Poem for the Right and for the Wrong + Other Poems

Poem for the Right and for the Wrong 

In the Spring

everything is names

and numbers

messages sent

at the same time

and the way

the most simple ‘hello’

can sound so familiar

when I’m on my porch


for all of May

with the songs

about songs

saying something

about turning

my back

on a friend

and me trying to figure

who I was turning on more

after all was said

with not much done

it was only me

alone on my porch

in spite of

that white bird

that blue shirt

all of this after

the long slow thaw

and how we danced

through those months

of too-short days

there’s no such thing

as wasted time

and even though

I never did find out

if you could slow down

the clock

I don’t believe

in broken hearts anymore

not on days like this

with everything so hot

like blood in the sun

and so much living and dying

while the grass just keeps on


and the clouds

look like they’re trying

to rain

I’ll just keep telling the story

of the two copperheads

that my father killed

in the woodpile on a Sunday

while the pear trees

smelled like sex

and the bees buzzed on

like it was nothing

like it was nothing

like it was nothing

under those skies

on that finally quiet day

in June

when it just didn’t matter

all that much


what I claimed to choose.


Today, without ceremony,

sans sentiment

I tore down the Hand of God


or at least started to anyway,

I left the frame

for another day,

another afternoon.



just cleaning up

an old mess I made.

Broken glass and the rust

of a yesteryear righteousness

the chicken wire

drawing blood

the hardware cloth

the nails

in a skeleton

of rotted wood

there in the Northwest corner

of my yard

which was,

years ago,

a beautiful place

and is still a beautiful place

though in a different way,

a far more moldering way.

Today, without ceremony,

without a single photo,

I peeled away the splintering waves

pushed the boat from where it sailed

atop the frame

and felt pleased

when it shuddered and cracked

upon hitting the ground

tearing a limb from the maple

as it fell,

in a great feat



I pushed down

what I had once pushed up

and the children were just as delighted

to see it destroyed,

as they were when I raised it from the ground,

over my head,

and pushed, pushed,

up toward the sky.


“This is fun,” my son called,

as he smashed the boat apart

there on the muddy ground,

without ceremony.

Formation Song

These raindrops,

half-hearted until I really listened,

sound out a serious rhythm

a march to war,

a grand rally,

a big game

something more important than anything

that this day

just beginning – damp and lazy,

would seem to have in its plans

But, on the old metal sawhorse

whose only work now

‎is to patiently hold back the Calycanthus

and to slowly rust

in the corner of the yard

a movement is mounting

a syncopation found

in the hapless fall of water

being pulled back into the earth

doing the only thing it can do

when it finds the edge of the roof

which is to dumbly drop

with no knowing and no intent

And, oh, surprise

it becomes

a battle hymn

steady and certain

for this morning that is full

of quiet, whole-hearted falls

and almost unnoticeable journeys

back to where we belong.

An Imperfect Sonnet for a Dying Mother

How can I tell you, my dying mother

that you will turn to a bright comet soul

upon death, when the body becomes other

a wish to stay is the most futile goal

Your gaze to the edge of the field is long

hands clasped tightly, holding luminous ropes

“What?” she says, “I will miss life. Is that wrong?”

the mortal’s love spans all lands of false hopes

Yet, I am certain that with final breath

you will see, your eyes untethered at last

it’s true: the dead miss nothing upon death

we all become like comets, light and fast

The falling star does not cling to the night

even unseen, it shines then dies bright

To say you are the bones of your old hands

metacarpals, nails bent, a dying liver

the blood and substance of ancestral lands

in veins that cross flesh branched as a river

to call yourself by the knots of your spine

looking in the mirror at the face you know

not catching reflections, simple lines

the arrow fallen away from the bow

You are convinced that the name they gave you

bundled mass of cells and new beating heart

is somehow yours eternal and most true

from which you can and never will part

Your real name is a whisper on warm wind

The Scientist’s Lobotomy

Did you look inside her

at that place

where you imagined

all those demons, that disease?

Was she split open

like a shell

for its soft fruit

to be examined

by the stainless tines

of science?

What did you find, in that shimmering inside?

Was it not so dark as you thought it might be?

Did you see, there in the folds, the pits that you pictured?

Did you find

what you expected

empires of rot and lesion?

Did you swim

in the swamps

tucked into the coasts between

this region and that region,

get lost in the tangles 

like cities on a roadmap?

Or was it softer, smoother…perfect?

Did the gentle pink edge remind you of a shell

that you once picked up from the shallows of the ocean?

Did the salt on your lips taste like waves?

There were patterns in the sand and you traced them

as mountains.

You saw the pools, your eyes reflected against the sky reflected …and you knew the truth.

You found it in that shell that held the sunset.

That soft slick pink and bruise

of grey and blue

that felt, to you,

soft like your mother

could never be.

For a moment, the whole world was there

and your finger felt

the sound inside

like music.

It’s so easy to forget

that you wanted to live

inside that place

where the ocean roared

against your ear

for you alone to hear.

When you looked inside 

did you see

the landscape of her memory?

Was the universe in there?

Did it look like sand?

…or just a small segment 

of tissue asleep

that you carved out

and placed on a scale, 

as though this matter 

could be weighed?

Was it barely alive at all?

Tell me, what was the smell of her, 

in that deep

dark opening

that you made?

Did you find, tucked into a crenellated warmth, 

the place where her voice 

was born?

You never heard it.

She never spoke.

You never listened?

You’ve forgotten

which came first and what it was

that you were looking for

in the first place

in that space 

behind her closed eyes.

Do you see that, even sleeping, her mouth looks like a bow?

You have no way of knowing 

that as a child 

she sang the same song

over and over again

because it made her happy,

made her heart lift up to the clouds,

spirits spinning melody. 

Tell me, when you pulled

the two halves apart

did they make

any noise at all?

Tell me, what did you see inside?

Did you find God?

…or did God find you?