Monday, December 17, 2012

First Grade

She loved to draw and looked like you,
he read books, she played scientist,
he pretended he was a distance
runner at recess. She took kung fu
lessons with her mom, he chewed
on paper (delicious), she was proud
of her older sister, he  bowed
to the teacher. Everyone laughed. You’d

find her coloring each cloud pink,
she kept a seashell and a penny
in her purse, she wore a dinosaur
print dress with sneakers, he liked to think
there was a castle inside every
dandelion. She rolled on the floor.

She dreamed of spiders, he twirled
his hair, she knew there were faeries,
She danced during math,  he buried
a toy gun, she shared her gum with Mary.
She said love is harder than spelling whisper,
She painted long lines, he threw kisses.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Where I Started as a Poem

In the dream I smooth a hand over my belly,
thick with ripeness, a pregnancy, a melon.
It ends in a stillbirth, creativity
bypassed, membranes of thought
flushed. A punishment arranged itself
in my sleep. Judgment of the self.
I wake in celestial sweat, slide one foot
onto a cold floor. I am gladder to be alive
in the dark, in the dank, where I started
as a cloud, where I started as a poem.

Monday, November 05, 2012


Last night’s dream is watermarked stationery,
the sudden and unexpected architecture
of your day. Climb inside, says the deaf man
with binoculars, and the ceiling opens up
into a wave of calendar pages, each one
a reward you can’t reach. Fix it, he pleads.
You don’t feel like repacking old ideas.
Sequential, he demands. His hand
is unfinished, three fingers missing.
He can only point like a gun.

It’s just a day like any other,
a deaf man in binoculars
with you as you butter your toast,
tune in your favorite radio station.
His hand, what did it mean?
Learn a second language, you think
as you tear off yesterday’s
page on the calendar.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mine Subsidence

Here is the hole. See how it leans
into the yard as if it always belonged,
seeks the warmth of your blood
like a lost kitten.
The borough calls it a hazard.
We call it a household.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Our Most Popular Manipulative

“It’s our most popular manipulative,” she said. Her voice was a highwire of mid-twenties control, a rise and fall cadence like the casual and lull toss of a ball. The trainees sat in rows, folders of papers in their laps, packets of papers to sign. A warship of organization, quite shipshape. There was a powerpoint presentation to follow,  reading along with the papers in the folders, then a dinner of sandwiches and potato chips. The woman with her hair in a frizzy ponytail didn’t raise her hand and was called on anyway. Another three women who sat in the back chatted away without any reprimand. Classroom management was a blip on the radar.  “It’s our most popular manipulative,” the director said as she tossed the pink soccer ball covered in numbers into the air. “Our most popular one. I don’t know why.” Learning is fun.

When she quit the job after only one use of the pink math ball, she recognized the voice from Human Resources as the same trained highwire act from training. The careful phrasing of “We’re going to ask you to go ahead and come in to finish up Thursday,”  and the final parting lob of  “Well, we thought you cared. We’re disappointed because we thought you cared and now the children are the ones who will suffer.” The most popular manipulative. She spiked the ball over the net with “I’m sorry you feel that way. Thank you for your time.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Prime Meridian

The difference between me and you
is that, well, you are more alphabetical
and I am more numeric.
My God is better than your god,
who you don’t believe in anyway.

The difference between you and me
is skin color, eye color. The length
of your fingers? Spidery. Mine
are worker’s fingers. I live in the city,
you live in the country, and we all
know how important geography is.
You can’t live on the equator,
but you can sail over it and kiss
the fat belly of Neptune,
and become a Shellback,
maybe, if you’re tough.

The difference between you and me
is that you need to crawl through
rotting garbage, and I just have a raw
egg in my mouth. Your great-grandparents
were hit with short lengths of a firehose
while mine wore gloves for tea.

The difference between you and me?
Your opinions, voiced in status updates
on a daily basis, count. Your voice
is heard. Me? I don’t have
a public voice without an online
presence, so my ideas just knife
the air.

The difference between
me and you is, well, you are Filipino,
or Korean, or whatever, and I am
German or English or whatever.
All my relatives
are in silver frames,
and never had sex.

This means nothing, no,
everything in the world,
a glass of milk held up to the moon.

Your war is my war, brother,
we each have blood we need inside
our veins, alphabetical
or numeric. We crawl
on our hands and knees,
heads shaved, as we
hope to cross together
at the prime meridian.

Monday, September 10, 2012

To My Old Addresses

Oakland, NJ:
The apple tree, a yawn of lawn
where my father planted a vegetable garden,
porch where we played, 
a banister where my sister
lost a tooth, the accordion door
to my bedroom. Traffic
lights told stories on my walls.

