I am a pink rose petal’s pale glow

black ash tamped in furrows
between the breath of the living
& the souls of the dead

the dawn’s blush unfurling over sand dunes

& seagulls soaring on thermal spirits
of iodine      salt     & shellfish

& sometimes     scattering in the wind
I can’t find where everything else ends     & I begin

Now rising from the morning hush     this cloud of me
speaks to the red tail hawk perched on a streetlamp
& tells her I’m fine     because I’m still not sure
how to talk about not being fine

I am an instar     trying to be
the clearest version of myself     to sculpt
a final skin of lucent crystal

so that when you come to see my cinder eyes
glinting diamond dust     I will be
the embered dusk bleeding into the sea

& you will know the truth of me


A previous version of this poem first appeared in Sixfold magazine, winter 2014.

Wise at Thirty-Five, Revised at Forty


          “Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.”             William Shakespeare

Yes, those two, distinct ages of mine
pulled off quite the elaborate spectacle—
circling one another in yin-and-yang-fashion,
gurgling toward a neurotic crescendo,
then sputtering into oblivion.

In relishing the living left to do,
I relive the living that can’t be
redone—today’s waterfall of yesterdays
spills over into the uncertain basin
of tomorrow.

I once believed I was unmovable,
a boulder’s crest in a rushing stream—
but soaked as I am to the bone in cold humility,
I now glisten my own, trembling shadows.

“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”—
the tomorrows do keep their “petty pace”—
and regardless of how we spend, squander,
mete out, or justify them,
we eventually forget their order,
and lose track of which ones were real,
and which were dreaming,
or whether any one’s disappearance over the cliff’s edge
is quantifiably different from any other’s.

I have tried and failed to live up to
the tomorrows’ skulking expectations
performing the scenes from a moral composition,
which I now get that I had scripted for myself:
I’ve faced pink-nosed and dreamy-eyed
into an icy, winter wind—to look exotic,
like the cover illustration for Eloise in Moscow,
and I’ve lapped naked at the river banks
beneath a sun-streaked summer sky,
only to discover
no dance of mine was ever beautiful enough
to move the seasons.

I’ve sulked in self-abasement,
practicing absurd, measured detachment,
surrounded by strangers in trendy coffee houses,
making sure to be seen there
with my lattés, huddling, frenetic,
filling in crosswords with mechanical pencils.

One windy, winter morning,
swathed in a café’s doughy warmth,
I watched through the window
as a leaf flapped in the street,
as if it were some creature curling in its death throes,
the lifeblood ebbing from its wrinkled veins.

For an age, it darted in and out of traffic,
calculating each of its narrow misses,
so that it could leap anew—yet for all
of its clever tail-spinning

it could not stop being be a leaf.


An earlier version of this piece made its first appearance in Sixfold magazine, Winter 2013. 



‘if i decided to stop being a poet
what would i do instead?’     i asked
(my husband) the other night

the other night when it was late
it was too late to start cooking dinner
& the cattle dog who lives for order

requires order     & feels its lack
like her hackles feel static     she was pacing
between us     resorting to vocal admonishments

to higher-than-usual-pitched chortling     cajoling
someone to get with the program the other night
after gymnastics     & martial arts     & driving

driving in gridlock on multiple highways
after the shopping wasn’t done
after     & we were too hungry to cook dinner

after hunger became the side dish of the night
after my husband had worked all day
& beer number three hadn’t staved off his hunger

& hunger was a side dish     the kids snacked
on chips     & played redundant games on their phones
& the floor was unswept     the dog was anxious

her nails clicked on the unkempt floor
the cat meowed to be fed     the shopping wasn’t done
& so a can of tuna was cracked

the cat’s bowl was filled     & we gave the dog the juice
the dog lapped     then she went back to clicking
& minutes ticked another hour

while my fingers ticking on the keyboard
whooped up a frenzy of words on the screen
with hurricane intensity they swirled

they dispelled into wisps against cold fronts
& re-galvanized in isolated updrafts     but rained nothing
because meaning always slips drily away from the words

& escapes like sly prey into the woods     because
the words bravely give chase     but they were never cut out for this hunt
& they get lost     & hungry

they go hungry like an injured wolf separated from its pack
like a cattle dog lacking order     & teenagers not-talking on phones
like groceries that can’t shop for themselves

like the cat settling for tuna
well     not like that
like clacking keyboards churning up dry storms

like computer screens adrift
at the mercy of tidal waves of hunters
& peckers     & especially delete-ers

        like a poet who can’t do anything instead

like the shift key     & the alt key
like the fourth beer needs to be the ctrl + alt + delete keys
like delete is a kind of key

                        they go hungry

        like a husband



I scratched the first draft of this baby out on the back of a flyer I’d grabbed at random in a cafe, where I was killing time before I needed to pick up my kids from their respective classes (this was just about a week ago). Anyway, you may or may not find it interesting that I later discovered I’d been writing on an advertisement for an employment agency, with the caption, “Looking for a job that makes a difference?”  

