Who Died on the Twenty-second of April?

Who Died on the Twenty-second of April?


Actor Will Geer, everyone’s Grandpa (Walton), died
of a respiratory ailment and was buried in his beloved grove.


Ansel Adams, rugged hiker with a camera, died
of cardiovascular disease in intensive-care.


Huey Newton, social activist, was shot
on the street in Oakland.


Cesar Chavez died
of arrhythmia precipitated by fasting and was buried
in a casket of unvarnished pine.


Pat Tillman, football player and US Army Ranger, was killed
in a canyon in Afghanistan.


Erin Moran, the Happy Days actress who lit up TV screens, was found dead
at a trailer park in Indiana.


Jean, my mother, died
of complications from Alhzeimers
in her bed at home
while across town, my father, Americus, died
of exhaustion and grief on a hospital gurney.


I stood near each of them, listened to them breathe.
I mourned with them and for them
and walked away into the rest of my life.


They are survived by me, their only child.
I think of them often and am mindful that,
when it comes to death,
I’m up next.

*** At first, I thought it a rare occurrence that a husband and wife would die within hours of each other.  

Since this unusual event in 2001 happened in my own life, I have learned otherwise.  

Have you heard similar stories?  

Toni 7/22/17





Daily Prompt 11/24/15

I sit with Marvin Gay on Georgia O’Keefe’s porch in Abiquiu.
We listen to Billy Collins recite his poem,
Taking off Emily Dickenson’s Clothes,
reminding us that life is a loaded gun.

Ted Hughes wears a precarious smile,
a bossy wind ruffles Sylvia’s hair.
Billy Joel riffs behind the black door.
Diana Ross scat sings with Lady Day,
tossing random syllables at bleached bones.
Georgia mixes adobe red and ocher for Frida
who paints herself in frontal pose,
a crown of thorns around her neck.

There’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on in the courtyard
where the boys in the band are jammin’
where John Coltrane lays sheets of sound
where BB King lets Lucille do the talkin’
where Satchmo grins a rainbow of teeth
where Ringo kicks in the backbeat,
and Jerry Lee Lewis rakes his hands across the keys.

Later Pavarotti and Sting braid strains of the Angelicus,
send them off on the katabatic wind.
There are more poems from Billy,
Donald Hall and Mary Oliver,
Arthur Miller revises the script for All My Sons,
sips his nightcap cigarette.
A shower of meteors arrives like fan mail.

Faces tilted toward the moon,
we count stars over Chama Valley.
Julia Child brings out platters
of Champignons Farci and Salad Nicoise.
The Creator joins us at the long plank table
and we lift our glasses with Her
to honor the art written into our inheritance,
priceless leavings of the past.

I tell Her I know what Heaven is all about.




Fueled as I am by a steady diet of words in life,
I esteem a crusty baguette to eat
and a good bottle of Bordeaux. Well!
I do my best at the table, and on the page, to behave well
but I like things that leave crumbs across my life,
romp across white linen, strut their stuff as I eat.
I always feel contentedly spry, wry and free after I eat
Or write so whether I hold a pen or a fork, it ends well.
I’m infatuated and seduced by a good bottle, a good meal, the good words of life.

Happy Birthday


We go to shop in the city.
You dress me in lacy anklets, hair ribbons
and MaryJanes.
We carry patent leather purses (mine holds a little grass toad)
and wear white gloves to afternoon tea.
You light a Salem and blow smoke in my ear, like a secret.

You teach me how to bake
angel food cake,
how to separate white from yellow,
one egg at a time.
I smash the egg against the rim of the blue-ribbed bowl.
You say
Can’t you do anything right?

I gentle my breath and fold thirteen whites into the flour.
You point with a manicured finger.
I sass you, and you raise a seamed palm.
You say
Don’t get snippy with me, young lady.

I am eight, a scrappy girl gone quiet.
Long after the cake is gone,
I drink yolks in lukewarm milk
for thirteen days without flinching.

But at the party I wear a dress of eggshell velvet.
I blow out the candles and wish
for a poultice of words,
a tender hand,
a swirl of smoke.