A-Frame rental, Valley of Lakes, PA:
Red shag carpet, a loft, and stairs
with a space underneath I turned
into a post office. The pond my sister and I named
Anniversary Pond, one I wrote about twenty years later,
falling in love with the idea
of what is underneath the surfaces
of the world. So many.

Valley of Lakes, PA:
A dogwood tree, a deck with a space
left for a tree to grow through it, rooms
where my sister and I slammed doors
or created radio shows, a forest of cicadas
to wake to, dirt roads, a lake and a canoe.
The woods where I grew up, my parents
so young in t-shirts and jeans,
my grandmothers visited on Sundays,
holidays, and birthdays. Potato salad.

Nanticoke, PA:
first apartment during college,
my roommate’s knick-knacks and kimchee.
The Peeping Tom who left
a mountain of cigarette butts
on the lawn by the kitchen window.

Nanticoke, PA:
Not enough outlets to have
the fishtank and the coffeepot
plugged in at the same time,
a landlord who clipped his toenails
while my grandmothers visited
his real estate office. Green
shag carpeting. A kitchen table
from the 1960s, all vinyl and chrome.
My grocery receipts included
items that were only a dollar or less.

Ephrata, PA:
Home with Mom and Dad
for summer, then for a year or so
of a self-imposed college sabbatical.
Scrabble on the side porch, dinners with dad
while mom worked the three to eleven shift
at the hospital. House full of light.

Wilkes-Barre, PA:
Three flights up to a layered torte
of more green shag carpeting. My father
paid some co-workers to help him
haul  my apartment sized piano
up all those stairs. I didn’t play
it enough for that.

Topton, PA:
A slow chain of buildings with
blue doors, and a train that went by
at 1 a.m. every morning.
The piano only went up one flight
this time. When the building manager
had the units sprayed for roaches,
they only worked in the hallways,
so roaches became a staple.
Traps everywhere, scuttling
when the lights were flipped on.

Reading, PA:
Eight months pregnant, I painted
the ceiling of the bedroom
in our brick rowhome, and slept
on a mattress on the floor.
Later, I brought my new daughter
home and there was a bed.
Three floors to play with, and the top
had two rooms for painting and writing.
Our neighbor’s mouth was hidden by facial hair,
and he grew tomatoes where his dogs shat.
Other neighbors threw eggs
at each other in the street.

Nanticoke, PA:
Here again, hello. Another whole
house to ourselves, two floors.
Cherry tree in the back,
a kitchen big enough to dance in.
Long walks in the strip mined land
my daughter called “The Jungle.”

Edwardsville, PA:
The first house I bought, then bought again
with the help of my parents during a divorce.
Not one right angle in it, thanks to the area's
coal mining heritage. The love of my life helped
paint the rooms alive again. My daughter
wore a cat tail, a ladybug costume,
a prom dress,  a graduation cap,
and then a baker’s toque.
We packed everything
but the years of growth
marked on the doorjamb.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Evidence it Was the Bee

Summer sighs Eh, and schedules herself
for something bigger, better, more colorful.
She's not gentle at all, but everyone loves her
and how she skims the novels of days
for their plot points and burns off their details -
the thirsty toad on the asphalt, seed in a spiderweb,
white pollen scattered on the petals
of a morning glory bloom. Later she asks
what you saw, what it meant.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How Many Can You Do At Once?

Well, up to twenty but sometimes they need a little nudge.
Ok, maybe 30, but honestly, that's a crowd, and I like to take it slower,
so the bigger the better, you know?

So I start with one, add another, keep one licking
around my knees, another two kissing my hands.
Oh they like the hips, sure, and I stall a few there,
let one drop a few inches, grind, then bump him back up.

There's the neck, mhmm, they like that, and I've let one or two
into my mouth, but only if they are clean. I toss the ones
that really want to play, and oh, how we giggle in the grass,
Oh, Oh, O, O, O!

Saturday, August 11, 2012


After a hard day at work of thinking about poems,
I like to trace the isolated spaces between powerlines
and rooftops. Unpainted triangles in a milky sky,
their spell of geometry is like a prism's
lick across the skin.

At least two equal sides would be satisfying
but this town is nothing but scalene.
Full of obtuse angles.

My neighbor has a family of grackles
nesting in his broken soffiting. That fallen cable
knobs up the isosceles. Children, be quiet,
please. I'm trying to see.

I like to think that poems are always around us
the way that math is, a structure hidden
to those who don't even look,
or who don't want to see.

You know the person.
The one who won't poke a stick
into a stream or hold a pollywog?
Maybe someone has to ignore for balance.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wheel of Social Fortune

Light is pissed. The stars wrote yesterday
to say their coolness is now an iceball in the face.
The moon never asked for all the light from the sun,
she's fine on her own. Stop thanking the universe

publicly every time someone offers you a ride,
or a stranger pays for your coffee at Starbucks.
Open up a rock. Even a stone has insides,
maybe it's a cave, like a heart, so many paths.

