Sunday, December 26, 2010

Poem of the Week #156

Christmas Day Dream in Blue

On Christmas day,
I walk down to the lake,
a deep winter day
when the lake and the sky
are a symphony to my eye of blue:
grey-blue, white-blue, blue-blue
periwinkle-blue and green-blue.
Don’t forget (near the shore)
a swath of brown-blue, more
brown than blue, like creamed coffee
or liquid toffee churning against the rocks.

I want to walk out to the lighthouse
because who wouldn’t want to stand at the tip
of the world in all that blueness of blue?
My inner mother scolds me: it will be risky
to attempt the lighthouse on a day like this
when no one knows I’m here. One minute,
I could be standing on the breakwater and the next,
Poseidon could rise up and carry me down
to the bottom of the sea for a kiss.
Okay, not Poseidon. This is, after all,
Lake Michigan. Let’s say it would be

Poseidon’s second cousin, twice removed,
Jake, all crystally cold, rising up from the surf
on his frosty steed to whisk me down to his turf
under the lake where everything is made of liquid ice.
We’d have a dance and a feast. He’d treat me nice
and bedeck me in sparkly gems and a diamond diadem.
I’d be his warm-blooded queen of the world beneath the waves;
just what I’ve always wanted to be. Yes! I will go out
to the end of the jetty and be ready when Jake comes for me.

But at the final stretch, even the devil-may-care gal
that is me can see that only a complete fool
would walk out there today. The jetty is slick
as wet glass, and slants toward the frozen cauldron.
One false step, even on the high end, and I could slide
right over the edge into the frigid deep. Forget Jake.
The sign at the point-of-no-return explicitly states:
Strong undertow. If in doubt, don’t go out.
My date with Jake will have to wait.

I will never know if he might really have come
or if I could have at least stood there against the blue
and imagined the gift of his hands warming me through
and through. Some things are better left in the head
than to risk being dead, especially
on such a happy day as this,
a day so blue yet full of bliss,

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Poem of the Week #155

Body Parts

My eye has a young reflex
and my optic nerves protrude.
(The better to see you with!)
I see bright spots, too.
They float just ahead of me.

Though my Turkish saddle
is now empty (too much pressure
causing invagination; that is,
a turning within) my Isles
of Langerhans are thriving.

Whereas my Canals of Hering
are teeming with tiny gondolas
that transport lovers to secret
rendez-vous for candlelit dinners
and exquisite kisses,

the fascia of my feet are tired.
I have a hollow at my tailbone
that has been known to contain
hair and teeth. Perhaps I am
descended from apes?

I do not know and cannot keep track
of all the changes in the temple.
I have asked the gatekeeper to send up a flair
now and then. It comes in various forms:
a painful twinge, a burst of laughter.

All I can be certain of is that this dress
of flesh is well-worn. I keep it washed
and ironed the best I can. It is just
my temporary cloak, and one day,
I will let it hang still in the closet
while I go out to play.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Poem of the Week #154

Passing On

I never met Ina Mae
but I own her rolling pin.

It was given me by Barry,
her once next-door neighbor.

His love for her taught me
that love knows no age.

She was always sweet to him
when he needed a friend

and something good to eat.
He, forty years her junior.

She was legendary and long gone
when I arrived on his scene.

Now, when I make rhubarb pie
in summer or chocolate shortbread

in winter, I picture her smiling
on her back porch in the house

next to Barry’s holding up
something on a plate. She has

a gray bun at the nape
of her neck and a flowered

apron that she smooths with weathered
hands. Her rolling pin turned butter

and flour into love, and now I have it,
have had it for nearly thirty years.

With each change, it just keeps rolling
and one day, I will pass it on to you.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Poem of the Week #153

Mrs. P

Her upstairs flat smelled like spray starch
and the skin of her upper arms, filigreed
with thin purple veins, flapped
when she raised them. She scared me
and she liked me. I don’t know why.
Her emphysema was ferocious,
so she would send me to the corner store
for her smokes and a can of soup.
In photos on her walls, she was a young,
vibrant woman singing into a microphone.
Now she ironed shirts for single men.
The story: she had left some place else
a husband and a son. I wanted to know:
Could a mother really leave her only one?
I guess so. Sometimes, late at night,
I’d awake to the drone of engines
and flashes of red and blue light
beating at my bedroom window.
She had called the firemen again
to bring her back with oxygen.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Poem of the Week #152

Poems Found on Eastbound I-94,
Heading to Detroit

This year thousands of men
will die from stubbornness.
Failed, failed, failed
and then, persistence.
Be passionate.
Be inspired.
We take a load off your mind.
We’ve got you covered.
Full steam ahead.
Moving is the best medicine.

The location of luxury,
let us take you there.
Family preservation program
Adult super store
over 3,000 DVDs.

Breakfast all day
Peace, love, and wine
More fun than a zoo
It’s called velvet
for a reason.

Dedicated to a sense of honor,
warm up to joy.
You’re almost out of gas.
Save energy.
Make some magic:
The fresh and spunky one
The striking and savvy one
The cool and flexible one
Be prepared to stop.
Feeling lucky?
Climax, next exit.

Beer cave
Model homes open

The best MRI, clearly.
Eat. Shop. Relax.

Need your oil changed? Here is
your first chance for a second chance.

Music that makes you
feel good, after.

