Tuesday, December 20, 2011

La frutta *

(reading the paper placemat at Colombo’s)

Start at the heel of the boot,
at the sumptuously-named Lecce,
and run your finger around the graceful
toe, beaded with Sicilian heat.

Move slowly upwards, pausing at the knee
to genuflect at the Holy City, then on
to gaze in awe at the high-swept sinews
of the landscape leading up to Assisi.

Come around the thigh, taking time to
taste the savors of Bologna, Parma, Genoa,
circling over and round the graceful
inland swell of the northern provinces

and down, down again to glide
upon the glistening canals of
Venice, whispering softly as the
red wine disappears like a sunset.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The moon is missing

She is standing at the screen door again,
crying, as she looks up into the night.
The moon is missing.

Just last week she had friends and life was good,
but now she knows better. It is cold and
the moon is missing.

On the beach, the tide is rolling in, with
Venus looking on. It’s not true that
the moon is missing

but she won’t know until she learns to see
she is beautiful, and ready. Only
the moon is missing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


If a lineset gains so much momentum
that the operator cannot stop it,
that heavy load becomes a runaway.

Your instinct will be to grab the rope. Don’t.
If you are lucky, you will only burn
your hands as the rope races between them.

Much more likely, though, you will be carried
upwards by the rope – to be smashed into
the loading bridge, mangled by falling weights.

Should you survive this awful collision,
you will likely lose your grip on the rope
and scream back to the deck. This hurts like hell.

Learn this discipline, however unnatural:
When a line gets out of control, let go!
Don’t be a hero. Warn others. And run.

Setting goals

Every year I set goals with my therapist.
Last year, we bought him a boat.
The year before, it was his time-share in Miami.
This year, we’re sending his youngest son to college.

When I finally worked up the courage to confront him
about the inequity of this arrangement, he complimented
me on my progress and suggested we make an appointment
for next week to discuss my feelings at greater length.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Union Church

What if Jesus had been a union man,
and his twelve disciples had all been plumbers?
Or tool-and-die guys, or even
photocopier repair technicians?

Imagine the parables that might have been told
of leaking U-bends, and toner cartridges
found at the back of the supply cupboard,
right behind the post-its and motivational t-shirts.

His mother would have run the show
for sure – along with all the other stalwarts
who had paid their dues over the years.
You know the ones I mean – there’s always one or two.

In the end, the church probably would have been
better maintained, and letters and regulations
would always look just so. But you can be sure
the internal dynamics would be just as dysfunctional.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Twenty years

Whenever I see her
picture, or hear a friend
describe what she
is up to now, I can
still feel her holding me.

Whenever I see her
name in print, or I smell
the sweet perfume she wore
for me that spring, the lust
I felt still shakes my core.

Whenever I see her
in a dream I know that
my heart’s still open to
her summons, and she can
crawl inside me where- or

whenever. I see her
breath on my window, I
taste her salt. I left, yet
still after twenty years
these dry bones won’t forget.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


(a kyrielle)

A shadow hidden at the back
of her dresser drawer caught my eye
the day the movers came. I thought:
we keep things though we don’t know why.

A hundred foreign coins, a stack
of travel documents signed by
some long-dead border guard who fought
to keep things though we don’t know why,

a broken pocket watch, a black-
and-white shot of a compound high
in India, crammed in a box
to keep things though we don’t know why.

Tracing the alligator track
around this lid, I think of my
own collections, what I just bought
to keep things though we don’t know why.

Time stands still in keepsakes. We track
our past with trinkets that defy
every explanation sought.
We keep things though we don’t know why.

