Every Memorial Day, the lines of this poem interrupt my thoughts, popping in at odd moments as I watch my children jump in a pool or take a bite of a burger. In eighth grade, I had to memorize a poem from a photocopied packet of famous poems as part of an English assignment. In my fuzzy memory, I am sitting at our kitchen table while my mom makes dinner.Read more.
I Am a Stalwart: Part One
The first gathering of the Stalwarts was, of necessity, an intimate one. It had been far too long since the social business of politics had occurred under the supervision of Kate Chase. Mary Todd Lincoln being of a sour disposition, and unattractive besides, the great Washington salon of the war years had not been the White House, but the Chase residence.Read more.
River of Steel
The country east of Roseville is a gentle plain of grassland and houses, tilting steadily upwards toward the Sierra Nevada. It’s a gradual climb that an automobile wouldn’t notice, but the eastbound freight labored at it, all six power units throwing thick black smoke into the afternoon sky.
In their boxcar Lynden and The Duke stood like sailors on a rolling deck — hands clasped at their backs, feet wide apart, faces thrust forward into the wind.
The northern lights have a sound, you know. Like static but grander. The electricity of eels, not machines. The first time I’d heard their song, I had just arrived at the upper reaches of Finland’s Bothnian Bay, and while standing there at the edge of the sea with the lights shimmying and quavering above me, for a moment, finally, I wasn’t staring at my feet, the pavement, or the cracks in the earth. I was actually watching, truly listening.Read more.
Bamboo Grows Straight to the Sky
Beyond the thatched eaves of the school building, the Moie River shimmered in the hazy midday sun, its green oxbows carving through steep lush mountains. From afar the refugee camp’s rows of bamboo huts, nestled among palm and banana trees, looked like a tropical paradise. Up close, the terraces were barren hard-pack dirt, the weathered shelters so close together neighbors could climb onto one another’s porches.Read more.
Not a Child’s Game
Erin goes to Coney Island. The year is 1952.
Long before the bus makes the familiar turn towards the shore, she can smell Sheepshead Bay. The saltwater, combined with steam clams and the scent of cotton candy, makes her nauseous. As they approach Coney Island, Erin looks out the window and watches the people walking along the boardwalk. The August heat hangs like a weight over the day, making everyone move in slow motion like they are stuck in wet cement.
“I don’t believe in God.”
That’s the first thing Jack Reed says in class. Not surprising really, Mickey Powell thinks. Most years there is someone, more often a guy than a girl, who wants to define the terms of engagement on the first day, to get the battle, so to speak, onto ground he felt safe on. And what do kids know about God, anyway? What does anyone know?
“You’re awake, Ronnie,” the big woman said. She was sitting at the foot of my bed. A man, decidedly less portly, was standing next to her, smiling. Who were these people? The room seemed out of focus. I couldn’t understand why they were calling me ‘Ronnie,’ when my name was Harry. And where was my lovely Monique? What in the hell was going on?Read more.
“Desecration of a Statue,” “Always Have Food in Your Pocket” and “The Spectator”
She stood tall and strong and willowy
She matched the grace of Leonardo
The clarity of Picasso
The lyrics of Wordsworth
The intensity of Milton
And the power Merit Ptah
“Home,” “Urban Garden, a love poem” and “Weil-McLain Heater”
beats seem to be growing
witnessed countless years
of each bird-wing sunrise
and sunset. Front door’s entrance
exit portal keeps tally of all
arrivals and departures.
“After Track Practice,” “Thumbs Up” and “Sunday Observance”
After track practice,
shorter by half
for the meet the next day,
you cut through the woods
for the packie on the corner.
It won’t be a wild night.
A few friends, a few beers,
grades don’t mean a thing.
“Ashes and Tears,” “Walking Daffodil (Midnight in Poet City)” and “Reanimation”
She anoints discontented worlds
her claws preening her feathers,
with soft snores tinged by night-light
Enchanted by Mexican seeds,
she exerts vulnerable chirps
from a closed, sharp-slicing beak
“Black Black Crows,” “Broken Homes” and “Poker”
Why does God send crows to mock my dawn?
They resurrect all that is wrong
with deeds standing on my shadow,
with dogs growling at my heels.
My mind, my heart, I cannot explain
a guitar left out in the rain,
or my path, my direction…
“The Eighth of July,” “Last Rites” and “York County History Lesson”
I knew that on your birthday
you would awaken in arms of unversed devotion and I would wake up face down in
the cushion of bogs
a scythe of acidic sedges
saturating gales of Wuthering Heights.
When I went to live with my three-fourths sister Dora, I was fourteen years old.
Dora and I had the same father, and our mothers were sisters. Her mother died in the flu epidemic of 1918, and a few years later Daddy married her younger sibling, my mother Isabel.
When I was four, he died, leaving nine children from two wives.
The night before the morning that Tracey’s mother left, her dad took the early train and arrived home just past six. It was an event that occurred with less frequency since Tom had become a name partner at O’Malley, Sugarman, Rizzo, and Gray. Usually, on weekdays he was gone before Tracey left for school. She didn’t see again him until nine o’clock, when he came home smelling of single malt scotch…Read more.
I still feel them, despite all that has happened. The nerve-racking drone of rickety gears straining against gravity, the anticipation of reaching the summit, the thrill of descent, Sarah squeezing my thigh with her hand as we plummet towards the ocean’s surface, the vibrant victory kiss as we pull into the coaster’s station, I still feel them all.Read more.
Kip tapped his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel. The traffic on State Route 33 had slowed to 25 MPH. Four inches of snow had accumulated and more was still coming down. The plows were busy clearing the interstates and would not get to the other highways for hours. The secondary streets would be impassable until tomorrow. He glanced at the packages on the passenger seat.Read more.
The Bet & The Dirge
I walk the orchard in my Sunday suit, black Oxfords dusted with gypsum and dirt. Ten thousand apple trees bower sans scabbed bark or a plague of beetle borers. Hard to believe the ginger dwarfs grew at all. They bulge trunks and muscle boughs heaped with green leaves and red apples. Rows even hummock deer shit without fences to keep out the wildlife that feast on the fallen fruit. It’s sweltering out.Read more.
Describe How You Feel in One Word
Left with no alternative, Kate had decided to believe in God. She prayed to him each morning on her knees.
And then this, sudden as rain.
She stood alone in their bedroom, reflected in the long mirror that had once belonged to her mother.
Here Comes a Regular
HE SHIFTS IN HIS seat atop barstool, a lean-to-sinewy build weighed down by an epic hangover. He locks a gaze on his nemesis and stews. A nonchalant simmer boils up into something resembling a care, in the presence of one who has done him wrong.
“Damn you,” he mutters, upgrading his stare to a glare in glowering at a fifth of bourbon one splash above empty.