farewell phyllis

on hearing a patron is ill and will not be returning to the library. 

babies are born
and there is death also,
not one after another
like the plucking of a broad grinn’d
gerber daisy, but huddled
together like passengers on a ferry
there will be times of loss
and then, just as suddenly
Who will keep such a catalogue
of misery and joy, who
will collect the timestamps
of lives like a bookend.
I sat in wonder and forgot
just as suddenly.
There were emails to answer
after all.


Santa Cruz, 2016

They came to see the death
–even my mother, who turns from the evening news–
shuffled quickly to the edge and bent to better see.
The air was sweet with the prayers of strangers
and yet, they came to see the death
to witness the unyielding bay
which swells on the rocks and tempts
even the bravest to jump,
a dare–perhaps–an urge.
On this day, we stood quietly, hands wrung
while they searched for the swimmer
who was not swimming
who was surely lost.



for my father whose friend has passed

That silence spoke for itself
an infinity of wide open eyes
and I stood with you at the edge
with my hands on the brim of your
canoe and gave a gentle nudge.
Ours was a bond of time
as much as it was friendship
and after all these years,
my quiet hope for you is peace.
As it is for myself; as it is for my children.
We have seen enough to know
the difference between life and living
the difference between happiness
and the burden of hope. I wish
you carry all this life’s sweetness
with you on your journey, even
the bittersweetness,
which came with time.

Poem 82 Editing

Prepositions. Super Important.

There are only a few things that can really make or break a poem. Prepositions are one of those vital elements that once transformed can revolutionize a Truth. You are thinking, what? I don’t even know what a preposition is. Wow. Now is a good time to pull up that school house rock (do people still watch those in class, did I just age myself?).

Those directional words, on under above about around after against by etc can make a major impact. Think of a compass at the center of your work. There is a path you take through the poem, from one end to the other. You can think of this as a map if you like, but sometimes that makes it more confusing for me. So I look at the poem as a pivotal point and me at the middle with a compass. Where are we going?

Well, the prepositions will tell us that. Those directional words will help lead the reader to where the poem is pointing, like a compass, and lend a better understanding of the whole. If your prepositions are all messed up, or worse you don’t care about them, there will be no needle to guide the reader. The poem will be without route.

That seems like a silly metaphor. Some poems are directionless on purpose. Consider shorter poems that have made a mark, Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” has only 20 words and 5 of them are prepositions. That landmark poem, a semi haiku, is rife with them; a quarter of the whole piece. Now tell me they are a throw away part of the poem. There are more prepositions in your work than you know. There are more ways to make a poem move, and the difference between on or in or at is a hemisphere. Don’t be fooled. It is the smallest words, and not the largest, that make your work great.


A good way to see if your prepositions work is to change them. Make all of your in’s into at’s make all of your under’s into beside’s and see what a difference it makes. Likely you will have chosen the best word for the job the first time, but there are always a few that can improve. Rarely will anyone hit it perfectly at the first shot (on the first shot, haha). Always remember, the difference between a poem that feels good and a poem that feels off might be a two letter word.

Poem 82 RevisedPoem 82 Original

Poem 82 Revised

Come crawl the window-still between the beams
Of light and night. Whip curtains to the sun
With stunts of crooked weaves and leaves, for now.
Rest. For now, be free to seize the grass roots
And soak their light, tonight your tender heart
Unfolds fern hands against a garden rod
Embrace the sod between toes and fingers
What tinkers there, meant for no mere mortal.
Spin reeds from weeds, button seeds in the earth
And know how the loom rows in the darkness.
No more cancer, no more cures. Your words are
Palms beneath mountains shoving them to peak
We speak of greatness from the ground what sound
Your soul that sows your linger’d love to life.

Poem 82

for my grandfather upon his death… in conversation with the brahman poem from several months before. 

Come walk the windowsill between light and
Night. Shut the curtains on the sun, forget
Preoccupations trivial once yours
You are free now. Seize it like the grass roots
From the earth. Your worth no longer tied to
The ticker tape tally of time, a fist
Could crush the grandfather clock; why bother
With trifle threads in the loom, consume them
With the mouth of the sea. Be the palms beneath
Soil shoving mountains to their peak. We speak
Of cancer; of pain; never again. Now
You are free to live amongst miracles.
What fortune, the body merely a loan,
At last, no longer limited by bones.