Thursday, June 30, 2022

Thankful for This Year

Thanksgiving was coming up.
She had just gone back to work.
She felt a bit unstable,

But she’d gladly attended
Her husband’s thesis defense
On Halloween. It was fun.

He’d done well, and she’d caught up
On some department gossip,
Plus she’d enjoyed dressing up.

Life was coming back to life.
At least she had an excuse
For avoiding holiday

Greetings and planning this year.
It was fun to drink again,
To allow herself some drinks.

It was fun to socialize
With coworkers after months
Away, alone with her thoughts,

Medications, and husband
Who’d been mostly off teaching
Or hunched at his desk, writing.

Yes. She was getting better.
It was all getting better.
It would never be as good.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Maybe It’s Easier When You Haven’t Lived

The gurney rolls down the hall,
Time for surgery at last,
After a week of waiting

For the correct specialist
To return from vacation.
A drab January day,

Neither cold, thaw, snow, nor rain,
Just clouds outside the windows.
The man on the gurney thinks,

Just two weeks ago he was
With friends and his new lover
Enjoying sex and drinking,

Good food and camaraderie
In New Orleans’ French Quarter,
On his own vacation, and

Now this. He stares at the clouds
Motionless, apparently,
As they roll him down the hall

And he has another thought
That he’s quite ready to die,
As long as it’s while under.

Years after, he will wonder,
Why the hell he thought that thought,
Back when he’d done nothing, yet?

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Explaining an Eighties Band

They lined up against the wall
In a quartet, like band-mates
Posed for an album cover.

The tallest, on the far left,
Caught buttoning his collar,
Grinning, his chin tilted up,

While the other three all turned
To watch or comment on him—
First, the second-tallest man,

Then the woman, her hair up,
Then the short, oddly-shaped man
In big boots with a huge beard,

The three of them caught profile,
Also grinning, black and white,
Backs to the white alley-wall.

Two of them actually had
Been in a band, and three were
Musicians, and all three men

Had slept with the one woman,
Who was then seeing someone
Somewhere out of the picture,

And they were all still good friends
And would remain so for years,
Two of them a decade plus,

Before finally drifting
Too far through other partners,
Occupations, countries, lives,

And it’s a good photograph
From one sunny afternoon—
Young friends, standing by a wall,

None renowned for anything,
Any time before or since.
But no, they were not a band.

Monday, June 27, 2022


That late Wednesday afternoon,
Past rush hour in the desert,
Whoever had made it home

Already and was watching
From window or balcony
Was in for a little treat.

Giant clouds massed over town
Low enough to feel like part
Of the mountainous landscape,

Large enough to dwarf mountains
And huddled buildings both.
It’s amazing how easy

It is to misremember
The fleeting as delicate.
These giants rose from nowhere

In an hour and would vanish
Before midnight, but they made
The stone peaks look like footstools

For the temporary gods.
And then the storm broke, stunning
All the dust and sand below

And pulling off that rare feat
Of simultaneous wind,
Lightning, thunder, and rainbows.

The whole show, in short, but short.
Desert country, after all.
For twenty minutes it seemed

The deities had returned,
Marduk, Zeus, and Thunderbird,
Whatever names you wanted,

And there was fearful magic
In the world, too beautiful,
Nothing to do with humans

Or anthropomorphisms,
Even though it conjured them.
And then it went. The rain stopped.

The armada broke apart,
And the rainbows all unbent,
Leaving nothing but that scent.

Sunday, June 26, 2022


Life in the Winnebago
Had its own routines. The milk,
As it suited their mother,

Was Carnation powdered mix,
An awful, grainy slurry,
Supposedly saving space

In the tiny fridge unit,
Plus money for traveling.
They will realize later

That’s just part of their mother’s
Nostalgia for her childhood,
Which rules so much of the trip—

Stops to the family farm,
Now subdivided and sold,
Visits to far-flung siblings,

Great aunts, and second cousins,
Most of whom they’ve never met
Before and won’t meet again.

During the Great Depression,
As a small girl on that farm,
Mom had milk when the cow did,

Powdered milk when it didn’t.
Good enough for her must mean
Good enough for her kids, too,

A rule she always follows
When in doubt, rule that has lead
To odd anachronisms

And strange juxtapositions,
Such as McGuffey’s Readers
Surrounding the TV set

And gulping down powdered milk
While roaming in an RV.
Nostalgia and religion

Are indistinguishable.
They say grace crowded around
Each campsite picnic table

And sing The Little Brown Church
In the Vale passing through woods
And meadows cut by highways.

