Eight Notes from the Bell Tower*

She is in the tower,
the camponologist,
calling out to heaven from her stony perch,
pulling thick rope until the tower shakes, resonating
the air with beautiful clamor.

A new voice was pulled that day, and it washed the sky
from dusk to starlight, pastel morning to deep night,
striking thick tones.
She bathed the blank sky until
the air was crisp, the stars shone, and all was so,
so still.

The bell tower stands
like an empty shell.
Tiny window-gems rise
in a golden line.
Empty thuds of feet climb
the inner ring
to the top where sallys hang
like the ends of candy canes.

Down and up
back and forth
pull and

in perfect union, all eight, and she
the first to call in the year,
to whisper the command
into tremulous, thundering beauty!

“Look to!”

curves of steel, ageless, without wrinkles,
arch in graceful curves
others hold their breath
tension all around

“Treble’s Going!”

now ring in time, in birth, in death, in union
sing clear and strong
for years to fall in place.
all around she rings them in,
a lassoer of skies.

“She’s Gone.”

The campanile
the village sleep
and rise.
The bells
and ring

Cambridge Surprise?
Not a dessert of clotted cream eaten with small spoons,
but a clear chorus of bells, rung by human hands.

Not a grand sire, ruling from his palace,
but a faithful ring, struck true and constant.

Double Bob Minor?
Not a slow duo of melancholy notes,
but the clean, swift weave of a two ton bell dancing among the other seven.

Birds hold, people stop,
airs quiver, stars twinkle.
The awesome resonance of bells,
bells she rang – the first – the camponologist.

*St. Mary’s church in Adderbury, England, (see below) houses 8 bells, the largest of which is 2 tons. It takes a minimum of one year to learn the most basic combinations. The leader of the bell ringers is a “camponologist,” a position that takes many years to earn. This poem celebrates the first woman in Adderbury to do so.


I know you

I know you.
Your face behind the window in North Beach,
how you sit alone and order coffee on a cloudy afternoon.
I know you.
The notebook you keep in a purse, the pen you can never find,
how you feel your thighs on the chair beneath you before crossing your legs and making a promise.
I know you.
The way hours slip by in shades of grey and purple,
how you wander in front of the couch or lie curled up on the floor.
I know you.
The sound of an ocean crashing in your ears,
how the tide goes out each day taking away some of the ache until it comes in again.
I know you.
Planning to create and write and do something that touches people on the other side of the glass,
how you see all of them walking past.
Shatter the glass if that’s the only way.
I know you.
Your away-glancing catches you mid-life and suddenly
it is urgent,
how you look back at the tree of your life
and find yourself stranded on a limb and no fork left to take.
I know you.
Let’s sit together now, both of us.
The roots remain. It’s not too late.
I know you.

Life Line

My daughter draws on the pages of my diary
Strong lines that are her–strong willed,
loving, frustrating,
so much me and not me.
Lines that split my words and remind me
of the divide
between what I can write and what I can feel.

Poetry sometimes fills this divide,
softens the line and
takes us to a place where
words become soil, born from
constant decay.
Life we can’t predict.
Messy life we can’t clean,
only nourish the best we can
to be a life line

that sprouts from words
up and to the sun.
Always up and to the sun.



I know why she knitted
She was waiting,
Filling the empty spaces between being together

Needing something for her hands to do.
Something for her mind to concentrate on.
Something for the space between.

Some people knit,

Some write

Some eat

Some play video games

Some have pets

Some have kids

Some get lonely (or maybe all get lonely)

Some bake

Some travel

Some compost

And some go out to the barn to water the cows and feed the chickens

To fill the space in between

This is a practice, to Love in the space, to Love until

there is nothing in-between

to Love until we realize the space
was nothing and we are Love


There are as many galaxies as there are stars
in the Milky Way
Millions upon millions upon millions
Points of light
Beautiful chaos
Emanating heat,
Sprinkling organic molecules like fairy dust throughout the universe
And giving us oxygen and hydrogen to breathe
Nitrogen to build
Carbon to move
And in all this glorious energy
In all the unbelievable scale of cosmic happenings
There are more empty spaces than solid
More blank than written
Dark matter

Here, a mysterious fabric
A mysterious emptiness
Here, is where Love spills
Like water and light
Breaks like waves—as waves
Here is where we find nothing and everything

We know form is only temporary
Time fabricated
But Love, Love, the impetus of creation
Asking nothing,
Giving everything,
Making room

The space large enough for a billion galaxies
to create, live, die,
And be
Never losing or gaining matter
Here Love ignites the universe and earth,
earth is the audible expression of that same
all empty, all-encompassing love
Fragile, delicate, part of the magnificent whole
We find our relationship to the universe and each other
For Love surrounds and moves us all

A Mother’s Philosophy

A moment or two, but maybe now the moment is gone. What do I want words to do? To capture a moment, or two, like this one, when the sun is now shining away the snow and my girls are sleeping upstairs. I think! Emptiness seems to be the way of life now. To empty the anger and longing over and over again. To empty and empty until hollowness resounds with surrender and surrender becomes real and the monotony isn’t really the thing, it’s the hollowness resounding with the everydayness of things. The idea of a country, of a religion or a dogma, all of these slip away when you try to stand on them. Then what remains? What foothold is there for an idea of God? Who can give me the answers to my questions about why we die? What happens when we die? Why we live? What is this happening that I call life and why am I so small and what matters? Questions so many people have asked so many times before. Questions that are the toe holds of intricate philosophies I no longer have the energy or time to study or wrap my mind around. Not when my body wraps around my smallest while I breastfeed her, or my arms wrap around my oldest as she screams her way through another tantrum. Empty again, it is so much easier than hanging on. It is so much easier than holding in. Dissolve. Empty. Cut loose. Surrender.