age 8
wrote 2 poems

a little story
my own myth-making
sky people: rain & stars
feeling corny
as soon as words
hit big-ruled paper
too clever by half

somehow sent out
as an exemplar
followed me for years

exploring one color
shades of purple
seeking my own joy
in a poem
of image and tone

noticed and loved
only by me

age 12
never mind the tortured
wrung out
of early adolescence

scrawls in 4 colors
on spiral-bound notebooks

in the adult side
of the library
obscure poets, modern, local
now I forget
her name
but remember the texture
of the books’ covers

a class project
collecting poems
famous, obscure, and mine
the fierce forced push
of keys
grandfather’s typewriter
into rough-shiny translucent
eraseable paper
in 4-color ballpoint
stick figures

age 19
lusting and trying
and being left

all the time
notebook in hand
walking strange streets
at night

the tall chestnut
tree’s roots
lift the sidewalk
crossed in passage
from wierd dangerous nights
into days
taking notes
next to the oblivious
rich white kids

but not really notes
for class
poems of the house
with the virtiginous
the plate window shattered
by burglars
on Xmas Eve
the original victorian
big enough for 3

age 19/20/21/22
and all along
poems for her
because I’m no good
with words

age 24
poem at a wedding

a backyard courtyard
San Francisco
sunlight & flowers
and everything just so
the food, the guests,
the 2 men
old friend & new
(it won’t last)

the maid of honor
in a red silk shirt
and a long black skirt
reading aloud

lines that flowed
onto the journal’s page
waiting for a bus
under a flat grey sky
a thousand miles
(everybody cried)

age 27
a monochrome PDA
from work
fits enough words
for haiku

and the moon

walking back
from lunch
bunnies in the brush

a bee on the lawn
drawing more attention
more of a poem

than a moment of
and the gathered crowd

age 30
in the vanpool
the wide river valley
green, filled with fog
seeing words in it

after years of silence
all the cliches
of dark lifting
ice breaking
all true

a bit queasy
from chemical amendment
pulling the pen out
from the spiral
of wire
opening and turning
to a blank page

without lists
of what’s not done
or prose rambles
of wanting the knife’s
more than any
other thing

start a new poem
and it doesn’t matter
what it says

age 32
this is now
at the end
of the longest poem
in maybe a decade

has it been that long?

and today is the pivot
into fall
a lurid sky
promising rain & clear
equally, indifferently
as the sun vanishes

my hair is freshly cut
and I walk past
the bike shop
the empty lot, the burger stand
to home

to revise this poem
type it up
and go on to the next

[this is a slightly different response to this week’s poetry thursday prompt. two side notes… 1) I’m at a complete loss for a title, which is fitting given how much trouble I’ve had with titles, suggestions welcome; 2) Kat, if you read this: what year was G&L’s wedding?] 

the girl on the bike

in the red sweater
her hair pulled out of her face
the unruly bits escaping
to run amuck

her skirt flapping
somehow never quite caught
in spokes or brakes
at least not today

the wind snaps
holds a bit of warm
but blows down the street
the first of the leaves
to fall

the kids in the movies
ride their bikes like this
on the way home from school

this girl was never
one of those kids
she walked, never flying
down the street on 2 wheels
frightened of losing balance
and falling on hard concrete

it happened
the flying and the falling both
she wasn’t a kid
but floating through
a fall breeze
she might pretend

[sort of in response to poetry thursday prompts]

sunday scribblings: the monster

This is actually two weeks ago’s prompt, but I didn’t catch it until just now, and the inspiring item has such a strong place in my memories that I had to write something. (happy birthday, Elizabeth.)

the book is worn with rough pages
and a softened cover
she sits beside me on the bed
not on my lap
but leaning against, at least when we start

I love reading it aloud
and exaggerating my voice
because she is excited too and chimes in
and throws her arms wide
and we laugh
enjoying this moment with this silly book
of which we both know
every turn of phrase

it is a breather from everything else
that has gone wrong and is going wrong

because the room around us is crumbling
and I am taking care of her (and our other sister)
she can’t really read
these words either

but she knows them by heart
which for right now is just enough.

