Rings and Whorls

Around the redwood, a fairy ring emerges – 
children of the parent tree, now scorched
to two-hundred feet and still showing sprouts.
Its growth rings will show damaged days.
Like the whorls of my aging fingerprints.

I wrote elsewhere about the similarity of fingerprints and tree rings. They are not really as similar as they might appear. Fingerprints stay very much the same, while trees create a new ring each year and they vary quite a bit, showing fire, drought, competition for sunlight or nutrients, and damage by natural or human causes. But still, looking at them side by side they do seem to have some connection.

I do like the word “whorls” which means a pattern of spirals or concentric circles and is used in describing and identifying fingerprints – and seems like a good word to describe tree rings too.

tree rings — fingerprint

Helen, Frozen in Time

mannequin
Photo: Paul Szlosek


It’s Helen that I dated in college,
but that sexy streak of gray hair
is now fully white but still beautiful.
I want to reach out – touch her –
this cool mannequin in a wig shop.

spotify link
To hear the poem read and get some background on its inspiration, listen to the podcast version on Spotify.

Poem for Petrichor

Photo: Viktorya Sergeeva


After weeks of dry weather, the rain
falls on dry grass, stone, soil, flowers –
sending a fragrance to the playing child
and rising to the gods who once
were the only ones so naturally perfumed.


That pleasant-to-some-of-us smell that can accompany the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather has been given the name “petrichor” (PET-ri-kuhr). It is a modern word, taken from the Ancient Greek words πέτρα (pétra) ‘rock’ or πέτρος (pétros) ‘stone’, and ἰχώρ (ikhṓr), which was said to be the blood of the gods in Greek mythology. This unique, earthy fragrance comes from rain combined with plant oils, compounds in the dry soil, the ozone in the air, and geosmin from soil that is released into the air.

The Thing with Feathers Flies Away

The bird who recently built its nest
in the drainpipe is either very optimistic –
or foolish. I feel that hopeful optimism
is foolish in these darkly troubling times.
Maybe the thing with feathers is optimism.

bird in pipe

The title and final line here is a nod to Emily Dickinson’s poem in which the thing with feathers is hope in the form of a bird who seems unabashed by any troubles around it.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church

but you spend this Sunday      with me,
on the spring garden bench      reading poems
from your small hand-sewn fascicles,      never published,
but for here and now,      where God
preaches     –    and the sermon is never long.

reading garden

This poem recalls – and borrows lines – from Emily Dickinson, whose poems I was reading this morning.

Emily Dickinson,
poet of the interior life,
poems were written quietly in a room of her own,
often hand-stitched in small volumes,
then hidden in a drawer.
She died without fame,
only a few poems were published in her lifetime, and those anonymously.
All of the poems were later published
at first altered by editors or publishers according to the fashion of the day,
rather than in the unique style that Emily intended for them.

The volume I was reading is The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition which has 1,789 poems with Dickinson’s spelling, punctuation, and capitalization intact.