Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009

Though the dates have been deceiving, I have finally come back on track. My first attempt to write a poem a day failed, but these failures are merely the slab upon which success is built. I will start anew tomorrow and attempt another year of poetry. I hope that you have enjoyed this year, and I look forward to sharing a bit of my life with both people who accidentally stumble upon this blog while searching for the lead singer for Toad the Wet Sprocket.

So for my final poem of the year:

Just moments before the ball drops,
the sparklers light. and our names
are written in the disappearing air,

I am watching the friends I have
pour drinks and sip anxious conversation
in a poorly lit uptown apartment.

Among the glass bottles and city lights
there are quick hearts that wait
to see next year's

quick turns and abrupt stops
But for now, we casually await at
station, happily we've arrived together

Hopeful we'll see each other
the next time the golden whistle blows.

July 13, 2009

Like Coleridge, last night
I dreamed in art,
and if I were wise I
would have had paper
and pen at my bedside
and if I were wise I
would have written on the
walls if there was no paper
and if I were wise I
would have written it with
blood if there was no ink.

But instead, I lounged in
the warmth of awake
and let the story vanish,
just like the great skeletal
eel vanished in my dream
with a wave of her vaporous hand.

July 12, 2009

I am comfortable
on the carpeted floor
of this country home.

My friend, down for the holidays
plays and electric keyboard
whose un-dampened notes
carry chords about the warm room.

Other friends are stirring
small cups of conversation,
walking in tight circles
like toy trains.

Unbeknownst to them, I
am furiously penning it all down,
a play by play of this
seemingly innocuous moment.

When they wake, they will
have forgotten, but I , having
wrapped it in a ribbon of words,
will remember.

And I will tear off the bow
each time my eyes
open this small present of a poem.

July 11, 2009

My nephews are asleep,
their hands held tightly

over their eyes. My brother,
more impressive to me now than

ever before, is outside in the
cold, biting carrots left for the deer.

he proudly says that he can’t make deer tracks
because his sons will know they’re fake.

He’ll fall asleep tonight, his arm around
his wife and will be woken

in a nut full of hours by the
children who now so soundly sleep.

Grow as I may, my brother will
always be a giant to me.

July 10, 2009

I am sitting in my
father’s chair, beside
an orange fire in
the early hours of
Christmas day.

The stockings are
a slow cascade
down the wooden
bannister. The trees

with their little glowing
fruit, hold Dollar Tree
ornaments and shield
unwrapped presents
from an indoor rain.

My older brothers are
beside me arguing about
global warming and unregulated
population, and somehow

the gumdrops that
would have danced some
20 years ago in my
childhood head must
tonight, be sorely unsatisfied.

Their gummy selves
stretched out on candy
couches, significantly
depressed by my brothers’
directionless diatribes.

The candy canes,
bundled like barber shop tinder,
another Christmas faggot
waiting to be burned.

July 9, 2009

The man in front of me
is socially perfect the way
that men are good dancers
on their wedding day.

I can imagine that he’s
been training daily for this
casual conversation he’s
sparked with his unattractive waitress.

I imagine that when he
leaves, holding his smile until
the door, he’ll quickly exhale
the nervous breath he took

when walking into this everyday
shop, whose clientele and coffee are both
rather unremarkable.

July 8, 2009

The man in front of me
is holding a tomato slice
like my childhood priest

held the broken Eucharist.
Somewhat papal with his
short hair and pock-marked face

I am drawn to line up
in front of him, open my
mouth for a transubstantiated

pickle chip, take a holy
swig from his chai tea,
confess to him my fabricated

sins, then walk away,
terrified, ashamed, and still

July 7. 2009

In this early morning
coffee shop, the runners
social misfits gather.

Some have just awoken
while others wind down
to a short stack crawl.

It is here, I think,
in this hazy center of
the Venn diagram

that people are most human,
both drunk and aerobicizer
overwhelmed by relief

that they are not the other.

July 6, 2009

The Christmas tree
my mother insists upon
is over fifteen feet high and growing

The ornaments, our
childhood art projects hang
off the plastic giant only waist high

The top is naked
but for the long ribbon of a bow
that spills down each side like crepe lava

my mother
a hopeful
soul, sees
not waste
but canvas
on which
her giant
will paint.

July 5, 2009

My nieces and nephews
are a coal burning train
that has run out of track.

