Flat refusal of reality

A poem I wrote years ago while channeling my inner angsty teen.

Flat refusal of reality
That’s what mothers are famous for, right?
Among other things
Don’t they know we’re not virgins?
I mean, they must know.
Maybe it’s more that they don’t want to know
That badly.
Like, enforced ignorance for survival purposes.

Molly’s mother never seemed like she knew
When Molly was drunk
Even when she reeked of Wild Turkey
Leaned on me so she wouldn’t fall on the linoleum floor
Mrs. Reese would just say, “goodnight, girls”
And watch me walk upstairs half-carrying her daughter.

It’s the same with the pill.
Or if they find condoms in your purse or something.


Real Madrid v. Barcelona

A poem about watching soccer in a bar with friends. Or perhaps a bit more.

Over pints of Guinness
We, four impatients
Two men, two women
Fingers drumming, feet stomping
For the exceedingly perseverant Catalans
To frustrate the Castilians to fever and froth
To the trembling edge of error
Where the battle of cleats and kits
Needs only my brief absence
A quick trip to the loo
To declare a tide turn
A Catalan conquest
Two, nil.

A Poem for Blue Bicycle Books, Billy Collins & Bill Murray


While purchasing signed copies of Billy Collins’s poetry,
Picnic, Lightning, The Trouble With Poetry (and other poems),
I notice a photograph on the counter of the poet laureate, the young woman ringing me up
and the bookshop owner.
The photograph shows the woman and the owner attempting to hold ecstasy at arm’s length,
alongside the poet’s bemused grin.

Upon further inquiry, it’s discovered that Billy Collins is a friend of actor,
Bill Murray.
A fact that occupies my mind for the better part of this sun-soaked afternoon.

I wonder how one came upon the other
An actor at a poetry reading?
A poet at a movie premiere?
Although it’s lovely to believe that Poet Laureate and Academy Award winner
carry equal amounts of star-quality, respect.
Although perhaps it’s more plausible they met at a jazz club
Or even a dinner party, on the occasion when someone somewhat famous
invites their cadre of artsy friends
Because poets, painters, actors and artists make savory social soup.

Secretly, I hope they met over booze.
Swiftly sizing up the humor and humanity of the other
Silently solidifying an unspoken bond over lowball glasses of 12-year-old scotch.

I imagine Billy as instrumental in Bill’s decision to accept the Lost In Translation role.
And I picture the Upstate New York diner where Bill suggests that
The Victoria’s Secret catalog might make for an especially vibrant poem,
as Billy’s eyes widen, glisten, his over buttered wheat toast 
momentarily motionless in midair
his mind whirring, words falling into seasonal lines of luxurious lingerie.

I wonder if the friendship dates back to the summer I watched Stripes once a day.
It’s conceivable that Billy Collins actually penned the “chicks dig me” scene.
Though I’m aware my perception of Bill’s personality is an amalgam 
of his on-screen performances and several casual sightings around town.
Once at a liquor store.
While I’m thinking of it, was the use of Roxy Music’s “More Than This” in the karaoke scene from Lost in Translation Billy’s suggestion?
Or was that all Sofia Coppola?

Which brings me back to the bookshop and the young woman and me, asking if she’d seen
the precocious three-year-old lad
who recited “Litany” from memory on YouTube.
As it happens, Billy didn’t just meet the boy,
he spent an afternoon reading him his favorite books,
Neither Picnic, Lightning nor The Trouble With Poetry (and other poems),
but mostly well-illustrated animal stories
rife with warmth and words that lull a boy toward slumber.


Found poem.

I saw him
Across the grocery store parking lot
White hair, aglow in sunlight
Glasses glinting, pushing a cart
I stopped mid step, staring
Trance-like, a bird dog losing itself in its task
Synapses firing, thoughts caught
But also, nothingness.

It’s him.
It’s not.
I should call out
A sob creeping up to close my throat.

It’s not him.
He’s too tall.
Keep walking.
Unlock car. Sit.

Recall the advice.
It’s a process.
Grief is a fickle bitch.
It’s not been long.

Question sanity.
A visitation?
In a parking lot?
Is denial having its way?
Did I see what I wanted to see?

In a minute’s time
The ghost drives away in his beige Camry.
I sit glassy-eyed gazing, still in sunlight,
Watching an empty parking space
For evidence of the hereafter.


No Answer

New poem.

