Her exoskeleton cracked under the chef’s boot.
Now antennae rest on the floor like pieces of
She was carrying forty-one encased eggs when
he chased her down—if only she hadn’t been
burdened by that.
Her four vestigial wings, three pairs of spiny
legs, and small head have been severed. Her
compound eyes no longer see a mosaic world.
She can’t draw air through the holes in her side.
She can’t feel anything. The ceiling light blinks.
(First published in The Miscreant)
He rises and rests
like a giant Buddha
above a crystal-blue sea.
This white peak
mantled in snow
shrouded in stillness
to my knees—
this mountain, cold, clear, simple—
I stop to rest
lest I miss—
this moment of enchantment.
Over time, seas corrode rock cliffs till
individually they stand, worn apart,
on beaches where waves carry away
their scrap, eventually crumbling
it into blowing sand stinging my eyes.
Gulls fight that wind, wings beat frantic
in their search for dead seals, stranded fish,
wave-dumped between the mini-monoliths,
splashed into tidal pools.
The sentinel spires, daily battered
skinnier by ocean surges, watch
commotion in resignation, disappear
among silent fog banks of salty cream.
For years he [the Nantucketer] knows not the land; so that when he comes to it at last,
it smells like another world, more strangely than the moon would be to an Earthsman.”
~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 14
Moon dust has no salty scent,
no fishy smell, no reminder
of brine or earthly shoreline.
It does not smell like Kansas soil
awakening in spring,
or windblown Sahara sand.
Moon dust, the dust of broken molecules
smashed by eons of meteorite collisions
left with unsatisfied electron bonds
seeking partners, has no smell at all
when left in place as it was
for billions of years, dry and destitute,
but comes alive when touched by moisture
in a lunar lander or the mucus membrane
of an astronaut’s nose.
It smells something like fireplace ashes
sprinkled with water or the Indianapolis 500,
something like spent gunpowder
but unlike the smell of land or sea
on earth, our home. We only know
from the word of astronauts
who kicked up dust, who picked up dust
on space suits, helmets and boots,
who bottled dust and brought it back
to answer questions of the curious,
their fellow sailors on this little speck
in the vast sea of space.
(First published in The Journal of Modern Poetry)
A beautiful “flower” has blossomed at D.H.S.
I took one look at her and said: “I must confess
That I am delighted with Daisy!”
This flower is actually a young lady with compassion
To do her work in the most orderly fashion
She is dedicated to her job and never lazy
Her last name is Elias and she has God-given talents
Between work and play, she can keep her balance
No matter what happens, she will never go crazy
Delightful Daisy is a Godsend to the State of Illinois
Being fully committed to her job is a blessing indeed
She is so helpful and courteous, someone we all enjoy
knowing when to follow and when to lead
Thank you Lord for giving us this new employee to pay
We are very pleased with her and might as well say:
“Everybody is delighted with Daisy!"
Mom said, “Be careful,
When it comes to men.
Don’t lose control.
Don’t sell your soul.
Honey, Be careful,
When it comes to men!”
She taught me all the things
That I would need to know,
To dress just right,
To be polite,
To cook and wash and iron and sew.
She told me all about
The kind of men there are,
“From the powerful rich
To the man in the ditch,
They all wish on the same star.”
“Don’t judge a man by what he seems,”
She told me o’er and o’er,
“For plumbers and scholars,
Both earn honest dollars
But his heart will earn far more.”
“Just wait your time,”
She used to say,
“He’ll stand apart,
He’ll touch your heart,
When the right one comes your way.”
But she never mentioned the gypsy,
I guess she didn’t know
About the man
With the wandering band
Who always has to go.
With twinkling eyes, enticing warmth,
He smiled at me that day.
He stood apart,
He touched my heart,
But the gypsy got away.
The Custer Street Art festival was going on Saturday,
and I took a photo of a man with a parakeet on his shoulder.
Then I showered, and headed back to the library because
Alan Furst, a New York Times bestselling author,
was signing copies of his new book,
And I collect books signed by authors.
I got there, and being 41 years old,
I was the youngest person there.
(The book was about World War two.)