How’s that for irony?


This thought experiment was inspired by the (impressively copious) weather satellite video loops of convection clouds popping into existence, which my son has been tracking down online and sharing with me… just another example of the uncountable, humbling insights into the natural world that I’m sure would have failed to blip on my radar, if not for his beautiful influence.

Stormy Sea

Yaroslav Gerzhedovich’s Stormy Sea, courtesy of Google Images

/kənˈvekSH(ə)n/ noun: the movement caused within a fluid by the tendency of hotter and therefore less dense material to rise, and colder, denser material to sink under the influence of gravity, which consequently results in transfer of heat.”

“In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate. The raging ocean that covered everything was engulfed in total darkness, and the Spirit of God was moving over the water. Then God commanded, ‘Let there be light’ (…)” Genesis 1:1-3

If     before the beginning
something had not yet appeared from
how did
manage     without lungs no less
to take in that convection of a god’s breath
that marked the beginning of creation
(particularly since before there was something
there surely wouldn’t have been things
such as gods or breathing)?

For that matter     out of what non-thing
was said sudden cloud burped
into the foggy     slate gray chaos
that hung     but didn’t
in a sky that couldn’t have been there     but was
ostensibly sandwiched tidily between
the turbulent     blue water
(we’ll address that later)
& the gauzier     brighter     frothier ether
that was not yet the air for the deities
who were not yet themselves?

& if     in the beginning
(as the story goes)
those twin neonates
formlessness & desolation
comprised everything
(however antithetical to actual substance)
that was spontaneously no longer

from where     for the love of sanity     did that ocean arise?

& why (never mind how)     pray tell     was it raging?

Of the untold passions
we might’ve presumed preceded
all extant matter & manner of cognizance
why did we resort to imagining rage?

Do we unknowingly float
upon the ocean’s foamy resentment
at the resonant indignity of not yet
being not
but still getting scapegoated for concealing
the primordially shapeless absences of
with its own nothingness
(unjustly condemned for the volition & malice
that nonbeing precluded it from possessing)
even as it     itself     was entirely concealed
in the total darkness we all know is really
just another way of saying a whole lot of

To wit     aside from being a bit fishy
the story does lend itself rather poorly
to proper revelation
amounting     no doubt
to the non-existent body of water in question
being (or more precisely not-being)
rightfully fraught
that antiquity could do no better
than to liken it in myth—
in its purported (not to mention impossible)
shared subsistence with
before the beginning began—
to Phorcys     the weedy-bearded
progenitor of the gorgons…

Is it any wonder the artists should depict
this mystic transference of hot air
as the wisp of a ship
dissolving into the mist?





“…since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,
 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;
I will mock when calamity (…)

overtakes you like a storm…”             Proverbs 1:25-27

freezing streams of tears
formed in the weather of her own invention—

rip a hidden dominion
of chasms

this Mecca we faithfully revisit
upon surviving each prior pilgrimage
& restless penance at base camp.

No snow-blind bid for ascension
will leave its trace upon this cruel, white slate,
as cold-pierced flesh, violated senseless, chases

the gossamer promise of substantiation
in the biting night silence,
scaling massive vertical icy rises that crest

on the barren horizon, as intimate as distant;
in this alien nest we recognize
lies the black womb’s waif—

the silky red dawn
drawing its first cerulean-cradled breath—
heralding the bloody miracle of life & death.

So tiny are these pitons & ropes
we follow toward willful, brutal injury—
they mark the fabled way through

this bone-strewn wilderness
to the sun-frozen summit,
her brimming lids blinking in feigned oblivion,

now hiding her sinister eyes,
now revealing
contrived glimpses of rapture.





Illustration by S. L. Harper

The words from the dream are
wisps in the air like broken
spider webs wrapping invisibly
about my face and forearms

The fake sunrise tarp draped before me
ripples like a summer mirage
half-soaked into the rural street

and then          as if I were not supposed to
I step through and place my foot
solidly into an evening of dark specters
waiting outside of their existence
to become what I am


I am the cool turpentine
wash of grays seeping over
a dusting of brown sand in the road

I am the night falling upon
neglected pastures of weeds
sputtering up about the silhouettes
of tree stumps and old swing sets

I am the street lamps’ sallow illumine
peering out sensibly from between
foolish tree skeleton embraces

and I am still the child
twisting acorns into the asphalt
with the soles of her shoes

squealing gleefully into the night


“Unvoiced” made its first appearance in Sixfold magazine, winter 2013 edition.

I was inspired to include it on my site today after reading a little metaphysical beauty posted on Robert Okaji’s  O at the Edges , called “Irretrievable.” 

Painted Chickens

chicken mug

Found in Google Images, this is the actual mug which I still own (isn’t it wonderful?), that is featured in this poem.

Painted Chickens made its debut appearance in Sixfold Magazine, winter 2014 edition. 

