Friday, December 30, 2011

Weekly Worded

The Year in Preview

Next year will be different:
suicide bombers will be kinder,
senseless shooters more considerate,
the banks less greedy.

Congress will get to work
legislating America’s confidence
and hangovers from drunken holidays
will be covered by Medicare.

European debt will melt like polar ice
and dead movie stars will come back to life.
It will be a landmark year for self delusion.
Earthquakes, tornadoes, and oil spills

will manifest themselves
for study instead of destruction. 
The homeless will begin to relish
the freedom of not owning a home.

Wildlife will adapt to the virtues
of domesticity, nuclear power plants
will generate the scent of fresh snow,
and a forest of electronic books

will be harvested by hackers,
to be left on the virtual doorsteps
of overcrowded online schools. 
An abducted child will be found

alive -- the police apprehending
a network of journalists who suggested
things would not turn out
as well as they did.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Weekly Worded


    “That patch is your iPad?”
    “Yeah, I got it for Christmas.”
    “What happened?”
    “I impaled myself with a blunt pair of scissors.”
    “That hadda hurt.”
    “Not so much, since the swelling’s gone down.”
    “No, I mean confusing a pad for your eye with an iPad.”
    “Say again?”
    “Your parents got you an eye patch, not an iPad.”
    “You’re just mad ‘cause you didn’t get one.”
    “I want a tablet, not a pirate accessory.”
    “What’s the difference?”   
    “You think like a toddler.”
    “I’m almost three, same as you.”
    “Didn’t you see the commercial?”
    “They must have put me down for a nap.”
    “Well, an iPad watches movies, listens to music, contacts friends, and reads books.”
    “What’s reads books?”
    “I’m not sure, but the commercial said iPad will teach us.”
    “Then I still want one.”
    “So do I.”
    “What if we start crying?”
    “They’ll just change our butt pads.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekly Worded

My Neighbor Sleeps

And by degrees his cows
bellow to the bovine moon

until frost braids a muzzle
out of their breath.

They own no shelter
except themselves,

a blanket of hide,
a belly stoked on hay.

Beside the valley of morning
a record cold temperature lowing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekly Worded

“Down, Down -- .”

The chainsaw snarled, rattled in the air,
making confetti of the willow tree,
severing limb after limb, leaving
a trunk thick as a torso quivering
beside the fence.  From where I’d climbed, revving
the engine, I could see five of my
neighbor’s cows watching me from a distance. 
And the chainsaw snarled and rattled,
snarled and rattled, dropping limbs into
the mud where the cows often wallow. 
Such a sweet smell of engine oil filled
the air, yet nothing changed.  Call it a day --
not a chance, not until I’d lopped the top
by sections and tossed each chunk back into
my own yard without flattening the fence
that guarded his cattle.  But the ladder,
as if to prove its inferiority
to solid footholds, began to sway when
the chainsaw pinched between a sagging branch. 
Then I knew, since I was old enough to know,
to get the hell off that ladder even if
it meant leaving the chainsaw hanging in
mid-air, which I did, descending three rungs
at a time.  Nothing to cut with now. 
And the cows, since they needed no chainsaws,
turned to ruminate on their own affairs.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Weekly Worded

Explaining the Constellations

Where gophers surface
to survey the vacant field,
pockets of loose dirt blossom
like a chain of brown flowers.

The sun, too, is on its way to ground,
a pale pink light illuminating
the underbellies of clouds.
As darkness backfills the sky,
the persistent stars poke through.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Weekly Worded

Black Tanka

where tub and tile meet
a shadow of mildew grows
subtle as whiskers

on a Japanese poet
calligraphy of sorrow

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekly Worded

Tap the key with the little finger
and it takes you back
though not like a fountain of youth,
not like a time machine,
not even like memory.
At the edge of your previous thought
the cursor insists that going forward
is only marginally related
to going back.
The person you fell in love with
before learning what love was,
the last words you spoke to your father --
it’s all related, the line above
necessary to get you to the place
where you wait for the next one. 
Start again.
But not with her,
not with your father,
not with the idea you had any idea
of where you would end up.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekly Worded


        Communal to a fault,
                starlings flock to the same updraft,
                                 swoon like a black silk scarf
until the impression collectively shifts,
  dives suddenly toward the earth,
         that table where untangling what one bird
            wants from what the murmuration requires
                    is weighed, pushed back up into the sky,
                            still dark with ten thousand other birds
                  weightlessly deciding.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weekly Worded

Before the Migration Tanka

After the wind has stripped all
the leaves from the limbs,
scattering them on the ground,

how much easier to see the birds
flocking the trees in feathers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekly Worded


Only a small newt
inhabits the crawl space under my house.

