Lori Romero











From some crevice in the day
A song reaches across
The shoulder of time
Reminding us of lost minutes
A tune neither sad nor joyful
Brief fragment of a longer melody
Like the sigh of a sleeping baby
Or the whisper of lovers at 2 AM
Then it is gone
A witchery of sound
A passing cloud
A rusty key under moss in the pond







The river beaver beats
a pounding rhythm on the low bank,
its tail a trowel that lays down a lodge,
a teepee home of willow branches and mud.


From a rising curtain of fog, delicate ducks
with white teardrop patches around each eye,
gray-brown feathers over ivory bellies,
take the stage paddling to syncopated ululation.


The ducklings are transported to the water’s edge
where eight whirligig beetles skate in synch.
Frogs and lizards sing a chorus
as they float on vessels of leaves and twigs.


Two monarch butterflies pulsate.
Four wings, iridescent screens of orange and black,
balanced with hypnotic precision, move Tai Chi slow.
Quivering bellows, like lungs, breathe in and out.


A red crowned crane,
its neck as long as today and tomorrow,
lands by a silver spotted skipper
poised on pink perfumed swamp hibiscus.


Wonder springs all around
as golden-ringed acrobatic
dragon- and damselflies
flutter and flip through the air.


Spiders yo-yo on bungy cords
hanging from bur-reed.
Mosquitoes vibrate on short stalks,
mist-wrapped vines vamp along water’s edge.


As playful river otters circle
the bogbean and water mint,
white-faced ibis join
with a quick flick of feathers.


Honking geese and hoverflies
festoon the Big Top
in the grand finale
under a dandelion moon.





My dark suit’s pressed

back in the closet at last.

I am the egg blown

hollow of yolk and white.

Breath thin as chambray.

Clouds pass

rain is absent

drought tightens dirt.


In the bosque, the place

where bark beetles burrow

in sweet piñons like cancer,

I will bind my infested heart

until the dogwoods bloom.





Wrapped, dormant
until its shell cracks
and the sunset
reveals colors of a heart:
blood jasper,
terra cotta, coral, the ache
of wild strawberries.
Clouds spill and puddle
behind the Sangre de Cristo mountains
and send coyotes crying out
for the moon& rsquo;s tallow silhouette.
Horse-faced shadows
wander the vacant arroyos
and leave the kiss of sage on rain so light it has no shape.





My aunt’s house —

purple drapes puddle on the floor

a fainting couch in the corner

Rococo crested sideboards and armoires

cherubs on wallpaper borders.


Part dollhouse, bordello,

and haunted house with crazy clocks

ticking madly away on every wall.


It is here we celebrate the feast of the seven fishes,

an Italian dinner tradition on Christmas Eve.


Calamari, clams and mussels simmer

in tomato sauce.  Boiled shrimp and crabs

pink while whitefish bakes in the oven.

My aunt’s baccala recipe, a state secret.


No one in my family knows why

it’s customary to have seven courses of fish.

Some say it represents the days

of the week.  Others say it’s because seven

of the Apostles were fisherman.

It is as everything is in this kitchen,

a ritual waiting to happen.


In my aunt’s house —

spoons clink and clocks chime,

musical as church bells in Palermo.





The memory of you rises from evening merlot
the fragrant leavings of a linden in fall


you harbored the rapture of blue from a peacock’s neck
the silence in a wildwood’s heart


you knew the calligraphy of a coastal morning
gourds swelled in places radishes had been


in you a dream was swallowed by a lazuli sea
from you the dark fit in two ordinary hands





Capsized in a sorghum sea,

bodies buoy, kisses murmur

like whetted waves

over briny blind spots.


In you, silence juts,

my heart sounds the hour.

In you, a sleepy beach town

waits to waken.

In you, a water song

lies under scarred scales.


Sunlight is slippery,

and as little pig moons

fall from fullness in a dying sky,

we lose sight of sails

under the weight of rain.





Your greatness grows, Jason,

like the smile of my knife.


I was your keel, your breastbone; my hands

the oars that powered us.  Entangled seaweed


steeped in bitter water, we skimmed past a hunter’s

moon.  Waves leapt like wolves sighting lambs,


foaming at the mouth, chasing us out to sea.  I tried

to conjure away doubts, useless tricks that lulled


serpents, but left me withered.  Now I know

your promises were bloated sails of sirocco in a deranged sea.


Docile as fleece now, I let my blade

speak for me, mince words, rant and rave,

cut chasms across small passageways

to remove proof of passion.  Along the river,

anthers stick out of autumn crocus

like bright red tongues.


This knife has sung our boys to sleep.

This iron heart, a vacant widow’s walk.





I carry your tiny frame to the tub


Water –
alien to you,
when only a short time ago
you were amphibious,
like a fish behind a floodgate


A forced
pulled you
from a mermaid sleep


Dark eyes now watch
indigo liquid
a Balinese
trance dance
around fat goose legs


part of you





A romance passed through them,

a small town twister that left

the smell of old water in pipes.  Knee-deep

in quiet, they salvage what they can.

