What it Was Like

Sample poems from What It Was Like (2003)


Since, as a child, I was happy
as a child, I thought every one
was happy, including the grimy man
who lived at the city dump in a shack
decorated with hubcaps, broken chairs
by the door cheerfully facing out to a waste,
those days, of rubble smoking and oily dirt,
although it was a strange kind of happiness
I knew I wouldn’t ever know.
Even the dead, I thought then,
grinning as I biked around town,
were happy in their own way.
That’s what it was like.

(by permission Northwest Review)


 The young are throwing themselves off bridges
         this Sunday afternoon as my friend and I drift,
old men, around the bend--the river curling
         into shallows, depths, for only a moment all day--

to lurch aground as the skinny bomb of a boy
         streamlines feet first and splash, two girls
in tiny swimsuits by the sun-hot car leisurely
         murmuring their no doubt astonishing secrets.

We are aged enough they might think we were
         set adrift to die, if they thought of us,
so nonchalant toward the world
         they seem charmed, aloof, under a bridge

recording their names, years, all of us spending
         our lives, wasting them wonderfully
in the same direction. We stand around,
         pretending not to notice, then load canoe
as boy climbs into car with girls, gunning the way
         up hill toward home, river carrying
the salt of their sweet skin to some Atlantic
         as we drive gingerly into the next near future.

(by permission Sundog)