Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ancient Language

Ancient Language

If you stand at the edge of the forest
and stare into it
every tree at the edge will blow a little extra
oxygen toward you

It has been proven
Leaves have admitted it

The pines I have known
have been especially candid

One said
that all breath in this world
is roped together

that breathing is
the most ancient language

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mudpie Bouquet

Mudpie Bouquet

These are the flowers
wait where are those flowers

This pile of snow will become flowers
When you see the fleets of birds leaving

imagine that they are just now returning
I tried it The gladness ran through me

We all know what the flowers are capable of
coaxing out in us

Pretend the snow is flowers
See my gesture as a flower

Where does the dirt end
and the flower begin

Oops we started to adore the dirt
It’s a good problem to have

Friday, December 27, 2013

Bookmarks List//Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying...

This beautiful essay, “Teaching My Daughter to Walk,” by Heather Kirn Lanier in The Sun.

This profile on Bryce Dessner (of The National) about knowing, as a creative person, when to ignore advice.

This terrific article, “Temple of Gloom,” by Bryan Curtis in Grantland, on the psychological darkness in Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom. Big thanks to Marcus for sharing this article with me--Temple of Doom is my favorite of the Indiana Jones movies!

This stunning poem, “The Silence Teacher,” by Robert Peake.

Tomorrowland by Joseph Bates and We Over Here Now by Scott Woods. Here’s my write-up on both books.

And you, friends? What books/articles/essays are you sneaking in before the end of the 2013?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Begin Tonight

Begin Tonight

Maybe just start by talking casually
about the stars

Choose one to notice and explain
its light to anyone,
yourself, even

You could say, that one is tinted blue

or, well, starlight is real light

As an amateur stargazer
there is so much you can do to know more

of the sky that I am
jealous of you
of all that you will come to feel

Who cares about a telescope
or a camera

You can begin by walking out into the night

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sap Season

Sap Season

All the love you will ever feel
you have always carried within you

The pellet you think love is

blooms into stone,
into flame, into glass

You fed it when you cried in public
You fed it when you bit down on what you wanted
You fed it when you rattled around and shifted
as a desert shifts
You fed it when you stirred the granulated honey

The tree knows
how to feed every part of itself

When you tap the tree
to drink it
it speaks to you

There is sweetness in you
All the self can do
is melt

Tuesday, December 24, 2013



How numerous the mechanics
and work required
to send the voice

into the world.

We need the greeting
to hold the ear in place.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today,

is this thing on,
I said GOOD MORNING everyone.

Before I tell you the message,
I have to say,

I see you there.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Keeps Me Young

Keeps Me Young

The future is where our eyesight trails off.
We can never see it.

We will never feel the future.
We keep chasing it into the street.

The future doesn’t want to be didactic.
If it let us in, all we’d do is send back

messages. Dear Mom and Dad of my youth,
you did it, you had two daughters

and we are adults. It’s great here, none
of the animals we had are alive, but new cats

come to you, don’t worry. Nothing extra
will prepare you except for everything

you are doing already or you already
did. The future inches away, but only because

it is protective. This is how it taught us
to walk.

That’s it, that’s it, a little farther, it will
catch us even as we

plummet. Dear me of my youth,
you are young every day

before this one, each alive day
you are full of not having lived it all yet.

Friday, December 20, 2013

In Which the Internet Helps Us to Become Better Humans (Potentially)

This week, I was inspired by author and illustrator MariNaomi’s article “It Happened to Me: I Was Sexually Harassed Onstage at a Comic Convention Panel.” This article will have you cringing as she describes her experience. She’s articulate and very honest in this article (as readers, we can’t help but feel frustrated and horrified that she was treated this way, with the added weirdness of being onstage in front of an audience). What I found most inspiring in her article is the way that she ends with questions pointing toward change:

“I feel so ashamed, sad and powerless, but I’m still not sure what I should have done in that situation. Should I have told him to stop? It would have halted the levity of the panel, but would it have halted his misbehavior? If this has happened to me twice, I’m positive that this must happen to others. Why haven’t I heard their stories?”

Right now, there are over 200 comments on the article. Many of them are simply showing sympathy and support. Some are sharing similar situations, or giving suggestions (some of them are really good!).

What’s also interesting is that in her article, MariNaomi does not name the harasser (she mentions that this is not an isolated problem, but an issue for many women in comics [and many industries]). However, after reading the article, the harasser wrote a public apology about his behavior here. MariNaomi accepted the apology (she called it “a nice apology” on Twitter).

