One of the Main Reasons I Wrote Almost Nothing This Summer

To tell you the truth, I preferred staying silent,
just tending caterpillars, releasing butterflies.
There are no prizes for butterflies — though
some people post fantastic numbers, how many
they’ve raised, so I can use that as a yardstick of
my worth, if I ever need another one. But
most of the time, I’m just cleaning poop
(calling it frass to show that I know), sewing
chrysalises or chrysalids or chrysalides back up
if they fall, then reaching in to help them out,
the new butterflies, just as dazed as I am
to see the sun, to get the vague idea
of something else they need to do,
someplace else they should be.



If You Are Afflicted

If you are afflicted with pear blight,
you will feel it in your limbs. If you
fail to blossom, or if your blooms are
nipped, browned by an errant frost, then
you will have a silent, solitary spring,
visited neither by bees nor wasps, exempt
from the frenzy of making fruit. Take heart:
This may be only for one year, or two,
and you can still make leaves and talk
to yourself, bend in the wind or brace
against rain, which will still come (unless
there’s also a drought). You may be visited
by some manner of small, sucking bug.
If you have no blooms — if you’re not
making fruit — you might find there are
worse companions than these, worse ways
to pass a lonely season or two, or three.

Also … Hey, I’m back! I took an extended Christmas break but will now resume the daily posts for a while.


Happy Now

Happy now, with a tree opening up,
releasing its scent of the woods,
though this is freighted with guilt —
a whole life created and wasted,
just for a few weeks of our delight.

Happy now, having snipped an entire tub of
Walgreens brand cherry and lime jelly bells
to make cookies that I vaguely recall, though
it’s possible that if I could call my mom,
she’d say, Oh, those. I made them once.
They’re a lot of work, and not very good.

Happy now, listening to the first mega-dose
of Christmas music on the radio, though
there’s a bit too much vibrato for my taste,
a little too much autotune and grandstanding,
and I can already anticipate the fatigue
from hearing that song — again?

Happy now, with my first cup of eggnog,
though I bought the wrong brand. It lacks
real nutmeg and fake rum, and only hits
the easy notes: fatty and sweet.

Happy now. Happy enough.
I think so.


Sometimes I’ve Heard the Door Shut

It is inevitable that one month comes to an end
so another can start, whether you’re ready for this to happen
or not.

An artificial division–28 days, 29, 30, or 31, so what?–
comes to feel natural, like the ribs that mark off
a single stalk of celery, or

those blasted sunflower seeds or cells in the honeycomb
(they’re trending now, Fibonacci numbers and, in general,
heavy breathing over the beauty of math).

How many plums are in your bag?
How many years
does each of us have?

One month slides into another, melting, indistinguishable,
at least for the last few days of one and first few days
the next.

But I can’t deny that sometimes I’ve heard the door shut,
the sun meeting the earth as softly, as undeniably as
eyelid touches cheek.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 30. Prompt: an inevitable poem.


They Met for Coffee, the Two Women Everyone Said Would Love Each Other and Should Be Friends

We should do this again!
they said, knowing full well
that this would never happen.

Who knows why some things catch fire?
Who knows why some things don’t?

Or worse, the little flare between
two people that sparks and then dies,
leaving someone inevitably embarrassed
over what was said, what it all seemed
to mean, but–as it turns out–didn’t.

Or maybe the meaning still hangs there,
the words still spoken, unable to be
called back, not as simple as

throwing away the paper cup
and walking out the door.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 29. Prompt: Do it again.


Local News

The news about the little tree outside my window
is that its leaves don’t so much change as shrivel
and die in place. This is not picturesque, but
it seems fitting, and cardinal pairs seem to like
little shrivel trees up against power lines
as well as any other trees. Maybe more than some.

I don’t have a favorite tree, but this one comes close.

The news about this plastic bowl of snack mix
is that I really shouldn’t be eating it. This is
the season of constant eating. In theory, I bought it
to support my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, but really,
it was so she could earn a patch shaped like an otter,
with a message about the benefits of physical activity.

I agree with this message. In theory.

The news about this tablecloth is that it’s beginning
to crack and will probably need to be replaced. It is
oilcloth, from Mexico, I think — though we bought it
at the fancy kitchen store on 53rd. This was the day
that I almost mandoline-sliced my fingertip into the
salad; we patched my finger and served the salad.

We had company. What could we do?

The news about this Betty Crocker cookbook is that
I’m a little disappointed in its selection of pies. I’m
on a mission to become a better pie baker over the course
of the next year. The problem is, I’m not sure what I want
in a pie, exactly, or why I want pie to become easy.
My mother made pie like it was almost nothing.

My mother, deftly paring apples and smoking.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 28. Prompt: “_____ News.”


Evening, November

I don’t love conflict
of any kind, or

crying while I do the dishes
Look how the despair is softening my hands!

or how my inner gray is twinned
by the gray outside

until the sun goes down, mercifully —
it’s like the old dirty joke says:

They all look the same
in the dark.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 25. Prompt: A love poem or an anti-love poem.


I’ll Be Honest with You

I don’t think those foxes are ever coming back
with that baby.

They had that look about them, you know?
Like a couple of foxes that have always wanted

a baby and couldn’t have one of their own

for whatever reason. I’m not an expert
on fox fertility and other mysteries in the night.

We all couple and uncouple in various ways,
and wish for things.

I imagine it’s the same for foxes.
They are, after all, mammals.

Even now, that baby could be tucked up safe,
drinking fox milk,

wondering what it’s all about,
or how this life began.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 24. Prompt: “I’ll Be _______”


Between Things

Alone is the moment when
you lie diagonally across
your queen-sized bed,
the first big purchase
in your adult life.

You sleep behind a shoji screen
in a makeshift bedroom carved from
a living room in a graystone apartment
that you share with two housemates.

Your internship ended, and you
didn’t go home. Now, you’re temping,
and then comes your very shitty
first real job.

You have bought yourself
a box turtle, a lizard,
and two tree frogs so

you’ll have someone to take care of.
Everything else dies, but the turtle
is a survivor. A year from now, your
boyfriend will move here, you’ll both
move to the other side of town.

Two years from now, you’ll get married.
He’ll love your turtle, too, make ramps
for him all around the room while
you’re at work, at your second,
and much less shitty job.

But for now, you are alone.
You are with people (and a turtle),
but you are alone. You are 24 years old,
and really, you slept better on
your friend’s couch, when you were

still between things, trying to make a plan.

For the PAD Challenge, Day 23. Prompt: an alone poem.


Release the Hounds

from their eternal

Who wants to
slink around junkyards
and into the woods

if there are other ways
to be a good boy or good girl?

Who loves the scent of blood,
shoe leather, fingernails?

Release the hounds,
and they will laze on couches,
chase rabbits — not men,
not dead women and children —
while they sleep. Forever?
For dog years?

At least until
a scent drifts in,
like ringing a doorbell,
or a call on the red phone:
Hello, hound.

You are a hound forever;
you can never be released.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 22. Prompt: a release poem.