"dazzle gradually"

"Dazzle Gradually" 2017 poems, paintings, new art & photography--a diary, a discipline, a delight. Read over my shoulder as I post my unedited poetry ---you can see it in the raw or get my first book and see how the work evolves with new books rolling out next year.

Polly Alice

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gentle Reader, You are not gentle

I love the old books from my grandmother's childhood which often started out with a letter from the author.  Often, addressed to "gentle reader." 
Sometimes we are gentle readers and sometimes we are not.  Mostly this title seems to me, to be asking the reader to be gentle--to understand that the author is just human after all, and only hopes to please.  I never hear much about how writing is really about the relationship between writer and reader.  Like the cool counselor at summer camp that everyone wanted, writers who make us feel wanted, useful, special, and talented--and most of all part of that cool group-- are the ones we go back to again and again.

Gentle Reader,
You are not gentle

Gentle Reader,
 you are not gentle.
Skeptic that you are,
you, like me,
do not read poetry.
You write a little,
and recognize
when two roads
diverge in a yellow wood,
but I . . .
I take the road
less traveled by,
and that makes it
impossible to
for us to walk
along together
Robert Frost's Poems
you take it


Servants Songs

An old poem I published in my college journal over a decade ago.  I still like it. 

Servants’ Songs
in Isaiah chapters 40-55
Listen to servants’ songs
And sing them out again.

Sweet melodies rise over soapy dishes
and fly through kitchen windows
to the wishing stars.

Some grow in gardens under hats,
and in sidewalk crevices
where men carry the paper home

Others float in mop water
like lily pads
and leap out wherever
janitors light windows golden at night.

Servants’ songs spring
from swing sets, laughing
choruses of tinkling ice cubes
from a thousand evening porches.

They rise into orange twilights
from fire escapes and
free themselves from clothespins
to soar over cities.

And those who capture them
let them go again.

               ~Bubbles, Rainbows and Worms

Saturday, February 27, 2010

How many times a robin

How many times does a robin
dive his beak into the dirt
in faith a worm is there?
Does he trust the rain's
convincing drip to drive them,
or does he trust the worm
to do his job and breathe?

Fifty Uncommon Birds of the Upper Midwest (Bur Oak Book)

Thursday, February 25, 2010



Peal back a bit of my skin,
you’ll find pink flesh inside.
Behind my pale human eye,
a slim copper disk.
Under my hair,
fuschia scales.
Hook your finger
into my friendly smile--
gills are there. 

I, marked with roses, 
am the only one,
I drink in whole oceans,
to propel myself back to  
a birthplace,
a secret place,
I can’t remember.

I will find the answer,
or taste bile’s
bitter death trying.


Three Tombs

Three Crosses
One Tomb
Three Women
One Grave
Three Wisemen
One Cradle
Three Angles
One Cave


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Under the Stars


The night canopy,
my darkening quilt of pin pricked suns--

white, blue, black.

The mud, a trees height below
cooling with dusk dew--

red, earth, dirt.

The deck,
boards lashed tight spinning
their way over a Milky river of stars--

gray, midnight, white.

Grandpa’s sleeping bag,
a soft beast radiating dark heat--

brown, yellow, gold.

Mosquito spots,
stars without number--

red, pink, red.

The price of another delicious night
out of bed.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mrs. Polly lived in a yellow house

Ch1 p.1: “Mma Ramottswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Eagle Hill. These were its assets: a tiny white van, two desks, two hairs, a telephone, and an old typewriter. Then there was a teapot, in which Mma Ramotswe—the only lady private detective in Botswana—brewed redbush tea. And three mugs—one for herself, one for her secretary, and one for the client. What else does a detective agency really need? Detective agencies rely on human intuition and intelligence, both of which Mma Ramotswe had an abundance. No inventory would ever include those, of course.”

Here is the first line from one of my favorite novels by Alexander McCall Smith.  In writing my imitation, I think it is the objects which make this introduction stand out.  The objects introduce the setting; the objects introduce the secondary characters.  My art and writing have always been driven by objects.  Things in themselves provide so much information about character, meaning, and situation.

Mrs. Polly lived in a yellow house
at the top of Platte Woods hill
near the Pizza Shop.

These were its assets:
blue shutters, hard wood floors,
fenced yard, and a
Garden of Eden dining room chandelier. 

Then there was a tea pot in which
Mrs. Polly--former painter, now mother of two--
boiled hot water for black tea every day
between three and four o'clock
(whenever the children were spinning
from their nap, and she needed a quick

And the two flowered mugs
she bought at the Salvation Army
for nineteen cents when they were very poor --
one for herself and one for Sophie,
her daughter who usually drank
"flower" tea which was really chamomile. 