Hands high above their heads
and mouths wide open,
they run through the kitchen

on fire. My mother, more stern
in her grandmothering years
holds them by the scruff

and tries to catch them
in a sack of silence,
but there are holes in

that burlap sack and
through the smallest one,
I hear a steady crescendo,

a five-mouthed wail

July 4, 2009

It is late in the house
I grew up in, far later

than I would have been
allowed to stay awake

or sit in my father’s chair.
The half-eaten bowl

of cashews sits in front of me
like some still life, hanging in the Orsay.

The seventeen wounded nuts are
devastated at eh bottom of the

chipped, brown bowl.
The window beside me only

gives me a dark reflection
of the sad painting in front of me.

Behind the cold glass, the
winds stir the short hill country

trees like a cauldron. The rains sweeps
our porch like a crying widow, and I

sit shocked in the melancholy morning
of my childhood home.

To think, I thought my parents were concerned for my health
when clearly it was my soul they were protecting.

July 3, 2009

I am done buying gifts
for the ragamuffin children

who sport my name and hold
a thimble full of my blood.

I have won their affections
with reptiles and ribbons,

and they have thanked me as
their embarrassed mother instructed.

And the machine look in their eyes
as they threw obligatory arms about my neck

is perhaps similar to the look in mine as
they tore through the thin green paper.

Emptiness given, emptiness received.
The ornaments, older than I remember.

July 2, 2009

I do not congratulate
us for being smart. No,
our cephaloons are helium
filled enough.

But on the rare occasion
that we use what we’ve
been given, that we open
the locks and latches of our abilities,

these are the rare and beautiful moments
that I stand to applaud.

I will not cheer the gun, but the aim,
Not the violin, but the pull of the bow,
Not the tools, my young friend,

But the machines you have built with them.

July 1, 2009

In this windswept
college town that has
emptied for Christmas
like loose marbles

I am alone in my
little castle of a house.
The doors, now locked,
stand at rare attention

to defend their one king
whose thrown is made of
half-written sonnets, whose
crown, discarded popsicle sticks.

June 30. 2009

When I close my eyes
there are still dragons
and rocky crags.

There are still panoramic
waterfalls that hide
cave entrances.

There are unicorns and
elves and dust-winged fairies
and magic that keeps
my eyes shut tightly.

June 29, 2009

I am, on this crisp
December afternoon, still
in bed.

The sun, midpoint on its
high arch, bleeds
through my curtained windows
a milky light.

Still buried beneath
blankets I will pretend
it is the middle of night

that the sky is black
and bare, and this light
is the glow of a messenger,
hovering quietly,
outside my unsuspecting, undeserving house.

June 28, 2009

Qualitative Analysis

The stacks of cards,
significant in staccato,
are the fragmented
truths that I’ve gathered.

And with each stack
I shall build a small
and fragile house.

And only then,
when the cards
are no longer cards,
but my walls and roofs
and floors,

will I understand
not truth, but a truth
that I have visited.

Let the statisticians tell you of the houses.
I will tell you of the homes.

June 27, 2009

The cobra is not feared
for its strength, but for
its speed, able to strike
as a gun is fired.

The ant is nor revered
for its speed, but for
its strength, able to carry
small mountains.

The human, of course, is
neither feared or revered,
for speed or strength,
but will be remembered
as a god, as our words
are all that remember.

June 26, 2009

Somewhere in these names
there are mothers and pianists
and priests and beggars
and lawyers and murders
and the best and the worst
of us. Somewhere
in these names there are
men clawing at the gates
and men hiding beneath the bed.
There are women arriving
and leaving,
and in the oceans of thin
black robes and stiff mortar boards,
the only difference from my mezzanine seat
is how the temperature has dropped
as they all hold their breath
at once.

June 25, 2009

I will begin again with you
If you will forgive me all
the times I’ve stutter stepped to greatness.

If you allow me to fill balloons
with your regrets and send them
drifting high into a cloudy sky.

If when I touch the upper part of
your arm you only feel my hands.

If when I touch your bottom lip,
you do not close your eyes.

June 24, 2009

The oven hums like
Christmas and the un-iced
ginger-men inside stretch
and brown to a deep
Caribbean hue that the
white mothers will modestly dress
in cinnamon raincoats
and gumdrop shoes.

The pant-less cookies
will be fed to the
white children, who will
with no explanation bite
their heads first. Their bodies,
still soft, will be dismembered
clockwise until the child
swallows the trunk, gulps pasteurized milk,
and reaches for another.

June 23, 2009

The Church at Pontatac

And the penitent trees
bow down at the rock altars of Pontatac.

And the deer are the ministers
Holding the Eucharist in their antlered fingers.

And the winds are the hymns
and the stars are the prayers

Here within this rustic congregation
of drying leaves and crippled creeks.

