Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Why Can’t You Just Be Nice

We all need the sun today,
yesterday, tomorrow —
all summer in the now,
and I resent being told
to provide it.

Put on your makeup,
you’ll feel better.

Wear a bra.

Be creative.


Be nice,
can’t you just
be nice for once?

For my birthday
this year, I woke
up in tears, fired
up the percolator,
and wrote some
obscure metaphor
that only (maybe)
archers understand.
I’m not sure
I even get it.

Target missed.

The cupcakes
I baked for myself
and my husband
were rocks.

Jack called and we sang
Happy Birthday
to each other
in the key of hysteria.

Outside in the rain,
worms celebrated.

I read something tidy
about how what you write
can never be finished until
you’re embarrassed by it.

What a relief.

Everything I’ve written
can be put to bed,
tucked under the covers,
each word nodding off
on greasy pillows of shame.


My mother
wanted to see
what I’d be like
as an old woman,
and well,
this is it:

I am not nice.

The other night
when I let my hair down,
a stink bug droned out,
pinged its body against
the mirror where I caught
my folded face.

My middle finger
is swollen.

This poem is

Monday, March 30, 2020


You’ll forgive the expression, I hope
for my various nostalgias of early March:
Children on swing sets and slides,
two people sitting on a park bench
sharing a lunch, park lovers
held together by an invisible parenthesis.
I considered attending church
when I saw the first crocus,
then didn’t, and a great song
rose without me anyway,
like wind on waves,
one voice from many.

Breathing the same air,
you took a sip to taste
my coffee, that sweet
ignorance of living
which now leads to
doubt, and deadly,
and doom, your lips
two surfaced sharks.

Here we are today,
souvenirs stapled to a wall,
benign but mad pennants
facing the mirror of history.

Yes my heart slaps,
urges, flashes, spreads,
plies a blistered speech
without anyone else
listening or hearing.

I am held together by a parenthesis,
that absurd embrace of whispered words.

Here is where I drop in
the anticlimactic lapse
of a question mark.


You’ll forgive the expression:
I hope.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Happy Mirthday from Lady Paramount

You’re trying too hard
to laugh, so you can’t.
Target panic.

You must cry first
in order to laugh.
So let us, as a group,
in our separate
but safe spaces,
lay down and laugh

Turn up your volume.
We want it to be contagious.
This is the kind of virus
we need right now,
to hear the primitive,
unconscious mechanism
at play. Uncontrollable.

I’ll guide you through
your epiphanies of shame,
your wah-wah moments
of defeat and lacking,
the failure of being you
in front of an audience
until you’re disoriented
and stumbling, and then
and only then will you
receive my invisible seal
of approval, the holy
gold star for rising
to the paradox,
releasing to minnow
the hollow air.

Friday, March 27, 2020

If I Polyester: A Birthday Anagram

This day is cracked
open like the eggs
I cannot buy or borrow.

I am sorry to report
that your cake
will be a bird fighting
the wind,
crossed scissors,
or a joker.

So instead you get
an anagram.
A star, or rats?
Live or evil?
Mood or doom?

Sovereign of grump
coiled in my brain,
take a nap.

Whorl, whirl
for better words.

Life is poetry
gives us gazelles
of possibility.

Your birth 
life is poetry
charcoal eyes 
feister ploy
all past, present,
and future verse 
eerily if stop

Today you are 28,
a hawthorn wreath.
Plant each black pansy
seed we sent
free soil pity
and imagine us
laughing together
at yeti profiles,
I frostily pee,
riot if sleepy,
refile it posy,
feel spirit, yo.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Journal of American Poetry

For beautiful pressed flowers
gather those free of spots or blemishes.
Sunny days are best for gathering.
Pluck off damaged petals,
Cull wilted leaves,
pull seeds that look as if
they might damage the pages.

You’ll need a telephone book
or some weighty tome —
Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,
the Dictionary of Symbolism,
the Oxford English Dictionary volume A-O,
The Holy Bible.

Some prefer the Dictionary of Miracles:
Imitative, Realistic, and Dogmatic.

