Poetic Ponderings

Because why not?

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FRANCIS (10th place in the Writer's Digest Poetry Awards, out of 950 entries, not to brag or anything)

He stands
in the garden with the flagstone pathways
the hanging baskets and
the tumbling waterfalls.

He came
bringing the dove
tucked in the crook of his elbow,
intent upon her.

He understands that
all things change, but
there were children then and
there are children now
there were flowers then and
there are flowers now

and leaves
and squirrels
and breezes
and acorns that fall upon his head
with a sudden tap.

He never fears
the rain getting in his eyes or
the sun beating upon the bald circle of his scalp,

and he does not mind the moss creeping
up his bare toes nor
the dew collecting in his hood nor
the small spider
spinning its silken strands
amidst the folds of
his rain-eroded grey robe.


Show me a cheerful poet
Show me a sanguine soul
who pens a rhyme
in iamb time
and is complete and whole

I dare say it’s anomaly
I dare to shake my fist
Besides the guile
of a Hallmark aisle
such beings don’t exist

The heart that eschews sorrow
The heart that knows no dark
will never feel
of what is real
that brilliant, burning spark

So if you’ve no addiction
and if you’re free of vice
speak not to me
and let me be
I cannot be so nice

In stormy skies and tumult
in maelstrom wild and high
there can be found
a common ground
with vagrants such as I

Give me the tortured troubadour
Give me the fevered brain
for in its grey
I find my way
find peace within the pain.


Suppose you are standing at the back door
watching the birds at the feeder
as the snow melts beneath the bright face of the sun
and you are thinking to yourself that you drank too much last night

numbed what you should have felt
ignored what you should have attended to


The cardinal
with his bright red galero
seems the logical choice to hear your confession
and so you tell him your many transgressions

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned

you say aloud

your husband asks from across the room

you say
I’m just talking to myself

But suppose the cardinal looks up at you then
he cocks his head
makes a small bow
and disappears into the hedge

a tiny, winged deliverer
bearing your crimes away.


The moon is tangled in the trees
abandoned there by autumn breeze;

she cries aloud but no one knows
the noise above the sound of crows

all rising now to take their flight
against the winter’s lonely night.

I stand and gaze upon her face
and understand the words she says:

her terror of the coming frost
her sorrow at the dreams she lost
her fear of beauty fading fast
her knowledge that no joy can last
her vision dimming with the dawn
her freedom being all but gone.

Her halo spreads like arms aloft
beseeching to once more be tossed

upon the sea of atmosphere
away from grounded woe and tears.

But wedged in branch and caught in leaf
the wind is but a bitter thief

To leave the precious,
lovely thing
a bauble on a broken string.


The fox with foot
caught in a snare
will thrash and cry
til bone lies bare

Then gnaw it off
the trap entwined
limp far and fast
leave limb behind

For foxes know
with basal brains
that liberty
means blood and pain

And similar
it is that I
must chew upon
the hows and whys

This gnawing, though,
brings no relief
the cords, they tighten
to my grief

How cursed am I
to have this head!
This ceaseless
existential dread!

I wish I was
a small brave thing
that wanted naught
of wish or dream

But only cared
for mate and meat
for spring and sun
and burrow sweet

Make me a fox
with legs of three
no more ensnared
forever free.


When I die, I will die quiet
putting away the desperate signals
the cries for help
the futile noise.

When I die, I will die quiet
like a good girl
I will tuck the ugly away
I will say the nice words, I will
toe the line

I will smile the smiles
I will understand that

people have their own lives and
cannot drop everything to attend to my pain

When I die, I will die quiet
a chastened child, I will crawl into bed
speak into my stuffed rabbit’s ear

curl my soft body around itself
and let go

a good girl
a girl who knows

how to die quiet.


The mug of instant coffee had just been made with boiling
water and set down on the carpet beside my father who
in a rare moment of kindliness had
decided to lay on the floor and read us a book which
was Yertle the Turtle by Dr Seuss

and i remember the book and its beleaguered hero who
sat with a stack of fellow reptiles piled upon his back and
i’m sure there was a moral but i didn’t know what it was

i was three

and i was just learning how to do a somersault and so i
was balancing on my head saying look daddy, look but he
wasn’t looking, he was reading to us better than any father
ever had before because he did all things with excellence

look daddy, look

i flipped over straight onto the mug of coffee and i was
wearing a heavy sweater because it was winter in Alaska and the house was chilly. The thick fibers sucked the liquid
hungrily up like a wick and held it to my small white back in a
caress like a lion’s tongue which, i have heard, can remove

i screamed and leapt up

my father leapt up, shouting at my mother to bring a towel to
save the carpet and she came and they mopped up the mess while i
stood screaming and screaming until she put a hand to my back and realized the truth too late to save my flesh so i was held
beneath the tap of that Anchorage kitchen sink and bathed in
frigid water and my sister and brother ran outside in the snow to escape the noise of my terror and pain

i was bundled to the hospital

where i was mummified in ointment and gauze and sent home to heal. In the weeks to come i would sit on the dryer while my mother unwound me to change the bandages and the smell of humid detergent and sterile wrappings still comfort me to this day.

My father apologized lately for the whole fiasco, though i am fifty now, and i could only laugh at the irony of saying sorry for an accident when so many other things were on purpose.