A handful of poems from the last few months. And some art.

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Waiting Through the Winter

March is the third month
The eleventh is November
One plague has been ended
But the other has new members
We wait for clearance months away
While vaccines get produced
We brace for colder winter days
Though the holidays seduce
Some gather into groups unsafe
Rebellious and without fear
While others hide away from all
Isolated and minds unclear
There is no perfect answer
To this year of perfect storm
Sequester just a few months more
And avoid the misinformed.

Continuation

Is it time to celebrate
Or time to heal?
Is it time to move forward
Or time to stay present?
Is it over yet
Or has it just begun?

In a year that dissolved
Day by day
We have reached
A solution
And now we begin
Accounting for all the problems

Foundations and aspirations
One foot and the other
Each person clearing:
The path becomes obvious
Only in retrospect
All that we’ve ignored
The invisible and divisible
Whose place will this be
Tomorrow
Whose place will this be
Today
We have woven just enough
To cover ourselves
For now.

In the Balance

How is a democracy reborn?
How is gravity tested
without apples and trees?

We have never learned
The degree of mystery
Surrounding us.

What goes up
Often comes back down
Even if a yellow balloon
Drifts off over the treetops.

With good hearts
We rarely hope for death
A human instinct: value life
But with this one…

The humanity once overflowing
Now draining as we stumble
Toward November.
The year, not yet complete
A force leaving nothing
As it was before.

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Excavate

Wait your turn
Monday morning
Limbo idle
Redemption center
Drop little girl
Soon little friends
Drop 1,400 cans
Into big bins
While the crew
Digs up the backyard
No gold no bodies
No bones buried
Preparing for a fence
Keep water out
And family in
Keep space clean
A diagonal line
Connecting or keeping away?
Neighbor.

Imagine again
Now tangled vines gone
Growth unwanted
She inches higher
Fence six feet, enough to cover
Towering Redwood and it’s crows
Will have us looking up
Imagine again
Mornings strolling here
As squirrels fling
Themselves onto branches
Days as they unspool
September to December
January to June
As we wait
For our feet
To meet solid ground.

Creation

And on another day
He had an idea
What about instead of resting
He spent his hours
Recording conversations
With friends and unknown friends
Trying to dig down
To the bottom of things
Or at least to dig where
Less digging had been done.

The thrill of something new
To chew on until his teeth
Cracked and splintered
To occupy and satisfy,
A new project
That may or may not
Be the thing that propels him
Out of solitary half-thoughts
And into connectivity.

The beginning is always free-form
It’s the second and third steps
That create a structure
But building anything
From the ground up
Is challenged by the unknowns
In addition to gravity
That bastard pulling down at us
When we dare to leap.

Amber

We are suspended
Without gravity
In this amber
Or so it seems
This is amber
Not oxygen only
But carbon, oxygen
And hydrogen
Mixing melodically
Until the time stops
The world pauses
The soft buzz
Of Artificial light
Illuminating us
In our fractured states.

The suspense of
Slow-motion counting
Vote by precious vote
Colors on a map
Borders seemingly real
Red and blue make purple
Pastel nation
Never together
Always only fragments
The path to hope
Is the path to freedom
And the path
Always needs clearing.
And the counting
And the mixing
And the waiting.

Of Our Nature

We are only generous
When connected
We are only generous
When listening
We are only generous
When aware
We are only generous
When thinking beyond
This moment.

Wish I

Wish I could say
I’m ready for sleep
But tonight I have no choice

Wish I could say
It all makes sense
But whose is that quiet voice?

Wish I could say
Been here before
But nothing seems familiar

Wish I could say
We’re going to be fine
But light is getting dimmer

Wish I could say
Doors open and close
But some will stay ajar

Wish I could say
Something right up close
But will you listen from afar?

Invented Senses

Not just sight
More than taste or smell
Another sense
She’s got a fever
First in a long while
Trying not to get ahead
Just needs rest
We are contained
But the winter is coming
We slow-play the days
Wait for better news
Coming in the spring.

Upon Preschool Pick-Up

Upon preschool pick-up
We learned that Brandon
Stole the fire truck
And that the teacher
Gave a big hug
Then we felt
A little better.
We coached RH
To defend her possessions.
At a red light,
Daddy turned back
To the car seat and stole the book.
“What do you tell Daddy?”
“No, Daddy!
I’m using that! You have to wait!”
She never hesitates with us,
But Brandon must be a clever thief.

Upon preschool pick-up
The dogs waited
Patiently panting
In the front seat
While Mama retrieved RH
Daddy sipped sparkling water
And yawned.