Love? She's had it. Sistered too often with light,
splashed all over social media, she looks
like a prom dress made out of wax. Work
at life with the hush of a moth's wing.

Praise the world by living in it, give in secret
all you have to offer, even your wasp nest words.

This not-sonnet is not going to win me any friends. I may even lose a few.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Welcome to Foggytown!
Population: Veiled. Unsure.
A wonder to behold, if you can.
Town meetings every second Leap Year.
It’s so free! Belonging to nothing,
living nowhere but here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Flip-Flop Handsoaps, Puzzles, and Stretches of Sand

Ah, the fascinating boredom of the beach. It is the only spot where people are likely to work on a puzzle, with the possible exception of a nursing home. The pearly insides of shells call to be touched, and the waves keep wooshing in, then out, and in again. There are waves to be crashed into, beach tags to be checked, the moon to photograph, and constellations of freckles to count. I have plenty of those.

People come from all over to Long Beach Island, New Jersey, to spread out their rainbow of chairs and umbrellas, don their floppy hats, and smear coconut sunscreen onto their bodies. By noon, the beaches are filled with families. Plastic baby dolls bake in the sun outside of the aid of a staked umbrella, while the owner splashes happily by the shoreline until the ice cream bells ring.

A pod of New Yorkers stays put in their staked claim of land, drinking Coronas and laughing. Some very tan young men lie on their stomachs and face each other. One holds a smartphone. They all huddle around its reflective surface as if it were fire. A few girls they flirt with pose on a nearby blanket. There is a lot of hair tossing, and feigned disinterest when their men get up and leave. Twenty minutes later, they leave too. The seagulls close in on the Cheez-Its they’ve left behind. 

We are here for an entire week, and this is the first week off work for the past twenty years for my husband.  So far in three short days we have eaten a lot of toast while sitting around in our underwear, we’ve flown a kite, saved a land locked sand crab, spent a total of 15 hours out in the sun while covered in SPF 1000 sunscreen, and fared just fine without wiFi. My writing “office” is the yellow dining room with a window that overlooks the beach.

The house we’re in is the Jersey Beach house of my childhood. Dark paneled walls and ceilings make it feel like being inside a cheesebox. The dining room is the only room that is painted, and the television, which we haven’t turned on once since we arrived on Saturday, still has a sticker on it that reads “32” LED TV.” The living room art consists of a resin plaque with a rose and the word “Welcome“ on it, and two posters of beachscapes – one of a porch with two Adirondack chairs looking out onto the ocean, and the other of a flower-filled dune.

Flower-filled dune landscapes seem like a good artistic choice after a few days of being lulled by gulls and waves, but everything I buy at the beach is rendered useless and sad at home. I suspect this is a common phenomenon. Beach artifacts. 

A few years ago I bought a large scarf that was perfect for walks in the evening along the shoreline, but when I wear it at home I feel as ridiculous as if I’d wrapped myself up in a piece of Saran Wrap. Shells plucked out of the sand are out of place and homesick sitting on the back of the toilet in the bowl my daughter made in pottery class. Thankfully, I’ve fought off the urge to buy the flip-flop hand soaps that were advertised in The Sandpaper.

On this visit I didn’t win over the henna tattoo. The lotus flowers fade on my ankle out of pure embarrassment now that I am home, having found themselves adrift in a sea of asphalt whose waves wash forward, and forward, and forward forever.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

It’s Only Seventeen Quadrillion Gallons of Water

From this angle,
even the glittering water
just seems unhinged,
like a serial-killer
who prefers the summer
months, the thrill
of laughter and play
stretched out on the sand,
ah yes, yes, so close-by.

Lace of foam
at the water’s edge?
Hell, no.
Froth at the mouth. Spittle
of excitement. Drool.
The ocean wants to eat me,
process my precious parts,
no compromise, until I am
just an idea. My husband’s
beloved pattern dismantled.

So many shipwrecks,
skeletal slough now part
of the majesty of a whale,
oh poetry! The circle of life!

I should mention
the lifeguards are people
who still have locker
combinations to remember.

Soft-bellied and drowsy
from long vacations,
we wag in the waves,
leap, shine in saltiness
that keeps us thirsty.

Twist deeper,
ah yes, yes,
the hiss.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Side by Side Comparison of Burlesque and Poetry

Either everything matters, or nothing does. I believe that everything matters. I'm working through a knot of feelings about my creative life, so I came up with this list of notes about two art forms that I love. One is new to me (I made my debut last Wednesday), the other isn't (I made my debut in Kindergarten).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Playing Piano Alone on a Saturday Night

You don't forget any language
you learn as a child. Sostenuto.

