Real Estate

The woodchuck’s paw prints led to the hole under
our house in Maine. We saw him sometimes
in summer: a bowling ball of brown fur, rolling
across the backyard, grown fat on our flowers.

He ate the heads off the orange poppies,
then lay on his back as if having opium dreams.
At first, I hated him as I hated his cousins,
the fat squirrels who swung from the bird feeder,

gobbling seeds meant for the chickadees. Yet,
after a few years, I grew fond of our woodchuck,
imagined him as a character in a children’s book;
an elderly bachelor in a waistcoat.

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The Great Unknowing

The moon is a scrap of paper in a leftover sky.
Trees drip the dawn in a lachrymose morning.
Little winged seeds stagger, wind-driven,
as the last of love disappears.

Crisis lowers itself on its belly.
Vineyards are burning. Children
are dazed with hunger. Tragedy
waltzes in, turns into tango.
Clutching threadbare sweaters,
the populace huddles indoors.
They eat the last of the rice for dinner.

The sun never rose today,
and the voices of the crickets are stilled.
Fortitude and forgiveness are tested equally.
Skin, breath and heartbeat drop away
as the landlords arrive for the rent.

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After Forty Years

I’ve never dreamed of flying
Last night my husband
dreamt he was teaching me to fly

He instructed, “Not too high
like Icarus or too low”

Come float with me
We flew over a cornfield
I said, “I’ve always wanted to do this.”

We saw Selu rubbing her belly
planting her own heart so we
would be satisfied.

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Thirty Things a Poet Should Know      

you will pay for your coffee
no hat is right for every occasion
when you hear a bird call, give it a name
cows kills more people each year than sharks do
few can name the sixty-some English names for pink
death does not rhyme with health, but wealth rhymes with stealth
many writers composed their best work during pandemics
when your read a poem, your audience may think bear foot when you say barefoot
one of the greatest poets wrote an ode to salt
the world’s largest salt mine is 1,800 feet under Lake Huron
tears evaporate unless you catch them
when praise is needed, do not hesitate
embrace yourself as both title and footnote
learn from the wind’s scansion of a noble fir in a squall

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Hens and Chicks

In a small clay pot,
glimmer of leaf
light from my bed-
room window,
I twist-tie the mother
to a toothpick
guidepost, noticing
the daughter at her foot,
a miniature version
of her miniature self,
the succulent I almost
had not noticed hiding

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You Can Keep

your diaphanous virgins
your horse and bull stories
your rites of spring
I can do
very well thank you
without swan
or unicorn.

Keep your
wishbone and your big
cigar your mighty Stetson and
your twelve-string
guitar I know
how to please my
self how to saddle
my own steed.

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The Hive

a jumbled cluster of odd-shaped cells
and honey pots, all made from dark yellow
wax, like earwax or like extruded foam
insulation. All winter the disordered mess

of a half-finished construction project,
now ready to be retrofit into two cedar
raised beds—so I am cleaning
up back there, taking up the tarps
and throwing out shredded fiberglass,

and scraps of wood, a papery layer
of old leaves, screws and such,
and turning over the last
bits a buzzing: here are they
a small, primitive colony

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Winter Undertow

Round fire in its tent of sticks shedding chalk and cold
on the edging of my pillow.

So sad. All I can recall is no one to hold me.

After all my skin-chafing labor with the adze, the struggle
to haul your coffin across the river—

cracking and lowing like a barge
in the deep, bleeding furrow
closing in on itself—

your severed arm gone ghostly limp,
flailing like a wave crest along the bank

beneath the claxons of a migrating goose flock
beneath blurrier migrating stars.

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The Salton Sea

It is an hour before sunrise on the western edge of the Salton Sea. The moon has set this early January morning and the stars are either falling in or away—depending on how long you look.

To the east the horizon seems two-dimensional, like black gauze draped over a thin line of light in pale yellow and salmon. In the foreground, silhouettes of long dead trees add the illusion of dimension and mark the drowning of a former shoreline. Where I stand, a foot of water covers two feet of soft, silty mud.

Silence, like a downdraft from the cosmic void above, creates an auditory setting that is equivalent to white noise. Then, from a mile away, a dog’s barking arrives with such clarity that I can tell which way he is facing. When silence resumes, my self-awareness comes into question as I am without sensory input—save the fantasy of vision.

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