*** Terms and conditions apply

*** Listen, we know everyone likes a
good deal, but good grief, we couldn’t afford
the rent on these posh New York offices,
or the mural in the executive
washroom, if we actually paid out
on this outrageous offer. So get real:
you are not eligible if you are
bald, foreign, introverted or stupid.
If you’re a chef or a plumber, no way.
Pro athletes need not apply. Same for cops.
We love hunky guys named Cole.  (Just kidding).
Actually, unless you’re a drug lord,
you are willing to bonk our CEO,
or you have a lawyer on six figures
you can lean over and kiss your tuckus.
It’s time for our massage. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What won't wait

What won’t wait for you tonight? Take the car
and drive like Jehu through each stop sign far
across this sleeping town. Out of the mist
you carom down main, but draw no interest
from the wayward souls spat from Louie’s bar

too late and too far gone, their minds ajar.
No time to ask permission, or to spar
with strangers over places on a list;
     what won’t wait

is screaming at you here! Nothing can mar
such perfect clarity – the morning star
is crowning now. Now! Tonight you exist
only to be held by one tiny fist.
Leave the rest: the things we cannot plan are
     what won’t wait.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The hand you are dealt

A good friend will cause you pain today. She
will not see why even if you try to
explain. You will think you are going mad.

You will wish to kill someone. Try not to.
Your other children will suffer enough
without you compounding things. Suck it up.

Try to avoid awards ceremonies.
Jealousy is ugly. Schadenfreude
is also to be frowned upon. Mostly.

Church will become the worst hour of your week.
You will spend the whole time praying no one
turns around. God will appear not to care.

There are no trophies for surviving.
You will not sleep well tonight, or ever.
You would not trade places with anyone.

(a fortune-cookie poem, originally written for a prompt from Robert Lee Brewer over at Poetic Asides)

England's great tradition of painting

They were an hour late,
three likely lads in white shirts
with five cans of paint,
three drop cloths, brushes, rollers,
and, of course, a tea kettle.

Don’t mind us, Missus,
the blue-eyed leader declared,
patting my mum’s arm.
We’ll make ourselves right at home.
You won’t even know we’re here.

I watched from a chair
as they brewed a pot of tea
and surveyed their task.
"Looks a bit dodgy, dunnit?"
one said, and they all nodded.

That decided it.
“Back in the morning, sunshine!”
the oldest one winked,
and quietly handed me
the cards from the tea packet.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hope Barn

(a rhyme royal)

A hundred Chinese lanterns cross the sky
with whimsy as the sun melts in the west.
Here in the field, our hostess wipes an eye
then throws her arms around each welcome guest
to whisper secrets she has cherished lest
they disappear like mist.  She is alive
tonight, amazed to see such crowds arrive.

(for the beautiful Hope Barn, who holds her history with grace and dignity)

Nuns and bacon

I’ve got shaving cream stuck on my
earlobe and a strand of dental floss
clinging to my right shoe.  That faint
smell of bacon comes from my briefcase,
where I absent-mindedly stashed what
I was supposed to give the dog when the
phone rang with a reminder of the doctor’s
appointment which I seem to have
forgotten in my confusion following the
unfortunate incident with the street sweeper
and the crocodile formation of
pre-schoolers crossing the divided highway.

CD seven of my new box set from the
library was playing at the time, something
about accepting life as it comes, so I
didn’t lay on the horn and instead smiled
at the gigantic nun waving her hands in the
central reservation.  The word “wimple”
got stuck in my mind and I spent the rest of my
drive thinking about rhymes for it, of which
there are precious few, which may partly
explain the paucity of decent nun poetry,
and also attempting to undress her in my
imagination, only to be thwarted at every turn

by a gleaming steel under-habit with a
big sign saying “For God’s sake, keep out!”
Felt a little better by the time I got to work,
especially when the receptionist winked
at me, but then I couldn’t stop imagining her
as a nun.  Weird.  Maybe if I’d gone to
Catholic school this wouldn’t be a problem,
which actually might just be the best reason
I have heard so far for supporting school vouchers.
I wonder if Jesus was ever late for work,
probably not while carrying bacon, and if Mary
Magdalene ever let him look under her robe.

A bit of stream-of-consciousness insanity to share with friends at the fabulous dVerse Poets Pub.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

To have and to hold

To have and to hold, from this day forward,
for better, for worse… Glowing words uttered
haltingly, like lines from a high school play,
learned by heart, yet still alien. Today
is a necessary burden, offered

to assuage the desires of well-mannered
society. A photo-op prepared
with eight-by-tens for all to take away
     to have and to hold

forever. But in truth, what just occurred
in this place, the flowers, lace, high-collared
dress, unity flame, champagne toast, DJ,
first dance, are but the entrance toll they pay
for life to which they have not yet matured,
     to have and to hold.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Senior day

Today was Senior Day in town.
Everywhere I went was awash
in blue rinse and that thin brown whiz
they offer up as free coffee.

