They come down the hall, barefoot or slippered,
toward the hub, the kitchen, wherever she is.
The one whose foot falls on spoken praise
like perpetual water from a fountain’s mouth
is shod against stones, the serrations of war,
may be cut, but not severed.
Get up! and speak to infinity.
Glitter the air with affirmations;
every tagged breath the lungs sigh
absorbs this love.
The suckling babe hears your words,
an echo of heaven.
Give these to your loved ones,
manna, an audible food,
with your touch, con manos,
the soul porous as bread.
This poem is based on a story Francine
told me, and was inspired by her continual affirmations.
Over hues of green, a figure, looming,
skims a cloud of gnats.
A coral complement harbinges blood,
though mayflies pulse their short lives
clear and clean. The dragonfly,
in carnivorous swoops,
folding appendages into a basket,
impales them beneath its thorax.
Among decades of paintings,
the artist’s arms extend,
holding right-angle mats.
She is hunting a composition
on the unframed Arches paper.
A glide to the left,
a twist: the rectangle closes,
a diptych, perhaps.
This poem was written in response
to a painting by Francine
for a collaborative exhibit of works sponsored by the Seattle
Branch, National League of American Pen Women.
PREPARING FOR THE LIVER BIOPSY
She draws the world a curve in Prussian
Blue, slashes the page to threshing blades,
calls the series ‘Tilt of Axis’. Flame
and more incisions over pastel hues,
the tulips, mint and yellow,
with her liver’s essence they will tap.
The nurse compares it to a bee sting
then the pow of impact with a truck.
In rebound, she wills order, cleans the house,
begins by opening the bottom drawer,
touching piece by piece the bureau’s horde;
clusters of memories, dried lavender,
the skin she hesitates to scrape, all
mingle their perfumes.
I ask her how she sees herself,
what color? Does she hover in the air
above the shining house,
lie tethered to an ochre field?
She answers blue
and I see water, streams.
I remember when she painted liberation;
after viewing Rothko’s closed rectangles, canvas tomb,
(one woman fled his airless shout, hand to her throat),
Francine painted her escape:
wide swathes of orange wash,
a pendulous drop with transverse orange arms,
the passages a gentle V, fallopian.
I see her red, a speck
and growing brilliant.
She gathers calmness
in the orange flume.
Streaming the narrow pseudopod,
she glides out, protean.
in Life on the Line, Negative Capability Press, 1992.