Here where the quiet Christians
scurry beneath the underbrush

between the bending light
that falls through the penitent trees

that have come to bow down
here, at the rock altars of Pontatac.

June 22, 2009

An Evening With Garrison Keillor

I stood with them and applauded
in the middle of that maroon seated auditorium.
I stood and banged my hands like cymbals.

You, in modesty or prayer held yours
just beneath your bowed head as
the crowd continued to cheer.

It was then that my eyes warmed
as if to water, but
instead of crying for you,
I think I was welling up
for the America that you gave us,
the fireside conversation,
the warm, log-cabin blanket,
the smoke billowing from some
distant mountain home.
The family dinner whose table
you head, whose hand-sewn linen
covers the country.

June 21, 2009

The small blue pills
I take to clear my arteries
and thin my blood
are small enough
to swallow without water.

The small blue pills
I take to clear my arteries
and thin my blood
are small enough
to hold in the cup of my tongue.

The small blue pills
I take to clear my arteries
and thin my blood
are small enough
to lose if they are dropped.

The small blue pills
I take to clear my arteries
and thin my blood
are the only thing
keeping the ocean off my chest
the volcano from erupting
the vice grip of death
from my over-worked heart.

June 20, 2009

I am tired of these arms,
like straws in a trash bag.
I want instead to stretch sleeves
while turning on the ignition.

I think I will start with curls,
13 res of my self intolerance.

I’ll tire easily at first,
but with time, I’ll take more weight.

June 19, 2009

The decapitated snowman
at the corner of Everett and 12th
is bold, but not as
evocative as the red-nosed reindeer
strung up for cleaning
just past the old Catholic church.

Perhaps not as showy, I’ve been
building a little gingerbread Chernobyl
in my basement. I’ve used Sour Patch
Kids for the Russians.

They glow like Christmas lights.

June 18, 2009

Waiting here in the hallway
that connects pods A and B
of the Beutel Student Health Center

I can feel my enlarged heart
galloping. I can see
the tired valves flapping.

I can hear the syncopated
palpitation that worries my
middle-aged doctress.

The smoker’s cough of the
triage nurse reminds me
that I am the only one who hears.

I wonder now, in the co-ed
next to me, the khaki man down the hall,
and the Arabic couple whispering to my right,

what secret songs do their bodies sing?
What local disaster are they hiding?
A flood? An eruption? The quiet death
of a poorly constructed machine,
flashing its last convulsive lights?

June 17, 2009

Driving south on Highway 6
I saw three freshly turned
mounds of earth in a roadside graveyard.

In the cool evening rain
the soil was still thick
and black, the flowers still crisp and yellow,

and the graves, so close
together could only mean that they knew each other.
They died together.

And I thought, if I died, you would bury me.
If you died, I would bury you,
but if we both died together, would
we know the hands that pushed
the first mound of dirt on our coffins?
Would we care?
Would we remember?

June 16, 2009

I will not cut it
short and stubbly
like your cologne

I will not cut it
in wild designs
like your desperate
musicians and filmmakers.

I will not cut it
so neat and comely
that my face would be
remiss without it.

I will cut it once, without warning,
delight in your faces,
then wake the next morning refusing to shave.

June 15, 2009

It is always in
the deepest holes of the night
those moments just before
the sun and long after
this little orange slice has gone to bed
that I walk the empty halls
of this house and wonder
what is next.

These anxious moments
so full of potential and promise
buzz around me such that
I can barely sleep.

But when I do and then subsequently wake,
I am as dull as the previous morning.

What I would give to bottle these
nighttime bees, open them
in the morning,

let them sting me to greatness.

June 14, 2009

Benjamin Franklin was 81
when he signed the Constitution.

It is said that when he did so,
tears streamed down his face.

His body, so deteriorated from gout,
required a younger man to hold
his hand as he wrote.

Barely able to walk, Franklin was
carried to and from the hall by four
prisoners from the Walnut Street jail.

Is it such a stretch to imagine
that the same man who carried him
would serve as his aide?

Is it such a stretch to imagine that out
of the thirty-nine signers, one held
the heart of a founding father, but
the strength of a convict?

Did he know what history he pushed as he guided
that liver spot hand?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

June 13, 2009

I’ve pulled six books
from my shelves in hopes
that one would yield a poem.

A Concise Encyclopedia, Pauline Brown’s Guide to Beginning Patchwork, a small bound edition of the U.S. Constitution, Seamus Heaney’s translation of “Beowulf,” Peter Irons’ Jim Crow’s Children—a discussion of the Brown decision, and a New Living Translation of the Holy Bible.