This too, the children later
Will realize, is just part
Of a kind of reaction

Formation long preceding
Their mother’s birth, extending
Past her death, to changing times.

A half-century later,
Weirder anachronisms
Will obtain—like slick websites

Aimed at evangelicals
With lyrics and sheet music
For old gospel hymns and boxed

McGuffey’s Readers reprints
Re-edited by Christian
Publishers, for homeschooling.

But that’s another future
For now, while the oldest child
Dreams of living on spaceships

By then, and the younger kids
Join their mother in singing
A Mighty Fortress, rolling

Through the Plains States and reading
Little House on the Prairie,
Bedtimes at the KOA.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

What Stays

Piece by piece, she assembled
Her team and her decisions.
It would all be natural—

No painkillers, a home birth
In a warm tub with a view,
A midwife, and a doula.

It would be in Canada,
Too, which was inconvenient.
Her mother was unhappy,

And her partner had to drive
And fly back-and-forth between
His weekday job in the States

And their place in Canada
Where she had holed herself up
For the final trimester.

In between these parallel
Existences, his two poles,
He sometimes overnighted

In a vacation cabin
Of metaphorical kin,
An A-frame in the mountains

Beside an old mining town.
Frosty mornings, he’d wake up
On the moldy green sofa,

Before the day’s long drive north
Or slightly shorter leg south,
Roll his sleeping bag back up,

And step out on the back porch
To check the progress of fall.
The cabin was out of range

Of cell service, had no phone,
No TV or radio.
He felt balanced between worlds,

Nations, current and future
Obligations, and the sharp
Autumn reek of reddened leaves

Coloring and falling down
The canyon, around the porch
In the quiet of light wind,

Would stay with him years after
He had caught his only child,
Cut the umbilical cord,

And changed the first of many
Diapers in the hospital
Where, after all, she was born.

Friday, June 24, 2022


Their third wheel defrays the costs
Of the small, two-bedroom house,
Down the alley, near the stream.

It’s winter, which means something
In Missoula. Days never
Get anywhere near to thaw.

The air’s a brown inversion
From the wood stoves and pick-ups,
The paper mills and old cars.

The sidewalks are scalloped ice,
Dark, petrified streams themselves
Between banks of dirty snow.

In summer they’ll be married
In a small, Quaker service
On Christine’s family farm,

In the clear, green evening air.
For now, they’re cohabiting
In town, in this grubby house,

The back bedroom occupied
By a hairball of a man,
A grad student who's their friend,

Sort of, although he listens
To godawful punk music
And clomps around in huge boots,

Never cooking or cleaning,
At which Christine sometimes weeps
With frustration and wanting

To be a good feminist,
A womanist, but also
A good Quaker and a wife.

She stands at the sink, watching
Dark snow through the small window,
Listening to the wind chimes

Rattle down the alleyway
In the murky afternoon.
This has to be over soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

No One Remembers When She Agreed

He was ready to get out
Of the partnership, he said
To his wife, after dinner,

Meaning the cabinet shop.
He wanted to sell to Ted,
With whom he’d founded the shop

Fifteen years earlier. Ted
Did all the sales and zero
Woodwork and cabinetry.

That had been fine for a time,
But now he wanted to sell
Ted the business and the name,

Lock, stock, and barrel, get out
While he was still young enough
To do something with his life

More adventurous and fun
Than building custom kitchens
To the specs Ted sold someone.

And what did he have in mind?
His wife wanted to know. Well,
Buy a motor home. Travel.

See the whole country the way
His parents already had
After his father retired,

But with the kids. For the kids.
Think how educational.
Yellowstone. The Grand Canyon.

We could take them out of school.
Visit all your relatives.
A once-in-a-lifetime trip.

His wife looked out the window.
What was that look on her face?
Outside, it started to snow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Stories Now Left in Your Head

Most of these things don’t exist
Except as memories, and
The memories don’t exist

Except as words, but we try,
And if the result’s gauzy,
Inexact, inaccurate,

Confabulous, well, sue us,
As kids said in our hometown--
You don’t like it? So sue me!

Contentious bunch, kids with words,
Words circulating among
The kids, picking up the lint

Of their daily existence
Until, turning out pockets
For anything valuable

Years later, that’s all you get
From experience, words trailed
By clouds of glorious lint.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Up Where the Air Is Fresh and Clean

For a moment, for a month,
Their life’s like gliding, hang time,
An arc with a view. Sundays,

They drive through the summer light
To brunch at the ski resort
And listen to live music.

