Monday, December 8, 2014

Hard Scrabble

kneading under umber moon
this torpid eve-dusk

morning, sharp and spry
we chew our fruited baked rusk


This is a Coin poem I wrote a year or two ago. 

A coin poem comprises: 

  • a rhyme pattern of a-b c-b or a-a b-b
  • two stanzas of two lines each stanza
  • syllable count of 7 & 5 per stanza
  • the content should be a like coin, opposing ideas juxtaposed against one another

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Twenty Questions for Ego

1. Who gave you your nickname? 2. Does it still fit? 3. How has your identity evolved over the past five years? 4. Do you feel you belong to an identifiable community or do you fly solo? 5. Which caresses your ego more: flattery or affirmation?  6. When was the last time you took a bath? 7. Have you ever foraged for mushrooms? 8. Did you find a Destroying Angel? 9. Did you taste it? 10. In your theology, does grace have meaning? 11. Should it? 12. Why didn’t your parents name you Chris? 13. If your name is Chris, wouldn’t you rather be Gene? 14. How old were you when you spied your first gray hair? 15. If no gray hair yet, when do you anticipate going bald? 16. Do you find life is one impossible question after another? 17. Have you ever free-associated with the word “hinge?” 18. What about free-based? 19. On a jejune note, do your socks match? 20. Why is that?

--a prompt from Jim Moore

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


This is how death looks:
on Earth, a beginning and
an end.
But from the top of the sky,
it's a circle.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Bless me Father, for I have sinned
Five years since my last confession
Envy, anger, my transgressions
Of my faults, with haste rescind
But there’s a fault, unfairly pinned
It was not due to indiscretion
Bless me Father, for I have sinned
Five years since my last confession
On Baltic Sea, of clothes, I skinned
In frigid waters, I was freshened
There’s joy indeed, free of possession,
Not a stitch I wore nor was chagrined
Bless me Father, for I have sinned
Five years since my last confession

Friday, September 5, 2014

Little Story about Susie and Dar

The girls were bored and at a loss
To find a treat that did not cost
An arm, a leg, no more a dime
They chose confectionary dross

They pulled two nickels from the grime
And gave them to the clerk part-time
He took the coins, he let them drop
Into the drawer, like bells they chimed

The girls ran from the candy shop
Their hearts aglee with what they'd got
Susie reached in, to her surprise
A fist of icky greenish glop

Back to the store with angry eyes
The girls cried foul, they did despise
Their hopes of candy were not met
The clerk endured their cruel chastise

When Susie said, "You are in debt!"
The clerk's raised brows began to sweat
"Please, Miss, you see, I didn't mean,
to cause you all of this upset."

Miss Sue, she counted to fifteen
Then calmly said, "What do you mean?"
The clerk, named Dar, a smile spread
On lips up to his eyes of green

I found your face, your golden head
Your lilting voice and what you said
It charmed me so, I wanted more
I tried to speak, my voice, it fled

The trick I used, I do deplore
I never meant to make you sore
If you'll forgive, let’s make a plan
To quell our silly little war

Miss Sue, she liked this scheming man
She asked her friend, "Oh, please, Dianne,
If you would hasten to my house
And straighten up the white divan

Dianne, all-knowing, did not grouse
She promptly scampered like a mouse
She cleaned the couch, and baked some bread
She hoped the two, they would espouse

Which they did, in weeks, were wed
Their love it tied a tidy thread
But when Dar makes a sweetened sauce
Sue fears something else instead!


This Rubaiyat, a Persian-form of poetry, first appeared in, April 2013

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Panning for Staurolites

We hunted for Fairy rocks on the Mississippi river bank
today. Water over Blanchard Dam crashed upriver,
cicadas droned in their torpor of late day heat.
My cheeks rosied-up without my straw hat,
and despite our modest success, my son
sat on a jutting rock, marked by indifference.

When a boy nears his 15th year, indifference
might as well be capitalized. His father, but a bank
and chauffeur, his mother, even less, a son’s
embarrassment. But we paddle forth on this adolescent river
of hormones and hope for the best. Hang on to your hat,
chuckles Grandpa, that boy’s burning heat.

When Grandpa was 15, WWII heated
the air. His parents doffed their different-
sounding German accents, wore their hats
low. At night, Mutti would pull shades, bank
the fire, make the sign of the cross while the river
took her eldest son away to the coast. Her son

vowed to aim low in case the enemy was the son
of her sister still in Berlin. Then lightning heats
the air and Grandpa sighs remembering the river
that took his brother away returned an indifferent
shell of a man who could only put money in the bank,
no treasure in his heart, who kept his hat

on his head when Old Glory waved. His hat
on his head, whispered Mutti, tears for her lost son
who came home from Paris like a 1930’s banker’s
book, closed and beaten, an indifferent
man. Yellow chin of a Blanding’s turtle flashes in the river

next to the rock where my son sits, Upriver,
a cacophony of gulls call; one swoops the hat
off an old man’s head. Hey, he cries, but it is indifferent
to our protestations, all a superfluous chatter, assonance
without meaning. Our feet blue, we seek the heat
of our dry socks and shoes lying on the bank.

