"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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

10 Things I want to do before I die

This list is not a poem, but a note for the day.  One poem a day and I have passed 150.  Thanks to everyone.

Learn to play the guitar.
Write my own folk songs.
Sing the blues.
Travel through Europe.
Take the train across Canada.
Publish 100 books.
Write a children's book with my mother.
Help start a business that employs artists.
Create an art exhibition for children.
Make a super great walkable flower garden.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Free Garden

Free Things in My Garden 2010

This was the summer of free plants
in my garden.  I didn't buy them,
I didn't get them as gifts,
they grew on their own. 
Here they are in a sort of reverse order:

-One Cinderella Pumpkin vine
sprung out of the compost-- with huge
orange blossoms like a morning dose
vitamin C, it's curling spirals cuter
than pig tails or goldilocks locks

-Morning Glories vined up the fence,
born from last years seed pods, the ones we popped all snowy winter,
now blooming azure, fuscia, and white,
cresting in a slow wave
of heaping tendrils

-Two large dragon headed
Sunflowers, free of charge.  Their
unlooked for sunrise framed
each side of the back stoop,
a gift from birds we fed
during the freeze

-Flowering perennials
spread from the neighbors yard,
roots and seeds honoring no human
fence.  A burst of lilac for unnamed

-Zinnia and Marigold seeds
harvest from last year, spread on the wing
of a muddy spring, bushed into
sparks of red, orange, and magenta

-An arm of the Rose bush, long dead,
dark red, green arrowed leaves
attesting to determined life

-Two white Puffball Mushrooms,
edible, wicked overnight, six inches tall,
by a blind July morning's
air wizarding fungus behind
steaming windows

-A dozen yellow Day Lilies
courtesy of  R&S Lawn,
paid for by the fire insurance

-Red tulips popping up
39 in all, six arriving where
I planted four, four appearing
where I planted only two--
division by multiplication
mysterious mitosis under
the earth

-Dandelions, of course,
died out after the spring,
their roots ready for roasting,
their winged fruit full of seeds
unremembering of their
Mayflowern bearers who
carefully kept them safe
through the long winter

-Purple violets, plantains,
crab grass, pickle grass,
thistles, miniature daisies,
and other weedy types

-ivy's, vines and
old onions from last
fall. We were very thankful,
very thankful for it all.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


You know it smells good--
It's black like coffee,
brown like chocolate.
Add a little sugared sun,
and you have any taste
in the world.
Babies push it in by the
handful.  I know
it's good because they
stuff it into their mouths,
chomp down, and

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thimble full

I wear her thimble
on my finger when I sew.
It fits perfectly.

I make her crock pot spaghetti,
the kind that’s too juicy, and hardly red,
then eat it off her old plates.

I hum her same note at the end of a
laugh, because I too
really don’t know what to say.

It’s her ahh we all sigh
at the end of our belly
laughs that die slowly away.

Her star is at the top of my tree.
I sleep in her bed,
set my porcelain doll on her dresser
exactly where hers towered
above my head.

Someday I will plant a cherry tree
like she did.  I will show my
granddaughter how to
find the good ones,
and how to spot the worms.

I will make coffee, eggs,
toast, bacon—all
on the same morning

I am not her, I am not her,
and she is near by
but it won't ever be the same.

1,000 Congregation

The steel plaque
high on the wall

maximum capacity

1,000 rust colored office chair
form around the room like wax
on cheese.

Firmly set, like dentures
on gums, 1,000 heads
heads set on shoulders

1,000 heads
not a hair out of place
man, woman
grandmother, grandfather

slicked back
concentrated faces
attentive ears to hear

not a hair falls on the floor
not a hair on their heads
will be...not a hair

how many bottles
of hairspray
do the people in this
room use every month?


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Poet in half

Every night
I swim
in an ocean
of poetry
under the moon,
or walk
an alphabet
beach, my bare
feet frozen by
waves of

Pilgrimage to the Grotto of Lourdes

At age twenty-six I walked
a palmer’s pilgrimage.
My answer, like the journey,
cut like the edge of the dry palm leaf
My journey, like that blade,
up St. Mary’s mountain, and down,
down back to the valley’s shadow
left me like a dream.

Two candles burned in the grotto,
like that dream, their tiny prisms
shadowed by the dark
womb of the cave.

It wasn't the cave where I
found the answer, it was the valley
I heard a voice ...
Hope is the thing with feathers,
a postcard with no note.

Born into the heat of summer,
home on a cool June day
in Pennsylvania, my prayer lived.
A child.  She entered the world
when the roses awakened,
when the daisies whispered hello,
and the cornflowers blew kisses.
Blue like her eyes.

