Sunday, May 31, 2009


Hey, quick question, before I post this poem. (Note: question is not related to this poem, but to another.) In your esteemed literary opinion (I believe every literate person has one), how do you feel about publishing work that is clearly inspired by someone you know (someone who may read the work) but is not necessarily the subject of said work? I'm still on the edge, and I'd like your thoughts. On one hand, it may not be a good idea to publish something referencing another person when you can't be there to say, "don't worry, you were just the inspiration; it's not really ABOUT you." Then again, what does it matter? Your creative work is your own, in the beginning and end. And I'm not talking about the clearly offensive stuff either, just subtle qualities you may pick up from your friends and throw in on one of your characters. I know this is often something non-fiction writers struggle with as they lay out their memoirs. But poetry, for me, has become a fantastical sort of truth/fiction hybrid. I seem to have all the strings in my hands. I'm curious to know what you consider "allowed". You can message me on facebook to let me know what you think, too.

This all being said, I'd like to post another poem. (Unfortunately, its format doesn't mesh with this blog download, so it's just living in triplets for now.) I wrote it on the floor in the transportation section of Barnes & Noble while waiting for Tom's flight to land. I'd just taught a lesson that spent some time discussing the relevance of memory to poetry writing, why it is sometimes vital, and why, sometimes, it can be damaging. Richard Hugo believes it's typically better to know less about a place before you recreate it in your writing. But don't a ton of authors suggest you "write what you know"?

Apparently, today, I'm all about hearing both sides. Thanks for your input.


As a young man I dreamt
of biting into stacks of leaves
piled high like sandwiches.

It was just a dream.
My sister actually did it.
She spat out a caterpillar,

halved, oozing,
before I fainted.
My mother thought

I’d been shot when
she found me, my sister
crying by my side

with guts on her chin.
When I was old enough to marry
there were all sorts

of sandwiches at the wedding.
Cucumbers on wheat crackers,
parsley in sour cream on toast,

giant tomatoes cut into slabs
over mozzarella fans.
I ate until I stumbled,

in the yard with the swans
and paper lanterns.
My bride, the most

reliable woman in town—
they said her tongue could
do everything except

sound out the s in sorry—
she picked a mint leaf
from her drink and shook it,

two drops of tonic on her cheek,
she kneeled and told me
to open up.


Sunday, May 17, 2009


...why did I write this while sitting out in the woods? You'd think I would have written one of those aw-gee-nature poems. But no. Here's Esther. I look forward to your feedback!


Some day soon I will go back
to that park in Vancouver where
Esther lives comfortably inside
the curve of an old concrete sewer pipe.
She introduced herself as Esther, once,
but I dreamt the night before
I would meet the concept of justice
in vagrant form, so I take everything
Esther does literally and want to know
why she insists upon carrying
a chopping knife tied to the inside
of her shabby cotton jacket.
Justice needs no weapon, in my opinion,
but Esther says she must be prepared
to do battle with Christ when the day
comes because she has lived
a nasty, blackened sort of life
and she refuses, as every lady should,
to go to hell willingly. She is also afraid
of rapists and jazz musicians
who might wander off the beaten path
one night after a performance thick with pills.
Esther used to be married
and her teeth are worn down
from keeping the ring in her mouth
all these years, years she’s spent suffering
from nightmares and hallucinations
of an adorable brick house opening
its front door to swallow her with
the pop of a doorbell. Esther is justice
and she believes strongly in sleeping
beneath a hanging bouquet of skunk cabbage
to ward off drunk artists. Some day soon
I will go back to fetch Esther, before
the sewer pipes are crushed and remodeled.
I’ll take her home like a box
of closed-eye kittens and feed her
nothing but honey and raw fish,
slip it under the bedroom door
with a stack of notebook paper
and my father’s lucky ballpoint pen.


Sunday, May 3, 2009


Hi all!

Kitty Jospe and I had a good conversation the other day, chatting about our (sometimes forgotten) humble origins as poets. We bring our teensy nothings to poetry's altar and hope for some sort of success...praise, maybe? Truth? (Or is it beauty?) I wonder how strong a role pride plays in all this, in living as a writer. (As I write this, Garrison Keillor is quoting May Sarton: "One must think like a hero in order to behave like a merely decent human being." How fitting.)

I wrote this poem shortly after hanging up the phone. Truth be told, it doesn't read as philosophically as one might think. (read: you can enjoy it even if you're exhausted.)


something in my pocket feels round
maybe a pearl or a silver bullet either way
I’m pretty sure it’s valuable and I’m taking it
to the temple of poetry where I can sacrifice freely
I expect a long queue but the place seems deserted
it’s a clay house it’s a marble slab it’s tucked away
in a snowy wood someone’s playing the piano
someone’s slapping horsehair on the snare drum’s face
someone’s hiding in the curtains someone’s running water
across the fat backs of fish something catches my eye
it’s a dodo toddering round the altar he’s got a piece
of paper pinned to his tail it says Hello My Name Is Normal
he starts lighting a flock of white candles he beckons
me forward I’ve got something in my pocket
he says so do all my brothers but bring it forward if you must
it’s round think it might be a pearl he says an Italian was here
just the other day and he brought a globe
the Frenchwoman brought a little orange pumpkin
they’re always perfect spheres he said
I reach in my pocket and pull out a pebble grayish and smooth
I’m frowning but Normal the dodo just turns back
to his candles says leave it in that stream over there
and yes there is a little creek running around the temple
it’s full and squibbling with other poets’ pebbles
there’s barnacles latched onto Normal’s knobby legs
he says I better stop gawking before there’s boom boom thunder
says I better get back to work if I ever want to return