When I have an asthma attack,
I feel like a fish out of water.

Confused? Pull ahead.
Push the help button.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Poem of the Week #151

What I Need Right Now

I need a poem for tomorrow,
for tomorrow and tomorrow
and tomorrow after that.
I need a poem
that sounds like my voice
and sounds like your voice
and sounds like all the voices
of everyone everywhere
the cacophony of everyone
everywhere and the sound
of seagulls. Certainly,
you have noticed that sound
of seagulls. You hear it
by any body of water
and you hear it by anybody
before you see them soaring.
Usually, the beach is empty
the beach is empty
but for one person
with a bag of dried bread
and the gulls soar and circle
and make that sound
that sound that marks
the beginning and the end
of every vacation
of every vacation you have ever had.
A happy sound, a sad sound
depending on when you hear it
and which way you are headed
like this poem for tomorrow
headed nowhere other than
tomorrow and tomorrow
and tomorrow after that.
Where I will wake up
and find my voice
and find your voice
and find the voices
of everyone everywhere
and the seagulls who cry
stay don’t go
stay don’t go
today or tomorrow
we will still be here.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets - Award Winners

Dollar Value
(receieved Honorable Mention in the Kay N. Saunders Memorial New Poet category)

Do you remember afternoons
dumping out the can of coins
and counting them with dad?
Ten pennies made a tower;
a wall of ten, a dollar.

He did nickels, dimes, and quarters.
I was the princess of pennies.

After hours of counting,
came the delicate task
of stacking the copper
flat in the wrappers.
He said little fingers
were good for that,
the neat, crisp folding
of the sleeves.

I loved those rolls in my hand,
their shape and heft had power.
We strode together
and traded them for treasure
down at the corner. Beer for him
and a Hershey bar for me.

Now, I take my coins to the bank,
willy-nilly in a can.
Down the chute they go.
No time spent, no towers.
Minutes later, the teller returns
with the empty container
and I go to my car,
a little bit poorer,
my pocket full of dollars.

Lisa Vihos

Machine Dream
(received 2nd place in the "Theme" category)

I ride the train past fields and fallen houses
that sit together like watchdogs in the snow.
Barns lay their backs against the hills to sleep
and silos stand saluting the machine.
The train takes no heed of what they know;
runs past them like a hand

passing over weeds. I trace the lines of my hand,
familiar lines, like wood grain in an old house.
Train of people, bound by paper bags. I know
our eggshells cover the floor like snow.
We chew our yolks as one, our teeth a machine
that turns and grinds even as we sleep.

I cover my face with sleep
and let the train carry me in sure hands.
I am no match for the laws of machines
or the pipes and wires of my house.
No match for ocean, stars, or snow,
why we breathe or how we know

our purpose. Though we ought to know
the reason that we dream. Is sleep
an empty field that waits to fill with snow?
What happens if I take you by the hand
and lead you through the rooms of my house?
This journey we call love, a strange machine.

You see, the heart is also a machine:
its auto-pump always going. It knows
the soft chambers of its fleshy house.
Faithful to this sturdy muscle, I dare to sleep,
buzz like a willful beetle in a closed hand,
grope my way, a traveler blinded by snow.

We can build mountains, cover them with snow
but no one has yet invented a machine
that can duplicate the lines of my hand.
Familiar lines, laid for a train that knows
the dream, when night falls and we go to sleep
safe under blankets in houses.

Sometimes, when it snows, I gaze exhausted, and think I know
how to muscle the machine. I awake refreshed from sleep;
cup all this goodness in my hand: trains, fields, hearts, houses.

Lisa Vihos

Poem of the Week #150

Baby Poets

We lie side by side
on the fleece blanket,
two kindred souls
finding ourselves in bodies
like pink raisins.
We cannot locomote.
Our mother comes round
to diaper, feed, and hover.
She is always in motion
like wind or ocean, a force
with which to be reckoned.
Our father is more
like a very large rock
or a door. He is loud
to the touch, an island
of stubble and such.
I burble, you burp.
Between us, there are
hiccups and crying.
You push your fist
into my rib cage. My toe
goes into your mouth.
When I look in your eye,
it is clear we are brothers.
You make me laugh
by doing Jimmy Durante
and I astound you
with my daily ruminations
on the origin of the soul.
We spend hours at a time
in awe of the light that streams
through our bedroom window.
You blink twice, I once.
Only we know what that means.
As poets go, we’ve got it wired.
We cannot speak—yet.
Nor can we write. Not because
we cannot write, but because
they have not thought to give us
pen and paper.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Poem of the Week #149

Spectral Analysis of Tears

In tears are bands of every color:
There is green for the lawn
I crawled across as a child;
blue, the day I left for college;
purple, the day I returned.
There is white for my wedding.

There is lipstick red for anger
and blood red for shame.
There is orange for every
tropical sunrise I missed,
and pink for the prayers
I forgot to say.

There is brown distilled
from dirt and worms
and yellow derived from the sun’s
sweat and then, the blackest
black: the place we go
while we wait to be born.

Stinging rainbow bound by saline
turns colors into one, converts them
to a small moon slipping over
the canyon rim of my eye;
clear as liquid mirror
or briny bead of rain.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Poem of the Week #148

Why We Cry

When babies cry, no tears are shed.
There is only that incessant screaming.