Transitioning from note to note
there is no intervening silence.
Legato. I'm no mathematician,
but I feel the music, remember
passages that filled me with sadness
like a battle of seawater when I was fourteen,
find them again in Clementi and Chopin.
Light fingers. Remember.

No intervening silence. Legato.
My father now on a line parallel to mine

I hold my breath
to strike the chord.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


At the end of a fancy restaurant dinner
I like the sugar cubes that come with tea service.
I dip them into the tea, and watch the efficiency
of liquid wick into the grains, then I place
the saturated cube on my tongue.

Before that, the wine tasted like new envelopes,
then popcorn. The little spoon that supported the work
of the amuse-bouche was so lush with density
I wanted to eat it instead.

I know I don't belong here in this repurposed bank,
sitting among people who have more than a poet's
income. Well, right now we are all enjoying the same
kind of spoon. Ha! Take that! Oh, the bill.

At home my favorite spoon is a spork, it's good enough,
and at my mother's house, I like to use the one
with an elephant etched onto its handle.

I can make that cider with thyme in it
that we both enjoyed so much,
but I won't. I'll make chicken marsala,
or meatloaf, and we'll watch a movie
while sitting on the sofa. Our tablecloths
and their fashionable grease stains
folded into one another
will remain in the cabinet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nowhere at the Airport

When you're at the airport, you aren't really anywhere. Priority members, who get to step onto the tiny red carpet laid out for them at the gate, and later eat the warmed up toffee cookie, may feel differently. The airport is an airless, grey, non-space, but it is filled with people with plans. Two men spread shiny wax onto the floor by the exit, their work area cordoned off by caution tape. An older woman and her husband wait on a bench by the windows for their relative for arrive. A few days ago I watched a man on the tarmac idly juggle two orange batons from my spot in 8D. Juggling is a good way to spend the time before you need to wave a plane out of its parking space. The temporary corridor of space that appears to usher you onto the plane always makes me feel like I'm at the oral surgeon's office. Pure dread.

On the plane, I have ritual to keep me sane. I peruse the overpriced dog beds and anti-aging products in Sky Mall. I attentively watch the crew go through the motions with the seatbelt and oxygen mask instruction. When it's time for my complimentary beverage, I choose ginger ale. I keep an eye out for babies and children. A couple of babies might be annoying, but they are insurance against crashing. Everyone is cordial on a plane, until the overhead baggage compartments are full, and the cheerleader stuck in the aisle decides to turn the baggage issue into her own private Tetris game. "Those backpacks can move over there. Whose green backpack is this?"

A man adjusts the air flow vent and finds it broken, perpetually on a gusty flow that sounds like an angry, hushing librarian. The man in front of me for one flight was kind enough to rearrange his seat so I could sit with my husband, and the woman who complimented my bicycle necklace was able sit with her friend and work on pointing at charts during the flight. I stare at the man's S shaped scar for most of the flight. The scar shines at the base of his skull, through the stubble of crewcut. There's bump there too. An accident? A tumor?

As soon as the announcement is made that it is safe to take out any electronic equipment, tray tables are lowered and laptops open up like clams. The evening's cruise over the midwest is shared with people whose faces are lit by blue screens. A man to the left of me works on a Powerpoint presentation. The young man seated by the window next to me pays the extra fee to have internet and watches YouTube videos of monkeys while chatting with someone on Instant Messenger. A woman ahead of us rearranges fashion photos in a Word document. I read a book. In fact, I read three books over the course of four flights, the Sky Mall (twice), and puzzle over why the woman sliding down the inflatable exit on the "In Case of Emergency" instruction card looks like she's at an amusement park. 

Printed words are so soothing when you're really nowhere, in an airport, or over the states you imagine as a map from a geography class in elementary school. Texas is pink. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Three Mom Memories for Mother's Day

I am fourteen. My father and I wait for mom to come downstairs. She's getting ready for dinner. We are going out, headed to pick up the grandmoms for a Sunday dinner at Top of the 80's. Everything is quiet, except for the water wooshing from the sink where dad fills a glass. Our kitchen table is blessed with sign that reads "VIRTUE" right above it. Just a reminder. The dogwood blooms outside the window. Dad swigs his water. I stand in the corner of the counter between the sink and the stove, with my arms crossed. I'm not a sullen teen, but I am a quiet one. Dad breaks the silence by placing his water glass back into the sink.

You know, you and your sister are really lucky to have your mother. Really lucky. He pauses, thinks. You have no idea how lucky you are to have your mother. No idea.

I look down. I know he's right, sure, but I can't admit it. If I admit to knowing I am lucky, I am going to owe her something big, and I am not in the mood for owing anyone anything. She is going to come downstairs wearing that shirtwaist dress she always wears.

I don't say anything for awhile. He looks back out the window, runs the water one more time to rinse out his glass and put it in the dishwasher.

You have no idea how lucky, he repeats.