I don’t get down there often
but when I’m forced to open the hatch

and duck-walk the distance to the sump,
the newt stands perfectly still

protecting its ground,
meditating on some damp and inner darkness.

Touch the tail and it scurries
a few indignant steps, but stays.

All day my feet upstairs
drum against the hardwood floor.

I am always the neighbor at the door
who tries the knob before knocking.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weekly Worded

This Pause Brought To You By

I heard a whispered word
as I sat upstairs, one word:

Wait.  I didn’t know what else
it could mean.  I was already

waiting for electrical power
to return, the house gone black. 

The clock on the wall frozen,
the refrigerator keeping its cool,

the telephone finally hushed,
but that word slid like a

sheet of paper under a door,
like a ripple of linen smoothed. 

Wait it whispered, again.  I closed
my eyes so my ears could see better.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Weekly Worded


On his three acres the weeds grow tall,
Camelthorn, Musk Thistle, Russian Knapweed.
He recites their names like poetry, the words
wild on his tongue, and though he knows
they don’t belong, he tastes their unusual roots,
his palate warming to their tenacity,
so unlike the words he learned at school.

His favorite -- African Rue, as if sorrow came
from another continent to spread its five perfect
petals across his yard, his field, to circle his pond. 
Neighbors complain to the county agent, but
he treats all words like weeds and lets them be,
unimpeded, erupting where they fall.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weekly Worded

Apple-Picking After Frost

My ladder is unreliable and
the apples are red as Mars.
From the shed I take down a long-
handled rake and carry it to the tree.

Standing beneath the branches,
I hold it up-side-down and reach
the tines like fingers.  As I nudge
each sweet planet, the stem breaks,

and I try to catch the apple
before it hits me or the ground.
My neighbor brews another
cup of her steaming herbal teas,

swearing she’s seen a grown
man in a tree, raking leaves.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekly Worded

The Accountant and Daniel Webster

    “Don’t you ever balance your checkbook?”
    “I’m not an acrobat.”
    “How do you know if your check bounces?”
    “I always hear some kind of twang.”
    “Your problem is that you’re not fiscally responsible.”
    “That’s why I hired you.”
    “I can’t help if you don’t take your finances seriously.”
    “But I do, I spend what I make.”
    “This credit card statement says you spend more than you make.”
    “I spend, therefore I am.”
    “Debt is no kind of existence.”
    “That’s what the guy on the phone said.”
    “What else did this guy say?”
    “He laughed, a whuh-ha-ha kind of laugh.”
    “He sounds evil.  Did your soul come up in the conversation?”
    ”He said hire an accountant or he’d haul my assets in court.”
    “Just to be clear, are you sure he didn’t say ‘haul your ass into count‘?”
    “I’m not sure, he lisped.”
    “Then either way he threatened your booty with judicial penury.”
    “Is that bad?”
    “It’s a lot less dangerous than theology.”
    “So can you fix this for me?”
    “Any strong feelings about your soul?”
    “Only if it’s worth something.”
    “Oh, at this point I’d say it’s your only asset.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekly Worded

Nomads In America

    “Driving a huge rig like that can’t be a holiday.”
    “It’s not a vacation, it’s our home.”  
    “You live in there?”  
    “Sold our traditional house a year ago, now the road is our home.”
    “What’s in that enclosed trailer you’re towing behind the RV?”
    “That’s our garage.  We store our ATVs, lawn chairs, barbecue, tools, other stuff.”
    “So what’s up with the jeep attached behind the trailer?”
    “It doesn’t fit in the garage.”
    “And the boat strapped on top of the jeep?”
    “The fruit of downsizing.”
    “What about mileage?”
    “Oh, we don’t keep track of that.  We move as the spirit moves us.”
    “You can’t be moving very fast.”
    “Rushing about is no longer our way of life.”
    “And those bicycles, I’d stay awake worrying they’d get stolen.”
    “We hide them under the boat at night.”
    “I’d better let you go.  A few cars have gathered behind you.”
    “Not to worry.  It’s just the kids wondering where we’ll be stopping tonight.”
    “Your kids still live with you?”
    “Not all the time.  If we catch a good tailwind, it could be a couple days before they find us.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekly Worded

Back To School Across America

By now a number two shaded dusk
has settled across California.

