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September 15, 2013

                   February 3, 2012


Today I turn eighty-three and I am experiencing

          Something I could not foresee,

          The freedom to be me.

My path is clear as never before.

          It’s up to me to make this tour

          Meaningful, memorable, and fun galore.

With great success, I tell myself

          To place my insecurities on the shelf

          And sally forth with glee to be an aging elf.

I prioritize, exercise, empathize, sympathize,

          Cherish each and every day

          That God gives me to play.

The power of humor cannot be overstated

          Nor can I overlook the benefits of laughter

          In my remaining time before the hereafter.

Family, friends, good health, warm hearth

          Are blessings I appreciate,

          An appreciation I amply demonstrate.

To summarize: Life is good as it can be

          And I will make the most of

          Being eighty-three.

                             --Jerry Gonsalves


September 1, 2013   
Labor Day


We stand in the rain in a long line

waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.

You know what work is—if you’re

old enough to read this you know what

work is, although you may not do it.

Forget you. This is about waiting,

shifting from one foot to another.

Feeling the light rain falling like mist

into your hair, blurring your vision

until you think you see your own brother

ahead of you, maybe ten places.

You rub your glasses with your fingers,

and of course it’s someone else’s brother,

narrower across the shoulders than

yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin

that does not hide the stubbornness,

the sad refusal to give in to

rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,

to the knowledge that somewhere ahead

a man is waiting who will say, “No,

we’re not hiring today,” for any

reason he wants. You love your brother,

now suddenly you can hardly stand

the love flooding you for your brother,

who’s not beside you or behind or

ahead because he’s home trying to   

sleep off a miserable night shift

at Cadillac so he can get up

before noon to study his German.

Works eight hours a night so he can sing

Wagner, the opera you hate most,

the worst music ever invented.

How long has it been since you told him

you loved him, held his wide shoulders,

opened your eyes wide and said those words,

and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never

done something so simple, so obvious,

not because you’re too young or too dumb,

not because you’re jealous or even mean

or incapable of crying in

the presence of another man, no,   

just because you don’t know what work is.

     --Philip Levine


September 16, 2012



Soft paw thumps play our roof--
white cat under midnight light--
as dog barks form a music
they've always heard.

Undisturbed by fleeting car noise,
the FatherMother makes faces
with its cover of clouds,
and a stillness stretches.

Now heartbeats can be heard--
two child's
for mother's every one--
as we fall into sleep together,

not hearing the moon
depart behind clouds
or a cat landing
on the lawn.

--if you live, your time will come



September 1, 2012


walking quickly down the sidewalk intent
the man, with his disheveled hair
stepped to my right to pass him
dirty clothing
He stepped to his left
bare feet, ambling toward me
I looked over his shoulder, and stepped to the left
meeting a professor for lunch
he stepped to the right
human sweat smell
“Look at me”
I did as he directed
light hazel eyes
“I’m a human being” 
stepped aside, and let me pass
Shall we all dance?


--if you live, your time will come

September 29, 2010

                                            A Noiseless Patient Spider
                                            A noiseless patient spider,
                                            I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
                                            Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
                                            It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
                                            Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

                                            And you O my soul where you stand,
                                            Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
                                            Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
                                            Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
                                            Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

                                                                                  --Walt Whitman


September 27, 2010

                                                    What Zimmer Would Be

                                                    When asked, I used to say,

                                                    "I want to be a doctor."

                                                    Which is the same thing

                                                    As a child saying,

                                                    "I want to be a priest,"


                                                    "I want to be a magician,"

                                                    Which is the laying

                                                    Of hands, the vibrations,

                                                    The rabbit in the hat,

                                                    Or the body in the cup,

                                                    The curing of the sick

                                                    And the raising of the dead.

                                                    "Fix and fix, you're all better,"

                                                    I would say

                                                    To the neighborhood wounded

                                                    As we fought the world war

                                                    Through the vacant lots of Ohio.

                                                    "Fix and fix, you're all better,"

                                                    And they would rise

                                                    To fight again.

                                                                But then

                                                    I saw my aunt die slowly of cancer

                                                    And a man struck down by a car.

                                                    All along I had really

                                                    Wanted to be a poet,

                                                    Which is, you see, almost

                                                    The same thing as saying,

                                                    "I want to be a doctor,"

                                                    "I want to be a priest,"


                                                    "I want to be a magician."

                                                    All along, without realizing it,

                                                    I had wanted to be a poet.

                                                    Fix and fix, you're all better.

                                                                    --Paul Zimmer

                                                    (published in FAMILY REUNION)


September 26, 2010

                                                “The Foot”


                                                Our improbable support, erected
                                                on the osseus architecture
                                                of the calcaneous, talus, cuboid,
                                                navicular, cuneiforms, metatarsals,
                                                phalanges, a plethora of hinges,

                                                all strung together by gliding
                                                tendons, covered by the pearly
                                                plantar fascia, then fat-padded
                                                to form the sole, humble surface
                                                of our contact with earth.

                                                Here's the body's broadest tendon
                                                anchors the heel's fleshy base,
                                                the finely wrinkled skin stretches
                                                forward across the capillaried arch,
                                                to the ball, a balance point.

                                                A wide web of flexor tendons
                                                And branched veins maps the dorsum,
                                                Fades into the stub-laden bone
                                                splay, the stuffed sausage sacks
                                                of toes, each with a tuft

                                                of proximal hairs to introduce
                                                the distal nail, whose useless
                                                curve remembers an ancestor,
                                                The vanished creature's wild and necessary claw.

--Alice Jones.