At the Goodwill, the checkout girl
said without looking up, “Do you get a
discount?” Then flicked her weary lashes
towards me before saying, “I guess not.”

At the grocery, an elderly acquaintance
bellowed across three aisles that I was
looking far too thin. And the line was clogged
with hearing aids unable to read the self-serve screens.

Out in the parking lot, my way was blocked
by a perfectly-preserved 1980s Buick
straddling two spaces while its near-sighted
owner struggled with the gear shift.

Strangely reassuring, then, to arrive in the plumbing
aisle of the hardware store, and have a grey-haired
woman stop pushing a giant ladder just long enough
to yell, “There’s some young man here who needs help!”

Do not use this product

Do not use this product
if you have heart disease,
liver problems, high blood pressure,
persistent cough or chronic
breathing problems.

Also not a good idea if you
are pregnant or breast-feeding,
taking drugs for depression,
psychiatric or emotional conditions,
if you have Parkinson’s disease,
or if you just want your kids to go to sleep.

If you do decide to take this
product, do not drink alcohol,
drive, or operate heavy machinery.
Try to avoid people with whom
you may be tempted to get into a
fight, as you will be darn irritable.

Keep out of the reach of children,
both you and these pills. Do not
take more than directed. If you do,
contact the Poison Control Center
right away, at the number unfortunately
obscured by the price tag on the right.

Then again, if you have managed
to read this far, you’re probably
going to pull through.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sharing the love

Sometimes, when two people love each other
they want to share that love with the whole world.
It’s quite natural. And so late at night,
or even at lunchtime, they go to work

(and don’t kid yourself, often it IS work,
especially if you are on the porch,
or the patio, or at a camp site,
places you have to be extra careful).

For some couples it is really easy,
others have trouble, some even give up.
There can be showing off and jealousy
which is really hurtful and doesn’t help.

But most of the time, the hard work pays off.
They come out to you, sweat-soaked and aching,
still sticky from all of their exertions,
to announce: It’s here! Mint-Chocolate-Chip!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The banality of evil

(Hannah Arendt has a quote about the banality of evil.  A piece under that title on NPR this week, by Dina Temple Raston and Robert Smith, described the final day of Mohammed Atta, before he hijacked one of the 9/11 planes – so ordinary, staying at a Comfort Inn, getting cash from a Wal Mart…)

The banality of evil

The banality of evil
Furrows the soul more than the flow
Of blood from monsters we don’t know.

It’s the neighbor who pays his bill
Washes his face, then takes his place
With those he is about to kill.

The things we share in common show
The banality of evil.

* credit to Luke Prater for this wonderful form

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Never skip breakfast...

 (a villanelle)

How many animals are there
Teeming before my hungry eyes?
By this point, I don’t even care.

Just cause I’m single, it’s not fair
To choose me. Don’t you realize
How many animals are THERE?

All I’ve done, all day, is to stare,
Then name each beast. I can’t disguise
By this point I don’t care

If the names make sense. I might dare
To skip some! Tell me, O Most-Wise:
How many animals are there

That I can grill medium-rare?
Names can wait! Just serve ‘em with fries.
By this point I don’t even care.

There’s only so much I can bear
Before I start to fantasize.
How many animals are there?
By this point I don’t even care.

To share with friends over at the marvelous dVerse Poets Pub.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

None of us are ready

None of us are ready
Tonight. We float in a
Sea of Tranquility
As the tide washes us
In, inexorably.

None of us are ready
And yet it is time. We
Travel after midnight
One hand upon the stars
As a new voice sings bright.

None of us are ready,
Our arms still tangled in
Each other’s hair, we lift
This wet thing to our chest
And say, “This is a gift

None of us are ready
To receive.” And it’s true.
Our swift humanity
Is chastened before such

None of us are ready,
We are all newborn here.
But there is grace, and soon
Joy as we stumble home
Kissed by the mother moon.

