Poetry Reading Room

Growing up, I enjoyed poetry and light verse that played on words and emotions. Reciting poems and Shakespearean sonnets was part of life. Emily Dickinson struck me as courageous in self-expression for her time, especially since one poem began with, "I'm nobody. Who are you? Are you nobody, too?"

Over the years, it was a pleasure widening my knowledge of poets to include epic Homer and Dante Alighieri, Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Frost, e. e. Cummings and Rainer Maria Rilke. Then, too, 20th Century American masters of light verse, such as Ogden Nash and Dorothy Parker, amused me. Even reading Dr. Seuss' "Happy Birthday to You!" to my children was a treat.

When - in the 1970s - I came upon the poems of Phyllis McGinley about life in suburban New York, the 1961 Pulitzer Prize winner seemed to grant me permission to write about my life as a woman of the Boomer generation. Unlike McGinley, I did not always rejoice in what I found to be true, chafing at the view of women in the 1970s. Life moved from New York to California to Florida, from marriage to single-motherhood to remarriage and new careers along the way.

Read a handful of poems here, or visit the Listening Booth to learn about my times.

Louvre, Paris, 2011

Louvre, Paris, 2011

A Sense of Place and People

Little Notre Dame, 1965

Whirling in her black and white habit,
Sister Anita Marie, O.P., stood for everything she knew.
Red-faced, ignited, fingers clutching chairbacks,
she shot data attacks at have-no-care America and
prophesized near doom, footnoting a future that loomed
in a small women's college.

Defensive, doubting her knowledge and passionate certainty,
we squirmed in desk sets, rented by part-time dollars.
Wry eyebrows raised like flags for veteran fathers
at the next world riot unequivocally guaranteed
by the white-robed sage of upward mobility.

Some scoffed at her vision. Some cackled in the hall.
Scorning her next century's global brawl.
Hatching our sweetest Rockwellian schemes
for manicured lawns, dreaming upper-class dreams.

Wars later the good sister's new world has turned.
Between the commercials, her precious globe burned.
Veiled Arabs hurled not-so-veiled car-bombing threats.
Refugees vaulted from storm-tossed decks.
No continent of color untouched.
Rare the women of color untouched
by violence and war.
A rich man can find
a nanny or maid
to soothe his Rockwellian wife.
A nanny or maid for life.

See them scheme on the manicured lawns.
Cradling their own upward dreams.
Missing kids left on their own.
Ruing the cost mobility means.

Still, "free" is the operative word.
Yes, good sister, I heard.

               *  *  *

Letter to Dear Fellow Gardeners
in Saudi Arabia
by Reggie Morrisey, 1994

Remember from my kitchen window,
the towering lilac
out by the paddock fence?
By the hawk's summer residence?
Facing the blossoming apple tree,
where that Clydesdale Warlock and
his painted mates stand at ease?

Well, the lilac split nearly in two.
Winter's seventeenth snow weighed in
more blows than one branch could bear.
And that, not the last storm,
last straw, it knew.

The bounty of lilac blossoms is
more precious on that downed branch,
bent low to greet shafts of sunlight,
tracing the day across the tall grass,
across the slope of lawn.
The farmhouse, a dream
of fragrance and smiles,
of lilacs plucked from
a graceful, bent arm ...

Lauren, the stable manager's wife, said
she's waiting for fresh paint to dry
before planting her lavish garden.
In the barn's every nook and cranny,
her grotto for a heavenly friend, and
flowers for Esmeralda,
a marigold calico cat ...

Oh, yes, Lee is blossoming for college.
Never here, of course ... as it should be.
I am soothed by my view of the lilac
when next winter weighs in heavy on me.

               *  *  *

Saturday ...
St. Petersburg, Florida
by Reggie Morrisey, 1997

Or a silent smile
on the winding paths of North Shore Park.
A pool crowd roars at butterfly trials
as flocks of cyclists weave and dart.

Or a jogger's huff
where sea gulls,
egrets, and small planes rise.
Where pelicans brood over Coffee Pot
and bank like DC9's.

"Good Day."
"Your baby came!"
As newborn palms on the sandy beach.
As Dalmatians, retrievers, and terriers strain
against the longest leash.

Dolphins rule a swirling school.
All high-wire abacus chirp and spy.
Our soaring spirits mount the sky
on shafts of sun lighting Tampa Bay.

Pass the cast of a net,
the snap of a rod,
kites flung aloft over rolling blades.
Palatial Vinoy and marina in sight,
museums and pier mere moments away.

Pass still, benched locals whose sighs observe,
"Same old, same old Saint Petersburg."

               *  *  *

Picture Perfect
by Reggie Morrisey, 2001
For Vincenzo

We of two minds could not be
any closer, but
we always give it a try.
We of artistic bent envision
‘Tante belle cose!” for each
other’s long and happy lives.

