Ash Wednesday

by Marco Fraticelli
and Carolyne Rohrig

with the kindling
I bring in
dead wasps

                her remains
                still on the mantel

Valentine's day
a black and white movie
on TV

                fish market
                wrapping the day's catch
                in yesterday's paper

on the Mother's Day card

                Ash Wednesday
                a smudge
                on the baby's forehead


Hanging on Every Word

by Carolyne Rohrig
and Carolyn Hall

writer's block
inside my favorite book
Acapulco sand

                           steamy romance
                           two chapters upside down

playground gossip
a little boy hangs
on every word

                           tight Scrabble game -
                           in her hand

rehearsing the eye chart
before the doctor comes in

                           home late again-
                           she reads him
                           the riot act

Bird on the Wing

I walked into the kitchen and saw her sitting on the back of a chair picking at her bare breast. Her turquoise and yellow feathers had virtually disappeared except for the few that remained around her face and wings. Even her tail was short and stubby. Yet she was happy and quite willing to come onto my arm and continue her pitiful grooming. I asked her owner what trauma caused this and found out she suffered a terrible illness that normally kills macaws, but her life was spared. "I could write a book about all the miracles God did to spare this bird," she said as she came closer in her wheelchair.

                                               winter rain
                                               last year's pine needles spill
                                               from her umbrella


field mice -
the scarecrow's head
drooping lower

                                   autumn chill -
                                   the silence
                                   of the bee hive

cloudy skies -
different shades of shadow
in the cauliflower


Writer's Block

by Marco Fraticelli
and Carolyne Rohrig

               writer's block
               on the tennis courts

morning headache -
four aspirin with a latte

               in pink pills

her tongue the color
of the cotton candy

                the day after the play
                my girls
                still wearing make up

rain drops smudge
the morning paper

                doing report cards
                the scent of lilacs
                fills my classroom


postcard from the beach -
her scribbled greetings
without a signature

                                            gone swimming -
                                            I slip into the warmth
                                            of your lounge chair

pregnant -
sucking at her feet
the outgoing tide

                                            the dog growls
                                            at the wetsuit
                                            hanging up to dry

kicking stones
on the trail
the lump in my breast

                                            job interview -
                                            therapist's son
                                            makes no eye contact


       The day was overcast. The plane taxied to the only terminal building at the airport. One palm tree grew by its side. We descended the stairs. The humidity wrapped itself around us like a hot blanket.
       We took a taxi to the marina. At the appointed time our contact appeared and introduced us to the skipper of the boat. We climbed on board and pulled away from the marina. We passed yachts, villas with lush lawns, and condominiums overlooking the ocean.
       Out at sea we went by craggy rocks that were home to sea gulls, pelicans and cormorants. We continued out a distance. My father told the skipper that this would be a good place. He slowed the engine and maintained the boat steady. It was a quiet sea with mild winds. My father, sister and I held hands and prayed. Then my father handed me my mother's urn.

                                               scattering her ashes
                                               in the Pacific Ocean
                                               the shriek of a sea gull


In Another Life

It was the mango-colored canaries that drew my attention. I counted six of them. Each bird was in its own small, cramped wooden cage, and each cage was hung at intervals all the way around the courtyard walls of the village hotel. In spite of their confinement, each bird was chirping an exuberant song. Perhaps they were re-telling the history of their species and the freedom of the skies they once enjoyed. Or perhaps they sang of the future when one day they might feel the wind currents through their wings and soar over the heights of pyramids again.

                                                        old wooden cross -
                                                        seeds sprout
                                                        in its shadow


first day of spring -
hummingbirds at the feeder
on the eleventh floor

                                              walking on needles
                                              in the pine forest -
                                              your silence

witch doctor
outside her door
the deepening darkness

                                              along the fence
                                              afternoon shadows lengthen
                                              the horses

after all these years
the pear tree giving pears
for the neighbors

                                              evening shadows
                                              in the fountain

sudden wind
egrets at the creek
turning whiter

                                              parting clouds
                                              the lillies turn
                                              a different white


Dimmed Porch Light

by Carolyne Rohrig
and Carolyn Hall

frigid night
a dog howls
with the police sirens

beneath his dimmed porch light
last year's wreath

hospital monitor
mother's frail figure
on the bed

the empty piƱata
still swinging
in the wind

Bethlehem star
continues to show her way

the final performance
the aging diva takes
a second curtain call

South of the Border

Yucatan morning
the deeper yellow
of the egg yolks


Pop Goes The Weasel

children's party
an iridescent bubble
pops over the fence

all around the mulberry bush
pop! goes the weasel

after dessert
he pops the question -
"Your room or mine?"

the ricochet
of popping corks
New Year's Eve

climaxing the Pops concert...
Beethoven's Ninth

night-lit stadium
the hometown slugger
pops out


This rengay won third place in the 2002 San Francisco International Rengay Contest.

