Ghost Places


At evening large birds
circle the arbor,
darkness inside,
and, at the great house,
the door hangs wide;
we hear the noises
of glasses and voices,
though no one comes:
see, little sister,
there in the pool —
shards of stone
beside the fountain sleep
like broken children
late for school.

This is the title poem in my new book. To order it, just click on the picture.

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The Widows’ Handbook

This is the title of a new (great!) anthology from Kent State University Press, which features poems by widows: “old and young, straight or gay,” whose partners have died. There’s an introduction by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and four of my poems appear, including


The phone rings.  Hello hello,  its your ghost again.
Every day letters from you in the post again.

I told you to leave but there is your face
when the fog floats in from the coast again.

Here by the fire, there by the stair;
go back to your bed in the frost  again.

Stay out of my mirror.  This is goodbye.
Forget my address.  Get lost again.

For more information, visit

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In spring we watch beneath the trees
as evening deepens.
Fireflies close and open; open,close.
Often at night
a cool green mist
sleeps in these leaves
one eye awake, a cat
waiting for snow.

When summer comes
it enters the house.
Long leaves cloak our bed
like arms
and wind around us
as vines
wander in water.

In autumn black branches
crack on the roof.
Meat gleams on the table
wine heats the throat.
You walk the Chinese carpet
like a cat or a wolf.

Nightly the fire sinks to the tiles
with a cough
and fevers cross the wall.
We climb the stairs
bringing quilts I have sewn
in bright shades
to make a winter bed
in your cold eye.

Posted in Poems

Another Lover

Soon a murder will be discovered in these rooms.
Now they are only filthy.
There is no blood on the cracked tiles; the kitchen knife
is plunged in a loaf of bread.
It is summer but in here the gloom
moves like an animal.
I am lying on an unmade bed, my clothes half off.
My long hair drags against the sheets
into my eyes and mouth.
The man beside me does not love me;
we do not love each other
yet there is music here.
Some kind of music rises from this bed
and travels the room,
darker than blood, lighter than air
clumsy and blind as an animal
moving through.

Posted in Poems

The Murdered Girl is Found on a Bridge

Hammerstroke and
hammerstroke and
hammerstroke de-
stroyed me—

that mallet
(or what you call it)
pounding away.
My thighs betrayed me.

The noise! The cries!
I cracked like a bell
forcing a chime
and came

or went.
At any rate I’m here
over streets that bear,
easily, giant trees;

here where the air’s
absorbed my blood
into white light,
silence a bell,

an odor all about,
the smell of
oranges or
something growing.

The New Yorker –August 6, 1966
The New Yorker Book of Poems —
Viking 1969; Morrow 1974

Posted in Poems

Translation of Some Paintings by Balthus

A large house with large rooms
where sunlight moves like a voice.
An afternoon in summer.
The grownups have gone away or died.
Children sit on the carpet playing cards.
A boy and girl, two lovers,
lie  facedown, watching the birds in the carpet.
One bird begins to sing.
All the children know the words to the song.

Outside the house a garden.
The lovers, naked on the ground,
have turned from the world and gone into their minds.

Years later, it starts to rain.
It rains on the house, the garden
the cards, the birds, the

Posted in Poems


You have been sleeping now for over three months. Sleep is what Merwin calls
it in his poem Good Night. “Sleep softly, my old love,” he writes, “without end in the dark.

You are my old love but I don’t think you’re asleep.
If you are, it’s time to wake up.

Poets speak of death as “sleep” and “night.” Dylan Thomas called it
“the darkness of the darkness.”

I would rather think of you in heaven, your kind of heaven, which I
picture as The Ramblas in Barcelona on a sunny October day. You are
sitting at an outdoor cafe, talking and laughing, drinking beer and
smoking one cigarette after another.

Each cigarette is stamped: Good for celestial health. Increases wingspan
and strengthens flying ability.

Posted in Poems