Middle School Pressure

February 13th, 2019

Girl barometers
Passing glances like cruel notes
Predict the snow storm



February 9th, 2019

The antique Iraqi rug likely never knew a family dog
before ours. When I vacuum it after he leaves
for a weekend with my son, it is usually with a sense
of a few days’ relief from hair everywhere. On Sundays
when he returns, I don’t care that God’s woven trails
of geometric red and indigo turn dusty mauve
and grey with down. That is the way with dog hair.
You bear it. But today, when my son packed bags
to live with his dad two hours away and took
with him only a few of the things I gave to give him
small reasons to raise his head, I almost understood.
A mother’s love isn’t all. Her wisdom is at best, for now,
a suffered fluff. Teenage boys want only a bit of it
and something more: the clutter and berth of freedom
fathers sagely give to man-sized sons. I vacuumed
the rug what felt a final time. I did it sobbing,
drooling, with a knotted grudge. A hunch. My son
will forge his own mind. The dog will not get walked
enough; we both will fatten up. If I had had the time
and foresight to spin, I’d have saved and combed
and spun the past year’s every tuft of liver-spotted fur
to knot a musky blanket of the love that dog
has learned nuzzling my son. I’d sleep under it.


Three Mosquitos

February 5th, 2019

Selfish Confession:
One Benefit of Global Warming

Last winter, no snow.
No perilous mountain roads
meant no mosquitos.

Souvenir of the Town Mascot

Carved key chain dangles
on my rearview mirror: a
Crestone mosquito.

Scrying July in January Puddles

Vast snow melt mirrors
cloudless skies, piñon and me
dreading mosquitos.


To Measure Him

January 30th, 2019

Dozens of number-covered papers
Claim to represent what is vital about my son.
His blood. Knowledge. College readiness. Genes.
Brain chemicals disguised as ambition, anxiety, love.
I study them like runes, riddles, scientific scripture.
What numbers are light blue like his hurt eyes?
Gravelly with laughter over mastered digital dances?
Flushed like his kind face over fragrant cast iron pans?
Steaming with pure hockey joy? Long road silent?
Early to sleep on the family couch, cradled in yarn,
Wrapped in the magic arms of a mandala afghan?
Numbers strike as monolingual, unholy arrogance:
This summing up, ridiculous reduction of gentleness,
Unbearable empathy, early existentialism.
It makes more sense to measure him by this:
How many moon eclipses he has witnessed
Just beyond a gasp-shared meteor. One.


When he is not home

January 30th, 2019

When he is not home
to warm the bed with me
I pull the duvet overhead
and breathe and breathe
then lift the cover just a bit
to suck warmth to my feet–
still cold when I fall asleep.

December 2018

4 AM Finances

January 10th, 2019

Turning and turning
on the dark morning spit

vigilant sleepless
I sizzle and drip

for a thousand licking
mouths of the widening pit.


Sage’s Puja

January 2nd, 2019

Having wandered the Lakshmi gift shop
With my daughter Sage, we end
Our ashram tour in the circular temple.
I stop at guru photos and bow, drop a dollar
In a plate, not personally knowing
The special gift or allure of these holy men,
Only their serious, black eyed gaze.
Sage, a newly hired Tacoma firefighter,
Pauses before photos and paintings, too,
Asks, Who is this? The Divine Mother.
And this? Babaji. And here’s Shiva, I say,
Knowing she knows only his Nataraja form,
Brass dancer engulfed by a ring of fire
Who roamed the bookshelves
And windowsills of her childhood home.
Having walked the solemn perimeter,
This woman who nearly burned down
Her bedroom twice before fully grown
Comes to the fire extinguisher
Near the door, taking its modern place
On a wall of ancient gods and saints.
In slow reverence, she lifts her hand
To touch the words Cold Fire.
Sighing, ignited, she throws a glance
At her firefighter fiancé,
Her smiling mouth beatific, aflame.


The Closest Ones the Brightest

December 26th, 2018

On a day of domestic nouns, undecorated,
This Christmas refuses to go retrograde
Or snooze through the moment by resurrecting
High-buzzing toy trains or the forsythia bush
I planted when my sister died. My nostrils
Did not flare in sorrow over chemo anecdotes.
Sunlight yellowed only the mountain range.
Wrapped in a blanket, feet propped on the porch,
I slipped into a micro nap and woke to coyotes
Broadcasting the new minutes of evening.
Juncos flitted behind me in the pines.
Later, walking piñon trails of moon-lost night,
Strange flashlight throwing sight forward
And back at once to warn our single-filed feet
Of stones, I thought of red clay, the joyful skill
I find my fingers still possess, of gently pinching,
Smoothing shoulders, clavicles, muscled necks,
Of fashioning tiny human forms for company,
Of Nü Wa, Chinese goddess, who carefully molded
The noble from yellow earth and, tiring,
Gave up to make the poor by dipping a rope
In mud and flicking it about, dropping dollops
Of common folk, elbows bent to serve.
Thank gods the thick Milky Way sparkled me
Out of my head and cold thighs itched me
Out of Marxist bitterness because my dog was
Out of town, not stitching me with dog bliss
To the night, the sandy mountain trail all his.
Only my man was by my side, quiet, digesting
Chili and cinnamon rolls, both of us making
Walking sounds, his boots clicking, my jacket
Swishing, both of us squinting at headlights
Crawling up Road T, heading our way, gaining
Elevation, the closest ones the brightest.



