Sunday, September 19, 2010


I am aardvark!

Not platypus or porcupine
or that mammal that lays eggs.

I am aardvark,
first in line on Noah's Ark
if we lined up alphabetically–
which we never do.

That's why I have to remind you of my name:

Now don't you forget it!


I'm that thought you're not supposed to think.
I go against the grain and your mama's
better judgment. There's a reason
they keep me underground, hidden,
locked away from polite society.

And you know why–
even if you don't dare admit it!

~written at the Poetry-On-Demand booth on 9/17/2010


I don't need a four-leaf clover
or carry a rabbit's foot in my pocket.
Double rainbows and face-up
copper pennies never turn my head.
All I have to do is look in the mirror,
say my name, and know–
I am Lucky!

~written at the Poetry-on-Demand booth on 9/17/10 for a woman whose name means lucky

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Education and Edification


I remember one splendid morning,

all blue and silver.
We two were sitting together
on the wintry Campagna grass–
unvexed and unencumbered
with paper patterns,
the ceiling and walls of a simple house
visited by shadows.

Thank heaven!

Let us talk about – well, anything you will.
Goldfish, for example. Among the sadder
and smaller pleasures of this world,
I count this pleasure.

Things are depressing enough.


It is a piece of chalk

under the rolling cloud bales
and the song of invisible larks
of the Campagna. But now
it is the flight of the very earth
that carriers her clasped shadow
from the sun.

The night is full of stars,
the landscape glistens with a late frost–
which is all I want to say about goldfish.

At any moment: without remorse, without anxiety
without dishonor, you are free
to do this dignified and final thing…
make my life work running that car
with the magic mirror.

~taken from the first and last lines (or two) from "Essays on Education and Edification"

Thursday, May 20, 2010


He's wearing that sweater again–
the blue v-neck with the gray trim.
He makes cardigans look sexy–
the wool clings to the t-shirt
underneath as if trying to claw its
way to his skin.Just looking at him
in that sweater gets me all hot.
I love it when its cold outside.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What I Can't Forget

I felt the heat from your foot graze mine
and the sand underneath - cold and wet
the sensation of your touch traveled up my spine
sunk deep in my brain and now I can’t forget.

The sand underneath our feet was cold and wet
firm like the memory of that night
has sunk deep in my brain and now I can’t forget
how much I wanted to hold you tight.

Firm like the memory of that night
our fingers and palms found a fit in the dark
how much I wanted to hold you tight
enough to cause a spark.

Fingers and palms found a fit in the dark
an attraction too strong to deny
enough to cause a spark
but you were somebody else’s guy.

An attraction too strong to deny
as if blown from the same cosmic dust
but you were somebody else’s guy
so stopping myself was a must.

As if blown from the same cosmic dust
the sensation of your touch traveled up my spine
but stopping myself was a must
when I felt the heat from your foot graze mine.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mean Wonderful Sleep Box

I just bought a mean wonderful sleep box.
What do I mean by wonderful sleep box?
Why a box where I sleep wonderful and mean.
It's wonderful - I get some mean sleep on that box!
Sleep is wonderful, much better than if I had to sleep in a box.
That's just mean. What a wonderful box I bought.
I'm no longer mean now that I can just sleep.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Letting Go

The shock has faded
when I see you in dreams
alive in your late 40s
frozen at the age you were
when I saw you every day.
This time you tried to protect me
even though I am old enough
to take care of myself
even though I’ve grown accustomed
to your absence.
Part of me still longs for her daddy
to scare away monsters
as if mortgages and heartbreak
dissolve in the light.
I wish I knew how to conjure you up
make your image play
on the screen behind my eyes
so this dehydrated heart
can drink up
the last bit of sleep.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What to Do at the End of the Line

Like a kitten
that crawled past
the edge of the bed
I must decide
to claw
back to the top
or hope
I land on all fours.


A penny
with a hole
a sock
behind the dryer
One has no hope
to be found;
the other
is not worth

Just What I'm Hoping For

A real lover
looks good
when he walks
a good catch.

He’s been there
he’ll be there
he’s there.

He stays
sees you

~ From Adele “Daydreamer”

Not Thinking of You

I don’t care what he wants
when he’s lonesome,
feelin’ love starved.

When I hear him say:
Let’s get away, go somewhere!
Can we?

I don’t care!

Look at my love floating away.

