– simple thoughts & writings &c. by Elizabeth Heimbaugh –

Category: Poems

A Crown of Sonnets

Isaiah built a house of cards with one
hundred twenty aces: he found a patch
of dirt beneath a willow tree and that
is where he made his house. A simple house,
but tall, growing from the ground with a steep-
pitched roof, and so many floors, but never
a staircase. No chimney either, for one
slight puff of smoke would blow the whole house down:
the aces would go flying everywhere!
It was delicate work, and Isaiah
was careful to hold his breath with every
laying of a card: glossy ace upon ace.
The boughs of the willow shivered as he
looked marveling at his little masterpiece.

She looked marvelous, but a little piece
of dandelion fluff caught in her hair.
Madeline sat down in a field of wind,
picking at the flowers, pulling their roots
like light bulbs out of their sockets – not fast,
but twisting them, making an idle guess
as to when they might come undone. She let
the stems fall into the lap of her skirt:
now and then, the wind would take one away,
blowing it with her perfumed breath to some
other corner of the far field. Resting
on an elbow, Madeline counted stars
until she forgot what number she’d reached,
only to begin forgetting again.

To begin forgetting again: only
a matter of time until the bluegreen
waves turned gray because he’d watched the water
for so many days. A cold wind lifted
the hem of his jacket, and Henry turned
his eyes to the heavens to see whether
his fortunes were good. He pulled out some things
for writing and tried to unstiffen his
fingers, all contracted with salt. Slowly
he set about the work: images of
words flitted in the briny air, small mis-
remembered ghosts laughing around the ship.
Henry made his mouth in a little O,
swallowed down air, sealed his quiet letter.

Old Poem: Apple Sanctuary

Windfall of apples ripening in the orchard:
I count the fallen ones and put them in my skirt.

I carry them inside to the country store,
A wooden box with a jingling bell tied to the door.

A man in a gray hat sees my burden, asks
“How do you like them apples?,” and trembles

With a laugh that sounds like the bell on the door.
He has the face of a child who is very old.

Walking to meet me, he takes off his hat
And fills it with my apples so we can split the load.

I say thank-you in silence as he leads me
Past the shelves of jellies and jams and all kinds

Of remarkable things: a tree made of pencils,
A silver train whistle, a line of tin soldiers

Standing stiff beside a cider jar.
I feel giddy as a passerine bird.

We come to a small room at the back of the store
Where the sunlight is coming in.

Over a table someone has posted a sign:
APPLE SANCTUARY, it says, in red marker.

We hold our breaths, puffed up with suspense,
And let our apples tumble down.

Old Poems about Love

Enjoy these quiet little love poems (mostly) written when I was younger. Don’t forget that “juvenilia” can be (as the word implies) juvenile (and not very good)!

O, my love, a little star
is blinking in the wild pass –
I would it were with me!
But, alack, the night is done
and you are gone away.
If I but had fairer face
I wonder, would it stay?

St. Valentine

It was the mid-afternoon
and, being distraught,
I stomached the evidence
of a compassionate soul
and gave myself
an uncomfortable gut
and the knowledge that
the mind inhabits a
cloistered brain
and hardly looks down
from its tower,
where it lives to think
and to sleep.

Good-night good-night
my paupered prince
may slumbers bring you rest –
I’ll speak ten thousand words today!
but these ones I mean best.

If I forget thy name, what of my heart?
The colder could not be the frost of wind
That shook the eaves and blew our souls apart;
And rue the day I have so idly sinned!
For scarcely can I think so fine
A name so sweetly sung as thine.

Read the rest of this entry »

Old & New Poems about Faith


A clear night
a boy is kneeling in the candle glow.

a starry crown is shining on the wall.

I see
it is a weightless place.

Twelve stars
light up the city church.

The boy
his mouth a little “o,” the small the songful face.

I am shamed
to think I sing the note.

A bird
flies in an open door.

No one
looks around to see a feather drop from high.

I gasp
aloud and in the dark, all chaos in the air.

You are the beat of the tambourine on a winter’s day.
You are the fleck of inspiration in the potter’s clay.
You are the song that makes me happy on a day that makes me sad.
You are the kindest word I ever spoke, the purest love I ever had.

All the saints have forgotten how to pray.
Their hands are folded in expectation.
There is so much goodness they wish to say—
But only silence, their consolation.

