to an ex husband, an old friend

In our earliest days we packed the Jeep full of camping gear,children, our music.  I can’t think of who was driving the day we were blindsided by those pale Seventeen Year locusts.  Seventeen years underground and then flying through our wilderness like they knew the place better than we did. One of us, or both of us turned the music off so we could hear death coming to life.  Their cry was so desperate that the children became quiet and we stopped the car in the road.

They hovered as summer snow over our lake and through the trees, blinded the sun with messages from dust.  We read fragments of what wasn’t hidden and swore to return in seventeen years to read more but I think the message has been in some way altered for the early days of someone else.  Anyway, we never could remember when we were supposed to go back there.  And we cannot go back.  Still, I make the drive every summer and not a word is ever spoken about what is beneath us, writing in the dark.


an inadequate mother

it is my job to show you wonder, to teach you how to dissect life from the skeleton

when i hear your hand on my doorknob early in the morning i know you are looking for sunrise

everything around you is already light

sometimes i fear i am night

what will not be found

Forty one autumns are not enough

to hold the hand of someone I love

while the trees take off their golden

robes and shake out the poems they

have been writing over the seasons past.


It is an interruption when the landscapers

rid of the fallen leaves before every single

shape and color are read, like they are throwing

Robert Frost into the trash just before he chooses

his path.


Forty one autumns will not be enough to catch the

early sun setting over Appalachia or to light cedar

logs for a fire under the constellations while my dog

sits quietly, staring into the naked trees,  looking

for the sound of what we have found and what we are

still looking for.

[Mother’s Day] Vanishing Tracks (II)

Translations from the English

Note: This is one of a series of poems for my mother from my book Vanishing Tracks. A Tibetan Buddhist teacher I knew used to say that if you imagine that we are all born again and again, then even the person who seems to be our worst enemy was at some point somebody’s mother, and recognizing that possibility can make us treat our fellow creatures, human and otherwise, with more compassion. While I post this poem today to honor my own mother, I also honor all mothers, and our memories of them, and their important place in our own identities, no matter how many (or few) times we think we’ve been here before. //JSS


Vanishing Tracks (II)

What is resilient in us is resistant to memory
When the memory goes she will be some other self
Still resilient to the sailing light and shadow
And hungers and exhaustions…

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