Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Two Alleys

photo by Penny K. Sherman courtesy Bluebell Books

Life is good on Ego Alley*
Lazy days of heat and haze
Sipping margaritas topside
From the Captain's lounge chair
Watching the tourists
Watching you
In your cleverly named boat

While in another alley 
Just a few blocks away
The tourists avert their gaze
While a small boy plays
With a beer can and a stick.
In a puddle of rainwater and piss
He guides his boat around cigarette butts
And a used tampon applicator
Until his mother yells for him to quit.

*"Ego Alley" is a small, narrow waterway that leads to the heart of the city of Annapolis, MD.  It got it's name from the endless parade of boats and yachts that traverse this dead end canal, usually only to see and be seen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Francis Takes a Vacation

image source
Francis has a bad case of the burn-out
He's real tired of this sainting gig
So he figures he'll take himself a little vacation
Do some much needed meditation.

"What you should do is some trout fishing," suggests Neot.
Francis shakes his head and says, "Nah, I wouldn't feel right about that."
"There's great skiing in the Alps this time of year!" says Bernard. "I'll lend you my skis, man."
"What about a nice Caribbean cruise? Work on your tan?" Erasmus taunts.
Francis just sighs.
"Can you picture me in a Speedo, really?"
John, the Baptist, says, "Paterson, NJ is really nice!"
There is silence.
"Sorry," John explains. "I'm the official patron. I'm required to say it."

Francis settles on a quaint little villa in Tuscany
With a vineyard, olive trees, and lots of quiet.
Before he leaves, Dymphna scurries over to him, biting her nails, and stammers,
"What about the animals, Francis? Who will take care of them while you're away?"
Leave it to Dymphna to harsh his mellow.
Francis replies, "Let Darwin take over for a while. Survival of the fittest and all that rot."
And with that, he's off.

Well, I've been marking the calendar since his departure
And I have to tell you that I hope he comes back soon
Because I was driving down the road this morning 
And it looks like a war zone
And the animals are losing bad.
I don't believe the drivers are the ones needing the protection, Chris.

Squashed squirrels litter the street 
Deceased deer on the sidelines like they passed out drunk
And despite my calling on Jude for that turtle
Trying to cross to the greenery on the far side of the median,
I strongly suspect it will become asphalt soup.
How about one more glass of Chianti, Francis?
And then please get back to work.

Hush A Bye

Our instructions for Poetry Jam this week were to write a poem inspired by or using a line from a song. My song was "Hush A Bye," a traditional lullaby which was heard at our home sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary. My parents often sung it to me as a good night song, with my father strumming his acoustic guitar. You can hear the song here:

image source
Hush a bye
Don't you cry
My daddy sang to me
The guitar he strummed
As mama hummed
My childhood melody

When I would weep
Or fight with sleep
They'd sing hush a bye
Was like a drug
A soft, warm hug
A deep, musical sigh

Now you have me
And I sing off key
And I can't play a note
But I hope I'm not wrong
That you find love in my song
 And in all the words that I wrote

When you are grown
And on your own
Will you think of me?
And will you hear
My song in your ear
Wherever you may be?

Hush a bye
Don't you cry
You are mama's star
I'll wrap you in love
As snug as a glove
No matter where you are.

Monday, June 27, 2011


photo courtesy of Magpie Tales

Baby Girl wear her butterfly wings for Halloween
She soar 'round the house pretending to fly
Baby Girl say, "I'ma fly for real one day!"
Baby Girl's Daddy laugh real loud. Say,
"You too precious to fly, Sugar
You Daddy's little doll
Fly too high,
you break
like a fine
Baby Girl
 pout her lips
and scrunch up her face
Baby Girl go tell her Mama
"I'ma fly for real one day, Mama!"
Mama grin but look like she smell somethin' off
She say, "Don't be talking crazy. You too fat to fly
even if you had wings. Imagine, a butterball like you!"
Mama's words stung like steppin' ona nest a yella jackets
Baby Girl blink her eyes buncha times then but she don't cry

She be thinking'
She be schemin'
Baby Girl go 'bout her business but she always on the lookout
She be collectin' what she need for her potion:

first mornin' dewdrops
hurricane winds and
dragonfly wings

angel trumpet blooms
tears from a broken hearted girl and

silk from a spider's web
a sigh from the laziest afternoon in June
and in a glass cannin' jar, 'stead of pole beans,
the perfect note
from the love song
of a white throated sparra'