This is heartening to me. What seems key is that while this whole thing is happening IN PUBLIC, it prompted private change. This guy’s behavior was obnoxious and unacceptable, and after reading her article, he realized this (apparently) and apologized. He listened to her. I imagine/hope that he must have felt mortified, and that he learned something!

I sometimes worry that the internet is diminishing our ability to empathize. More than ever, we see and hear people voicing ignorance (it’s not that people are more ignorant, just that we have access to more voices, both anonymous and accountable). I have seen people treat people as if they were YouTube videos of themselves. What bothers me is any quick, thoughtless response to another person’s pain or discomfort--dismissing it or laughing at it. We are quick to invalidate the experience of another human, especially when it makes us uncomfortable.

But what we say and do in any facet of our lives--it matters. Our internet life should support our human, in-the-world life. Anytime we say or do anything on the internet, we are, of course, in public. And when we are open about what it feels like inside the weird machines of our minds and bodies, when we are accountable for our words and actions---we can grow. What if our interactions online could help facilitate this? (They can.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Good Night

Good Night

What is the part of us
that insists
It happened that way

And then reads to us from that book
at the shore of sleep

saying, before I let you go
here is a tiny pail and shovel

Find the piece
that could have been altered
Start digging

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

We Look at the Land with Patience

We Look at the Land with Patience

We regard the mountain as we encounter it

This is a lake here
Over there, houses were never built
so there are no houses

This is the only way the land could look

There has been rain
There have been blizzards

If we had binoculars
where would we train them

We have eyes
and those bring this place into you
flour swept from a tabletop with the edge
of a palm

Monday, December 16, 2013

Every Cake a Cobbler

Every Cake a Cobbler

Oh the very strong magic
of what has come together
not effortlessly

A recipe tells you, calmly,
Cream the butter and sugar

In other words, cram these two
substances into one another
and then maybe
you can start to think about
making cake

This is what I mean, beloved
The suites of mismatched furniture
that we wrangle into a home

The dissonance of
grocery story produce displays
in winter

Oh the jigsaw haystack
of thoughts
others will have of you
when you are gone

Here is how you are bound to your home
Here is how you are bound
to your ice floe
Your work is to hold it all
and float

Friday, December 13, 2013

On Creativity: Terry Hermsen

Last week, I interviewed poet, professor (and friend!) Terry Hermsen for the Columbus Alive (you can read that profile here). I first met Terry in 1999, when he was a visiting poet at my high school. As the literary magazine editor and an all-around poetry nerd, I assisted him during the workshops that he led. He gave us such fun exercises (one involved making near-rhymes of multi-syllabic words), and was kind enough to give me feedback on a poem or two.

Now, over a decade later, I’ve so enjoyed re-meeting him. We both teach at Otterbein University, have read together at multiple poetry readings around Columbus, and exchange and discuss poems when we get the chance.

Terry has just returned from Chile, where he was gathering material and inspiration for projects about translation, travel, identity, culture, and poetry. Since the profile I wrote of him is rather brief (although I am pleased with it!), here’s a more extended version of our conversation. He has such fascinating thoughts about what it means to translate, and how place/poetry/history intersect.

Watch Terry's 2012 reading at Paging Columbus (crank the volume!)

My trip was a continuation of a trip I took four years ago, which was at that time, focused on Neruda. He’s sort of the doorway into world poetry for many people...for me, he was my first introduction to a poet I really liked from another culture.

It’s hard to avoid Neruda in Chile. That’s where it all started--in 2007 when I was there for a week. I had his book there with me and I wanted to talk to people, so I asked them what they thought of Neruda.

Last time I went to Chile, in 2009, I tried to teach myself Spanish. I translated a book last time simply to teach myself Spanish. I thought, if I can go through it line by line, and try to see what I can do, that will help me, and then I found I really liked translating. That book is almost finished, but that got me excited to do more translation.

I’ve been taking Spanish classes now...that’s better. I’m only interested in it for the words. Of course I want to talk with people, but it’s more a poetry project to hear how poetry works in another language.

I had college students helping me [on this trip]. We went around the streets of Santiago and interviewed 70 people, and I have 30 more recordings coming in.

[I learned that] you can talk to people about poetry in the streets of Chile...the people we spoke to were really thoughtful about it. We asked them:
  1. What do you think of poetry (on a scale of 1-10) and why?
  2. What poets do you know and like?
  3. What do you think of Neruda (on a scale of 1-10) and why?
  4. Has Chile changed as a country?

