Monday, December 26, 2016


The wind has blown the seed off the wall
I will not see the chickadees today
the wind has blown the seed off the wall
the patio stone is a sheet cake of ice
studded with sunflower seeds
I will not see the chickadees today

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I Rent Out My Sweet Days

I am a renter of time
I rent out my days
all my sweet days
named for gods and Roman sons of gods
I rent them out

I can't keep a one, not a one
Can't put them up in jars
prick them all over with cloves
save them to the cloud
I rent out my days and I can never stop

I rented out today
to letting the populace know
Minnesota is getting browner
speaking in tongues never
spoken in Minnesota before
I wrote up this side's view
and that side's view
and was careful not to
leave out the views of the
people in the middle
and the dead

oh, let everyone in the land
of sky blue water
turn black as a December 2 a.m.
speak in caws and whistles
let the marble busts
at the state capitol wear the hijab
this was not worth
my precious today

I've rented out all the sweet
todays of my life
leaving no today left to write
down the important things
like I am me
like this was my was
like this is my now
like these are the monsters
my dog protects me from
but my dog is getting old

Friday, June 24, 2016

Request from the Communications Department

Sorry can we tweak
my deadline
for this task
just a bit
I'd blocked out
time to edit
your proposal
then I read
the first paragraph
saw your personal take
on the use of
the semi-colon
the word
which you have made up
in the belief
it is more redolent
of meaning than
the word lessons
the 14 subordinate clauses
that only Sir Nigel Hawthorne
as Sir Humphrey Appleby
could unclot
and I wrote a poem

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Father's Day - Donald Dotseth

I think of him as Donald
but even his mother called him Bud
Asked why in hell she'd married him
Mom a woman life happened to
while she was playing the lead
in a Technicolor musical in her head
said he had such good hair

In a snapshot he looks like the twin
of Lee Harvey Oswald
if Oswald had bought a better rifle
there must have been some ooh la la
the snapshot doesn't show
because when I asked his last wife
what he did for a living
she said there was always a woman
who would support him

He wasn't much
that kind of guitar-playing man
who is always about to take his songs to Nashville
but never leaves Minnesota
the little man with guns to frighten
women and children
the low-rent psychopath
doubtless, in prison, some bigger man's bitch

He was no one I'd want to know
But it's Father's Day again
Hallmark's got its cards out
power tool ads are everywhere
reminding me I have never
bought a Father's Day card
never written Dear Dad
never taken him out to lunch
and slid into the booth next to him
the fluorescent lighting
shining off our good hair

Monday, May 23, 2016

Miles to Go

I've seen it all twice over
been there and there
and to some places
if I'd been wearing the right hat
I might have called yonder
if it hadn't been patently obvious
there were miles to go beyond that

Many is the time I've been so
discombobulated I've misplaced
the moon behind fir trees
stopped in parking lots
to call for it by its first name
and heard nothing back
but the whispers of burger wrappers
blowing across blacktop

I've driven to the Gulf of Mexico
because it was on the way
to somewhere I thought I'd recognize
when I saw the welcome sign
but it was just another Salvation Army
in the land of one Goodwill after another
so I bought a no-name pop and a spatula
and kept on driving

Monday, April 4, 2016


I wore a wool peacoat with the collar high
stood on the rocks with a mug of hot tea
and looked out over Mille Lacs
as if it were mine

The sun rose a cut blood orange that morning
the winter ice broke up into chunks
floated away to the far horizon
and fell over an edge so sharp
I thought that people long ago
who thought the earth was flat
weren't so dumb after all

The March wind blew the water this way and another
the light glinting where it pleased to glint
every wave a different shade of blue
Mille Lacs a thousand lakes and one
all of them mine

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


From the kitchen I see you on the couch
where you are not supposed to be
where you are stretched out
just so
in expectation that the sunlight
that lay upon you yesterday
like a butter yellow blanket
will come again today
and I leave off scrubbing the sink
to come to you on the couch
and place before your nose
a large biscuit
bulk bin code 87789
because the sunlight you’re expecting
isn't forecast again until Thursday
because I would summon
that sun today if I could
for you
dog of my heart
but I can't
but I can give you a bone-shaped biscuit
and allow you to eat it on the couch
where you are not supposed to be

Thursday, December 17, 2015

When I fell in love at Fleet Farm

The sun was considering rising over Lake Elmo
when I fell in love at the Fleet Farm gas mart
grizzled buzz cut
six feet two eyes of hazel
jeans and boots and well-worn Carhartt
he held open the door for me
and my 24 ounce coffee
(99 cents today, any size)
I said thank you
he winked at me by way of you're welcome
and said into his iPhone, "Well, if you can get a hold
of a big enough syringe, I've got enough
Euthasol to do the job."

