In the Grand Rapids Airport: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 12

What is your damage?, he said,
but the way he spat it out told me
that he didn’t really want to know —
not there in the Grand Rapids airport
(do I remember right that it was named
for Gerald Ford?) while we ate hot dogs
and waited for our flight home. Home.
Now, there’s a word for you. What a joke.
Maybe my damage was all the time spent
assuaging him, his ego, assuring him
that he was smarter than me, that I was
lucky to be with him, even when he was
surly as any god who is distant more so
than loving. But I didn’t answer that day.
I never did answer, really — I just left
when he told me to leave. I even left
our cats to fend for themselves with him.
But that day, like I said, I didn’t say
much of anything until we got on the
plane and we both made small talk
with the other person in our row. He
was good at that. You’d never know
we were fighting, every day a little
more damage, and that a moment before
we got on the plane, I’d flicked
a piece of onion off the table,
wadded up my napkin, and cried.


How Shortsighted of Us, to Subsume Our Tails: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 10

We were so sure
we’d never need them again.
We had this walking upright thing
down pat, no need for balance or
to swing from the trees, no matter
how sweetly they called us.
We’d chop them all down instead, or
admire them from the ground, or
climb them for childish sport
and then come back down, walk
on our feet, our ridiculous hands
dangling at our sides.
Reach down — do you feel
that little cob of bone?
We could still turn this thing
around, regain our proper
branches, a new leaf nest
every night and a tail
to call our own.


My Daughter Picks Wild Onions Outside Abraham Lincoln’s House: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 11

Is it fun,
watching death come in
week by week,
ice crystals melting
by afternoon,
turning the last zinnias
to mush?
Who imagines this as
caramel apple time,
wool stadium blankets
and bonfires?
Well, I think they have
a screw loose.
I think they’re stuck
in another time, or
an advertising world
that never really existed.
Now, spring, that’s another
story — there’s a real season
for you. My daughter
picks wild onions outside
Abraham Lincoln’s house,
eats them in the car
on the drive back to Chicago,
where my son sees the first
painted lady of the year.


You and I Will Know: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day Seven, and a Program Note

Hold me closer, Tony Danza, tell me
what’s on every last bit of your mind.
Call me a taxi if I’ve said too much

on the talk show you still host, even now,
in the darkened conversation pit here
in your apartment, under all the

framed photos of you and Judith Light.
People say I look something like her,
Tony, and the other good thing is

I’ll never make you ask it, the question
that defines and haunts you, years later.
You and I, dear, you and I will know.

Also, I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss the next three days of the two challenges I’m doing, and will catch up later. I have some travel coming up, and while I can write under those circumstances, it’s often not the best.


Reality Show: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day Six

And Greg in his Johnny Bravo suit
tells you how he’s really not all that


without his five siblings,
three of whom are really


(but no one seems to talk about that
beyond the first episode or two)

and really, if you want to get
right down to it, all of them
are actors, and at least

one of them will hate another one
someday, and several will write
insiderish books that contradict
each other on a few key points.

But now, all of them
gather on the Astroturf lawn,

assembled in pixels on your screen
as if waiting for you to acknowledge
just how real they are—sometimes,
more than people you know.

Sometimes, more than you.


When She Left: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day Four

We took all the saucepans down,
the pots she hung from a metal grid
in the style of an ’80s movie or
a spread from a magazine,
like the ones she would buy
at the grocery store and then
try to fit us into. But with our black eyes
and skinned knees, and everything chipped,
we would not fit. So, in time, she quit making
chicken Marsala or Marbella or whatever it was,
and we ate those frozen dino-shaped nuggets,
barely warmed. When she left, we all watched
out the window, straightened ourselves up,
tried to look presentable at last. For once.
We knew she was really gone, might not
ever come back for those pots—but
we boxed them up for her anyway,
one inside the other, however
they would go.


Automatons of Love: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day Three

If you believe you’re a machine,
then I believe it, too. Your circuits gleam
as your teeth flash—a mouthful of
white dinner jackets. You’re plugged in
to another time, a different stream
of impulses; the satellites that move me
don’t move you, leave you staring
at your baked potato in a supper club
of your own design. If you’re a machine,
you’re a damn good one. If you’re
a machine, then so am I. Yes, so am I.


Going Back to Bed: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day Two

The secret is in how it rains,
the sound of a woodpecker
through the bathroom window,
open for the first time in months.
It’s a new thought again, that
windows can open, outside sounds
can come in where it’s quiet,
and a breeze can intrude,
just a shade too cold. There’s
no dog here to jump and whine,
break the stillness with
palpable desire to go out—
only the goldfish, contained
as always, and pecking
through the river pebbles,
and the box turtle, on some
unknown and silent errand.
Two children are still tucked up
in loft beds—if not asleep, then
not yet asking for anything.
The secret is in the walk back
down the hall, past the fish tank,
opening the door to the hush
before the world finds us.


The Morning Expands to Admit You: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 1

Resistance may be futile,
but many things are not
quite as they’ve been billed.

How the pebbles fly up into
your wheel wells as you drive,
startling your dog, your child,

or you. The morning expands
to admit you; it seldom resists
at all. I wish I could remove

the balky things from your world
sore feet and squeaky hinges,
a certain tic above your eye—

unless you love them.
Unless I’m one of them.
Unless you love me.