5 o’clock

hits us
like clockwork
— we’re hungry,
and happy, and
slightly amused
by the bra-lessness
of the five of us
(mother like daughters)
moving our shoulders
hips, and stockinged
feet across the kitchen floor
— the only man ever watching us
croons, “wow you’re beautiful,”
but i’m otherwise interested
in chopping onions and
letting Dean Martin’s voice coax
my body to sway in a dastard
display of playfulness
i often swim in and out of
like the perfumed fish that i am

::

how did Susie know I danced last night? 😀 for Toads

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as green as my mother/brother

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sometimes both of my eyes are as green as my mother/brother
and sometimes my kitchen walls dock on the magic carpet ride
color wheel wedge, from whence mother/brother and i do spy
miraculous flying fish leaping lively from deep-dish slices
of time outside her sundowner’s window. they leap with such
intensity we all swear it’s one hundred percent real, our
happiness, our green, hand-on-the-bible, evening time oath
(yes) i suppose one can say all of this wish-wash is un-
intelligible sea speak – i’ve had to do it a lot lately,
lie down in springtime, be perfectly prone in a mountain stream
just to begin to get an inkling of the kind of green we mean,
the green as green as my mother/brother and i/

::

for PAD and Daily Post

In-Depth Training With MFT Founder, Dr. Dennis B. Guernsey

Can’t say why I don’t see it, –
‘Can’t,’ and ‘don’t’ say it all perhaps.
Nobody tells me you’re the founder.
I’m too busy trying to learn it all.
Admissions must have received
Dr. Thomas Keith’s letter. Now who
do I thank for letting me inside Pasadena?

Psychology bent with theology.
Break out of all pre-subscribed
methodological boxes, you say.
Dear sir, reading all those chapters
in Job is teaching me to shut up right
and listen, to take notes, to, to
increase my inexpressive vocabulary.

I’m an original. Okay. I’m good enough.
Winnicott said so long ago. Who knew?
I’m underlining it. I’ll live by it, –
Meanwhile these trees grow in planters,
and where’s the ground? I’m from Kansas
City with brilliant instincts, – necessarily
flawed. Is that why I don’t see it?

You say, “If anybody wants to go
to the back of the room to take a nap,
it’s okay.” Get out of your plastic chairs.
Alright. Napping is a natural event.
Just like the backyard barbecue you throw,
swinging your kitchen cupboard door open
to scratch out more potato chips for us all.

You, of Christ’s body.
The tumor growing inside your brain.

[in memory of a genius teacher, gone too soon.
Dennis B. Guernsey] submitted to Real Toads

Dreams &Fortune Cookies

Last night I hid my pain
not so secretly in a dream
where we drove off
with only half our children.
I quizzed you. Did you forget
something? &you cooed,
I know, I know.

One of ours was sitting in
the grass. Cross-legged,
currently counting the
ladybug population.
Another was further down
the road, so I couldn’t say
for sure what was happening.

Then,

when morning cracked
my bleary eye beyond repair,
I bleated, but spoke it not,
another one’s leaving
us dear &you hummed
I know, I know.

And my subconscious
kept rehearsing scenes,
like the last time she &I
had lunch directly.
She’s struggling to crack
her fortune cookie &mine,
turns out, is empty.

day 20 NaPoWriMo
for Poetic Asides

Dumb Dog

We avoid looking you
directly in the eye.
Fear
could instigate
a bite.
We watch you
come out from
your den
occasionally
for ice cream, or
potato chips.
And every Spring,
like clockwork,
you’ll ask
what’s this all about,
this monstrosity.
You’ll beg us to
tell you why
you were born.
I’ll have a reunion
speech to rehearse
that very thing.
Your animal
ears will perk up,
which is a good sign,
but the dog that’s left
in you will say hunker down.
It can never be Spring.

