Walking 5th Avenue

featured in the poetry forum August 8, 2016  :: 0 comments

I needed a change of pace,
of footfalls and a different shade of face
on the people I weave between
on my long journey from home to here

so I moved up one avenue,
just to see what else there is to see
and when I crested the hill at the old cemetery
and Manhattan spread open like a hand
begging for me to take it,

I realized that I was so small
on this hilltop
on this island
on this planet
in all that black space

and that being small has so many advantages.
I stood still for a moment thinking I could feel the planet turn
but it was just a seagull passing
hanging for a moment above me,
before screeching and moving on

editors note:

Small enough to go unnoticed by passing calamity. – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum September 20, 2015  :: 0 comments

It took a month
after diagnosis,
little over, actually
before the anger
welled up inside
so fierce and hideous
like a black ink
that filled the cracks
between my teeth
and I spit it all back at
the world
with hot tears
and yelling
and accusations

and my dear,
you just sat there on the couch
your head tilted back
and let it wash over you.

Even when I told you
you weren’t trying hard enough
caring enough
Even when I was horrid
and scared and bitter
you sat there,
with your head
back, listening
your eyes half closed
your James Baldwin book
in your hand
after you had just told
me all about your plan
to read four novels by
every author you pick.

You tell me,
there’s nothing I can say
that’s going to be right.

and I lie and tell you you’re wrong
but the truth is
you are right
because right now
I hate the world
and everything in it

editors note:

So hard, this journey; so deep, this pain. Sometimes anger is all we can muster; better than no feeling at all. – mh clay

The Premonition of a Sash

featured in the poetry forum April 18, 2015  :: 0 comments

When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 13
unlucky years ago
my sisters and I, scared and unsure
decided to raise money and do one of those walks
that are always advertised each October.
First there was money to be raised,
funds to solicit
and then registration and
finally that morning in nyc,
we with our pink shirts
joined ranks and marched through the streets.

We walked a marathon over those two days
sore blistered feet
longer than I had ever walked at that time
slithering like a giant pink snake up the west side
of Manhattan.
That night they bused us out to Roosevelt Island
where we pitched our tents,
ate some food,
enjoyed the free entertainment
paid for by our donations
and even
had our sore blistered feet rubbed.
There were gift bags with lotion provided
by Avon. Everything was pink.

In the morning, I threw back the flaps of my tent,
the brilliant October sun
bobbing like a cork on the horizon,
and found on the floor
a pink sash.

They had been left overnight,
one at every eighth tent
depicting the 1 in 8 women that will be diagnosed
with breast cancer in their life.

I lifted it with pride, slid it over my shoulder,
did a quick Miss America wave to the sun
and returned to our marching.

You’re making a difference, I lied to myself.

At the end of the journey my parents and my husband met us
back at Battery Park where the whole thing began.
My mother’s hair was already starting to fall out,
and she eyed warily,
as if the sash were deadly,
a boa perched on my shoulder
waiting to squeeze.
What is that, she asked
and when I told her
held it up like I had won some sort of lottery
my voice excited to recite statistics
high from the journey we had just taken
surrounded by all these cheerful pink women

Give it to me, she said, sliding it off,
balling it up in her fist,
she brushed at my shoulder
as if the sash had left behind some
fine filament
some dust
that years from now
they would find on a pathology report.

She pulled me hard into a hug
No, she whispered.
Not you.
Please, no.

editors note:

We hope the knowing of a thing will protect us from a thing; our mothers know better. – mh

House of Cards

featured in the poetry forum June 28, 2014  :: 0 comments

for Stephanie and Ed and their firstborn

I’m gathering the stories
like playing cards,
stacked up high,
others laid out by suit,
the one-eyed jack and the false king, side by side.

They are the stories I will tell you,
when you are born
and old enough to understand stories,

of family, and dark spaces,
of jealous kings, and what lurks under bridges,
of tracks traced in the snow, secret rings,
and sleeping women who don’t wake up.

And these stories will belong to you,
and you will carry them with you,
in the space that we all have, between our ribs,
where we keep the stories,

and if you are lucky,
you will remember them
as I have.
And they will feed you,
as they have fed me.

And you will stand at a street corner one day,
waiting for the bus,
a ticket clenched tight in your hand,
your coat in the other,
and you will wonder about these stories,
why they were so fascinating
but you will also know, deep down inside,
a truth you aren’t able to say aloud.

And we will all be dead and gone.
You will be older then, older than any of us are now,
and you will board the bus and the doors will hiss closed behind you,
and it will lurch forward
down a road you have always avoided
but now, are ready to travel.

You will think they are just stories,
but in time you will realize it is what kept you alive.
I thought that too, in the days before you were named, but
they do not belong to anyone, these stories,
we belong to them.

You will take a seat on the bus, next to no one.
Your lips will move as if you are praying,
the machine will rattle forward and at that single moment
the story will start all over again.

editors note:

Everything is story; we’re all characters in god’s novel. – mh

Reason Number 17

featured in the poetry forum February 11, 2014  :: 0 comments

You make plans.
That is what not being a victim is.

We are so sorry, they are going to say.

So that when the letter arrives
or the phone rings,
you can just nod, say yes, thank you
and no thank you.
and then leave of your own volition.

We will be in touch as soon as possible, they are going to say.

You have to be ready for these sorts of things.
You have to have a bag packed,
and good shoes.
You have to have a change of underwear and an atlas.

