Shed Dreams

December 13th, 2014

The little shed was a wooden skull
In which the dreams of shovels rusted
And feral cats jumped from shelf to shelf
Chasing brown, white-bellied mice.

Hundreds of generations dreamed
Behind a stack of asbestos shingles—
Of corn meant for hogs, of fantastic forays
To the human house of bounty and heat,

Where heroes lick clean peanut-buttered traps
That snap little necks beneath the kitchen sink.
Less curious mice would tuck their luck
In the shadows of the skull, nibble cat droppings.

Capacious as a mouse’s dream, the shed
Never thought of human sleep, that one day
Its roof would lift, its walls would echo nails,
The sun would finally stumble in and cough.

The cats took off. Who knows when mice move out?
The shed began to dream a man, an orange antique couch,
A chair, a bed, a woman dreaming a head made of mud
She saved from her boots, from her sister’s grave.


Winged Victory

November 13th, 2014

Desktop machines
Print plastic things
You don’t need.

Red rook piece.
Headless sea-soaked Nike.
Semi automatic magazines.

(No homemade AR-15s).
Pentagon-printed beef—
Meals Ready to Eat.


I Would Be

November 5th, 2014

New moon knife
In your red onion
Candied walnuts
Of your moan

Coconut oil
In your thorny palms
Salty seam
Of your longest shore

In your old engine
Of your tiny bones

In your Achilles tendon
Of your mosquito storm


No Question

November 3rd, 2014

The tag on the tea bag said
Where there is love, there is no question.

I asked this morning what huge bird
Threw itself against our kitchen window.

No feathered form hunched in gravel.
The window looked like no sky to me.

The bird did not ask about glass,
Just flew full stop, carried itself off
Like a dark question mark.

This morning I did not ask
About your shining eyes.

You opened them.
I flew inside.


The Shell

November 2nd, 2014

A mother lost in mothering
Ran by the sea. A small girl, perhaps five,
Ran ahead of her. The brown striped shell,
A triton, lay lodged in the shore.
Wet sand sucked at the shell in her hand,
Pulling. The mother was sure
It was hers, her gift from the sea,
Calling her out of sacrifice like a horn.
“Look what the sea gave me!”
“I saw it first,” claimed the girl.
Blind in the deep layer of motherhood,
Newly photophagic, the woman refused
To hand it over like a good mother would.
The child would have to pout.
For thirteen years, the woman kept
The shell on a shelf, reminder
Of her in-winding self, the empty sea
Of her own ear, and didn’t budge
When her growing daughter yearly
Told her who saw the shell first.
The day the girl left home a woman,
The mother packed the shell in her duffel
Like a prayer she would some day hear.


NFSPS Poetry Awards

October 26th, 2014

The National Federation of State Poetry Societies has announced the winners of its 2014 contests. I am pleased to learn that three of my poems were honored:

The Margo Award:
“Tiny Birds,” third place (out of 167 entries), forthcoming in the 2014 anthology, Encore.

NFSPS Founders Award:
And We Will Bloom,” 3rd Honorable Mention (out of 363 entries)

Peace Award:
Practicing English with Geshe-la,” 2nd Honorable Mention (out of 138 entries)

A complete list of all winners can be found here.

Practicing English with Geshe-la

October 25th, 2014

Mouths round
to make crown.
Throats and lips thin
to say bliss.
We talk about
the differences
between bliss
and blessing,
religious versus
spiritual gifts,
how kind becomes
We consider
the subtle
shift in
when saying
grant me
instead of show.
The feeling of O.
O sweet prefix
of recognize,
to comprehend
again and again
what is true—
how this sound
is chewed!—
our own true nature
beyond words
where one is both
a pronoun
and a universe.

with thanks to Geshe Yungdrung Gyaltsen

And We Will Bloom

October 25th, 2014

for Sage

I adore you, seed eater,
Spoke Demeter
From afar
To her daughter
Who, laughing,
Ate the whole
In Seattle,
Her new home
Of fog and rain.
And flame.
Forget seasons.
She won’t return—
Hades is no man
Or underworld
But this one,
Where roads steal
And homes burn.
Persephone will enter
With her red-seeded heart,
Her jaws of life,
Her mask,
Her heavy water,
Every breath Demeter
Ever gave her,
And rescue someone else’s
Son or daughter
From a new kind of hell.


When Institution Hijacks a Life

October 22nd, 2014

When institution hijacks a life,
The body is ruled by a new gravity.

Organs fall. And fat. Leaner
For the daily front on bed’s edge
Of a windowless dream.

Are you one of the lipsticked ones,
Lilting? Yesterday, pleasant faced,
Did you say something you didn’t mean?

From which pocket do you pay?

Today, we beg the sky
For something unspecific.
We know when it comes.

In the long hallway, a cricket sings
From a crack in the drywall.
It sends us walking.

It doesn’t know
It is lucky.


Cardinal Song

October 19th, 2014

Crushed leaves give me the year he gave me Illinois anew. Not then a walker of woods—except for girlhood dashes to the red barn with fallen hogs long dead in the abandoned yard where we laughed and swung on rope into old straw, I had given up the woods for straight A’s, makeup, church and books. All the while the Sangamon River crept past my life in its slow brown way. Cardinals watched like feathered blood. At fifteen—so late!—my own had finally come. The quiet boy from Florida I loved, who without shame once bought me Kotex tampons, held my hand through Carpenter’s Park. Red birds always a photo before were the thread we pulled to the yellow tree where the boy lay on his back and looked up the trunk. I, a follower, followed strangely. Our four legs splayed like spokes. Beside him, above us, the tree’s black arms were bathed in leaves so much like sun my words split wide, a radial silence, and while I knew the whole earth spun, my heart was a still red hub.

with thanks to c.c.