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sitting on the ice looking at my bloody thigh

Sitting on the ice looking
at my bloody thigh
wishing to hell I could afford
the cost of digging my cell phone
out of my pocket and calling
for uniformed men and their
I looked around for a tree
or telephone pole
with which to haul myself up
to start the slow limp home
and I saw that the rising sun was sending
red streaks out into the sky
like the streaks of my blood in the snow
I said out loud
red sky in morning
sailor take warning
as if walking on icy sidewalks
is cousin to sailing the ocean

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The cannons shoot cans of tuna

The cannons shoot cans of yellowfin tuna which
the trees duck except the silver birch which
has been truculent since an independent poll
of arborists voted it Least Likely to Survive
Repeated Liftings of the Leg

The houses received offers of ducking classes
for any income level but the houses marked the emails
with a Reminder red flag or a Important red star
and so never opened them again
consequently the houses never learned duckery
and the better suburbs claim dents are all the rage in Paris

Volleys of cans intimidate garage doors
fences are beaten down by the barrage
barred windows prove no barrier

It is widely known but never admitted by the last
remaining flag lapel pin wearers that the ducking skills
of humanity lack reliability and so cans of tuna
have been known to hit them in the head
making the people bleed until they are empty
this damages the label of the tuna can
rendering them less valuable to foreign collectors

Dogs bred to be very smart so long as
they're not smarter than their domesticators often mistake
an incoming can of tuna for a Frisbee
Border Collies have been entirely wiped out
Shih Tzu now herd sheep

It's enough to make a planet develop major depressive disorder
fortunately the earth has a core of iron or perhaps it is granite
we should have paid more attention in geography class
anyway, we're holding on

Thursday, July 9, 2015

If you were a fish

If you were a fish
I wouldn't cut you
into nice chunks
for a chowder
with cream crackers
on the side.

I wouldn't sharpen
my best knife
to make of you
a handsome filet.

I wouldn't stuff you
with Indian rice
and Irish butter
to serve you
whole and proud
on my longest platter.

I would get out
my cleaver
and bring it down
upon you
and bring it down
upon you
and bring it down
upon you
until I had made
you into shreds
fit only for the least
of all fish dishes
fish sticks.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The wind its ass kicked by Canada

The wind its ass kicked by Canada
Searched until it found a
Smaller victim and is now bullying
a solo Siberian maple
Until its blossoms fall in
Clusters yellow on the asphalt
Its trunk bending to shelter them
Or, perhaps, to whisper I’m sorry

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Chickadee Trio

A trio of chickadees
lands on the feeder bar
next to a red-winged blackbird
and for an instant all is an
iStock image keyworded diversity
then Patty Chickadee
hip bumps Maxine
and Maxine hip bumps Laverne
second verse same as the first
and then there's a wing protest
and then there's a squawk
and the blackbird eats the air
flapping his red-tabbed wings
to stay level with the feeder
and yell your mama wears army boots
while the chickadee trio

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What if all of this

What if all of this
is the punishment
for having used pages
of my King James
for rolling papers

(It's thirty years on
and I only took
from the concordance
no red letters
I swear)

What if all of this
is the punishment
for that afternoon
in Whitby Hall
in room 413

(with the view of the maple
I thought of as mine
and the artificial pond
with the artificial name)

What if all of this
would have been different
if I had sacrificed
the onion skin
over the frontispiece sketch
in my 1899 Cranford

(What if all of this
has been
outer darkness)

Monday, March 9, 2015

At some point midstream

At some point midstream
people stop asking how are you
You stand there out of breath
on the rock that is Monday
after making the leap
from the rock that is Sunday
a leap that is equivalent
to translating Beowulf into Western Yiddish
while climbing Everest
on a moonless night
when all you know of Western Yiddish
is gonif and putz and maybe matzoh
when you should have worn something better than sneakers
when the crank to the crank flashlight
won't crank

Monday, January 12, 2015

Therapy Dog

So small is the woman
her wheelchair looms around her
like a man's boot
looms around a child's foot

So thin is the woman
her bones are like
bent grasses waiting
under an iced over pond

So silent is the woman
death is her only voice
and he whispers
walk on she's mine

And so I walk on past her
but the dog turns back
stands before her
and rests his muzzle on her knee

Friday, January 2, 2015


My fists raised
I wake up
In the doorway
Of my bedroom
In the dark
And then I feel the dog
standing beside me
leaning hard against my thigh

And I bend down
To put my arms around him
And the rise and fall
Of his breath
Feels warm against my damp shirt
And I say to him It's okay
It's okay now
And I know I am talking
To myself 

Dr. Rx says knowing the details
Won't change a thing
Don't go lifting up rocks
You think it will help
To see what crawls beneath
But it doesn't work that way
I see her point
In the day in an office
Filled with fluorescent light
But in the night
In the dark
In the doorway
Of my bedroom
I want to know my enemy
For who he is
So that I can see the whites of his eyes
So that I can kill him
So that the dog and I
Can sleep

Thursday, December 11, 2014

That which I've learned

Never place your trust
In a man who wears pointy toed shoes
Or a dog whose prick ears go back
In the position that means fear
When coyotes howl on PBS

Keep several grains of salt
In a little bag in your pocket
For when you go to church
The car dealership
Anywhere near candidates for office

Know that the human heart is a hotel
People check in, people check out
One leaves a five spot on the pillow
One steals the coffee carafe

Believe that if you lay your palm
On a tree and say "Good morning"
If you wait quietly a few moments
You will hear the tree say "The same to you"

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Dog Writes Poems About Rain

All of his poems have titles like
Evil Water Falls Promiscuously
From the Sky the Gods Must Be Dead

In the park he stands under a tree
muttering phrases and counting out meter
until I give up and go back to the car
for the glove-compartment umbrella

Your mother's people herded Belgian sheep
And your father's fathers were from Labrador
I tell him
There's no earthly reason why you should
be so Evelyn-Genevieve-Priscilla about rain

Water is for drinking purposes only
He states in the voice of a narrator
of health department PSAs
And hold that umbrella right
A damp collar one moment is pneumonia the next

Monday, October 20, 2014

This I Believe

When a shaft of sunlight
shines down on
the most comfortable
armchair in the house
and the dog has curved
his spine just right
into the space
where the chair back
meets the chair seat
do not shift him
so you can take his place
sit nearby