poetry thursday: blue

I reach out to touch the wall soft like fabric
fixed solid over this lumpy uneven surface
so many times repainted, repaired

a color and texture to wrap around
your shoulders on a cool fall evening

looking down the length of the wall
a gorgeously crisp seam of paint
meeting paint
a friend’s amazing work
but the edges of the walls
where they meet the floors
the patio door
the front door

never quite done

the patch of drywall that had to be replaced
after the painting was done
stands out green edged with white
the floor not yet not quite
patched or cleaned
the carpet not quite reaching
all the way to the edges of the room

there is still so much left to do

turning back to this wall
right beside my chair
fingertips brush soft blue
and I dream of a finished space

thursday poetry: time

“September One”

around Labor Day
I feel time
when my birthday
is within hand’s reach

not only mine but
also: sister, husband,
beloved grandma gone and
the one I loved
and lost
and found
and at each birthday
I know which it is
by the cards in the mail
or not

also: the coincidence
with the start of school
Grandma told a story
(one of N)
the teacher said
“no, you’re mixed up
today’s the first day
of school”
when it really was
her birthday too
and not just the new year
as surely as
January 1
with all the implications
of promises made
kept & forgotten
and for that reason also
the anniversary of my arrival
across the mighty Columbia
the first time
feeling this kind of fall
roll in
the first time
(later would come
snowflakes the first time)

each year as Labor Day slides past
(put away the white shoes)
each marker ticks over
to the next number
and I am this old
it has been this long

ten years ago I came home
from camping
answering machine light
“Becca was in that accident”
52 cars
“she’s in a coma”
and after two weeks
one fatality

five years ago my sister
(the one born in December
day before Pearl Harbor Day)
said over the phone
“now we have something else
in common”
and it was a sick joke
but no less true

today I saw a pumpkin
in the garden
orange beginning to spread
over the green
time moving
over the garden
as summer gives
over to fall

poetry thursday: unfinished conversation

“let’s not finish”

side by side in a red sedan
breakfast tacos, simple,
filling, and my mouth can taste them
still now

the highway stretches across flatness
and green — spring here,
where I left snow on the ground

this is just a

of a ten-year’s conversation

words I haven’t said
crowd my throat and you
do all the talking
for both of us

even if most of it
is mindless patter
I remain content
to listen and to watch
your curls battered by the wind

when we part again
for the last time
for a while
it’s late

I mean to begin to say something
big and serious
but you throw it away
with a hug
bigger than words

poetry thursday: that song

It changes over
time, doesn’t it?

The song you thrilled
to, because it was her
song or our song
or just the song
that was everywhere

Gets displaced, replaced
by the next thing.

I found this album at the library.
I heard this band at a bar
a friend’s house
on the radio
and from there
over and over again.

I could write my list

(in part: Monkees = 1987; Cure = 1989; Indigo Girls = 1994; Cake = 1997)

and so could you and
you and you and you.

May I recommend
a moment of


while we all remember
songs gone by.

sunday scribblings: hotel stories

this week’s prompt. it spawned a poem, which I wrote in my paper notebook and edited a bit before copying it here.

the sxsw poem

I dropped my suitcase
my black wheeled bargain from Goodwill
as it strained at the seams
because I didn’t know
what to bring
or not bring
turned the dial on the air conditioning
with a gasp
of relief
pulled open the blinds onto Texas
or at least a smallish square
a parking lot
an american flat
a texas flag
a bit of freeway
two hills, holding the freeway
between their sides
with the most vivid green
on the darkest near-black bark
I’d ever seen or could imagine

that hotel room: my home
base for a week
the tiny kitchenette
mostly-emtpy fridge
stock dishes, two burners
a microwave replaced the first night
the table where I plugged in
my laptop
tossing words a little bit
like these
out onto the carrier wave
a television
with no remote

oatmeal and a banana
a cup of tea
saranaded by an unfamiliar
radio station
not wanting television
or a big breakfast
only simple nourishment
to fortify days of complex
thoughts, emotions, wants

a week and a bicycle
the ride over the river
on a narrow concrete track
carved out from the freeway
morning solitude
just as I crave it
watching the river/not watching the river
dawn over rippling water
and the fear of falling

much later collapsing into bed
teeth brushed
face scrubbed
medicine taken, reducing my dose
while I’m here/gone
seems unlikely in retrospect
but that was what I’d promised
and determined to do

sleep in a strange bed
just as deep
the roar of the freeway
the same sound
as the tides of traffic
I hear faintly from my front yard