Friday, October 3, 2008

Thanks for reading

I'm done for a while. I thought I would continue into October, but I think it's going to be more fruitful for me to revise these drafts, and others, than to start producing more of them on any kind of a schedule.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Guy Fawkes Day is coming


I envision what I will burn:
the form of that beast that pulls me down,
the pictures of evil, the memories of sins
everyone but me has forgotten

and some--but never all--
of my cravings.

Another one recovered

One of the poems in my head as I tried to sleep this morning. It doesn't have a title.

the giant snail crossed the sky
like the universe’s slowest meteor
suspended by the trail of its misery
blotting out the winks of wishes

some hid their faces
some raised their lenses
some sent prayers through the slime
some cheered and chugged

when its work was done
when God was good and ready
when the book was three pages from Fin
the rain came

washing them in the muck and springwater
baptizing them under the knowledge tree
staining tuxedos and burkas

maybe it was the beer that melted it
maybe it was x-rays
maybe it was never there

and they added tears and snot to the rain
the marks of their fears, their weakness
the ugliness of midnight

the shell is there still
mirroring the spiral moon
once every day

the sun slips behind
and for an hour
they dream of salt water
and clean edges

Two to go!

Hell, I might actually eke out 30 poems in 30 days, if I can stay focused later.

I wonder whether such acquisitive creation is a worthy goal. I have in front of me a Walgreens shopping list, on the back of a quote by Stanley Kunitz: "Poetry isn't written on a schedule."

Off to Walgreens.

Been trying to write this one for years.

Not quite there yet.


When the meds are right and his wife’s away,
he is the mayor:
debonair in his seersucker robe,
strolling in flat-tire slippers
past the laughing fallen, the stunned stoned.

He carries, inside the pack of Kools
(for which he gets lights from the ladies
behind the double glass),
the Virgin in vinyl crocodile,
half-sewed bugle beads, faint tiny photos
of some baby with a tinfoil crown.
Some Catholic thing, given to him
by that Mexican fellow in the Guard
who ran onto the marksman field.

Could be luck, he thinks, but he’s never sure:
his only sureness comes when it’s time
to go back to the tiled halls,
flirt with the nurses, throw back
the dope in paper shotglasses.
He thinks about giving it away
to that pink-haired boy
with the wrist straps, who bums
his cancer sticks and laughs sometimes.

But when he’s gone, the tiny parcel
is in my hands: his daughter, who carries
half his illness in her coils,
who wonders what god’s luck
this token brought him.

Vindictive tombstone

This is the tombstone I cited the other day in the poem about Huffman Cemetery. I didn't get the wording quite right in the poem; It's even more mordant than what I remembered.

I first saw this stone about 15 years ago, when a friend and I were in the same cemetery, looking for the grave of an old friend of hers. I was pretty astonished by it. But maybe I'm just misinterpreting it?

Of course, it pales next to the recent whopper of an obituary that was widely publicized.

I mean, I get that it's satisfying to have the last word, but maybe it's better not to say anything, let the unmarked plot be covered over by foliage and Coke cans. Or flush the cremains down the toilet, if it helps.


So I stayed up late last night (this morning), had maybe one more glass of wine than I should, got to writing. Got a little tired, willed myself to bed, only to lie there and compose about four poems in my head. That last one was one of them. I wonder whether I'll remember the others.

I had that struggle I have, sometimes, when I wonder whether to get up and write and write and write, or stay in bed and try to get on track: a decent night's sleep, an early morning. I will be starting work again soon--the kind of work where I remain upright and shower and get paid, not art work--and I'll need to maintain such salubrious structure.

I wonder how many poems I lose when I'm good. But I know that the other way is not a healthy way to go, not all the time.

I just wrote this one, based on last night's dream. I see from my old semi-informed pal Wikipedia that "planchet" is an unprinted coin. I might have been thinking of the Ouija planchette, or of some French word I can't quite remember.


I dreamed that you,
lecturing your followers,
asked us the French for table.

The woman in front of me
on the bus declared:
Planchet. I, timidly,
mining schoolgirl memory,
offered table. You didn’t hear me.

The thing is what it is,
not some hunk to be molded
into coin of our choosing,
some base metal
redeemed by a fancy half-face.

Hard wood, sturdy legs,
a smooth surface for work.
From this we should eat.

James Hampton

James Hampton, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly (ca. 1950–1964)

Tossing away sandwiches,
chewing gum, cigarettes,
he made his heaven from wrappers,
commerce’s carapace. Who would discard

the meat of the thing: shake out
the book and bow to
the empty jacket, feed on
Baggies and shells, expect

twenty-four blue robes to rise
and offer a requiem? Recall, then,
that this temple of trash was made
in a garage: a heavenly vehicle,

we, entering, fuel.


OK, so if I want 30 poems in 30 days, I have to do five more today. Pretty darn unlikely.

A poem from five minutes ago

Made the last post, swigged a bit more of this tasty red wine, and knocked this one out.

The title refers (on its most literal level) to a line of fashion dolls made by Mattel in my childhood, now sought (along with their cousins Dawn and her friends) by collectors, including me. Gotta be a bit of Winehouse and one or two groupies of my acquaintance in there as well. But I'm explaining too much.


heads turned backward, joints loose,
knees blue, lashes shed,
feet chewed: they age
like the dissolute young,

not like the dollies who once
looked up to their hard breasts,
twist-and-turn waists,
feet on perpetual tiptoe,

and who now put them
(frocks torn, lips smeared)
behind glass that reflects
chins, crow’s feet, and—loveliest—

laugh lines.

A poem from September 26

I wrote it in a parking lot somewhere near Arcadia, Virginia. Just revised it a teeny bit, but it's got farther to go.

Fairport Convention, What We Did on Our Holidays, 1969

It doesn’t matter
whether the lyrics lie, the rhythm section
grumbles like the old folks
upstairs, the keys sputter
like a hophead’s fingers.

You lie beneath. In time,
you leap out of bed, throw off
the stinking covers of night.
You are the crowing cock,
the snap of bacon,
the sharp sun that wakes
the breeze. You are
banners, mortars, Mardi Gras,
the guileless full-face span
of the baby just learned
to smile. You fall
like a vole-bound kite.

Then you go under again,
back to the cave of counterpane,
to find him gazing at open hands,
wondering when
it will come back.

Yeah, I've fallen behind

The traveling sorta did me in. I was with relatives, and I didn't find much time to myself. What poems I wrote got written largely while I was driving. I mean, literally, sometimes. Little scribbles that would tide me over until I could pull over and write longer scribbles in my notebook.

Then I got home and was pretty much sans inspiration. I would love to make better excuses, or even to be sorrier. But so it goes.

I'll try and play catch-up, a bit, in the next couple of days. And I will probably continue on into October. My friend Joan has sent out a list of poetry prompts that might get me going for another month. (A month that will be crammed with travel and work and the usual stuff one has to work around--or draw from, if lucky.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Out of town

I've just come from the mountaintop, chilly and verbose. This will need work. Also, my camera has lost its mind or its energy or both, so I can't look at the pictures of the tombstones to confirm some of this.


Why do they put them on the mountaintops?
Further from hell, I guess, or closer to heaven,
they hope. Further up
than the real town, further than the trees
that nod like geishas,
up where the wind whips.

A deadly place:
they make you wear dress shoes,
then send you tottering into the sod.
The wind whips, and you wonder
how many people catch their death
at someone else’s burial.

Here’s the stone I’m looking for:
Frank Looney. Dollar signs flank the legend


Who put this man to such uneasy rest?
Couldn’t be Maude, slumbering, overgrown,
at his feet, dead fifty years before him.
He seems alone otherwise, though the settlement
bears his name—vanity, maybe,
but surely not luxury.

There is no one here to ask. Farther up,
by the gravel road, lies the man who did the burying.
That same man, ten months ago,
was called from his bed
to bring the gurney across the road
to take what small parcel
my mother left behind.

A scant two months after,
he was gone, laid under granite, sharp-lettered,
just uphill from his son, who buried my father
eight years before Mom and died two months before—
one of her last stories, to me, the tale
of the wreck that took him.

He was my age, left a new wife,
no children. Father and son
with their customers: who will bury
the rest of us?

Saddest are the small stones with their lambs,
worn to near-anonymity. They mark
the ones who lived a February day.
Loretta’s day was four before I began
my grateful slog. I once knew

a Loretta my age, a snaggle-toothed
cocktail girl who brought mai tais
to my boyfriend and me,
when we were all eighteen.

Such unspoken things:
like praying with your eyes open,
never sure what to do
when you meet another’s open eyes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I scribbled this in a notebook on route 81 south yesterday. I think I was stopped somewhere--I don't think I could have written this while driving!

Apologies for the late post.

and when you slammed the door
you nearly caught my fingers
and I curled them
into fists and knocked
until my knuckles went red

with rage and fear
I ran
but where?
caught on a mill wheel
working for ruin

who was it rolled the boulder
into the road? who ran
down to the station
to set the flags afire? who was it
ground the planes
under an icy palm?

all the little salves
were my salvation
my bruises a sunset

and in the dawn
clean hands, strong hands
ready to turn the wheel
tear the ticket
hold the pen

Monday, September 22, 2008

A very rough first draft

the girth of a tiger
is the fat of dreams
where the paws walk rivers and mountains
the teeth shine with purple blood

the cub grown to fulfillment
accretes the hopes of fallen pronghorns
the dreams of meaty belches
and its stripes widen and blacken
and its orange tawns

and it feeds on its own lusts
till it is hard, unbreakable, perfect

An issue of limited relevance

Well, I'm gonna be on Jeopardy! this week. It taped back in July. I was in the audience for all of this week's shows (except when I was on stage, of course); it was a fascinating and weird experience.