Art credit to Karin Gustafson at Real Toads
My poem inspired by Annna Swir’s
Poetry Reading from her book,
“Talking to My Body”

What Was Lost

Let’s not go back. There are no pictures.
There is no film footage of me
in K-State’s purple & white skirt.
Stop going to the library to search me out.
Where’s a picture for you? We didn’t
take pictures easily back then. I didn’t
document your absenteeism either. Why?
Why do you look for the child you dropped
like a dog in Moore Hall’s parking lot?
Too cowardly to look back? I carried
crates and suitcases inside all by myself
while you drove home to numbly pick
dandelions out from your green lawn.
You want to unearth a picture of me
smiling in matte, somewhere in time,
to hang on your wall as if you were there,
as if the sky never fell on the day
little brother cried from the back
seat, waving the longest two-year goodbye?
You can’t recover any of what was lost &
even if you do find a grainy old picture,
you’ve gotta know that old pictures are liars.

for Real Toads

Open Whitest Bell in a Snap

it’s the
the kind of work
(the girl explains
to the boy)
that must be done

it’s the kind of work
where eyeseyes
are on the appearing
of a fine paper
white bell
(a hijinks for
parent’s 13th)

must jinx mom’s
vindictive teeth
(the girl says)

with the softest whitest
bell that opens like
(like this)

we must hang it prettily
enough in the living
room archway
like mistletoe

eyeseyes,
hijinks, jinx
explain, explained
they won’t fight about
that, that alone

get the scotch
instant tape
we don’t want to leave
a mark

like the,
the
like hers
had

for Real Toads

Every February’s a Hardship

It’s cold on brother’s birthday
and no different for father’s
a week later. He’s older.
The all-weathered version of
the younger carpenter, his son,
&mom’s pride and joy, whose skills
dad’s afraid now exceed his own.
But their hands are the same.
Mom always points this out.
Of the same mind. I surely forget
their sweet hearts. Try to bury
their cold parts. Deny their
selfish core, and the way
they whittle wood down to nothing.
Can we get through this hardship?
Come quickly, March. Let the rains
melt hard-packed snow. I believe
daffodils have a chance to come out
laughing from tough hard bulbs.

For Real Toads

Poem Beginning with a Line by Ada Limon

Begging for love
from the speeding passage of time,
they went shopping
for color-coordinating outfits
arriving at black &maroon only
after tearing off blue &green sweaters
&tossing them willy-nilly on the bed.
For the photo shoot they walked over goat-
head thorns in a tumbleweed field
&fake laughed for the camera,
&posed again by a run-down white wall
for passers-by to witness
their genetically linked bodies
lined up beside each other.
Somebody in a white truck honked
as hands were instructed to touch
uncomfortable places:
elbows, smalls of backs, shoulders.
Then, between the almond trees,
the tallest daughter pulled back
from nearly touching mother’s breasts
on accident, which the photographer
aptly pointed out nourished them all.
It rained the day after that,
and after that, and after that.

for Quickly
*my first two lines from The Leash

Who’s Having Pie?

In the 80’s Shawn, Beau and I graduated
from Milton Bradley’s strategic Battleship,
&from the Sorry-I-knocked-you-back-home
game mom bought us with the high hopes
of giving our poor dad some peace and quiet
while his Toyota truck engine cooled down
in the driveway after a hard day’s work.

But in Trivial Pursuit, the pink and orange
could never get along! (even though they
were pie chart equals) The boys mocked me,
for cheap entertainment, “pink please,”
let us guess… “pink please,” they would
both say in their best fake lady voices
(this was their favorite part, I’m sure).

Then they’d match me on their turn
with give-me-orange or on-the-globe blue.
Bottom line: we all sucked at brown, and
no argument about it (shocking, but true),
one of us would stand at the kitchen table
to fully savor the flavor of winning followed
by one very unsportsmanlike pea-cock strut.

[playing with Quickly’s words:
argument bottom cheap
engine equals fake
flavor lady match
part pink work]