Diane Frank










Ring of Fire


At the edge of the continent,

fires are everywhere.
Lightning strike at Point Arena.
Then a wide band of fire
traveling northeast on a summer wind.
Hundreds of lightning strikes
inside a ring of fire
torching the solstice night.

In the Mendocino Woodlands,
echoes of Stellar’s Jays,
a family of pheasants,
a mountain lion stalking in the meadow.
In the distance, burning mountains.
Images of the enigma
weaving themselves together
inside a larger vision.

For some reason I don’t understand,
my mother decided to walk
back from the edge –
unable to leap at this time
through the ring of fire.

This is for my mother,
the older version of the three-year-old
who stood on the piano bench
and belted out radio tunes
and folk songs from the old country
when her relatives said in Yiddish,
Sing Mamale, Sing Little Mama.

in the middle of the continent
peonies in full bloom
now filling the still warm nights
with their sticky fragrance.

while the rest of us are
still dreaming,
a meeting with her Guardian angels,
planning how long she will stay
and the next adventure on her soul’s journey.
you’ll probably burn a path of fire
through the sky on your way,
and wherever the meteorites and snow angels
take you next,
I hope it is glorious!

In the middle of the redwood forest,
I feel you singing
inside the spirit of the trees.




Under the Dogwood Tree
For Irene Frank


When I was ten years old,
my father and I planted a dogwood tree
for you, on Mother’s Day.
I remember our trip to the nursery
in my father’s red Triumph,
and how it rode so close to the ground.
We put the top down,
to bring back the dogwood
in the back seat,
pink blossoms in a scented wind.

Every spring, the dogwood
grew and bloomed, the way I did.
It was mysterious to me
the way my mother loved that tree,
and she showed me something about life
I continue to plant in my garden.

As I write these words to you,
I’m watching the Pacific Ocean with the early
evening sun ready to fall into the waves
and light up the sky
pink as a blossom.
I can still hear you singing.
Hummingbirds and hibiscus in the yard,
your face in an ocean wave,
your smile and your music filling my house
in memory,
like a scented wind.




Dreaming the Dragon


He presses a butterfly tattoo
on his baby’s leg,
smoothing the imprint of the water.
He’d like his little one
to grow up and play the cello
or find her own way
of living close to the soul.

As I run to the N-Judah streetcar,
Jason from the Burrito Shop
holds the door for me.
I am on my way to the symphony,
and the ten minute edge of this train
will let me usher in the orchestra
instead of the balcony.

On the streetcar, we talk about Beethoven,
and the way you embrace a cello,
holding the music
close to your heart, with
the passion of your sacred fire.
He says I might be his teacher one day.

He says that heavy metal is like a symphony –
it has a large sound,
and he remembers a child prodigy on the violin
he heard at Davies Symphony Hall.
Maybe his baby will be a musician
and play there one day.
He shows me a photograph of his baby,
three weeks old, and doesn’t tell me why
she is still at the hospital.

Before he leaves the streetcar
to climb the hill to the ICU,
he tells me to come to the Beach Burrito shop
on Judah, close to the ocean, if I need anything.
Really, I mean it, he says.
I live in a small apartment
by the edge of Golden Gate Park.
I’d like to hear you play the cello one day.

His eyes are so transparent
he doesn’t care if a stranger is
three weeks old or eighty.
As I watch him walk up the hill to Parnassus Street,
I think about Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony
and how I’m aching to play it,
but tonight, listening will be my pleasure.

Tonight, as he climbs into the music
of the fields of sleep,
I play a musical prayer for his daughter
and the dream dragon whispers –
body of a cloud, gold scales shining,
lit up from within.







In Ms. Matsumoto’s home living class,
we learned how to sit with our legs crossed.
Three times a week, during our middle school fifth period class,
we learned her version of lady-like manners,
which I had already learned at home
and had no idea that other girls had not.
On her clutch of neatly arranged
Japanese sofas and chairs,
we learned to converse like geishas.
We prepared and served small trays of hors d’oeuvres –
crackers with cheese and pickles arranged in a trident,
and learned to eat them slowly.
Under her tutelage, I developed a life long
love of the Triscuit.

In sewing class, we constructed gingham aprons
and were forced to baste stitch everything before sewing,
even though I already knew how to use
the Singer sewing machine at home.
Everything took twice as long as my attention span,
and I didn’t learn how to sew anything I would wear
until I brought a pattern to Grandma Helen’s farm
for a circle skirt made of cotton
printed with pictures of musical instruments.

We were all butterflies
circling the halls of our education,
but I am convinced that no one learns manners
until their shining star
has circled around the sun many times.
A girl in seventh grade does not know
how her actions knock against the world
and ricochet into the fractal
of human feelings. Or how a joyful word
can make a stranger smile for the next ten years.
We wore fishnet stockings, red sandals and miniskirts.
A girl is seventh grade does not know
the power of her heartbreaking beauty.




Meditation on an Ostrich Egg


Memory is like an egg –
a strip of fog over the bridge,
cascading, rippling hills
in a waterfall.
Below the stones,
a symphony of frogs.

Balancing in my hand,
an ostrich egg
held captive in a box,
the embryo emptied through a tiny hole,
an ellipsoid eggshell universe
waiting to be painted
with a fine tipped brush.
Inside it, the memory
of a farmhouse where I don’t live anymore,
not cracking. Imagine the nest!
Quite an omelet!

I toss things off
and he writes them down,
feels they are important.
Crysanthemums on my kimono
fall into the Red Sea.
It’s a geisha dance,
a feast of pomegranates
painted on an egg shell.

Half way around the globe,
people believe the universe
waits inside an egg
before it is tossed to the edges
of an infinite cosmos. Further south,
below the Tropic of Capricorn,
an ostrich pushes a
hard and round universe
into a nest –
believing in the dream of birth.




Waltz for Young Daughters


In the rocking chair of a dream,
white lace ribbons of memory.
A waltz for young daughters,
aspen leaves shimmering in
the shoulder of the wind.

Open the edges of your body
to the wings of a floating swan.
Collision of a blue star
with the grace of an angel.

On the cello, even playing the scales
sounds like honey, as you weave a new song
on your grandmother’s loom.
The attic is filled with boxes of old lace,
light slanting from a high window,
netting and roses on hats
from an earlier century.

Heirloom roses are unfolding their petals,
in the garden
pink as the cadence of your singing.
Open the painted boxes, carry the yellow silk
of your ribbons into a blooming world.
Fill the new century
with the shimmering of your dreams.












Diane Frank is a poet, novelist, and Chief Editor of Blue Light Press. She lives in San Francisco – where she dances, plays cello, and creates her life as an art form. Diane teaches at San Francisco State University, Dominican University, leads workshops for young writers as a Poet in the School, and directs the Blue Light Press On-line Poetry Workshop.

Blackberries in the Dream House, her first novel, won the Chelson Award for Fiction and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Swan Light, her new book of poems, is hot off the press. She also has a new novel forthcoming.


Her website is www.dianefrank.net


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