She came five years after I carried
roses down a red carpeted aisle,
half a decade after I tossed
daisies and bachelor buttons
to the maids in green dresses.

Born into the ice of day
Swaddled to sleep
by the lights of the Christmas
tree--with pink poinsettias
framing the garret--
he smiled in
his basket bed.

And when I asked for a child,
I stood on the mountain studying
the artist’s stonelife of Mary,
Mary holding her newborn,
carved with the joy of morning.
I studied the bronze grief
of the Pieta, Mary
holding her dead son.

Joy and grief go together,
she told me.  You cannot
have one without the other,
Yes, I agreed.  I will take

Born into an hour of grief
asleep in death
before light’s piercing
she was already gone.
Rose of Sharon
bloomed white
in mourning
like her absence.

Pink roses in the vase
reflected the name
of the child I lost
before receiving.  And
I accepted the grief with
the joy, because I'd accepted
the risk to be
a mother.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Seventy Seventh Triangle

Seventy Seventh Triangle

Thirty-one blackbirds prowl in our yard
to peck and preen, to steal or glean.
They started it?  Well really
it was the cat, which is why this is a triangle.
But maybe it’s important to mention
there are only blackbirds in this neighborhood,
and two hawkish bluejays-- who are crows
with pretty coats.  But when I walk five blocks north,
I find a fine variety of frightened
birds keeping out of their territory.

Bean, as the calico cat was called, caught a crow
one day.  She murdered him, heaved the fence,
with his broken neck telling
his story down one side of her smile,
scatted over our yard,
and then safely into her own.

That was the day,
the day the conspiracy of crows gathered
on the wire running to our house like
so many jailbirds or tar babies—
planning revenge against
any creature who touched
one of their own.

That was the last day of peace
in the triangle.  Within a day or two
Bean was “killed by a car,”
Her house mate, the Pekinese,
died “suddenly.”

Kay’s husband,
across the street, was carried out
in a black death bag.
“died in his sleep.”
Neighbors poked their
beaks from behind white curtians.
She had cooked him fresh hash browns
every morning for breakfast
by scraping one potato
through the grater,
one potato a day for sixty years.

Her daughter
pulled a four leaf clover out of
our front lawn and gave it to us.

For luck,

Death comes in threes,

they said, but it was too late.
They didn’t know about
the harbinger crow.  The crow
was the first death--
making four in all.

Our house died by fire
and crowbar soon afterwards.
The blue dumpster
sat in the drive way
for four months in front of
her souless windows.

A year later, we crossed
our fingers and counted
through the day—nothing
except a small feathery
nightmare to foretell…

Another death in our house
and another in her's.

Our houses
on seventy-seventh

I blame the crows.
And I tell you,
that makes six

--the cycle is complete.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Li-Young Lee

Li-Young Lee wrote the first poem that changed my life.  My poetry professor, Christine Perrin, introduced our 101 class to his work.  I didn't know then, twelve years ago, that I would become great friends with Christine, that she would give me a reference for a Master's in writing, that I would write poetry myself (I only wanted courses to help me learn to write for children).
Twelve years ago, I had no idea poetry was the answer to my senior thesis as a painting major, the answer to my search for words, the answer to lost memories, to our first house burning down, to the loss of our second daughter, and to every loss and gain life has to offer.

A friend of mine, who has been my "Marilla," the woman who told it to me straight while I sat on a chair and complained about how my feet hurt, knew that Li-Young Lee was important to me, even when I had forgotten all about it. 

She went out of her way to have him sign a copy of his book, "Rose," published in 1986.  Lee uses the word rose in much of his poetry.  He signed the book this way,

"Polly, Roses we
burn, opening
mystery &
Li-Young Lee"

Neither he, nor I, could know that I too would try my hand at poetry;  I would begin to use the word rose as a small word picture; work on a group of poems about "the seed of fire;" that our poetry would spill into other's lives-- changing them as only words can.  Only in poetry, I think, the words are stronger together than they could ever be alone.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The cinquant is a five line poem with constrained syllables--- 

I love
My Zinnias--
iced birthday cakes tapered
in fuschia cream, star-shaped candles'
sweet dream

Monday, July 19, 2010

July is gone

July is waving her hat at me
she's stepping on the train
Blue ribbons lay in languid heat
til pulled by passing wind
Goodbye, July
Goodbye, dear friend
We'll miss you all the same
The cicadas ring their ragged wheel

Tears fall and  
there isn't any rain.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pink II

Things that are pink:

The church I dreamt about last night
with three windows-- one circle,
one square, and one circle
Dr. Doolittle's sea snail
my laptop
the living room
Zinnia's in the garden
rosy finger nail beds
pink feet

Saturday, July 17, 2010

One low

One long high note
one low

Mom's whistling for me,


My name, like Chinese,
is tonal.  Two notes--

One long high note
one low

Black Capped Chickadee
he makes the same call

One long high note
one low


He whistles from
a slender tree

One long high note
one low

stop calling me


coos my son
through a screen

One long high note
one low

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hope falls

Here is a poem made of three haiku.  The word hope appears in a different line each time, as I think about working up to a new form, the sestina. This group of poems are metaphorical, but also about a baby named Hope that died in infancy, and my own daughter who died in utero in 2010.

Hope falls like rose buds
clipped before bloom or budding
laying on the ground

Pigeons peck seeds or songs
hope is the thing with feathers
falling to the ground

Sitting silently
we may let each other down
hope is the only light

we see from underground


Chickory or Forget-me's
Cornflowers or bachelor blue's
Roadside rebels,rocky revels
I see you
swinging on the highway
lolling by the drive
blinking underneath the sun,
but dreaming of the night,
but dreaming of the night.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

House on a cliff

Outside the house there is
a deep ravine, a chasm
of loss
The roof salutes the sky
with her A to the gray
the windows reveal
only darkness within
the house perches
on her skyway of logs
thickly laid
covered in
protected from the spray
over the abyss
She is waterproof
She is impenetrable
She is unreachable

Will she stand?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ode to Cheese

Today I learned about strong verbs, and how they can even replace adjectives when used in a good way...

Cheese, beautiful Cheese

cheese compliments a dry saltine
cheese glows with beta carotene
cheese hums lightly like caffeine
cheese smiles the color of tangerine
but grew in darkness clandestinely

Monday, July 12, 2010

This is the way

Sweep the floor, sweep the floor
This is the way we sleep the floor
every, every day...

This is the way I write a poem,
write a poem, write a poem
this is the way I write a poem,
every, every day.

Stringing words,
cutting, shifting,
finding, sifting
reaching, choking
braving, coaxing

typing, revising,
then I'm done...

I press, post,

and breathe



The sun--of course
The moon--sometimes
Two bananas--almost
The center of my eye
A chocolate cake
A wedding ring
Those morning glory curly things
lids and bottle caps
The round part of a hat
Bubbles in flight
A belt that's tight
Halos and bells
Tree ring tells
A cartwheel's trace
A smiling face

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Houses without shrubbery

Houses without shrubbery
look very bare
showing their foundations
like cement block underwear.
Revealing their privacy
without a bush or tree,
so please plant something,
if only to please me.

Friday, July 9, 2010


I'll change my hair from a down to an updo,
one thing I won't change--
my FB relationship status with you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Songs we sing

Songs we sing at home:

"Vacation"  Try singing this
while on vacation-  it's more like
a cheer.  No matter
how much you aren't into it,
by the time you scream
"cake," you feel ready to roll.

Vacation, Vacation,
We finally get

Vacation, Vacation,
now how about
some CAKE!


This version of "Rock-a-bye, Baby" is about
letting go and trusting...

Rock-a-bye, Baby
in the tree top.
When the wind blows,
the cradle will rock.
When the bow breaks,
the cradle breaks free.
God Bless Baby,
Baby and me.

Rock-a-bye, Baby
in the tree top.
When the wind blows,
the cradle will rock.
When the bow swings
the cradle will fly--
Fly away Baby,
Baby and I.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

To my Daughter

You left some fairy footprints for us
on your way to Heaven.
You held us briefly,
walked us to the end
of a dark shadow, and
flew away into the light.

You pulled our eyes
to the weave of the curtain,
invited us to peak into
the invisible.
We saw inside the seam,
visited a place between,
you helped us imagine

You remind us
that life is all about joy,
laughter, smiles,


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rabbit Hole Dream

When Alice fell down the rabbit hole
she wasn't dreaming.
Falling so slowly, for so long,
she began to sleep and dream--
and everyone knows
that is impossible to dream
a dream that you are dreaming.
For if you dream that
you are dreaming
then you are really awake.

Monday, July 5, 2010


My love for you is like plastic
forget-me-nots lounging
in their plastic vase.
It's not high class,
but it'll last until
pigs fly in outer space.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Inside the seam

I've seen in side the seam
where the secrets are
the dark before the sun's first rose
inside the black new moon,
and there I found
that life is sewn
woven on an invisible loom,
and I am grateful
for the chance
to hear the Maker's tune,
and I am grateful
for the chance
to hear the Maker's