I did get to talk about poetry a little. Very little. It seems to be an area that interests Alex.

I'll be leaving town to visit my Virginia relatives for the broadcast (pizza party in Craig County!), so my posts might get sporadic.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Telling it slant

I did have an uncle who opened a liquor store when I was just barely of age, or just underage. Other than that, this poem is fiction.

LATE ‘70s

I gaze through the cabernet
through the glass
at all the closed books,

on my shelves
remembering my sixteenth summer

when my uncle
opened his liquor store
led me to the stacked crates

(branded like the planks
cousin Bruce played cowboys with:
brandishing his hot wand, his weapon)

for the tasting.
it was sweet and a little spoiled
clinging to my lips, my tongue,

like curses
as he stared at my fingers
(at cross-my-heart level)

wrapped around the paper cup
so tight, their nails
so clean

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Again, I'm nearly missing my deadline

So...some doggerel.


buying a farm is like
trying to braid water

climbing the hill is like
buying the hill

being alive is like
peaches in your pajamas

growing carrots is like
combing the rain


being alive is like
buying a farm

buying the hill is like
climbing the hill

combing the rain is like
growing carrots

peaches in your pajamas is like
trying to braid water

I'm not getting anywhere yet. I wrote a bunch of surreal similes, then sorted the lines (minus "is like") alphabetically and re-paired them.

trying to braid water
no better than combing the rain

so strange that the stream
can cut stone, kill children,
feed carrots and refugees

when you can watch the yellow slickers
behind Niagara

or the smooth belly of your lover
in the shower

as if through some imaginary barrier
some checkpoint of clouds

Yeah, OK, whatever. I've got to start earlier in the day if I want real results.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I continue my fascination with Timothy Treadwell

Many words, lines, and phrases in this poem came from episode 7 of The Grizzly Man Diaries.


“Perhaps there was room in his doggy heaven
for a person like me.”

Had Treadwell never spoken,
what would we have? Green and white,
gray trunks, gray toes,
gray wolf, red fox, tawny-maple bear;

the gray of the timbers fallen
like fence along the raging riverside;
the dirty azure of the North Face,
on the prime cut of the Big Green;
the grungy rainbow of wool wrapped
around hair like fresh straw.

It is silent since the earthquake:
preceded by the cries of foxes, their clicks and whirrs;
(I hide and shake)
followed by the soft thuds of cliffs failing
(I’ve gotta be able to hide…)

the moose bull-huff call as he lumbers
through Queen Anne’s lace
(…and be a witness…)

The bear lies back, lazily, slowly,
to nurse her cubs; the fox nips
his callused finger, pulls at his satchel,
and all is in balance:

no swell of river, no rush of rain,
no scattering patter of twigs on roof.
One small moment at the center.

Away runs ruddy Timmy, trailing
his bent brush of tail
trailing, into the maze, the words:

was it our last season together?

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I'm reading The Blue Hand, a book about the Beats in India. I've just read an e-mail from a friend who recommends the book The Geography of Bliss. I have been playing with my cat Bear, who nearly died and who might not yet be well, but who is acting like a healthy cat. I drop a ball of paper in front of him and he scrambles for it. I bounce it off his chest and he stares at me. I toss it on the floor and he looks down, from his spot on the couch....not well yet; one step at a time.

I just did this freewrite.

crumpled paper rumpled rupees
stumble on the geography of bliss
cattle purr mountains move
celery stalks waver on the hill
I am going down to the water
I am going to write my name in water
I am going to float my name on air
down by the river
where the wild oak grows
gnawing at its own roots
urging to go down the stream
to become a dam
a wall
a building
even a book

land is aside, the middle is grass
inside the grass is grain
inside the grain is rain
inside the rain is some kind of pouch
full of dryness
maybe old bones
maybe the laughter of the dead
maybe hate

hate that tumbles
picks up speed and weeds
and wanderers

in my heart is an arrow
with a tip that points to the Ganges
a picture of a stone tower in my wallet
crumpled by workaday life

Red things

There is a lot of great writing on alcoholism out there. I don't think this will ever match it, but what the hell.

It was inspired, in part, by Lal Waterson's magnificent "Red Wine Promises." (YouTube has audio--with photo, no video--of Tony Capstick singing it here.)

Also by many ruddy people I met among the aging rock-star world in England (hence a few double meanings, in the title, for example), and by a family member now lost, or at least misplaced.


He has gathered the red from every sunny day
and a few false suns (klieg, votive, cigar)
to wash his skin:

youth is red, and cherries, and wine--

but the wine
is hidden behind the soup tins. There is no wine.

Morning bathes his face, his squinted eyes
like a newborn’s, a refugee’s, a beggar’s—

but beggars
choose their gutters. It is not an illness.

Bosses oppress, shopkeepers discriminate,
because the world now belongs to the Barbies
with Blueteeth and false wisdom
and the fresh, red organs
of teetotalers.

Every few steps, a stop,
a new start.

Every light he barrels through
is red.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Partial credit?

It’s the careful time, the eyelash time,
breeze still as blame,
when the XXX the XXX
come down the narrow track
bent on your name.

You can run till the air you move chills
chaps your soft face
or face the blade and XXX your eye
quick and crisp as a Northern Spy
safe in your grace.

I don't mess with formal poetry much. I want my meter to be either lockstep-rigid or so subtle that only I can find it. Playing with Mister In-Between, as I was doing here, makes me uncomfortable.

I don't know what those missing words are, and that's bad, because the ones in line three are pretty much what the poem is about, if it's about anything.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Maybe I should do a chapbook of TV poems


Death should be clean, contained,
overlaid by humor,
set to allegro strings,
surpassed in sixty minutes.

Look closely: The ghosts
of hundreds of murders
cling to her twin set,
her sensible shoes, like thistle pods.

So she scrubs hard, picks nits,
pours buckets of softeners,
entrusts the brisk Maine air
to keep the sweaters cozy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

pretentious lowercase twaddle to fill space

Sooner or later, my life will get easier and my real inspiration will come back. Right now I feel like I'm just going through the motions.

in re:
weight words wounds

is tying
better than buttoning
or does it allow
more wiggle room

at least it’s bondage
topped with a cute bow

Sunday, September 14, 2008


In another last-ditch effort to get something done for the blog, I just went poking around Wikipedia, randomly, looking for inspiration. I finally landed on the entry for "Wildlife of Kazakhstan" and this photo.

The lynx presses his eyes together
in prayer. His ears are antennae
to heaven. In his sleep he hears
the call to the mountain.
His feet move, his claws tear the grass.

He might as well be swimming in air.
He will not reach the mountain top.
The battle will go on, while he turns
to bury his ear under his tawny shoulder.
Death cries effaced by soft snores.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Writing about things I know nothing about

I'd like to write more of this, but (a) I would have to refresh my memory of Wallace's work and (b) I'm really, I confess, rushing to get something, anything in before midnight.

David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

Like Treadwell
striding off
into the
Grizzly Maze,

like some half-
assed high
school actor
his next line,

he loses
his place.

Some skull yanked
from a hole,
with the dirt
shaken off.

Some joke,
the kind that
lasts beyond
the grave

Friday, September 12, 2008

A dedication

I want to dedicate the pencil poem to someone called Sars, someone I've never met. I knew her first as a commentator on Television Without Pity, a site where I used to spend a lot of time before they ushered out most of the really great writers and ushered in too many bells and whistles.

A few minutes ago, I read about Sars' 9/11 experience and her search for a fellow who helped her that day. (The story here, here, and here.) If you want to believe in angels, it's great evidence. If you don't, it's a lovely story of the kindness of strangers, of human goodness.

There is a bit in Sars' 9/11 recollections in which she anthropomorphizes the falling tower. It's breathtaking. Somehow, it got me past my own writer's block into looking at an object from a different perspective, or perspectives.

Go for the concrete

That's the trick to writing while depressed. Avoid those pitfalls of writing about depression, lack of sleep, your mother's death, 9/11. Go for something concrete.


We like it when it is new:
flat, unsharpened.
We like it more when the point is narrow
as a mind. We don’t like it rounded,
smoothed down by work,
its words uttered thick and dark gray.

We like it school-bus yellow, fake-cheese yellow.
We like it without the mark
of a schoolgirl tooth.
We like the name on its side
in cursive, an example.

We need an eraser. A giving one, a clean one.
Not one hard and anger-colored,
leaving its own gray whines
across our errors. We need it tight, neat
in its tin cummerbund.

We use it
until perfection cannot be renewed,
until the mill won’t grind it
because it’s too small, too overworked
for fingers to grasp.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I've got so little to say, and so little beauty with which to say it. This is my favorite season, so I should be perkier, but instead I feel like I'm running from something that scares me, hiding, denying. It could be that this time last year, I was about to realize that my mother was dying. And it's September 11, and my cat is sick, and my sleep patterns are screwed up.

I'll try to do better. I started to write a poem about a girl on a train on the way to college, but it started to depress me as well, so I stopped.

It’s always cold on the train
and I pull my scarf tighter. Not Isadora-tight;
we haven’t reached that place yet.
Behind me is my first love. Before me,
maps with scales I can’t read,
books thick as pedestals,
other young people unzipped,
chapped, bruises on their knees
under paisley skirts.

I really need joy to work. This gloom just smudges everything it touches.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nocturnal omissions

Oh, yeah, that's a bad pun.