So he read chapter one, and I was already hooked. When it
was time to get the book signed, I raced ahead of all the old folks,
And got it signed so I could get home.
When I returned to Main Street, like a consumer,
I decided to get some dinner, and out of all the things I could’ve chosen,
I chose potato chips with cheese.
So I sat up against a building with a huge stack of cheese covered potato
chips, looking like a homeless guy who was eating for the first time that day.
I got cheese all over my pants, my shirt, my hands, and it got intertwined in my
moustache. So I finished the least healthy meal there, thinking it was the least
expensive, but I had to add that damn cheese, oh, when will I learn!
Thank God I was only a block away from my apartment, so I went into
the café to wash up, and there was the pretty girl who works there smiling,
and I had cheese in my mustache!
I went from being an intellectual bookworm who attends book-readings
and gets signed books from best-selling authors, to a man with cheese in his
mustache in a matter of minutes!
Part two Sunday Father’s Day
I went to my parent’s house, to wait for sister and brother in law, niece and nephew, to come.
And I went with my dad to get a menu at Brown’s chicken and I was at my
parent’s condo where people golf and a stray golf ball barely missed our car.
My dad, who plays golf, joked, “If it went through the window, the first
thing I would’ve seen if it’s a good golf ball, then checked on your head.”
I laughed at the joke and said “No, Father’s day gifts for you.”
We went to Browns chicken and a guy was getting out of his car through
the window, and had a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus saves, Moses invests,”
and he bought an energy drink and had a cigarette in his mouth.
Then a father next to him bought a bag of chicken and had two
daughters and one daughter locked the back door on the other daughter,
and her dad said,” No games, Karen.”
We went back and took the kids to the swimming pool and had the
inside pool to ourselves, but for a senior citizen who was also swimming. He said of my
nephew, “Boy, look at those legs move! What energy!” and returned home to
Eat Browns chicken, macaroni, baked beans, and my nephew at one
point says, “Why are you upset? Because its fathers day, and you’re
still a kid?” and I laughed. No, I’m happy to be single. I heard my
neighbors having a romantic quarrel at the beginning of the day, they
always drink, argue, curse and break furniture. They say poets are sad people.
Father’s Day isn’t a happy day for everybody.
But for me it was. I’ve got two of the
best fathers in the world, my dad and God.
And he is 73 years old, because his birthday is around father’s day. Time
To be nice to the parental figures!
A great blue heron, the first I’ve seen all year,
stands on a half-submerged log in the
Preserve’s four-acre pond. A visitor raises her
cell phone to photograph the bird. She
yells at it, tries to startle the heron into flight.
The bird stays unmoved—a Zen monk gazing
at the moon.
The woman hands rocks to her husband and
son and tells them to throw the rocks at the
heron in order to make him fly off, but the
rocks fall short. “Try harder,” she shouts. The
boy loses his balance and falls into the water.
The father wades in to rescue his son while
the mother laughs and captures it all on her
a great blue heron
master of immense quiet
a blue moon at dusk
Can you please aim your weapon in the direction of the entity that you are really
Sparing the world the heartache of another young life taken too soon and
obliterating another one of God's precious gifts.
The slogan "Please don't shoot I want to grow up",
Resonates throughout the world and overflows our city's cup.
Law enforcement counters with earlier curfews,
Parents chime in with old school virtues.
'Baby come home before the street lights go out!’,
Cameras on every corner capturing street bouts.
The same camera zeroes in on children playing,
In the background you can hear them saying:
"Please don't shoot I want to grow up,"
I have a future, I can see past tomorrow,
Please don't shoot it will only bring complete and utter sorrow,
To both of our lives, as soon as the bullet leaves the chamber
We will never be the same.
So please don't shoot.
Can you please aim -
Your weapon in the direction of the entity that you are really
Sparing the world the heartache of another young life taken too soon,
another child gone, one of God's precious gifts.
(The story of a rescued cat, from Snow White’s point of view.)
Though I am frightened and strike out with my claws,
Forgive me, dear human, please do.
I’ve lived a life full of fear and pain
And that’s all I know how to do
I’ve been lonely and miserable most of my life
And I tried so hard to cope.
But no one cared if I lived or died;
It was easy to give up all hope.