The grammar involved in "none is" vs. "none are" makes my head spin.  I ended up sticking with "none are" though "none is" might work better in some people's eyes.  Hope you can get past this issue to appreciate the sentiment of the poem!  For friends at the marvelous dVerse Poets Pub.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


My father was a famous astronaut,
A hero from the bright comics I bought
On Saturdays. Sometimes I heard the key
Turn gently in the lock long after we
Had gone to bed. And then my parents fought

Like lovers in my mother’s sheets, but not
Out loud as they might wake the baby. Caught
Between embarrassment and lust to see
     My father was

Still real, I clutched my rocket ship and fought
Back tears. His only letter is what got
Me through those years – to know God and country
Might come first, but he always cared for me
No matter what our friends and neighbors thought
     My father was.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Don't ask me

Don’t ask me where it is I am going
Tonight. Some things go best without knowing
Every detail. I am a small shell
Whispering the waves, wishing I could tell
You who I am. The surf song is calling

Me inexorably, its tide writing
My name on some distant shore. This gnawing
Sense of being “not-from-here” I know so well.
     Don’t ask me

How, but it has always been there, lying
Nautilus-curled within my stumbling
Soul. I want to love this red land as well
As you do, but I cannot fall under its spell.
Someday I’ll say, but for now I’m begging,
     Don’t ask me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


A honeymoon poem, to share with friends over at the marvelous dVerse community.

This house is smaller than the brochure made
It look. There is barely room for our bags
In the front hall as we sign the guestbook.

Breakfast is between eight and eight thirty
We are informed, and would we prefer
A fry-up or just the continental?

Our hostess has a typewriter. The walls
Are filled with neat signs telling us things like
When we may use the bathroom (no long baths)

And that the lounge is open after six
For us to watch the TV or peruse
The two shelves of Mills and Boone romances.

But this is our first night, and thus we have
A romance of our own to consummate.
Pinned above our bed is a note that reads:

Guests are requested not to talk after
Ten p.m. We obey, shyly, taking
Our time, trying not to break any rules.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


On the sand
Watching the water
Extend to the blue horizon,
The awesome sense of infinite possibility
That descends when I am barefoot
Tracing a fresh path
As the waves
Wash my

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Late afternoon in my room

Why is it so sensual
To wash a lover’s hair?

Is it the scent of blossoms
Borne away on fingertips,
Or the gentle lapping of
Small waves at the water’s edge?

Is it the deep stillness that
Descends slowly on the heart,
Or the final yielding
Of control, the gift of trust?

Perhaps it is all of these
But this much I remember:

She bowed her head at the sink,
Letting the warm water run
And when she looked back at me
I knew I could not refuse.

Posted for the weekly Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub.

Monday, August 8, 2011

You took a risk

(a monchielle)

You took a risk last night
Standing up there alone
Where you slowly allowed
Your pure voice to strip bare
Defenseless to the crowd.

You took a risk last night
Wearing that shining dress
That caught each colored glint.
You could not help but shine
In that dim firmament.

You took a risk last night
Turning your face to us
As your soul fell apart.
You became translucent
Singing your broken heart.

You took a risk last night
And we loved you the more
For letting us hold you
Even for a moment
As a lover would do.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beautiful women make me nervous

It was a great pickup line, if I say so myself:

     What a fabulous feeling!
     You’re too lovely for my eyesight.
     But tonight, I’d say my love is big enough to handle it.

Unfortunately, I got flustered:

     My, my, I say! What a lovely sight.
     Your fabulous feeling butt is big enough for two.
     I’d love to handle it tonight.


Laundry day

A simple laundry-day sonnet, to share with friends over at the wonderful dVerse community.  Welcome, and enjoy!

A line of laundry baskets snakes around
The living room, as if about to shed
Its skin of cotton blends, in sleek casts found
By herpetologists beneath the bed.
Some days this house is full of mystery,
The mundane rendered beautiful, each small
Activity transformed for eyes that see
But do not judge too rapidly. I call
This attitude a discipline of grace,
Embracing imperfection with a smile
That lets me love the serpents I must face
In every daily task. For all the while
I long for past success, I must confess
There’s much to learn in cleaning up a mess.

Thank you for calling

What pain I endure every time that I say,
“We apologize unreservedly:
Thank you so much for calling; have a nice day.”