O gracious God, I shudder in the cold rooms
Where I’ve been sleeping, as the child
Who finds that sleep prolongs her dearest dreams;
And on the flow’rd wall I keep me staring,
For want of light or cheer or caring
Trifles anymore – the little bones
Behind my cheek are pressed against the pillow,
Waiting now a slumbrous breath,
And the faith I should be keeping.

Peace in your soul when the wind blows round
Silence that lifts you without making a sound
Love that enfolds you in the warmth of the night—
Grace that adorns you with beauty and light.

Old Childlike Rhymes

Listening to Debussy

Pedal pedal pedal
The little foot falls fast –
While jazzy hands
Quick shimmy down
The white and blackened street.

Jingle jangle jingle
The town is all awhirl –
A limber man, he waltzes on
And scatters to the air,
He’s caught amid the county fair
Where nothing stock is still.

Now to the dollhouse,
He stumbles on a tiny room,
Too tired for his head;
And in a thump, or in a boom –
He cannot tell, it’s rather soon,
The milkman’s dancing with a spoon –
The pianist’s gone to bed.

The Balloon and the Bumblebee

meandering down the time-beaten path
a little boy stopped to stare
at a round red balloon caught in a tree;
wherefore, he thought, was it there?

the hum of a bumble – a bumbling bee –
cracked wide the yawning blue sky
it FLASHed like the lightning then BOOMed like the thunder
the little boy cried, “oh, my!”

he followed the sound – boy after bee –
until the garden of rose
when, struck by a muse, he sat to the ground
and shrank to a thinking pose.

the meaning of life, the little boy knew,
is really quite simple to see.
to puzzle it out, begin with the small,
like the balloon and the bumblebee.

A Note to No One

I wrote a note to no one
but lost it in the breeze
the day before tomorrow
astride the waving Seas.

the inkpot softly tumbled
a dark and deep morass
five thousand words have crumbled
beside the broken glass.

and then the blue-black puddles
should weep in silent song
a pool of poems unspoken:
so long, so long, so long!

so long: a feeble farewell –
since never was I couth
at penning words of good-bye
forsooth, forsooth, forsooth.

the envelope flies lightly
fair child of the seas
jumping clouds with paper trails
(recycle remnants, please).

fast and fast and fastest yet
it flutters by despair
past gloom and glum and errant sum
through salty slipping air.

“dear sir or madam N.O.,
life finds you well this day?
I write to send my sorrow
that you have gone away.

“(to typeset is a bother,
and so I work by hand)
I am
. . . . . . . . yours most sincerely,
Ms. (sandy sandy sand).”

up and up and up and up
then down and down: three downs
let’s jettison the letter, quick,
more verbs! no need for nouns.

quite overboard the man is!
a howl of mutiny!
but, wait, who walked the plank now
into the storming Sea?

the captain of the vessel
hurled back his shaggy head
“of course, there’s been no murder!
for really No One’s dead!”

I wrote a note to no one
and sent it overseas
I am
. . . . . . . . yours most sincerely,
(more postage needed, please).

Read the rest of this entry »

Old Poems about Miscellaneous Things

The room that so sweet-seeming is
contracted, as a cell,
and I, in a state of being various,
imploded at its door
and bid the wall farewell –
a kiss to earth
that flappered in the half-life air
in-between the now and then or
hazing in the shushing din
of a dim

The squelch of midnight seconds
noises in the corner
while here beside the lamplight
. . . . I bat a tired eye
while there astride the wardrobe
. . . . they sibilate a sigh
while near inside the cradle
. . . . a child sounds a cry
and meantime do I cast
. . . . glancingly at wayworn hands
. . . . . . . . counting moments till they die
and birth out loud again.

Improper Novella

Swallowing the whole of time
I eat at a piece of toast
And dab my chin with a paper square
While waiting patiently for despair
To enter on a hobbyhorse
In rooms of madeleines and gorse
Inside the kingdom drear.

And calmly now I bide my hours
I fill a vase with graveyard flowers
To brighten up my smallish room
In which the yellow walls have holes
In which the holes have longer holes
But no one is the wiser
Until one hears a smash and crash
(The vase is all in shards!)
And then we all get on once more,
Asleep in lapis linens.

