Category Archives: Poetry

And then you see the crossing guard dancing

She has the greatest hats, this crossing guard, cheesehead of course,
and jester’s bells, but lately there is no hat capable of covering up
her bare head so you know there’s chemo of some kind happening
which you haven’t mentioned to your kid but of course he’s noticed.

Sometimes each day’s a shithole full of rotted wood and spikes,
rusted iron ones that gouge you on the way down and down
and unfortunately you can’t stop knowing then, there’s always more
bad news and bad decisions and consequences you kind of did
but didn’t quite deserve but then the Pogues are next in the queue
and there isn’t anyone better than Shane MacGowan to illustrate
however much life sucks, however big a mess it is, there is joy
and music in the middle of it, in the goddam muck of the middle of it,

and then you see the crossing guard dancing as she points and signals
and you and your son together feel brought low by her being sick
then lifted up by her dancing and you nearly sob on the way to work
with happiness, with gratitude, for drunk tanks and police choirs
and you say out loud, “my heart” by which you mean your child,
and also the leaves starting to change color, and just your little, little life.

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All Right So This Is How You Meditate

Don’t get too comfortable. You’ll fall asleep
and dreaming doesn’t count. You’d have to wait
and try again another time. Who needs
that kind of failure? Trust me. Spend some time
just following the dots and blobs of color,
those fireworks, on the inside of your eyes.
Just kidding. Don’t do that. It is all or
nothing with this meditation shit.
Give yourself a little mental spank
for every single time that you forget
to think of nothing. You’re breathing wrong. You stink
at this. So many other people don’t.
Think what benefits they get. You won’t.

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Portrait of the inside of my eye. With Sharpies. (Also note: kitchen table now has this black pattern. Grr.)

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MAN EXPLAINS SWIMMING POOL TO ME AND I EXPLAIN THINGS BACK

We’ve had this exact same conversation before.
He stops me at the end of a lap, interrupts
my rhythm, smiles, explains what the black lines are for
on the bottom of the pool. “That’s the guide for laps,”
he says. The first time he told me this
I started to explain my side of things
but he repeated himself, once again pointing
at the bottom of the pool. I demurred to his preference.
But not today. Today I said, “Yes,
I know that, but when they have the lanes set up
so wide like this, there’s room for three across
and I prefer the middle so I don’t drift and bump
and scrape my hands on the lane markers.” I smiled.
He smiled. And said again what the black lines are for
and that since there were only two of us, I could
move over. “Yes, I could,” I said, “but we are
cooperating fine so far. We haven’t bumped yet.”
He literally harrumphed, “Pretty close,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “I only have a lap
or two to go.” And pushed off with a splash.
Never mind that usually there are three
in those wide lanes. And never mind the lane
to our left had one swimmer on one side. So he
could have gone away and left me alone.
We were following different sets of unwritten rules.
He couldn’t know that one of mine is don’t
even think of messing with my time in the pool.
Don’t throw me off. Don’t slow me down. Just don’t.

_____

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My happy place. For the noon swim time, they divide this into three wide lanes instead of six single lanes.

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And then I began another poem about swimming–will work on this more at some point….

In the pool I’m graceful, strong, and sleek, and fast,
at least compared to how I am on land.
I’m pushing all my thoughts out of my head.
In the pool, I’m more a body than a mind.

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It occurs to me what my husband always says when I talk about manspreading, that I’m as guilty of it as anyone. He’s pretty right–that I am pretty confident about claiming my space.

Also, this guy was being relatively polite in his tone, but it occurs to me he didn’t actually say anything like, “Would you mind moving over?” He really didn’t say he wanted me to move over until I said, “Yes, I know that’s what the lines are for. I like being in the middle.”

Do you suppose he’s written a blog about me????????

Time to Get Weird

Having spent a fair bit of my life trying to fit
in spaces not designed for me, I’m now,
at 52,proclaiming fuck that shit—
I’ll squeeze in if I want or I will go
all rogue and say no thank you when the nurse
says “can we get your weight?” I swear I felt
like fucking Che Guevara. Own my mess
is one of my mottos. What I haven’t dealt
with yet I’ll either tackle or accept.
And if my tackling’s super slow, that’s also fine.
I now proclaim my life a modest success
chock-full of laughs. I’d rather be funny than right.
Ars longa, vita brevis, tempis fugit.
It’s time to write it all down before I forget.

_____
Happy Birthday to me!

We’ll see how well I hold to this resolution, but I am trying to accept my slow tackling. Acceptance–that’s the word from now until the end of the year. I picked a word for the year in January, momentum. Still a good word. Still aiming for that. But acceptance now, too.

Part of the fun of birthdays in this social-media-age is the flood of messages on Facebook. I’m trying (not always possible, thanks Facebook) to say thanks to all of them, and take a moment as I do to really be thankful for that person’s presence in my life. Some of them are very much from my past, so I try to think about that time for a moment.

This poem has Latin, which I won’t apologize for–people who don’t know it can Google, right?

And profanity–also won’t apologize for that, either.

It’s kind of a listing of mottos–the Latin ones, own my mess, my life a modest success, I’d rather be funny that right. It’s a middle-age indulgence, I think, the choosing and listing of mottos.

I thought of “I’d rather be funny than right” while I was driving and almost had to pull over because it made me laugh pretty hard. It’s just true.

My Mom often finds pink and yellow birthday paper for me because although neither one is my favorite color, the two of them together are my favorite color combination.
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One of those weird dreams that stay in your head even after you wake up

The good-looking Texas poet married me
despite his having a pretty wife already.
(I wasn’t already married in this dream.)
I don’t know why. It wasn’t a Mormon thing.
We threw a fantastic party. Everyone danced
and waved us down the road when it was time
for honeymooning. The sun set on the sand
and the sagebrush turned orangey-pink. I started to cry
because I knew in the dream that it was just a dream.
The beer that I’d declared the very best beer
I ever had in my life—it wasn’t real.
And if that craggy-faced blond-haired king of poetry
decided he needed another wife, it would be
some sweet young poetry princess. It wouldn’t be me.

 

 

Things That Rhyme With Shiplap

Trying to watch just one episode is like a trap.
I’m lost in Waco, Texas without a map
or GPS. From Joanna, a friendly, little slap
to straighten me out. She won’t take my crap.
But oh, that Chip, he makes my heart go pitter pat.
All salvaged wood is useful, thin or fat—
it doesn’t matter. Other shows talk claptrap.
Season after season, that’s a wrap.
I do worry they’re anti-gay. I wish I could snap
my fingers and somehow suddenly, magically transplant
a couple of lesbians in a really good relationship
into an episode. Chip could sit in their lap.

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The Insufficiency of Peripheral Grief

The wreck happened just up the road from me,
right when my brother and his girlfriend got to town.
Here’s the update you never want to see:
“The motorcyclist later died.” I didn’t know
I knew him until today. My mother kept
the obituary for me because she saw he swam
where I swim. I know his daughter from years past,
but hadn’t seen her grief on Facebook yet.
What can I say about a man I barely knew?
He was the perfect swimming lane neighbor.
Not too chatty, not a swamper, not a splasher,
not a drifter, nothing to distract me from the blue,
blue water I love. I guess he loved it too.
What good can writing a sonnet at this point do?

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The man’s name was Michael O’Leary–I didn’t realize I knew him until I saw his picture, and even then I had to imagine him without the glasses (because he didn’t wear them in the pool). His daughter was my student a long time ago. She’s pretty great & I’m very sad for her & her family. 67 is just way too young.

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