The way Mom was…

You always rested your
head, chin in your bent
hand, elbow on the arm
of your kitchen chair and
dozed off with a Dixie cup
that once held four ice
cubes and just enough
Pepsi to cover your ice
Sitting on the table in
front of you, the morning’s
Tribune opened on the
table; across the room the
television was on, WGN
probably, if there was a
Cubs’ game from the west
coast, and the light above
you was dimmed after
another day of work to
keep your five on your own,
and if anyone of us stirred
in the room you would
startle and immediately
say our name as if you
always knew who it was.

Why the dog liked great-grandma…

Great-grandma liked to use chicken fat

to moisturize her hands and she claimed

it worked better than all those expensive

creams from the drug store – a waste of

money she’d say, and look at my hands

after so many years, with wrinkles from

hard work but imagine how rough they’d

be if not for the chicken fat; it fascinated

us although we just couldn’t bring ourselves

to try it once, but we did notice that

the dog liked Great-grandma most of all.

Undressed eye…

Wonderful things can be seen

with the naked eye of youth,

unblurred and undarkened by life –

a thousand stars on a cloudless night,

in eighty-eight constellations

like the keys on the piano

I never got around to learning;

well away from where we live,

unpolluted by the light we need;

to see such unseen things we must

deny ourselves, take up a cross

of darkness – the same darkness

that scared us as children – to view

the brightness and faintness,

subtleties only now we can appreciate

and only now can’t make out

with our undressed eye.

A son’s new suit…

“She will most certainly not be missed!”

the doddering cleric awkwardly misspoke

meaning “certainly will” and “it won’t be the same”

but said the opposite of both and made a joke.


A daughter cried through the eulogy

recounting with the inadequacies of word

how her Mom lived and loved and mostly well

now glorified and comfortable; she was assured.


A grand life this quiet woman lived

unnoticed, unaccomplished, unheralded life

but praised and missed and truly mourned now

the almost perfect mother and almost perfect wife.


She tried to make her kids better

to get them to stand up straight and finish school

she never stopped trying even though she failed

polite talk concealing whether she was just a fool.


And a son sat weeping in the pew ahead

comforted by a child who hugged and was cute

this mourner grubby, unkempt but formally dressed,

the label on a jacket sleeve showed it was a new suit.

Again, again, again…

lines bookThe marks have no moral,

they know no stories,

nor me or mine,

no memories surfacing

in the quiet of the day’s ebb

haunting and mocking what can’t

be changed by dreams,

they are carried along

as the wave of the page turns slowly

to the next leaving anyone

reading to wonder

who writes this way,

not how but why;

and the way the words go

becomes a prophecy

because it is a path

leading to another nowhere

ready to mean something,

to be noticed

and maybe even remembered

enough to justify

a child’s plea to read it again,

again, again, and again.

Lost manuscript…


This started as the tale of a lost manuscript,

an idea that became a story that might have

become an enjoyable book but never will be

as it took a turn while contemplating what was

sacrificed to produce something that’s now gone,

consuming more time than good should

these years of distraction when everything pleasing

around me twisted, lovingly straining to keep

me in the middle as each new wheel began to spin

its own rings, feeding off the others,

once so close their energy sparked blindingly,

now bouncing in their own orbits here, there,

it all happened so slowly, so perfectly, and I

now know I missed too much that I hope they

each captured while I pounded out words

of a fictional life no one could possibly lead

as my own unbelievably wonderful one spun

in and out of days and seasons and states

that are now the lost manuscript of my life.

In a Good Story…

In every good story someone dies
(sometimes, but more frequently,
in bad ones as well); not always
tragically or poignantly, not always
sadly or in a timely fashion, usually
importantly a death is required.

It may be that it’s a way to make
tales more authentic, but it ironically
renders death’s severity a mere ploy
in the hands of desperate dramatists
longing for gravitas yet in failure;
simply turn dust back to dust.

Occasionally it’s accidently but
unexpectedly; and if the desire is
manipulative – the death of a child,
boy or girl, either will do – to tweak
the emotions of even the hardened
with an appeal to the weak.

Now multiple deaths are a waste
to an author and thus school bus
fatalities (a kindergarten field trip
tragedy) are typically avoided
and mass murders’ victims aren’t
the story in the first place.

Too many tales are funereal,
too many yarns come undone
and too many wakes begin stories
of too many things gone wrong;
dramas of dads and mamas
until death do everyone part.

Narrators, of course, play God
knowing, seeing all, all at once
what’s in heads, hiding from light
but telling us only part of a story;
this or that reason for lost life,
providing knowledge we lack.

The human story’s author
has wasted over a hundred billion
anonymous deaths littering lands,
mocking prophet amidst dry bones;
the deity’s wonderful plan for life
trumps all novelist’s narratives.

What it’s like to die in exile…

– Like Ovid

Like Ovid I will die in exile
and no one will know why,
obvious rumors will fly
getting his due, they’ll smile
in assured ways their lie
comforting thoughts supply
and enjoy my sour cry
from my joyless isle
knowing justice will supply
but I won’t know why
emperors once prized
but were just as spry
in sending me here to die.