Tag Archives: poetry


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.

Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories

Late at night,
flashlight under the covers,
Ms. Nalletamby pacing the corridor.
Lights out, boys! Don’t make me get the tackie!

Giggles, and stories.
Dreadful stories of the terrs,
coming in the night, burning the farms,
for what? We didn’t know.

Of course nobody believed them,
but they were good stories.
Lots of blood and fire, and breaking windows.
So exciting.
But he didn’t seem excited, so much as


What did I care? Maumau was long over,
and was probably mostly a


Just stories.

Ms. Nalletamby storms in, shouting
What do you have? Give it to me! What is it?

A letter from home.


As I sat in the Detroit airport on April 26th, I observed an older couple sitting across from me. They were hard to miss. It was obvious that, although they had been with each other for 40 or 50 years, they still enjoyed each others company. I wish, now, that I had given them what I wrote. But I had just started writing poems, and didn’t think that anybody would like to read what I wrote. But, looking back at this, I think maybe they would have appreciated it.

April 26, 2007
Detroit Airport

She reads
The Life Of Abraham Lincoln,
laughing with delight
at the antics of Abe
and sharing passages with him.

He reads
The Federalist Papers,
smiling happily to be with her,
his glasses
two full moons
in front of his eyes.

In love, still,
40 years on,
on their way to Europe again,
like that first time, so long ago.

The world has changed around them
but they remain
the whole world to each other.

As I Stand At the Prow (A Pantoum)

Since listening to The Larger Bowl, I’ve been wanting to write a pantoum. It looks like it would be an interesting challenge, and I like the notion of using the same phrase with different nuances. I discovered several pantoums, including a few that Wikipedia linked to, that were non-rhyming, and this gave me hope, since I’m not nearly a good enough poet to write rhyming verse that doesn’t sound really hokey, and do things like rhyme “difficult” with “join a cult” and equally absurd things.

So …

What follows is, technically, an “imperfect pantoum,” since I fudged a little bit on the closing stanza, which is supposed to be in a particular relationship with the opening stanza. But, since it’s my first one, and since I’m not much for writing in forms, I think that I’ll forgive me for that.

As I stand at the prow (A pantoum)
September 4 2007

As I stand at the prow
and look out to sea,
I wonder what I will leave behind
when my wake has faded.

And I look out to sea,
hoping to catch a glimpse of land.
When my wake has faded,
there’s nothing but me and the sky.

Hoping to catch a glimpse of land
is not sufficient motivation to go on
when there’s nothing but me and the sky
to mark that I passed here.

Is not sufficient motivation to go on
the sailors that I carry with me?
To mark that I passed here —
nothing but hubris.

The sailors that I carry with me,
their well-being, love, and life suffice.
Nothing but hubris
feeds the longing for more.

Their well-being, love and life suffice
and the time spent with them
feeds the longing for more
and lends joy to the voyage.

And the time spent with them
and the wonder of what we will leave behind
lends joy to the voyage
as I stand at the prow.

More about the rings

As I am wont to do of late, I’ve written something to explain my take on the meaning of the ring:

Tears from Africa

How many of my tears come from Africa?

One thing I remember,
tears cried in a warm monsoon rain
are hidden, and can be denied,
attributed to God
as He waters His earth
in the deluge of His tears.

This one precious tear,
captured by my Beloved, and returned to me,
precious as the rarest tanzanite
entangled in the knots of our lives,
even as our lives are entangled in one another.

This one tear, as I was saying,
a reminder of all the others
cried in warm rains on a Turi hillside
for all the things lost –
things that seem so small in the distance,
but were so large, so heavy,
so chilled my hands as I held them up to warm
in the tears, overflowing from the
compassionate eyes of Mungu.

And now, glorious now,
someone to cry with,
someone with whom to be entangled,
some one with whom I may be one,
and this precious tear,
falling forever towards me,
close enough to taste.

So, there you have it. She wrote a poem about it too, back when she started designing it, but I won’t presume to post her version of it. Meanwhile, as long as I’m posting about this ring, I might as well tell you about the other one, too:


A single blade of grass
wrapped around my finger.
This is what has been saved
from the years that the locusts have stolen.

It is enough.

And look,
there is grass everywhere,
even where there was none
before the locusts
ravaged everything.

Almost everything.

They left
this one blade.

Dernier Café au Lait

cafe… and it was all over much too soon, and before we knew it, we were drinking that dernier café au lait …

Dernier Café Au Lait
July 14, 2007

Dernier café au lait,
sweet and bitter,
the sugar melting slowly away,
going, gone, and remembered,
the taste lingering on the tongue
long, long after the last drop
dries on the page.

John and Sam

While in the Newark airport, we walked past the Sam Adams restaurant, and the following was inspired:

John and Sam
July 15, 2007

While John Adams was off busy
forging a nation, and all that,
Sam, his brother, or cousin, or something –
who can remember? –
was pursuing a more practical trade.
Men will always need Sam’s trade –
indeed, John’s product will often
drive a man to Sam’s, even as
Sam’s will make a man think
he knows something of John’s