Monthly Archives: April 2013

Purgatory, Kentucky

It got to where I couldn’t see a way
ahead except for dying. So I went.
So here I am. Just where, I couldn’t say.
It’s odd. Some kind of grass, or cane, all bent

this a way and that, slick at the root,
and spiky sharp half the time, black as coal,
but soft enough to lie down in, some spots.
I’d a slept more, but my dreams is full

of nasty animals and dead presidents.
I got attacked by a whole fleet of armadillos
in a river. An armada. Is that what you call it?
Abraham Lincoln himself chopping wood. “Hello

Mr. Penny Man,” I said. He spoke not a word.
But this ain’t Hell. Of that I am assured.

This was a challenge poem–I wanted to write a poem JUST FOR my reading tonight at UW-Manitowoc (which was terrific–thanks, Jessica!). So the Manti folks suggested I write about Boyd Crowder’s hair, Abraham Lincoln chopping wood, and an armada or armadillos.

I’m imagining Mags Bennett’s voice here. Might write some more of these.

When a Marriage Makes

When a marriage makes a baby,
no one is surprised.
When a marriage makes a mess,
well, likewise.

When a marriage makes a record,
it is some kind of sign.
When a marriage makes a book,
that book, that marriage–they’re mine.


nath doing the hand-sewing

nath doing the hand-sewing

old school

old school

This. Feels. Amazing.

This. Feels. Amazing.

40 years ago, I put together a collection of some of my own poems along with outright thefty poems cobbled from Beatles lyrics & birthday cards. It was made of typing paper, bound with construction paper and yarn. This was in order to get out of trouble in 3rd grade (having been squirrelly in math class).

I still hope, eventually, to publish a collection of poems through conventional channels, but how lovely it is to have a husband who can take a manuscript of my poems related to teaching, and make of it…a book.

Prayer of Worry, Prayer of Love

On seeing pictures of bombing suspects, I thought
how very much they looked just like my students.
And now on hearing that “they’re not from here,”
I’m worried about my students, who are from everywhere.
I want to say my students, to the world, to God,
How much I love them. They’re why I do this job
(however well or badly I end up doing it).

I love all my students, damn it.
I love my Muslim students. Christians, also,
of course, and atheists, and everything else, too,
But today it’s Islam someone might be using
as an excuse to beat up a much-loved student.

We come to God so many different ways.
Or not at all. Let’s go where we find more love,
let’s offer hopes and wishes, good thoughts and prayers,
let’s be for each other what we all need more of.

Headache Weather, Part 4

Everything’s tight,
everything hurts,
again with the shoulders
up by my ears.

Except for before
when I let loose
the sobbing today, right then
I was loose
all over, no crying for me,
no quiet tears, just heaves
of choking, some gasps,
a big, fat grief orgasm.

I am not pretty when I cry.

My sister was better acquainted
with the deceased, but, if I may,
let me observe how utterly
inappropriate her racket was today.
She says I’m cold at the core.
Well if I am, at least my ice
doesn’t go melting when and where
it ought not, leaving a big mess.


Standing with the smokers,
watching the shadows of clouds race
up the big hill, wishing I could
walk there and lie down
in one of the big green stripes.
Now a big cloud covers the sun.
Now everything looks gray again.
Even the green looks smudged.



for Jennifer F.

Headache Weather, Part 3

It was kind of a hard day, see,
because it was kind of misty
and I just could not get settled
on the the whole wiper setting
because one was too fast
and one was too slow
and the adjust-a-speed one
just wasn’t right at all,
so I was really irritated
when I got to the funeral.

Headache weather, part II


Lovely sort of fall day for April.
Perfect for the funeral I just went to.
It was one of those good ones,
I mean, I cared, but we weren’t close.
I welled up a little.
A perfectly brisk little grief.

Headache Weather, Part I

So far for National Poetry Writing Month, I’ve done a haiku-ish poem I like to think of as a like-ku, a parody, and some found poetry that led to a poem I found genuinely startling (did I really write a breakfast cereal called Jezebel Crunch that had little crunchy bits shaped like her hands and feet? Yes. Yes I did.)

So now let’s try some lines for a verse play, called Headache Weather. And then let’s see if I come back to it after today.

Just driving in the driving rain
my elbows up around my ears,
I thought, “This is the kind of day
that I call ‘headache weather’

because I get these migraines
I don’t call migraines.
I figure calling them that
gives them power I don’t want

my headaches to have. Words
and names and utterance,
they all can make things
really real. Real as birds.


Not really a verse play yet, just one voice speaking. Hm.

The Constable Bob of the Classroom

I unlock the door to class then lock it back.
As we go in I say, “This is what I do
to protect you in the event of active shooter attack.”
Students laugh. It’s early. There are only a few,

so I go on to say, “Just so you know,
that’s pretty much it. I shut the door so
no one in the hallway can kill you fast.”
In my idea of myself, I could master

a sweet little Glock 40 and holster it
and pull it out when needed. “My aim is true,”
I’d sing in my head as I blew holes clean through
my targets. But oh, my students and I, we get

an image of things going badly with me armed.
I want to be Raylan Givens, that tough, that cool.
I’d be lucky to be Constable Bob. First do no harm?
Not with this clumsy, gun-totin’ prof in the room.

(I would be BEYOND lucky to be Constable Bob. “Drewbacca” indeed. And also, p.s., I can’t even pretend to begin to imagine I could ever be as cool as Ava.)

“Eat Me” Said the Breakfast Cereal Mascot

Mommy bought the wrong cereal.
Don’t throw a fit.
Mommy is sorry.
Just eat the damn shit.

Look, see how pretty?
Those crunchy bits–
they’re Jezebel’s hands!
And also her feet!
And, oh my. A skull.

But look on the box!
Look, see how pretty?
She’s all dressed up!
She’s wearing makeup!
So pretty by the window.

Let’s open the box!
You might get a prize.
There’ might be a dog.
See the puppy dog?

If you don’t eat your cereal
the puppy will eat Jezebel.
It will eat her all up.
It will be a big help.
Mommy’s so sorry.
Be Mommy’s good puppy
and gobble her up!

If you’re a little rusty on the story, here’s 2 Kings 9

Found Poem, from Jezebel

“Maybe it’s not the greatest of patriarchal injustices
that cockeyed toucans, skateboarding frogs,
and vaguely pedophilic white rabbits hawking
sugar-blasted cereal to children are all male.”

“Even Fruity Pebbles, a cereal that actually includes
the name of a Flintstones character,
decided not to put Pebbles on its box.”

“Think about that the next time you see
some unsupervised child standing on his tippy-toes
to reach a box of Count Chocula. Then approach
the child and ask in a friendly voice,
‘Need help, little guy?’ Invariably the child will nod
shyly, which is your cue to knock the entire shelf
of Count Chocula to the floor and walk away.
Don’t feel bad — you’re doing your part,
however small, to erode the patriarchy’s power.”

Thus far in NaPoWriMo I have resorted to a sort of haiku, a like-ku, a parody, and now some found poetry. Also a couple of poems I actually like (see “Scavenged” for what I think is the best from the week).

This “found poem” was “found” in an article tweeted from Jezebel, “Ever Notice That There Aren’t Any Female Breakfast Cereal Mascots?”

Happily, the found poem led to a poem of my own, which is what’s up there at the very top of the page. Lovin me some Jezebel Crunch.