Redwoods leaning toward the ocean
cast immense shadows
like a million Ticonderoga pencils

assigned an hour of homework
after a listless summer vacation.

On the east coast it’s already
too late to get started,
good intentions fast asleep,

lulled by a melodious surf 
as it erases every shoreline.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekly Worded


The trouble with cows is
they’re really no trouble.
Such perfect neighbors
along our shared fence,
peaceful except when the moon
chases them at night.

They follow me along the wire
when I’m mowing,
the smell of fresh cut grass
like an invitation.
Their pasture is sufficient
all spring, summer, fall,

their forage ample all winter.
When I stare out my window,
eventually clouds appear
to me no different than cows
crowded together in the shade
of their sublime ruminations.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Weekly Worded

Adjective Deficit Disorder

    “My son has no idea what an adjective is.”
    “That’s not unusual for a fifth grader.”
    “But he doesn’t want to know.”
    “That’s not so strange either.  Even adults hate grammar.”
    “How will he ever be able to describe what’s going on inside of him?”
    “Adjectives aren’t the only parts of speech that describe.”
    “I have a confession.”
    “I know, you’re not sure what an adjective is either.”
    “It’s a genetic flaw.  Not even my parents had a clue.”
    “Relax.  Millions of people lead full and happy lives without knowing.”
    “Do you think if I study up and start using them my son will get interested?”
    “You’ve already been using them.”
    “I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.”
    “No apology necessary.”
    “Apology.  That’s an adjective, isn’t it?”
    “No, apology is a noun, but sorry is an adjective.”
    “How can sorry be an adjective when it’s an apology?”
    “The labyrinths of grammar are complicated.”
    “What’s a labyrinths?”
    “Labyrinth is a noun, labyrinths is the plural form of the noun.”
    “I feel so stupid.”
    “Stupid is an adjective.”
    “Oh, well then I feel so adjective.”
    “Actually, the word adjective is a noun.  It can’t be used as an adjective.”
    “Is there a pill I can take to help me pay attention?”
    “Grammar itself is a pill.”
    “I took it, but I never passed it.”
    “It takes a long time to digest.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

Weekly Worded

The Writing Coach

    “Nietzsche thought God's boredom after the seventh day of creation would be a great subject to write about.  Give that a try.’”
    “That’s plagiarism.”
    “Nietzsche is dead, he won’t mind.”
    “But the subject is sacrilegious.”
    “God won’t mind.”
    “Why not?”
    “According to Nietzsche, he’s dead too.”
    “Probably bored to death.”
    “There you go, an excellent place to start.”
    “What else is there to say?”
    “What, for instance, did God do to relieve his boredom?”
    “Apparently nothing, if he’s dead.”
    “Okay, forget that I said he’s dead.”
    “You said Nietzsche said he’s dead.”
    “Okay, forget that Nietzsche said he’s dead.”
    “Is Nietzsche really dead?”
    “Good God, yes, not a word since the year 1900.”
    “It could be a case of writer’s block.”
    “Excellent, another subject to break your dry spell.  Try that one.”
    “A writer with writer’s block writing about writer’s block?”
    “What’s wrong with that?”
    “Anything I wrote would be proof that I don’t have writer’s block.”
    “You’re killing me with these excuses.”
    “At least you’re not bored.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekly Worded

Postscript With Full Moon Rising

In the wet mud
near the mailbox
raccoon tracks,
so precise
I trace the signature
of five splayed toes
as if they were the inked
footprints at the bottom
of my own birth certificate.
We must be kin
nocturnally checking for mail,
dressed in warm fur,
wearing a mask.
Opening latches,
turning knobs,
civilized marauders
taking our time
with strangers.
We are just getting
to know each other.
The frogs, I love them too,
though differently.
At night their croaking
crescendos with the moon
rising, and what I take
from this moment
of crouching over tracks
is a natural curiosity.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weekly Worded

Painted Desert By Numbers

Before sunrise
it’s thirty-six degrees.

