Winner of the Performance Poets Association 2013 Haiku Contest
seeing our bodies age
__I think of trees
____in their bare beauty
Winner of the Performance Poets Association 2010 Haiku Contest
when you left home
__the moon was an empty bowl
Walt Whitman Birthplace Long Island Poet of the Year 2009
Winner of the 2009 Nassau Review Poetry Award
You speak to me from a houseboat, a floating ark
at the end of a caravan of coffins
stretching into the desert, long wooden coffins
shiny as chestnuts we gathered in fall.
“I can’t see,” you tell me, your brown eyes open,
face radiant as always. “It’s okay,” I tell you.
“You’ve had an eye operation. You’ll see in a week.”
The tricks our minds play:
The desert with that incongruous houseboat
sails into my dream from the Dali film I showed in class.
The coffins, ah the coffins
have been rolling toward me since cancer
invaded my dog’s little body again,
her side cut open and stitched, wearing the stiff
plastic cone so she can’t bite her wound.
And you, my mother, with your wonderful gypsy eyes,
come to me from the mystic reach of imagination
where you live as long as I live.
Nassau Review nominated the poems "Buy or Lease?"
and "Skin Knows Skin" for the Pushcart Prize. Both poems appear
in "This Is Why You Flew Ten Thousand Miles"
(Whittier Publications, Inc., 2006). You can hear and see Patti read these
poems at PoetryVlog.com
The way the water spreads beneath the wind
__across the pond in widening waves
____of sparkling light –
the way a sleek, elegant animal arches
__into the palm of a familiar
____beloved hand –
I tremble beneath your touch.
How can the body respond
__year after year
____to the same urges and delights?
Skin knows skin
__I say when you press into my body
____soft flesh and hard bones.
Skin loves skin
__your body replies
____stretched head to toe beside.
We're sitting in the showroom, surrounded
and men making the case to lease, not buy
("depreciation," "you're gonna want a new one")
and I think of Joe, the car dealer in South Carolina
where we stopped for directions to a justice of the peace.
Joe asked my husband-to-be, "Why buy
the cow when she's giving you milk for free?"
Me he promised to get him to the altar
and even brought us home to make a wedding
that lasted thirty years.
Joe told us he had a son about our age
and hoped someone would act like kin if he
were driving across country in an old blue van.
My mom (who bought us the van) flew from Florida
to give us her blessing. Joe's sweet wife Clara
polished the silver and fried some chicken and baked
corn bread that we dipped in local honey.
Joe tried to get a T.V. crew to film
Southern Hospitality to Yankees
(and good PR for his dealership too).
but we said no. This was a private ceremony
between two lovers and strangers who believed
in doing unto others.
Joe's salesman notarized the marriage form
then handed it to us to mail ourselves.
His wife had run away with another man
(did she buy or lease?) leaving him
with four young boys. They came in small dark suits
in June to hear us say our marriage vows.
That night Joe made us sleep in a bedroom instead
of the van and placed a jar of Vaseline
by the bed that's still a joke. In the morning
Joe and Clara gave us a big jug
of back hill white lightning for our journey
that was a revelation.
We carried that piece of paper all the way
from the Blue Ridge Mountains to California
where I was born. And when we reached the coast
we found a mailbox and read the form again.
Who would know? What difference would it make?
It's an old story, but a good story, and by now
you know the ending: We leased the car,
but I married the man, and that was the best
decision I ever made.
On "Skin Knows Skin":
"A testament to physical love expressed as an ever-widening force
of nature." – Gayl Teller
Prize Poetry Awards:
"Living With a Poet," The Shelly Society of
New York (1983)
"Tuesday," Peninsula Public Library (1986)
"I Can't Believe the Moon," Xanadu: A Literary
"McKeever's Hill," Nassau Review (1991)
"Fools Rush In," Long Island Poetry Collective
"Long Beach," Long Island Waters, The Lake
Ronkonkoma Historical Society (2002)
"The Price," Flora and Fauna, The Lake Ronkonkoma
Historical Society (2002)
"The Big Woman," Long
Island Poetry Collective PoemCard (1984)
"Harbor Island," American Fiction 88,
Raymond Carver, judge (Wesley Press, 1988)
"Men Against the Sky," Anthology of Magazine
Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry, Ed. Alan F. Pater (Monitor
Book Company, 1988)
"Post Humus," Death: The Trip of a Lifetime,
PBS series by Greg Palmer (1993)
"Fall Back," Long Island Poetry Collective
"Post Humus," When I Am an Old Woman I
Shall Wear Purple calendar,
Ed. Sandy Martz (Papier-Mache Press, 1997)
"Make Your Way Across This Bridge:
New & Selected Writings":
was considered for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2003