Category Archives: poetry


This poem first appeared in the 1987 Suisun Valley Review under the title “Innocence and the Bulbs”.

My peach zippered-down formal crackled
As you reached in, finding my back,
Fumbling with my Norform AA bra strap.
My back was all you dared to touch
That October Homecoming night.

I lay with my head on your knee
Your broad hand stroking my curling-iron curls
I needed a mother more than a lover as I
Took my first step toward that other world.

You drove me home in silence, and
It was a week before our eyes could meet.

Months later, in the front seat of your mother’s
Lincoln Continental, we tried again, and failed.
Our humiliation drowned our love
We changed hallway routes to Zoology
Found different petting partners.

Years later, on a San Francisco Muni bus,
We laughed at coincidence and fate.
Our eyes still clung with that
Gravity of first lust.

Hours later, undressing on my Murphy bed,
You promised to be a different man.


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Sister Mercy

This poem was published in the Sonoma Mandala in 1987.

I would watch
Sister Mercy’s
weathered hands
work the soil
in the convent garden

I would hide half
behind the bird bath
till the stark white
of my anklet
among green weeds
my presence

Hello child was all she’d say

the smile in her eyes never faltered

as I watched
weathered hands
make halos
for flowers
out of dirt

children were not allowed
in the convent garden

Sister Mercy
the old retired nun
pruned the convent roses
and fed the seven
hungry goldfish
swimming in the concrete pond

I would watch
the light
hit them

as Sister Mercy’s hum
echoed like the chapel bells

and weathered hands
made rows of halos ’round
the flowers in the dirt

Sister Mercy let me linger there
though she knew

children were not allowed
in the convent garden

then: out from God’s bowels
like a hawk from the sky
I would see

Sister Francetta’s glare
emanating from her blacks
as she swooped
the chapel stairs

to retrieve me

from Sister Mercy’s sacristy

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Last week I walked into the dining room and saw these flowers a friend had left. Right away I remembered this poem, and a time long ago when I first discovered quince.

Nevada City: late winter 2012

I said, “I love you.” You said, “I brought fresh quince,”
and you spliced it into the fading pussy willows
you brought fresh the week before
when you stole in to my house, calloused
hands finding a vase in the quiet that
felt more like winter than early spring.
But it was spring by then, a season since
the lemon tree you left by my bedside faded
leaf by leaf. Carrying it to the compost pile
I saw a second growth budding. But the quince has
fallen petal by petal, and the pollen from the pussy
willows is past golden. Midnight, and the full moon
shines. I sleep hard on the brittle bed of quince and
willow branches I took from you, wake
to a lemon tree blossoming in the cold.


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On Being Asked: Who Is Coyote Woman?

In the 1990s, the Coyote Women were frequent performers on the San Juan Ridge. I was one of the few “townies” the women invited, and I was honored to be included. I’d like to gather some names and memories from others who remember this time in our artistic history. If you can help, please leave your details and memories in the comments below or write me at

She knows where she lives and how to get there
from any of the six directions.
Coyote Woman knows her needs,
creates paths to meet them on her own behalf.
She offers no apology for what she feels
and states only what she means.
Coyote Woman hones a passion,
bathes it with her tongue on the earth floor of her den.
She howls in the throes of love,
snarls at unkindness,
flips a playful paw at folly.
Coyote Woman can’t stop growing.
Each year her fur is thicker,
heart larger as she greets the moon.

Carolyn Crane


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Emily’s Room

You stand by the table that carries remnants of our

breakfast, wipe your beard of my moisture.

My body tangled in pillows and comforters I realize

I have witnessed your beard gray these past ten years,

noticed curly silver emerge on your chest and groin.

You smile, smell the Kleenex, look out the white

curtains at the Sacramento rain.

“Wild nights,” I think, and my mind turns to luxury.

For now comfort rides passion’s wave.

Indifference seems drowned in the gutters

below us.  You know me from the marrow out.

“I travel the road into my soul,” she wrote.

I see the digressions in our journey.

In an hour we pick up the children.

I inhale the silence–the first spring air–as

You linger naked over her collected works.