Before sunset
it’s ninety-eight.

Between the two
it’s summer fall winter spring

all in one day,
but who can say which.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Weekly Worded

Testament of the West

Noah stood on the porch,
watched the bar ditch
fill with water.  Thunderheads
boiled and the rain fell.
The fields around him absorbed
all they could, culverts couldn’t
take any more, but Noah stood
by the house he built, two bedrooms
and two baths.

He installed a basement
sump pump and gutters
along the eaves, but the bar ditch
was an old testament
to poor planning.  He opened
his second beer as the lawn
succumbed to the gush
of muddy water. 
God’s bounty must be endured.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekly Worded

Not Sleeping Together

    “Do you have any plans for the night?”
    “Ummmm, sleeping?  What did you have in mind?”
    “I’ll probably be up all night.”
    “Oh. Sounds tedious.”
    “I’m an insomniac, I have no choice.”
    “So you’re asking me to sit up and talk with you?”
    “Would you?”
    “Why not just lie down here next to me?”
    “How will that help?”
    “I talk in my sleep.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

Weekly Worded

This Just In

On a nocturnal stretch of gravel
    two yellow headlights stab
through a thick plume of dust,
    a farmer rubbing his eyes tries
to stay alert, but he’s hauling the weight
    of his day in the bed of his truck.

On a nearby highway a chrome diesel
    ignites the horizon like a meteor,
tons of overnight freight packed
    into a semi trailer in boxes
no bigger than the bales the farmer
    just stacked away.

At the intersection where one life
    must yield to another
is a house with a television
    that is never turned off
and the news flickers through lifetimes
    like the stars.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weekly Worded

Ninety-Nine Degrees and Then

Such relief
to step into the water
ankle deep,

to feel a cool pleasure surge
up the brain’s
tributaries and empty

into that
vast basin of memory
where you say

Ah, and the rippling waves
say the same
long syllable back to you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weekly Worded

One More American In Paris

    Paris felt like the perfect choice for a spring vacation.  He didn’t speak French, but he liked the sound of it. 
    When he booked airline tickets, he also made a reservation at an old hotel in the Latin quarter of the city.  He didn’t speak Latin either, but he’d always admired the Roman Empire. 
     Jim Morrison had supposedly stayed at the same hotel.  He liked Morrison’s music, especially “Light My Fire.”  He didn’t remember all the lyrics, but he related to the part about coming on to babes who got off on lighting fires. 
    The guidebook advised against driving in the city, but he arranged for a car rental at the airport, because he considered himself a good driver.  Out of deference to the guidebook, he paid for the extra insurance.
    For sure, he wanted to visit Notre Dame.  He wasn’t religious, but he’d seen that Hunchback movie quite a few times as a child and it was still one of his favorites.
    Pastries and cheeses and wine were on his dietary restrictions list, but he wasn’t terribly fond of those foods anyway.  Besides, the chance of finding a chef in Paris that had the same health problems as he did must be pretty good.
    All in all, a trip to a foreign country would, as his friends kept saying, expand his horizons.  He couldn’t imagine how the skyline in France could be any wider than what he was used to at home.  Still, he was sure it would fit on a postcard.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weekly Worded

Decline of the Cottonwood Empire

One summer without water
and the cottonwood leaves yellow
long before autumn.

Two summers
and the cottonwood’s crown
turns bald.

Three summers and nothing
green comes back except grass
ringing its massive trunk.

Four summers and the bark
strips, peeling from the limbs
like shingles in a windstorm.

Five summers without water
and the cottonwood’s bones
bleach grey and white.

