NaPoWriMo, Day 6

This one was inspired by the NaPoWriMo prompt of the day, urging us all to example Jheronimus Bosch’s triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights.


After Jheronimus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights


Adam is short a rib, but now has a plus-one

for garden parties.  He reclines, surprisingly relaxed

after the ultimate outpatient procedure,

on the grass while the Creator takes Eve’s pulse—

must be sure everything is working as it should.

Eve the Rib is uncertain, eyes downcast.

It must be the uneven terrain

that forces her knees to the ground,

because surely these gentlemen

would never refuse to offer assistance

or comfort in this unfamiliar place.  Surely

the Creator would take her hand,

a divine and dazzling warmth,

and help her find her footing.  But Adam’s toes

tangle in the Creator’s robes like a playful child

and it is he who holds Adam’s gaze.

Even the rabbit, already granted his playboy bunny,

turns an indifferent tale to this farce

just beginning to be written.


NaPoWriMo, Day 5


I imagine a stout, aging French lady reclining on a chaise with velvet upholstery, still looking en vogue in pink silk and lace and eyes lined to look like Bette Davis.  Just a touch of la grippe, she says, fluttering the back of her hand to her forehead.  How appropriate the word—grippe—the insidious viral fingers wrapping themselves around us, clenching until we ache.  Gasp. Wheeze.  Drink willow bark tea and turn our faces to the sky, hoping to breathe in any piece of it.  Maybe now we call it aspirin.  Or maybe now we take azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine and rest our heads on a gurney because the hospital beds are all taken.  Either way, we can hear la vie en rose in our heads and imagine ourselves in Paris.

NaPoWriMo, Day 4

I followed the NaPoWriMo prompt today (loosely) to generate a poem about dream imagery.  I feel like I may have to do several takes of this, because 1) my dreams are usually REALLY strange, and 2) I have several recurring themes in my dreams and have had them for years.  This encompasses a couple that I’ve had several times.



first I am aware

of existing


then I notice

the doors flung wide


so I sidle up

to the threshold


and call out

to my volleyball coach


from high school

who says


no water breaks

and when I protest


my teeth fall out



into my hands

and I look at them


with scientific curiosity

not unlike


I examine the feeling

of existing


that started this whole thing

and the sense


that the doorway

does not lead


anywhere I wish

to go


NaPoWriMo, Day 3 (belated)

I really did write this yesterday, but I wasn’t quite happy with it enough to put it up.  I tweaked it today, so here is a second draft:


When I was young, my mother took night classes

at the local community college.  In one building they had

a dead, dissected cat under glass, splayed flat on its back,

paws wide as if in surrender.  Its now-brittle belly skin cut

and pulled back, rib cage cracked to teach humans

about its lungs, stomach, intestines, the dingy pinks

and browns dulled and yellowed by formaldehyde.

Its chin jutted upwards, hiding its eyes.  I wanted to know

if it had ever been loved, if a warm hand

had ever passed over the white fur

or if it had ever been called to its dinner

by a name someone chose for it.  But I hid

behind my mother’s legs, afraid to see

what was really inside, what was split wide open

and vulnerable.

NaPoWriMo, Day 2


Someone made a jar that said “after the virus” on it.  She’s putting tiny scraps of paper in it; ball-point scrawls of beaches and airplanes, or trips to the grocery store.  Mini-golf.  Concert tickets.  Things we can do when everything is done breaking apart.  We’ll arts-and-crafts it back together.  We’ll be the glue, the string, the popsicle sticks.  And when this is done, she’ll reach into the jar and pull out the world in its new shape.

Strange and Familiar Times

It’s April 1, marking the beginning of National Poetry Month.  I always try to participate in National Poetry Writing Month and write a poem a day.  You’d think this year it’d be easy, with COVID-19 restricting us to our homes.  However, rather than a break, I find myself essentially doing at least two full-time jobs–my own actual job teaching (all moved online now), and then essentially homeschooling my children.  And somehow keeping the house from falling down.

