For three years, I studied flamenco dance at the local adult education center, mainly so I could write about it. (Writers are like that.) In the process, I discovered Spanish tapas, made friends, and realized that I liked darker colors than I had previously (cranberry, fir green, etc.). Also, kalamata olives! So, win-win.

As it happened, my teacher in real life is a florist, so I wrote this poem with her in mind, trying to capture the 3-3-2-2-2 rhythm of many of the different traditional dances, such as the allegrias (joy).


The Flamenco Teacher

for Malena, who is “just a florist”


The flowers are extravagant, unafraid,

brazen gypsies, holding nothing back

except their thoughts, haughty, bold

and sultry as a summer in Seville.

Their jade hips, clad in silken frills

blazing orange, purple, red, tilt

and turn toward the sun. They look

it straight in its single eye, like

matadors who challenge a golden bull,


like a flamenco dancer,

like two

who gaze

over their shoulders

at each other,




Petal, pistil, stamen, stem and root:

beneath your hands, these blossoms toss

heads, moody, beautiful, game for anything.

When you dance, your wrists become veined stems.


Your hands,

like yellow irises,






Twelve students cower, nerves jangling, filled

with doubt, try to crack through shells built

of concrete, tackle your taconeo, heelwork drills,

and, though tangled in our fears, leery of passion

and lacking the proper heat, feel the music, loud

and fast, hear the sad lyrics, enter the beat of










Something happens there, between one foot

and the other, with the keening, thrumming

guitar and the snap of castanets, something lean

and wary, beguiling, a trial by fire–

Uncomfortable? Yes, but vast and rowdy,

extravagant, filled with lust: just what we need

to travel out of our flustered selves, to become


tiger lilies

shot through

with fire,



at breaking inertia,


noses closer

to smell a faint perfume–


We trust you. Down to our roots,

where trembling buries itself in layer

upon layer, we strive to act proud,

new, we strive to fling away nine-to-five

inhibitions, hear the complaint of the driving

guitar as part of our everyday. You try

to turn our white carnation lives

patiently, into vivid play, create

a place for us to grow hardy

and come to no harm, be flamboyant,

joyous: gladiola gorgeous and sure.

Your arms draw broad circles in the air.

We mimic you grimly, well aware

of our flaws. Our own earnest arms only


stammer and

stutter those

moves that




until the music

we hear–


and you can see the difference clearly, in our faces–



the rambunctious

music clamors

through us,

proves your faith in us



Lightness follows, and grace, and, if it is not

consistent, if navigating gypsy space still

causes us to tighten our muscles and sweat,

if we still swallow our best instincts, if

our breath comes in broken, obstinate gusts–

still, we know we did it once, so we can.





our two



Bulbs do turn into buds, the beginnings

of burning color. And buds, though they may

wait a long time and bloom late, always

open and climb if they get enough sunlight

and cultivation. We are, each of us, not such

different creatures, our shut petals stirring,

finally, when we trust. You are a florist. Just

so. What you have learned from flowers,

you must teach.

Snow on the Daffodils/Invicta


After so many years in New England: you would think

I would know by now. Spring begins, flowers bloom,

The sun comes out, then runs away. Snow falls.


A flower that has spent its whole life pushing

Up through the soil, toward sun, toward itself,

Toward its own flower-ness: it didn’t do the work


Only to be frozen out, wilted. Who wants to stand

In the cold damp, waiting for something warmer?

Who wants icicles drizzled on one’s finery?


But the blossoms you can see are only the top

Third of the plant. The bottom third is root,

Deep in the hard, cold soil, holding on, taking in


Sustenance, the stuff of life. The middle, compressed

At the soil line, invisible: that is the tough mind and soul

Of the flower: resistance, resilience, hard unyielding patience.

Spring Promise


Now every breath is a scintillation of birdsong.

This fat little chickadee singing high and loud

Over the mild urban uproar: such a tiny feathered

Body to make such a big sound. Now yellow

Proclaims herself Empress of Grass, with squads

Of daffodils marching in her army. Now, after

A quick rain, the still bare branches hold onto

Raindrops like placeholders for the buds to come.

In the background, the snowbells ring out

A farewell to winter. Now only the dogwood

Will send its petaled snowflakes down on us.

Now, we throw off hibernation like a dark wool

Duffel coat as March clomps away in heavy boots.

Night Photography

Even without a camera, humans are always drawing

With light: every two hundred feet across the bridge

Street lamps hold out hope in pools of grey light

Across the tar. From a distance the bridge is almost

Perforated, an embroidery picked out in stars.


Holidays bring out our artistry. Look at the building,

Its roof, eaves and colonnade shining like a geometry

Problem written with a magic wand. And over there,

Across the river, fir trees like pointed wizard hats

Shimmer in gold, red, green and blue, silently.


But summer is best, when we let the colors fly

Into the black silk sky, an explosion of fire flowers:

Ice blue chrysanthemums, connect-the-dot

Scarlet tiger lilies, and the flash and flare of white

Snowbells that fall in a flurry into the river.


The river reflects on the sizzling stamens

As they disintegrate into its depths. It thinks

We are making offerings and perhaps we are.

Take these scattered petals of fire.

Grant us, in return, a year full of light.




Ode to Apollo


Too often the sky goes white all the way

To the edges, as if all the blue we had drained

Into the river and washed away. Too often


It seems like the world is void of blue or even

The grey that people call the sky when it rains.

And it’s not just color that leaks from the sky:


Light also loses its luster, as do the faces

Of the buildings, the people, the flowers.

There’s nothing the buildings can do about it.


They sit there facing the four directions

Equally. The people face downward, even

While walking, their noses inches away


From their phone screens; only a sickly light

Emanates without illuminating, and they

Never notice the sky, even when the sun


Reappears, finally, Apollo’s horses riding out

Of the cloud-cover to reassert the god’s sheer

Radiance. Only the flowers pay such close


Attention to the sky that they look up, basking

In the sudden warmth, and follow his blazing,

Glorious trail across the sky, transfixed and


Unable to look away, unwilling to think

Too soon about the inevitable fall of indigo

Dusk, purple evening and charcoal night.


But even then, the warmth stays with them

Nesting among their petals until chill midnight

Finds them facing East once more and hopeful.

Purple Poem


A while back I read something Georgia O’Keeffe said about how she stopped using color for a while and that it was a month before she found herself needing blue. I have written several poems about green for some reason, possibly because trees do this thing where all the leaves are a slightly different green. But I interacted with a purple flower recently and it made me think about that. So here we are.


There is a purple in the world–

Long ago only emperors

Were allowed to adorn themselves

With the rich, dark end

Of the rainbow–night coming on

With a light dew on the fields,

The stars blinking, the long yawn

Of the first full moon of spring:

That purple. Now even I could pluck such

A delicate flower, an emperor’s gift

And offer it to a perfect stranger.