Monday, September 13, 2021

tHE mAsS oF MEn LivE lIVeS

The chigger in my shin is gone now.
I only knew what it was once I'd extracted it,
with the aid of reading and magnifying glasses.
I've had it for days, wondering why it hurt so much
and how I'd incurred it, a little reddish-brown mark,
good likeness to a scab.

                                        At the same time,
I am trying to be mindful, stay sane
and not think, for the moment, about
the ongoing insurrection. So forgive me
my teeny-tiny spider-larva navel-gazing.
I've lived so long—since just before JFK
was shot—and never had a chigger,
never had to fear my nation
was under attack by 
a chunk of its populus.

                                        How I got it.
Forgetting Girl Scout fundamentals
about dressing for high grasses and brush,
I walked through an overgrown lot
with the dog on our way to the river
wearing shorts and ankle socks (I think
I may have other chiggers, elsewhere
on my body). It's September
and yeasty out there.

                                On top of insurrection,
pandemic! on the disco-ball globe,
which just happens to be the only place
we know. I face a class of live students in 48 hours,
and I'm afraid I've forgotten how to teach
with their bodies surrounding me,
both dangers and buoys, and how
will I hear if everyone is masked?

It's the babies that get you, with chiggers.
They wait passively for your grazing flesh
and know in an instant you're what they need.
For several clueless days, mine hung out on me,
getting vital nourishment until I tweezed it out.
No harm except skin irritations, which shouldn't scar.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Year-End Sonnet

Image: Detail from Dali's Alice in Wonderland Who Stole the Tarts

It’s the end of 2020 & my sloth knows no bounds 
& I am fortunate to work at home & have a home 
to work in. It’s the end of the plague year, not the end
of the plague, & I’ve seen America balls-out naked,
can’t unsee it now: the greed & self-centeredness. 
It’s where we found ourselves, my daughter said 
on the phone today. And to our great good fortune, 
I replied. It’s the end of 2020, & both can be true 
at once. We can love what is great about the place 
while despising its brutality. My sloth will soon 
be getting a kick in the ass once work resumes. 
My sloth will slither out like the year we didn’t want; 
together they can binge-watch a brighter time 
from their spot below the bleachers, like in Heathers.

Monday, December 21, 2020

A Kind of Poem



It’s kind of a big day, the winter solstice, kind of important

that two planets will converge 

for the first time in 800 years.



800 years ago there were all kinds of meanings for “kind”

that now are said to be obsolete,

though they’re kind of not, if you think about it. 

“Kind” could stand in for genitalia back then,

which kind of makes sense, since it also meant both “generation” 

and inherited features that marked one

as member of a clan or tribe or family. Kin.




“Kin” still means related by blood,

though it’s said more in the South

than in the North. It’s been enlarged

to allow for connections beyond DNA,

when family’s not enough.



Anne Sexton’s refrain, “I have been her kind,”

is a vow of empathy and solidarity 

among women, even the most abject

in our world’s long history. I return this gift in kind

when I tell her, Anne, I have been your kind,

and pretzel my legs the way she did

and leave behind wreckage I try to repair

with a compulsive convergence of words. 



We aren’t kind to one another anymore. Some

reserve their kindness for the ones 

whose skin is kin. The pundits lament

our tribalism to explain sedition.




Saturn and Jupiter converged when the Magi 

sought the newborn Christ, which is why 

it’s being called the Christmas star. 


What kind of consolation can we find in that 

amid plague and graft, we who were taught 

that this is a different kind of civilization

than the brutal empires of the past? 

Is it still possible for us to unite 

in the name of a warm and fuzzy babykind? 




Always be kind, the saying goes, because 

you never know what someone else is going 

through. It’s become a kind of cliché, 

but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

In a world of heartless rulers, kind people 

go unrecorded, undiscovered planets 

that sometimes converge to change things 

big and small. It’s kind of a big day, 

every day, to seek that kind of convergence. 