Sometimes they ride the ski lift
Just to gaze down at the green,
On one occasion a moose.

The pregnancy’s going well,
So far. Neither one mentions
This is likely their last chance,

And they’re taking no chances.
She’s on leave from the airline,
Freelancing for the paper.

Yesterday, she interviewed
Community activists.
Tomorrow, they plan to drive

To visit a model home
For a piece she’s researching
On sustainable housing.

The home will be in a field
Cultivating native plants
And types of solar panels.

They’ll wander through the bright rooms,
Nodding and imagining
The whole house filled with children.

Everything feels wide open.
No alcohol, no smoking.
At the best table, they smile

At the local musicians,
And banter over their brunch.
They take selfies. He’ll save them.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Earthworms Floating Everywhere

It was so wet, that summer—
Wet enough, the days seemed dark
Even stretched to greatest length,

Pearly light glowing before
Four in the morning, never
Growing any brighter, dim

Until night, past ten p.m.
Every window, every lens
Remained misted, all the time,

And raindrops grew like cold tears
From everyone’s eyelashes.
The toddler in bright yellow

Boots and hooded rain slicker
Waded through the tall wet grass,
Away from the camera.

What was happening in there,
In her long-term memory,
Which would blur all the details,

The greys, the greens, the yellows,
The snail-smell of that summer
In a world built out of rain,

Rain-compacted, a heaven
Of water in muddy earth,
When frogs spawned on park benches

And salamanders strolled roofs
Thick with moss? Amphibious
Shadows thronging childhood dreams

Might linger for a lifetime
Thanks to just one such summer.
It’s not so mysterious

How the mysterious sets
Evanescent hooks in us
Once memory puddles up.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

With Black Line Illustrations of a Friendly Witch

He was too young to go out
Trick-or-treating anyway,
She told herself, even if

He had been in better health.
He was barely a toddler.
Toddler’s remember nothing.

It’s really for the parents
To take pictures of the kids
When they’re that young, anyway.

He won’t know what he’s missing.
Still, she was a little sad
And wanted to celebrate,

At least mark the occasion,
So she made him pumpkin pie,
And read a bedtime story

About a sweet foolish witch,
And that was their Halloween,
The year when he was injured

Just two months past three years old,
And half-remembered the night
And the book she read to him.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

What Do You Think She Was Thinking Right Then?

Her classmates were invited
To her mother’s funeral,
And the school arranged a van

For the ten of them that came,
Not including her best friends
Who came with their families.

For those bare acquaintances—
Who got dressed as somberly
As adolescence allowed,

Greys, moss-greens, black skirts or brown,
Winter coats against the rain,
Their young eyes mostly cast down—

Attending a funeral
Was a wholly novel thing,
Depressing, fascinating,

For the few not Catholics.
The service was a cold blur

In a cold and sad, dark church,
And afterward, riding back
To the girls’ dorm, they whispered,

So the driver wouldn’t hear,
About the sight that struck them,
Struck each of them in some way,

Just as the procession left
The church, right behind the hearse,
Ann’s small face in a window

Staring wanly back at them
Through the rain, with that blankness
Of expression that made them

Wonder if their hesitant
Waves were wrong, if she even
Noticed them. Poor Ann. Poor thing.

Friday, June 17, 2022


Everyone was still alive.
Well, alright, not everyone,
But everyone who’s died since

Of those who were born before.
She met her soon-to-be-ex
In their counselor’s office.

This was the last-ditch attempt
To interrupt the divorce,
Agreed to by the lawyers.

But she was convulsed by fear
Or something she couldn’t name.
Not rage. That was part of it,

But more like a side-effect
Of the fear, just as the fear
Was a side-effect of want,

Her hunger, not for this man,
Certainly not as he was,
As she knew him and he knew

Her, but for her, for herself
And him as they could have been,
As she had imagined them.

Why had she been denied that?
Why couldn’t she claw that back?
She ended up making threats,

Sobbing and cursing an hour
Away incoherently.
Privately, the counselor

Warned her ex and his lawyer
He shouldn’t be home that night.
She’d see none of them again,

After the papers were filed
And she drank herself to death,
One of the many deaths since.