Good luck, they are going to say.

You have to get rid of everything else.
Sell it. Throw it away. Give it away.
Burn it. Drop it in the ocean.
Let it float away.
It doesn’t matter.

That is essential. You must look them in the eye.
And you certainly must not gloat, either.
You don’t want to seem ungracious.
The sky is unfolding.
This is being ready.
Now there is nothing to do but wait.

You are young. You’ll be fine, they are going to say.

You are ready. You have always been ready.
Just open the door.

editors note:

Plan, yes! Like a good scout – always be prepared…to scoot. – mh

Water is Patient

featured in the poetry forum September 23, 2013  :: 0 comments

There is something tugging at me,
pulling my eyes to the corner of the room,
to the floor,
to the ceiling
to everywhere but your face

There is something wrong here,
something we can’t talk about
and it’s creeping into me,
filling me, filling us
like water filling a hole
and I want to tell you that water is patient.
It will wait
and wear down
mountains and drown cities.
It will wear the skin from your bones,
the words from your tongue,

Water is patient
and it will always win
which means,
you and I, baby
are destined to lose.

editors note:

When a whole lot o’ love turns a hole, lot o’ wet. – mh

Meditation on Hope

featured in the poetry forum March 18, 2013  :: 0 comments

We have been waiting for quite some time
on this subway platform underground.

The men with the suits.
The women with their bags.
The homeless and drunk.

We the masses.

We’ve been waiting together
for the local train.

We shift and sigh.
We roll our eyes
as the fifth express train screams past us

and the tunnel for the local is still empty
and waiting like a mouth to be kissed

I look around at these people
I don’t know
and how in this moment we are all together.

Me and the lady with her romance book.

Me and the baby asleep in the stroller.

Me and the man who keeps one hand hooked on the pole
even as he leans over the rails to see
if the train is coming.

He’s afraid of being pushed. A lot of people
have been pushed lately.

After the sixth express train passes,
I realize

that in all those places they told me it would be
at the election booth
in the chapel
at the bedside of a sick and dying loved one
crouched on sore knees hands clasped in prayer

they were wrong.

true real hope lives here
in this underground tunnel
brought together by us little people
in our little lives

who just want to go

editors note:

Simple hopes, simple rewards; the penny stocks of faith. – mh

Moon Prayer

featured in the poetry forum April 24, 2012  :: 0 comments

in that waned
or waxed time of night
on the long walk home
with the moon hidden
so hidden
in fact
it was just a smear
of white under more white
the way the sun can be at times
both blotted and blotting us out,

I said your name out loud
without expecting you to answer.

And for a moment I was more than less.
I could be that indifferent element
that charred wood,
that spark of flame,
that bubble of water,
that small breeze,
that rustles the back of a single leaf.
Or more, an atom
a muscle strained, unstrained,
strained again.
Something simpler.

Praise to the child king
and the walking stick.
Praise to the warrior girl,
the tallest trees,
praise to the mushroom,
the hot hot sand and the wettest sea,
praise to the next life,
praise to the train tracks and leaf blades
to the molecule splitting,
to the whale, floating weightless
praise to the moon.

Praised be.

editors note:

Speak a name, praised be! Believing there are ears to hear is more than less indeed. – mh


featured in the poetry forum September 15, 2011  :: 0 comments

These are the people who tend to the healing,
my mother says, the mending and setting of bones,
the cuts, sutures, fingers in rubber,
thread through skin
plaster and metal against muscle and wet organ.

This is the land of recreation,
of doctor’s plates and metal tables.
This is where we wait and wait, 1983.

But at only six years old this too
is the land of under-chairs,
of shoelaces
of finger-counting, alphabets and books.
This is the land of the beep beep beep machines
of funny nose-tickling smells,
of pretending penny-farthings,
of the inside outside upside
of dreams and naps
summer-drying up

of tears and more tears and what high
tall tables and what hard bread.

where all things are made and unmade
and remade again,
what shiny tools,
what clean floors,
what time-travel
space ship dimension
naturally, a family
but still no because
what lips
of my mother shushing, shushing me
pressing my head to her leg
hold still, hot hand to cheek
what tall
what lips thin line of the nurse
saying words that are just letters
strung together,
and she says
the man with the funny smell is dead,
we’re sorry,
but he’s gone.

Returning Your Things

featured in the poetry forum March 18, 2011  :: 0 comments

He told me I was terrible at washing dishes,
held the fork up towards the dirty window.
See the egg, he said showing me the residue
painted on the tines.

I had to rewash them all, he says.
I don’t say anything
because last night

he talked about his ex-girlfriend
for so long he started to cry.

He told me how they were going to get married
and she packed up one day
while he was in class
and disappeared.

He suspects it was Arizona she went to,
and tells me when we graduate, we can go there too.

He pulls me close to him at night
just to have something to push away in the morning.

Later, I will come by when he is in class.
And leave his t-shirt with this roommate.

He’s just messed up, the roommate tells me.
I nod and hand over his things, wanting
to be anywhere but in this dirty hallway.

The living room is filled with
the blue grey light of the television,
that most unnatural light,
and it casts the roommate in silhouette.

You should have said yes when I asked you out, the roommate tells me,
taking the t-shirt.
I can make you happy, he says.
He takes my hand,
rubs the inside of my wrist,
like a beloved pet
and puts it on his hard cock,

Come inside, he says.
Please! and then my name,
And then,