The rain drumming down the roof has no answers.
Nor do the leaves, each bowing in deference to a specific raindrop.
Although there’s something in the stark, dark grey skies that leads one to believe it has solutions to speak of, in addition to its winds, precipitations and preoccupations.
But it remains quiet.
One could easily go turning over mottled brown bottle stones half stuck in soaked earth and silt in search of clarity, perhaps a kind word,
And come away with no more than drenched dungarees and question marks dangling from tree limbs.
The waves speak a language I do not yet understand, though I strain every sense and muscle to comprehend, as if want always led to get.
Birds offer little relief – their songs stop and start without warning, their arrivals and departures more riddle than reason.
Perhaps better to dwell here in parts unknown, questions unanswered.
Perhaps better still to become the rain, the skies, leaves, half-stuck stones and waves – and one day, even the bird.

We Who Want

New poem. With thanks to Kim Vollmer-Lawson.

We want the sunset back
The moment
Its crimson belly
Finds it hiding place
Children dirty kneed in dungarees. Painters. Poets.

We want another story to sleep by
As we rub burning eyes
Stretch. Sink toward dream.

We want heavy, elephant skies
Spirits with long memories. Early snows.
We wish. Will. Wonder.
Whisper. Into ears that hear.
We beg. Bless. Blunder.

We draw portraits as you draw breath
Unconscious of the beauty within them both.


Into Itself Again

Poem co-written with Kim Vollmer-Lawson.

Trapped rapt adrift in what if
What will what won’t like a song
Locked inside my mind twisting its
Meaning with each new listen
Keeping time, biding, tying
Between loss and luck there is us
Mom said a tincture would heal
Between waiting and getting there
The interlude has its own life, the knife
Blades know their job. Know what will
Cut and what is better left to tear
Its way open.

Blades can’t do this.

Glass is loveliest in shards, in slivers of itself
It wants for sunlight, we hold in esteem the
Glass gone to pieces. We wonder at the
Parts gone missing.
Turning it over in our hands wondering how
Grains of sand became bottle, window pane
Turning it back to the ground so it will
Grow into itself again.

Love is either wood or fire.

A found poem. Co-written with one of my favorite writers, Kim Vollmer-Lawson.

Love is either wood or fire
Banister or banishment
Would you still if I changed into
Stump, a table made
Would you stand firm then fall
Hold tight to my arm as you
Descend. Bring in the kindling
The kind that crackles in the fire’s lick
That lights up only
What you are allowed to see.
Would you run your hand against
My grain? Feel your own heat
Softening, bending what was into
What is
Would you forget my name if
I wrote it in flame, branded
The sky. Would you forgive me
For turning to ash?

Imperfect birds, new nests

Imperfect Birds is Anne Lamott’s new novel. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, although I love it already since the title is from a poem by Rumi, “Each has to enter the nest left by the other imperfect bird.”

As it happens, I wrote a poem about a nest a few years back. It’s rife with the angst that only the end of a relationship can bring. It’s also full of resolve and assertion, one of the better side effects of break ups we so often forget. I dedicate it now to Anne Lamott and Rumi: amazing writers, wondrous teachers.

A bird builds a new nest on top of the last
Making use of what is still good, viable, strong
Rather than starting from scratch
Already knowing the tree is solid
Having stood steadfast through seasons
Of frosts, winds, weather
And the branch on which the nest resides
Holds fast with quiet strength

A bird knows about beginning again
I’ve not known the loss of my unborn
To the tomcat or the thunderstorm
My loss came slowly over time
But was no less shocking
The discovery in the morning light
But it was I who dismantled the nest
In the literal sense
Leaving a trail of notes, anger, sobs
A neat pile of pottery shards
A vase, broken promises
Alongside a dustpan, a broom

When I left the nest for the last time
I half expected it to crumble behind me
But it remained
At least its façade
Some deaths, it seems, start slowly
Like a rot from the inside out
For so long I thought of the loss
As an explosion
That left an enormous hole
Scraped clean for certain
But deep, vast and dark

It took an entire year
Of trying to fill the hole
With all the bits I could find
Some fit, others didn’t
Some brought moments of sweetness
Of peace amid grief

Until the following spring
When I saw the very same bird
In the very same tree
Build that new nest
On top of the last
Using the strong red yarn that remained
Adding new twigs and odd pieces
Until it was ready again
For life

I could have spent two lifetimes
Trying to fill a hole
That was never mine to begin with
But I’d rather rebuild
With what I’ve already got
The red yarn
The strength of my limbs
My odds and ends
Because I think, after all,
I was meant for the flying
Not the filling of holes
I was meant for feathering a good nest
I lay down this shovel for good.