What else does a yellow house really need? 
Mother's rely on intuition, research,
and the proper amount of caffeine,
all of which Mrs. Polly had in abundance. 

No inventory would ever
include those, of course.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Over again

Over again I've had this nightmare:
I go down to the basement.
I find my lost pets,
hamsters mostly, a few turtles.
They are still alive.
They are still in their cages
now green with age.
They have not been fed
for ten, twenty years.
They have evolved into rueful
matted beasts with sharpened teeth.
Each time I am horrified.
I have neglected those I loved the most.
I have forgotten them.
How did they live?
How have they survived?
How to free them safely--
wretched monsters--
they may want revenge.
One night you  are there at 
my annual observation of old pets .
You enter the kitchen.
Creatures hatefully scuttle the floor .
I weep over what to do.  Should I feed them?
Would it help?
You break open the door with a fresh baguette.
They escape out into Parisian cobbled streets.
You say, Let them go.
They have never returned.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The last best pretend

The last best pretend

Under the buzzing street light
     I was the Princess Bride.   
You were Indigo Montoya.
     Two guys were there,
Were they princes, giants, heroes?
     I don’t remember.  . .
They were sword fighting,
     I was demure,
you were brilliant.
     It was the last best pretend,
and it was the best one of all.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Jacob's Song

An old poem I wrote in 1999 is about one of the Bible characters from the OT I could never relate to, Jacob.  Jacob works very hard to steal his older brother's birthright.  I guess as a first born, I felt he was a little tricky.  My family has been visiting an emerging church called Jacob's Well.  Jacob and Isaac were always digging wells in a new land, even when their neighbors politely asked them to leave by filling in said wells.  Jacob and I are finally friends.  His poem reminds me that in the spiritual life, you just have to keep digging 
no matter what happened to the first, 
second, and third wells.

Jacob’s Song
Searching for a place
I have a name
that’s not a curse--
a softer rock, a dream

Send me a ladder
Lift me on wings
Come down and take on human skin
We’ll see who’s stronger then!

I’ll wrestle you and pin you down,
grab your heel
I won’t let go
until you answer me

Oh God, if in wrestling
hope and blessing are pinned--
I’ll scratch and bite and
holler for a name of my own

I will fight.
I will not sit silent
I will scream
to be given a name 

Bless me too, Father 
Bless me

Bless your name forever


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Salty Stars

I've been struggling with two poems for the last three years.  One is about a quilting bee which I was proud to be a part of at an Episcopal church in the Northland of KC.  The other poem was about my Grandmother's disappearance into advanced Alzheimer's.  My grandmother was an avid quilter and artisan crafter of doilies, dollies and even bunny shaped plunger covers.  Quilting is one of the most important parts of Western crafts, especially to women.  I did my undergraduate work on the importance of quilting: it's essential act of repairing and remembering can be applied to every part of life.  Here I have worked these two poems together so that each stanza is a haiku.  In poetry all errors should be intentional, and that is what I strive for here.

At the quilting bee,
I sit pricking my finger
remembering her.

Conversation threads
thrown, caught, taught, and tied off tight--
cotton webs of words.

Tip tuck tip tuck tip
swims my short, gold tipped needle
from my unknowing thimble,

It’s in her weakness,
the prick of the hidden hand
her strength measured out.

For every stitch,
thimble pushing through fabric,
she pricked her finger.

How many stitches? 
a thousand dashed treasure map
of small finger pricks.
Each stab saying,
 “I will always remember,”
but now instead, she

she travels freely,
in a wane world without words,
entering the stratosphere

of eternity,
bursting the glass sphere of time.
She watches sun beams,

particles of  dust,
messages of light
to one darkened life.

A million decadillion
salty stars settling
down into the depths

of her memory--  
a bed of feathered milk weed.
Why would she want to

leave this wild garden
anyway?  She is free to
wander in new light.

Grandma remember
me? I remember for the
both of us.  Ever

I sit  blindly unaware,
pricking my finger
to remember.
to remember


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday Bird

Ash Wednesday Bird
Tall as my gray cat
the wednesday bird
peers at me
from his gutter.

Like the raven,
he brings back news 
there is nowhere to land.

There is no rest, he cries,
only water
as far as the eye can see.

I reach into my pockets.
In the left, ashes,
In the right,
a seed.

What I wouldn’t give
for an olive branch,
a hope
that there was stiffener
for my wrinkled heart,
soggy with the gray days.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

To Your Nose

To your nose

a smell is a prophecy
an interpretation
of the past
and a necessary



Monday, February 15, 2010

Metro Stop 1999

metro stop

in a dark gallery
echo storms roll
through people
a girl with
red hair’s been
crying  women
greet after a long
a man with universe-
night skin
sits with the blind man
in a white coat
flashbulbs pop
stars sizzle
escalators snake
a dark gallery
do they
see me