Upon preschool pick-up
We drove to the parking lot
Near the open field
Behind the Costco
Where the dogs
Are allowed to be dogs
Where RH runs
To a bench, climbs up
And unlocks her snack box
Sitting by shimmering water
Low sun blinding us
Tiny pretzels
Shredded mozzarella

Upon preschool pick-up
RH wanders her own way
Wanting into the muddy water
But this is no beach
No swimming pool
She spots a mischief dog
He slips among the muck
Sniffing ducks as they scoot
Out of range.

Upon preschool pick-up
She wanders farther away
From the pack
Eventually claiming
A gargantuan upturned tree root
As the proper place to build
An imaginary fire
She gathers kindling
Refuses to leave
Must be bribed
“Have to make my fire!”
Finally, Daddy calls Mama
Who has strolled back
With the old limping fella
And the younger round one.
Mama’s voice is enough
To coax the young one with her firesticks
Back to the dusty land at her feet then off
Daddy carries her and she’s up
On shoulders again.

After Dinner

Take dinner’s dishes from the table
Place them in the sink, rinse them
Pile them in the dishwasher
Thank the universe for dishwashers
The apartment without one
For those eight years
Another life ago…
I maintain my equilibrium
When it comes time to gather
The counter’s odds and ends
Fill the machine up
Set it to wash.

The next morning
I involve little RH
A naming game of sorts
Returning clean dishes
To their hiding spots
“Blue plate”
“Big glass bowl”
And some to their usual
Spot on the drying rack
For easy access
So much silverware
Thousands of forks
Back to their spots
In the silverware tray.

Something about
!Tupperware!
And I’m raving mad
The way nothing seems to match
The way the dishwasher
Leaves it wet and unfinished
Always needs time to dry,
Stacked awkwardly
On the counter, cackling.

We are intimately familiar
These days, staying home
Nearly all the time
The grooved circles and squares
Taunt me
I take a deep breath
My lungs fill with plastic.

Heads in Boxes on Screen

Since April
Classroom is a computer
I learn how to teach through it.
Advantage of being young enough
Old enough, resource-aware
It is not impossibly strange
After a while
But lost are the varieties
Of laughter in a real room
Lost is the silence
Of thinking time…gone in the ether.

Humor without feedback
Is a ball dropping down
Into a bottomless pit.
My job is to teach English
And I think I am
I call on students
Then click
“Ask to unmute.”
To those whose box is black
Name in white text
I say their names, asking, “Are you with us?”
They read a sentence
Attempt to find the correct verb
But there is no correct verb
For this simulation.
Floating — not in water, but deep space — comes closest

Our silent attempts
Day after night
Night after day
After I send the students
To practice conversation
In breakout rooms

Leaving me alone
To collect my pieces
I send the questions
One at a time
“How old were you
When you got your first job?”
Later, a goodnight message
To the students
Who’ve remained.

Now I send words
Through the phone
Asking a friend
If he’s ready
For the screen
And we prepare
To ponder and laugh
And guess aloud
At the mysteries.

What Went Well

Writing in the morning
After the drop-off
And after the dog walk
And after the emails
While drinking the new coffee
The writing in the morning
About the way time
Is a cosmic joke.
That went well.

Audio project
After the long pause
And after the doubts
And after the confusions
While drinking the refilled cup
Of coffee after lunch
The audio project
About viewing
The human condition
From far above the Earth.
That went well.

Evening class
After a week off
And after the struggle of motivation
And after the ins and outs of
The late afternoon and early evening
While sipping the tea
That cools too quickly
The evening class.
That went well.

Phone call
After the difficult few days
And after the psychological ebbs and flows
And after the night of better rest
While leaning back in the chair
Confiding with a friend
The phone call.
That went well.

What Sticks, What Falls

Wake quickly
Old coffee
Granola and strawberries
Blue car
Drop off hugs

Missed student on screen
Write long email about humans
And groups and splintering off
Phone appointment with therapist
What is trust trust trust
Never saw it growing up
Intimidating or intimate or irritate

Coffee Eat lunch
Employer-mandated TB test due
Bartleby prefers not to
For a world in which students share space
Not a spot on a computer screen
How would one transmit TB through Zoom?

Eyes heavy want nap
Drive park greeted at clinic prick arm
Any cough, fever, sense of sanity?
Drive home eyelids
Short nap something

Wake drive pick-up hug
Home walk block sky orange fade
Not much hungry but eat something
Goodnight hug
Should bake one brownie
Every night until the end
Or maybe muffins again
Enter garage or classroom or chair
Open meeting click
Teach or talk
Or words and screen and
How to ask questions
And how to listen
And write what you hear
And spelling doesn’t even matter now
How do you teach a language
Without hearing them
Each say the words
Echo chamber echo
Chamber echoes.

Then a friend
And the mess of life
Swept into a pile
Your dad my dad whose dad
And the lingering layers
Of the psyche
Linguini tossed at the wall
What sticks, what falls.

Writing. Poetry. Personal Essays. On the NBA, MLB, media, journalism, culture, teaching and humor.

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