That’s my big question. I mean, I’m a stranger...but it’s thought of as a country of poets. But Chile is becoming a bit like the US...it’s economically-savvy, stuffed to the gills with advertising, very Western. It’s car-oriented, mall-oriented...It’s none of my business, but I’m a little worried that a country of poets is becoming less and less so.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

All That Is Uphill Bows to What Is Below It

All That Is Uphill Bows to What Is Below It

In particular

this road and its ferocious curve
bows to the ravine

The guardrail
following the turn

has pried itself away from the road
in the middle of the curve

The metal remembers the car
that collided with it

This morning, in that same spot
another broken car
held in the rail’s broken arm

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Very Few Things Are a Mattress

Very Few Things Are a Mattress

Oh you think you found an edge
with a toe
of a world that has an end
of a time that has an end

No Very few things are a mattress
knuckles of the fitted sheet
hugging its corners

Here is a box I am handing to you
the name of a place
you lived in is written on the side

Even before I picked it up
the bottom flap was open
The ground is strewn with
bricks and parks and an ocean

At least you’ll always have the box

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ear, Nose, and Throat

Ear, Nose, and Throat

Your body is full of flowers
actually the inside of your body is just
one flower

Every thought you have wriggles
along your brain like a worm

Sometimes you tell yourself thoughts
you don’t think
as an experiment

Running feels wonderful
I dread the rain ending
Radishes not chocolate

It’s not an angel and a devil topping each shoulder
but a baby and a parent

Monday, December 9, 2013



The stillness that hangs before you
It is a shower curtain

It is how a year pretends
to just stop

Give me your hand
Give me what you hoped this year would bring
Give me the flowerfield
that abides because you were not here

And then you were
for a time

This is the way in

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading/enjoying:

“Temple Dogs,” by Ira Sukrungruang in Pithead Chapel. A touching essay (it does a lot in few words).

Hibernaculum by Sarah E. Colona. More on this later.

Gregory Orr’s How Beautiful the Beloved. A book I am grateful for! Full of wisdom and little happy-making poems. You can find some of these poems over at VQR Online. Here’s one gem:

Human heart

Human heart —
That tender engine.

Love revs it;
Loss stalls it.

What can make it
Go again?

The poem, the poem.


Happy weekend to you, friends!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wintering Over

Wintering Over

To change direction as a bird
changes direction

to love the branch as the air

to devote oneself
to steering through mostly-invisible places

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Is That the Museum

Is That the Museum

A child’s hood
will help them to learn

just a little of the world
at a time

The little girl in the blue snowsuit
being led from the bus
by her grandmother

Is that the museum
the little girl keeps asking
of every white building

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It Is Marvelous

It Is Marvelous

There are still fires
within the galaxy

How lovely the light is at dusk
We can say that

There is a shoulder
in the place on your body you have
been told is a shoulder

It is a real bone

You, beloved,
are a former child

For each year you continue living
something is cast off behind you

Monday, December 2, 2013



What we know, we know
because we are pointing south.

An accident on the northbound side
is not yet an accident
for those heading north.

The one unmoving lane of cars we pass
becomes two, three, a whole half

of the freeway not moving
or knowing as we do
of the side-sleeping truck, the ambulance.

We drive so far that we reach
where cars have only started to slow.

We drive so far that we see
what things were like before the accident.
It gets earlier and earlier.

Cars are driving past us as we drive.
Inside the cars, everyone is singing.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Reading Notes

If you can read my terrible handwriting (it's just not good--I've definitely come to terms with this!), you can see that I've started reading A Lover's Discourse: Fragments (by Barthes). It is pretty magical so far.

I love writing down lines that strike me (as do most writers, I think!). This one says, "I perform, discreetly, lunatic chores; I am the sole witness of my lunacy. What love lays bare in me is energy."

Grateful this week for writers, readers, artists, friends, family, and you!