Prompted to post it by Amy T., I dedicate it here to all of us who have looked back on our youths, shaken our heads,

and laughed…

Twenty years ago
I received a birthday gift
from a close college buddy-slash-sometime lover
(What on earth were we thinking?).
Back then, our past was already in the past
and twenty-four was already not young.
He gave me a coffee mug
covered in chickens––

yes, painted chickens––

three plump specimens posed around the outside,
and one that looks like an index finger
with an eye, a comb, a beak, and a wattle,
slapped onto the bottom.

How, I can’t fathom,
but my friend knew that those chickens
with their orange-red, expressionistic bodies
would be a boat-floater for me––
the one time I had slept with him
had been an epic shipwreck,

with a silent drive to the airport in its wake;
on the way, we choked down pancakes,
and I stifled sobs in my coffee,
averting my eyes
from the helpless horror in his.
I then flew off into the wild, wide sky,
bewildered, drowning.

Somehow, for years to come,
his southern gentlemanly charms
still served to allure:
he kept his promise to write
and took pains to catalogue for me
the details of his worldly escapades
and various, accompanying sexual conquests,
always making sure to emphasize
the ways in which they were hot for him,
so as to prove those trysts’ relative rightness.

Then, years later, for my birthday,
came the unexplainably gratifying
chicken cup.

Still burning hot
and feathered in their chili-pepper red,
royal purple and verdant green cloaks,
my static and impossibly happy
aphrodisiac chickens
blush like lovers on a Grecian urn;
clucking, urgent.

My southern gent,
now so long ago flown from this callous coop,
wooed another and had his own brood,
as, in due course, did I,
but the mug, no worse for wear, remains
a spectacular feature––
like a bright birthday piñata
(with its promise of sweet reward) ––
of my sacred morning ritual.

These chickens,
still ecstatically surprised,
letting out unabashed, open-beaked caterwauls,
adorn my most aged and prized coffee mug;
a vessel, perfectly-sized,
it cups its contents so adoringly,
like an egg enveloping its cache of gold,
as I take privileged sips.

The big chicken on the left
might actually be a rooster

and that one on the bottom,
a middle finger.


“Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes
on Thee
And I’ll forgive Thy great big
one on me.”     Robert Frost


Today I used a piece of toilet paper––
so ingenious how the squares are perforated––
as a bookmark.

I marked the beginning
of a story in a journal
I pretended to mean to read soon.

My pretensions in the bathroom
are no more elaborate, I’d guess, than those of any other,
so why don’t we confess them, even to ourselves?

Confessionals are outfitted nowadays
with porcelain appliances, brass fixtures,
marble vanities with stacks of prayers in paperback––

(we futilely pray no one presumes these rituals
of bargaining our way out of bondage
to repugnant functions)––

to function as the ultimate ruse.
For no sleight-of-hand swipe performed
(however carefully) with unrolled, folded squares,

nor the most careful illusions of luxury
contrived of bodacious poses above prodigal devices,
will lessen the strain of such unnatural squatting.

Nature will still call from night’s drawn curtain,
beckoning us to the primal business

of dangling truth.

bidet kitty


Artwork by Cameren Harper @CamHarpArt

Artwork by Cameren Harper

“I’m a Black Puerto Rican,
Yes I am,
Making some peanut butter and some jam…” (Composed by Marcus P., circa 1981, age 10)

My childhood was marked by our knowing moments
that brought us to our bedroom windows at night
to speak silently across the darkness
with our faces, various antics, flashlights,
and disappearing & reappearing acts.

I was eight years old
when his family moved in,
when the boy my age toed the weeds on my front lawn,
as I watched him from my bedroom window.

Because he was black,
my first memory of seeing Marcus
has been misshapen by a lifetime
spent enslaved by the vernacular
of the prevailing collective.

Subtexts of color for a child
are still primal, unchained.
Whatever difference signified
in that commuter tract neighborhood,
we forged a bond
that was soon cemented in familiarity.

I loved how his hair sprung back like a sponge,
& how his mother groomed him
with Johnson’s Baby Oil & Q-Tips.
I loved his height, his scent,
his lanky, strong, athletic arms,
catching his blazing pitches,
& how we proudly wore matching t-shirts
with our names and baseball jersey numbers
that our moms made with iron-on decals.

Even more, I loved his infectious laugh,
his smart, brow-raising impressions
of Mighty Mouse, Woody Woodpecker,
Speedy Gonzales, and Foghorn Leghorn’s failures
to thwart his young chicken hawk nemesis,
that routinely had us both in teary,
asthmatic hysterics,
sputtering milk out of our noses.

I know my mind’s eye
has since learned to see the conjured rift
between black & white;

I perceive a difference
that even my love
because it is love
won’t deny,
though my heart tries to remember
from a place beyond sight.

I was eight years old
when the boy my age scattered dandelion seeds
outside my bedroom window––
when unsullied, my roots trembled,
& love sprang up
& leaned toward his sun.