Whatever you have
that is heavy will do.

Pull a length of parchment paper
and lay down your
Enchanter’s nightshade,
apple blossom
spiderwort —

Fold the paper over it,
and squash
somewhere in the middle
of your book.

Forget every detail
of its life
and let it wilt
between the pages.

It will eventually dry,

In a few decades
someone looking up
the origin of the word
will find your poem,
now a brown stain
across the word

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


I think it’s the silent e
in the word humane
that gets under the skin
of my eyelid the most.

Sometime during the 17th century
we decided that human
was different from humane.

You can be “of or related to
the family of human beings,”
or you can be “compassionate,
civil, gentle, inflicting
the minimum of pain.”

Shake any hand now
and receive a dollop
of hand sanitizer
and a lecture
from a total stranger.

Get within six feet of me
and you can hear the muscles
in my neck and shoulders stiffen.

Right now, being human is an error.
There’s a bad bit of code
in the loop, a glitch.

Humane. We don’t know
what that is, other than
the silent e as a wall,
a border that helps us
console ourselves.

It’s a foil blanket
covering the words
that always follow:

Say it. Humane.
Feel how the silent e contorts
your face into a terrible grin
with the elongated a.

Say human and you feel
the tip of your tongue
touch the roof of your mouth
and your lips close
to a place of being

Monday, March 23, 2020

Distance Greetings

Sunday, and I overturn dirt,
disrupt the wormy darkness
of this spring isolation,
when a stranger bicycles past
carrying a candelabra
of hello, how are you,
I’m just fine,
thank you.

Sunday, March 22, 2020


Here’s the news for today:
Some seeds stick to your gloves.

The clouds, clods of dirt, that stream
that cuts through the woods —
they are not just within our grasp,
they are our hands, eyes,
and mouths.

Clouds as hands, you say?
Tut tut.
Eyes of dirt?
Mouth of stream water?
Must be fake news.

We think of that as “someday,”
you know, six feet under.
A few hundred worms, some time,
grab of roots at the ribcage.

The Big Takeover.

It took falling in love,
having a child,
and almost losing my life
to know my heart as
a mountain, feet as the tides,
my hair, each strand
connected to a river birch
that is rotted on the inside.

I still forget what I am made of
if I spend too much time
in the car, or find myself
inside a grocery store,
or staring at the screen
of my screw-this-thing phone
looking for anything
more interesting than
my own mind, which,
I realize I am reporting,
is mostly moss on a rock.

Right now I look out this window
(sand and fire)
with my glasses on
(sand and fire)
my eyes
(sand and fire)
at the field
where we broadcast
wildflower seeds yesterday,
the littlest ones
holding onto my hands
like kindergarteners.
They wouldn’t let go.

They whispered this news:
Sand and fire,
water and wind.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

What I Miss About Being Near You


We are near each other, sitting side by side on the somewhat punishing cushion of our kitchen banquette. You notice the little hair coming out of my chin that catches the sunlight. I see the fleck of amber in your left iris. You notice how the skin around my eyes fans out when I smile.


Here, have you tried this cinnamon turmeric tea? It's supposed to cure being human. I think it makes you immortal or something. Let me pour you a cup. Bitter? A little. We can cut it with these oatmeal cookies I just made, and the cranberries, sour. Bitter, sour, and lumpy. Welcome to teatime at Jenny's!


When I spill the tea all over the table, we both reach for the nearest napkins, and press them into the spreading pool. What a klutz I have always been. Forgive me. Our hands touch, and we play that pile up game where the hand on the bottom slides out and goes to the top, until we're a mess of hands and napkins. We laugh.


Oh, your laugh! God, I love laughing. It's all I want to do. When I am near you, I hear your breath. That's the poetry of the body, the inhale, exhale, langorous sigh, bubbling laughter. Your voice is a syncopation that reminds me of watching the insides of a piano when it is being played.


