Monday, August 29, 2011

My Last Will and Testament

To Macbeth:

I leave my paranoia;
always tugging 
at the hem of my slacks,
as I brush past
the puddling rain.

To Juliet:

I leave my romance,
my passion,
my name;
May you always 
speak aloud
among the stars
and remember 
how to love.

To Yeats:

I leave my manhood,
(my russet brow);
the shaved stuffings
creating my 
masculine gait,
and all other things
that dance upon the level shore
underneath all the 
wandering stars.

To Mr. Holmes:

You shall receive...
(well, if you are reading this,
then you have already deduced
your inheritance).

To Dr. Watson:

I leave my desire 
to capture greatness
with pen and paper
and an eye 
toward truth.

To Superman:

I leave justice,
my strength,
and a need 
to do what is right.

To Mr. Collins:

I leave
my poetry
(you will know what to do).

To Mr. Hughes:

I leave the moon,
jazz beats,
hot, Harlem nights,
but most importantly,
my dreams.

To Mr. Whitman:

I leave,
body electric,
soul sewn into 
rich earth;
scent of lilac,
hope for the future,
a belief in myself.

To Hamlet:

I leave my loneliness,
the indecision,
which plagued me
in life;
my cowardice,
my conscience.
I am off to the undiscovered country.

To My Beloved Children
(To be equally divided):

I leave it all:
Sherlock and Watson,
leaves of grass,
Juliet and passionate love,
Langston Hughes,
Billy Collins,

Listen to music;
be romantic,
unyielding in your beliefs.

Listen to your mother;
be kind,
and wiling to cry.

Take it all
and be you;
be wonderful;
just be.

To My Loving Wife:

What can I give?

There is one thing
left to give;
that, which you do not want:

Remember me
utterly preposterous 
and in love.

Sometimes it will feel like
you need to be two,
Don't--they already have me

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Call to Everyone

When I first started this blog in 2005, my intention was to "publish" all of my poetry;  I wanted a more formal place for all of those words I had written on napkins, journal margins, backs of menus, etc...  More importantly, though, I wanted feedback.

As the comments came, I began to realize that my poems were not finished (I never, actually, thought of them as finished).  My posts were constantly being read and re-worked and reworded and rewritten.  It humbled me. It made me a better writer.  It made me a better reader.  I wanted to share my feedback for other writers/bloggers.

The plateau came about a year later.  I had run out of poems, and people had run out of comments.  I tried posting various things, but no one really noticed.  So, I stopped posting.

I never stopped writing, though.

Now, five years later, I'm blogging again, looking for those same connections to other writers.  Except this time, I no longer want to use my blog as just a publishing tool.  I want reflective, metacognitive writing... not just my own, but others' thoughts as well. I want people to offer analysis that will articulate a deeper understanding or relationship to my writing.  I want people to synthesize and help create nothing but great writing.

So, I'm sending out a call to everyone.  Whether you follow this blog or not, start writing.  Start commenting.  Start analyzing.  Start reflecting.  Just start.

Let's surround ourselves with writers and writing.  Let's write!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Poem for my Son

I now know why
I spent evening
after evening
reading "Where the Sidewalk Ends"
to my wife's swollen belly;
each night
for nine months,
I traveled to the place where the sidewalk ends.

The soft, white grass
flickering and shining in the crimson son.
The peppermint wind blowing in my face
reminds me of
my father and
Double-mint gum.

I spent those nights,
before there was no sleep,
memorizing this place, this time,
captured by Shel,
so that now,
fifteen months later,
before bed,
I can continue reading
from memory;
after my son has pulled the book
from my hands and
declared, "Ahh done!"

I can still take him down
those dark, winding streets,
past the asphalt flowers,
hand in hand,
walking with a walk that is measured and slow.
I can lead my son
to the place
where those chalk-white arrows go.
I can lead my son
to the place
he already knows.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I'm teaching my students
They seem to enjoy them,
like a new fruit
that takes a minute before
they realize
it's sweet.

The lesson as stuck
inside me,
and will not leave,
like an unwanted houseguest
2 days past due.

I can't stop thinking in similes!

The road before me
stretches like pulled taffy,
sprinkled with white stretch-marks.

The sofa is soft,
as a good melon
(I know that one is overused!)

I fear tomorrow's lesson:


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Idea is Gone

Of course!

The idea is gone;
slipped from my memory
like a sliver of moonlight
sneaking between the shades
casting an ominous glow
on the bedspread.

If only I had a pen,
pencil, crayon, marker,
stone tools and a rock!
ANYTHING! to capture
a possible poem.

Perhaps it will come back
to visit me
in the night, and
see me sleeping soundly,
with the yellow sliver
across my face.

He will smile as he stands in the doorway,
then turn from me,
to visit someone

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lady Death

Why is Death
always portrayed
as a man:
cloaked in dark, heavy fabric,
probably with a hood,
wearing a long, black coat,
streaked with rain,
stepping out of a cab
on a dark city night
as if punctual for an appointment?

