Archive for March, 2017


amywink March 30th, 2017


May 17, 2004

On Good Friday,
I kneel in the dim
antique store light
reading the titles
0n a bookshelf tucked
beneath shadows, searching
the scuff-edged spines,
hoping for undiscovered treasure.

This day, I find Jane Eyre,
Soft and battered leather,
with bible paper leaves,
And a tender message
Maidie Spencer,
From Mama
Christmas 1920

in a left-hand tilted script.

I covet.

At home, I unwrap the
swaddled volume,
packaged like a breakable.
opening the covers to absorb
my small extravagance.

In this new light, beneath
the ink inscription, a pale
and broken-pencil line reveals
This is the last book Maidie read.

In the daze of revelation
now ascending, I comprehend
anew this gift of providence,
this perfect Easter token,
a holy spirit rising,
the final offering for a
remembered life.


After writing this poem in 2004, I recently revisited it after looking at my book collection again and my cousin tracked down this information:

Maidie Spencer’s grave.

Maidie Spencer’s death certificate:


Prayer Request

amywink March 21st, 2017

Prayer Request

Dear Pastor Michael,

I met you after church on Sunday,
introduced by a college friend,
now imagined sister returned to me
and whose family connects to mine
through time and place,
like travelers always
meeting along the way.

I would like to make
a prayer request
for your time in Paris,
before your walking
pilgrimage begins.

Please enjoy a beautiful meal,
something simple,
or elegant,
either will do,
but enjoy the meal,
fully savoring,
fully present.

Make a prayer of the food,
of the eating, make a prayer
of the present being,
breathing the air
of Paris in spring.

Make a prayer of the people
living their daily lives,
savoring the slow
pace of quiet living.

Make a prayer for the grace
that brings us all together
to savor our lives,
to live for joy,
to connect all of us

by the breath of God,
we are moved together,

so that I, on hearing Bach,
am moved again toward music,
and find myself in church to sing

and then to stand on the steps
with you and hear of your trip to Paris,
so that I may remember
my beloved friend
who meant to return
to Paris in her last spring.

So I make this request
of you– for her, for me–
make a prayer of the food,
make a prayer of the people,
make a prayer of the living,
make a prayer of the joy.

Then listen for the answer, yes.


amywink March 5th, 2017

for Stacey, who taught me to read the cards.

She placed the cards
slowly in the pattern
her grandmother had
showed her so to do–
her grandmother who
had also read the cards
on the Halloween day of her birth,
who had read her life
of seeking laid out ahead.

Queen of Swords, she chose for me,
and read each symbolic face
in the light of my anxious query
about my destination,
“Will I ever have . . . .”
as if I wanted to read
the last page of a book
to know it was worth reading.

“You are poor!” she read,
my clutching soul
fretting in the corner.
“Thank God we have the cards!”
we laughed together but
I did not yet comprehend
my poverty of spirit,
like the surface reading so easily
belies the depth,
like clear, still water
deceives those standing at its edge.

“After a long period of waiting. . . ” she read
and I grasped for more,
How long? When? When?
But the cards were already in play
and my question had been asked
before they turned to offer an answer.

“You will return triumphant,” she read
The Prince of Swords,
riding back from the wars
And so my answer was not an answer,
a yes but not a yes
a irksome prophecy, like all prophecy,
set in motion only by the asking,
offering answer of some clarity
but no precision, easily misread,
always more complex,
a succinct and final ending
beneath clear water
yet miles from the surface,
and no map of how to reach it.

Later we would often joke
“is it over now?”
and the answer always
not yet, not yet, not yet.

But ‘When’ was not the answer
to a question asked of “ever.”
Nor “How” I would to get to yes.
Just the understanding that
somewhen, somehow,
triumph was always
in the cards.

Twenty years later,
we understood I helped her
find the kindness she
finally knew in others,
one answer in her life spent seeking.

Twenty years later,
some of my answers
remain “not yet”
even as I continue to return,
triumphant from so many of my wars.

The Heart of Things

amywink March 3rd, 2017


“The Heart of Things”

“I need my stacks,” my mother said, after I told her I was going to clean her room for when she came home from the hospital. “I need my stacks.” I agreed but knew I’d need to do something more than leave them if she came home. In the fifteen years I lived with my parents, we had steadily cleaned and cleared and removed the bulk of her hoarded things, making room for life out from under the weight of my grandmother’s belongings, the leftovers of a teaching career, the reminders of sadness and loss, to make a way for a better living. We had renovated each room, made changes, some small, some dramatic, to our home, opening walls and windows, pulling light into the house. We’d renovated with an eye for my father’s increasing handicaps, and made the house accessible. And yet there still were stacks, ever rising stacks of papers, on the kitchen table, on her shelves, on her desk, two large file cabinets of “important papers” that might as well have been made of stone. I had steadfastly refused to clean her room, because it was her own space and what she needed was not what I needed. The threshold of her room was a boundary I did not usually cross, unless necessity required it. And then, necessity required it.

In the time between her heart attack and her death, I cleaned, making way for her to walk when she came home, organizing the stacks and filing things away as best I could, using my anxiety on the most immediate problem, making a difference how I could. But when she died, my reasons for cleaning evaporated. In the days and months after her death, I began instead to clear.

It would have been tempting to pile everything in a dumpster and have it hauled away but in the clearing, the sublime erupts suddenly from what seems a pile of trash, a numinous object, alive with meaning, reaching through time to touch the tender heart of human truth. The journey through the ephemera of a life is not an exercise in efficiency, but a process of understanding and insight, a method of grieving. One does not get there and back again in the blink of an eye.

And so, I started slowly, reminding myself there was no hurry. I still lived here. I would still live here and I was allowed to take my journey slowly. Her bedroom, her desk, the surfaces — those places last to be covered were easiest to be cleared. Then the closets and her dressers, mostly insignificant, until suddenly artifacts appeared, a note in my great-grandmother’s handwriting, an embarrassing photograph from her childhood, baby booties from her infancy and then my own tiny knitted creamy gold gloves connected with a string to run through my coat sleeves, pom-pom balls on the wrist ties and the wash of memory of wearing them in the chilly days when I was three. These familiar things I keep for myself.

But in the boxes crammed in closets, I came across a small envelope, with a name I recognized as one of her students, a boy who had fled Vietnam in a boat, who had heard the gunfire over his head, a boy who, in my mother’s art class, had painted a beautiful mural of his families’ escape with an Chinese dragon flying over his family at sea. His letter folded like origami to fit in the tiny envelope, the elaborate Chữ Nôm characters of his name drawn carefully in one corner, he wrote so politely to his art teacher of pleasantries in his new home in Dallas ending his note, “There is no art here. Please write back soon.” And I feel my mother’s heart breaking, my heart breaking, for that little boy in the letter. I know she would have written back. I fold that origami letter carefully again, place it back into the envelope, returned to safekeeping. This thing I keep to carry the truth of her kind and tender heart with me.