                                                (published in ZYZZYVA)



September 24, 2010  

                                        Checking the horses

                                                            Every night at nine
                                                            my father put on
                                                            cowboy boots and barn jacket
                                                            and took the lantern style flashlight
                                                            to check the horses:

                                                            filled water buckets
                                                            adjusted wool blankets
                                                            ensured no snake
                                                            had settled in.

                                                Maybe he liked
                                                the horses' soft night snorts
                                                the grassy smell of timothy hay
                                                stars twinkling through long needle pines
                                                watching a raccoon slip into the scrub oaks,
                                                after plundering sweet feed kernels
                                                escaped from horses' velvet lips.

                                                               --Carol Frischman

                                                (published in POET SPEAK)


September 22, 2010

                                                Holding the Mirror Up to Nature

                                                Some shapes cannot be seen in a glass,

                                                those are the ones the heart breaks at.

                                                They will never become valentines

                                                or crucifixes, never.  Night clouds

                                                go on insanely as themselves

                                                though metaphors would be prettier;

                                                and when I see them massed at that edge

                                                of the globe, neither weasel nor whale,

                                                as though this world were, after all,

                                                non-representational, I know

                                                a truth that cannot be told, although

                                                I try to tell you, 'We are alone,

                                                we know nothing, nothing, we shall die

                                                frightened in our freedom, the one

                                                who survives will change his name

                                                to evade the vengeance for love....'

                                                Meanwhile the clouds go on clowning

                                                over our heads in the floodlight of

                                                a moon who is known to be Artemis

                                                and Cynthia but sails away anyhow

                                                beyond the serious poets with their

                                                crazy ladies and cloudy histories,

                                                their heroes in whose idiot dreams

                                                the buzzard like a clock.

                                                            -- Howard Nemerov

                                                (published in THE WINTER LIGHTNING)


September 21, 2010


                                                Before time had a name, when win
                                                or lose were the same, in a forsaken
                                                town I lived unnoticed, blessed.
                                                Remember when shadows played
                                                because there were leaves in the wind?
                                                And people came to our door from a land
                                                where stories were real?
                                                Barefoot, we traveled the roads
                                                all summer.  At night we drew pictures
                                                of home with smoke from the chimney.
                                                And we frowned when we read,
                                                so we could understand.

                                                After the years came true, but before
                                                their cost, I played in that big world, too,
                                                and often won: this face was known;
                                                gold came into these hands.
                                                But unwieldy hours overwhelmed
                                                my time.  All I intended blew away.
                                                The best of my roads went wrong,
                                                no matter my age, no matter
                                                how long I tried.
                                                It was far, it was dim,
                                                toward the last.  And nobody knew how
                                                heavy it was by the end,
                                                for that same being who lived back then.

                                                Don't you see how it was, for a child?
                                                Don't you understand?

                                                                    -- William Stafford

                                                (published in THE WAY IT IS)


September 20, 2010

                                                Little Things

                                                After she's gone to camp, in the early

                                                evening I clear our girl's breakfast dishes

                                                from the rosewood table, and find a small

                                                crystallized pool of maple syrup, the

                                                grains standing there, round, in the night, I

                                                rub it with my fingertip

                                                as if I could read it, this raised dot of

                                                amber sugar, and this time

                                                when I think of my father, I wonder why

                                                I think of my father, of the beautiful blood-red

                                                glass in his hand, or his black hair gleaming like a

                                                broken-open coal.  I think I learned to

                                                love the little things about him

                                                because of all the big things

                                                I could not love, no one could, it would be wrong to.

                                                So when I fix on this tiny image of resin

                                                or sweep together with the heel of my hand a

                                                pile of my son's sunburn peels like

                                                insect wings, where I peeled his back the night before camp,

                                                I am doing something I learned early to do, I am

                                                paying attention to small beauties,

                                                whatever I have--as if it were our duty to

                                                find things to love, to bind ourselves to this world.

                                                                                --Sharon Olds

                                                    (published in THE GOLD CELL)


September 19, 2010

                                                Long Night Ahead

                                                Long night ahead.
                                                Time passes by.
                                                A subway train comes to a stop.
                                                As I pick up my quarter
                                                next to me is a man
                                                playing his guitar.
                                                Every day I come to the same spot
                                                where I hear the music.

                                                One day a man came up to me.
                                                He said, "I'm looking for a challenge.
                                                I want to be the best
                                                at what I do."  I looked at him
                                                and said, "What do you do?"
                                                "I fix watches," he said.
                                                "I've been fixing watches
                                                for the past twenty years,
                                                and now I'm homeless."
                                                I turned to this man,
                                                who was in his fifties, and said,
                                                "I can put you back in business--
                                                just fix my watch."
                                                Time passed by.  Every day
                                                I gave him a watch to fix.
                                                Then one day I met a friend
                                                who said he could the homeless man a job.

                                                Long night ahead.
                                                Time passes by.
                                                A subway train comes to a stop.
                                                As I pick up my quarter
                                                next to me is a man
                                                playing his guitar.
                                                Every day I come to the same spot
                                                where I hear the music.

                                                One day a woman came up to me.
                                                She said, "I'm looking for a home.
                                                I've been in many institutions.
                                                I want to fly to the moon.
                                                I want to be the president of the United States.
                                                I want to be free."
                                                I looked at her.  She walked away.
                                                I never saw her again.

                                                Long night ahead.
                                                Time passes by.
                                                A subway train comes to a stop.
                                                As I pick up my quarter
                                                next to me is a man
                                                playing his guitar.
                                                Every day I come to the same spot
                                                where I hear the music.

