Sunday, January 1, 2023



I Am The Ash Keeper


In the drought year that marked Patsy’s decline,

I drove her to the Anza Borrego desert.

Parking outside the alluvial fan of an arroyo,

I helped her climb a dirt mound beside the stream.

Patsy sat on a rock in a clump of boulders. Her feet

rested on a stone slab, twice the size of a frisbee.


Behind her a Desert Agave stood. Its stalk higher

than five feet. Beside it grew the Cat’s Claw.

It’s fire red blooms matched the sun’s color.

On her right stood a yucca in bloom. Winding up

the hillside, the stream vanished into oaks, and on

the horizon, clouds thickened over Granite peak.


It’s been ten years since I saw her there, but how

I can see her now. Her white blouse embroidered

with blue flowers. She sat with her arms crossed;

her mouth slightly opened; and the raw hot wind

blew sand into her hair. Cancer and heat worked

together and the circles under her eyes darkened.


Lifting her chin, she revealed her beauty, as red

as her blood and brown as her eyes. Each day

she grew slimmer like a migrant crossing the desert

becomes thin from a sun-dried thirst. Feeding life,

water became holy, and Patsy saw the dried flowers

and yellow weeds as a promise of life after rain.


I watched her as a shaft of sunlight crossed

the arroyo behind her and higher up, buzzards

rode the updraft. Coming down the canyon,

the wind shook the leaves above her. She ignored

her hair and shoulders becoming dusty as she sat

near the olive and beige shrubs.


I could hardly look at her without thinking about

the smooth pasture of her thigh or the fine veins

crossing her ankle. Barefooted when she died, she left

a rustling sound of the breeze passing through leaves.

A grayness seeped into her cheeks as her mother

and blood-sister washed her according to their rituals.


Today, I place Patsy’s ashes into her curio, and around

the base, I wrap her belt. The bronze buckle stamped with

an image of Smokey the Bear. Holding a shovel, he stands

beside a campfire. I hang her prayer beads on the urn.

Near it, I place a picture of Patsy and remember kissing

her cheek when she sat pale and lovely in the desert.

Bells Of Mercy


Saint Mary’s bells call the hour.

The sky darkens over Dublin,

and I walk in Purnell Square,

looking at the narrow streets

and thin buildings. Black, clouds

foretell rain, and the crowd

parts for the shoeless woman.


Crying, she comes down the street,

wearing a checkered shirt,

threadbare jeans, and a pair

of pink socks. Her blond hair

has streaks of gray and

is unkept as if she slept

behind the hedgerows.


She walks in front of me, turns,

stepping into the wall of a pub.

She bounces off and spins

before leaning against the stone

window frame. Placing her face

in the crook of her arm,

She resembles a runner

stretching her hamstrings.


“I just want a cup of tea.

A bloody cup of tea,”

she wails before sobbing

and talking to anybody,

but nobody listens.

When the rain begins,

the bells continue to ring

without mercy.


Leaning against the pub’s wall,

her shoulders shake

as she cries while the bells

continue their cold,

metallic chime of coins,

calling people to teatime

in Dublin.

Song To Brigid,

Irish goddess of spring


After an all-night rain,

these Irish lakes are clear.

The trout are restless. they swim

near the shore and underneath

the shadows of the hooded crows.


The air is icy and clear.

After leaping for a fly,

a fish splashes, and under the water,

boulders take the shape

of a woman napping.


Driven by the arctic wind,

thunder clouds darken

over the farms in the far fields.

Lightning flashes, and

a small frog hops into the lake.


The land becomes quiet,

a chapel inside a church.

Are the lapping of waves

whispers of water fairies?


The muffled wind becomes

a creaking church door,

and the crows mumble their caws

as if they’re not allowed

to speak their language.


Believe me when I say

that now rain falls into the lake

like pearls. Now Brigid

steps out heroic in her nakedness

and nobler than the sun.





JOSEPH D. MILOSCH: Joe D Milosch’s new book of poetry is A Walk with Breast Cancer. His book Homeplate Was the Heart & Other Stories was nominated for the American Book Award and the Eric Hoffer, best Small Press Publication. His other books are The Lost Pilgrimage Poems & Landscape of a Woman and a Hummingbird. For 40 years, he worked as a trail locator for the Cleveland National Forest and as a heavy construction inspector in the private sector. His poetry draws on those experiences; as well, as his experiences growing up in the farmland, north of Detroit Michigan and his army experiences during the Vietnam War.


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