Carolyn Crane


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Closing Weekend

So many people I know and love right now are experiencing heartbreak, relationships ending and changing. It is impossible to see one’s way out of the pain when trapped in its midst.  One friend says the key is to keep the blood flowing, keep breathing, keep moving forward.  Perhaps he’s right. This universal pain I see my friends enduring reminds me of this poem I wrote in the early 1990s.

Closing Weekend

Ashland, Oregon 1992

“Love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. . . .To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many beginnings–all in the same relationship.” –Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With The Wolves

We hit Ashland midmorning in our rented Corolla
your Trooper abandoned in Weed–
transmission shot before its time.
Looking up at the sky through the windshield,
studying the gray the way you do,
you forecast: “It should be clear by noon.”

Ashland was our town.
For eight years we’ve journeyed here.
theatre our mutual love
the beauty of the town our celebration.
In mid-season we fought the throngs in the plaza
held hands to keep connection
picnicked among the flowers in Lithia Park
gazed into our future as we sipped forbidden wine from paper cups.

Late afternoon, our son ensconced at the baby-sitter’s,
we finally head to the plaza alone, through threat of rain.
We pilgrimage to the Green Leaf Cafe,
where for eight years we’ve waited for a table
amid scores of vibrant, artsy tourists.
But tonight our footsteps echos.
We sit on the balcony, and you say, finally, half aloud,
“Ashland is different this time of year.”
“It’s Halloween,” I say, “And besides, it’s closing weekend.”
We wait numbly for our food to come.

Strolling home after La Bete, there is even less to say.
Masqueraders, marauders, pass us on the street,
gazing at our own weary masks of marriage.
We are too tired to smile back at them.

In the morning it is my 30th birthday.
The card says only, “Love.” And I don’t blame you–
remembering we’ve both left our wedding rings at home.
I know you trade your anger for indifference
offering it to me, then, as a token of what love once was.

It is drizzling when we take our son to the park.
He feeds the swans, scampers in new black rain boots.
Passersby offer us the “cute family” look.
I feel us falling into separate dimensions.

Autumn leaves blanket the foot high impatiens
tired from so many months of growing.
Our son picks up a large maple leaf, yellowy brown.
“Look Mom a leaf!” And again,
“Look Dad a leaf! I will run!”
And he does, waves the leaves in his hands,
runs across the wet, leaf-speckled grass, away from us.
We stand as he extends the border of our triangle
further and further.
I watch the lines between us evaporate.
I look at the gray sky, avoid your eyes.

We window shop a little.
Shakespeare banners line the street, their bright red fading
like the leaves that still cling to the trees.
Most have fallen, mostly brown, onto the wet cobblestones.
We can’t help stepping on them.

I duck into a dress shop, buy floral bikini underwear and
two pair of warm winter socks.
Back at the Stratford Inn I show you only the socks,
slip the underwear on in the bathroom,
try to remember what being a lover means.

Curtain call: the matinee.
The cast is tired, grateful to offer its last bow.
The sky is darker still. We chance eye contact;
the starkness turns us inward, wincing.

I am too tired to stay for the evening play, and
let the rain fall on me as I wander alone up Siskiyou Blvd.,
reluctant to go indoors to the world we share.
Sipping wine from the motel glass
I watch our son breathe and dream.
Winter presses into me and I am far from home.

Carolyn Crane

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After the Game

Football season always reminds me of this poem I wrote more than twenty years ago now.  Many years younger than my jock brothers, I grew up watching the younger play football, basketball, and baseball.  I spent hours upon hours commuting to games with my dad, his Jeep, and sometimes friends such as Les Eva. Now my jock son plays on the same basketball court as my brother once did.  Time passes, but some memories remain indelible. From the archives….


After the Game

At the table Mama brings him milk toast.

Steamy lactose floods my nostrils as Dad

inhales hot globby bread–post game ambrosia.

Mama waits in the shadows to bring another

helping.  I perch in the corner hearing him talk,

itemize the highlights:  how my brother showed.

“Should’ve had six more, didn’t watch the block.”

He stoops to glut the bottom of his bowl.


Our mutt, old from begging, sits up against the wall.

My dad slurps, not bothered by her lack of pride.

She leans, senile statue, until I call,

“This time won’t be different!”  She turns aside.

Shadowed, Mama asks, “What honey?”  I shrink

away.  She turns to tackle dishes in the sink.



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