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Mabel A. Dilley


Seattle, WA, US

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Pushing Back the Darkness


Mabel A. Dilley

When candle light alone
pushes back the darkness
in the hush above sounds
of traffic
sitting Indian style
upon the brown and white
throw cover
I remember you gave the green
glass cup holding light
and wonder if you too
push back the darkness
with a single candle.

Grandmother is Dead


Mabel A. Dilley

By the grace of G-d
I see nothing but hear language
the kind adults use and children
choose to ignore. Outside prune-faced
apples wither at ends of gnarled fingers
arthritic humps barren of summer. I am
eleven, and I know that inside
my best friend is dead.

Tell me the stories, the ones a child
might hear. Show me greener pastures
and cool waters, the lightness
of love. I'll save this one last candle
to guide my path and journey,
stopping only once at the wailing wall.

A light still burns in Jerusalem,
and I can find my way home.



Mabel A. Dilley

Corn silk rots
in a January afternoon
torn by sunset.
Black armpits of trees
wounded last fall stare
at me. I stare back.

I am Proust and Dante
chained together, circle
dancing death both past and present,
watching sands shift nations extinct
no longer to be named in time.

I return to the sea
a vagabond soul, a dark-hooded monk,
chanting mystic melody atop the ragged
face of darkness.

Alone I stumble the north jetty
in search of my soul
no longer hungry for your touch.

"Cbala, cabala," chants the mystic
an ancient search ransomed.
Cabala, cabala, oh mariner
of the vast unknown voyage.

Love Affair


Mabel A. Dilley

Spider's web laced through Pacific fern
frozen mouse breath caught in tangle foot
beach walks
two solitudes joined
the intrinsic values of quiet
threads of a new love affair.

Woven throughout the long journey
cross-patterns of adjacent growth.
We tell the story well
graced by a union
whose time is now.

I come alive again, perhaps
for the first time, within your eyes
your mouth warm on mine
your hand holding mine,
holding something so deep neither
of us can see the intangible
power, peace, excitment and joy.

Roses are the gift, tender loving
that thorns can not destroy.

Lovin' Ain't Easy


Mabel A. Dilley

Lovin' ain't easy. Comes along
slaps you up along side your head
and keeps right on goin'. Don't stop
say, 'excuse me, beg pardon'
or none that ol' shit.

Girl, have I got your full attention?
You hear what I'm sayin'? I know you do.
This is conflict, pure confusion, boarders
right close to inj-se-cur-ity.

Why do the poets write like it's something
to behold - Christmas or the 4th of July?
I'd rather be hangin' out. Tough this loving';
makes ya poor.

I kid myself, I'm hooked. I can't get enough.
But Lord, I can't help thinkin',
What will you do
when it's gone
and over?

'Cause, Girl, you know nobody
deserves such joy
in this world.

A Bedtime Story


Mabel A. Dilley

In those years yet to come,
people will say we lost track
of the meaning of we and us,
that we found ourselves
reduced to I and me.
Some people will agree we were simply
two people living our personal lives
as best we could, and yes, that was the
only life we could bear witness.
Out our window, through the dark glass,
trees are still grounded into the earth.
Fixed somehow for years,
still reaching outward and upward.
No clouds of doubt.
This is a story about falling from a great height,
a prelude to something else, something
that comes much later, but a kind of falling
through layers like a dream
floating to the bottom of a night.
A sheaf of numbers adding up to the one belief,
a feeling you can count on,
the pure mathematics of desire.
Like colors in a painting,
counting the layers that overlap,
duplicate, that tell lies to our senses.
We are the people with two hearts,
and our world is torn by each: the rational
one that counted precious years
and the other one that won
when we fell out of step and out of love.
Our children lie in the next room,
waiting to be tucked in and embraced,
waiting for a story or a glass of water,
for us to look under the bed and in closets
for things that might go "bump".
And for this reason,
I have no words
to tell them
this will be their final night.

Parting (an ontology)


Mabel A. Dilley

I am working hard trying to
remember what you look like
how you smell in the morning
after sex and sleep and why
I was ever in love with you.
I watch your body move towards me
and just for an instance the dull ache
returns. I check an impulse to rush
into your arms under the floodlight
of your glorious smile.
No love today. We gather
to settle moneys from the sale
of land the futuristic dream
of beach walking, hand holding,
cabin raising - retirement shared.
My grieving inward cry sends hands
shaking at the loss of the last thread
connecting me with those dreams
and what might have been.
I crack a joke
hear my own fear
and sign the dotted line.

