Brushing Your Hair



Brushing Your Hair

In the last month you ask me a favor.
Will I brush your hair when you have passed?
You seem to want to greet whatever comes
looking your best. I give my promise.

Each day when I come home, I offer
to brush your hair, but you say no,
maintaining the independence
you have always shown.

Later, in hospice, I no longer ask.
I hold your hands, rubbing lotion in,
skin so fragile, like a butterfly wing.
It is time now to make the last ablutions.

I clean your face and brush your hair,
your sleeping eyes flicker
under paper-thin lids, pale blue veins
tracing their course across them.

I imagine your mother tenderly holding you,
stroking your cheek, watching you dream
in her arms—her newborn daughter
with milky breath.

Ninety-one years separate us, your two watchers.
One joyously bringing you into the world;
the other sitting silently in the dim-lit room,
keeping watch over you through the night.          





The poem, “Brushing Your Hair” is from my chapbook, Erasing the Doubt (c) 2015, Finishing Line Press.




Mary, Mary…poem by Mary Kendall (SAME NAME Poetry and Prose Series)

A new poem just up at Silver Birch Press. Click at the bottom to get to the original on the SBP site.

Silver Birch Press

kate maberlyMary, Mary…
by Mary Kendall

Shut away.

Your attributes, little Mary.
A long list.
No one liked you.
Except for me.

Not true. There were others.
Your sweet Indian Ayah, who fed you,
washed you, dressed you, taught you,
tolerated your contrary ways, angry words,
miserable frown. She held you close,
rocked you after nightmares and dark dreams,
fanned you in the hot Indian summers.
She sang to you—mellifluous, soothing songs.

Your mother denied your existence, hid you away from view,
just as later, you’d find your cousin Colin, hidden away, too.

What damage it did.
What pain it caused.
Like a plant held too long in a small pot,
its roots pot-bound and crippled,
Colin, unwanted and denied like you.


My family separated when I was just five,
I felt…

View original post 514 more words

Charlotte’s Story: Haiku for Wilbur by Mary Kendall (ME, IN FICTION Poetry and Prose Series)

Silver Birch Press

Charlottes-Web-Terrific-Garth-Williams1Charlotte’s Story: Haiku for Wilbur
by Mary Kendall

“My Words”

my words—
who knew what a story
we’d become?

“First Friend”

a friend—
something my kind
never knew

“The Unexpected”

new friend—
silken parachutes in spring wind
bestow surprises

“Silken Words”

silken words…
hearts woven together
in their own story

“Some Pig”

little did they know
how special you were—
some pig!


a real friend
who accepted me as I am…


just knowing
you have a good friend…
this radiant heart

“I Told You”

out of nowhere
grows the best thing…
kindness of spirit


your kindness of heart
my friend

“The Fair”

harvest moon—
who knew how high
we’d fly?


even a rat
can help a friend..
who knew?

“My Time”

time for rest
my voice a whisper
…alone now


no need to worry—
our memories will live on
in your heart


View original post 261 more words

Kamakura Beach 1333: Artist’s choice in Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge

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I am both speechless and honored by the selection of my poem, “Kamakura Beach, 1333” as the artist’s choice of the October ekphrastic challenge by Rattle, one of the finest contemporary poetry journals. The artist/photographer is Ana Prundaru. My thanks go to Ana for selecting my poem for this challenge. I am deeply touched by her very thoughtful and generous comments.


Artist's Comments.jpg

To read the poem or listen to the audio on Rattle, here is the link:

Note: there is an audio of me reading the poem on the Rattle page but I’ll include it here as well:


Kamakura Beach, 1333                                          


The sea washed scarlet that night.

The tide rushed in—swelling and breaking—washing
all traces out to sea on the waves of Kamakura Beach.

You know nothing of this, you who long for adventure
and pleasure—youth who search desperately for meaning
in lives that are too rich, too busy, and still so poor.

Your small boats arrive in early evening, the carmine sunset
at your back, and you quickly gather driftwood, tinder, and
fallen black pine branches to burn. You light the fire.

