poem for the unintended (#349)

one light bulb
uncountable shadows
darkness visible
darkness ignored

with every wave
there is an undertow
with every echo
there is silence between

hard lemon candy
shards of yellow glass
sweet becomes sour becomes bitter
stale aftertaste of empathy

bones separate
the rivers in the blood
grief is the deepest river
rage the quickest

carbonated words float
in zero gravity
weightlessness extends
to mediated emotions

I realize now
even the universe is restless

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Posted by on August 9, 2020 in new poetry


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Hydrants and Flags (#348)

When I was in elementary school
They painted all of the hydrants
In my small, suburban town
Red, white and blue
To commemorate the Bicentennial.
Two hundred years of National Pride
In a place still four years
From actually becoming a city.

I was ten.
I liked the holiday parade.
I thought the hydrants were weird
But pretty.
Better than yellow.
I was more excited for the Olympics
To show national pride.
What did I know of sacrifice
And rebellion
And national standards?

Four years later
The US boycotted the Olympics.
By then all of the hydrants
Had been repainted a standard yellow.

I was fourteen.
I no longer liked parades.
I was beginning to understand
How history is nostalgia
And patriotism is not always to be trusted.
My town was now a city.

Forty years later
I have moved back to this city.
The hydrants are a yellow
No one notices.
I still skip parades.
The flags that fly in front of my house change.
Sometimes red, white and blue
Sometimes rainbow
Currently pink ribbons.

I understand sacrifice
And rebellion
And personal standards.

And I cry while watching the Olympics.

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Posted by on August 8, 2020 in new poetry


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Bubblegum (#347)

I met her finger first (her cruel, cruel finger)
At Table 12 at Meadowbrook Middle School
During lunch.

It was a Friday.

I know it was a Friday because that was the day
We had our bubble blowing contests.
I was the best.
I was a connoisseur of bubbles.
I knew all the brands of gum,
Bubblelicious, Bubble Yum,
And my favorite, Dubble Bubble.
You never used any other types of gum,
I never chewed any other types of gum.
(except Big League Chew cause it came in a roll)
Never that stick thing in baseball card packs
Or spearmint or peppermint or anything like the adults chewed.
I didn’t care about my breath
Or trying not to smoke.
Gotta go for true bubble gum.
And I was so good, I knew exactly the right pressure to put on the gum.
If I stretched too far, I could feel it.
So when it was too thin and going to pop,
I knew to inhale at the perfect moment so
When it did, it just fizzled down instead.
And when I had it just right,
Just the perfect stretchiness, but also stable,
I could take the gum out of my mouth,
Wad between my thumb and forefinger,
And hold it up to be measured.
It was like art, a sculpture, free floating.
And if you think that was gross to pull the gum out of my mouth,
Remember, I was a 12 year old boy.
There were only two things that were gross–
School bathrooms and girls.
Well, on that Friday I was going for my record.
I wanted to get a 6 incher.
No one had reached that.
It was a perfect day.
No wind so when I took it out of my mouth it wouldn’t warp
In the breeze.
I had three pieces of Dubble Bubble (six times the gum),
It had already lost its flavor so that was perfect.
You needed to find that perfect place with gum
Between flavor and basically, cement.
That was when the bubbles formed the best.
I had done a couple of practice bubbles,
Just to check the elasticity.
I was ready.
A perfect bubble.
Smooth expansion.
It felt strong.
And then just as I was reaching up to pull the wad
Out of my mouth, to get that measured,
In came her finger.
The finger of the devil.



And I wasn’t ready for it.
Couldn’t inhale. No fizzle.
When I imagine it now, again,
I see it like a slow motion film.
A perfect circle
Flattening out
Spreading wide.
Of course I saw none of this.
I just saw gum,
Vaguely pink.
It covered me from ear to ear,
Forehead to chin.
I didn’t even see her walking away.
She didn’t laugh, she didn’t taunt.

Just walking by, thought I would burst your bubble.

Yea, I remember that Friday.

