Orangejello and Lemonjello’s Teacher

You know how they are with their names:
Laquisha and Devontay and all that. It’s
getting to the point where a plain old
Robert or Susan would be a real surprise.
Now, that’s how they can be different,
which I guess is what they’re after.
Anyway, this year I have twins in my class
named Or-AN-juh-lo and Le-MON-juh-lo.
Here, I’ll write it for you so you can see it:
Orangejello and Lemonjello. I know!
Couldn’t you just die? It’s all I can do,
keeping a straight face when I call roll
or when I have to write a note home.
But it gets worse. Their mother’s name
is Fuh-MALL-ee. I’ll write that one, too:
Female. And I have to sit there and pretend
these children have any kind of future;
I have to waste my time on people
with those kinds of names. Someday,
Orangejello will be on welfare with
her four children, and Lemonjello will
get shot and they’ll all cry about it
and protest. I’ll be long gone by then.
I plan to retire next year, get out while
the getting’s good. But enough about me—
how are you? And are we ready to order?

Funny Names


Charlie Charlie

My name is Charlie Charlie
I was always called it twice
when I was alive and now, too

You can call me any time
with your two pencils
a piece of paper and

whatever you want to ask
and I’ll answer you
I’ll come and play with you

on your piece of paper
Charlie Charlie
yes I’m here

Internet Sensation and Possible Demon Charlie Charlie


The Man Who Called from Inside the House

Yeah, I was the one who told her
the call came from inside the house and
that she’d better check on the children.
I was playing both roles while hiding
under one of the beds with a phone
and a voice-changer thing. The kids,
we bribed with candy, made them
lie still, a few little dabs of sauce—
pizza sauce—on their pajamas
and on their faces. And then
what was supposed to happen is
that I was supposed to jump out
with two extra-large pizzas, plus
a certificate for free pizza for life.
She was the big winner, see—
it was all a special promotion,
a way to try to get some attention.
You have to go viral these days,
they call it, to get anyone to notice.
But the whole thing backfired.
She saw the kids and the sauce,
and she didn’t wait around for
anything to be explained, or
anything to be given to her.
She ran out that front door,
and I don’t think anyone ever
saw her again. After a while,
the kids and I shrugged, ate
both the pizzas. We were all
hungry, and it seemed like
the best thing to do then,
under the circumstances.
The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs


Great Review of Secret Rivers at Today’s Book of Poetry

What a nice surprise today when Evening Street Press, the publisher of my chapbook Secret Rivers, shared this review from the blog Today’s Book of Poetry! Michael Dennis mentions a lot of things that I think were really central to this book, and which I hoped readers would pick up on. I’m beyond flattered and thrilled to be featured in this way.

His post even has video from a reading in Columbus this winter. I’m camera-shy and haven’t watched it myself but thought I’d point it out in case you’re curious and would like to put a face and an actual voice with the written voice you’ve “heard” here.

Many thanks to Michael for showcasing Secret Rivers and making my day!


The Woman with the $250 Cookie Recipe

This is how I have $250 worth of fun.
Neiman-Marcus will regret the day
they ever messed with me, I tell you.
Let’s make cookie after cookie
after cookie, stick it to all the snobs
of the world, with their Zodiac Rooms
and their popovers and cups of broth,
everything fancy and secretly expensive.
“I wish you wouldn’t do this,” she said,
the woman in the accounting department.
I just laughed right into the phone, then
made a batch of cookies, the first
of so many. Revenge, a bite at a time,
112 and 112 and 112 more each day.

(Costs a) Fortune Cookie


The Best Friend of the Girl with Spiders in Her Beehive

I told Lurleen, and her mama and daddy tried to tell her, too,
that no good would come of ratting her hair that high,
using all that hairspray. We all like a little bit of lift on top—
I do, too, even now—but Lurleen always did take things
a little bit too far. The shortest skirts, the tallest boots,
the highest hair. I told her she should at least take it down
and wash it now and then. She’d just laugh, light another
Lark cigarette. I thought maybe her hairdo would explode,
catch on fire someday. We all knew something would
happen. But what actually did happen—all them
baby black widow spiders hatching one day, biting
on Lurleen’s head as she screamed and cried, tried
to smack them, her beautiful tall tower of hair
just falling all around her, and all those little dots
of blood and smacked spiders on her shoulders—
well. That was something I’ll never forget, nor
anybody else around here, neither. I still think of it
every day now, when I take my comb and my Aqua Net,
look in the mirror, decide Maybe that’s high enough.

Spiders in the Hairdo/Tressed to Kill

Do you have an urban legend that you’d like to see made into a persona poem like this? If so, please leave it in the comments. Thanks!


The Husband in the Batman Suit

I still consider myself to be a very lucky man,
and whatever the neighbors saw, they saw.
What are we supposed to do now? Move away?
Slink in and out of our own home, our own bedroom?
Throw away a beautiful, custom-designed Neoprene suit
that has served me well—served us well—for two years?
It was two years ago that I finally told Donna what it was
I’d been dreaming about: the bat signal beamed onto
the wall, above our headboard, and me as her hero.
What man, 62 years old, doesn’t want to be a hero
to his wife, or to anyone? The world offers enough
chances to be weak, to be old. I have loved
being strong, being complicated, and I would
do it all again, being found like that, our neighbors,
the ambulance ride—I would do it all again,
for the chance to leap to her rescue, untie her.
My Donna. My knockout. My Vicki Vale for life.

Too Late the Hero


The Child Actor Who Played Mikey

The folklore is that I ate Pop Rocks,
the exploding candies, and I drank a soda
and my stomach blew up, just like
what people think will happen to birds
if you throw rice at a wedding.
But here I am, still John Gilchrist,
still alive, still enjoying Life
cereal from time to time, though
I have to pay for it at the store
just like anybody else. People
recognize me sometimes—
that’s why I carry a little flask
of Pepsi and a pouch of Pop Rocks.
I like to wake people up. I like
knowing that I still can.

Death of Little Mikey


The Woman Who Brought Home a Mexican Rat

But by that time, we were all attached to the poor little thing—
Chachi, we called him—even Henry, who thought I was crazy,
smuggling a dog over the border. Well, I guess I should say
smuggling a rat, though that sounds even crazier.
So I called up our son Jacob at school, because I know
he took a semester of Spanish. He found a rat fanciers’ club
in Guadalajara, and someone there stayed on the phone
with Jacob as he typed things into Google Translate
and told me what to tell the vet, who was looking at me
as if he wasn’t in the business of saving animals.
What’s the difference?, I say. Dog or rat? So what?
It was still the same little animal that fluffed up so nicely
after his bath, then settled down by my feet, snoring.
Aren’t rats nocturnal, anyway? To this day, I don’t really
know what Chachi was, though the rat meds did work—
once we wrestled a prescription out of that vet—
and he lived out the rest of a typical rat life, which is
too short. It’s been a year now, that he’s been gone.
Next week, I’m going to Tijuana again, shopping.

The Mexican Pet


The Hotel Housekeeper

They don’t pay me to care
what goes on in each room, so
I don’t know if it was true:


I just know it came off the mirror
pretty easy with lemon Pledge
(secret weapon—ask anyone),

which is good, because I have
wrist problems, shoulder trouble,
a bad back. We all do. So I looked

for a tip. There wasn’t one—just
bottles and shoes, maybe some
coke in front of the clock radio.

I cleaned everything up.
I changed the sheets.
I closed the door—

everything ready for the next
guest to take a nap or make love
or get AIDS. Like I said before:

They don’t pay me to care.

AIDS Mary (1994 version)