I see Death
as a beautiful
long, blonde hair,
(kissed with sunlight)
rosy cheeks,
full, red lips
slightly parted
as if tasting a slice
of ripe cantaloupe.

She sits in a cafe,
perhaps in Italy,
but more possibly in
Seattle or Maine,
waiting for a lover,

sipping a latte.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

3-2-1 Sentences

Here is an exercise I have done with my students to enhance their sentence fluency.  We all know how dull it is to read sentences that are the same length and/or begin with the same thing: And then... or I went...

They are called 3-2-1 sentences.  The idea: Start with a long sentence and work your way down to a short sentence--even a one-word sentence; and try to accomplish it in just three sentences.  I have also heard them called reverse raincoat sentences because you can go 1-2-3 with the same basic idea.

Here are a few of my own attempts:

I walked down the long hallway looking for the right door leading me out to my freedom.  I tried one door, then another.  Locked.

Boys.  There are so many boys in my class.  Sometimes it's hard to imagine quieting down a room full of rambunctious boys.  

The man mysteriously emerged from the dark shadows  repeated between the yellowish ponds of light formed by sporadic street lamps.  Slowly, he looked around for his rendezvous.  Late.

I think this exercise has potential for poetry, as well.  You can take these sentences and focus on line breaks as the poem moves.  For example, take my last example:

The man
mysteriously emerged 
from the dark shadows--
repeated between yellowish ponds
of light
formed by sporadic street lamps.

he looked around 
for his 


Just a thought...

Writing Down the Fly

I have locked myself in my office with a vicious fly.  I'm not one to sit idly by and let this buzzing annoyance flit about the room distracting me into craziness.  So, I have decided to take a more active approach.  Fly, you will become my muse.... and then, I will hunt you down and kill you!

Locked together
once more,
I wait for you to slow
and land
and wait for your
sweet death.

The silence
of your landing,
a reprieve from confusion,
only mocks me more.

No sound,
no idea where you are,
but in this room.



When it is over,
I feel your static
quivering a bit
in the tissue.
On last buzz
before I crunch
your body between
thumb and forefinger.

You fought well.

Hey, I'm not claiming to be Poe, or Dickinson, or Yeats, but I write what is around me.... even if it is crappy writing, at least I am writing again.  Right?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Life is Good

I met a man today who related a story of how he lost is pinky finger.  He prefaced the story with, "this is my daily reminder that life is good."  I hope I can paraphrase correctly.

I was rock climbing with my then 8-year-old daughter.  We were hiking a bit and had stopped to rest at on overlook.  It was gorgeous.  My daughter need to go to the bathroom, so I had her walk behind some rocks to squat.  Unfortunately, being 8 years old, she was getting pee all over herself.  I surveyed the surroundings and suggested, "why don't you just hold on to this rock and sit backward."

She obeyed and started to urinate again.  Suddenly, the rock began to slide forward.  I grabbed the boulder and tried lifting it, but it came crashing down on top of my daughter's head.  I thought I had killed her.  She was bleeding and screaming.  With whatever strength I had left, I lifted the boulder just enough to get her free.  Unfortunately, my pinky finger was crushed under the weight of the boulder.

My daughter walked away with only a few scrapes and bruises.  My finger, crushed, required multiple surgeries, but after the fifth one, I opted to have doctors amputate it.  The finger just wasn't working properly.  

So, I now have a daily reminder that life is good!

I'm sure the shock on my face from his story was clear.  He had obviously accepted his reminder about how precious life is.  I was left thinking, why do we even need these types of reminders?  Can't we just have a little scare to shake us back into not taking things for granted.

I guess some people just have to lose a finger so that others (like me) can hear the tale and be thankful that I have a healthy household with 100 attached, functional digits.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


There have been a lot of things I forgot in my five-year absence from the blogosphere.  As I return to sending out my writing into this void, things are slowly coming back to me.

I had forgotten the power of music.

Last night, I went to a concert: Parachute opening for Goo Goo Dolls.  It was an amazing show, full of good sets of great music.  However, the thing I enjoyed the most was watching (and feeling) how, as each song reverberated through the audience, people from all walks of life transformed.

There were fat people, skinny people, teenage girls, pre-teen girls, parents, old-timers, kids, adults, groupies, obsessed Goo Goo Doll fans, and people new to Parachute.   All came together last night to listen to some music.  It may sound strange, but I was surprised at how much fun people had.... even the ones who didn't seem to "dig" the music initially.  It only took a few songs before EVERYONE was having a good time.

The sad part.... the really difficult part, was watching the lights come back on and people exiting the space to re-enter reality.  It was almost instantaneous; people went from smiles to a determined visage attempting to navigate the arena and parking lot.  Why were people so eager to return to the outside world?  Didn't they want to hold on to those earlier feelings brought on my listening to music.

The transformation back to "normal" was sad to watch.  Girls who were bubbly and excited were now serious  and indifferent to what lay outside the arena.  Guys who jammin' to the concert were now just stoic and ready to leave.... perhaps ready to go to bed and possibly even work the next day.

