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
-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
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