                                                                            --Ruth Cohen

                                                (published in LONG NIGHT AHEAD)


September 18, 2010


                                                I'm lost in my own mind
                                                Searching, but I can't find
                                                The answers that I know are there
                                                But I know not where
                                                If I find them, I'll make it out okay
                                                But there's a part of me that wants to stay
                                                I have no responsibilities here
                                                No anger and no fear
                                                Here the only pain comes from my own memories
                                                Those I can handle with ease
                                                No one expects anything of me
                                                And my thoughts can roam free.

                                                                              --Naomi Wolf

                                                (published athttp://www.helium.com/items/794586-poetry-suicide)


September 16, 2010


                                                What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands

                                                What water lapping the bow

                                                And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog

                                                What images return

                                                O my daughter.

                                                Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning


                                                Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning


                                                Those who sit in the stye of contentment, meaning


                                                Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning


                                                Are become unsubstantial, reduced by a wind,

                                                A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog

                                                By this grace dissolved in place

                                                What is this face, less clear and clearer

                                                The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger--

                                                Given or lent?  more distant than stars and nearer than the eye

                                                Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet

                                                Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

                                                Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.

                                                I made this, I have forgotten

                                                And remember.

                                                The rigging weak and the canvas rotten

                                                Between one June and another September.

                                                Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.

                                                The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.

                                                This form, this face, this life

                                                Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me

                                                Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,

                                                The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.

                                                What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers

                                                And woodthrush calling through the fog

                                                My daughter.

                                                                                --T.S. Eliot

                                                (published in THE WASTE LAND AND OTHER POEMS)



September 15, 2010

                                                            Talking Back
                                                                        --for Brady

                                                The basketball's wet side smacks

                                                a moon-shaped kiss

                                                as he carries the ball to his hip,

                                                shoulder, wishes it off

                                                the plywood board and through the net

                                                that rattles like chain mail.

                                                He lands without thinking, hops,

                                                squares to the hoop, picks the brown answer

                                                to his mother's cry for a clean room.

                                                The rattling chains are his response

                                                to his father's complaints about math

                                                scores, the left hand put-back his reply

                                                when his sister asks for the phone.

                                                Each new move, the sudden head fake,

                                                the spin off the two foot stop,

                                                the crossover, start him back to square.

                                                He lands facing, senses his spot,

                                                takes it home.

                                                                        --Kevin Miller

                                                (published in THE LIGHT THAT WHISPERS MORNING)


September 14, 2010

                                                The Jar with the Dry Rim

                                                The mind is an ocean...and so many worlds

                                                are rolling there, mysterious, dimly seen!

                                                And our bodies?  Our body is a cup, floating

                                                on the ocean; soon it will fill, and sink...

                                                Not even one bubble will show where it went down.

                                                The spirit is so near that you can't see it!

                                                But reach for it...don't be a jar

                                                full of water, whose rim is always dry.

                                                Don't be the rider who gallops all night

                                                and never sees the horse that is beneath him.


                                                (published in WHEN GRAPES TURN TO WINE
                                                 translated by Robert Bly)


September 13, 2010


                                                And we, who are going to live after all,

                                                got up from our day beds, chaise lounges, settees,

                                                pull off the twisted linen, brush our hair back

                                                into bright bands, and smoothe the color,

                                                lipstick, back into our cheeks.  How well

                                                we look!  How clearly we are the portrait

                                                of well-being, gathering ourselves as the pond's

                                                edge and spreading out our blankets; so

                                                sun-enamored we hardly recognize this future,

                                                so brownly we burn, so whitely our secret parts

                                                shine, as if these two tones were our own

                                                invention and not the Nature's that saves us

                                                as a gift for Eros--you know him--the Hungry One.

                                                                        --Lynne McMahon

                                                (published in AMERICAN POETRY REVIEW)


September 12, 2010


                                                Rain and thunder beat down and flooded the streets

                                                We danced with Indian girls in a bar,

                                                                water half-way to our knees,

                                                The youngest one slipped down her dress and danced

                                                                bare to the waist,

                                                The big negro deckhand made out with his girl on his lap

                                                                in a chair her dress over her eyes

                                                Coca-cola and rum, and rainwater all over the floor.

                                                In the glittering light I got drunk and reeled through

                                                                the rooms,

                                                And cried, "Cartagena! swamp of unholy loves!"

                                                And wept for the Indian whores who were younger than me,

                                                                and I was eighteen,

                                                And splashed after the crew down the streets wearing

                                                                sandals bought at a stall

                                                And got back to the ship, dawn came,

                                                                we were far out at sea.

                                                                                        Colombia 1948--Arabia 1958

                                                                                    --Gary Snyder

                                                (published in RIPRAP, & COLD MOUNTAIN POEMS)



September 10, 2010

A Display of Mackerel

They lie in parallel rows, on ice, head to tail, each a foot of luminosity

barred with black bands, which divide the scales' radiant section

like seams of lead in a Tiffany window. Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone, the wildly rainbowed mirror of a soapbubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline. Splendor, and splendor, and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other --nothing about them of individuality. Instead

they're all exact expressions of one soul, each a perfect fulfillment

of heaven's template, mackerel essence. As if, after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler's made uncountable examples, each as intricate

in its oily fabulation as the one before. Suppose we could iridesce,

like these, and lose ourselves entirely in the universe of shimmer--would you want

to be yourself only, unduplicatable, doomed to be lost? They'd prefer,

plainly, to be flashing participants, multitudinous. Even now they seem to be bolting

forward, heedless of stasis. They don't care they're dead and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably, they didn't care that they were living: all, all for all,

the rainbowed school and its acres of brilliant classrooms, in which no verb is singular,

or every one is. How happy they seem, even on ice, to be together, selfless, which is the price of gleaming.

