If I Am What I Ate



If I am what I ate,
I am Spaghettios
and Swanson TV dinners.
I’m grilled cheese on Wonder Bread
and my mother’s Mexican Goulash,
which is neither Mexican
nor goulash.


If the voices in my head
belong to my parents,
then it’s they who told me to lay low,
toe the line, follow the rules,
and do unto others, as others
are more important than I.


It wasn’t God.
It wasn’t Jesus,
not the Pope nor Billy Graham.
It wasn’t the sacred texts or hymnals,
or the sages who interpreted them
who told me to be someone else.


God is God, and He’s made me a lovely dinner.
I dine on the Feast and become myself.


With my tongue I taste.
With my eyes I see.
With my ears I hear.
It’s my blood surging.
It’s my heart that sings in the dark.

4 Random Poems on Parenting


Parenting is a roller-coaster for sure.
It goes too slowly, and it moves too fast.
It’s also the best thing ever.


Too Much


Today she got the best of me.
All three.


There was no adult in charge.
Just a 51-year-old adolescent
at the stove,
at the wheel,
at unlucky door number 3.
Today she told me not that she hated me,
but that I hated her.


I willed her to my womb,
I grew her in my body,
I fed her with my breasts,


I bathe her,
read to her,
go sleepless when she’s sick.


I bandage her wounds,
I sing her to sleep.
I brush out her fucking tangles
every fucking morning.


I hold her down.
I hold her up.
I hold her in the dark.


God it’s too much.
I simply cannot
in good conscience
recommend parenting
to anyone.



Attention Deficit


Hey Doctor!
Hey Shrink!
Hey Specialist!
Hey Administrator!
Hey Teacher!
Hey California Standardized Box Makers!
Hey After School Square Peg Directors!


Do I have your attention?
Can you focus on this for a minute?
Can you settle your asses down in your seats?




Now take your little tests
And your little evaluations
And your cute little bell curves…
Gather them all up together and put a cute little bow on them.
Then, take your bullshit recommendations
and your bullshit red markers
and your bullshit drugs
that dull my daughter and drown her sparkle
and go fuck yourselves.





You’ve had a fever for 3 days, Esther.
And I don’t like it one bit.
Fever scares me.
It scares me cold.
I’ll never show you that it does, though.
I will never let that cat slip.
I will smile every time I take the reading.
I will smile and wink
and give you popsicles
and ice chips
and stroke your forehead
and tell you how lucky you are to sleep in my bed.


I will smile when I tell you that you don’t have to go to school
and I will cancel my appointments,
and change all my plans – every last one.


To be with you.
To watch you.
To watch your fever.
To watch it rise
and rise again
To wait for a sign.
To wonder.
To wonder.
To wonder.


Why now?
And what did you touch?
How did you get it?
From whom; on what day?
When will it break and what is it, anyway?
Why no other symptoms?
Why nothing?
Why nothing?
Why nothing?
But fever.


Jessie’s youngest had a fever that wouldn’t go away
and wouldn’t go away
and wouldn’t go away
and they finally found cancer in her blood.
Fever with nothing.
It scares me a lot.


So you’ll sleep in my bed and I’ll stroke your forehead.
I’ll bring you ice chips,
and smile.



Second Story


She sleeps in a second story nest
right up close to the glow-in-the-dark stars.
She listens to me read the pictures of a life
lived on the prairie a hundred years ago
and tries to put it together with hers.


One more chapter is closed.
One more night has fallen.
One more dream has filled her head.


She wishes I would hold her all night,
But I’ve grown too old for her bed.

God Somewhere



I don’t understand people
who refuse the hope
that there’s a God.
I mean
kind of God.
It doesn’t have to be of formal conjuring.
Forget all the epistemological arguments.
At the very least there’s got to be a Something that knows more
and is more
and is more able than I.


If I thought there really were
no God at all, well…
why wouldn’t I just slit my wrists?
Look at this world
and the institutions
and the people
in it.
Live long enough and you’ll see.
It’s. Fucked. Up.
There is no one
and nothing
to trust
even if you wanted to… even if you should.


