My poem Fire Escape—based on an Alfred Stieglitz photo is up on Ekphrastic Review today. Many thanks to my friend and fellow poet Sarah Russell, who saw the photo and knew she had to share it with me. This poem is best viewed on the site with the photo. So here is the link:

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New poem on The Drabble

Learning to Write Poetry Late in Life
The Drabble

Of course it’s magic,
the way the teacher coaxed
me off my easy chair,
where briared and booked,
I planned
to snooze away my twilight.

I find I’m curious again—
that odd peering into things,
I thought I’d
left behind.

that first poem?
Like a first solo flight—
ground dropping
like Newton’s apples,
the catch of thin breath,
and the wonder
of words.

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One more on Biscuit Root Drive:

In her last years
mom took to the lottery
like a robed devotee
takes to prayer.

Each morning at eleven
she would darken the boxes
of the day’s lottery picks,
carefully transcribing
from a penciled crib sheet.
She would no more
have the computer choose numbers
than make her coffee
in one of those
automated eyesores
soon to leave our planet
knee-deep in plastic pods.

Every evening
she would station herself
by the console television
and take down the numbers
as the ping pong balls
popped out of pneumatic tubes.
She won fifty dollars once
but never the big score—
the uncountable mega-millions.

We never spoke of it
but deep down
mom believed
she would make things right.
In a family
significant only in disappointment
she would redeem us all.

Today I pause in a supermarket—
a thousand miles from where she is buried
to buy five lottery tickets.
I let the computer pick random numbers,
although I still use her old Bialetti for coffee.
The jackpot is hundreds of millions
and for a heartbeat,
I imagine myself a winner.
It’s only money,
but as mom would say,
“how could it hurt?”

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New Poem: Bibelot

My poem, Bibelot, was just published by Biscuit Root Drive. Here is the poem:

Yours was not
an easy death.
Ampules of morphine
lined the icebox shelves

amid the chaos of beer bottles
and rancid cheese.
How many who wished you
that unremitting pain,

would have paid
to hear you scream?
I did not stay
for your final performance,

inheriting as a consolation
a box of unpaid bills
and odds and ends
of your torturous life.

One was the amulet
you wore around your neck.
You were never without it,
and I searched for an inscription—

some relic of youthful kindness,
some touch of tendered love—
realizing at last it was just a piece
of street junk

you nailed a hole in
and wore to ward off—
I wear it now.

Shabby and worthless?
it feels just right.

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Poem: Memorial Service

My poem, Memorial Service, was just published by Nixes Mate Review. Here is the poem:

Memorial Service

I hardly knew
the dear departed

and what was there to know
anyway? That the man

who passed unnaturally
soon was much more

saintly than I? Brilliant,
with a fine sense of humor

and parenting skills to rival
those of “Father Knows Best?”

How could I not
imagine my own service?

Suppose the speakers
were not eulogists

but the

those I
trespassed upon?

They’d limp up
bent nearly in two

with the weight
of their worlds

bursting with need
to expose their festering wounds

a hundred
or, perhaps just one.

Dazzling the mourners
in sequins and rags,

she’d calmly stand
at the lectern

of my final pageant
to the respect of dead silence

and tell
in the same voice

that once startled

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Burningword Literary Journal

My tercet just published by Burningword. Lots of fun to write.

No Strings Attached

In Darwin,
the biggest ball

of twine
is unencumbered
by human

No discontented lovers
struggling with rope

anxious to be free.
No lasso-

twirling cowpokes
waiting in ambush
for that special

No timber-hitched
twosomes and threesomes

double knotted
like old sneakers.
No families

held together
by spit
and slip

Just a ball of
purposeless string

bigger now
than the town

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Two more poems on the Write Launch

Two more poems on the Write Launch:

Second Nature

You would have loved
to have me in your class.
I was born with the soul
of a mule—plodding through
with heavenly persistence.

I’d march around my room,
high above a smoldering Brooklyn,
recite irregular verbs in Spanish,
and practice trilling my r’s
to the uncaring mirror above the dresser.

I took to math and history,
could diagram Faulkner’
prose, but never got far
with foreign languages.
I slowly learned

what it means to be born to.
I am an aged city kid
still most comfortable
with the lilt of moonlight
on a wet sidewalk

in East New York.
With the basement
steps to the Blue Note
and the way
my pulse takes

to the time of the subway
shuddering as it clings to the rails.
Forty years gone and I can still
advise you where not to be when
and get around Manhattan,

blindfolded and hobbled.
I love my little town—
dammit I grow things now,
but I will never be at home
in the surrounding woods, bedeviled

by beasts, real and imagined,
that range in size from ticks
to bears. When I first moved
here a friend who came to visit,
sampled the food and nightlife,

looked at me
sorrowfully and wondered
out loud how I dealt
with a place that was
so green.

All you need know

My grandfather, the lumberjack,
was often mistaken for Paul Bunyan.
When he yelled “timber”
it could be heard
from Seattle to Vancouver.
Once he felled an ancient oak
to teach me the lore of tree rings—
wide for a good year,
narrow for a bad.
His calloused hands caressed
the log as he said,
“this is all you need know of life.”

Grandpa, the watchmaker,
was stooped and gray, but elegant
as if he’d stepped out of a portrait
from a forgotten time of formal grace.
What Rodin would have given
to marble the bones of his hands.
I would sit on his workbench
in a shop full of child-sized tools
and watch him work and rework
the movements of a timepiece.
With a thousand pieces splayed before him
he’d say,
“Here I create time,
and time is all you need know of life.”

My grandfather, the farmer,
had the finest two hundred acres
in northeastern Kansas.
A doughty man born without ear or rhythm
he’d sing the standards—
“Ain’t Misbehavin” or “Makin Whoopee!”
as his steam tractor wobbled through
the flat fertile fields.
We’d all smile to imagine him singing
his heart out.
Once, I watched
him put his arm into soil elbow deep
and come away with loam black as pitch
and teeming with worms.
“All of life is here,”
he said to me.

Grandfather, the soldier,
had a grand mustache
that made him look like Pancho Villa.
He fought with Black Jack Pershing
in the Belleau woods
where corpses outnumbered
the bullet scarred oaks.
He would don his uniform
and his tin cap
to shoot targets with his long gun
at a quarter mile range.
I never saw him miss.
Fingering a spent cartridge, he said
with a tired smile,
“this is death—
all who live must meet it.”

My grandfather died when I was five.
I have few memories.
In one I sit on his lap
and stare out the kitchen window
at the unsuspecting walkers
on Riverdale Avenue.
We sit in silence—
his face is so yellow and worn
it seemed carved of candle wax.
At the last, I remember
I waved goodbye to his hospital window
impossibly high in the massive brick
then walked away with my mother.
Swaying and sobbing,
she held my mittened hand too firmly—
as if all life depended on it.

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