Monday, August 03, 2020




Boredom crouches on his ten-year-old shoulders,

both left and right

Little devils that hiss and spit discontent


He is a little asshole, in his big sister’s words,

tapping his microphone

Click, click, click, click, click-click


to wrestle his brain and wreck the Zoom class.


He mocks his online math tutor,

trolls synchronous Zoom meetings,

Hates, hates, click. click click click. Click.


He makes us feel


carry his cross,

share the spite


Except on the hardwood court

Under the hoop,

Balls and feet drown out

his internal censor

He is on the run

His brain calculates

the angle of a shot,

distance over time of a pass

high in the air,

launched full speed

at his hands

on the run toward the goal

defender’s spit wet behind his mask,

his own breath thick inside his mask, slipped beneath his nose.

The buzzer, the clock, the score

parents six feet down the sideline.

The referee, nearly six feet five, wears a black-and-white striped face covering.


He runs until a sidestich cripples him, then runs some more. He is good on defense.


Suddenly a teammate falls, clutches a shin.

I look down at my phone and look up

There is my asshole kid kneeling, his back to me, number 11.

9 boys kneel around the fallen athlete.


There is my son.

 I know it’s the first time

He has been pulled into this gesture.

I feel his puzzlement.

I see his compliance.

This is why I am here, alone, in my knock-off N95 face mask.

This is why I drove to New Hampshire.

To sit on the floor in an airless gym, hot with the sweat of pandemic,

Surrounded by hard-breathing boys and girls


For this moment, my restless boy,


still, more than who he was.

He stopped the constant motor and

does nothing, nothing, nothing,

but kneel.


Losing by twenty points,


We laugh all the way home. So glad.


Tuesday, May 05, 2020

This is not mine, nor the entire poem.

Reticent Sonnet

A pronoun is a kind of withdrawal from naming.
Because naming is heavy, naming may be slightly shaming.
We live much more lightly than this,
we address ourselves allusively in our minds –as “I” or “we” or “one” – 
part of a system that argues with shadow, 
like Venetian blinds.
Speaking of Venice, called “the Shakespeare of cities” by a friend of mine,
reminds me of how often the Sonnets misprint their for thine:

beware the fog in Venice.
Beware those footsteps that stop in a hush.
I used to think I would grow up to be a person whose reasoning was deep,
instead I became a kind of brush.
I brush words against words. So do we follow ourselves out of youth,
brushing, brushing, brushing wild grapes onto truth.

Saturday, April 18, 2020


by Ada Limón

When Eve walked among
the animals and named them--
nightingale, red-shouldered hawk,
fiddler crab, fallow deer--
I wonder if she ever wanted
them to speak back, looked into
their wide wonderful eyes and
whispered, Name me, name me.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Ms. Miller was Proto-Twitterian

Why We Oppose Pockets for Women

 - 1874-1942

1. Because pockets are not a natural right.
2. Because the great majority of women do not want pockets. If they did they would have them.
3. Because whenever women have had pockets they have not used them.
4. Because women are required to carry enough things as it is, without the additional burden of pockets.
5. Because it would make dissension between husband and wife as to whose pockets were to be filled.
6. Because it would destroy man’s chivalry toward woman, if he did not have to carry all her things in his pockets.
7. Because men are men, and women are women. We must not fly in the face of nature.
8. Because pockets have been used by men to carry tobacco, pipes, whiskey flasks, chewing gum and compromising letters. We see no reason to suppose that women would use them more wisely.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

One Drop by Bliss Broyard

One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life--A Story of Race and Family Secrets by Bliss Broyard

Bliss's account of the moment her mother encouraged her father to reveal his life-long secret that he passed as white:

"We want to know you," I said. And I did, but of course at twenty-three years old, I was also intensely curious to know myself--as a grown-up, not my parents' child. I thought, conveniently, of identity as a kind of board game, where solving the mystery of my father would allow me to move forward onto the next level of discovery. Years later I'd understand that a mark of adulthood is the ability to live with uncertainty. But back then I wanted to figure everything out, myself most of all. I hoped to discover that I was a complicated person, which I equated with being an interesting person, and since I was too young to feel I'd earned my own complications, I'd happily take some of my father." (page 11)

Bliss's description of the Mississippi River:

The Mississippi didn't evoke any of my usual associations with water: the expansiveness dissolving to melancholy when standing on the edge of the ocean, or the clean deep breath of a clear flat lake. (page 139)

Bliss describing her father:

But his conflict wasn't between black and white as much as it was between provincial and sophisticated, old-world and modern, literal-minded and literary-minded. (page 346)

A Small Fire

A Secret Life
Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don't say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you've just made love
and feel you'd rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you're brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that's unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you'd most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it's like a small fire
in a clearing, it's what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It's why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who'll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

"A Secret Life," by Stephen Dunn from Landscape at the End of the Century

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Belly to Belly

by Hayden Carruth

When I was forty-five I lay for hours
beside a pool, the green hazy
springtime water, and watched
the salamanders coupling, how they drifted lazily,
their little hands floating before them,
aimlessly in and out of the shadows, fifteen
or twenty of them, and suddenly two
would dart together and clasp
one another belly to belly
the way we do, tender and vigorous, and then
would let go and drift away
at peace, lazily,
in the green pool that was their world
and for a while was mine.

Friday, March 27, 2020

How to Cope

The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.
— Wendy Cope 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lift Half

Splitting an Order
by Ted Kooser

I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half,

maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread,

no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady

by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table

and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,

and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,

observing his progress through glasses that moments before

he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half

onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring,

and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife

while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,

her knife and her fork in their proper places,

then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees

and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Massive Patience

To be of use


The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy, "To be of use" from Circles on the Water