Thursday, April 30, 2015

Poem a day 2015: The last one! 30!

How It Unravels

You come home from a trip to find
the dog's mouth is bleeding and it
won't stop.

A pile of papers grows
like moss from the dining and kitchen tables,

then a cluster of jackets appears as suddenly
as mushrooms after a storm
over the chairs, and piled against the window,
and slung across the dog's kennel.

The cars run out of gas.

That pain in your ass slides down
the back of your leg and around
to grip your knee.

Standing becomes difficult, and walking --
forget about walking,
because your shoes squeeze your fat feet
until your brain feels the need
to explode.

Bacon grease infects the air, smears
the griddle in the middle of the stove,
dots the linoleum around the dog's
bloody kisses.

Somewhere in the house, a cat
calls you -- a loud, plaintive cry
that means he's trapped himself
where you'll never find him.

Now even the words in the books
that line your walls
begin to disintegrate,

and your signature on the check for the cleaning lady
dances into meaningless scribbles,
your eyes swimming in super glue.

Finally, your AARP cards arrive
in a big red and white envelope
and you pull them out to discover
they've gotten your husband's name wrong:

he's now Donald rather than David,
how the hell does that happen,
could it be that your handwriting has gotten

or did you somehow, in a twilight zone
twist of time, a pre-senile fugue state,
write your grandfather's name on the form
four weeks ago

when you decided,
in a moment of geriatric resignation,
a flash of precognition
that revealed, as in a bolt of lightening,
the many ways that time
is already unknitting you,

to abandon any pretense of avoiding 
this fate

and to jump, with the rest,
off the metaphorical Titanic of
middle age in America
into the future's freezing ocean
and be done with it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 29

The Poem Won't Write Itself,

you know, so you're going to have to do some work.
but first, eat that dark chocolate you've got
stashed in your desk. feel better? good.

why not start with some invention work?
you know -- a freewrite or something. and
time it. there's nothing more annoying than

typing blah blah blah for like twenty long minutes
with your mind half on something else and a
quarter in the ether. five minutes seems about right.

get anything? aside from the fact that "freewrite"
autocorrected to "ferret"?  (twice) no? still thinking
about that chocolate? well, it's gone now. you ate it.

focus on the task at hand. maybe you could dip
your fingers into that word box you've got and
pull something out, like "plaything" or "fabulous."

(forget about "sleep" -- you've done enough of that.
your mental sloth has become "habitual.") what can you do
with a fabulous plaything then? oh, come on,

get your twelve-year-old boy-mind  out of the gutter
for once.  no poem is going to come of that immature
hubba hubba shit ... so what what sorts of things

are fabulous playthings? nature. the mind. children.
how about poetry?  oooh, now you're going all meta
on the poem's ass, poetry as a fabulous plaything,

when you know that no one sees poetry as playful
anymore, not really. and by "no one" you mean you don't,
you who know the hive mind or at least write about yourself

as if you know what everyone is thinking. maybe if you
eat more chocolate, or go in search of more, you'll get
inspired. or maybe while you're gone, the computer pixies

will enter like the elven shoemakers of old and hammer
together a poem from the scraps you've left on the cyber
table, and the poem will essentially write itself.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Poem a day 2015:28

We're Back in Town

And the air is crisp
clean and clear and cold

as if it's been waiting for us
to fly back over the mountains

with the night on our tail
and land here where the maples

have budded in our absence
green lacy puffs over the roads

as if trying to match the green
of the forests we've just left

all the animals are glad to see us:
the cats follow us through the house

and sleep on our faces as we nap off

the upright dozing trip
all those dreams that don't get to stick

and the dog's celebration
involves twirling in midair

even the sunshine seems designed
to compete with any wanderer's lust

to head out for territories unknown
to fall in love with foreign places

Monday, April 27, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 27


All those lives pressing up
against me in the market place,
unknown faces and bodies hiding
a thousand thousand stories
I will never know, some of them
dark with molasses hate

The roads unwinding in front of me
path after path leading
perhaps in the wrong direction
where hearts beat into dead ends
that fist them into submission

The crash of thunder rocking
the handles on the dresser
shivering the wood beneath our bed
and the crack of lightening
splitting the night wide

That cancer will worm its way
into someone I love and blossom
and blossom and blossom

Fiery car accidents
in the middle of nowhere
The dog loose and running toward traffic
Floods in the basement
Zombie apocalypse
Meteor invasion
Any sort of war on home soil
Memory loss and mental illness
Dying alone and unloved

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 26

Slow Burn

For months now
a muscle in my right buttock
has been burning, a deep hot paralyzing fire

that drills down into my soul
and scoops sips of it out
until I feel flat as the devil

a paper woman in a muscular conflagration
Hell on broken wheels
limping through the streets now

of Portland, gimping up
the humps and down the hillocks
of the Oregon zoo,

standing in line at Voodoo Donuts
with the slow smoldering melt
disintegrating my hip bone

into a low murmur:

If I were a Barbie doll I'd beg you
with my painted eyes
to pull my plastic leg out of its socket

and let it snap back
or just twist the thing off and
throw it in the bushes

Too bad I'm alive
a living breathing 50 year old woman
in what appears to be

reasonable health for her age
who needs this damaged leg to stand on
for another 35 years or so

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 25


Here in Oregon
the green is aggressive
popping out against the eye
in moving shades
that climb low mountains
and jut up in reaching pines
as thin and coiffed as
someone's amateur painting

and the azaleas and rhododendrons
explode into lush bunches
of delicate wet flowers
purple and pink and fuchsia
that hang in voluptuous clumps
over emerald patches of grass
that butt up against small houses
with peaks that match
their miniature pines

Everywhere life seems to be
thrusting up against the cracks
breaking the pavement with
fecund urgency
and the feeling infects the wet air
like pollen

