shingle beach

I still can’t get used to standing on a shingle beach
my feet like it, but my brain is in full sand rebellion

the water’s inviting, but that sky is making me nervous
I want to go sailing, but my stomach is saying no

I grab my notebook to jot down some notes, begin a poem
but all I can think of is Seurat painting scenes of Honfleur

/ / /

This poem was inspired by the painting above, courtesy of Poem Tryouts: A Single Detail at Margo Roby’s Wordgathering.



I am surprised      this magical day
I meant      to get partial credit for that

the graduation ceremony      was empty
see the bookkeeper      for the reasons

to learn      to become a writer
a dazzling move      typing and sorting triplicate forms

not very stimulating      but it paid the bills
if you want to be an artist      you have to give up your dreams

of swimming pools      of bragging
and maybe also      a tiny fortune

society promised      the throbbing anxiety
the respect of colleagues      low-grade fame

these things will save you      the culture lies
manage to keep down      dozens

dreams      connection
hallowed ground      only spirit feeds

/ / /

This found poem was crafted from a commencement speech given by Anne Lamott, later reprinted on Salon. It was prompted by the Graduation poetry prompt at The Found Poetry Review.

Lamott, Anne. “Let Us Commence.” Saloncom RSS. Salon, 6 June 2003. Web. 27 May 2015.

haiku remix

this new year
     from my to ah
a new I

how soon
     of sun-melted snow
the year is bare

melted year
as guide     sun     snow     river
and baby

/ / /

These poems were written using the Haiku Discombobulater, which I learned of during PoMoSco. I used three haiku by Issa from the spring section, pages 6 to 8.

Beilenson, Peter, trans. The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku. Mount Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper, 1958. Print.

new year gift-giving
   ah, baby at her bare breast
reaching tiny hands

   still I guess this year too
will only prove so-so

sun-melted snow
   with my stick I guide this great
dangerous river

that song

what was that song that Chrissie Hynde sang?
you know the one – was that a Nick Lowe song?

or was it written by somebody else? – I can’t remember

I found the fence I had carved our initials in
the deadwood, because you wouldn’t let me carve

a symbol of our love into a living tree, not even just the bark

that should have been a give-away right there, the deadwood
a foreshadowing of our relationship, and now down to the beach

where I scrawl my hate in the sand for the waves to wash away

then I sit here at night on the edge of the dunes
staring at the faint stars amongst the coastal fog

touching the silver leaves, listening to the breakers

/ / /

So, this poem started with the May 15th Poetry Freeforall at Margo Roby’s Wordgathering. There I saw a link to Jeremy’s Daily Challenge, specifically Weekly Challenge 20. Margo had also posted a link to dVerse, which was about antithesis. So, thinking about antithesis and Jeremy’s theme prompt of “Love in music” brought me to to “Thin Line Between Love and Hate” as performed by The Pretenders. I also used the “faint stars and the silver leaves” poetic line and the quote by Napoleon Hill.

humming fools

the fool is humming again
the king is rolling olives around his mouth
the queen is busy with her needlework
but she is also listening

only the children are laughing
playing at stones and dominoes
while the men from the country
bring their sheep for shearing

the bleached wool will then be dyed
and spun by the traditional method
yarn for the queen’s needlework
she is not fooled by the humming

/ / /

salt      mouth
olive juice      napkin
fingers      dominoes

delicate method
sheep’s wool
fingers needlework

humming      laughing
feet      bleached stones
country men      fools

/ / /

These poems were written in response to Whirligig 8 at Sunday’s Whirligig. I had started the second one first, but it wasn’t going anywhere, so I tried something more narrative, which is the first poem above. Returning to my first attempt, I stripped it down, trying a different tack for a narrative.


my son’s voice is changing
lengthening       widening
his appearance too

when he looks out
is he seeing differently now
or is the world to him unchanged

and how does he see me
has he noticed my changes
is he hearing       is he listening

what are scents to him now
do the same aromas please
are there new hungers developing

i know his palate hasn’t changed
he still eats much the same as before
is that comforting for him

does touch       or any other sense
arouse him now       make his blood flow
or is it still sensory overload

he measures his height       against mine
but I worry about him       inside
as he moves through the chrysalis

the hardness of middle school
will it damage the softness of his boyhood
can he keep some of that unchanged