Some tears come as reaction to pain—
these seen most readily in children

who have fallen off bicycles or out
of trees. (Adults, when was the last time

you cried for hitting your elbow?) We cry
when wronged or then again, when righted

(as in honored, helped, or recognized.)
We cry at the sheer immensity of it all.

Tears come to water the soul, involuntarily.
You’d be surprised how much you need hydration.

At funerals, tears flow like blood. They complete
a chain reaction from one heart to another.

At birth, they come as relief and release,
and at weddings, they cascade like rain.

Are we crying because we are happy
for the new couple or sad for ourselves?

We cry because it is a rite of passage
and all such rites require salt and water.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Poem of the Week #147

Four Causes of Spontaneous Tears

Two men in waders
fish off North Point,
bathed in morning sun.
I hear their voices call,
back and forth, as one.

We drive through farmland
just past town. The hills,
so many shades of green
and brown. You snore,
lips parted, as when a baby.

The carrousel spins me
round and round, my pony
charges up and down.
I laugh, then cry, then laugh again
betrothed to the calliope.

I lie alone beneath the stars,
become that teenage girl who hears
a song unfurl on late night radio.
It reminds me where I’m bound to go,
recalls where I have been.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Poem of the Week #146

The Mechanics of Time/Space as Experienced in a Rear View Mirror

We pull up to the curb
a block from the middle school.

I have exactly two seconds
to throw my voice under the radar

to say goodbyehaveagooddayiloveyou
as a ventriloquist would, without moving

my lips. Because you are already
scanning the sidewalk—for boys, girls?

I’m not sure who you are looking for,
but God forbid they should see you

talking to your mother. You say okay,
grab your sack, and dash away.

You join the flow of somber teens
and I, the flow of other harried mothers

and fathers, none of us quite sure
what to do with the likes of you.

Seventh grade is not what it used to be.
I watch you in my rear view mirror

and remember other school mornings
when I was your beloved escort.

Now, you wait for traffic to clear,
then saunter—nonchalant—across the lawn.

I imagine someday, when I am far away,
I will catch you in a distant mirror,

as you sit in a car, looking back
at your daughter or your son.

In your rear view mirror,
you will see what I see, that same one.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Poem of the Week #145

Good Greek Gal

The thing about my Athenian Palace summer
waitress job, the one my Aunt Helen got me,
is that it wouldn’t have been so bad

that I did not speak Greek except that
the owner, his brother, Gus (who cooked)
his two sons, his niece and nephew,

and assorted distant cousin dishwashers all seemed
to be asking themselves in the garlicky kitchen,
What kind of Greek doesn’t speak Greek?

Every night, they gave me the sideways eyeball,
Greek whispers punctuated by guffaws and giggles.
Did I mention I was only fifteen?

Late one evening, a lady came into the Palace.
She was all dolled up and in a hurry;
her car left running, her mascara too.

Teased-up hair, tanned and puckered
cleavage crowning her low-necked sweater.
She needed change for some unknown reason,

confusing me with fast talk.
She was scamming me for a twenty.
Wait a minute, I said. Gus was in back,

but he spoke no English at all.
John, up front, my retired sea captain,
my regular, awoke from his 7 and 7.

He said, Lady, leave number.
Later, we count drawer.
We call if over, we give back twenty.

She left without providing
her contact info. You see? John,
I said, John, you saved me.

Nah, he said. You smart.
You good Greek gal.
I just help.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Poem of the Week #144

Why You Should Not Shoot Geese
Near a Soccer Field

horrified soccer moms
will loose track of the game
and cover their eyes
at the sight of geese
tumbling wing-over-wing
like pinwheels out of the sky.

at exactly seven minutes
into the second half, shots will ring out
and a wounded-but-not-dead goose
will graze the heads of the mid-fielders
and land on the 18-yard line,
stopping play.

in front of all those spectators
from outside the county,
a stocky man in hunter’s gear
will stride out onto the field,
gather the goose in his arms,
and snap its neck.

the opposing team will win,
and the hometown boys
will remain unperturbed.
It’s a free country, mom,
is what will be heard
from the backseat
on the short drive home.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Poem of the Week #143


You can hear the slight whoosh
of blood through veins
and wind through fallen leaves.

Listen. You must stop talking
and even stop thinking
to hear the sound

of spider diatribes,
bird soliloquies
and the wonderments of worms.

Did you know if you are quiet enough,
you can hear dirt? You can hear
what the rain is planning.

These vibrations,
beyond all measurable
and immeasurable frequencies

are the same sounds that emanate
from a father’s hand,
or a mother’s thigh, or the sun.

These are the sounds of connection
and creation, the murmur of crescent moons,
the songs of stars that children hear

because they haven’t forgotten yet
how to be like fish or flower;
an aerial tuned to everything.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Poem of the Week #142

Invitation from God

I’m partial to the wise old man in the kaftan
with the gray hair and the long beard,
because who doesn’t love a father?

Whatever floats your boat, I like to say.
And if you need my wrath, I can provide it.
But, just for the record, I don’t get angry.

You ask “why?” and expect an answer.
Who answers my questions? I’ll tell you:
I stopped asking them a long time ago.

Sometimes, I think the most useful purpose I serve
is to be the last perfect scapegoat.
The buck stops here. That’s what you say.

