T F Rice
Home Place

This is my home place.

The sky hangs too far down

earth and sky the same—white but dirty
sun, moon, lower things—curtained
winter trees pierce both earth and sky
fastening  sameness

eleven little birds in formation
move from close to far
shift earth to sky
earth to sky
dark bodies stark in sea of white

amoebic, their shape moves
sky to earth
sky to earth
as if a hand with thread to hem

God’s Breath on His Back


“He wants to make sure God wants him to live. So he spends a lot of time asking. He brings himself close to the edge and he feels God’s breath on his back. If God wants to take him, all he needs to do is blow.”       –Dave Eggers, YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY

 a corner room
two windows bare
light spills in
listens in
open curtain, close curtain:
same noise as in the shower
this place, no privacy
yellow paper bracelet:
same hand in a photo
once labeled
“until we meet again”
yellow exercise putty
stains white blanket
hands cold to feel, warm to touch
chipped nail picks at putty spot
“Let me cut your nails…”
I take his hand,

“I have to ask you,
how did you and Grandma
meet, you never told.”
comics read
word puzzles, shaky circles
a TV that rarely works properly
a man whose body rarely works
properly waits
“I was an engineer,” he says,
when asked—is he not the same?
five tulips— not six or two or three
in foil covered pot
tall and straight
flowers perfect for one day
their leaves of many greens
he tries to match
paints with shaky hand, says,
“I know, it’s for practice, but it’s terrible.”

yesterday he gave
an art lesson
today, tired from the radiation
he sighs at trying to recite
his meals – when asked:
“chicken fingers, beef broth,… ?
orange sherbet, hot tea”—
“or was it pot pie, cottage
cheese, orange sherbet, hot tea…”
“I don’t know, what should I have tomorrow?
I’ve had it all.”

the art lesson more important
the sunlight
more important
pouring over courtyard
he can’t see from where he sits
in bed or chair:
few choices these days
below, high-backed
concrete benches
with etched words,
about the caring that happens here
a corner room
two windows
beauty spills in
intermittently hangs heavy
air surrounds tulips:
bracelet: yellow: FALL RISK
this amazing color
lights upon everything
follows as we place our feet
impatience sits with him
as if a new friend
yellow exercise putty
stains white blanket
same hand is in a photo
two hands etched remarkably with age
“until we meet again”

Published in Earth's Daughters issue #78
, Buffalo, NY

November Divergences

With knotted hair
and rosy cheeks thawing cheeks,
we sit by Iron Maiden’s guitar
at a pretentious, highfalutin
Hard Rock Café
in Niagara Falls.
November is here, even inside.

Tilty table, wet floor and
voices’ roars
make us feel at home;
lots of talking mouths
with food in them.
The satisfaction
of friends makes its mark.
Outside, we find
freshly fallen
Ginko leaves
and a cold, open sky
beckoning possibility
to come near.
Pleading, please.
Gum like sealing wax
makes its mark
on ground or wall,
little bottle caps stare at us
from under tinted water
where shiny pennies used to be.
Beyond the little blemishes,
another mark:
a man on a monument
stands tall,
witnessing to us of
Yugoslavia’s Independence.
Tourist children
are children of the gulls, to me,
as they flap around noisily
in shirts of white and
can’t quite
leave the ground.
What are their marks?
Across the park
a deep tablet of slate,
from the blue mountains
in far-off Wales,
reads that in this place—1 Sept. 1929
was held the first Welsh
hymn singing festival.
Here the windward songs
of millions come and gone
now echo back.
A Ginko leaf lands on my arm
and I have found my gold,
a little treasure in the breeze,
something in this world for free.
This gold
deflects all our ugliness.

Aerial Photograph:
California Desert Sands

From the sky
evaporation ponds

dissolve into

cave painting on
desert landscape

blues and whites
sewn-together shapes

so strange
against the orange and greys

of this artistry
this topography

lead-grey roads
curve round pond

panes of stained glass
clear and exact

nearby mesa rises
like a staircase

only from high
can man be seen

an editor
he is always

erasing and

the art
already here

Published in Le Mot Juste anthology, Rochester, NY. Also appeared in "In Flight" exhibit at Arts Council for Wyoming County gallery.

Still Life

How do we know when
fruit is dead.
The pear is
yellow, and brown
in long knived scars.
Gashes of history,
life still, but suffering,
another kind of
skin and flesh
showing need.
a wooden plank
cutting board
does not speak,
though the pear
wishes it would.
The knife rests
for now.


old photograph
square with rounded edges
my mother and her mother
walk a pastel beach

small frothy waves
just reach the sand
her belly swells
with my looming presence
in hand a paper cup with straw
from som
e long gone eatery

I notice how she stands
her mother the same way
interchangeable sandy feet,
thin tan legs, soft upper arms
she is gesturing
for the camera man

her jet black hair
shoulder length
with straight cut bangs,
a bright red scarf
shielding from the sun
brown paper shopping bag
in hand, contents unknown

dark shapes of sunglasses
worn in those days
cover h
alf their faces
but I spot their
tiny identical smiles

her mother’s sundress
spotted green, like an
alligator print,
a seventies drapery design
at the center of the photo

a single wave crests
far out to sea,
as are we


there are so many blues in life
one color but many
tonight the world is a Kushner painting
its monochrome in no way limiting

blue mountain mist caps tall pines
awash in midnight
black is not the color of this night

in the foreground a rainstorm
washes the road to a navy-textured shine
like an artist applies paint with a pallet knife
one color but many
there are so many blues in life

For Mary Beth Kushner's paintings, more: http://marybethkushner.com

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