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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Marilee (#339)

I was there when he brought you
Blue morning glories
Fresh lover
Confident in his kisses

I wanted to tell him
Of your fear of the sky on cloudless days
How you rub your hands religiously in the cold
To keep your fingertips pink
And how he needs to sing to you
In the language of yellows and greens

But I knew you loved him
And would forgive him
And would never tell him
About your perpetual sadness

As you thanked him
For those beautiful flowers
I quietly lowered my blue, blue eyes
As a gift to you

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Posted by on April 5, 2020 in new poetry, Uncategorized


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Reading my poems on Instagram (#338)

My mother doesn’t like hearing my poetry.
She is afraid of the darkness in them.
She is afraid of the darkness in me.

I have told her that
The doubt and the fear and the pain
In my poems aren’t always real.
I am just presenting that these things exist.
But for her, words are not metaphoric or symbolic–
They are truth.
Words do not imply–
They tell what you think and feel.

She still listens to my poems.
After all, I am her baby boy
Even if I am in my 50s.
But she doesn’t like hearing little Bobby
Contemplating mortality
Or sorrow
Or secret desires that should stay secret.

She has not shared those things with me
My entire life.
But because I know these things exist,
I know she has felt them.
But she has never allowed herself the words
To express them.

This week I read a happier poem, just for her.
She didn’t respond.
I don’t think she believes it.

I will not read my mother this poem.
She would not like it.

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Posted by on March 30, 2020 in new poetry, Uncategorized


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The proper way of playing in the rain (middle-aged edition) (#337)

No jacket
(c’mon, that was obvious)
Sprinkles don’t count
It’s got to be a real rain
Stop short of severe tropical storm, though

Listen for the sound first
When it hits the roof (porch, car, church)
In one continuous wave
That’s when you open the door

Don’t ease your way out
One big stride
Pause for at least 30 seconds
Let the water soak in
Don’t shake your hair
Feel it drip
If you wear glasses
Now you can take them off
Blurriness is perfectly acceptable

Turn and look at the people
Who are watching you and judging you
Invite them out
The one who accepts, kiss them (him/her)

Look at the sky
With your eyes closed
Opening your mouth is optional

Grab your partner’s hand
Walk farther out
When you run into a puddle
Skirt around it
(kids would jump in)
When you run into the next puddle
Look at your partner
Squeeze and agree
And splash in
(remember, kids would jump in)

Begin to dance
In that way we all know
Arms out wide
Head tilted back

Because….you know….

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Posted by on March 29, 2020 in new poetry, Uncategorized


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