Thursday, December 2, 2021

Good Girls Wear Tats

Living is easy with eyes closed,
misunderstanding all you see.

A dagger thrusts through 
the heart she wears on her thigh.

The blade of her left shoulder
wears a mask shedding tears while another laughs.

Roses and fire are displayed
over every curve. I try to count them all.

Sharks frenzy around her forearm.
The razor on her wrist reminds me 

that danger is everywhere.
(I have counted eleven, so far.)

I want to love like she does.
I want to be fearless, even after.

I’ve been told
that all good girls go to heaven,

A line or two from Shakespeare
twists syntax and bears witness.

From the small of her back,
scripture swears salvation.

She’s a tome that holds the answers
to everything, if only 

you study her from cover to cover.
You might find some Beatles, too.


"Good Girls Wear Tats" is published in the Ohio Poetry Association’s 2021 issue of their anthology Common Threads.


Sunday, August 1, 2021

House of Music

Our house is alive 
with your classic piano pieces
and Maxwell's electric guitar.

So far, I find it 
entirely tolerable. To be honest, 
I cherish every chord.

I am not pulling my hair out
or shoving cotton in my ears,
as predicted, 

“Air on the G String” has more to offer
than calm perspective. And 

a house filled with music
has always helped to silence
my mind's buzzing hive.


"House of Music" is published in the Summer 2021 (Vol. 47, No. 2) issue of California Quarterly.


Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Myth of Mulberries

My mother is picking mulberries again.
Yes, the real thing. I know 

I always thought they were mythical
and that they grew on bushes only

in children’s books and nursery rhymes, 
exalted every May Day

and used to teach children
basic hygiene and household chores 
in melody.

The ripe ones are edible, you know,
and they grow in huge trees.

Who would have thought it? Not I. They are

baked into 4th-of-July firecracker pies
and used to add tartness to tea.  

But unripe mulberries are toxic
and can cause wild hallucinations—

a fairytale poison apple,
the big bad wolf and pixie dust.

Children’s books do not teach us that.
Yet, this is the truth about mulberries.


"The Myth of Mulberries" is published in the 2020 Winter Issue of Poetry Quarterly.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Morning Breath

After sleeping
for hours, I am still waiting
to exhale
            morning breath,
so I can spit
into my bathroom sink
with a healthy squeeze
            of toothpaste.
I breathe in again
            and hold it again,
like noxious-fumes avoidance
or a breakfast bong hit.
I waste scant time
gargling mouthwash
            like pickle shots,
popping placebos like Xanax,
sucking fresh air,
changing my paradigm,
changing the font
            on my nameplate,
changing my password
to something less accessible
            but honest,
changing reality itself.
I am frantic to exhale
            and spit.
Because, in the morning,
I gasp for breath.


My poem, "Morning Breath," is included in Issue 97 (January 2021) of Burningword Literary Journal


Friday, October 23, 2020

Ohio Poetry Day Trifecta

Wild Rabbits

I just cannot resist

the rush of sunlight bouncing off ink lines 

scratched onto a page 

as though a hen 

was scratching for grub 

in the yard. 

Or the evening shadows 

cast along the tree line

by the distinctive ears of wild rabbits 

out near the burn pit, 

just past the tool shed,

under the swing.

I just cannot resist 

jotting the scene down into ink lines,

before it disappears,

as if it were all very real,

as if the grief was in the distant


out back, near the burn pit,

under the swing.


American Roulette

Pick a color.

Turn the tumbler. 

Go for broke. Do not 


a bullet. 

Add an AR-15.


the stakes. Raise 

the flag.

Put more lives

on the line.

Add another

caliber, another

eight hundred rounds 

per minute,


Raise the flag.

Add religion. 

Add gender. Add gender ID.

Turn the tumbler.

Add TNT.

Add megatons. 


for broke. 

Stand your ground.

All lives 


Expulsion Figure

after a cast bronze sculpture of the same name 

by Michael O’Keefe, 2009 

As if she were caught

in transition, half fading away,

almost wispy in the mist.

Her ancestors were Catholic—

perhaps “papists,” as they say, 

and disfavored.

As a people, they faced exile,

stripped of their livelihood and land.

Many fought the Crown and died.

Some were imprisoned at Halifax 

and Fort Edward, as if cast 

in irons or bronze. 

The remaining escaped to Quebec

or Louisiana (a so-called “free state”)

by way of what is now called Haiti.

She wears Acadian scars,

half fading away, perhaps as though

teleporting through time. 


Okay . . . a win, a place & a show: "Wild Rabbits" earned a 1st place, "American Roulette" garnered a 3rd place, and "Expulsion Figure" was awarded 2nd place in their respective categories in the 2020 Ohio Poetry Day contests, and were published in the contest compilation chapbook, Ohio Poetry Day: Best of 2020.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Inspiration, Planning My Road Trip


A blank page is inspiration—

the silent beckoning
in a mind’s ears. 

It is just like the ocean’s coy whisper
in a conch shell, 
A toddler scampers across it,
leaving word-like footprints.
Lacking social concerns,
he builds sandcastles 

of random syllables.

the waves grow toward 

wash away innocence,

replace it with complex
tortured syntax

and scamper away.


