At Least One Kidney

a token
or two
scavenged from
the wild

gone feral

two hours
pacing dark
tide creeping
beach bisected
by creeks
ribbons of
black ice

Continue reading


2 starts

2 starts, both fall into the item cat <far from profound>

</end speculation>

order of operations

i’m perpetually taking things apart
that I put together prematurely
always skipping what seem like
poorly written instructions
that turn out to be essential

maybe i should look at this deck
like a math problem
maybe this life too
I should be working backwards
reverse engineering a solution
based on the idealized finished product
rather than working fast forwards
then four steps backwards when
it becomes clear
i cannot drill pilot holes
for lag screws
for rail posts
once the deck boards are in place

in place(s) though
frequently out of place

i’m the guy in the fuzzy GIF
never quite dropping my hammer
on the head of a hard to reach


mirror mirror

am I seeing?
is that me or the idea of me?
is that reflection, misshapen by cheap laminated plastic
a document?
a curated [framed] representation {abstract}
of what I think I am?
certainly easier to put that on display
hang that idea of me on a white gallery wall
than to take the actual me (whoever/whatever/wherever)
that is
and place me out of place in that place
where people seek to see art representing place


Recent Reads

Once upon a time when not writing I at least would take some time to jot notes about the good words I was filling my brain with so let’s give that a shot again.  Once upon a time I also used to write list poems building on the riff, ‘while you were smoking’ and I’d dive into the multitude of things I’d accomplish or at least observe, think, smell, taste, read and dream while my acquaintances were outside, dying a little.  Okay no dying a little here, these books are more about growing a little as a poet with more process-awareness ninja skills.

Walking down the stairs: selections from the interviews
by Galway Kinnell

This is super interesting, especially Kinnell’s snarky remarks in the introduction about how odd of an assignment he’d been given by the publisher. Basically, go back through all the published interviews you’ve given and select (and feel free to edit or clarify) the ones that capture the essence of your work. It’s like a framed story, the poet, writing about himself, narrating his life as seen through a mirror, or a lense, or an idealized reality, gets a chance to write his wrongs of sorts, or clarify when originally obtuse or at least inarticulate. A good read. While you’re at it check out another from the series by AK poet John Haines called Living off the Country: Reflections on how landscape, the imagination, and the “real world” color the creative process .  These two titles are part of the Poets On Poetry series that University of Michigan Press has been publishing for 40 years.

Close Calls with Nonsense: reading new poetry
by Stephen Burt
Poet and critic Burt equates the challenges associated with understanding poetry with putting together furniture from IKEA. Without the instructions, as challenging as all those pictograms can be, we can hardly imagine the brilliant rocking chair with sleek, modern Swedish minimalist design.

A Poet’s Glossary
By Edward Hirsch

Okay this one is a bit terrifying for a self-taught poet with little, to zero formal training but hey, that’s why I’ll be starting an MFA in poetry in 3 weeks! I’m very interested in the history of literary forms, literary history in general and love reading encyclopedia style entries devoted entirely to esoteric literature. Anyway if you’ve ever wondered what a ghazal or an abecedarian is, this is your chance. Here’s a blurb,

Hirsch defines any term in English you can think of and many more, along with ghinnawa, a form of Bedouin folk poetry; the Sanskrit term rasa, denoting the “soul of poetry”; and shan-shui, China’s rivers-and-mountain verse. A thrilling “repertoire of poetic secrets,” this radiant compendium is shaped by Hirsch’s abiding gratitude for the demands and power, illumination, and solace of poetry, “a human fundamental.”
— Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)


Isn’t every three year-old kid
at least part dinosaur,
even the giant leaf-eaters
capable of a great roar?

Winter beach flats, tide out,
a break in the bleakness,
rain longing to be slush or more
dripping from everything
but the sky at the moment.

We are taking off our gloves,
hold these Dad he orders,
and tentatively poking at emerald
anemones and spined urchins.

At beach’s Alder-edge,
beyond the drift-logs
and fallen-down rye-grass
a swarm, a tribe,
maybe just children
offer marshmallowed spears
to the fickle, twig-fire.

Here comes little Benni, being big,
adjusting his thick mittens,
then cracking a crooked smirk and wailing.

A wail that’s part t-rex,
part train.
A whistle-roar, such an
unexpected greeting

to those hunkering
in this primal
whistle-stop beach
a momentary break
in the January rain.

On boots, on bottoms
these tough dino-kids tramp,
scoot, and scramble.
Hooded and rain-suited,
gear that is hand-me-down hardened
for Southeast Alaska’s worst.

Up slick, rocky game-trails
through berry bushes winter-bare,
then up crumbling beach cliff

where they push, wiggle
and wait their turn to slide
the muddy chute.

