Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Two Poems for We Write Poems

Mad About Science

the foundation of life
its unique ability
to bond

two molecules of hydrogen
and one of oxygen
the essential solvent

just add nitrogen
and you have the four
basic building blocks
of life

trace amounts of many other elements
but there it is
the solution
that life created
the chemical soup
of which we're all made
formed in some primordial sea
long, long ago

as with any recipe
balance of ingredients
is necessary for success

too much water
we drown
too little water
and drought

we measure
we think
by-products of our
nervous system
our backbone
of thought and feeling
we know
happiness and sorrow

and then
thinking about water again
vapor   liquid   ice
for good or bad
how it is that
wisdom is glacial

* * * * *


completing another
circle around the sun
my birthday again
and, I, as per usual
obsess about my waistline

* * * * *

I wrote "Mad About Science" in response to the Wordle prompt at We Write Poems.  Then I realized I had used all the words, except three: obsess, birthday, and circle.  So, I used those three words for "Tanka".

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


he asked me if I felt trapped
did I make the right choices in life
would I go back and make changes

he wasn't lonely - maybe just a little sad
about who he is - something he can't change
so he asked me if I felt trapped

but I don't think he was asking about me
I was just a cipher - a way to ask himself
did I make the right choices in life

it got me thinking nonetheless - he did ask
but no I don't feel trapped in parenthood
I would not go back and make changes

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the change prompt at Writer's Island.  I also attempted to use the cascade form which I read about on Poetic Asides.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I'm always looking back,
hanging around as I do.
That's what I'm here for.

I see you as no one else does.
I look you straight in the eye.
I'm always looking back

at you when you're looking at me.
I'm a good listener too.
I listen to you sing in the shower

and I pay special attention
when you practice asking your boss
for that raise we both know you deserve.

I wait for you to come home.
I'm always here for you,
morning or night. Just turn on the light

so I can see you better.
You're looking tired now. Time
to brush your teeth and go to sleep.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt to write a "looking back" poem at Poetic Asides back in April.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Today's my birthday.  I'm off to a friend's wedding, and then some time with my family in Santa Rosa.  I'll be offline for the weekend, but then I'll get caught up on Monday.  I want to send a big "Thank you" to everyone who's been reading my poems here and leaving comments.  It's been delightful - and I am much grateful.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Two Poems for Big Tent Poetry

for the dreamers

a message resent
this time full
of praise

for the minds
that can see through
the cloud-dark sky
to the stars beyond

who walk gently
on the Earth
but part the herds

making them tremble
those greedy and hungry
those ignorant and dull

those dark comforts
we know are dangerous
in their ease

gravity holds us all down
but starlight makes us shine
if reflected in our eyes

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a Wordle prompt at Big Tent Poetry.

* * * * *

An Angry Pantoum

Anger, oh my foe, my friend,
how is it you so move me?
It is not a dance I enjoy.
Why are you with me still?

How is it you so move me
to actions of shame and courage?
Why are you with me still
though I have worked to be rid of you?

To actions of shame and courage,
two-faced, you have spurred me on.
Though I have worked to be rid of you,
yet you cling to my fragile heart.

Two-faced, you have spurred me on,
when you should have - and not.
Yet you cling to my fragile heart,
Anger, oh my foe, my friend.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the Angry Pantoum prompt at Big Tent Poetry.

Two Poems for Writer's Island

The Gift

birds have flight
fish breathe underwater
plants make their own food

nature has bestowed
the gift on all
but in each
it takes a different form

we have our minds
and everything that stems
from that gift

but now I have
to wonder if
we've used ours well

we've invented devices
so that we can fly
and breathe underwater

we've even gone farther
than all other living things
into orbit and beyond

but what of compassion?
we have not done things
with, but for

we copied the birds
we imitated the fish
and the plants?

we need them
but we don't want
to be like them

we bent them
to our will
to serve our needs

lower than pets
stuck in pots
arrayed in fields

concentration camps
that don't need fences
to keep the prisoners

cultivation now to me
seems like subjugation
domination not dominion

you might say
plants don't feel
we're not doing them harm

you might be right
maybe the plants
are happy to serve us

you might be wrong
maybe the plants scream
at us but we cannot hear

there are waves
we cannot see or hear
out gift doesn't extend that far

maybe it's foolish
to think that plants can feel --

see, even I do it
thinking I can impose
my perspective on others

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to The Gift prompt at Writer's Island.