Now this is when the poem changes, right?
That finger became part of a hand I eventually held
And then kissed.
The finger was next to one I put a ring on
In an outdoor ceremony where there was no wind.
I still hate that woman.
In fact, my wife wanted to name our first daughter Isabel
And I said,
You can’t do that.
She will grow up to be called Izzy
And will burst the perfect bubble
Of twelve year old boys
Just because.
Actually, I didn’t say that
Because I don’t want my wife to think I have issues.
I just said,
No, I don’t like how that sounds.
But I was thinking that, really strongly.
And Izzy loved being hated.

We never talked about it,
Frankly, we never really talked at all.
But even now,
Once a year,
I get a package in the mail
Of grape Dubble Bubble
With a sketch of a finger.

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Posted by on August 3, 2020 in new poetry


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Pomp and Circumstance (#346)

There’s a swingset in a park
Near my house
Dark green frame
A little rusted in spots
Metal chains
Black rubber seats
One baby diaper chair
And foot grooves underneath in the sand
That fill up with water
After a storm

The perfect set to twist yourself into
Metal chains tying together
3 times, 4 times, 5 times (maybe)
And then the release and spin

The perfect set to pump so hard
And go so high
That the chains jolt at the top
Like an inward gasp of surprise
Before you start back down

And the sand, so easily marked
To show the longest jump
That sand has parts of my skin
Buried deep in its grains

And the perfect set,
At least recently,
For a tandem swing
Hands held across
Legs intermixed
As we gently rock

Last week
There was a sign in the park
Saying it would be closed for a while
So they can install new equipment
Safe plastic structures
With a bouncy rubber surface
The diagram on the sign
Doesn’t show a swingset

I guess those parts of me
Buried in the sand
Will just be covered up
Or dug up and dumped somewhere else
And the swingset
Will probably be recycled into metal chairs
For someone’s backyard furniture

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Posted by on May 12, 2020 in new poetry


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Pew Secret (#345)

He looked.
He couldn’t see.

She looked.
He wasn’t looking.
She saw.

She smiled.
He was looking.
She saw.

He smiled.
She wasn’t looking.
He saw.

Others looked.
They weren’t looking.
They saw.

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Posted by on May 11, 2020 in new poetry


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RaeAnn (#344)

Well, I just want to say,
Right away,
I ain’t no hero.
Never been a hero
Never gonna be a hero.
Never want to be a hero.

It’s not like I have any of those superhuman traits.
No flying.
No super speed.
Skin ain’t green
No webby stuff.
Can’t talk to fish.
No radioactivity at all.

I don’t really have any of those normal hero-y things either.
No burning buildings.
No CPR on the side of a lonely desert highway.
No ultimate sacrifice.
Never had the chance for any of those.
Frankly, never want to have the chance for any of those.
Way too much pressure.
Waaaay too much pressure.

And then there are those mythological types.
You know sword in the stone,
Flying hammer,
Big axe with a blue ox.
I have problems using chopsticks.
Much less the history.
My mama never dipped me in a river,
Dad never taught how to make wings of wax.
Never had to do twelve things to prove my worth.
I was just a normal suburban kid.

But after her,
The one hero that really kinda stuck with me was Orpheus.
Not the Walk out of Hades and don’t look back or you will lose your wife Orpheus.
Frankly, I am so nervous and unsure of my love
It that would have been me
I would have been backpedaling the whole way,
Come on, come on, come on!
Please, Please, Please!
Total failure.
Nah, the Orpheus I knew was the Orpheus who sang his grief so strong
He sang the sun down.
Even hell heard his pain.

When I was with her,I felt like Apollo taught me how to sing.
The early days , the good times,
Were just an old fashioned love song,
Playing on the radio.

Our days felt like they were made of guitar strings
And saxophone solos
And raindrops just like soft cymbal beats
And that whooshing of the wind into leaves
And then the wind chimes
Tinkling into a mystical tune
That no one else heard
And the wind dying down and the silence
The silence with her
It was music.
Damn it.
It was music.