Our kids, oblivious to
the returning rain,
now driving us parents
to huddle under
hastily hung-tarp
near the small-sphere our fire.

We eat cold breakfast-
whiskey from flasks,
and argue our winged
escape routes
to snowier places.

a poem that nobody can understand

“I’d like to be on record as saying that anybody can write a poem that nobody can understand.” –Ted Kooser

Thanks Ted, time to distill some of my recent works which are perhaps examples of the types of poems anybody can write (and nobody can understand). Time to focus on what it is about Billy Collins, David Budbill and other poets who demonstrate great restraint, don’t allow themselves to be carried away or lost in language but are direct and specific and most importantly, are understood.

There’s that type of poetry which I admire and believe is essential in engaging a broader audience for poetry which so often is dismissed as difficult or even incomprehensible. However there are other types of poetry, which require some literary background, whether in linguistics, in literary history/criticism, etc that certainly are challenging to the average reader but that like any great work of literature, worth pushing through the initial challenges to grasp. Some of these challenges are syntax, line break, structure.

I just re-read and have been trying to respond to Danish poet Inger Christensen’s poem alphabet which is certainly challenging due to the juxtaposition of the natural and the made made objects of a post-atomic world but also due to the structure which brings in not only a recursive abecedarian progression but also the numeric Fibonnaci sequence as shown in the first 3 stanzas below.

apricot trees exist, apricot trees exist

bracken exists; and blackberries, blackberries;
bromine exists; and hydrogen, hydrogen

cicadas exist; chicory, chromium,
citrus trees; cicadas exist;
cicadas, cedars, cypresses, the cerebellum

Another structural challenge unfamiliar readers of poetry site is syntax and line breaks which can lead to an uncertainty of the narrative intent. This practice isn’t random or fanciful but intentional and artful as shown in these two short excerpts by Brenda Shaughnessy and Olena Kalytiak Davis.

from Artless

is my heart. A stranger
berry there never was,

Gone sour in the sun,
in the sunroom or moonroof,

No poetry. Plain. No
fresh, special recipe
to bless.

Brenda Shaughnessy, Our Andromeda


Reader, toward you, loud as a cloud and deaf, Reader, deaf

as a leaf. Reader: Why don’t you turn
pale? and, Why don’t you tremble? Jaded, staid
Reader, You—who can read this and not even

flinch. Bare-faced, flint-hearted, recoilless
Reader, dare you—Rare Reader, listen
and be convinced: Soon, Reader,
soon you will leave me, for an italian mistress:…..

Olena Kalytiak Davis, Shattered sonnets love cards and other
off and back handed importunities

Keep it simple

keep it simple,
a song to sing along to
or at least to hear
to feel
inside heart
inside house
or outside
on trail, path

don’t look
too far beyond
what’s on path
in front of you
above you
around you
falling from the sky
hanging from the trees
flitting on feathered wings
from branch to branch

keep it simple
not everyone appreciates
being taken out
on a kite string
and flown high above

heights can be deceiving
distorting the world

bring down that kite,
keep it simple
a song to sing along to
or at least to follow
to hear
in your heart

Buddy Tabor teaches me to fillet a halibut

in an interview
i ask him what he thinks about
when he paints houses?

nothing, he says
i just go blank

you never write songs
or poems to occupy your mind
while working those hands?

nope, he tells me
when you get as old as me
it’s a relief, the silent mind

i’m deep into
pearl-rope sockeye

light fading
no-see-ems swarming
the hands, the knife
magnificent red
salmon flesh

hands- automatic
despite the slime
but my mind’s not

not now
not ever
i’m remembering Buddy
how we ran into each other
down at the harbor
after a morning
full of stories
recording an interview
for the radio

both of us lured down
to the water by the
hand-painted sign
by the road
a boy and his father
working side by side
deep lines in the sea
bringing fish to boat
from boat to table
no middle men

Buddy bummed to find
they are only selling
whole fish
the smallest 25 pounds

so we split a fish
and drive over to my place
on Douglas

i’d grown comfortable
enough in a short time
speaking with this
peculiar poet i admired
to admit I didn’t
know how to fillet a halibut

Passing my knife
he makes short work
talking his way through it
a song for the fish, for me

carving it up, negotiating
some sort of a split in which
he comes out ahead

payment for this
life lesson, his tutelage
Buddy takes home the heavy filets,
the cheeks

Buddy’s been dead for years
this salmon in my hands
only days

I remember telling Buddy where i lived,
Which crooked house on the hill?
Him laughing, telling me
“a guy asked me to paint
that house years ago,
When I gave him the estimate
He told me to go to hell!
I told him that roof is a widow maker,
It’s gonna cost you something.”
His old house-painting-partner
Is painting my neighbor’s house
In this late summer dusk

To hear audio from the interview I did with Buddy back in 2008 check out the Letters from the North archives.