You keep giving me the buck, and usually,
I just put it back in the drawer. Sometimes,
I buy a shot of tequila.

Wars, I’m sorry, but those are not my problem.
Global warming, poverty, injustice. All that, yours.
I stick to roses, caribou, mountain streams,

and the many flavors of things from the earth.
If there’s something you feel you can’t explain,
you can pretty much figure it’s mine.

As for me, I’ve always been entertained
by the theologians and their stories.
Look, I say, give it up. Stop trying so hard.

Do I have to spell it out for you? I’m here.
I’m infinitely patient. I’ve got the tequila
and I’ll be here on the porch, waiting,
even if it takes you forever to come and have a shot.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Poem of the Week #141

To Do List (Found on an Angel’s Desk)

Fly around
Touch down
Kiss skinned knee
Let be be
Find stray
Enter fray
Fear not
Go fish
Grant wish
Nudge, budge
Mend grudge
Aid wise
Watch over
Catch tears
Bounce, pounce
Smooth brow
Push plow
Wax wings
Fix things
Hover near
Trickle sap
Take nap
Gather sheaves
Redden leaves
Spread snow
Wind blow

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Poem of the Week #140


In the morning,
there are glories,
purple trumpets
covering the vine.
Opening their faces
in a hurry
to greet the day
in rain or shine.
Their simple prayer,
a song that tells a story;
their discipline
so gentle, so refined.
No push, no shove
no worry—
each day, they just appear
to mark the time.
Their inner bits
are bright, not showy.
They come around
and leave a round of cheer.
When dead and gone
in winter’s flurry,
their memory warms me still
(like you) my dear.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Poem of the Week #139

Everything After

Everything that happened
happened after
happily ever after.
Before now and then,
before time began
in a place we had forgotten.

Everything that was now
was in the ever after,
that ringing sound of laughter,
little voices in autumn sun.
Let’s go, they said, let’s run
down to the lake, it’s fun

Time is only what we think.
Thirty years go by, just blink
and you will find yourself
just here where you started,
right here where your heart is,
the spot you never parted.

We could stand alone or not,
we could blossom, we could rot,
there is no rhyme or reason.
I only know that time stands still
when I hold your hand until
the coming of the season.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Poem of the Week #138

Triolet on the Natural Order (for Owen)

Worms die of length
and elephants of width.
Do you know your strength,
worms? You die of length.
Your life force, not to shrink.
“To each his nature,” is no myth.
Worms, you die of length;
elephants, you of width.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Poem of the Week #137


You could tell that I was on the verge of tears
as you and your husband loaded the skeletal parts

of the knocked-down, maple bunk bed
into the back of your pick-up truck. You said,

It’s in really good shape and I said,
It was a good bed. That’s when you heard

my voice crack, and mother-to-mother,
you knew how I felt. You said,

I know I will feel it when I take the crib down.
I said yes, it’s hard to do these things, and I turned

so you wouldn’t see my eyes moisten. We had already
exchanged knowing glances, you and I, when your husband

was snotty to you about the large container of dirt
he had not taken out of the truck before coming over.

Your concern for the bed was making him angry
and I wondered how it was for you—being married

to someone with such a short fuse. You and I
shared the same first name, but more than that,

we connected over the sacredness of a child’s bed;
a place where night after night, the future dreams itself.

I left the four of you and turned into my new house.
Minutes later, I heard doors slam, little girls cry.

I didn’t want to look. I only wanted the bed
to go forth so we could all, at last, be happy.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Poem of the Week #136

The Natural Advantage
(from an infomercial seen while working out on the elliptical machine)

On day one, I could feel activity.
Something was working on my skin.

On day two, I felt change under the surface.
I thought, "this is good. I need this."

Day three, I could feel my pores closing.
My wrinkles were ironing themselves out.

On the seventh day, I could feel
a firmness. I was solid and glowing.

Day ten, I noticed it deepening.
I was turning to porcelain, cool to the touch.

My face took on a frozen quality, but my skin
felt nice and smooth. I was happy.

Day fifteen, I looked twenty years younger,
a gorgeous doll waiting to have my string pulled.

I looked much better (really sexy)
and all the men wanted me

because I was so beautiful
and I could not open my mouth to speak.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Poem of the Week #135

Poem from the Left

The poem I wrote with my left hand
was not what I expected it to be.
It was not covered in hairy warts
or festering boils. It did not howl
at the moon.

The poem I wrote with my left hand
surprised me because it did not smell
like old socks or fried onions.
It did not require a row of stitches.
It was not torn.

Coming as it did from the sinister side,
I thought it would be dark and smokey,
grinning at me from the corner of the room,
like a sleazy old huckster with a gold tooth
and a penchant for whiskey.

On the contrary,

The poem I wrote with my left hand
was the brightest and most weightless poem
I have ever written. It sailed off the page
with its spinnaker taut, heading for
warm waters.

Had it been a butterfly, it would have landed on
my cheek to mark my smile. Had it been a parade,
it would have handed me a baton to lead the march.
Had it been a golf ball, it would have made
a hole-in-one.

The poem I wrote with my left hand—
had it been you—would have kissed me.
It would have placed my left hand over its heart
so I could feel it pounding, calm and steady,
in my own hollow chest.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Poem of the Week #134

Please check out the current online issue of Verse Wisconsin, for great poetry, reviews, and articles. My Poem of the Week #54 (January 11, 2009), "The Assistant" appears there as well.

