Saturday, April 30, 2011

You know

it's not true what you said
gay teachers are not
converting your children

and Muslims are not our enemies

they're not true, so
quit saying those things

yeah, yeah, it's still a free country,
but it wouldn't be
if we put you in charge

yeah, well, free speech
applies to me, too,
and I'm tired of exercising it
fighting your bigotry
and narrowmindedness

oh, yeah, that's good
resort to name-calling
you know what
you can call me
faggot commie liberal
but it doesn't change what I said

yeah, well, I'm done
with you too

(you're probably racist too)

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the "it's not true that _____" prompt at Big Tent Poetry. I also incorporated the quit what you're doing prompt at Poetic Asides.

Friday, April 29, 2011

"the only one in the world"

the only one in the world
is the world itself
there is no other like mother Earth

I know I'm unique
that genetically speaking I am
the only one in the world

just like me, but I am small
and what sustains me
is the world itself

we neglect her at our peril
there is no escape if we kill her
there is no other like mother Earth

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the "only one in the world" prompt at Poetic Asides. It also fits with the escape prompt at Big Tent Poetry.

As the month is coming to a close, I'm starting to think about which five poems I'm going to submit to Robert at Poetic Asides as my top five for the month, so I've been focusing on those prompts more over the past few days.

Shameless plug: If you want to read the other three poems I posted today, you'll find them here: Message in a Bottle, falling poem, and a little trifle called Second Thoughts.

Message in a Bottle

It depends, of course, on which bottle you
are holding and what is within. Some harm,
some nourish. Some open the senses while
others dull. Some will loosen your tongue and
lead to words of regret. But I have yet
to find a liquid within a bottle
that will inspire a poem. Quench a thirst,
toast a loved one, yes. But create, no. The
bottle messages are ephemeral.
They must be consistently replenished.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the message in a bottle prompt at Poetic Asides. It is also my attempt at what Robert has called "The Big 10", a poem with ten lines of ten syllables each

falling poem

part of
learning to
walk, ride a bike - it's
natural to stumble and fall.

why not algebra, making love?
why is it that we
fail because
we fear

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the falling prompt at Poetic Asides.

Second Thoughts

it's so hard
getting a quorum

trying to get
sixty of us

in one place
at the same

time is impossible

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the second thoughts prompt at Poetic Asides.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Looking In

I found
a poem
that had

a mirror
in it
and that mirror

looked in
at a mirror
in me

that had
a poem
in it

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the mirror poem prompt at NaPoWriMo.

I wrote this one about a week and a half ago. I was in Barnes & Noble doing my usual evening writing. For National Poetry Month, I've been browsing their poetry section and looking at various books. That particular day, I had picked up Poetry in Motion: 100 Poems from the Subways and Buses, and I stumbled across a poem titled "Reflective" by A. R. Ammons. My poem is a mirror of his.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two from school


so many paintings
Two Fingers
The Lovers
Frieda and Diego Rivera
what you'd expect

but what catches my eye?
the two black
and white photographs
of crepuscular rays
and clouds
both titled

how do docents
end the trip
for my students?
staring at a flag
with green and black
stripes with black stars
on an orange field
then looking at
a whiteboard

* * *

Jazz Talk

   Wealth and fame
   he's ignored
   Action is his reward

the thrumming of those four strings
walking that bass line
under four-color animated lyrics

thank goodness it wasn't
the Simpsons theme
it was time for another
song to take its place

   Happy talk, keep talkin' happy talk,
   Talk about things you'd like to do.

eleven octaves on the electric keyboard
the melody in the right hand
but not held - palm turned down
as ephemeral as sound
as short as memory

it's a good thing students
don't have a sustain pedal
I'd never have any quiet

   All aboard, get on the "A" train
   Soon you will be on Sugar Hill in Harlem

Billy wrote this one
on his way to see Duke
but it was Joya who penned the lyrics

Everybody should know Duke's music

   Potato, potahto,
   Tomato, tomahto

not just listening to the vocalist
but us singing too - call and response

gives new meaning to auditorium

   Seven steps to heaven

riding that rhythm
and brushes on the snare drum

that's one of the sounds
that makes me love jazz

   It don't mean a thing,
   If it ain't got that swing


* * * * *

The first poem was written in response to the prompt from We Write Poems to write a yin/yang poem based on any kind of pairings that are complementary.