Friends fail
Lovers fail
Parents fail
Children fail
Teachers fail
Priests fail

Governments fail
Churches fail
Courts fail
Banks fail
Cops fail
Lawyers fail
Dictators fail


                                Wives fail
                                Husbands fail
                                Heroes fail
                                Psychiatrists fail


Planes fail
Cars fail
Boats fail
Elevators fail
Dogs fail


        Cats don’t even fucking try



















So, the only thing I’ve really got going on is this hope,
this hope,
that there is a God somewhere
Who has not
Will not

The Moss of Emily Dickinson



This is a poem I want to write.
But it’s just a disguise.
What I really want is a kiss.
What I really want is to collect my two hundred,
buy up the boardwalk,
and flip the fucking board off the table.
What I really want is a get out of jail free card.


This is a poem I want to write.
But it’s just a disguise.
What I really want is absolution for my most mortal sins.
What I really want is adulation for my brilliance.
What I really want is a pair of eyes to swallow me up
and shake me ‘round the ice ‘til I’m nice and pourable
for the cherry in the glass.


This is a poem I want to write, but the poem is fighting me.
It wants my blood.
It wants my flesh.
It wants the lava in my bones,
and threatens to cover my mouth with the moss of Emily Dickinson.
This poem wants me dead
and it’s time I surrender.


This is a poem I want to write.
But it’s just a disguise.
This is a poem I’ve written.
And this poem just saved my ass.

Burning Down The House




For a moment
I thought it would be better
to burn the house down
than to pack it up again
just to move a mile away.


One good thing about moving is
the more I do it,
the less stuff I hold onto.


Soon I’ll be barefoot
with empty hands


I’ll be a pearl
and the world
my oyster
at last.




*** From the cover of Shawn Colvin’s “A Few Small Repairs”





The face of my dead mother comes to me at the strangest times.
The last time was in a yoga class.
I don’t know, maybe that’s not so strange.
Dead man’s pose.
Dead woman’s face.
Dead woman’s daughter in dead man’s pose
spilling over with grief.


My belly didn’t convulse as with my usual crying.
It’s just liquid this time,
like her face in my head turned on the spigot
in my tear ducts.
Little drips of ocean out the corners of my eyes,
onto my cheekbones,
onto my shoulders,
onto the mat where I lie
remembering the time I told her I hated her,
the time I made fun of her behind her back with my friend Rose,
the time I asked my daddy what I’d look like if she wasn’t my mommy
and was disappointed by his answer
that I wouldn’t be me
without her.

I Tasted Death




I tasted death
on the lips of the woman who bore me.
I kissed her cheek.
I held her hand.
I took the candy from her very last breath.
It was sweet and I was surprised.
I sang her to The Gates that night
on the lyric of a song she taught me
long before she forgot my name.


There is a balm in Gilead
to make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead
to heal the sin-sick soul.


She is standing by the Rock with her feet in the River,
charming that Gate Keeper with her jokes
and whistling for Eula Mae.
They watch Jeopardy
and know all the answers.
She spins her Wheel of Fortune
and Ed McMahon waits,
with a check made payable in her name.

Everybody’s An Expert


Everybody’s an expert.
Go to a surgeon,
he’ll tell you to have surgery.
Go to a hairdresser,
she’ll tell you to get a haircut.
Go to a bankruptcy attorney,
he’ll tell you to file.
Go to a priest,
he’ll tell you to confess.


If you ask me,
I’d say
announce your arrival;
then have a pint of beer
and get over yourself.

The Long Goodbye


“Mommy?” she asks, taking my hand as we walk our afternoon ritual to the pool. “When people go to college, do they take their stuff with them when they go?”


“Yes” I say. “They do.” She stops in the middle of the street.


“Everything? Even their beds? Even their toys and their clothes?”


“Yes, sweetheart, everything. Now, keep walking. Don’t stop in the middle of the street.” I pull her along as I always do, trying not to rush her out of her thoughts, which frustrates her beyond measure.


“Well I don’t want to do that when I go to college,” she says, slowing down, hopping on one foot. I let go of her hand and let her hop. She’s happy when she hops.


“I’m guessing you may very well want to when you get to be that age.” I reply. She stops hopping, runs to my side and buries her face in my belly after poking it with her index finger a few times.


“No mama. I never want to leave. I always want to be with you. Always. I love you toooooo much. I could never leave you. Never.” She unwraps herself from my body and opens the pool gate. She runs for the water and I watch as she leaps.

Little Words


I thank God for little words
which, when strung together by brave souls,
can bring tears over the brim of my eyes
and waves over my flesh where no ocean lives.


Once to my ears, and only for a moment,
they are quakes in the core of my heart
and music to the dead of my bones.