Splinters

Poems grow out of me like porcupine quills,
a protective layer between me and the world.

They are reverse splinters,
stabbing up through my skin like springtime saplings
bursting from the seeds of my thoughts—
but it hurts to dig them out
or cut them down
and work them into
the fence surrounding my life
(and I’m not even sure I remember
what I was walling in or walling out).
I have to find the right places to put them,
somewhere they can protect or grow,
and hopefully get under someone else’s skin.
They itch like a sprouting beard.
They grow like grass, like weeds, like thorns.

I am a farmer who planted a field and then let it go fallow.
There are weeds in the furrows as tall as the wheat,
and cattle have gotten in through the unfinished fence.
The tractor has sat idle on the lawn for so long
one wheel is flat, with plants spilling through the spokes;
there are flecks of rust on the red engine cover.
Underneath is a patch of dry dirt stained black with oil.
I opened the hood once to see what it needed.
A frightened bird startled me as it fled,
leaving its blind, chirping chicks behind.
There was a network of mice nests
with little pieces of egg shells scattered inside them
and the headless fossil of a mouse on the engine block.
I closed the compartment and walked to the edge of the field.
I flicked a grasshopper from a golden stalk
and saw that I was too late to save it.

I thought about burning,
about moving,
about changing professions.
But the hoarse whisper of the drying stalks haunted me.

Today I walked right past the moldering tractor
and into the field itself, ignoring the whine of the crickets
the dripping of water,
the scratch of the nettle
and listened to the rustle of the leaves
and the rattle of the grain.

I knelt and clutched a handful of dark earth.
It smelled like fresh rain
and left a dark spot on the knee of my pants.
I wrapped my fingers around a solitary weed and plucked it out,
leaving a wet wound of fertile ground behind—
though the weed told me something of how dear its life was
with a few lines of poetry it placed into my uncalloused palm.
I plucked them out one at a time
and placed them on the fence
and listened.

And then I pulled another weed.

anxiety

put cotton balls in your mouth and chew
while hanging upside down
scraping your fingernails on a chalkboard
to the sound of feedback from a mic
as the fire alarm goes off
and you’re naked on a stage
giving a speech on quantum mechanics
to a group of Nobel Prize-winning physicists
who’ve prepared for your remarks
by digging through your grades
and social media posts
before interviewing your old boss
who fired you because he found out
you’d made a move on his wife
who was twice your age
and you forgot to put on deodorant
before they made you run that mile on hot concrete
and you want to shut your eyes and disappear
but you can’t even blink because of the metal clamps
holding your eyelids open to fans
that blast your face with freezing air
and you feel certain it’s a nightmare
only you never wake up

The Past

Our minds have grown around the past
like a tree that swells over a boulder
as its leaves push upward and outward.
The seasons pass,
the sap runs black,
the old trunk groans,
until the two are one—
though sometimes weaker for it.
Then, in some blissfully distant fall,
an evening wind may blow just right
stressing the tree along this fault
or ending the work the boulder began;
and were it to be removed by some
misguided arborist (or therapist),
the entire trunk would crack
and tumble to the grass.
No, we cannot ever escape the past.

The Punk-a-lunk

You’ve seen a lot of things, I’m sure
the land of Flarmp, a wandering dellacur,
but have you ever seen or thunk
about the purple punk-a-lunk?
The punk-a-lunk, they say,
eats 14 jibble cores a day
(but only ones you’ve thrown away).
It slurps them up into it’s trunk,
that tiny little punk-a-lunk,
then yawns contentedly and flies away,
or that’s at least what experts say.
It has orange stripes upon its side
and pinkish eyes 12 inches wide.
Its tail is green and full of scales;
its wings stretch out like flowing sails.
It snuggles with you while you sleep
and is as soft as a lurpa-sheep,
though if you ever try to peep,
the punk-a-lunk will start to weep
and will not stop its little cry
until the sun is in the sky.
But should you be content to wait
with jibble cores laid out as bait
and never even move or peek
the punk-a-lunk will kiss your cheek,
and in the morning you might see
it roosting in a nearby tree.
It will not grant a wish or speak
but should your way appear too bleak,
fear not, little one, though your path may wend,
or the whole world seem ripe to end;
all wounds of life belief will mend,
so the punk-a-lunk is your best friend.

a question

are poems ensconced somewhere inside my mind
like some hidden treasure I’m trying to find

or demons we summon with blood sacrifices
an addiction we feed with the rest of our vices

from erudite sex after months of gestation
or some kind of socially safe masturbation

are they sculpted completely in only a moment
or are we shaping slowly and don’t even know it

is a poem a seedling becoming a tree
or some captive bird that we have to set free

for some, I suppose, it’s a source of contention
but I think that most poems start out as a question.

Gwiggle Pie Soup

First you take a giant pot
Then fill it with water, piping hot
Combine with two whole ears of corn
And half a t-shirt that’s been gently worn
Taste with old can on a broom for a ladle
Then mix in tomatoes smashed flat on a table
Add orange and apple pie juice to the broth
Then stir the whole mess with an old stiff washcloth
You throw in you sister when the water is cold
Plus three-year-old cheese that is covered with mold
Then spill the whole gwiggle pie soup on the floor
Take the can off the broom and sweep it all out the door
Then sit back and relax, my good chef, you deserve it
Your work is all done before you even serve it!
For you know the best part about gwiggle pie soup?
You don’t have to eat it—because it eats you.


This was a fun poem to write because I didn’t do it alone. My silliness rubs off a lot on my kids, and my three-year-old started telling me about this crazy idea she had for a thing called “gwiggle soup.” The “pie’ part came later, as I egged her on, asking her questions and taking notes of the ingredients on my phone.

My Bug-a-boo


I couldn’t find my bug-a-boo,
and I’d looked all around.
I tore up the kitchen and bathrooms too
and picked up the toys off the ground.

I folded the laundry and then did a load,
being careful to check every shirt
I stomped on the trash till I thought it’d explode
and vacuumed up all of the dirt.

I turned my pockets inside out
and emptied them all on the floor.
That she could fit in there I highly doubt,
but I had to check just to be sure.

My bug-a-boo was hiding from me,
that much was perfectly clear,
so I set up a trap that said “bubble gum – free,”
but my bug-a-boo never appeared.

And just when I thought I’d lost my mind,
I checked up on top of my head.
She wasn’t there, but I must be blind
because she was asleep in my bed.