I fear he will be like me as a teenager
having that angry edge in his voice
just as I am finding again the softness in mine

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the Let’s Change It Up prompt at Margo Roby’s Wordgathering.

the light

i wanted to gravel / the sun / to roar at it
to make it hurt / as i hurt / my blood rushing / my thoughts rushing

grieving my father / longing to talk to him / once more
to hear his prodigal praise again / to live up / to how he saw me

to remember / what I learned from him
to find that again / and treasure it

to walk away from the tavern / and the noise / and the alcohol
to enter the church / embrace the silence / and light some candles

/ / /

This poem was written to Whirligig 7 at Sunday’s Whirligig.

everyone always

is it The Goal / that is the problem
if you achieve that Goal / then another Goal appears
is that what makes you / a Failure
is your Identity / so tied / to your Goals

is that what / you have been doing
wallowing in / the cesspool of success
and has your doing / defined your being

we’re uncomfortable / with uncertainty
but what else is the world / filled with

is it your discursive thought / that is the problem
aren’t you the problem / your own worst enemy
go meditate / on that

when will you embrace / the nonduality / of success and failure
failure / failure / failure / success / repeat

what is failure / but a step to success

could you follow / the flow of success / from goal to goal
one goal / naturally succeeding another

isn’t that the algorithm
did you forget / the process / because of The Goal
you found The Solution / but then there’s a new problem
something new / to be solved / and resolved

you chose / the wrong strategy / you failed
choose another strategy / fail again
choose yet another strategy / that one works / success

this is the way / of the ten thousand things
this is the Edison way / of ten thousand ways / that won’t work

some parents fret / when their child is confused
yet confusion is a good state / ripe with potential

bite a pear too soon / hard / unsweet
be patient / trust in the process
it will ripen to sweetness / running down your chin

what value success / without knowing / the taste of bitter
nothing lasts / the bitter will fade
nothing lasts / the sweet will fade
hunger will return / after satiety
go / eat another meal / enjoy

the fact is / no one never / succeeds

/ / /

So, on Tuesday, on her Poem Tryouts: To Succeed and To Fail, Margo Roby posed a prompt of conveying a truth about success or failure. This is my third poem to that prompt. Apparently, I have a thought or two about success and failure.

when Emily said

when Emily said
Success is counted sweetest
she may have been looking
at her neighbor’s lawn
from her parlor window
and thinking
how much Greener those Blades-

but success is not in looking
and thinking about another
(said the poet about the critic)

as much as I like watching
the Academy Awards
that’s not a measure of success
Martin Scorsese should have
a dozen Oscars on his mantle
people should be joking
that his middle name is Oscar
and How Green Was My Valley
is not a better film than Citizen Kane

the success of my students
is not my success
I am only a helper a guide
someone in service to them

I may teach a good lesson
even a series of them
but my students’ learning
is the measure of our mutual success

as a teacher
I may even think
I’ve had a successful year
but then another class
will fill my room
next September

I’m still not sure
when I’ll be able to say
I’m a successful father

/ / /

More thoughts on conveying a truth about success and/or failure. I clearly have been thinking a lot about success. This is the second poem I’ve written to this same prompt, which may be a first for me. You may read yesterday’s poem, or the lack thereof, for comparison/contrast.

or the lack thereof

success is varied, as are all people
for one it is the measure of a yard
for another it is just a meter
is that football or is that a garden?
are we measuring some distance to run?
or is it the meter of a poem?

I cannot say for you or you for me
and therein lies so much difficulty
your success could be a failure for me
and my success now could be a failure
in your eyes and in all those around me
but why should I care what others may think?

the lack of your approval does not make
me – to me – any less of a success
and when I stumble – yes, I do stumble –
it is not your knees that are all scraped up
but mine alone, as when I do succeed
I find myself standing up tall and proud

for that is my achievement and not yours
measured as it is against my standard
and not yours and not yours and not yours
because I know that I will sometimes trip
any failing that may come about
I can turn into success – that I know

this world is full of dissatisfaction
much of which we put upon ourselves
and if I find I have failed to complete
what it is that I set out to achieve
then my success or my failure is all
in how I choose to perceive my own acts

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Margo Roby’s prompt: Convey to us a truth about success, or failure.