But YOU came along with a heart of compassion
And treated my wounds with love.
You cleaned my grungy matted fur
Like an angel from above.
What a difference your loving care has made!
My fur is now silky and smooth.
I feel loved and protected; my tummy is full
And I no longer hurt when I move.
I love curling up with my new soft blanket,
Cozy and safe and warm.
But I love even more curling up on your lap.
I know you’ll protect me from harm.
I’m so glad, dear human, you rescued me.
You heard my silent plea.
Thank you for being so gentle and kind,
And for seeing the Princess in me.
This simple story that is theirs to tell
Is older than the darkness of the night
And truer than the Sun’s new morning light
And deeper than the deepest magic spell.
Between them stood tall mountains none would cross,
A river that ran rapids through their dreams,
A forest that lay dense where one rose beamed
And warned them they could suffer every loss.
They followed Love no matter how they’d fall.
Then mountains bowed to open up the sky.
The river calmed. The forest lifted high.
What fear they felt they now could not recall.
Their tears took root, went deep. They understood
That darkness charmed by light transforms to good.
efforts to fix and
finally finish the
great American novel
have fizzled and foundered but for
inspiration blazing, inflaming
joy! Love for the bloody art of writing.
(An etheree published in Whispers,
Of the uncounted planets encircling
stars and black holes revolving
in the grasp of billions of gravities,
they meet by incalculable chance:
She alone despite sons and husband,
dog and two cats, mortgage, two cars;
he in need of someone who cares,
someone who needs to be cared for.
And, in the style of their age and time,
they only ever meet in dreams and words.
Each counts the stars in their piece of sky,
reports the planets' places, moon's phases,
and they compare their observations.
Wishes made on streaks of light
passing through the heavens are never
reconciled with catastrophic endings.
There are discussions of evening walks
never taken, opportunities to dance,
and the mutual benefits of hugs and kisses.
There are fantasias set to the music
of unexplored spheres to be found,
other positions in uncharted galaxies.
Seasons pass, and in their wake
the constellations grow confused.
Any star might blaze, then self-destruct
as if possessed by errant bonfires
carelessly tended by their creators.
She takes pen to fine linen stationery,
formal even now at the inevitable end,
the one foretold in stars if consulted:
My husband says I'll lose everything
should I have further contact with you.
I could not bear to be without my boys.
Thank you for your kind consideration.
He knows there is no reply to draft.
The Universe is naturally expanding,
as evidenced by suns moving apart
to dance, taking their own worlds with:
Infinity unfolds, becomes nothing again.
(Published in Poems against Cancer 2017)
Thoughts shift from deep forest to fenced-in yard,
from meandering paths to incessant traffic,
a thousand greens turning to lean wordscapes
sorted by height and hue.
I sweep a poor plot of ideas, paved with
low-maintenance concrete, edged by boxwood
and fragments of color in plastic pots,
far from the wildflower carpet of a rich rotted floor.
But sprouts with ancient roots crack my packed surface,
call me to come to my senses, trample the fences I built.
Just below the drone of my constant weeding, I hear
wriggling whispers: sacred vines untangling,
acorns pressing into trees, dead words decomposing
along fresh-water streams. The wholeness of life
welcomes me home.
the names were there
on the white board
by her hospital bed
of the four who
were to care for her
as she was dying
those of two of her sisters
and a niece
and the last name
of her doctor
the same as the sister
who raised her
for one who believed
in signs and portents
it left her to ponder
was it meant to calm
her final moments
or to remind her
from where she came
Something about waking early,
before daylight streaks the air with yellow,
brings an intimacy with darkness,
a purity to the day's endeavors.
No matter how black the wall of night,
how impenetrable the ebony expanse
of starlessness, birdsong chips away at it,
pecking until it breaks into the light.
Bright bird, pink patch of sky,
pray for us, o holy mother of dawn,
that we may be made worthy
of the promises of day.
(First published in Ink, Sweat & Tears)
Skin like brown crepe
and silver hair crimped
in waves like ribbon candy,
the old women pray
with the power of the sun and moon.
They dance stiffly,
bowed by weariness and pain
like autumn flowers at dusk.
The choir sings with jubilation,
drowns the rattle of their aged breath.
