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Where willows weep

Where the Willow Weeps

The trill of redbirds in the cool morning air
Against the backdrop of a silent neighborhood.
We are together up before the cacophony of day begins
At an hour when the world yet slumbers on.

The smell of dark coffee from the hearth,
Its warmth against my palms,
Teases my senses, not quite distracting me
From the dawn that breaks ever westward.

I curl my toes against the cold tile beneath my feet,
Shivering ever so slightly against the breeze that
Tickles the soft tendrils of gray at my neck,
And I bless the life that brought me to this moment.

All that I have known joins the universe
Of remembrance songs at this moment
When the lingering traces of night dissipate
Into the undisturbed euphony of morning’s dawn.

There’s nothing that I could ask for more than this,
At an hour when the soft glow of sunrise
Lays its blanket of dew upon the verdant green
Just where the supple willow branches kiss the earth.

© lcirilo, 2011 All rights reserved.

Ego-Surfing: Finding Yourself in Unlikely Places

Come on – admit it – you’ve Googled yourself, right?

I found myself in a textbook today, of all places. I suppose if my name were more common, I’d be less surprised, but it’s not like I’m Mary Smith or Jane Doe. I mean, how many people have you met named Lotus or Cirilo, much less Lotus Cirilo?

hello my name is

I only thought my name was unique. I rather liked it that way. My name is (or was) mine, and mine alone. Vanity searches rarely resulted in false positives. Yet, here I am in the 10th edition of Guffey’s Business English, page 112, question number 7, first line. Do you think once you’ve adopted a textbook for your classroom, your name is put in a hat for use in future editions? No permission needed, right?


guffey10th 2015-06-30

Then there is the whole thing about pronunciation. My last name is regularly mispronounced by students, which leaves me wondering, “Why would Guffey do this to students, in an English text, no less?” Have you googled (or binged) yourself? What most surprised you about the results?

I’m listening


  1. contact zone

gestures misaligned
in several languages
along the border

  1. white noise
cultural collisions–
through white noise
the eyes gesture
  1. eye contact
unending cacophony
the stranger
gazes above my left eye
  1. hotel doorman
hailing a taxi
in 3 languages
he tips his hat
  1. chop-chop
half heard conversation–
day after day
the hurried life
  1. the commute
a thousand words
left unsaid
on the subway
  1. street noise
on a cold night
she tilts her head
toward the open window

Behind the old washshed….

Where the willow weeps

thrush nest

In the backyard, against the old washshed leans a salvaged window,
near paneless, with peeling paint of dusty pink.

A cottonwood has taken root between the glass and the shed, every leaf a miracle,
warmed by the sun beating upon this makeshift greenhouse.

A series of organ-pipe apartments adorn the topside of the frame,
welcome shelter for the slim-waist mud daubers,
who fly at the ready against a possible black-widow invasion.

At the base of the holly, nestled against a burnt out stump,
just under the eave of the greying washshed,
a mossy, mud-lined nest cups two, bright blue, speckled thrush eggs.

And, in the tiniest of crevices, behind the loose trim of the old window frame,
a warty gecko naps unblinkingly in the hot afternoon, toes splayed wide.

Into this still world, phantom with weighted motion,
the padded footsteps of the cat move in silence through the grass.


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Longing toward this day

snow in springA thousand words
left unsaid,
while the wind whistles chilly through the canyons.
Headlights flicker dimly on a distant highway
catching my eye and attention.
The mind slips sideways
refusing to hold onto even the memories.
I consider that it is time, past time –
I have been longing toward this day
even though I could not would not
tell you.
Not then, not now.
A thousand words
left unsaid.
Snow flurrs.
On my lashes, my cheeks.
Yrs truly.
Our tent cants forlornly leeward
against the pall, dark vacancy.
Somewhere in the distance a door slams
for the last time
you brush the hair from my forehead
reminding me that I am and am not alone.
I do not think of how it once mattered
Instead I think of how the electricity barely registers,
When the sun splays its warmth across the morning sky
and the giant pines cast their shadows
across the damp, stone quay,
I will have gone.
I only rarely will look back
at the pieces of our hearts lying shattered on the canyon floor
where we flung them
on this bitter night
without so much as saying
a word.


ebbed-tide mirth


a cacophony of voices
pacing themselves
sketchy, dwindling, salting,
sterilized by the insane rage
of riotous profanity
thrown callously into the wind,
full of the season
of ebbed-tide mirth,
driven by the hail
of half-stripped lies,
the harsh, hard waters
of secrets kept,
hopelessness flung flayed–
refusing to go quietly,
scattering their gifts
like so much red clay
on the funeral bier
of sorrow’s sharp edge.

the eyes twitch
mute in utter repentance
footsteps so weary
diminished by mediocrity
having forgotten
both tune and dirge.


