Often when I make a mistake,
I imagine that I am in some
mod French movie (oh, sorry—
film) where the action screeches
to a halt, and over everything
is superimposed the word
GAFFE! It helps

to make my mistake
more glamorous, not an
ugly smallness, but a gaffe,
something worthy of notice
by, say, a poodle or an old man
in a striped boatneck sweater.
(I am trafficking in stereotype
here, but this is my fantasy.
Am I not allowed?)

Gaffes are not the end
of the world if they mean
I can retreat for a moment
into this faux French scene
of cafés and umbrellas
where I am not

the worst person
who ever lived, but
just another poor
être humain

stumbling on
cobbled streets
in the rain of
my error.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 10 (prompt: a poem with a foreign word in it).




When he’s gone,
there is a moment when
his shadow registers as
its own kind of presence,
a hole in the shape of him.

When she’s gone,
she’s just gone.
Gone, baby, gone,
instant as a vapor.

Funny how two people
can have such different
ways of disappearing.
It’s as if they’re in two
entirely different states
of matter.

For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 9 (prompt: When he’s gone).



So your love is like a red, red rose.
Congratulations, Bobby.
Talk to me when your heart is
an ornamental cabbage, at best,
when it seems to be choked
by some ugly vine intent on
sapping the life out of everything—
yes, even love. Oh, I know.

Your love is like the melody
that’s sweetly played in tune.
Well, that’s great. Maybe
her melody jangles sometimes,
goes all cymbals and harmonicas,
accordions and tubas, all in a
different key, keeping different time.
Can she enjoy it anyway? Can you?

It is easy to make promises about
things that haven’t happened yet—
your drying seas and melting rocks.
And doesn’t it feel great to leave
with some high-flying pledge
to come again someday?
Bobby, what is she supposed
to do with that—

pine for you as she watches
vines grow over the cabbages
and the tubas come marching in?
Go back to her, Bobby. Let
your love be something else,
something really useful, like
a loaf of bread to sustain you both,
and a knife to cut it with.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge Day 8. Prompt was to answer a dead poet. I chose Robert Burns.




In the circle of the road,
the oldest circle, of home and away,
we roll on four circles to close
big circles of child and parent,
child and grandparent.

Though we know the circle
can never be unbroken
by distance, by who knows
what gaps in understanding,
differences in seeing,

(How is it that people can
love each other and yet want
such different worlds? Oh,
but they can. They can.)
yet we will try it, sometimes

fail, always try it again,
this trick of bringing our
loose ends together, being
whole, that being enough
for at least a few round days.



For PAD Challenge, Day 7 (prompt: a circle poem) and NaBloPoMo.



Left and right,
holding up a crystal platter
of cream puffs, maybe,
or porcelain angels, their wings
already chipped from
a bumpy ride in the back
of a rattling panel van.

Left and right,
holding up a fragile realm
like that, keeping broken things
mostly stable, lest anything
break further, though everything
breaks at least a little in this
unpadded world.


For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets, PAD Challenge, Day 6 (prompt: left and right), and NaBloPoMo.



Just Beneath the Acrylic Wall Art

There’s another wall waiting to begin
if only we can escape the gravitational pull
of this owl’s orange eyes, threaded with
yellow yarn, a big, dark, wooden bead
in the center of each, like a knuckle
in a fist. This is not what I came

here for, to sit on this houndstooth couch
with you, trying to explain what I mean
about walls beyond walls, some world
other than this one where we are
men and women, machines built for
coping, not for understanding

each other, not in any real way, except
through the flesh. You are wondering
about my flesh even now; I can feel it in
your eyes, your male eyes, and we will
never reach that other world, not
together, not this way. You have

your hot toddy, and I have mine; you are
not my ride home, the shoes under my bed.
We are nothing but two people sitting under
an acrylic owl, trying to ignore some things,
pay attention to others, and—for the next
ten minutes, twenty—not confuse the two.



For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge Day 4 (prompt: Write a poem in which the title is “Just Beneath ___).




One day, I will solidify like butter;
it will be, at last, too late to change.
I will be kept in a refrigerated room,
behind glass. Tour groups will come
to look at me; I will be an example of
poor diet, inactivity. The wages of sin.
Children who beg for corn dogs will be

asked, Do you want to be like the
Butter Lady? No one will know that
my ears still work, and my brain,
which will strain through creamy
sludge to instruct rigid limbs
to punch, kick, smash the glass,
let the warm, kind air come in.




For PAD Challenge, Day 3 (prompt: Write a poem that scares you.) Also for NaBloPoMo.


Sairy and Esther

Under an almost-full moon,
over two short glasses of milk,
in milk-white, moon-white gowns,
Sairy and Esther argue about
which one is more important.

Sairy says she is everything
that ever was, ever is
and ever shall be.
World without end.

Esther says nothing is ever
like that; everything changes,
and it’s best to keep moving,
not pretend at stillness
when we are always traveling
so fast we can’t feel it.

Sairy and Esther agree,
as always (or sometimes),
to divide the world in half,
its actions and descriptions.

Sairy is an old woman.
Esther is pouring out
the leftover milk;
a half moon turns
around once, slips
down the drain.

Sairy and Esther
spoon in their bed;
it is big enough
for two to be.


For Day 2 of PAD Challenge (prompt: Write a full moon poem).


OK, I Changed My Mind … PAD, Day 1

As soon as I finish this post, I’ll do another one, for Day 2 of the Poem-a-Day Chapbook Challenge (aka PAD). That’s right — I’ll be posting all 30 of the poems I write this month. Wait … Didn’t I say just a few days ago that I wasn’t going to do that, for a number of eminently sensible reasons?

Yep. I sure did. Yes. But then I realized that:

1) It’s really depressing and isolating to write a poem based on a community prompt and then not share it with that community.

2) The poems I write for these things are often very “prompt-y” and not necessarily what I’d want to submit, anyway.

3) Last year, I talked to a couple-few editors at reputable literary publications who don’t think this kind of thing warrants the scarlet PP (for “previously published”). At least one of my PAD poems (maybe more — how is it that I forget these things?) actually found a home in print.

4) I’m more interested lately in submitting chapbooks and full-length books, and for those, no one cares about PP for the individual poems, as long as you acknowledge where the PP occurred.

5) It’s good to be less precious with poems and to realize that you really can make more. Even if all the poems I write in November are down the well, December will come.

6) This type of challenge, while I do work at it, is also play. If I’m going to play a game, I want to really play it — to go balls to the wall (which, by the way, I recently learned does not mean what I thought it did), as it were.

One thing I didn’t like about PAD last year is that it lives in the comments on someone else’s blog, not on my own. But there’s no reason I can’t post my PAD poems here, too. I also recently learned about NaBloPoMo, which is a challenge to blog daily all this month (you have until the 5th, if you want to sign up and do it, too).

So … I’m going to post daily here and at Poetic Asides (home of PAD). I’m going to link to Open Link Night at dVerse Poets on Tuesday afternoons, as usual, and I’m signed up for NaBloPoMo. If I’m going to PP 30 poems, I might as well PP them all over the place and have a good time doing it.

That’s a lot of talk … Here’s my Day 1 PAD poem, based on the prompt to write about some kind of match:



Whittle it down to matches;
the tree is only the start of fire,
sunlight locked in its heart
like a memory of leaves.
No leaves now, it is wood
in a box; strike sulfur tip,
bring to wet, lichened log.
Cousin!, the match says.
I have returned.