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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.

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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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I Will Vandalize His Angel Tombstone

 

                    And it is from this moment that you are going to live.
Think of that. You’re standing in the middle of what used to be a cornfield,
          now pocketed

with headstones and wire, combing out a space that says this is where we lay
          our dead, take
whatever you want
. You have changed: you used to treasure this space to
          mourn for the dead, but now,

now you look down on your uncle’s grave, and the wilting flowers placed
          there, once alive
and thriving and cut through the stomach, and you see that these are only an
          unequal trade

for what lies down deep. He couldn’t care less about what you’re going to do to
          him now. So take
your best shot. Throw out your paint cans and make that angel bleed, tear the
          ground open

with a rake, that moist mouth gaping with earthworms in the nighttime, only
          to be fried dry
with the mid-morning sun. This is the moment to prove yourself: Damage me.

Take your keys and grind them down into the stone. Write something useful,
          tell the truth, tell
anyone who passes by who your uncle really was, why this angel is so
          pointless, where was she

when it really mattered. Tell your uncle you’ll never forgive him, and
          somewhere, he’ll hear
the dust fall. Then look into my face a few more times, search my eyes for the
          sympathy

that my lips can’t touch. Make me understand why you’re doing this, and
          remind me, once it’s done,
that it’s going to make everything okay again. Lock the gate on your way out.
          Mourn me,

and get it over with.

 

 

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First, She was a Poem: Cadence on the Swings

 

11742658_10153453969622118_953100391710070779_nI had a bit of a moment today, and I really have to share. In the picture to your left is my beautiful, nine-and-a-half-month old daughter, Cadence (yes, like the title), and she had her first turn on a swing today—one of those little, infant-safe ones on a backyard playground set. And then it hit me:

I wrote a poem about this.

Now, that may not sound like much to you, but here’s the thing: I wrote “Cadence on the Swings” during my second year of my undergrad, back when “Cadence” was just a name I was madly in love with, back when I didn’t even know my husband existed yet… and back when my mentor first took me really, really seriously as a writer.

I originally handed this poem in as my final poem of the semester, before handing in a portfolio two weeks later of new and revised work, and I got this poem back, only with parts underlined that he loved and a note that said, “This poem is so dense! You need to be in graduate school.”

And so there it was: my future, laid out for me.

And now I have a beautiful little girl to share it with: my Cadence on the swings.

Thanks for listening, all.

 

CADENCE ON THE SWINGS

 

She peeled away the web between
her toes. The skin seemed to stretch,
transparent, and finally break,
lying in her fingers like a
used rubber band. Her throat was tight
then, forcing gills to grow at her
neck, stubble on her chin. The
water would swallow her lips, her
lungs, as her mouth opened in wide
gulps, street salamanders, a salt
water lake. She couldn’t
understand why her mother would
turn on the defrost at the same
time as the heat, as though to glimpse
the driver behind her, planning
to pour its lights in a
triangle around her as her
legs wrapped around one support of
the swings. She recalls she screamed when
she realized she couldn’t untie
her legs, the accordion knees,
her finger-trapped body.

 

 

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My Attempt at a Definition Poem while Reading Allan Peterson

 

This is why I love reading: it opens so many doors.

While reading Allan Peterson’s Precarious (published by 42 Miles Press, 2014), I began to consider less-than-common terms, synonyms that are so interesting and unique that we often do not use—for instance, why use the term “precarious” when we could just as easily say “dangerous” or “unsafe” as they are more commonly used in the mainstream?

Intrigued by this thought, I looked up the definition of “precarious” in my old, old, old dictionary and loved what I found—so much so that I wanted to write a poem, and not just a poem, but a series. I began to consider those less-common, lovely synonyms of words we so often use, looked them up, and began to write a set of dictionary poems that each begin as definitions and then spin off.

Anyway, this is not revised, but it is the first from the collection, all of which are titled “DEFINE” and then open with the word researched.

 

DEFINE

 

                precarious          —to be

not securely          (surely)              held

or in position        —dangerous

likely to fall; collapse; dependent

on chance; uncertain

uncertain; insecure; unpredictable; risk-

y; hazardous; dangerous; un-safe un-settled un-stable un-

steady; (I’ll bleed the wine right out

of you);              shaky; (both bees

and limbs like trees, left falling

left falling—collapsing        across

your driveway, lightning          struck, or is it

the other way around, your chimney

smoking,          like birds—the raven—left calling

left calling;          return)

 

 

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The Manger

 

Merry Christmas, Everyone! Whether or not you’re a believer, I hope you enjoy your day with friends and family, build a snowman or stay inside by the fire. Here’s a new poem to read while you drink something warm.

 

THE MANGER

 

For years I lived across the street

from a house, come winter, that was covered

in lights—the reindeer, fat Santa in the chimney

mount, all Christmas save a tilted menorah strapped

to an apple tree. At the center, parked next to

the driveway, was the manger scene,

the three wise men steeped

in plowed snow. David’s staff missing since Year 2

of playing neighbor, probably stolen

by the dog who was struck

right after that year’s first big freeze.

Then, a breeze, the WE’RE MOVING GARAGE SALE

signs, right there in the snow,

many things wrapped

in plastic and garbage bags. Even

the yard was for sale; the reindeer went first, fat Santa

and the menorah, and then pieces

of the manger scene, one wise man after the next, but no one

could seem to put a price on him:

small Jesus winking in the night.

 

 

MERRY BOOKSMAS

 

 

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Caterpillar Towns

 

consider their bodies—each separate bead

a head—the string of brains arch

like drumming fingers, or rather,

the knuckles. survival

in a smaller form. like a child pouring out

onto a table, the wide mouth

of an incision, a closed door.

you left me open there, leaves

& breath. Puddles Pity Party like a dream

of black & white film

& song. he opens his mouth, wider

than most, & out comes the sounds

of a clarinet, a tuba, a bird launched

into the higher branches

of a tree until all you make out

is the red smudge against

barren branch, no more sense

of feather or blood, the mother lost

in the presence of crying child, father dwelling

on the sidelines. his voice

in my ears, feathers in my mouth,

the bark like an arrival

in my hand. life will make no more sense

than this. more powder. more song.

 

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Solar Panels

 

You said we were a senseless

pairing—the earth and moon—what if

someday the earth falls out of love?

 

Then the moon will fall into, into—

 

We were waiting for a train, heads under

the tunnel eve, rain pouring down, we were

reaching out—

 

what if the earth falls out of love with the sun—

 

you boarded the train,

all shadow,

big freeze.

 

My heart was a bag of sleeves, the hands

developing out, blood under

the fingernails.

 

 

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