One chainsaw powders
half a century while a hawk
carves circles in the air.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weekly Worded



    The temperature was supposed to climb to a hundred degrees, so I unfolded my two
inner tubes, inflated them, and headed for the river.  Along the highway I spotted a hitchhiker, his thumb extended like a valve stem.
    “Hop in, where are you headed?”
    “I’m headed north, where my girlfriend lives.”
    “Ah” I said, winking, “so you’re in a hurry.”
    “Not really, she dumped me last week.  I just want to see what the other guy looks like.”
    “So, technically she’s not your girlfriend?”
    “Nope, you’re right, she’s my ex-girlfriend.”
    “It might be instructive for you to take a run with me down the rapids in one of those inner tubes?”
    I gestured with my own thumb toward the bed of the pickup.  He eyed my plan but declined.  Water made him nervous.  At the spot where I usually launch, I pulled off.
    “This is where I float.”
    He watched me from the road while I lashed my tubes together, slathered sun block on my skin and climbed down the bank to the water.
    “Last chance” I called up to him, “If you die your ex-girlfriend will feel real bad.”
    I know he wanted to jump in but his pack hung from one hand like an anchor.
    “An inner tube is as safe as a condom” I shouted.
    I pushed off and he watched me drift away from the bank, out into the current, ignoring a dozen possible rides, his thumb half-cocked, pointing toward his shoes.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Weekly Worded


Peasant At Rest

A good way into the evening,
after the sun has set
but while the horizon still bleeds
its report of the day,

he stands beside the road
at the edge of his lot
listening to irrigation water 
trace its signature in mud.

Half a hundred cattails
crowd into the ditch
to witness the signing,
their stalks straight,

their brown bearskin helmets
like British palace guards
commanded to attention.
Under a canopy of willows

the night gathers its militia.
This peace will be brief,
the dog next door
still hasn’t had its say.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Weekly Worded

Close As Possible

If one life ends
as another begins,

we are no closer
to finding the hand of God

in anything we hope to touch,
except in the hand

we held,
in the hand we hold.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weekly Worded

Partial Service

    “I’d like to ship this package, please.”
    “Certainly.  How badly do you want it to arrive?”
    “Standard shipping will be fine.”
    “So you don’t care about the person who’s receiving it?”
    “Of course I care.”
    “Standard shipping is no way to show you care.”
    “What would you recommend?”
    “Our Bubbles & Hugs package mailer.”
    “What’s that?”
    “Your merchandise is wrapped in a thin layer of plastic bubbles that when popped release a chemically engineered scent of your pheromones.”
    “But I’m sending this to my sister!”
    “Oh, that might be awkward.  May I recommend our triple upgrade.”
    “I just want it to arrive in good condition.”
    “Our triple upgrade guarantees that.  The first upgrade makes sure it’s on the correct truck, the second upgrade discourages abusive drivers from handling your delivery, and the third upgrade triples your shipping cost.”
    “Why would I want to triple my cost?”
    “To show you care, in a non-awkward way.”
    “I’ll stick with standard shipping.”
    “That will be fifty dollars, without insurance.”
    “Fifty dollars?  How much with insurance?”
    “A hundred.”
    “I’ll drive it there myself for a hundred dollars.”
    “Excellent.  If you’ll back up to the loading dock before leaving, we have a few other packages going in your direction.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekly Worded

Pond & Tanka

Frogs in the cattails --
an amphibian chorus
of unemployed Greek

actors still commenting on 
a long-running tragedy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weekly Worded

   “Your rubber ducky is up-side-down in the irrigation pond.”
    “I know, it never would have survived in the wild.”
    “It’s not surviving in the pond.”
    “I’d hoped for a better transition from the bathtub environment.”
    “Well Darwin, it’s survival of the fittest, and that’s one sad rubber ducky.”
    “Actually, petroleum-based species survive longer than you think.”
    “Stuck in the petrified mud for a millennium is not survival.”
    “Rubber duckies have souls with the elasticity of Buddhist monks.”
    “Rubber duckies are manufactured, not sentient.”
    “A god by any other name can still create.”
    “But they aren’t alive!”
    “Sentient beings lack authority to testify about an object’s feelings.”
    “Are you saying I’m dumber than a rubber ducky?”
    “I’m saying you are not a rubber ducky.”
    “I’m not face down in an irrigation pond.”
    “My point exactly.”
    “So, if I jump into the pond, would we both be rubber duckies?”
    “Close, but still lacking in what a ducky feels.”
    “Really!  How would I experience that?”
    “I’d be required to throw you in.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekly Worded

