so … um, er … yeah, there’s this poem-ish thing

There’s this poem-ish thing that surprised me, including how it told me in no uncertain terms that I would end it just as the muse instructed, though my first instinct was to delete-delete-delete. Here goes. It’s been a while. I don’t have a title. I’m in shock that I have a poem. A poem-ish thing!


You have said mostly
nothing. Not Please,
no. Not Fuck you.
Not even Good bye.
And I also speak little
about this farewell
we suffer. No damage
from strange summer
earthquakes or hurricanes
but the rubble of this —

I have heard those
who are buried alive
can’t be freed all at once,
the weight upon them
lifted slowly enough
as not to shock
the lungs, the heart,
or flood tissue
with too much
rushing in all at once.

Or is that the theory
about leaving
the knife in the wound? No,
that rule’s about losing
everything, spilling more blood
than is necessary to prove
your point.


Or maybe there’s a clue to the title in that last line … I dunno.

catching stone 22 & tossing it back to deb

Plane, twilight

We keep flirting with this word:
Destination. But he will have none of us.
We’ll have to settle, instead, for taking
his rival Retrospect to bed. The trouble
with turning back to the city of departure is
we’ve been behaving as though

we left it behind.

Silver wings glimmer with the false notion
they fly toward the sun. They’ll never be any closer
than they are now. One way,

or another,

they’ll come back to the ground without
having kissed a single star.


Deb’s stone #22 is here; my leaning toward the sun poem is here. This piece kind of loses interest for me after “silver wings,” but I will work with it.

from seeds here & in my backyard

Sunflower plants turn
toward the sun weeks
before flowers arrive.

The stalks must convince
the blossoms they know
what they are doing, well ahead
of believing themselves

buds will arrive.


My son Jack planted sunflower seeds in the circular flower bed we created inside our fence a couple years ago. We have alternately planted something there and let the weeds have their way. I noticed this year, for the first time, that the plants have been practicing following the sun across the sky. I’d always thought they waited for the flowers.

I wanted to write about it, though not make a poem containing only it. So I’m considering this a seed of its own. And it’s related for me to these (Deb’s 18th and 16th stones). It’s also, of course, not un-related to things going on in my life at the moment and how you can’t always hold the belief that something lovely is going to open up. But you do what you do because something somewhere in you knows.

I want to at least, for now, name it something unrelated to sunflowers. Maybe I will call it, “Hiring movers” or something. Not sure.

Going back a couple months …


The surprise that the new day begins so
soon after midnight, that we climb
from the murky bottom of one day
to the narrow opening of another. The newcomer

in the wake-up mirror appears bewildered,
like a scarf discovering it has two ends
and knowing right away that it will wrap both

around its lover’s neck. No one doubts
the fragility of the clearing inside
the throat, how its compromise is both
easy and deadly. Everyone is

ashamed of these imperfect affections,
old anxieties, torn between an idea of love
and its good practice. What’s difficult about
staying faithful is what’s difficult about squeezing

blue from the sky — no amount of wishing
makes it possible. We try it on: say
“dust wings” instead of “moth,”
say “come singing” instead of “men

beneath my window.” Our explanations
evolve just like our bodies: not clay
happenstance, something closer to fog,
yes, fog that unfurls from the perfect

and predictable set of conditions to obscure,
assume any shape it chooses to keep. Simply:
we go where we can walk without tripping over
our own stories. What the mouth accepts

from the cup is its own business. I want to learn
to go out with no shell. There’s infinity to consider.
And how I want to live through it all.
He tries to tell me, “Even miracles grow in rows

in fields just like corn, sweetening
at ordinary intervals.” I tell him, “No.
I must be the one to crawl then, up, out
of the sea to the land.” But that’s already been

done. And here we are now: at the river,
which dreams (of course) about the mountain
it left behind, remembers each lover
lost as a turquoise morning that followed

a hollow black night.


Remember this list of words (“An idea from Deb’s poem”)? Deb had used lines/phrasings from a final offering at The Big Tent to make a poem, and I sifted through her lines for pairs of words. You can visit that first link for the list of pairs (and they are below, as well, though interrupted by my notes). The only pair I didn’t use was “want warehouse” because I’ve already used that one (here).

I started this one in May by attempting a word association, writing down the first thing that came to mind from each pair. That list is below (at the end of this post). So that was May. I did it, and promptly forgot about it. And got distracted. And once in a while lamented about leaving it to collect dust, but still failed to return to it. And then a friend reminded me about the list, and I decided I’d been avoiding it too long. Sit down and write the fucking poem, already! (I said to myself. And meant it.)

