Monthly Archives: May 2011


I arrived at the Middle School carrying
A three-foot-long model of the U.S.A.
Fashioned out of frosting and rice krispie treats,
With the Oregon Trail marked in green sprinkles.

At first this history project seemed absurd,
Sugar-coating every hill and valley.
But in the end, perhaps all of our attempts
To explain our origins leave us gasping:

Manifest destiny, guts and glory, luck.
We spend our lives reshaping the stories
We tell about how we got here, with frosting
To cover the cracks we aren’t ready to show.


Why I make the bed in the morning

Some mornings, this bed is a fresh-plowed field

Still ripe with dew and softly radiant;
Others, it is all scorched earth, bright yellow
Coverlet thrown off to relieve the heat;
And occasionally, it lies fallow
Waiting patiently, soaking in the sun.
I always do the same thing in the morning
No matter what the night before has brought.
With the shower singing in the next room
I tuck the sheets and gather up the dreams
Place the pillows side by side, and give thanks
For daylight, and forgiveness, and coffee.


Outside the administration building
Of the local high school is a signpost
Bearing two identical “One Way” signs.
One sign points due left, the other points right.

The first time I saw this it made me laugh
Because it so well expressed that vortex
Of high school life, where we stand and wonder
Which of the right answers we should follow.

But today, surrounded by caps and gowns,
This weathered sage turns valedictory:
You have the best of us now – choose wisely.
Once you leave here, there is no coming back.

Flood Plain

They are flushing the hydrants today
Splashing giant rainbows in the spring air.
You cannot escape the sound of water.
Outside the Middle School is a great lake
Where the drains are plugged. Two young boys are there
Staring intently like they are asking

What will be left when the waters recede?

On the radio they are talking to
Farmers in the Mississippi delta,
Poor folk in poor houses, watching the floods
Rising and talking about faith in God
And how they don’t have the money to move,
While engineers are playing Morton’s Fork
Between the devil and the deep blue sea
And admitting that no one really knows

What will be left when the waters recede.

The boys lose interest and wander away
To dig in the sand of the ball diamond.
I change stations and hear an old preacher
Talking about God shutting Noah in
The Ark. And I think, Good for Noah, but
What about the rest of us? Does he want

What will be left when the waters recede?


Thanks to Vivienne Blake for a great phrase “marvel at the miracle of the ordinary” over at Big Tent Poetry.  Here’s my response – small beer, but then most of life is that way, eh?  Cheers.

Three blind mice orienteering through our A/C ducts
Squirrels plotting malice on the birdseed box
Graceful mold filigreeing the bathroom
Grass abounding it places it should not
Geometric patterns of unwashed laundry
The majesty of dishes rising from the sink
Long shadows cast by looming bills
The sonic boom of freshman saxophone
And sheer power of teenage deodorant
The flattened mass of a forgotten Twinkie
And pyramid of eraserless No. 2 pencils.
Rainbows filling the room from a hanging crystal
The tenderness of one loving look across the table.
Someday I will write a book,
Hopefully a funny one.  But for now
I walk outside and simply marvel
At the miracle of the ordinary.

Pop Tarts

So many of the best foods

Are round: The perfect circle
Of a fresh cupcake; a sunny-side
Egg yolk; apples and oranges are
Round, too. Even pears and bananas
If you look at them end-on. And of
Course, the humble hamburger,
Served on a plump, round bun.

No food in nature is square, or triangular;
Sometimes food has legs, but even
These legs are vaguely roundish.
And some of the finest foods even organize
To grow in circles (like mushrooms).
It just stands to reason, really –
Round earth, round food. I think
That’s why pop tarts just seem wrong.

Things we say we’ll never do

(a cascade poem)

So many things we say we’ll never do
Follow us home in the end
Like a stray dog that steals our heart.

That’s why I’m cautious about words
Spoken in haste or anger, for there are
So many things we say we’ll never do

That we should – like apologize
Or embrace the embarrassments that
Follow us home in the end

And lie down with their head in our lap
Nuzzling against our hand
Like a stray dog that steals our heart.


Let’s be dangerous
Outside tonight
The moon is a police light
Throwing shadows
Through the tall grass
Above us

Let’s be dangerous
In plain sight
The neighbors are sleeping
Dreaming of small deeds
And the moon
Is our radio.

Let’s be dangerous
And start a fight
Just so we can make up
Strong and slow
With your lunatic hand
Over my mouth.

Let’s be dangerous
And break what’s right
Because we are strangers
Whetted with unknowing
And we are desperate
To cross this divide.

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