I unfold my arms.

I know, I say. I know.


My mother stands at the kitchen sink. She is looking out at the dogwood tree, or maybe out beyond it. The sun hits her face, highlights some freckles, the shine on her nose, reveals the lighter downy hairs at the base of her neck. Her profile is lovely, I think. My mother is beautiful. It's the first time I see her the way my father might have. My mother.


We sit out on the side porch with the new baby. She's in a red romper, and is still too little to hold her head up by herself, but we prop her up and take photos. It's sunny. It's spring. You're Nana now, Mom. She grins.


I'm lucky. I know it. I'm lucky.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Paper Kite Books, Edwardsville, PA

Our yellow and white striped awning
is the only sun on Main Street.
"Make sure you ease it back a couple of turns,"
the installer advised. So I do. The rays
of happiness need some slack. I get it.

Milk crates filled with paperbacks
rest on the stoop, a handmade sign
reads "Give & Take Books." A young
mother and her daughter stopped
yesterday, perused. The mother
held The Velveteen Rabbit
for a few seconds. This morning
the rabbit still supplicates
among the mystery paperbacks.

A local poet's book was stocked
three weeks ago. His first
full-length title. Not one buyer,
but a man with a desire like an arrow
came in to ask about a knot tying book,
and another man with a voice like air
blown into an empty vessel
asked if we were currently hiring.

Each day, a parade of people bob past our windows.
Men whose licenses have been revoked ride bikes
with a case of Keystone Light in the basket.

We're here as the Reference Section,
to remind people that there is sun
so people can point and shout,
"Did you know you can get free books here?"
then turn into the mini-mart lot
and pass the Velveteen Rabbit
to buy their lottery tickets
and cigarettes.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Dispatches from New York City

July 24th 2011

Madison Square Park. A squirrel busks for a cracker. Positively vampy.

39th Street is filled with the trash bags of yesterday's street fair. Sour.

Hot and humid. Even the pigeons look tired.

In the broad bike lanes on Broadway, people sleep with their heads resting on the garden tables.

The Flatiron building.

March 12th, 2012, 17th and Broadway

Tourists pose for photos with the Andy Monument by Rob Pruitt.

Rafiqui's Falafel truck isn't doing much business this morning.

The man with the stand of candy and cigarettes has not sold one bottle of Visine or one box of Razzles in the twenty minutes I have been watching.

Young girls with makeup. Middle-aged women with fur vests and glitzy handbags. Tourists in green sweatsuits with jackets that say "Juneau Alaska."

440 Lafayette

Bellydance class in 4E: "One and two and three and four and oh! Let's try it and turn now. One and two and three and switch. Let's take it from the top, go around if you can." Glad I'm not in there.

It's funny how you imagine a person if you only see them on television or in photos on the internet. When you see that person in real life, they often seem smaller and shier in person. She has a child's smile.
I would miss the city if we moved far away.

Everything here is worn. The floors from dance shoes, the doors from hands, the edges of the walls from shoe taps and large props.
I wish my arms weren't all bruised. I feel worn, too.

March 25th, 2012, 2nd and Bowery

At Peel, the waitstaff stand at the bar, white aprons tied at their waists. A young woman takes a sip of water throughh a straw. As she sips, her eyes widen. Trees bloom outside, tentatively. Glasses and silverware clink. A man in expensive looking loafers with buckles writes in a small notebook and adds to his writing on larger sheets of folded paper. A little boy with curly hair drives his toy car over the top of the ice bucket standing near his table., He isn't tall enough to fetch it out.

The air is heavy this weekend. Pollen. Humidity. Plenty of daffodils loom behind fences.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Deactivation is Inevitable

Well Hell, that poem is null, thanks to a social media blitzkrieg of kitten photos. Shocking. That idea you had? Also sectored out by a comment, a like, a distraction so accurate it was flammable. Mere procedure. Move along. Never mind the landmines.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You Hope To Have An Evening To Yourself Soon

The crew members of your brain
open the hatch. Moored. Well, good.
Relieved of the obligation to chug-a-tug
about in anyone else's brine-filled
waters, the amygdala convinces
the Captain to eat tater tots
and drink wine, then usurps
the Captain's post. Emotion wins!
Barber's Adagio for Strings,
a little reverie, some forgetfulness,
an affair with a superlative bar
of chocolate -- until the crew enlists
the help of the punitive moon,
those tattletale stars.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Election Year

Dandelions, in all their admiralty,
are tailored to lend. Rows of gold button
into a drunken convention on the lawn,
where later in the season their party’s
confetti is spent. Then, the parade
of bald heads, ragged ties,
a blurred agreement
between the wind and the ground.
Gardeners kneel all over
the rectangular plots of America,
boondoggled, grass-stained.

