top of page
San Francisco Chronicle Image
Alison Brantley Letter to the Editor
SF Chronicle Page6.4.20 (1).jpg

Somewhere on the other side of the world a teeny tiny thing,
barely alive,
took a different path
to exist.

And the whole world changed.

That thing, invisible to the eye, made its way through a strange new territory

and learned to survive in a world it didn’t recognize,
but found what it needed
and kept on going.

And the whole world changed.

As it learned to survive,
it grew.
And the human world
on which it found its way to survive began to suffer

because of it.

The human world,
which had grown to dominate the plant and animal world for thousands of years,

began to fall to its knees.

First slowly, in one country and then,

continent to continent.

And the whole world changed.

read the full poem


AndTheWholeWord_ CovidEarth.jpg
The Very First Lady photo 2020-06-10 at

A woman

A real woman

A big woman

A Black woman

is in the White House.


Her strong hands

and beautiful long arms,

their grace and flight will guide us.

Her stature, her strength

is now shared with the nation.

She lives in Our house.

And she serves us by her steady smile of the wise,

the bright eyed gleam of hope springing once again.


She, who walks in the path of all those who suffered, fled, and died,

now walks with those who oppressed her.

Their portraits hang on the wall of her new home.


She must be larger than us, wider, stronger

to change the course of history.

To look through hatred, to rise from anger to belief.

To be clutched by fate so.

What keeps her strong is knowing in her heart


A nation has answered its prayer.

To fly

He was destined

   to be among the angels

To reach for his humanity

  was his maternal gift

And he was grace

And he was beauty

And he was courage

   in the face of unremitting


His legacy is that

   He was but himself

An icon, a god, a prince

A Man, at last

His beauty soared

His gentleness was keen

   And innocent in death

Of death he knew

   from his father

and of life he knew

   from his mother

And to her,

Merging life

and death

   he flew straight to her

   and landed

   at her side forever


I want to tell my daughter

who slides into my lap

and with a sigh

confesses she has been thinking a lot lately

about why she is here,

why there are stars,

and blackholes,

and where did the earth come from,

things like that.

I want to tell my daughter

Not to worry,

that there is an answer.

But as I hold her in my arms,

her warm body, her eyes open to the world,

I feel deep inside the abyss of those questions,

the elusive answer

the bottomless God that I have held onto for so many years

I want to tell my daughter a

a finite thing

that will make her smile and feel cozier,

beyond the safe cocoon of my lap.

But my words are few,

my feelings awash

in this moment so rich, so full of the life we so often squander.

I say

“You’re here because Daddy and I love each other.”

And he adds as he walks through the room

“We wanted you here.”


She looks at me to ask is it true?

I nod and smile.

It consoles her for a moment.

I do not say

I do not know beyond that why,

but she doesn’t need to know

the ramblings of an older mind.

She is pure and curious and alive,

her feet dangle still above the floor.

I Want to Tell Her-795505_1920.jpg

The kitchen table is cluttered

with place mats, an empty bowl with aquarium pieces,

a dirty dish,

and a cold tin flower pot

sitting on a brown ceramic plate my son made in school,

Egyptian insignia running ‘round the rim.

The table is my sundial.


A single spindly shoot curves its way upward

from moist dark earth in the tin pot.

Morning sun creeps into one side of a window



I found it inside the bread box

where someone had shoved it away,

One more of my countless attempts

at making an avocado pit

turn into a plant.

Days, weeks in the warm darkness

had produced this albino shoot

with a web of wet white roots in the dirty water

I looked at it, amazed.


I held it in my hand like a newborn.

I thought the housekeeper

had just thrown away my last experiment like compost

Instead, it had escaped

And found in the darkness

Space and opportunity.

And it decided to take it.

Wondering what do I do now

Pull out the toothpicks

And look for a home.


The shoot is now a softer yellow.

The brown at the top I first took for death

sprouted the tiniest leaf.

I watch it everyday know what to do

Somehow I have given it what it needs

I watch it take sunlight and make a leaf.

I’m afraid if I water it too much or not enough

I will kill it.

I take my direction from observation

My soul is involved in this

My eyes, my heart.


One inch leaves shine back at the sun

from its sprouted top.

Small nodules run down its spine.

I push the pot to the middle of the table

to catch the midday sun.

The warm kitchen, the handmade table, the history of a thousand meals.

the avocado-1488561_1920.jpg
bottom of page