It was inspired by a field trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. We're participating in a program called Visual Thinking Strategies, and a field trip to a museum to use those thinking strategies with actual art pieces, as opposed to reproductions in the classroom, is part of the program. While my class was split into small groups, led by docents, I was free for an hour to walk around the museum on my own. It was heavenly.

The second poem was not written to any prompt. The San Francisco Symphony has a program called Adventures in Music. It includes a trip to Davies Symphony Hall, which we've already done, but also visits to our school by professional musicians. This poem was my attempt to capture the magic of live music as performed by the quartet that called itself Jazz Talk.

These two poems seemed to go together, as they were inspired by art and music, were made possible by the experiences I have as a teacher, and were my attempts to reflect in poetry that art and music (and maybe a little teaching snuck in there too).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hymn to Boeuf

O glorious animal that God has set for us,
we honor you by taking your life
and making it our own, your flesh our flesh.
This is as it has been and how it shall be.

We sear your flesh, drive the evil out,
so that our nourishment is pure, only love,
just as your milk nurtures our children.
This is as it has been and how it shall be.

O divine cholesterol, we take you in,
as God has prescribed, for we have dominion
over the animals of sea, air, and earth.
This is as it has been and how it shall be.

The protein builds our muscles so we
may worship and praise God. Our arteries
clog so that we may die and go to heaven.
This is as it has been and how it shall be.

We thank you for this divine gift,
life, which we take with swift mercy,
so that we may live with compassion.
This is as it has been and how it shall be.


* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the Day 15! prompt at NaPoWriMo:

write a poem... in the form of a hymn to something that is bad or that you dislike.

Full disclosure: I am vegan. I do not eat animal flesh or anything that comes from animals, like dairy products. So, I am not being a hypocrite here. In fact, what I'm complaining about, the thing I dislike, is the hypocrisy of people who claim to be compassionate but who do not extend that compassion to animals. I will apologize in advance if you find my "hymn" offensive, but I've had people quote the Bible at me to justify their actions.

Monday, April 25, 2011


we played with pinwheels
in the afternoon sun
running down the grassy slopes
a cheap entertainment
but fun nonetheless

a gentle breeze came over the hills
like a squeeze of lime in ice water
something ordinary and simple
to replenish our bodies
every cell, tissue, and organ

and our eternal souls
bound in these imperfect forms
never quite enough
not quite quenching
the thirst inside

then the bugle tattoos, calling us in
as dusk begins to creep into our midst
and we overhear a piquant word
as we dash by, and as a sharp memory
floods us, the tears are a laugh
in the left eye and a cry in the right

wiping them away
though no one will notice
in the diminished light,
we steal closer to the front,
so we can see
the catherine wheels fly

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the first A Baker's Dozen wordle prompt at a wordling whirl of Sundays. Brenda, over at Beyond the Bozone (you should go read her poems), has been posting wordle prompts every Sunday in April, and now she has dedicated a new blog, a wordling whirl of Sundays, to posting these wordles to inspire us. I encourage you to go check it out; I'm certainly going to play along.

Public Service Announcement

Drivers, start your engines!

Show pedestrians and other drivers
your inattention and rage.
Driving with two hands is not permitted.
Your dominant hand must
at all times be occupied
with something other than driving.
Options include texting,
changing settings on your stereo,
and applying make up.
You are not limited to these options;
we urge you to be creative.
Do not bother signaling lane changes.
Tailgating, honking,
flashing your highbeams,
and flipping the bird
are expected and encouraged.
Excessive speed is required.

This is an open course.
You are amateur drivers.
Please drive irresponsibly.

Thank you.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the Big Tent Poetry prompt about what you would shout down the street.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


A man and his wife had two sons.
Both were intelligent. One let
his heart rule his mind, while
the other was ruled by his mind.

Second Brother was never satisfied.
He always tried to live up
to the reputation of his older brother,
but he always found himself wanting.