Hiss Off! : A Sonnet

Rows of tomatoes planted on hillsides
remind me now of the boy who threw snakes.
He made the cats howl, he riled up the drakes
and spooked the old nag that took me for rides.
He made it a sport; he tormented me
by tossing a snake headfirst at my face
and shoving one in my collar of lace,
making me scream when it tried to get free.

This cruel vicious boy who inflicted pain
his treatment of creatures was inhumane.
It was always my wish for that pervert
that he could feel how much it hurt and
that just one snake he pulled from its lair
would be a constrictor and him ensnare.




There’s an obstacle course in Times Square ~
unopened cardboard boxes clog narrow aisles,
broad-shouldered parkas jam crowded racks,
platoons of shoppers forge through
an Everest of military paraphernalia
in Kaufman’s Army and Navy on 42nd Street.

Don’t scoff at the possibilities in this slightly unclean bazaar:

bazooka bags and military vests,
medals from distant armies,
blue-and-white-striped Russian Navy sweaters,
olive drab Austrian army jackets,
British motorcycle goggles,
ammo cans,
black Cadillacs,
gas masks ~

stuff you never imagined you’d have a sudden desire to own.


An Ode to the Sweet Potato



Oh, potato, my sweet,
you’re downright Felliniesque.
Your subtly varied flesh
reminds me of Maddalena,
whose dark sunglasses
concealed a bruised eye.
Such understated beauty,
you’re heaven on a fork.
Like a yam, some may think?
Mai, not in this dolce vita.
E cosi ~ another culinary myth, Swiss-cheesed up.

boomer women, we…

“To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.”
Swiss philosopher, poet, and critic Henri-Frédéric Amiel in 1874.


Boomer Women, We…

…want to

fan the flames of our inventive genius and rummage in optimism’s closet.

…want to
build safe harbors and surround ourselves with the ones we love,
unafraid to let our tears run freely as salt.

…want to
live life with la passione, grapple with compelling issues,
risk failure, and mesh courage with humor.

…want to
shop for the first car we ever owned and buy it,
then go night driving.

…want to
be shamelessly seduced by something indulgent
and write our own happy- ever- after ending.

…want to
let good sense collide with a good heart
and give while the hand is warm.

…want to
walk the journey of earthly miles; understand that the journey will end,
and treasure bits of memory like old toys worn smooth.

…want to
grasp life swift and sure
and savor what our senses offer.

…want to
love a dog, read to a kid, chase fat brown hens through dusty blue grass,
eat the last piece of pie, tango, knit one, purl one, laugh one.

…want to
get the moon up, turn the stars on
and listen to Coltrane while life hurtles by,

my heart unto yours is knit



My Heart Unto Yours is Knit

If you ask me
how my knitting classes are going
I’d say that I like the orderly progression of the stitches,
each row of loops on the needle,
posed like a chorus line facing left.
I love to slide my fingers over the alpaca,
to feel the rhythm that builds with needles and yarn.
I am mesmerized by the subtle dance of knit and purl,
the growing weight of the piece as it shifts on my lap.
I clutch the bamboo needles
like a Newfoundland trucker who knits while he drives.
My hands explore new territory and acquire their own memory.
I work the fibers of Incan royalty
and the stitches leapfrog into stockinettes and ribs;
slip, slip, knit, slip, slip, knit
the thin wood pursuing strands of pistachio, poppy and purple.
I start the hank with a long-tail cast on,
then selvage the place where seams disappear.
I want to knit one, purl one, laugh one.
I want to make gloves that start with my fingers
when I lift the strand between the needles
and embrace yours when you split wood beside the barn.


history of love




History of Love

In Tinnis on the banks of the Nile
carved on walls of ancient temples,
we are at play.
I admire the orderly progression of your stroke,
the rhythm of your swing,
the unpredictable flight of the bounce
and soft drop at my feet.
Face closed over the ball,
wrist and forearm one with the racket,
I tempt the ball with sheep’s gut
to a sweet spot the size of my palm.
Like Henry VIII and his courtesan,
we are addicted to the subtle dance of forehand and backhand.
Knees bent and bodies coiled,
in defiance of the Pope and Parisian priests,
what is forbidden becomes possible.
Old ornaments of cheeks and chins wrapped in string,
vulcanized by Goodyear,
limn a path aloft.
I hit the optic yellow sun on the rise
and watch it skip,
leapfrog through the air and
return like the answer to a question.
You hit to my feet
and storm the net while
I retreat to the baseline.
I toss, serve, fault; toss, serve, double fault.
I wonder what it must be like to
smash, lob, and be in control.
in this game where love means nothing.









