art of losing dec 17

Dec. 31
My Cool, one night at The Roxy NYC, 1986 

Usually I know what I was wearing, but this time it was all about the music: the air 
sweaty with summer hits, and I had finally figured out thanks to "And She Was"
that it was exercise AND dancing to walk the streets of Manhattan to a labor-
of-love mixtape of carefully chosen songs with that sweet beats-per-minute 
count of somewhere around 128--so it was the music that night, and 
there we were early to the club, eager (also not good at staying up
late), and when "The Honeythief" came on I squealed with 
excitement and hit the floor  "come on come on and 
pass through the heat," sure that Lisa would follow 
because who could resist bopping out to this
cooooool song and then   she   didn't                                                         and there I was
alone on the big empty dance floor 
awash in the truth that I was not
cool, never had been, never 
would have that kind of 
hold-back don't-need-it 
cool that I 

hot heart forever
flushed with equal fires:
I could have & couldn't dance to
"the light   of deep regret
let me see what 
I don't 

Dec. 27
one of our trio of tulip trees, 18??-2018

"All we grasp we must let go All we grasp we must let go All we grasp we must let go."  I repeat
and repeat what the trees know, but this tall tulip that hugs our patio, shades our outdoor table,
drops honey-bearing nectar on us all May, that stood here long before the patio, long before
the house indeed (coincidentally born same year as I), that stood in a wood I can
 barely imagine, unmapped, unloved, not a feature but a creature of an unpeopled
landscape—this  tall
tulip with its  straight
trunk   unlimbed   to
30  feet, is  precious
to me. I should speak
for   this  tree, save it  
from  our   ill   human
meddling,  but  good
sense, this tree's own
deep-rooted  wisdom
counsels me: stillness.
Bend, give way; strength
and stillness, stillness helps us grow.

Dec. 22
Perception of Perfection, 2012-2017

In the exhausting and wonderful rush of preparing for our high holiday celebration, I make
a brief stop into the lovely candle-lit half-bath and suddenly realize that the rather swank
three-hole faucet set on the rather sophisticated sink in this bathroom (rather more
serious than the sap-green Matisse loo in the old house) is crooked.
It has been crooked for five years, for more than five years;
since before our time.  How is it that on this night
of the shortest day, "as the wheel of the year
begins another turn," I who stand at my
freshest each morning at this sink
opening a can of cat food and
washing my hands, how is it
that I have never noticed
this failure of symmetry,
this offense to the rule
of even, straight and level,
to the imperative of
equilibrium, proportion,

Maybe I
see it tonight
is a little out of
whack: the
cookies barely
made, the tree
not fully lit,
the tablecloth
wrinkled and the gifts
not wrapped.
All week,
all month,
for more
than a month,
balls dropped,
documents lost,
traditions forgotten,
screens cracked and smashed.
The end of this poem
should show how clear it is that none of this matters,
that nothing is ever perfect anyway, that some things
are more important than others,
but I have to tell you that
the crooked faucet is a
problem. I am
not fine
      with it.

Dec. 17
an aversion to O Holy Night,  1971  and 2017

Too much vibrato,
too much orchestration, over and over
too much gospel diva glory on stage: even in 2nd grade
it was all too much for an “Away in a Manger” girl to bear, and
the same year I ate so many Christmas-striped chocolate straws that
I vomited.  Too much sugar, fever, fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices singing
hard candy porcelain echoes over and over,
too much, too much,
too much.

And to tell a truth I did not
know until now, I thought this
holy night belonged to black folks
like Mr. and Mrs. Tibbs and
Mr. Parker from our church
and the Pullers across the street,
like I knew that Amazing Grace
and Lift Every Voice and Sing
belonged to black folks.

Funny then
that at a posh downtown
DC party in a gay and gorgeous
brownstone hosted by two men
(one Irish one South Carolinian) a gay couple
on piano and voice (one white one black) returns
this French and Unitarian carol to me with the simplicity of
John Jacob Niles and some clues about why black folks in Richmond,
Virginia in 1971 might lay claim to a Christmas song that promises “Chains shall He break
for the slave is our brother.”   We hear it too, at that posh party full of wealthy, frightened liberals, we hear it too, even those unchristian among us,
in His name all oppression shall cease.
Funny how the holy night
finds me here, pure,
gentle, cool and
clean in

