from Ebbing Shore

Haibun for Ancestor Ernestine Turner (b. 1827)

A damp, darkness fell upon me as I sat lost in a day of finding ancestors.
From sunup, I combed through slavery records on the internet. Finally, there she was suspended in a database tree where the races blended and our dark skin began. She is not locatable in the census. She is the grandmother of my great, great grandfather and the property of a white man. He is listed as the father of her six children. She is scarcely listed by first name only with a birth year, here where my family tree changes shade, consentingly or not.

evening downpour
a screech owl
changes trees

*first published in Frogpond

from Down to Earth

Post-Surgery Strength

After I lay static two days, they came to resurrect me.
I needed sunlight, they said. The edge of the bed was
a magical feat. Lifted to a stand, gravity reminded me
I had indeed died a small death. Doused in sweat,
I pushed one dead foot in front of another. My weight
so heavy, the room became light. They insisted I sit a while.
No, I groaned, let’s make it to the window.

evening storm
the nurse measures
my heart rate

*first published in Connotation Press

haiku from One Window’s Light

another mass shooting
my son practices
his trumpet solo

from Wildflowers

When Darkness Comes

We lived for the annual company picnic, gourmet food
trucks, games, wine, and music until darkness fell—all free
not counting employee blood, sweat, and tears. Michael,
the family man, gripped a red wagon one year carrying two
of his six children. So much depended on his hand—
mortgages, baseball practices, every email account in the
company. Still, no one saw it coming. After custody losses,
second divorce, that same hand pulling a trigger to quiet
the voices that kept calling him: do it, just do it, silence

a sad clown
face paints children

from Running Music


From here, memory as distant as sky, you
appear miniscule, maybe seven, left
to wander the mile-long path to school.

Morning, wild and late, overslept.
The clusters of other walkers long gone.
You’re warned: Do not look up, do not misstep!

Daydreamer, teachers complain. Easily drawn
to the finch in the window, the nest it forms
flying in each twig to make its branched throne.

And it’s easy on this path of silent sun,
birds so blue they stop you cold, enticing
you to follow their swooping tree runs

until you’re on the off road, looking
each way, each distance a contemplation—
home, a locked shelter; school, a cage waiting.

*first published in Pinesong

from Routes Home

Whole Fish

My Aunt Ruth slumbers over a plate of whole fish
she fried moments before in cornmeal and oil,
swearing the entire time she would eat every bite.
Before frying her fish, she had taken a break
to smoke a Slim and drink a shot of Jack.
Needed some Jack, she said, after that fishing trip.
The black, angry bass still flipping slow intervals
in a bucket of one-inch water then, had moments before
endured a ghastly tug of war. Two predators fighting
voraciously over him. Aunt Ruth in a flimsy garden hat,
pulling at him on her lucky pole and a moccasin’s
throat clamped around his tailfin, pulling back.
My aunt yelling victorious at first glimpse,
then screaming in terror at what rose with it.
Anyone would have thrown it back at once,
pole too if need be, but Aunt Ruth, a lady
of scuffling instinct, picked up a stick,
and beat the moccasin off her hooked fish.
Take that, she chided, as the moccasin let go,
receding back into the pond. Moments before,
she had sat, almost asleep, on the nothing biting.