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Category: My Poems

Poetry is the major emphasis in my writing life, the major focus. My goal over the past year has been to write at least one poem per day and post that poem, to document my progress and hopefully get feedback from anyone looking on. Obviously, I have not entirely kept to this goal–publishing no poems for days and then posting five poems on one day–but, nonetheless, this goal has stayed with me, pushing me to continue writing, prodding when I don’t write or post. This is one of the more-daily aspects of my writing life and this blog.

What Growing Up Tastes Like

                —A poem today after a long hiatus

                —Happy International Day of the Girl


I sit with my windows open, drink of the air
as if it were the gumdrop from childhood

that never melted, that never tasted
quite like the color coating implied:

daffodil yellow, all-of-your-dreams-come-true-
blue, make-a-wish-like-it-matters-white

cotton. Now, I chew on gum only until
the flavor is out, long before it can turn

gray skeleton, harlequin moon, empty lake
by an extinguished fire.



A Walk in the Snow


When we were younger, we leveled
footprints in the woods—off

the path, of course, down deep
where the sun could barely

find us, where we blended
with the trees and hid behind

the shrubbery. I found a deer,

small, its eyes glazed and wide, still hiding
from the storm the night before.

Left berries. Made scarce. We could barely
make our way back up that track,

so steep, the rock, the roots.
We made it. We told no one. We

did not say why. We did not
say why.




My Dumb Heart


                —To my fellow Benders, I threw on my grief.




is open wide and overflows with water. How I manage
to stay alive is beyond me. I like to think that I am more

than a wallflower, that others see something in me, that the love
I feel swells out in swarms, but sometimes I wonder what good

that will do—after the apocalypse, what will be left but a swarm
of beetles—what but exit signs, laundry, and dirt,

my sadness like a cloth underneath—still present and wet
with earth and never clean again, never reflecting

sun or moon or teeth quite like the first time. My sadness goes
with me like a cloud. My sadness rides around with me

in the backseat. It wears a black cape and snakeskin boots
that click down afternoon hallways. It trades, sometimes, for

feather-duster wings when it is a she and she
is in the mood for forgiveness. She eats chocolates by the handful

and offers them over silently. Every time
they taste like tears, because they were not meant

for someone like me, and yet
I try them, because there is a persistence

to them. They bring out the hope in me. I look up, like moon, and I think
that is what I love most about her. Every time she trades

for her wings, she keeps those snakeskin boots.




Dear Emily—


Hope is the thing with feathers.


Here is a truth: I thrive
on hope. But yet, here is another: if you fill

a pillow with feathers, I cannot sleep—
I wake in the middle of the night,

heavy-chested and warm, throwing off the dark
as if it were a spare blanket meant

for the shadow sleeping
in the spare room. I will not lie to you,

I am lonely; I am restless; I dream
that others will recognize

the potential in me like a cloud. You prod
at that hope in me like a swarm of bees.

But when the winter comes, let me throw on my grief
like gloves because my hands will be frozen anyway—

without them, I will not be able to write you letters,
and how sad would that be, how sad your grave

would be without all these folded sheets
of paper—but really, how sad

I would be without you. Dear Emily, how I
have turned back to you

in the fog—


—for Kelcey Parker Ervick’s Letter to Dead Authors exercise at her reading yesterday at LangLab


A Poem with a Gun Inside


It beats. It hums. My heart—

what else could beat so cold and low

as this : make me a list. give me

a kiss : Kalamazoo, I love you. Paris,

Baghdad, and Beruit, I love you. What more harm

can we inflict than gunfire

on a summer’s day, a winter walk, what life

can we take but ours : for every trigger

that’s pulled, down falls another mother,

another son, and I don’t think you’re ready

for that, I don’t think you’re ready

for what that calls up

in the hearts around the world—but take it.

Pull the trigger. There’s nothing more

I can hide from you, no secret,

no immortality spell, just me

and my skin and my heart

and what’s inside it : I believe

you have the power to stop. So stop.

So choose. Because darling, I love you too.




big poem, small poem / new poem sure / longer poem, brighter poem / birds birds birds


Hello all! It’s been a while again, I know. I’ve been missing writing in the worse way but otherwise wrapped up in my new job, writing a new bio: McKenzie lives and writes in South Bend, where she works at Indiana University, etc. It’s been a blast, but I’ve only been writing what I call “snippet poems” lately: small snapshots, quick thoughts, that I can get down on the page and keep going. I miss meandering through a longer poem, perfecting an image, an ending, the title, working on my full-length. Below, you’ll find three new snippet poems, from a selection of poems I’ve been working on about nighttime and the truths of home, as well as my very first “spam poem,” invented from, you guessed it, creating erasures out of spam messages—mostly from the ones that pollute my website space (but goodness, they’re fun). I hope you enjoy these, and I promise to post more often—and get back into the reviewing rhythm—very soon.

