© mary vollero, 2017

3000 photographs of the Grand Canyon can’t show their faces

I had to cancel our reservations
when Dad got sick just before our trip
but he was there
smiling as I stepped back

at the first sight of the red rock walls
his voice echoed in the span
the way it did
in the days after he died
when he woke me up calling
“Catherine, Catherine…”
from the window
in the valley outside

And that night
sleeping in the historic lodge
my Joey cat ran
from the vast
from my past
to my arms
I kissed his long soft belly fur
his sweet orange scent
on my breathe
till sunrise
When arm in arm
my love and I
steadied each other
on the ice along the rim, looking out
looking in


How can we be now?
After those great dry dirty days
you drove us through
land cactus skies
moon stars blinking lights
petrified wood
hawks on poles
songs and clementines
dust covered bullet casings
even gas stops worthy
a cashier called you cowboy
I wanted to say the same
Hey cowboy kiss me above a biscuit with strawberry jam
on the rocky path
before we die in a hot spring
kiss me again on my lips my hand
on the rim
while I weep at the slopes
red, violet, brown
how do we recover from all those rocks God gave us?


When the nurse asked
if my emergency contact was still you
I said no
I was okay with that
But when she asked who
I couldn’t speak
what friends might I call
what lovers might not leave
I cried
and the nurse said
she was sorry
it was okay to leave it blank
Thank god.
And now
that cat you brought home
who once laid in your arms
sleeps on my head
will only eat from my hand
is skin and bones
and I call you.

A Familiar Song

A cicada got in
under the screen door
loud and ugly
mad bashing against the light bulb.

Has it really been seventeen summers
since I swept their dry web wings
off my sidewalk?

My arms float up in the tub
hands heavy and light
holding water
under my palms

I’m not starving, am I?

I didn’t weep, did I?
While we weren’t really doing it, were we?
Though you were
holding me tight
while the cicada screamed
from trees


An open road
and empty head
after bank, gas, cat food, bread
a thought came to let go
caused my eyes to blur
and pull over
by the corn field
to big black wings
white tail, white head
pushing off a bare branch
heading for the hills.

eagle sm copy

Okay. You be the Mom

I want to tell you what happened Sunday
when I went to see Mom
although it was nothing really
I wrote it all down
afraid I might forget

How when I arrived
she was doing laps in the halls
so fast she was out of breath
till she saw me
Opened arms and said,
“Oh sister, my sister,
how we miss each other!”

She leans now
closer to the ground
like she might fall with each step
but keeps going around
up and down the halls
always making a pit stop in the lobby though
where Nick parks his wheel chair to watch her pass
he’s been her sweetheart since Dad died.

Last month when Nick turned 99
we took them out for Italian
he told us how he landed in Normandy
his nose in the mud and blood
everyone dying around him
he says,
“He spent his life wondering why God saved him
till he met my mom.”

Now he tells me to take care of her.
Who will make sure she eats
has two creams in her coffee
takes her medicine?
Mom leans over even more
to kiss him on the top of his head
“Oh don’t worry, you’re getting better!”
Makes us all cry.
So, we walk again

I’m scared when I see her, in me
how much I forget
but I can’t forget
how scared she was
in the elevator
in the car
– we had to go back after only one block.
every trip to the bathroom
a nightmare of fear.
Till she saw the photo of my Dad,
on the mirror
and she said
“WOW! He’s mine, not yours!”

I am afraid I might forget
how when I spooned her apple sauce
she said
“Okay, you be the mom now.”
and opened her mouth.
Told me I had pretty hair
and that
I smile too nice.
And when she said it
she got teary
which made me cry
and she said “Oh you do this too?”
and we sat there in the dining room
weeping together
and though the server didn’t seem to notice
she left a stack a napkins as she passed.
at some point she said
“Okay, lets be happy now”
so we were
especially when they brought the ice cream
and she asked
“How could it be
that I never had such a wonderful thing
as this vanilla ice cream?
Really how could it be?”

And how could it be
when we went out to sit on the bench
an indigo bunting made a stop on the fence
she pointed at him
how beautiful
and my shirt with pink flowers
and the sky
the tree in the parking lot

she taught me
to see.

At bedtime she kept sitting up
getting up
petting her cat that wasn’t there
till I crawled in the bed with her
rubbed her back
said the prayer she used to say to me growing up
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the lord, My soul to take.”
She whispered back thank yous
and please do not go
Though I knew she wasn’t really talking to me anymore
when she said
“Thank you,
I know, 
it wont be long,
I love you too, Honey.”


When you were here
I forgot to water my plants, feed the birds
your going, moving, here and there
building, making, painting this and that
days ended in a crash on the carpet
with favorite songs
tub soaks, back rubs
make the most of this time
because you’ll be leaving
too soon
kind of love
till the birds sang
and we ate blueberry pancakes.

Few things are worse
than three baby bluebirds
dead in the nest
their heads all pecked
while their mom cries
on the clothes line
not even that you’re gone again
and I’m on the bridge
looking down into the water
for fish, crayfish, tadpoles, skimmers,
anything that lives I guess
when I hear a birdsong
it’s the Mom
rebuilding her nest.

If I Could Stay Put

If I could stay put,
If it were enough,
the house, the cats, the quiet
I wouldn’t need to meet a friend
have a drink in town.

If I had more time
I could leave earlier
drive slower
so I might not hit a squirrel
a mole or groundhog
darting out then back again
on the winding road
in front of me.

If I could see better
at dusk
into the woods
behind ash trees
thorny berry bushes
kudzu vines
I’d avoid the possum
and the deer
and the other deer
that looks me in the eye
as he steps right out in front of me.

If I could see
in the dark
the sky above me
just in front of me
I’d never kill an owl
flying low after the mole
on the mountain road
I take back home.


a collaborative poem

Lightning and thunder
Someplace where rainbows begin

Kisses from above

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