Dying star

But how pretty, like a peony
blasted open with a starry center,
WR124 surrounded by watercolor

gases that signify its approaching
end, before it undergoes a turbulent
transformation, before it supernovas

into glowing cosmic dust. It’s shedding
its outer layers now, a molting star,
petals loosening at the edges as we

do when the end is near, letting go
of what’s not needed—in this case,
10 suns’ worth of universal material.

It’s hard to look away from the bright
core, even though we know its days
are numbered, even though we

remember it as a brilliant fireball of
orange, red, yellow dazzling energy. It’s
a mystery, what happens at the end,

especially if we’re not there to see it.
But all that starstuff it flings into the
universe makes us us—we who are

forged in iron and calcium from
ancestors that exploded billions of
years ago, as this one will one day,

spreading shimmer and dazzle through
the cosmos, baby planets born in star
nurseries, creating all that is, bringing

me to you and you to me in this
twinkling moment we share,
exquisite, yes, radiant,

and oh, so finite.

This composite image of the WR 124 star combines observations from Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).
Photo / NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dragon kites

for Cliff

Look at them:
all that rainbow-y nylon dripping
like bridal veils—one whose face
wears a happy rainbow over
white clouds and half a circle of sun,
the other with a prancing unicorn
under the little purple and green
tissue paper diamond, dented
and torn, two big spools of thread
and one little one.

Our kites still live in the big striped
cloth bag you sewed for them
almost four decades ago—
kites we flew over coastal beaches,
sea spray dotting our cheeks,
watching the broad faces
of their light bodies get smaller
and smaller as the spools unfurled
into the sky.

We flew them from the bluffs of Mendocino
and on the sand below the Cliff House
in San Francisco, where, years later,
I buried some of what was left of you
after you soared and tangled and dove
to an early end.

I don’t remember when I put them away,
how long it’s been since they tasted wind,
even at the end of a thin leash.
But I imagine they can still fly.

I bet they can propel themselves
upupup, a shimmering palette against
a March sky—their red and orange,
blue and green and purple tails
whipping the spring wind,
dancing up there,
aloft for as long
as we liked.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

St. Patrick’s Day, 2001

For Clifford Ernest Polland
May 21, 1952–March 18, 2001

On this day of green, of imminent spring,
of green beer and drunken celebration,
I think of you on that terribly ordinary day,
setting off to eat corned beef and cabbage
with your siblings,
me planning to see you the next day,
none of us having any idea what was soon
to happen.

As it should be.

We should all live fully to the end,
death sneaking up on us like a little one we love
tapping us on the shoulder, smiling,
gently saying, Come with me.

And we do.

We should drink that last green beer
not knowing.
We should hug those we love
and say goodbye as though we mean it.

Cliff and Jan at home in Davis with their first Macintosh computer, 1984
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The lengthening

We should not mind so small a flower.
—Emily Dickinson

The lengthening days of Lent
with its increasing light
coaxing the swelling buds,
the unfurling ferns, greening,
the blooming of everything

in this season of awakening,
in every sense of becoming.

The opening of irises,
of eyes, as well as
broadening hearts
pointing toward love,
toward the mysteries
that warm us—

let us revel in the flourishing
of the earth, what has sprouted
there and there, poking their
wee heads up through dirt,

bursting forth on branches,
on supple stems that remind us
of the hope springing,

the lengthening of
everpresent grace.

Iris as art by Mary Sand’s floral mural / Jan Haag
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


Three years ago at this time
we could not see what
was coming at us, could not
imagine the unseen that
would lock us inside, afraid
of the very breath of others.

We learned too well about
isolation, about grief and pain,
gripping hope to our chests
like a soft pillow, not entirely
able to absorb its comfort.

Two years ago at this time
a young muralist wielded her
imagination and brushes to
flower my century-old garage
with poetry and poppies.

We were not entirely out of
the woods, but hope slowly made
itself known, unfurling like
the iris bulbs I’d forgotten
lying in the back yard bed.

Last year at this time
we felt hope rising along
with the iris’ purple tongue,
with new buds on the Japanese
maple and ginkgo in the front yard,

and the muralist returned to
paint giant wings on the back
of the garage, flowering, thriving.

