Menagerie

My poem, Menagerie, is in the current issue of MacQueens Quinterly. It was a fun one to right. Here is the poem:

Menagerie

Right up to the day
he died

my brother could
make me laugh.

He was
my Wikipedia.

But even he could
not explain

how my dad—
content more often

than not—married
into a family

of prize-winning grumps.
He didn’t need to tell me

that Uncle Arthur’s smile
was the best way

to sour pickles
or that Medusa

couldn’t hold a candle
to Aunt Kate’s glare.

But a more serious
topic was

the puzzle of what
we might expect of life—

sad or happy
cheerful or dour.

He said perhaps
we’d grow to be

some odd crossed
creature

a mix of jackass
and baboon

which was the funniest
thing I’d ever heard

and had me laughing
so hard

that he began
to laugh too.

Right up to the day
he died

I could make
my brother laugh.

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Accidie and Poetry

I have two poems, Accidie and Poetry, up at the Lothlorien Poetry Journal. Here they are:

Accidie

These days
I take to
the river.

Isn’t that
what the wise
would have us do?
.
I bring
a pad and pen
although it’s

been months
since I’ve written
and longer still

since I’ve written
anything anyone
might want to read.

I lie back against
my favourite willow
let memory take me

where it will
as I half-listen
to the river,

the breeze
through the willows,
and the buzzes

and squeals
from tiny things
I can not name.

And the willow
stays a willow,
the river

a river,
and when I rise
at dusk,

I am the same
as I was
at dawn.

Poetry

Listen,
the house
by the lake

still stands.
Is that where
the body is buried?

And the grove
of trees
I planted

a lifetime ago
competes with the clouds
for the thin breeze.

It’s the one real thing
I’ve managed.
Might the trees discuss

their fostering?
In spring
the lake

is blue-green
and unmarred
by even a single ripple.

It tempts us
to walk across.
One end is

shallow
the other
deep,

though people
have drowned
in both.

Won’t you
step in
with me?

I think it’s
a risk
worth taking.

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The West is Burning

My poem, The West is Burning, was just published on New Verse News. It is not an optimistic poem. Here it is:

On the rise above
Route 80, by a trickle
that was once
a river

I watch a line
of traffic
a thousand miles long
going nowhere.

The road has
buckled and a semi
sits on its side
steam still boiling.

One by one
the cars and trucks
run out of gas—
dream irony

I suppose,
and people stand
beside their behemoths—
afraid at last.

The pine
and hemlock forest
that lined the road
has turned

a sickly brown
and trees light up
like candlesticks
one by one.

Children fight
the fire
with blankets
and spit.

And the dust
and smoke
and ash
make breathing

an occupation.
The west is burning
and few if any
will make it out.

I wake with a gasp—
heart escaping.
Smoke colors the moon
the west is burning.

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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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