Your son cut his hand when he started to play
With the chainsaw you bought? Well, duh! You see
What pain I endure every time that I say

We’re sorry to losers like you, sharks who prey
On flesh like lawyers? When I gush brightly,
“Thank you so much for calling; have a nice day,”

What I mean is, “Get lost, you leech-head, and stay
Out of my way or I’ll show you clearly
What pain I endure!” Every time that I say

How I feel to my boss, he turns me away
With, “The customer’s right, just make them happy.
Thank you so much for calling; have a nice day!”

Well, he’s wrong – there’s no way we should have to pay
For your stupidity. It’s killing me
What pain I endure every time that I say,
“Thank you so much for calling; have a nice day.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Passion wagon

(Hey, the lockout is over - here's a villanelle for the NFL - for friends over at dVerse, a great site to check out if you haven't already.)

You wonder what it is I’m thinking of
As we are locking lips here in the car?
I have to say my heart is filled with love

For all creation – the bee, the wood dove
And giant men in spandex near and far.
You wonder what it is I’m thinking of

As you fumble with the seatbelt and shove
Me backwards, inflicting the biggest scar
I have? To say my heart is filled with love

For you is true, but it is not enough.
You know how my libido seems sub-par?
You wonder what it is? I’m thinking of

Owners and players standing hand in glove
Proclaiming peace like buddies in a bar.
I have to say my heart is filled with love

For you, but mostly ‘cause you’re splayed above
Me like you caught a touchdown from Bart Starr.
You wonder what it is I’m thinking of?
I have to say, my heart is filled with love.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The world without coffee

(a rather loosely-informed sestina on my second-favourite vice)

According to my newspaper the time
Of greatest flowering in European cultural life
Coincided with the advent of the coffee
House in cities like Vienna. Poets lost love,
Philosophers thought deeply, Shrinks shrank, and great new
Symphonies soared above the pervading creative buzz.

Surely it was not always so. The buzz
More generally heard before that time
Was the gentle snore of citizens tanked up on new
Wine or local ale. Such widespread alcohol slowed life
To a crawl beyond mid-morning, for who does not love
To lie down when half drunk anyway? Imagine, then, coffee,

On its introduction from the east. A single cup of coffee
Could rouse a person with its distinctive buzz
To new heights of creativity. Quite soon, the love
Affair with this dark stranger from the shores that time
Forgot had spread from cup to saucer, transforming life
For the noveau-jazzed across the continent. The New

World, similarly, benefitted from the new
Caffeinated order. The Thirteen Colonies made coffee
A staple to accompany the westward spread of white-faced life
Swarming native land like a great cloud of queenless bees, their buzz
Stinging like a pickaxe blow in railroads and then in factories, where time
Triumphed over human scale, and simple love

Disintegrated into commerce. The love
Of money, wide-eyed, unblinking, brought a new
And harsh reality to bear – a far cry from the time
When agriculture and its rhythms reigned. Now coffee
Represented all that served to amplify avarice, that buzz-
Cut every wayward tree, and scythed through individual life.

It seems there is a rule in life
That we must pay the price for all we love,
And surely we have paid in full for the buzz
First tasted many centuries ago. Those pioneers knew
Not what they were playing with, and their coffee
Dalliance has robbed us all of a simpler time.

But then again, with the buzz of life I get each time I grab a venti toffee nut caramel white mocha frappuccino double blended with no whip cream and extra caramel drizzle, my love for this beautiful drug is brewed anew – The world would be so much less poetic without coffee.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mr Paganini goes on the tiles

(A silly fable written to a prompt over at the wonderful Poetic Bloomings site.)

As Paganini stumbled
Through the ancient stable door
His haughty countenance crumbled
Before the congregation on that floor.

A dozen stallions strong and fleet
Were breathing on his nose
While all around his trembling feet
Stood arching rows…

Of cats! Their green eyes blinking
With a look so fierce and bright
That Paganini started thinking
They were spoiling for a fight.

The atmosphere grew bolder
As a Siamese stalked near
And jumped up on his shoulder
To whisper in his ear,

“It’s come to our august attention
That your musical career
Has caused too much pain to mention
For the members gathered here.