Dummy Under The Blanket

by Carolyne Rohrig
and Carolyn Hall

spring snowstorm
she dreams a husband
with another name

the dime-store duck call
attracts a dove

a favorite love letter
back to herself

more girls than boys
in the ballroom dance class -
she foxtrots backwards

wearing new high heels
with her nightgown

the housemother
discovers a dummy
under the blankets



This rengay won honorable mention at the 2004 Haiku Poets of Northern California Contest.

Ruby Lip Print

by Carolyne Rohrig
and Carolyn Hall

hand-written letter
she signs her love
with a ruby lip print

snow angel wingtips
just barely touching

after last night -
"Marry Me?" etched
in the car's frosted windshield

border crossing
another exotic stamp
in their passports

into the flower press
lady slippers side by side

birth announcements embossed
with silver spoons


This rengay won third place in the 2004 Haiku Poets of Northern California Rengay Contest.

more of her cleavage

by Carolyne Rohrig
and Carolyn Hall

fresh spring salad
a ladybug climbs out
of the tomato

at the dignitaries' banquet
his debut as a pastry chef

cello recital
with every higher note
more of her cleavage

stand-up comic -
a gig on the Borscht Belt
just to get more exposure

their Polaroid kiss
comes into view

open chrysalis
a monarch
dries its wings


caught in a Mozart moment
you with your intent gaze
and I dancing around the room
when will we stop and begin
to learn how to tango?


The Fourth Wall

End of the play. I close the book and place it on the shelf. The clock strikes 2:30 in the morning. I walk over to the window. The fog has crept in, absorbing the sounds of the neighborhood, like the fourth wall in a darkened theater.
The stage has three walls, the back wall and the two sides. The fourth wall is where the audience sits. Actors are trained to blot them out, like the fog, so they can deliver their performance and not be distracted out of character.
                                        climbing into bed
                                        I tell you
                                        I love you


Tortilla Factory

Everyone is cautioned to be careful with the food and water while traveling in Mexico, so when our tour group stopped at the tortilla factory, all I wanted to do was watch how they were being made. The factory was nothing more than a cement room, painted pink, with a metal conveyor-like machine in the middle of it. A girl had just taken a lump of dough and stuffed it into a funnel that formed the corn tortillas into round shapes. Then it dropped them onto the conveyor belt, moved them into the oven where they emerged cooked and hot. Another girl, standing at a wooden table, counted them out by the dozen and wrapped them in newspaper.

Our guide took several, sprinkled each one with salt, rolled them up, and handed one to each of us. "Eat, these are wonderful," she said. Everyone took bites and said how delicious they were except me. I did not want to risk it so when I thought no one was looking, I wrapped my fist around the tortilla and slipped it into my pant pocket. When I raised my eyes, the girl at the wooden table was looking straight at me.

                                             mother's startled face
                                             through the window


first light
the curve of the banister
to her room

                                              Millennium sunrise
                                              a snail's trail emerges
                                              from the dog house

setting sun
roadside florist peels back
the roses

                                              cracks of moonlight
                                              through the shutters
                                              the last of the puzzle

closing time
a clown makes balloon animals
for the zoo keeper

                                              small talk
                                              making my face
                                              look interested

lipstick print
on the paper cup
a bee

Definitely Not Here

found poem (seminary classroom)

there are no refugees
from hell


This poem won the Heron's Nest Award in The Heron's Nest, Vol. IV, Number 1: January, 2002.