Pascal insisted that a river made no difference
On either side of the bank, a man still wears a hat
And a son still grows up to pack heat in wartime

Friday, July 25, 2014


Warm milk might soothe unless it’s sour
Likewise hands and fingers know
The tempestuous ridge of your brow
Icy palms induce your stern glower

This eggshell floor that on knees I scour
With dainty brush to elicit glow
To your ego, I daily kowtow
Genuflect to your stony tower

But what if I saw my reflection
Exclaimed in an unconscious voice
Who’s that sniveling pathetic creature
Without a map and no direction?
Would I recognize my choice
Could I be my own good teacher?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Unexpected Lineament

I’m tired of hearing, “I love you.”
Weary of words without weight
Love must be strong like a sinew
I’m tired of hearing, “I love you.”
These ropes of love have been cut through
Love in the mirror looks like hate
I am tired of hearing, “I love you.”
Weary of words without weight

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Swedish Blues

My sister, Jaci, and Marguerite in 1988. 
Her Swedish blue eyes, never wan
As she sits, concave in her chair
Kyphosis has claimed
Her regale deportment
Has left her gasping for air

She pants a warm invitation
“Pray, sit, the seat is not taken.”
I perch on her couch
And gaze in her eyes
Her beauty not yet forsaken

The air hangs vacant of words
Her thoughts have scurried away
I wonder aloud
Is there anything, Mum
Say the word and I will obey

She smiles again between breaths
You have five children, she asks
I nod in agreement
What else can I do
Then adjust her oxygen mask

My tongue in my mouth is like lead
Her final example: ascesis
Pills at her disposal
A handful could end
Her grasp on life releases

But the easy way, she will not take
As days turn to nights without end
She patiently waits
For her turn in line
When Jesus will bid her ascend

--for Marguerite 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Global Changes

“Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarreled with him?”  --Blaise Pascal

The sun might burn a little hotter, toast the moon to crème brûlée. The ocean tides roil wider, coaxing the insistent surf. Children play in pursuit of enemies and baddies. But too soon, they graduate to coursing-games without protection of the scabbard tip. Wing tip, felt tip, tip-toe, tip.

Suddenly cartography becomes a stylish profession. Whoever draws lines wields power like a bulldozer. Lines in the sand. Lines on their faces. Battle line, toe-the-line, bloodline, soup line, bottom line. 

The moneyed sets acquire mercenary education. Too busy with League-of-Legends and Inter-Stellar-War games, their lackeys nothing more than a repository for sound-bites. Trilobite, snakebite, overbite, Jacobite. 

So what’s left beyond climate—it’ll be volatile; politics—sub rosa; and power? Yes, the humble-god-of-love, which flows around the obstacles and firms up to make a pudding. Who doesn’t love pudding? 

Make mine tart.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Why I Am Sending My Dad a Father's Day Card in November

I still have the card in my desk drawer, lower left.  I look at it very rarely at this point. It reads: "Happy Mother's Day to my sister who showed me how to be a great mom..."
followed my sister
choir, college, marriage, child
cheerleader in each
I found the card at a rummage sale; I accumulate cards like an old lady sprouts chin hairs. Rifling through a stack of greeting cards filed in an old cardboard box in July, 2002, I pulled out one that stated my thoughts exactly, intending to send it the following May. I never dreamed I'd instead bury my sister the day before Mother’s day, 2003.
a seed catalogue in winter
but spring never comes
So the card sits in the bottom of my desk drawer, lower left. I cannot throw it out. I cannot mail it. Why did I wait, I wonder. Why did I wait?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

When a Child is a Poker Chip

Holding out his hand, palm-side up,
he grinned wide. So I asked, “Wassup?”
“Gimme a buck, could you?”

A dollar in this beggar’s cup?
He stood expectant with his pup.
Would he buy grub to chew?

He looked skeletal, this close-up
“Come on, we’ll go someplace to sup.”
With a frown, back he drew.

Mister, see this measuring cup?
Boss man demands to fill ‘er up.
If I don’t—black-n-blue.

