A Bad Fall

Someone keyed my Corolla,
the one my parents leased for me
(electric green with a spoiler
and a gold package—ridiculous
and loved). As I looked at the
scratch, the gallon of milk I had
just bought, just splurged on,
tumbled off the roof, hit the
asphalt and exploded, ran
in all directions even as I
indulged wild fantasies of
somehow scooping it up,
or getting back in my
scratched car, driving
back to Kroger, getting
a replacement as if
any of it was the store’s
fault, what happened in
my apartment building’s
parking lot, under a stupid,
stupid purple twilight sky.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 30 (prompt: milk). OK, that’s it for the daily poems. April is another daily posting month for me, and between now and then, you can expect a poem each Tuesday and occasional musings on writing and publishing. Thank you so much for reading, liking, and commenting!




When it’s all done, you are wearing enormous mesh underwear
and a huge maxipad that’s also an icepack. The emptiness shakes you
for a while, and the sleep-nonsleep of the hospital begins while you’re
still looped on whatever hormones got you through, whatever made you
think of your grandmother and wolves, whatever put you in a tunnel so
you were totally alone, apart from speech, your own voice and others’,
out of range of any soothing words or hypnotic suggestions or whatever
it was you were supposed to learn in weeks and weeks of classes that,
as it turns out, were total bullshit, completely insufficient. The good news,
the great surprise, is that you were sufficient. Now you are glad again
that your husband is here, that the chair reclines enough that he can drift beside you, pretend to sleep sitting up as carts clatter in the hallway outside your pretend door with no lock, as you pretend to sleep lying down on the pretend bed, amidst all the pretend comforts of this pretend room. There is, somewhere, your real baby, in your arms or in the plastic box. This is where
it all begins.


At the Monkey Factory

We don’t kill any monkeys, not even the ones that don’t pass QC.
Instead, we discount them and ship them direct to you as factory seconds.

Some of those monkeys are perfectly good monkeys. Who cares if a monkey has
a birthmark, or maybe an extra kink in its tail? Not me. That’s why one day,

I just stopped killing defective monkeys. Just stopped. My boss thought I was crazy,
almost fired me, said we’d be overrun with monkey returns, and what would we do

then? But I know about monkeys. Once you have a monkey, you’re not going to
return it, even if it bites (and they often do). So I think it was a pretty good decision,

and also I’ve stopped having those nightmares. I can’t even tell you about them
except to say that every night, a monkey reached its hand up to mine,

from the floor, you understand—and I killed that monkey anyway.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 28 (prompt: Write about how it feels to stand up for what’s right when faced with adversity in the workplace). Speaking of adversity, WordPress hates this poem and won’t present it properly. It’s supposed to have five two-line stanzas followed by a single line on its own. I can’t make this happen, and my last attempt resulted in the whole thing disappearing. If you want to see it as I intended, let me know and I’ll send it to you. OK, moving on …



In line at the Bon Marché in Seattle with my mother,
I heard a high-pitched scream. A woman ahead of us
laughed and said it was probably her husband, who
was afraid of escalators. Life moved on, but my mind
stayed in that groove for a long time—maybe a couple
of years. Somehow, that screaming man became a

villain, Snidely Whiplash-style, with mustache,
top hat, and cape. We moved from Seattle to
Thief River Falls, Minnesota, but the memory
moved with me, packed away someplace
secret, so I could play it like a Disney 45

in my playroom in the basement, any time
I needed to scare myself, any time I needed
to make my formless, nameless fear into
something I could turn on and off, or just
let play, over and over, until it was done.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 27 (prompt: write about a hero or villain). Also for Open Link Night at dVerse Poets, which will open at 3 p.m. EST today (Tuesday).


Fruit Crate Labels, Seattle

It’s coming up on ten years since I was thirty, standing on
the side of a hill with my husband in downtown Seattle,
the city where I was born—or I was born near it, anyway,
which is what you say when you’re as suburban as I am,
or was. I am urban now, so I know how it is to stand and
smile politely, interject a word or two, as a stranger jabbers
at you—in this case, about virtual reality helmets. That was
just the thing to listen to in 2003, how everything was right
on the verge of changing. And it was; he was right about that,
the antique store employee who followed us to keep talking
after I had paid $75 for a stack of fruit crate labels, brightly
inked and printed, and then piled in a warehouse, unused
for decades, preserved—as was explained on a small square
of paper stuck to the back of each plastic sleeve. I thought
these would be my new things—collecting fruit crate labels,
visiting Seattle. But now, I could no more drop $75 on labels
than I could go back there to see if the city still slants as it
once did, whether the hill is still there, the store, the man,
if he ever made his fortune in the virtual world, or whether
he found, as we did, just how real actual reality can be.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 26 (prompt: write about something you collect or wish you could collect).