When you stand up to get another splash of milk for the tea, I smell the laundry detergent you used this week coming off your clothing from the heat of your body. You detect the hint of my unwashed hair, and we both catch, through the open window, the scent of spring air. You say, "It's a long time coming." I agree. That lift of life scent is a long time coming, every single year we get to experience it.


Hip hitch when you stand (aging), the slightest lean forward from the chest (your heart leads you), and then a glide that is somewhere between sailboat and assuring door latch. Your hands puppet the words you speak, bring them to life. And when something strikes you as really funny, you put your hand over your heart and your head tilts back so I can see right up your nostrils, almost right into your brain. An invitation into what you're thinking.


Our bodies are not a boundary between us and the rest of the world.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Your Friday Briefing

During this time of constant change
we understand that this is a difficult
and complex time.

Surreal time.
Crazy time.

Through this time of great challenge,
in these unprecedented times,
with this uncertain time.

During this challenging
and unpredictable time,
this critical time,
we are taking some time
with this bizarre
and ever-changing time.

These are serious times
in this time of crisis.
What an atypical time,
a supremely challenging time.

In these strange times
for certain
we are aware
of time.

In times like these
for the time being —
what a time
to be alive.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Face Times

Everything is closed now.
We can’t touch each other.

Yesterday I saw my daughter’s face
in the rectangular room of my phone.
She told me how she spent
the morning at work making meals
for a woman and her daughter
who are living out of a car
in a local park.

I wanted to hug
everyone in the story.
My daughter, her boss,
the woman, her daughter,
whoever delivered the meals.

Everything is closed now.
We can’t touch each other.

This is as close as we can get.
You are reading  these words
made up of letters
I just typed, each letter
a pattern of pixels.

Everything is pixels now.
Keep your molecules to yourself.

A Brooklyn friend, using
Facebook Live, gives daily tours
of Greenwood Cemetery.
He showed us the statue of Minerva,
a Roman goddess with her upraised hand
forever waving at the Statue of Liberty
a few miles to the west.

What a strange friendship
between the goddess of wisdom
and the symbol of freedom,
they never really touch,
just wave politely,
with too much distance
between them
for any real conversation.

Everything is closed now.
But waving is acceptable.

I’ll bet both of them
are hungry, poor, and tired
of the living talking of freedom
on one side of the river
and all the dead
on the other, so silent.

Didn’t Achilles’ mother
dip him in the river Styx
while holding him by the ankle
and so his heel became
his most assailable place?

We try so hard to protect.
Everything is closed.

Oh, we are all so vulnerable,
and we don’t like to be reminded.

I owe a huge debt in this world,
and this is some of what I have now
to pay anything back before I go:
these words
in this space
between us.
Take them
as you would
my hand.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Strong Measures

It’s five in the morning
and the moon is public property,
so enjoy its impression
of a child’s construction paper cutout.
Subscribe to its channel.

We are all relieved the sun
hasn’t been cancelled today.
We need the light to fill
our stunned-to-darkness places.

Please remember the sun
is for others, too. Pick up
after yourself when you’ve
spent time in the clouds.
There are no restrictions
on contemplation,
no shuttering
of deep thought.

The daisies in the park
will not be punished
for raising their faces
to yours. Planting seeds
is permitted, encouraged.

We realize these are
strong measures to take,
so, please, please, obey
the flourish of dandelions
and grow where you can.

Saturday, March 14, 2020


How is this even a thing,

Up to our twilight knees.
Up to the loaf of our bellies.
Up to our solar plexuses.

Green, how I love you.

Birds, how you sing anyway,
not knowing our shadow headlines.

Daffodils send their blades
up through the earth.

It’s quiet inside

The hellebore
bows, facing a sunset
filled with shade.

We have a hard time
living here, in this
empty speech bubble.

Up to our armpits.
Up to the penumbra of our hearts.
Up to our necks.

The south wind
(pay attention to direction)
is swelling.

I dreamed the song
I’ll never lift,
a cloud lullaby,
lyrical haunt.

Up to our twitching noses.
Up to our half-closed eyes.
Up to the disorganized rain in our minds.

Stash of silence.
Hoard of solitude.