Family Photo, Then and Now

Family Photo, then and now


The faces of my family look happy and calm

Bending and folding the light,

time curving the wind,

rusting in our tissue paper faces,

our fissures hidden in blown up flesh.


In my memory, there is never one of any of us,

I don’t look back along time but down through it, like water.

Sometimes one thing comes to the surface and sometimes another.

The picture is early evening,

One of those watercolor washes the city comes up with in fall,

Velvety and cool, like the muzzles of dogs.


My mother is very pale, like a body under a bathing suit,

Her touch glows on my shoulder like a burnt out match.

I smell my father, his fuggy leather, underneath smell I used to love,

Tall and avuncular.

My sister looks oddly flat,

like she was squeezed out of one those old fashioned wringers

and pressed like a flower in a book.


I look lighter, as if I am shedding matter,

losing molecules,

leaching calcium from my bones

and cells from my blood.

I flare up in an obliterary silence.

dissolving like a thinning mist into

a vast empty space.

I must have been running away.


We are all as ephemeral as insect wings

Yet stuck with dull weight of being human,

A paradox in the glimmering air,

All our pasts touched by many pasts.


The trick of the light in the past tense

marking time, taut in the protective coating the camera

has lent to all of us,

one that can never last.

This picture colors the air I move in now.

Clouds of breath formed into words,

Smile now.


But we are hiding in the light,

disquise is always easier when we are young.

and slippery forgiveness,

that sideways step out of my own body,

out of time into another time,

has cleaned up all the biographies.


Finally we look like mortality has a hook in all of us,

everything hovering on the verge of becoming real.

Heartbite after heartbite,

feeding on what is missing.

Anything to mummify ourselves,

to stop the drip-drip of time.


After all,

time has stopped,

for just a moment,

and refused to let us go.


RM Jan 2019

Bad Week and Looking Within..

file1731279077400Sometimes weeks come unbidden straight from Hell or from a place I never want to visit. Ever. This week hit me in fours.  First a startup company I had invested in went belly up after just hearing a few short months ago it was healthy and ready to sell.  That was a hard lie to swallow and I was boondoggled. The next day, while innocently eating some sugar peas, my mouth caught on fire, or at least one tooth did.  The pain was overwhelming and unrelenting and after I isolated the problem tooth, I knew I was in trouble.  After a 7AM emergency trip to the dentist-yes-it was the worst news, after antibiotics a root canal and crown would have to happen-OUCH in every way!  But wait, that’s not all.  Then my car went.  My trusty 98 Subaru started running like it was racing at the Indy 500 and that was not on purpose.  So the car was in the shop for three days and I had to beg for rides.  I have never been big on being stranded in my home.  Nine years of constant deep snowstorms in MA made me feel being stranded forever. Finally I had a hip X-ray on a routine physical-I had a bad feeling walking out of the room when the attendent told me “I was lucky I was slim.”  In that context that couldn’t mean anything good.  In short, I need a new hip-my second one.  Now I hope I am done for a while.

But all was not in vain because I learned something very valuable  from a new friend recovering from a stroke.  Life is a series of “strokes of luck” and every situation gives you a chance to grow and learn something new. So be grateful for what you have… the beautiful things that happen every day even if you are not paying attention and overdramatizing every event instead of seeing it’s potential.  Those moments are the most precious and truly there for you if you take the time to look.

I took the time to look and will keep looking.  I am very grateful I had that lesson and will back up and attempt to live my life in gratitude.  That is my world view anyway.  Sometimes I just become dumb and forget all I have.

Kansas Sunset

countrysideAs the sun descends,

Purple and orange paint the beige colored clouds,

wine dark blue cloaks the background.

Run along the troughs of the wheatfield, and get closer,

a wide screen in view, like the panorama

of an old drive-in movie,

the soundtrack cicadas and katydids.


I clutch wildflowers from the meadow,

and just sit alone to watch;

I am on a planet where no one lives but me.