Those were the good Orpheus days.
I was a singer then.
Maybe the closest I got to being a hero.
I was loved.
I thought I was loved.

Then the music, you know,
Kind of changed.
Like in Stairway to Heaven.
It starts out all slow and mellow.
Simple plucking notes on the guitar,
Some airy flute stuff.
Slow dance material.
You’re not even really listening to the lyrics.
Just dancing, baby, just dancing.
Then the driving drums drop in
And it picks up intensity
And you can’t hear the flute any more
And you’re a 12 year old boy
Dancing with a girl who is taller than you
In the middle of a running guitar solo
And you’re thinking
How slick your skin is
And your face is really close to her chest
And then it dies down really fast
And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven.

And that was it.
She decided the dance was over.
She just walked away.
We had the flutey part.
Lasted through the drum battle.
Left when the lyrics ran out.

That’s when I really felt like Orpheus.
Eurydice had kidnapped herself.
Even Hades
Was better than me.
She didn’t even give me a path to follow.
I was left with just the songs
Just the grief.
Cause losing everything
Was like the sun going down on me

So I ain’t a hero
Never going to be a hero.
Too afraid to be a hero.
I’m just a 12 year old boy
Sweating in an awkward slow dance

I may be able to sing like Orpheus.
But I’m doing it alone.
Na na na na
Na na na na
Hey Hey Hey
“Na na na na
Na na na na
Hey Hey Hey

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Posted by on April 25, 2020 in new poetry, Uncategorized


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gnarled (#343)

(for both of my grandparents)

only works
for the roots of trees
and the knuckles of old people:
things rooted in the earth
reaching for water or sun
but twisted in their own skin

in my old neighborhood
mature trees
dominated front yards
long-term residents
kept the yards raked clean
of needles and leaves
but the trees
ran out of room to grow
roots reached under
the smooth, fresh sidewalks
and pushed and cracked the cement
jagged edges now
to trip
the naive feet passing by

the city said
the only solution
was to cut down the trees

but don’t the roots deserve
to still reach for the sun?

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Posted by on April 24, 2020 in new poetry, Uncategorized


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Thin-aired (#342)

He has left pieces of himself
In places he can no longer find.
Flakes of skin
That settled into dust
That others have wiped away.

Every time he turns around
He is no longer there.

He has left his absence
In every room he has ever entered,
Rooms that are now always locked.
No one recalls his leaving.

He wants to believe that sound waves never die.
That we just can’t listen strongly enough
To hear them as they fade.
He has been listening for his first I love you
For years.
But the air is silent and thin.

When he lifts his hand to the sun
He can see it shining through his skin.

Was he ever here?

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Posted by on April 20, 2020 in new poetry, Uncategorized


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Remembrances (#341)

eucalyptus trees
before they fall into ash

–Margo: The sky is impossibly tall
–Jim: But night is taller

water and air

–Margo: Too far underwater
and you can’t even see the sky
–Jim: Light is just a memory

an orange peeled
but uneaten
one peel
one wish

–Margo: Speak to me

waves of drunken laughter
shadows grow larger
as we abandon
the streetlights

–Margo: Yesterday, I cried
–Jim: Yesterday, I cried

–Jim: Listen to me

lakes are always still
unless there is wind
or, maybe, people

–Margo: Help us reach the sky

is a good place to start

–Margo: The sky is impossibly tall
–Jim: It is just too dark to see

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Posted by on April 17, 2020 in new poetry, Uncategorized


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Green (#340)

(for Devanshi)

the first time I knew I was alive
I was
lying in dewy grass
listening to the blades
blending with the sunlight
streaming into my eyes
the surprise was
I felt like I could smell
the color green

of all the things, beautiful,
I have ever seen
only your eyes
match that feeling
(only your green eyes)
catch that moment
when I
could hear
dewy water rise
from the earth
and kiss the sky

with you I am alive

in your eyes
I smell the color green

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Posted by on April 16, 2020 in new poetry, Uncategorized


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