in some lost anthology
the library forgot
or in a chapbook
gifted by an eccentric aunt.
on my special page.
Read me out loud.
Press your fingers
on your throat.
Feel our pulse.
Learn my words by heart.
Share them with
your closest friends.
Tell readers that these
words are our blood
in the flow of life.
(First published in
Shape Shifter, 2008)
A teaspoon of ground organic green tea
sits on a bamboo scoop. Liz hand sifts it
into a Palermo 7-ounce porcelain cappuccino
cup, being careful not to create clumps,
then she adds 2 ounces of whole steamed
milk, stirs the tea with a small bamboo
whisk in an 'M' motion, gently rubbing
the whisk over the froth to rid it of bubbles.
After that, Liz adds 4 ounces of steamed milk,
lifts the pitcher up and back towards her. Glazed
foam forms a latte art 'heart' before she slides
the cup across the counter and says "Enjoy."
(First published in Coffee, Tea & Other Beverages,
a Highland Park Poetry Publication, 2018)
The sky is so clear
and pretty—a blue diamond
bordered by flames of aspen-yellow
and stands of forest green pine
that seem to touch
the upper reaches of Heaven.
The air up here is pristine
and spare—I get a sense
of purity as I breathe in
deep draughts of early autumn air.
I wake to loose threads
dangling in my head.
From the bay window,
barely visible limbs of
a solitary poplar fan the air.
A train rumbles through the blur.
In my prairie town,
black and gray moments.
I walk out into the chill
stumbling through twigs
and crusty leaves.
Through the maze of day,
I touch shoulders with tall shadows,
hear invisible robins.
With the maple leaves,
street lights change from
green to yellow to red.
Home at night,
I destroy pesky cobwebs
with my feather duster,
settle into my armchair.
Beating time in waning lamplight
to folk songs playing
in my childhood,
I drift into another dawn.
(Previously published in
After Hours Journal,
1A: Genghis Khan
Back in the days of Genghis Khan,
his army had horses that they rode on.
They conquered two thirds of the world known,
and as a result, there was a lot he did own.
The Mongols were known as the "Golden Horde,"
loyal to Genghis Khan, their lord.
They would often go days without a meal,
but villages would come with carts with wheels,
they were full of goats, horses and sheep,
they took these animals and used it to eat.
They made them into meat patties, flat,
They'd eat it raw, but not get fat.
B: Kublai Khan
In 1288, Kublai Khan,
the grandson of Genghis, another icon,
invaded Moscow, bringing the meat,
and the Russians adopted the dish to eat.
"Steak Tartare," is what it was named,
with onions and eggs it was enflamed.
2: Hamburg, Germany
In the 18th and 19th centuries,
Hamburg steaks attracted sailors on the seas.
Hamburg Germany, and New York,
attracted sailors to the ports.
When German sailors were in for a while,
they'd eat in New York, the Hamburg style.
The origin of the hamburger is not totally clear,
it was often consumed with a mug full of beer.
But Oscar Bilby in 1891,
was the first to put a hamburger in a bun.
4: Seymour, Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, in the town of Seymour,
they claim the first hamburger created before
anyone else ever had created,
although this could be a bit outdated.
They have a hamburger hall of fame,
so confident are they in their claim,
they are the place the first hamburger was made,
they have the world's largest hamburger parade.
So many people claim to be first,
in making hamburgers or even bratwurst.
But can you put a copyright on food?
Are cooks and chefs in a prideful mood?
There should be enough food to feed,
every single person who is in need.
But if hamburgers are something you will not allow,
speak up, you might save the life of a cow.
Man is always man
and stays man in pronouncement,
but woman becomes wife.
A transformation to a possession,
a trinket to be fondled for pleasure,
then a trip back to the shelf.
Or, a bird, pretty to look at
from the other side of the cage.
I sang my sad songs of confinement,
begging for release.
He took away my food and water,
and clumsily left the latch half-hooked.
Starving, I made a final attempt
to unhook the latch to fly free.
In my ascent, I thoughtfully picked a rose,
scattering petals to sweeten the marriage bed.
I landed and waited for him there.
I had a gift to him...it was me.
But he could not accept this gift,
and chastised me for taking my freedom
by gripping me tighter still.
I chirped as I wiggled free from his grip,
cocking my head in disbelief.
