Archive by Author

Regular Poem: Stiff-Necked

20 Nov

It is a stiff-necked people.

I always liked the phrase
but never quite understood it.

Until my own neck became stiff
my muscles tense
pulling my ribs out of alignment.

I had always imagined the Isrealites
gazing unchangingly
at their molten idol–
just being jerks,
focused on whatever
was in front of them.

But I get it
now.

They weren’t stiff-necked just because of that.
It was the accumulation
that made them that way.
They carried their stress in their shoulders
their trapezia, their rhomboids.

They were stiff-necked
metaphorically
stubborn and proud
but probably also
literally
after years of wandering and waiting.

You delivered me from bondage in Egypt
just to murder me in the wilderness.

I’ve seen the manna,
the magical, the miraculous.

And yet here I am
begging for a golden calf.

It is a stiff-necked people.

It is a stiff-necked me.

I need a massage.
And to repent.

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Regular Poem: It’s Always Rosebushes

3 Oct

my stance on rosebushes
(to recap: fuck them;
they’re the worst)

is well-documented

consider then
my chagrin
horror even

discovering
and contemplating

that i am one
damn it

my pastor’s sermon sunday
(and you see now it’s
tuesday
and i’m still thinking about it;
one or both of us
is at least doing
some t h i n g
right)

was about change growth
sanctification
(if you want to be like that
and he didn’t say the word
and i didn’t think it—
till just now)

to paraphrase

heat affects us all
(common grace, common tribulation)
and the way we respond
shows our heart
our root

are we inhabiting the parched places of the wilderness
or are we
as a tree planted by the waters

do men gather grapes of figs
or thorns of thistles

he went on to say
people don’t plant
thorny things
thorny things
spring up
from sin
from that heart of the old man
who hangs around
wolf whisting
scoffing

but of course
people do plant rose bushes
pretty flowers ugly thorns
vines and vines and vines
horrible and intricate and beautiful

the roots are long and sturdy
difficult to disrupt
you dig and dig
and sweat and sweat

and from that root
comes great and terrible
alike

you deadhead
you prune

and still
it’s both flowers and thorns
and still
a hearty rosebush
is the only discernible t h i n g

i ought not
have these thorns
i ought to be a mum or pansy

but here i am
this rosebush

heart divided
heat and rain encouraging
both flower and thorn

Regular Poem: Throwing a Rug Over It

18 Sep

i’ve been throwing a rug over it
for years
literally years
all the chances to fix it
fell through
all the windfalls
burned up in emergency vet bills
all the months i could’ve saved
i went to the casino instead

i’ve been avoiding it for months
keeping a quart of oil in my trunk
to slosh accidentally onto my
black patent leather pumps already late to church

i’ve been using a different mirror for weeks
the light fixture barely worked in the first place
half of it crapped out years ago
but an electrician would take one look
at my hobbled together ’50s diy circuitry
and give me a million dollar estimate
and i’d rather use a different mirror
and go to the casino

i make my bed
i sort my mail
i floss my teeth
i pick out my clothes for tomorrow the night before

easy
small
ritual
order
agency

if the train moves forward
always forward
always on the rails
always the same direction
all the cars go too

if the ship is sinking but can limp home
you throw stuff out
barebones
keep the sails up
prayer and fasting prayer and fasting

ignore tolerate hope
grin bear it
longsuffering forebearing

agency
order
ritual
small
easy

i run the dishwasher
i make my lunch for tomorrow
i vacuum
i keep fresh flowers on the dining room table
i set my alarm

and i don’t wake up the next morning
a different person in a different house in a different life

i know because
there’s that rug over that ruined parquet
there’s that change engine oil light
there’s that lightswitch that switches on nothing
and
there are those clothes i picked out that lunch i packed that same
face in that alternate mirror

time and money slip through fingers
dreams and ambitions slip just as easily
one foot in the grave the other
on a banana peel

so i’ve been throwing a rug over it
for years

Regular Poem: Amazing Feats of Strength

3 Sep

thirty years as a professional ballerina
say it over again and think on it

that’s like those 60 year old firefighters
still putting on 75 pounds of gear and dragging a hose up 8 flights of steps

a specimen

let me see your muscles
show me
meet me in an alley
and i’ll slip you a twenty to punch me
just once

