Poem every day

I promised myself
to write poems every day
springtime in my heart

     flowers blossom inside me
     I plant poems by the road


High School English Teacher Meets Xanadu

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-some decree
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to msn
Down to a sunless sea (1)

I asked a high school teacher

If we would study this poem
Along with other poems by Coleridge

Immediately —
It’s an opium dream
It has no underlying meaning.”

And that was that
I was unprepared for his response
So I could neither process the language quickly
Nor come up with an original reply
With or without words

He thought the knowledge was so obvious
It needed no explaining
If it needed no explaining, then
Why do I remember the conversation
Twenty years later?
A memory of a school
I spent all of three months at
And remember little of the outer world
Only my inner experiences?
Why would my brain pick that
Out of the daily low level bullying by teachers
To remember?

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man
Down to the sunless sea (1)
I don’t have to go to Xanadu to find
Caverns measureless to man
I can find them in my mind
Those caverns hold sensory memories
That I have no conscious access to
But inform everything I do
I’m certain my father had the caverns too
But they were scattered on the winds when he died

I am no expert
In the interpretation of poetry
But there is an intense longing there
For a world that cannot be

And if I can wonder these things at thirteen
While a middle-aged teacher mocks me
For even having the thoughts
“It’s meaningless because I can’t
Personally find the meaning!”
Then what is the real problem here?

For I now have the longing
To explore the caverns in my father’s mind
As intense as any desire of a poet
To catch up with a beautiful dream left behind

If not more so
Because his caverns were imaginary
And my father’s unimaginably real
I know they’re real
I have them myself

The poem is about longing
For something gone that can
Never be replaced
And my father is dead and can never be replaced

Good enough,
Mr. Smart Ass English Teacher?
Oh well
My dad never got along
with English teachers either.
And even opium dreams
Can have meaning.

What’s that – you fear me
Because I’m from your future?

Because time ain’t supposed to
Work that way
And I’m fixin’ to tell you you’re wrong

What are all these books you teach

If not time travel portals into the eyes
Of future women, men, and other adults?
Boys, girls, and other children?
You think they wrote the book of Ecclesiastes
So only one generation of literate people
Could read it?
No, they wrote it for posterity

And it’s not the only one
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Pyramid Texts
The Book of Going Forth By Day
The Shewings of Julian of Norwich
The Dark Night of the Soul

The Poetic and Prose Eddas
These things all had meaning
That stood the test of time
So I am time-traveling as much as any poet
Back to you, Mr. English Teacher
(I have forgotten your name.)
To tell you
What you never bothered to figure out
Because you were too preoccupied
With your desire to be a coach
Rather than a teacher
(Why are there always those
Among English and math teachers,
Who wish, and act as if, they are
Coaching football or something?)
I know now why I had the attachment
To Kubla Khan
Because I could identify with the longing
I could identify with the caverns
And identifying with things
Is both the magic and the horror
Of adolescence
Sensitive teachers know that
You were as insensitive as a brick wall
And I know that there was another layer
To what you were telling me
I’d heard the rumors passed around
By students and teachers alike
That I was a drug user
(I wasn’t, not yet
I became one
Because of the rumors though.)
You were also saying
“You are a worthless drug user.”
You just said it less directly
Than the teachers who were willing
To say it outright
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice! (1)
What child with communication problems
Could not identify with these lines?
I had such a yearning
To tell people so many things
That were inside me
And no means to get more than
A tiny fraction
To come out in words
Usually, at that age, poetry
Many autistic children
Find their first true communication (2)
In writing lists of words
Or echoing music
Or writing poetry
And we identify with
The universal struggles of poets
To write about that
Which can’t be put into words
If you couldn’t imagine
That there were layers of meaning
In a poem by a famous poet
Of all things
Then you never deserved
A job teaching students about poetry

Continue reading


I don’t think that this poem is good enough to send
It’s clunky and it doesn’t get its point across too well
But does it really matter if I think so in the end?

Five poems on ambivalence I’ve written in the end
Five poems on ambivalence, deleted, all, and quelled
I don’t think that this poem is good enough to send

I’ve made too many mistakes, it’s impossible to mend
From those corners of my mind where the bad ideas dwell
But does it really matter if I think so the end?

Each one had lofty metaphors that I myself had penned
But each was missing something, that even i can’t tell
I don’t think that this poem is good enough to send

I suppose if I worked at it, a poem could transcend
The ambivalence that so far has sounded its death-knell
But does it really matter if I think so in the end?

A poem about a poet who cannot comprehend
Whether or not to publish, is a perfect parallel:
I don’t think that this poem is good enough to send
But does it really matter if I think so in the end?

[This poem was written as part of an exercise where people gave me titles and I had to write a poem or story based on the title.]


