in your embrace,
my nose buried in the skin
above your collar,
I did not detect a discernable scent,
but the warmth-
that I stole:
won’t … can’t … give it back.

Winter Moon II

A full moon sits heavy in the cold night,
mist shimmering around its curve weeping
icy dew drops on my freckly cheeks,
rushing over me like an Irish tide:
thunderous, rock splitting calamity.

Ducking inside, away from its strong pull,
I’m home in the lonely painted red room-
winter frozen, stirred by the warming glow
of the ghost light left burning to welcome
spirits that inhabit the deepest dusk.

Sleep comes quick as my head hits the pillow,
my dreams unsettled and full of panic
as lunar waves push love away from me,
daring me to chase it down and take it
before it’s ripped away and out to sea.

Sirens call for me to dive under and
swim around and through sandy silt and weed
that languish and fire across  in a play
of the cyclical connection that sea
and night sky’s pearl know to be magnetic.

Gulping air, swallowing salty water,
I reach for a rock slimy from the sea
and pull at a branch broken from its tree,
trying to beat the sharp ice’d current
to the safety of the dark rocky beach.

Awakened by the fury of the night,
I lie still in the wave of tossed blankets
left to wonder the outcome of the tale,
did I beat the winter moon's dark challenge,
is love close or has the tide pushed it out.

Note: I wrote another version of this poem almost two years ago. I have changed it some. I realize that it is a little heavy handed, but the moon, to me, is a very romantic figure. And its pull on me ... is very tragically romantic. 

Christmas cookies

as soon as wheels hit the tarmac
they’re making cookies
at grandma’s blue house on the corner.
in pjs and aprons, flour running across the floor,
chocolate chips, snickerdoodles,
hey, don’t forget the gingerbread cookies,
we need to make so many more.
eggs cracked with one hand,
shells littered across the counter,
fingers greased and at the ready,
more dough hits the tummy
than the metal sheet.
is that a cardinal out the window?
where are the hummingbirds?
no sweetie, they only come summer.
ding, ding, ding the timer sings,
cookies come out and are gobbled up
faster than the next batch hits the hot oven.
making cookies at grandma’s blue house on the corner,
we need to make so many more.


he fucks with me
            like cat and mouse
ah, but I don’t run
for the hole in the wall
if my tail is caught
            he can have it

do it yourself messiah

old Tony plopped down next to me
at the do it yourself messiah.
sitting in the altos,
his warbling, questionable tenor
threw me off
my nascent attempt
at choral singing.
he smelled of mint
and at half-time explained
that he had driven three
hours from Madison-
to sing.
Sing? Yes.
have some peppermint water,
it’s good for the voice,
he said.
he moved out,
stumbling for a fit,
fishing for his cap
under my seat.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Halle-----lu---jah.


Doris saw her
wearing pearls
on the 5 o’clock news
and thought,
 she isn’t as pretty as my girl;
and so bought me a strand
with her charg-a-plate.

the old suitcase

peculiar thing,
the suitcase in my vestibule
picked up for five at a sale.
crocodile embossed-
dull’d brass hardware and
faded Samsonite label.
it opens to a puckered lining
and grosgrain ribbons,
hidden pockets.
in its spot, it is chockfull
of memories: letters tidily
batched and tied.
in old movies, it sits on settees
as silky unmentionables are
folded in slippery piles.
only to be turned topsy turvy
when pulled up by its handle
to move toward a destination.
peculiar thing- this suitcase.
seemingly structured,
yet rather a jumble,
when destination is gotten to
and right sided,
contents have shifted.

you seem to like me

you seem to like me-           
            even love.
I see it in your eyes,
            crinkling up
when you smile at me
            most times.
but then you are silent.           

where do you put it away
            I wonder.
I find it in my finger nail
wrapped 'round my hair
            that’s knotted.
my DNA is encoded with it.

the children will come in fast
            and furious.
their love bubbles out of them
            in torrents.
it’s raucous and undeniably
what happens to that liberty.

