Singing My Pockets Empty / Vicki Mandell-King


Singing My Pockets Empty

poems by

Vicki Mandell-King

ISBN: 978-1-59948-878-3, ~88 pages, $15 (+ shipping)

Release/ship Date: May 18, 2021

The Advance Sale Discount for this title has expired. Those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $19/book (which includes shipping + applicable sales tax) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 

PLEASE NOTE: Ordering in advance of the release date entitles the buyer to a discount. It does not mean the book will ship before the date posted above and the price only applies to copies ordered through the Main Street Rag Online Bookstore.

Vicki Mandell-King’s previous collections are Tenacity of Lace (Gamut Press, 2013), Shrinking into Infinite Sky (Future Cycle Press 2016), and Hurry, Open the Gates (Gamut Press 2019). Individual poems appear in Calyx, Old Red Kimono, Plainsongs, Roanoke, Slant, Snowy Egret, and more. After law school, Vicki became an Assistant Federal Public Defender, doing trial and appellate work, supervising the Appellate Division, and teaching legal writing nationwide for thirty years. Retired, Vicki enjoys yoga and hiking. She and her husband live in Colorado and recently relocated to be closer to their son and family.

With an artist’s restless eye and a keen sense of color, texture and composition, Mandel-King leads us through her journey with a deft touch. Observant, curious and honest, she invites us into a richly lived life full of love and loss and most of all, wonder. These are poems to linger over. ~Frank Coons


In Singing My Pockets Empty, Vicki Mandell-King does exactly that in these generous outpourings of poems that reveal a profound love for family, friends, nature, and compassion for others. She does not flinch in expressing the difficulties that love can present and how she faces them. Her poems embrace life from the painful loss of her father to her joy in grandchildren. Each poem is pitch-perfect and sings with beauty and resonance! ~Jane Costain, author of Small Windows


In Singing My Pockets Empty, Vicki Mandell-King moves effortlessly between the natural and interior worlds. She gives wings to the quotidian and takes us to places where “sermons fall silent in the roar”. She writes of loss and grief with unblushing honesty, yet still offers “something strong and tender that stares down suffering”. The readily accessible poems in this collection sing with heart and wisdom. ~Lew Forester, author of Dialogues with Light



Tossing handfuls on the grass,
the little boy and I sing,
Come get your peanuts,
come get them right away,

come get your peanuts,
it’s a happy squirrel day
set to the tune of an old beer jingle.

A tune I remember singing as I scampered
down the stairs to my father’s office,
dressed in a pink play-dress
to entertain his patients –

which reminds me of the bonfires
my father built of leaves – reds and golds
turned gray in the smoke,
the stinging scent of burn,

and the last blazing –
as when the dying sit up in bed
to say, I love you and good-bye,

words he had no chance to say.
My refrain of childhood loss,
rubbing raw the familiar scar.

But here and now, in my garden,
squirrels gather.
And the child sings his pockets empty.





Headed west into the mountains
to view the aspen turned yellow-gold –
in our rear-view, the sun paints
a pink and purple sunrise
that’s impossible without clouds.
We miss our vintage Miata –
cruising top-down, rock n’ roll blasting,
sunshine on our heads.
Before us, a full white moon lingers
before dropping behind the peaks.
Day and night and everything
in-between in balance. I slip
a Jim Croce CD into the player.
And as I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song plays,
we fall still in a way that is deeper than quiet.
After a few minutes, he squeezes my knee,
I touch his hand. We reach Nederland,
a little town near where we once hiked up
Pawnee Pass to the Continental Divide –
before his chronic back pain ended our treks.
We head into Ned’s Café,
slatted siding painted pink with yellow trim.
Good food, plain and simple.
I wonder how Jim would describe
our young waitress – brown fringed boots,
short flowered skirt, thick wool sweater,
not a trace of makeup, her blonde hair braided.
She’s perfect. We sit there
smiling at each other, I a little teary –
not just knowing we love each other,
but feeling it again.
I wonder if she knows
the in-love phase has to deepen
or it will die, and if you’re lucky
it returns from time to time.
Heading down at mid-day –
the light falls flat, unechoed by shadow.
We listen to Jim again, but
it’s not the same –
and that’s okay.





Shadow on one breast – a call back to retest.
Hold still, hold breath, Not yet, not yet.
Just a false alarm. With a long sigh,
I return home to the garden where
an old friend waits. Behind him,
butter-yellow tulips blinding bright.
Not seen in years, but here this day–
face crinkled in a grin, devilment
in his eyes. And most of all,
his spot-on descriptions of those
we love, fleshed and realized.
Having watched me with his son
– that sun-browned child of long ago
swimming in a clear warm pool –
he imagines my grandchild and me
and says he has always loved
my one-on-one, rapt-attention ways.
His words like a black Bindi dot
pressed to my forehead – signifying
widowhood though I am yet no widow.
After a couple of hours, as my friend
walks out the gate, slight hitch in his hip,
I call him back with the thought –
we may not live to see each other again.





A den of coyote pups near a stand of olive trees,
prairie dog holes puncture the field.

Meadow larks sing out yellow throats,
a red-tailed hawk circles on invisible currents.

Dandelions we call weeds, not wanting them
in our lawns – sundrops through prairie grass.

The air is fresh, the sky blue as I walk, slowed
by a cranky hip.

Off-leash dogs chase Frisbees in the park.
All of this I take in. But only when

I pass a dirt field, where ten-year-old
boys and girls practice throw-catch-swing,

and remember our son’s Little League days –
do I think spring is turning to summer,

the hours of sunlight lengthen,
my own days more visibly numbered.

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