Look, I've been ridiculously out of sync with not only a diurnal schedule, but any kind of schedule at all.

Yesterday I was sure I'd written something early in the morning. I realized later today that that wasn't the case. But it's now nearly midnight and I was up all night and...well, I'm giving myself a break. I can't work like this.

I'll return to the poems tomorrow, because I hope to return to a normal schedule by then as well.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Paging Rod McKuen?

This one sounds like it could be going for some kind of bathetic parody. Maybe it needs the title to make a difference--imagine if it were called "Abortion." "Diet." "Grief." "Lipo."

There’s a hole in my middle
that nothing can fill. A hole I notice
because it is
a hole.

Air or water or love or lettuce
might rush in. Or doughnuts.
But it will still be a hole,
because what is meant to be there
is me.

Not mouth, not postbox, not portal.
It is a true void. Me minus
part of me.

How much of me can be gone
and still leave me here?

Irrelevant in my pajamas

Up late reading the latest Nevada Barr novel--what a stunner. Maybe the best one yet.

So, before turning in, I thought I'd knock on the muse's door, or whatever cute metaphor you might want to use. I guess I saw a picture of an elephant in's "peek inside" for Hollywood Babylon. I wanted to redeem the elephant somehow, take it out of that sordid setting. I thought of Ganesh. But I got no farther than creating an elephant protector when I just kind of wandered.

That elephant isn’t going anywhere.
Stoic, or perhaps drugged, he stands
at the tent opening,
skin cool and dry as stone,
eyes drooping like melon seeds.

He was called there,
to guard those within,
and he has made of himself a wall
with no gate,
a gray impediment
more powerful than the saffron canvas.

Since when does evil seek a door?
Can it not rip the house to tatters
from without, within?

The next day, the women
bring flowers and sweet leaves
to the stone steps
where once stood a home of curtains,

the steps that look, from a mouse’s eye,
like the knees of an elephant.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I just finished writing a love poem to my husband.

This is NOT it.

This is about something--a cliche, really--with which I have no experience.


A little piece of cardboard
is where it starts
and soon the world
has run amok:

trust reduced to fractured numbers,
a slash through a handclasp

unknown lips
wrapped around
unkindled flame
licking the sweetness
from the digits

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Whatever happened to Rusty Holderbaum?


in the center of Maple Avenue
in the center of Takoma Park
in the center of the universe

half a fake phone
sufficient for talks with Rusty Holderbaum
in the house across the driveway

the password to freedom
from the hiding place behind the Porters’ pool
with a run, a kick

the mortal shell
of the soul
of Chef Boy-ar-dee

someday to be deemed
and sit at the curb

for the men in gray
to take away

to be sent out again
as this charm around my neck

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sticks and stories

This story is sort of true. Or it has true stories in it, along with, as William Stafford said, "stories that might be true."

I haven't found one in a while. At the bottom of this message is the one I found outside the Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder as Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson rehearsed one of Loudon's songs--wish I could remember what it was.

I started an "alphabet series" some time ago. I guess I figured it'd be an impetus to get 26 poems going. Hey, it's working for Sue Grafton. I have perhaps three--in nonalphabetical order--that are more ore less "finished" (how do you know when a poem is finished?) and another four or five in the works.


For a time, when I was dying,
I found them everywhere: the driveway,
downtown, a faraway park.
Standing on a hill as the singer
crooned about life as a man
I glanced to the grass and found
this one, with a phantom limb
in its crotch.

They are said to point to water.
I’ve seen them used, in a field by broken stones,
by a codger, smelling of cats,
charming a lady backpacker.
My mother swore her father had that gift.

I have clutched their legs and wished,
looked for the liquid source,
felt the rough bark and unexpected lightness,
a feeling gray and gentle as a Midlands morning.

I did not believe life would go on,
and I never asked why.
Now I go on,
branch to branch,
drinking occasional rain.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The latest in the "what did we see out the car window" series


Celadon explodes
on the road, as if the sky had cracked.
Perhaps the dude with the weed-whacker
whacked it. Perhaps some Flying Scot,
in tow, flew from its trailer,
bow up, into a bank of clouds.

Everything changes here, molecule by minute
by man. Cars take the road
from here to there. Seasonally,
vegetable stands crop up, flourish,
vanish. The Maryland sun
moves shadows of the gravel
as the gravel wanders.

Nothing stays
but the blacktop, and even the blacktop
in some cataclysm of fear
(like mine)
goes blue.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Oh, perfect!

Captain Cook's sextant. I wonder if I knew, somehow, that it had that shape?


Now this thing is just going out of control. Well...look.

Why do we travel
if no one
knows where we
came from? Falling
from arches, the
canvas roof of
the caravan sweeps
over road, effaces.

What is our ruse?
We follow the
trailing finger of
God, our sextant
the thumbnail moon.

Why do we dare?
Our caravan road
winds toward the
sun, burning us
pink and swollen,
frail as babies
too soon cast
from the womb.

Where do we
dwell? In paper
patterns, painted houses,
crooked doors, gates
that sing open.
Crooked patterns,
chiding parrots,
and the faces
we make for ourselves.

I feel like there's too much going on. I tried the technique of moving the questions to the tops of the stanzas, and I stuck to that mostly-three-word-line thing. But I need to stick to the caravan and the road. And I'm bringing home in at the end, but we still have to be looking out a window and seeing those horses with the bells in their manes, the dust flying up from hooves and wood wheels. You know?

Furthermore, if there's a sextant in my poem, I better know what one looks like.


Going deep

Today, while driving to Goodwill, I was thinking about trying to write about a childhood friend. This is someone I last saw in 1983. Two years ago this time, I found out that she had been murdered by her husband. The news came at a time when I was already fragile from several wild winds in my own life; I don't know how well I "processed" the event.

I realized, as words came together in my head, that to do this poem right, I would really have to immerse myself in memories, pictures, information about the event. And I don't feel up to it.

My poems tend to arise because of a chance (or sometimes contrived) encounter with a propitious phrase. I was scrambling last night for a subject, decided to see what popped into my head, and got that old Whitman line about lilacs. I then reeled stuff off, words in what sounded to me like musical phrases, referring intermittently to Wikipedia for some bits of information on lilacs. I like what I got, and I think it could become something better.

Does this approach strike anyone as cold? I wonder. So many of my poems come from a sort of aesthetic remove; they sing for their own sakes, and they're not overtly about some personal trauma or deep feeling. That's not to say that they aren't designed, often, to evoke such a feeling.

All that said, happenstance can guide me into more emotional poems. The one I wrote in April, about my father visiting my mother's family, was (is) pretty meaningful to me. There were at least two others that I wrote during that poem-a-day month that touched on extremely personal "hot topics"--including one that was in response to the news of the death of someone with whom I had had one of the worst relationships of my life.

I dunno, though: Sometimes it seems like other poets, especially the ones I meet in workshops, are very much in the business of writing about some very important or meaningful topic. I seldom can get to such a topic via the straight path. And sometimes this makes me uneasy.

Now I have a funny feeling that I wrote some very similar musings in April. Yup, I did. Oh, well.

Continuing to tinker with the freewrite

I found a passage I liked in that recent freewrite and wrote it all out in lines of three words each. (I took out one word along the way.) I was amused to find that it divided evenly by 3.

[EDIT: Oh, crap, never mind. The first line is four words. This is why I don't do formal stuff. Also why they stopped letting me be the cashier at the library book sale in 1985.]

The tail of the
caravan sweeps across
road, effaces. What
is the point
of travel if
no one knows
where we came
from? What is
our ruse? Why
do we dare?
Where do we
dwell? In paper
patterns, painted houses,
crooked doors, gates
that sing open.
God bless America.

Then I started looking at the first word of each line. I couldn't get a reasonable phrase from the whole list, but I found a couple of intriguing bits:

The caravan road is of nowhere.
where dwell patterns crooked that God

"Crooked that God" what?

"smudged with his finger while juggling the planets"?
"ordained for crooked travelers"?

So many fun possibilities.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

This owes as much to Wikipedia as to Whitman

First draft. Just written since about 11:40. What I write here are first drafts, generally, unless I note otherwise.


Food to Svensson’s Copper Underwing, cousin of the privet,
some paschal sprout, pale, like blood under skin,
you mark my coming and going
with your scent:

asexual, Syringa pubescens, vulgaris, spontanea
you are as quick as spring to show and sway,
aloof as a tomboy, fickle as water ice,
lovely and complete and duplicitous.

It is when your bloom is gone
that you will come inside my house:
your sapwood, your heartwood turning
into a twisted flute
for a homely song.

The insomnia returns

I was doing well with sleep for a while. Then I quit my job and started lapsing into something like a 4-a.m.-to-noon sleep schedule. Then I started this blog...last night I was up past 5, and then awoke before 9, when my husband prepared for work, and now I want to sleep again, to catch up, as if I could.

So I was getting drowsy here, while checking e-mail and reading Defamer and Chuck Taggart's wonderful Looka! blog, and I decided to do a few minutes of freewriting while my defenses were down. I'll dump it here and then sleep.

Oh, but one of the reasons I was still up past 5 was that, around 5, I had gone to bed but couldn't sleep because I had a poem in my head. I went and scribbled it down and then slept. So strange.

