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