Super Moon

November 24th, 2016

When the moon comes up
it doesn’t care about my mantras.

When the moon comes up
it doesn’t think about the egg it will become.

When the moon comes up
I ignore the crackling fire I built to celebrate it.


Well Up

November 23rd, 2016

In 1677, Leeuwenhoek scooped his joy
from a woman and leapt from bed.

“Before six beats of the pulse [had] passed,”

his microscope revealed a swell of sperm
damning the dry edge
of their pressed liquid world.

* * * *

La Rana clings to grasses on the shore,
yellow eyes following flies.

* * * *

Impenetrable paths, impenetrable paths,
the seeds of El Melon whisper until
someone cracks the rind.

* * * *

Is all a practice in welling up?

* * * *

I stand in the high desert
with an emerald umbrella.

* * * *

La Maceta breaks open,
roots too hungry for terra cotta.

* * * *

Giant blueprints of poems spill out.
Rewrite the ends.

* * * *

Judyth says,
Make sandstone altars to the ordinary!
Dig up, display your bones, your rusty implements!

* * * *

Leap from the dry edge!


after Family Matters

November 5th, 2016
“Family Matters” by Alexandra de Kempf

“Family Matters” by Alexandra de Kempf

Birth dates sprout from our heads
As lottery numbers. Fill in the holes.
Shrug at losing the upper range.

Luck is luck and winning could be
As easy as family love, the array of digits
Ancients assigned to days
Marking our arrivals, departures
And fortunes like spirals.

Perhaps the history of humanity
Is ruled by golden ratios
Of hermit shells, phallic risings
Of red flamingo flowers,
Lineages of human bodies spinning outward,
Spaceward, 3-D DNA. Forget ladders.

Are you a ladder?
Has your health been hammered?
Is your sight obscured
By capital’s metastasis, brain blossoming
Cancer’s white words: not enough
Morphing into more, more? What’s eating you?
The writing is on the wall.

We’ve stopped reaching for each other,
Prohibited by policies banning touch
Learned by clicking state screens.
Print your HR certificate, file for proof.

Instead, we point, mouths wide, teeth bared
Not quite laughing, perhaps shocked
Or screaming. Do you know a rich man’s body
From his stack of bloody books?
Or her Universal Perfect Breasts from fruit
Or the font of bottles?

Don’t nurse. He owns you.
Gift your kids strange teddy bears
He sells so they can sleep alone.
Nestle in with Ambien.
Get six hours for work. Hope for eight.
Let them cry it out in the dark.
Soon they’ll need only a phone,
A silken screen, a monthly plan
To stay in touch.

Don’t bother counting years
Before your children go.
They fall away like leaves,
Lost lottery tickets
You forgot to cash in.


Magnetic Poem Four

November 2nd, 2016

We haunt
Clean farm scent
Winter-soon stars
Little nests
Sky bound animals
Familiar pumpkin
Love bird inside
My kind of castle


Growing Legs

October 31st, 2016

You lost what you called freedom in the lightning strike
Of conception. Cells split for months until you split,
Pushing the fleshy proof of interdependence out
From between streaked legs that could not
Walk away nor deny the tiny mouths of otherness,
The need to pour yourself into helplessness
Personified in bodies that broke off, broke out
Of yours, freed into air. Despite the erroneous belief
You nurtured in your early twenties—everyone
Is responsible for only themselves—you let your body
Teach you something new about love. This is what
Happens when you have grown six legs inside. Freedom
Returns when they, in turn, walk away from you
For good, and you can’t stop shedding. One day you do.
You almost start believing you have only one heart.



October 25th, 2016
“They All Slept Here” by Ilenia Pezzaniti

“They All Slept Here” by Ilenia Pezzaniti

Our bed is not stained with droplets
of old blood. There is no chair on which
to prop an Impressionist print
of two ladies walking away with parasols,
nor antique TV pixels jealous of their stillness.
We have no faux wood headboard.
Our room is no hotel or photo.

A blue, white and green
painting hangs over our heads,
large with trying to be water and air
and the space between,
as though three elements could be
simple color and their memory enough
to soothe me in the dark on clean sheets.

Startled awake, my pulse believes
you are the man on screen
stranded in the middle of a road
walking away from death,
helicopter hovering overhead,
disembodied voice seeing just enough
of size and skin to summarize you.

Any move you make to reach for phone,
I.D., risks your body’s claim
to blue, white and green.
No last text I’m on my way.
From above, at dusk, we don’t know
if the pixelated bloom on your shirt
is black or red.

I blink in the dark.
I can’t see you.
You breathe, refuse screens.
Pressed against your heat,
I let you sleep.


Renku with Plums

October 24th, 2016

Five plums on three tables,
Six poets hunch over pens
To start their renku

My pen shakes with fear
The silence calms these thorns

My voice echoes in harmony
But the words are garbled
And confusion reigns

A storm blows in from the west
Thunder and wind shake us

Shatter of tree trunk
Now even the breath is old
The end comes too soon

But the middle blooms hyacinth and rose
Aspen embrace and feed each other

Their roots hold hands deep in the earth
Send up new-barked bodies
That bears mark with claws

That laces eyes with scars
Steadily willing to see

Seeing is overrated
Sometimes it is good
To close eyes and be

Ears bring in the news
Delicate and slender or wide and wild

If good news, beware,
As bad news is hiding somewhere
If bad news, cheer, good news is near

Your dear hide and tan
Hide beneath life’s skin

The skin of this plum
Is already dreaming of teeth
It wants to know its inner color


(Made at Ziggies Poetry Festival, July 2016, with Jimi Bernath, Valerie Szarek, James Steele, Cathy Casper, and a woman whose name escapes me, my apologies. Learn more about the Renku form here.)

