Usually the plan is to
read and read and read
the poems of others, until
something strikes my imagination.
This often works, sometimes it is
just a word, like pulsating or
scramble, a pathway to completely
forget that my shoelaces are tied or
that these fingers belong to me.
Lost in the moment, obvious and
unpoetic, then again, also true.
That really so much writing is just
abstract painting, adding color,
a swirl, skip a line, then do it again,
and again, until the crickets outside
sound like laptop keys, and nothing
is lost, not these seconds, not the
clear air of night, not my quiet mind
making sense of time passing,
I have a stack of one-dollar bills tucked away
in a drawer, because a friend told me that when
it happens, cash will be the only way to survive
without internet and impaired technological
devices. When it happens, I suppose I will want to
buy water and Clif Bars, and maybe some chocolate,
easy on the tongue, when everything else fails,
like power lines and no NBA game on TV.
And some days I find myself ruffling through the
bills, counting them up, imagining them tucked
into my jeans as I amble into jagged earthquaked
streets, or knee deep in the water of all demise.
And in these moments, my cherished
money looks like frail pieces of faded paper.
the second tower went down
when I was in the car
heard disbelief, NPR like me
unable to stay calm, explaining
the before of white shirts waving for help
specks of humanity jumping out of windows
their hail hit while
I was eating my cereal flakes
at school, televisions on in every room
sirens rushing sound all over screens
the towers falling over and over again
repetition, it happened, it happened
“what does this mean?” I asked my students
as if they knew
“we are going to war,” one said
he wasn’t wrong
I put my classroom flag out in the hall
duct taped it up for all to see
half-staff in my mind
everything in disarray
some TVs stayed on the whole day
kids asked the one teacher from Manhattan
who she knew there
almost excited to hear loss firsthand
like watching people on CNN
holding photos of sisters, mothers, dads
the forever gone
Killing ants seemed normal.
Six-legged black bodies scrambling
on slab rock patio, drip of
citronella candle wax, my own
backyard Pompeii, dead, then
frozen for all time, and me the
volcano, or God or murderer.
Bored kid waiting for dinner,
smell of pork chops on the grill,
smoke into summer air.
We wanted to follow
railroad tracks and sleep
under stars, maybe cook
up hot dogs without
a strict parent seeing
us wipe the grease
on our jeans. This
was 1986 when Polo
shirts were everything, not
following dreams or watching
morning deer, or thinking
about writing, or what
friendship could mean. But
Stand by Me let
in a little light
so we could remember
who we really are.
No one sees the
gray-haired lady in
a wheelchair, hands shaking
Parkinson’s pulsating through her
whole body. But when
Sinatra sings, eyes aglow
grandma is someone again.
She belts out the
best part, you have
a head start, if
you are among the
very young at heart.
Used to sing this
song with my 4th
graders in a classroom
of barred windows and
boys who fought over
pencils. But when they
joined sh-boom, we forgot
about all the rest,
everyone sang like paradise
up above, and life
was a dream, sweetheart.
I suppose it was
Roy Orbison first, for
me it was always
Linda Ronstadt, straight long
hair and bright album
cover smile, couldn’t imagine
her with a worried
mind, or lonesome all
the time, then again
I was only nine
Sam was short for Samurai,
a lion like Akita, let me eat
from his bowl when no one
else was looking. He killed
neighborhood cats, then
one night a car killed him.
There was Popcorn, named
by my sister, part husky
she loved to run away,
nose against screen door, then
escaped on down the road.
We’d yell Popcorn like circus
vendors, until she came back home.
Ginger was part sheltie, but
thought she was a cat,
never more happy than
sitting on our lap. She
loved us, and we loved her
back, there was no other way.