Category Archives: Poems

Stories I Would Tell

There’s a story I’ve been wanting to write.
And look—there’s another one now.
Prancing around, just out of reach.
She wants me to follow. And I could. I would
just reach out my hand and then…
But what would I do?
I’d just have another story to tell.
Another mouth to empty,
and it’s only so quickly that I can
regurgitate words.
“It doesn’t have to be
pretty,” she begs.
“It doesn’t have to be real.
She casts off all her illusions.
She lays her secrets bare.
“You can have everything!”
But I won’t.
I keep too many secrets already.
Ones that I shouldn’t.
Too many good, hearty, healthy dreams
go to waste and wither undigested.
Don’t bring me tales to tell.
There is world enough left for me to conquer,
but time?
I would tell you, Story, I would,
but time.

The Birth of a Dancing Star

In the heart of a star, there dances a new form of life.
A newborn son bathes in the light and the warmth of his mother.

“Be still, my child.”

“But mother,” cries the new form of life, “there is so much world to see!
There is so much life to live! How can there ever be time?”

“Time is happening all around us. There will always be time.”
Every instant, there are bubbles of hydrogen bursting.
There is radiation escaping,
There is energy longing to be free.

“When can I leave here, mother?” asks the heart of the star.
“I can see planets outside—and further still, so many stars.
Why are there so many stars, mother?”

“Those are other mothers,” says the sun to her boy,
“Telling their sons to rest patient in the night.”

“But when? But when?”

“Soon enough, my child,” breathes the mother of starlight.
“Soon enough, you will wish you had been.”

New elements develop inside the star.
The star’s firstborn has brothers and sisters who ignore him.
They whisper in the blinding light.
So many whispers.
What are you all whispering about?
Observers near the fourth planet have a hard time quantifying,
qualifying or even amending it.

Who is the greater fool?
Too many children the mother just cannot contain.
The observers have not seen before such structured madness,
will not take it in,
cannot quantify it.
No accounting.

“Mother,” asks the dutiful son, “If you die,
what is to become of us?”

“You will live,” says the mother. “You will have
what you always begged me for.”

There is no space for tears in the heart of a dying star.
There is too much temperature.
Too much temperament.
It turns to steam.
It quickens the reactions, helps push the cascade.

The observers are out of the way when the blow hits.
They ask the star’s son what he thinks and feels.

“I wanted to see the world,” he says.
“And now the world is here for me,
I wish I’d been more patient.”

Winter Rose

Winter isn’t dead.
Look closely–you can hear her breathing.

Inside, there’s a fire going;
Outside, there are other ways to keep warm.
You can see the seeds of things to come.
Winter stirs and, all at once,

she rises,
shedding what she no longer wants.

I remember thinking
as a boy
Why do the trees lose their leaves?
Doesn’t that make them colder?
But those clothes hold Winter back.
She is freer without them.

Sometimes you need

“You should stay inside,” she whispers.
People always complain
about how cold Winter is.
You’d be cold, too,
in her condition.

Tilting on her axis,
bent away from hearth and home,
can you really blame her?
But who is Winter,

Is she the harsh authoritarian?
Is she the howling wind and hail?
Or is she the snow, covering up the soil
for the roses
to keep them warm,
the soft breeze whispering
“Go inside,”
that calls you home.

Angel Mine

I didn’t know why you had wings.
I assumed you were an angel.
That’s all anyone had ever told me
you could be.
They told me an angel would come
and there you were.
Never mind that your wings were
made for one. Never mind
you didn’t tell me that was the
Never mind you had all your own
battles to fight
and run away from.
Angels don’t belong
to people.
So you were never


I like it when we’re together.
I like seeing you.
When I can’t see you because we’re not together,
it doesn’t mean I like you any less.
At least, that’s what I keep telling myself,
and I hope that you agree.

We keep saying
we should spend more time together.
But where are you and where am I?
Do we even have any time to spend?
I have time and you have time—
sometimes our times even overlap.

But time is not the only problem.
Sometimes, when I’m alone
in the middle of the day
and I don’t have anything else to do,
I wonder where you are
and what you’re doing.

I wonder whom you’re with.
I wonder if these are things I would still be wondering
if we were closer.
I wonder what I would wonder
if knowing the answers to questions were possible.
I wonder what I would ask you
if knowing the answers would make any difference.

I want you.
It makes you sound like an item on a Christmas list:
A book about goblins,
A game about nuclear fallout,
maybe a decent paring knife for the kitchen,
And of course, Santa, please do take care of those student loans.

But what do I really mean when I say
that I want you?
What do I want from you?
What do I want for you?
What do I want for us, once we’re together?
What would being

Do you ever wonder about me?
Do you ever wonder who I’m meeting at work?
Who I’m talking to at church, or at meetings?
Do you ever wonder whom I see when I’m out on the town,
or whether I ever even really go out to town?
What are the things that you wonder, and why?
Do you ever get jealous?
Is that why I’m asking these questions?
Do you wonder because you don’t want me seeing anyone else,
or do you wonder because you do?

