mild snow that doesn’t stick

Settling like

a word that rhymes

but doesn’t say a word settles

lightly on my boots snow

that doesn’t want to fall agrees to

fall only because it is winter only

because it can take the space of

a lost word above our stepping


dog gift

The old dog sleeps in the bend of my waist.  Warm and secure.  Stillness in a silent dream.  Her breathing is consistent and relaxed.  She is in a state of unplay as our planning for Christmas is finally over but our planning for what is next has already begun.  Our human consistency is in digging up the ground looking for our buried bone while my old dog has learned that the hunt is only worth it if we learn to just keep warm in the bend of another living thing.

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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Before The Persimmons Became Ripe




I went hiking today to escape you.


Down the trail I was greeted by a dog with your name.


Made my eyes sting.


A sweet scent caught my nose and reminded me to breathe.


A boy said “It’s the persimmons!”.


I told you I wouldn’t forget you laughing under the persimmon tree.


How that early fruit numbed my mouth and made us into children.




Where Hidden Things Go

The black cat and I sit several yards  from one another,  both eye level with October’s Friday the 13th.


He sits like a reflection, a parallel thought that I’ve just been permitted to see.


His eyes are summer’s

last green hiding place; I envy the way the emeralds translate his intention.


He turns his gaze away toward a sound I cannot hear. Is he weary of being a martyr for superstition?


Then, black as hidden light and silent, he ushers summer backwards around a lost corner so that he doesn’t cross my path.


In his place I see the shape of a voice I know but cannot name,  a memory that has no memory and will later carry itself around lost corners unnoticed yet missed.