~ From Aretha Franklin “Day Dreaming”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Parents' Night Out

After we’ve kissed the
little ones goodnight
promise to pay
the babysitter extra
for staying past midnight
we go
giddy as teenagers
headed a house party
we drive
two-seater with the top down
shake our roles out in the wind
we dance
like maniacs
all ten thousand of them
transported to that place
when we could
drop to our knees
lean way back
playing air guitar.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Chicago flight
home to Durham
delayed for three hours
due to “weather” in Missouri
which sounds better than tornado outbreak
but has the same effect:
I wait even longer
to find sleep
my bed

Earth Speaks

I watch the needle creep
to 75 in the 55 zone,
look for red flashing lights
in the rear view while miles
of green stream past. When you face
the sun to warm us, I squint
fumble with the visor, fish
inside my purse for shades.

I don’t see which blue
you have painted the sky
or the shape and depth
of the clouds drifting above.
You want to tell me something,
but I can’t hear, until the rain forces me
to monitor the speed of the wiper blades,
take the car out of warp drive.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

According to What They Say

They say shaking a weight
for just six minutes a day
will shape and tone flabby arms.
But when I tried to exercise this way
it caused my shoulder harm.

They say asparagus
is a miracle cure for cancer
when cooked and pureed.
But it only turned my urine green
and made it smell for days.

They say the greeting card virus
would infect my computer
then turn it into a zombie.
But when I deleted all emails
I missed the friend’s discount at Abercrombie.

They say all these things
to help or protect me
but none of it turns out to be true.
Should I listen to them or to myself?
Dear Lord, please tell me what to do!

Can't Look Ahead or Look Back

I am somewhere
between past failures
and future mistakes.
Boxed-up memories
left miles behind
with cautious promises
to come back.
Asphalt stretches ahead
black and endless
pointing to nowhere.

Let Harley’s hum
drown the chatter
in my head.
Let the rush
of the wind
become a mantra.
Let it be
perfect, for once.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Humpty Dumpty

Surely he knew it was dangerous
to lay his rounded surface on that high flat edge.
To stay up would take more balance and control
than his muscles could muster; their involuntary trembling
wobbled his delicate shell. Was this what he was thinking
when he ignored the fear in his yellow core
to climb that wall, sit, and wait for gravity to work?

Monday, April 19, 2010

To Write Poetry

You must cut your belly open
season your innards
with olive oil, kosher salt,
and fresh ground pepper to taste,
then sear your emotions
in a cast-iron skillet
to seal in the flavor.

When done, serve your soul
on Wedgwood china
lay the platter
at the reader’s feet
and walk away.

Chemical Bonds

Ionic Love

I give up my electron
to complete you,
then disappear.

Covalent Love

Two atoms half whole
find each other, share, bond
stronger than diamonds

Polar Covalent Love

I open to you
You keep your electrons back
Our bond falls apart

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Road Kill

A lump of gray fur mashed
flat on the asphalt.
Something--once living--
didn't make it to the other side.

How will life end?
Like a squirrel
who crossed too soon
or waited too long
to seek fallen acorns?

Or like a baby raccoon
separated from the den
his tiny squeals crushed
under a two-ton pickup?

Or like a possum hissing
on the double yellow line
eyes locked with his doom?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

May 1st

Rent is due.
Time to scrawl half the amount
in letters and numbers
sign illegibly at the bottom
then stuff a check in an envelope
with the one his girlfriend
taped to the bathroom mirror
before she left for work.
But her check and her toothbrush are gone
and he remembers the letter
he has to write.

But what to say?
Does he apologize for the screams of anger
boiled over from lies exposed,
the unrelenting sobs that followed?
The landlady used to say
they were such quiet neighbors
but now when he passes her
on the way to the garage
she just whistles.

Should he mention
that blackened spot on the carpet
stained with sex and vomit
from vodka that could not erase
the taste and smell of his lover
from his girlfriend’s mind?
The security deposit
just one more thing to give up
come June.

He needs more time to think
of the right words.
But for now, he writes
We are moving out.
This letter serves as last month’s notice.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ellis Island

Lone light of this island
holds the dreams of the world.
Lady colossus.


Love spreads from one heart to another
As a bee spreads pollen
to flowers.

All at once the whole field is blooming.
Everywhere signs of spring.

~An imitation of Charles Simic's "Fear"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Bull City

Brightleaf plants grew her ambitions
and with a lucky strike,
tobacco built stacks to honor her name.
When that flame died, she positioned herself
in the center of the Triangle
touting international educators
to lure biotech innovators as we traded
one drug for countless others.
The Flower of the Carolinas is blooming again
as the City of Medicine, as my home.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Last Ride

The back roads
on the Harley.
Your helmet heavy
on my head.
My doubt heavy
on my shoulders
Our bodies lean
into the curve.
I hang on
though not tight.
I know you
won’t be back
no matter how
much you promise.
Just go faster.
Let the wind
erode my mind.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

6th Inning Horror

Intentional walk
Then I hit the next batter
A pitcher's nightmare.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


She's not ignoring you.
She's talking to herself
or rather, she is listening
while her self talks on and on.

