making the most of my free time: or how i took all day to write two poems


My kiddos are still vacationing at nana’s spa & retreat. They return tomorrow, with nana! I had planned to spend all day writing poems to catch up with my napowrimo pledge. Various and sundry distractions (curse you, facebook, dumb dog, and kingdom of Crammond cats!) served to limit my productivity, but I did manage to write a 2nd poem. And who knows, there could be more…the day is young!

This poem was inspired by a prompt from Laura E. Davis’ blog.  In a random act of poem choosing, I opened It’s Not You It’s Me: The Poetry of Breakup, and found “The End of the Affair,” by the late Steve Orlen.  I (tried to) turn (most of) the words on their heads. I kind of like the new poem. I really love the prompt!

The Beginning of the Affair

They pick up their guns, back up, air kiss
for the first time, agree, as they will for a time,
to say hello, and enter the empty playground
by the same public entrance. No-one drives
away–on the same streets or on-purpose
opposite ones–suburban sidewalks
as indistinguishable as the feather-weight
of their first last embrace. His car lights left on.
Her car radio tuned to a different station.
Not one detail is perfectly arranged.
The sky clouds.  Thunder distorts their words.
Somebody’s voice. Hey you.
This is not me. I want to say goodbye.

Some god pulls their strings like puppets.
I knew you were going to say that,
he answers in sign language.
One hand reaches for his gun,
one hand makes the sign for love.


i speak for the trees


I have been lucky enough (when I am kid-free…which isn’t often) to take part in a writing workshop offered by Bernadette Mayer. One assignment was to write a poem substituting one theme/idea for something else. That is a poorly-described interpretation of the assignment, mind you. I was given a gorgeous, ancient guide to trees of the eastern and central united states and canada (c. 1946) to work from. Here, months later, is my attempt at that assignment.


The Lumberjack Plans His Wedding

He carries A Guide To Trees
in his great hands
like a bible,

begins on page one,
substitutes beautiful girl
for tree.

What is a bride?

To the forester she is a factory

producing the most good timber
in the least possible time
at the least possible expense.

He takes notes on her bark.

Plant a bride where you live,
in ten years you will become so attached
to the young oak
you won’t want to leave her.

His shovel is always at his side.

Once unwed women grew in forests—
reed-like and pliant,
saplings stealing the light
in some places so thick
men could hardly see the sun.

Then came the cry:
let daylight in the swamp.

A generation of pioneers felled
the great brides, burned their magnificent gowns
to get them out of the way.

That era is now past,
the wise botanist tells him,
and the lumberjack, almost a groom,
bends to praise his bride’s persistent stem.

napowrimo #3 (a day late)


Yesterday’s prompt was an epithalamium. What ex-wife can resist the temptation to write one of these, I ask you? It’s a draft, I keep reminding myself. Just a draft. Like most everything in my life, it needs revision & re-organization. But the words are almost right, and the notion is there…

One thing I love about napowrimo, aside from forcing myself to write a poem every day, is that it falls during Easter time. I find the story of the crucifixion fascinating, in that I can not really, fully wrap my mind around killing someone so that someone else can live. On the other hand, that’s how my marriage felt. (oh goody…a poem prompt…)


 Too Late, the Ex-Wife Learns that April Marks the Beginning of Wedding Season

and she removes her mosquito net,
poor substitute for a veil.

When you are knee-deep in a clear pond,
trout buzzing at your feet
the best-case survival plan
is not wait for the sting

but cover your face.

She considers the wedding.
The preacher with
the sign of the fish
at his waist–
two intersecting arcs
like gold lips.

The groom with fists
balled, eyes dark as black flies.

The bride, a poor fisher of men,
refusing to hide her eyes,
leaving the veil in the vestibule.

When he reached for his new wife
it was like drawing in the net—
he the fisherman
she the good fish saved for gutting and frying.

napowrimo #2


Icarus Takes Off the Wings, Puts on a Skirt

You tell me I am flying too close to the sun.
I shake my feathers,
remind you
I am not flying
but fleeing
the burning house.

Embers cling to my toes,
men with rubber boots and hoses aim,
but no hero’s blast can reach me.
Someone puts out nets,

but I rise
like chimney smoke
and disappear.

