Published Work Samples

**Pleased to announce that my poem, “Birth of the Girl-Child,” won 2nd place in the Maryland Writers Association’s Annual Poetry Competition 2016! 

Hospitality, Birth of the Girl Child, Remnants of Empire (published in Pen In Hand, Winter 2017)

Re-Entry: An Internal Monologue (guest blog post on Rocky Re-Entry, January 2017)

These Seeds (guest blog post on A Life Overseas collective blog, July 2016)

What I’m Reading: Frederick Buechner (guest blog post on Velvet Ashes collective blog, June 2016)

Cameo (published in St. Katherine Review, Vol.4 Number 3)

You hold a ready lens to each scene and verse

waiting for yourself to come into focus: you’re Joseph—dreams,

Judases for brothers, final recompense for your hurts—

 

or Moses— eyes searching watery walls you’ve stepped between

for shadow creatures, fissures, but on you walk, aware of trust,

scanning for evidence of God in the seams—

 

or perhaps an exile returning from Babylon—the crust

of years falling from you, the shofar sounding its jubilant note

as the last foundation stone settles in the dust.

 

Yet what if you are not the favored son, but one who woke

from dreams, number twelve in line for daddy’s attentions,

trafficked for debt or indifferent profit, smote     

 

by an obscure hand, no dancing exodus

rather, death by your stripes in the shadows of a limestone

mausoleum, born one generation too early for deliverance?

 

What if exile makes such bitter work of your bones

and brittle heart, the others must kiss you and depart

to witness the stones’ rebirth, while you remain alone?

 

The initial taste of meekness is tart

as you adjust to your bit part.

 

Creative Luxury—Beyond Maslow  (essay published on antler’s blog)

The Truth About the River (published in Welter, Fall 2104)

Everything Is a Departure (published in Bloodstone Review, Issue #1, May 2015)

Cicadas—East of Eden     (published in The Penwood Review, Fall 2011)

                    Bazhong, Sichuan, China

Mid-summer I crested the ridge

of the hill behind my house, the bare brown shoulder rising

naked above its garment of summer growth

and encroaching city. My breath hummed

with the music of the full sun

as an iridescent body magnetized my eyes

to itself: skewered by the sun’s full rays

against a dry trunk it heaved and accordioned

itself in and out, up and down.

 

I leaned in, not breathing because

of the power of that voice

that is not even a voice, how it could consume

the span of earth and sky and then cease,

leaving everything shaken, changed.

 

Before, I never searched them out, unnerved

by the sheer terror of that volume, sounding like

everything in the world, threatening

to blast me off my feet, then

swallowing into sudden silence.

I averted my eyes when trapped

in that screeching bubble of space.

 

Now I hungered to know everything

about them: spider-veined transparent wings,

tymbrals contracting to amplify sound

through a hollow abdomen

such that permanent hearing loss could occur

if it were right next to your ear.

 

The Chinese have a saying,

shedding the golden cicada skin:

escaping danger by using deception or decoy

because of the empty husks left behind,

clinging to the bark of trees.

Or the repeated shedding of illusions

until what is real is left.

 

The last time I saw one up close was

early fall, festival time downtown and a giggling,

mini-skirted young woman thrust

a wooden skewer into my son’s hand.

The magnificent body was pierced

through and scorched.

 

I held my breath and he held his arm out away

and we both flinched when a leg moved.

My gaze spun around the square–

the cruel lollipops in hands everywhere–

and I remembered I had read China is one

of the many places where cicadas are eaten.

 

My son rushed after her, mumbling bu yao,

I don’t want it, and he wiped his eyes and grabbed my hand

I want to go home, he said.

And we left, and what was left with me

is this: that we all keep failing utterly

at our original vocation.

 

Chengdu Pastoral       (published in Gulf Stream Magazine, May 2013)

The Coveted Gift       (published in Off the Coast, May 2013)

Last month I was given this gift,

deceitfully wrapped in white

linen and delivered word-by-gentle-word

by my doctor with the tired eyes:

 

two months to live,

staring up at me, unblinking, innocent

as only death can be.

 

And that was the moment when

the life-breath of everything ever created

lifted me on hushed, thick wings, enabling

 

me to cast my scream upon the waters:

I have all the world to give!

 

Now, instead, I am merely going

home, empty-handed; but you—

even now!— show me your splayed palm

while your other fist clenches

tight, kneading a sharp hole

 

in the small of your back.

Your concealed palm perspires

with unspecified guilt,

hiding the coveted gift: you.

Suddenly I am without want,

running over with pity.

 

Speak Like Rain         (published in Tiger’s Eye Journal, Summer 2013)

          “Speak again. Speak like rain.” –Kikuyu farm youth to Karen Blixen, after listening to              her recite verses of poetry to them for the first time. (Out of Africa)

 

Speak like rain, sister,

those smooth, plump drops that beat

water-rhythm on our chests—

words shaped like the curve

of an ear, the cup above the lobe—

 

fill it again.

 

Speak again, the rain

has been too long in coming

and this scorched sod waits;

words flew on wings and

summoned the plovers hunting

 

for new grass.

 

Speak like rain, play

those tricks with light and clouds,

hope and dry craziness;

words that smell far away

like the sea drifted here just now—

 

tasting of salt.

 

God’s Sermon at the Eucharist         (published in Time of Singing, Spring 2010)

Weekly your mantra contains truths

dropped from your lips—

stones that produce

 

no ripple, nothing

to disturb the placid surface—

 

no soul-searching, no fury

at injustice, no grasping greed,

no malice

 

only the cold comfort of this

chalice at your lips

 

and the timid, nagging wonder

that wine should taste

so like plain

water.

One thought on “Published Work Samples

  1. Rachel, Finally found time to check out your blog, and I love it! So, I’ve signed up to follow you.
    Looking forward to it! Debi

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