"Everything smells fresh," Lizzie says
and I have to agree
though for the moment I feel
as ancient as the hills that surround us
wrapped in a furling blanket
of creeping cloud

Friday, April 24, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 24

We Are Flying

Lizzie and I are flying today
leaving Green Bay and lifting off
going west over mountains
toward the coast
where soon she will make her
new life
without us

already I feel my insides
the air inside me expanding
and pulling me up
molecule by molecule
beginning with every root
of every hair

minute by minute I'm getting
as invisible parts of me detach
and evaporate
dissolve into the future
the past
transformed into weightless

perhaps this zero gravity
explains the queasy knot
at the pit of my stomach
or maybe
that's an echo of my
melting heart

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 23

Waiting for It

I’m waiting for the poem to come to me,
looking out the window into slow moving
clouds over the gently waving branches
of a still-leafless tree, marking two pelicans
as they dive from the white into the blue,
flapping in tandem, tracing big circles
across my vision.

The birds this morning
shouted from the bare trees, promising
warmer weather, the eventual arrival of
summer: silky hot skies, flowering shrubs,
the hiss of cicadas stretching the air wider.

I’m waiting for the poem to come to me,
stretched out on my chaise under two
layers, skin still vaguely chilled by the
retrograde weather, the crisp wind,
frozen mud flavored by yesterday’s
mocking snowflakes.

I’m waiting for it
to burst onto the scene with trumpets
and tigerlilies, with explosions of leaves
and clusters of cottonwood seeds borne
in puffs across the river trail, with dandelions
like punctuation marks across every lawn --

I’m waiting for the naked summer poem
to arrive and demand we strip off all these
heavy clothes, run across hot sidewalks, and
dive into each other with sweaty abandon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 22

Dreaming of You, Dad

Amazing how, now that you’re gone,
I think of you more and more often,
and you enter my dreams with some
regularity -- a strong, slim presence

such as you were in the sixties, before
the stresses of academia and fakery,
the pressures of fatherhood and family,
inflated you with anger and despair.

I can’t quite recall your words as you
offer casual opinions about world affairs
and my ongoing place in them, or advice
for navigating a position in administration

with a modicum of grace, despite the
hidden snakes and the open haters
(you’ve figured out, it seems, that
I’m slated to move into it in August),

but I do remember your sweet smile
and the shine in your eyes, warm now
with love and appreciation. I can even
reinvent, like the afterscent of smoke

soaked into my clothes, the feel of your
strong arm around my shoulders and
the rub of your hands down my skin
as you pull me in against you.

These dreams reassure me. It seems
you are indeed in a better place. But
they also make me sad -- to know that
some of us have to die in order to love.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 21

Lately an Odd Calm

lately an odd calm
possesses me

settles my insides
into perfect order

stills the thought whirl
that once agitated me

so that i fit perfectly
inside my skin

-- it’s a strange feeling
this equanimity

as if i’ve finally found
the proper orbit

around the proper sun
and gravity has

found me
at last

Monday, April 20, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 20

Poem for Lizzie

a long time ago
you used to bull your head
against my ribs
press your feet into
my backbone and
bend me like a bow
from the inside

you were so big in me
i couldn’t tie my shoes
couldn’t get behind the wheel
of my car
strangers in the supermarket
stopped their carts in front of me
to shout: don’t have that baby here!
and 5 year old seth asked:
how’s your baby
going to get out?

i wondered that too
of course
woke up with every fiber of me
on fire with you
and wondering
how the hell you were going
to get out of me

hard to believe you’re now
a woman
and taller than me
ready to launch yourself
into the wide world
beyond our house
fixing your sights across
this country
to a western state
we’ve only visited once

every day i wake up
with the truth of your
impending departure
pushing behind my eyes
and i have to find you
look at you
to make sure
you’re still here
that your story hasn’t started
without me

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 19

Spring Cleaning

I’m incompetent in the garden,
digging up flowers or raking them,
when they’re tender April shoots,
into chewed bits. My neglect
encourages three foot high thistles
and nightshade and skunk weed,
and the Snow on the Mountain I planted
under the cedar over 13 years ago
has colonized half the backyard.
I let dried leaves take over the beds,
am indifferent to pruning,
have no idea when to plant bulbs,
and allow squirrels to transplant
the neighbor’s daffodils to our lawn.
My surviving flowers and shrubs
cling to life despite me, struggling
in ragged non-rows, competing with
dandelions and three year old mulch.

About once a year, I head out and
tackle something with haphazard zeal.
Today, I raked beds, retrampled
mulch, rearranged the puffs of leaves
around the bottoms of the bushes,
got something stuck in my thumb
that’s still bugging me, pulled a few
weeds and left them piled on the porch,
couldn’t get the weedkiller to squirt,
pushed some bent metal “holders”
around the incipient peonies, and
then put all the tools away before
noting the pile of leaves on the back
patio that will no doubt remain there
for another twelve months.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Poem a day 2015: 18

This Neighborhood

With its postage stamp lawns, row
after row of them,
the grass now a mottled green and yellow
where years of dog piss
have burned past the roots,

and the arching maples,
some splitting in half, rotten
at their cores,
roots gnarled around themselves,
suffocating under cracked concrete,
maples spitting whirly seeds
into our clogged gutters
and down into our weedy flower beds,
here and there a fresh stump
in the middle of sprayed sawdust,

and our houses -- peeling stucco,
faded plastic siding,
ripped awnings
banging against front porches
in a wind
that pushes dried leaves
and half built robins’ nests --
crowded up against each other,
knocking elbow to elbow,

this neighborhood sheds another
winter skin
and blows it up
with dust
into the still-cold sky
where planes fly low
and away,
dragging their silver bellies
over our roofs
like missed wishes.