The bow you boast is magical
To spin music without fail
Is only fully functional
At the cost of a flowing tail,

While the singing strings you love to stroke
To drive the ladies nuts
Can only really be baroque
Thanks to someone’s mother’s guts!”

A noisy chorus raised the roof
Of that bucolic dive
Presenting him the awful proof
He’d not escape alive

The violinist trembled
And sank down to his knees
Before all those assembled
Mewing pitifully, “Please!...”

But the angry crowd came forth in packs
With cries of “hiss!” and “neigh!”
And on a hundred hairy backs
They carried him away

Ten miles, before they cut him loose
With a note clear and nefarious:
“Leave off your animal abuse,
Or we’ll bust your Stradivarius!”

Next morning he awakened
In an empty country lane;
His night had left him shaken,
He swore he’d never drink again.

But just as a matter of careful course
After this nocturnal spat
He lavished sugar on his horse
And was nice to every cat.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

To a certain bird

A rush of silver
Was your final gift to me.
Then awful silence.
On the step, your eyes slid shut
As my heart begged you to stay.

Pumping Iron

We started pumping iron on the porch
The summer that our river burst its banks.

He stood in the driveway with his shirt off
Glistening like a sword drawn from the sea,

Shouting, I am strong now. What have you left
To offer, old man, before I slay you?

Eye-to-eye we fought to keep our balance
Two strangers astride the Leviathan

Each one thrilled and yet terrified. It was
Blood-lust and it was hubris that tossed us

Until we washed up on our backs, arms raised
And flexed and raised again without talking.

Something’s blocking the sun, I said at last.
Your pride, he spat. No, I smiled, your biceps.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I don’t know where your black shoes are.
We don’t have time to curl your hair
At this point, my dear, I really don’t care
Just grab your stuff and get in the car.

Why do we do this to ourselves each May,
This ritual humiliation we call the recital?
Can this two-hour battle of flesh versus machine be as vital
To our children’s development as their teachers say?

Leave your sister alone, you unrepentant brat!
Can’t you see she’s having nervous fits
About the middle section of this piece? It’s got her scared to bits.
And don’t say that dress makes her look fat.

Look, I love soccer, but I wouldn’t love it more if you made me
Take a penalty in front of a thousand people, for crying out loud.
Why can’t these poor frightened souls be allowed
To play for fun at home instead of out where everyone else can see?

Oh gosh, there’s your grandma in the second row.
All her friends from church have come along
To hear you play your two-finger version of a patriotic song.
You’d better stop your tears, or all the makeup stains will show.

I’m all for music lessons, please don’t get me wrong. I’m quite aware
They teach us discipline, which is of course right and good.
But somewhere I think we crossed the line, and what could
Have been encouraging to kids has instead become a collective nightmare.

There she is, under the lights. She looks so innocent
Sitting on the piano stool, preparing to do violence
To America the Beautiful. In her defense
The outfit’s pretty, even if her playing’s only twenty-five percent.

You show me a gifted pianist playing Chopin out his mind,
I’ll see your smug little prodigy and raise you
Five hackers lurching sweat-drenched and distraught through
Fur Elise like a drunken typing pool. Full house beats one-of-a-kind.

Oh, well done, you were divine, a taste of heaven to the ear!
These flowers are a token of my love and great esteem.
You are so talented and brave.  Let’s go get the largest ice cream
We can find, and forget this charade until we have to do it all again next year.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Blink of an eye

Hi, love. Sorry I missed your call – I know
It can get lonely at the hospital.
It will be great to have you home tonight.

I was out at Penney’s with our newborn
Buying him a birthday suit, extra long.
He looks so cute, you could just eat him up.

He’s been eating constantly, back to his
Birth weight, and then some. He does like ice cream,
Especially the stuff your mother brought us.

Nap times are good, he’s getting lots of sleep
But his days and nights are all turned around.
It must be from all that time in the womb.

Oh, and the driving instructor called us
She said there’s a spot for him next Friday,
Now that he’s learned to walk, and read, and shave.

When I asked the woman at United
If they would take care of him on the plane
There was an awkward pause, before she said

Sir, your son is sixteen – he’s an adult.
She’s right – he is the best of both of us.
And it happened in the blink of an eye.