A trail of smoke begins funneling up to the starry sky.
The fire burns hot and one by one, you feed it twigs, boughs,
pine cones bursting into streams of sparks and wild flames.

And in your wanton rambling, one girl grows silent—she alone
hears the hallowed chanting, the cries of battle, the shrieks
of arrows piercing skulls, the stench of life exiting too abruptly.

She wanders over shallow rocks, her hand touching stone,
knowing the pain hidden in the silence of eight hundred years.
The rest of you are unaware…you laugh too loudly, move

too fast, not noticing the shifting colors of the setting sun.
Listen and you will hear the shogun cries of warriors and farmers
that once shook the sacred sands of Kamakura Beach.

Can you smell the fierce fires, the burning buildings,
the blazing rafters crashing and lighting the darkening sky?
Can you hear the screams of those buried here long ago?

Time slipped by like swifts at dusk darting in the fading sky.
The fire raged on and on, and lives were ravished in a
single breath. It was our fate to die on Kamakura Beach.

With Samurai mind and clean, sharp blows, the sacred sword
was swift. One by one, we died…each of us choosing honor,
this bleak beach now strewn with bones, bodies and blood.

You who come to visit—feel the cool churning lapis blue water,
and see the late sun boldly brush red on sand, water and waves.
Remember us—we who lie buried on Kamakura Beach.

Let your fires roar, let them spark in comets to the stars.
Under the dark night skies long written in indigo and ink,
we will walk together here on Kamakura Beach.

Morning tide will come—swelling and breaking—washing
your presence out to sea— remembering our final night,
a night of fire and blood, bone and bodies on Kamakura Beach.

The sea washed scarlet that night.



Here is the broadside link:

Rattle also posted a download of a broadside that includes poem and picture side by side. It is so beautifully done with the shadows of the boat creating a subtle image under the poem. Very appropriate to this particular poem, I think.


My Mother’s Voice…a poem of loss

Today, my favorite haiga was published in a favorite journal, Gnarled Oak. It is a lovely home for this haiga. Here it is along with the link to Gnarled Oak (check out all the great poetry in this journal). The editor, James Brush, releases one poem a day, a custom I love. It’s always a joy to see what each day holds. My thanks goes to James for accepting this piece.


My Mother's Voice haiga



beautiful border for blog


This haiga was originally posted on this blog on June 14, 2015.

Salted Feathers


To listen to an audio of me reading this poem, just click on the link below. Give it a few seconds, and it will start.

salt shaker

Salted Feathers

I was four when you told me the story
that if someone wanted to capture a bird
they must sprinkle its tail with salt.

We went outside, salt shaker in hand,
not sure what we really planned to do.
In the end, it was a tiny sparrow foraging

for fallen seeds or tiny insects on the other
side of the chain link fence at the back
of the yard. You told me to go ahead and

sprinkle it. My hand would not fit through
the opening link square with the shaker.
Blindly I tossed a spray of salt that landed

more on you and me than any place else.
The little bird was spared, and he continued
rummaging around in the grasses, indifferent

to the plans made by two small girls who
had no real idea what it was to take away
the gift of flight. No salted feathers for him.

All I remember now is that I felt something
happen inside when the little bird looked
at me and, in the way of all birds, off it flew.

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The Mutability of Memory

All of us have memories. Good memories. Bad memories. Memories we love to revisit over and over. Memories we push far back, hoping they will disappear. Some memories are vivid, while others are dreamy and vague. A few are very, very real as if they just happened, but others feel as if they stories that happened to someone else rather than us.

Memories can be haunting. Memories can be triggered by all sorts of things—from a taste that evokes brilliant memories from early childhood to a scent of burning leaves that reminds us of an autumn long gone.

It began with a prompt in March 2014 in Poets Online to use a first line from an Emily Dickinson poem as our own poem title and then to write a new poem. This was one of my favorite prompts because it asked me to do something I had never considered. I do read Emily Dickinson’s poetry from time to time. I puzzle over her words and meanings. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what she meant and how she did it. She never ceases to amaze me or probably any of her readers. To borrow a first line from her seemed a bit like stealing something sacred. And then the fun began–going through all of her first lines (which, of course, have also become the titles of her otherwise untitled poems)–and selecting one to work with. The prompt suggested we not read (or reread if we had read the poem a while back) Emily Dickinson’s version until our own version was complete. Fair enough.