Take Baby Girl long time to collect everthing
But Baby Girl, she long on patience 'cause
You got to fix a potion jus' right and
 Baby Girl, she wanna be jus' right
Then one clear summer night
when the moon be bright
and the sky be dark
as molasses
Baby Girl
she be gone
Her Daddy don't say
nothin' but make tight fists
with his big hands. Her Mama
cry and cry. Say, "How could she
leave like this?" Slip a paper on Baby Girl's
pillow.  It read, "You don't need wings to fly."

submitted for Magpie Tales, 70

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pillow Talk

image courtesy of Theme Thursday
I'm here for you at the end of each day
On my soft breast you wearily lay
I cradle you gently as you drift to sleep
You whisper your secrets that I vow to keep.

When you are lonely, I mop up your tears
When ghosts come to haunt you, I hold back the fears
When you are angry and punch with your fist
I just absorb what I cannot resist.

I'm soft at my hardest, down right to my core
I know only to yield and can give you no more.

submitted for Thursday Think Tank #55 at  Poets United
and for Theme Thursday, Soft

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sonnet For a Friend

photo source: Gordon Haslett
How do I say goodbye to you, my friend?
I wish on stars but see a waning moon
And though I want to be there til the end
I fear that I may pull away too soon

How to protect a heart from pain I know
There is no anodyne able to heal
The scars I'll wear within me when you go
And grief from sorrow's reach I'm loathe to feel

But who among us has the strength to dare
Consider Death may swing her scythe's blade too
Toward any of us, living unaware
Perhaps, my friend, I'll lead the way for you

And so I'll give you all I have to give
For whatever time that you have left to live.

submitted for Poetry Potluck, Void, Loneliness, and Sorrow, at Jingle Poetry

Monday, June 20, 2011


image courtesy of Magpie Tales
Welcome to the estate sale!
Come on in and look around
See anything you like?
Oh yes, it's all yours, isn't it?
Or rather, it was.
Now it's fodder 
For the Saturday morning junk hunters.

Table and chairs--$100
Floor lamp--$25
Potted plant--$2.50
Like you, it's not alive.

The sofa with its arm covers
Barely even used
The cut glass chandelier
Still casts a harsh glare
Also like you
But it's never felt so warm here
Now that you're cold.

And look! Here's your photo!
In a lovely gilded frame
Million dollar smile?
Yours, $1.99.

submitted for Magpie Tales 70

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Icarus Also Flew

photo courtesy of Chris Galford
Paint cans in hand
We rule the night.
Urban fireflies we burn
Bright. We buzz
We hum. We leave
Our mark against the sky.

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.

The day is not so kind.
Hot sun burns our skin.
Hot words spit in faces
Burn our spirits to ash
Black as the streets where
We escape.
See our words erased
Our images whitewashed.

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.

Sundown comes.
Night calls us like a pheromone.
Paint cans in hand
We stretch our wings, aching to fly.
Some day they'll see us.
Some day we'll reach the sun.

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Love Song of the Sea

image source
The summer sun sets our bodies to glisten
Sounds of the waves make us stop and listen
Of love and lust the sea whispers discreetly
Lovers can hear it and obey completely
The warm water washes away our past sin
Like Venus we're birthed from the sea to begin
And so like her subjects obey her command
Embrace and make love in the soft ocean sand

submitted for Poetry Jam, Summer Chillin'
and Thursday Think Tank, The Beach/Ocean, at Poets United
and for Thursday Poets Rally, Week 46

Thanks, Jingle and Poets Rally!
I nominate K. Shawn Edgar for the Perfect Poet Award

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Best Served Cold

photo by Melissa R. Bickel
"...severe thunderstorms in the listening area with damaging winds and flooding. As of 3:00 Eastern Standard Time, a hurricane has formed off the coast and is approaching land at approximately 40 miles per hour. Listeners are advised to stay off of the roadways and to seek shelter indoors..."

Shannan pressed down on the accelerator pedal and cursed as her Civic hydroplaned in response. She wanted to get home before her ice cream melted and her reduced price hamburger grew a new life form.

"No wonder the grocery store was such a zoo!" she thought. "Leave it to me to run out of toilet paper when they're predicting a hurricane!"