Eldest Brother ran a profitable
company, outwitting his competitors.
He knew the name and face of every
employee, and also every spouse.

Second Brother always had a woman
on his arm, and sometimes more
than one in his bed at night.

Eldest Brother hosted many parties.
And was invited into the homes
of many, for he was talented
in the ways of song, wine, and women.

Second Brother lived alone because
no woman would tolerate for long
his rash decisions and mutable nature.

Eldest Brother was brought low
by his neighbors when they uncovered
his repeated and widespread deceit.

A quick-tempered man does foolish things,
and a crafty man is hated.

* * * * *

This poem is in response to the Day Nine prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a poem backwards:

Today, try to write a poem backwards. I don't mean letter by letter, or word by word, but line by line. Start by writing out an old saying that takes the form of a declarative statement. Like "Birds of a feather flock together," or "A miss is as good as a mile." That will be the last line of your poem. The next line you write will be the second-to-last, and so on, until you reach the "beginning."

Process Notes: I found a proverb from the Bible that appealed to me, and started with that ending. I did not write the poem line by line, but stanza by stanza.

We got back Sunday evening from visiting family for Easter, so I will be catching up reading poems and leaving comments. I have not been online since Saturday morning.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Three Poems for Poetic Asides

don't think, write
get those words down on
paper right away

in your brain
they're no good, just clutter
slowing you down

set them free
see what they have to
say to you

you don't know
what you think until you
write them down

and I can't
read your mind, so write
down those words

then we can
talk and get somewhere new
you and I

* * *

It ain't my
business what other
people think
about me.
The mouth is for talking and
the brain for thinking.

* * *

like as




* * * * *

The first is in response to the "Don't (blank), (blank)" prompt and I also used it as my form poem. Each stanza is a Jack Collom lune of 3/5/3 words.

The second is in response to writing an "ain't none of my business" poem. It also happens to be a shadorma.

The third is in response to the "Like (blank)" prompt.

Spent the morning checking to see what poems I had posted to my blog which I had not posted at Poetic Asides, then discovered the reverse was also true. So, here are three poems I've written this month and posted in the comments at Poetic Asides that I have not yet posted here. A huge "Thank You" to Anders Bylund for his Poem a Day Search Tool.

Addendum: I'm going to be gone most of the weekend and not online, so I will be catching up with reading poems and commenting late Sunday and Monday.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"I am sorry about my fear"

I am sorry about my fear
it was my mind's way
of avoiding pain

I know you loved me
you asked me to stay
that made me want to leave

I loved the feel of your
body beneath mine
it was always best

in the morning, the sun
on your skin, the bottles
of Speakeasy beer on the floor

by the bed, but the burning
inside my heart was not
passion, but fear

and the beer smelled
and the sun was too bright
and I just wanted to be without

* * * * *

This poem is in response to a prompt at Big Tent Poetry that begins "I am sorry about...". I also used a Prompt Mash-Up from Not Without Poetry:

The following prompts are from Bill Alton. Use them as titles, opening lines, or combine all of them into a single poetic form.
1. My body is a speakeasy
2. Morning comes without the sun.
3. I loved him most when he asked me to leave.
4. Pain is the mind’s way of burning through fear

Process Notes: I took all of the nouns from the sentences above (body, speakeasy, morning, sun, pain, mind's way, and fear), some of the verbs (loved, asked, leave), one adjective (burning) and one preposition (without) to use in my poem.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Doggy Love

i'm willing to eat your dis / once
because you are a kid
and don't know any better / yet

watch as i pull / a long pink balloon
from my mouth / blow it up
twist it into a doggy for you

you will play with your doggy
for five minutes
until you turn away your attention
and your doggy falls
to the grass / pop

i'm willing to eat your sadness
over and over every day
if i have to
because i love you

you ask for another doggy
but i am out of balloons

i offer you a hug instead
it helps calm your tears
but it doesn't make you happy
and we both know it

but the hug makes me happy

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to three prompts: one, a love poem at Poetic Asides, a poem beginning "I'm willing to eat..." from We Write Poems, and one in which you pull a small object out of your mouth from Big Tent Poetry.