--Mark Doty

(published at www.poets.org)


September 9, 2010

                                                    Downfall Enters

                                                    through a crack in wet ashes

                                                                like nacreous light

                                                                like an ethnic Albanian vampire

                                                                like unrest in Indonesia

                                                    the wild juice of language begins to melt

                                                    under the heavy construction of glare

                                                    we are covered

                                                                    as if with a gun

                                                                    as if with water

                                                                    as if with moonlight

                                                                    as if with angels

                                                                    as if with hair

                                                    we mark our progress with a trail

                                                    of dead condoms like bread crumbs

                                                    we volunteer to be the subjects

                                                    of vast experiments involving weather

                                                    as snow touches them

                                                    the trees stop singing

                                                                        --Richard Shelton

                                                    (published in THE LAST PERSON TO HEAR YOUR VOICE)



September 8, 2010


                                                    A single swallow glides in the air above the water.  Next to

                                                    it something hovers, thin and white.  It flies too--or is it

                                                    floating?  It vanishes.  It appears again, a little smaller than

                                                    the bird.

                                                    Now the bird approaches land.  Now it is over the beach

                                                    itself.  The floating object is also the beach.  A feather!

                                                    The swallow snaps the feather from the air and holds it in

                                                    its beak while it takes three or four rapid strokes forward.

                                                    Then it lets the feather go, and dives away.

                                                    The feather pauses on the updraft, then begins to descend.

                                                    The bird turns, flows back, glides above and beneath it.

                                                    The feather tumbles erratically.  With a plunge the swallow

                                                    snaps it from the air and flies on, and then, again, lets it go.

                                                    All of this is repeated maybe a dozen times.  Finally the

                                                    swallow ignores the feather, which drifts toward the berms

                                                    of wild roses, between the dunes and the sea.  The swallow

                                                    climbs higher into the air, blue shoulders pumping hard.

                                                    Then it swings, glides, turns toward the sea, is gone.

                                                                                        --Mary Oliver

                                                    (published in OWLS AND OTHER FANTASIES)


September 7, 2010

                                                    You Have to Be Careful

                                                    You have to be careful telling things.

                                                    Some ears are tunnels.

                                                    Your words will go in and get lost in the dark.

                                                    Some ears are flat pans like the miners used

                                                    looking for gold.

                                                    What you say will be washed out with the stones.

                                                    You look a long time till you find the right ears.

                                                    Till then, there are birds and lamps to be spoken to,

                                                    a patient cloth rubbing shine in circles,

                                                    and the slow, gradually growing possibility

                                                    that when you find such ears,

                                                    they already know.

                                                                        --Naomi Shihab Nye

                                                     (published in YELLOW GLOVE)

September 30, 2009



                                                    Trucker's retread carcass

                                                    nose-down on the road--

                                                    a tired armadillo

                                                    unable to make it south

                                                    out of Oregon.


                                                            --Tim Van Ert


September 29, 2009

                                                    Thanks Given


                                                    Lord, we don't need the sight of yellow leaves

                                                    falling to pile with the scarlet and orange

                                                    to signal another end of long summer days.


                                                    The same frost that melts to a black tar

                                                    last month's brilliant morning glory blossoms

                                                    has us huddled here before the hearth.


                                                    You know it's not our nature

                                                    to give thanks during the hotter days--

                                                    long, cold nights slow our hearts down to pray.


                                                    Seeing summer's sugars stored

                                                    on branches bare but for buds

                                                    waiting the winter to be next spring's blooms,


                                                    our hearts bulge in booming thanks

                                                    for the reserves of energy you provide us

                                                    through faith, family and friends.

                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                    (from IF YOU LIVE, YOUR TIME WILL COME)


September 28, 2009

                                                Waiting For You


                                                Under a half moon

                                                my mouth moves round,

                                                empty as the night

                                                before devouring the light

                                                from your full mouth.

                                                        --Tim Van Ert


September 27, 2009

                                        Ground Zero

                                        "I felt a great shriek in nature"
                                                            --Edward Munch

                                        He knew how everything, at extremes, is the same:
                                        how heat freezes, joy pains;
                                        how the most unbearable sound is silence;
                                        how a scream turns even the firm world liquid,
                                        a sea beyond human keening;
                                        how the bell of the skull starts vibrating out
                                        into the great heart of the sky;
                                        how the dull hands are clapped
                                        like dogs' ears to the head;
                                        how we'd pull that head off, if only
                                        the lake weren't its mouth,
                                        the sky its skinned eyelids,
                                        the night oozing in oily and woozy.

                                        Why was it given him to hear this?
                                        This scream of the possum-faced preener,
                                        the simian seductress,
                                        the sweetheart that turns all men green;
                                        this scream of the papery matron
                                        draped in a greatcoat of syphilis,
                                        her raw hands mittened in flesh,
                                        basting her naked child;
                                        this scream of the white house drowning
                                        in bloodfire, the gray face rolling off
                                        of the terrified canvas,
                                        the long tongue of the road
                                        breaking up in intemperate paint;
                                        this scream of lopped limbs and two-headed man
                                        in all their ludicrous, formal dress,
                                        as if no one must ever lose face,
                                        as if no one were incomplete;
                                        this scream of the murderer's
                                        thick hands and wrists, as he twists
                                        slightly sideways, and toward us.

                                        Ground zero.  Hairless and legless.  The scream
                                        of this whole goddamned universe squirms into us.
                                        While somewhere above us,
                                        safe on their bridge into space,
                                        two blue friends walk off the deaf canvas,
                                        as if at a certain distance,
                                        as if in an obdurate silence,
                                        as if toward some not unimaginable bright town.

