All my poems
know they are poems.
Each turn of phrase
is over the shoulder
to make sure I am watching.
Like student drivers,
my poems accelerate in herks and jerks
and stomp too hard on the
Some dogs are dogs
and some dogs are people,
all my poems know they are
“I have a great time at the Library of Congress with the team there that assists me. Without them I’d just be a washing machine walking down the street and falling apart.”
— U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, from an interview in The Washington Post published March 2, 2017.
Without my friends, I’d just be
an electric razor sleeping in the sweater drawer
with run-down batteries.
Without my books, I’d just be
a can of beer rolling down the hill
and singing Cluck Old Hen.
Without my bike, I’d just be
a preschooler playing with Legos
and forgetting my password.
Without you, I’d just be
a medieval knight dancing the tango
and ordering à la carte.
our fingers are verses
of a double cinquain separated
between fingertips nearly touching
through the foggy
To begin a poem is a pocketful of worries,
a fingered string of glass beads,
eggs cracked into a mixing bowl,
a leap into darkness
off a cliff of unknown height.
But to end a poem
is to land with a bump,
to crash, to be finally still,
a kind of little death, une petite morte,
and then breathing.
Lovemaking heard through a motel wall
like violin practice of the insane.
Snow-capped mountain like one shoulder
glimpsed when a loose blouse slips
And a thin black bra strap reminds me
of the poem with your second-best panties.
We dress our thoughts in black and white
words as if wearing truer colors would be
admitting too much. Hands that know
their mind, a kind of dumb eloquence.
Reading “A Globe Is Just an Asterisk
and Every Home Should Have an Asterisk,”
by Aimee Nehukumatathil, reminds me,
when she climbs the attic’s pull-down stairs
to find her old globe and then measures
with her fingers the distance to Indian
across the Pacific Ocean, of my own child-
hood globe with John Glenn’s three orbits
marked by a thin red stripe on clear tape
from takeoff to splashdown in the same
vast green sea until the tape peeled off
leaving me feeling small and trouble-prone.
We thought we’d meet on the moon,
vacation on an asteroid, and travel
the globe in our own private jet-cars.
Instead, I am a poet, strictly terrestrial,
gazing at the untenable moon, impossibly
far, signifying everything I could not reach.
I feel like red tape, unstuck, spooling down.
*September 2010, remembering the 1960s.
like sitting on an anthill.
When the biting starts
you strip off your clothes
and jump in the river.
There is the sting
into cool water
the rolling in mud.
Look at me.
These are red welts.
These are my
*I wrote this seven years ago.