The inspiration for this poem came when I was reading "Willing to Eat Worms" by Amy Barlow Liberatore at her blog, Sharp Little Pencil. Thanks for the inspiration, Amy.

Richard (aka Mr. Walker)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


one design
shackles, forging links
of strength, to keep one powerless?

Why is it so difficult for
us to touch someone
with softness
and bonds

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the prompt at Poetic Asides to write a big picture poem. I have also used a prompt from Sunday Scribblings, design, and One Single Impression, shackles.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Flattery Is Not Forever

flattery is not forever,
it lives a mayfly life

if it could sing
it would be all crescendo

shouting its message
to the world     then nothing

a silver phrase heard
by others also gone

not even divine perfume
could recall that memory

a body fallen, rotting,
leading to the sprouting

of new life from the scars
of the old life now fled

but flattery is not a song
it is a crude utterance

an inept attempt at love
that recounts only desperation

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the Sunday Wordle prompt from Brenda at Beyond the Bozone.

I've enjoyed writing poems to Brenda's wordles; this is my third this month. But this one was especially difficult and challenging, because four of the words she chose were from one of my poems. Thanks, Brenda.

A Little Humor This Morning

The first poem for today is a limerick written in response to Mad Kane's Limerick-Off:

A fellow with a very long name
took a wife who would share his shame.
Decided the couple:
Get naked, then couple,
To inflict on their children the same.

The second is a nursery rhyme that I wrote a few days ago. It wasn't of the same mood and tone as the other two that I wrote, so I didn't add it to that post.

Turkey Lurkey started to work out.
Lady Lurkey was impressed.
He was no longer plump and stout.
But she was most depressed
When her Mr. Lurkey
was made into lean jerky.

If you'd like something a little more serious today, then please check out: Flattery Is Not Forever.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Everyday Miracle

it's happening right now
I look out at the Pacific
and imagine those molecules
gaining energy and momentum
leaping from the ocean
into the air - and staying there

leaving the salt behind
fresh water floats free
no boiling required

then they move closer together
a haze that obscures the view
subdues the blue with wispy
curls of gray-white hair
a summer fog that pours in
through the Golden Gate
cumulus clouds heaped together
bright against the azure sky

rainfall in February
and then how bright
everything appears afterwards
as if the air has bathed
sun shining on wet grass

puddles for children to splash in
rivulets running against the curb
falling into paved-over streams
that lead straight to the bay
then heading out to sea
under the Golden Gate again

where the bonds of three dance
preparing to leap and fly again
more powerful than man
changing state
shaping earth
supporting life

* * * * *

This poem was written as an ode to a thing I love in nature from Big Tent Poetry.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sevenling (the officer pointed)

The officer pointed the profile gun
at me: male,
white, mid-forties.

The officer pointed the profile gun
at him: male,
Latino, early twenties.

The flashing red lights are not for me.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the profile prompt at Poetic Asides. I wrote it yesterday, and today revised it, using the sevenling form, which I first saw at Scrambled, Not Fried. Thanks, Ron.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lost Soul

he fabricates the illusion
that he is in control
building it up with an adamant
will devoid of imagination

what he cannot see in himself
is clearly evident to me
and what is tragic is that
it is not peculiar but commonplace

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to two prompts at Three Word Wednesday, one using adamant, fabricate, and peculiar, and one using evident, illusion, and tragic.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Never Again"

hearing that phrase reminds
me of watching Jazz
the film by Ken Burns
where Dave Brubeck recounts
the time when he was a boy
growing up in Salinas

and his father called over
an elderly black man
he employed on the farm
and asked him to remove
his shirt so his son
could see the whip
scars on his back

and his father said
this must never happen again

it was that message
shown by a loving father
to his son who shared
with tears in his eyes
that lesson for us to hear
that moved me most of all

tears in my eyes too
and it wasn't about the music

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the prompt at Poetic Asides to write a never again poem.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wordle Prompt

they may look like hovels
to you - but they are in fact
homes - rundown, yes

but clean - you will find no cobwebs
here - the outside may be gloomy
but inside - dandelion yellow

she'll invite you in and try
to feed you - she may be slow
on her feeble leg

but watch her scrambling eggs
with bits of chopped vegetables
and cold rice over the wood

stove burning limbs of ash
listen to her corrugated laugh
rising and falling

she will hum and smile
offering you a plate
food is love

and love is crucial
but give her no looks
and no words of pity

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the wordle prompt by Brenda at Beyond the Bozone.