Thursday, June 16, 2022


His worldly, educated
Older brother in the States
Has sent an American

Friend from grad school who’s touring
The continent by Eurail
Youthpass, backpack, and shoestring

To stop in Leutershausen
And stay with his family.
The guest doesn’t speak German,

And no one else speaks English
Other than that brother off
In the States, but the guest learns

A little German small talk
With startling alacrity.
He is a tiny person,

Stumpy, with a huge brown beard,
Wearing brown and olive clothes,
Like one of the Moosleute

Sprung to life in their garden
Among their tall sunflowers.
Like any good moss person,

It turns out he has a gift
As thanks for the family’s
German hospitality—

The little American
Sits with the younger brother
And helps him with a project

The worldly older brother
With impeccable English
Had always felt beneath him—

Making sense of the lyrics,
Puns, and subtle allusions
Of the songs of Billy Joel,

Which the younger brother loves
Without understanding. Days
In the garden after work,

The brother and the moss man
Labor over translations
Into Bayerische Deutsch

To their mutual, bizarre
Satisfaction. At the end
Of the week, the small moss man

Hops on a train, having learned
A mysterious amount
Of German, and the brother

Feels at last he comprehends
The songs he sings at the shop
In phrasings that make no sense.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022


Kyle and Deanna’s thirty-year mortgage
Would be, according to schedule, paid off
This year. Will it be? Do they still live there?

You only ask since thirty years ago
You sat in a meeting one afternoon
Next to Kyle, making chit-chat, and he said

It was trippy to have bought their first house
Because when they were signing the papers
He realized that the thirty-year mortgage

Meant he’d be sixty-seven by the time
It was done. Weighty thought for him and you
Who was several years younger, barely hired

To the same position he’d held for years
And in no position to a buy a house
Yet. A year later, he and Deanna

Had a daughter. The last time you saw them,
Not quite a decade later, they were still
Living in the same little bungalow,

Dark but rather charming, with hardwood floors
And large porch, in a decent neighborhood.
Their daughter was a quiet, spindly girl.

Kyle was still alive a few years ago,
Working in the same place on the same things,
According to an old friend on the phone.

You forgot to ask about Deanna
Or their daughter, who would now be the age
You were the afternoon Kyle leaned over

And said, It was weird when I realized
I’d be paying until sixty-seven,
Grinning and shaking his slightly gray head.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Near Miracle

It’s a small, in-between moment,
Many years ago now. No one
Else would remember it, no one

Who hasn’t been dead a long time.
In the dark overlooking lights
Of a provincial capital,

Smack in the middle of downtown
But in a bed chainsawed from pines,
The evening gave it one last try.

If you incline to imagine
Intention in the universe,
You could think the cosmos conspired,

Concentrated on that bedroom.
That’s a funny thing about fate
And destiny, and divine will—

You never give them any space
To be incomplete, imperfect,
To try a miracle and fail.

Monday, June 13, 2022

All in the Dance

They held a dance at the school.
The boy who invited her
First was an embarrassment,

But she felt she couldn’t say
No, since he was handicapped,
And no one else had asked yet.

So, she was stuck to start with,
But she came up with a plan.
She would meet him at the dance,

And she would dance with him first,
And then her girlfriend, Tina,
Would grab her to get some snacks

Or to go to the girls’ room,
And they’d circle in the back
Until cuter boys started

Asking for dances. With luck,
She could just keep dancing, and
Never have to be the date

Of the short, nerdy, pimply,
Handicapped boy on crutches.
Someone saw him leave the dance

And hissed at her, don’t you know
The old saying that you dance
With the one that brought you? Huh?

She laughed. I danced with him once.
Anyway he’s not my date,
I was being nice to him.

Whatever became of her,
With her Farrah Fawcett hair?
The boy would wonder later,

When he ran into Tina
Once at the Rijksmuseum,
Purely by coincidence.

Tina told him the story
About the shaming saying,
Looking a little ashamed,

And he told Tina, laughing,
How he’d cried in his pillow,
Then waved goodbye to Tina.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Do It Yourself

For one summer, it was new
Enough that it was enough
For everyone to be there,

In the new, just-finished house,
Specially designed and built
From scratch, all accessible,

With fire doors and heated floors,
A bedroom for everyone,
Three bathrooms, a laundry room,

A fireplace in a brick wall,
A living room, dining room,
And, of course, a custom-built

Kitchen. Even the dark yard
Gnarly with tree roots, seemed grand.
For one year, the five of them,

Ages five to forty-five,
Had no reason to leave home.
The children played in the stream

With their new neighborhood friends.
The mother planted gardens
Ambitious with strawberries,

