Diane De Pisa was born Diane MacQuarrie on Prince Edward Island, Canada (and has just finished a novel set there). She finished high school in Santa Barbara, California, and married Elio De Pisa of Rome. She earned a B.A. in Italian and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, writing her dissertation on Black Elk Speaks under the direction of N. Scott Momaday. She has taught at Loyola, at Berkeley and elsewhere; she is currently teaching English at a community college. She has published articles on the Sioux world view and an excerpt from a science fiction novel; her poetry has appeared in The Eclectic Muse and The Neovictorian/Cochlea.




 One at a Time        Reading Between Your Lines         Sum of Parts         An Illusion Exposed         Winnowing          Out of Touch         Just Checking        Coming to Terms     Seasons of the Sea        Aspiration         A Separate Sound        Inseparable Ones        The Ever Present        O Cangaseiro       

Last Tango        Bedfellow        Locus Amoenus        Extreme Unction        Pursuit       

Why I Am Drawn to Silence        Tempering         Keep the Pain Alive         Life is But a Dream        Gratitude        Merger




One at a Time


What compels me to write

so often to you since you died?

Perhaps like Sartre I try

to save myself

from undertows that drown:

memories of your smile,

your last gaze grazing mine.


I follow your example

of being one-pointed,

tackle a feeling at a time,

skewer each emerging emotion

with a couple of lines—

like the Inuit with a spear

intent on one hole in the ice

where the seal comes up

to breathe.






Reading Between Your Lines


You asked, "Where will you bury me?"

and my heart broke.

I said I might strew your ashes

in some wild spot

where we used to walk.

You said, "Keep me with you a while."

My heart broke all over again.

I knew then that behind your brave front

you throbbed with need

to be loved, nurtured, and included.

You accepted the inevitable,

yet still longed to come home

to stay.






Sum of Parts


I miss you as I loved you,

not just for humor and kindness

nor in spite of anger and inconsistencies,

but for some unnamable essence

that made where you were home.

We were companions for life,

perhaps before and beyond it,

our names linked as proclamation

of a permanent partnership.

Two amounted to more than twice one,

your subtraction compounded

to more than that

of my other half.

Love and loss

defy reason and math,

assuming the air

of absolutes.







An Illusion Exposed


I have had to realize

how existence is unpredictable,

a powerful magician

under whose spell

loved ones disappear

and do not show up again.

Then we miss even

those traits that annoyed us.

I think, if only you could come back

for an hour, a day,

how ecstatic I would be.


Yet while you were here

we took each other for granted,

quarreled, relished time to ourselves.

We ignored the inscrutable mystery

that holds us in its grip.

Day to day life seemed safe.

Even banal.







Shall I cherish the nurturing kernel

and reject the chaff that chafes—

remember you generous and kind,

forget the meaner moments?

Must I dump your coarse hulls

and flail you to saintliness?


I lived with you entire.

I will remember you so:

whole grain.





Out of Touch


The scars that marred

the surface of our world

diminish in perspective:

old bickering a dumb-show

glimpsed through cloud curtains;

years of being near, far, near again

a minuet seen through the wrong end

of an astronaut’s telescope.


I’m falling in love with you once more

and yearn to be close.

But I am an exile

and can never set foot again

on that planet where we

held hands and sparred.





Just Checking


>From time to time, while I cook or read,

I pause and mutter words I dread:

"He’s never coming home; he’s dead."

Of course I do not need a reminder.

I’m testing my strength against this sentence

as one might try muscles after being bedridden

or take on a trail that had been too steep.


Will there come a time when I’ll breathe free?

Will these words ever not

knock the wind out of me?





Coming to Terms


                           (with a nod to Dostoevsky and Nisargadatta Maharaj)


How futile to think:

what if doctors had caught on

to the invasion by a major infection

in time to stem its onslaught?

You might have lived

for who knows how long

with chemotherapy and radiation.

I am tempted to say that fate

caused all the doctors to drop the ball:

fate—shorthand for the fact

that we are all responsible for all,

no result with one cause only,

everything always involved.

Complication foils predictions.


I know this is so

but instinct impels me

to envision a hinge where

destiny’s door swings

the other way, and you

are still here.






Seasons of the Sea


On the ocean of grief

    swells of sorrow

    strike broadside,

    memories swamp,

    sobs dance like dinghies

    on choppy seas.

I sink beyond my depth.


However, in a moment of calm

    I sense that I am immersed

    in the element

    that buoys all.







Good morning, loneliness!

May I grow to adore you,

the longing left by my loved one’s loss—

a space vast and void,

a vacuum at my core.


May I enter emptiness

silent, open, as into a sanctum

and attain to that profound

calm wherein all losses are re-found.





A Separate Sound


This old house runs the gamut of its frets:

labored creaks of the furnace grate

as metal heats, cools, and clicks;

the nautical clock you bought,

ticking loudly away minutes to doomsday.

Rafters and floors with woody

expostulation and reply

crack boldly as seafaring boards.


At night I hear light padding—

not of the cat.

I try to tune my ear

to hear just where it’s at—

in case it’s your footfall

coming near.





Inseparable Ones


They come at dawn

before I get my thinking cap on,

children stealing into mother’s bed:

Brother Fear and Sister Sorrow.

They crowd my space,

press against my solar plexus.

I wake with the pulse of dread

as if intruders prowled the house.


Then I recognize these twins of mine

and go back to sleep again.





The Ever Present


"It seems only yesterday" rings true

as I thumb through old snaps

of Dad rapt by the dolphin show,

near and real as Mom,

who survived him by a score.