Darker now, the colors shift and striate,

wavy flecks of amber float in tandem,

a blister of a howling mouth, a crater of contained fire,

spreads across the sky.


The sun reaches the horizon and dips down,

and the light suddenly spreads out

and throws up filaments of radiance

towards the heavens, splaying like a gossamer fan.

I am beguiled by the lights unfettered voice,

and my heart swirls in its round chamber.


Finally, a young moon silvers the ground

and the stars begin their evening vigil,

Weeping pussy willows and a windmill in the distance are black now,

something has caught in my throat

tangled between silence and sound

on this soft summer night.


Rhonda Morrison, May 2013

Fishing with my Dad

fish-2159862_1920Fishing With My Dad

Pimento cheese and bologna
sandwiches folded in wax paper, cold fried chicken,
courtesy of my mother.
Schlitz on ice for dad, grape soda for me,
a quick stop at Pete’s for night crawlers,
our Bass tracker wearing its chapped tarpaulin skin
hitched to the pickup.

Windows down, the drive sets me sifting the air
of the fat and lazy
The land is laden with scarlet rose hibiscus,
bright red as a pomegranate,
the afterbloom of bearded irises that melt
like blue and purple ice back into the air.
My heart is light too and huge,
beating with pure joy, pure helium,
to go fishing with my dad.

At the river, we negotiate the lowering
of the boat off the jagged edge of the ramp,
straighten, bend and enter,
double back as the boat
eases into the river,
the slight current curling
into the swollen water.

Once on the boat,
I lean forward for the righting touch
of the physical world,
as we motor along.
Late sunlight, yawning and stretching,
slides over my body like pollen
The sun I breathe in is pale blue, warm watery skin,
its white winds blow through me.

I take stock as my dad slows to a putter,
miasmal waters of the river,
feed into us.
The boat like a hand feeling through the tide,
cruising over tangle like a water-weed caught
on a submerged limb,
The musty fresh yeast smell of trees rotting,
earth returning to itself,
layer on layer of drowned time drifting away.

My dad chooses his favorite cove,
an old wine bottle floats among grape-fruit peels in the distance,
in the surf of undergrowth,
he swears at the mess, but says the fish will bite here.
A bird in the woods is repeating itself like a stuck groove
on an old record with a defect
as I thread the sharp hook with a juicy night crawler,
my  fingers curving and scaly,
wet with details.
I attach the bobber and cast out,
the arch and curve of the rod, the lasso line, the red bulb
plopping neatly in the water.
I sit suspended like the line,
watching the fertile bubbles in the water,
and wait, my ear tuned to my rod,
listening for signals under the blue barrier
for the channel or flathead cats.

My dad is knotting his jig-in-pig for bass,
skimming the bottom of the river like a crawdad.
The bobber jumps and I get the first bite, dad says jerk the line!
An outline tenuous as an echo at  first,
a wriggling,    ailing    sh
aps and    ashes across the water as
I reel the catch up over the boat
It pours    uid silver and mustard out of the river,
its fat body whipped on the deck,
reciting all the letters of its alphabet,
mouth open, stretched wide in a call or howl.
The discs of its eyes gleam,
white as milky quartz,
this    esh bone in its last brittle scream.

At dusk, we put the boat up and    sh off the bank,
among yellow-gray grass dunes,
the skin creates islands of warmth
as the light is scooped up.
We catch twenty    sh in all, a mess of striped bass and channel cats.
layered on ice ready to be gutted.
We slowly eat our sandwiches and crunch fritos,
breaking into the fried chicken as a slash of sunset appears.

Evening descends, its dark gown
laced with fog.
The hills thicken,
and bur oaks grow in their shadows.
The new moon sheds grace without intention.
We hear crickets and our own hearts,
a crystal darkness, a wine mist rising,
each breath a gift in the steep air,
as we sit side by side,
wordless comfort suspended in each other.
The stars are purring in our majestic little world.

Rhonda Morrison, October 15, 2012