And this year, drenched,
finding relief in the sunny
moments between storms, we
pay attention to the tiny pink
flowers springing from wispy
branches, as living things seasonally
do, filling us with breath, light
strength of spirit to take a small
step forward, and another—

(Mural by Mary Sand)
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Daffodils, day two

Last night I stared hard
at the clear vase holding
two dozen pointy green
stalks like paintbrushes
tipped the color of canaries,
willing them to open.

If I ignored them, I thought,
one might shyly loosen
a lemony petal,
let it begin to fall
like a satin camisole strap,
or another might open
enough to reveal a bit
of sunny petticoat.

This morning,
when I turned on
the light, all 24 girls
stood tall, unfurled,
twirling their parasols,
beaming with the brightness
that can only mean spring.

(Photo / Jan Haag)
Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Pi / pie

Had they explained it to me in math class
using the circular plate, pressed in a crust
and prettily fluted the edges, added a filling

tempting to taste buds—apple, cherry,
any kind of berry, pumpkin—but not mince,
never mince—then baked it to a gentle bubble,

I might have understood or at least gotten
a glimmer of the miracle of mathematics.
But being told that pi is the ratio of a circle’s

circumference to its diameter made no sense
to my teenage brain. It was all I could do
to remember its first five digits—3.1415.

They held no meaning for me—I could not
taste, touch, feel those symbols. But pie, I
could understand—Grandma’s cinnamon-y apple

with its lattice-top crust. A small Chinese man
walking through his restaurant with his
banana cream (a recipe, he teased, that he

brought with him from China).
A man I loved fork-feeding me bits
of cherry pie he’d made from scratch.

Pie, it turns out, is love in all its infinite forms.
Numerical or baked, it is a constant. It is both
irrational and transcendental, and, I have

learned, this miracle of numbers and dough
and filling continues, without repetition
or pattern—on and on and on, ad infinitum,


Hula pie and me, Sunnyside, Lake Tahoe / Photo: Dick Schmidt
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Lucy’s Fried Chicken

Yeah, that ain’t me on the sign up there,
my thighs hangin’ out like the drumstick
the gal’s holding, kickin’ up her heels in neon.

My grandson’s idea, him the fancy chef,
settin’ up shop, usin’ my chicken recipe, which
is all well and good, but when people ask,

Where’s Lucy? I wanna holler in their ear,
Right here! Call me the ghost of chickens past,
call me a hovering spirit. Just don’t go thinkin’

I’m the dark-haired beauty lit up at night,
lookin’ all sassy. Though, come to think of it,
I had no little sass about me when I walked.

In fact, I’m still carryin’ all that sass with me
now, so maybe me and that gal up there
have somethin’ in common, after all.


(Thanks to Jessica Bruder for the daytime photo and the inspiration. And to Lucy’s in Austin, Texas.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Iced over: Emerald Bay

You hear the incredulity from locals:

—Never seen this much snow…
—The house is mostly buried…
—We shovel and shovel—more keeps coming…

—The bay’s frozen over.

Sure enough, snow white has overtaken
the emerald, frosting little Fannette Island
like a vanilla cake topper,

the lake’s only island, which a ranger showed
me the summer I spent as a journalist in Tahoe,
climbing the rocky hill to the Tea House

commissioned by Mrs. Knight, the wealthy
woman who lived onshore and occasionally
boated guests out there for Earl Grey and

finger sandwiches—now truly a shell of its
former self, frozen in time like the surface
of the glacier-gouged bay that surely sleeps

beneath that creamy surface of glistening ice.

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, March 2023 / Photos: California State Parks
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saving daylight

for Kevin, best neph, who is 33 today

This is the springing forward,
the first of 240 days to make
more use of daylight from

the second Sunday in March
to the first Sunday in November.
The Canadians started it in 1908,

nothing to do with farmers or
the trajectory of our nearest star,
except that humans have long wanted

to harness more of what shines
upon us—much as the demigod Maui
lassoed the sun to slow its progress

across the sky to allow his mother’s
kapa cloths of pounded bark
more time to dry. We all want more

time in the sun to make hay while
it shines, make love, make do, make
waves, make light of so much dark,

especially as our half of the earth
starts to warm like an egg sunny side
up in a pan. Longing for winter to

catapult us into spring, we mortals
imagine that we can nudge the season
by turning clock hands forward,

as we catch our collective breath,
open a door, fling wide a window,
welcome the warmth of that

trickster sun once again.

Oneuli Beach, Maui / Photo: Dick Schmidt
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment