Tanka 133, Shadorma 212

From Count Syllables on Your Fingers, the collection published in 2020.

Tanka 133

the marble staircase
spiraled half-flights and landings
pulled tight and tighter
until the rising floors meet
under the shadowy roof.


Shadorma 212

Your shadow
crossing the three scraps
of paper
on the floor
moved not an inch in three days
Can they make it four?


Settled the Books

From the collection published in 2020, Use All Your Eyes to See.

Settled the Books

Our deal broke up on bad terms
now we are on no terms at all
I paid bills I didn’t owe
until my strength ran out
to put the pen to paper and
fill the spaces with the numbers
that kept me seeing red. In the end
I let you off because
I was the only creditor
and getting nowhere with it
but I’m telling you
I don’t know how you feel
I don’t much care
but as for me –
what absolute
fixed and final relief it is
to walk away from keeping count


A few new: Snippets 369, 367, 365

Schedule disruptions and a cranky computer prevented me from posting these yesterday. As my poetry session of this week I did some Snippets. Here are three of them.

after nightfall.
the city took any opportunity
to persuade

the uneven darkness
All of the silent mercy
of the Sky

Then, a voice.
She tried to answer.

Tanka 131, Haiku 719, Tanka 132

From Count Syllables on Your Fingers, the collection published in 2020.

Tanka 131

no secret passage
a portly ghost can count on
exists in this house
ghosts were smaller in the past
the tour guide said. Like she knows.


Haiku 719

pulled and unraveled
the sweater disintegrates
useless pile of yarn


Tanka 132

Cutting the slight curve
the saw blade bucks to a halt
the angle is wrong
let the guiding hand listen
align to the blade’s music


Haiku 717, 718; Tanka 120

From Count Syllables on Your Fingers, the collection published in 2020.

Haiku 717

citronella stink
mosquitos quick back it off
the unbite is on


Haiku 718

citronella night
scratched a few mosquito bites
lifted a few beers


Tanka 130

Ancient and battered
fierce eyes in a wrinkled face
old survivor waits
moves only when I have gone
Turtle crossing the wide path.


Large Artist Sketchbook 2020: The Estufa Fria in February

You may know that in addition to my poetry I also do art, posted on my blog Claudia McGill and Her Art World. For the next several months I will be posting here a combined art/poetry project, Large Artist Sketchbook 2020.

I fill up sketchbooks with all kinds of art. Some contain images only and some of them I use the images as inspiration for poetry. In these books the image is on one page of the spread and the poetry on the other. This book is set up in this manner.

I’ll show you the image and then add the poem that goes with it. See what you think.

Note: In 1998 our family visited Lisbon, Portugal, and one of the places we went was the Estufa Fria. Since then we have referred to any greenhouse garden in this way, as a nod to our fond memory of the trip.

The Estufa Fria in February

Shut the door on the sullen monologue
the one that’s been going on too long
will winter ever end
Put it aside. The botanical garden
free on Sundays a modest charge other days
Nothing to stop you. Come in.

The sashay of fronds along
the pea gravel path
The verve the swerve the swish
of the impertinent bloom
that reaches for your hand
The air so moist it splashes. The sky
that hovers above the palms
Breathe it in.

The leafless oaks outside
peer through the glass
is that a snowflake?
while we
in the middle of this gray-brown
winter-coat-wearing city
we laugh.
Winter doesn’t dare say a word here.

Large Artist Sketchbook 2020 Image 4

Haiku 715, Tanka 129, Haiku 716

From Count Syllables on Your Fingers, the collection published in 2020.

Haiku 715

the old professor
until the moths got to him
still cowed his students


Tanka 129

no secret passage
no phantoms rousing panic
no ectoplasm.
The home inspection seals it.
No deal. Not haunted enough.


Haiku 716

hip bump stars on left
sweep-arm brush-off moon on right
and cloud sidles by


Little Vines 6/8/21

This week’s Little Vines.

you sure made a mess of things
trying to take out your own wisdom teeth
As the only intelligent part of your body
I say you’d better leave them where they are

the leftover secrets no one cared about
broken into fragments –
goodness, they are still quite tasty

sick in bed
then he got well
That’s the whole story. What were you hoping to hear?

the saboteur of my comfort and my sanity
the necromancer down the street
from his living room he slowly rolls my hair in curlers
scraping the bobby pins across my scalp.

they blame us how they blame us.
we really need the rain
let everyone else take their chances
they said. we really need the rain.

your vocabulary
is giving off
quite a blue glow. Cover those kids’ ears.

Good evening sir
the voice recedes
I realize the ghost can see me.

Haunted forest…tripped on a tree root in the frosty mist…
a closer look… no, it’s fingers clutching at my ankle.
Just as I thought. Will they ever learn any new tricks?

Made the trip on foot
that’s what those phonies said?
My eye. They don’t even have real feet.

the forces of gravity proceed to their next victim:
adult male, carrying packages, trips on stairs
OK, they say. We’ll take it from here.

secrets fall like sticks of gum
from my mother’s purse
carelessly left open

she’s sheepish and cringing at the slightest reminder
and these idle gossiping neighbors make sure
she’s doing a whole lot of sheepish and cringing

zip I run the line of stitches
up the fabric and zip
it never fails. A dress appears.

you tortured pink icing
into lopsided roses
and now they are meting out some pain of their own

the jingle bedfellow door voice code detect
phenomenon data informed configuration
meaning: I thought I heard someone downstairs
I woke my husband and told him to go check

a seat in the middle school auditorium
a headache steadily getting worse
the saxophone quartet continuing its search for the melody

the story involved
a handful of topaz beads
mistaken for vitamin caplets

the children have grown so much, you said
in the yard the leaves grimace in the wind
in the house the vanished years sag around us

A moderate-price bottle of perfume
too much success
in using it. Teenage girls
giggling under the streetlight.

the tube of paint bloated with vermilion pigment
belches out a malignant landscape
dares you to say a word

The radio tower transmitting from our side yard
Scanning with a sub-harmonic atonal frenetic beam
The moon ignites. Toasted green cheese.

you find me at my desk
composed and indiscreet
a glorious panorama of office indiscretions before me

Haiku 713, Tanka 128, Haiku 714

From Count Syllables on Your Fingers, the collection published in 2020.

Haiku 713

last used yesterday
the knitting needles impale
a ball of green yarn


Tanka 128

full blue coffee mugs
full sugar bowl and creamer
no sign of a spoon
the hostess takes a phone call
leaves perplexed guests to simmer


Haiku 714

impressive cobwebs
drape the dresser’s underside
testing the dust mop


Late on Sunday Afternoon

From the collection published in 2020, Use All Your Eyes to See.

Late on Sunday Afternoon

The city leans in on you
the streets curling like horizontal vines
poised to twist around your ankles
and yank. You trip on a broken curb.
Peeling vacant the empty store facades
leer and lurch along the street
the one occupied location
just hanging up the Closed sign
For today or forever you don’t know
and it doesn’t matter. Instead
the alley hooks out a finger to you
the palm of its hand holding
a flock of café chairs and tables
pink red orange lemon tangerine
skinny legs set on a cracked asphalt
skin lined with memory fate
wealth love and all of it meaning nothing
Every chair is empty every table bare
You skirt the silent crowd you don’t look back.
Inside the faded hotel a maze of
staircase half-flights twist through landings
the built-to-last and wondering why
solid masonry walls looming over
the lobby a grandiose and silent space
whose carpet is worn past any refreshing
and the restaurant is closed for dinner
You step aside to avoid
the unctuous-by-rote good evening
the concierge sends skimming
over three white scraps of paper
fallen at his feet and ignored
Not his job. He has already
overcharged you for postcard stamps
and your room is noisy and hot.
The city
leans in on you.