Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fire Dominates

we are turning toward the fire
some with dove tails think
it will protect us from the dark
others with hawk tails feel
the dark has fallen against them
they think the fire can be used
to push the twilight away
still others fear that the wind will rise
fanning the flames and the leaves will catch

we are all afraid
some of us cry tears
others cry out, striding forward in anger
that has been shaped
and layered on the fear

and the Earth spins and orbits
around its solar bonfire
caught between planets named for old gods
one of love and one of war

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 6, using twelve words from "Domination of Black" by Wallace Stevens, from a wordling whirl of Sundays.

Monday, May 30, 2011

No Sacrifice

Before the gods, titans, and giants,
there were beings whose names are lost
in the vast passage of time. Perhaps they lived
before time in a place we cannot know.

Some believe they fought amongst themselves.
Their spilled blood formed worlds
and all the things that lived on those worlds.
Our world, our universe, is not one of those.

Some believe that they sought to create.
They fashioned worlds, created beings and life
to flourish. But these were shadows, disappointments,
failed experiments. Our universe is not one of those.

I believe there was one of those beings
that understood what was truly necessary.
He gave of himself, unfolding all that he was.
Our universe is his body, mind, and spirit.

Everything around us is alive.
The rocks may seem dead, but they are not.
Every particles of our universe is sacred,
a gift freely given, an ongoing song of love.

Those who fight are foolish and deluded.
Those who create without the gift of love fail.
We must accept more than we can know
from our lives. We must believe in stories.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the We Write Poems prompt to write about how the universe began.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dream of a Superman

my power waned

I was the problem

things got better
when I decided to surrender
myself to the light
of that beautiful yellow sun

I took flight
too seriously
it was supposed to be a joy
not a burden

I had forgotten that

I floated for a moment
saw myself reflected
in a window
thirty stories up

the people beneath me
gathered on the sidewalks
to look up
utter trust on their faces

if there are angels
it is they

for all my power
it is not absolute

but when they work together
they can solve
almost any problem

the only risk
is that the lull
lasts too long
that we fail to act
when we should

that thought started
me awake

I turned over
rearranged my bedsheets
into a cape on my back
and returned to sleep
and to joyful flight

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the Wordle 5 prompt at a wordling whirl of Sundays.

I'm a full week late on this one. I'm getting back into the swing of things now that my school year is over. As I respond to certain prompts, I'll be catching up with others' poems.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Two Hands

my wife has some lovely
Mother's Day cards
from our sons
made at school

     Father's Day
     comes after school is out
     for the summer
     I get store-bought cards

I think it's great
that women and men walk
twenty miles a day
for three days
wearing pink

     it's not the cancer
     that kills the most women

     and where's the three day
     walk for prostate cancer?

this man is probably
too logical for you

     but I write poems

/ / /

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Poetic Asides to write an "on the other hand" poem.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


opening day / of summer vacation looms
hours and hours of unstructure / waiting to be filled
no lesson plans to write / no other people's children to teach
no papers to read and grade / just notebooks to fill with poems
titled or not / capitalized or not / punctuated or not
let ungrammar reign / and feelings and meaning rain / down on the page

don't title / don't limit or restrict
don't set up preconceptions / let them discover
let that be the joy / not the cleverness of your title
forms or free verse / whatever the poem wants to be
just let it / give it permission to be / itself
just to be / to come into being
it doesn't have to do anything / let it be
listen to the Beatles / write a song / let the lyrics flow

give yourself permission / daydream / write
compose in your head / read some untitled poems
journey into their territory / with an incomplete map
you fill it in / they aren't blanks
it's not that kind of not / there is no negativity
just potential / energy inside you / just wanting to be kinetic
but it's not work / it's play / kinetic and kinesthetic

give it voice / fill the air with your words
we need them / I need them / keep them coming
like air / there's more there than you think

go out / and photosynthesize
take in some vitamin D / turn that into a poem
it doesn't need to be a thesis / a funky synthesis will do
a little antithesis / if you want
that goes with untitled / right?

/ / /

This poem was written to the prompt at Poets United to write a poem titled "untitled".

