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this box of lightbulbs

after, reach for words—
the same way, in other moods,
you reach for dark chocolate,
or the coziest chair by the fireplace,
or your funniest friends—reach for
Comfort and Joy.

There is a cupboard full of tea and good whiskey,
bread baking, the table set for everyone you like.

In the same way, a stack of poetry books
on the shelf—deceptively thin,
luscious words wait
to pour out into all the rooms in this house

The front door
with its now bedraggled wreath
is unlocked
and though the porch light burned out
a whole box of lightbulbs waits on the shelf

first day of winter

five in the morning dark—
black cat, on errands of her own,
Stops when I open the front door
to let the dog out
I distract him with talk of snow and biscuits
She takes my cue, transforms from black cat statue
to black cat on the move
Because she is a cat, she doesn’t run but
saunters towards the shadows

driving instructions

when it’s gray morning
and you’re late for a meeting
When it’s another day of discovering
moment after moment you are
breath—subconscious deal
you and your body made—
that you get to breathe when
the next task is done, or
the one after that.

Time to turn the car radio not
to news not to tinny holiday cheer but to the
Irishman’s poetry podcast.
You see some of the things you hurry past—
That white goat, nosing the frosted grass,
Cows, just as the poet says placid
in that lovely brogue
Off to your left,
with no road leading to it,
weathered, once-red barn

that time I had jury duty

He was young
a bushy beard and an indictment—
burglary, guns,
a home with small children.

We were called there—
the day flowed by in
voir dire, to speak the truth.
Truth was, the lawyers asked
all the older women—children?
grandchildren? How many? How old?
We were excused,
the mothers,
the grandmothers.

We were instructed not to speak of it at home,
not to read the news but I wasn’t chosen
so feel free to share my conclusion.
His pale blue dress shirt showed
its straight-from-the-package newness
in the sharp creases
down his long arms, across his back.
After the whole day spent together
in that small room with his not ironed shirt
I do not believe
he was in possession
of a mother or a grandmother.


the accidents
could have been
if he wasn’t such an excellent driver.
He explains this to us,
at the doctor’s office

November 10

spray of small black birds
imagining themselves
wind blown leaves—
or is it the leaves
the swift movement of birds?

Pippin at the lake

The air is filled with skittery autumn leaves, wind-driven across the wooden dock which could use a coat of paint before snow sets in again.
Again, the snow.
Again, the paint yet to be painted onto the weather-roughened bare wood.

No one comes to the lake now. One reason to love it so—the quiet. Plus, this late autumn beauty, maples flaring and sending their colors into the wind—a million tiny bright flags.

Pippin is the other reason to love the lake. Pippin, whose name even sounds like a party.

Pippin lives across the water on the other side of the lake, the festival side. Any time of year that’s a crowded jostling place full of people who spend their free time and all their spare money chasing prettiness and noise and decorative accents. Fairy lights decorate the trees and docks over there all year.

Last month was the Foliage Fair, as if those workers at marinas and gift shops, restaurants and paddle boat rental stands had invented the season or could take some personal credit for it.

Next month begins their Wonderland of Winter season. Some years the weather doesn’t cooperate and they truck in snow or make their own like ski resorts do, all to provide a picture perfect setting for—well, for perfect pictures.

Late October to late November is the quietest time on the festival side of the lake—After the leaves fall. Before the snow falls, or arrives by truck.

It makes Pippin edgy and odd, all this quiet. But I adore it and it is one of the only seasons when I willingly row across to his side of the lake and settle in for a while. The rest of the year, he comes to me. And though he doesn’t say so, during those busy noisy times over yonder I think he savors the quiet on my side of the lake. Because of course he knows it doesn’t have to last. Knows he can paddle home to music and loud laughs any time he pleases.
And so he stays because he knows he doesn’t have to.
Aren’t we all odd ducks?

belated happy anniversary

According to, traditional tenth anniversary gifts are tin or aluminum. The modern alternative is diamonds, which seems an awfully big step up. The photo paired with this revelation is of scrubby-looking wildflowers in (I swear) an old tin can.

Whatever the appropriate gift,
though this is not a marriage
between two people,
there was a ten year anniversary
between me and writing these poems.

I wrote it on the kitchen calendar.

it was squeezed in the margin,
beyond the square edge of the day,
between work and board meeting and flu shot
I missed it.

two weeks late,
I do appreciate the message
of that small
calendar date—
too written on,
too full of words
for poetry


at the lake
daylight till dark
we tell each other
news of our far-flung lives
laughing and crying
watching geese take flight.
They fly in formation
so they can see each other,
see the whole group–
Each takes a turn in front
till they tire, fall back, rest
in the eased wind resistance
of the flock which is sometimes called
(spectacular fact)
a skein, word which falls into formation
behind the geese, you with my messy,
tangled skein of orange yarn,
unknotting it slowly over hours of talk
until you transform it into a neat ball
that takes its place in formation
and becomes the orange moon.
Remember? We called you to come and see
the moon rise—no longer whole,
diminished but not gone
beautiful still
as it rose
over the lake
and we kept talking

October dusk

light all the lamps
as dark descends
to guide us home
or cheer the traveling

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I came to where you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.--John Ashberry, "The New Higher"

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