At a party, you may find her tucked
in a corner watching the extroverts
spew personal details around the room
like garden sprinklers on the lawn.

Sometimes she prefers the internal
conversation over the external drivel;
other times she wants the chatter to fall silent
like the birds in Simic's trees.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Classic Craftsman Drill

He picks up the cordless then leaves
my vintage chrome on the shelf.
Even when I shine up real nice,
stack my drill bits just right,
he still takes that gaudy ol’ plastic thing
along for odd jobs. All night she brags
about the freedom he feels each time
he wraps his fingers around her handle.
My cord may keep me tethered,
but I know her battery conks out
before she can finish the job.
Then he comes back around–
looking for me to give him that extra oomph
to power six-inch nails through concrete.
He knows I’ll squeeze out
all the torque he needs.

Until She Left

Every time Maggie came home from medical school,
the refrigerated hummed, filled with milk, eggs and orange juice,
the cupboards could barely contain themselves, stuffed
with all the fixings for Mom’s famous lasagna.
Mom and Dad made a silent truce
not to argue over the latest bounced check.
Sometimes their ceasefire would extend to holding hands
or Dad opening and closing the passenger side door.
I would rush home after my last class
to finish homework and chores
before Mom could bug me about it.
Maggie and I would trade every girly detail of our lives before dinner
Even our older brother, Mike, would crawl out from under his girlfriend
long enough to eat with us, then chauffeur us around town
– to the mall or movies or wherever it was we wanted to go
just like he used to do when we were all just kids.
Our family was whole again – until she left
and our normal lives broke loose.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Most Unkindest

Screen name MoulinRouge number 9
Stole my boyfriend's heart and crushed mine.
She was his fantasy in the flesh
Her smell, her taste is what he loved best.
I imagined her blond, buxom, almost six feet tall
To learn she was my friend was the unkindest cut of all.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Work Overload

I’m IM’ing my manager
on the training call
while wading through the 40 or so emails
that came in overnight from India.
A knock on the door.
No, this isn’t a bad time.
I’ll just put it on mute
and review the PowerPoint slides
on the red eye flight to London.

~Special thanks to Susan Anderson for the real life examples

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Repeating History

Once again tears stream down my face
as I regurgitate half truths
swallowed whole.

In my autobiography
I walk down the same street
knowing where the potholes are
but still falling
head first
still crawling out
hurt and bitter
as if I have forgotten
I can walk down a different street.

But I like him.
His energy
warms between my thighs,
his cool breeze
makes my arms goose bump

So I walk down the same street
knowing where the potholes are
but still falling.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Partly Lying

A tumble of words empty
my mouth. Sorry, never, and better latch
onto pronouns and prepositions, cohere
into what you want to hear.
Then the truth falls out
like rotted teeth
leaving only honesty visible
through the holes.


The sun tries to coax me up
But I dig my roots deeper
into soil that has fed me, kept me
safe through winter’s cold.
I see the crape myrtle–
its bright pink flowers abandoned
for tiny green leaves. I feel the weight
of dead petals heavy on the earth above.
Daffodils droop their heads low,
and in a whisper, strengthen my resolve.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hidden Pockets

Inside this lightweight jacket, pockets big enough
to hold keys, license, and phone–three things you take everywhere.
Before, you power walked with these pieces of your life bulging
in small outer pockets, kept your elbows clenched to the side
holding everything in. For the first time your arms swing free,
in sync with the rhythm of each stride.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Writing Prompt: Elements

He insisted our attraction was chemical, not physical–
it wouldn’t fade as gravity coaxed our skin to sag–
nor was it temporal–our feelings would not grow dim
over eons like some star three galaxies away.
It was chemical, as in based in chemistry
like Na and Cl on the periodic chart, destined
to make salt every time molecules were thrown together.
And we were thrown together. Our one-on-one meetings
behind closed doors stretched into working late nights
and grabbing coffee or maybe dinner before
winding down our days on my couch.
Even when were weren’t trying to be together
we were drawn to each other, like the time he stopped
at a red light and saw me eating outside. I was in town
but didn’t mention it – I thought the elements could be fooled.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Memory of Lucille Clifton: June 27, 1936 – February 13, 2010

the gift

there was a woman who hit her head
and ever after she could see the sharp
wings of things blues and greens
radiating from the body of her sister
her mother her friends when she felt

in her eyes the yellow sting
of her mothers dying she trembled
but did not speak her bent brain
stilled her tongue so that her life
became flash after flash of silence

bright as flame she is gone now
her head knocked again against a door
that opened for her only
i saw her last in a plain box smiling
behind her sewn eyes there were hints
of purple and crimson and gold

Clifton, Lucille (2004), Mercy. BOA Editions, Ltd. (Rochester, NY)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Prompt: Missing Something

The doctor asked, “When did you first notice something was wrong?”