Now we’ve seen how far
cherishing gets us.
How hearty laughs and joys
have met us.
Right where we are,
in the arc of a Florida rainbow.

You are perfect,
as we both know.
And I must be perfect
for telling you so.
It suits us fine,
eternal Hallmark Valentines.

Lingering questions we pose?
Did you dream me?
Did I dream you?
Ever to float on Mancuso blue?
Artful, how we pulled it off,
this “us” we drew.

               *  *  *

So, Breeze 
by Reggie Morrisey, May 2007

So, breeze,
you wend your way around us
as her impish smile
and husky laugh,
the brush of her hurried kiss
and circle of welcoming arms.
So, breeze,
You give us pause,
like feline sentries,
temple guards,
for whom your entry is viewed
with utter calm.
So, breeze,
we heard
Suzanne is here.
Like a faint bell
and flash of Himalayan scarf.
Or wispy fingering on a harp.
Among friends,
Suzanne lingers.
She can return.
Yes, here she can stay
as we ache as one,

               *  *  *

On Seeing My Brother, Ed, the Brave
by Reggie Morrisey, August 5, 2009

The tribes will gather
at Sycamore Canyon.
Elders from the north and east.
Braves from the south.
The councils from the valleys.
To set the tents
and sit by the fire.
To circle brave Ed.
To name his spirits.
the bobcat, owl and hawk.
To walk west
to the ocean’s edge,
reflecting peace.

I, Dove,
speak of passage.
Of life’s ever flowing stream.
Of the Brave
who breathes music.
Whose hands
conceive of new things
under the sun.
Who casts light visions.
Who crafts moccasins
for the tiniest feet of the tribe,
so they can walk with him.

I, Dove,
speak of my spirit brother, Ed,
who, like the bobcat, delves so deep,
some dare not follow.
Who, like the wise owl,
hoots to the dragonfly and the whale.
Who, like the hawk, trails the curve
of the Earth and is not afraid.

A band of beads
circle his wide-brimmed hat.
All who meet him
grasp his panda bear kacinas,
native dolls of chenille stems,
his panda bear wayas for peace.

The stars will gather
over Sycamore Canyon
and south at Malibu.
The mist may blanket
all things known.
Would that you could see him, too.

               *  *  *

Blue Note for a Recording Engineer
by Reggie Morrisey (Circa 1995)

Can you
“See Clearly Now?”
so far from the
“Dark Side of the Moon”?
Your “Go Now”
gone too soon?

If it hadn’t been for
would your
“Teenage Wasteland”

“One Toke Over the Line,”
can you lip sync

Taking hits of Mary Jane,
never settling for mundane.
Now an email in an autumn chain
whose “Sounds of Silence” clash.

Twinkling lights of consoles flash
as you pass our fading star.
The studio, the Milky Way.

For Frank Tomaino,

On the Move

Leaving the World
by Reggie Morrisey (circa 1990)

Children, dogs and seagulls!
Who could be more up
on the yuppie cruise to the Vineyard,
our first Friday bound for Oak Bluffs?

Babies bounce in dadpacks.
Infants set to breast.
Toddlers ready for "All fall down”
as hounds cross paws for a rest.

Ferry slip to creaky dock
under cotton candy clouds,
Over white caps tipped for jaunty sails and
the straw hat, flower-brimmed crowd.

Off island rules surrendered.
Island rites abide.
Pass Vineyard Haven's Five Corners,
done best if one does not drive.

For a glimpse of Gayhead splendor,
of Edgartown's prim grandeur,
of West Tisbury Granary hopping,
or Oak Bluffs' gingerbread tour.

Weekends slide toward dock lines,
packing a ferry or barge.
A subdued crowd on the mainland run,
stands consoled under seafaring stars.

                    *  *  *

Stepping Out 
A dream excursion
by Reggie Morrisey, 1996

Crossing shadows and cobble as
centuries of former lovers,
to the ramparts of Montelimar,
we hug vin, pain and fromage
past Inspector Concierge.

On a terrace in the twilight,
we breathe in the nectar of summer,
hear mothers calling children,
toasted children straggling home.

Miles to go before Paris,
flambé in our feast of France.
We blow kisses to beckon nightfall,
to bed in a moonlit trance.

Crossing fields of lavender and sunflowers,
we shrug off thunder showers.

We yield a tour day to a sidewalk café.
Memory preserves a flutter of lace.

Farmer aristocrats, vineyard bronzed,
pocket our francs in a marketplace.

Arm-in-arm to Paris,
shedding all such country quiet.
Beguiled by a city where bistros await,
we twirl up the tower,
scanning lights upon lights.
Anchored at heart,
as the Seine River flows,
to revel in love's awesome depths,
fearless heights.