Thursday, November 28, 2013



That time a part of the local woods
was stricken invisible

That time the weeping willow became
a harp

Once a man cast himself down onto the ground
between two trees

The time a woodsman walked up to a tree
and could not raise his axe

When the river rose
and rushed through the pines
long hair through a comb

That acorn you slid on
bringing you to the cliff’s edge

That night it snowed and snowed
and you stood in the dim snowlight
where the woods felt warm

When, in the darkness, you felt
yourself being watched
by the beloved

The time you learned how to
participate in stillness

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Good Job You Now Know the World’s Secrets

Good Job You Now Know the World’s Secrets

If snow were a message
and it is

it would mean

is the source
of all repair

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

There Is Only Mystery

There Is Only Mystery

The flowers are singing to you
There is only mystery

The next day they are sprawled
headfirst in the dirt
under the weight of the frost

The manhole covers take up the song
a million mouths in the road

There is no end to all you will never know
This is one kind of wealth

Monday, November 25, 2013



All of those places
traveling within you

release one at a time
a magician’s dove

you encourage into the air
So this town square

becomes another place
because of how you see it

The brick streets
rebricking themselves according

to your memory and desire
The eggshell sky

Whatever feeling fills you now
it rushes over

the rocks of your years ago bliss
or longing

You have built up a shore
called your heart

You can cast your wide waters
when you need to see

a familiar place You get used
to the clack of plastic

block on plastic block You
can make them fit

almost and hold it all together
for entire seconds

Friday, November 22, 2013

Waiting on My Bookshelf

It’s hard to believe that the semester is almost over, and with it, this term of teaching! I get rather sentimental about it.

But what I’m very excited about is READING BOOKS over break. I’m sure other English and writing teachers feel this way, right? I have started requesting some fun books from the library. So far, waiting for me are:

  • The Attentive Heart: Conversations with Trees by Stephanie Kaza 
  • Species of Spaces and Other Pieces by Georges Perec 
  • A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes

What else should I read over break? Any recommendations? What are you looking forward to reading?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Magic Markers

Magic Markers

Make a thing

a snow globe

a chart with names of humans
who didn’t know
they would be related to you

a quiche

a drawing with Magic Markers
magical because of how each stem
keeps its own color
a bud vase in bloom

a bad birdhouse
that birds won’t touch

a plain birdhouse
that is dry inside
well-visited by every bird

Each thing a vision

a doll-sized sarcophagus
a wooden box
clay pinch pot

a way to make the world small
a way to ask
isn’t this what we both know

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Recipe

A Recipe

A leaf rises
from the street
to slap me across the face
with its palm.

The wind is so strong
we have to lean into it.

The wind makes us
into friends when we walk past
one another. We say,
and I know, right.

This is not a tornado.
All day, not one dangerous thing.

Tonight, as I prepare dinner
while the red-leaved tree thrashes
against the bricks,

I find a recipe comprised of only one word:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Soap and Hot Water

Soap and Hot Water

Behold: the bitterness of the left-in-the-glass lemon.
Behold it.
Do not drink, beloved.

Why would I want such bitterness
along your tongue.

Tell me.

Today I sliced a jalapeno.
Hours later, rubbing my closed eye,
a gritty sting.

I had used soap and hot water.

Why does the body insist
on hanging on.
Why is contact
a door.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

This week, reading and enjoying:

This essay at Salon, “What a Tragic Death Taught Me About Organized Religion,” by Deborah Jackson Taffa. Extremely powerful and beautiful.

Another stunner of an essay, “Boy Next Door,” by Stacey May Fowles, in The Walrus. Intense and complex and emotional.

Jody Bates’s Tomorrowland (more on this later).

This post  on The Reel Foto about sports photographer Neil Leifer’s incredible photo of a Muhammed Ali Victory. It’s an amazing image. Leifer says, “Ali, Williams, the referee, the reporters, the symmetry, the drama--it’s the one photograph I’ve taken where, looking back, I’d change nothing.” Fascinating.

Photo by Neil Leifer, via The Reel Foto

Thursday, November 14, 2013



Electricity in the veins of the cornfield
Kernels lighting up within their cocooned ears

The world’s power lives in its vignettes
and how quickly a thing is over

Just plain dirt
Plain cornfield
Plain breeze carried here
and passing through

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Surf and Turf

Surf and Turf

The moss is out of control.
The rocks under the moss are out of control.
The ocean is also out of control.

Come to think of it
there is not one thing
growing based on your preferences.

Lob a rock at the water.
It plops in somewhere,
you assume.

You weren’t trying to skip it.
It can be calming to picture
the stone falling

down through the water, eventually
stopping on a surface
no one will ever touch.

It can also be calming
just to hold a rock
at the edge of some big-bodied water.

Friday, November 8, 2013

On Creativity: Tessa Mellas

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tessa Mellas for the Columbus Alive (the local arts paper). We talked about her new book, Lungs Full of Noise, which is a gorgeous and grotesque collection of magical realist short stories. While we were chatting, I was struck by her insightful comments on process, the female characters who dominate her stories, and her thoughts on silence, snow, skating, and surprises in writing.

