Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wicked Witch

Ever since I accepted the meeting request
clues started converging.

All of the people who work on her side
of the office are very short.

In the break room the man from finance
with the surprisingly high voice
said my joints are so stiff I think they need oiling.

When the window cleaner shifted equipment
from belt to hand he bobbed for a few moments
with his feet on the sill
and I closed my eyes and told myself firmly
that I hadn't seen wings.

And that wasn't all.

Still, when the boss said to me
"I have a little opportunity
for you that I think you'll enjoy,"
and moved forward in her rolling chair
to hand me a manila folder
I was surprised when her office
with its nothing gray walls
and its nonprofit carpet
suddenly blazed technicolor
and Margaret Hamilton
held out her flaming broom to me
and screeched
"How about a little fire, Scarecrow?"

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, April 6, 2015

A Sin of Marketing

I suspect
if there turns out to be
anything more than nothing
an imp wearing hemp
will direct me to 
a block of cubicles
in hell
specially reserved
for those who have
ever signed off
on the purchase
of 25,000 beer can cozies
made of stretchy fuzzy stuff
that will survive
nuclear holocaust
the bright purple
the university logo
in sparkly thread
at no one

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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Why I Do Not Pick Up the Phone

It is the multitasking in the voice 
Or the impatience
Or the frustration
Or the words of wise counsel that make good sense and always have made good sense and always will make good sense
If you've got synapses like the Brooklyn Bridge but not a whole hell of a lot 
If all you've got in your head 
Is a rope bridge across a chasm 
In SE Asia

The last time I picked up the phone
Someone quoted Ben Franklin and something they said was Louisa May Alcott or Laura Ingalls Wilder and got irritated when I said it actually was Elizabeth Taylor's mother in National Velvet
have not picked up the phone since

And what would I say if I did
Save me?

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 somewhere else.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Case Family Can Be Found

Always scanning the faces
of people in queues
in case family can be found
at the Dairy Queen
on dollar Blizzard day
or at Target 
in the returns lane

Always saying Lovely green beans
Cute dog
Great weather isn't it
to people 
behind tables at the farmers market
on the trail
in case family can be found
behind tables at the farmers market
on the trail

Always stopping to read the bulletin board
in the foyer of the library
in hopes family can be found
between the minutes of the last
city council meeting
and the poster
on the safe disposal of sharps

Friday, October 3, 2014


I said Wrap your arms around my neck
to a wolf
and he did
and I staggered backwards
and he lurched forwards
and then he was free from the quicksand
that protects the east entrance
to the elephants' graveyard
and a monkey screeched on a birch branch up above
and a lion roared
and a Jack Russell Terrier
in a jingle dress
danced in the falling snow

Wolf, I said
it was a dumbass thing
to fall into quicksand
anyone with your knowledge of the Paris subway system
should know that
Girl, he said
I had a hunger deep inside
and the marrow from the thigh bone
of a she elephant
is so filling
as long as she didn't die
of a broken heart
so I took a calculated risk
Besides, you shouldn't talk
everyone knows you leave your bed
and go out in your jim-jams
to score Oreos at 24-hour convenience store prices

Wolf, I said
you see right through me
Girl, he said
you are a Pyrex measuring cup to me

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Zinnia Buffet

The straight row of thumbelina zinnias
is zig-zaggy and not very thumbelina
unless thumbelina means tall and taller
and over there as high as the fence
it wouldn't make a cover shot for
The English Garden magazine

But two swallowtails
a monarch
and a bumblebee as big as a big man's thumb
are tasting one flower and then the next
a little zig-zagginess no impediment
to moving methodically through
what's on offer at the zinnia buffet

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The cat in the alley

I think 
the baleful staring through the fence and 
the volleys of strangled barks 
that so terrify the cat
that she rests her upper body
on a tuffit of creeping charlie
and grooms the immaculate
cream of her shoulder
must work up a thirst
in the throat of the dog
and so I proffer
my half-full drinking
glass tipped at the
optimum angle for
the tongue sopping
and he drinks passionately
like a dog who has
done a dog's heavy work
and I smile down at him
drinking with passion
because I know the day
without the slightest effort on her part
was won by the cat
and tomorrow will be hers

Friday, June 6, 2014

Four Deer at the Oakdale Trail

Four deer in the clearing
Papa, Mama, their son,
and a cousin who is living
with them while attending
community college
to get her certificate
in phlebotomy
She’s getting
her head together
after finally admitting
that her mother was right
taking up with a married man
is just getting on the freeway
to East Heartache, Minnesota
population too many stupid
people to count
That story going round
about the meth
the Woodbury police department
the rehab on the taxpayer’s dime?
There's not a word of truth in it

It's true she looks a little rough
But that’s because she
spends all her free time
slapping herself into the middle
of next week when she thinks
of all the dumb-ass
moves she's made

Four deer in the clearing
Papa, Mama, their son,
and a cousin who wonders
if she should have waited
to give up Diet Pepsi
until things were more settled
in her life

Networking After the MHSCN Spring Conference

The dog would do this better.
He’d put his pricked ears back
In the no threat position
Lean against your hip
Shove his muzzle
Into your hand
And say to you
"This is called networking?
You want to network
With me, don't you?
Of course you do"

Saturday, May 24, 2014

If this were a sucide note

If this were a suicide note
Which it is not
The first paragraph would say
That it has been
Ten years fourteen days
Since I last said the words
I love you

The second paragraph would say
That it has been eleven years
Since I last said the words
I love you, too

The third paragraph would say
That one can go on living
Not saying these words
but it is a life lived
in a perpetual gray November
everything coated in ice
and all the trees blown down

My fourth paragraph would say
My dog is good with children
But shouldn’t go to a home
With cats

This is what this would say
If this were a suicide note
Which it is not