The naked truth

(Hendrickje bathing, by Rembrandt, 1654)

I swear by all that’s holy
If you keep stepping on there
It will steal your soul.

When you lose, you feel uneasy
When you don’t, you feel worse
And all the time you look the same to me

Stepping radiant from the shower,
Torrents streaming from your hair
Like a goddess at her bath.

Hendrickje never had a bathroom scale
Neither did Venus on her half-shell
And you surpass them both.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Some days we
Are magnets
Dancing spikes
Of iron
We quiver
To embrace
Until one
Turns their back.


(For my father)

It’s time to mow the grass for the first time
This spring – the tousled dandelion heads
Bobbing above great ragged waves of green.
Next to the street, the lawn is struggling,
Burned under mounds of salt thrown down by plows
Last winter. Nothing can live with that much salt.

My father told me once how they used salt
In the ancient world, as fertilizer,
Spreading it on the fields to make crops grow.
Too much salt in one place damaged the soil,
Scorched beyond use. But when spread thin it was
Golden! Life and death in each farmer’s hands.

The good book says: you are salt for the earth.
And I think of how we all get piled up
In great toxic mounds of long-lost goodness.
We poison our own back yards, when we could
Be scooped up and scattered to the fresh winds
Helping wheat and weeds grow up together.

Written originally for a prompt at the wonderful Poetic Bloomings site.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Postsy Toodey

I love nicknames – everyone should have one.
It shows you are loved and special – J.Lo
A-Rod, The Gipper, Deep Throat, Mack the Knife.

Maybe certain movies would be improved
If they had fancy nicknames to go by.
The Sweet Smell of Success would be Smelly

The Lord of the Rings just known as Ringer
While the Return of the Body Snatchers
Would be Rot B.S. – appropriate, eh?

Anna Karenina would be Russky
E.T. would be Mr. T, and King Kong
Could choose: K-Kong, Special K or Big Guy.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2-D
Would be Potsy Toodey, and in 3-D
It would graduate to Potsy Threedee.

As far as I can tell there is nothing
You could do to improve Casablanca.
Great art should be left alone: Play it Sam.

Old Gasoline

Old gasoline smells nasty when it spills
All bungee cords aren’t created equal
It is possible to have too much string
Chipboard doesn’t make a very strong ramp
Teenagers love to prove how strong they are
Especially to other teenagers
Truck rental places lie – get over it.
Leftover rolls and coffee taste like dust
When you’re standing in an empty garage
Watching one of your best friends drive away.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


It was three-oh-five
A suspiciously long time
Here in our kitchen
Till I realized this was
The oven temperature.

Like Jacob

Like a dream half-remembered of an old
Flame, once bright but now guttering wax tears,
These prayers melt into sand, as dark smoke sears
My senses. With each return to this old
Place, I feel my spirit shift as I hold
A taper and fumble for words. The years
When I could answer any person’s fears
With platitudes are gone – that fool’s gold
Plundered by experience. I think on
Jacob with the angel, spent on the floor
No revelation won, all mystery
Left unrelated when the night has gone.
Like him, I have my blessing, but still more
Walk with a limp – as wisdom’s gift to me.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I arrived at the Middle School carrying
A three-foot-long model of the U.S.A.
Fashioned out of frosting and rice krispie treats,
With the Oregon Trail marked in green sprinkles.

At first this history project seemed absurd,
Sugar-coating every hill and valley.
But in the end, perhaps all of our attempts
To explain our origins leave us gasping:

Manifest destiny, guts and glory, luck.
We spend our lives reshaping the stories
We tell about how we got here, with frosting
To cover the cracks we aren’t ready to show.

Why I make the bed in the morning

Some mornings, this bed is a fresh-plowed field
Still ripe with dew and softly radiant;
Others, it is all scorched earth, bright yellow
Coverlet thrown off to relieve the heat;
And occasionally, it lies fallow
Waiting patiently, soaking in the sun.

I always do the same thing in the morning
No matter what the night before has brought.
With the shower singing in the next room
I tuck the sheets and gather up the dreams
Place the pillows side by side, and give thanks
For daylight, and forgiveness, and coffee.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Outside the administration building
Of the local high school is a signpost
Bearing two identical “One Way” signs.
One sign points due left, the other points right.