“Don’t Feel No’ways Tired,” they holler.
Their arms wave like branches in a storm.
Warbling notes, raspy and thin
climb to their home on high.
Heaven hears and prepares.
(2005 Ellen LaForge Poetry Journal
as an Honorable Mention)
is never ending
I am spending
trying to go on
it’s not there
it runs deep
Even with me
in my sleep
In my dreams
it is there
it doesn’t leave
no one to tell
is just like hell
I must embrace it
The only way
that I can face it
Not much longer
can I take it
The only way
that I can make it
God tell me why
it’s not better
that I should die
And every day
I want to try
My faith in you
what gets me by
I’ve lived my life looking at the yellow:
the button-clutch of sun within each
warm enclosure, the tiny down of artistry
inside the (otherwise) common pluck.
I’ve overlooked how light works fine
on these white flocks of silk-and-thew.
Each throng here, every petal reaches
from its rooted firmament, arcs
its air and holds, intentional. Enough,
almost, these clean summer flags,
these articulate fingers signing, Joy
is palpable as pearl, lucent as full-moon light.
(for Poaintry Ekphrastic Challenge May/June 2017
Shawnee Hills Art Council)
He rails against himself
As the insurmountable,
Rifle through his mental closets,
Which once contained everything
And everybody, imbued in faith,
Forgiveness and the forever.
He opens the door, only to see
What once was. The present
And the future remain encrypted
By the furtive eclipse of yesterdays
Ensconced and infused in double binds.
Distant and disconnected, he settles,
Infusion mired in relentless dysfunction.
Passing lines on the road
Smell the Lake
Corn on the Cob
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Screened in porch
Going to town
Mom filled out her form with Virgo orderliness,
then stopped, looked at me, eyebrows raised.
Long crimson fingernails tapped a line with forced
choices: Single, Married, Divorced, Widowed.
For several decades I’d told Mom
how I’d refused to check any box.
“Is the doctor single, married, divorced, or widowed?”
I’d ask a receptionist.
“Well, I don’t know,” they’d say,
or, “What difference does that make?”.
“The computer won’t let me continue,” they’d protest.
“You choose then, it doesn’t matter to me.
I’m not telling you.”
At first their insensitivity steamed me.
Over years, I’d taken my own identity.
No one cared if I checked it or not.
“Mom, just don’t check one.”
Her deep hazel eyes reflected
insight now about my rants.
We buried my father yesterday
and now Mom is a different box.
(Five Poets Write about Aging, Illness,
and Mortality, Pennywise Press, 2011)
Cool rainy Spring, firm harbinger for days
of heat and humidity ahead, stays
third place on my chart of pleasing seasons.
Hopelessness quickly sprouts two more reasons:
Ticks, sand fleas come out leaping and hopping.
Of their itchy bites, there be no stopping.
(Previously published by Whispers in the Wind)
We ride beside death,
its dazzling profile
sheathed in a shiny gray hearse,
toward hallowed ground.
In the front sit
two starch-shirted men,
each mute as the rider
oblivious to this last journey
blazoned with tulips and hyacinth.
The radio from our passing car
pounds exploding rhythms
that urge us to speed up,
wave our brightly spun scarves,
thumb our noses
at the poor stiff
who can’t hear the music,
feel the titillating vibrations
or cool breeze
rippling our hair.
Instead we mumble our condolences
to no one in particular
and mostly to ourselves –
we slow down and let the pale rider
pass us by.