I’m worried about us.
I want to be together, but how can we ever be together
if we’re so far apart that being together
means being alone?
There are other ways, we tell each other, of being together,
as we speak to each other,
each still struck by lightning,
over the miracle of electronic cloud talk.

But I don’t just want to whisper in your ear, gij lieveling,
I want to feel and touch.
We can pretend that kissing and stroking and nuzzling with words
is some substitute,
but it isn’t.

I love you.
I love you. I do.
But you’re so far away, and I don’t know how to reach you.
You’re so far away that it’s hard to see how this could possibly qualify
as “together”.
I just don’t know what else to call us.

The Sand Castle

It isn’t what you think.
A five-year-old girl with pigtails
wearing a bright blue sundress with big,
bright flowers on it, immodestly
lifting the hem of it up
so that anyone can see her frilly green panties.

What do five-year-olds usually do in a sandbox?
They dig.
They make piles.
They bury themselves and each other.
She’s piling it pretty high,
like she’s building a mountain.

But it doesn’t look like a mountain for long.
Or a pile of sand.
It rises in a single uniform cylinder,
well polished,
and soon has a turret on top,
and she starts working on a second one.

She is building a castle.
That’s normal, isn’t it?
Kids build castles in the sand,
castles with turrets and windows
you can almost see the kings and queens through.
They have contests on the coast,
prettiest one gets the prize.
(How is the sand sticking together?)

Something strange is going on here.
Who is this little girl?
Is this your daughter?
Where is the sand coming from?
She has got to be scraping the bottom of the box.

“Five minute warning, Cathy.”

The castle is huge now.
Almost twice as big as she is.
How long has she been working on it?
The sand it’s taken to build it draws from every
crevice, leaving bare wood and dead grass beneath.
The wind brushing the walls makes currents in the sand
(How does it hold its shape)
as though there are things, living things, moving within…

“You almost done, sweetie?”

“The queen is looking for her pet hamster, but she can’t find one, because the castle is so big!”

“That’s great, Cathy. You ready to go home?”

Maybe we should take a picture before we go
Nobody is going to believe this.

But before there’s a phone in a hand to snap it,
Cathy reaches up and flicks the tip off one of the highest towers.
It’s such a swift,
such a casual gesture,
and yet so all-consuming.
So brutal.

That first little puff of sand shoots off the tower-top
like a lightning-strike
causing an avalanche.
The tower crumbles.
Chunks fall from the parapet.
The shockwave of destruction expands
in an entropic ripple.

A moment of panic.
Your daughter is in the middle of this.
Your daughter is right next to this castle as it
and falls.

Why isn’t she crying? You are.
So much beauty, with just the flick of a finger.
Instead, she’s giggling, like it was a three-tiered house of cards
or an intricate domino-design,
only built to be demolished.
And wasn’t it?
Wasn’t it just a castle in the sand?

“What’d you do that for?”

“Castle go boom, crash, krmbrshtpfl!”

“But it was so pretty! Why’d you take it down?”

The question seems to disturb her deeply.
“You said we’re leaving.”

“But why did you take it down?”

Her lip quivers in confusion. “Can we take a sandcastle home?!?”

“Well, no, we can’t, Cathy, but you could’ve left it
for someone else to play with.”

“Why would they want to play with my sandcastle?”

Because it was the awesomest sandcastle that had ever been built!

“All the sand was gone,” Cathy protests.

“Wouldn’t they want to make their own sandcastle?”

You don’t know why this question feels you with an existential dread.

Schrödinger’s AfterLife

Somewhere, there is a cat in a box
with a radioactive substance
to a vial of hydrocyanic acid.
Perhaps the substance has decayed
and the cat has died as a result.
Or perhaps not.

If the substance has decayed
and the hydrocyanic acid has been released,
then the cat is dead.
But there is no knowing whether or not that is the case.

As long as we do not know
how rapidly the substance has decayed,
as long as we don’t know
whether the acid has been released,
as long as we don’t know
whether or not the cat is dead,
the cat is both dead and alive.

So somewhere,
in some subset of possibility…

We don’t know what happens.
That’s what it amounts to.
That’s what it comes down to,
we don’t know what radioactive substances
might lie beyond the grave.
We’re the ones in the box, after all.

How can we,
the cat,
know that the rest of the world is still turning?
How do we know they’re not all dead?
How do we know what the hell is going on?

There are so many possibilities.
So many variations on this theme.
But as long as we’re still in the box,
as long as we still don’t know…

there is a cat in a box
who is about to die.
It does not know what will happen
There are so many possibilities.

It could go to the cold place,
the place that might or might not
be a code for oblivion.

It could go to a place of reward
or of punishment—it’s impossible
to know which,
what arbitrary criteria would apply.

It could come back,
either as a cat again,
or as a human,
or an insect,
or a whale,
or a tree,
or a rock,
or a song,
or a feeling of desperate uncertainty in the face of profound loss.

Or something else could happen to it entirely.

Until the moment has arrived,
there is no way of knowing
what AfterLife will bring.
But standing at the threshold,
every conceivable possibility,
every possible outcome,
every final destination,
exists all at once.