Anyway, the freewrite.

so asleep, can barely keep my eyes open, breek and breach, shallow, fallow, sane. Rain, reign, rein, rain. Squalls, cabin fever, demented, departed. Broken-down rain in the gutters, shards of puddles, pebbles, caravan. Magic is the whisper of the beast. Callow is the carapace. Frabjous day. Melancholy cabin in the rain. Who is that brute’s father? Why does he call her name? Out beyond the rip-wrap, some truth in the circle of piers. Your boat is not moored; it will sink. Its anchor will pull it to ground. Sand, shale, quell, pebbles. A scatter on the mayfair. Decks all bent. The stars bend the sky. Shy quail. Cat with a pebble. Beaches that blister. Sandwiches. Dust, Rain. Trail of mussels. The tail of the caravan sweeps across the road, effaces. What is the point of travel if no one knows where we came from? What is our ruse? Why do we dare? Where do we dwell? In paper patterns, painted houses, crooked doors, gates that sing open. God bless America.

Monday, September 1, 2008



Spanish moss
no moss at all, just green nooses
dying like the banners on riderless horses
turned home from the war

the dance of some snake, bored out of his
skin window, bare, powder film on his flesh

the rain on the shingle

prayers unfinished because
you fell asleep
to dream of cabbages, of moth and moon
and jugs of pinot
old math teachers, madmen with crooked
glasses and sagging

turning over: the sheet
beside your half-fisted hand
that glides to the floor


Revisiting an old exercise

Back in April, I did an exercise in which I wrote between the lines of a Jim Morrison poem. Here is what I got:

texts thrown into the fire, shoes, whatever we can for warmth sign by sign, a tongue the hearing will never comprehend their foxed leather covers, still so tempting though fragile one drugged night when I roamed the yard looking for meat or wild onions in the trees was just the dance of some snake, bored out of his skin window but missed, hitting the sun, and it rained—or so I dreamed as I walked strange calm after the levees collapsed. X marks, numbered codes, red on the doorframe, government Passover, seder of dry beans and wet books a stash of coffee in the pantry and will wake us all up from this stupor even though your face has withered like a dream in noon sun replaced by platitudes, like a meal of crackers and flat Coke Be careful where you put your head. Mind your scarf. Mind who you let embrace you. because you’re family, so I have to love you even if I don’t like you It’s like sharing a kiss, or blood. Elemental bonds, a bone marrow marriage Spanish moss, no moss at all, just green nooses dying from the death of hate, peace flags in the swampy air

I want to mine this sort of semi-freewrite for some more stuff for poetry. Maybe later today.

A bridge for a fish

It's been a weird and busy summer.

Since I last updated this blog, I've attended two writing workshops (the Tinker Mountain Writers' Workshop and the second week of Naropa University's summer writing program). (The bell in the photo is on the Naropa campus.) Both were valuable creative experiences, albeit in different ways. (I don't know how many writers would find them equally useful; you're probably best off with one or the other.)

Naropa, in particular, took me out of my comfort zone. I was surrounded by people whose aesthetics were generally different from mine. The Beat goes on, for sure, at Naropa, and I sometimes felt like people didn't get what I was doing. But that was OK; they were supportive of my doing it. I had a marvelous workshop with Elizabeth Robinson, called "Mystic Speech." Because it was interdisciplinary, I didn't feel so weird about my poetry being different from my classmates'; it opened me up to less strict ideas of what constitutes poetry. Elizabeth...I really feel changed for having known her, even for that brief time. She was one of the people whose perspectives seemed closest to mine, allowing me then to stretch my vision beyond my own aesthetic homeland.

Tinker Mountain--I want to go back again and again. I have a complicated relationship with the Roanoke, Virginia, area. My mother's family is from there.

[Damn. I'm blogging. Next thing you know, I'll be telling you about my colonoscopy or something. Anyway...]

Without getting too detailed about it, I've always felt like a fish out of water down there. So going to a literary gathering in those same mountains, running up against that accent and hearing familiar place names--and even being able to run out to my beloved Hollins Goodwill, visit Aunt Sarah in New Castle, and take Aunt Thelma out for a little nip at the ABC store--integrated parts of me--or, using the analogy I used with Elizabeth Robinson at Naropa, helped me find a bridge. I am now a fish with a bridge.

There aren't a lot of poets at Tinker Mountain. The ones who are there tend to be pretty serious and somewhat clannish--it's that ecstasy of being with people who will talk about Ted Kooser for an hour and a half, or whatever....I was somewhat under-read for these folks, to be sure. I don't read as much poetry as I should. Because it's got that "should" stamped on it, like a pharmacist's label, I tend to shy away except when I come across it by happenstance.

These were wonderful people, wonderful poets. Mostly women, mostly a bit older than me. I felt so happy, so wonderful, so right there. That said, I think Naropa ended up feeding my creativity more while I was actually there; the creative rewards of Tinker Mountain came later.

Which brings me to why I'm here now. In June, just before embarking on these two workshops, I started a full-time job for the first time in 11 years. By August, I'd quit, for a lot of reasons I won't go into here.

It got me realizing how much I like the trade in which I've had most of my work experience--editing--and how healthy it is for me to work with a structured schedule. At the same time, I don't think I've spent two less introspective, creative months in my adult life, or certainly not since I rededicated myself to poetry. There was the time I scribbled an angry little verse on a menu from my purse while waiting for the Red Line train. And damn, did that feel good. I was upset about something, right on the precipice of depression, when the poetry kicked in.

I need to get serious about this stuff again. I might be starting another full-time job at the end of this month. So I figured I should maybe take September as another poem-a-day month.

I have to start later today. I have some trepidation about this endeavor. I'd go right at it right now if i didn't have to move the laundry to the dryer and check the marinating chicken.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All done for now

Thank you for reading. Maybe I'll be back next year.


Great brown-black husk torn from the living,
it rests in deep water,
a palace for fishes. Robots or human hands
explore for all the bright spots,
the riches.

Out past the pier the child sees
water and sky, only sometimes the vista is
punctuated by a dark slant line or a blob,
like his crayon scribble
on the kitchen wall
a lifetime ago, when he was too young
for clearest vision.

The painter sits shoreside for hours
to capture the image.
Historians quibble.

No one alive remembers
why the ship sank.
The horns are long muted by water.
The survivors sleep in firmer beds.
To the drenched men who skidded down the deck
into death, it was the final page
of a sacred book. But it’s not
our disaster. No longer
a disaster.

The dumb-tongued wreck and its kin
carry no ghosts, unless our rabid dreams
put them there. The earth
fills them up, plants them in itself
like the trees they once were.
Now they are beauties,

objects of pleasure,
for plunder or
for picture.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another true story

Oriskany, Virginia, 1958

She married him because
he made her laugh. It was later she learned
of the worm in the apple, that flow
of sweet juice to bitter poison and back
that had left him on the shelf.

But this was the rise of honeymoon. She took him
to the farm where she was raised,
away from streetcars, nightclubs, filibusters.
He might have been in Atlantis
with barely a tank to breathe.

He persevered. Someone had told him
how you call pigs, and he walked out
past the pumphouse and up a green ridge.
He carried a tin toy horn, for some reason
no retelling recalls. Probably to make the missus smile.

Soo-ey! he called, half-self-mocking. From the porch,
Mom and her sisters watched
as a Confederate regiment of swine
rose over the hill, hell-bent on avenging Daddy
every bacon sandwich.

Later, tumult over, the couple safely
back inside the Beltway, learning
the sickness portion of the vow, an uncle
found the tin horn trampled in the shit.

Luke 8:26-39: the people of the Gerasenes
called the young holy man to heal
the man called Legion. Jesus cast his demons
into a herd of pigs, who fled, light-blind,
into the sea. Gerasenes cast out the healer.

I like to think that the pigs of Oriskany
brought Daddy not Legion’s hand-me-down demons,
but some small light
that stayed in his heart through Sykesville,
psych wards, shocks and sorrows,
some smile-making charm
bright and wee as farm sun
off a dented tin horn.

The ladies


the ladies
bosoms in bunches like roses
canes and colognes and the weekly perm

rattling plastic their music
delicate sitting on hips arthritic
regimens vigorous willing the digits
accruing like pennies

wheat fields in their eyes
behind spider veins
gossamer in their breath
murmurs under croak of larynx
beneath the bunions the wings of angels
pull them into improvised dances

threads so strong but unraveling
songs no one knows anymore
photographs of strangers
that seven years hence
will fall into the hands of antiquers

who will mat their sepia charms
into frames as becurled, as baroque
as they were
but never an iota
as gold

Penultimate day

This little experiment is almost over.

I can't say it's been what I thought it would be. On the one hand, it plays to my lazy strengths. How easy it is to turn out something with a flash, a fillip here and there that might trick the reader into thinking something great is happening, then excuse its shortcomings by saying "Oh, that old thing? I just dashed it off..." That skill got me through a dozen and a half years of school and a career as a journalist. It's ever so much harder to buckle down and aim for the heavens. (Yes, I know: mixed metaphor. Unless there's some kind of weapon that takes buckles. Perhaps a really fancy slingshot designed by Michael Kors?)

It can be humbling, even discouraging, to see page after page of one's middling, unfinished work up there for potential public consumption. What I need to do next is take it and see what I can find to work on further.

I have not developed better work habits, although I've been faithful to the project, and that's an accomplishment I'd like to make into a habit. I guess I envisioned setting aside some period at the same time every day, when my schedule permitted, to Think Poetic Thoughts and write something. That hasn't happened. Some days I've put a lot of work into the draft; some days I haven't. Some days there's been satisfaction or even joy in the attempt; some days, not so much.

I do look back and go "Wow, thirty-some poems." The quantity impresses me.

And it matters a lot to me that I've actually completed, or nearly completed, what I set out to do.

