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

Pantoum for our planet of crows

Crows gather in the Cottonwood tree,
blacker than night holds me.
Even the birds are our children here
if we see ourselves as becoming land and sky.

Blacker than night holds me,
shadows and dreams of sleep.
If we see ourselves as becoming land and sky,
we may never sleep again.

Shadows and dreams of sleep
that poke me awake with skeleton fingers.
We may never sleep again,
lost to the fascinatingly hateful chatter of crows

that poke me awake with skeleton fingers.
It’s not the death of our planet that scares me,
lost to the fascinatingly hateful chatter of crows,
it’s the death of us that rakes me awake.

It’s not the death of our planet that scares me,
night terrors of holding our children over the flames,
it’s the death of us that rakes me awake.
Crows invite death into today’s sun.

Even fighting, we may go down without sound.
Crows gather in the Cottonwood tree,
each day brings new air and chatter.
Even the birds are our children here.

Liza Wolff-Francis

A self portrait

Liza Wolff-Francis

We all have so many pictures
of ourselves these days, our own

photography of us, on our phones,
on our tablets, our own portraits

taken for granted and in them,
I am a woman changed from who I was.

My hair, a graying color of bark, of limb
of Cottonwood tree, each of my eyes,

a well closing slowly as if the years bring
a squint to the world that determines

the end of water. My neck still smooth
like satin, but with the slight stretch of elastic.

What of it tells a story? It is not as obvious
as that of a giraffe however, but holds

years of breath and swallow, talk and scream.
All this body does, my arms, my back,

my toes. These shoulders pinned forward
in a lazy Friday slump, waiting

to stretch into more formal moments.
There is no easy way to eloquently say

something so trite as: it is hard to grow old
and still we must travel onward.

In our quarantine

Liza Wolff-Francis

there is only my shadow
on an open empty road.
Central Avenue is deserted,
as if we built the world
for ourselves, then weren’t
able to live in it.
Our world, a dead tree cut
into circles, chopped like
pieces of hotdog or carrot rounds.
A roadrunner crosses
the rough cracked asphalt,
a silent yellow fire hydrant
in a green yard.
All that is left is a ghostbike
to memorialize us, all the beads,
all the trinkets that hang from it.
Even inside our house,
the meditation pillow
tries to be the rug. My child
disappears into a box,
his coat hanger book report
hangs alone, waits
to go back to school someday
in some uncertain future.

The task of the creative

Liza Wolff-Francis

To those of us who write poems, create art,
our task is to lead the thirsty to the lagoon

where the water is just cool enough to test out.
First, with a dip of the toe, then cupping

our hands around it to make a small
puddle in our palms, bring puddle to lips,

between cheeks. We cannot help them
swallow, drink, or digest, but we can point out

the deepest parts and the shallow areas
where algae grows. We can show them

how to soak their bodies in an ecosystem
they didn’t know existed. We can wear a path

in the grasslands between their home and this oasis,
where a quench is mastered before it even registers

in the mind. Our task is to show them
when the hawks dive down, to alert them

to the preying wait of the crocodile. Our task
is to make them want more, so they depend on it

and are conscious of that at their very core,
beyond even understanding thirst.

At the holy ground

Liza Wolff-Francis

we are people composting slowly,
decade after decade we watch
the young birth themselves
into this world we have given them.

At the holy ground, there is lush
green brush, there is warmth
of sun, the cool of water, rock
mountain temple before sky.

At the holy ground, my pleasures
are gathered and woven together
like chain link, but softer,
like silk. The most curious

birds with tufts on their heads,
peck at memories, rise together
like levitation in the quiet air,
as if they hadn’t always been there.

At the holy ground, it was like
we had barely wanted any atonement
or penance at any time in our lives,
but suddenly we hoped

for a blessing to appear out of nowhere,
like we needed it in order to go on
into the loneliness we knew
would soon be floodlit,

its every movement echoing
like a tree falling. Here,
the petals of flowers wait for me
to lie down and kiss the earth,

to lap at their spilled nectar.
We eat dandelions, imagine
ourselves as strong, as new
as the words sung to us

by the voices we love,
as if they were angels
or mermaids or goddesses.
I should just call them goddesses.

While he sleeps,

Liza Wolff-Francis

I sit in the dark of morning, inhale
the sacred silence that comes between

his breaths like a tiptoe. My body balances
on the edge of the bed as if it was to decide

which day to climb out of. His breath, even
and pacing, as if it were the day moving

through itself and an occasional animal sound,
a raccoon perhaps, a squirrel, a dog, a bear.

My bear behind me, vulnerable like all
that would kill us is far from here, far from us.

My prayers that it will stay that way hover
at the floorboard cracks, like a spell of salt

and peppermint oil to keep away dark shadows,
politicians in their masks, the America

I criticize and want to be different. Only all that I love
here in the dark right at my fingertips, holding up

the droop of my breasts, the bend of my toes,
the wild of my hair. While you sleep, the air

holds me in its dying night and I wait to remember
myself, all skin and bone, in the coming light.