The Thing Is (Written April 29)

The Thing Is


It violates all the understood rules,

And yet somehow it works.

To begin a sentence with “nice”


Is bad enough but to use

The same such word twice

In the same line is to risk


Calling down the wrath of the gods

Of good writing. But he gets

Away with it. How? The same


Thing happens, a little later,

In a piece I won’t even name,

With the ultimate filler, “sort of.”


Again, not once but twice, one

After the other. I know a certain

Short story writer of great


Renown, who did the same

Thing, sort of. The thing is,

The writing is so alive,


The story so urgent and so

Lovingly drawn that perfection

Of language is the last thing


We want. What we want is to hear

The real voice of the real writer,

Not the fake voice of the fake writer.

Drought (Written April 28)



Vegetation became too scant

For their stomachs, and they began

To die. They fell where they grazed


And became part of the landscape,

White bone like dust. First the rangelands,

Then the cultivated lands had collapsed,


And what was left, hard-packed earth,

With dried-out tufts of dead grass,

Was not worth the blood shed.


The snow on the mountains,

As thin as the hair on his head,

Made a mockery of the dwindling


Hope he clung to. For fifteen years

This drought persisted, with nothing

To show for it. No one would buy


His cattle, they were so thin and sickly.

To fight the powers-that-be was to die,

To fight the elements was a fool’s errand.


Everything and everyone was against him,

He believed. All he could do was hold on,

Until there was nothing left to hold on to.

Rules (Written April 27)



As soon as the laws and controls

Are relaxed, the line flows

More naturally, and the choice


Of words comes more easily.

The desire to give voice

To suffering and longing


Becomes more important

Than the sense of belonging

To some particular form


Or school. Just like

A musician, when he performs,

Or a dancer, or an artist,


The poet should know something

Of the history of the art form,

And the skills and the rules


That separate the professional

From the amateur. Then,

And only then, she should forget


The rules, relax into them,

And make them part of herself,

To create what is true and lasting.

Every Word (Written April 26)

Every Word


Every word comes to him direct,

If he is quiet and waits

Without any irritable reaching


For what is not yet there. One

Word spawns another, teaching

The virtue of patience.


Swollen with spring runoff,

The brook, with impatience,

Flows under the bridge.


A herd of deer stands

Very still, on the ridge

Of the hill. When he moves,


They vanish, all at once,

Into the woods. No word

Can describe what he feels.

Day of Deliverance (Written April 25)

Day of Deliverance


Hearing his mother’s relentless talk

And longing for it to stop,

He knows he must leave


This family and this house,

Though it will grieve

Him to do so. He does not dare


Move from the table, his thoughts

Run so wild. In truth, they scare

Him. But never again to endure


His mother’s tantrums, and never

Again to suffer the sure

Absence of his father, is a dream


He will not let go,

Though they seize

Him and tie him tight


To the bed. He will need

All his courage to win this fight.

His life hangs in the balance.

Hurrah (Written April 24)



Of course I know; yes. And I’m

So glad. There’s no one more

Deserving. He sent me an email,


He was so excited; good for him.

He was worried he might fail

Yet again. The amount of work


He’s put into it, that alone

Deserves a prize. The jerk

Who won last year, what a joke


That was. This time a real talent

Won out. Not any old bloke,

But a friend of mine,


A co-worker, a confidant.

So raise that glass of wine;

Shout hurrah, Jack, hurrah!

Ex-Lover (Written April 23)



And though he would never know it,

She passed her final years in near

Total blindness. By this time


She’d moved to the coast and settled

In a town that was almost crime

Free, compared to where they’d lived.


She told him, the last time they talked,

That she didn’t want to see him,

Ever again. “Don’t ask me to explain,”


She said. “I was so tired all the time.

All I did was bitch and complain.

It was not healthy for me, the way


We lived.” What hurt him the most

Was that she had nothing to say

To him at the end, when she knew


She was dying. Their love

Was like a flame that she blew

Out without the slightest hint


Of regret. What saddened him

The most, when he saw it in print,

Was that she was still so young.

Sex Change (Written April 22)

Sex Change


And it was, of course, a new umbrella,

Which he had left standing in a corner

Of the bedroom, behind a chair.


It was too late to turn around.

He crossed the street into the square.

A drop fell on his face, then another,


Then many. He began running.

No one, except his mother,

Knew what he was planning to do.


But he had thought it through,

And it was time. He wanted a new

Identity and a new lease on life.


He was sick of being poor Ned

Who couldn’t find himself a wife

If he tried. He’d be plain Jane,


One of the girls. Let the wind

Blow, let the rain

Fall, let the lights flicker


And go out. If he ran away now,

He’d only get sicker and sicker.

It was something he had to do.

Mortal Coil (Written April 21)

Mortal Coil


But in a little while, I think,

That too will happen. Sometimes,

When I stand up, my head


Swims, and I no longer know

Where I am. The dead

Know nothing, see nothing,


Feel nothing. They sleep

And do not wake. Nothing

Can touch them ever again.


Sometimes, when I think about it,

I’m sad, but other times

It seems a blessing.


As the river flows into

The sea, the life in me slips

Away, and I am diminished.

Best Before (Written April 20)

Best Before


But he was very good-natured

They said, before the disease

Did such damage to his brain.


People liked him, and flocked

To his store, in numbers that drained

Him of energy and left him tired


And flat at the end of the day.

Many of the young people he hired

Went on to bigger and brighter


Futures, but never forgot

His nurturing hand. But the tighter

The grip of the illness,


The gruffer his manner,

And the more a certain stillness

In his speech made him seem cold


And unfriendly. He quit his various

Volunteer jobs, claiming he was too old

To waste his time on such trivia.


He had more and more trouble

With words and seemed oblivious

to the concern others felt. He became


Frustrated and angry. Nobody

Could talk to him. The game

Had come to an end. It was decided


To place him in a home, and though

He went along, in his mind he derided

The lot of them. Then one day


It happened. All he wanted, he said,

Was to sit in his usual chair, and play

Solitaire, and wear his usual crown,


But a woman got in the way, and

He pushed her, and she fell down.

After that, he was a marked man.