The first time I saw this it made me laugh
Because it so well expressed that vortex
Of high school life, where we stand and wonder
Which of the right answers we should follow.

But today, surrounded by caps and gowns,
This weathered sage turns valedictory:
You have the best of us now - choose wisely.
Once you leave here, there is no coming back.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flood Plain

They are flushing the hydrants today
Splashing giant rainbows in the spring air.
You cannot escape the sound of water.
Outside the Middle School is a great lake
Where the drains are plugged. Two young boys are there
Staring intently like they are asking

What will be left when the waters recede?

On the radio they are talking to
Farmers in the Mississippi delta,
Poor folk in poor houses, watching the floods
Rising and talking about faith in God
And how they don’t have the money to move,
While engineers are playing Morton’s Fork
Between the devil and the deep blue sea
And admitting that no one really knows

What will be left when the waters recede.

The boys lose interest and wander away
To dig in the sand of the ball diamond.
I change stations and hear an old preacher
Talking about God shutting Noah in
The Ark. And I think, Good for Noah, but
What about the rest of us? Does he want

What will be left when the waters recede?

Friday, May 13, 2011


Thanks to Vivienne Blake for a great phrase "marvel at the miracle of the ordinary" over at Big Tent Poetry.  Here's my response - small beer, but then most of life is that way, eh?  Cheers.


Three blind mice orienteering through our A/C ducts
Squirrels plotting malice on the birdseed box
Graceful mold filigreeing the bathroom
Grass abounding it places it should not
Geometric patterns of unwashed laundry
The majesty of dishes rising from the sink
Long shadows cast by looming bills
The sonic boom of freshman saxophone
And sheer power of teenage deodorant
The flattened mass of a forgotten Twinkie
And pyramid of eraserless No. 2 pencils.
Rainbows filling the room from a hanging crystal
The tenderness of one loving look across the table.

Someday I will write a book,
Hopefully a funny one.  But for now
I walk outside and simply marvel
At the miracle of the ordinary.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pop Tarts

So many of the best foods
Are round: The perfect circle
Of a fresh cupcake; a sunny-side
Egg yolk; apples and oranges are
Round, too. Even pears and bananas
If you look at them end-on. And of
Course, the humble hamburger,
Served on a plump, round bun.

No food in nature is square, or triangular;
Sometimes food has legs, but even
These legs are vaguely roundish.
And some of the finest foods even organize
To grow in circles (like mushrooms).
It just stands to reason, really –
Round earth, round food. I think
That’s why pop tarts just seem wrong.

Things we say we'll never do

(a cascade poem)

So many things we say we’ll never do
Follow us home in the end
Like a stray dog that steals our heart.

That’s why I’m cautious about words
Spoken in haste or anger, for there are
So many things we say we’ll never do

That we should – like apologize
Or embrace the embarrassments that
Follow us home in the end

And lie down with their head in our lap
Nuzzling against our hand
Like a stray dog that steals our heart.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Let’s be dangerous
Outside tonight
The moon is a police light
Throwing shadows
Through the tall grass
Above us

Let’s be dangerous
In plain sight
The neighbors are sleeping
Dreaming of small deeds
And the moon
Is our radio.

Let’s be dangerous
And start a fight
Just so we can make up
Strong and slow
With your lunatic hand
Over my mouth.

Let’s be dangerous
And break what’s right
Because we are strangers
Whetted with unknowing
And we are desperate
To cross this divide.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunrise service

(Happy Easter to all)

You lipsticked cigarette ends
Circling smoke to heaven
Rampant weeds defying mulch
And axel-breaking potholes
Praise the Lord.

You blissed-out muzak
Kenny G-ing overhead
Slick-haired TV talking heads
And day-old business pages
Praise the Lord.

You pouting teenage girls
In long skirts and too much makeup
Freckled younger brothers
And disapproving grandmas
Praise the Lord.

You harried first-generation immigrants
Screwing up my order
Overflowing coffee pots
And abandoned egg mcmuffin
Praise the Lord.

You white clothed street crew
Worn out from your heavy lifting
You military veterans
Stealing glances at the
Women in the corner

By the empty table.