The profile is a short one (you can read it here), but there were so many great thoughts she shared during our conversation. Here are some that didn’t make it in the piece!

NOTE: Read Tessa’s stories, “So Much Rain,” (click here) and “Mariposa Girls” (click here) online.


[The title of the book] is from a line in the story “Beanstalk,” where the main character is remembering how a beanstalk grew outside her window....she imagines birds circling her, their “lungs full of noise.” I’ve got a lot of imagery of birds and winged things throughout the collection, which, for me, is a metaphor for women who are fragile, but also strong. They can support themselves. But like birds with their hollow bones, they can be knocked around.

“Quiet Camp” is about a group of noisy girls who are sent to a camp to be silenced. And this represents a huge struggle of women....the girls in school who are obedient and quiet get rewarded, and are seen as good and feminine. And the girls who are noisy, and speak without thinking and are opinionated get criticized and attacked. I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on girls to be quiet and silent, and yet there’s all this noise going on inside of them.

Thursday, November 7, 2013



Leaves start off on the tree

and end up in the air

and along the street

Actually the leaves begin
somewhere inside the tree

Inside the seedling

from sunlight and air

Another curious fact is
the voice is only hosted
by the body

Say it exits
not as speech
but as song

That song began

Wednesday, November 6, 2013



I’ve always been responsible
for that darkness.

It’s the Sylvester to my Tweety bird,
only harmless.

You know what’s in there.
Nope, not spiders.

Not teeth. You can hide in it.
All the hider’s

got to do is trust it. It’s an if-you-

will-come. It’s an all-things-changed-

Tuesday, November 5, 2013



I have set myself adrift on a river.
I have built the river.

Because I have not slept
I think it is raining
from the upper sky to the middle sky

but never reaching me.

If the self were

an inner tube inflated,

where is the mouth
that let the rubber nozzle
drink from its breath.

I wrench something from the ground
but say
look what the world is bringing to me.

Monday, November 4, 2013

There’s Always a Stump

There’s Always a Stump

Cut away a tree,
saw at its torso
and haul it off.

But it is still not gone.

There’s a stump
to deal with.

Underneath, roots reaching
down and away.

All this time
the tree was always
walking away from us

There are birds that remember
the bark of the tree
under their toes.

There are descendants
of the birds.

There is the repositioned earth
that never lays quite right.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fruitful and Multiplying

(a fragment from an essay-in-progress)

“Strange fruit.” A teenage boy looked out the window of the full bus, and announced this, as you might point out landmarks that we pass (“My sister took a guitar lesson there once,” or “Best pancakes in the city”). A few of the bus passengers looked over, and then noticed the earbuds trailing out from under his hood, leading into his pocket. Plugged in.

In this order, I thought:
  • He is listening to Kanye West’s “Blood on the Leaves,” which samples Billie Holiday’s song.
  • He is singing along with Kanye West but really he is singing along with Billie Holiday,
  • Billie Holliday’s song borrows its lyrics from a poem.
  • In the bus it is 1930 and 2013.

Fun to share something completely unfinished with you today--happy Friday! What projects are you starting/working on (or abandoning for the weekend)?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013



These fake ladybugs eat the real ladybugs.

The trees go up in flame unequally.
On this side of the street, by the river, they are red.
The other half are still green. 

The slender trees get slenderer.
The branches stand there in memory of leaves taken away.

What does the beloved smell like.
Smell the air to see if they are in the world.

The sheriff’s black school bus rattles back toward the courthouse, empty.
Outside the courthouse, on the sidewalk: tiny booklet reading

The trees are plunged into their circular grates,
gnomons in sun dials.

Today, the plants must feel stoned.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying:

•    This short essay,  “Through the Closed Door,” by Lee Martin in Post Road Magazine.
•    David Sedaris’s “Now We Are Five,” a reflection on his family and his youngest sister’s death. I read stuff like this and think, “Oh, that’s what good writing looks like.”
•    This haunting, poignant essay, “Face,” by Tara FitzGerald in Vela Mag. So many overlapping pieces here…it will stay with you long after you read it.
•    Scott Woods’s poetry collection, We Over Here Now (more on this later).

I’m also excited that a new little column of mine, featuring books by Ohio authors and publishers, will be appearing in Columbus Alive (an arts newspaper here in town). It’s called (as if there were any other choice for me) “Bibliohio: Recommended Reading from the Heart-Shaped State,” and here’s my first write-up. I have a theory that something special is happening amongst writers and readers in Ohio.

