A True Story

But this didn’t have to happen today.
You could set it in any time, and it
would still work just fine. No one
would know that it had been lifted
and set back down, the screaming
squirrel in the tree. When did
squirrels first appear? And trees?
When did yellow leaves and green
first appear together, hanging in
the gray sky that has seen it all,
and then seen it all again? How long
have there been mothers with two
children, older girl and younger boy,
and the boy suddenly wants to know
why only mothers have babies? And
how long have those mothers heard
themselves saying that same stupid
thing about the special seed that
helps the baby get started
? And how
many little boys have seemed to feel
better then, knowing their bodies
aren’t totally fruitless, without
life-giving magic? This could happen
any time when there’s been a scooter
and some Halloween candy, a day off
from school, a season just on the edge
of turning into something else completely.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 11. Prompt: a timely poem or a timeless one.


No Trouble

I make everything
easy for you now

easier than it needs to be

like some kind of


a coin-shaped
geranium petal

as big as the sun

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 10. Prompt: “_______ Trouble.”


Emerald Ash Borers Branch out from Ash Trees

The emerald ash borer considers its options,
now that it has eaten all the ash trees, or
they have been preemptively cut down, burned,
a funeral pyre for all the emerald ash borers
still left within. The emerald ash borer never
thought it would have to start over like this
in midlife, develop a taste for something called
a fringe tree, which it never noticed before,
so enmeshed was it in boring through ash. But
as it turns out, fringe trees taste pretty good,
all things considered, and the emerald ash borer
thinks it could easily complete its life cycle
within one, if it came down to that–which it
very well may. But this will not really affect
the forest diversity in New Jersey
, says
an entomologist, with confidence. After all,
the emerald ash borer would never target
forsythias or lilacs, those shrubs not having
enough meat on the bones, so to speak.
Looking back, the emerald ash borer has no
regrets about how it’s made its living–it can
only move forward, finding new trees to girdle
with its larvae, another generation to find
its way somehow, as we all must. As we all do.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 9. Prompt: A poem inspired by a news story. Here’s the one I used.


All of This Will Be Forgotten in an Instant

When I close my eyes, then I see

quiet as snow, the light
only a dim awareness

It may as well be sun
and I could be a seedling

sleeping in the earth
of my mother’s womb

waiting to be what it is
I am to be and am


For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 8. Prompt: a blind poem.


I Made Fun of People Who Walk Around Staring at Their Phones

But that was before
I plugged in a computer brain
and a phone brain
where my actual brain had been,
and when I still read books
on the train
and when I didn’t need company
at all times, and to always
and always and always
check to see who loves me
and who loves me today
and five minutes ago
and two minutes
and now.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 7. Prompt: A compulsion poem.


It’s Heavy

Are you happy now?
she asked, and I said
Yes, I think so,
even though I knew
she was not really
asking me, so much as
sighing inwardly
and outwardly
at something I’d
done or said. But this
was before I was an
expert reader of tone,
before I had all the
translations, the full
glossary of human emotion,
which I now carry around
with me all the time
and can never put down
even though it’s heavy.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 6. Prompt: Happy now.


Keep This to Yourself

Anyway, I don’t believe in
whiskers on kittens, gratitude
journals, fluffy slippers, or
any of those Martha Stewart

Good Things or whatever
it is that Oprah knows
for sure
. I’m a crank,
and I’m meaner than I look.

But I know and you know
that there are still
lowercase, non-italic
(Roman, let’s say)

good things in this world,
and it is still worth
being here, if for no
other reason than to see

what happens next–even if
that thing is terrible
and you can’t stop it, so
it keeps you up at night

or it wakes you up just
before your alarm goes off.
Look, I’m not an optimist.
The power of my positive

thinking? It could maybe,
on a good day, light up
Duluth. Not even. Bemidji,
let’s say. Maybe just

a bar in Bemidji, some dark
little place with whiskey,
beer, and Paul Bunyan. Here
I am, struggling over this

on my couch in Chicago,
and there you are, wherever
it is that you are. If I
could, I’d meet you at that

Paul Bunyan bar in Bemidji,
our good things like tiny
suns, bouncing off ice cubes,
making indoor Northern Lights.

For November PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 5. Prompt: Keep This [Blank].


Amaryllis Woman

Tell me again how I burst forth,
reaching for the sky with immense
petals from some rainforest where
my ancestors came from, but I
sprang up from nowhere, arrived
in a dark green vessel, unmarked
and unheralded. Tell me again
the story of how you didn’t
know me and then suddenly you
did, and how you watched me
every day, how I sat on your
windowsill and performed the
superhuman act of making you
happy in the middle of February.

For the November PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 4. Prompt: a superhero or superheroine poem.

In case I haven’t mentioned it, besides pushing myself a little by writing directly here rather than in Word, which is my usual, and which gains me a modicum of editing time before I post, I’m also not looking at the prompt until I’m actually ready to write. That way, I don’t prewrite by mulling over ideas all day long. The poems you see this month are as close to my “first mind” as you’re going to get.

Hey, big news! I just found out that I get to be part of a reading at Woman Made Gallery here in Chicago on Sunday, December 7. I hear it’s a really great space, and I’m honored to have been selected. I’ll be reading from my chapbook Secret Rivers. If you’re in Chicago, I hope you’ll come out. Also, there will be snacks.


Blanket Statements

Blanket me with my own eyelids,
like two beautiful sheets of


Cover me in a shipment of snow,
quiet and white like flakes of


Shower me with red rose petals,
someone–I deserve a luxury so



For the November 2014 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 3. Prompt: a blanket poem.



But the good news is, Humpty
didn’t want to be together again
anyway. He lay there for a while,
staring up at the sun, enjoying
how he felt with his inside
and his outside no longer
contiguous. Will the circle
be unbroken?
Humpty had always
hoped not. And now he felt like
he might contain something he
never knew he had: a tiny chick,
cheeping somewhere about the
ineffectual horses and men,
the wall, the fall, and


For the 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 2. Prompt: “together again.”