Product Placement

It's 9:06 p.m. I already bought
a writing book, Wild Mind
by Natalie Goldberg at the Borders
just a couple of blocks away.
It will be closed in six days.

I'm sitting at a small round table
at a Barnes & Noble Cafe,
where they proudly brew and serve
Starbucks coffee, writing poems,
taking the occasional sip of my venti
Chai Tea Latte, with soymilk, no whip.

I'm almost directly beneath a round
Bose speaker set in the ceiling,
which is drizzling a live Willie Nelson album
down on me. It's got a jazz vibe, and
I think I also hear Norah Jones.

I try to write a good poem, but
my mind keeps wandering to my dream
of being a Hollywood screenwriter.
I think I'd be good at product placement.
It works in a big action movie,
but it's killing my poem, choking it
on all those capitalized words.
I'm sorry if you read this far.
I'd refund your money if you'd paid anything.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a time of day poem.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

If They Were Songs

each one is a little different
having its own
strengths and challenges

some just show up
whole and ready
and want to be left alone

others need to be trimmed a bit
so eyes can see
and ears can hear

still others just need more
structure and support
a guiding hand

some play the cello
others the oboe
some a drum kit without cymbals

some lead off the album
some end up as b-sides
some never make it past a demo

some are serious
some are silly
all are sound

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the prompt at We Write Poems to "write a poem about writing a poem".

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day Twelve

a  breaking window is dramatic
arms splayed, shards flying

what was just whole
now unmistakably broken

and we just watch the fall
in slow motion

all the tumbling surfaces caught
by the light - a dark beauty

it doesn't happen to the protagonist
it happens to a supporting character

(spoiler alert)

John Locke, before he was lost,
being pushed through an eighth story window
by his father

Julia McNamara crashing face first
through the plate glass window of a sliding door,
brain befuddled by painkillers and wine

there are cuts, signs of external pain
to reflect the hurt inside

a fractured heart, the refraction
of love's pathways, which should be

straight and true, but light,
like love, is both a particle

and a wave

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the prompt to write about a broken window at Big Tent Poetry.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nursery Rhymes

Holy Moley lived underground,
and he had faith in above.
So his thoughts did resound
that life was guided by love.

* * *

Nowy Cowy was very zen.
Live in the moment did he.
The eight-fold path he walked
and sometimes rested beneath a tree.

* * * * *

These two short poems, posted for Monday, were written in response to a prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a nursery rhyme.


So, I'm not going to post a poem for today.

I have stuck to the challenge and have written at least one poem every day, but I'm not satisfied with some that I have written. For example, the one about writing a poem "about something that happened 15 years ago" from Big Tent Poetry. I wrote a poem to that prompt, but I'm not going to post it. It's autobiographical and personal in a way that won't appeal to anyone else. It can just sit in my poetry journal. And, frankly, it's just not a very good poem.

Writing a poem a day has not been the challenging part about NaPoWriMo, the poem-a-day challenge, whatever you want to call it. So far, I've had plenty of prompts and other ideas to get me started and I have written a poem a day. And no one's going to judge me or criticize me because I didn't write a poem every day. I'm challenging myself to write a poem a day, but I've also given myself permission to be happy with writing 30 poems in 30 day, which I'm well on the way to doing because I've often written more than one poem in a day.

The first day of April was a day I was off work on Spring Break, and then we had a weekend. I had three days to get a head start on writing poems. I think I wrote six poems over those three days.

What's challenging is the quality issue. Last year, I was more nervous about posting poems on this blog and as comments at Poetic Asides, where I got started with this poem-a-day thing. But then partway through the month I got over myself and began posting poems. And the community of people reading and writing poems that I have encountered has been positive and supportive. So, this year, I had no problem posting poems. And yet, there's still some part of me that won't let some poems see the light of day. I'm not saying that everything I've posted is good; I know that some are better than others, but they're good enough for me to put out there for others to read.

