Almond Tea

A kasen renku by Alexis Rotella, Michael Dylan Welch, Pat Shelley, and Florence Miller

Written 24 January 1994 at the home of Alexis Rotella in Saratoga, California. First published in Lynx XIII:2, June 1998, pages 34–35. Alexis wrote the first verse about me, starting us off very much in the moment on that crisp winter day on her deck and in her kitchen and dining room. The renku would have gone in an entirely different direction if I’d happened to have taken that almond tea.

Almond tea—

he’s happy just

inhaling it. Alexis

sky in the spoon

bubbles rise in the wine glass Michael

sequoia seeds

so light

in her hair Michael

feet cold

the poems don’t come Pat

Hoot owl—

too early

for the moon. Florence

shifting light

we move inside Michael

in the comfort

of her kitchen

seedless grapes Pat/Alexis

click of the furnace

our rhythmic breathing Michael

the Mondrian

I leave it

tilted Michael


the stars shake. Alexis

pink ballet slippers


the same way Pat

Under the dust ruffle

a condom. Florence

Jewish girl

she asks for

a communion dress. Florence

hanging over the freeway

Cheshire cat moon Michael

placing logs

in the fireplace—

doorbell Michael


its moldy smell. Alexis/Florence

shorn rose—

silver tracings

of the snail Pat


gone fishing Michael

wet socks

on the closet floor

grandson’s visit Pat

Root cellar

white potato eyes. Alexis/Florence/Michael

snow on the sill . . .

cat turned

to the window Michael


still the chimes Michael

Et cetera

my doctor uses it

again. Alexis

all through my dream

the chattering squirrel Michael

Morning fog

the smell

of eucalyptus. Florence

a gull’s cry

over Alcatraz Michael

So long

the veil

of his ashes. Florence

Two contrails

become one. Alexis

The moonstone

in my navel

surprises him. Alexis

our empty teacups

by the bed, rattling Michael

she leaves

her robe—

birdsong Pat/Alexis

a crack in the pavement

lesser bindweed Pat

inside the gazebo

a bank

of dry leaves Michael


half the horses gone Michael

chalk outline

of the body

tiny Michael

A gray pigeon

pecking Wonder bread. Alexis