Mary Magdalene


Sometimes she’s there,
Tall as a giraffe’s neck,
Wondering, on her lunch break,
Whether it was the right thing
To do, but then
Agreeing with herself
That another child
Couldn’t bear
The night’s solitude,
Fearful as a street corner
Without a light,
In old age, a crossing guard
Shuffling somebody else’s kids
To safety.

Better to rescue
With a fast exit
From the sure pain
Of unraveling yesterday’s mistake
Inevitable as her last week’s lover.


Six of One

Actor you’ve always been,
Wheel-chairing your way
Into your impoverished look,
Pants, with empty pockets,
Thin, liver-spotted hands,
Dry feet, hair, coarse
As a horse rope,
Eyes duller than
A kitchen knife.

You will recall
The stone bridge
Over the village creek
Where I chose
To feel the fever
You said started
As soon as you
Walked out the door
Of your summer cottage
To meet me.

Every August.

“It was never enough,
Like a bowl full of fruit,
When all the kids were home,”
You said.

But I never told you
It was sufficient,
Like today, when
I made another choice
To see you briefly
And leave you
To over-smiling nurses
And the sad odor of urine.


Time Flies

Mark would have loved Sarah
When it was time,
But he waited too long
For a shower and a shave,
Basking in another
Random thought
About an altar
Decked in wet white roses
And every-shy lilies-of-the-valley.


If You’re New In a 12-Step Program

Feelings of Worthlessness

I’ve been in a 12-step recovery program for many, many years. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people describe themselves, in one way or another, as a “piece of shit.”

Much of this self-degradation comes from the guilt we feel over our behavior when we were actively using: infidelity, disappearances, credit card debt, emotional/verbal/physical abuse, stealing, or, one of my favorites—emotional withdrawal.

Recovery, for many of us, involves taking responsibility for those actions and behaviors. Over time, through meetings, doing the steps, and being emotionally transparent, we learn a better way of living.

We stop having secret lives. We learn to be honest. We start owning up to our faults. And some of us learn to be more humble, especially if we hid behind our arrogance in order to protect ourselves during our drinking days (As someone in the rooms so poignantly said about himself, “I tried to be one step ahead of everybody else so I wouldn’t be hurt”).

But what about those of us in the recovery rooms who have a difficult time believing that we are worth anything? Continue reading



I suppose I could choose
To sing right now,
Maybe even dance,
Listening to the breaths
Of stale woodwinds
Which have no lives of their own,
Packed as they are
In attic cardboard boxes
Next to my grandmother’s
Lace shawl and my brother’s
Stained love letters.

No, today I will just sit
On the couch and stare,
Remembering Eleanor Winnowicz,
Who sat on her summer porch,
Repeating her favorite phrase,
“Goddamned dogs
Never amounted to anything,”
Every time Bess Swarthmore
Walked by with her
Two leashed Siamese.


Life As We Know It

In their routine lives
They do not stalk caution,
Immunizing themselves
Against Invention,
Mystery, foreign as a refugee.

Certainty, their burden,
Quick assertions or denials,
A habit played out
To mock doubt


Holding On

You said you loved me once.
I believe you in the morning,
Then let the day saunter into night,
Incredulous that your welcoming arms
Could drop so firmly in the suffocating dusk,
Like all petalled flowers, too tired
To explain to an uncaring sky.

But I hold on, like any glazed fool,
Devoid of absolute hope,
Which keeps me hostage
To my own sultry interests.


The Rhythm of Love

I could keep that side of you
That’s been missing,
Store it, try to return it
As if it were mine.
But you, for whom hesitancy
Has been a practiced art,
Would prefer to defer
Until the moment it suited you
To give me more
Of what you’ve hidden
From others—-
A willing hand on my mouth,
A tongue that might melt
My own resistance
On days that I have chosen,
Of my own accord,
To sit on the beach and read,
Or change the lightbulbs
In the basement,
Playing the same game
Of a lover’s phone tag



He’s done this before on his methodical days,
Pills aligned on the cupboard,
Morning talk shows, the chattering bells
Of actors hawking one more film
Over  toast and curled eggs.

What had he forgotten, again,
In the hollow cave of his dreams?
The rent, the electric, cable?
No, something else, a sliver event
Impaled in his memory.

Tom’s wake?
No, that was in January,
The fifteenth, to be exact,
When he ran out of toilet paper
And Miracle Whip.

Maybe Margret, inevitable Margret,
Who lived downstairs and showered
Every day at five-thirty in the morning,
Returning for a guest visit at eight,
To wander through her forgotten crevices
And turtle-shell toe nails.

Margret. Damn. Margret.
What was it? A movie? Lunch?
He paused. Now he remembered.
Vomiting Margret, sun-bald,
Pencil-thin, frail as his mother’s voice,
Ten-o’clock-appointment Margret
In her cabaret wig and slim high heels.

He tied his shoes.


And Then

And then, someone arrives,
No explanations, no fever,
Embattled by nothing
In particular,
Wondering why others
Have stopped guessing
About staying
In their plump circles,
In the blatancy
Of what they know
To be more than certain.