morning poem.

Today I thought I’d try morning writing

as if the morning’s really different

or what I long for could be

I wish I lived in the country

or close enough to it to write with authority

about milkweed and nettle

native goldenrod and bird bone

the whole weird plain exposed in a light ray—

a doll part, a silo, an old man waving, a berry—

and suddenly then my wish for or against you decided

What do I have?

This morning, a just-shy-of-scraped-clean container of hummus

and half a red pepper for lunch

a list of every cure I’ve been prescribed in the last six months

to take to a new doctor appointment at 2

I have a coat and a scarf and umbrella

because in Omaha in April anything can happen

I can’t keep a secret long

It’s such responsibility, hope


where are you this morning? What country?


What thing

can I make walk

into the room tonight?

Everything’s been done to death.

She sleeps.

things i learned that night we were 19

and you parked in the alley between that big hill you thought was romantic and the back wall of a West Omaha hardware store

Inside the car at night the night isn’t still     everything in space is waiting

There’s no season but maybe the moment work ends     two pieces of pie for my mother, some economics that started the day I wore a short skirt to night class and you noticed

The car wasn’t made for practical love     you were agile and thinking     and maybe my skin did smell like green herbs and lime     your curls were so red in my hand

It’s easy, forgetting the next day the night before it comes

pantun (or, about the five pounds i gained after i left you).

When we don’t burn every red cedar at once

we cut only the females

Accustomed only to being consumed

I consumed, grew


Today, because I’m bogged down in freelance writing, I’m cheating. I’ve taken one of my personal favorite poems from the chapbook I’ve been editing and run it through Google Translate to see what gets lost—or added—in translation. Because this poem is a love poem, I chose to run it through a series of romance languages: English to Latin to Spanish to Portuguese to French to Italian to Romanian to Galician to Catalan to English. Below is the original and the much-translated. The latter is, I think, sort of lovely…almost, as it were, a sequel, unintentionally, and containing advice I could probably use.

Because I want to want to, not to have to

I’m always so sure this is the moment before the moment they tell me and so I want to eat everything and fuck you against the back of the front door

Driving over the bridge this afternoon I saw two kids I thought one was standing behind the other but when I passed them I saw they were standing beside each other one leaning back with his fingers curled around the chain link between his hand and air I remember because right then I knew I wasn’t home

Last week someone asked how to tell whether we write different stories or different versions of the story

Every morning you ask how I’ve slept

Still every night I try so hard to not sleep


In order not to isolate

I like all of them before the first time is always against the back door and told him to kiss

I saw two nights bridge back in place and took the bronze fingers hurt because connecting remember I am not at home

To the question of how to tell your story and other stories of the week

Are you wondering how to sleep in the morning

I’ll try to sleep every night

the dark beyond.

It’s true I didn’t want you to come but after you’d chosen the wine placed the long plate of food watched me eat like you were watching a woman descending the stairs you were inside the night

so we’re here and everyone’s seen us or maybe and we sit and now everyone’s seen us your arm across the back of my chair just up to my shoulders

weight even as you try to rest it lightly

In front of us a man has his arm around the woman next to him she’s not small and his fingers are resting in the folds of her sweater which are resting in the folds of her back and of course the man’s hand has been there when there’s been no fabric just skin and fat and vessel

He knows and looking at his hand I know he knows

and everyone will know you know my back my neck my shoulder everywhere your fingers are announcing—

I’m sitting at the table the poet says

I’m at the kitchen table

I’m sitting at a hospital cafeteria table when the doctor approaches and in his hand are photographs my wife’s body its interior—

The line stops and bends continues and briefly I regret this for him the left opportunity the richness of the dark beyond a finger’s length inside a body you love

but then there’s the hand on the back of the woman in front of me and then there’s the hand on my arm and I understand why the poet keeps going back to the table

a known quantity of solid wood

everything all told and touched and none of it sacred

or thought so


The heather goes brown for a season, dead

while the hills are still so green and wet

Sometimes I let myself reinvent it

the way we arranged the night, arrival


That day I wore my highest-contrast dress,

a shift with big black buttons and an A-line hem.

It was to be black and white and silent.

I was to be leaving.

You had a suitcase for me and I carried it

down a staircase

and then into a phone booth

where I made a fake phone call

so you could film my mouth as shapes.

Later you discovered that old camera had been broken from the start.

The film was blank.

I remember you made sure the suitcase was empty.

You wanted it to be so light for me,

the only thing I’d have to carry

that day

until we finished.

brief ode to someone else’s hands.

What you touched today    

                                                   the inside of

an elbow     cups     a scrap of paper in

a pocket     belt     and shoe     some change     a cheek

bone     bike wheel     animal     a collar     a collar

the back of a chair     a halved avocado     salve

and sheets     and sheets at home     aluminum

water     envelopes     keys     

                                                     nothing here

                                                     nothing I couldn’t see

no poem today.

Because I spent most of the day with my girls, who handily won their bout and made it to LTaB semifinals, and if you know me you know I have such a hard time channeling joy into poetry.

Instead, I’ll ask you for poems (and prose) today. My good friend (and great poet) Janey Gibilisco founded HOUSEGUEST, a new online journal of poetry and flash prose, and kindly asked me to serve as one of two poetry editors for it. We’d love your submissions—stop by the site here to see some of the first issue’s fantastic art and get all the details about submitting.

Until tomorrow, loves.

memorization practice.

I keep telling my students they’ll be so good when they’re off paper

as if this is a thing I know

or do

because it looks better

to be empty-handed

One afternoon after practice

when I get to my car in the parking lot

there’s a torn piece of paper tucked under the windshield wiper

half a paper photo

a girl in a formal blue dress

tan skin and stiff curls and corsage

and no way to tell if she’s the one off paper

or if the person in the missing half is

and if it’s good so good

for either

for NaPoMo.

I know—I shuttered this little blog last month, partly because I’ve been prepping my next chapbook and this far into the editing/arranging/submitting process I felt it prudent to leave no question as to what of my work ranks as published and what doesn’t, and partly because, though Abbreviated served me well for a time, it’s a new time. It’s time for new adventures.

One of those adventures is accepting the NaPoMo 30/30 challenge, proposed by a poet friend who inspired the last great poem I wrote. In gratitude and in the spirit of breaking my habit of not writing during periods of great change, I’ll be writing 30 poems for the 30 days of National Poetry Month (NaPoMo, as it were, the month of April), and I’ve resurrected this tumblrspace as a way to hold myself accountable (because trust, if writers can avoid anything, they can avoid writing).

I’m not promising greatness (or asking for ardent reading). The project isn’t about greatness, anyway. It’s about remembering this thing we do and why we do it. And sure, I’ll probably throw in some of my favorite poets’ poems. I might post a link or two to videos from Louder Than a Bomb: Great Plains, happening right now and featuring a team I’ve been coaching since October. Of course, as a page poet, not a slam poet, it’s been a terrifying experience for me. I’m never sure I know what I’m doing when I show up. But we work it out somehow. We make poetry.

It’s really just like writing.

So here’s to writing every day, however terrifying, and however it turns out.