Now tomorrow's gonna be tricky, because I'm headed to JazzFest in New Orleans on a very early plane. I don't reckon I'll be finishing with anything stupendous. But I'll show up, at least.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Off on a Jag(ger)

Still watching this Drug Years series on VH1 Classic--great stuff. Images of Vietnam, of needles in veins; Rolling Stones on the soundtrack. Someone telling Keith he's at the top of someone else's death pool. Keith is not amused. His teeth look like a crack whore's. His eyes are pinballs. And Keith never went to Vietnam--just fought his inner guerrillas, I guess?

in the narrow black vein that travels
along a crooked path
around a spiral groove
to the heart of jungle darkness

an offering
from the warrior in the theater
of his skull
to the warrior in Nixon’s army

I dunno; once Nixon showed up, I thought the poem was heading in the wrong direction, so I stopped. It's here in case I don't get back to doing something else today.

The series is really good. I do wonder why Liz Phair keeps showing up; we're only right around the time when she was born. Well, actually, we're somewhere in the '70s now, with footage of people who look like me and my high school classmates. That Kiki Dee sorta hair. I barely even tasted booze before I was 18. We had narcs, or rumors of narcs, though. And I could've had lots of stuff if I'd wanted it. Ah, nostalgia.



Who knows what stung him,
made him bitter enough to pour harm
from a heart that festered.

Clearly not an accident of birth, but
some insect predator, equally innocent,
that marred his goodness. Maybe

I missed a small mark on his hand
as he took my hand (my skin
thin, yes, but unbroken)

and when I clasped, as one does,
I set it moving through him. I never chose
to have an enemy. That poison

probably hurt me more than it hurt him.
Nearly killed me. Now I am alive
and he is dead. I pray he had,

apart from the scar,
clean blood and blue sky
and the light in his eyes

as he walked away from me
into that scant blue decade left to him.
I hope he laughed.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another sleep poem, apparently

I culled this from that Rivard exercise I did the other day. The ideas and the form are still a bit shaky.


Sleep forgives all sins, for a night,
places the shards of the broken pot
in the shape of a bowl
to hold the falling clouds.

Whatever transgressions
have fractured us transform
into transient truth.

But what our spirits attain
our bodies seek to murder.

Our bodies, captive, cannot touch
the prince, kiss the horses,
recoil from the snap of static as our fingers
grasp the metal knob.

We are bound in rope after rope
of secret wishes, half-remembered lies,
and so we twist against them,
unravel them with the yanking of our waking.

We shake off the lint of our dreams
like a shower of stars, beat out
the footworn magic from the bedroom carpets
and sneeze at the first ray of sunlight.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tiny verse at sunset


a slant
pink light
dusts the frame
petals falling

still water
lonely blue birdsong

Friday, April 25, 2008

Two and a half poems, probably

Can you tell I've been watching The Drug Years on VH1 Classic?


I gather
was a wilted flower

I was a child of the sixties
nine then
pink-elbowed and
almost pure

believing in love
blind to war
barely aware of people
who gazed into magic smoke
to see what I could see
with child’s eyes

there were always flowers
and they always came back
and the wild ones would grow
(probably even in guns)

later I learned
once you started planting them
that’s when they died on you
the trick of the right nurture
so hard to master
while in the driveway gravel
the violas sang

Thursday, April 24, 2008

OK, so here's one

Yeah, I'm quick.


The humidifier, the air conditioner,
smudged like a crime scene with rust and gray.
How is it our breaths are so filthy?
Or is it words caught in filters,
hidden like forbidden prayers,
clogging the mechanisms,
gumming up truth:
the exhaled mortar
of the path to hell?

Another between-the-lines, building

I grabbed a chunk of "God the Broken Lock" by David Rivard. I was trying to get a line that included something about God being a hangnail, but I missed it. Here's what I worked with:

And a million others might be like me, our hopes
a kind of illegal entry, a belief in smashed windows,
every breakage
like breaking & entering into a concert hall,
the place my friend & I crawled into an air shaft, & later
fell asleep. After breakage
there is always sleep.
We woke to gospel hymns from the dressing room
below, songs commending
embrace to the fists, & return to the prodigal.
And hasn't my luck always been a shadow, stepping out, stretching?
I mean I trust what breaks.
A broken bone elicits condolence,
and the phone call sounds French if the transmission fritzes,
and our brains--our blessed, desirable brains--are composed
of infinitesimal magnets, millions of them
a billionth-of-a-milligram in weight, so
they make us knock our heads against hard walls.
When we pushed through the air vent,

Here are my "response" lines. I might do what I did with the Morrison poem: run them all together to further muck up the expected bits, the obviously sensical bits.

scoffed like shoes by the smart passersby
as an oracle for the subconscious, a way in
ringing like a glass harp
while the music is playing, forbidden to enjoy or be moved
couldn’t get back out. One of us had to die.
because sleep forgives all sins, pieces the broken pot.
No one can rob us of what we have in our mouths, our skulls.
practicing for God, pseudo-prayers, salvation as theater
some hell-beast, perhaps ironic, perhaps sincere
reversion to some lost, innocent, pugnacious girlhood
It wanes at noon, grows thin and chancy at four.
Fatalistic, I dive into the quarry.
scrawls on the smelly plaster, alliances that break with the saw
because confusion makes us all half again as eloquent
when we sleep and unraveled with the yanking of our waking
like stars pulling us heavenward
tiny a moth could sneeze them into smithereens
as if we could shake out some smarts, or love, or sanity
pulling the grime of breath with us on our coats,

Rivard's full poem is here.

I'll have a draft of something shortly.

The three-by-five philosophy

My frequent, wonderful teacher, Rod Jellema, used to exhort us to carry index cards and use them to jot down anything that inspired us: any germ of a poem, felicitous turn of phrase, whatever.

Of course, I keep losing the damn cards. Digging around for them a little earlier today--a process that also yielded the earlier "Poor Spoon"--I found a bunch, surely not all. My friend Barbara recently gave me a pouch that fits them perfectly; perhaps I will get myself organized before I die.

Anyway, I'm looking at them now and feeling not merely uninspired by, but downright hostile toward the words on them. Which probably means it's a bad time to even try to write. I'll see whether I can get something out of them later today or later in the rapidly dwindling month.

A "Poor Spoon" story

Early in this blog I wrote a poem I called "Poor Spoon." It was a phrase about which I'd written something a few weeks earlier, but I didn't have the draft at hand.

I just found the earlier "Poor Spoon." It's marked "March 10, 2008, 3:46 a.m."

I pick you up from the corner
where you have fallen,
turn you over to check the mark
on your back.

How often I have searched for your kin
in the great cracked plastic bin
at Goodwill:
lifted it and spilled the clatter
of 10/18 and tin, now and again
something fishy-golden that is silver

Lady Charming is long gone,
bypassed by style after style, the migration
of manufacture,
crowded out by stamped tools with uncertain edges.
You could bleed from such a spoon.

You all smell of blood,
and you bleed gray,
and I don't know the test of your mettle.
I only want your handful of flowers
and your serene, smooth glow
delivering my soup.

There's a spoon in a corner in this one, but that's about it for similarities. This one is pretty true to personal experience, and in its unforcedness--except at the end, with the soup--I prefer it to the one I wrote for the blog, though I suspect most people would disagree.

I remember having this one in my head, getting out of bed, walking to my home office, fumbling for light and scrap paper, scribbling it down--I ran out of room at the end--and going back to bed, all in a very short time, a few minutes.

You know what I like about this one? The sound, the shape. I hear the spoon in this poem, and I see the spoon in the sound in this poem. (I don't think I truly have synesthesia, but I do tend that way.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The lost village I wrote about on the 20th is a real place: Bara-Hack, aka "the village of lost voices"--a concept that's almost ludicrously poetic: old foundations, graves, ghost stories, etc.

For more about the place (which is private property), including photos, see here.

It's fascinating, all right, but maybe not my favorite place in Connecticut; that might be the Book Barn in Niantic, or the late lamented Sanctuary of Love. (I cannot find photos on the Web that even begin to do justice to the latter creation in its heyday.)

Pinsky on poetry

Robert Pinsky has a snarky, occasionally informative Q-and-A on poetry over at Slate.

I'm grateful that he reminded me of a Marianne Moore poem I used to love but hadn't seen in some 20 years. And also that he quotes both Thom Gunn and Edgar A. Guest (!).

Up all night

I tried to take a picture of Bear at the back window, but he caught on and sauntered away.


Elbows on the windowsill
at dawn
he’s looking for the fairies
who shimmer on the lawn
you can see
in his half-human eyes
that he sees them

and you gaze until
the floaters tremble
a lash falls and you think it’s
a star
but you can’t quite summon
what he sees

He murmurs
his haunches tense
he is an animal
he wants to hunt down magic
play with it
swallow it whole

Tuesday, April 22, 2008



She was a stranger,
a picture, an imagining. We created
her, up from dust and threads,
a sort of Galatea. But
we did not know ourselves
as sculptors, and as our hands
worked night after eye-bright night,
we came to know her.

Not that we could see her, really. We would try:
some woman in a white dress,
poised in a doorway, yesterday’s light
casting her into shadow.

(Like the photos our parents took, remember:
some failed, black-and-white
evocation of a sterling, passion-full moment
reduced to shadows on dull paper.)

She was in our dreams, and she was
under our skin. Then,
injured—but never by her quiet hand—
we turned from her, washed her golden rings
from our ears, our eyes.