                                                                --Ronald Wallace

                        (published in VITAL SIGNS an Anthology edited by Ronald Wallace (1989))


September 26, 2009

The Facts of Life


She wonders how people get babies.

Suddenly vague and distracted,

we talk about "making love."

She's six and unsatisfied, finds

our limp answers unpersuasive.

Embarrassed, we stiffen, and try again,

this time exposing the stark, naked words:

penis, vagina, sperm, womb, and egg.

She thinks we're pulling her leg.

We decide that it's time

to get passionate and insist.

But she's angry, disgusted.

Why do we always make fun of her?

Why do we lie?

We sigh, try cabbages, storks.

She smiles.  That's more like it.

We talk on into the night, trying

magic seeds, good fairies, God...

--Ronald Wallace

(published in VITAL SIGNS an anthology edited by Ronald Wallace)

September 25, 2009

When Death Comes


When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,        

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.


--Mary Oliver



September 24, 2009



Some battle shakes your bones.

Still the bombs fall, though now

You've dug a place to crawl.

Quiver under cover--

Lung, brain or adrenal.


Hard to sleep in trenches:

Seizing bladder, tic eye,

Pounding heart, numb left side.

Muster control before

Fall's more painful wrenches.


Clocks shock you to the time

For a host of habits.

Body performs antics

At the buzzing party

To tug your babbling mind.


Yogis live in learning

Rhythms of breath and heart.

Start subtlety from here

To master nerve and thought.

Yogi, you are in training.


Fearlessly share visions

With friends, self--and hope.

Pick up my stethoscope,

Hear the diagnosis.

Now, be your own healer.


--Tim Van Ert

(published in SEEDS ON A WIND RIDE)


September 23, 2009

I Shall Believe


Apples smile before the first bite,

cry sweet tears to their end.

Baboons kiss their babes

as fingers comb coarse hair.

Chrysanthemums thirst for dew--

hoping to finish their make-up.

Diamonds lie in dark anguish

each time your skin closes to light.

Escalators keep on climbing

to gain momentum for flight.

Ferns lay in wait for me

on my final wandering.

Girls turn their glances down

until ready.

Honey was invented through God

offering a taste-sampler of heaven.

Insects scour the earth

for life's raw materials.

Jaguars jump only when

the full moon hides behind clouds.

Keys grow heavier in my hand

by their repeated plots to disappear.

Larks sing long

as a matter of life.

Masked actor paces backstage

devising his own plots.

Nickels gather in pockets

warmed by thighs in motion.

Orchids don't have to care

what we think of them.

Praiseworthy tales will find me by the fire,

snuggle close through my sleep.

Quasars never really existed

before the Hubble telescope was fixed.

Rhubarb is not a poisonous plant

for nothing.

Swaying was initiated by seaweed

so we land-dwellers would not forget.

Time is an unnatural warp of space--

Einstein got that one all wrong.

Uvulas hand in suspended welcome

to the wandering tongue.

Viceroy butterflies are born

knowing where the nectar is sweetest.

Woman bears the pain of life

man does all he can to disperse.

Xenon is an inert gas

in the minds of the unimaginative.

Yo-yos respond readily

when palms are wide and loose.

In the rebirthing gifts

sleep hides among the zzzzzzzzs.

--Tim Van Ert

(published in SEEDS ON A WIND RIDE)




September 22, 2009

                                                                 SUNDAY OLYMPICS

                                                    Sunday--once the Lord's day, now mine to find Olympic Hot Springs.

                                                    Through six years I rummage the map from memory's glovebox:

                                                    catch a sharp curve turn-off across from the country store,

                                                    pay at the gate, then head straight past the alder grove

                                                    until the creek running rounded-stone shallow

                                                    leads past the abandoned ranger's house and tower

                                                    through oak and pine to a parking lot (fuller this time.)


                                                    Curved hiking trail leads me to unwind and anticipate

                                                    each sunny mud-slide bank, wash-out and fallen fir.

                                                    Still think those crumbling asphalt curbs were put there in the 30s!

                                                    Mumble the same 'howdydo' to each hiker passed

                                                    and take no false turns--straight to the upper-most pool

                                                    the lower ones lured me away from hundreds of Sundays before.


                                                    Zinnias and glads smile down their creamy oranges, yellows and pinks

                                                    from a shoulder high bank of moss to that first-formed hot pool.

                                                    I guessed they weren't placed there by the hippie teens ooohing their delight.

                                                    Gnome, stooped to show his white beard nearly as close to his feet

                                                    as his stringy white hair, empties a plastic flower bucket,

                                                    sits in the tub's corner offering a direct view of the two teens'

                                                    kinky blonde hair and thin, tattooed, pierced young bodies.


                                                    Undressing and slipping into water they each light up.

                                                    They ask if I want some coconut-flavored rum. 

                                                    "Sure," I say, and ask if they'd camped there. 

                                                    "Yeah, last night--and people keep it very clean, too!"


                                                    Old man says he grew the flowers himself, 

                                                    "from Sequim--come here every Sunday."

                                                    "A nice way to go to church," I offer. 

                                                    "Yeah, and a nice place to get kisses from young ladies. 

                                                    And I get lots of them.  Don't get nothing if you don't ask."

                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                    (from IF YOU LIVE, YOUR TIME WILL COME)




September 21, 2009

Never Try


If I never try

guess I may's well die.

When I think about dying

is when I feel like crying.

But think about trying--

I just end up sighing.    

--Tim Van Ert  




September 20, 2009



They've come every day this month.

Once I said I wrote them because

I didn't have time for anything

else.  Meaning, of course, better

things--things other than mere

poems and verses.  Now I'm writing

them because I want to.