I met a young girl while on Guam
Bernie is the reason I wrote this psalm,
Under the tropical sun as upon
The Island of Guam clothed in the dawn,
Bernie's round brown face matched her eyes
Her long black hair like a clear night skies,
That waves like many Mango trees that say
Good morning and hafa adia as Bernie did play,
I saw lovely Hibiscus flowers that sway
In the tropical breeze as in the month of May,
Bernie was in the tenth year of her life
Infatuated with Bernie's smile within her rife,
The Banana plants dotted the island all round
I heard the chirping of the island birds sound,
Bernie and I had in common of being adopted then
To ponder her feelings in one of Guam's glen,
Is the Coconut Palms stand tall to guard all
Like the Papaya trees with fruit in a slow rainfall,
The adopted mother never told Bernie that
She had been adopted but not my place to frat,
I knew we were lucky to be adopted of this
Walking among the Latte Stones that I'll miss,
Bernie and I were lucky to have loving mothers
I think of Bernie and wonder about the others,
Guam beckons me back to go back and see
The Sea Turtles swimming in clear unfounded sea
the house was robbed
Now, now said her loving spouse
I’m upset they didn’t see you
hiding under the covers
though her teeth lazed by her night table
Mother's wit always had quite a bite
Mother and Father
the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil couple
who would they be today
a couple of charming lovebirds
nestled among a tight web
of tangled bedsheets
like ones buckled up for safety
I don’t think so
Cause he was tired of his wife calling him daddy
and she likewise
dreaded him calling her mommy
but that’s how it often is
celebrating golden age of marriage
wonder on the vine.
In the vineyard,
in the glass,
tasting notes of worth.
Sing the song of chaos
mounting in despair.
Yet a sort of hope prevails,
leading me to the end note.
The binding, crushing madness.
macerated winter fruit, dancing,
like Jack Frost on the pines.
The relentless notes
of cherry, ice and sadness,
a beauty to behold.
On the vine,
in the glass,
You roll in like a grain of sand
blown from a distant storm,
spouting this week's version of your truth.
You want to chat, like you think I should care.
I laugh because you never did really know me.
You need to be absolved from your guilt,
but you've come to the wrong place.
If you’re truly feeling guilty, all I can say is,
Good, it's about time.
But I don't believe it's true. I bet
you've already found someone else to blame.
That's what small-minded people like you do.
is what you are to me.
What you will always be. What you always were.
Like a grain of sand, you'll never
be more than an irritant to be disregarded.
Something to throw away, yesterday's trash.
You think someone should care how you feel.
Did you really think that someone would be me?
Your soul is as twisted as your thoughts.
Step away from my timeline,
my thoughts aren't yours to share.
You aren't welcome here.
You never were.
Somehow stitching by hand so slowly
Endless tucking , folding, hemming
Garments many, basic clothing
Bedding, sheets, & blankets woolen
Quilts and covers sandwiched layers
Threads to cover with fancy stitches
Weaving, spinning, carding, shearing
Busier than all the hours can handle
Laboring into wee hours blinking
Lights of candles shimmer dripping
Flickering firelight guide our stitches
Needles stabbing, piercing, joining.
Tools basic as thimbles, thread & scissors
Paper patterns cut to guide us
As we labor toward our always goals
Clothe the family, keep them covered
Basic needs like warmth and layered comfort
Not to mention how we'll feed them all
Of course, if it were a hundred years ago,
We'd save the cooking tales for another day.
There once was a lady who
just loved the color lavender;
she lived in a lavender house,
the only one in town, surrounded
by lovely lavender flowers.
Everyone knew her simply as
the lavender lady of Kilaue’a.
All her walls were painted
various shades of purple;
her rattan furniture was also
hand-painted lavender, as were
her cupboards, shelves and doors.
Household vases held lavender
bouquets, meals were served
on lavender china, no drape
or towel was ever seen there
except in lavender or purple.
Her clothes were variations on
the lavender theme: blouses had
lavender and white pinstripes or
bloomed huge mauve peonies or
tiny maroon rosebuds; there were
solid lavender slacks, plaid purple
skirts, purple polka-dot dresses, and,
of course, lacy lavender underwear.
Never mind that she had once taught
swimming and life-saving as a YMCA
volunteer for 57 years; raised six kids,
marrying at age 40 after a second date;
or moved to Hawai’i following a visit
thirty-five years previously.
When I met her, she was a stalwart 90
planning her distant funeral: she’d have
a lavender casket, cascades of lavender
flowers, buried in her best lavender dress.
It was a harsh policy
but bold inaction was needed
to build the new China.
And for 33 long years
they allowed just one child
wall posters relentlessly lauding
the glories of onliness.
Consequences slowly piling up
they thought they'd better allow some twos
but only to those who had been ones
and soon found most ones just wouldn’t do twos.
So now they say two for all and all for two
hoping this new edict will finally do.