I look across the room and find you,
head held high,
learning what it means to hesitate,
to move your feet the way a mason scores stone.

With tentative steps you move in the line of direction,
a touchstone between the joy and the fuss.
Now your hand settles on mine.
I whisper, we’re in this together.

The tango buttons on us like an old sweater.
A miracle,
though some might call it common
as a table covered in white linen.



the weight lifter





The Weight Lifter

Fluorescent light glares down through air tinged with sweat.
The woman straddles the bench, resting between sets.
My boyfriend moved out, she says.
She lifts with effort and extends her arm.
I study the ceiling.
He never meant to hurt me.
Her words are black and bruised and blue.
Her hands rise above her head, the weights collide.
I see her crucified against the wall of mirrors,
a tangle of bones resisting gravity.
I want him back, I can change.
I look at her with curiosity
or is it pity?
This grave gossip weighs on me.
So, hey, would you spot me?



keeping watch




Keeping Watch

My mother lies with unblinking eyes,
her backed-up plumbing a harsh betrayal,
mouth open as if to speak,
a knot of air tense between us.
With eyes pearled cold, she stares at the open closet.
Satin, taffeta, and flounces of organdy
roost above the fabric of hospice care,
like flamboyant birds on a wire.
A thin white sheet covers the unnatural splay of bare feet
that danced out the disappointment to exhaustion.
The room is empty tonight. I read
poems, poems, poems
as if one poem makes a difference over the other
and the reading itself is important to the cause.


love beyond poetry

The Girlfriend

I can’t take it, she says,
meeting on the sly,
out here in the woods,
away from town.
Roots snarl my hair,
leaves in my shoes,
scratches all over me.
Henry, peel me off this tree
I am so Thoreau with you.




I know, ouch.  I couldn’t resist.  But here’s the real story ~


Thoreau wrote about love in general and one relationship in particular in his Journal during 1839-1840 when he was quite smitten with Ellen Sewall; his brother John was also in love with her. Prior to meeting Sewall in July 1839, he wrote a short poem about love which he included in his Journal entry for January 20, 1839. He met her on July 20, 1839, and “By July 25 he was beyond poetry”. On that day he wrote in his Journal, “There is no remedy for love but to love more”. Early in November of 1840, after John had proposed to Ellen and been rejected, Thoreau wrote her a letter in which he proposed. The letter no longer survives, but his November 1, 1840, Journal entry was related to that letter. It reads:


I thought that the sun of our love should have risen as noiselessly as the sun out of the sea, and we sailors have found ourselves steering between the tropics as if the broad day had lasted forever. You know how the sun comes up from the sea when you stand on the cliff, and does’nt startle you, but every thing, and you too are helping it.


Thoreau’s daily Journal from July 1839 to November 1840 includes many entries related to his feelings of love for Ellen Sewall. Following her father’s wishes, Sewall turned down Thoreau’s proposal, but Harding reports that Thoreau carried her memory with him to the end. In 1862, shortly before he died, Thoreau is reported to have said to his sister, Sophia: “I have always loved her”.


word lust


Neon words


Word Lust

Esculent word by esculent word,
……….paraprosdokian ~ nodus ~ scurf
I feast on them in poems, conversations, emails, tweets;
………..eleemosynary ~ frowsty ~ sockdolager
wolf down the avalanchine tumble of jottings, I
………….corybantic ~ ripsniptious ~ subitize 
pig out on on the pop-bang-boom of a bottle-rocket word,
…………….foofaraw ~ bumf ~ schmegeggy
nibble and nosh on the little squirt of surprise
that scuttles by like a crab in a lab coat.