Monthly Archives: June 2013


“Help me harvest my garden,” you request.                            (published Ship of Fools, 1995)
And so I, city boy,
come to the country
to see what you grow.
But you show me only
steel artichokes (hearts
I can not touch)
and the empty places
already harvested.
You say storms
ruined the crops
and damaged the soil.
Tired of walking around
barbed wire fences
I ask what I can help harvest.
you smell the air
and say you feel another storm approaching
and leave to take cover.
I stand in the rain
and watch your artichokes rust.

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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in previously published



Pancakes                         (published Bellowing Ark, June 1997)

Finally, in the evening,
We yelled at each other,
Our anger echoing
Off mountain walls.
You hurled pine cones at me
And I tackled you
Into the thorny weeds
Scratching us both.

Bleeding from these shallow cuts
We tried to fill the sky
With our hurting words
But they slipped over the horizon
With the sun.

We stopped to watch
The colors fade
To comforting shadows.
Silently, in the moonlight,
You held the tent stakes
As I carefully pounded them in.

At dawn
We ate pancakes
From our black iron skillet,
Crusted with the burnt remains
Of other mornings.

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Posted by on June 16, 2013 in previously published



Family History                                   (college)

And so I fill the cracks with birdseed—
Mom’s recipe
Handed down from a chicken farmer.
But it seems to attract only
Carrion crows and irresponsible sparrows
Not the brilliant cardinal I like so much.
The pellets seep out, too,
To scatter like dandelion fluff
So I constantly refill the supply.

There has to be a better way.

But who am I to buck a family tradition?
     (just as my wife must make
      lasagna and meat loaf like my mother)
I know no other way
And spend my courage in keeping the cracks small.

Weather-worn, I fear I am not strong enough.

But really, why worry?
My parents have gone through life
Denying the cracks in their foundation,
As has the chicken farmer.
They were not broken and have not run out of birdseed.
Maybe they do not sing with the cardinal,
But the crows are company.

Everyone likes visitors,
Even sorrow.

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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in college



Lacking an organist                            (new)     (to be published in Cantos–2014)

He had never been good
At call-and-response,
Fumbling along at church, mumbling words
He hoped matched the devout person next to him.
In Spanish class as a kid
He mouthed the conjugations of verbs
While the teacher intoned them to others
Who knew what to say.
Only at baseball games
Did he read the clues correctly
Responding back in perfect time
To the organist’s call, confident and true.

So when she said to him after dinner
“I love you”
He hesitated.
He knew this called for a response.
But he was again standing behind wooden pews
Hoping someone with faith
Would say the words for him.
He did not know how to conjugate that verb.

If she had only said it as a chant,
“Na na na na”
              (Na na na na)
“Na na na na”
              (Na na na na)
“Hey Hey Hey”
              (Hey Hey Hey)
“I love you”
              (I love you)
He would have repeated the words to her,
Even screamed them if needed,
And he would have meant them, too,
Because he knew he did love her.

But he hesitated.
So she just heard her call
And not his response
Her invitation fading out over empty plates.



graduation                             (published Negative Capability, 1995)

a thing nearly forgotten:
                   two birds sat perched upon a wire.
                   i asked you which you thought would leave first.
                   you answered, “the right one.”
                   i asked you how you knew for certain
                   and you answered that wisdom comes
                   from watching and waiting.
                   so we watched and waited.
                   soon i grew tired of watching the unmoving birds
                   sitting on the wire.
                   i told you i no longer cared.
                   you called me “wise one” for the first time.
                   puzzled, i asked you why.
                   you said,
                   “it does not matter which leaves first.
                   both will eventually depart and so
                   will share in the doing.
                   when you stopped caring about
                   the order of things
                   your answer found itself.”

                   when i looked up,
                   the birds were gone.

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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in previously published




This is the white perimeter of sadness—
a smooth open field
constant as silence
still, but almost breathing

We do not talk of this space
choosing instead
to color the center of our life
with refrigerator magnets
Halloween costumes
and glass vases weighted with light blue stones

And if we sometimes catch a flash
of sunlight reflected off the whiteness
briefly blinding
we turn away
we turn inward
we do not talk as we plump the pillows
and sweep our hardwood floors

I have often thought
deep in the silence of our night
when you lie heavily next to me
of stepping into that whiteness
of breaking the crust of the field
with my footsteps
of sinking into the sadness
of listening for its breathing
of marking a path

But I, too, turn away
turn inward
and do not tell you in the morning
that I dreamt of snow

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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Uncategorized



Why Jim Stopped Writing

He burned them
one by one–
           ashes to ashes
           dust to dust–
the funeral of the damned
performed by an expert.

Smoke curled between pines—
           past scars that never healed
           past glories that gave him scars.

He sniffed them once, perhaps,
to remember paper airplane dreams
and the baiting of asses,
then threw dirt upon the embers;
a slave burying his master
forced to euthanasia to break his bonds.

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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in old discoveries