After going through the list of first lines of Dickinson, I had to eliminate all those I knew. That meant excluding some wonderful poems I knew and loved. It also meant I had to find a poem that was unknown to me. Oddly enough the one I ended up with is a well-known poem of hers, but I couldn’t remember reading it (failure of memory on my part perhaps?), so I chose it. I love this line. “The Past is Such a Curious Creature.” Don’t you love the very idea of it, calling the past a curious creature, personification with such crisp alliteration?

Following the instructions, I did some thinking of what the line meant to me, what it brought forward. That’s how poets work. It can be rather vague to those who don’t write, but all poets know that a simple line can bring to life so many things. A poem comes from someplace deep inside, a place we’d love to explore but we only get glimpses of it. It took me a while to write the poem and to rewrite it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to submit it for quite some time. I even tested out a few other lines as prompts, but I returned to this irresistible line that Dickinson wrote. Here is the poem I finished and submitted. When the final poems were published, it was fun to read all of them. The other writers did a wonderful job. Some wrote in a style resembling hers. A few wrote in rhyme. I did none of that. Mine was in free verse, dictated only by the ideas and images that spilled out.

My poem:

THE PAST IS SUCH A CURIOUS CREATURE  (Line taken from Dickinson’s Poem CXXVII)

The past is such a curious creature
capable of creating such marvelous lies
that we begin to believe as we hear them
said again and again, forgetting that
there are those who love to distort
the truth and let it spill out and break
into brittle bits & pieces that are left
on the street to be kicked and crushed
until the shards are too small to see.

The past writes a story of its own choosing.
Its pen might be inked in faulty memory;
its paper might be marked in things that
did happen as well as those that did not.

This story is examined with the lens
of exaggeration and embellishment
until the tale that remains
is now so embedded in our minds
that we can no longer know
what was real and what was not.

And now for the inspiration piece, the poem written by Miss Dickinson:

by Emily Dickinson (Complete Poems, 1924).

Part One: Life CXXVIII

The Past is such a curious creature
To look her in the face,
A transport may receipt us
Or a Disgrace.

Unarmed if any meet her,
I charge him fly!
Her faded ammunition
Might yet reply!

Although the prompt suggested reading the original poem after our own was nearly complete and then comparing where we were going, I opted to read Emily Dickinson’s only after my poem was more or less complete.

In Emily Dickinson’s poem, her personification of the past as a feminine being is a surprise. Then she tells us that as we remember the past, it might reveal a hidden delight or a remembrance of something disgraceful or shameful. That said, she moves to the second stanza and urges the reader to be aware that if the past memories are ignored, there might be consequences that would take us with surprising force. How true. Memories that are suppressed can and just might tumble out to reveal an unfathomable nightmare. Or more.

My own poem chose a different path. It opted for examining the past by questioning the mutability of memory. Is the past always the past? Is it constant? Or is its story one that changes in the retelling and perspective of the storyteller? My point of view came arose from the self-examination of a few haunting memories from my own early childhood. These particular memories were negative, but they were mine as I perceived them.

In asking one of my sisters about her perception of these same events, her memory was quite different from my own. So, which was true? Either one? Both? True for her, and true for me, even with different observations and conclusions? I spent a long time trying to figure it out but was unable to do so. My past. Her past. Our past. Memory can change and distort with time, age, experiences, contemplation, It does present some good leads for poems, but it does not answer the question as to what that unhappy childhood memory really was all about.

Poetry allows us to raise questions and to examine possibilities. It is not psychotherapy, nor is it scientific. What it does do is give the poet a way to explore personal stories and experiences and to turn them into something that goes far beyond the individual self. It offers each reader a chance to follow along and even to join in, adding their own experiences and memories into the mix.

What do YOU think about the mutability of memory? Can we ever answer all of the questions we have about the past?

(Note: part of this posting appeared on my other blog, Bedford Square +2)