I Got Up Early (For B.)

I got up early and went for a run
down through the artists’ colony—
which is like a leper colony,
only prettier—where all the streets
are named for colors:
ochre, alizarine, madder.

Being early, no one stirred.
Maybe they had been up late,
carousing. Isn’t that what artists do?
Actually, every artist I know practices
early to bed, early to rise.

Judging by the looks of the colony,
these artists like to collect junk
and pile it up in sheds.
They are also growing algae
in their pond. No outward sign
of art. I ran through the mangrove

and came out on Elm Street,
so much more pedestrian.
I ran until I passed Harvard
and Yale and came to Wentworth.
I went as far as I could go,

until my foot began to hurt.
I limped home, took a nap
in the yellow house at the corner
of Viridian and Van Gogh
with five angel figurines
guarding my bed.

No matter your opinion of angels or artists,
I suggest you wake up early and run.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Poem of the Week #133

First Toast (for Lee)

A certain comfort food
(warm and buttery)

eaten while standing
by a kitchen window

spread lightly with
something sweet

strawberry jam
during the week

orange marmalade
if it is Sunday.

I may have moved
but as long as I have

a loaf of bread, some butter,
a knife, and a toaster,

this gift remains
(steadfast and constant)

crusty but forgiving;
toasted old friend.

Lisa Vihos


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Poem of the Week #132

My father moved through dooms of love – after e e cummings

My father moved through dooms of love
dooms of love on ragged days.
Cornered by the hungry wheel,
he spun the wisdom of his meal
and sprang a sparrow for a song.

My father arched through birds of sell
birds of sell in scaled flight
absent from the shaking tree
he sailed on a paper sea
and took to reading stars at night.

My father drew through storms of day
storms of day that clipped the sky
stirred the air with silver spoon
brought back tales of hollow moon
and kept me from the final fail.

My father bent through dreads of woe
dreads of woe on purple wings
beating hard the wooden floor
softly held behind the door
waking paler images of kings.

My father shook the tree of sky
and let the flower blossom by
the castle well, the sparrow song.
My father worked the earth above
and made his way through dooms of love.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Poem of the Week #131

Last Will and Testament

I bequeath my steak knives
to all the men I have ever loved.
May they divide them evenly.

I donate my ratty sheets and towels
to my neighbors to serve as shrouds.
My dryer lint goes to the fairies for their cathedrals.

The hand-scrawled missives intended
for my first love go to the smart, handsome
attorney in Miracle on 34th Street.

(He’ll know what to do with them.)
To the sun, I give my bed warmer.
My sprinkler, I give to the rain.

My garbage cans go to the trash man
and any rope I have lying around here
goes to the one minding the gallows.

Undone to-do lists and scraps of paper
marked by unidentified phone numbers
go into bottles to be cast out to sea.

Dead batteries go to the Energizer Bunny
and worn extension cords go to a place
where electricity has yet to be invented.

Burnt-out light bulbs go to the ghost
of Thomas Alva Edison and frayed laces
go to the old woman who lived in a shoe.

My pail goes to Jack,
my broken crown to Jill,
and my fleece as white as snow

goes to Mary who sits by her little lamb
and knits me a fine sweater; a cardigan
to clothe me in the next life.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Poem of the Week #130

Making Time

In a large ceramic bowl,
preferably one that belonged
to your grandmother,
cream one half pound of softened
eons with a cup and three quarters
of finely granulated nanoseconds.

Set the mixture aside.
Sift days, weeks, and months
into a smaller bowl.

In the smallest bowl,
place your fluids: the years.
Add one teaspoon of vanilla
and one of orange or lemon zest.
Add whatever childhood memories
you have handy in the cupboard.

(Memories from your teen years
can add heft. But don’t overdo it.
You want your time light and airy,
not weighted down by teen angst.)

Alternate adding the dry days
and the wet years to the creamed eons
that have been waiting patiently for you
throughout the middle of your life.

Mix vigorously. Then pour your time
into a greased and floured bundt pan.
Bake in an oven hotter than the sun,
smaller than a bread box.

Baking times will vary.
A toothpick or sharp knife inserted
in the center of time should come out clean.

For best results,
do absolutely nothing but breathe;
be nothing, but kind. Then,
time will make itself. The past
and the future will drop away
and there will be only now.
And you will have more
than enough to savor
forever and ever.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Poem of the Week #129

Snail, Bird, and Worm

"Snail, snail, glister me forward,

Bird, soft-sigh me home,
Worm, be with me.
This is my hard time."
T. Roethke

Snail, bird, and worm,
be my consorts, architects
of my tomorrow.

Guide me down
your trails of light and air,
open me to earth and sky.

This time, I will listen
not with my ears
but with my pores.

Sanctify my very life,
this ground of me
you care for.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Poem of the Week #128

Brother Rat

Jamal’s final days
were painful to watch
and it crossed my mind
more than once
that maybe I should
bite the bullet
and suffocate him, but
euthanasia is not my style.
Instead, I told him I loved him
whenever I had to pass by the cage.
Did this help him or me?
God only knows.