More than anything because

this is February

when normally not much of anything

happens.  Tub this month

the larches have blossomed,

and the sun has come out

every day.  It's true my lungs

have heated up like ovens.

And so what if some people

are waiting for the other shoe

to drop, where I'm concerned.

Well, here it is then.  Go ahead.

Put it on.  I hope it fits

like a shoe.

Close enough, yes, but supple

so the foot has room to breathe

a little.  Stand up.  Walk

around.  Feel it?  It will go

where you're going, and be there

with you at the end of your trip.

But for now, stay barefoot.  Go

outside for a while, and play.

--Raymond Carver



September 19,  2009

Learning the Signs of the Zodiac

It's reasonable to be afraid of dying, but love has more courage

than reason.  A stone is not so frightened of rain as a clod is.

This is the fifth scroll of the Mathnawi.  I can help you

find your way like the stars in the sign of the Zodiac.

But only a mariner who studies the stars and knows the directions

they lead can use them.  To others there's nothing but looking at them.

From darkfall to daybreak make yourself familiar with these stars.

Each one is boiling naphtha poured down on demons.

Scorpions to them; to you, good companions.

The Sagittarian bow attacks your enemies.  The Aquarian bucket

pours water for your crops.  The Piscean fish wrecks

the wandering boat.  The truthful Bull

helps with plowing.  The Sun-Lion tears the night

to shreds and brings the honor of a glowing redness.

Every existence is poison to some and spirit-sweetness to others.

Be the Friend.  Then you can eat from a poison jar

and taste only clear discrimination.




September 18, 2009   

Ode to Summer

Summer, red violin,

bright cloud,

a buzzing

of saw

and cicada

precedes you,

your sky

is vaulted,

smooth and shining as

an eye,

and beneath its gaze,


fish of the

infinite sky,

pleasing elytron,



rounded bee's




terrible, paternal sun,

sweaty as a

laboring ox,

parched sun

pounding on your head

like an unexpected


across the sand,


desert sea.

The sulphur



yellow sweat;

ray by ray

the pilot


the celestial sun;




down a forehead

into eyes

in the mine

at Lota,

the miner


his black


sowed fields











their heads

in a diamond.










in the greenness, lips

of wild plums,


of soft dust


on dust,



copper drum,

and in the afternoon

the air

makes clover

dance, invades

the desert furnace,

a cool



in the somber


in the crackling

though unscorched



--Pablo Neruda



September 17, 2009

                                                                     SHOELESS JOE                 


                                                            Shoeless, no shoes--looking for my shoes.

Clueless, no clues--lookin' for some clues.

Do less, no dues--looking for nothing to do.

Screw loose, no scruples--lookin' for a cruise.    


--Tim Van Ert  



September 16, 2009

Window Seat Flight

Stomach settles as I remember

that right here above the clouds

is where I had put God

as a six year old venturing order.

This clears imagination to land

reincarnated on foreign soil.

Beyond the scratched plastic window

I scan for clues about my future.

Coastal range pokes through cirrus foam,

like dolphins nose-up through salt water,

to find each other, regroup and emerge

farther ahead in play.

I'm flying to view the dolphin life

in San Diego's marine World

as the white waves break up

against nothing so solid as a shore.

Poised now, gut dives

free-fall down line of sight

to a world of purple images

waving to me through Plexiglas.

                --Tim Van Ert

(published in SEEDS ON A WIND RIDE)


September 15, 2009

                                                    Carroll's Corollary


                                                    When you're



                                                    all roads

                                                                will take

                                                                            you there.


--Tim Van Ert



September 14, 2009
                                                        Bulimics' Ritual

                                                        Weeks laid out on smooth paper squares:
                                                        each FRI before each SAT and maybe
                                                        the moon and her tides noted somewhere.

                                                        Miriam's week shines white and predictable
                                                        until Friday night visits to Paulette's No Bowl,
                                                        where they've learned to slump like breakers before their fall
                                                        spilling dense rainbows past eroded enamel and calloused knuckles.

                                                                    Have you ever said "No"?
                                                                    I mean disgustingly real "No"--
                                                                    hot, slimy, unmistakably alive!

                                                        Such words were not heard in Miriam's mothers' land;
                                                        they send her belly-flopping down the twisting
                                                        watered chute onto soiled sands beyond earshot
                                                        of the detergent lies taught in homeland kitchens.

                                                                    God forgive us,
                                                                    it cannot be right to feel
                                                                    so terribly relieved!

                                                    You enter my body
                                                                                what should I care
                                                                                                        it is open harbor.
                                                    You cannot imagine
                                                                                sure can't visit
                                                                                                        my concealed island.
                                                    I keep special secrets
                                                                                so no harm will
                                                                                                        ever discover me.
                                                    I built my lost island
                                                                                to ignore cool
                                                                                                        seas drooling at my flanks.
                                                    I run beach sand courses
                                                                                but never let
                                                                                                        her wild tides touch me.
                                                    I make all the rules here
                                                                                and invite my
                                                                                                        visitors with great care.
                                                    Just those who recognize
                                                                                body's beauty
                                                                                                        the way you and I do.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                    (published in NOTHING ELSE MATTERS)


September 13, 2009

Noonday Axeman

 Axe-fall, echo and silence. Noonday silence.
Two miles from here, it is the twentieth century:
cars on the bitumen, powerlines vaulting the farms.
Here, with my axe, I am chopping into the stillness.

Axe-fall, echo and silence. I pause, roll tobacco,
twist a cigarette, lick it. All is still.
I lean on my axe. A cloud of fragrant leaves
hangs over me moveless, pierced everywhere by sky.

