Sunday, January 31, 1982


Like marriage, it’s murder with finesse. 
An auto dismantling yard. 
Last night’s storm blew in a fish. 
I never thought of that place between my legs, 
a place where men try to crawl back into.
A warm inlet, an indentation along the creek 
where the salmon come to spawn.
A friend once told me he couldn’t wait, 
so they coupled in the rain, shoulder 
to shoulder with the dead, 
as the townfolk of Cape Cod passed by. 
Ghost shrimp pack the mudflats in Home Bay, 
and crawl out during the full moon. 
At the Hesemeyer’s garage at dawn, 
a row of glazed chickens patiently 
wait for their bronze legs 
to be glued on, so they can be shipped to market. 
Fog lifts momentarily, and the Palisades poke through. 
As we hobble up the slope, I am reminded of home. 
The guttural snore of trucks 
over Mount St. Helena shatters the silence. 

January, 1982 added 2020
Napa workshop with Michael, or Philip Dow? 
Write a ghazal, five separate couplets to make a complete poem.

Monday, January 11, 1982


Pinnacles shrouded in mist-filled trees, 
A lonely call echoes off cliffs, 
leaves suckling on fog. 
I no longer dream of sun and sky, 
water floats through the trees 
and I can taste darkness on my tongue.


Backroads freewrite

Mirrored relief of backroads running at right angles to the sun. Flat sky, storm on the horizon. Twin white lines (a vanishing point) of filament telegraphing into the distance. Intersecting, muted squares and diagonals of wavering green, an endless expense of prairie burning up the road, flattening the sky, taking me with it.


Sunday, January 3, 1982

Fragment- horses

Dust curls around the horses’ hooves in small puffs, reminding me of wood fires. A horse snorts, oiled leather groans. Water tumbles over stones like a child’s laughter. The horses pull at the sparse dry grasses, keeping an eye out for the next tuft. A rib, bleached pale by the succession of suns, records a passage of time. A woodpecker breaks the arid silence with a gentle knocking. In the distance, thundering grasses.

An empty can rattles across Main Street. The dog, half-buried in the trash, doesn’t hear me coming. I slip in and hide between the wall and doorway. The brick leaves a ragged imprint in my hand.

11/82? Added 2020

Friday, January 1, 1982



Look how he stands there, my friend
looking the world like James Joyce
In his vest, Joyce-dapper.
Joyce would never appear in the streets of Dublin.
dressed in a red corduroy vest 
with nine buttonholes
and three buttons, two at the breast
one stomach
all snug on his bare frame.
It must be the glasses and the hungry stance
that frames them both together in my eye.
Two incongruous writers who would never meet.
My friend goes to London 
to write poems to animals in cages.

no date 1982?
added 2/2017

on the same page as Best Revenge
I think it was an in-class poem, if so, then Guerneville School
corde du roi 


   The best revenge of all is living well
      —Spanish proverb

What I've discovered
is that reality is stranger than fiction.
Real life is fiction.
Truth is a stranger to fiction
when we write truthfully
from the heart.
To write about truth
is the best revenge of all.

no date 1982?
added 2/2017
I think this was in class writing, if so, then Guerneville School, June


Look how he stands there, my friend
looking the world like James Joyce
In his vest, Joyce-dapper.
Joyce would never appear in the streets of Dublin.
dressed in a red corduroy vest 
with nine buttonholes
and three buttons, two at the breast
one stomach
all snug on his bare frame.
It must be the glasses and the hungry stance
that frames them both together in my eye.
Two incongruous writers who would never meet.
My friend goes to London 
to write poems to animals in cages.

no date 1982?
added 2/2017


(enroute to a CPITS poetry meeting)

1. I awoke this morning thinking of my mother 's 
black cat, Cantinflas who loved to swim in the tub.
On Mission & 18th, we pass a Doggie Diner,
Another Doggie points a forlorn nose up Army & Mission,
What luck, seeing two Doggie Diners in one day.
When she moved, the cat ran away.  No bathtub. In the '5Os,
everyone complained about the tacky Doggie Diners.
Today, artists are dying to save them.

We pass the abandoned Hamm's Brewery.
I don't have the nerve to tell my poet friends
my mother lives in one of those steel vats. 
She's a beatnik mother to addicts
and punkrockers who steal her blind.
I don't tell them she never had time to mother me. 
Or that there are no windows in the vats. Soul windows.
She can't see how the mountains slant toward the sky,
how resting clouds form right angles after rain.

The wet street glistens like fungus on rotten logs.
The pavement in the middle of each lane 
is dry from the heat of cars, a rainy conundrum.
My traveling companions drone on about Rajneesh,
the woman who was raped while the movie was filmed,
everyone asking her how she felt. They wanted her 
experience as if it was something holy and profound.

2. Fennel is one of California's toughest invaders.
Along cement cracks and in abandoned lots
its feathery jeweled plumes glisten after rain.
I sit outside Carol Lee Sanchez's home in Bernal Heights, 
and watch a snail maneuver along a broken curbstone, 
where the phrase: THE STAR SPANGLE  is etched. 
When the snail reaches the granite precipice
where the missing "D" should be, he stops 
and waves his eyestalks in wild circles.

From the lot, I pluck white chrysanthemums 
for my birth month, soon I will be 30.
I pluck rosemary from an abandoned garden plot,
and fennel plumes, the sharp odor of petrichor 
and Ouzo assaults my senses, scours the air.

As we write, a Japanese poet says
 my feet hurt because of my heart.
I mutter under my breath, I'm so tired 
of living and no one hears me. Typical. 
Does every suicide want a rebuttal? 
Then, my mother has many coming.
 I'm sick of hearing the poets drone on about 
their spiritual gurus, Krishnamurti and Rajneesh, 
and I hate the color orange.