Against the mountain


The seasons do their dance.
Sometimes the wind blows,
Crisp, cool.
Smooth against my palm,
I heft the rock, and pitch it against the mountain
Remembering the way the sun inched across the sky
Remembering to be grateful that the seasons do their dance.
Sometimes the wind blows,
Crisp, cool.
For these things, my heart sings in the night.
For these, and for those with whom I have toiled and tugged
For those with whom I have grappled and loved
Across the seasons when the wind carried our voices
And we remembered to be thankful.
Let us be thankful again
That the seasons dance
And the wind carries our voices across the canyon
Where our friends listen in the night
To chirrup and ribbit,
Where our friends remember to be grateful
That the seasons turn
And the wind blows,
Crisp, cool.
Can you think of anything more sorrowful
Than to wake to a dream in which the seasons do not turn.
Let us be thankful that the wind blows
And the seasons do their dance
And friends listen to chirrup and ribbit in the night
While we skip rocks across the cool water of change,
While we pitch rocks against the mountain
And remember to sing songs,
Giving thanks
That the seasons dance and the winds still blow.

In memoriam, 6 July 1941 – 12 Oct 2014.

Visual Analysis: Barbara Morgan’s Letter to the World (Kick)

In fulfillment of Assignment 02:  English Composition: Achieving Expertise

Intersections: Letter to the World

Barbara Morgan’s Letter to the World (Kick) expertly captures the disappointment articulated in Emily Dickinson’s poem No. 441, as portrayed in Martha Graham’s seminal performance. Joan Acocella, writing for the Smithsonian, asserts it may be the most famous photograph ever taken of an American dancer, ranking in honor with Ansel Adam’s photography.

Letter to the World

Barbara Morgan (1900-1992) portrait of Martha Graham, “Letter to the World” (Kick), 1940 10½ x 13½ inches mounted 16 x 20 inches

The movement depicted is one in a series from the original Graham choreography, intended to interpret the apogee of Dickinson’s despair at the world not recognizing her talent. The title is taken from the Dickinson verse “This is my letter to the world/that never wrote to me.”

The photograph shows the mother of modern dance wearing a floor-length white dress with three-quarter length sleeves. Her torso is parallel to the floor; her left arm thrust past her hips, along the same horizontal. Graham’s right arm forms a triangle with her head; the wrist rests on her forehead, forming a right angle with the hand. The fingers of both hands curl toward the palms. Her legs are enveloped beneath the voluminous skirt. The right leg supports the dancer’s body at a near 30-degree forward angle; the left leg, kicked back and upwards above the horizontal, mimics the angle. The bodice of Graham’s dress is form-fitting. The spread of her skirt—sweeping the floor at her right foot, extending from the floor both back and upwards, above the horizontal axis of her body—creates a half-moon crescent. Folds in the cloth accentuate the arc of the dancer’s high, backwards kick. The horizontally-extended left arm and the taut neck and shoulder area suggest considerable tension throughout the dancer’s body. The intensity dissipates as it spreads throughout the extended skirt.

The negative space of the photograph is important to the total effect, focusing the spectator’s eye, and giving the ethereal illusion of a dancer on the darkest of nights. A dark horizontal line, suggesting the horizon, runs parallel to the horizontal torso of the dancer, accentuating the line. A faint shadow forward of the dancer reflects her horizontal torso.

It was a difficult shot, and Graham later averred Morgan a terror to work with (Acocella). Morgan did not shoot performances, preferring studio reenactments where she could control space and lighting. She relied on multiple synchronized flashes to stop the motion of Graham’s dress and, determined to capture “the most profound and most crucial moment” of the dance (MoCP), she had Graham repeat her “kicking sequence again and again until Morgan was sure she had the image” (Strong). To sharpen the image of the dancer, Morgan explained that she stationed:

…four assistants around the set, outfitting each with a single lamp to be trained on the dancer. With the lights wired to a single circuit, she activated them simultaneously, popping each for approximately 1/600th of a second, effectively equaling the time of her shutter speed as well as the rapidity of Graham’s movement. The technique produced the desired likeness of a blurry … backdrop, lending further prominence to the figure of the dancer. (Strong)

Speed-light technology was very new, introduced c1939-40, and Morgan used it for only “the most frenzied movement[s]” (Strong). Even then, she controlled lag by pressing her camera against her eye socket and cheekbone so it became an extension of herself. This helped her precisely match shutter time to movement time.