Monday, April 09, 2012


The chemistry of everyone else
stings today. It's a loss
so deep the nation
doesn't care. Stocks
rise and fall, the wind
exposes the tip of a branch
swaddled in plastic bag,
and we found nothing at all -
polished stones, ideas
drydocked. Far off,
the sounds of suction,
a warning, or proof.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


The phone, coordinator
of all things social, fans
out the jangly, old timey bells
you selected in “settings.”
You press “answer” or “decline.”

Once there was the heft of a receiver,
and you threaded a finger through
a hole that corresponded
with a number. Now you press
a button that demonstrates
the image of a button.
An idea.

Dialing was once
a stable wind up to vocal projection,
a gyroscopic momentum of growls.
You were going
somewhere, without
actually going anywhere.

Hello, are you there?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


The sun rises,
and you wonder what's next.

The dog barks,
he wonders if the door will open.

Resistance as you corner the year.
Fill in between the blanks.
Circle the right answer.

You feel the story ending,
and you wonder what's next.
How do you turn a page
that isn't there?

Well, nausea implies revolution,
adventure. It's like a sneeze
jitterbugging behind the eyes.

Finish this essay:
Sunrise, sunrise.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some Trees

The hatchet of day,
sun or varied clouds,
and the street yawns
with traffic.

There is so much
to be done
when you are away -
broad plots. Ha.

I paint my fingernails red
then become a typist,
which leaves the keyboard
looking like state's evidence.
My letters have never been
so brazen.

I read the storms
of other women's lives
out loud into a dark
bookstore. Sophie Behr
had it bad. Her husband,
Leo Tolstoy, read her diaries.
Rebecca Harding fell in love
and lost her story.

There is survival
by surrender,
or smoke and mirrors,
or even success.

My life is no magazine,
I live it.

So much open space
when you aren't here.
It's like a poem with no end,
one that just wanders
off into a field
of fig newtons for breakfast,
a yam for dinner.

This is the forest of today
without you. By nightfall,
I will stack it as firewood.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Walk Through Edwardsville

I live and work in a crumbling neighborhood. I've written about it countless times (at least a few on this blog in poem form or essay, and dozens of other writings in my journal entries). It kind of ticks me off to find myself writing about it, yet again. Place is a topic that haunts me. Not in a capital P Poetry Workshop sort of way, either. I'm not happily haunted by Edwardsville. I'm living in it.

I have a duplicitous relationship with this town. We have a bookstore here. People praise us. "It's so nice what you're doing here." Ok, great. What are we doing here? No one comes in to buy books. Those who read and want to own a book in this area either shop online, or at Barnes and Noble. People say, "The energy in here is so great," or "This is such a special place." The free book box gets stolen, and we put out a fresh one, but start taking it inside after we close up shop for the evening. We're willing to give books away in the daytime, but not at night? Night isn't trustworthy? I put a five dollar bill into Salvation Army bucket, but won't give a cent to the man who comes into the store asking for money. This town screams need, but I'm only willing to give what I want to give and on my own terms. What does that say about me as a person?

Today I took a walk thinking about my tangly feelings for this area. We want to move and we also have fierce pride in owning the bookstore here in the middle of a place where no one seems to care about words. Maybe we feel safer that way. Maybe it's time to move. Why have fierce pride over anything, really? It's probably unhealthy. There's something too precious about it all.

I walked into the laundromat I've never been inside. I've only ever seen it from the outside. I complain all the time about people just walking past our bookstore, and I've never been in my town laundromat. The tiles on the floor are lifting up and crunch underfoot, the air is humid with the lint of the dryers. The machines are "Compu-Dry II" models. I'm sure they shrink your clothes in binary code. No one was in there with me, but someone was earlier. They left a plaid blanket in one of the baskets. There are twenty vents on the side of the building, all pointing down at the ground.

In one of the houses on a one-way street behind our store, a parrot stares out the window. The owner of the double-wide keeps a collection of rain decayed religious statues in the little space of land between the front porch and the sidewalk. Jesus has no hands. St. Francis is riddled with pockmarks. A plastic sign is jammed into the dirt, "Please curb your dog."

There's a beautiful yellow labrador that rests at the front door of Empire Arcade and Amusements. He watches the traffic of Main Street.

The parrot, the dog, the bookstore owners.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ordinary Women

from “Striptease: the Untold Story of the Girlie Show” by Rachel Shteir

Ordinary women kiss
the rawest possible idea onstage –
the burlesque of the heart.

They take it off for just a song
or bubbles.

From a distance
it looks like a routine,
the viewer with a trace of envy
for all their self-reliance.

Ordinary women
push men to the sidelines
to find themselves,
smooth a stocking to elevate,
undress to the realm
of pure music.

A pretty girl is like a melody –
sort of,
or a war of form.