                  *  *  *

Venice - An Older Woman’s Story 2003

A mermaid climbs the sea wall, dabbing lagoon perfume.
Venus descends to bask in her beauty.

The light above Venice is her crown.
As doves coo evensong and swell in San Marco’s square,
the sky in the cap of the cathedral is a scroll of her golden hair.

We see the ghostly fleet of the Doge returned with its spoils of war,
four Byzantine horses pinned by this duomo’s door.

The music of Vivaldi springs in her narrow streets.
Like his orchestra of orphan girls, cloistered behind a screen,
Venice is mysterious, more beautiful, sight unseen.

We approach the glass blower’s gate and hear her bridge of sighs
in the uproar of the furnace and imagined, sad goodbyes.

Gondola, accelerato and traghetto vie splace on her Grand Canal.
A female city, cloaked in romance history, swoons for the tenor’s passionate woe.
Yet steps back from relentless waves lapping at her toe.

Piazza, arcade, fetching human voices. Nary a humming motorcar.
Frowning women fling open windows, her silent police, her vigilant spies.
They could sound the alarm, could bid us to hide.

From Attila the Hun to the cannons of Napoleon.
The Lombard invasion, the fall of Milan.
From the fourth Crusade to Pope Hadrian,
Venice whirled back from the battles of man.

Once abandoned the buoys.
Hid channel markers. Her maze of shoals impassable.
Venice the obscure, impenetrable.

We sip espresso at a bustling café.
Taste a feast from the sea when our night arrives.
Drift in sleep as church bells peal and Casanovas lie.
Dream of powdered wig, silk gown and veil.
Of a peacock mask for the Carnavale.
Of a woman who has survived.

                *  *  *

Burning Question
On the High Seas
by Reggie Morrisey, 2009

What must they think of us?
As we sashay on new sea legs
from the grand dining room,
tummies full
until the midnight buffet.

As we drop damp towels
on the stateroom floor,
irked if there are
no chocolates on the bed.

As we drift from the spa,
bodies buffed with seaweed,
basted with frangipani oil,
aging still,
and they on a half-day shift.

As we leave no tip on the bar.
As we drown in drinks by the pool.
What must they think of us?
Of each pampered dude and dame?
Are they just glad we came?

If our global village were
but 100 strong,
seven would have what we have.
one-half a crew spoons haute cuisine.
One quarter tuck us into bed.
The rest just guide this
ship of lucky fools
to bingo, black jack, slots.
So clear,
the haves and have nots.

All accidents of birth,
The server and the served
Cruise this crazy planet, Earth.

               *  *  *

Candlewood North
Connecticut,  2015

A little life.
A big splash.
"Race to the float?"
"First, better ask."

Watch a medic
on Survivor's dock.
Wipe extra photos
from the Solstice fire.

Click, click, tock, tock.

The buzz of voices
turn a row of
tanned young moms.
The line of Adirondack chairs
gleam - as seen from the seaplane.

Trees cast shadows
as night gently falls.
As one by one,
the children call.

"Mommy, watch me!'
echoes across the lake.

Sighs of "Not my circus.
Not my monkeys."

Just a charmed life,
for the kids' sake.

            *  *  *

Oh, Breath of Life
St. Petersburg
by Reggie Morrisey (1996)

Oh, breath of life, you take our breath away.
Tug the heart while breaking night and day.
Blushing sky, hued parable of God.
Storied mounds of clouds mask who we are.

Tropic June, a moist beatitude,
addresses tree and blossom, man and dove.
While palms hold sway, mere humans swoon with love
for arching rainbow, crystal dome above.

Yes, atmosphere, the pressures rise and fall.
Drops descend in seas upon a street.
Your chemistry is simple,
air to water, back to air.
Nearly all we crave to be complete.

Yet farther out, we circle round ourselves.
Fending limits natural life proposes.
Farther one day, three rings left behind,
we aim for space where
we can stick our noses.

          *  *  *

Drink Blue Up
New York
by Reggie Morrisey

Too still for leaf to fall
or heart to falter,
I look upon this lake,
your altar,
raise each chalice
in the mirror gleaming.

Drink blue up.

Too silent for a modern hum,
I chant Gregorian.
Circled by eclectic,
tagged Victorian.
all fleur-de-lis and lace,
patterns set to brace me for
the chilly winds to come.

Wait with me, swans,
while I tap the keys.
Move in from the pond.
Not one of us
captive in the freeze.

        *  *  *

St. Petersburg
by Reggie Morrisey

The widows around me ...

Fear the same flashes of light 
in the pre-dawn sky.

Hear the rumble of thunder 
roiling our heads. 

But they wait alone
in their narrow beds 

Counting the storm to pass.

With no one warm nearby
who cares enough to ask,  

“Are you alright?”

With no arms 
braced like steel 

To ward off the fright.

Now that’s brave.