Dear loved one

who finds my writings after I die,

This is a confession. I want you to see me 

through my words. In life, 

I wanted someone to see me, 

perhaps we all do in some way 

or another. See how tortured I was 

about the future of our planet, 

of our children, about their promised 

adventures to famous rainforests 

and sunsets of gold that might hold them 

in a light that makes this life endurable, 

even incredible. I want you to see 

how I fell in love with art and writing,

with the way artists create 

with pieces of their soul they can’t part with, 

but in the end, let the pieces go, the way 

colors fade in and out of being each hour. 

Tibetan sand artists create the most 

intricate designs in chalk, leave them 

to rain, wind, time. I tried 

to create beauty like that. Nothing 

is permanent, I know, but I worried 

about why our world didn’t change 

for better. In the end, maybe 

it doesn’t matter. I hoped to form 

some truth between flight patterns 

of butterflies and buzzards. I imagined

something different, but in all of it,

I just lived day to day, being human.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

The trees spread out

At sundown, we said goodbye

to several species, knowing 

at dawn they would be murdered 

for their bodies. I wonder 

sometimes what my mother thinks 

about the trees being taken, 

about the planet having a fever, 

ground hardening, water coming 

with storms of rage. Here, 

there is frozen grass, crunching

under foot, a wildness sprung 

from weeds. The cool tint 

of winter light in branches, a quiet 

before a slaughter of aging trunks 

and the wisdom they grew with.

I wonder if my mother knows 

what projection is, if she would say 

I project my own humanity and fear 

onto the trees or if she knows 

I hug at least one of these mammoths 

every day, no matter the color of sky, 

no matter the temperature of earth.

.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

Winter came again this year

brought snow that covered 

the dirt gravel yard 

of the house across the street,

dressed it up in a wedding gown

until neighbor kids walked circles all over it,

left trails of footprints, laid down 

and made snow angels. One of their coats, 

the bright red, painted mud when he stood, 

the ground, a stained hem,

breathed through the white.

.

Winter came again this year

with the promise of cold air, 

but hitched to wind, like a one-night stand

that went on over and over again every week 

until we called it a four-month affair,

then wind finally ran off with spring,

howling at winter to leave.

.

Winter brought cold and snow 

one last time, as if trying to show off, 

to show force, to tell us how much 

we need the quiet hibernation.

We tried to tell winter we were grateful 

for the dark, for cold fingers and toes, 

for the alone time, the inhale-like gasp

of cold air, but spring had already 

colored the parks, the trees, the forest.

And winter left again just as expected 

without holding on too hard.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

Twilight Apache Plume

My tendrils reach to sun
even in twilight, the voice 
of each one comes to life, 
like a collective hum, 
a soprano praise to sky 
and to light even on the shortest day,
when everywhere the darkness 
opens wide, like the mouth of a cave.
In my stillness, I wade in, 
slowly, hide the sound
darkness struggles to let out. 
Even as I find myself between 
the teeth, in the swallow-throat 
of cavern into belly, the fluidity 
of darkness hung around my neck 
like jewelry, but more necessary, 
more imminent, like this cycle 
we are a part of without ever 
having signed up for it.
As soon as I have come to terms 
with the bitter taste of this song 
of darkness in my mouth,
light begins to emerge. 
I see it in the colors I become, 
hear my song at a higher pitch 
as I see the lips of the cave, 
exit through them again.
Tomorrow, I will remember and forget 
this and the next day too, 
when the sun comes. 
I will stand tall before it, 
and I will reach for it, reach.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

This poem was for a prompt our group wrote to in honor of the late Julie Brokken and as an ekphrastic piece to one of her photos “Twilight Apache Blume.”

Julie Brokken’s website is beautiful with her art. You can see this photo: “Twilight Apache Plume” at this link at the bottom of the page. It is the next to last photo. Here is the link:

http://www.juliebrokken.com/botanical-beings.html

 

Center of Gravity

Today, I am the dawn

looking for the sun to rise.

The stretch of my aging torso

like the light in the sky 

remembering itself anew, 

weight of my legs, the lifting 

of night, crack of my ankles, 

sound of an awaking earth into day, 

proof I am alive. I love 

stepping outside my house

into this winter air, cold as frost.

Half of my face masked 

for a virus that haunts me, 

masked to prevent the freezing 

of my lips, my lungs, to block 

the taste of winter dew. My breath, 

as routine as the coming new year. 

I pace my walk, feel ever grateful 

to gravity, for holding me 

tight to earth. 

Dried leaves shiver in the wind. 

With my hat and mask, 

I am unrecognizable. 

There is an emptiness, 

an anonymity I didn’t ask for.

I have been walking again 

as if in a dream, having trouble 

sussing out reality. I reach out 

to what is frail and floating 

at the brittle base of night 

and what we least expect 

to appear in between greetings 

of hugs and handshakes, 

our shoulder-to-shoulder 

staff meetings, playground squeals,

the ding of elevators 

full of strangers chatting 

about the weather, time, 

new restaurants with green chile.

Even as the sun appears, 

its light in my eyes, interrupting 

what I want to be a dream, 

I am here drifting 

across the sky 

searching for gravity.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

Today

The cold air surprised me,

in addition to the fact 

that I couldn’t remember if the word surprise 

is written with an s or with a z.

I also forgot that last week 

that I ordered chocolate 

for my grocery pickup order today,

discovered it in the bottom of the bag.

I rip through the simple cardboard,

the delicate foil, place an inch and a half 

of deep brown cacao with salt flakes 

on my tongue, rest it at the top 

of the mouth to smell the flavor. 

Decadent, my friend says, irresistible, I say.

The noises of my tongue fully engaged.

My taste buds, wrapped around memory,

around the heart of all we forget.