Jamal had a long tail
and spent his short life
tumbling merrily through cedar.
He is survived by his devoted brother,
Krusty, who liked to beat the crap
out of him at 2 a.m. Together,
they ate through two wooden houses
for the sheer joy of chewing.
Krusty was always plumper, stronger.
Near the end, he offered himself
as a brotherly death bed; a warm ratty
comforter, a beating heart.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Poem of the Week #127

Mother’s Lament

There are days when a glance
from a teddy bear can unhinge me;

when an old photo or another birthday
gone past serve to remind me of everything
we have lost in the shuffle of our years;

when I see that the crow returns
to the fence post because he wants
one of the baby bunnies nursing in the bramble—
(the mother appeared yesterday as I drank

my morning coffee. She checked me out.
She learned I won’t hurt her or the babies.)
I know other things will happen though,

things I can’t control: weaning,
separation, nightfall, crows.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Poem of the Week #126

In the Garden of Me


In the garden of me there is rich dirt
and an organized row of leafy greens.

There is the rope trellis to which I hook sticky,
spiral tendrils of sweet peas. There is lusty basil

and bright lemon verbena that has taken over
one entire end of me. There are weeds—

oh my goodness—are there weeds!
I pull what I can; leave the rest.


In the garden of me there is a large sand patch.
I think one year I made edamame work there.

My strawberries have never taken and my tomatoes—
unless cherry—are always sweet home to slugs. But,

I am learning to grow that which thrives best
in the soil I have been given.

With regular attention, my bush beans seem happy.
My arugula rocks.


If I go a little ways out from the vegetable bed
I come to that flowery tangle, that place

I could get lost for a lifetime of aromatic Sundays.
Under my tree, I lie in cool grass and inhale green.

I pluck blue bits from above for my basket. That
is the ground where sky and earth meet and find

a place to rest; a place where hummingbirds sleep
deep in the bower of my chest.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Poem of the Week #125

How I Got My Wings

They began
as an annoying itch
between my shoulder blades,
running along the scapula
like poison ivy
turned pins and needles
turned porcupine quills.
They instigated an irritation
so profound I had to drink
myself to sleep each night;
a half bottle of cabernet
per side. I was beside myself
with grief over a wide array
of losses over a long trail
of years and tears.
Tears, I had shed
by the bucket.

But one day
the itch was gone.
I awoke with a feather
tickling my nose. I realized
my own wings caressed
my face like the hands
of a phantom lover
who wanted me blessed,
wanted to tease me awake
and surprise me
with a gift. The gift
to fly up out of the pain
and let the earth shift
at the drop of a hat
or the flap of a wing;
like going airborne
in a dream.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Poem of the Week #124

In Retrospect

I am glad
I did not stoop to pick up
the perfectly formed crescent
of a dog’s toe nail—dark at the base,
pale at its point—lying in the middle
of the sidewalk in the pre-dawn dimness
of my morning stroll. You don’t know
where that nail has been
I said.

Ten paces further up the road,
I came upon another discarded treasure;
same coloration, but this one smeared
into the revelation of its true nature:
not dog nail, but duck turd.
Aha! I said.

While up ahead, Mr. Mallard
and his wife waddled across
my neighbor’s lawn
like they owned the place,
doing their morning duty.
Stopping here and there
to bequeath their bounty,
unaware the confused
human following
in their wake.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Poem of the Week #123

Six Haiku for Mothers

Mothers do not cry
over spilled milk. A smart one
hands you a dish rag.

A mother stands back.
She, the small wind behind you,
always breathing love.

Mothers crave flowers
brought first by small hands, later
sent from far away.

Mothers ask questions.
The answers do not matter,
only the telling.

Mothers lose it (now
and then) when least expected.
They need mothers too.

Only mothers know
how it feels to split open,
bring forth a world.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Poem of the Week #122

Theory Overheard

I am late for class
and I dash past
two small boys

who fidget
in the hallway of the Y
by the racquetball courts.

Their conversation
slows me. They discuss
the mechanics of elimination.

I hear, It melts.
Your poop turns into pee
and comes out your penis

I hear giggles, an affirmation,
and then another voice asks
Do you poop when you die?

As I round the corner,
I slow for the reply:
Of course you do.
But it comes out dust.

Lisa Vihos

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poem of the Week #121

The Same and Different

A year from now I will be
different. Will I be shorter?
Having long passed the age
and rage of puberty,
I certainly will not be taller.

But I might be larger—no,
not fatter, at least I hope not fatter.
I am just fat enough right now.
Curved and muscled, just right.
Well, I could lose 15 pounds.

For sure, all my outer skin cells
will be replaced. Lots of hair
will fall out and more will appear;
most of it in places I don’t want it.
My nails will grow, crack,

and be trimmed weekly. Plaque
will adhere to my teeth and then
dutifully be scraped away
by the dental hygienist.
How often do you floss?

Ear wax will form and melt.
I pray that any difference I exhibit
will be internal, metaphysical.
I want to be deeper, wider,
more complex, and yet,

simpler. I want to be
more connected to the earth
and to the rhythm of sun
and sea; made sturdier by wind
and pelting rain. I want to be

kinder; toward me, toward you.
Like the same river into which
you cannot step twice, I want
you to know I will still tumble
and flow. Me—just different.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Poem of the Week #120

For the Love of Brown

You told me I must never frown,
and learn to handle pink, but I confess,
I only ever loved the lovely shades of brown.

I grew and wondered, would I know renown?
Would princess be my name or something less?
If only I could smile and never frown.