And so that’s what I did last night and tonight. I tried to use them in order, and I tried to use my original thought/association, though I didn’t always succeed. Clearly, the draft above is the result of an exercise. I can’t get away with all that in a subsequent effort, but I feel good that I finally got back to it. And I think I found some things worth looking at again.

midnight surprise
The surprise that the new day begins
so soon after midnight

wake-up mirror
The surprise of the wake-up mirror

scarves discover
Like a scarf discovering its true love, its perfect neck

clearing inside
I didn’t expect to find this clearing inside

these imperfect
I am ashamed of these imperfect

want warehouse
There is a want warehouse, storage

anxiety torn
my anxiety torn between

about difficulty
What is it about difficulty that

squeezing blue

squeezing blue from the sky

dust wings
Dust wings is another way of saying moth, of saying

come singing

the men come singing beneath my window

clay happenstance
Our evolution just clay happenstance, just as easily, we could be

keep simply

keep simply what you cannot do without

walk without

i cannot walk without tripping over

accepts cup

what the mouth accepts from the cup

no shell

i go out with no shell

there’s infinity

there’s infinity to consider

miracles fields

miracles grow in row in fields just like corn

at ordinary
At ordinary intervals

crawling then
Crawling then up out of the sea to land

river dreams
The river dreams about the mountain it left behind

turquoise morning

each lover lost is remembered as a turquoise morning

yes fog
Yes, fog is the stuff that obscures

A response to reading Deb’s stones


I wake from a dream about an epidemic
and makeshift hospital with my left eye swollen.

There is no such thing as coincidence — only vestiges of trips
we remember in the strangest contexts, the smallest pieces.

What’s infected my lid is too tiny to be seen.
Memory’s that way. We throb and tear

with no visible cause. I work in silence at packing,
empty the dresser and closet I will leave.

Pulling sweaters from a top shelf, I feel a familiar pain
in my back, a slight twinge that will lead to days of spasm.

Lying on my stomach with ice on my back, suddenly
(but carefully) I am in that house on Taylor again,

on the floor where I covered myself with a red blanket
and wished the recurring pain away. The men

come and go, never warning they may not return.
I had no idea we would lose one another, no idea

we would find one another. These things happen
in patterns. No one knows the proper order, but learn instead

we are all foragers. Drawers here are going to be vacant
only a while. They’ll fill with new findings in need

of place. We may not ever remember what we started with
but we’ll weep about it a long, long time.


I’ve been dropping random notes into a document for this one for a few days. It may not be woven together entirely here (and of course some things may not belong at all). And of course, it’s a first draft.

It echoes more than my emotion about what Deb’s been posting; you’ll hear very clearly a couple of her phrasings: foragers all and remove all vestige of that strange trip.

deeper down

Like many of you, I receive daily emails with poems in them from places like The Writer’s Almanac and The Academy of American Poets. I’ve been so detached from myself that not only have I not been writing, I haven’t even been interested in reading poetry much. In fact, I’ve been deleting every single one of these poems when they show up in my in-box.

One part of my writing practice used to be to read a poem and let it inspire a draft as a quick exercise. Today, I looked at the Poem-A-Day. It was Robert Frost’s “For Once, Then, Something.” I’m not a Frost fan, but it caught my eye. The word “something.” I’d used it as a heading for yesterday’s post. So I read and found a pair of lines I thought I could use to launch “something else.” Here are Frost’s lines:

Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture

And here’s an attempt at “something else” (#day2ofprojectgetovermyselfandwrite):

appointments with landlords*

there she is. a face where
she never expected. reflection
in vacant downtown apartments’
bathroom mirrors. dozens. voices behind
tell what’s included with each
woman’s second attempt:
“tub & shower. ceramic tile.
heat & hot water.” disappointment
mostly in dingy properties
strange men offer up. there
she is. longing for something more
again. and already.

*working title



corner of your eye sees. things not there really.
apparitions don’t register twice. circle the block
looking through fence-openings. small white cat
squeezes into the space between. doubt and certainty
are all. even the mouse caught in the jaw ponders.

UPDATE 12:45 p.m. EST
been so long since i’ve attempted a poem … feel like poking at it some …


corner of your eye sees. things not there really. twice
apparitions don’t register. circle block. look through
fence-openings. small white cat squeezes into space
between. doubt and certainty are all. warped boards
and splinters. caught in jaws, even mice ponder.

(A response to this.)

No fish poems yet!? In the meantime …

Here’s some visual inspiration (a small selection of photos from my most recent trip to Portland)!