Dec. 16

Mark Evan, 1964-1985

Called Mark Evan to distinguish from my brother Mark Robert, "my" Mark was first
friend, fellow clogger, dance partner.   Later—how?— boyfriend, guitar god,
rock star, musical appreciation partner, composer to my lyrics, divorce
survivor, literally boy-next-door, James River rock-jumper, first-ever 
eve-of-college all-the-way gazing-ball let’s-stay-together
that’s-not-working off-you-go-to-
Oberlin dance god
car crash


I was
the gone one,
gone to Deutschland,
really too far gone to come to      
the funeral
too far
to feel you leave
so really
you never left, you sit on my front porch with your arms draped over my shoulders,
guitar hands and floppy hair, dance feet and distant mouth still singing my words.
You never left

I never cried
the real


Dec. 11
Parenting Nouse, 1999-2017

I'm all about the babies, the toddlers, the 3's and 4's--boy do I miss the 4's--and kindergarten;
first-graders and I were meant to be together, and even 7's turning 8 are like star-
crossed lovers to me, turning at the end of the year excitingly to the bigger
world and leaving me a bit behind and bereft of my satellites, of
mission control.  I did fine with 9-12 and maybe even 13 and
14, but 15--this 15--is wrenching, especially now that
I think I understand what must be done and I don't
feel equipped to do it.  Like right now, love is
not enough; it's blinding, it wrings the tough
out of me, if I ever had any, and it seems
like tough is going to be required, but
how to do tough without rough,
without anger, tough with
patience? how to
know when

the moment
requires not tough but
all the aching searing compassion I might have had for the first skinned knee, for the
bewildered understanding that passes all peace, for the torn heart hugging the tree today,
might have had if ever
I had known
that moment
for myself?

Dec. 8
So Many Earrings, 1976 -

lost  lost and found  lost again lost in a pocket lost in a bag lost the other one
lost and kept the mate kept the mate kept the mate kept the mate until it
was time to make an artwork out of them  lost the same
version of silver hoops over and over again  lost
getting into the car lost getting out of the car
lost pushed out by a scarf  luckily never
lost in a cat fight lost in the class-
room  found at the end of the
year  lost on the dresser  lost
in the bathroom  blown off
the sink by the hair dryer
lost in the wastebasket
lost so regular          ly
that my Villa           ge
Voice person            al
ad noted                  my
collecti                    on
of 109

I wonder
how many
I've lost in a
lifetime of earr

Dec. 7
Some Fear,  1969 - Today

I heard about the man, a prisoner, who, starved and beaten and surely afraid,
wrote the names of his fellows in human blood on scraps of cloth sewn
into the collar of a shirt, a shirt that would be worn by whichever of
the company of prisoners was first released, carried out into the
world on his own back.    Witness.    And I ask myself, sitting
here with my cup of tea in my flannel pajamas, comfort
abounding, how I dare fear any pain, any torrent of
grief that I work so hard to keep contained, writ
in the pulse of my overfed blood, sewn into
the muscle of my unmarked neck and
back, worn like a skin.    Listen.
I have no right to fear, must
begin to look at it,
live it, leave it,
let go,

those losses.

Dec. 6
Weight, Never

and then there are the things
--the thing--we cannot lose, no,
no matter how we try.  every cupboard
every meal every event conspiring against
us, reasons to eat a thousand times a day, auto-
matic pop-it-in: to have a taste, to combat waste, to
join the fun, grab on the run, to self-reward, because we're
bored, because it's time, it tastes sublime.  Hunger doesn't come
into it, really.  And so instead of losing we find we have gained more
                                                                                                                        than we could
                                                                                                                                  ever use

Dec. 5
Daylight, Annually

Here in the midatlantic, summer porch and patio May through October, light
in the sky from 5:30 to 9, fifteen hours daylight magnified by the lens of
each eye, lightbath drawing down into arteries like liquid speed,
moving every anatomical millimeter of this 50-year vessel,
a daily re-fresh of all and sundry gumptions until
the consumption of darkness, paid in moon-
coin, can no longer be eluded, cooling
nightlight minifying day to a mere
nine and what there is graying
at the roots, chilling all and
sundry assumptions of
vital incandescence.

Nothing for
that but to drink.

Let's lighten things up a little here...

Dec. 4
Spelling Bee, 1975

My worst year ever, holed up in the central library hoping for a safe place in the new "open school."
The one thing I knew would go well was the spelling bee, held in one of the "classrooms" of
"Delta House."  (Of course all my friends from 5th grade were in Alpha House.)
I easily won the school competition, nonstop reader with a photographic
memory for orthography, and moved on to the city level contest.
So excited: my forte, my moment, my time to shine past
buck teeth & lank hair. The word was POTABLE, and
even if I had asked for the meaning I would have
spelled it PODIBLE, because what kind of a
word is POTABLE? and clearly the
announcer had pronounced
it with the laziness of yer
typical American.
was the word
they used.

was the heat
I felt.

draft HM 12.17

Yep, that really lightened things up.

