Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Grapes of Wrath

I am wine as it comes 
from a bottle or a box. I am nectar
of the gods, 

stomped under men’s feet, 
placed in a cask or casket,
in damp cellars. I am

sweet and slightly toxic.
I have legs. I will give you 
my warm body, my delicate, 

almost acrid nose. I will
knock you on your sweet ass.
I am fine wine. I am

the grapes God—
the one true god’s wrath.
As the day breaks, I am

another pressurized cranium,
a numb reminder of excess,
a subtle sense of regret,

stomped under men’s feet.
"Grapes of Wrath" received a 3rd-place award in Ohio Poetry Day 2022 poetry contest #12, Non-traditional Narrator. It is published in the contest's compilation book, Ohio Poetry Day: Best of 2022.


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Texas Trio

    Banging Cabinets

I had almost forgotten 
how quickly change can happen. 

The day may appear almost
calm in the morning. But then, 

without warning,
a cabinet door in the kitchen

bangs shut,
just one, at first . . . just one.

Fight, flight, freeze.
Wait for the inevitable echo

to reach the den. 
Another door bangs shut. Then, 

in rapid succession,
three or four more

pop like popcorn,
a burst of gunfire.

Maybe, one last bang for luck. 
Morning songbirds 

turn to a murder of crows, 
an unkindness of raven, in a flip 

of a switch, without warning.
It might be too late.


    Naming My Friends 

when I die,
you will recognize me by my tattoo.
—Zeina Hashem Beck

I am listening to Pentatonix
and Walk Off the Earth on YouTube 
when a video of your
recitation of “Naming Things”
queues up next. And that poem

carries me like a refugee on its back, 
packed in a duffel bag, rucksack, kit bag
with all its worldly belongings.
We are on the lam,
running from our past.

I carry my home with me,
or it might be carelessly dragged
in the dirt behind me.
I have been naming my friends—
loneliness, darkness, regret.

And I fear I will never return 
to the city where I was born. The walls
have crumbled like Jenga,
and we are suddenly nomads again.
I have named myself “goodbye.”

And the bombs have fallen,
strafing our memories, our recollections,
our nostalgia. I survive because 
I carry my whole life with me
in this rucksack on my back. 


    Dear Poet

I want to ask you about technique
and your reasons for doing one thing one way
as opposed to some other. Should I 
do it that way too? Is there a method?

Could I borrow your mindset
or, maybe, some madness?

Where should one line break?
Should I combine multiple lines to make one very long line? Should I
chop them
into tiny phrases
or drop them 
on the page?

It is important to know these things:
technique and reason. 
But which 
is more important?

When should I indent?
Or should I?

Or should I
repeat the last line?


"Banging Cabinets," "Naming My Friends," and "Dear Poet" each won 1st place in their respective contest categories in the Poetry Society of Texas's 2021 Contests and are published in the Society's 2022 Book of the Year.


Monday, January 17, 2022

Two More on a 3rd Wednesday

     Dances with Dogs

It is barely six a.m.,
and he dons his coat and boots
in silence. He tries, but
the dogs are not having
            the silence.

He’s a sidewalk rhythmic gymnast,
wielding leashes wildly.
Like computer-cable spaghetti,
they intertwine
            and twist and tango.

There is no open field,
where a pack can run free.
The lots are edged with curbs.
There are doggy-bag dispensers
            in the park.

He dances with dogs,
come rainy day or shine. 
Neighbors cross the street, 
but smile when they see him,
            hands indisposed.
They give hesitant waves
and, sometimes, a sympathetic 
greeting, knowing that 
he has himself a handful
            or two.


    Missing the Last Train
The last train came and went,
and I waited for you. I must have
missed your phone call
last night. I waited,
            and the human shadows
dispersed. I was sleeping
on the subway bench all night.
The morning air turned cool,
and the damp was like a kiss
            to wake me.
The first train came and went,
and your smile is like the sun.


"Dances with Dogs" and "Missing the Last Train" are published on at 3rd Wednesday online  and will be included in the Spring 2022 print issue of 3rd Wednesday. Thanks for reading!



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.


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

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.


"Planning My Road Trip," along with "Inspiration," is published in Issue 93 (January 2020) of Burningword Literary Journal.


Thursday, January 2, 2020

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 caf├ęs

and picket lines,
engulfs a righteous nation.

Smoke lingers
until there is blood

in the streets.
            And, as we know,

where there is smoke. . . .

"There Is Fire," along with "I feel naked—," is 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."