I want to give that to you-
your silence can sit on my
            window sill,
find solace in time spent in
not caught up in others’ pith and fury.

it’s hard to say what I want-
it hasn’t taken form, though contentedly
not unlike a child’s seamless love,
            I expect,
you are all I need to finally soar.

pork chops at the Majorette

breakfast was served all day
at the Majorette.
patrons from the neighboring
residential hotel
would wander in off of
Oak Park Avenue
to  push runny eggs
around a plate with
a day-old coffee chaser,
but Doris always
ordered pork chops.
pork chops that would
move all day to next,
as the knives couldn’t
butter toast,
and her dentures snapped
at each grizzly bite.
but she loved ‘em-
or at least the time
it took to polish her plate.
neighbor to many
who lined up along the counter,
she’d wait for me in a booth-
our once a week luncheon date.
she’d have her hair washed and set
and wear the fur
she bought on her charg-a-plate
at Marshall Field’s.
she’d often repeat her past
to weave stories that
she no longer lived
in her one room corner
with the yellowing curtains
and iron bedstead.
I never counted the number
that the waitress filled my cup,
I’d always leave her twenty,
‘cause god knows that the
residents of the Berwyn Hotel
were the last of the nickel tip.
Doris would be there every morning
at five for oatmeal and juice.
and if I wasn’t coming,
she’d have softer fair to chew
at noon. at the Majorette.



        stumbling out of hibernation,
tripping over forgotten trenches,
pawing earth and grazing sustenance-
feeling slowly beats through
the heart's anesthetized state.
        sleepy squints brush at the rise in light
filtering through winter's peel-
the periphery a golden crown,
its warmth shocking
each fossilized corpuscle.
        my heart is begrudgingly resuscitated,
its memory impossible to delete,
the source resurrecting the impulses
unaware of what is harder to revive
than surviving what was
the cause of its initial incarceration.

In college, I fell for a boy. We two instantly connected to each other’s hearts. But like many boys in college, he found another connection. One that I could not be for him. It was slow coming, and painful for him to realize. I lived in a cloud of hopefulness and held fast to the love that we felt for each other, and the commitment that we made. Having given up all hope too many years in, he came to me … wanted me. I said yes. I felt like the bear in the cave coming out after a long winter of hibernation. But I came out … because he was stamped on my heart.

It didn’t take long though … January to August … until he realized that he feared the leap of faith. Characteristically, we were far away from home on a craggy cliff in the north of Ireland when he told me. And so heartbroken, I turned around, lived another week brutally disappointed, possibly shamed, and moved back to the cave that protected me from the icy chill and into the stale air that life without him left me. 


       stumbling toward hibernation,
pawing familiar tracks in darkness;
first frost, petal snow
whisper in the arctic air.
       sadly, autumn's sleepy squint
neglects to reveal the inevitable-
that ice storms again to freeze
anything that may have held life.
       I retreat into you
though suffocating in the stale air
trapped since my last sleep.

I think of that boy now. He is dead. He did come to me again … just a couple of years ago. We got lost in us. I was in it for … a lark, but for him … he seemed to hold tighter. I said, ‘what is it that you want from me?’ A question that I had never been able to ask before that moment. And when he said, ‘everything,’ I didn’t have that to give to him. 

I’m not a bear. I have to live all of the months out in the world, unhidden-unforgotten.

dandelion wine

in the yard at noon
the teetotaler stoops
to pick the weed that
happily populates
hot summer lawns.
careful to rinse
the yellow blades
of dirt and bug,
setting to soak
next to the jars
and pots bubbling up
ripened Michigan fruits.
dandelion wine
batched and aged,
the bitter bloom
fairy kissed- sweetens-
in the dry
of a cold cellar.
in a few months time,
never in her cups herself,
she pours them for her boys
'round the table,
the last of summer's tonic.

