I founded Earth’s Daughters magazine in Buffalo in 1971, and have run Mayapple Press since 1978. Our catalog of over 100 titles includes books by Allison Joseph, William Heyen, Eleanor Lerman, Conrad Hilberry, Gerry LaFemina, Geof Hewitt and Helen Ruggieri. Last May, I retired after 20 years teaching and administration at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, and moved to Woodstock, NY.
My eight books or chapbooks of poetry include, most recently, Galvanic Response (March Street Press, 2005) and the bilingual collection, Plane Surfaces/Plano de Incidencia ( Santo Domingo: CCLEH, 2002). I have also published two books of translations of Spanish poetry, A Woman in Her Garden: Selected Poems of Dulce María Loynaz (Cuban; Cervantes Prize laureate, 1992; published byWhite Pine Press in 2002) and Praises and Offenses: Three Women Poets from the Dominican Republic (BOA Editions, 2009). As a Fulbright Senior Scholar to the Dominican Republic in 2002, my main project was translating the poetry and fiction of contemporary Dominican women; I made a video about Dominican Carnaval during a second visit in 2004.
slides from his
warm soup into bitter air,
breathes but does not cry,
of a life without promises,
the dirty floor where language
will creep but no one hears it.
He is the first son.
Describe the ache to say.
Ellipsis, not the egg
When he is old enough
to read, the letters crack
and fall apart, flakes of burnt paper.
He is a window with a missing pane.
Wind blows through on winter nights.
His father’s hat and beard
hunch over the kitchen table,
a shawl over his shoulders,
his hand trembling with chill
as he traces the lines of text.
the shirt I always imagine wearing –
not coral, not gold
but I can never quite
focus on the difference
fragrant rice smell
like that cinnamon and
turmeric stew (almost that
Buddhist monks’ robes
a glow, not salmon
like the light of October maples
reflecting off low clouds –
flames of the end of summer
Hot hot hot
the fragrance of cinnamon, cumin
cream of tomato soup – too pastel
my frustrated efforts at color-mixing
wanting saturation, brilliance
Why not choose an easier color?
(I need an old
an article on Burma)
no words for it –
not sweet, not hot
the glow persists
paella in a Spanish café near the ocean
My brother is standing under the ceiling fan
in my parents’ Florida apartment,
turning a screwdriver with his left hand.
He holds the fan housing still
with his right.
For years I have been fascinated
by my brother’s hands,
strong and muscular, but graceful.
I have hands
like my father’s, with a square palm.
My brother’s hands
are more beautiful than mine,
with longer fingers.
The postcard he once sent
is on my father’s desk:
the temples of Bangkok
rising above the city streets
like glistening rooster-combs.
Taxi horns cry
I ask my brother,
did you know that Thomas Merton died
in Bangkok when he stepped
out of the shower
and turned on an electric fan?
My brother says, I’d never
be stupid enough
to work on wiring with wet hands.
THE POWER OF WATER
In the evening grandfather came,
an empty spirit from a far place.
In this old country, he was under
the earth, held down with a stone.
Grandmother cried as she worked
milking the cows, turning them into
the meadow, carrying the pails
of milk on an oxbow over her neck.
On hot afternoons I swam in the pond
supported by water which held me
when I wanted to be held and I knew
even then it would let me sink
when it was time to sink.
The church commanded us.
We obeyed. It was stone
and wood and not the soft
lap of water where we were
forbidden to go. On summer
evenings the air was thick
with singing insects and
water held the last of the sun,
a mirror of silver broken by
the leap of a fish into twilight
falling back into itself
I wanted then not to be
the muddy creature grandfather became
or the milky stooped grandmother
caught between two galvanized pails.