This chocolate smells like Easter as a child,

a holiday whose scent, to me, is not of grass 

or white patent leather shoes restricting 

the feet with white tights, not of Jesus dying 

or gone missing and reappearing, or the scent 

of a holiday ham, but of sugar. 

Chocolate in the shape of a rabbit,

rainbow colored flavors of beans, colorful 

plastic eggs stuffed with candy, waiting in the yard. 

They are unlike the roses that collect 

dust, as if the only way to have peace is to grow old.

Candy that waits to belong 

to someone’s mouth’s desire, in spring. 

But now, the autumn of the heart 

has brilliant colors, ones that do not know 

suffering, protect the self 

from the wind and storm they did not birth.

The many things we can ask the heart 

may be a surprise. A surprise with an s 

may be softer than one with a z,

but a z always seems to be 

a letter that is more fun.

Great Divine Mother Isis

You have helped the dead enter the afterlife,

The dead, who have carried their 21 grams 

of soul, so much less than a pound, 

even less than a kilogram, the weight of our essence,

a summation of all we have been and seen,

the weight of us and the depth 

of how we have loved.

Royal Isis, with a throne upon your head,

I beg you now to turn people away

from the land of the dead,

to evaluate the recent population growth there,

keep the gates closed to new entries.

On earth, it is a new moon, 

the night sky is dark and we are overwhelmed 

with death, can’t suffer its antics, 

its bad jokes, its salty cold tea. 

The songs of the mountains reach to us,

but we cannot hear the lyrics or the melodies,

just a whine of the hollowing of trees. 

We try to hold the colors of the sky, 

but instead, end up balancing its weight 

on the edges of our 21 grams.

It’s the fear, Isis, 

that we are beginning to hold of each other.

It began with the fear of contagion,

turned to fear of breath, of touch,

of all that makes us dangerously, gloriously human.

When people come in their full party dresses,

their holey pajamas, their strained smiles,

their chests gasping for air, ask them 

to turn back. 

Then take a vacation for yourself.

Close the afterlife down for another time

when we’re more ready with carnations,

waiting to say a proper goodbye.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

Image by Darla Hueske:: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sierragoddess/

Abecedarian for Abrazos

Abrazo is the word for hug in Spanish.

Brazos is the word for arms.

Carrying arms, calm arms, crazy arms wrapping around you.

Daring to love you.

Even just for a moment’s greeting.

Fleeting and quick or perhaps, at times, longer.

Grab you out of your own space and world, no, that’s not the type of hug I’m talking about.

Hopeful, held, healing, those are the embraces I speak of.

I miss the casual abrazos from acquaintances.

Jolly.

Kindhearted.

Lovely, put you at ease, hugs.

Make you feel like you know each other, trust each other, at least a little.

Not awkward, but a simple greeting.

Or hugs of friends that might linger, like you’re holding onto something precious.

Perhaps love, a caring, an importance.

Quiet, unspoken, the work of brazos.

Reaching arms, reaching for you, for me, reaching love, reaching.

Sacrament, sacred.

Trust.

Under the sky we have all been hurt beneath, the same sun, the same moon.

Volumes of possibility.

Where we all feel closer, safer, stronger.

Xerox copies of hugs seem like all I have right now.

Yearning, I swear, I yearn for that closeness.

Zero hugs from friends, zero from acquaintances, zero is too few and yes, I miss them without having known I would have.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

When I was old

I thought about how when I was young

I thought I wouldn’t argue about politics 

or pay attention to people in power when I was old, 

that I would arrange Gerber daisies and lilies, 

watch crows through binoculars on Tuesdays, 

thought I would savor each morning I woke,

notice the scent of rain before water hit the ground,

When I was old, I kept busy rather than was busy

and there was a day I drove up to the top of a mountain,

pulled my chair out of my trunk, hung my sweater 

around my neck, a peach in my purse. I sat for hours 

eating that peach, watching the valley below 

as orange colored juice dripped

down my fingers, my wrists, my arms. 

The birds that flew by, were not with me in this world, 

but part of an unfolding landscape

I watched then from afar, 

when I was old.

–Liza Wolff-Francis

The Good Headlines

“A Tree Service Comes to the Rescue when a cat adopted during COVID gets stuck in a tree with a thunderstorm on the way”

I have been looking for a tree to climb, 

to see the storm, to be the first 

to feel the rain on my face. 

There is an instinct to ask the growth 

of earth to protect me from its rage.

.

“Surging Coronavirus Cases pushes Latin America to the Limit.”

We are so far away from each other,

–not far enough, even at 6 feet– 

too far to help. No one 

wants to see the tears of loved ones,

there are more coming. 

The words we spoke aloud 

about all that has been lost, 

about what we are unable to find, 

gone.

.

“A Newspaper Delivery Man has made 500 grocery runs for seniors during the Coronavirus Pandemic.”

I am alone in my house. 

Is there a guilt

for not doing more? 

Is there a guilt

for my own fear? 

Is there a guilt 

for the kindness of others? 

The spring has been especially windy here, 

the nights loud with sirens. 

Every shake of the trees in the open air 

closes my mouth, like maybe I should know 

what is happening, like maybe the leaves 

will say something, like, there is no emergency, 

that was a false siren, do not think the worst.

.

“A nine-year-old and her friends raised over $40,000 for black owned businesses by selling homemade bracelets.”

Small fingers weaving 

such a large sum of money

to help, understanding the weight 

of each thread. The creativity 

of a child, a simple bracelet, 

what we do with what we have, 

and all the time in the world

no time at all.

.

“The river running through Zion National Park will be protected forever thanks to the Nature Conservancy.”

At least there is water. 

At least we still have that. 

Something sacred. 

To quench our thirst. 

The earth 

alive, 

even apart from us.

-Liza Wolff-Francis