And now, after time’s cure
and memory’s relapse,
we wonder if we knew her,
if we dreamed her,
if we made her.
What she would have thought
if she could have awakened
and seen us
instead of just

Monday, April 21, 2008

Richard Not-That-One Thompson

This one is the wonderful Washington Post cartoonist. Here is his National Poetry Month quiz. (Thanks, Scott.)

Just under the wire

Hey, I've been in the car for 9 hours, with no access to a computer, and socializing nonstop between awakening and ignition, so be gentle.


They say she wrapped a shawl of blue
around her white raiment, tinted perfection,
hid her bushels. No one knows how
she kept her skin an alabaster chamber
as she pruned the hollyhocks
in the June sun.

How the heat must have burned her,
drawn the moisture from her! Yet those
thousand sonnets she pressed in her books
lost all their juice,
her flowers curled their fingers on the vine,
her skin collapsed.

Under the moon
the moths of her town
are the fattest in the world,
barely airborne, faintly azure,
rising from some web of wool.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

True story


One of us had found a lost village
in the Pomfret woods, so we set out:
intimates of decades, now women in the middle,
laden with jackets, Dr Pepper, pocketbooks
(and I in borrowed boots): the two of them
professionals of mind, and I, the occasional
mental mess—so I would joke:
the healer and the healer and
the healed.

We found the village: flat stone upon flat stone
surrounding heaps of leaves. It was mud time,
the least remarkable of the seasons: no flower,
no lush wet green, no last-gulp color—
save in the soda cup, and in our hair—
no starkness but those strange man-built
half-walls of rock. Here and there, a standing stone
we snickered at, with college-girl wit,
remembering certain long-gone venerations
of obelisks.

There was a graveyard, one of the healers said,
a little farther out, said to be haunted. Some of us
believed, some willing to harbor possibility.
And on we went, crossing two or three streams
(I don’t remember which), each of which
called up thoughts of past injuries and future
brittle bones.

Around us, trees with roots too weak
in mud time’s loose ground had fallen on their sides,
their mucky, gnarled bases standing like
slightly tilted wheels, bigger than a woman.
And also trees that had been cut, perhaps for fuel,
stacked like the dead.

On we walked, turned back, walked in growing dark,
missing the graveyard—symbolism
we’d just as soon not contemplate. An owl called.
Not whooo; some other sound. We never needed

Back at the car we ached, scratched, grew grumpy.
Ate, talked, slept, went on.

And now we part.

There may come a time
our friends grow wide, or winnow to old vines
and fail to recognize
and all the trees are gone and in their place
McMansions rise. But I will remember our hands
across the brook, our feet on the narrow plank
and mossy rock, so careful, so slow. I trust I will recall
that one time I made it over first,
surprised, in one strange flurry of courage,
and reaching over, gave a hand
to friends, the healer and the healer.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Half-assed metrics

I was trying to write this poem the other day, or at least a poem with this title and the opening image/line. My deadline approaches, and my companions probably want my attention (hard to write when you're not solitary, it turns out), so I'll throw this out there.


Yellow scarf around his head
fingers utter on the strings
hearts are falling in the aisles
praise to God for foolish things

Krishna walked along the bank
where the worship women lay
fingers uttered there as well
each transported in her way

Modern women theorize
too remote for passion’s spell
Find the note that resonates
Holy fools become as well

I tried! Really I did!

I was writing in a Dunkin' Donuts in New Jersey at 11:50 last night and tried to hit "Send" at 11:57, but the network to which I was trying to buy access wouldn't let me in.

Here's what I was trying to send then. I've been wandering around the woods of Connecticut today and have barely begun to write for today yet.


In some vest-pocket hour of the morning
she twists her roads around pink curlers
and then, just when the strangers arrive,
lets them down in an oily tangle.

She steals letters from borough and Shop Right,
buries them in the crooks of the jughandles,
sleeping policemen.

She bats her lights like lashes,
sends us astray.

I once loved the road
for the one it took me to,
but now it has ensnared me,
stashed my soul in a Dunkin Donuts cup
tossed along the turnpike.
Keep to the passing lane.
Be careful.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Promise keeping

I am about to go on a road trip, where my wifi access will be spotty. I *will* write, and I *will* do my best to post a poem every day.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

For Karen

A friend recently had an allergic run-in with nature's dark side while hiking outside Las Vegas.

When I was falling asleep last night, I had three poems working in my head. One was the airplane poem; the other two were rhymed and metered. One of those was a sort of faux-Dickinson sprouting from the incident involving Karen.

I was finally gonna get to sleep at a decent hour (well, 2 a.m.), so I resisted the impulse to get up and write. Turns out I lost a whole lot of the poetry. Or maybe misplaced it. Or, you know, maybe it was terrible.

In the meantime, I have nine lines of the 12-line Dickinson.

Along the Red Rock Canyon
My tourist feet were bound
Beyond Sahara and Mirage
I found authentic ground

A poison plant—a Crown of Thorns—
Ensnared me as I passed

Amid great Nature’s majesty
Are freckles of delight
And dimples of mortality

- - -

I think I had all of what is now stanza 2 in my head last night. And there might have been a different third stanza--or maybe my drowsy mind was mixing this poem with the other metered one, which is about a musician, because the last thing I remember thinking before falling asleep was whether one could get away with the word "roadie" in something so Dickinsonian, and the other poem really isn't Dickinsonian.

(Whatever. I'm up for business hours.)

I don't like "authentic." I also don't like "great Nature's majesty." Maybe "Upon great Nature's countenance"? Except I don't really like "great," either.

I am resisting mightily the impulse to write lines 7 and 8 as follows: "And with its wide Golgothan teeth/It bit me in the ass."

Fragment, born while listening to a 2 a.m. plane

Airplanes are for forgetting. Every ascent pulls out
particles of past. You lost
your kindergarten teacher’s name
hurtling into the Cuban sun. Somewhere
over Patagonia, Pythagoras and Icarus
fell from you. And, to the right of the craft,
passengers may see, dropping into the Grand Canyon
like a castaway flare,
your first kiss.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Result of the exercise

This first draft came quickly, though I was interrupted near the end by, ironically, a call from the sleep-disorders clinic where I've been trying to make an appointment.

The address is fictional; if I hit upon your real address, please call to complain at 867-5309.


One drugged night I roamed the yard, looking for meat
or wild onions. My pantry was full. Something deep in my marrow
called for the hunt.

In the trees, an occasional scrabble,
perhaps some escapee from Eden, bored out of his skin.
In the rushes, the cat I call mine, the cat I call Reilly,
who has also gone feral, makes a wet mew
as he strangles a vole.

I think I have wandered, but maybe it was a dream.
The sun draws the dew out of the yard
with its rising, and Reilly is on the sill, looking in,
and I am behind him, on the porch step,
fingertips green and stinking.

Next step (not a poem)

OK, so I wrote between the lines of the Morrison text. Then I stripped out the Morrison text.

Then I ran all my lines (which were wildly varying lengths and not necessarily thematically connected to one another) together as one block.

This is what I got: the scrap pile from which I'll sew whatever comes next.

texts thrown into the fire, shoes, whatever we can for warmth sign by sign, a tongue the hearing will never comprehend their foxed leather covers, still so tempting though fragile one drugged night when I roamed the yard looking for meat or wild onions in the trees was just the dance of some snake, bored out of his skin window but missed, hitting the sun, and it rained—or so I dreamed as I walked strange calm after the levees collapsed. X marks, numbered codes, red on the doorframe, government Passover, seder of dry beans and wet books a stash of coffee in the pantry and will wake us all up from this stupor even though your face has withered like a dream in noon sun replaced by platitudes, like a meal of crackers and flat Coke Be careful where you put your head. Mind your scarf. Mind who you let embrace you. because you’re family, so I have to love you even if I don’t like you It’s like sharing a kiss, or blood. Elemental bonds, a bone marrow marriage Spanish moss, no moss at all, just green nooses dying from the death of hate, peace flags in the swampy air

If it makes sense to you, please contact your physician.

Variation on "between the lines" exercise

Have you seen the poetry of Jim Morrison?

It's the sort of sprawling, uneven, grandiloquent stuff you'd expect.

I did this before, and I'm doing it again: I copy a stretch of Morrison's writing from the site referenced above. When I paste it into a Word document, for whatever reason it removes all of the line breaks. I use this to my advantage by re-breaking the lines--again, I caution, without reading too much of what I'm working with.

This time around I used the three-inch marker on the Word page as a guide for line breaks. Here's the chunk of Lizard King:

Forest strong sandals
 burnt geometry
around a fire 
reading history in
 books, charcoal silence 
moot splendor

 Sire, we met
in Eden
 The troubled time
 we had 
in the night leaves
 a sniper aimed at our
a kitten mewing in the blasted

strong air 
I must go see

-You've found
your Voice, 
friend, after all else 
I recognize
fast the
 Strong sure tones of 
a poet
it a question
 Search or of strangling?

I wonder
 We never talked 
But welcome
 to the camp fire
 Share our meal

w/ us
 & tell us of your life
 & the hanging

Now my task is to 'respond" to each line, thereby getting a bunch of raw, probably imagistic text from which I can make something like a poem. More on that later.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some peaceful bee in my wakeful brain

The carpenter bee, which I know from my Takoma Park childhood, does not, generally, sting. The males cannot; the females can but tend not to.


I choose
to see the peace
in the bee.

I want to cup him
just a moment
in the clamshell of my two hands,
feel the quiver of his hover
whir through me,

make me a worker. I do not believe
in his sting.
I have seen him and his crew
as they swirl through the shrubs
in search of the random
January rose.