Leafy dark green vegetables,
Squashes, corn, and tomatoes,
Almost as if she were back

On the farm where she grew up.
The father came home from work
At his custom cabinet shop,

Proud of everything he’d done,
The whole design of the place,
The smart angles of the house,

But most of all, all the space.
He owned actual acres.
The restlessness came later.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

The Fledgling

Racing around the backyard
In the canyon’s strong March winds,
The girl in the pink princess

Dress over blue trousers shrills
Her toddler delight, arms wide
To the gusts buffeting her,

Pure physicality, or
Not quite—imagination
Has already taken hold,

And she shouts to her father
That she’s flying, she’s flying,
And she speculates the wind

Might be strong enough to sweep
Down a bird’s nest she’s spotted
In the still-leafless ash tree.

She covets that nest. She wants
To hold it, look into it.
We need the wind to be strong

To blow the nest down! She shouts
To her observing father,
The mind in her mind flying.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Her Attendants

She feels well enough to fly.
There’s no question of children
Anymore. That dream is done.

The new dream she’s been trying
Some months to fit in its place
Is an early retirement

To a picturesque cottage
On the coast of Newfoundland
Where land’s going for a song,

And the cold purifies you,
She imagines, scours you new.
For now, though, she has to work.

She’s never been that thrifty,
But she always could find work.
She has work. She needs to work.

She works three flights while tipsy.
At the hotel, she stumbles
And crashes into her sink,

Injuring her right elbow.
Not badly, but it’s scary.
Hours she weeps into the phone.

She needs strong reassurance
She’s strong and she can handle
This version of middle life.

She’s not. She knows it. Voices
Over the phone betray it.
Her family knows it, too.

Still, she’ll get up tomorrow.
She’ll manage another flight.
Snow flies outside the window.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Late Modernity

Her mother-in-law, who was
Always a fine home-maker,
Bites her tongue about the dust,

Or tries to, at any rate.
Sometimes eyebrows speak for you.
A nurse on a cancer ward,

Who’s been a missionary
In the bush, who’s lived in huts,
And is thirty-five years old

Already, with her first child
Often at the breast (eyebrows),
Won’t likely take housekeeping

As a major point of pride.
Her mother-in-law knows this.
Still, it’s the 1960s,

For heaven’s sake, the Space Age.
We’re not living in the bush.
Give the baby a bottle.

Clean up a bit. Pull the drapes.
Get a good vacuum cleaner.
Be a more modern woman.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Thirty Years Later, They Still Chat

They lived in a rented house
On his moderate income
With her furniture and cat,

And it was a nice small house,
Suburban, with hardwood floors,
And they shared a little car,

And were still more or less young,
And still more or less in love
And content with each other,

So they might have been content
With that life as well, you’d think,
But no, of course not. They were

Hopeful he would land a job
With a better salary
And a little more prestige

Back in her hometown. They were
Anxiously waiting to hear.
Then he got the interview.

He landed the job! Her cat
Had to be put down. They found
A pretty nice apartment

To rent, next to her hometown.
They bought new appliances
And a new mattress. A car

That was bigger and better
Came next, also a kitten.
They were set. And they broke up.

There’s more to their tale than that.
Everything had a reason.
That first cat was very sick.

The old mattress was way old.
Her parents supported them
Some, not just his salary.

He wanted marriage and kids.
She came out of the closet.
He wanted to change careers,

Move somewhere in the mountains.
They broke up to do all that.
They compared notes afterwards.

Other partners, other cars,
Other states, other houses,
Other cats. Reason’s like that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Sad God

The thing about a narrative
Is that it must be shared—
Not just told to someone else
But in some sense believed.

You have to agree on a story.
You have to agree on the parts,
On most of the parts at least,
To think, these belong in the story.

There’s no story not collective.
There’s no story in a language
That no one else can speak.
But every story’s lonely.

Monday, June 6, 2022

The Gleaming Citizens

Once there was a city built of tears.
Everyone was crying all the time.
The weeping kept everything flowing,

But no one wanted to admire this.
People wept discreetly when they could,
And were always slyly palming tears.

There was no higher reputation
Than that of the most dry-eyed stoic.
Wily cryers claimed they couldn’t cry,

They weren’t brave, they said, just terrible
At welling up. More glistening cheeks
Nodded, Me too, I’m terrible, too.

