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Aileen Bassis

Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, 1656




a forest path



sour berries

   even dirt



squirrels drop empty

shells  mice bite roots

and bulbs




trees:   pine    oak       hornbeam    spruce

sprouting thick with brambles & knitted screens

of ropey vines  & high up flurry of ceaseless careless birds’

swiveling dart to snatch seeds & crumbs away

beside red mushrooms blush while voles dig down & white-

toothed shrews burrow home beneath loamy

dirt dense with crawling ants      fat fed worms


                        and snails that slime.


   The pulse beats

through day & night


cells contract divide multiply & stars


            & stars & stars spin light to us to

watch from years

away and out past our

tiny world a black

hole chews & chomps & gulps

rocks & ants &

trees & hills & even white

            stars blink

            all is Lost.









Mothers Day Sestina 


It’s May with light moving in a dappled  

motion like ponies dancing on 

a tilting merry go round    

with golden rings between tree branches, 

blowing breathless down the street 

on this chilled spring day.  


I’m waiting for the ending of today

with memories rising in dappled

drifts to fall with footprints down streets

with damp stairways and pleading on

windowsills for winding tree branches

to unfurl the tiny leaves clinging round 


as evening begins again its round

stretching out against each day

tossing away branches

of stars and cloudy puffs dappled

above and poking the dark, dark grey and on

and through the draperies of sky above the street. 


The pavement winks its stars. The street

echoes faint traffic sounds going round

until erased leaving just shadows on

a page turned at every day’s

end. Smudged and dappled,

folded pages pile by my bed, branches 

splayed in a sprawl, branches


mapping their remembered way across streets

to echo my disordered dappled

thoughts gathering in and outs and circling round

to replay the moments of her last day

framed by the scattered taste on my fingertips of salt spilled on

my mother’s table, a taste that branches


out to touch a remembered afternoon. A day

in a yellow kitchen with buttered bread, a street

that I can barely recall running around

and out into a courtyard with light dappled,   

dappled like sun through lace curtains dancing on

around unforgotten drops like tears on branches,

streets, and trees; all glazed with salt on this mothers day.












(Las Meninas by Velasquez)


The painting in the Prado

is on a velvet wall.  A guard

sleeps, legs outstretched. 


Framed in gold and gilt

is a tableau: the painter,

the king, the queen,

the princess, centered in a rosy glow

of light, standing frozen for our studied

view with her handmaids,

and to the shadowed

right is a toy

of a woman, a dwarf

with stiff rolled curls 


            and while history paused and

coughed and made a note of the pink

princess; her marriage to a long chinned

Hapsburg uncle, motherhood and early death,

her servant dwarf in careful coif and stiff

skirt drifts away like rubbed lines of artist’s chalk;

gone, leaving just a ghostly smear

and the breath of lemons.













Her pale

hair like a

dry wheat

grass curtain shudders,

a blue

vein sprouts through

her thin chest to her 

heart as words

drop like layered rocks

hitting the ground and

breaking into crumbly bits

revealing secret gleams of brown

and red, green and even

clean streaks of milky

quartz and some

words shoot out

like a cue ball looking to

make a ricochet

shot thunk to the corner

pocket and other



in the air, almost

unmoving, held

for a breath beat

to float like

down from

a swallow

fallen from a

nest and almost

ready to fly.


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