Thursday, June 18, 2015


Whatever possesses birches to undress
in the dead of winter, to stand
in the woods all solitary and come-hither,
their papery spice-colored layers wavering
in the wet, weighty breeze?

The peeling layers go on revealing
what's underneath until it seems
there are more layers than there is tree.
A tree half-peeled is no less a tree,
any underbark revealed is nearly healed.

Copyright Jean Monahan

Thursday, January 08, 2015

When Hell Freezes Over

When Hell freezes over we can walk on it,
clear to the other side.

For once, the waves are still,
the air clear of frost.

We have no idea of future,
no hunger for the past.

At last we can see ourselves
inside the frozen glass. 

Here, the eyes lined with forgiveness,
Here, the heart cracked open by love.

Here the dreams we did not have.
Here, faith. Here, the second chance.

Too soon the bonfire's built.
Flames lap heaven's gate.

Arm-in-arm we skate,
over the breaking ice.

From Believe It or Not

Monday, December 01, 2014

Search Party

A foreign tourist was reported missing in the volcanic canyon Eldgjá after she failed to return to her tour bus. She had changed her clothing during the stop and her fellow travelers did not recognize her; nor did she recognize the description of herself. She took part in the weekend-long search before realizing that she was the one “missing.” Iceland Review, 8.28.12

She went looking for the one who was missing.
The brightly weak afternoon light
panned all live and inanimate shapes
sieving finer and finer golds from deep red-browns.
She kept her head down
in case a key, a ring, an earring,
bronze moss rubbed wrong, the living nap
imprinted with a misstep.
She had so little to go on: a woman, young,
dark-haired, not from here.
All weekend they walked the old wounds
of the volcanic canyon.

If you must search for yourself
go missing in a place where fire and ice
carved battle scars in water and rock.
Venture up to the impassable place
where water falls.
Make no assumptions about who is lost.
Examine the terrain as if your life depended
on it: not the fissure, the molten,
but long-cooled evidence
of who we've loved and what we’ve seen,
the black glass, that mirror too dark to read.

The Believer  May 2013

Thursday, August 21, 2014

September 7 reading

Concord MA

Trinity Episcopal Church in Concord invites readers to its Sunday morning adult forum, Trinity’s adult education program, which will meet at 9 a.m.

Friday, August 01, 2014



Yes, it’s happened, again: We’re rich.
November’s cidered daylight
has brought the world into deep relief.
I can see the neighbor’s fence
plastered with yellowed sweet-potato-vine leaves,
unpicked Concord grapes
still plump on the vines.
Every changed leaf begins to glow
in the soft rain that’s started to fall --
apple yellow, old gold, orange, scarlet,
forsythia's surprising bright green --
even the crumpling ferns
standing in the side yard
sound a purple note.
You can't stop the great colors of change.
Right here, even now, the old world
makes way for
the new.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Friday, December 27, 2013

Medusa Cuts Her Hair

Something in the curl wants out.


You think you know something about love,
have a clear idea of your own value.
Then your friends stop speaking
when you enter a room, turn a cold eye
on your antics, your pleas, your parting curse.


Lately, I’ve let myself go.
Strange thoughts spring from my scalp.
They have a life of their own.

I think about striking out, striking back.
I think about curling into a knot,
and never encircling another again.


What is it I keep hearing,
in waking and in sleep?
Little voices, secrets, fears.
Every wish I ever had, every hurtful
word I’ve said.
They do not leave, but hiss in the head,
weaving together until they sprout anew.
There are lies caught in my locks;
memories of happiness, too.


He said he was a hairdresser,
would trim my tresses
by looking into a mirror.
I agreed to keep my eyes lowered.
Think of it; the snip of scissors,
a strange man’s fingers,
oil of aloe, henna, citrus.
Nervous, his limbs jiggled;
I fell in love with his legs
as he circled my chair.


Where is the man who cut my hair?
People tease me, say I’ve lost my head.
Now, the world softens under my stare.

from Orpheus and Company: Contemporary Poems on Greek Mythology, Deborah DeNicola, editor (University Press of New England, 1999)