Return to sender: no longer at this address

My mother is a wizard with plants
I kind of knew it already
But when my father was upset
Because he'd never see the morning glories
Bloom again in his life
My mother secretly coaxed
A morning glory vine
Out of season
To bloom, and climb, to bloom, and climb
And she took him outside
To show him the magic she'd done
And that's how much my mother loves my dad

My flowers are my poetry
I coax the words to bloom and grow
And climb and climb into his heart
Even out of season
I use words to express the wordless
And that's one kind of magic I have
And that's how much I love my dad

But one of these days
I'm going to write a poem
It will be full of obscure mountain lakes
And treks across the mountains to the sea
And forest floors that were so much more
And owls hooting up in the trees
It will show him every place
That I could feel his love
Without the emotional bombardment
Of living in the city

And it will be a perfect poem
For that time and that place
It will certainly be better than this one
It will show him that I care for him
(As if he doesn't know by now)
It will show the depth of love
That death can dredge up when you're lucky

And then i will get a phone call or an email
It will start out:
“Go and take your dexamethasone right now.”
And I'll have a sinking feeling
But I'll take the syringe of steroids
And put it in my feeding tube
Then go back to the phone or the computer

Then they'll say
“The news is bad
Your father has passed away
He was far too tired this morning
To check your blog today.”

And all that's left of my magic
Will be words on a screen
Words he may have understood
But will never hope to read

From that point on forwards
We'll be separated by time
We both will have existed
But from that point in time onwards
I will be here and he won't

I wonder how much dexamethasone it takes
To avoid adrenal crisis when your dad dies
I wonder how much magical love it takes
To stand the pain you feel when you realize

That you will never talk to him again
You'll never hug him again
You'll never sit next to each other
With an elderly cat spread across your laps
You'll never ask the questions
You forgot to ask when he was alive
You'll never play with his beard again
And there's so little time
There's so little time

But I'm wrong
Like people are often wrong about time
Eternity is all around us
That's all the time in the world
Eternity is where love exists
Outside of time and space
So even if he never reads my best poems
He'll feel the love that went into them
Just as he feels the love
From that morning glory vine

He feels the love from his two pet dogs
He feels the love from his wife
He feels the love from his three adult children
He says he's lucky to be surrounded
By so much love

So I'm terribly sorry, Ron
If some of my poems don't reach you in time
And i'm terribly sorry Ron
If I try to Skype you and it turns out you're gone
Just know I love you more
Than even the best poet can convey
I love you more than I could ever say

And love is the magic that made my mom
Able to grow those morning glories
And love is the magic that makes me able
To write poems daily after years of dormancy
And love is the magic that connects you to me
It's the way we can feel each other's love
Without any form of contact at all

I hope the place I built for you outside of time
And filled to overflowing with my love
Will see you through

And I hope that I'll continue
Writing poetry to you
Long after you've gone

And I hope it reaches you in Eternity
Or wherever it is you're going

And I hope that even the worst of it
Conveys this message:

I love you
I love you
I love you


Sometimes, Restrictions Only Increase Life’s Richness

I spent six years in bed, six years I found
The richness of the love surrounding me
A tree outside my window so profound
From detail comes familiarity
They say that all restriction is a curse
A nightmare from which folks can never wake
But we exalt our highest forms of verse
Like sonnets, which restrict which form to take
And always those who could, would hurry past
Without a glance at me, or at the tree
The richness that they missed, they moved too fast
To see what I and other slow folks see
For life is rich to infinite degree
It’s found in sonnets, and in folks like me


Time Travel

Books are time travel
Because I can meet
Frederick Douglass and Madeleine L’Engle
At the same time

When I was a child
I didn’t understand
That authors could be dead
They seemed alive to me
As long as their books were printed

People showed me dates
Copyright © 1951
As if this was supposed to mean
The book died before I was even born
I couldn’t understand
The book seemed alive to me
And 1951 was just
An incomprehensible string of numbers

George MacDonald and Julian of Norwich
Teresa of Avila and Sherman Alexie
Sojourner Truth and Diane Duane
Donna Williams and Saint John of the Cross
Lao Tsu and J. R. R. Tolkien

These are people who would never
Just decide to get together
But you can read them side by side
And it’s like meeting all of them
Sitting round a table
And talking to them
About their ideas

Much has been written
In lofty language
About the immortality of the page
But I was living it directly
In written words
Long before anyone taught me
The sonnets of Shakespeare:

“Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.”*

You will go to the moon
No one has been there yet”**
Reads a book that I cherished as a child
But how could it lie to me
When Neil Armstrong had been there
Many years before my birth?

Copyright © 1959, said the book
But this had no meaning to me
If the book existed now
How could it fail
To have modern knowledge?

Later, I learned that books
Are the only form of time travel
Available to human beings
Encapsulated in each page
Is the time and place
Where the author wrote the words

So Lao Tsu and Harriet McBryde Johnson
Can sit side by side on my bookshelf
And side by side in time
And I can travel from modern Charleston
To ancient China and back
In the blink of an eye

* William Shakespeare, Sonnet 55
** You Will Go To The Moon, Mae and Ira Freeman, 1959


The Rock In My Hand (circa 2005)

Hand holding a rock

Hand holding a rock

The rock in my hand tells me
That there is a world out here in this swirl
The rock in my hand tells me
That things will not disappear

The rock in my hand tells me
That there is a world out here in this swirl
The rock in my hand tells me
That things will not disappear

The rock in my hand sings an avalanche song
To the rocks in the ground all around
It sings fearful power and boldest delight
And of death and of sand and of love

The rock in my hand tells me
That there is a world out here in this swirl
The rock in my hand tells me
That things will not disappear

The rock in my hand tells me
That there is a world out here in this swirl
The rock in my hand tells me
That the world has a place I belong

Hand holding a rock

Hand holding a rock