The Inventor Of The LuVailean Sonnet

The Inventor of the LuVailean Sonnet

She was no Millay, my Great-Aunt Lucy, but she named herself Lyra LuVaile, Poet Laureate of Long Beach, California, and wrote a book in which she speaks familiarly of Stars, the Cosmos, the Music of the Spheres – subjects I might write about, myself, though not perhaps so familiarly. “The blood of Irish bards runs in our veins!” she cried, upon hearing my baby self rhyme hop and stop. (At which my grandmother whispered in my ear:  “Nonsense. We were Orangemen, my dear.”)

Bony, ax-faced, that long Scotch-Irish nose – her looks from her father, Jeremiah, the old man in the daguerreotype with the rifle and Bible, the waist-length beard and the belt he used to whip them with. All the girls looked like that – collarbones uneasy under the frilly high-necked cambric, layers of ruffles starched to fill out shirtwaist bodices – all except my grandmother, small and dark and buxom. (“I,” she said, “did not need ruffles.”)

But Lucy married at last, and moved out west with her Calvinist husband, crippled in the First War, to Long Beach, California – city of spiritualists and faith healers, health regimens and Sears Roebuck bungalows, where everything that had come a bit loose across the vast prairies rolled until it hit the water’s edge – the LuVailean sonnet, for example, which Lucy at once invented.

There she published her magazine, Aeolian Harp, where poets who wrote of Veils and Starry Orbs and Lyres might (for a fee) send their efforts to be critiqued by the Laureate Herself, and if accepted – which they were, after a few more go-rounds and quite a few more fees – published, to the admiration of their friends.

Well, she was no Millay, my Great-Aunt Lucy, but a woman of parts, commercially speaking. And if she said nothing about her actual life, the four neglected children and the dark mean house, the smell of toilet and unwashed clothes – if she escaped to her druids and nymphs of fairy grace, her cerulean heavens and sapphire seas, who can blame her?

(Except – what of the husband in his wheelchair with his whipping cane? What of the monthly envelopes full of cash, to pay her for the care of her lost sister’s secret child – money that kept a roof over their heads, while day and night the boy was beaten and beaten to drive out his mother’s sin – and herself not stopping it, not speaking a word of love? Lucy, what of that?)

Letting It Go

Letting It Go

I’m walking on my birthday
and this time
letting it go.

Toe the line!
Morning line!

I’ve stopped stopping
at all the roads not taken
(you know the ones I mean)

because here’s the joke:
every road is a dead end.

So I’m just walking on my birthday
and letting it go.

In my throat, regret.
On my tongue, mourning…

but here’s coyote brush with the dew still on it,
and black sage, and sumac –
has anything ever smelled so good?

Here’s clay dust under foot, a little hot already,
sunshine clapping me on the shoulder –

and here’s a sky the exact blue of a ‘57 Chevy,
dog grinning over his shoulder,
jaybird yammering like no tomorrow –

and here I am!
And it’s my birthday!
And right this minute
I’m walking.


Speaking Of the Muse

Speaking of the Muse

My muse comes up behind me and says Honey
(she calls me honey)
you don’t have a lot of time here –
lose the pale Flemish bride
with the sidelong glances.

She says Look! Here I am!
Dappled with oceans
furred with green and gold –
Honey, give me your full attention here!

O she turns
light runs from her mountains
like sun off bleached bone
her mangrove hair winds in a sea of stars
on the round veldt of her belly elephants graze
and at her throat lie leopards,
waiting for me to come and drink.

She says You bring all those monkey voices down here
and leave them to the leopards.

She says You work your feet down deep in my mud
suck up that ripe swamp smell of life and death
and when the leopards come for you –
speak that, Honey. Speak that.







In 2012, I had the great privilege of performing my poems with the celebrated choreographer and dancer Shizuno Nasu and percussionist Gene Tamashiro. The performance was titled “Dancing the Seasons.”
Shizuno was brilliant and terrifying and moving!
This experience transformed the way I look at “reading” poetry.
See the video of “Spring”
here  and the video of “Summer” here
performance 24
performance 12


January 4, 2014

Two days of thunder and lightning, torrents of rain, flood warnings, the sky cracking and slamming and booming and blasting!

And wow, did it just run all that old energy of 2013 right out of here! Banging out the old, banging in the new, clearing the air and  pouring that champagne effervescence into our lives — the absolutely best, freshest, most exciting start to a new year in my entire life. Woo hoo! Thank you!

Here’s the view from Mauna Kea, the Canada-France-Hawai’i Telescope  “cloud cam” at 14,000 feet:

No need for New Year’s fireworks! This was the real thing. Electricity!

Smells like effervescence, this 2014 does — like super-charged ions, like crystallinity. Vinho Verde, prickling the tongue.

2014! Gorgeous! Bring on the joy!