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.



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.)

June poetry gong: Carolee’s #3

Killing a beetle

I don’t want to get to know you, but I want even less to know the sound of you dying beneath my shoe. I am not afraid of death, but I do fear the noises it makes. This consequence — the crunch of bone, exoskeleton against my sole, audible collapse of kindness — brings to mind the crushing of protections that should keep us safe: the skins of planes, the skulls of children. How I cringe in anticipation of your demise, shudder at the thought of stomping. Your greatest defense is forcing me to think twice.


I had some of this last night and I almost stayed up to finish it, but sleep beckoned louder. I like the idea of this, but not its execution. I think it’s one I need to free-write on and then pull out the stranger bits for the poem. I have skull-crushing on my mind. “Bumped her head” made it into my butterfly poem, if you remember.

On Wednesday, my oldest son tripped and fell on his head on the concrete while he was in NYC for a field trip. Instead of a boat tour and museum trip, he got an ambulance ride and a few hours of observation in the ER. He’s fine. And it’s such a relief. He handled himself so well, and if I may pat myself on the back, I handled myself pretty well, too (jumped on a train and brought him home).

But I think the panic is working its way through my body. My back is in near lock-down mode, and just last night I had a nightmare about the same son getting hit by a car right in front of me. The images were so terrible and powerful I sat up for about 45 minutes replaying the accident and how I could have prevented it. Considered what I could have done differently. The dream accident, mind you. The dream one. I have promised myself to never give a description of the images in that dream. I want them erased, not embedded further.

Apparently, I was more stressed from his big NYC adventure than I thought. It’s seeping out in dreams and in poems.

June poetry gong: Carolee’s #2


as though she has nowhere to go
(which is different from having nowhere she has to be)
as though no one waits for her at the bar (at any bar)
as though desire is an afterthought (it’s not about you)
as though no babies will miss her while she’s gone
as though she may be gone long as she likes
as though she bumped her head
as though amnesia
as though kissing everyone she sees (right on the lips)
as though air is her only dance partner (& ours)
as though trying too hard just isn’t done
as though flower is now (& next)
as though you & me as much time
as we want


I realized when I got to the kissing line that I could make wings out of this if I wanted to. And why not? It’s a gong. Being silly is encouraged. I like some lines better than others. And some transitions simply seem to be missing. But I’m pleased to squeeze in a draft between work and a lacrosse game. Off to the fields now!

June poetry gong: Carolee’s #1


When Jeff Goldblum turns
into a fly on the movie screen,
I am 14 and suffering
my own transformation.
In front of my eyes fragments,
fragments everywhere, dozens
of images that refuse to
become one. Even now,
the world is in pieces.
It’s in pieces, and so
we invent our own excuses,
say, I see three of me
and four of you and
together we are only two.

I fly I fly I fly except when I creep,
creep along window frames
(panes in every house) buzzing with
buzzing with the hope
some of us will make it out alive.


I took some notes for this on the train to NYC early this afternoon, and now that all the kiddos are tucked safely (thankfully!) in their beds (or in the case of my injured oldest son in MY bed), I turned the notes into my first contribution for the gong. I didn’t intend for it to become an extended metaphor. Well, I’m not sure it’s even that. What I mean is, I didn’t mean to stick with the fly image. I had others I wanted to include, but I didn’t manage to work them in. Maybe I’ll graft them onto a revision of this, or maybe they’ll make their way into a different piece.

P.S. “14 and suffering?” I know. Ugh. 🙂 But don’t claim it ain’t so!!

More on forgiveness

A flower behind my ear


White blossom big as a fist
against the side of my head—
even when I listen carefully,

the fragrance reveals nothing.


Once, there was a whisper
in my ear, knife at my cheek, scrape
of a man’s voice, predictions,
like this is going to ruin you.
And now? I still tell no one

whose hand’s on my knee.


If ever we need forgiveness,
it will be for this:
nothing anyone gives us is enough.

Resent the empty stalk.

Shame on the flower
for not being able to live.


And so this theme of forgiveness (most recently in Deb’s Because we are hungry) keeps luring me. Along with the associated themes of guilt and responsibility. I am so surprised where this went. And I fought it a long time. I think it’s one of those drafts that barely makes sense to anyone except its author. I don’t plan on adding any kind of narrative or exposition, but instead, think revision calls for amping up its “offness.”

Because we are hungry

Because we are hungry, we feed on fringe,
we graze on the swinging haze of misplaced
longing, sigh with a sullenness that smolders
like forest fire embers hidden in dark ash,
wind lashing old heat to burn renewed.

If only this raw hole was from lightning
strikes, the scar a stripe wedded to amber.
We’d eventually feel new growth push out
of us, we’d scavenge beetles & seeds & delight
in scalded snags, raised like flagrant flagpoles.

But our scar is not from arson or a loosened
signal fire. It’s worried flesh rubbed raw–
an effect of the forgiveness we do not believe
we need but cannot afford to refuse.
Our emptied stomachs, tattoos of desire.

/ / /

Riffing on Carolee’s fabulous first line, having changing the tense.