Poem for Wilma Mankiller

October 10th, 2016

A found poem from her biography,
Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, pages 226-229

The entire family rolled chaos
To have a pure prayer.

I tried death, felt its gift
As the woman who lived before,
The woman who lives afterward.


To the mailbox, onto the ground,
Grapefruit, pencil, hairbrush,
Toothbrush, vision of fingers,
Hands, arms, throat, water,
Forty pounds, nose, eyes.

Closed, my existence.

I broke, breathing death,
Absolutely still.

My God! That is what I have!
A good mind.


Renku with Puncture Vine

October 10th, 2016

Goat-heads stick in my rubber soles.
The feral cat follows me too close.
I trip, lose a shoe, foot a pin cushion

Of porcupine quills
Screaming rock lyrics to the stars.

Can you hear me?
Can you feel me?
Shall I poke you harder?

I wipe my soles on the mat outside.
Later, in the mudroom, my lover groans, “Ouch!”

Rachel Kellum
Timmy Fritzler
Dorell Drake

Learn more about the Renku form here.

Stay Put

September 23rd, 2016

The prairie has stolen
nothing from you
you didn’t bury yourself.

Winds continue to blow
tumbleweeds and red cushions
off two wicker chairs.

You replace them again, again—
stack broken concrete blocks
on your lap to stay put.


Someday I Will Love Rachel Kellum

September 23rd, 2016

When your father no longer remembers you,
you will leap from his forgiven salty head—
idea he never had—and try on that small body,
one he didn’t make. You will be born too soon.

Overdue, you will gather your own new nakedness.
You will stare into your own huge eyes
and take a milkless milk from yourself, two
suns will rise over the earth of your own breast.

You will laugh at your perfect toes, such tiny peas,
pretend to gobble them before you stand,
try them out, take your first wobbled step,
catch yourself, straighten up, release.

with thanks to Ocean Vuong for the title

Cold Storage

August 30th, 2016

Store your hearts in the cellar
Packed in cool, damp sand. Don’t worry.
They’ll last. Grow dozens with an ancient sun.
You can’t eat your hearts out all at once.

Let frost kiss their shoulders every fall
Before you pull them. Leave the clinging dirt.
Eat the nicked and bruised ones first
Lest they spoil the rest with rot.

Work your way through the toughened stash
Smallest to largest by each winter’s end,
Compost whatever withered ones are left,
Except for the hearts you’ve saved, still firm,

For cancer’s next off-season call,
Small lungs drowned in meconium tar,
Beloved lost in plots of self–harvest,
Your father’s final disregard: death.


Learning to Spin

August 24th, 2016

for Tammy

No one who loves her, who enters
a room where she sits, can tell her no.
She will teach you how to spin.
Here is the Turkish drop spindle.
Here is the antique wheel.

“Do not be afraid,” she says, holds out
her daughter’s first skein. “Everyone
hates their first attempts,” she grins,
“but they are the best, so sweetly uneven.”
“Yes,” I say, “Imperfectly perfect—wabi sabi.”

Sitting with her, best friend of my girlhood,
our bond unscathed by years or roads or men,
we are suddenly ancient women, a lineage,
drawing out soft fibers with our fingers,
grieving teenage children living out of reach.

Such wool so easy to pull apart when loose,
so strong when stretched and spun,
unbreakable, the two of us make mother yarn,
spool it onto arms of whorls, one under,
two over, giddy, grateful for the art of plying.


Town Cat Turns

August 22nd, 2016

For two years
after the bewildering move
she refused to step outside,
claimed the upper floor,
shed upon beds
before farm house windows.
Not without a fight
I finally her tossed her out
summer’s back door.
An intervention.
She ran low
to barns and shadows,
beneath parked cars.
Tom cats took her in,
taught her night-joy,
the stealthy prowl,
naps in caves of weeds,
field mice in the chicken house.
Gone wild four weeks
without a bowl, still fat,
she asked to be let in,
more herself than
all the years before,
her new face praising
our feet and shins
and doors.

second place winner of the Mildred Vorpahl Baass Award in the National Federation of State Poetry Societies Contest, in the 2016 NFSPS anthology, Encore

Reclaiming Conversation

August 20th, 2016

For maybe a hundred thousand years or more, grownups have been waving tangles of string in their children’s faces… no wonder kids grow up crazy.
Kurt Vonnegut

Your stories circle her question
before you answer it.
Lean in. Over the café table,
make a cat’s cradle of your life.
With your eyes, ask to pass it.
See if she can fit her fingers
into crisscrossed plots
of who you were before —
Carefully Reasoned Infidelities,
Halted Hungry Ghost Trajectories,
Genuine Anti-Heroine Epiphanies—
and in the passing, make candles,
diamonds of the yarn. She too leans.
Your lover/mother/poet motives
written, stricken, timidly revised,
you hope the tangled page does not
rewrite the you she likes.

with thanks to Barbara