Tag Archives: poetry


Together at the reservoir
Dec 14, 2007

Like fish scales,
the clouds plate the sky,
letting tiny chinks of blue
escape between then,
and the sun peek through
for just an instant.

I thought of showing you,
pointing out how much
the clouds made me think of fish scales,
how they reminded me,
apropos of nothing,
of fishing trips with Tony,
on spring breaks before
the world got complicated.

But you were still a mystery,
and I, still new to this
strange new world
in which my metaphors matter,
my free association is taken seriously,
my poetry not mocked.

So, that day, I kept it
to myself, and did not show you,
did not share that fleeting moment,
out of fear that you would laugh,
or, worse still, that you wouldn’t.

The scales collapsed into a
shapeless clouded sky,
and the sun hid from us
until we ran out of time,
and returned to our chores.

Now, it seems strange
to have not mentioned
even this trivial observation,
strange to withhold the
slightest poetic thought
from you, my other heart,
my other mind,
and tragic to have missed
the opportunity to share with you
the fish scales in the sky.

Prompted by the Weekend Wordsmith

Christmas Trains

Christmas Train

We set up the trains. I dig trains.

Trains, chapter IX
October 1, 2007

At about that time every year
the trains came out,
Santa Fe and Rock Island
with their coal cars,
and Smuckers’ jam cars,
and the tiny red caboose
chugging among the
H.O. gauge houses and cows.

Taking up half the living room
and two thirds of our days,
these were as much the
harbingers of Christmas as
trees, or presents, or
the inevitable and pointless
wishes for snow —
a snow that would
never come in the
heat of the East African December,

The smell of ozone,
the whir of the engines,
the flash of the tinsel
as it fell on the tracks,
popping and sparking.
And the
circling, circling, circling
of the engines
as they counted down
the days to Christmas.

And although, without fail,
a cow wedged in the tracks
sent the train
tumbling from the table,
and perhaps a sobbing kid
running from the room,
it wouldn’t stay derailed for long
and would soon be, again,
rushing around on its
brisk journey to nowhere.

Across the years
electric trains mean Christmas
and Christmas means electric trains,
even as they sat
collecting dust and rust
in boxes somewhere in an attic darkness,
and I raced my own
circles ’round the sun.

This year, though,
they’ll resume their rightful place
as center pieces of the season,
and, once again the
same age as my kids,

I’ll watch them
rush around and around
and behind them pull
a full load of memories.



In response to the Weekend Wordsmith

Dec 7, 2007

At what point is a
thing of beauty
allowed to deteriorate
into this —
this rusting hulk
that was such a beautiful car,
the envy of the neighbors,
turning every eye as it
purred down the avenue.

Was it that first dent?
The first scratch unrepaired,
after which each additional insult
was no big deal
because it’s already dented.

And so, one upon the other,
like the unchecked slights
of a souring friendship,
they build up.
Today a dent,
tomorrow a rust spot,
and 50 years later,
being towed down the street,
no engine, no hood,
no dignity.


I haven’t recorded anything in a long time – primarily because Habari doesn’t support podcasting particularly well yet. But this evening I recorded a reading of Green, a poem I wrote a few days ago, which I’m actually very fond of.

I’ve often found the question “What’s your favorite {food, color, animal, song}?” to be annoying, because it is very specifically the variety of life that fascinates me, and picking one thing from any category seems almost a tragedy. This poem is a bit of reflection on the my refusal to have a favorite color, and almost-but-not-quite answers the question.

Here it is. Hope you enjoy it.

Shirt Tails

In response to Weekend Wordsmith:

Shirt tails
23 November, 2007

A butterfly,
far up in the ice blue sky,
swooping and jigging
with the unreliable winds.

Diving headlong to self destruction,
lacking a tail to steer it
through the hostile currents.

Daddy, understanding that, to us,
the needs of the kite
outweighed his sense of fashion,
hauled in the disobedient mariposa,
and, surveying the situation,
took decisive action.

Shredding his shirt
and forging an indelible memory,
he tied a tail
and relaunched the now-rock-steady kite
back into the wind
where it danced elegantly,
master of the wind, and
not mastered by it.

So always did he give of himself
for my stability,
and thus, ballasted by a
tail of my father’s shirts,
have I held my keel
through the storms of my days.


In response to Weekend Wordsmith:

November 24, 2007

You can wait your whole life
for your fortune.
Most people do, or so it seems,
waiting and working and wishing,
while the days and weeks
turn into your whole life,
slipping over the spillway
and into the sea of regret.

Fortune lies, I think, in seeing
what is here, now.
And although I could be wrong,
I think I’d rather
fool myself now
than reach the end
and realize the joys I missed
because I was focused on
a different goal.


In light of the two poems Ruth linked to (One, Two (scroll down to “To An Old Black Woman”) I got thinking about the old Hispanic woman I saw handing out stripper cards on the street in Las Vegas, when I was there for ApacheCon several years ago.

I think about her quite frequently. What she must have thought when she moved to the USA in search of a better life. How disappointed she must be with the life she has found. The profound shame of having to hand out advertisements for whores in order to feed herself and her family for one more day.

Perhaps her story isn’t that bleak. But there are millions of people, all over the world, who gave up their simple existence to go to the promise of something better, and just haven’t found it.

She is the one I think of every time I think of Las Vegas. It’s an interesting place to visit, once, but one has to wonder how much suffering all that glitz is built on top of. I have no desire to go there again.

Nov 20, 2007

Someone’s mother,
possibly someone’s grandmother,
come across the border
for the promise of a new life,
better schools for the kids,
a safe place to grow old.

She remembers the farm,
the warm kitchen,
the shouts of the children
and the sounds of the
men returning from the fields.

She remembers leaving that
for something so much better.

If only she could have it back.
If only.

She stands beneath the garish lights,
hears the incessant bells from the casino,
holds out the hated cards
to one more young white man.
$69 for a private show.

Her eyes downcast,
she remembers how proud her family was of her.

Smoke signals

It’s gotten cold in the last week. Just two weeks ago, we were sitting out by a bonfire in the back yard, enjoying the last of the warm weather, and watching our pillar of smoke billow up into the warm air, as our neighbors sat inside, watching whatever it is they show on television these days, missing out on the final few moments of summer.

Smoke signals, take II
Nov 1, 2007

We send up a pillar of smoke,
a guide in this wilderness
of suburbia.

All around the masses watch
reality television, having not encountered reality
in years.
They drink lite beer,
missing the full bodied wine
of the real world right beyond
their back porch.

From afar, others may see
our pillar of smoke,
even as they send up their own.
From the top of this tree,
or that one,
we might see one,
a dozen pillars rising
and know that
we are not alone.

Ode to a crystal pitcher

Ode to a crystal pitcher

I was saving that
for a special occasion.
And so it sat, for years, unused in a cupboard,
hidden away for a special occasion.
Through the years of nothing special
it sat, and waited,
until it exuded the nothing-specialness
that had been blamed on it for so long.

But, like Neruda’s socks,
or like his fireflies,
putting it in a jar for long enough
is sure to kill it.

And I find, nowadays,
that pizza with friends,
or a cheeseburger with my Beloved,
is plenty special enough to warrant
the use of this pitcher.

After all,
I was saving it for a special occasion.