I did post a poem for Saturday before I left for the weekend, but it was one I had written the day before. I did write a poem Saturday, but I'm unhappy with it, so I'm not going to post it as Sunday's poem. I even worked on it more on Sunday, but it's still not there - and I'm not sure it will ever be. It's a response to the prompt from Big Tent Poetry to write a poem "with lungs in it".

And then, Sunday night, after getting home, I ended up writing four poems. So, I think I just needed the time away, to let things percolate in my brain for a bit. Because, the words just flowed, and now I have a couple of short poems ready to post for today, Monday. I've got another that I need to let sit for a day, but which I will probably post. And the last is one that needs some work, some structuring, and may be worth posting.

So, thanks to everyone who has been reading my poems. I've read some wonderful poems myself so far this month, and I'm having a great April filled with poetry.

And I will get caught up on reading and commenting on poems. I was so tired last night after writing, that I didn't even go online.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

define dancing

i know he's heroic and all
but i imagine Clark taking Lois
dancing after dinner

he'd hold her tight
and they'd slow dance
on the clouds

so that when he set her down
on the balcony
of her high-rise apartment

the hem of her dress
would be damp as if
she had walked on dewy grass

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the musical ekphrasis prompt at NaPoWriMo.

As I was reading poems, I was listening to my writing playlist, which includes a number of soundtracks. "Define Dancing" by Thomas Newman from the Wall-E soundtrack came on and caught my attention. Then I flashed on that scene in the movie, which got me thinking about the hero dancing with his love.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Only Twenty-two

In 1753, Governor Dinwiddie trusted
Major Washington to deliver a letter
to the French commander who had occupied
the Ohio territory in dispute.
Not only did Washington return,
but he prepared a full report
of the situation, including a map
with the locations of the French forts.

The Ohio Company had begun construction
of an English fort at the junction
of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.
Washington, now a lieutenant colonel,
was sent in 1754 to complete and defend
this fort. But before his detachment
could reach the fort, the French had captured
it and renamed it Fort Duquesne.

Washington continued his march, and parleyed
with Indians he encountered. He was unable
to convince any to join the English.
On May 28, he attacked and captured
a small French force, thus starting the war.
Finding their advance position dangerous,
he and his men hastily constructed
what they called Fort Necessity.

The French advanced on the English
and a skirmish ensued. There were losses
on both sides. Washington knew
they could not successfully defend
their position. As he prepared to surrender,
he was killed by a French musket ball.

What if George Washington had been killed
at the start of the French and Indian War?

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to yesterday's "what if" prompt at Poetic Asides.

Addendum: Process Notes. The first three stanzas are historically accurate. It's in the fourth stanza that it becomes hypothetical. I've long been fascinated with Washington's military prowess in the American Revolution, but it was here in the French and Indian War (Seven Year's War) that he learned so much that he would later use, as an American, against the English. To the best of my knowledge, the time he surrendered Fort Necessity is the only time he ever surrendered in a military campaign. That seemed to me a logical place to play "what if".

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Father

thing number two wants lasagna
thing number one wants pizza
i feel like thing number zero

i'm hungry too, but i feed
the boys first, and feel guilty
that i called them things

i didn't say it out loud, but
it's at that point i realize
i've misplaced my patience

milk in the cupboard
cereal in the refrigerator
it must be around here somewhere

maybe i can cook some up
find it again in the zen
of mise en place

the feel of the blade
cutting the carrots into brunoise
the blade dulling by molecules

the tiny chimes the carrots
make as they fall
into the stainless steel bowl

i'm putting the third bite of my
dinner into my mouth when
thing number two asks for dessert

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a poem about a type of person.

A Poem by Billy Collins

I just got an email from Barnes & Noble, and they had a link to a poem by Billy Collins, Memento Mori, from his new book of poetry, Horoscopes for the Dead. Just thought I'd share it in the spirit of National Poetry Month.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Art of Making Fire

The scientists gave up and
began praying to Prometheus.
Give us fire, they pleaded.

Unto mortals, he replied,
the gift of fire
I have already given.

