Archive for the ‘2014’ Category

On Chickens: A Pastiche

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

Small town Illinois girl, once London-lost,
now Colorado-, I feed chickens
plastic-packaged crumble. Crumbled what?
It’s non-organic. Half the cost.
It worries me I can’t afford to do the right thing.[1]
It’s winter. Foraging is over. Grasshoppers live
in my omelet even when I forget every bone
and bird and worm has spirit in it.[2]
What spirit lives in crumble?

Other times, excruciatingly alive, [3] I flinch.
Once, a white local rancher/landlord told my man
(must you know he’s Black?)
The previous tenant—white trash—
nigger-rigged the bathroom plumbing.
We didn’t say a thing, just blinked.
Later, chewing chicken fajitas, he laughed,
Maybe I’ll just Digger-rig* it. He didn’t say,
Cast down your bucket where you are,[4]
though this is what he has to do. Unruffled,
Nebraska born, he perfectly plumbed
that bathroom. He didn’t say, We wear the mask. [5]
Unemployed, last night he dreamed his legs
were white like mine when he removed his pants
to give them to the homeless San Francisco man.

What does his skin have to do
with mine? Middle aged, I have cried
that we will bear no blackish child [6]
nor have to hide my father’s
cherished 19th century will
in which a slave was passed down to a son.
I won’t forget my father’s gleeful, childhood
march to Beethoven. Kill the Jews! Kill!
he dreamed they must have sung.
Or ever hear him say,
Let those I love try to forgive
What I have made. [7]

Instead of eat[ing him] like air, [8]
I [ache] as if he were already gone. [9]
Unlike my solid daughter, I crumble,
feed myself to flightless chickens
I’ve never had to steal
nor slaughter.

April 2014


*A small town high school football team is called the Beetdiggers. Fans refer to themselves as “Diggers.”

All excerpts are from The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Concise, 1st Edition, edited by Paul Lauter:

[1] Sherman Alexie, “What you Pawn I Will Redeem,” p. 1603
[2] Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera, p. 1457
[3] Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera, p. 1458
[4] Booker T. Washington, “Up from Slavery,” p. 517
[5] Paul Laurence Dunbar, “We Wear the Mask,” p. 465
[6] Gwendolyn Brooks, “A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi,” p. 1052
[7]  Ezra Pound, “CXX,” p. 637.
[8] Sylvia Plath, “Lady Lazarus,” p. 1175
[9] Alison Bechdel, “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” p. 1637

Winter Solstice Live Radio Broadcast

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Please join Liquid Light Press poets M.D. Friedman, Rachel Kellum, Lynda La Rocca & Erika Moss Gordon this Sunday, December 21, 2014 from 6:00 – 7:00 pm, on KFRC Radio’s Poetry Show (88.9 FM in Fort Collins, CO) or…

Stream live on the internet at:

Visit Liquid Light Press poets at:

Shed Dreams

Saturday, 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

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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

Sunday, 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

Sunday, 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.

And We Will Bloom

Saturday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Sunday, 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.

Who am I Now that I have Forgiven You

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

For not forgiving me, you who danced
My soiled clothes before my face, the terror
Of sheets shattered by machine gun fire.
I have never tattered so thoroughly, my child.
In shreds, my fingers gripped the wheel.
Breath threaded out in gasps.
You shot point blank from the back, your face
In the rear view crushed and wet with rage.
Your brother bowed his head and crumbled
On his lap, his mother stripped before him
Like a stained mattress. There was nothing
I could do but lie there, cold. Curled up like you
Asleep once in my body, I could hardly move.
Only a fly could prod me out of bed. I thought
I had forgiven myself. You raised my dead.
I didn’t want to forgive you. The afternoon
You called, broken, your voice a brick apology,
I cried for every confession I ever laid
Folded like sad stories in your wiry arms,
You who were too young to know when,
Where or how to put them away.

with thanks to Sharon Olds for the title

Your Words

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Your words,
Like your children,
Are trying to leave you.

You are misspelling publicly,
Hands covered
In erasing’s word dust.
Wipe them on your pants.

Walk down narrow hallways,
To your fauxwood desk.
Try to read fluorescently.

Take words to another room.
Watch them swim.
Misread with enthusiasm
To strangers.

Dream the back roads home
That fields are mowed of cornwords.
Tractors pile them up for milk to eat.

The book on disk
Hangs sound in air.
Your mind creates a page for font.
One word at a time disappears.

At home, chickens hear
Their namey names and run to you,
In love with singy songs promising seed.
They bite your fingers.

Step over paths of the melon patch
Into crispened hands
Holding cantaloupes, ignored.

Embittered after sweetness,
They fall off vines, a homeless alphabet
You cannot eat
So feed to feathered things.


After the Roast, Advice to an Angry Son

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

If your children ever ask you,
Have you ever…
They don’t want the truth, but do.
Honesty is not the same as love.

But should you feel compelled
To someday tell them how you’ve flown,
Where you roost, be sure to choose
Today’s mistakes like eggs.

The night may come your son
Will feed them to you rapid-fire,
One by one, just to watch you
Gorge and puke up feathers.

Choked sobs and combed excuses
Will not be enough to redeem you
Or him, or your parents’ parents’ parents.
In the beginning, the nest got robbed.

Furious, beautiful boy, I know.
This is how we try to straighten up
And fly right, broken and young,
Before our chickens come home.



Monday, September 15th, 2014

Crickets call to crickets
And toads to toads
But not to me
Through locked doors
And farm house windows
With broken latches.

You slip in like hot wind,
Like junebugs through light cracks—
You, as in Lonely Old Me—
To lie down in this new bed
Having been lost for two springs.
Where have you been?

I know you by your hands,
The way they wrap my arms
To clutch my back, touch shadows
In my face, test new found fat
And thrill that love is feeding
Me past ache and pretty bones.

Like poetry you chant
My lover’s name in Denver
Searching for his daughter
The way you always did the year
You held me through blue winter
And a bluer spring.

I love. I love. You sing it still.
Your singing more than once
Has made me crazed, has made me.
Now I sing the same two sounds to you.
Who began this song? No matter.
We come home when called.

Moved by your easy return,
Your latent tenderness, I hold you
In this dark house. We wait.
The prairie sings itself to sleep.
Love comes home to us like morning,
Close and cool, even in August.