Coverless books, coffeemaker,

wristwatch.  Noise from a couple

in the next apartment sweeps

around the emptying room like a rasp of wind.





While Epimetheus

Is preoccupied putting out his brother’s fires,

His wife sits vacantly in their little hive

Like a smoke-dazed bee

She’s a back lit babe with honey-colored hair

A little clay pot festooned with flowers

A scoop of vanilla ice cream in a gold cup

A one hit wide-eyed wonder

Clara Bow lips dangle

Below “Who Me?” eyes

Breasts pour off her chest like funnel cakes

Her pink tongue, like a sleeping snake,

Nestles around a necklace of pearl white teeth


Ennui is her only companion

Until curiosity undulates in under the door

Like rain to thirsty roots

A tongue to a sore tooth

A naïve moth to flame

Bumbling fingers swarm all over the box

She was warned not to open

A container with more surprises

Than a package from the Unabomber

When she lifts the lid

All the evils that were carefully tucked away like Christmas linen

Pop out like Chinese firecrackers

And scatter about the room like an upended jar of marbles


Trees shiver

Dinners go cold

Flowers lay their sweetened heads against the decaying sand

Wives and husbands stare at chipped

Formica tables and wonder what they’ve missed

But our prom queen still has one more item in her shopping bag

Finding its way to the top like rising cream

A little hopeful Prozac latte

To wash down the mounting dread

Twice a day with a sensible meal

Her constitution’s as good as gold

And the eyes of Fate

Are stone-blind again





My sister and I wake before the roosters

begin insulting each other.  Our whispers

bring the cats close – the Russian Blue,

weaned too early, suckles the blanket.


I’m leaving for school today, packing up my half

of the eleven-steps-from-bed-to-light-switch

room we share.  Aileen, cross-legged, picks

at her plum-colored nails, angry I’m going


away and she’s not.  “That’s my CD,”

she says.  I know it isn’t, but in the spirit

of détente, I toss it on her side.  She snaps

her gum in response.  Betrayal underscored


in kohl.  It suddenly seems important

to recheck the dresser so nothing

is left.  The folding screen that divided

us is pushed against the wall.  Aileen


stands swaying in the light like a sunflower.

The morning’s peevish heat slides away,

cats curl about our legs.  I unnest

my hands from my pockets,


and Aileen and I subtract the steps to the door.





Heat, you are the leopard’s moan
under a jackalberry tree.


The sundered earthworm seeking itself
and the pink-mouthed birds who hunger.


You are the curled, damp hair tumbling
to the forehead after collision of bow


to string.  The lips that cull
juice to the surface of plums.


You are the impetuous flick
of a gypsy’s skirt.  Swatches of skin


brushing in cicada shadows
as the wind lifts curtains.





Our argument turns into the Iditarod, leaves

us exasperated and bone-tired.  Words cut

angry fissures on the surface; a waste of sea divides us.


Silence breaks against our feet and hands and arms.


You pace, back bristling.  I can’t sleep, my brain a midnight sun.


Nostrils searing, I clean the refrigerator: shriveled apples

in the cold drawer, a Tupperware container sprouting lichen.

You fix the leaky window that drips when the wind turns mean.


Outside, a winter storm rasps its last breath.   You hunt

me out through the ice in my breathing holes –

the cosmic dive of Arcturus.  Your hands become roots

that break through frozen earth in spring thaw.





My sister and I hitch a ride.

Wide-eyed sunflowers atop dark marl

urging dad: “Faster, faster!”


He rolls us past succulent strawberries,

hiding their blush behind delicate green fans.


Past fat, spiny leafed zucchini, elbowing

other plants, demanding so much space.


Past ripe tomatoes and grapes that birds

have been eyeing for days.


Past rhubarb, poisonous leaves the color

of toads, bitter pink stalks that turn into sweet

tarts and ginger jams.   Finally,


we spill out where snails

creep at the coldest hour of day,

potting ourselves as we push seeds

under with small worm fingers,

faces following the sun.





In the middle of our marriage,
we became fog –
clouds unwilling to fly,
and then you put your mouth


on me, and I borrowed the shape
of the sky and left my graven
image on you.





Brett, four-time marble champion,

owner of legions of small stone spheres,

his booty at the bottom of a backpack,
walks to school,
crunching through fall leaves,
the color of gold and red
cat’s eye shooters.  Pumpkins smile
from fence posts. A cold wind
nips heels like a sheep dog
corralling him to a gray building
where bright buses belch children
out on hopscotched sidewalks. The playground


becomes the diamond district, drawstring
bags pulled from pockets as eager eyes
set upon Clearies, Aggies, Pee Wees, and Rainbows.
Faces with traces of milk mustaches and smelling
of cinnamon oatmeal crowd together as
Slags clack like casino chips. Fierce bidding
drives some to financial ruin; others
amass wealth in grubby fists. The new boy,


dressed in the wrong clothes, Levi’s too pressed,
tie tight around a skinny chicken neck, Adam’s apple
jumping up and down like a prodded frog,
places his only property in the center of the ring.
A Purple Popeye agate, once belonging to his grandpa.
A honeycomb of color in clear glass. The Hope Diamond
never received such ecstatic oohs and aahs. It is over


in a single shot from Brett’s Blue Swirl, which resembles

a whale in a white foam sea.  A wave

of admirers carry Brett to class.  Alone,

the new boy slumps on library steps,
perfectly shaped shimmering orbs,

roll down the contour of his cheek.