Dec. 3
L.A.S.  1982-1991

Before you were my bridesmaid, my housemate, my fratority sister, my best friend (was I ever yours?), we stood freshman year in line for a romantic comedy and you informed me that 
at 18 we weren't supposed to be falling in love with  our future husbands; we were 
supposed to be practicing that.  I didn’t know; despite ample evidence, I still
thought I was supposed to marry the first guy I fell in love with. I was always 
a bit unsubtle, a black-and-white kind of thinker, really enjoyed that high-
contrast Keith Haring look of the 80’s.   Later, when you fell in love
with someone I didn’t approve of, you called me judgmental and
I deserved it. I hadn’t yet been crushed into compassion by
my own wrong marriage, hadn’t yet learned that what
happened to my parents freshman year was wildly
unlikely, that love would take me to a place that I
thought was imaginary, like the New York City
of Claudia and Harriet, which was real daily     
childhood for you, my friend.  So love took
me (practice losing farther, losing faster);
I left you and now when I look back
you are still wearing that unwise
black-&-white polka-dot dress,
because I could not see what
suited anyone but me,
and really not even
myself, either.

I'd like
to tell you
I was wrong
about the dress,
and about so much else. 

draft (c) HM 12.17

Dec. 2

Planetary Pajamas, 2008-2018?

anticipation of loss.  the beginning of the end.   lightweight long-sleeved long-legged 
soft periwinkle planetary pajamas leaving me slowly, having come unexpectedly, 
bought for someone else for more money than I would spend on myself. 
are you not wearing these? can I have them then?  thinning, sagging, 
drawstring replaced with knotted elastic, seams coming loose--

seems like sleeping is hard work all night six months

a year for nine years, dreaming alongside every

new hi-tech brainwave in Jetson-print jersey,

fading, wearing thinner and thinner,

hems dragging. how long can

they withstand the labor

of my space-age


still I

keep on 

wearing them, with grieving


draft (c) HM 12.17

One Art | Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


For good reason this is one of the poems we know best, often used as a model for the villanelle form, but this month I set it as the backdrop of MyPoPerDay project.  I'm going to practice being a loser this month and write (not in villanelles!) about losses small and large. It's not an area of mastery for me.

Nov. 29
That White Jacket, 1984-1987
definitely not me

Not until we were in the airport already--warm day, air conditioning--
did I realize I had left the essential layer
for cool East German summers
draped over the exercise bike
in my bedroom:
I lost it for real
in the NYC subway.
Somehow that hurt less.
At least maybe someone was using it.

Nov. 30
"Engagement" Bracelet, c. 1994-2014

I miss the heavy, quiet clank of your hollow links, your easy toggle
on and off, the way your sterling silver polished itself
against my wrist, the way you steadfastly balanced
the weight, on my other arm, of any watch
in my parade of big plastic Swatches.
I miss your daily reminder of our
weighty commitment to love.
I took you off to swim
with the family
and you dis-
in the

I am
not over
not the same at all
you; I don't
feel like myself
without you; no number
of trendy silver bangles can begin to
replace you. Who cries
over an old
I do.

Dec. 1
Uterus, 1964-2002

We had only just gotten to know each other, really.  Companionably
silent for years, you came into your own, did what you were
designed to do and did it well.  Then complications
arose, and I'm sorry that the rest of me wasn't
up to the task, sorry that you took the
blame on that night of blood
not my uterus, either
and panic.

It was 
strange to
wake up and
find you gone.
We had unfinished 
business,  a contract 
to dissolve, 
a farewell 
to feel. 

drafts (c) HM 12.17


  1. The loss of daylight is a palpable loss. That's why I love celebrating the Solstice -- we can start to measure the seconds and minutes we regain!

    Weight -- I love how you went serious-funny-serious.

  2. Love the danglings on the earring losses.

    Parenting -- so hard to know how to give what we never got ourselves. Maybe that's why I begged off the whole endeavor...

  3. Ouch. The loss of your Mark Evan reminds me of my first loss of a childhood friend, Jay, to AIDS.

  4. I know you're going to re-kiddify, but I have enjoyed your adult poems as well. Sometimes the revelations we discover in adult writing are necessary dispatches to bring back to kidlit.