East Is an Easy Direction

Unless you go too far
in your catamaran
and fall off

the face of the earth,
drifting like a balloon,
a star, a star-shaped balloon.
You never meant to disprove

a theory that makes the world
go round. You never meant to
take us back to the Dark Ages,
when we feared dragons and

edges, all the perils
that await us when we
push off from shore.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 21. Prompt: Write about a direction on the compass.


Way Back Then

But don’t follow me, darling;
I’m not going where you need to go.
This bus doesn’t stop on freeway
overpasses. This bus barrels through
the night until it reaches its
final destination, comes to a stop,
is explored by voracious crabs
and enterprising sea birds. Don’t
follow me unless you want to come
to ruin on some stinking shore,
the least picturesque beach
in America, as declared by
Readers Digest, in some foxed
issue I found in the garbage
behind a doctor’s office,
back when I was a scavenger.
Back and back and way back then.

And with that, I’m all caught up. This was for the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 14. Prompt: a “follow” poem.


Holy Hegemony, Batman

That’s what I might have said
in 1989 (which, as we all know,
is the year that, somewhere else,
Taylor Swift was busy being born),
even though I didn’t know what
hegemony meant and, OK, since
we’re telling truths here, I’d
need to Google it today if I
wanted to front like I knew it
all along, its full meaning,
anything other than a vague
notion of its sense. But I
trafficked in vague notions
then, in 1989, of myself and
of the world, of what it was
that I wanted, the possible
futures I saw in the window
over the couch as I looked
at my reflection and sang
to myself so I could know if
I was any good at singing.

Catching up. For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 15. Prompt: “Holy _______”


I’ll Never Be Miss America

Even though I secretly practiced,
in the bathroom mirror, saying that
I was from Ohio, with just the right
level of enthusiasm. This was when
I was a freshman in high school,
before I became too cool to watch
the Miss America pageant with
my parents and their friends,
each of us marking on notepads
the scores for each round,
and also noting our favorites
as hickory nuts fell on the deck
out back and as I tried to assess
what it would take to win, and
how many years I had to prepare,
to learn a new talent that would
come across well onstage, and to
figure out my hair and makeup,
to fix any flaws, including my
saddlebags, for which my mother
once showed me some exercises
from one of her magazines.
I felt, then, that the time
was not long, would probably
not be enough to fix everything
so I could enter and win, so I
wouldn’t look back from some
point in my future and wonder
if I could have won it, if I
could have won if after all.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 20. Prompt: “I’ll Never _________”


I Am No Different

But someone like me always says
there’s no explanation for any of it,
nothing owed to us and nothing to be
expected, that life is a random bag
of facts and occurrences, many of them
ugly and completely unjust, because
there is no justice, no traffic cop.
Sometimes I really hate myself.
Sometimes I sound so smug, so much
like others of my type, the clichés
tumbling out of my mouth before I can
call them back. The truth is, we all
think in stereotypes and patterns.
I am no different. Neither are you.

Catching up. Last one for tonight. PAD Challenge, Day 16. Prompt: an explanation.


What I Remembered While I Was Forgetting Something Else

Today, I remembered
that the kids in my high school
used to play a card game
called Egyptian Rat Fuck.
The name popped into my head
while I was trying to remember
something else, though now
I forget what that was, and it seems
like there have been other times
just like this, though now I forget
what I remembered while I was
forgetting something else.
The net unravels even as
I patch it. It catches only
the least relevant fish, bony
and inedible, ridiculous. I didn’t
even intend to go fishing; I’m just
holding this net and need something
to occupy my hands while I try to
remember what I came here to do.

Catching up. PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 17. Prompt: an afflicted poem.


Just Sweet

Sweetie pie,
you are just made of
candy, aren’t you?

Rock candy on a wooden stick,
no flavor to speak of.

Just sweet.

Never anyone’s favorite
(that I know of),
but always there,

easy to enjoy

candy is candy
sweet is sweet
you are you.

Catching up. PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 18. Prompt: Write a sweet poem or a sour poem.


My Going and Being

Did you wait for me there,
and did I never show up?
Are you still waiting,
after all these years,
with a rock in your hand
and a small grief, a
a small, hard grievance
against me? I’m sorry.
I had places to go
and people to be;
I wasn’t in control
of my going and being,
and besides, you only
half remember me, and I
half remember you. We
each invent the rest,
filling in spaces with
a dusk that we create
where really there was
only streetlight pollution
buzzing as you stood,
holding your rock
and waiting for me.

And we’re back! For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 19. Prompt: Write an excuse poem.


The End of Every Road (Plus a Program Note at the End)

We don’t have a lot of options left,
he said. But I said, There’s always
room at the end of every road.

The sun went down while we were
talking; I sketched a map in the
gravel with the toe of my boot.
I was trying to show him something.
I was always trying to show him
something, in that time before
the moon came up and I knew
the only option we really had.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 13. Prompt: An optional poem.

Also, please sit tight and do not panic. I’m leaving town for a few days, and from past experience, I know that I’m really terrible at writing poems in hotel rooms (or worse yet, hotel business centers). So, there will not be a new poem here until next Wednesday. But never fear! Once I’m back, I’ll catch up on the prompts I missed. Yes … there will be double poems. So, try to hang in there, and I’ll see you on the flip side.


Over the Falls

Like a breath inside
a pill bottle
that my father tossed
off a bridge into
the Niagara River and
then into the falls.
They got married
not far from there;
she wore a pillbox hat
when it was time
to go away. I wasn’t
there then, in 1965,
but I was there
in 2010, when my
father said goodbye
to her small hands,
her one pointed ear,
everything that
could be burned,
and was, and sent it
over the falls
“in a barrel,” he
said. I was startled.
I was glad to be there.
Later, we had pizza,
or beef on weck, or
we walked over for
the nightly fireworks,
or maybe that was
the night he said
he was too tired.
So much happened
later, and since.
But a part of me is
still on that bridge,
watching the water
converge, make the
shape of a heart
at the spot where
she went away —
the last place
I ever saw her,
my mother.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 12. Prompt: a poem for/about something that cannot be seen.