Maybe it was the work
at the refineries
breathing crude
so we could drive
to get milk down the street

Maybe it was the exposure
upon exposure
they swore it was safe
because nuclear power plants
are critical for…

Maybe it was the
underwater welding
on Navy ships, valiant,
for the war effort
(don’t forget your patriotism, kids)

Maybe it was the agent orange
three years in Vietnam
Uncle Sam admits now, oops
but hey, we’ll bury you
for free

Maybe it was the 40 years of nicotine
the 20 years of whiskey
to function, to forget
both fought, both defeated

Or maybe it was
the pre-dawn fishing trips
with sons he adored

Or the calloused fingers from
hard work and guitar strings

Or barbecues, or laughter, or toys
or being surrounded by
every neighborhood kid in
a three-block radius

Or the hugs from his grandchildren,
his treasures, his prizes
for all he battled
all he endured
right up to the skeletal end

Never absent
a burst of a smile,
eyes as bright and sparkling,
deep as the Pacific

I trace tendons
on his hand, bones
prominent, eyebrows absent
he sleeps and sleeps

Maybe it was everything, nothing
and just a heart so full
of joy, of love
that he survived all that came

Sight of Self

So long
I have missed you
pushed inside, barred
behind skin tight armor,
spoken of only in vagueness,
indirectly, the violent upheaval,
the flash floods, the rapids
slamming of salty
tears, wailing turmoil

your armor falls
away, piece by piece and
now emerges
a bloody, bedraggled,
wide-eyed, startled woman
shaking, squinting in the light,
wobbly as the wide river slows,
looping and eerie calm

toes in the muddy shore,
I stare as you float
in an eddy, dead still,
a flinch, a suggestion of
an advance, a tremble of
a need to get closer

you and I, we
mourn one another

Year, end.

Dear 2013,

Mouth bloody
from biting my tongue
so hard for so long, my heart
can’t even speak through
my pen.

For every tear shed
in grief, in panic,
in excruciating isolation,
in doubt, in self-loathing and
in guilt

I open my eyes.

2013, you are the Year of Chaos
and of Silence.
I’m too tired. Battle-weary.
Worn skinny, exhausted
down to the dust inside my bones.
Too everything to explain
so you just have to believe that

There were hundreds of moments, 2013,
gifts, I might bitterly say, when
my heart would
feeling like I was a crane fly held
by my wings and
some curious child was plucking my legs off
one at a time, studying
how it made my body silently writhe,

Moments that will scatter across
my coming years in a clatter of
marbles dropped
from the roof and settle into
my wrinkles as Experience,
Wisdom, Witty Anecdote.

But not this year, 2013.
You don’t get credit for any of
those future trophies.
You don’t get credit for
the scars that have yet to form.

I get credit for arriving,
shattered and staggering,
at the last hour
of the last day
of this hellish year.

Fuck you, 2013. I win.

Rusty Pen

less, words
abandoned in a rusty

mid-task, a stumbling
rush, backed up,
pressure, pressure
threat but
only an exhale, empty

Stuttering, shuddering
Where. Are. The.

a trickle,

I just can’t



Squeeze my eyes shut
tightly, against
the image in my mind
of you
with her
sliding, sweating
grasping, moaning

It’s too late
I see it
it can’t be

Squeeze my eyes shut
tell myself
I’m different; we’re more
our love
our hearts
pulsing, longing
protecting, promising

Whisper to me, dear
of devotion
till it snakes through
my soul
in a coiling embrace

Tell me, love
over and

Before I Splintered

I don’t have time for catharsis
a dam, high pressure, my heart
chokes my cries and
bursts, right here
busy parking lot, impersonal storefronts
shoppers oblivious to my world
breaking apart
tears hanging from my lashes
like faceted chandeliers
blinding me in the cold
January sun
we gave me bad dreams
so I left
but I won’t make time
for catharsis.

Moving Days

Moving, keep moving or she’ll catch me
mud beneath her claws
sensing weakness, a snag
in defenses
trauma rises
what happened to her–
not me–to HER…

Red saltwater blooms against pale skin
swelled with her life
pulled roses from her cheeks, petals
fell to the floor, so pretty, they’re
so pretty
wouldn’t it be nice to lie there and
rest, just a moment, so tired,
very tired.

And still it came,
a trickle, a stream,
like someone pulled out her cork
to let her breathe
but let her bleed
till she felt heat leave her veins
black walls closed in
and late gray lips hung.

So cold and too tired to fight
the moment came
and left
ashen lips kissed the last breath.

The lights went out and she was
alone and bloody
more on the floor than in she.
A second, an hour, a second,
a year
to the words over her shoulder
“Get up”
on the back of her neck
bossy and insistent, “You have to get up”
knowing “or else…” but no time to say it.

She saw
disassembled parts–a hand
with shaking fingers clutch the counter
“Get up. Get out”.
Legs like liquid lead sank
pulled her under, but no,
“Get up. Get out”.
Ears screamed; vision pinched
skin moved through air denser
than the most humid day.

Momentum, a push from behind
as legs melted, chest pressed flat against
the door–a block, a barrier, the other side
but Death was here
other-than-death must be
Doorknob, how does
the doorknob turn?

Pushed across the threshold
face to the floor
and Death slammed the door behind me.

Taste of the Ocean

And outside, the suns explode–
white hot nails, assault fire–
perforate the walls, flesh,
bones and blood
the taste of the ocean within me.

Paralyzed, my penitence,
to watch you leave
our home,
watch the floods distend,
unravel the rusted empty where
we never were.

I climb the walls,
a pocket of air, pressed
beneath the roof, this house
stronger than our home.
I tried and
I tried, alone.

Don’t worry, I’ll be
breathing liquid pollution,
vacant-eyed memories drift by,

And outside, the suns explode,
perforate the walls, flesh,
draining, a gush,
a rush to the bottom,
rich silt feeds my landscape,
by white hot nails.

Hair like muddy seaweed,
the taste of the ocean within me,
I lie, spent and still,
atop a new foundation–


Submitted for Open Link Night #87 at dversepoets.com

Awake Alone

A low, distant whine
crescendo and crash, can’t sleep–
night’s howling windstorm.

The blue rushing wind
far better than silence, the
deafening silence.

I know I won’t sleep,
with the air stirred up so, the
moon near her fullest.

No clean, quick-healing
cuts, this mess I’ve made, my life
mangled to a pulp.

I open the door,
invite both inside where I lie,
Moon caressing my feet,
Wind playing its lullaby.

She said, do not be
afraid to go deeper. You’re
not bloody enough–

Forehead to the earth,
arms embraced wide, I admit:
I can’t do this alone.

The rage passes, trees settle,
wind chimes sing
a last dissonant chord and
I hope this means sleep,
the escape, for me.

Submitted for Open Link Night #86 at dversepoets.com


Go home
leave me be
go home
to your life–
your wife, your playmates, your toys
your grown up games
my heart can’t play

take back your fantasies
of us
the romantic, sweet
hungry, fevered
passionate, rough
everything I need
and I will never have

take back your love
(un)believably genuine
unmet, unfulfilled
ultimately pointless

I am weary, dear
give me
one last pleasure–
go home


The prompt for this week’s Poetics at dVerse “The Art of Letting Go” reminded me of this poem I wrote last year. The weariness one feels the moment before letting go… Enjoy.