I only swim where my belly grazes the bottom;
I only fly on the lowest air currents I can reach.
I never stretch for anything, never look at
anything unpleasant. I leave those

logic puzzles to the philosophers; who cares
about how the world works, and life, or all
those questions that you can’t turn off?
It all hurts my head; that’s why I stay

here, above it all (but just barely), bobbing
on ginger ale bubbles and celebrity gossip,
both of which I get piped in daily, so I
don’t even have to leave my house,

the place where I am always the prettiest,
the brightest and the best. I always wear
an attitude T-shirt, even when there’s
no one here to read it, so I go into

my mirrored closet, shut the door, talk
to myself about myself, for as long as
it takes to convince myself that I’m
OK, that it’s OK, it’s all OK now.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 25. The prompt was to write a poem that is the opposite of one we wrote earlier this month. A couple of days ago, I wrote this one called Depths.



The Truth About Ice Skating

Once you lose your nerve, it’s over.
You might stay on your feet, thanks to
the laces you tightened until your fingers
could take no more. But you won’t enjoy it,
not when you’re thinking so much about every
wobble, whether your legs will slide out from
under you, like Bambi’s, and when every chunk
in the ice could be the one that brings you down,
and the only question is whether you will fall
forward or back, and if forward, which part
of your face will hit first, and whether
anything—glasses, teeth, skin—will
be broken, and also whether
anyone will skate over
your hands,

splayed in front of you as if in
supplication or defeat. It is a
shame, not to be in love
anymore, when the
moon is out, cold
and close as
the ice.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 24 (prompt: the truth about ____).








Deep in the vein of jam,
there is the sun, locked in
memory, how it coaxed hard,
green fruit into soft and red, then
bristled it all over with seeds, and
the tiny hairs that protected this
investment until the berry
was picked, cooked,
jarred, eaten.


Deep in the blood, there is the  
sound, a sluicing rhythm you can’t
hear, except late at night when you are
alone, or may as well be, your partner
sleeping, unable to tell you that the noise
doesn’t mean you’re going to die, which
is, of course, the greatest falsehood
love ever tells.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 23 (prompt: a deep poem).




Coconuts kiss you on their long way down
to sugar sands (here, at last, your clichés
are acceptable, even hailed as original)
as palm fronds gently caress your cheek
or playfully slap it—your choice, and you
also get to choose which type of cheek.
This is endless summer, a bottomless
sunset daiquiri that never leaves you
mouth-dry and filled with regret.
In the gift shop, many items are
personalized, and all bearing
your name, no matter how
unusual your name was
in life.

At last, Harbert and Micheline,
Wilford and Atalanta, you are #1,
and you have the license plate
to show it. By the way, you have
a bike to put it on, and it has
a banana seat and a flag,
and you will never look
ridiculous riding it.

Your spouse is here, and does not
tell off-color jokes or make any
embarrassing noises. Not all
of your friends are here,
though some might
arrive in another
twenty years
or so.

But you won’t miss them, because
there are new friends here, like
Bob and Sandy with their
perfect hair and polite
way of inquiring
about your

moments, how it felt to come here,
and whether you think there
might be a crack or a door
somewhere, a way to
escape, go back



For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 22 (prompt: paradise).




What goes around … comes
so many times, you begin
to get sick of it, frankly.

Everything repeats
sooner or later; life runs
on invisible wheels

that are easy to feel
spinning under you
if you’re not too

to feel anything but
your brokenness.

So what? It’s easy to forget
the cycles that run us,
when it seems as if

everything moves forward,
not in circles, after all. I like it,
the illusion that we’re each

walking somewhere, or
that any of us is able
to hold still, ever.

“I will wait,” we say. But
there is no waiting, only transit,
on our loop around the sun.

For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 21 (prompt: write a poem incorporating five random song titles).