Yesterday, on the eve of NaPoWriMo, I thought to myself, is there poetry to be found here?

Maybe, maybe not.  I’m willing to find out.




There are some things you can let go of.

This is what aloneness teaches us:

the value of your grasp,

what it chooses.  What falls away.

Windows, and how sometimes

they become mirrors.  Photos.

There are people outside here,

their hands on their windows

and their faces gentle,

bittersweet decisions.


Mackinac Bound!

I’m so excited to leave for my artist-in-residency on Mackinac Island on Monday, June 10!  This is an incredible honor to be chosen by the Mackinac State Historic Parks for their inaugural residency program.  I’m really looking forward to spending dedicated time on my manuscript, as well as working with the Mackinac Arts Council to provide both a poetry workshop and a public reading during my stay on the island.

The workshop, entitled “Island Time,” will focus on the history, geology, and natural themes of the island, and we’ll explore both formal and free verse poetry.  All experience levels are welcome!  It will take place on June 13 at 7:00 p.m. in the Visitor’s Center, conference room 256.

The public reading will feature selections that I will write during my residency (with a health dose of old favorites, too) and it will take place on June 21 at 7:00 p.m. in the same venue as the workshop.

Come and visit if you’re in the area!

Reviewing Ada Limón’s Latest Poetry Collection

I consider it a high point in my career thus far that I was able to begin reviewing books of poetry for The Rumpus.  I have respected their work for years, and when the opportunity arose, I happily took it!  It came out late this past March:

What a phenomenal book.  This was the type of collection that both inspires and humbles the reader.  Of course, after my review was written, it received all sorts of well-deserved accolades, including being a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award.  I highly encourage everyone to pick up a copy!

NaPoWriMo, Day 3

Today’s prompt from the NaPoWriMo site was to write a “sonnet-esque”poem with iambic pentameter, and about something sad.  In the news recently is the sad story of Timmothy Pitzen, who went missing in 2011 after his mother checked him out of school, apparently placed him with unknown people to raise, and then committed suicide.  His father and other family members haven’t seen him since that day, when he was 6 1/2 years old.  In the past couple of days, a young man came forward claiming to be Timmothy Pitzen, but today it was announced that DNA results didn’t match.  While the young man may certainly be a product of abduction and abuse, he doesn’t belong to the Pitzen family.  I couldn’t imagine the family’s heartbreak, given even the slightest hope that their son was finally found, only to find out it was a (even well-intentioned) hoax.  So I wrote this poem for them:


For the family of Timmothy Pitzen, missing since May 11, 2011


The face, aged up, not his; the tweak of smile

the wrong angle.  We knew this deep inside

the phone’s jangle-tone, the way it sounded

like a nightingale, deceptive in its

joy.  We hadn’t seen him in many years,

that little bird, off to school with his bag

and jacket; we wanted to hear his voice

over the wire.  Instead we got a face

not quite right, outlined with nervous bruises,

asking for family he can’t recall.

Our arms, too weak from carrying with us

old pictures age-progressed for clarity—

they can’t embrace him or tend to his wounds.

His song belongs to someone else.  Just who

that is, may he someday discover them.

For now, we line our lonely nest and wait.

NaPoWriMo, Day 2

I missed yesterday due to an unexpected flare of a recurring illness I deal with from time to time, and it didn’t seem like a great idea (on the other hand, maybe it would have been fantastic) to write while under the influence of narcotic pain medication.  So I plan to make up a day this week and write two (although not today, because of aforementioned narcotic pain medication).  I vaguely followed the prompt given out by NaPoWriMo.



What is a minute?  A piece of our attention

chopped with a dull knife, divided equally.

What is a day?  A circle, gold-toned

and imperceptible to feet.  Only our skins

know the warmth, only our eyes know

the sting of a cloudless noon sky.

What is a month?  Crescents

arcing across, beads on a string,

silver like an ocean.

What is a year?  Beyond our attention,

longer than breath.  A swallower of minutes.