In the photo my mother wears

a Vandyke brown fox stole,

fastened by one long snout

biting the tail of the other,

nagging a constant circle,

doppelgangers chasing denouement.


Manicured fingers,

that favor Ritz crackers and roe,

curl around a beaded purse

I know contains a wad of tissue,

a wrinkle-less five dollar bill,

and a tube of siren-red lipstick

sardined inside a mirrored case.


My father, Brylcreemed, a little dab’ll do ya hair,

face marble heavy, holds her arm,

the same grip used to steer her clear of the curb

after one of Uncle Harry’s martinis,

the same grip used to pull her back in the car

when she tried to leave. Survivors of touch,

but not passion.  Tristan and Isolde.


They face the camera, in front of their first home,

whose plaster facade barely conceals coiled wires

that sizzle and throb with high velocity

teeth tingling currents.  Overloaded fuses

blow and lights pop like flashbulbs.





This is my mother –

born six feet tall,

grew to five foot two.

She wants to be a dancer

like Margot Fonteyn,

but she is pregnant

with my sister.

She leans against

a maroon Ford Sedan,

feathery garments

loose, belly atop

waddling swan legs.


I am not here yet

to lie in the rear

car window and watch

street lights slash across the dark,

or smoke candy cigarettes,

or corral fireflies in mayonnaise jars,

or catch cooties

from my fifth grade crush,

or lose my roller skate key

in the rusty underworld  of the thorn

bush near the window well,

or see my mother’s mind

become a pas de deux.



        Madison WI February 2011





I sleep under Dreamcatchers
that should sift my reveries
like cake flour


The malign from the benign
the inevitable separation of Spider Woman


I envision wicked dreams
flying through the center hole in the web
confused, lost in unwoven shadows


Good dreams trickling
down beads and feathers
to me waiting below
like a bear under a honeycomb


But my pillow appears
fatigued every morning


I try to recall these sinews of sleep
as I lay under hoops that hold
my hidden desires


but they evaporate like morning dew
when touched by the fervor of the sun





the small angel

I tried to balance

in your folded hands

slid off and fell

below you in the coffin

I never realized

the depth of caskets


nor the cacophony

the cherub would create

as its wings pinged

against metal

on its flight

to the bottom


you would have loved it


you would have chuckled

as the funeral director

flapped up the aisle

like an agitated crow


you would have cracked up

as he myopically measured

and almost lost a button

snaking his hand down the gap


you would have chortled

as his arm disappeared

beneath you

and his face perched

just above your breasts

fumbling for an errant seraph


you would have



        Madison WI February 2011 072





Aunt Connie brings the news:

a child drowned in Lake Harriman,

a classmate of mine,  no one heard


the cries for help.  My mother weeps

over a bowl of string beans.  Too young,

too young, how could this happen?  And I,


balefully safe, ghost the screen door.  He

played near the water after school, though

warned not to, watching bass jump


for insects in fading light.  Tomorrow

the desk in front of me will be empty,

pencils lined up sharp as fish bones.



Campo Co 2010















Lori Romero is a published poet and fiction writer. Lori is also a playwright, actress and screenwriter. She served as Artistic Director of Friends & Artists Theatre Ensemble in Los Angeles, and acted, produced and directed in other theatre venues. She currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The critically acclaimed, The Running of the Grunions, Lori’s first play, was produced at the Flight Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Her short plays, Surreal Estate and Girl Meets Boy, were semi-finalists in The Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Ten-Minute Play contest. Lori’s one-act, Noon Whistle, was one of five one-acts selected to be produced in the Fourth Annual One-Act Festival in L.A., and was brought back as a part of Friends & Artists’ Festival of Women Playwrights in collaboration with The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights.


Lori Romero won the Spire Press Poetry Chapbook Competition (NY) for her entry The Emptiness That Makes Other Things Possible.  Her first chapbook, Wall to Wall, was published by Finishing Line Press (KY), Leah Maines, Editor.  Her short story, Strange Saints, was a semifinalist in the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award.  Lori’s poetry and short stories have been published in more than one hundred journals and anthologies.  She was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.

Her poetry and short stories have been published in over sixty journals and anthologies which include Citizen32Quercus Review, flashquakePlum BiscuitCopper NickelMystic River ReviewEdgar Literary Magazine, Poetry MotelPebble Lake ReviewPoesy, and Zillah: A Poetry Journal.



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