I spotted an open window and flew away,
my bird song filling the air...
"I almost died for you and you could treat me so."
on which I stand
In every direction
you could see....
my ancestor's eyes
And what their wise
What they feared
No longer do
the buffalo roam
has no home
And in the sky
eagles no longer fly
Saddened and ashamed
for I shared the blame
my head bowed
till they fell
upon a poisoned ground
Until anger found me
and I wanted to scream
I tried to shout
I gasped for air
but didn't dare
the pollution there
So, I had to leave
took their vice
and gave all things
Oh, Great Spirit
what have we lost
has a cost
all it takes to feel
ten again is to not
bundle up to shed
those layers that protect
middle age to dress
the breeze brush
my skin smile
as my mind hears
a wisp of that old phrase
"you'll catch your death
of a cold" strip off
shoes socks grin
as my bare feet grip
the pavement stride
into the wind try
to outrun the late
(First published in 2018 by
To the swamp from winter sleep in bluffs
four hundred million years old
down limestone slopes of spring-damp
native pine and greening hickory and oak
the slow reptilian parade winds across
the single lane we call Snake Road
a stretch of Forest Service gravel
gated against vehicles during migration
worm snake, ribbon snakeking snake
while visitors from across the country
come, sharp-eyed, to walk the road
red-bellied snakered milk snake
for this extraordinary glimpse
of life making its ordinary rounds
(from Encore Prize Poems 2018)
scantily clad nouns
make for the barest reactions
when verbs are chasing after
and adjectives missed the bus
giving adverbs no work for the day
naked sentences wear grim expressions
and punctuation finds itself huddling
on street corners, fingers wrapped around
prepositional bottles, swigging articles
why do titles matter in a world
of abandoned theses
we could come up with a plan of development
to make things better.
but the essay will still not reach
the required wordage,
and those nouns will still shiver
even when the hottest conclusions
Mayo Clinic! What's not to love?
In the U.S., it's the best!
It excels in knowledge and expertise,
Far above all the rest!
And in multiple buildings, on every floor,
On display as you walk by,
Is incredible artwork, special, unique
And pleasing to the eye!
To top it off, the staff has compassion.
They are dedicated to help you cope.
With a friendly smile on every face,
They offer comfort and hope.
I am sitting on the floor
and you are reading Sandburg.
Ten months from now,
I will recall this
against my better judgment.
And later I will listen
to a photograph of you.
This is two years before
my wife will tell me
of your liaison with drink,
and the death by fire
of your children.
(First appeared in
about their day,
Without a word
back too soon
I like it quiet—
a soft wind against a chain-link fence
a bird flapping its wings
or a bell chime off in the distance
I like the smells of spring
the juniper's strong odor of pine
The scent of lemon, sour and strong—
as vivid as its color
I like the feel of pure cotton
and Poodle hair, its texture
a gentle rough
The surface of dried semi-gloss paint
against a smooth wall
like the touch I used to feel from him
It's while I enjoy this quiet
The smells of spring
and the feel of cotton
that I wonder,
why can't I like
the likes of him
Crossing the border would be an act of faith
A father's fate would not fell this traveler
So finally it seemed a way to excise
Those demons of old that had not let go
This child of a wanderer would her turn find
Those places she read that lived in her head
It all worked out, that adventure south
To a canyon called Copper with Indians in caves
We climbed to the mountains in passes so steep
Till after a plane and a train and busses we reached
The land of those runners whose homes we did seek
A school for their children with boarding and foods
So different from caves and the meats they did know
We took them supplies and books and some paints
I taught them to use and we had an interpreter fine
Who could 3 languages speak as we shared our dreams
Painting hills and peaks against a colorful sky were so neat
What a way to overcome my fears of this far away place
A country where father had gone only to die
It seems my time was not yet o'er as I returned safely home
Amazed by all there I was even hired to share
With colleges studying that far away place
Where Indians could race all over the place
The subject of books like "Born to Run"
The wonder of many who are off the grid
Their lives are no longer a secret hidden
So now I reflect and know that my bones
Will not lie buried in that foreign place.
My fears are allayed and put aside to rest
And I'll live out my years with hope instead.