Here, I remember all of a hundred years:
candleflame, still night, frost and cattle bells,
the draywheels' silence final in our ears,
and the first red cattle spreading through the hills

and my great-great-grandfather here with his first sons,
who would grow old, still speaking with his Scots accent,
having never seen those highlands that they sang of.
A hundred years. I stand and smoke in the silence.

A hundred years of clearing, splitting, sawing,
a hundred years of timbermen, ringbarkers, fencers
and women in kitchens, stoking loud iron stoves
year in, year out, and singing old songs to their children

have made this silence human and familiar
no farther than where the farms rise into foothills,
and, in that time, how many have sought their graves
or fled to the cities, maddened by this stillness?

Things are so wordless. These two opposing scarves
I have cut in my red-gum squeeze out jewels of sap
and stare. And soon, with a few more axe-strokes,
the tree will grow troubled, tremble, shift its crown

and, leaning slowly, gather speed and colossally
crash down and lie between the standing trunks.
And then, I know, of the knowledge that led my forebears
to drink and black rage and wordlessness, there will be silence.

After the tree falls, there will reign the same silence
as stuns and spurns us, enraptures and defeats us,
as seems to some a challenge, and seems to others
to be waiting here for something beyond imagining.

Axe-fall, echo and silence. Unhuman silence.
A stone cracks in the heat. Through the still twigs, radiance
stings at my eyes. I rub a damp brow with a handkerchief
and chop on into the stillness. Axe-fall and echo.

The great mast murmurs now. The scarves in its trunk
crackle and squeak now, crack and increase as the hushing
weight of the high branches heels outward, and commences
tearing and falling, and the collapse is tremendous.

Twigs fly, leaves puff and subside. The severed trunk
slips off its stump and drops along its shadow.
And then there is no more. The stillness is there
as ever. And I fall to lopping branches.

Axe-fall, echo and silence. It will be centuries
before many men are truly at home in this country,
and yet, there have always been some, in each generation,
there have always been some who could live in the presence of silence.

And some, I have known them, men with gentle broad hands,
who would die if removed from these unpeopled places,
some again I have seen, bemused and shy in the cities,
you have built against silence, dumbly trudging through noise

past the railway stations, looking up through the traffic
at the smoky halls, dreaming of journeys, of stepping
down from the train at some upland stop to recover
the crush of dry grass underfoot, the silence of trees.

Axe-fall, echo and silence. Dreaming silence.
Though I myself run to the cities, I will forever
be coming back here to walk, knee-deep in ferns,
up and away from this metropolitan century,

to remember my ancestors, axemen, dairymen, horse-breakers,
now coffined in silence, down with their beards and dreams,
who, unwilling or rapt, despairing or very patient,
made what amounts to a human breach in the silence,

made of their lives the rough foundation of legends-
men must have legends, else they will die of strangeness-
then died in their turn, each, after his own fashion,
resigned or agonized, from silence into great silence.

Axe-fall, echo and axe-fall. Noonday silence.
Though I go to the cities, turning my back on these hills,
for the talk and dazzle of cities, for the sake of belonging
for months and years at a time to the twentieth century,

the city will never quite hold me. I will be always
coming back here on the up-train, peering, leaning
out of the window to see, on far-off ridges,
the sky between the trees, and over the racket
of the rails to hear the echo and the silence.

I shoulder my axe and set off home through the stillness.


--Les Murray

(published in Les Murray: Collected Poems)


September 12, 2009


When we are going toward someone we say

you are just like me

your thoughts are my brothers

word matches word

how easy to be together.

When we are leaving someone we say

how strange you are

we cannot communicate

we can never agree

how hard, hard and weary to be together.

We are not different nor alike

but each strange in his leather body

sealed in skin and reaching out clumsy hands

and loving is an act

that cannot outlive

the open hand

the open eye

the door in the chest standing open.

                    --Marge Piercy

(published in VITAL SIGNS anthology edited by Ron Wallace)


September 11, 2009

Sand Timer

Time runs

like grains of beach sand

through our child's hand.

We grab

what handfuls we can,

look up and demand.

            --Tim Van Ert

September 10, 2009



                                                                    Your life just begins   

                                                                    when some one else writes it down,

Sam said to shock his

gathered mourners-in-waiting.


                                            (from A FIRST EDITION OF HAI-CHOO: LITTLE SNEEZES
                                                             OF PROFOUND DITTY-CISM)


September 9, 2009

The Crowd Please Her


He is everywhere with people, every where within people.

He is there who is not there, my friend.

At the roots, at the tapping of roots,

How long are the roots tapping; how long the tapping roots?

Tapping of the roots: how one longs.

A long moan alone, now run along.

He's in the crowd, isn't that what he feels?

When the crowd's in him, isn't that when he heals?

He wheels and deals and feels his meals.

This man's walk must be rooted near my soul.

Isn't this what the crowd's rooting for?

He kneels and asks God, "Why does loneliness crowd in on me?"

--Tim Van Ert



September 8, 2009

                                                       ANAIS NONE
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection”
Anais Nin

                                                       If to write is to taste life twice,

                                                       all the ways I fly from the pen

                                                       suggests existence not-so-nice.

                                                                               --Tim Van Ert

                                            (from A FIRST EDITION OF HAI-CHOO: LITTLE SNEEZES
                                                             OF PROFOUND DITTY-CISM)



September 7, 2009

After the Chinese

By daybreak a north wind has shaken

the snow from the fir boughs.  No disguise

lasts long.  Did you think there were no winds

under the earth?  My Tartar horse prefers

a north wind.  Did you think

a little time and death would stop me?

didn't you choose me for the stubborn

set of my head, for green eyes that dared

the cheat and the haggler from our door?

