Promise

My poem, Promise is up at the Drabble. Here is the poem:

Promise

When I was 10
my dad gave me
a number 2 pencil—
brand new,

with a finely
chiseled point.
“Promise,”
he said

is like this
pencil.
“The eraser
is always

the first
to go—
worn out
or broken off.

After that,
you can only
chew
on your mistakes.

And that dime store
sharpener is,
like father time,
a false friend.”

But I was 10.
what would
you have me know
of nubs

and time’s unappeasable
appetite?
I took the pencil—
another gift.

At ten,
the whole
world
is a gift.

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Hey Mom

My poem, Hey Mom, was just published by the Santa Clara Review. Many thanks to editor Jaden Fong who helped to change the poem to a prose poem format. Here is the poem:

Hey Mom,

I started to clear the cobwebbed attic—what’s it been, five years since you passed— and the first box I dragged to the light was labeled Billy. Inside, as I expected, were his drawings of ships crayoned on grocery bags—a poor child’s canvas. I told Billy Dad had gone to sea, rather than “Dad ran off with the girl from the lunch counter.” And my little brother watched Navy shows—from Victory at Sea to Run Silent, Run Deep and drew warships with guns blazing. Billy searched every episode for a man he’d never met. I can’t believe you saved the pictures, Mom. Steeled against the spidery things I go looking for the box with my name.

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Ridge

My poem, Ridge, is up at Sheila-Na-Gig online. Here is the poem:

Ridge

August rains
have left the ground
green and boggy.

This evening
a cool mist rises
to hug the ridge

like filings
in a force field.
Wouldn’t you like

to hold someone
so easily?
Nature is unaware

of its beauty—
tricks of light
and season

leave it
unperturbed.
The ridge

and I are old
companions—
a singular feature,

it dominates
my view from any
vantage.

I often wonder
about the view
from the ridge,

but citybred,
I am too tied
to pavement

to try the climb.
Yet, I imagine myself
among the explorers

of an earlier age.
Leather-clad
and booted

we work our way
inland from a Susquehanna
landing—muskets

against lion and bear,
we muscle our way
to the ridge-top

and find a valley
so inviting
we envision a settlement

right here—
here
where I sit rocking.

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Wounded

My poem, Wounded, is up at Poetica Review. Here is the poem:

Wounded

The phone rang
but I hesitated
to take Jim’s call.

Are we born
with the need
to avoid

human misery?
Perhaps that
is the source

of accusation—
witch, warlock
bad things happen

around you.
And Jim had
more than his share.

It wasn’t
like he complained.
He rarely did,

but I was afraid
I’d catch
his unhappiness.

I thought I detected
a sob in his voice—
his mutt Felix had run off

and Felix was all he had
left. We scrambled
the neighborhood

and searched for hours til Felix
came wandering back
at dusk, hungry

and thirsty
and unaware of the crisis
he had caused.

Clear and very cold tonight.
but for now, at least,
we would all stay warm.

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Collector

My poem, Collector, is in the current issue of Nixes Mate Review. Great fun to write because collectors are a special breed of crazy.

Collector

I found it
in the thrift store
beside the coffee
shop on College Ave.
It’s become a fine
place to browse
now that all
those aged professors,
colleagues,
are emptying
their Victorians
and moving nearer
to their kids.

It’s the book
you searched for
all those years,
but never found—
in an intact dust jacket,
even though it’s
over a hundred years old.
Did I mention
it is author-signed?
You’d have given
a pint of blood
just to hold it,

You had the soul
of a collector—
books and knives
and other men’s wives.
I often wondered
if it was something
you were born with—
like a seventh sense.

Your birthday
would have been
next week—
I bought it for you
anyway.
Downsizing—
I’ve sold most
everything,
but I will take
this book with me—
to remind me
of the one thing you
couldn’t have.

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Raking

My poem, Raking, is in the spring issue of Muddy River Poetry River. Here is the poem:

Raking

leaves today—
old whisk rake
with the sound
of someone
trying to get
my attention.

The leaves fell
from a street
maple—a tree
about as old
as I am.
We thought we’d
lost it last year

but a little
trimming
brought it back
to life—
these leaves
the reward.

Now I can’t
help wonder,
as I lean
on my rake
like the codger
I’ve become,

if that old maple
will outlive me—
and if it does
will it somehow
acknowledge
my passing?

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Snowline

My poem, Snowline, has just been published by Sangam. Many thanks to the editor, Ryan McGuckin, for some helpful suggestions. Here is the poem:

Snowline

All night
The neighborhood
Houses shuck
Their tents
Of snow.

“One more spring,”
You’d chant
As if urging
On the nag
You had two bucks
On to win.

By tomorrow
The snow-
Line on the ridge
Will show green
At its
Edges—
Dabs of
Watercolor
On a fresh canvas,

And the walkways
Will be pockmarked
With icy puddles—
A gag gift
From the departing season.

Sleepless,
I look back
On what
The winter
Has taken
And what still
Binds us.

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Stillness

My poem, Stillness, was just published in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of the Schuylkill Valley Journal. Here is the poem:

Stillness

It’s perfect right now.
Early evening
distilled through the oaks
in a lattice of light.
The air cooling
to that first fine chill.

In these enlightened times
mindful meditation
is offered three times a day
on Zoom—
and my smart watch reminds me
every hour to breathe.

“Be in the moment,”
we’re advised—
which brings a smile
and memories—
zen koans, Alan Watts,
the sound “of one hand clapping.”

Truth be told
my mind would wander beyond
the droning “om,”
flip through the rolodex
of people and place,
promise and regret.

You and I are lucky
that age can cure
what discipline
and study cannot.
I welcome the enveloping evening
calm, empty, and open.

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Two Poems on RavensPerch

I have two poems published on RavensPerch. Here are the poems:

AT THE GRADE-SCHOOL REUNION

No,
of course you
don’t remember
me.

No doubt,
you remember
the cut-ups
who sat in the back—

passing
notes and
planning to hold
up the liquor store,

and those in front,
tiny adults—
scrubbed and
glistening,

listening
to every word and
imagining the doctors,
and business leaders

they were sure
to become.
I had a seat near
the middle—

away from
the window
side with
the mediocrities,

the ones
destined for nothing
grand.
For fun,

we used old photos
to place the grown ups
in desks,
and google

to trace their histories—
but nothing stood out
except the number
of empty chairs.

KINDNESS

This morning
I watched from
my window
as a neighbor
cleared my iced-in
walk.

The sound of the shovel
took me back to when
I liked a little
winter,
although I
can’t remember why.

I had imagined
myself shut
in til spring—
these days
I enjoy nothing as much
as the thought of calamity.

I don’t believe
she worked up a sweat
or sent her heart
racing—although
she saved me from both
and a sore back,

but when she finished
she carefully tapped
her Apple watch—
nowadays even
kindness must
be counted.

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Forever

My poem, Forever, is in the current issue of Sheila-Na-Gig online.

Here is the poem:

Forever

Aloft
a single-engine prop
pulses against a head wind,

vibrates briefly,
like a drill biting bone,
then silence

over the forest of
Pennsylvania.
Progress seems little

more than slow-stepping
above the scented pines
and hemlock.

The horizon
unchanging as glass
and I am lonely

like I have never been
before. Is this how
forever feels—

to coast the empty
sky in the silence
of the blue-green afternoon.

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