Wearing it takes me back to Juhu Beach,
to breakfast at the Holiday Inn where seawall
lifts the terrace above the beggars. There,
bound with rags to a palsied pole, a child
hoisted up from the strand to the brunching tourists,
her voice and hand outstretched and pealing, rupee?
rupee? rupee?.... Then management cast her down
again to where the sand schemed color
and sound: snake charmers; elephants sequined
in pink polyester; camels, too, harnessed in plumes
and saddled to ride. And gentlemen
sold stones and glass.
Walking through waves,
a man looked at the ocean while he kept time
with me and asked would I buy gemstones.
But I have come to see the BIG Jewel, I said.
To find God, hiding in the traffic and the cows,
in the burning stench-and-waft of sandalwood
and street trash. And yes, God smiled
from fat moonstones, dog-rubies, from faces haloed
in allusive hues, from handfuls of ashen sea,
from silver water pooled in sand, but it seems
God wears a darkness more than any beam or hold.
God nestles in the silty vein of seeking.
The mirror-core of beggar-children's eyes.
Like my eyes, closed, once home, faceted in longing.
(The Comstock Review
Special Merit, Muriel Craft Bailey Contest)
I found a treasure, I'm sure of it!
My very own Utrillo sketch!
You have seen it before,
a summer day, people on their way
to church, to market.
But mine is different.
Black sky, snowy road.
Walls done in pink oil pastels.
Why not? Why not a sketch
he was fiddling with?
Why not a friend who says
her daughter would like it?
Why not found in a drawer,
then glued to a candy box
when times were desperate
and a gift was needed?
On the wall it goes!
Night. Winter. I shiver
and wiggle my toes.
It's the dog days of summer in the Midwest,
when heat and humidity rise too high, but not
on this day. Instead it's cool, and I'm mesmerized.
The two trees that have always been in our yard
have not only grown tall, but their branches
appear to have crossed the entire yard just to touch.
The tops have bent over, looking as if
they await the first notes to play
so they can dance. I sit, taking in the scenery:
a silver maple and a pine that appear to be in love
on a summer day that feels like autumn. I can
see the branches have created the shape of a
heart. It's quite beautiful, but the moment hasn't
yet arrived. A slight breeze starts the music,
and the sounds of summer combine
with an autumn breeze. The trees begin their dance,
the yard springs to life, and all the sights and sounds
that I know you would have adored ring out. The
different birds call out their parts of the song, and for
a moment I thought I heard a cicada sing, and I
felt you beside me again, watching nature dance.
I looked to see if you might really be here,
only to realize this was your gift sent to me.
You always knew how to make me smile.
It was all I've ever wanted.
A perfect moment.
Years back, a friend, mother of four,
admitted she hid candy bars among her
lingerie, brings them out on the Q.T.
"Have to," she said. "Those monsters
hear a wrapper three blocks away."
A new mother — I was horrified. How selfish
can you get? When I was a kid, we had a dog
like that who loved cookies. When the tin cookie
lid scraped, here came Pogo.
Still, to hide candy? Then our family grew
to include four sons. One day as I hid two
remaining cookies back of the soup cans,
my arm froze. Good grief. How selfish.
One son regularly stashed food, vitamin
sandwiches under the braided rug. Another snuck
his veggies to the dog when my back was turned.
In her later years, my Grandma hid
leftover hamburgers in her lingerie drawer.
Grandma Ida had survived the depression.
It's like our small granddaughter sings,
dancing through the house:
"I do what I do. I do what I do."
Perhaps there's a survival gene or two in us all.
In being a saint a person is close to God in many ways
The Dictionary defines a saint as being a holy person
This person follows Jesus teachings in their lives
To Jesus teachings by preserving the Christian faith
The word Saint comes from the Latin word Sanctus
This word Sanctus literally means a holy person who
Makes sacrifices for the good of others and works to
Live extraordinary lives of being heroic, virtue, miracles
This definition of a Saint describes my brother Bob
Bob took care of my little brother and me when we
were little and Mom was sick and on bed rest
Bob did the cooking, cleaning, washing and everything
My brother Bob worked as a farm hand to support the
Family when our Dad was unable to work to sustain us
Bob then got married and raised two great kids and became a
Member of the Baptist church and it was the miracle of
Bob's singing voice that inspired so many to come back to God
Thus Bob is always willing to help someone in need no matter
The faith of the person in need and so it is with great
Pride that I declare my brother Bob as a Saint because he has
Worked so hard through the years live his life for God and I
Look up to my brother Bob for every thing he has done for me
So it is with great admiration for the miracle of Bob's life that
Inspires me to be proud of our adopted lives, my Saint Robert
Dinner at the country house
of Guido and Floriana,
down a serpentine road in Le Marche,
a graveled path dipping into the valley.