Alas over time
the edict of one has reshaped desire
and traditionally horizontal family groups
have gone vertical
and income income income.
the population is seriously skewed
with too many men
and too few women
and too few workers
and too many oldsters.
And there are no easy answers.
Homecoming late-winter-enduring day is short blue-black sun sets about 150
saltshaker plane miles of west Keeweenaw peninsula on/off season-lonely keeper starts
at echo stalling midair above Great Lake’s present-tense still quiet voice James Goes
Farwalking Smith idling by pickup shivers back thumbs hurt tells self
goddam walkstep go far dog go just go home up
go home forreal makeit up up flares up scares don’t
frak up jim-me go far_walking up chop steps
what he hears is real maybe sound of one-heck-of-a psycho local Reservation guy’s
hound greying brown back to chainlink fence penned in left-out beast is all over
froze-nose goes wolf howlling song-like ghost-like long sound’s gone now
now he mouth breathes out breath visible got-frostbitten-once-too-often bare
all daynight jacked up bed’s wet yes frak it gets
step yes all yes up flares up step step down
walkstep it its not complicated hack back attaboy go
forehead acne-scarred is pulled inside deep fur ruff hood Jim S.’s in party-
noisemaker-brain mode listening one good ear other high-pitched all-time
after serving overseas rings bright clear warning orange-trimmed parka his
eyes landscape squint blink facing ice-locked truck door without way in
jim-me go far_walking me this hack back grey jungle hack
chop crap chop it get don’t make personal just
go home walking chop up flares up walkstep
all-subzero-ing frost Ouiga-writes over stone-pitted windshield outside signal-light
in turns reflected on inside damn flashlight passenger sits its anodized-dead-battery
butt on split bench-seat Jim’s stomach inside-fills with cold clumps breathing spills
down from chest as one long in/out hurt second mittens sit dry on rubber floormat
it gets walkstepped on don’t make it’s not
personal mortar thump outside smack on head
one two dark sad up flares up sound into shapes
empty barracks blacked out dirty laundry stands
slivering starry spiral Northern Lights’re everywhere over winter-whipped pathway
dot-to-dot surround dance on Jimmy’s eyes iridesce disco green shrug robin egg blues
martin wing purple shed whitetail torn off velvet gold-blond Jim’s softside spark
rolls over easy up his thick milk-white service boots toe-drag back up limestone
up from foot of bed head up flares up it gets
go dog go up up good day just see no look no talk
leeches sing gimme gimme feelme makeyou look
walkway over-top crust cracking beige ice snapping while middle-age brain soft-
serves reality as-a-time past measured in medicine moons Jim Smith reruns summer
night shadow that covers leggings snapshot birthday boy video sees himself carried
shirtless a brown stone on shoulders to white sand place from cold water’s new paved
frak this don’t look make complicated just walkstep
too complicated jim-me go far_ up up
step walk chop step hey you bump on ground are you?
edge once uplate focused-in ricochet flashback sees with kid eyes lake trout its
electric inside-lit body a bright something from shallows scooped up wind gusting
flipped flashing smack belly-landing molten glass flush against raised concrete
threshold foot of sentinel light Jim Smith goes far spirit walking feeling weightless
yes you are you going to blow me up me get me
up? make it personal? just walk step jimme dog
go dog walk step go good day for U.P. just up up up
Losing for so long, the road finally
Just slid away. Gave up its kinship to
The hills. Left their wealth of secreted paths,
The grottos beneath pines where the winds laughed.
The road broke beneath the uncertainty
Of clouds, mist, rain and its consistent drop
By drop belittlement. But, those tree roots,
They were resolute. Obstinate. They still
Protruded like old phone lines that once hung
Under clear skies. Downed, now, those same roots lay
Blanketed in soil made heavy by the
Soaking rains. That road, it just gave up. And
So roots, that once were concealed, they became
Roots revealed. Dark. Strong as a harness, as
A bridle, a conduit to nothing,
Like a poor phone connection where you hang
On waiting for a whisper of a voice.
(and you know
yours by name)
twist so terribly
deep that instead
you carry them like
inside your flesh
and feel their
twinges every few
griefs that fit you
like a bone.
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