Sample Poems from Some of These Days (Conundrum Press, 2013)


Only because I had soldiers.
Given a set of lead cows, I would have
invented agriculture, the morning                                                      
driving to the fields, the evening back,

one barking dog, one herd-boy singing,
after I’d invented song, and strolling
back to the unruffled house. I would have
invented houses, drawn a spiral of smoke

from each chimney in town. Would have invented
towns. Would have invented fire for each hearth,
invented hearths, invented water to
put out fires, and because I had water

I would have invented flowers. But I had
only soldiers. This went on for years.


At the first hard shock, a first love                                        
overturned in the instant of a letter,
I was burned by the hurt, if not

in the heart, that tight affectionate knot,
then in the chest, an ache swelling up.
That night I lay in bed watching the rain

burst over our small troubled trees
and cried, mostly from pain but partly,
that young, in tune with the storm’s torrent,

until I stopped. But then, wanting back
that bitter pang, I counted up
every lost thing until I broke out again,

glorying in my new sadness,
delighted to feel it, to feel, my small life
as large as the worldly rain.


Buson once saw the iris-
colored droppings of a bird
fallen onto an iris colored
like the droppings of a bird.

I, on the other hand, see
a tired, red-haired woman, dyed,
I presume, deposit a handful
of letters in the mailbox

and enter the coffee shop
I’m visiting before seeing
my father. For an hour I think
of myself, then the world.

“I crook my arm, the world’s crooked,”
wrote Takahashi—a sparrow
changing the universe—who’s now dead,
born six years before father.

Later, we sit together
staring out of his window
either at trees the dark shade of earth
erupting into blossom

or the parking lot where cars
seem dead, a few birds dribbling
their pastels, sermon upon sermon:
how beauty comes when it comes,

how beauty goes when it goes,
how we can recognize it,
how we can sit and love in silence,
how silence is the last word.


When I put up, by association of parts,
my umbrella I become Portuguese
along an Omaha street because I

bought it in Portugal, a Saturday market
in a small town, men standing in clusters
on one side of the street, the women, mostly

in black, on the other, a divided village
in separate knots, two sides for marriages
to get away from each other.

Suddenly in the market there came a downpour
and I was standing beside the seller
of big umbrellas and if it had rained

all day—and I had places to go, I couldn’t
stand around not-talking to the men—I was ready
although it only rained three minutes so I had

this large black sculpture to carry around two weeks
but now I can use it in Omaha,
light drops ticking like a dozen watches

on the tight drum-skin of my contrivance.
Let’s face it, the umbrella is comic,
the funniest amenity we’ve made.

The duck, of course, is the funniest animal,
not mallards but the children’s barnyard-book-
duck, he and she of the orange bill and feet

and the white plump decoy of a body.
The bicycle is the funniest machine,
if you’re keeping a list, because all its parts

are so visible. A car is mysterious,
or a jet, because its parts are hidden
but if you’ve looked at a bicycle you can

make one although perhaps not a good one.
An umbrella is comic because
it’s that obvious a thing. There’s also

a certain sense of self-importance one exudes
carrying an umbrella and someone else’s
self-importance is also funny

the way I am now, under my umbrella
in the fragile rain which is not like the drench
on Gene Kelly in a street in “An American in Paris,”

the first movie I took a girl to, Jayne, a Baptist, who,
when I remarked on the way home how exciting it was,
though going with a girl was the most exciting part,

said she thought it was very “carnal.” Who
but a Baptist girl would use that word? I’m sorry I left
Jayne or she left me but not really, so long afterward now,

but I am sorry I had to leave the Portuguese market
and I’m also afraid, no one else on the street
carrying an umbrella, that I’m surely

a comic figure, an old duck riding a new bicycle,
because although it shows I’m well-traveled
no one else knows that and I think of singing

a chorus or two about rain and Jayne
but (see under “Umbrella, comic”) I’d look
even funnier and to all of Omaha.


Shoes are a symbol, I once thought, looking down
at my young lover’s Birkenstocks, tiny boats
of love moored by the bed while she showered,
poignant, but when she put them on, I forgot them.

(I am not speaking here of the one high heel
found in a hotel elevator, or the lump of a shoe
rumbled over on the highway, or two
tied and tossed to dangle, helpless, from a wire.)

I have worn in my life clod-hoppers, gun-boats,
white bucks, blue suede, oxfords, boots, penny-loafers,
sneakers, tennis-shoes, sandals (like Christ
I first thought—later, like Allen Ginsberg).

Of course we think about shoes mainly when they’re off,
in a muddle by the front door, the kids’ tumbled
in a corner, or your love’s empty lovelies, or yours
when they’re tired, parked in front of your chair.

Later, our shoes slip-on or have Velcro tabs
so we don’t have to fumble with those first lessons.
At the last, someone takes ours off. We won’t
need them anymore. Death, you see, is soft.