I really needed this. Tomorrow is the last day of my school year. I will be promoting 32 fifth-grade students to middle school. I have been working my tail off to be ready for tomorrow, and I am so ready for a break. Poetry is my sanity.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Young Hero

The young Hero was foolish
to act with such relish
in his own power.

He did not stop to think
of mercy because his mind
was set on justice.

It was the old Villain,
in his death, who taught
him his foolish ways.

He whispered to the Hero
as he died: I would
have granted you mercy.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to a prompt from Three Word Wednesday: foolish, mercy, relish.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Making Vegan Burgers

Getting the water just the right
temperature for the cool
dorsum and the warmer palm,
then the liquid soap,
antibacterial or not, to cleanse.

Feeling calmer now, measuring
out the ingredients into the curve
of the bowl, no anticipation,
just action, kneading the gluten
with clean hands and a clear mind.

Forming the burger patties,
ready for the spring grill,
I notice that my anger
has melted away, and I have made
food for my family with love.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to a prompt from Three Word Wednesday: cleanse, knead, and melt.

This is the third of four poems I wrote over the last week for Three Word Wednesday. Number four will be along tomorrow, and then I'll be taking a short break. My school year ends on Friday, May 27. I have to finish grading papers and I haven't even started on report cards yet. Once my summer vacation starts, I will be much more active here, and I promise to get caught up reading and commenting on your poems.

Today also happens to be my younger son's seventh birthday. (Happy birthday, Aidan!) He likes my vegan burgers, and he likes helping me in the kitchen to make them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tonic Town

i wanted to surrender
to love of grace
but she made it so hard

she would thin her gin
her evening meal
every day except sunday
she didn't eat at all
on sundays
which is how
she stayed so thin

god, she was beautiful

empty calories
for an empty heart
that i wanted to fill

my better self wanted
to fill it with love
my baser self just wanted
to fill it
with a need for me

and she smelled so fine
that i was rarely thin
when i was near her
i would say her scent
was intoxicating
but that would give
the wrong impression

i joked that she had
surrendered to grace
the baser grace
that was a mirror of me
but it wasn't funny

a jigger of this
a jigger of that
then the jitters set in

i wanted to surrender
to grace
but i didn't

she had already
surrendered herself
to something greater
than me

i'm sorry, grace
that i couldn't save you
from your surrender

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the Take the driver's seat! prompt at We Write Poems:

First consider what prompt would be an interesting and challenging prompt for you, including then what you think would be good for the group. Then 1) write a brief paragraph describing the poem prompt itself, and 2) go ahead and write your own poem to that prompt.

For my poem, I used surrender as the theme from Sunday Scribblings, and grace, thin, and jitter from Three Word Wednesday.

So, here's my prompt:

One, select a prompt from a site like Poetic Asides, Writer's Island, Sunday Scribblings, or One Single Impression. This will be the topic or theme of your poem. Two, select some words from a site like Three Word Wednesday or a wordling whirl of Sundays. Now, consider your theme/topic and your words. See if those words will help you explore or expand on your theme, or see if your topic opens up, leading down unexpected avenues, as you play with those words. Trust your poetic intuition and imagination. You could choose prompts that you haven't previously responded to, or revisit ones you've already done, or find a prompt that previously stumped you, and see if this take on it will help you get a poem written.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Public School Teachers

We brandish respect
and knowledge
for we are mighty inside.

We forbid no one.
All are welcome
to enter and learn.

We manage this daily
with little compensation
and little complaint.

I challenge you to do the same.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt from Three Word Wednesday: brandish, forbid, and manage.