A Letter to Robert Frost


Mabel A. Dilley

I'm writing to you, dear Robert,
to tell you, to let you know.
I've seen your 'road not taken'
covered with a fine dusting of snow.

And at the edge of the forest,
just at twilight time, I take the hand
of a child once more to lead her
through interwoven branches,
past 'wild things' as they call.

Although the path is narrow,
and the journey dimly lit,
I'll ask of you one favor
before we are truly split.

The journey that you spoke of,
the separate directions each of us
must take: will they, indeed,
make all the difference?



Mabel A. Dilley

Lucille, I have called you back
from the banks of the river
where you stood on the brink
of no more tomorrows.
We no longer can hear the footsteps
of our long ago ancestors, silent
is the dance of moccasins against this soft soil
weíve become a name beside a box
that requires checking on all government forms.
I was hoping you could explain the way reeds
circle our lake outside Grandfatherís cabin
and show me the way to ease a canoe into water
without a sound, yet keep a picnic lunch dry
when paddling all day, and how to navigate my way
through a nightís darkness.
Some say you committed suicide along this riverís bend
and thus fell from moonís favor; we speak your name
always in hushed tones so as not to disturb those who
ushered you across the final river.
I want you to return, if only because I am lonely,
and I cannot remember what you said when I was
but thirteen and it was so very hard to remember anything
told to me. I have pressed my dreams for answers
and cried a thousand deaths upon those who failed you.
None of this has worked, and I still need you to come home.

Our Blinded Selves


Mabel A. Dilley

Ignore the rank smells from the dusty ovens
Ignore the echos of the clanging chains
Ignore the bleeding hand and backs
Ignore the fourteen gun shots and thirty-one stab wounds
Ignore the night screams and the terrified dreams
Ignore the ranting and ravings of lunatic liberals
Ignore the hungry children with swollen bellies
Ignore the old and the lonely who have no faces

I love being Jewish, it's a privilege to be Jewish
I love being African American, it's privilege to be Black
I love being Native American, it's privilege to be an Indian
I love being Latino, it's a privilege to be a Latino
I love being Vietnamese, it's a privilege to be a Vietnamese
I love being Appalachian, it's a privilege to be Appalachian
I love being an East Coast Aristocrat, it's a privilege
to be an Aristocrat
I love being deaf, sightless, abused, ignored and hungry
it's a privilege

Take pride in who you are and what you are
Know where your family comes from and how you became
The person who lives inside your skin
Don't be a doormat and don't look for scapegoats
Stereotypes are lies and the people who use them are fools

This is America, the land of milk and honey
This is the promised land to which I have brought you
Never mind that I have bought and sold you like chattel

Stand up and be proud, now you are an American.

Driving Home from the Desert Country


Mabel A. Dilley

Landscape heaped up into monotonous red sand-hills
the tones and shades most modest, most tender.

This is the region of sparse vegetation
the land of wind-eroded stone.

Born from sun of fire and moon of ice
the white shell of limestone embedded
with the fragile arms of star fish and clam shell.

In a land of little rain you pray for the aspen
a virgin grove of ponderosa pine
a stand of white birch that weeps a seasonal lake
or a cool stream on the western slopes of green mountains.

Across a great headland is dull orange
iron brown fists thrust forward into canyon walls
beyond which we can only hope for the sea
and remember the quality of sighting a small boat
something of significance amid a remembered barreness.

Summer shakes the lilacs awake and you burst forth
into the North Jetty climbing up the mighty Columbia
feeling the frantic spray of water and cross the bridge
driving home and fan tailed curl of an oceanís wave
frees you once again.

It is well for you to glance occasionally at the stars
or to think for a moment about eternity.

Childhood Memories


Mabel A. Dilley

We were researchers
between grasses and poplars
childhood adventurers in a time that once
existed by crossing streets, fields
or climbing fences

Crescent moon passing so sure
and luminous, time trembled
faintly strange like a flickering visage
on yellow wings
the stars so crowded above we lost count
you did tell me they were real
didn't you?

When I first met you
you sang so sweetly to the stars
as the ancient warriors looked down
and Venus crashed with Mars
we danced upon our mythical playground
so many years ago
was it me who loved you first
or was it you who loved me first?

We raced beyond childhood
we are now but ghosts of the children
who rampaged through the halls of grub dominions
probing the wilderness of freedom
while dodging double-decker buses

Conversation Baruch Adonai-1


Mabel A. Dilley

Self-consuming flame
soft fragments
tranquil ashes
so begin a tempered end.

White Sea fills a childís jar
glowing rays swim from the darkness
I am awaiting His desire
knowing that once I was loved.