Surely in these poems and proverbs, these
facts and fabrics, these laws and their
verdicts, there is a short verse worth my ink.

And when I find it, I will be sure
to send it your way. A little lateral
literacy to enlighten your lives.

And if it bends the eye the way my
grandfather once claimed I could bend the ear
then my poem will not be an end in itself
but a beginning and a beginning and a beginning.

June 12, 2009

An Exercise in Typography (3)

able bodied
men from Catalina
went sailing, only one came home.

June 11, 2009

An Exercise in Typography (2)

able bodied
men from Catalina
went sailing, only one came home
a man.

June 10, 2009

An Exercise in Typography (1)

able bodied
men from Catalina
went sailing, only one came home,

June 9, 2009

Open Letter to Stephenie Meyer

I have not read your books.
I do not plan to.

I have heard they are
a great story penned by
a willing if inadequate writer.

I congratulate you on
overcoming your name.
I believe, until now,
the highest honor a “Stephenie”
has received was Lieutenant Colonel
of her high school drill team.

You’ve really showed the world
what big hair and high kicks
can do when unfettered by the
yoke of character development.

June 8, 2009

Heloise was not beautiful,
but she held her ugly
in a champagne flute

such that the gentlemen
never drank too much.

June 7, 2009

Simple Sentences

A sentence always has a subject and a verb:
I won
Phillippe snores.
The soup is cold.
-Rules of Thumb: A Guide for Writers, 7thedition

But what did I win?
And what is the prize?
And who, if anyone, did I best?
And are they angry? And if not,
shouldn’t they be?
And is it over, or will I
have to defend my title tomorrow?
And how will I
continue holding the
trophy with both hands
when there are so
many people here
to congratulate me?

Surely Phillippe does not snore.
He may breathe deeply or sigh
loudly, but he wears a heavy crown.
You did not tell us what
he did before he lay down
on that embroidered pillow.
You did not tell us
what page or small peasant revolt
he will conquer upon waking.
You did not tell us if it is
tonight during his, what you have
casually called , “snoring,” that his
throat will be slit and let his
royal blood flow like the Seine.

And what about the body,
slumped over the table?
What about the wooden hilt
that branches from the woman’s
spine? What about the sweat
on her brow? Is it not also cold,
the winter door left open, her
mute son still running.

June 6, 2009


Last night on the couch
as bergman and Grant
fell irresponsibly into love,

I thought about how
cold you and I are to
one another and how

this black and white romance
will stay stale and lackluster
until you are called

to espionage, and I,
your ranking official,
am thrown into harm’s way.

I think it is then
you will turn your soft
profile to me.

It is then, that I
will hold your head like
a globe and press

you into me. Oh, where
are those meddlesome Germans
when you need them.

June 5, 2009

The Norton Anthology of English Renaissance
Drama sits wrapped like beef jerky
on a borrowed wooden shelf in my bedroom.

I am sure that somewhere within
that vacuum-sealed variorum
there are scenes and acts which would,
if I let them, expand my mind like popcorn,

but for now I am happy that their
thick British vowels, which I’ve always had
a hard time discerning, are cheerfully
packaged in sharp cornered cellophane.

Who knows what would happen if we let
them out too trustingly, Marlowe,
Jonson, and Webster pushing
sweet William beneath the bus.

June 4, 2009

Lord make me simple
so that both poverty and
wealth will suit me

Lord make me shrewd
so that the devil or devils within
cannot trick me

Lord make me kind
so that there is nothing, time or coin,
that I will not gladly surrender

Lord make me just
so that my judgment is sharp and true
that the arrows are not my own

Lord make me brave
so that I am unafraid to fight
those monsters within and without

Lord make me small
so that I see how big you are
Lord make me wrong
so that I see how right.

June 3, 2009

How impotent my actions
How futile my deeds
I am
a land-locked raft
a thread-less screw
a bear and a lion
all stars and no teeth.
I am a log-less fire,
a lake unbanked.
I am the unbitten apple
a plague upon dead trees
a horse, unbridled, but still,
Caedmon, awake before he dreamt.

June 2, 2009

When she died
they cut her open
and found her kidney
was a bean bag.
They found her tongue
was sliced in two.
They found her toenails painted
and her stomach full of fingernails.

I’ll tell you her toenails
were cherry vodka red.

Somehow, I think, this
will have resolved things for you.

June 1, 2009

I want my hand
to hold, not my future,
but an accurate map
of the many rivers
I will forge,.

