Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Misplaced Modifiers


Reading the classified ads:

FOR SALE:  Used motorcycle by an honest man with two pistons.

BABYSITTER NEEDED: Young woman who has access to a car with a college degree.
            [Hm, must be a smart car…]

TRUCK DRIVER JOB OPEN: Looking for a hard worker who can apply to drive to California
by tomorrow.
[He’s gonna need that smart car.]

NEW LITTER BORN: Kittens for sale for a loving owner with orange fur.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ferris wheel lights

Ferris Wheel Lights (A Sestina)

Working at the amusement park is a grand old time.

There’s nothing like having to hide
In the ticket booth when you wanna smoke a joint
So your boss doesn’t find out and fire you.
Every ride has bright, multicolored lights
And this is how I waste my time away.

The closest bathroom is half a mile away,
Those Porta-Johns are full all the time
And always smell like Marlboro Lights
It’s where those teen brats like to hide.
A kid always asks for another toy gun from you
And immediately bends it all out of joint.

Jocks, barbies and snotty kids mill around this joint,
Throwing all their money away
Buying more and more tickets from you
Screaming, complaining, cheating all the time
And there’s no good place to hide
With all these obnoxious lights.

They’re poor substitute for big city lights,
They only illuminate this cheesy joint,
Don’t even let dirty gutters hide—
I’m surprised they don’t want to look away.
Cotton candy disappears in your mouth every time,
But you think it’s worth it, don’t you?

The only boy who ever liked you
Works across the park, beyond the lights,
But you miss him waving at you every time
Because some skeez is yelling, “Let’s blow this joint!”
And a mom drags her eight kids away
Screaming, “One more word and I’ll tan your hide!”

Why do the five-year-olds always play hide
And seek in the Fun House? “Hey, you!”
Where the hell are your parents? Go away!”
Finally Anna, who manages mini golf, lights
A gloriously white, papered little joint
And we smoke until closing time.

This is where I hide, and yet these lights
Are poor substitutes you know, for home, the joint
You tried to get away from, before you wasted your time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

how i failed calculus

"How I failed calculus"

The glint
in Miss Jessel’s hair
was so simple, so quick,
that I almost missed it,
like an answer to a riddle.
Suddenly, I cared about derivatives
even less.
So casual, how she tossed her strands,
and yet how cleverly she caught me.
It wrapped me up tight
in a cotton memory
of home, when I was nine,
beneath a fort of pillows
and hiding from the night.
Her glint of blonde hair now
 was the light from my hall then
that peeked through my door
to tuck me in.

My parents’ shadows
walked across my bedroom wall
and I saw them in her hair
now, as if my past were a part of her body.
My father’s silhouette from twelve years ago
snuck in to Miss Jessel’s hair
as if he were going to bed
down the hall
in the nape of my teacher’s neck.

Saturday, April 9, 2011



I live in a box
Full of yellowed papers
And a kitchen half-painted
Viridian green.

My little house
Always smells of your coffee
Because tea for one
Is lonely in the morning.

I draw the curtains sometimes
And crawl in that queen-sized bed,
Confessing all my secrets
Beneath our tent of sheets.

If they could bottle you
I would add a slice of lime
And drink you dry,
My Communion.

I come home each night
Carrying you across the threshold,
And we play hide and seek
From the world outside.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

the last cowboy

"The Last Cowboy" 

There's never been a man like Grandpa Hayes
'Cause all the tales about him must be true:
Broke sixteen horses less’n seven days
And stole the Rancher’s girl in only two.
He lived for eighty years ‘cause he was skilled
A wicked shot who never came out worse
His .32 was from a man he killed
The only one who’d ever shot him first.
A family curse what made him ride so fast
‘Cause lightnin struck his daddy graveyard dead--
They say it turned his uncle into ash
And then it got his cousin in the head.
So Grandpa spent his life outrunnin clouds
Just lookin for a truth he never found.

Monday, March 21, 2011

ballet shoes

"Ballet Shoes"

I slip my tender toes into your familiar bind,
your pink laces twist up my legs
and animate me.

En pointe, my toes are perched upon their boxes,
and your silken arms embrace my ankles
as if I walk on nothing.

Fuetes swing you around and I am a circus ride,
turned into painted porcelain,
a spinning doll.

I spend months with you, scuffing your soles, tearing your cloth,
burning your laces, stretching your lips.
We become old.

One day they will put us both in a tiny fabric box,
only to spin when it opens, only to dance
at the soft tinkling of a bell.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

the woman on the bus

 "The Woman on the Bus"

Her hands were small, pruned,
looked clammy, very cold perhaps
with purple seeping up through
her tiny nails.

She twisted the ring on her left third finger
round and round, deftly,
as if she had been doing it for years.
The small diamond awoke in the dim light,
like a beady eye from a dark forest.

What she rethinking everything?

She looked up suddenly,
pulled hard on the brake cord yelling
and flew out into the night the second the bus
came to a pause.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

the hunter

"The Hunter"

I heard it
just before my campfire
slowed, oddly calm--
the howl seared my peace
from an unknown distance.

I could see it in the trees;
the nervous leaves shivered,
lost their snow,
perhaps wishing me to flee.

But the howl cut into my ears
and huddled there,
feet scratching,
fur bristling--

I shook my head free
but its breath smothered me,
hot, rank, ripe with zeal.

An angry wind shoved the trees
and jostled the crowd of yelling leaves
urging me, run run
but the howl was all I knew--

Suddenly, I could taste what the howl wanted:
smooth fur and malleable flesh
that falls apart in its captor's teeth;
easy, like biting into a peach,
and I savored the metallic tang of conquest.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

branch of the heart

"Branch of the Heart"

His love was a sort of
branch of the heart,
forever reaching,
with rough bark that
chafed the skin
and precious, sticky sap that
ran beneath the buds.
When it stormed,
its petals plastered the ground,
a dewy, soggy mess,
and prettied up the mud.
Until winter, and the weight of snow, when
it cracked, tore, broke
and fell without a sound.

Friday, January 14, 2011

with the city

With the City

True, their marriage had far beyond ripened,
it had aged with the great city.
But that majesty was dashed
when the emperor's wife
had the veil--lifted from her eyes, 
much like it had been years ago, 
to find her leader
with that Young Woman,
whose eyes still bore the veil of

The wife ran from the room, unseen,
to rejoin the flowers, the setting sun,
still thankful 
for at least her own wisdom.