Kid needed food, not a wallop
This trafficked child was enveloped
His world: a cut-throat view

Panhandled more like a stick-up
He a pawn, me like a bishop
In the end, we’re both screwed

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Balmy and pleasant, first Monday in May,  passions burn like fire
Chickadee chirps at the crack of an egg, abundant life abounds
But on that day, it could also be heard, pistol shots fifteen minutes prior

One hundred yards away, guardsmen fired sixty-seven rounds
Twenty-nine edgy men squeezed the trigger on their rifle
Under a cloudless sky, four students fell on University grounds

Since that day, the fourth of May, many have tried to stifle
But secrecy reeks when justice uproots, it’s best to be transparent
Back in 1970, despite 'Nam, war was losing its disciples

We lay to rest the hottest fears, those moods that stir up the aberrant
Toss flowers on graves and cross ourselves; pretend it’s not that dire
 But the nature of war, of the human heart, knows conquest is inherent 

Kent State was a bed of unrest, flames reaching ever higher
Sandra and Bill were just two kids, to protest, they didn't aspire

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mao Zedong 1893 - 1976

Western world believes he committed acts of genocide
People’s Republic of China revere him as a shining knight
Forty million people starved, no one could have testified

“He led us in accomplishments,” the newly modern Chinese cried
His deeds are doubtless striking, but not in the best light
Western world believes he committed acts of genocide

“He improved our education, our health care nationwide!”
No one mentions the forced labor, an allegiance to recite
Forty million people starved, no one could have testified

He and Nixon in Beijing, standing side-by-side
While behind them a class struggle waged, a violent fatal fight
Western world believes he committed acts of genocide

“He was a Statesman, poet, visionary bona fide.”
He was a murderous despot, let history not rewrite
Forty million people starved, no one could have testified

The Red Emperor, so misaligned, his glory by others denied
Not so, his wild fantasies led to millions dead of blight
Western world believes he committed acts of genocide
Forty million people starved, no one could have testified

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Teaching Ballade from Mindful Poetry

Today's prompt at Poetic Asides on Writers' Digest is "write a poem about a monster."  I'm thinking of using the ballade form for this one. Here's my Mindful Poetry column post from last year about this form.

A Teaching Ballade

The ballade for Mindful Poetry
Appears to be our form for June
As you write and tap each key
The rhyming scheme will shape a tune
A regular meter’s not picayune
Keep the time the guidelines state
Your success induces me to swoon
May your ballade illuminate!

Three stanzas and an envoy, see?
If you write less, you’ll end too soon
Pattern your rhymes of A, B, and C
Line eight repeats like a blue moon
In this French form that surfs the dune
rhymezone to navigate
Above reproach, you’ll be immune
May your ballade illuminate!

Sometimes I’m slow, but guarantee
To your ballade, I’ll be attune
I’ll leave a note, some repartee
To be sure, I’ll not impugn
A few more points I must harpoon
So keep your course, do not conflate
Repeated rhymes a big boo-boo!
May your ballade illuminate!

The envoy works like a cocoon
Four lines written instead of eight
To draw attention like a loon
May your ballade illuminate!

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I dreamt I met Jimmy Carter
A father-figure who towered high
More than salt, he’s cream of tartar
I dreamt I met Jimmy Carter
A humble path, he did charter
To his ideals, I must apply
I dreamt I met Jimmy Carter
A father-figure who towered high

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Wide River to Cross

Her ship pulled away from shore
Spelling disaster

Hail! I see her come full bore
Navigate  faster


This is a Coin Poem, which has two stanzas, 24 syllables, a rhyme-scheme, and considers an issue from two sides--hence, a coin poem!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


The nursery magic had happened to him,
and he was a toy no longer.
He was Real.
The Boy himself had said it.

Ford had learned how to change the baby’s diaper,
swing him like a football during the witching hour
and check the bathwater temp with his elbow.
He loved the boy’s mother who he had married
before full disclosure. Thus he certainly wasn’t
the father. Their April wedding happened on a whim.
He questioned his own wisdom. 
They’d been married ten months now;
the only lullaby Ford sang were hymns
for the nursery magic had happened to him.

Zebadiah, limbs akimbo in Ford’s arms, crying his throat raw
but Ford kept pacing the screened-in porch
hoping the neighbors wouldn’t mind too much.
He wished he could call his own mother
and ask for advice or a remedy or even a hand
but Ford’s single-mother had taken the dive
into her own hell-hole; he was the stronger
of the two. With Zebadiah’s mama at work, Ford needed to
rely on his own inner-fortitude.  The tonic, he’d conjure,
for he was a toy no longer.

It’s not that Ford didn’t feel for the boy, feel
pity and maybe a bit of kinship; they were both
bastards after all. That kind of talk was his mother’s
mouth running, sharp on the tongue and piercing
Zeb didn’t take after his mama and he’d never
match Ford. Someone looked like a third wheel
but no one could tell who was the spare
Ford was sure the neighbors gossiped
Now Ginny was showing, could no longer conceal
Ford was certain this next kid would make him feel Real.