* * * * *

The Key

my house key looks a lot
like my classroom key
I get them mixed up
all the time

what does that say
about me
and my priorities?

their shape is similar
but they are noticeably
different in size
so why don't I notice?

when the key doesn't fit
I know it's the wrong one
it's tactile, not visual

(I can't even talk
about my car key
that symbol of shame
and complicity

because the closest
gas station to my house
is Arco, a BP brand)

what hangs me up though
is that definite article
I want to know
what the key to life is

is it love? is that
the key? or is it
fidelity to that love?

or is it just silly
of me to play
grammar games with the phrase?
as if that were cleverness

I've already talked
of different keys, so one
is obviously not the answer

my work, my home,
my car which transports me
between the two, and my wife
who holds the key to my heart

the physical keys
and the metaphorical
are all splayed about me

so how do I choose?
or are all my choice?
and thus all are
ways to unlock me

now I understand, I think,
that the key is not
the answer, but the question

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to The Key prompt at Writer's Island.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


To walk in other's shoes,
it is to stories and poems
that I turn.

I enjoy giving
myself up, living through
their lies, loves, and laughter.

Strangers in history,
like surrogate ancestors,
are my touchstones.

Sometimes, so scared,
I edge down passages
in my imagination.

While my true ancestors,
Scottish fullers all, walked
on wool for their trade.

Would we have sat, sharing
stories, soothing our feet
around a fire pit?

My mind rebels
at a world of one people, one faith,
but it was so.

And then I return
to my life, full of sunlight
and deeper shadows.

I adopt a persona,
and write a story
not mine, and yet true.

Who shall I be today,
and what paths, false and true,
shall I tread with you?

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the Walk a Mile prompt at We Write Poems.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No Deadlines

Mother Nature has no deadlines.
Her methods are ancient,
older than calendars.
She has no need of them,
and has managed beautifully
without them for eons.

The water falls from the sky,
life-bringing precipitate,
And it flows to the sea.
It doesn't care when it gets there.
There is no rush for that tributary
to join another, to enter the bay.

The Earth will spin and orbit,
and the Moon about her.
They take their time with their dance.
They move to rhythms we cannot hear,
or perhaps we've shunned them for our own,
or papered them over with lines of death.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the day fifteen prompt at Poetic Asides to write a deadline poem.

Sunday, June 13, 2010



the door is
a barrier
that must be

I swear
this is what
my son
must be thinking

every time
I close
the bathroom door
in our house


why do we
erect barriers
except for privacy
and shame

we close doors
pull down shades
and build fences
around our homes

all this makes
sense to me
the difference between
adult and child


barriers provide protection
so we are building
a fence along our
border with Mexico

and Arizona passed a law
a barrier made of words
to punish those
who crossed that line

three days after
we began spilling oil
without barriers
into a gulf not ours

* * * * *

This poem is a response to the doors prompt at We Write Poems.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Writer's Meme

1. What's the last thing you wrote?
I finished a poem yesterday which I'm going to post tomorrow.  It's called "Immature".

2. Is it any good?
I don't know.  I'm not a very good judge of my own poetry.  Or rather I'm a very good judge of what's a good poem, but I'm willing to put things out there that are just okay in my book.  I think it's a good poem.  It started as a response to the door prompt at We Write Poems and I struggled with it.  It went somewhere in the first draft that just didn't work out.  Then I cut out the last section.  But I still couldn't finish it; I could have left it as it was, but it still seemed fragmentary to me.  Then I cut out the second section, which left it a complete poem, but not a very serious one, and it wanted to be more serious.