Shannan squinted through the car window, trying to stay in her lane. The rain streaming down and the static of her car radio combined to form one incomprehensible din in her ears. Route 39 was eerily empty. Did everyone actually listen to the warning to stay off the roads?

Up ahead Shannan saw what appeared to be a person by the side of the road. She slowed her car as she approached to see what other unfortunate soul was stuck out in this mess.

"Holy crap!" Pacing in the downpour with her cell phone in one hand and gesticulating wildly with the other at an obviously flat tire on her Lexus, was Shannan's mother-in-law. Even with the rain blurring her view, Shannan could see that she was looking even more put-out than usual. Shannan reflexively slowed her car even more and put her finger on the door button to unlock it. Then, she didn't. She removed her hand from the door lock, put her pinky finger to her mouth, and chewed on her nail. Then she smiled. And she drove away, whispering, "Good luck." Her mother-in-law never even saw her.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. It's also pretty good wet.

submitted for Thursday Short Story Slam at Bluebell Books

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


image source
All day long you fret, complain
All the night long too
Loving you is such a strain
The things you make me do!

I cook your food just to your taste
You stare at it with dread
It's not enough it goes to waste
You throw it at my head!

I choose your clothes with love and care
You'd rather look a mess
But then you go and make me wear
Your lunch upon my dress!

You whine, you cry, your selfish deeds
Why love someone like you?
You only think about your needs
Can't wait 'til you're not two!

submitted for Poetry Potluck at Jingle Poetry

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Shell Collector II

photo courtesy of Magpie Tales
 Empty of meat
You say you are a shell
No life within
But I see your fragile beauty

I know you are leaving
I see you grow smaller each day
You long to return to the sea 

When you are gone
What will I have of you?

     are slippery things
Silvery minnows 
     that dart away
When you try to hold them in your hands

If a shell is all that you leave behind
Then I will treasure the shell

The Shell Collector

photo courtesy of Magpie Tales
Empty of meat
Back on the street
But, oh, it was sweet
That little morsel of you

You noticed my greed
Mistook it for need
Allowed me to feed
On your fragrant, ripe fruit

Now I've had my fill
And you're feeling ill
The creeping, bleak chill
Of dissection

Your will has grown weak
And your voice has grown meek
But I'm not one to seek
For protection

I swallowed your heart
Was your gift and my art
It's all just a part 
I play very well

Your spirit is dust
It might be unjust
You're only a husk
But, oh, what a beautiful shell.

submitted for Magpie Tales, 69

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Please Leave a Message

photo courtesy of Rob Hanson

She dials the number
Ring, ring, click
Hello. You have reached...
Closes her eyes and listens to his voice
We are not able to take your call right now...
The kids say it's morbid, like hearing a ghost
But to her, his voice is like
a warm blanket 
and her bed is so cold
Please leave a message after the tone...
I miss you, she tells him.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pigeon in a Henhouse

cartoon from savagechickens.com
I had a dream last night
I was a pigeon
     stuck in a henhouse.
I looked at all the chickens around me
     and thought "What the cluck am I doing here?"
Then some fat hen
     waddled up to me
     and smug as you can be
     said, "I just love your colorful feathers."
"Thanks," I answered,
     but thought to myself
     "You're one to talk.
     Your breasts are probably shot up full of artificial hormones
     to make them plump,
     you stupid bird."
I asked a hen in the last coop on the left
     what they did for fun around this house.
She just clucked at me disapprovingly and said,
     "Why we lay eggs, of course."
I asked if she wanted to go hang around at a park or
     visit a statue or 
     just stretch her wings a bit.
I must have ruffled her feathers because she waddled off
     clucking even louder.
I could hear her telling the others about me.
What a foul fowl she was!
Suddenly I had a craving for street food
     french fries, bread crumbs, anything really
     but all I could see was chicken feed
     and the hens happily pecking away.
     "It makes us feel secure to know 
     that the food will always taste the same," they said.
Bird brains! No imagination.
Then there was a commotion in the henhouse. 
     Squawking, feathers flying, running about, chaos.
     "He's here, he's here!" the insipid chickens cried with glee.
     "Who's here?" I asked.
     They stared at me as if I had arms instead of wings. 
"The rooster, natch. 
     Though you needn't worry.
     I don't think he fancies foreign girls."
Next thing I knew, some cocky old rooster was staring me up and down.
     "You're not from around here, are you, my little chick-a-dee?"
Before I could cold cock the guy, I woke up. 
I was breathing heavily but 
     all else seemed normal. 
Except for the feather on my pillow.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Writing On the Wall

image source
My 'hood is my canvas
I paint what I feel
Some day I'll be famous                                      
My art is for real