“Poems That Touch You”
     (title in a bookstore)

I’ve read poetry that didn’t
touch me, and the truth is --
if I had to choose -- I’d prefer
what’s less invasive.
Sadness, rage, hormonal
indiscretion -- it all amounts to
a form of lyrical masturbation
like a Shakespearean sonnet
that couples with itself
in the last two lines.
I do not want any indiscriminate
touching when I pick a book
off the shelf and stand in the aisle
reading a page or two,
clueless as to what I'll feel.
Boundaries assert themselves
in a world so random.
Once I touched a girl
who didn’t expect it,
a sweet spot she preferred
to keep to herself.
To her, I am no different
than the poem she had
to memorize in the fifth grade
and has since forgotten.
If art imitates life
then let us not be touched
when all we want
is to be moved.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Weekly Worded

Tending the Kitty

    “Retire at 75 and you’ll live comfortably on these benefits.”
    “Unless I’m dead before 75.”
    “You’ll still have everything you need.”
    “What does a dead person need?”
    "Don’t be so morbid, we’ve got a future to plan.”
    “Retirement isn’t a future.”
    “What would you call it?”
    “A last supper at the actuary tables.”
    “Why set up a retirement portfolio if this is how you feel?”
    “My cat is blackmailing me.”
    “Your cat?”
    “Yeah, Kitty is my beneficiary.”
    “Your cat’s name is Kitty?”
    “He named himself.”
    “Kitty is a he?”
    “It’s a ruse, he has a pitbull soul.”
    “I have to tell you, chances are you’ll outlive any cat.”
    “That’s what I told him.”
    “This is strange.  Who would administer your funds after you’re, let’s say, gone?”
    “So, you do think I’ll be dead.”
    “Not necessarily, but legal issues arise when a person leaves money to an animal.”
    “What sort of issues?”
    “Well, it’s costly to designate and oversee a caretaker.”
    “Then I won’t have enough money to live comfortably?”
    “Yes, you would, if you lived, but the cat would have, let’s say, challenges.”
    “What sort of challenges?”
    “For one thing, he’d have to pay for your funeral.”
    “He’ll just bury me in the litter box.”
    “That wouldn’t be wise.”
    “That’s what I told him.”
    “What was his advice?”
    “The cat?  You think Kitty talks?”
    “Well, you’re talking to him, aren’t you?”
    “Yeah, but I’m also talking to you.”     

Friday, April 29, 2011

Weekly Worded

Expecting Rain

By daybreak, I’d heard.
Was told. 
By lunch
clouds pillowed
against clouds
like petals on a gray rose.
I could smell 
the aroma of earth
melded to sky,
a vision of virga
floated past.
By six o’clock dust
kicked up in the road
by a stiff wind
moved across the field,
the horizon.
The air turned yellow
like smoke, igniting
such a glorious sunset 
I thought no rain
was worth it. 
By bedtime I’d taken my vows,
to believe in nothing
except disappointment
and all the beauty it can bring.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Weekly Worded

Saddle Math

One coyote,
a dozen howls.

One cowboy,
a thousand cows.

One moon,
a million stars.

One Ford,
a billion cars.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekly Worded

A Fraction of the Hole

The bar ditch runoff
from my neighbor’s field
collects in a low spot
at the end of my driveway.
The culvert can’t keep it clear,
so I have to accept the water as my puny pond,
my mosquito breeder,
my frog haven.
When it rains
the water rises,
when it’s dry
the water disappears.
For privacy I have cattails
cross-fenced with red willows.
The birds wouldn’t have it
any other way.
I’m of a mind to tell my neighbor
I want it dry
but I’m also of a predilection to say
what comes down the hill
is only passing through,
as it is with me,
as it is with you.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekly Worded

Hotel Calypso

When room service arrives
I can’t believe how her tresses
cascade over her shoulders
or the Mediterranean blue of her eyes.

I hold the door wide as the sea itself
and she sets a silver tray
on the black marble coffee table.
I should ask, “How much do I owe you?”

but I’m afraid she’ll say
“Seven years” so I just nod and smile,
as if I don’t speak any language,
as if I’m afflicted by stupidity,

as if I am too old to care.
But I’m not illiterate.
I’ve plodded through what Odysseus suffered
at the hands of his nymph.