Paula suggested that this poem might work for the Poetic Asides prompt to write a telling it like it is poem. I agree. Thanks, Paula.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Riding in the Passenger Seat

we were driving to see a covered bridge
in Moscow, Indiana, a rural configuration
that can barely be called a town.

it's hot and humid, salty drops
on our foreheads, so we're slurping
down sweet tea made with filtered

water, just as we take in
the fields and the big sky,
unmarred by hills or mountains,

textured by the low soybean fields
and the tall corn, the gold inside,
brandishing our cameras, so it's obvious

we aren't locals, a California infusion
to the local economy, because long ago
my parents substituted that home

for this one, when it occurs to me
that these farmers do not just eke
out a living, that life is all around.

sure, there was the wooden house,
abandoned, imploding in geologic time,
the bricks of the chimney the only

straight lines to be seen, but that
was the exception rather than the rule,
when my uncle brings the car

to a stop, and we're at the bridge.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to Wordle 4 at a wordling whirl of Sundays. Thanks again to Brenda for hosting this wonderful site.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


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 originally written for the April 20, 2010 prompt at Poetic Asides to write a looking back poem. I was not posting poems last year, so while this is an older poem, it's a fresh post. I'm posting it today because I remembered it when looking at this week's Thursday Think Tank at Poets United.

Full disclosure: After I posted this, I thought I'd do a search just to make sure I hadn't posted it before. I had already looked at my April 2010 posts and I knew it wasn't there. When I did a search on the title, I did find I had posted it on June 21, 2010, but no one read it then. So, it's actually a repost.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

About what's at the center

I used to question     what was
at the center      of me
all the time      searching
for answers      to half-formed questions

such a waste      of time

so much better      to give from the center
now I teach      young people
now I love      my wife and sons
now I write      poems to share

the center is important      but so is reaching out
looking inward      to find
what you have      to give

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Big Tent Poetry about what's at the center. This is a prompt that I always intended to respond to during April, but just didn't get to; I think because it scared me.

I offer it today as a farewell to Big Tent Poetry. I have been a benefactor of the wonderful founders and participants of that online community - and for that I am most grateful. It has helped me find a voice that I wasn't sure I had within me. To borrow part of a line from Elizabeth, whose poetry I admire: I have come "to the sound of my own soul singing".

I am in a very different place in my poetry writing than the founders of Big Tent Poetry. I certainly don't feel confident enough to host a site as they have done and as others are doing. I am still finding my center and doing what I can to reach out. I will do my part and write the best poems I can, and offer encouragement to others who are doing the same. And I will always be grateful to the wonderful people who host sites, like Big Tent Poetry, that are such a force for beautiful communication.

And I wish Carolee, Deb, and Jill the best of luck at A Fine Kettle of Fish. I will be following their efforts. I hope the kettle will find them more centered as well as reaching out and inspiring each other. They have certainly given enough of themselves, and for that I am grateful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Please Say Yes

I'd like to come over and play.
It's a little cool here by the ocean.
I'd like to stretch out for a bit
where it's a little warmer.

It like coming east.
It's fun traveling over the bay
and toward the foothills,
warming in your light embrace.

You can do that magic trick
where you make me invisible.
Then we can do it all over again
tomorrow, if that's okay with you.

This morning the sun said yes to the fog.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the noble and fruitful sharing prompt at Big Tent Poetry. I borrowed a line - "This morning the sun said yes to the fog." - from Linda Jacobs. You can read her poems at Linda's Poems. I encourage you to check out the very last show time at Big Tent Poetry.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The stars went out and so did the moon

It was a long time ago
My dream of our weary city

Subdued and time-lost
Any place is dreary

And your soul
Will be lost

The stars went out and so did the moon

Made long ago
I carried my sorrow songs

Song is a strong thing
Something strong to put my hands on

I am the American heartbreak
Singing sorrow songs on the banks of a mighty river

* * * * *

This is a cento poem made up of lines from various Langston Hughes poems that I found in his Selected Poems collection. This poem was written in response to the directed cento poem prompt at We Write Poems.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Snow Melt

the snow melts and slides
back to liquid
released from solidity

seen from below
the tugs look embroidered
onto the surface of the bay
tiny on that big water
fed by sixteen rivers

this is how the bay breathes
exhaling toward seaweed,
salinity, seals, and sharks
this is how the new
supersedes the old

awaiting evaporation
to be a mist rising
above its brothers
then a cloud, then snow

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to Wordle 3 at a wordling whirl of Sundays.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Pacific Grove

I don't remember a single fact
about the elephant seals of Año Nuevo,
or the conversations I had with friends
who spent the day whale watching,
certainly not what we ate
that night in the dining hall,
or why I decided to run ahead
of my classmates and teachers
back to our lodge.

