Kansas in August

I’m the first born, so I pull chairs into circle formation.
I receive them: daughters, brothers, cousins, forgotten Aunts.
We gather around the punch bowl, chocolates wrapped in gold,
And the Texas sheet cake. Shiny gooey squares sitting on little red plates.
The strawberry slices on top look like hearts, or not,
But we support their 50 bitter and sweet years of marriage.
I pose them, because they never had the chance.
Hand-in-hand, in front of these witnesses
Mom cries through her repeat-after-me vows.
And when the officiant asks what 1 + 1 is
My Dad says “one” just as clear as day.
It’s finally adding up to be something absolute.

A “Plus One” poem for Poetic Asides


Galaxy Wheel

I’m always walking with you, -ignoring needed chiropractic adjustments. Never mind that, because all at once the meadow starts ruminating over the fires still smoldering past camel hill. Audaciously, you shoot your finger to the moon as if you’ve discovered a curious thing. I’m taken by the brighter star. Dear God, when will our necks ever align? Still, – every day we’re more honest with ourselves. We tie our tongues, and lace our shoes.

here, inside of us
the whole sky and galaxy, –
two divining lights

for dVerse

To Say My Story, Is To Tell Theirs

It’s the one mom still knows–
because Alzheimer’s can’t steal it.
She starts &finishes with gusto–
same cadence, same inflection,
same certain laugh. Every time.
About a minute or two after the punch
line, she loops back around with,
“You know our story, don’t you?”

Daddy didn’t like him. Thought
he’d amount to nothing. Mom went
&told the justice of the peace not
to marry us before we came walking in,
but that justice said he couldn’t
legally stop anyone from marrying
if they were of age, and we were,
and that made daddy hotter than hell

Comes knocking on my apartment door
telling your dad there are four ways
out of this town– take any one of them.
But plenty of times I didn’t listen.
How I convinced your Dad was something else.
He got clear out to Colorado before he
turned around, wondering how I dug my claws
into him– “You know that one, don’t you?”

for the Daily Post
& Real Toads

What You Tell Me, I Learn From a Dragonfly

As I flit around the room
half-dressed, half in love,
half-cocked about the cares
of another workaday day,
you stop time &say it,
All I see is you.
I dismiss it.
Insist on vacuuming.
After you leave, it happens
that I encounter a blue damselfly
flitting, flitting, then landing
&everything within me loves it
&all its see-throughness!
Then, it’s strange to see
my own hand reaching out
to gently take it as my own.
I don’t know why.
But you know what?
For the longest while,
lavender wings &lapis eyes
are all I care to think about.

for Real Toads

Words for Michael

the spaghetti strap tank top —
with the rose on the front —
like all the young girls
were wearing — was your idea

it hung in our closet —
between patterned polyester
blouses with increased sleeves —
for who knows how long

i’d never go sleeveless
in public — never wear a
bathing suit for any eye
to see — for that matter either

so it was i suffered
your gifts — decreased them
until I could say —
you don’t dress me —

i’ll wear what i damn well
please — &how much do you
want to bet — that my arms
and ass will be covered?

day 8 NaPoWriMo
for Real Toads

One Day

Don’t trust the shadows,
Michael. The faces of all
our old friend’s are
peeling on Kodak paper.
Half truth: our identity
has fallen into the ocean
of youth, and evidently we’ve
lost our rowing muscle, Michael.
But we’re here now. Fifty years
sharper, leaning into the echo:
One day you’re going to marry him

for Real Toads

Soft Couches

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t … Mother, father, brothers punching each other, full bed with yellow sheets, soft couches, forks & spoons, carpeting, wallpaper, cracking sidewalks, laundry chute, dogs & cats, backyards & bicycles … I go foraging for something to remind me of home.

I turn on a desk lamp, hide cinder blocks with a quilt, lay a scrap of carpet, put slippers on my feet, join a sisterhood club, join a German club, find boys, make air popcorn every single day. But I grow weary of these discomforts.

Empty: I drink, I binge, I cheat on tests. I fail. I vomit. I give it the old college try. I transfer, eat less popcorn, meet a guy with a full-on beard. We sit on couches, watch TV, go to movies. We date, break-up, write letters, break-up, get married.

And suddenly, and actually. There’s something where before there wasn’t. I begin setting-up house. I bring in soft couches, a TV. It’s dusk. I am home.

[first clause taken from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Burning the Old Year”
and submitted to dVerse Poets]

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

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,
like hers

for Real Toads

The Hypothetical Dying Man

  Aristotle (hypothetically)
 premature death
 every Saturday
    (this is you,
                 dear husband)
One ankle
 smaller than the other?
Will you measure it, Plato?
   (I get my philosophical
 measuring tape)
 Aristotle claims
            he's dying
 he's clearly dying
      Plato     (I) think
 rejects it out of hand:        
there's a difference
 between dying and  dead
   (I'll rub your shoulders)

for Real Toads

In This Town We Find


in this town we find
there is a closed bridge
&i want to cross it so badly i pout
until you say, okay, even though it’s dangerous
even though the man on the tracks might blow his whistle
&turn us in for slipping past the chains
&what about the furthermore?
what if our love collapses on the bridge
and we lose our pictures? or my hair gets wet?

so the bridge shakes its rusty steel and wire snaps
&i hear the rail man’s burly voice lifting my wet body from the river
saying, “she had no place” like wake people say, “it’s a goddamned shame”
&right about then, to my surprise
&absolute delight
you start running across the slipshod planks &so do i
&the weight of us running across the bouncing bridge is thrilling

&it is dangerous
knowing we may become unhinged at any moment
over the rocks we cannot identify below us
with the water burbling over the tops of their backs
in this weave of water we don’t know the name for

Real Toads Tuesday Platform