My bed last night radiated such softness
I ordered a pot of coffee
to stir my dreams like the surf
crashing below my balcony. 

On this island of Gozo
there’s a cave I want to visit tomorrow
which my tour book describes as
“just a narrow opening

at the top of a steep cliff”
and as she stoops to pour the coffee
I have a glimpse
of where all the trouble began.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Weekly Worded

Bacchus Doesn’t Drink Here Anymore

    The restaurant was empty.  The waitress showed me to a table near the window.  She seated me, then apologized for the frenzied pace of the evening, rushing off to the kitchen where she claimed something was on the cusp of burning.  I picked up the menu and glanced at the list of daily specials.  Returning, she looked disheveled, as if she’d just finished wrestling with the chef. 
    “Is everything okay back there in the kitchen?”
    “Oh, yes” she sighed, running one hand through her hair while the other smoothed a few wrinkles out of her skirt.
    “May I bring you something to drink?”
    “What do you recommend?”
    “Nectar of the gods.”
    I picked up the wine list, scanned it, but nothing going by that name was listed.
    “Is this nectar concoction a mixed drink?”
    “Oh no, it’s the actual thing.”
    I looked up at her, expecting a smile, a giggle, some acknowledgment of the incredulity of what she had just said, but her eyes drifted dreamily toward the ceiling.
    “So, what’s in this nectar drink?”
    “Gee, I’m not entirely sure, but I know Zeus orders it every time he’s here.”
    “Yeah, him and Cronus.  And the Vestal Virgins, when they’re out on the town, which isn’t that often I’m sorry to say.”
    I glanced around the restaurant once more, every table vacant, not a soul aside from the waitress and me. 
    “Are you trying to tell me the Greek gods eat here?”
    “Oh yeah, and the Roman gods too, but not on the same night.”
    I decided to probe a little deeper: “Has Thor been in?”
    She glanced around surreptitiously, then leaned close to my ear: “He ordered take-out once, but complained about the meatballs.”
    I didn’t know what else to say, my knowledge of mythology was hampered by a single poorly taught high school English course over forty years ago.
    “Do you serve ambrosia?”
    “That’s our speciality!” she announced, clapping her hands together like a water nymph that’s just had a shower.
    “Then I’ll have a mug of your nectar, a plate of ambrosia, and a side of french fries.”
    Mythological food is fine, if one has an appetite for it, but a little fat can get a person through the leaner times.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekly Worded

I Can't Hold the Door Forever

For as long as I can remember
the gate has been latched
with rusty barbed wire.
All I have to do

is put a little pressure on
the top rail and step through
the opening that yawns like a portal.
All the animal spirits that have

ever grazed here greet me.
When I let the rail go, the gate
springs back into place
as if it hadn't been disturbed,

assaulted by no force
more insistent than weather. 
Anyone can see
this used to be a pasture.

The fence posts are leaning too,
and I could have stepped across
the sagging wire
easily as skipping a rope.

The deer know, and every other
animal that congregates
in these half wild places.
We choose our openings.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekly Worded

The Other Shoe

When my father fell
nobody spoke of endings. 
They said, Ouch! and
Is he alright?
but nobody mentioned mortality
because nobody knew.

He’d always gotten back up,
so for three months took aspirin
and complained about arthritis.
He wouldn’t see a doctor
until the pain of trying to stand
quelled his rage.

When they showed him the x-ray
he pretended to understand
how a surgeon could fix his hip
but maybe he knew all along,
and it just took ninty-four years
plus three months to decide
it was time to go.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekly Worded


If This Is a Test, I Failed

Two fronts converged
in the sky.
The barometer fell
off the wall.
I couldn’t remember
which corner
of the house was the safest
so I just sat down
on the floor,
pulled a pillow
from a chair
and curled up
like a question mark.
I thought about
how my life
is punctuated by
questions, how
I never know
what’s right, even
without an emergency.
The air outside
was suddenly so still
I could hear a child
crying next door.
Maybe the wind
came up, maybe
the sound of a train
rushed through the house
with its string of exclamations.
All I know is
I fell asleep
and when I woke
I still had questions.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekly Worded