late moon rising
the click of burro hooves
on cobblestones



dark ends of a mango
she peels back
her anger

through the doggie door
the neighborhood raccoon

carnival mask
the upturned corners
of a hollow mouth

poetry on a cup
the cappuccino froth lingers
on all sides

last of the berries
the warmth of the day's sun
on my tongue


another argument
about money -
I rinse the rice again

we rise from the bleachers
in a wave

garden tour
my sister deep
in drought-tolerant grass

getting to know him -
this wrought iron fence
rusted at the latch

still jobless
another orange peel
on the compost heap


breast exam
the doctor admires
my necklace

one-eyed horse
rides empty

fishing off the pier
trapping the last day's heat
in my hat

Berkeley campus
a new BMW
with a peace symbol

last martini -
leaving his wedding ring
in the glass


wind chimes at twilight -
the wine cooling
in a silver bucket

sudden breeze -
the dog sniffs the hisses
of a gopher snake

digging ditches -
dirt in the crease
of his stomach

homemade pickles
the jar grandma put
her false teeth in

quitting time
all the hotel maids
on cell phones


to be as forgiving
as a god -
cactus in bloom

live birth
filling the steel bowl
with placenta

tom cat
makes morning rounds
at the cemetery

politician's speech
the graduates
twirl their tassels

table centerpiece
staring at the guests


newly divorced
the sucking sounds
of an emptying bathtub

waiting for her return
the dog's deep sighs
from top of the stairs

yellow beach house -
the owner painting it gray
before winter

summer heat
watering the garden
by streetlight

musty book store
the calico cat asleep
on a discount shelf



I met her in our favorite coffee shop just across the street from the college campus where she was staying for the summer. She looked like she hadn’t slept in weeks. “I don’t know if I’m cut out for this kind of life,” she said in a low wail so no one could hear her. “Twice now they have put me through the ringer and keep telling me to come back.” “Do you want to come home?” I asked. “Noooo! I want to see this through otherwise I’ll never know if I have the gift,” she said with such passion in her voice that it sounded like a line from a play. “Why don’t you read the letter that’s in your hand?” I said. “I can’t,” she said. “You read it.”

I smoothed it out, opened the envelope and took out the letter. “The Artistic Director and staff are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to be a member of The Theatre repertory company for the 2001-2002 season.”

She sat there motionless. I read the letter again. She had no response. I shook her arm. She continued to stare. “Congratulations! This is what you’ve wanted for years,” I said getting up from my chair. “Aren’t you happy?”

summer afternoon
one by one
a child pops the soap bubbles


You've Heard It Said

This poem won honorable mention in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational 2010.

for a few days
the war stops
cherry blossoms

Not Here

trespassing —
a swirl of leaves
around my ankles


The fruit trees are in bloom. Bees are busy in every blossom. The garden is ablaze in soft colors of spring.

My attention is drawn to a line of bees that seem to be coming and going from the living room wall that faces the garden. Upon inspection, I discover a small hole in the wall. Bees are going in and out of it. The wall is warm to the touch and full of activity from a hive in there.

I call a beekeeper. I tell him I want him to move the hive—intact, bees and all—to a better location where they can flourish.

He inspects the wall and with regret he says he can’t remove the hive without destroying a good portion of the wall. What if I leave the hive there? He says it will just get bigger and I run the risk of having a swarm of bees inside the house. The only alternative is fumigation.

He goes to his truck and returns in his beekeeper's clothes. He puts on his helmet and lowers the face shield. He positions the nozzle of the cylinder inside the hole. He sprays once, then again. The hive reacts with intensified buzzing, then it lessens until there is nothing left but silence.

tea with honey—
the bitterness
in my mouth

Christmas Decor

Christmas comes to our neighborhood on the heels of Thanksgiving. As if by prearranged choreography, the neighbors spill out from their closed doors to climb ladders and decorate their houses and front yards. Music blares from boomboxes, gear and paraphernalia is strewn over front lawns. Some are in shorts and T-shirts. Others are in overalls and tool belts. With focused faces they unpack last year’s decorations.

first weekend in December—
a climbing bougainvillea
flashes on and off

Not to be outdone, my children take inventory of everyone’s designs and get busy creating their own. They gather their friends around them and make plans for this year’s masterpiece.

up and down the driveway—
icicle lights drip
from the bushes

One neighbor in particular is the master of Christmas art displays. Every year we wait to see what new creation he will unveil. Soon, as if by magic, the front of his house is ablaze with flashing stars, twinkling trees and flying reindeer.

December is the month when we come home to everyone’s artistry. Walking the neighborhood after dinner allows us to appreciate the designs even more so. The nights are cold, the smell of wood smoke is in the air. Occasionally a dog barks as we go by.

persimmons hang
from bare branches


death haiku

scattering his ashes
a white butterfly catches
my breath

village women in black shawls
                                                   gathering for the funeral

dead bird -
its chest matches
the sky

                                                   drawing a breath
                                                   old elephants go there
                                                   to die

father's death -
the butterfly
folds its wings

                                                   30th anniversary
                                                   my mother's headstone
                                                   closer to my grandmother's

Only Words

Only Words

by Carolyne Rohrig
and Marco Fraticelli

First place winner in the 2006 San Francisco International Competition Awards

poem idea
on a napkin
in lipstick (cr)

note of condolence
run-on sentence (mf)

her phone card
on my dresser (cr)

my initials
only (mf)

under his sleeve
concentration camp number (cr)

writer's block
the moth
circles my lamp (mf)