Who am I reaching outward toward
this goal of love? Changing, you see,
through many lifetimes.
Ever taking a separate path:
some see love and others laugh.

I heard a voice:


Elohim, you are an artist with impetus
to create out of the blue,
without reason, something beautiful
even me.

I am a broken vessel suffering
for lack of reconciliation. Your song
of the desert moves me to harmony.
Torn by humble beginnings
healed by metaphorical awareness,

I enter the Sabbath Mind
at the end of the sixth day.
All is serenity and joy; therefore
I will be quiet
comforted that I am but dust
an angel in the making.

Evening Fire


Mabel A. Dilley

We have collected wood shavings
and boughs for an evening fire.
The cured alder snapped
sending bursts of light
into the shadows of a room.

We have eaten nutmeats
and have thrown their shells
onto the fire. We have eaten oranges
dipped in red wine
and have thrown their peelings
onto the fire.

Out our kitchen window
we have seen the sky torn by sunset
and listened to the low moan
of color and fire

We have made love.
Our arms and legs have reached
the four corners of the room.
We have looked deeply
into the bottom of our souls
and we have thrown
the sound of our eyes
onto the fire.

Where Fields have been Planted


Mabel A. Dilley

Lonely for my father
I walk where fields have been planted
remembering the plow turning
the dark earth
imagine livestock grazing
in adjacent pasture
an early sun slanting over the hills
rolling under the earth at night.

Since his heart gave out
I think of him more often
as if there were nourishment in death
as if a process of endarkenment
were healthy for the soul
as if strolling these fields for forty days
were time enough to mend fences
walk an empty windowless barn
a door at each end like a tunnel
through which the slanted light shines.

Thereís no need to pursue perfection
when itís all around you in rolling meadows
river valley towns
secluded shorelines and solitary country roads.
Here perfection is effortless and eloquent
calmly waiting for you
set yourself free where the river meets the sea
and all that is heard is a forest awakening.

How They Sang


Mabel A. Dilley

The soldier arrested them.
Blind-folded and handcuffed
they began singing:

You can't forbid us everything
You can't forbid us to think--
You can't forbid our tears to flow
And you can't stop the song that we sing.

The women continued to sing
louder and louder
until they heard the voices
of their sisters moving
across the mesa:

Ah ne nah, nah
nin nah nah--
Ah ne nah, nah
nin nah nah--
Nyaga mutzi
oh ne nay-
Nyaga mutzi
oh ne nay--

Consider the rabbits
How gently they walk on the earth--
Consider the rabbits
How gently they on the earth--
We remember them
We can walk gently also--
We remember them
We can walk gently also--

'Call for reinforcement,' one soldier said.
'We have,' interrupted one woman,
'we have--and you have no idea of our numbers.'

The Clan of One-Breasted Women--
we are home, soul-centered and strong,
women who recognized the sweet smell of sage
as fuel for our spirits.

For the Shoshone driven from Utah to Nevada
January 1988

Tolerating blind obedience in the name
of patriotism or religion
ultimately takes our lives----Terry Tempest Williams

Along a Country Road


Mabel A. Dilley

An aged wooden fence appears
and retreats in the mist
a moody silence broken only
by the photographerís footsteps
upon dirt remains of a country lane.
Ethereal beauty lingers in place an intricate
texture of an impressionistís painting.

Once again we borrow a bit of the moonís final glimmer
to break out from the whirlwind of fallís most vibrant
harvest: tiny pencil cattails fan out across this multi-colored field
lavished with the richest red huckleberry leaves set off
by linum, preserved lemon leaves and lepidium.
Your boots suck bottom mud to behold a world of wonder
caught in a single maple leaf, its veins as intricate as a map.
The jagged peaked perimeter so fascinating you can not
resist tracing it with fingertips that are nearly frozen.

This morning love stories always seem
to be written just for you and you wonder
when does serenity become all energy
and why does your heart dance with every turn
of your head? Richer yet the scent of towering pines
becomes part of your memory
this sweet timber destined to row in circles
around your heart. Lured with the promise
of hot coffee and a warm car, you head for home.

This day God assumed the form of a cattail, a towering tree
a lingering scent upon the chilled wind.

First Frost


Mabel A. Dilley

Rime fell into roofs steaming, melting
in glare so blue, skies emptied of birds
a song of color stands still remembering fall
our hearts once warm become as winter
foreign to love as time marches forward
souls plundered grieving Summer's final tryst
moon harvest of fields now picked clean
new snow falls softly upon cedarís limb.