thirty years dancing the most grueling physical dance
i did the research, lady,
most of you don’t last five
fifteen is a good career

thirty

thirty years a ballerina
i just want to see you naked
quiz you about your scars and injuries
hear your politically incorrect stories from the early ’80s
let the horror and humanity of it wash over me
a wave of things i’ll never experience or fully understand

i never took ballet
hardly even like it
leapfrog over myself trying to translate the french phrases involved
but thirty years
you hooked me
you’ve got me

tell me everything

i can be interested in anything
if the person talking to me about it is sufficiently invested
hours of my life gone talking about
video games i’ll never play on consoles i’ll never own
crops i’ll never grow in fields i’ll never see
engines i can’t visualize with horsepowers i can’t put into context
romances starring people i’ve never met
i’ll listen if you love it
i love to listen
if you love to talk

but this

it’s almost mythical

and i ache for it

Regular Poem: A Rosebush for Emily 

10 Jul

there’s a moth
that nests in walnut trees
makes a web
in which its numerous young cycle through
their nascence and adolescense
and then sneak out in adulthood
leaving entire braches
silken and draping and drooping
with gauze-covered crispy vacated cocoons
the tree is no worse for it
but it has a look about it

it has a look about it
like the brick wall of a house
overgrown with ivy
the same ivy creeping
all the way around back
up the porch
engulfing like lava
slow and steady and so much

it has a look about it
like dead honeysuckle
which is itself
like a tumbleweed that doesn’t tumble
just a sad carcass on a wooden fence
instead of a ghostly drifter on a forgotten highway

it has a look about it
like a gnarly rose bush
all briar and no beauty
the red seeping out of the flowers
into the vine
or maybe the blood of its victims
pricked on its cacophony of thorns

it has a look about it
like rusty lawn ornaments
and gutters full of accidental compost
and faded furniture
and dust on tile

it has a look about it
of abundance then neglect then decay

it has a look about it

but those moths never hurt anybody

it has a look about it
but don’t we all

Regular Poem: One Goal at a Time

30 Apr

the next thing is
finding a dry cleaner
or maybe grapefruit spoons
no definitely the dry cleaner
considering
how evening wear
rather too consistently for comfort
buys me a couple drinks chats me up
and ends up living in my spare bedroom

in my fantasy version
of the scenario
it’s a front for the russian mob
and the little old lady who runs it
also does alterations
she takes a shine to me
teaches me how to make borscht
and i accidentally get mixed up
in a crime ring for a while

the fantasy for the grapefruit spoons
is a lot less action
less ambiance
just magically
having all matching flatware
without the tedious step of
going through all my flatware
the fantasy quickly
devolves into boring children’s book
if you give a gal a grapefruit spoon


if you give a gal a grapefruit spoon
she’ll want butter knives with the same fleur-de-lis handles
and if you give her the butter knives
she’ll want a fancy butter dish

butter dish leads to gravy boat
gravy boat to tea set
tea set to good china
good china to crystal whiskey decanter

and if you give a gal a crystal whiskey decanter
she’ll surely
drink some whiskey and
if she drinks some whiskey
she’ll more than likely
buy more evening wear online

Regular Poem: Happy Anniversary

29 Apr

she wears
a skirt suit
to toss her bouquet
a girl pelts them with rice
who’s got on actual bobby socks
and they drive off
in who knows
probably a studabaker
her taking off her tiny white gloves
him wearing a smart tweed sport coat
and giving the camera a rather dumbfounded stare
but she’s grinning
somebody probably said something
kinda naughty
and he’s the sweetest gentleman
and she’s well
she’s my alto buddy
who laughs and elbows me in the ribs when i say naughty stuff

i could say
i wish i would’ve been there
felt the cool metal of those folding chairs
in 1963
and watched as these two souls joined together
and fed each other cake
and were so young and handsome and full of unknown tomorrows

but that would be a half lie
and for all the naughty stuff i say
that she enjoys and indulges me in
i’m not a liar

i like them now
i like knowing them at this section
of life
and fawning over black and white photos
and hearing stories about all the vehicles they owned
when they lived in germany
and all the people
they kept
ridiculously and fortuitously running into there

seeing the hindsight
reveling in the miracles
identifying the stray pieces that God has quilted together

that only people
who have lived long and well and abundantly
can show you

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