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Some Favorite Poems from Poets I Admire

“Fish Fry Daughter” by Sara Ries

“A Miracle for Breakfast” by Elizabeth Bishop

“Ode to the Duduk” by Peter Balakian

“Wish (2)” by Bhanu Kapil

In the Grove: The Poet at Ten by Jane Kenyon

“Sleeping on the Wing” by Frank O’Hara

Single Poems by Lee Woodman

Story Tower

inspired by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s 
“Scheherazade,” the music and the story

Building story on story
Balcony by balcony
Windows with blinds—

                                    We frame our lives     

Four oboes take us forward,
We heed recurring themes
A river flows unwinding

                                    with currents underneath

The leavings too familiar,
Arpeggios gone rogue
Each day a chapter lengthens,

                                    each year the epic grows 

We deflect, we hide in labor,
Five trumpets push us on
We raise the shades of mourning,

                                    a seed becomes a rose

We soften as two harps wrap
Around the violins
Torment melts to forgiveness

                                    reprise becomes reprieve  
There’s a rhythm to our days now,
Remorse and anguish end
We know this lilting story    
                                    we climb the stairs again

We need one thousand stories,
To fall in love so slowly
A tender piccolo’s refrain—

                                    standing on balconies, I remain                                     remain

*first published by Tiferet Journal April 2016
Fish Hearth

On land
horrible things happen--
a breach of trust.

Brad told me he slept with her.

My muddled mind
anguished with imagined details—
they met at a race,
her shapely legs glistening,                                 
her long limbs, nude muscled beauties.

They did not hesitate to lie
together on the scarlet quilt I had given him.

Not long after he disappeared, I learned
she had moved in.
Already two names on the voicemail,
they were happy.

When I am sad,
I sink under water,
glide forward,
lids open wide.                                               
Water flushes cool,
washing past my hot face,
pushing me past thousands
of tiny shimmering fish.

Shoals of see-through silversides
surround me. I am one of theirs.
Swimming in unison approaching the light,
our underbodies glow white.

My feet merge into a tiny forked tail,
my arms into two dorsal fins.

I must stay here, forming, reforming
until I can rise on my own.                

*first published by Kelsay Books June 2021
What to Expect at Congressional Cemetery

Not the graves that drew me there,
not the closed iron gates where I found an opening,
not the numbered maps leading to celebrity markers,

I turned to the un named, the no ones, the un knowns.

Confused by the totem poles along the brick walk,
distracted by the verse I was waiting for,
bewildered by grief and loss and heat,

I blinked through sweat, pulled my straw hat low.

Amused by the K-9 dog-walkers
who paid to be in the special society of cemetery donors,
we all were deciphering Washington DC anew.

Not the Cathedral School where my first husband taught,
not the Capitol Hill co-op where I lived for 14 years,
not the Annapolis flat I rented during separation,

I turned to hundreds of years of burying:

the 1892 epitaphs from husbands to wives,
tipped-back headstones of proud gay lovers,
locked vaults built by self-claimed venerables

made me flee back to the totems, the red carved cedars:

Female bear of liberty,
male eagle of war,
turtle in the middle of the crossbar.

I learned comfort from woodcarver, Jewel Praying Wolf James,
from Lummi Nation, a Washington far from Washington.
This is the verse I was waiting for, the distraction

I sought: all our arms linked underground
wrapped around one another, all our crooked
feet know pain and suffering.

Mother Earth holding us up,
Father Sun covering us down,
dogs and their owners keep walking.          

*first published by The Hill Rag, September 2019
It Just Won’t Work

A tiny female one-third of an inch tall
will never live underground well.

She sleeps in a walnut shell,
decked in her floor-length gown with puff sleeves.

It makes her cringe to live dirt-bound with moles,
toads and beetles—besides she hates cold weather.

Thumbelina takes a chance on E-harmony, it’s
not that she’s mean, she’s merely very picky.

Marlene at E’s office suggests many a suitor.
However, at the point T believes all is a loss,

her friend, a sweet swallow, swoops her aloft
and carries her flower-ward. She weds a small prince.

Ah, someone her size, who lives in clean meadows,
provides a real treehouse with wraparound porch.

They travel from flower to flower in flight but
damn, they had not discussed money, kids, or sex.

She recalls the bluebird who called her Maia,
he’d been always there, loving her from afar.

She could have welcomed that avian Cyrano,
and unbridled lovemaking in his large velvet nest.

*first published by Poets Choice Publishing, January 2020

Lee with Guests Eastern Market 2019
Lee at The Writer's Center
Lee Signing Books TWC 2020
Lee Reading at Eastern Market DC
Lee Reading at Eastern Market DC
Lee Woodman readings at Bowery Poetry
Lee Woodman readings at Bowery Poetry
Lee Woodman readings at Bowery Poetry
Lee Woodman readings at Bowery Poetry
Lee Woodman Group Reading at Bowery Poetry

All photos by Sonya Melescu

Single Poem Links

The Concord Monitor, End-Stopped, June 2019, about Donald Hall’s memorial

Grey Sparrow Press, Road Trip to Nilokheri, 2018, Jaya the Ayah, 2019

Vox Poetica, Sorrow, One Touched Me on the Shoulder, Reconsidering the Moon 2019. Toward Big Sur 2020

The Ekphrastic Review, Who’s Watching Whom, The Underside of Colour, They, Alien 2018-2020

Zocalo Public Square, Learning the Twist in New Delhi/What it Means to be American, December 2015

Lee Woodman at The Writer’s Center Event on August 17, 2021.

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