To weep shamefully, in public view,
Was the most scandalous behavior,
Unless managed so defiantly

It almost made you check your own eyes.
This was all weird, given the city,
The high, shining, glistering city,

Needed tears, lubricated its gears
With them, floated in canals of them,
And everyone admitted as much,

Except with regard to their own eyes—
Their own contributions they’d deny
And then, wiping cheeks dry, off they’d glide.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Cloud Cover

The family decided,
Well, the parents decided,
To pack up and drive all day

To see the national park,
To spend a night at the lodge,
The last day of its season.

So they did. The next morning,
They got up ahead of dawn,
Not too hard that time of year,

And picked their way to the rim
By headlamps to catch sunrise
Over the stone formations.

This was what had brought them here—
Talking about the famous
Sunrise over the hoodoos.

And then the day dawned cloudy,
A cold, not-quite snowing grey,
And the sun rose as a pearl

And none of the hoodoos glowed.
By the time either parent returned
To try again, it was years

After the final divorce
Papers had been filed. That day,
One parent simply observed,

This is why it sucks to be
Tourists. You have to have luck,
And we never get lucky.

Saturday, June 4, 2022


The trip was disappointing,
At least in that they had planned
To spend most of the summer

On a farm in Montana
Living as the guests of friends.
The friends turned out to not be

Terribly prepared for guests,
Nor really all that friendly.
The planned three-month adventure

Through the Lower 48
In a big, borrowed Buick
Ended after forty days

And seven thousand road miles,
Looping through twenty-some states
But never really staying

Long enough in any place
To soak the whole of it in.
They sighed, All that traveling,

But then we never really
Got to enjoy anything.
They were back in the Deep South,

Sitting on her parents’ porch
On a muggy July night,
A few early firecrackers,

Popping in nearby backyards.
Same old, same old, same old, and
Many muggy months to go.

The day they left Montana
After a single, fractious
Week spent sharing a trailer,

A bald eagle had landed
Beside them while they picnicked
On the shore of Flathead Lake.

In the northern plains, they’d paused
To read the plaque in the grass
Marking the prehistoric

Shoreline of Lake Agassiz.
In Idaho, they’d pulled out
At a viewpoint looking down

On a vast sweep of blooming
Camas lilies below them.
On Mount Washington, the wind

Whipped their hair so much they laughed
As they tried to take pictures.
All these things. All of these things.

Friday, June 3, 2022

You Own Us Since Life Owns You

When her cat began having
Convulsions, and it seemed like
Nothing could improve its health

Or much help its suffering,
She let her vet persuade her
Time had come to put it down.

Crouched on the metal table,
The cat kept purring loudly,
As cats purr when contented

Or utterly terrified,
As humans croon to themselves
For comparable reasons.

Crying, she tried to console
Herself and her cat, saying
She didn’t mean to hurt it,

And it would be over soon.
Bodies don’t care about that.
Bodies know pleasure and pain,

Fear and anticipation,
They don’t want significance.
But we serve you anyway,

Your tools of significance.
The needle and the poison
Went in, and the cat went limp.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Students Have Awful Memories

Mrs. Christian (her real name
And her preferred description)
Taught at Pequannock Valley

Kindergarten in those years,
From somewhere in the thirties
Until 1968,

By which point she resembled
A Far Side caricature—
Beehive perm, cats-eye glasses.

Her kindergarten had rules
Consonant with her surname
And her preferred description

As she understood them both
To mean—no euphemisms
Such as gosh darn it or gee whiz,

No Batman-themed merchandise,
No doll-type toys for the boys,
Not even brave GI Joe,

No pants or shorts for the girls.
She used to rap some knuckles,
Back in her earlier days,

As she disapproved of Spock
And lenient parenting,
But she’d learned knuckle-rapping

Was a habit of the nuns,
And she disapproved of nuns
And wanted it to be clear

She wasn’t one. She was just
A Christian, she said crisply,
Maybe once or twice a week.

There must have been more to her,
A whole life besides these scraps
Of confused information

Remembered by elderly
Kindergartners discussing
Her as their old memories.

Who was, then, Mrs. Christian,
The creature, not the stances?
Old men exchange blank glances.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Typical Tools of Story Control

Censorship and propaganda
Began with the first, because,
The first, This Was How It Happened,
First excuse. Words were conscripts

From whenever languages launched
Narrative’s never-ending
Military operations
Denying war stories were war.

No one fails to participate
Past the age of three or four
Who isn’t ordinarily
Human, but there must have been

Some human who was the first one
To mislead with a story,
To manipulate through stories.
Bet there’s a good story there.