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