Shadows of Chanuka


Mabel A. Dilley

One hundred and thirteen generations
Lit candles for eight days and prayed
(No doubt miracle-flames in empty jars)
Each canted word death delayed.

Some memories are miracles: jars
Empty yet dancing with the light, generations
Touched by fire, burning distant stars,
History twinkling with recitations
Lest words be forgotten.

They prayed
On their way naked to ovens; they delayed
Memoryís end, the empty jars burning
Afire with recitations,
In words their mountains, their rivers, desert stars;
Nations flowing towards silence,
Ebbing into darkness, with candles they delayed_

Granted they seem strange. Their recitations
Are alien chants. The empty jars
Burning in the temple, scattered stars
Returning eagerly each night_Whose prayers delayed
Interment in darkness? Which sunless soul prayed
Earnestly enough to light the stars?
Long this love borne by generations.

Memories need candles. Recitations
Of children like black meadows of fragrant stars
That mirrors the eyes of generations.

Memories end: sightless stars
Like coal dust blown across darkness, the jars
Like unattended stones_G-d once delayed
Eight days the death of light. People prayed.
Now night awaits the last of their recitations.

I Learn to Pray


Mabel A. Dilley

I prayed
it was a simple prayer
I prayed for the willingness to pray.

The voice is my fatherís voice
and my motherís voice, my grandfatherís
voice and my grandmotherís voice.

My ancestors are dead
Iím the one that speaks to me now
and Iím the one who can learn.

Light shines through windows
partially boarded for safety
there are only two chairs in the room.

The bomber overhead sends children
and adults alike scuttling into
hidden doorways, tunnels.

Ground zero
I calculated my chances of survival
not very good.

One chair is occupied
placed in the center of an otherwise
empty room.

An old woman of eighty something sits
and reads a book. She has little else
the clothes on her back, a pinkie ring perhaps
left from a first love of many years ago now.

Sandals, shawl, memories
the book she read is common
like the sands that pile in every corner.

She looks up from the book
and fixes her gaze upon me.
"You pray with me." I hear the bombers
return low and threatening.

The old lady is compassionate
"Do not be afraid, come pray with me.
This is Israel. They cannot kill you."

She prays; I chant:
"no one has dominion over us
for no one knows us
as those who have died."

The bombers become bored
with their play. Together we
walk out of the shelter. "See" she says,
"no one can touch us."

Morning Musings


Mabel A. Dilley

Far beneath the music
where violins play
memories rise up
swelling into the throat
caught in remembrance
some love from long ago.

Beach walks at midnight
how your profile made me weep
under the moonlight
how blessed were we
how years passed through
holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.

How graceful this faith of continuance
long after you have left this plane
traveling to the great beyond
still your soul touches mine
and I know death of your body
is only transitory and not a thing
for tears or regret.

How I revel knowing our love holds
through all things, through all time
my morning prayers are a duet
my nights feel your protection
hear your quiet laughter
the touch of your gentle soul.

Ode to February's Daughter


Mabel A. Dilley

Should you look out your window
and see there an island of lush green
grass growing please note daisies
as impervious, impartial witness

Fringed eyelashes softly woven
to the center black or brown
fans plucked one by one
as years evaporate

'He loves me, he loves me not'

The wind this fine month bending
heads to and fro, such hope swings
life so pure might contain forever

March brings its bud gentle
upon the breasts of young girls
and by April boys learn bad language
releasing frogs caught in pockets


I run out in a kind of rage
catch an arm here or there
chase the boys away and smile
for now I am the lawgiver

Oh, I was young once and sprouted
covering my pocket size trophies
laughed embarrassment by mere thoughts
revealing a certain color appropriate

But still I moralize upon this day
and wait an August through
when armed with scissors steady

I cut their daisy, dying heads
their seeds spread out farther now
than fields or my sight can see

Lest September's gossip mongers
rule the day and eyes lolling curious
peer from behind the Chestnut tree

I tell you truly now, one must obey
nature's law but not in silence suffer
sweet sixteen as she ventures forth
from your door.

Missing Days


Mabel A. Dilley

Slowly poison
fills the blood stream.
It is not the effort that tires.
The waste remains,
the waste remains and kills.

It is not clear sight or
small consequences a life requires;
slowly poison fills the blood stream.

They bled the old
and now the young,
giving into desires
the waste remains,
the waste remains and kills.

It is the tombs
dark soil, dead soil;
slowly the poison
fills the blood stream.

Complete fire is death.
From partial fires
the waste remains,
the waste remains and kills.

From missing dates
the heart expires.
Slowly the poison
fills the blood stream.
The waste remains,
the waste remains and kills.