Don't bother no churches
I got more respect
Do more than just taggin'
Ain't what you suspect

You can't buy my art
I do it for me
It don't have a price tag
Don't mean that it's free

My work is raw
It's a force you can't tame
But don't think it ain't art
Cuz it ain't in a frame

These walls are my body
They are most forgiving
They wear my blood proudly
My graff shows I'm living

submitted for One Stop Poetry and the Arts, Graffiti, at One Stop Poetry

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shades of Summer Red

photo courtesy of Poetry Jam
Fizzy cold Cherry Splash soda
if we are really lucky or
Sugary sweet red Kool Aid
bright enough to stain our lips
if it's for us
Watered down to a paler vintage
to sell for 3 cents a Dixie Cup
from the Radio Flyer wagon

Come evening the booty is exchanged 
for cherry popsicles 
from the Good Humor man
We never have the patience to save up
for the Strawberry Shortcake bars 
we really covet

Skinned knees and scraped elbows
from falling off our bikes
or from playing maul ball 
with the older kids
On occasion, a loose tooth knocked clean out
leaving a bloody hole and bragging rights

The stench of rotting crab apples
squishing under bare feet 
running across the lawn
through the sprinklers
watering  the fire red azaleas
and the bricks on the house fronts

Someone's mom pokes out her head and calls
we scatter
Like gnats being shooed away

Monday, June 6, 2011


I drank Janis's rage and sadness with my Kool-Aid
Sang of Bobby McGee while other kids sang their ABCs.

I daydreamed about clouds with Joni
And was schooled about men
who wear women on their arms like expensive watches from Carly.
I longed to fall under the spell of a Magic Man
as I inhaled the earthy, herbal smokiness of the concert hall air.

But the next morning I was still myself
Their world would never be my world.

And as much as I wanted to be like her, Tori was fairytale beautiful
 And I was too old to be either a Cornflake or a Raisin girl.

Then along came Liz.

We all knew Liz. We were Liz.

She was the girl next door who swore like a sailor.

She was the seductress who got screwed.

She was the cynic who just wanted a boyfriend.

When she sang of a Flower
it was an O'Keefe painting come to life.

Liz was a storm.

She thundered onto the scene screaming like a girl
And we heard her
Because she was one of us.
 We were in Exile too.

She spoke our language.
Used words that we had been told nice girls don't say
But she knew we had been thinking all along.

Her world was my world.
Her words were my words.
She helped me find my voice.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Bootmaker

photo courtesy of Rob Hanson
Who will fill his shoes when he is gone?
His dye stained hands are leathery as the hide
The hammering fills the hours from dusk til dawn
He has no one with whom to share his pride.

His daughter left his home in rage and tears
He never even knew that she was wed
Never met his grandson of three years
She tells the kid his grandfather is dead.

The older sons both went to fancy schools
Now they shun the work he does by hand
They have no use for all his simple tools
He does his best to try to understand.

His youngest son is practically a ghost
He's heard some folks refer to him as trash
But he's the one who favors her the most
So when he asks, he always gives him cash.

Who will fill his shoes when he is gone?
Who will tan the leather, cut the size?
The bootmaker keeps working on and on
No one to replace him when he dies.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Time Out

"Time-Out" by Ella Wilson
I hope this bench is here when we are old
We'll rest when we grow tired from our walk
We'll reminisce of all the times we've strolled
These very streets as we watched life unfold
Or maybe we'll just hold hands and not talk.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Come On In, The Water's Fine

Photo courtesy of Matthew Saindon

Let's take a swim
In the waters of sin
Dip a toe in
That's how we'll begin
But then we'll submerge
Give in to each urge
As our bodies converge
In a heavenly surge
I'll pull you under
Head pounding like thunder
Ripping asunder
All that you wonder
And all that you knew
And did misconstrue
How you need to subdue
A love wicked and true
So come, let's get wet
And never forget
We need not abet
Any saints as of yet