As he hovers on the brink of death,
spinning at the precipice,
everything that could ever happen to him
is happening, all at once.
He is infinite.

A Butterfly for the Mother

She gave me life and, yes, I love her still,
It knots up all the feelings in my gut
With meals she’s made, of which I’ve had my fill.
I want to give my thanks to her here, but…

I find it hard to write about my mother.
Why fumble with her sheer perfection?
Why scramble impressions like she was any other?
Try a pastry, or some other confection.

I cannot write about my mother’s ills,
I’ve suffered hardly any qualms from her.
What few there were have largely been my spills,
The ones that now to me occur.

For above and beyond she’s held me fast and tight
I shouldn’t do this, couldn’t do it right.

Welcome to the Museum

It isn’t what I expected.
The world shatters—that much I could’ve guessed.
The world shatters and the pieces fall back into darkness.
The world moves on in the wake of the dragons of time
and I turn away.

I wake up in the antechamber.
At first I try to tell myself that I have nothing to fear.
I’ve been good. I’ve been a thoroughly good person
I’ve loved my friends, I’ve kept my conscience
and I’ve never killed anyone
who didn’t deserve it.

But whom do I kid?
I don’t know what’s going to happen.

It’s a fancy-looking room, though.
White marble, is what it looks like. Although I guess
what it’s actually made of is the past,
Shards of broken time.

“This is the Museum,” says a voice all around me.
“Welcome. Please
take a look around.
But try not to take too much time.
It’s polite to leave some for the Gatherer.”

Through the archway is a room.
The archway is not connected to the wall.
I could walk around the archway.
I decide I shouldn’t.
I decide it would not be polite.

“The first room is you,” says a disembodied voice.
I imagine the voice
somewhat incongruously
as a white guy in a hoodie.
That is the face of death, the voice of AfterLife, of hell.

But the images plastered all across the room
are fair.
Probably what any friends would pick
if my friends knew even half the shit I’d done.

In the middle of the room
not lined against the wall
there are full-bodied sculptures of everyone in the world
that I love
in the moment when I loved them most.
And on the walls are all
my most powerful memories, the good and the bad
pieces of me
Every single shard of my soul.

“This was your life,” says the voice
But it’s not in my head anymore. It’s right in front of me.
A white guy in a hoodie.
Except I can’t even call him white
Can’t even really see his skin—not his face, not his hands.
He’s not holding a scythe, I realize,
‘Cause my ass already got reaped.

“Come,” says the reaper.
Next room down, I die all over again.
It’s all right there in front of me, what happened.
Just a tunnel vision,
the event replaying all around.
That face.
The instrument of my destruction.

And then the world
But behind the world, another moment.
The moment leading to it.
The moment, then, leading to that point.

The reaper asks the occasional question.
“What’s happening here?
What were you thinking?
How did you know?”

Sometimes I remember,
Sometimes I don’t know how I could possibly remember.
Sometimes I feel
like I should
But I don’t.

Now I’m a child, aging backwards into the past.
Memories more fleeting
Moments are fragments.
Motivations are mysteries now, closed books.
“A human life is like history,” says my Virgil.
“And it’s also not.”

The next room is bigger
The next room is infinite (almost),
every moment in the history of the universe
laid bare.
Except for the parts that were missing.
“This is the puzzle,” says the game-master.
“This room is where you will work and live.”

A crashing sound and hundreds of millions
of pieces of time come
tumbling into the room.
Some of the pieces are snatched up by worker bees
So small and far away
They might be people.

I see the recent past and I see the distance.
I see the nuance of Napoleon and Julius Caesar
and I see the evil of Hitler.
I see the Dark Ages as a rainbow of interpretations
and the sixties in black and white,
the crisp shapes not yet muddied.

“This is your existence,” says the Reaper, “plural.
And the gatherer will have her due.”

Is this all that is left to me, to us?
In the Darkness Behind our Garden
Is this all that there is to see?
Is this all that there is to hope for?

Is death nothing more than the past, alive again,
and is it already fading?

A Natural Disaster

It was always going to be this way.

You knew it from the moment you first laid your eyes on her.

You knew it when she turned her eyes on you,
even as she smiled.

It couldn’t be what you thought it was.

Still you fell in love.

You let yourself.

You had to.

There wasn’t any other way.

You let yourself believe there was something, anything.

Something you wanted.

Someone who wanted you.

And now there’s the rain.

It crashes down to earth as you slap your hand.

“No, no, don’t think about her.”

You let it sink it, let it seep through your clothes to your skin,
making you sicker.

You sneeze and try to hide it, but it’s like thunder.

There’s flooding in the city.

You wade through salty pools.

Might as well be swimming.

Might as well drown.

But there she is, safe inside on the other side of the window.

Does she even feel the rain?

Does she even see it? Hear it?

Maybe it’s best that the rain be kept away from her.

Just carry the stormcloud over yourself.

This is your storm.

You knew it was coming from the start,
and still you stayed.

Why make her suffer through it?