You, more vivid yet, appear

shifting shape from year to year.

You gaze in my face at our wedding

and waves of romance overwhelm me still,

so many years a flimsy fence

washed out by waters of remembrance.

You fish in Stuart Creek and countless summers

return with resinous breezes and glittering pines.

Your laughing likeness floats back

the punch line of a wisecrack.


Twenty years from now

in the trackless time

of my deep mind

you’ll be alive as ever.





O Cangaseiro


Guarani harps twinkle a tune

sharp as stars in a Paraguay sky,

and flutes come sliding in,

tropical streams soft and smooth.

The rhythm is perky, almost cheeky,

and your cheeks smile with your eyes

as you do a tricky little

quick-step dance to this

favorite disk.

You heard it first in Italy

with your teen-time girl,

accompaniment to early love.


Now I am left

with this second-hand memory

and the image of you

as you prance in place,

stamping out that happy tempo

to fluid flutes and stellar harps

every time I hear

O Cangaseiro.





Last Tango


I was at a high-country retreat

when you came in a dream,

young and clean-shaven.


You put a slow tango on the phonograph

and we danced body to body.

I don’t think we spoke.


I smiled and savored your nearness,

brushing your cheek with my lips

as we sailed zestfully about.


I marveled at how alive you were

and could see that your chances

of beating cancer were good.


Then I woke up and recalled

that you had aged and died—

but my dismay was allayed

by the thought that perhaps

you’d come on purpose as a youth

to give me a moment’s happiness

and leave a good taste in my mouth.







In this dream you seemed real,

lying in bed by my side.

I could see the folds around your eye

as you recited an archaic poem

about someone "freaking" somewhere.

We cracked up over that one.

You were hearty and fleshy

so I knew I’d been deluded

to think you were dead.

Delighted to find you still alive,

I pulled you into my arms

and hugged and kissed you to death.

You evaporated in my embrace,

a bubble breaking.

I woke to an empty bed, disbelief,

and the disappointment

of almost having had

my dearest wish fulfilled.





Locus Amoenus


I sit with my little circle of familiars:

two cats courting on the terrace,

two crows nesting in a nearby tree.

I do not sit in their midst

but off in the north-west angle.

To the south I see

the green of bonsai and ivy,

in the east the pink and white

of cosmos where they sway,

and north at my elbow

there’s rosemary for remembrance.

The breeze brings me news

of fragrant flowers

and children’s mewls.

It would be a little world entire

if you were here.





Extreme Unction


Your death,

shaking me from the roots,

has dislodged

all smallness, hardness, and bitterness.

I break,

like olives beneath the wheel,

as you did at the end,

and shed tears

like precious oil

pressed from the heart.







The wind routes its rounds,

frisks every leaf and hillock,

looking for something.

Maybe it has heard

you’re a missing person.

My mind rides with it,

restlessly calling, "Where are you?"


Perhaps you have stopped

in a pocket of calm

where we have no warrant

to follow. Yet I hope

you will come forth

and turn yourself in.






Why I am Drawn to Silence



since I associate you with sound—

your voice a resonant baritone,

chores performed to Vivaldi full-blast—

that now I seek you

in silence.

Since you dropped your body

I delve into depths

of dreams and wakeful stillness.

No doubt you are there, dissolved,

a virtual or latent you

apparent only to the discerning,

not fleshed out or formed

but probable as the potential cloud

in a broad body of water.







A weathering of the soul occurs

as tranquil meditation takes turns

with monsoons of sorrow.

The sizzling downpours drown

in cold, dispassionate depths of mind

and disappear.

At times the hot tears flow

even while serenity prevails,

tropic rains coating a cool windowpane.

These shifts from agitated heat to dousing cold

temper endurance fold on fold.





Keep the Pain Alive


To honor the anniversary of your death

I made a painting and a party.

Five Phoenixes on my mandala

fly screaming forth from a flaming pivot

to all points in the universe.

Their red beaks pierce the void.


The party also was designed

to dispatch your essence

to parts unknown

and resign mine

to letting you go.

On that day that marked a year,

I expected to miss less

your face, your voice.


Instead I relive your loss,

shiver with unvoiced screams—

alert to Signs and lucid dreams.

Your death aroused a lively pain

and my life is more vivid

for it.





Life is But a Dream


Even in youth you saw

this world and all of us

as parts of one being.

We learned later,

some give this entity

the aspect of a god,

perhaps Mother Divine,

or simply an invisible

all-informing Intelligence

that dreams us into existence.

We are, it is said, that

and nothing but that.

What happens, I wonder,

when that Great Mind

awakens, as it has in your case,

from the dream of our singular self?


For you now the answer

is either obvious or irrelevant.

For me—still dreamt but bereft

of the figment that was you—

to know is of the essence.







I have been kicked out of complacency,

booted from banality.

I rebound from inertia

with the stinging spring of pain.

Gone is the reticence,

the fear of faux-pas.

I am bold, I step forth.

The walls that kept me cloistered

are crumbling with my tears.

Resentments rankling for years

resolve to pardon.

Death-begotten fears

hold less dread

since you have gone ahead.


Because it pries me

from passivity

I pay homage to your death.







In reverie

you spoke from the heart of me

where the great sage

said you’d be,

smiling familiarly,

assuring me

that you’re there

at my core,

not gone forever.

You brighten

when I welcome you

with praise and fond memories

and blend into my being.

Then we dance to one melody.

My life gives life to you

and you enliven me.