island girl

I stuck a sandwich in her mouth.
she swam every wave
that crashed against
the shore of Lake Michigan
that sizzling summer day.
gulping the turkey down,
happy to replace some of the
calorie lost in the movement
of water and sand,
she turned an eye to
the continued maelstrom
that was the day’s condition.
‘the waves are calling me,’
she whispered to it,
not me who was insistent
that she stay 15 more minutes
on the towel to settle the
slug of food and drink,
but the lake entranced her
and called her home-
island girl that she is.
standing, her little suit stretched
tight across an Irish derriere,
her Puerto Rican stamp,
sun darkened, nut-brown.
‘the waves are calling me.’
fearless, not afraid to call back
the tide whether in the darkness
of the North Atlantic or
crystal blue light of the Caribbean,
she walked into it with conviction,
her sweater, her skin, marked
with both tribes that let
it be perfectly known that
the sea, the water, could not drag her under.
‘the waves are calling me,’
and she pulled me up from the sands
to ride across and through any danger
she sensed. island girl:
as happy on land as in the sea.
selke, her seal coat water resistant
and protective of current and drag.
the waves call her, home.

throwin' a bone

I don’t know dogs.
throw a bone and
what does the dog do-
salivate, crunch, chew,
suck the marrow of it,
the choicest bit.
that done,
what then does the dog do?
were it a stick-
like a boomerang,
retrieval and return.
but with that damn bone:
and the pith sucked out.


left behind on a city street,
the cold almost there,
my breath a small puff
of carbon for the concrete
on the block to absorb.
no one was there to pull
me in to keep me from
thinkin’ that I was all alone.

she is dead

she was dead. as a door nail.
but she looked great. really.
her tiny nails polished red,
nose powder dusted.
they found the dress she
wore to her grand-daughter’s
wedding in the back of the closet:
black velveteen with sparkles,
she’ll be dancin’ in heaven surely.
in her repose, her memory found
its way back – her brow free of
loss and confusion. pretty settled.
even her spectacles magically
resurfaced to find her face.
mourners chatted easily about,
her life was lived long and
they were used to her in it,
but I’d never seen her before and
there is no doubt about it,
she was dead. but she looked good.


stumbling toward hibernation,
pawing familiar tracks in darkness;
first frost, petal snow
whisper in the arctic air.
sadly, autumn's sleepy squint
neglects to reveal the inevitable-
that ice storms again to freeze
anything that may have held life.
I retreat into you
though suffocating in the stale air
trapped since my last sleep.

that's all I know

her dad is dead.
when he was well,
they’d go to the ball park
to cheer on their
boys of summer,
lovable losers
that they are.
when he got too old,
maybe too tired,
they settled for
radio broadcasts
in the home.
when I saw her last,
she sat quietly,
listening to me
spin yarns,
she didn’t tire-
said so herself.
that’s all I know.


muscled smooth tight round fire
in my belly
melting spots squeezed
during roller coaster rides.
standing - centered,
falling into a tight space,
steam escaping from a seam
that used to be my sex.
he inhaled
faster than I could
clutch shut.


along woods wrapped 'round barb'd,
on labyrinth of snarled bark, 
orange-cupped wings float bitter hearts.

Huevos Machacado

With the best tortillas in the city,
I like to wrap up a spoonful of 
beans and rice, salsa
and the salty beef egged mixture 
for a bite of all of the flavors
rolled together into one.

I guess that’s how I liked you too:
wrapped in my blankets
with a little of this and a little
of that, something for me 
to sink my teeth into and
feast on all afternoon.

I stopped by the restaurante
today looking for a little
nourishment. Don’t get me 
wrong, I loved the taste of 
pepper and egg and meat
tucked tight but

I’d rather have a couple
of hours wrestling with 
you, falling to the floor
in tumbles of spice and 
tequila like back in the 
good ole days.

Amigo, I’m hungry.

Death Mask

The lines on your brow
were not there last I looked;
nor was the skin as sallow.

I know that pounds are falling
off with each puff of cigarette
and spoonful of cottage cheese.

You lose it to lose the parts of
yourself that she touched,
that she gained in what soured.

But it has settled into a 
stubbornness; pride in a flat
belly, a brother’s envy.

For Lincoln, the Civil War
precipitated the process
of death-like countenance.

In his first masked sitting, Abe
showed a strong jaw-
muscled firmness. Aliveness.

Four damning years of conflict
cast a living face in bronze,
his world became statuary.

