November 23 Poems

I find him sitting alone

in an empty room;

I’m just enjoying the silence,

he says. What could a little

boy know about silence.

When my world tilts

I search for silence

amidst the tumult,

as things come crashing

down around me.

I hold on, while the earth

undulates beneath me,

until, finally, things are

still, and quiet again.

In the dead of night

I steal downstairs and

walk barefoot on the

wood floors listening

to the silence, shivering

a little; then the furnace

ticks and moans and

begins to exhale. Outside

the shaggy junipers stand

silently staring back at me,

and the moon casts

milky shadows on the patio.

I step outside, the concrete

hard and cold and the night

not so silent as I wish.

The low thrum of the city,

a speeding car, and a far off

siren wailing disrupt the night air.

I wait for the silence of the woods,

where the night is only

interrupted by the wind

in the trees and the low

murmur of a distant stream.


The kitchen smells
Of spice cloves
Nutmeg cinnamon ginger
We eat them
Throughout the year
In apple butter
Apple cider
Muffins and bread
But the true marriage is spice
To pumpkin joined
Once a year
As we prepare
The pumpkin’s marriage
Feast the butter
Has been cubed cut
Into flour rolled
Into a glorious cold disk
We planned this meal
In May we pushed
Seeds into the backyard
We waited and watered
Watered and waited
Until the vines turned
Hard and wheat colored
The pumpkin adorned
Our table September to
November we adored it
Always knowing when
We were most grateful
The pumpkin would be severed
The brain scooped
The seeds separated
Boiled and roasted
The skull roasted
On it’s face, stripped
Of it’s skin and beaten
Into a heavy pulp
We’ve been staring
At this pumpkin eating it
With our eyes
The pie once devoured
Won’t satisfy
We’ll be craving
Pumpkin pie till May
Till we bury the pumpkin
Offspring like a sleeping child
We hope to raise
From the dead
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November 22 Poems

He arrives late, by train.

I pick him up at the station.

As soon as we get home,

he begins pulling books out of his bag,

and the conversation begins,

the same conversation we always have,

literature, what are you reading,

this is what I’m reading,

what do you think of Joyce?

He’s reading Portrait of the Artist,

but is already anxious to get to

Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake.

He’s no casual reader, he likes

the dense stuff, the books that

make you think, that push you

out of your comfort zone.

He asks about a Saramago book

he saw last time he was here,

so we spend fifteen minutes

searching through three different

bookshelves in two different rooms

before we find it; he snatches it

from the shelf like it’s the last donut

in the box. The conversation moves

to Marquez and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

I couldn’t get through it, something

about magical realism that’s either

too magical or too real for me.

If you don’t like it, can I have it?

I hand it over and he’s delighted.

He’s frequents the thrift shops

scouring the shelves for literature.

Last time he found a Joseph Heller book,

and another Saramago. His shelves at

home are getting heavy.

The conversation always ends with a lament,

So many books, so many good books,

and we have so little time to read.

This business of literature sustains us,

and knits us together.


I am a clay tree losing her leaves.
I live in a cave, sand on my lips,
where is water? In the darkness
I am transparent, electrocuted
by the current of the sun, anticipating
movement, aware in my imagination
of the false portrayal in the mirage
of water. I bathe and swim
in the expansive lie, relax, be still,
caught in the act of admiration.
The destination is a buzz
in my ear it amplifies
as I move closer to sky.
Telephone pole currents like slimy fish
run from worm to worm, hooked
in the hot deep static of being.
Below the pavement with its deep
rough grooves of text wait for the El Camino
to walk its tires and read. The pen
abrupt draws stripes across the shirt
of crows that live on the wire,
that cough up crickets in their dreams,
roughing their throats. They birth
hot putrid signs that smell
my mild nature and beacon.
I take the Joshua tree home, and arrange
his branches like a bowl cut. I strangle
its durable trunk as I look for the crevice
where the lizard burns inside him. In the womb
of the tree he scales the waves of heat,
consumes the dust as he bakes. The little
climber melts into something new and flows
out of the tree. I hold him in my hand
as he undulates to the crest of my fingers
and becomes a little boy. I am barren
and cauterized. I feel my nerves
teeming on the edge of the dashboard
headed to Vegas.
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November 21 Poems

I’m thinking about tamales tonight.

When I was a kid I ate them out of a can,

with ketchup. Shudder. It’s unthinkable.

I was a young fool. But I’m not thinking

about those tamales, if you could even

call them that, I’m thinking about

homemade tamales in December,

and the ritual of assembling them.

Place the damp husk in your palm,

then take spoon and spread the

moist masa, not too thick, not too thin.

It takes practice to get it just right.

Then the filling, maybe succulent

shreds of pork, a slice of jalapeno,

maybe some cheese, then wrap

them gently, snug and secure,

After the plate is heavy, they go

into the steamer, and the wait begins.

But it isn’t too bad because there is

a pot of beans on the counter,

cowboy beans, better than any

you’ve ever had, trust me, and

I could be happy eating bowl after bowl

of them—tender pink beans seasoned

with onions, garlic, cumin, bacon,

who knows what else, who cares,

they are magnificent and I’m glowing.