I've worn a little path, an egg-shaped circle

around your grave keeping warm

while I talk to you.  I'm the only one

in the graveyard.  You chose well.  No one

is as stubborn as me, and my Tartar horse

perfers a north wind.

            --Tess Gallagher



September 6, 2009
                                                        The First of the Month

Undeodorized and radiant in rags

she squats sullenly

upon the crooked earth

and pokes her brown finger

at fat, red ants

dragging a dead fly home.

My reflection in her eyes

dazzles the air from my lungs.

I shrivel inside

the vacuum of formic arms.

Now's hourglass is frozen.

The bubbling brook is foetid

and the ancient, wondrous

songbirds are chancrous.

Against my dark void

of memories

of blood upon blood

White Clay, Nebraska, explodes

with a thousand faces

of my drunken race

cashing their welfare checks.

--Adrian C. Louis

(published in DESERT WOOD: An Anthology of Nevada Poets)


September 5, 2009
                                                        Mouth of the Wolf

                                                            In my photograph of the Sphinx,
                                                        wearing black robes extended heavily
                                                            like open bat wings, two men

                                                        as big as this pen point
                                                            steady themselves
                                                            on the bright side of His neck.

                                                            Each stretches a left arm
                                                        to the collarlike ridge that forms a pediment
                                                            for the God's enormous head.

                                                        And though a shadow
                                                            obscures him, it seems from
                                                            this distance that the closer of the two

                                                            has held his right arm forward
                                                        with considerable eloquence toward what must
                                                            have been the mysteriously

                                                        elevated position
                                                            of the photographer.
                                                            Yet this picture-taker has everything

                                                            in focus: the faces of the men,
                                                        the Pharaoh's delicate ear, the serrated mane,
                                                            and even the far grains of sand

                                                        in the visible, though cut-off,
                                                            triangle of the pyramids, making up
                                                            what be called the background.

                                                            The shadowed, more bulbous
                                                        side of the head-dress casts a mark to His left
                                                            in a patch of over-exposed sand.

                                                        This mark is confusing,
                                                            shallow or deep, a point
                                                            of absorption or an after-thought--

                                                            like a cavernous, yet
                                                        silent, and displaced mouth.
                                                            In other words,

                                                        what rain there is
                                                            can be found in this shadow's
                                                            shadow.  The rain which falls

                                                            alike upon every country,
                                                        and the other rain, too, which disappears
                                                            from the picture.

                                                                                --Susan Stewart

                                                        (published in UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA PRESS)


September 4, 2009
                                                                    Third Person Neuter

                                                                    Is God mad?  Was Christ
                                                                    crazy?  Is the truth
                                                                    the legal truth?  (Three PhDs who swear

                                                                    the human being who believes
                                                                    a human being God
                                                                    is what, in fairness, speaking

                                                                    clinically, we call
                                                                    a nut.)  No jury,
                                                                    given sacred laws

                                                                    of science and democracy, would now
                                                                    forgive so big a claim as Christ's--a claim
                                                                    for good.  (The wounded get

                                                                    their settlements in millions, not
                                                                    worlds-without-end.)  We think of bliss
                                                                    as ignorance, and heaven as naïveté: the doctor's 

                                                                    a philosopher, the priest a practicing
                                                                    apologist.  Not one of them
                                                                    will let me see

                                                                    with my own eyes my friend again.
                                                                    When experts gave him time, it made
                                                                    his luck and language die.  What good

                                                                    was love?  It was the ultimate
                                                                    authority to quit.
                                                                    He had no use

                                                                    for flesh at last
                                                                    and, Christ,
                                                                    I'm made of it.

                                                                                        --Heather McHugh

                                                                    (published in NEW AMERICAN POETS OF THE 90s)


September 3, 2009
                                                            Dream Play

                                                            Daytime sends snaking light beams

                                                            and deceives, while night's a cat burglar

                                                            confusing us with visions granted

                                                            smoothly as thieves enter and leave.

                                                            Wind is whispered breath falling,

                                                            exploding on impact into laughter

                                                            of children on a playground.

                                                            You forget yourself listening to

                                                            your child-self screaming in the swing.

                                                            Then remember your selves as you dream.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in NOTHING ELSE MATTERS)




September 2, 2009
                                                            Court the Sun

                                                            Each day begins in fire,
                                                            each daybreak face differs
                                                            (in deepest cave luminous rock
                                                            startles bold spelunker).
                                                            Today's sun announces drudgery,

                                                            dimmed by grey tears sprayed
                                                            all night through my navel.
                                                            Now, hot and dry, centered lens
                                                            closes as it looks in on my dreams,
                                                            then cries again while superior twins
                                                            draw in the dawn to hoard clouds.

                                                            Rather than mount stone Aztec steps
                                                            to court the sun in self-sacrifice,
                                                            I let my days bloat like hot gas balloons
                                                            to float over possibilities--
                                                            any landing a retreat,
                                                            not landing, a wavering.
                                                            (Dare I waver past the steadfast,
                                                            who pay the price of wonder lost?)

                                                            In its season, spurred by sunlight,
                                                            a glimmer emerges--
                                                            camper's hope for fiery warmth
                                                            deep in the drying wood
                                                            of yesterday's vigor.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in NOTHING ELSE MATTERS)


September 1, 2009


                                                        "I wonders, what makes for good poetry?"

                                                         Ah, wonder's what makes for good poetry!

                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                            (from A FIRST EDITION OF HAI-CHOO: LITTLE SNEEZES
                                                             OF PROFOUND DITTY-CISM)