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.
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.
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.
Two little girls went out for a walk
in the chilly autumn air,
and they gathered handfuls of leaves as they talked,
and the leaves were as gold as their hair.
They followed the path that cut through the park
and wound with a slow little creek.
They never minded the frost on the bark
or the cold wind that bit at their cheeks.
They fed the ducks leaves from the withering trees,
but the ducks didn’t seem to care
I said with a sigh that ducks didn’t eat leaves,
but the girls only wanted to share.
I measure myself in lines of poetry,
and some seasons I don’t amount to much.
If poems were leaves and I a tree,
I’d be a sorry, patchy thing,
full of bursting, sun-bleached buds
with a dry pile ready for the fire at my feet.
And a passer-by might ask himself
(or another with whom he wandered the yard)
if this blasted thing were a tree at all
or something only trying to be;
and should they cut me down and count my rings
they’d find me older than some sprouting trees
that blossom always in the early spring—
but though my rings be many and my leaves be few,
I mean to see this winter through.
We raced from porches to hedges,
dodging headlights as we ran,
laden with paper-filled packs,
and on the lookout for glowing doorbells.
Or sometimes we just wandered,
treading familiar paths
made mysterious now in damp darkness
and lit sporadically by the fading stars
and the neon promise of Main Street.
Yellow sentinels on the corners
were the spotlights of our fantasies
and the guard towers of our prisons.
Our future seemed brighter
when our other concerns had gone to bed.
Our music was the rhythm
to which we lived our lives and
a curfew was a challenge that we answered
with white unraveling spools of angst.
Drugs clear bloodshot eyes
for work but not tears in the
eyes of those I’ve hurt.
After you’ve decided,
you don’t linger on the edge,
talking about it and
gazing into the blackness.
You tell yourself you’re not going to do it
to put your mind at ease—
then race toward the edge and jump
so that by the time you change your mind
it’s too late to do anything about it.
It’s a brisk morning,
the kind that only comes on the cusp of spring
where the sun is high and warm and
burns the frost off the greening grass
but hasn’t yet burned it from the air.
“It’s cold,” I tell her as I go out.
She pushes hard on the screen door
and steps barefoot onto the concrete,
holding her arms up toward me
and trying to dance away the cold.
She’s still in her shrinking, mismatched PJs.
There’s a hole in her left pant leg.
“Get me get me!”
I pick her up and carry her with me to the shed,
showing her how the latch on the fence works,
letting her open it when we come back through.
“Daddy, what dat?”
She points at the swing set.
We found it on a yard sale page,
dog-chewed and sun-stained
I scavenged and swapped out parts for her,
but winter hasn’t let her play on it yet.
“That’s your new swing set. Wanna try it out?”
I put her on the see-saw.
“Hold on tight, sweetheart.”
I push her as the wind blows.
The sunlight bleaches her hair,
and her laughter mingles with the bird songs.
Tomorrow is the Equinox, but
for me it’s spring already.
I down another can of Dew
or something else to get me through.
I do it so much I bleed it,
no, it ain’t that I need it,
not that I gotta have it
like some kind of relapsing addict;
I do it just to feel okay
to try and take the edges off
the weight I carry every day.
Lock it away for a minute
knock rubber wedges up in it
and take a moment to breathe
but some how inevitably
it sinks it’s teeth into me,
and I freak eventually
the way these pills boil in me.
I lay there seething and shaking,
I’m breathing too fast and pacing,
eyes on the ceiling and glazing
I start to bawl and go crazy
gotta find my mind cause I lost it
my entire body’s exhausted
watching the clock and I’m waiting
tick tock my drive is deflating
and then I’m stuck here debating
if I’m gonna keep taking these things
the pharmacist’s making for me
but it seems voice that would scream
was also the one that could sing.
I guess it’s working
’cause now I can’t hear a single thing
except a whisper,
that panicked voice can no longer yell
and the lights flicker
I guess they silenced my cries for help.