Planning My Road Trip

            This will be epic!

I am planning my road trip.
(Who am I kidding? I am daydreaming.)
Really, I will have to be frugal
and pack light,

but for an extended adventure—
bring only essentials. Roll my bedroll
tightly, strap it
tightly to the luggage rack.

The saddlebags are filled
with necessities: road flares, inner tube,
a selective assortment of tools.

A duffel of clothes fit for all seasons
sits on the passenger pillion (rides bitch,
            if you will),
which would otherwise be empty.

My route has been mapped out,
with various alternatives tossed about,
like a maverick or nomad.

I will visit forty-eight states
(and at least one foreign country) alone.
Of course, many things,

like consumables, I can gather
            on the road;
beg, borrow, steal the rest. I will need
a pup tent and a Coleman stove

for the road-side campsites
where I will sleep to save money
on occasion, weather permitting.

It will be bare-bones and dirt-cheap.
(Yes, even in my dreams.)  Now,
if only I still had my hog. . . . It won’t
be the same in an RV.


"Inspiration" and "Planning My Road Trip" are published in Issue 93 (January 2020) of Burningword Literary Journal.


Thursday, January 2, 2020

I Feel Naked—, There Is Fire

I feel naked—

sitting at Starbucks alone
with my lost thoughts
down around my ankles,

and my dangling
participles, my split 
infinitives, and every Oxford
comma twerking away
in my margins
to the dystopic rhythm
of a missing meter.
I've got absolutely nothing on,
nothing going on, save this 
run-on composition

pretending to be
a stream of streaming consciousness,
set free from free association,

or another meditation on
virtues and vices—
a series of self-righteous, 
random, rambling rants,

mere diatribe and gibberish—
more drivel—than 
mental gymnastics. 


There Is Fire

When the world around us
is exploding

with disbelief
and willful ignorance

while the truth
is on TV

for all the world to see,
smoke rises.

Smoke rises
from the classrooms—

our social media

Smoke rises
from sidewalk cafés

and picket lines,
engulfs a righteous nation.

Smoke lingers
until there is blood

in the streets.
            And, as we know,

where there is smoke. . . .

"I feel naked—" and "There Is Fire" are included in the Winter issue (Vol. XIII, No. 1) of Third Wednesday Magazine, a quarterly journal of literary and visual arts. 


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sonnets After Midnight

With all of these poets hooked on form,
one’s apt to believe it’s like opiates or porn.
And though this path is now rarely worn,
I will torture syntax to start a swarm.

At first, I stumble over every line,
trying to juggle couplets that rhyme.
I start, but I stumble a dozen times
to twist a phrase, to make it mine.

Of meager skills I have no trust.
This formal structure has me beat.
But wait!  I have hobbled to my feet.
I have finally found some metered lust

and learned that writing sonnets after midnight
entails staying awake and artificial light.


"Sonnets After Midnight" won 1st place in the Ohio Poetry Day 2019 poetry contest #5, The Sonnet Award, and was published in the contest compilation chapbook, Ohio Poetry Day: Best of 2019.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

You Are Welcome

Existing begins with being
born of intent or circumstance.

Established, produced, conjured
from the infinite vacuum
of nonexistence. To be
or not

has been decided
for you, without your knowledge
or consent.

Now, hop to it!

The responsibility
is yours. And

what you do with it
is your responsibility.


"You Are Welcome" is published in the 2018 Winter Issue (#9of Light, an independent, reader-supported, quarterly journal of fine art photography and poetry. The theme of Issue 9 is "Begin." 

In the winter of 2018, my poem, "Fifteen Seconds," was included in Light's fifth issue, which bore the theme "Reflection."


Friday, January 5, 2018

Identity Crisis, Not the Dregs

Identity Crisis

I’m growing my hair long again,
because I’m a beatnik.
I’m a hippie.

I’m going to be late for work.
I have a meeting.

I’m smoking pot
and playing jazz
on my roller-disco boom box.

I am writing poetry,
instead of brushing my teeth.

I’m wearing all black.
I have a soul patch
and dark sunglasses.

My coffee is getting cold.
My dress socks don’t match.

I am wearing tie-dye
and twisting daisies into dreadlocks.
I wear bell-bottom blue jeans.

I have lost my monkey suit.
I have lost my monkey.

I’m a steampunk unicorn.
I’m a hipster butterfly.


Not the Dregs

I scrape the bottom of the barrel,
after the top-shelf choices are gone,
to get to the sweet stuff—
            not the dregs, the molasses.
And umami—
            the oh-so savory leftovers
scavenged from midlife’s
3 a.m. breakfast buffet.
Even the salty crumbs
at the bottom of the potato chip bag
set saliva aflutter,
            à la Pavlov’s K9.
The good stuff separates
and falls like flakes of pure gold
in an old San Francisco saloon—
the debris, the essence.


I am pleased that "Identity Crisis" and "Not the Dregs" are published in the Fall 2017 Issue (#31) of Poetry QuarterlyThis is my second sojourn with PQ. My poem "No Longer" was in the 2012 Prize Winner Issue (#11).