Even without binoculars,
flocks of displaced songbirds can be spotted
racing from forests on fire
nests left behind,
and a clear pair of eyes
their only baggage.

Too late,
I realize you did not say
flying too close.

You said I am the sun.
You said Beware.

I watch wax drip from my bare shoulders,
prepare for a painful landing.

contemplating sitting on the couch until my neck aches (or my hair curls)


I am so tired. I could sit on this couch all day with the kitten pressed against my thigh and do nothing.  Fall asleep maybe with my head hanging to the side until my neck aches and I wish I had done better. 

I spend most of my days wishing I had done better.  Wishing I had picked the right man to marry. Wishing my hair were not so flat, not so soft, higher, lower, fuller, flatter, straighter.  One thing I have always done right is I have never wished for curly hair.  I will put it in your head to wish for curly hair, he tells me.  And I shake my head.  No.  That is the one thing I will never do.  Not even for a man. 

The truth is, I have curly hair in my dark and frightening past.  I sat in the plastic chair, draped in an ugly black cape and let the chemicals burn my scalp.  I was the victim of permanent waves.  I wanted a special curl, like the red head who wore the same blue gown to the prom.  Spiral curls.  But my hair wasn’t long enough for spiral curls.

Now I see even my refusal to ever curl my hair is a lame attempt at control.  For I have messed that up, too. 

From this day forward, I swear I will never have curly hair.

I will never again marry the wrong man.

I will only fall in love on a Saturday, and then only with a man who is worthy.  He doesn’t have to have hair, curly or otherwise.


Where is the poem in this, I wonder?  Is it in spending most of my life wishing I had done better?  That is something to aspire to.  To do better.  Spending your days wishing you had done better is wrong.  Like sleeping with your feet in someone’s face.  Wrong.  Pushing on a chin until your lover looks like a defiant child.  You can’t make me.



So many 2s in this day.  2nd month.  Two thousandth and twelfth year.  Today I should do something that makes me a pair.  I have always wanted to be a pair.  I would be a sock if only the universe would promise I would never lose my mate.  Even when I search for a list of all the animals who mate for life I am left with this sad truth: I will never be one of those animals.  Never a swan or a gibbon, a black vulture or an albatross.


Maybe the murders of crows and the murmurations of starlings are in fact whole crowds of lonely birds searching for mates.  The goose at the head of the V? Not really a leader, but the most gorgeous of the species, the one everyone wants to be with.  They are not following that bird to a warmer climate, but home, wherever it may be.  So finally, no-one has to be alone.

further notes on fire


Invitation from My Father to Descend the Stairs Backward

The fire chief’s daughter
lifted her nightgown,
slid down the stairs
with one hand
over her mouth.

Slip out of bed,
drop to the floor.
to the landing.

The fire chief lit a wooden match,
set a cotton ball alight.
Smoke rose
when he blew it out
and his daughter bowed
to the detector’s shriek.

Dreams of flames
eating the walls,
tongue of fire
swallowing her whole.

The monster beneath her bed
never bothers with claws and teeth.

The fire chief’s daughter,
when the sirens blow,
makes deals with the God of fire:

let me knot my sheets
than the flames lick
and you can devour my home.


first draft, rough draft…

dear june cleaver: your apron is too tight


Fifth Grade Family Feast

They ask for mashed potatoes
and she imagines
slicing the pale calves
her daughter called prickly
into neat cubes,
boiling with salt,
mashing them into fleshy mounds.

Loaded invitation
in the child’s backpack,
requesting families,
preparation of food
in warm homes
with steamed windows.

One person – gravy,
next item on the list.
She climbs into the big silver pot
simmers until her juices run brown
as the crazed river
she could not keep from the basement.

Eat any dish delivered from a broken home
at your own risk.
Roast turkey will put down roots in the belly
strong as the claws that reach
from the great tree keeping the light
from her kitchen.

Four people — bite-
sized desserts–small joy
at the end of the feast.
Beware the pie
with sorrow baked in—
its feathers will stick in your throat.

She settles on sending in knives
and forks, not implements of torture
but sharp reminders
of what is needed to survive.


this poem is definitely raw–as in, half-baked, not yet ready for consumption.  i mean, where is the stuffing?