3. What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
I don't have any of the poems I wrote in high school, but I do have some that I wrote in a poetry writing class I took with George Barlow at De Anza College back in the mid-eighties.

4. Favorite genre of writing?
Currently, poetry.  But I enjoyed writing a novel back in November for NaNoWriMo, and I'm sure I'll do so again.  I'm also working on my memoirs for my boys.

5. How often do you get writer's block?
I don’t get writer's block.  I sometimes get stuck trying to get a poem where I want it to go, but I'm not "blocked" in that sense.

6. How do you fix it?
I'll write total garbage, just to get something down on paper.  Or I'll set it aside and work on something else.  If I'm stuck on one thing, I've got all kinds of ideas for other poems or writing projects that I could work on.

7. Do you save everything you write?
Yes.  I'm a hoarder.  (My poor wife).

8. How do you feel about revision?
Revision is absolutely necessary.  Some poems do come out pretty well in a first draft, but I don't think I've left anything untouched - at least, not recently.  I may have when I was younger and didn't understand how important revision can be.  Other poems just aren't worth revision; they just don't work - and can't be made to work.

9. What's your favorite thing that you've written?
I couldn't choose.  (It seems self-indulgent to me).  Or rather - the last thing I wrote is my favorite, so my favorite keeps changing.

My favorite blog post was about NaNoWriMo, which got excerpted by Renaissance Learning in their Extraordinary Educators newsletter.

10. What's everyone else's favorite thing that you've written?
I wrote a poem a day in April as part of the Poem a Day Challenge at Poetic Asides.  I asked a colleague of mine, also a writer, and my wife to choose their favorites.  Of the fifteen or so poems I gave them to read, they each chose seven that they liked.  They agreed on four of them: "Pacific Grove", "I love my country", "Reflecting", and "According to the waves".

11. What writing projects are you working on right now?
I’m writing poems in response to various websites who are posting prompts, and posting them here.  I'm also trying to work my way through the prompts posted in April at Read Write Poem, which I didn't discover until the last week of the month.

And this summer, now that I'm not working, I want to write more of my memoirs, a writing project for my two sons.

12. What's one genre you have never written, and probably never will?

13. Do you write for a living?
No.  I'm a teacher, which does include a fair amount of writing, but that's not what they pay me for.

14. Quote something you've written, the first thing to pop into your mind.
We forgot
we had freedom of conscience
before we had
freedom of religion.

* * * * *

I got this from Writer's Meme, a blog post by Poet Mom.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vocation Island

We've put treasure on islands,
and prisons, dark houses
swept by lighthouses.

We've put fantasy on islands,
and reality shows that prove
every one is a part
of the main, that when
you dive down, you find
the island is just a piece
of the continent.

We like the metaphor
of separation,
the vacation island,
the going away
that makes us
long for home,
then the bittersweet
return to vocation island.

These islands,
these bits of sand
and rock we cling to,
surrounded by waters
too vast to fathom,
we like them.

We like our islands,
and we cling to them still,
for peace, quiet, chaos, noise,
rising and falling,
yin and yang,
anima and animus.

But they aren't separate:
the water and the land.
They are one.

We walk along this shoreline,
this meeting of land, water, and sky,
bathed by sunlight, and watch
the tides drawn by the reflected light
of our little brother island
across the Armstrong strait.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the day fourteen prompt at Poetic Asides to write a poem titled "(blank) island" for the Poem a Day Challenge back in April.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Alchemist's Daughter

I wish you would not fondle
the bottles of tincture,
daughter, and disturb the pattern
of my work. It seems futile
for me to ask you not to purse
your lips at every offered proof.

Oh, father, what tender proof
could I offer to you how fond
I am of thinking and pursing
my lips as I do. Your tincture
bottles are just my hand's futile
attempts of finding a pattern.

Do not speak to me of patterns
of thought as I seek a proof
of what is probably an alchemical futility.
Have no doubt that I touch and fondle
the cool glass, too, of my tinctures,
but I do not slip them into my purse.

