Issue 18. Poetry circus

a batch of unrelated poems

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I have been remiss in my writing activity of late. Chalk it up to the storm and stress of an odd semester spent talking to (at) zoom boxes. Also, the week before election week was filled with personal angst, a trip to the vet (happy ending) and a flat tire. It was followed by a stress-laden week tracking election results and not driving on the donut until my mechanic Al could replace it the following Monday. When badness visits me, it usually occurs in buy one, get two free bunches.

All of this knocked the writer off his workbench. As I crawled back and tried to write again, I got the idea for a creative nonfiction piece that has some promise, I think. But it has many moving parts and is taking longer to congeal than expected.

In the meantime, I'd like to share some recent poem drafts, with notes on their composition. Hope you enjoy them. 

Cape Fear

Here's a new poem which has a complicated history. It started as a found poetry exercise. I extracted lines and phrases from a LoFi Poetry Series anthology called Poet Sounds, all poems inspired by Beach Boys songs. After mixing and matching lines, I set it aside for three months. On coming back to it, I altered it more, added more original phrasing and new imagery, seeking out the storyline and "angle." I think it's arrived at a stopping point, at least for now. I confess to being a hopeless tinkerer with poems, and I never feel like any of them are ever finished. I consider this one more of a character poem than expressive of anything I've really experienced, aside from the probable truth that everything one writes reveals at least a little bit of something about oneself.  

Cape Fear


Sea foam gauze licks the beach
it's the wrong season, so cold,
how could I love the storm, 
when I'd rather be home?

I drank writer's tears, gave boozy winks 
to the bruised beauty in the pet bikini,
jangled the car keys, crossed the bridge, 
gunned the engine, then we died.


I knew there was an answer,
but I slept through sunrise,
forgot how to live without her
so many of our moments never harmonize.

I've been avoiding the knots in the wood,
but bandsaw violins keep shattering through. 
My brain reacts, a shivering tambourine,
niceness clashing into sobs. 


Moonlight stripes the wood floor,
shadows creep along the room.
What am I'm supposed to feel?
Sometimes I don't bother to pretend.

Now, I'm roasting marshmallows in the dark
in a city I hate, ignoble and hungry.
Chewing on soggy garbage, the sluggish brain 
maps hidden blemishes no salve can fix. 

Meditation Haiku

Sometimes after mediating, a line or image will appear from the ether, and some haiku have emerged from those apparitions. Here are a few new ones, written back in the summertime.

silent rings balanced air
atoms almost weightless
cat whiskers on my legs

give me whitespace
I’m more comfortable
with a wide margin

dripping rosebush leaves 
thinking of the rain
I'm unable to see

bird choirs sing 
each one finding its level
in the over story

focus on breathing 
beyond even farther away
a crow calls

The Day Reagan Was Shot

Memory and Loss, two of my favorite themes! Here's a memory poem that hearkens back to the salad days. Do you ever revisit an old haunt? It's hard to tell who the ghost is, the present or the past. Both of us can't be real, or can they?  

The Day Reagan Was Shot


My crush was in the high school lobby,
legs stretched on a love seat
I dreamed of sharing.

"I have shin splints," she said.
I tried to think of something
witty and comforting to say.

Some kid called down the hall,
"they shot Ronald Reagan!"
Was he dead? They didn't know.

Conveniently, I don’t recall
the unimpressive things I said to her. 
The life preserver didn't float.


Reagan survived, her shin splints healed.
My heart caved. She sprinted over
hurdles and out of my life.

After two terms, the president
couldn't recall what he said or did
while I looped woulda-coulda reruns.


Older, out of season, I revisit the track. 
Someone forgot to put away the hurdles,
no sounds, no feet to scrape the cinders.

In the open field, leaning shadows ask
"where did the runners go?" 
while hidden birds whistle in the trees.

Stories of Young America

Here's another variant on found poetry. I read a book of short stories by Joyce Carol Oates and extracted and massaged the story titles, to see if I could assemble a composite poem out of them. 

Stories of Young America


contemplating an American adventure, 
the children strayed to a region of ice 
where accomplishments stalked desires.

back there was a house of correction, 
its drains filled with pastoral blood.
where are you going now?


where have you been? it was
a year of wonders, a summer of wild Saturdays,
silky boys and girls, happy onions. 

i began to thrive again and suddenly 
life was over, like a girl 
at the edge of the ocean.

That's all for this week. Feel free to pass along the issue to a friend.


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Stay safe out there, and I hope to be back soon!