In other words,
there will always be an audience
where there is a bazaar of bare legs,
a little comedy, and plenty of fire
to swallow.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Try not to think about great writers
as you start your poem for the day.
Permit yourself one bite of Oreo.
Attempt to launch a metaphor.
Delete. Tea sip.

There’s apprehension even
in the quietest of ceremonies.
Little letters roar from their cages,
radiate a need for discipline –
the whip of responsibility.
Crack it.
Put down that cookie.

If you say you’re a writer,
you write, release the prisoners.
Let it hail an invention of claws,
let words thunder the landscape
so the townspeople have to send out
their distress signal. A whoop,
a holler, some kind of yawp.
If you’re lucky, they will.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Fowler's Fire

This book, outrageous with pages,
efficient with flames of tiny entries,
authorizes the use of the word
character, or confuses Latinate.
Italics release the tension
like a powerline slack in the breeze
of early spring. So much information
jettisoned above our heads.

This book is old,
this book is thick, this book –

Let’s look up the word love
instead of kissing.

It says:

Put down the book,
hold me, instead.
Let me show you
how to rewrite
the dictionary
with our bodies.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Women’s Imaging Center

I’ve checked in, handed over my insurance card,
worn no lotion. Smiled. Routine. I hope.
Other women hold folders,
nod their crossed feet,
palm a smartphone for comfort.

The television modulates between what we must buy
and what we must lose, flashes stripes of want.

For visits like these, or for tooth extractions,
I bring a favorite author. Today, it’s Updike.
Collected Stories. It’s an adze of a book.

Glasses out of their case, page turned,
I catch a glimpse of a man with a translucent patch
under his left eye. He waits for his wife to emerge
from the door that opens to a giant flower
of welcome, then shuts with a sealing hiss.

Updike describes his grandmother’s thimble,
then her nose –
one nostril was squeezed into a teardrop-shape,
and the other was a round black hole
through which she seized the air.

The phrase, the scent of cloth permeated with dried sunlight
causes tears to butter my cheeks. Glasses off.
Pretend to watch the television.

My name is called.
Top off, everything to the waistline,
and just put your belongings
in the locker. Bring your valuables.

I take Updike with me
to the new, smaller waiting room,
now with less magazines,
but a larger television.

I confirm my name, birthday,
date of my last period,
then walk into a wilderness
of white machinery where the beehive
of Updike’s thimble, the nostril,
and the dried sunlight follow.

When the test is over,
I step off the continent of pastel carpet
and take the first door to the right,
just to walk longer, inhale the February air.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Poet’s Grocery List

“Hope bases vast premises on foolish accidents, and reads a word where in fact only a scribble exists.” -- John Updike

kosher salt
half and half
fuck it, heavy cream

Good luck at pinpointing
that airport pre-flight feeling.

trash bags and stickers

A 43 year old busboy at the diner
wipes the table, looks out at the craft
of clouds. What stripe is hope?


Crickets send up automatic monotony.

Silence as harvest.

frozen vegetables
her dull egg eyes

Frost bedizens the windshield.

fried rice
spicy tuna roll

swiss chard
Leon Redbone
Boulevard of Broken Dreams

The real is magic,
the magic is real.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Object Manipulation

for Joe

Here is this bag
for you to carry.
Now add possibility,
circumstance, a brick
of history. You’ll need
calculus for liftoff.

Step back,
inch forward,
fluid now,
plates, cups,
toss the torch,
roll a crystal
in the center
of your palm.
Did you iron
that shirt?

It’s common to drop
a prop
or two,
or twelve.
Diagrams help,
as do ladders.

It’s easy to lose
yourself in the pattern
of all that floats above you,
every cigarboxed emotion
a synchronous cloud.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Two Voices

The exercise limits
in the way most exercises do,
and it is also simple,
in the way virtue is simple,
the way steam
has that quiet love
for the kitchen ceiling.

Write two voices
without attribution,
golden, alone,
no description
or tone.

the surprise blindfold
at the birthday party,
your direction no longer true,
the target tacked to one of many
laughter kissed walls.
Kool-aid sulky lips.
Shag carpeted music.

That was so good.
So good.

Yes, it was.
You've been so distant lately.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


You find it difficult to keep your lips shut.

A hazard. Pushdown.

Fallen birches sash the embankment.

Then, the feeling of worn neon, weak wink.
How inaudible your own emotions are,
how peculiar.

A tiny portion of sadness lodges like a squeak
in a flute, or anger subtracts its own perforated edge.
The overcrowded boxcar of happiness just thunders.

You press the damper pedal, jam a thumb
into clay, pretend those trees won’t
blaze as logs in another fire.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Everything is a choice.
Wake up, or stay in bed.
Assume, or research.
Write a poem,
or eat a pickle spear.

I don’t have to write.
My life is not rigged,
prescribed by some
invisible hand
with a supervisory scrawl.