The lion switched his tail from side to side, while he thought back to the moment his problem began. He had been taking his usual 4 o’clock nap under the umbrella tree when he had overheard the birds gossiping about a foolish young male gazelle that had twisted his ankle trying to graze on an untouched patch of grass near a ravine. The elders had warned the young ones to stay in the flat areas, but this one must have been too good to eat where everyone else ate–he slipped five feet, banged his hind hoof on a rock trying to stop from sliding all the way down.

The lion thought the story merely the chatter of old birds until he saw the gazelle herd making their way to the watering hole at six minutes past sunset. Sure enough, the young gazelle normally in second to last had been moved up to a less vulnerable position closer to the front. The lion remembered his heart beating fast then. The excitement from knowing the classic feint attack would yield him dinner and a midnight snack. The lion sprang from the deep grass–first charging the youngest in the herd to get the other gazelles to rush to defend the weakest one. Then he circled back, pounced on the injured young gazelle, dragged him by his bum leg away from the others who watched helplessly as the lion’s plan unfolded without a hitch. They dared not give chase; better to sacrifice the foolish one to teach the others to stay in line.

The young gazelle was scared and dazed, but not yet dead. As the lion raised his mighty paw to finish off his prey, he caught his own reflection swimming in the young gazelle’s frightened tears. The lion felt a pang in his chest, first like a prick of a honey bee, but then the pain spread wild and fast like the flames of an untended fire across the Serengeti. And just as quickly as it started, the pain stopped. The lion eyed his would-be prey but it only churned his stomach. He had no choice but to let the young gazelle go.

“And that’s when I thought something was wrong,” the lion told the doctor.

“Well, according to your X-rays you’ve lost more than your appetite. You’ve lost your heart for the kill. It’s a condition that affects lions of a certain age, but there is a cure. I’ll give you a referral to a specialist down in Oz. He’s seen a lot of cases like yours. I’m sure he could help.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010


They say nothing can prepare you, yet she was ready.
Books predicted the extra sensitive nipples
and Braxton Hicks false alarms.
What the pages left out was filled in
by soon-to-be grandmas and colleagues
balancing work on top of their lives.
Prenatal visits and birthing classes
checked off the last weeks.
He was working on the crib–
the missing piece to the bird-themed nursery.
She had done everything she needed to do
and before that married the college sweetheart,
bought the corner lot with fenced-in space
for the first of her 2.5 and the canine companion.
Waiting was all that was left.

After eradicating the traces of his last home brew
with bleach and iodine, he wondered
how much more of his life would change.
He wouldn’t have time to resurface the tub
before the baby came.
Everything was for the baby–
assembling the 4-in-1 crib from first-time grandparents,
upgrading to 2700 square feet three blocks away from Montessori.
At least obedience school taught him to hold his ground
when brown eyes begged for another treat.
But with his luck she’d have her mother’s green
and the curse of the Elmwood nose.
Teaching her how to stick up for herself
tacked on to his honey-do list.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Year's Resolution

In the middle of the night
your friend’s Siamese finds her way back to the couch,
her favorite place to sleep, the territory she ceded
when your Christmas morning flight to New York City disrupted her routine. 
Perhaps when you shifted position from the left side to lay flat
your knee bumped into something that felt oddly soft, pliant,
with a slight rise and fall.  Disoriented, your eyes open
to the ceiling, but it reveals nothing about where you are;
all ceilings look the same in the dark.  
Looking left, your eyes fixate across the room
1:43 glows soft in green. 
You remember: you are at a friend’s house
a little more than 3 hours into sleep
a little less than 3 hours left to go. 

Your eyes lock with the Siamese’s pale blues. 
Your presence on the couch has disturbed
her sleep in more ways than one tonight. 
You mumble an apology, massage that spot on her temple. 
The cat rubs her head against your knee
satisfied by your attempt to make amends. 
It is only when you shift over two more inches–to give her more space–
you realize how long it has been since you did just that:
six months since the last warm body,
much longer for the one you hoped was something more.
You position into fetal, let the cat fill the U-shaped space
in your surrender and promise that next year will be different.