I want each line
to be a tributary, a branch,
so that when I look upon my palm,
I am not reading as much
as I am divining.

There are three great rivers:
one falls off the edge of the world;
one s deep like a canyon;
one is long and opens into
the great ocean of my arm.

May 31, 2009

With these hands,
I hold mountains,
rocky crags,
and their un-summited climbs.

With these hands,
I hold oceans,
deep trenches,
and their soundless abysses.

With these hands,
I hold space,
its airy tentacles,
and their bushels of jittery stars.

With these hands
I try to hold three words,
but they spill out from my fingers;
they scatter at my feet;
they roll, frictionless,
across the glass table of conversation.

May 30, 2009

For Bosquiat

Unbeknowst to me
I have become a cat person.
Helping a friend
take her pet to the vet,
I held the
ball of fur and fight
through thirteen traffic lights.

Perhaps it was the eleventh light
that the cat looked up,
and somewhere in its
mustard eyes there was
a quiet dignity,
a reserved confidence,

an understanding that though cat,
there is something of gods
in there,

a dusty history, shelved in the stripes
that line the tail
that curls about my arm like an asp.

May 29, 2009

The girl was large,
conspicuously so. Her
wide body perched
uncomfortably on
a buckling chair
in the hallway.

Her head, a
small grape to the
melon of her body
was slender, if only
in comparison.

She seemed trapped
there, a barrel
on its way over the edge,
a child in an iron lung,
a girl, 19, carrying
the world on her hips.

May 28, 2009

Bonfire Remembrance 2009

They flood in, small rivers
these families and students
who did not see Bonfire burn like a canopy,
did not hear Bonfire laugh like a harlequin,
did not feel Bonfire, shaking and shuddering.

here in this place that now echoes a memory
quiet hymns hum in the halls of our history.

Now is the night when their open ears, listening
quiet enough for a ten- tear-old voice

to say, “Silence young soldiers, our work is not over here.
Patience my brothers and sisters, still smoldering.

“We are the smoke and the ashes, the wind
that has yet to die down, that will stir through these logs

“Until you and your progeny, you with our history, you in your destiny,
set stones ablaze.”

May 27, 2009

These brightest days
are jewels on the crowns
of a few,

the glints from
the swords
of a few,

the gleam
int eh eyes
of a few,

and we, the rest,
are the dark many,
storing light like coins,

hoarding the great treasures
of the chosen.

May 26, 2009

From the top of Harrington Tower,
just before the sun slips away,
the dome of the Academic Building
offers a subtle severity,
anachronistic in our clay-colored campus.

From here, this little castle of a building,
with its windowed eyes and lattice balconies,
is not unlike one that some Renaissance
prince would step out onto, survey his land,
and walk back into his tapestried halls.

As I look down among
the grassy lawn of Cushing and through
the heavy boughs of the century tree,
I am not surprised to see
these regal students,

small kings and queens of
monarchies yet unmade.

May 25, 2009

Qualitative Research

We bring our biases
like crowns
like ribbons
like fanfare.
We announce them
like great orators
on the eve of battle.
We spread them
like thick blankets
over the picnics we prepare,

so when they come to eat,
they will take our research
with great mouthfuls of our souls.

May 24, 2009

Quilted Woman

There is a woman who quilts
and keeps calico cats
in the stacks of batiks
that cover her house,
and her liver spot skin
is a stretched Pollock print.
It’s a dangerous pattern,
her bones sewn within.

And her poetry’s pieces,
her prose cut apart,
but she seamlessly speaks
from her thread-tethered heart.

And her cat is a quilt
and her home is a quilt
and her skin is a quilt
and her voice is a quilt
and her life has been built
by the scraps left behind:

her memory, the thread; the needle, her mind.

May 23, 2009

Closing the Book

I am done writing.
I have retired the pen.
I have buried my little
coffin of a composition book.
I have gathered broken sonnets
and recycled sestinas
and heaped them into a small pyre
into which I’ll also throw
my book project, my love letters,
and the epic poem I’ve been writing
on the people of the Ibo islands.

Don’t worry about the little
black children collecting shells
in the secret Carolinas.
They’re used to being forgotten.

May 22, 2009

A Presidential Moment

He was here, you know?
Among the trees and benches
A day like today.

I didn’t see him, no,
but I saw the suits.
I saw the traffic.
I saw the flashing lights.

I heard the held the
crowd like a cup.
He sipped slowly
and let the stem rise,

and I, with nothing to drink
and thirsty for a whole country,
waited at the door.