Shakespeare Festival -
in the barbershop window
a row of wigs

for a few days
the war stops
cherry blossoms

postcard from the beach -
water marks smudge
his proposal

margarita on the rocks -
he pours the sour
into my life

banana slug
our talk of procrastination
goes nowhere

winter haiku

bone cold morning
choosing the tea mug
without the handle

cold oatmeal breakfast -
the dog digs up
yesterday's bone

winter fog
popcorn overflows
a ceramic bowl

a deer pauses
in the woods -
the stillness of falling snow

bone cold morning
I crave a cup of tea
without you


a good year

I'm going to live forever. So far so good.

masked ball -
we dance till the edge
of midnight


We're not an easy fit, you and I, he said, as he took deep draws on his pipe. I don't know where this is going, this relationship, if you can call it that. I am fond of you, and you of me, but we're past the time when emotions are the driving force. Now we can have the luxury of thinking clearly. We don't see eye to eye politically, spiritually, or even in the kinds of foods we eat. I am not about to change old habits or diet or friends or reading material. So unless you're willing to accommodate to my life, I don't see any hope of this going anywhere. I'm too old to train a new spouse.

bitter melon
my second sip
of cold

Trail Talk

Our intent was to come to an agreement as quickly as possible, but instead all we did was argue. It was a good thing we were on a hike, far away from office personnel who could overhear us. No, I didn't want to give up my position as President. No, he didn't want to be just a figurehead on the Board of Directors. We went round and round discussing the issues from every angle. Sometimes we'd get agitated and raise our voices, but only the crows heard us.

merger -
flies land on
a fresh manure pile

A Visit to the Mall

The air is crisp this spring at the mall. The stores are not open yet. The French bakery is the only place doing business this early. With cafe au lait and baguette I sit outdoors in the early morning sun.

I'm waiting to see a friend of many years. This is her favorite mall and she visits it almost daily. She's schizophrenic. Her illness makes her refuse all medical help and intervention is against the law in California, so she remains untreated. I wait several hours. Just when I am about to give up, she suddenly appears. I notice dark circles under her eyes and her blouse and pants are dirty, but neat. The people around us stare. She recognizes me. She stops a few yards from my table. "Hello, are you visiting?" she asks. "Yes, I came to see you. Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" "Sure," she smiles. "I'll be right back." She walks on and is swallowed up by the crowd of shoppers.

looking over my shoulder -

my seat already taken

by another woman

Morning Music

David with the red hair plays his guitar and sings at the subway station every week. On Mondays he plays with a saxophone player, on Tuesdays with someone with steel drums, on Wednesdays he doubles up with another singer, on Thursdays he plays solo, and on Fridays it's with whomever shows up. It may someone high on drugs or alcohol, or someone with no musical ability, but David is kind to them anyway.

On some days I drop a few dollars into his open guitar case. He brightens up. He stops playing to chat. "I'm going to go home soon," he tells me. "My mother is worried about me." Bur he's in the same spot the next day in the same clothes.

Last Monday David wasn't in his customary place. Maybe he had finally gone home. Or maybe something had happened to him. I began to worry. Then I remembered it was President's Day. I guess the homeless take days off, too.

icy cold dawn
fog creeps down
the escalator

Poets at the Pub

"I am desperately drunk," said a woman under a dim light in a Ben Lomond pub. "But not so drunk as to not overhear your wild imagination of a world lost long ago to the human race, before the sun shone and grass grew green," she said. She looked much like me, only older, grayer, in clothes reminiscent of a Shakespeare play, holding a half empty pint of beer in one hand and a pen and notebook in the other. "I know you," she continued, "not as one who knows a friend or a relation, but as a fellow poet who has written the perfect poem only to have it wrecked by bad editors and critics." I approached her booth. She motioned for me to sit down and that night, after much talk, we realized that one of us would have to die.

walking home
one by one the stars
go out

Reality Check

When I first took the personality test, I tested one way then, after reflecting some more, I decided that some of those categories tested that way as a result of my fourteen years of having to fake it.

local cafe
full of college students
I used to know


my life seems to be at a standstill. I'm like a sports car trapped in traffic on a freeway on-ramp. All revved up but nowhere to move. With the engine roaring, I'm ready to leap into action. I want to seize the road and commandeer my way around the other vehicles in front of me. But I'm stalled. Changes to my character come slowly. I'm an incurable complainer. Other people's failures appall me. But what of my own? What will it take to get past the gridlock of my own deficiencies and break free?

winter in Narnia
in this world of one color
a faun weeps