We want to power
the planet, they explained,
with star fire, with fusion.

That art I cannot teach,
Prometheus stated.
That is the realm of the gods alone.

But it is cold and dark,
they begged, and the light
will feed the green plants.

You have more than enough,
he replied, for your needs.
Your wants you must temper.

Then silence he gave them,
for he had answered
their prayers with wisdom.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt to write about the art of making fire at We Write Poems.

I wrote this a couple of days ago, but am posting it as today's poem. I haven't written a poem yet today, but it's only 6:15 a.m. here on the west coast.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

What Do You Make?

What committee of goofs
decided that professional
baseball players should make
millions of dollars a year?

What concord was reached
in a thirtieth-story conference room
that corporate CEOs should
make more than baseball players?

What apathy was invoked
so that public school teachers
make just enough to eke out
a living above the poverty line.

Baseball players are mere
entertainers.  They hit a ball
with a piece of wood
and run around a rhombus.

Corporate CEOs supervise making
a profit. They don't do anything but
make decisions that prove
avarice is the root of all evil.

If you know what
a rhombus is, odds are
a teacher is responsible.

If you know right
from wrong, you can thank
your parents and teachers.

Teachers don't make a decent wage.
Don't kid yourself that they do.
However, they do the most important work.
They make a difference.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a serious poem.

Monday, April 04, 2011


my world is prodigious
blue and wide and fluid
not that dry, brown stuff
you go on and on about
it's just dirt - it has no depth

you've harried it to the point
of sterility, so you have to
leave fields fallow to recover

what should be omnipotent
is instead just docile

I don't mean to come off
sounding supercilious but
who do you think you are
naming our planet earth
sounds like your preconceptions
talking again

you should be more like me
go with the flow, as we say

(I almost said down here
but that would just feed
your misguided superiority complex)

but now that I mention it
when I look up at the sky
your world pushing down on mine
I see the way the sunlight speckles
the surface, the way the light
itself journeys into our world
from yours, auroras that constantly
shimmer and dance during the day
and then I find I pity you
and your small, flat, dry world

* * * * *

This poem was inspired by a wordle created by Brenda Warren.  Thanks, Brenda. I also used the prompt idea from Big Tent Poetry to write a poem "as though you are a fish".

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Modern Epidemic

A messenger was tasked
to warn the populace
of the epidemic
of terrorism.

He succeeded.
People were afraid.
The plague spread.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to Messenger, prompt 261, at Sunday Scribblings and Epidemic, prompt 162, at One Single Impression.


With their riches,
lobbyists are loud and persuasive.
A democratic republic?

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Three Word Wednesday using the words: loud, persuasive, and riches.

The form I have used is a variant of the Lune, which I learned about at Poetic Asides.

Without Me

There would be a slow decay
of the soul. Children would wake
and not want to play.

On faces, dread and dismay
would appear. The ground would shake
and buildings would tremble and sway.

Fire would sweep fields of hay.
Fish would abandon the lakes
for land on which they couldn't stay.

My absence, you wouldn't say,
for I'm a lovable rake,
is a thing you'd wish for any day.

* * * * *

This poem is my tongue-firmly-in-cheek response to a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a poem in which you imagine the world without you.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Postcard a la Rondel

I'm wishing you were here.
I miss you when you're gone, you know.
It's only off to Grandma's you go,
but at home it seems more austere.

Without you, there's a little less cheer,
along with toilets that don't overflow.
I'm wishing you were here.
I miss you when you're gone, you know.

No worries about talk you'll overhear,
peace and quiet we'll have, although
I'm anticipating your return hello.
I can't wait for you to reappear.
I'm wishing you were here.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a postcard poem.