Fresh cod and sole, headless
and silvery, on each plate,
Boiled chicory from the hillside,
tossed in oil from the olive grove,
roasted red peppers in turn.
For dessert, tangerines from Puglia,
Sicilian oranges, and a cake
topped with pine nuts, from Louanna.
The olive trees have had
three bad years, but tonight,
we celebrate the small harvest
of time and space, Bergamo and Chicago.
Tomorrow, we'll have wild rabbit
(First published in Peacock Journal)
after struggling with the thunderstorm all afternoon
losing many leaves and suffering several broken limbs
the young tree finds itself still
calm and serene
I am now grown up
then it melts into the woods
part of the scenery
I, myself and me-
who I am, my identity-
I express, I dress
in my sexuality.
For me to value you,
I first must value me-
learned from my eyes,
from the smile you see,
who I am, my integrity.
Purity lies not with dress,
but within hearts of you or me.
No one can address a burka-
all you see is a bag, not the person-
and when a sack must masque a woman,
what does that say about the men?
(First published in Nomad's Choir)
as we came around a curve in the road
through a break in the trees
we could see standing tall
the upright arms of the bridge
like shining silver wings
as if the bridge could lift itself
and fly somewhere else
somewhere with a greater need
than on this small highway
in a part of the state less inhabited
the road across was smooth
and the traffic as expected was less
as we turned into the old city
with the painted wall beside the river
and the antique shops and taverns
lining the streets behind them
and where on weekends tourists
would fill parking spaces and sidewalks
buying souvenirs and drinking beer
while the bridge stands tall
fulfilling its duty
and waits for them to cross
on their way back home
Her muddled brain is a trap door
Where words and people slip from
View and hide in spaces she can
No longer seek, her graying
Memory a retriever never returns.
The once sharp peaks of her mind
Eroded to sandhills, slowly erased
By the winds of ninety-two years,
Her infant-like gaze reflects
A world she can no longer grasp,
Like a word on the tip of the
Tongue that fails to fall off.
The eyes see the trick, but no longer
Recognize the magician, or
What's behind the curtain.
Her mind is the moon
In morning, as the sun illuminates
All parts of the world but her.
But tucked in her heart, she
Holds a nugget of
Love with the fervor
Of a newborn's mother,
As she sees her daughter and smiles.
in the knock-knock of a woodpecker
calling for attention
in a butterfly-quiver on the lip
of my car window
on the stained burgundy sofa
that still sags from his weight
inside the blue Sippy cup
abandoned in a cupboard
in a cardinal's swift flight
through a forsythia bush.
No longer in the urn of ashes,
but in the world surrounding
where his red hair and imprint
find me everywhere.
(Published in Blue Heron Review,
Nights, I'd buck steel rivets
at the trailer factory,
ears ringing, bleeding
a bit into cracked plastic
muffs fastened loosely to
a green hard hat. Green
for newbies like me just
beginning this vocation, hired
because I could read a tape
measure and would work extra
hours when needed. A degree in
literature did not make me a better
proletarian and I raged not against
the dying of the light but a more
gradual dying of self in such a dark place.
Driving home, I'd listen to early-
rising radio preachers casting
their skywaves toward the heathen.
Then up the fractured walk, into
a salmon-colored house where my
first wife woke, fried up some bacon
and eggs over easy just for me. She
was a woman who deserves better
than one line in a poem that doesn't even rhyme.
(Originally published in the chapbook,
My house is brimmed with books and flowers now.
A border collie sheds on wooden floors,
and music, cooking fill the hours somehow
'tween comings, goings, children slamming doors.
A kind of settled symmetry within,
abundance overtaking scarcity
So very slowly, passive we begin
to love our patterned domesticity.
But, I have come to like the silence too.
The house then standing nobly, strong and still
lets life reverberate around and through
reflections, ruminations felt until
their subtle energies fill every place,
touch softly souls who occupy its space.