When I touched your throat
where your shirt shows loss, 
I felt your heart beat,

the skin was warm and the 
mark my finger made,
sprang back. Supple.

Your smile to me was
not of sadness. It resonated
through me electrically

defiberalizing my heart. 
Resting peace is not ready for
your brow- for me to bear witness.

a tickle

pulled my tail.
conversation scratched my ears.
am purring.
will roll over for a tickle.

Note: I just got off of the phone with a guy who cleans rugs. He asked about pets ... and I was reminded of my cat who gingerly walked around the rug from window to the outer boroughs of the living space. I don't know why he always walked around it. He was always deliberate in his movement. And he certainly wasn't shy about getting his paws and fluff on every other surface in the place. Sadly, he died. I can't seem to get around to getting another cat. No cat could replace the best one. And so I had to say to the rug guy: no, I don't have a cat ... anymore. I remembered that I wrote this little ditty when I hung up. Mister so loved to have his tummy tickled. I had wished that who I wrote this for would be as easy. Maybe I should've told the rug guy that there's no guy here either to muss up the rug. Just me.

amelia earhart's pancake landing

ocean sky stall;
cartoon belly crash
300 miles off course.

scuttling coconut crabs carve 
flesh and carry bits of bone
away from detection.

pocket knife shards
and cosmetic jar-
catastrophic castaways.

Note: Someone explained to me what an Amelia Earhart's pancake landing meant. He had written a poem, not about Amelia Earhart, with the landing as an image in it. Interested, I googled Amelia Earhart. Though a search and rescue was ordered when she first disappeared, it was eventually called off, and evidence of what might have been her remains were left to what searchers are now speculating were giant coconut crabs that tore at their flesh, Amelia and her navigator's, and scuttled  any other remains away. Back at the site, researchers did recover the 'pocket knife shards,' and what looked to be a compact. Interesting that this woman, ahead of her time and in the pursuit of a 'round the world dream, would carry powder for her nose. I imagine that was as much a part of her 'uniform' as anything else in that day and time. Did she apply it before the crabs devoured her flesh and carried her bones off, I wonder.


circa 1969
Note: I made this card for my dad when I was in second grade. I believe that it is the first poem that I ever wrote. I had learned how to make the card in school, and I was eager to try the technique at home. I made a mixture of glue and water. I laid leaves and sprinkled glitter on the wax paper, placed tissue over the top of the that, and then saturated the tissue with the glue mixture. I wonder why I had decided to make the card for my dad? Was it purposed? I don't know. But the card has held up remarkably well, and is one that I treasure.


You circle around me like girls in the schoolyard,
with taunts of ‘I don’t want you, I don’t want you;’
but I know that my mother loves me, and as much
as your words hurt me, my heart still beats whole.

Your mother did not give you forever. You count the chips in
cookies as the demonstration of the love that she could
find in one of twelve. You watched as the boy across the street
was sent off with a kiss- that stored away in to you.

You charge, you don’t need to be taken care of as if embattled,
on the defensive, unable to look love in the eye and take it;
know that when needed, wagons will circle, weapons drawn,
no part of the perimeter possibly penetrated. I can take it,

for you who led me on to a love that unbalanced me,
one that exploded across my expression, my smile,
my everything that anyone could figure out to see;
and I could not block anyone from seeing you in me.

I know now after you’ve healed from disappointment
and after I have wiped your brow of the residue,
you look to the other girls, the ones from your past
that waft like whispers reminding you of a former strength.

I don’t stand a chance against something that isn’t real time.
You’ll manufacture present with rosied leftovers.
I don’t have that need, I don’t have that desire, I don’t,
for now is what I long for: moments, minutes, hours.

And I will dream vividly as the present gives us that,
not haunts of the past, or fear of what’s around the corner.
Oh, I do have ghosts, and I let them talk to me when they appear,
but they cannot claim me as my spirit moves swiftly forward.

And so in this movement, I will live. I will do. I will try
to contain, restrain, wrassle all of the ideas of how I can still
keep watch. Knowing how to love wholly. How to lift up and
find what is best about the man who does not know how.