Still Life on Balcony

Because he knew I liked classical,
my boss gave me tickets to go hear
a performance at the Herbst Theater.
They were good seats, but I didn't
care for the contemporary classical
music they were playing that night.
At the intermission, I stayed out
on the balcony. I was too moody
for a glass of wine, so I sipped
my carbonated water and squeezed
the wedge of lime to flavor it.
As the others went back inside,
Pavlovian dogs responding to the chime,
I walked over to the stone railing,
and stared out over Van Ness.
The moon, almost full, loomed large
just over the dome of City Hall.
Then I realized I was not alone.
A man stood looking out as I had been,
his hair was mostly gray, cut short,
and he himself was trim and fit.
I swear it was Neil Armstrong.
I could feel my face flush in the cool
evening air, too cool for obscuring fog.
No, it couldn't be. Why would he be here?
A dozen questions fought for supremacy
in my mind. Do you still fly?
Were you scared on Gemini 8?
How did it feel to be the first man?
I looked from the moon back over
to the man. Was it really him?
And then I remembered
what I had read about him.
He was shy, reticent. Warm once
you got to know him, became his friend.
He was not aloof, but even
the other astronauts said they
didn't know what he was thinking.
And weren't a man's thoughts private?
I realized how much in temperament
he and I were alike. Would I want him
to come over here and ask me
what I was thinking? No, I wouldn't.
And then he walked past me, heading back
to the theater, and we just nodded silently
to each other as he passed. I looked back
to the moon and the distance there seemed less,
as the gulf between me and others
also seemed smaller, one that could be crossed.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Big Tent Poetry to write about "standing on a balcony with someone you've read about in the paper".  I don't read the paper, but I am reading A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin.

I Love Poetry More Than I Thought

I started writing poems in high school.
It was for a creative writing class,
not because I was some moon-eyed teenager
in love. I was a misfit then as now,
and my poems brought me a tenuous
acceptance from my peers.

Then, in junior college, I studied
literature intensively and took a poetry
writing class with George Barlow.
More acceptance. My writing ability
wasn't a fluke.

When I transferred to Cal, I applied
for a writing class with Thom Gunn.
I was rejected. Hurt, angry, I wrote
poems in solitude.

I entered the full-time working world,
not studying and reading poems. I wrote
when inspiration came to me.
There was the sestina I wrote
while manning the reception desk
from 5 to 6, when it was quieter.
At another job, on my lunch hour,
I used the tugboats I watched
working out on San Francisco Bay
as an extended metaphor.

And so it went for many years
until I began teaching. I used
ideas from Kenneth Koch and taught
poetry writing to my students.
And when the opportunity came,
I was ecstatic to have a published poet
from California Poets in the Schools
come teach my students to write poems.
I wrote poems too. And I named
my blog after a poem one of my students
wrote that was published in a CPITS anthology:
Sadly Waiting for Recess.

Then, I discovered NaNoWriMo and in 2009
I wrote a novel in thirty days.
Hungry for more, I wrote 30 poems
in 30 days the following April.
Then another novel in November.
And now it's April, time for this misfit
to write poetry again.

Acceptance from my peers
wasn't a fluke.
Poems in solitude
as an extended metaphor.
Sadly Waiting for Recess
to write poetry again.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt from Poetic Asides to write a "what got you here" poem.

A lot of my poems are not this personal. This is autobiography in verse form.

I cannot speak highly enough of California Poets in the Schools.  And I love this quote from their website so much I have to share it here as well:

"Listen to these young poets and you'll discover the voice of the present and hear the voice of the future before the future is even here." - Phillip Levine

Friday, April 01, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day One

Why is it that boys going through puberty
are so self-conscious about getting undressed
in the YMCA locker room? They keep
those white towels around their waists, even
as they step into their briefs or boxers.
I'm not sure they've completely toweled off.
Aren't they uncomfortable pulling dry clothes
over wet skin? I know I would be.
The near-acrobatics each will go through
so that no one else sees his penis.
And yet, they are almost always there
with a friend. Why doesn't one of them
change in one bank of green lockers,
while his friend can undress in another?
They could both relax a little if they were
apart, but they stay together, tense.
I would find the whole thing mildly amusing
if it weren't for the fact that they're so
brazen when they're fully clothed,
talking to each other on the way out,
oblivious to the fact that others can hear them.
There was one time I was waiting near the exit
for my wife to join me after our workout,
and heard two boys, walking by together, talking,
and I was shocked, when one said:
That's so gay.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Big Tent Poetry to write a poem about "getting undressed somewhere besides the bedroom or bathroom".