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.


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.

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.


at midnight
on the bridge

her reflection
in the waters

lovely night
in hazy June

shadows lay
and the current

tide streaming
into the moonlight

rushing thoughts
came and tears

i had
stood and gazed

i wished
wild and wide

life the
burden laid upon

in the
sea of sorrow

i cross
comes the thought

many thousands
have crossed since

heart restless
old slow subdued

heart flows
forever has woes

broken reflection
symbol of love

/ / /

There were many prompts I did not get to at Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo in April, as I was focused on found poems for PoMoSco. Margo Roby had some Fresh Start ideas for May. So, I looked back at NaPoWriMo, and found two interesting prompts. The suggestion for Day 28 was to write a bridge poem, and the prompt for Day 27 was to write a hay(na)ku. I decided to combine them, as well as write a found poem. In typing “bridge poetry” into Google, I came upon “The Bridge” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. All words came from that poem, stanza by stanza.

Longfellow, Henry W. “The Bridge.” Poetry Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 May 2015.

(Listening to “Imperial” by Robin Guthrie)

letting down

she’s finally left
the home she knows

circle dance
holding hands

with smiling

and the man
she loves

the sun
is a circle

it is about that
they dance

yet not really

is the subject

even to herself

and all
about her

she is home
yet doesn’t know

/ / /

I knew immediately which dance/movie/character I wanted to write about when I saw the video at Poem Tryouts: Will You Dance? at Wordgathering. Thanks, Margo.

I won’t tell you which movie it’s from. But it is featured in the video. In one of those cases of synchronicity that cannot be ignored, I had watched this movie the day before with my wife and younger son. I had remembered a scene from the movie that moved me the first time I saw it; but it was this scene on a second viewing that had me tearing up.


Sleeping in
or not

Lunch at 11:43
or right at noon

Making Lego vehicles
sprawled on the carpet

or playing Lego Batman
on the Wii

Splashing in the water
So many pictures

Trying new recipes
and old favorites too

and chana masala

Weekday pancakes
Too many snacks

New songs for the playlist
lots of old New Wave

Not having to drive
to work

Walking more
Instagram flowers

/ / /

This poem was written to the prompt to write a summer poem at Margo Roby’s Tuesday Tryouts.

I liked the challenge of not writing about the things I put on my list of things that first came to my mind about summer. “Splashing in the water” is a bit of a cheat, but I still didn’t use anything from my list: swimming, beach, pool. It forced me to dig a bit deeper, and made me just focus on things I’ve done in the past two weeks.

Cafe at Mid-Afternoon

A bird in the sky
so far away
only the people seated
near the cafe can see it

Wind coming down
from the foothills
mixing clouds and blue sky
blowing the leaves of the trees
diagonally toward the ground

Writer in blue listening
to the couple behind him

Woman in black
and her dark lover
a bottle between them
but they do not drink

Waiter positioned centrally
waiting to be called on
watching the mother-to-be
interview a nanny

Woman with red hat
annoyed with woman
in red dress at next table
not hearing anything else

Woman in red dress
talking too loudly
leaning over too much
to make her point

Waiter’s feet ache
He hopes empty tables
remain that way

/ / /

This poem was written in response to two prompts from Margo Roby, one being the painting above and the second to write an imagistic poem.

The Judge

He sat in the gallery for so long, quiet,
I had barely registered him in my sight.
Other matters held my attention.
In truth, I noticed first the dark suits.

But then he rose to give his testimony
And all eyes in the courtroom were on him.
Well, almost. His open gaze was only on me,
While the prosecutor eyed me warily.

There was no guile in this man’s face,
And I caught myself leaning forward.
There was trust in his eyes, and hope
That his brother would be found innocent.

I listened carefully to his simple words,
And, in them, evidence of a truth.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the Norman Rockwell painting above. Thanks to Margo Roby at Wordgathering for her Tuesday Tryout.