The choreography itself was inspired by Dickinson’s shut-in life and the disappointments she felt at having her life’s work rejected, emotions with which Graham also grappled, both in her early years and again as she aged. Thus Graham channeled Dickinson in her performance, later saying, “I conceived of two Emilys, dressed alike… Throughout the dance the Emily who spoke would witness the other Emily, myself, who danced the inner landscapes of the poetry” (BAM).

Morgan’s timeless photograph illustrates the symbiotic relationship among diverse talents. It is the expert culmination of the creative imaginations of three impressively skilled artists: Dickinson, Graham, and Morgan. Where Graham empyreally immortalized Dickinson’s craft through her choreography and performance, it is Morgan’s photography that compels deeper understanding of the intensity that first unfolded in Dickinson’s poetry. Even the spectator who lacks familiarity with Dickinson’s and Graham’s art cannot fail to experience the emotion captured by Morgan’s photograph. Moreover, without Morgan, there would be scant record of this impressive intersection of artistic prowess. In this photograph, she has eternized Graham’s and Dickinson’s art: this is their letter to the world.


Works Cited

Acocella, Joan, “An Unforgettable Photo of Martha Graham.” Smithsonian Magazine. smithsonianmag.com, 2011. Web. 20-May-2014.

BAM, “Martha Graham’s Last Dance.” bam.org, 2011. Web. 20-May-2014.

Morgan, Barbara, Letter to the World (Kick). 1940. Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. MoCP.org, n.d. Web. 20-May-2014.

Morgan, Barbara: American, 1900-1992.” MoCP.org, n.d. Web. 20-May-2014.

Strong, Mike, “Dance Photographer: Barbara Morgan.” artfuldancer.com, 2014. Web. 20-May-2014.

Til the day she dies


The MamaBird

I pass mother on my way to the back of the house. She calls out to me, “What are you doing?”

I return and sit beside her on the sofa. “Do you want something, mama?”

She pets my face and tells me, “I was crying a little while ago.”

“You were? Why were you crying?”

“Because I’m dim dim dim dim silly. I’m crazy.” She was having a difficult time getting the thought into words, but finally she managed. She does that, repeats a word or a sound, trying to make her mouth say what she is thinking. Or at least, I think she is thinking. She is trying hard to say something, in any case.

“You’re not crazy, mama,” I answer her. “You’re just a little forgetful. That’s all.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, ma’am. And that’s okay. Because I’ll remember for you.”

“You will?”

“Yes, ma’am. It’ll be okay.”

“And it’ll be this and this and this and this?” mama says, touching my head then hers and mine again, back and forth with each ‘this.’ She is trying to say something. Maybe to say I will remember for her, keep it in my head for her, or maybe something else. I have to guess.

I go for something simple, “Yes, it’ll be our secret.”

Mama nods her head, “Our little secret.”

I always find it surprising when she inserts an adjective like that. I think the adjectives and adverbs might be more abstract, and less comprehensible to her; but sometimes she surprises me with perfectly formed sentences, perfect use of the words.

I nod in return, and mama tells me, “I love you so much. My daughter. My daughter. My precious daughter.” I am comforted that she knows I am her daughter.

I leave her lying on the sofa while I retrieve an album she has stashed between the sofa and the table in the corner. She tells me, “Don’t mess this place up!” She is going to get bossy, I guess.

I say, “I’m not. I’m going to scan some more pictures.”

She follows me into the kitchen and takes her seat. I am browsing through the album, retrieving photos I want to scan.

Mama says to me, “I want to be with you forever.”

“Well, that’s good,” I tell her. “I want you to be with me forever.”

“My precious daughter,” she tells me again.

I am busy, so I don’t answer, but I reach and pat her on the knee in acknowledgment.

“Is this your house?” she asks me.

“Yes, ma’am. This is my house. This is OUR house. We live here.”