There I discovered our bus driver
playing the piano in the lobby.
He stopped when he realized
I was there, and went to his room.
No one else heard him play.
I was the unwelcome audience.

I was moody that night
and couldn't explain that I was sad
because my own enthusiasm
had broken something magical.

That unregarded man played
such beautiful music with hands
that had brought us there safely.
I would not even remember him
were it not for the broken music,
and what I really learned that night.

* * * * *

This poem was revised in response to the prompt from Big Tent Poetry to revise a poem from about a year ago.

The first version was originally written in response to the day twelve prompt to write about a city at Poetic Asides last year, in April 2010.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Scriptures and Strictures

Wordsworth said nuns fret not / at their convent walls
I imagine Christians / are equally happy
with the walls / of their lives
for Heaven waits for them / the saved
space is saved for them / infinite space
in the presence of a God / omnipotent and omniscient
which messes with my mind / not bound by faith
Is God watching me write this poem?
Is He watching you read it?
Is it part of His plan / that I marvel
at the scriptures and strictures / I myself do not believe in?
in which I myself do not believe? / because that's better grammar
another set of rules to differentiate / between how we talk
and how we write / just being literate is a threshold we must cross
and stairs to keep climbing / the great books we read in college
when we were too young / to truly appreciate the wisdom within
so limited we were / by our youth and inexperience
so we wrote poems with enthusiasm / with passion
as if we invented erotic love / or at least sex
and what was wrong / with all the old people anyway
who had given up / the pleasures of the flesh
for the mind / and they thought / and thought
and told us our poetry was no good / a vomit spreading out
it needed form / we were just playing with the net down
the tennis balls crossing that center line / with ease
it was too easy / the water needed some cold
something more solid / a little rime / a little rhyme
and how about some recognizable meter / just for good measure
and don't even get them started / on light verse
or anybody popular / so we tried that / and it was mostly too hard
we liked it soft / but then we got all heady with linguistics
and the limits of language / to convey anything
of any substance / because they are insubstantial
a human invention / like God and religion and convent walls
just words / not the real thing / even words like Beauty and God
they're intangible / vast concepts / vast beings perhaps
or maybe even something of which we can't yet conceive
because we're so limited / so finite / so the words
paltry stick figures that they are / shadows on the cave wall
of the real thing / but they'll do / because they're all we've got
so we muddle through in our one-way through time sort of way
wishing we could see the future / or recover the past
which we can't / so we make the most of the moment
this now / these words / living a life with Love and Beauty
and God too if you've got room for Him / I don't mind
because I don't judge / I'm happy within my walls
and I'll let you be happy within yours / even if I think
yours are the wrong color / and your fence a little too high

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the Take It to the Limit prompt at We Write Poems.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Deposition

it was simple really
he wanted revenge
the bitter thirst in his mind
the constant aching in his heart
was too much
for him to resist

he tried - he really did

he tried to train himself
to show the feelings
others thought he should feel

he tried to be true
to the beliefs, the hopes,
the visions he once had
of himself

he tried to be resilient
but he could not
find it within himself
and there was no one else
not one
to support him, to sustain him
through his grief

he sat there
the pulse at his temples
thrumming in his ears
while the lawyers
did their scribbling
on yellow legal pads

sometimes their voices
grew animated
aroused by some information
he gave them

and all he could think
of was the hillsides
where his children...

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to Wordle 2 at a wordling whirl of Sundays.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Being Small

Every boy is small with so much inside,
but he wants more. He wants to be like dad.
He cannot wait to be powerful and
big. Until then he will play at greatness.

Then he will be between boy and man, his
eyes on girls. He will want his hands there too.
But he will have to satisfy himself,
making his smallness grow with his own touch.

Then fully a man, probably still not
satisfied with his smallness - the organ
that hangs and his place in the world - he finds
he must search for something more. He finds love
and learns the smallness he can plant in his
love will grow and he can have the greatest.

* * * * *

This poem is a sonnet written in response to the about being small prompt at Big Tent Poetry.