“Minimal Circus”

Amherst, MA. Fall 1996. I wrote this poem at my parents’ house, then walked down to Blue Hills Road and slipped it under her mudroom door in the middle of the night.

Teacher, mentor, muse, mama, sister, daughter, animal-whisperer, gardener, lover, and extraordinary poet and writer with the most delicious laugh and deep, deep beauty.

I am blessed to have known and loved you. Happy birthday, Deborah. I hope you are having a ball wherever you are now.

For Deborah Digges, February 6, 1950 – April 10, 2009.


One night let’s invite da Vinci and St. Francis of Assisi
to drink red wine from half carafes,
sit by the fire in this glacial room
where the soul of the world’s in orbit,
try to forget that each gift could be the last,
do anything to stave off the sour wind of wrath:
store evaporated milk in reusable cans,
keep pens and paper and candles at hand.
Late, when the guests have passed out, let’s drag the dead
weight of distraction from the living room chairs
and wait for the night to cease, for day to end,
for time’s implosion.
It’s a private affair —
the uninvited don’t even perceive the web
that cradles,
the host of characters at the table,
the guardian spirits lurking,
the unlocked doors of time collapsing,
the fire of dreams, the disguise of flame.
They can’t fathom the orgies and nectar flowing
around this house these mornings,
the bands of birds here, plump and raucous,
who are memory,
and greed.
Brother, father–
the men who didn’t know her yet
carried her body across this field
where my house now stands. She hovers.
The bell counts.
She was called back, I was called forward.

I have fallen in love with the spirits of things,
touching shoulders with the poet,
the mentor and the muse.
Wearing cotton tunics,
let’s stand on a cliff beneath the water-blue sky:
clasp hands, swan dive.
We who go like spies through the world–
we can be the winning pictures,
the lost negatives, the grateful scribes.

One thought on ““Minimal Circus”

  1. Murray Schwartz says:

    A beautiful, moving poem of intense images and strong rhythms, it reminds me of “Dreaming Pasternak,” another luminously surreal Amherst poem. That was a period of strong creative energy, and I’m glad you recall it on his anniversary of Deborah’s birth.



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