Ashamed I am that in my purse
of such beautiful handwoven pattern
I have secreted a necessary tincture
and here in my hand is the proof
of it. See how I fondle
your work which I know is not futile.

Oh, daughter, I find it is futile
for me to be angry of your purse
and what it hides. You fondle
my heart; that is our pattern.
Of your love and your shame, no proof
I need from you, only my tincture.

Father, it is a beautiful tincture.
It was foolish and futile
of me to take it. Here is the proof
in my hand, taken from my purse.
Your thought, your work, is your pattern.
It is that, and not me, you fondle.

My work's proof is in this tincture,
which you have fondled, yet it was futile
to hide it in your purse, my love, my living pattern.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the May 17 Wordle prompt at Big Tent Poetry.

I wrote the first four stanzas and then got interrupted. It took me a while to get back to it and finish it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Dinner at Millennium

We go out to celebrate and dine
on an exquisite vegan meal. Some wine

for you, my love, while I
will be satisfied, more than fine,

with Pinot Noir grape juice.
As usual, long before the clock reads nine,

though we have talked of our selves,
we both know how splendid, how fine

it is to be parents, and we talk
of our sons, and our hands entwine.

I find myself rich in love,
as I am yours and you are mine.

* * * * *

This poem is a ghazal, written in response to the WD Poetic Form Challenge at Poetic Asides.

It is clear to me now, having read other's poems, that I misunderstood the form of the ghazal. It should have a refrain that repeats, not the rhyme scheme that I used. Additionally, each couplet is supposed to stand alone, but I have carried thoughts from one stanza to the next. Oh well...

I did write about wine and love, and did allude to my name in the last stanza. This is an intriguing form, which I am sure I will attempt again.

Monday, June 07, 2010

"I love my country"

I love my country
but not everything
she does.

She's a beautiful
beast, but too big,

United, but not really
unified, the oxymoron
of one
out of many.

A paradox, a chimera,
part myth and reality,
pride and disappointment,
spirit and religion,
though we're supposed
to keep that apart
from the rest.

We forgot we had
freedom of conscience
before we had
freedom of religion.

We are spirit and body.
We are soul incarnate.
We are one.

We must stop fighting
ourselves - one part
against another.

We are unified.
Some of us have forgotten that.
Some haven't learned it yet.
Though some lived it once,
they have strayed from the path.

We must get back
to what we once were
in the beginning
to be what we need -

We must again plant
the roots of conscience
in fertile soil,
in every region
and climate,
then protect them, nurture them,
do what we need to do,
to be what we need to be:
out of those many, one.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the love/anti-love prompt at Poetic Asides for day thirteen of April's Poem a Day Challenge.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Behind the Piano

She knew she had simply
poked the piano.

Then the annual school concert -
all the girls fear
her heart, trembling limbs
and burning eyes -

Feeling her whole hand faint,
notes fumbled and slurred
into each other.

At the musical evenings,
she had played and sung,
hoping each time afresh
to be able to reproduce
the effects which came so easily
when she was alone.

But she could not discover
the secret of getting
rid of her nervousness.

Only twice had she succeeded -
at the last school concert
when she had been too miserable
to be nervous, and once
she had sung "Chanson de Florian"
in a way that had astonished
her own listening ear -

the notes had laughed
and thrilled out into the air
and come back to her
from the wall behind
the piano.

* * * * *

This is a found poem in response to the Erasures prompt at We Write Poems. I did use Pointed Roofs by Dorothy Miller Richardson as my source text.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

I've Been Away

I've been away from my blog for a few days because I've been so busy with end of the year stuff. The last day of our school year is this Friday! While I'm looking forward to the end of the year and the beginning of my summer, I have to get those report cards done. Talk about a deadline! I've been reading papers and grading quizzes and getting all of it recorded.

I essentially worked all day Saturday and all day Monday, Memorial Day. I took Sunday off, which I'll blog about tomorrow. I'm almost there. I'm done for tonight, which is why I'm here, adding an entry for today. But now I'm tired, and I'm going to go fall asleep reading.