Ginny climbed in the car, “Zeb will have a new
brother or sister soon,” she breathed, waving
goodbye as Zebadiah stood with Mrs. Paulsen
next door. Ford touched the shoulder of his pseudo-son,
offered a quick squeeze before the drive
to the hospital would finally acquit
Ford’s notion that he was a papa ad hoc; he wanted to
feel like he’d done all the work. Zeb’s arms locked around
Ford’s knees, “Daddy, I love you, don’t forget,”
breaking his heart, Ford was already Real. The Boy himself had said it.

--some lines from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Telling the Truth

If I were dry instead of spilling over
A stemmed rummer: Chardonnay or port
If I were bare instead of drunk with clover
Wisteria madly climbing o’er my fort

If I were fair instead of robust swart
My limbs each a shaded branch
If I were willowy, but nay, I am short
Burning thoughts the world will stanch

If I were a vicar, not stuck on this ranch
Prayers launched unto the Promised Land
To face the Almighty, I’d surely blanch
My intractable ship by Him be manned

If I were willing, I’d spread my arms and die
But my arms stay folded; I bow and sigh

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Canis Lupus

Mimi’s waiting patiently for a blood-red
moon, an eclipse that starts past
midnight, that starts with a wolf’s
muzzle pointed skyward, its lips
making a howling lament, a rumbling
moan until it’s joined by a rough pack

Fellow canines, sister bitch, form a pack
friendly to none but the other, their red
focused eyes wait until a train rumbles
far down cold, steel tracks, past
farmhouses where prayers on lips
form, children breathing like a pack of wolves

Tangled like a litter of whelps-to-wolves
Tussling for their place in the pack
Tough and snarling, their bristled hair, lips
turned back in a sneer, yet their red
tender hearts bleed of memories past
today and tomorrow with the past rumble

By 1926, the last wolves were rumbled
back to their graves in Yellowstone, No Wolves
became the mantra, this shameful past
beholden to government control. Yet a pack
beneath the radar, sheltered on a red
bed of secrets, grew in Minnesota, on the lip

of Lake Superior—those wolves’ curled lips,
open teeth, and crouched haunches, rumble
outside where they sleep, no predators with red
objectives will attack them. The alpha wolf,
only betrayed by man, runs in tight packs
or strikes out solo in search of a mate. In the past,

no wailing wolf could be found. “That’s in the past,”
newspapers claimed, but Mimi still believed, her lips
not opening, not even mouthing the truth. A wolf’s pack
need not fear, Mimi’s tongue will not wag, nor words rumble
nilly-willy. Mimi sets salt-licks for the deer, knowing a wolf
nearby will soon down one for its dinner, under the moon, blood-red.

Wolf-packs survive despite past histories of scourge
Mimi, so unlike Little Red Cap, licks her own lips
As thunder rumbles and her wolves wake for the night

Monday, April 14, 2014

Telling the Truth

If I were dry instead of spilling over
A stemmed rummer: Chardonnay or port
If I were bare instead of drunk with clover
Wisteria madly climbing o’er my fort

If I were fair instead of robust swart
My limbs each a shaded branch
If I were willowy, but nay, I am short
Burning thoughts the world will stanch

If I were a vicar, not stuck on this ranch
Prayers launched unto the Promised Land
To face the Almighty, I’d surely blanch
My intractable ship by Him be manned

If I were willing, I’d spread my arms and die
But my arms stay folded; I bow and sigh

Monday, April 7, 2014

She Looked Pale

At first, she only looked pale
But didn’t we all, it was the middle
of winter with less than eight hours
of sunlight to toast our cheeks
Tanning beds were verboten

Unless one was Glamour-Gal
At first, she only looked pale
Not even as  wan as her sister
who lived in Memphis,
which was two zones warmer

But then we noticed her baggy jeans
and the belt notched to the limit
At first, she only looked pale
We thought nothing of it, we all
looked like ghosts coming out

Of the winter solstice, the tepid sun
making a show in the western sky
but unable to make a dent in degrees
At first, she only looked pale
So when the light finally shined

Brightly enough for the truth
Our hearts sank for there could be
no other reason for her meek demeanor
her listless pallor and papered hands
At first, she only looked pale

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Two Bird Poems to Consider

Birds in History

I am a feathered dinosaur
A partridge in a pear tree
My hollow bones account for
My life as a feathered dinosaur
My thrust and lift, my drive to soar
Breaking free of gravity
I am a feathered dinosaur
A partridge in a pear tree

Flight of the Boastful Bird

You could fly if you wore feathers
And cannular bones
In all nature of weather
You could fly if you wore feathers
To live a life untethered
Around your neck, no stones
You could fly if you wore feathers
And cannular bones


Which one strikes you more?