I languished on the shore as I went down;
my kingdom on the edge, a holy mess.
And yet, I found a balm in shades of brown.

Battered on the rocks and left to drown.
I took my medicine, but what duress!
I always had been taught I must not frown.

A thought becomes a word and then a sound.
The saddest note in any chord is always blessed.
I can’t ignore the lovely shades of brown.

To hell, I say, I’m queen. I’ll wear my crown.
I do not think you know what’s best.
For though you made it seem I mustn’t frown,
I only ever loved the lovely shades of brown.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poem of the Week #119

Your Word Is My Flesh

Take a word
any old word
and bury it in the ground.
See what kind of fruit
grows there.

Grind it up, the word,
pack it in your pipe
and smoke it.
See what dreams
encurl your dazzled head.

Your words.
Are they fine as frog’s hair,
hard as muscled thighs?
Are they barbed like wire,
sharp like knives?

Your words.
Are they whiskery pods
holding some future flower
carried into the next life
on a bird’s beak?

Your words
enter me, get under
my skin. They flow
though my veins, feed
my nerve endings.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Poem of the Week #118

Cautionary Tale

Loretta got the sofa set in 1975
but kept it in plastic all those years.
No one's bottom ever touched
the soft, white brocade.
Not even Loretta's.
When she moved to the nursing home,
the sofa, chair, and ottoman
got shipped to her brother in Iowa.
She stood on the sidewalk
outside her apartment and cried.
She would have unzipped the plastic
right then if she could,
to enjoy her couch just one time
before sending it away.
She slowly came conscious
as if from a dream, regret pouring in
to answer her repeated question:
What was I thinking?
What was I thinking?
In 25 years, I never used it.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Poem of the Week #117

The Queen

In the airport security line,
a small child peeks at me
over her daddy's shoulder.
He holds her in his arms
and she holds her hands
on each side of his neck
as though to steady his head.
She grounds herself, holding
her Rock of Gibraltor.

It is a gesture that loves
the thing it holds
though also has the power
to someday break it.

But for now,
her gaze so assured,
her gesture so natural.
What else are a daughter's hands
but magnets to the face
of the first man she loves?
If anyone joined me in noticing her,
we would have to bow.
She would command us awake,
saying without words,

Care for all things,
as I care for this one
and know the true meaning
of home, land, security.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Poem of the Week #116

It's Been So Long

since I've travelled by plane. Four years?
Standing in line with my fellow humans--
potential terroritsts all--from the smallest
of the small to the frailest grandmother.

Everyone knows the drill,
removing their shoes on cue,
a minor humiliation in the name
of homeland security.

A dapper young businessman
on his cellphone, reaches down
with his free hand, unties
his Bruno Maglis.

An Asian woman in too-tight jeans
wobbles, then steadies herself
on the stanchion to remove stiletto,
knee-high, black boots.

A small girl in Hanna Anderson prints
casually flips off her huaraches.
I want to lean over,
kiss her tiny feet, say,

Darling girl,
surely no one could imagine
that you conceal jellied explosives
in the leather thin soles of your shoes?

But this is 2010 and she, less than seven.
For her, removing shoes in the airport
is no big deal. For her, this is just one more
wacky adventure on the way to Disneyland.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poem of the Week #115

Walt Asks

Fatiguers of hamstrings, did you feel me strain
while still afoot upon the road? Did you feel
my sinews work like pulleys on my course?

Carriers of water, what is the secret of your
warm depths, and why do you forget to swallow?
Do you remember when I leapt over you?

Throwers of pearls, can you see that swine
are everywhere, and how easy it is to lose sight
of the one true prize?

Wrinklers of bedsheets, can't you feel
that death follows life follows death
and that in between them
is the journey like this open road
that unfolds across the blanket of time?

Fellers of trees, how is it that you ever fail?
The tree falls away, no matter what you do or don't do.
Stand back, make space for the trunk.

Tenders of vines, do you know that the body
is dense and wants only to return to earth? The body
is clay waiting to be spun into a vessel of use.

Lowerers down of coffins,
did you hear me call your names?
Did you hear me give thanks
for the day you dropped me
into the dark earth like a seed;
the day I first fell in love with worms?

Strummers of mandolins,
can you sing me about the Soul
and her melancholy, the constant note
in life's chord? She is filled with no body,
but if you stop to listen,
you will hear her sing.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Poem of the Week #114


Being dead is not so
bad. Life offers worse things.
Face it. We come we go.
Leave the frame to decay.
Peel skin and hair away.
Rise up on wings.

When you walk past me now
you do not see my face.
You do not touch my brow.
I had to leave this world
my eager soul unfurled,
found a new place.

Still I hover near you
your hand, I gladly caress.
These feelings. Are they true
if there is not a body
(as in arm, flank, or knee)
nor heart to mess?

Dead is dead, I am told.
Yet cold and numb implore.
Something touched, warm and bold,
pulls at my formless bliss.
A new delicious kiss.
I still want more.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Poem of the Week #113

Fall and Spring
to an aging man (after Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Yes, Gerard, I am grieving
for the leaves and every leaving,
words that fail, songs unsung.
I feel them slip, though I am young.
Then, as our hearts grow older,
and I feel them burning bolder,
time rushes to deflate me.
But your hungry verse will sate me
and by and by elate me,
as I fall toward you. I flail
and see my ghost set sail.
Your words come close, then flicker far.
Like fireflies, they fill my jar.
I keep them save and never mourn:
we are, Gerard, in spring reborn.

