Pat vivian

Pat is a technical writer, professional editor, and poet, who writes about her personal experiences of assisting with the passing of three of her very close friends who died of AIDS in the 1980s. 

She is the author of a chapbook called, A Luminous Trail Through the Wilderness

Email Pat




Suddenly it matters:

swifts headed to winter

brutality in Central America

twilight-dance in fall in Portland.

Pepper specks, a darkening vortex,

dusk cloud in spiral descent—

they pack into the gradeschool smokestack

like black smoke drawn back, more coming

with their impeccable timing—

miles of numinous blueblack cries chiming

overhead, thick as a galaxy.

They gather

without shoes or money,

like souls returning.

What passerine

passsion governs them:

who goes in first, who last; by what sign

are they called to their need

to commune; how they dive

through the vent without smashing

into ungiving stone. Do they see us,

a struggle of humans? Suddenly it matters:

they have sharp, strong claws

and are friendly to others

of their species—do they

believe in torture, God

or democracy? Or just

the good grit

of soot and seed.

leading the blind

The slender woman on the #12 bus

missed her cross-town connection and is lost.

Whitened knuckles of a solitary hand

clutching a white cane,

the other resisting on the fur

of the panting canine, who is also lost,

she leans forward into an unmapped future

while the driver explores route options and calls Dispatch

to help reconnect her.

This lopsided 3-way intersection

is a six-pointed star, with such odd angles

it would be easy to get lost

at the corner of NE 57th, Alameda and Sandy.

Our bus slides to a halt,

doors open while the driver exits, offers his arm

and escorts the woman and her guide across the street,

waiting politely as they board the #71.

All of this, of course, takes a few minutes

and throws the bus off schedule,

leaving everyone else

behind, bound to their own connections.

But suddenly Now is something we have plenty of.

Here is what you need.

Time louvers its doors open wide and settles

with it's old friend Being over the whole bus.

We are so ready for this, we are waiting

for the light to turn green,

we are waiting

for more drivers like this, we are ready

as he steps back up to his seat, to greet him

with a groundswell of clapping

that rises out of us like a hungry wave —

spontaneous combustion

as the bus lurches into motion.

Opera Singer at Golden Fields Manor

Her day-and-night attendant whisked her out

through an exotic, perfumed crack

of the authentic two-room suite.

Down the hall to dinner she rolled, eyes slack,

jaws dull—a plate placed

at the table, pale mannequin

fiddling with her napkin, hair swept up

smooth as a standing ovation,

nary a stray all the way to the crown.

Just then, she was queen of nothing.

Just as Joe Aikin's spoonful of quaking Jell-O

found his left eyebrow, Elsie McCracken

raked wizened fingers down the window,

and Marge in her spidery hairnet

fended off a rattling dish tray spill,

Madame tall French knot made a pooched taut

O with ragged lips, as if surprised at herself,

and let loose a note that bloomed

whoopie into a gusty melody

whipping around the room. I swear

it carried the top of my head away, lifted the roof up

off all of us. Like raising the lid

and spotting a diamond

sparkling in a dumpster.

She might not know

who she's been—duchess, diva, or vixen

trilling at Bayreuth, Covent Garden,

that starch-white wedding cake in Milan,

or why she's here

at Golden Fields Manor—

but by goodness, she can still sing.


Decades after her shaggy fling

hiked up the Big Apple skyline,

Fay Wray is back in town

stomping around in a pair of red stilettos,

come-hump-me pumps heroic as fire engines

each half a block long. Sporting a natty ensemble

cinched at the waist, straight out of "I Love Lucy"

she strides into six lanes, tall as an empire.

There will be no more art made of her

terrorized screams, no crowds stampeding

onscreen, no ripped diaphanous gown.

See how she unspools the film.

See her sweep airplanes out of the sky,

mop up trillions in third world debt

like soap scum, bleach mean CEOs

with Asset Clean, balance the federal budget

on one hand—while calmly with the other

she scoops up survivors from the collapsing tower,

cupping them safe in her palm.

See her shortstop the bombs.