personal, poetry

Forget the Words

I told you once to forget the words I say,
and I told you twice to remember that.
You told me you never listen anyway.

Most of the time my thoughts are on display,
written on my face, shallow and flat.
I told you to forget the words I say.

And then I asked you, “Parlez-vous Français?”
to find the difference between chien and chat.
You told me your French is rusty anyway.

So then I tried some Spanish andale!
But you never studied the other Lat-
in tongue—just forget the words I say.

Our languages never can convey
meaning beyond one little caveat—
you weren’t even listening anyway.

I love and hate you. I listen. I pray.
The words didn’t stir you; you still sat.
I told you to forget the words I say.
You told me you never listen anyway.

personal, poetry

Corvus Brachyrhynchos (American Crow)

You love your birds. We love them, too, you know;
your stunning pictures allow us to believe
in the forgotten world we can’t retrieve–
the one you captured in the Folio.
We’re far removed from birds these days. The crow
you shot and skewered with wires to achieve
a life-like “Mankin,” posed as you conceive
the Truth of Crows, is dead, removed. Although
once you were almost killed for nothing more
than your gold watch. But they got theirs, the crone
and her two sons, strung up by Regulators.
Thus you were saved to paint what you adore:
your birds, your marvelous birds, for educators
and public alike—you, the crow, alone.

personal, poetry

Holding Pattern over the Pacific

To Amelia

You said, “The love of flying is the love
of beauty.” Easy for you to say above
Pacific blue stretched out for miles and miles
as waves coalesce forming frothy smiles.
What you and Fred didn’t take into account
was the deceptive cumulus pile surmounting
the horizon—and, you know, at times, I forget
to check my blind spot, too. And my regret
for not sharing your love of beauty or hot
chocolate at eight thousand feet is not
universal regret. I’d like to circumscribe
the globe like Drake (as you and Fred once tried),
but really, how am I supposed to find
Howland, pinprick point on maps and in Fred’s mind
when he couldn’t navigate celestially?
I’d be no better off than you; I’d be
“running north and south”: the same last words the cutter
Itasca, amid the static, ever heard you utter.
Some days strike me as trials from God and
some don’t. So I still wait for you to land.

personal, poetry

On “Topography”

So my wife says that I shouldn’t just post poems (or excerpts) without explaining why.  So here’s why I posted the excerpt from “The Topography of History.”  I’m very interested in the ideas of continuity and change.  I love the image of the river that is both constant (you can draw it on a map) and flowing (someday that water will reach the ocean).  I feel like that.  There are all these selves that I’ve lived at different times of my life, in different places and with different people, but I’m still myself.  Or at least I want to believe I’m always myself, that there is some sort of me that is constant.  But I know I’ve changed.  A lot.  Sometimes I feel like a stranger, to others and to myself.  And that’s why I’ve started this blog: to chronicle some of that change, to understand my history, to not lose my love down the river.



How shall that Sentimentalist love the Mississippi?
His love is a trick of mirrors, his spit’s abstraction,
Whose blood and guts are filing system for
A single index of the head or heart’s statistics.
Living in one time, he shall have no history.
How shall he love change who lives in a static world?
His love is lost tomorrow between Memphis and
the narrows of Vicksburg.

(Thomas McGrath, from “The Topography of History”)


Dear Stranger

Dear stranger
extant in the memory by the blue Juniata,
these letters
across space I guess
will be all we will know of one another.

So little of what one is threads itself through the eye
of empty space.

Never mind.
The self is the least of it.
Let our scars fall in love.

(Galway Kinnell, from “Dear Stranger Extant in Memory by the Blue Juniata”)