Thanks for reading this week. And you, friends? What else are you thumbing through?

Thursday, October 24, 2013



The trees darken, and then,
oh, no more light today.

Heavy dictionary heaved shut.
Voice yelping, kitchen’s closed.

You are so tired that you feel the shadows
gnawing your face.

You are so tired that you dream
of being tired.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Oh Boy

Oh Boy

Oh boy, oh dear, oh
Tetris-y tumbling

of joy into removal
of joy, into anxiety,

oh me, oh my, oh
how do I respond

to the undone world,
the gradual unhinging

not set in any jamb
Observe: a resurgence

of interest in canning,
uncanny devotion to

mason jars, Peter Pan
collars and plaid, if

you don the garb
of wonder and work

very hard maybe they
will let you keep this

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Toward a More Elegant Attention

Toward a More Elegant Attention

Oh big branch in the river
who will get you out
who will fetch you

When a dog holds a stick
in his mouth

moves it across the park
and leaves
the memory lives in the dog’s jaw

and in the fallen stick

But when someone burns that stick
and years later, the dog is gone

where can the truth survive

Where did all of these sticks come from
you would think a whole forest
has been released

a passel of arrows

The remembered pets
how a human calls a human
who was a child alongside them

just to say
remember what a good dog she was

The light
doesn’t want to say
anything to anybody

Monday, October 21, 2013

On the First Cold Day, Everyone Makes Chili

On the First Cold Day, Everyone Makes Chili

As you tug a produce bag,
thinner than skin, from the roll

for the red bell pepper,
and pluck a twist tie

from the stand, you see it:
your future, you

in the kitchen tonight,
opening cans of black beans

and kidney beans to empty into the pot,
the chili finished two hours later.

The grocery store sees it, too.
Chili ingredients are stacked near the beer:

tomatoes, beans, round crackers.
Fewer choices than we think,

you know, and this is a gift.
Let the ingredients suggest

the meal, and the season
will suggest the ingredients,

and in this way
we can observe the benevolence

of the universe, the can
of diced tomatoes

that had been grown
last year in soil

you will never stand on,
the pain in the farmer’s

grandfather’s heart prodding him 
to buy some peaceful land.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying...

-Tessa Mellas’s just-released Lungs Full of Noise. What a beautiful and weird book--just what I love. More on this later. 

-This article/collection of images on io9 showing what the world looks like through a cat’s eyes.
-Tina, such a bizarre and awesome book of poems by Peter Davis (who was just in town for Paging Columbus!). Here’s a video of one of my favorite poems in the book, “Emily Dickinson,” and here’s another poem from the book at Verse Daily, “The Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

-Feeling much gratitude and love for kind words about my book this week. Here’s a recent interview at Vouched Books (as part of their fun Awful Interview series--thanks to Tyler Gobble for his great questions!), and a beautifully-written review by Anne Champion in Rattle. Thanks to everyone who is reading the book (so happy it is finding its way to you!).

Happy weekend, y’all. Who’s doing some pleasure reading this weekend?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hot Mess

Hot Mess

If you want to set a woman’s mind at ease
and you are a woman
tell her you like her shoes
or her jacket.

She will bat it back at you.

Then you can say
you like the way her hair is cut
especially around her facebones

and then she will say
thank you for not saying
I look like a mess

and by the way
I love your arm.

I was born with it,
my parents made it for me,
thank you! Your aorta, if I could see it,
would be lovely, I feel sure.

But not as lovely as your tonsils
she will say,

and this is where you should be worried.

But I have no tonsils,

you will say, laughing, nervously,
both of you,
as you back away
careful not to startle her.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cumulus, Gone But Not Forgotten

Cumulus, Gone But Not Forgotten

The cumulus had been shedding
for half an hour
when it finally exhales its last bit of self.

The cloud rememberer
lowers her binoculars,
also sighing.

This isn’t easy. But she is a professional.
She pencils the date and time
in her notebook.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Garden Logic

Garden Logic

In the garden you think there are no disgusting things.
These worms squiggling into the mud below
squiggle cleanly.

A spider lives to eat the other bugs.

The other bugs look handsome next to the petals
and bark, dark legs like eyelashes.

The mind you wear into the garden
possesses wisdom not your own.

Shit is great flower food.

The desiccated bird corpse,
tiny cracked cage of bones
in a handful of flung feathers,

the earth will take it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Three Sheep

Three Sheep

There were three sheep.
Well, there were also other sheep. But these three,
they had found themselves
alone before a large pond.