On the ride home, our own change was more gradual.  We reminisced a bit, as if the concert were such a long time ago.  However, by the time we entered the highway, it was quiet and decompressing.

So, how can we hold onto that feeling?  How can you re-enter the world still with a piece of concert fun?  Is listening to the radio enough?  I don't think so.  Maybe I need to go to another concert to figure it out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Eight Ways of Looking at a Tennis Ball

(inspired by Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird")
sits quietly

A moss-covered
sits quietly

The grooves of
the globe
swirl around

Our Earth
sits in the dish
of space
surrounded by shadows

It screams 
in pain,
round, hurtful

A round tear,
spilling onto 
the table
balanced and poised.

A giant marble
in excited 

Motion stopped
in green

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just One More Chapter...

"Just one more chapter,' she thought.

Alice knew that there was only one more chapter, but she just couldn't seem to keep her eyes open.  Now, as she lay in bed, trying to finish the book, she thought back to earlier that day.

Alice usually walked home from school the same way every day.  Today, however, something unseen seemed to pull her down Tenth Street.  Sure, it was a longer route, but something was appealing about cutting through the city, and using this alley.

As she walked further, the sun seemed to slowly dim.  At the time, she didn't think much of it, but looking back, she knew the light was disappearing.... being replaced by something unnatural.

She came to the bookstore.  The large oak doors were carved with characters from Alice in Wonderland.  The whole store was out of place, stuck between two empty parking garages.  Alice didn't think twice as she entered.  The tinkling of the bell echoed off the damp, concrete walls announcing her arrival.

Alice looked around slowly trying to take it all in.  That's when she saw Mr. Linden.

Mr. Linden was an old man.  He was an old man.  He hunched a bit and ached as he walked.  Despite his withered body, his eyes were still sharp and twinkled when he cracked a smile.

"Welcome to my little store.  Can I help you find anything in particular?" rasped Mr. Linden.

Alice could smell his musty breath and see that he was missing three teeth.

"No, thank you," replied Alice.  "I'm just looking."

"Well, look at this!"

Mr. Linden pulled out a hard, leather-bound book.  It was much larger than the other books in the store.  As Alice looked at its cover, she heard Mr. Linden explain.

"No one has ever finished this book.  I guess it is just too intense for some people.   You, my lady, look different.  Perhaps you might like to take a peek!"

Alice began to open the book when Mr. Linden snatched it away.

"Better not!  I changed my mind.  I don't think  this book's for your.  Why don't you look at those magazines over there in the corner."

Mr. Linden pointed his shaky finger toward the magazine stand.  Alice turned to look and them looked back at Mr. Linden's counter.  He was gone.  The book remained.

Alice knew she shouldn't have taken it, but she had to.

Now, lying in bed, she recalled Mr. Linden's words, "No one has ever finished this book."

"Just one more chapter," she thought.

This was a writing exercise I modeled for the class.  I have the class choose a picture from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

It is a great set of photos with a caption.  The kids' writing is always impressive.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Writing Exercise--The Mini-Memoir

I knew I could trust him.  His grizzled, graying beard, corduroy pants, and woolen vest, all spoke of a trustworthy mentor.  As I stood there, that cold November morning, I knew that whatever I said would be understood and taken in the strictest of confidence.  He walked up to me, his hands in his pockets, shuffling his feet across the wet grass.  A waft of air came up from behind him sending a smell of coffee and Old Spice my way.  When he got to where I was standing, he leaned against the hood of my car and asked, "So, what's up?"

I hesitated, but then felt the warmth of his brown blazer brush up against my arm.  The jolt of his familiar presence erased any fear I had.

I spoke.

The words came smooth and uninterrupted.  I could see that he was listening, really listening.  His brown eyes fixed on me. He didn't stare, but took in my whole presence.  Occasionally, he would not or smile when I made a joke, but the whole time, he listened.

When he finally spoke, his warm voice melted across my face.


This was a writing exercise I did with my students.  They had to choose a poster in my room, specifically a character from the poster, and write a descriptive mini-memoir.  We all had to then guess which poster/character they chose.  Can you guess mine?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

And So It Begins...

"If you want to be a writer, write."--Neil Gaiman 

Well, I tried that and found that I ran out of stuff to write about.  I think Neil also said something to the effect of: if you don't have anything to write about, go live your life---get a job or something.

It has been five years since my last posted poem.  For any of you out there who actually followed my writing, you were probably not surprised that the poems stopped coming.  I pretty much wrote about my childhood, first love, sex, the death of my mother, and my family (not necessarily in that order).  I reached a point when I felt  that I was writing the same poem, same line, over and over again.  So, I stopped.

I didn't stop writing, just stopped writing poetry.  I still continued to write next to and in front of my students every day: memoirs, editorials, short stories, expository pieces, etc...

So, here I am---five years later---ready to begin again.  I've turned thirty, had three kids, and moved to suburbia.  Now is as good of a time as ever to begin again.

And so it begins...

Word Cloud

Wordle: Undiscovered Poems

I know it has been quite a while since I last posted any poetry.  
Maybe this word cloud of all of the poems on this blog will inspire some more writing.