(3rd Place, Winklebleck's Choice Award,
62nd Annual Poetry Contest, Poetry
Society of Tennessee, 2018)
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh . . . .
Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Sonnet XLIII"
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
were not recorded in a diary
that might fall open to unwelcome eyes.
Now rosebuds gathered near by memory
have scattered blithely, and I realize
what lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten. And what arms have lain
across my couch or shoulder in the chill,
when food and drink were plenty, laughter loud,
are nameless, faceless phantoms that no thrill
identifies. What drew me to that crowd?
I have forgotten, and . . . what arms have lain
under my head till morning; but the rain
that dews my cheek and lip with kisses, chaste,
runs trails of tears down windowpane to sill.
I dare not call those reckless days a waste,
their shapeless glow a pillow I must will
under my head till morning. But the rain
is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
against the screen door of my heart, obscure
yet welcome if they'd but step through. This night
won't quell my haunting, dull discomfiture;
forgetting, I'm forgotten, dimmed. Dim light
is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh.
Bits of white peeked out among green leaves
that hugged the damp earth along the path,
a patch of Dutchman's britches, or perhaps
trillium in bloom. I didn't stop to check.
Robins may have twittered in branches of budding oak
and birch, building nests. The river must have rushed
spring rain water through shadow pictures drawn by tree limbs,
dashed it over rocks and around the bend. Turtles
may have been sunning on partly submerged logs.
I only took a hurried hike. I did not turn aside like Moses
at the burning bush. I did not pay attention or listen
for the whisper of the Divine. I did not remove my shoes.
First published in Encore: Prize Poems 2016,
ed. Kathy Lohrum Cotton (National Federation of State
Poetry Societies, 2016)
She lingers some evenings on Jacki's deck,
on the boardwalk that leads down to the pool.
She came tonight to encourage the bearded iris,
the purple one she planted years ago,
before she passed on.
She loves Rod's pool, the way the slanting sunlight
plays on the bottom, and she thinks
of her days as a Water Sign.
Born June 30, a Cancer, she splashed to life
in the lakes of her beloved East Texas,
and at nine swam on to Grand Isle,
off the Louisiana shore.
Still swimming in her teens, she began life guarding
at Houma's city pool,
and dreamed of deeper waters.
She married and moved to South Texas,
had babies and took them all to the beach
at Boca Chica every weekend
for long stretches,
eleven months of the year.
Camping on the beach,
we shuddered at the breeze
and at the coyotes howling at the moon,
as muffled, crashing waves
sent us kids to sleep.
Our mother looked on in wonder
at her sandy-footed children
and at the waters of the Gulf.
Why in silence do I still sit distraught?
Wishing my secret find freedom and flight,
Yearning to give my heart long clouded, sight?
Husband, father, soldier in wars I fought.
Jailed in wrong body, soul forever fraught.
Lawn mower, your steed, slices morning light.
Your lithe body calls my love to alight
On your shoulder like a mourning dove caught
Without hope to change wrong body for life.
With you my knight, worlds join in dew freshness.
Dove's mournful call transformed to triumphant fife.
Your wave to my balcony lifts sadness.
It flies heart to hope, to love, without strife,
Allows revelation, conquers madness.
As the sun pulls up
the blanket of night
to its western chin
and sinks into slumber,
our neighborhood transforms
into a blend of haunting sounds.
An owl cries out—bats flit by—
something whispers in the grass.
A distant rumbling train wails out,
then wanes undulatingly away.
Two hidden toms of a feline triangle
howl their indignity into the dark.
A throaty sports car rushes by
with radio booming
the dangers of silence
with the safety of din.
The neighbors sit and gesture indoors
like a mute puppet couple between the curtains
of their lamplit picture window,
their children eating popcorn near a vacuous tube
that splashes youthful eyes with artificial color.
No boundaries here outdoors
except the neatly folded edges
of the universe, tucked in
behind a sea of gleaming stars.
When Monday morning opens up
its brilliant eastern eye,
a thousand fervent birds with thrill
and trill their greetings
through the bedroom window glass
in rows of mortgaged homes,
alerting sleeping citizens
the coast is clear once more
for them to venture outside
to their dewy cars
and motor off into their week.
(From Inward in Words)
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