The tamales come out steaming,

piled high on the platter.

We dress them with fresh salsa,

and we eat too many, how can

we not. Soon we are lying

on the floor in the other room,

moaning softly, smiling, content.


Everybody’s talking to someone
I’ve never been good at chit chat
I try to look busy on my phone.
I want to call out, where’s the reader?
Which one of you is the author?
I want to buy your book, but
I don’t know your face. Instead
I look up your image,
realize you’re not here.
I look up biographies
of the people in the room
make use of the pocket
computer when social skills fail.
It must be an overly exquisite need
for a sense of belonging
that compels me to feel
solitary every time I enter a room
full of people. I might be thinking
who didn’t love you enough
to make you feel this way? I answer
myself, it’s you the stranger
I never got the courage
to speak to. Nah, that’s just insecurity.
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November 20 Poems

There’s too much angst

too much worry about what once was.

The sky tilted, the earth rocked

and we were sent sprawling

and when we got up, I didn’t

recognize where we were,

and our past slowly receded

into the hazy distance until

I could no longer make out

where we had been.

But this present is also

dim and obscured by smoke,

and looking forward is like

looking into a foggy valley,

nothing distinct, only

occasionally making out

dim outlines of mountains

and trees, but nothing distinct.

When will the fog lift?

When will we be able to see

clearly again, or do we forever

wander in this strange land

feeling our way forward

into an unknown future.


When strawberry plants’
Leaves are red
And the last few vines hang
Unable to root themselves
Before frost when unpicked
Strawberries wither like freeze
Dried fruit on the vine
When there’s only a few good
Ones left, red and firm
They’re a day or two overripe
Just the right amount of extra
Sweetness when the strawberries
In-between shriveled and extra
Sweet deceives the eyes
Before they’ve separated
From the vine, looking red but
Once plucked turn white
And pink transforming into mush
In the mouth overly sweet
As if the roots kept pumping
Sugar into them, not knowing when
To stop, the time to harvest is past
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November 19 Poems

The sounds and smells of breakfast

pull me from my warm bed.

Give me slow mornings,

I want to linger.

Mornings are not

for rushing off,

into the day.


Each plane I embark is a womb.
My heart changes vessels
when I am gone from home. I smell Lavender
and cats in Oregon, sand in my toes
at Long Beach, my first taste
of corned beef and cabbage in Virginia.
I see drama and culture in Cedar
City and hear the sound
of my voice when I workshop.
I see quiet in every place
I’ve visited. A cousin takes me to the Mall
in DC. I’m the same in every situation.

At night I push my daughter
away for trying to sleep horizontal
on my bed. Move over rover.
I hang on the edge of the bed
morning comes early. Don’t you love
the bat wings hanging from my eyes?
The picket fence mother of fecundity
puts her flock to graze outside the yard.
My little girl bleats my name all night.
Asleep in a guest best I still ache
for her kicking. I will travel

to the land of quiet next year,
then one more time, the year
after that, and again and again.
I board the euphoric plane.
I bring carry on only
for the journey of no end.
Hakuna matata. The plane sings
to me. I love looking through the oval
window. Rays of sun laser
through the clouds below me, as I wait
to descend the cloudy gate.


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November 18 Poems

Get me out of here,
Get me away from these people.
Just leave me alone.
Just leave me alone
With this delicious ice cream—
Deep, dark chocolate with mint,
And honey ice cream with smoked almonds.
It’s delicious, and now I’m so tired,
So please leave me alone.


The pianist couldn’t read music. I could
Read the fear on his face when a line
Of notes stared him down. He knew
Each distinct sound of a b c d e f g
Major sharp flat. How pleasant the sound
Of a planned life. Few are improvisers
Most want the safety of another
Composer’s melodies carefully written out.
Performers envy the composer’s genius
Their ability to create sound coming
From within filling the empty chest.
Careful planning equals mistakes equals
Diversions along the way. Planners don’t
Ride the music like he did, let it take them
In any direction. Planners follow
A predetermined course, that doesn’t sound
As fulfilling as the feeling his playing created
Of right time, right place, right here.


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November 17 Poems

Two weeks on the plateau
And I’m still struggling for breath.
At night, in my tent, I wrap my
Puffy coat around my feet,
But they remain cold all night.
We ascend slowly for hours,
Shishapangma looming in the West.
One more night in a small
Frontier town on the border.

The stern-faced border guards
Riffle through my bag looking
For books, and though they
Read no English they
Search for for the word
Tibet, and promptly
Confiscate several, including
My LP Guidebook, but leave
Another less popular one.

Then we’re descending,
For hours, down steep
Winding roads through
Rocky narrow canyons,
Descending until things
Begin to green, and the
Air grows thicker, and
I can breathe again.

Descending for hours,
The air thicker now,
I feel the humidity
Wrapping around me,
Descending into lush
Green forests, jungle-like,
Toward the low valley below,
And I can finally breathe again.


I’m thinking how
can I get out
of this room.
I don’t know where
to go. I need
to get outside. Rain
for two days.
It’s decided.
I will get wet
maybe soaked.
I accept
the imminence
of cold.


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