Photo by Mishal Ibrahim on

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Love Song to Pixillated Foxes

@hourlyFox shows up in-between outrageous news.
In one, two kits faux-fighting; in another, one is caught
by the camera in a searching and fearless moral inventory
out in the middle of a well-mown field. I have leased
out my soul to these animals, no strings attached save
their promise to keep being foxes, living on the fringe
of the mess we've made, scoring petty carnage to fill
out their streamlined bodies, staring clear-eyed into night.
Sure, I've watched the YouTube videos of eccentric Britons
with pet foxes—the best buddy movies of all, IMHO,
but I prefer these freeze-frames of them in the quasi-wild,
insouciant beyond survival, russet streaks against green.
Wherever they're about to go next I can't go, though
it's comforting to be with them for an hour or so.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

COVID May Gray

There is no color in my world except the redbud out the bathroom 
the royal blue sweater I'm wearing, the reticent green of the spider 
creeping out of a nest of dry brown coxae. May neighborhood 
cut grass and red sauce from an open window I passed at the corner
of Mayville and Elmbank, a house with canvas awnings and neat lawn
setting off the pale robes of the virgin the lady of the house
looked out at for sustenance, her hands deep in Palmolive and grease.
I take the pink azalea as a symbol of the nation: two roots piping out
of the miserly clay, one leading to a gnarl of beige unfruitfulness
while the other flowers the imperative of spring, an asymmetrical song.
So that's another color, giving the lie to my assertion. If I look hard,
this poem's whole premise falls apart. The husband at the corner
of Mayville and Elmbank turned out to be abusive. I never saw the 
If we seek and ingest as much color as we can, will that make us 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

[image by Joshua Bickel, The Columbus Dispatch; image description in the poem]

Someone tweeted the other day
that the pandemic has turned us all into dogs:
We roam the house in search of food.
I have two pounds of yeast
I haven't used yet, though I plan to
make bread and bagels and more.
It's active and dry, which is what we have
in common. There's a piece of sky
outside my office door that changes
its expressions from time to time,
though its default is a glower.
I hope the pantry moths don't invade
the huge sacks of rice and flour,
so it's back to those sticky pieces
of cardboard where their little wings
twitch before they die. Often, while working,
choral music grims me into a groove
in solidarity with ancestral plaguees,
calming me with its lucid existence-
is-suffering vibe. I had planned a retreat
at the Merton monastery this June,
but by then will I even need one?
So much streams into our house
these days, but how much of it is clean?
I've been watching The Wire of late
though it makes me nervous the way
the characters get so close together,
even when they're not fighting or
having sex. Yesterday in the news
was a picture of right-wing protesters
pressing their howling faces against
the glass of a shut government door.
They were asserting their right to go out
and spread the virus. Like a zombie
attack, April Flynn said. This is why
we can't have nice things, I replied.
I practice yoga with a remote teacher
who says "fuck" a lot. Some would say
it's inappropriate, but it's comforting to me.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

In This House, This Winter,

we have the thermostat wars & the toilet seat wars

the cider lids in the bin wars & the don't feed the dog so much wars,
the how you've hurt me wars
the stop dwelling on the past wars
the crumbs in the butter
& keys in the foyer
& shrinking my T-shirts wars

Now outside the new big war & the blundering treasonous gluttonous

(what should we call him?)

Now outside the brown bodies falling inside cages under drones

we should call him

to account too many crimes to count

too many phone calls to Congress, too many marches
too many incendiary rapprochements

Now the new war, the new fear, the new stamp of powerlessness
on our foreheads
like a barcode as we move on this feckless conveyor

We have enough to pay for heat & 30 rolls of toilet paper

hard cider, soda water, but we need to buy more coffee & dog food
I've decided re: the past to not inquire any further

2 lbs. of extra butter in the freezer
& you find your car keys sooner or later
& you've lost weight so the T-shirts just fit better

In this house we can turn the television off
In this house we can set the alarm for the night
In this house we can huddle together