“Just me and you?” She is looking around the kitchen, and through the doorway into the livingroom.

“Yes ma’am, me and you.”

“Where are the boys?” She has asked me this before. Again, I don’t know whether she is asking about my boys, her boys, or who knows. I tell her we are the only ones here right now.

She starts singing. “Oh Jesus, I love you. I have faith in thee.”

I don’t know the words, but the tune is familiar. An old, old gospel song; I don’t recall any words, don’t even know if she has the words right. It pricks at my consciousness but remains past my range of recollection, for today anyway. Who will remember for me, I wonder.

Mama leans her head on my back and continues to hum. She asks me, “How come you write and write?”

I tell her, “I’m writing everything you say.”

She tells me, “Yes, I noticed.”

“You did?” I ask incredulously. I turn so I can see her face.

“Yes, I read it.”

I’m staring at her.

“Are you gonna quit now,” she asks me.

“In a while,” I tell her.

“How long is that?” she wants to know.

I quit typing. She says, “Tell her! Tell her! Or I’m gonna go in there and lay on the couch.”

I guess she meant what she said. She gets up, heading for the livingroom, but calls over her shoulder, “Sit still! Sit still!”

I take that to mean I can continue scanning and typing.

Now she is humming again, but this time I recognize the tune: Christmas Times a’Coming.

She rejoins me in the kitchen. I pet her, brushing her hair back from her forehead. She tries to tell me something about her head but I don’t understand her. She asks me, “Where are you going?”


“Yea, I figured that.” she responds.

“You’re gonna have to stay with me,” she tells me.

“I will.”

“What you gonna do in a little bit, my precious girl?”

She doesn’t give up easily.

But she is still amorous. “You know what?” she asks me. “You’re the sweetest sweetest in the world.”

I reward her with the faintest of smiles. “Do you love me?” I ask softly, gazing into her eyes, trying to see behind them. What is still here? What is gone? What does she have yet to hold on to?

She tells me, “I love love you love you love you love you til the day I die. I love you. I love you. I love you. I do love you.”

That was quite a litany, and I am glad I wrote it down so one day I will have it to remember how she knew she loved me when she hardly knew anything at all.

“Til the day you die, mama?” I ask her.

“Til the day I die.”

I am looking at her. Holding her hand.

“Where you wanna go?” she says.

From Monday, Sep. 20, 2004, 2 1/2 years before her death. Continue reading

Scala Santa

as I was waking this morning your soft scent
came to me on a gentle breeze
all jasmine and lilac
rising delicate with the purple morn
I peered across the measureless horizon
letting the comfort of your presence
permeate the space where
loneliness settled in and took up residence
when you walked into the gray

somewhere in the nether you are at peace
meandering through the woods of your childhood
peering into the shaggy hickories
now one hundred years tall
constant, rooted, nourishing … nourishing
like the black, plump elderberries
straining at your apron pocket dandelions
wilting gracefully from your wrinkled clasp

I can see you still
head tilted ever so slightly toward
the clear soft cooah coo coo coo of the
mourning doves announcing break of day
I am pleased to think of you thus
although the emptiness yet fills the
corners of your old room and its
constancy chafes the shiny
fishskin of my soul with its
drip drip drip of unforgetting

I saw him take your hand that day
as I had so often through the years
he stalwart custodian of all that I held dear
leading you tenderly toward the margin
I would have cried could have cried
to the ache of my crippled wings
beating erratically
if I had found the tears
or the breath

into the distance you waltzed
his hand your hand
who grasped whose I cannot say but
I was comforted by the familiarness of the
strength found there
strong dark mottled lift me up
you are my permanence hands
with all the tenderness of your
unforgetting dreams
holding long to the agelessness
of it all

when you turned when he turned
gazing back at we of your yesterday your
eyes held that morning star of enduring love

selfish as I am I lifted my arm but
that panicky quivering fear just under
my eyelid made me linger long
held captive by the soothing always
of our togetherness
the gentleness of your near
slipping sideways into the haze

on that lonely knoll I studied long
the cadence of your foot
his step step gate lock step together
toward that great continental shift
the movement of years past eternity fading
mingling with the weep in my everything

closing my eyes against all that I know
I unclenched my tenuous hold and
sailed you lightly into the blue wind singing
mourning we are out of time
you and I

little bird little bird fly away

© lcirilo, July 2011, all rights reserved