Also, P.S. You know how sometimes a song gets stuck in your head? Yep, it’s “Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty.” Now in poem-form. Help me.

Until Later, Best ~ from me.




Come night, every night

is the same : I close the shades, tuck

the bed sheets tight at the head

against our night noises, loose

at the foot so he may slip

from the covers : foot bare

in the afterglow.




Dear child, close your eyes—

my heart, my limbs

are tired. Your tears wake us

in our separate cities & at times,

yes : I get lost in the haze.

In you, my fog. Go to sleep.

My love, my rest, I promise:

all will be better with the light.




dies in a fire in a movie

from the ’80s. Hardly enough

to search & discover the movie’s title

but there it is : my sake. Her hair color,

her age, I do not know, but this

is how I imagine the story ends : black smoke

or at least the froth of it, cries choked out

on what I imagine black sky : fires never rise

in the middle of the day, unable to compete

with the sun. I ask you again the name

of the film & again, you falter, say it was

a good one, strange, its focus

on family : my name spelled to reflect

the one Irish branch of our family tree, that which

I have fostered long after you left

for more Grecian- & Sioux-like skin, how strange :

this focus on family roots.




now I am completely full

of honey—sometimes

I drink beer

in public. others cannot

do this: fireflies. what light.

what nonsense.




Two Truths & A Lie


My future & my past are essentially the same:
whether it is me or her riding in the back seat, I still have to ask permission

of my mother or daughter if I can go anywhere. I traded
in my happiness like a receipt

for defective batteries, & the world keeps turning
without me. I wish it were as simple

to lure my happiness back in as it is
to fill a grocery bag—or better, to drop it: the contents

spilling across the sidewalk, oranges
against gray cement, & I would. I would take them

to the highest point in a fifty mile radius—those
life choices—drop them from the top

of a building, & wait for them to strike to pavement.




In a Field, The Absence of Field


or heart—like breathing, you enter
waist-high grasses, the tan

of prairie dog, fern, wild lily, & the wind
takes you up into itself, your body curves

& sways with the grasses, canvas, Magritte
of the field & passing. How you ended up here,

you are unsure, but you arrived wearing nothing
but air, & that impermanence tempts you

with its long hands. At times you think you live
such a dismal life—ready to chalk up somewhere

concrete-side, in Hopper or
Van Gogh, the flash & burn of a red-based

Pollack. How lovely: the heart on distillery
& body black-fashioned, if only for the sake

of being discovered by another: the compass
of the body, arms pointing North & South,

nose pointing to Rhode Island & the coast.
That is why you constantly busy yourself; that

is your confession. You keep moving
to keep things whole. Little breath-strokes

from the world holistic on your skin. Little black box
of wonder in your hand, or you would like it

to be. The choice to make mistakes
& sleep.




I Treat Your Swollen Ankle


propped on a pillow on our oversized coffee table, all
of our ice packs                    lost

in the move, & I try to talk to you
about my impending job loss, another poem

rejected by a favorite magazine, & you fill the room
with pleasant thoughts until I cannot swallow

another bite, instead moving
to the kitchen where I can drown

you out, where I can break ice down
with a meat tenderizer.




Oregon, Columbine, October, November, December—


I think of you, fellow teacher, and I fear what lies

on the other side

of the door, the window, the rain. What power

lies in waiting, what anger,

what brown paper bag

concealing fire. I lean back

in my desk chair and make myself

a little smaller, blend

into the fibers. We are all made of the same

blood and bone, and from that pile

of particles, we share a silent

understanding: history repeats itself in the face

of gun powder. Whenever I hear of another

school, another tower, another town, I never want

to check the names, but I still do.

In case it is you. In case

it is me, and somehow, what’s left has not

woken up to the daze. Like glass,

I look at the series of names, praying for each one

like a chant, praying for their home towns—Roseburg,

Sutherlin, Myrtle Creek, Myrtle Creek, Roseberg,

Roseberg, Roseberg, Winston, and Glide—

and the craters settled there, where the world holds

its breath.