
and green and brown
Acres of humble labor.
Yet, for being the site of heavy work,
They have a strange quality
And smell like freedom and wind
rippling through their grasses.
It’s lunchtime and I’m waiting,
Waiting for the toast to pop
so I can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Algebra in 40 minutes, I’m waiting for that.
A test on the eighth chapter—I haven’t studied
but that’s fine, I seldom do.
I’m 16 and I’m waiting,
Waiting to see the hips and waist
Mother Nature generally hands out around now.
I’m waiting for my handsome prince
to appear from nowhere on a magic white
Smile, and hand me a single red
just like the ones the cheerleaders sold
for a dollar apiece on Valentine’s Day.
But there’s no prince and no white horse
Just basketball players
in red VWs and blue Datsun pickups
All too cheap to spend a buck on a flower
for a poor flat-chested girl
who occasionally writes poetry
while she’s waiting,
Waiting for the toast to pop.
A Question Better Unanswered
How many tomorrows are there
to fill with promises
and still have time enough
to break them all?
The Taste of Love
sends her love,
my mother said
as she leaned over
to kiss me.
She’ll be here
in a week.
As I wiped
off my forehead
in an envelope.
in the kitchen,
as I raced in
the front door
in my fist.
I found grandma
behind the counter
wearing an apron,
her hands white
I love you,
so I could give
I was anxious
to my mother.
I had to tell her
sent her love
in a letter.
She brought it all
and put it in
the cinnamon rolls.
Our country road glimmers
It stretches on forever,
Overhung by sky and tree.
The road sparkles when I squint
And glistens black and bright.
The world smells so clean, like dawn,
Because it rained last night.
I stroll amidst this shiny green,
Aware of lovely world.
It seems to me the puddles have
still rainbows in them, swirled.
How I love it after rain!
We all do, I suppose,
When fields are green and puddles gleam
With remnants of rainbows.
she plays a song
Smoothing angry words and
till worries and upsets
are pedaled into muddy oblivion.
Gracefully caressing a sonata
a soothing melody of golden air
cool rain splashes fresh
wind-filled notes of silver
Until she has me dancing
Softly, she plays,
a silk serenade
a lullaby of soft satin
And I am calmed,
as stilled as a smooth blue sheet of glass-
Now that you’re gone
there’s a hole in the
floor where your bed
used to be. The closet
is echoing white.
The wind round our
house whistles lonely.
I sit in my chair,
our lamp is turned
off. My mind is my
The evening my solace.
A shadow to swallow
the tears that escape
in the blackness.
I Didn’t Know
I didn’t know I loved the weeds,
silent, lazily swaying in the wind.
I didn’t know I loved the old corrals,
creaking, faded white,
defying the weather year after year.
I didn’t know I loved the marshes,
silent, deep, mysterious,
with their different kinds of reeds
and black ooze beneath the still waters.
I didn’t know I loved the birds
fluttering in the early hours of daybreak.
I didn’t know I loved the creeks
and their songs
as they polish stones smooth,
giving me new life.
Feet are very sensible creatures.
When I was running a mile and a half
at 6:00 A.M. this morning
I wanted to keep going
but my feet knew heart attacks
can kill anyone
Then, just for fun,
I tried to get my feet to stop walking
when I was on my way to school
but they knew I was teasing
and kept going.
Even when feet make mistakes
they have good excuses.
If they trip on stairs
it is because they are concentrating so hard.
When feet are naked in soft, cool grass
and they step on a rock
it’s never their fault—
Somebody else forgot to put shoes on.
Today I said to my feet
“Feet, you need to take life a little easier.”
My feet were busy walking
and pretended not to hear.
But I had seen them
wearing nothing but red toenail polish
and I laughed.
Leaves lushly litter
The crisp, star-reflected earth.
Moon sets them afire.
Pierced by diamond stars, jade moon—
Breaks to opal dawn.
I listened intently
as the speaker voiced from his heart
the deep, inexpressible joy we would
someday feel upon seeing our Father in Heaven
and rushing into His arms.
My heart was full at this thought, but an
understanding was not yet born.
I returned home
(The college coed!)
and flung my suitcase, gathering my family
into my anticipating arms.
Ah! Completeness. I was home. But dad
was still downstairs
and I fairly flew, without a thought.
It was as fast as a breath and as natural
to rush into his arms. A warmth of understanding
came—so this is what it must be like.
And I knew.