There’s responsibility,
sure, if people care.
Which I have done
a little research on,
and they do. A few.

Buckle down
and all that.

Today I’m content
with a pickle spear.

Tomorrow, the reward
might be letterpress alphabets,
water poured into glasses,
(a vision that exceeds meaning)
or the accusation
that I have no method.

My method is choice.
I have one. I use that.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mistaken Constellations

Today, the world is measured
in gum splats on the sidewalk.
Expectorated gum is the mistaken
and overlooked punctuation
of the population.

I once thought there was a story
to be written between each spot,
that This Could Be Art,
but the idea was little more
than a dog wearing a sweater.

Still, I love the city. Today, a man cuts
into stale bread with scissors,
and pigeons purl
at his feet, rainy greys,
oily violets. The sky
is a rowboat of blue,
and under it, a division
of architecture.

At night, the stars
mimic the gum
and a friend’s orange hat
bobs on the waves
of people ahead of me,
a buoy that directs
this way, this way.

Friday, January 27, 2012

January 27th, Rain and 54 Degrees*

Hey look, it's raining
the nerve of air
to be so moist and warm!

Oh how we love
the animal seasons --
those whose leadership
is through a blind barrage
no matter what the day.

We love to talk about weather
like the news,
as if we're not just readers
but the whole editorial operation
who set to print
the headlined story.

* I planted a garden of spring bulbs in November. This morning, two of the daffodil bulbs were pushed up and green. That's all the news that's fit to print.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Narrow tendrils ascend from chimneys,
grackles cobble rooftops. The driven
wrap a custodial scarf around their necks,
warm their cars, push ahead
to the day’s interchange. Paychecks ahead.
The rest roll into the languid language
of coffee, cereal rained into bowls.
Later, the nozzle widens to the bounty
of morning television, social media.
Or a book opens, and the day is wanton
with words, gunfired, molten.

Monday, January 16, 2012

January Light*

pierced through
the slats of a barn

leveled, risen,
an I-beam

blue debates gold
on a morning walk

try again, electric snow!

shocktwinkle of success,
the underfoot promise

robes of a goddess, impossible
and mysterious shadows cast
against the side of a bank

cold duct of sky,
a gleam of fish eye

pearl jigs, jukes,
suspends in horsehair clouds

the first month,
a programmable dot
winks on the horizon line


* It's out of fashion to write about light. The collective reader has spoken - no one wants to read a poet's musings on motes of dust in sunlight, the quality of light slipping through the transom, or cat fur suspended in a moonbeam. Workshoppy MFA trends stink. When light strikes me, I will write about it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Jennifer Whatever

You get tired of writing about yourself,
so you turn to explosives. It's a hobby. Fire,
better than being forgotten. Flames uncap their peaks,
you whirl them around your waist, take a stab
at swallowing them. Perfume your hair red.
Color your lips galaxy.

All your friends are supernovas, rockstars,
or they eat vegetables only and are immortal.

Everything is as separate as freckles.
Sulk on the mousehide chair, write at the desk,
breathe in the miasma of sulphur
from the mineshaft under your feet.

One day you will light your last sparkler,
toss it into the lake. Waves of goodbye,
or hello, again. Hello.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Strikeout: Clearing the Headspace

Ok, hooray. The Editor has arrived. He's wearing his top hat and cane, and he climbs my ribcage. Tip tap with the cane on each bone. He likes to poke my innards, and takes special delight in my lungs. A couple of good jabs and the wind is knocked out of me.

Today is the 10th, and I'm just getting around to feeling like the new year has begun. Pure poo.

Pens lean in a cup, books rest straight-backed on the desk, and my mind clear enough to think about making a list. Whoop de doo. Who cares about your lists?

Sheesh, you're tough. Today I crush your hat, and bend your cane. You can live in my spleen for awhile. Snuggle a kidney.

It's the new year, and I'm just getting around to feeling productive. I cleaned my workspace, and a clean workspace means a clean mind. It will last under a week.

Is it a resolution if you just want to get better at everything you do? That's what I strive for this year, and to enjoy the learning process.

All of my piles of paper are arranged into color-coded folders on my desk now:

Creative Writing Residencies
Hospice Memoirs
Virtual School Bus and Arts In Your Space programs
In-Service workshops
Gaslight Theatre
Poetry workshops
Central Casting & Casting Networks
Paper Kite Press & Paper Kite Books

This year, improvement everywhere. Little steps. I start a poetry residency with 8th graders tomorrow. The end of January is a hoop workshop. February is the start of a creativity workshop with friends that I hope will push up the confidence level. March is burlesque. The summer is memoir. Mingled throughout are performances, listening, writing, being. I'm happy to be alive, to learn, to love. Grateful for the chance to improve at anything at all.