3. Shards of amber glass collect pools of water.
Only dogs are brave enough to walk barefoot in the city.
From rooftops, pigeons flap their wings like white sheets.
Do they have genetic memory of their ancestral home
the Italian sea cliffs? Fenuccio, Italian for fennel;
Fenuccio's on Broadway; transvestitsm; liquorice; anise;
underneath it all, it's all the same thing.

The soft earth slips under my feet.
I need to take off my shoes for grounding.
Sitting on curbstone overlooking a sea of houses,
I uncurl my feet like a snail from its shell.
These girders anchor my breasts to this continent.


Folklore fragments from my grandmother on the Sullivans

Folklore fragments from my grandmother, Jennie Walsh Reilly, collected in Forest Knolls, 1982

Death Superstition
The pictures fell off the wall and the glass broke. (Death.) All the boys— I’m getting superstitious. Ricky is already gone. There is still David, Kevin, and Guy. All those wars.

Before the English came, keening rituals
The voices moved up the hill. The women were crying when grandfather died. All week long it went on. We got used to it. All around his bed the birds singing, singing for Old Donough Sullivan Beare, he was the last of the clan.

The Sullivan Babe, keening ritual
I was facing the window, looking out, and I heard the voice of a woman crying, that was the banshee, it means fairywoman. The voice traveled from one row of trees to the next, and all along, down the houses, the Sullivan babe had died. It was the Rh factor, I think. I don’t know how many they had lost. It was an ongoing grief with no end in sight.

Sullivan Men, bog men and bog butter, and why you need to wash linen.
The Sullivan men were all so tall, square shoulder and handsome, my niece was married in England and the Sullivans standing beside her were all related. The isolated peninsula across the bay was known as the bear place. The boys looked for the cave where the bear skeleton was. Only the Bantry Sullivans are O Sullivan Bear. There was once a real bear. The skeleton is in the Irish museum that belonged to an earlier era. A huge skeleton of a man was found with it—when I was growing up. He was nearly 8 feet tall, you see, the bog preserved him. They used a special type of basket, a firkin and wrapped him up in linen. Linen absorbs the moisture. A firkin of butter was so many pounds worth – they took it into town. They used to sink the butter into the bogs for years. Flax grows on wet ground. That’s why you have to wash your linen tablecloths, to keep them alive.

random fragments culled from scraps of paper, 1982-84

Dennis Banks and Abby Hoffman 
are the only real heroes left.

Do you remember when you realized 
you were going to die?

The oppressor and the oppressed

Their women pass time
pressing strawberries between their thighs
The oppressor is always "they"
They have nothing better to do 
than to watch their wives sitting at home 
squashing strawberries between their thighs. 
No strawberry sunday at the fountain

We're all shiksas looking for home


I bet you're so perfect 
you don't even get junk mail.


As Richard plays the piano late at night
Coastal fog drips from pine trees 
a morose foghorn sounds in the distance
Do we respond to those notes 
the sounds we heard as children
What makes us respond to music?
Certain chords touching off the coastal fog 
dripping off Presidio Pines 
and the forlorn cutting the fog 


When his hand grazes on my body 
reality and memory cease 
and all there is is the moment.
What I want to tell the fish 
rolling in my bed at night 
is that none of us can crawl back 
to that place called home 
no matter what coast we seek.

And the robins sings of smashed mates 
the feathered triumph of my VW 
mercilessly breaking the bondage of robins 

April 1984

I am as innocent as I can afford to be – Howard Hart

I wish bad poems were more like clay pots 
slumped at the wheel
Instead they're fired with air bubbles 
trapped within the clay wall 
and they explode in the kiln 
or break with ease leaving us 
to piece them back together, 
our hands sticky with glue. 

No date I'm guessing 1984

The sand shifting of time
This marriage of poetry and art
The infant weaving the woman's hourglass
The band bird is the color of white horses
I cover my eyes and speak
I cover my ears to see
I cover my mouth to love
My breast is laid bare 
this clothing gathers them in.

I have been running for more than a year 
in the act of running the rabbit legs lengthen
the ears elongate the ratio between ear and hind foot 
measures the distance of fear.

Billowing loose from my shoulders 
the hair at the nape of my neck
gives me chills, like the dead come to visit.

All words are suspect
prepubescent poetic intention 
covering the eye, the ear
Aural intentions of the throat
The ancient sea voice whispering in my ear
Reminding me the shape of time 
is woman shaped. 
And I have hands to turn the glass 
on its side 

looking really looking into another's eyes 
for the first time. 
And as I gather up  my infant body 
covering the exposed flesh along the belly 
where the outgrown clothes pull apart 
revealing the darkness underneath 
in fetal defiance my knees are raised to my chin 
as I survey that mouth I want to kiss again and again
Our bodies never forget the touch of old lovers

After the honeymoon

I come away from the conference feeling both old – 
the wasted time floundering on mnemonic chores 
and doing that the last stages of my infancy
growing pains anchoring the honeymoon 
is this another poem about about writing 
how I bend over while driving to retrieve my hat 
and the feathers licking my fingers greedily 
as the car swerved into oncoming traffic
We are alive for such a short time 
and the unfinished poems remind us 
of the sand sifting through the hourglass 
in the shape of a woman's body
Yet another year passes. 
that odor of tar weed and skunk, 
the aging yellow edges of blank paper, 
wanting to slip off the cliff 
a feeling that lasts longer than the flight of poetry.

7/82  Napa Poetry Conference


Five coyotes emerge out of darkness, 
with strange square jaws with herbivore's teeth. 
The coyote spoke to me but I couldn't understand—
it was a coyote dream. What did the coyote say?

added 9/2016
revised a bit as they don't make a lot of sense.