Tag Archives: weekend-wordsmith


This week, I had to give my kids hard news. And then, just as they were reeling from that blow, I had to give my daughter more hard news.

Kids are inscrutable to me. I can’t tell what’s going on in behind their stoic expressions, or even behind their tears. When they say that everything’s fine, does it mean that everything’s fine, or that they don’t have words for their feelings – feelings that, even at 37, I don’t have words for. What can I offer but a safe place for them to feel what they feel? I have no answers to the hard questions they ask, and what few answers I might have, I can’t always give.

We have handed our kids a hard life, and so every new thing that they encounter that hurts them makes us all the more aware of what a hard life we’ve handed them.

A few weeks ago, I took a photo of my son’s torn pants, and it was the prompt on Weekend Wordsmith last week. It came together in the rambling words below. It’s not great poetry. It’s barely poetry at all – just prose with line breaks. But it’s how I process thought and emotion.

March 3, 3009

I wish, like a million before me,
that I could mend for you
what I have ripped, stitch up
the frayed edges, put back together
the loose ends I have untied,
and those around me
that I had no part in tearing.

My needle is dulled,
my thread snapped,
my hands occupied in mending
my own tattered rags.

If I could put them aside
and repair this one rent
you know I would.

I see in your eyes that you know
I would.

Maybe that’s enough.

It has to be.

Still, I look for that skein
with which we might patch
this wound.


This week’s Weekend Wordsmith prompt is “Sleepless“. I knew that before anybody else, of course, since it’s my website, and I post the words ahead of time. What I didn’t know was that I’d be up half the night, each tick of the clock taking a couple hours.

Then, it happened – that indefinable moment when late night turned into early morning, like pushing through a bead curtain and feeling the different quality of air on the other side. Subtle, but definitely there. And still several hours to go before it was decent to get up and make the coffee.

January 30, 2009, 4:42 AM

There’s an almost indiscernible moment
when late night
becomes early morning.

Some nights, it’s not there at all.
Night ripples gently into day
with not a seam or dropped stitch.

Others – like this one – deliver you
through a foaming, pounding surf,
over nameless hidden foot-cutting horrors,
to dump you, half dead and gasping
on the rocky and barren beach of the next day
with still miles to limp to the treeline
and shelter.

Grandfather’s Pens

Grandfather’s Pens

He hugged fiercely.
He did everything fiercely.
I never knew him to do anything half way,
or unintentionally.

Every day, he wrote
a letter, threw a lifeline
to someone treading water
in some not-quite-God-forsaken
city, so far away.

Consequently his pockets were always full
of pens, full to the bursting point
against the unforeseen need
to fling another life preserver.

Hugging him, one encountered
this portcullis of pens
pressing back, a comfortable pain,
this reminder of the thousands of pages
he produced each year —
the journal of the mundane,
so beautiful to anyone
deprived of it.

Without Hats

Without Hats

Weekend Wordsmith

January 4, 2009

Life is a quest for the perfect hat.
The rest is just distraction –
the necessary evils of sustaining life
until we find it.

It was easier 60 years ago,
when everyone wore hats
all the time.
A walking smorgasbord of lids
from which one could sample,
taste a little of this tweed cap,
admire that felt fedora,
wrinkle one’s nose at that
feather-bedecked monstrosity.

Nowadays, however, there’s a famine,
with the fast-food John Deere cap
predominating, and the delicacy
of a tam o’shanter so rare
as to be drooled at from across
a restaurant, nose pressed to glass.

Gone are the days when a bowler
or a top hat
adorned every pate,
and gentlemen lifted their hat
to a passing lady.

Perhaps our lost gentility
is nothing more than
having forgotten our hats.


For the Weekend Wordsmith

Mt. Longonot, 1988
November 25, 2008

It certainly seemed like an avalanche,
the trickle of scree running away
from our boots that had run around the mountain,
and up from the plain, so far below.
Standing here at the edge of that life,
on the cusp of another,
nudging these pebbles down the slope
where they would dislodge so many others
unthought-of and unseen from where
we stood, at the top
of our world, miles ahead
of our friends
who had stopped to enjoy the view.

Pumpkins and Mums

Pumpkins and Mums
October 26, 2008

I hope he got a good deal
for this small plot of goodness
and light beside the road
from Wilmore to the outside world.

Always a smile, a kind word,
and a better price than Sam Walton,

But three years of bad harvests,
and then this, four lanes of blacktop,
a way to get there faster.

Safer, too, I suppose,
and what price can you put on that?
But Blakeman’s Farm, how many generations
digging this rocky earth,
now erased by a broad stroke of asphalt.

Another victim of progress.

So I hope that he was well compensated
for the ground his grandfather passed to him,
on which I stood,
year after year,
choosing pumpkins,

always meaning to come back
for a few chrysanthemums.


26 October, 2008

And then,
at some unnoticed moment,
the down turns to pinions,
and they’re flying
almost solo, if such a phrase
means anything.

A small thing,
making us breakfast before we arose
from the effects of a too-late night.

One can almost overlook,
at least for today,
the burnt pancakes,
the puddles of batter
on the floor and stove,
and imagine them self-sufficient,
getting their own meals,
perhaps paying their own bills,
taking care of us in our
twilight years.

Then, one of them needs help
opening something,
and the other objects to some small slight
or other,
is inconsolable,
and the illusion disperses,
blows away,
in a puff of eiderdown.

Laugh, Baby

For the Weekend Wordsmith

Laugh, Baby
August 15, 2008

Laugh now, little one,
it’s all tears ahead –
a vale of tears
through which we mourn
and weep, on even the best
of days.

Laugh, and do not listen
to those who tell you your lot
is a harsh one.
I’ll let you in on a little secret,
just between us:
They say that only
because they forgot to laugh
when they had the chance –

thought laughter impious,
thought tears the path
of righteousness.

I’m glad John mentioned
that Jesus wept for his friends.
He’d have done well to note
how often he laughed with them.

So laugh, my angel,
while you’re yet a baby,
that when you are old
you will still be young.


From the Weekend Wordsmith

August 9, 2008

Flour, some water,
butter – mustn’t forget butter,
real butter, not oil or margarine,
but butter –
these are the ingredients
for a memory.
A little Nutella for sweetness,
a café au lait to wash it down,
and the Paris sky
warming our faces and our hearts.