Music Pageant 1999

Jammed onto wooden bleachers

in this broken down school,

sweating, with knees in our backs,

crying babies and music teachers

vying for our attention.

 

They call up the 1st-graders

and our 7-year-old is so excited

he stands and faces us

with his mouth hanging open

and forgets to sing half the words.

 

My neighbor (owner of the barking dog

that shits in our yard) has come in late.

Off to the side on the floor, alone,

he sits and smiles and sings along,

eyes proud on his daughter.

 

And I think we’re all doing the best

we can with the lousy material

we’ve been given.

 

But my ass is numb, and I think

I could still shoot his dog.

-Alt.Lit (UW-Platteville), 2001

At the Laundromat

 

It’s like confession only better,

you know, no priest.

Everyone comes here to wash their sins away.

Throw them in with some soap, money.

They will all come out washed clean.

But the cleansing never lasts.

You are barely out the door

and things have begun to pile up.

The clothes you are wearing

already need washing.

You could spend your whole life in the laundromat.

 

Maybe you’re in a hurry, want to cheat a little,

throw it all in, be sanctified, once and for all.

But it’s not that easy doing laundry, sorting.

On which pile do gray things go?

And you shouldn’t do a stranger’s laundry.

Shouldn’t even do your neighbor’s.

For sure you can’t handle the whole country’s –

Try throwing your flag into the washing machine,

see what happens. The red, freed from the fabric,

bleeds all over everything.

-Free Verse, 2005

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Draw the shades of winter

brown and gray

and dirty white snow

on a hillside where the sun

hasn’t shone for 16 days.

 

Draw the shades of winter

gray and brown

like that portrait of Lincoln,

except where some optimist

painted the irises blue.

 

But Lincoln’s eyes were a drab grey-green,

like the clump of cedar on this hillside,

the only dab of color in the whole world.

-Free Verse, 2007

GG at 90

This night and morning blend,

sleep comes and goes as it pleases,

no reason to rise from this bed.

 

This body in the mirror,

on days I am able to bathe,

I see: earth growing sunflowers.

 

This body gave life, and will.

The birds on the sill are my ancestors,

my great grandchildren will fly here.

 

This elevator, time machine

to the street, where a gentle breeze

turned adversary makes a walk

to the corner for coffee

a lifetime.

-Free Verse, 2004

Balder Blames Odin for a Lousy Childhood

 

In drunken frenzy, you and your berserk

heroes raged on, oblivious to pain, fear,

and those of us who could not get near you.

 

Your mead is no help here. I won’t reach

Valhalla, cannot escape my fear, as Hel

claims me. The beast I battle will not be tamed.

 

What good came of your drunken feast?

Did you conquer the universe, you,

mighty Norse champion of champions –

you who could not even save

your own son, you on your flying horse

as the sea crashed over Ragnarok,

and you and the sky were swallowed

by the Wolf, and laughing, you died?

3rd Prize, South Dakota State Poetry Society contest -Pasque Petals, spring 2018

Revolver

 

A thousand Americans dead, Iraqis

discounted like shoes at Wal-Mart

sewn for fifty cents a day

and all the oil you can drink.

It’s the first law of thermodynamics,

energy can neither be created

nor destroyed, can only change forms.

 

The truth is circling like a hula hoop,

it’s eccentric orbit losing momentum

by the minute. We ride a blue revolver

into the sunset in a game of galactic roulette.

I’m at the window trying to see

what’s still real. Are the trees really green?

 

It’s a hoop of time from The Beatles

and Vietnam to here. I don’t think

I have the energy to evolve much further,

am throwing my Nikes out the window

with the bath water, don’t really need them

after all. Turns out Orwell was only 20 years off.

-Speakeasy, winter 2004