A Field Guide to Dreams

Fall asleep
and a region of the brain opens.
It’s wild
but it’s not wilderness.
Identify any tracks
to be sure they were made
that day, or the day before.
Forget about proper supplies,
but be ready to step aside
when what approaches
turns ugly.
Sometimes you must run,
or running, fall.
Pick up the stones
worn smooth as teeth.
If the frustration of not finding
a safe path wakes you,
stare at the starless ceiling
above your bed
until you are familiar again
with your body.
Tug the bed sheet
tight against your chin
and in this makeshift tent
wait for sunrise.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weekly Worded

Empty Tanka

Like the price of gas,
my love for you increases.
If destiny says

we’ll always be together,
why don’t we just take your car.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekly Worded

My Life As An Impressionist

If I could stand back far enough
the whole point of life
might come into focus.
From the ceiling above my bed
I’d watch myself wake
and not have to guess at the day
through the lidded folds of my blankets.
Or better, watch from the roof
as I slam the door and understand
why I can’t help being late.
If a hawk on its limb
sees its hunger, how much quicker
from my perch will I strike
at my smallest fears.

Up close, it all looks
like brush stokes,
every gesture articulated,
every variation of blue layered
so tightly against the other
the horizon collapses
into a flat line
instead of quivering
like the lip of infinity.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weekly Worded

Road Prayer

Dusk obscures this motel’s flaws
so that its badly weathered paint
glows like a halo.  Heavenly oasis
of the desert tucked into the armpit

of an exit ramp, I know better
than to stop here, but tonight I am
bone weary from driving.  I hope
more than two cars are parked

like ratty couches outside the rooms.
I pray a counter exists where both
money and keys can be exchanged
instead of through a slot in the wall

below a smudged pane of glass.  I want
healthy flowers growing in the planters,
pliant springs supporting my bed.
Let the shower be named for a geyser,

may the toilet eddy and flush.
After I lie down, permit the vacancy sign
like a two-year old to stay up all night
and never quit saying “No”.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Weekly Worded

Two Feet Into Paradise

When I find a boot
to fit my crooked right toe
then the left boot’s loose.
The calloused heel
shines like a tin star,
and a bone spur aches when I stand.
Oh, unmatched feet, you plague me
like the metric system.
I swear I’ll cross Hell barefoot
if in this life I can find
a comfortable pair of shoes,
but these boats I’m sailing
come with either oars.
If I’m going down
let me not be burdened
with layers of orthotics
and the questionable ethics
of trimming mole skins.
Jimmy Hoffa, where did you
find those concrete overshoes?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekly Worded

Editing the Pasture

If the fence posts lean any further
the wire will begin to loop
and remind me of her penmanship.

I’m not worried any cows will escape
because they’ve been gone as long as she,
but rather, that eventually her words

will return, providing such
an uncomfortable perch for the birds.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekly Worded

In Praise of Insulation

The roof, shed of its snowpack,
gathers the sun’s heat again.

Upstairs under the shingles
the attic warms while

outside the temperature
hasn’t climbed above freezing.

On such a day I could lift
from the mausoleum of dusty boxes

my dimmest memories and hold them
under the glare of a bare bulb

but it has all been so neatly packed away.
To open one box would only

lead to another, and what is the past
if not an accumulation of things we

can not touch wrapped up in the feeling
that we also can not let them go.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weekly Worded

As the Cold Becomes You

Imagine below zero
behind your skin, ice
etching lace on your smooth
white teeth, blood turning to slush,
arteries pulsing like blue neon tubes
so that no one walking past
can help but stare at the stillness
you are carrying inside. 
The second hand on your wrist
sweeps the watch crystal clear
so the shadow of a miniature angel
hovers in front of your face.
Three sharp jabs a few decibels
higher than a dog whistle
and all the warning you need
tingles at your extremities.
Go deeper, you think, quickly now,
toward a flicker of warmth,
into that narrow hallway
where a bright door swings open.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Weekly Worded

As icicles blossom
along the eaves, paperwhites
unfold on the window sill.

Winter sun draws it both ways:
up and down.