Several Words from an Authority on Milkweed: April 2015 PAD Challenge, Day 19

Look, man, if you really want
the most successful butterfly puddle
possible, you really gotta pee on it —
that’s in addition to the cow manure.
Cow manure, human pee: Got it?

(But if you do this, don’t tell anyone.)

Hairy balls milkweed comes from Africa
and is perennial in Zone 8, can be grown
elsewhere as an annual, for laughs
and because caterpillars love crawling
all over those green testicles.

Please form a strong opinion now,
on the subject of tropical milkweed.
Be prepared to defend your choice
against link attack. You are either
destroying monarchs or saving them,
depending on the day or on who is
firing off which set of links.

Have you heard the story of the person
who got milkweed sap in her eye? Consider
wearing safety goggles in the garden.

Do you have enough milkweed?
Can you ever have enough milkweed?
Should you order more milkweed?

These are the questions I ask myself
at night — and then I wake up screaming.


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.”


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.



Death is a preventable fiction. I am blooming now
like never before, standing tall and so healthy that
surely I will be passed over. Only someone truly
cruel would look at my orange petals, the mosaic
I have made out of sun, to represent the sun,
and say I should not live to see December, then
another spring, another summer. I will be the first
of my kind, in our portion of earth, to make it
through to the other side—because I have
made myself beautiful. I have been useful.
The bee came again yesterday, but she was
slower, less hungry. Still, she whispered her plan
to me, how she will fly so fast, up into the cold sky,
that no one can catch her. I told her I will be here
when it’s safe to come back. I will feed her then.



Check out Open Link Night at dVerse Poets every Tuesday p.m.


Helen’s Flower

You know Helen:
Either she’s sorrowing
over being kidnapped
(twice), or she’s

putting on her makeup.
Flowers made of tears.
Makeup made of flowers.
Either way, Helen wants us

to notice Helen. The great
beauty. Look at me; my face
launched a thousand ships.
My parents mated as birds,

and now a flower grows
with every precious tear!
You know what I say?
So what? Who cares,

Helen? Her flower,
how many people
love it? How many
gardens is it in

right now? Three?
Four? Four hundred?
It doesn’t matter.
My name is Rose.



Check out Open Link Night at dVerse Poets every Tuesday p.m.


Achillea Millefolium

Yarroway, Yarroway, bear a white blow,

One of the herbs dedicated to the Evil One
yet daubed by Achilles (except on his heel?),
loved by butterflies, hummingbirds, bees,
none of whom need to know if another
loves them back, none of whom need
any secret spells to determine by.

If my love love me, my nose will bleed now.

If my love love me, we are only in the garden,
crushing aromatic leaves in our fingers,
ignorant of any history less happy than this
present, blameless of curses, spells.
Devil’s Nettle. Bad Man’s Plaything.

Bitterish, astringent






Check out Open Link Night at dVerse Poets every Tuesday p.m.!



Go ahead and write about it,
the milkweed raising its flags,
advancing into the strawberries,
the violets everywhere, placeholders
until you make a new decision, the chives
perpetually about to bloom, the first spring bees
coming to inspect everything, approving, drunk.
Crab apple snow all over the brick, the snowball bush
in blossom—fragrant sweet spicy—the plans, all the
beautiful plans. Yours, and who else’s?

Nature’s? Nature’s plan? There’s the problem:
Everyone writes about flowers, nature, the buzz of it,
this green, nervous madness; all poets write about
spring, new life—except the ones who write about
fall, winter, death: the reaping sickle of the bitter wind,
all that. It is enough that you are now writing about
writing; that in itself is indulgence. Must this also be
about spring, the beauty of the garden? Yes? Then here’s
another plan: Don’t forget to write about the cat shit

you found yesterday where you will soon plant zinnias,
iridescent green flies walking all over it, tasting it with
their odious feet; that, and the garbage that perpetually
blows in under the fence, candy wrappers and broken
bottles. Also, there’s nonstop traffic passing by, just
a few feet away: How much carbon monoxide?
How much lead? Yes, how much lead is now wedged
in the creases of your fingers because you scrabble
in the dirt barehanded, so besotted are you, so


Japanese beetles might come, a shiny army,
to eat the wild grapevine; the weeds might
take over once summer is in full swing, swelter
and drought, no more novelty to any of this, only
work and heat. Write about these, too, and never
forget them. Perhaps they can save you from
the sweetness of this unbearable world,
sweet as any cheap, delicious wine.




Check out Open Link Night at dVerse Poets every Tuesday afternoon/evening!


For Ms. Showers (for NaPoWriMo, Day 10)

April, you have misled me,
you have misled all of us,
with your teasing smiles
and warm caresses.

Now, your touch is cold,
and I shield myself
against it.

Where were you
this summer, when
my flowers were dying
and all that I needed—
all that no one could
give me enough of—
was water?

You offer it now.
Oh, how you offer it,
by bucket and pail, in
lakes on the sidewalk.
You say you’re here
to help me water

the garden. Now.
But April, it doesn’t
help when you smash
the young daffodils
down against
hard earth,

like a basketball
so many thumbs.

Then there is
your noise, April,
at night. I like
rock ’n roll

as much as
the next person,
but not at two
in the morning,
when my son
wakes me

because he can’t
sleep through your
concert, its cacophony
and strobe lights.

Everyone here is
tired of you, April.
I’m just the one
who’s telling you,
that’s all.

You say you don’t
understand. You say
you’re just doing
what comes

naturally. That I
might love you
again next year,
that I might
miss you

sooner than that,
in summer heat.
All of this may
be true,


But older, almost,
than the cycle of

is this question:
How can I miss you
when you won’t
go away?



NaPoWriMo, Day 10 prompt: Write an un-love poem.


Toads, for NaPoWriMo, Day 7

We all live any way we can.
We plant our gardens wherever we have room.
We relocate toads to sunnier climes.
It turns out that toads prefer dappled shade.
It turns out that toads dig in cool damp.
They use spaded hands and feet to escape the sun.
We have upset the toads, their habits of living.

Mistakes have been made.
We have made a mistake.

We wonder if spring can forgive us.
Will a toad forgive us, if we bend close enough to hear?



NaPoWriMo, Day 7 prompt: Write a poem in which each line but the last one is a single, declarative sentence. In the last line, ask a question.