I have seen him
burrow his home into the porch rail,
smelled the sweet wood
of his leaving.

I would ride
in his wandering wake
if I could, brush the hint of my danger
against bare legs
if I could,
but never swap my life
for the power to close
an enemy’s

Monday, April 14, 2008

This happened to me today.

But the osprey delivery happened to my friend Barbara, and "sleeping the churchyard sleep" is an Emily Dickinson reference I ran across earlier today.


In the middle of the road,
a workman’s glove, like a bodiless hand,
index finger pointed the way I’m bound,
toward home.

Driving on, I ponder what brought me
from gentle suburbia to this place
where possums sleep the churchyard sleep
by the roadside, squirrels eat power lines,
ospreys drop half-fishes on the porch.

Then I see the second glove,
on the double yellow line,
palm up, as if waiting for providence
to fall into it.

Own that insomnia!


Gray faces, gray eyes, gray couture beaming down
from some satellite as if from a planet
where it’s always 1953.
Gray, but not dead:

Arlene’s mobile earrings bounce, Steve’s wit zings,
Joan’s arm thrusts the pick-me wave
of every teacher’s pet.
Hornrim glasses.

Cigarette ads. Spray deodorant in swank bottles.
Swanson dinners. A parade of gray ordinary
people, innocent of YouTube,
let alone Living Color.

It’s those women in their pinned hats, pimpled
smart alecks, squirming immigrants
condescended to, coddled, handled
like unexploded bombs

by the hornrim men in Cardin and Vitalis
who seem most like aliens, recovered
from a world where no one knows
when to look at the lens,

when to look away.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Insomnia, again, just a bit

Mostly, it's productive insomnia, of the "I've got to get up and write" variety.


Just one of the Murray photographs:
Aunt Helen side-by-side with a drugstore silver tree.
One of them is merry. My father’s sister stands
tree-stiff, hands burrowed into satin skirt,
pearls as white as her hair, eyes as dark
as an open grave.

Those eyes: I saw them on the grandmother
I never knew, who died, Daddy said,
from having too many children. Saw them
on Daddy, in the flesh, and on Daddy’s little girl,
in the mirror.

I don’t think there was ever a blue eye
on Daddy’s side: all of them warm as cocoa,
time and again, with love or rye,
but dun-brown as a muddy river.

And time and again, I’ve thought myself
wading into that river, pockets full of stones.
But I am also my mother’s daughter,
she of the valentine face, the valiant heart.
I know, though I walk deeper into the dark flow,
sooner or later I’ll remember
to shuck off that overcoat.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I'm not quite there yet. Just working off rage about the latest political fracas. I understand why Obama's words about "middle America" were seen as condescending. But...I guess I'm next to him on the condescension train, because I agree with what I think he was trying to say.

What irks me most is this tendency to look for every possible slight in every possible utterance of the candidates. I'm not expressing this annoyance well--either here or in today's poem--but it's about appearance versus substance: both the appearance of eloquent perfection the candidates are pressured to maintain and the appearance of moral rectitude so many Americans, middle and otherwise, flaunt.


Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
--Robert Frost

In Jamaica, the locals called the new resort
the zoo—the place where they locked up
the animals. In America, we lock up

Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes alike
in favor of architecture: solid vinyl,
through-and-through color integrity,

lifetime guarantee, glossy and uniform
and impermeable enough,
when the next holocaust comes,

to float their dry selves down
to the waters under the earth. They are safe
as houses, wrapped in the Tyvek of assumptions

shingled over with all that is right and proper.
Suffocate every inhabitant with insulation
but, pray you, don’t scratch the façade.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Five minutes of doggerel...

...inspired by the word "thicket." I "wrote" the first two lines in my head last night, while trying to sleep, and decided that today I would try and flesh them out, sticking more to rhythm and sound than to meaning. (Perhaps it's ironic that I ended up with a poem about the loss of meaning.)

He hid it in a thicket
where she could never find it
and with him gone it withered
and crumbled into ether

and on his way he rambled
as if it never happened
as if he hadn’t squandered
this morsel of his spirit

And from the earth it rumbled
and leaves began their leaving
as nature saw the missing
as punishment for thieving

And in her room she heard it
and wondered at the tumult
and thought again of loving
but closed the blinds against it

And measure after measure
the music shook the mountains

He saw it in the paper
and closed his eyes a moment

deciding that the rhythm
was suitable for dancing

It’s now at Number Seven
He’s headed for a Grammy

He’ll thank his agent, Jesus,
the fans, and this great nation
where anyone, transcending
can cleave their art from feeling

Personal blather

There is still something terribly disrupted about my sleep.

I was still up at 3:30 a.m. and slept until 11-something. I got up and did a bit of a proofreading job, then set out to run some errands, whereupon I found that I felt brain-dead. More precisely, it was as if I had this void in the left side of my skull, roughly equivalent to the size of a dinner roll, or perhaps a pony bottle of Rolling Rock. Like I really wanted to just close my eyes for a few minutes, which wasn't gonna fly, as I was driving to Northern Virginia.

This muddle-headedness may be why I accidentally went north when I should have gone south, ending up in downtown D.C., which was not a place I needed to be on a Friday afternoon. And I really thought I was gonna keel over at the fireplace store.

The vagueness and the feeling of a permanent yawn in my brain worsened on my way home, especially when I found myself in 5-mile-an-hour traffic down near Springfield.

Running the iPod helped immensely, and I'm still trying to figure out why. I did my usual shuffle-play-with-edits--in this case, skipping over a lot of the slower stuff. Wild Magnolias, Joan Jett, James Booker, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Prince, Joe Walsh, Matthew Sweet...I could feel the fog lifting. I had a hankering for Richard Thompson's "Needle and Thread," so I put it on right about the time the traffic clog began to clear. When the shuffling resumed, I got Sleater-Kinney and Joe Jackson and more RT--this time Richard and Linda doing "It'll Be Me." By the time I sailed into my little town (undoubtedly speeding) with "Subterranean Homesick Blues" blaring through the car, I was totally better--and wondering why.

Maybe when I get the sleep study I'm supposed to have done, they'll find the brain receptors for electric guitar and New Orleans funk. I envision them as lighting up in lime green and grape-soda purple, respectively.


So now I'm looking at yesterday's poem and thinking that if I were my husband, I'd be quite taken aback!

I was trying for an upbeat ending; instead, I jumped all attempts at transition, making it look like consummation was devoutly to be feared or something.

Sorry, Rob.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Resorting to a prompt

With the day dwindling (gorgeous day, by the way--in the 70s) and next to nothing to inspire me (I feel like an old rag, and that's not a Scott Joplin reference), I decided to turn to fellow poem-a-day-er Robert Lee Brewer. Today, his blog suggests a poem about a location.

Now I'm debating whether to choose a place I've never been, or maybe even one I've invented.

I'm uneasy about this. With every mental step, I see pitfalls, I think "Manhattan" and think "Cliches" or "Too big a task." I think "Wales" or "Negril" and think "Ethnocentric assumptions." Or I could do one about a place called Point No Point, up in British Columbia, but my memories of, my feelings about, the place are, well, too personal for this blog.

Places I've written about: two side-by-side funeral homes in Takoma Park, a graveyard in rural Virginia, the lot in back of Savage's Market in Takoma Park, the planet Ceres, and the train platform at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. There are probably more. Oh, right, I started a poem about the Sutro Baths in San Francisco, and one set on the Staten Island Ferry and in Irving Plaza in NYC.

OK. A few minutes later, here's a draft.

This poem warped me irreparably as a child. I didn't look back at it to write my poem, but it was in my mind, a bit, as I wrote it.


Favorite vacation spot, hospital, likely locus of my death.
Soft sheets the color of mint, cool when clean and smooth,
warm when dirty and bunched. Blanket upon blanket, for
I like the weight upon me. A pillow I gnarl and poke, wear
like an elbow glove, flip for the cool side. Generally,
sometimes unfortunately, a cat. The odd library receipt
or pen, or some bookmark cast up from the depths: airline stubs
from forgotten journeys, the four of diamonds. Once or twice,
the sharp wakeup of an earring. Dreams. Demons. Husband.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

SWEATERS, OR JUMPERS (draft 2-ish)


When the borrowing days of April
are over, and dark things grow warm,
I must lay them in the trunk, nestled in mothballs,
lower the lid, carry them up the narrow ladder
to the attic. The dust is already baking up there:
things scurry. Spring is the time of pests.
I descend to a cool fresh window.

I long already for the time of brown tones,
maple candy, old-lady sweetnesses,
and the rough bunching of yarn against my skin.
Few things are less vital, more comfortably moribund
than sweaters: even if the British call them jumpers
they’re still the pelts of dead months,
thrown over the back.

Between the lines

The trick of this exercise, which I adapted from the book The Practice of Poetry, is to pretend you're not reading ahead, to eschew any effort at total comprehension--to respond to discrete lines.

Here's a chunk of text from a Liam Rector poem, "Fat Men in Summer Suits."

Not wearing a coat of some kind. I love
The coats, and though I love them most
In the fall I still enact the summer code,

I suppose, because my father and I did buy
That code, even though I organized students
To strike down any dress code whatsoever

In the high school I attended (it was a matter
Of honor). And it still puts me in good humor
To abide with the many pockets, including

One for a flask. So whether it's New York,
Vermont, or Virginia, the spectacle
Of the summer seersucker proceeds,

Suspenders and all, and I lean into the sweat
(Right down to where the weather really is)
Until it has entirely soaked through my jacket.

The title of this poem grabbed me. I didn't need the whole poem for my exercise, so I just took about half of it. Mid-sentence, in fact, which doesn't matter.