December 26th, 2018

Anthurium leaves are poisonous. They contain calcium oxalate crystals that cause severe burning in the mouth. Guide to Houseplants

Five shredded leaf tips
Glossy red bloom ragged too.
Still the cat returns.



December 25th, 2018

miles by miles grey cloud
blanket balanced just atop
Challenger’s flat peak

Dec. 25th, 2018

Outside My Classroom Window

December 13th, 2018

Wind-whipped black trash bags—
Dumpster flags flap above sill.
No, two ravens shine.


The Guitar

December 7th, 2018

A guitar watches a blue boy
play video games all day.
Its blind eye does not blink.
He cannot think of school.
Strings vibrate when he
laughs in vanished victory,
groans in bloodless defeat.
Xs shine in his eyes, ask
Why do anything?
The guitar has no reply.


Welfare State

December 3rd, 2018

You Tom Buchanans
You Ayn Rands
You million- billionaires
Who hold out soft hands
You forgetful heirs
Who suck
On birth-earned generations
Of well-invested
Family-sponsored welfare:

Spare us—
The teaching poor
The working class
Paying off
Our bloated master’s
Who never wake
From nightmares
Of looming financial
Or bodily disaster—
Your judgment

For begging more pay
Or worse, to suck
Your hoarded
Christian taxes
While we pinch
Days and months
To fund your profits
Your endless battles
Where you send kids
Who trade the bodies
We made them
For promises
Of health care, travel
To die protecting
Your subsidized
Hand me down


This Day,
Minus Love and Cold Potatoes

November 22nd, 2018

Put off cooking. Pour Horizon low fat eggnog into Solar Roast coffee. Sit on the couch where you slept last night with two dogs. Leo yours, Lucy a travelling friend’s rescued rez dog known for fearing men.

Her barking calls you out of sleep. Dimly take it in: your lover rising in warm bare skin, silhouette calling out the door, down the hall, voice high and kind, unlike the one he gives your cat: “Lucy, Lucy, shhhh….” She does not stop. Thirty-two toenails tap the bamboo floor, pace in a state of high alert.

At first, you are proud of Leo’s vocal restraint, then concerned. Not much of a protector, his specialty is fending off grazing deer. Touched by your man’s tenderness toward the animal wrecking his sleep and feeling responsible for taking on dog-sitting without his consent, when Lucy starts her ruckus yet again at ten till one to warn you of your son’s peanut butter and jelly driven post-party intrusion, you rise, slip into a t-shirt, backwards, inside out, lie down on the second-hand sectional couch, call the dogs to join you. The fire he made still ablaze, without a blanket, you doze in its orange window, dogs quiet now, and dream.

You wander a land of Mormons, testing sanitized realms, re-reading pre-internet tracts, artfully dodging earnest, clean-cut men and skirted wives. Certain you could never return, you wake relieved and fall asleep again. Twice you dream of going back to bed, to him, only to wake in two separate dreams of Lucy’s barking, after which you really wake, drooling on the couch in moonlight, fire licking lowly, dogs snoring or nervously skittering. You let them out to pee. Lucy barks at night in general, laughing coyotes north of here, cousins of her friends at home a mile uphill. Leo smiles at her audacity. They settle in a final time. You leave the couch, return to bed’s oblivion. It might be half past three.

Kitchen sounds pull you partly out of sleep, imagining your love making cinnamon rolls, the KitchenAid churning, flour sifting snow on countertops while coffee drips its promises. You think this life is good, arise, vaguely plan to write, even though, entering the kitchen, you see he is only doing dishes, tall in thick cotton navy robe, the king of morning. You bury your face between shoulder blades, steam pressing against your clasped hands. He thaws.

Then begins the gathering of packages and cans of your mother’s Thanksgivings: King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, Great Value French-fried onions, French-sliced green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, Pepperidge Farm stuffing, Full Circle boxed chicken broth. The month’s belt too tight for most organics, you shake it off, decide there is no hurry, abandon cans for the couch and coffee and him, where this poem begins.

When his little girl wakes, she goes for the iPad first thing, begins her Roblox binge. Soon, you coax her from the screen, together start the pies with Libby’s can of pumpkin, three fist-sized Granny Smiths. Rolling your actual granny’s butter-flavored Crisco-burdened piecrust, you feel blissfully, not quite ignorantly, thankful, take your place in American history, happy despite your interrupted middle class night and economic iniquities, pray the destitute in Crestone’s nearby mountain caves can forgive you the way you forgave the rich for selling you this day, minus love and cold potatoes you dug up yourself: purple and golden knots of hard hope you found beneath the freeze.


The Andersons’ Thanksgiving Turkey

November 14th, 2018

They feed me like a queen.
Ahk! I’m too fat to stand on my own feet!
Please give me more of that fancy seed.
Why does this red water make me so serene?

I wrote this riddle poem as an example for my middle school students who are learning how to liven up their writing by using all four sentence types: declarative, exclamatory, imperative, and interrogative. Their riddles were sometimes hilarious, sometimes cryptic, and they learned something about the power of sentence variety to boot! Woo hoo! Who knew I’d love teaching middle schoolers this much?