To read the poem that inspired this one, go to:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Poem of the Week #112

To You Who Have Examined Tile Floors

This poem is written for you, who,
as a child, enjoyed looking at the hexagonal tile floor
in the bathroom of your grandmother's brick bungalow
in Berwyn, Illinois, or any house of a certain vintage
in any city or town anywhere in the world.
There you are, perched on the rim, little bare legs
dangling down, tottering on the potty.
You steady yourself by meditating on the tiles
and the flower patterns that the hexagonals make:
each black center ringed by six whites.
Flower next to flower next to flower,
excruciatingly and deliciously impossible
to see one flower without seeing
its connection to all the others. The flowers
interlocking across the whole expanse of floor
from toilet to tub and over to the door
each flower becoming its mother or brother,
more, then more. No flower in that field
left to fend alone.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Poem of the Week #111

This poem was written several months ago, but today, being Valentine's Day, seemed like a good day to send it. No matter whether you have an "external" Valentine or not, have a sweet day and may I suggest being your own valentine today and every day. And if you are feeling really jaded, turn a valentine upside down, and you will have butt, as a dear friend of mine would say, "Happy Butt Cheeks Day!"

What Would Happen?

What would happen if you met
a kindred soul?

Would you grab on like someone
drowning and not let go?

Would you try to board the boat
and row merrily down the stream?

(Life is but a dream.)

Or would you just enjoy the lift;
the breeze beneath your feet

that holds you for a while,
and reminds that life is sweet?

Would you cling to familiarity?
Would you say, I love you, stay?

Or could you salute similarity
and then be on your way

brimming from your brush
with kindredness? It means so much.

How do you say no?
It can’t be done.

It comes, it goes, and yes,
when the bell is rung,

you must receive the post:
no bills to pay, just a call

to your own soirée, and you,
the honored guest, the gracious host.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Poem of the Week #110

This week, I'm beginning a series of poems in the voices of dead poets, telling us about what comes next. This will be a new, intermittent feature of Poem of the Week.


as death be dead
and living live
let always all
be good and give

let up be earth
and down be sky
and let between
the two we fly

let go by grave
and run by spring
let birdies bloom
and flowers sing

let i be i
and how be who
let woman man
and yours be too

we came and went
each other held
we lived and loved
we gathered old

we sang a leak
we sprang refrain
you went in sun
i went in rain

one last shiver
my hand to shake
my body left
i took my take

i even in death
had comings come
and goings go
our self be one.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Poem of the Week #109

This week's poem is formatted in an unusual way, and I am not blog-savvy enough to figure out how to make it look right in this electronic venue. If you only receive Poem of the Week as a feed, and you would like to see this poem, please leave your email address in a a comment and the poem will be sent to you. Thank you for reading! Lisa

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Poem of the Week #108

I Like Salad

I like mine
with spinach

and arugula.
I like it dark

and spicy.
I chop fresh dill

some onion
some red pepper

I cut my carrot
into rounds

not shreds. I want
lots of olives

and hearts, of course:
artichoke, and those

of palm. Nuts, good.
Pomegranate, good.

Dried cranberries. Yes.
And feta. Best to have sweet

with salty. I dress
well, just before dinner;

eat by a window
from a wooden bowl.

When done, I use
a crust of bread

for sopping up,
or better yet,

I raise the bowl
and down the vinegar

and oil; lip-smacking good
to the last, sharp drop.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Poem of the Week #107

Duchamp’s Door

Duchamp made a door
that hung between two frames
perpendicular to each other.

Same door, two frames.
Close one, the other is open
Close the other…
you get the picture?
One door.

And when the door
swings open on its hinge
dangling between two
frames, there is a choice.

A place where
it might be possible
to pass through both
or neither. You might
have to go out of your way.

You might have to bang
your head on the door
a few times trying
to get through, or,
you might simply
have to grab hold
the handle
and decide.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Poem of the Week #106

The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.
--Paul Cezanne

In the Meantime

Look before you leap
and leap before you languish.

Bird before you hand
and hand before you bush.

Shiver before you timber
and save before you earn.

When will you learn
to pay attention to time,

tears, and toast? Work daily.
Tend the vines. Never boast.

Take pride in your chaos,
and if you mind the mess,

grab a broom. Allow
for room and zoom

(if only to avoid kaboom).
Life is long, tall, and also

but a dream and short.
Make hay in the sun,

take all to heart.
Observe what is in you

and all around you.
Take note. It will
astound you.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Poem of the Week #105

Clementines in a Box

Clementines in a box on the cluttered kitchen table,
your bright orangeness speaks of some warm place
so unlike this frozen wasteland of Wisconsin in winter.
You offer the promise of easy-to-peel and seedless.
Sometimes you are dried up inside, not juicy.
When I find one of you like that, I feel cheated.
That is not what a clementine is supposed to offer.
I like your small size and your good smell,
and the way your skin comes off in my hand
with just a bit of prodding. I like to eat you.
If you could tell me the secret of your orange heart,
what would you say? I am here. I am yours.
I will always make you smile. Please donate
my empty box to the Preschool. The children
will make a garden bed of it.

Lisa Vihos