Reading Aloud

tcb at sea

I read aloud often to Tom. Lately, as tonight, I sometimes read him his own poetry. We agree, these are good poems. (See a few of them below, and try reading them aloud yourself, not hurried. You can also find them, and others, in a new window at

Part of the pleasure is having Tom hear the poems newly, almost as though they’d been written by someone else. But then of course he remembers details of the experience and why he wrote them.

Atlantic Crossing

For NDH (Norris D. Hoyt)

Knuckles nut tight on the wheel,
running my mantra like an outboard.
Like the time I’d fallen in, alone,
in the middle of the pond,
breaking my way to the edge.

I’ll make it home, I’ll make it sure,
running there with skates still on,
over the frozen fields.

Or the first time I prayed,
my white rat lying senseless
on the bed from when I hit him hard
with a sockfull of BB’ s because
he’d half eaten the starling I’d
saved, fallen from its nest.

(The rat, righting itself, blinked pink.)

And you, the skipper, tallest teller
of any tale, you were speechless
in the banshee night, storm trys’l set
running before a full gale, and I
needing blather to keep my mind
from broaching, pitchpoling, giving in.

My mantra half in gear now and slipping,
over the edge, and you, the skipper
catatonic. But no, (TE DUM!)
you gray beard loon, you were asleep.
half awash but sleeping. If you
could have that much faith,
then I could too, and tell the tale.

* * *

Hwai-Yuen 1910

I open the ibis box for treasure
of old china, brittle as temple
birds brocaded on the lid of memory
and recall old songs, like roofs
of red tile, the streets empty
except for beggars and dead dogs.
Next to us the orphanage, the girl
children, some from our own doorstep.
Spinsters sequestered in their earmuffs
coming in battalions to help the mission
yet another year; we were so young
we all called them auntie.
Auntie Tatti appears in silk,
silent footed along the rattan halls,
when we were breast fed by amahs.
These old albums sting my eyes with dust.

* * *

I Was In The Men’s Room

Standing next to a Harley D. guy wearing
A Nazi helmet at the urinal, when all I could
Say was, “Hi, nice day,” falsetto in fear.
He didn’t bother to respond, so I didn’t croak “Peace.”

Imagine, then, the background to this:
Think of Emily D’s “stillness at the bone” —
(she was thinking of serpents) — me encountering
bikers the size of behemoths, in leathers, pissing.

We (family and dog) were at the rest stop
Sawtooth Mts. and gassing up — then all
The bikers roared in, next to us, bearded.

We, gassed by now, pulled away, and I
Girding my loins went to pee (see above) —
And me, I wanted panoramic shot of all
Those bikers fueling up, against the mts.

“No, no daddy, don’t!”  But I did, swinging
The camera, so they wouldn’t notice and they
Didn’t– the bikers, calm at the pump, quiet.


One thought on “Reading Aloud

  1. Thank you for these, Joan. They’re wonderful indeed. (…speechless in the banshee night…) And the picture of the bikers! Is it the actual photo from the poem? So good to hear from you. We think of you and Tom often and wonder how this quarantine is suiting you. Much love, Dale (and Suzanne)

    Sent from my iPhone



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s