Read the rest of this entry »

Poems from the Spirit

Still, small, simple one:
I love your silent ways.

Flowers bloom to touch you,
Birds sing to call you in air.

And have you chosen to be with me?
How marvelous, how inconceivable.

I was lost in the corridor of darkness
When you lit my narrow path.

Now I taste of the purest peace
In the surrender of all but you.

Will you stay as you are?
I will never be happy another way.

Do not disturb the silence
With unworthy words.

For only the sacred
Has the sound of music here.

Angels call the names of children to rest.
How can I know the way to Heaven?

This is the only road to peace:
To be still in the arms of One greater than you.

Fairy Magic & Frigid Love Poems

Fairies in the English forest
Wove my hair in golden braids,

Spun me round in their earthen waltz,
Spooned me cider from apple-kegs.

Nimbly they placed me in a spell—
It was the magic of my dreams.

And now, all flushed with ruddy cheeks,
I’m happy, or so it seems.

The time for tea was growing stale
…..While the shipmen left the quay.
But then a wind puffed out the sail—
…..Shaking the cargo with a wail—
As chamomile stained the Pacific Sea.

Life has made a fool of her.
Who has she become?
What is this she’s grown to see?
Her face is blank as a cotton sheet.
Her arms are thin and old.
There is something sad
And terribly cold
In the act of becoming a woman
One does not wish to be.

Did you already
forget how much I loved you?
You should have been there
when I remembered
how perfectly you could make me cry.

Fragile memory:
Handle with the utmost care.
Keep the right side up—
Else be prepared to wonder
“Who am I?” forevermore.

They told me some things:
Like how good you’ve been looking,
How thin you’ve become,
How fast your heart has turned to gold.
Or is my hearing failing me?
Perhaps they said: how fast it’s turning cold.

These poems are very rotten
But what more can I say?
My mind’s all stuffed with cotton,
My mouth’s all full of clay.


Image credit: The Meeting of Oberon and Titania by Arthur Rackham

Old Poem: Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World, 1948


The mother and the father and the blossom-cheeked son
Are sitting down to supper now, posing silver forks
Like diving hawks above the gravied bread.
They have drawn the window shades
As the sky outside will make the table gray
And the bread crust old. A dusty lightbulb is cracked,
Shooting the wall through with little blue light.

Beyond, the young woman half-sits, half-splays
In the brown grass, which continues for a thousand miles
In every direction until a train station rises from the flat earth
On one side. Here there is no recourse to a moving breath,
But for the flick of a yellower blade when the wind passes over.
Light falls on the young woman’s arm, and though the paleness stays,
The ground becomes closer. In the winter soon enough white will
Fall on the plain, devouring.    For the time being, the deadness of grain
Will occupy the place fully. Not even a sparrow flies overhead –
Has he lost the extra bone in his tongue, sorrowing?
If there will be a bird, he will roost on the tip of the wire fence,
And his sleep will be long.

The woman’s hair once was black and is turning the color of wheat.
She will let the farm grow wild around her, and within her, in time.
It is not enough to wear a modest dress, for pink is also
The color of earth, and a ribbon around the waist will be undone
By the wind. In the distant house smoke rises from the chimney,
A desperate breath as lifeless as the air.    Shoes rest, sideward,
Yielding to the ground. They were bought a bargain, they were not
The walking kind. Almost regretfully, the smoke drifts to the west.
The arm of the woman is crooked, the limb of an injured bird.

After supper there is the tinkle of plates being rinsed in the sink.
The father sits in an armchair, his hair tidily trimmed,
Shiny black fibers combed behind the ears, and thick. In the morning
He will wake early to clip the grass in a small oval outside, and he will
Be wearing his heaviest boots. By the fire the son warms his hands
As he entertains thoughts of digesting food.    The clock in the corner
Is wailing. In the darkened wheat, the woman waits
Unblinking, until the grass grows high in her eyes.

Old Poem: In Books of Loveless Poems

The twenty poems
flailed before they died
gurgling after breath had paused

For there’s no subject
to my love
ungrammared and uncouth

And unspecific to a clause
prescribed inside a book
prescribed inside a larger book

That I forbade unswervingly
but in foreign tongues
which, knowing scarcely tails of,

Make me as the child,
who celebrates the fishes
in books of loveless poems.