They were scared.
Should we go through it, one asked the others.

No, we have no idea how deep it is!
And there could be LEECHES!

Let’s rest and get some good sleep tonight, that first one said,
have a better idea about things in the morning.
It was unanimous.

In the morning, they found themselves on the edge of that big pond.

Huh, still here, still a pond.
Still deep. Still leeches.

The next months played out in this way,
every morning, one pointing to the pond,
the other two murmuring: deep, leeches.

The air began to get colder.
Fall wandered in and set up camp.
Talk of leeches went up into the red leaves
like sparks from a fire. Mmmhmm, deep.

One day, it was winter.
Two deer stood on the pond, and shouted over,
Morning! It’s frozen now! Clamber over!

Deep, they said, and shrank closer together. Leeches.

What gives, one deer said. The other shrugged.

Instead of good morning, the sheep would talk about the pond.
Pond today! It’s deep and full of leeches, isn’t it?
Sure is. Absolutely leech-ridden.

They lived there for the rest of their lives.
They called themselves a flock.

One day, nine years since they came to live there,
their original flock walked around the other edge of the pond.

Hey! Look who it is, the old flock called across.

How do you like our new spot, they asked their old friends and family.
We are so proud of how it’s turned out.
Just the right amount of leeches.

Friday, October 11, 2013

On Creativity: Muse-ic

This week, I wrote a post over at Spoonful revisiting music and creative ritual. While writing poems in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been obsessed with Volcano Choir’s Repave and Moby’s Innocents.

I was delighted (read: jumping up and down and yelling “EEEEK!”) to see that Damien Jurado is featured on one of Moby’s tracks. “Almost Home” has been helping me with my poems--it is exactly what I want from music that I write to.

What songs/albums/artists have helped you to create?

Thursday, October 10, 2013



Your head is delicate,
your thoughts are delicate,

here is a bag of bird feathers
to lift you into sleep,

never mind about where
the birds are now,

you are in their branches,
blossoms and leaves

between your toes, you will
wake up in the morning

when you wanted to, the self
tonight will be supplanted

by the self of the next day,
you have to know it will all be

there as you left it, you have to
stop thinking about those birds.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

All Ships Struggle

All Ships Struggle

All ships

All ships
will have been mistaken
for icebergs

All icebergs turn
into the water
they are clenching
within their bodies

All preparations
do not include
the actual future

All the stars
that the passengers
of the Titanic saw

All the stars
whose formations
we find

All of the time
that waits
like the next wave

All waves
the breath of water

All waves
the water
they return to

All waves
not even waves
not even
for a hundred years

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Every Day, Less of a Cactus

Every Day, Less of a Cactus

I think I might be going somewhere
I am less flamingo planted in water
less stemmy-bodied cactus

All lightest leaf
the self suggestible
to air

The air
The mist in the air

Others have noticed
You are certainly less and less of a cactus
It’s a compliment

It takes so much work
to be us

Monday, October 7, 2013

Kitty, Don’t Eat Tape

Kitty, Don’t Eat Tape

When lacking a calm place
I have been known to curl
up into a box. I am a cat
person, it is easy for me
to understand the compulsion
to stuff one’s body into
small spaces, to seek what
will let me chew it by
chewing cautiously. The cat’s
love of anything sticky is
understandable but troubling.
I catch her licking the filmy
glue on an envelope’s flap,
teeth puncturing the corner
of the cardboard box, trying
to scrape free the mailing tape
and get it down her throat.
Kitty, don’t eat tape, I say
it at least once a week.
How does this turn into what
she really hears, Eat faster,
do it now.
I worry that the lives
of pets provide no fulfillment.
Take her for a long hike
in the woods
, the dog person
says. The cat behaviorist knows
better. Install a ledge near
the ceiling, so that she can
watch the birds through the
window, feeling the flicker
of power that comes from
knowing that the bird could
be hers, how easily she could
take something from the world.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying:

  • Luisa Igloria’s book of poems, The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House). 
  • James Fallows’s article, “Magical Roundabouts and the Language of Signs,” in The Atlantic. Fun and fascinating...I also love thinking about what the messages/diction in signs suggest. One of my favorites that I saw over the summer said "Please Respect the Growing Grass."
  • “If He Hollers, Let Him Go,” by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, an in-depth discussion of Dave Chappelle, comedy, race, culture, and Yellow Springs (less than an hour from Columbus! A wonderful little town--my husband and I call it “The Shire”).