I copied the partial poem into a blank Word file. Then I looked at each line, separately, and wrote a line that it brought to me. (This is where the mystery comes in, where I imagine every poet will approach the task differently.)

I did not try to make all my lines hang together, but neither did I make an effort to avoid connections and echoes and whatnot.

I did this quickly. "No thinking too much!" as Sloan Wainwright's acupuncturist warned.

Then I stripped away Rector's lines.

This is my set of lines. It is not meant to be a poem.

when the borrowing days of April are over, and dark things grow warm

I must lay them in the trunk, dusted with moth flakes, lower the lid

of running, sockless, down Bay Ridge Drive in the falling sun

those strawberries, we’d best eat them before they rot

to speak carefully and respectfully, avoid the risible, the risque

--hell, to go naked if the whim strikes

of merit to be a magnet student, drawn from poverty to this holy place

to watch the stiff walks of soldiers, so whipped and unmanned by war

the ones where mice have made their winter beds

I take the train to Homecoming, pretend this trench is raccoon, toss my scarf

of brown tones and maple candy and other old-lady sweetnesses

twittering, blue-striped, in the dwindling trees

as if it wasn’t a Sunday and I in my gym togs

six inches under the soil

Then I drop my clothes and dance in the hot rain.

I can tell you some of the extra-Rector sources...

I read in my friend Wayne's Oxford Book of Days that the first three days of April are called "the borrowing days" because they "borrow" the weather of March; April doesn't start until about the fourth (just as the 1970s don't start until about 1972).

I seem to write about going without socks, and about dancing in the rain, a lot. (I often do the former and have done the latter only once, to my recollection.)

And I really did read "seersucker" in the Rector poem as if it were the name of a bird, and respond accordingly, although by the time of my response I knew my "error."

So now my task is to make a poem draft out of some of that. I'll get back to you.

The full Liam Rector poem is here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I hope they're right about how much of life is just showing up. Got a headache, feel like hell. All I have are a couple handfuls of morose lines that formed in my head as I drove home from Annapolis.

Dirt hazes my windshield,
clouds clot the sky, insinuating rain
as I take the road.

All the edges are knocked off
and though my tires clutch the gravel,
though my….

Perhaps new wiper blades. Perhaps sunshine.
Perhaps something that will clear my head.

Maybe I can come up with more later. Right now I'm just here to keep my promise that I'll write a "poem" a day.


I've tried to write formal verse. I did a blank verse poem for a class a couple months ago.

I struggle with it. It comes off sounding singsong to me. (My formal verse, that is; it works perfectly well for folks like Philip Larkin.)

When I feel like I'm writing "in the groove," my words sing to me. I feel a sort of musical rhythm about them--and a music to their sound--that probably would be difficult to map out.

It's something I fear losing when I revise poems, especially poems that come to me quickly and mysteriously. And it's something I wish I could insert into poems that sound more labored and prosy to me when I revise them.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Too much reading about fairies in the wee small hours


I. Janet

Janet never rocks her child. Her crèche
sits on sturdy legs, to keep the baby
close to the earth. She must resist the pull
of the father’s people, that fey wobble,
that hover. His dust still hangs in the afternoon sun,
like pollen.

She remembers the rain, the white steed,
the rider: how she wrapped herself
around him, felt the magic tremble
in the soul in her womb. She has had enough
of magic.

She drapes her babe in the green
of fiddleheads in oak shade, huddles, hidden,
hearthside. She prays to a new god. She stands
by the cook-pot, the corners of her bare feet
solid on the stone, cuddles her child,

- - -

II. The Fairy Queen

The Queen of Fairies spins like a top,
pingpongs. Spring cleaning.
Dust upon dust. Her jewels
are dirty, and no amount of rubbing
can make them shine.

Her heart is a hard red bean that will never sprout.
There is gruel in her belly. In her head,
the massed buzz of every bee whose thorn
she has pressed into a man’s flesh
under her dainty foot.

She watches her face in the rain barrel,
sees the shimmer like love, shudder
across her white brow.

She gazes out to the road, looks for him,
believes yet again
that he can change.

- - -

III. Elene

Janet’s daughter has old eyes.
She sees the row of white birches
at the edge of the wood, where dark forest
meets plowed soil.

All of her line is gone, like the top of the oak is gone,
snapped in an ice storm: the body still blooms,
and, below, a memory of old water.
Something will never be made right.
She digs her hands into the soil, like roots.

She thirsts, like the cat, broods,
like the dove, wonders, like the hound.
She is never quite at home.
Naked, in the rain, she wraps herself in nothing.
Nothing hides her. Nothing comforts her.
Nothing keeps her warm.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

About four minutes, between laundry and Little Miss Sunshine

God is in the details.
God is in the pulled thread. God is in the garden.
God is in the broken chair. God is in blocks
and bustles and bargain basements.
God is in silk.

The worm that yearns itself
into dead beauty.
The casting off of the unused.
The unnecessary beauty. The toys.
The creation of fuel
from comfort. The growing and dying and growing.
The surprise windows opening in ordinary fabric.
The details.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


There was an old man with a beard
Who said, "It's just as I feared--
Two owls and a hen,
Four larks and a wren
Have all--

Oh, wait, that's Edward Lear.

Man, I got nothin'.

Hm. I'm eating salt and vinegar potato chips.

Salt takes the shine off
the grass, turns the roads
to frozen rivers. It eats
bridges, cars, sidewalks, slugs,
sails, scars. It rubs remembrance
into skin.

It separates tap water
from tears. It brings the potato
back to life.

My oven timer just went off. Time to check the pie. No, that's not part of the poem-let.

Friday, April 4, 2008


I always read church signs. Some are funny, some inspiring (there's one up by Muddy Creek and 214 that tends to have broad, hopeful messages that have startled me from a slump now and again)--but so many are so damn sanctimonious.

"Juked" is used for sound. I don't think any of its literal meanings fit here. But I'd like to find a literal meaning that does, because it feels like the right word to me.

Written (in my head) while driving back from Safeway, on a gloomy spring day turned unexpectedly pretty, as Charlene Drew Jarvis reminisced on the radio about the MLK assassination and how many doors it opened.


I’d like to pull all those letters
off your church signs and rearrange them
into messages of joy
words that rhyme
prayers that sing

I know Jesus juked a table or two
with cause in his time but
shit! you folks act like
you can’t shake off that stage beard
and water shoes

can’t remember kisses confusion or gin
never went to the mountaintop
never saw the redbud of your mountain roads
screaming full and purple
in your faces

The first really hard day

I'm a zombie today. Just got out of bed--and the clock on this blog is not incorrect. I'm supposed to go for a sleep study soon, but in the meantime....

And I've felt nothing forming. Very little in the wee smalls, the dropping-off time: there was something about a broken glass, but this time by not writing it down I lost it altogether, it seems.

So back I go to the Richard Thompson-related poem I was reluctant to mess with yesterday. It starts something like this:

I picked up your fallen string
and wrapped it around my wrist.
It smelled like blood and tarnish
and if I reached too far, the winding end
scratched its autograph on my flesh.

I did indeed once pick up a broken guitar string and try to wear it as a bracelet. And it didn't work as well as I'd hoped, as a sort of hip alternative to a band T-shirt; it was kind of scratchy.

By the time I got a few lines into writing this bit, though, I found myself adding a dark tone to the situation. I must have been thinking of fans "reaching too far." I have not done this: not with the guitar string and--for all of my enthusiastic fandom--not, often or dangerously, with my feelings.

But that turn in the poem had me thinking of a real incident in which, waiting in line in the snow for a show at the Bottom Line, I encountered a guy who was very wound up (guitar peg imagery!) and "waiting for Richard." My friends and I were making uncomfortable jokes about John Lennon, etc. Then Richard, who I'm pretty sure didn't know me at the time, came down the street and I blurted, "It's Richard!"

And as soon as I said it, my mind went to a very dark and fearful place: What if I'd called him out for the guy who was waiting for him? Because the guy who was waiting, even though he was very probably not Mark David Chapman, did not seem like a pleasant person with whom to interact.

As Richard walked swiftly by--guitar in one hand, small amp in the other, tightly smiling and avoiding all eye contact--and went into the club, I saw that Waiting-for-Richard Guy was gone, maybe to use the loo at McDonald's. He came back shortly after and was very upset when we told him he'd missed Richard.

Back to the poem: I had some notion of "poeticizing" this story. I had, for example, the image of the guy wearing dingy gray circles into the snow as he paced, again echoing the idea of something "wound up."

But for the most part, I couldn't--I can't--get this past the sort of journalistic retelling. I don't think just putting something in broken lines makes it poetry. I care a lot about music--sound, rhythm--in my poetry, and I wasn't feeling it here.

I'm also extremely loath, even in this commentary, to be linking myself with some freaky fan or linking either of us with Thompson. (Although I do like the image of the guitar-string bracelet as a sort of combination talisman and control: "this far, no farther.")

That said, I'm not happy with what seems to me to be the obviousness of the imagery. I don't care for too much one-to-one-type metaphor--although I had a hell of a good time with it in the "baggage" poem of two days ago, which is probably my favorite of what I've written so far.

In short, the whole thing is feeling labored to me.

Which represents an issue for me in my poetry, in general. I can generally come up with reasonable early drafts. Getting past them is a problem, because I don't want to sand off everything that's jagged and unexpected and perhaps beyond my understanding on the way to getting something "finished."

Maybe I'll try something else, later today, if I can ever wake up and get my other tasks done.