And you? I'd love your recommendations.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Everything Talks to Everything Else When We’re Not Looking

Everything Talks to Everything Else When We’re Not Looking

Tree holding up its yellow leaves.
The next week, circle of yellow

on the grass, tree trunk plunged into
the center. Rolled hay standing in

spools in a half-emptied field,
grasses high behind it, ready to

be gathered. Light that returns
when the wind wakes up, and tiny

spider with orange and black striped
legs that crawls out from beneath

the handle of my car door just as
I’m about to get back inside.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Small Fries

Small Fries

Oh the irresponsible decisions made
The tasty carbohydrates

The ungreen gutters
where rainwater gardens could have flourished

The heavy golden frame
around a picture better served by slim nails

The times you do not say
the thing you think

Also oh the irresponsible decisions tempered
with responsibility

Dessert after the dessert
first fruit then chocolate

The evil words
with an apology after

The cruel deed
with an apology after

The times during the day
your brain does not remind you how everyone

is going to be gone
how what we consume just disappears

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We Have Not Yet Learned

We Have Not Yet Learned

Somewhere a man is shocked
when another person loves the way he looks,
says it.

He had been privately calling himself haggard
and weak for the last year.

The art student draws the dimpled thigh
of the nude model

without looking at the paper.
The more she looks

at the body on the platform,
the better the line.

Our bodies, forgive us.
We have not yet learned

that one year the bone shows more,
and another, the fat.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Art of Overhearing

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the value of overhearing. On this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire, Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson gained insight into a city he was unfamiliar with (Tampa) by listening in on a slick salesman delivering a pitch. 

And today, I was chatting with a librarian friend at the art school library. She was telling me about her ideas for upcoming quilting projects, and showing me beautiful images of fabric and masterfully-crafted quilts.

On the way out, a woman sitting behind the desk stopped me, and asked me if I was in the fashion design department (she’d overheard our conversation). I told her I wasn’t, but we spoke for a minute, and I learned she is a jewelry designer (she had a gorgeous silver pendant on that she’d made).

If we’re open to them, these chance moments can lead to such fascinating conversations and thoughts (even if, or maybe especially because they are brief). In grad school, I was once riding the bus (where the eavesdropping is glorious, friends) with two other students. We were talking about how much we loved Atonement, and my buddy Paul said, “Ah, the prose just sparkles!” A man sitting behind us asked us whether we were students or writers, and he told us he was so delighted to hear people speaking about literature in this way.

In my Introduction to Professional Writing class yesterday, we were discussing the value of Twitter--I absolutely believe that it is a place to have private conversations in public. The internet lets us people-watch and overhear in abundance, doesn’t it?

It makes me happy to think that technology might be increasing the ways for us to be receptive and attentive to the world around us (although it certainly doesn’t always feel like this--maybe we’re breaking even in terms of attention). In these small, wonderfully-meaningless moments of connection, for a few minutes it feels like we’re living in that provincial town in Beauty and the Beast (“Bonjour! Bonjour!”). The musical just under the surface peeks through, then recedes.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Box Is the Toy

The Box Is the Toy

The river is moving
but the meadow is still.

That is what we think

which is why we forget about
how big of a box the planet is in
and how big of a box
with no sides
that box is in.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Magic Words

The Magic Words

What one thing are you hoping
someone will tell you

to get every event to canter off
into labeled shelves,

miniature gumball machines and
thimbles into the right

compartments of a gridded shadow
box. The desert won’t

be cured because it isn’t ailing.
The cacti won’t die,

in fact, three new cacti have sprung
up just now in your

footprints. You know what you
are waiting to hear,

trapped in you like the light within
a closed refrigerator.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A New Kind of Sangria

A New Kind of Sangria

The pink hibiscus petal floats to the surface
of the pitcher, then lifts from it, shaking
the wine from its edges, wet dog trying
to rid itself of the heavy fur. Petal floats,
seeks and finds stem on the counter, reattaches
itself, and in come the other petals, a whole
flower again, a swarm of petals, sliced fruit
flying toward you, darts waking to their own
will. There are consequences for trying to drink
the garden.

Friday, September 20, 2013

This Week, Feeling Inspired by...

  • This song, “Calling Cards,” by Neko Case (I have a memorized calling card number from 14 years ago that I occasionally use):    

  • Eric Valli’s photography. I am in awe of these gorgeous photos. They do tell stories, but by immersing viewers into one fragment/scene of a story. There is something to learn here, I think.