Just One Kiss
Just one kiss, in a world filled up
with darkness and disappointment,
band aids and barricades,
sunspots and insomniacs,
virus and vanity in the belly of a world
full of pressure and persuasion,
angst and admonitions,
foothills and phantoms at the edge of a world
full of danger and discovery,
full of worry and wondering, but
just one kiss, lips to lips, eye to eye –
just one stolen kiss, and sharing this,
the taste of adoration and the breath
of confession. Just the
whisper of a kiss, in a world so filled up.
Only one. Just one kiss.
I Cannot See Your House from Here
because I tore it down while
you were gone
with a bulldozer and an end-loader
and a dump truck.
Took all morning
and part of the afternoon—nobody
was around except a little kid with a wagon.
I gave him your front doorknob.
Billy or Bobby something.
Whether it is better to dwell in the house of mourning
or in the house of mirth—a moot point in this case considering
that you have no house at all.
Sometimes the Spirit overtakes
a person and he acts
according to his (or her)
preordained notions, lips a’tremble
in the rolling backwash of dust and
From my east window I can now see
the mountains far off, and closer in
I can see the florid colors of the billboard-
a little rectangle which portrays
a serious young woman with
wind-blown hair drinking gin.
Well, maybe she’s onto something.
Now I’m going to go search for her
in the mountains where
the wind always blows your hair and
together we may find God
above the tree line – her with
the gin and me with my heavy
in Billy’s (or Bobby’s) wagon.
Since I decided to give you some space -
some relief from my bright feathers and insistent call,
I have arranged for you a place to lay low
between Orion’s belt, Sirius the Dog Star,
the Big Dipper and the blur of Andromeda
faint in the east, which if connected by lines
resembles Wisconsin, except for being
10 million billion trillion times larger, reaching
back in time to the blink of creation.
In the quiet of that great space you will not hear
the creak of my bones in the morning
or the sound of my drums after dark.
From my position, it seems a lonely place.
Still, in the space that I have set aside for you
there are items of interest, and some things to avoid
like the cloud of articles I’ve lost over the years:
socks, books, pocket knives, bikes – all tumbling
through the darkness like a thrift store without walls,
or the cloud of crumpled balls of paper
which were problem-child poems or high blood pressure
love songs which missed the waste basket,
or a gathering of the ghosts of my former self
huddled by a frozen campfire singing old songs
about so, so many missed opportunities.
Behind the Fence
Rusted dinosaur innards
behind that seven foot high wooden fence
parked in immobilized rows, the junk cars sleep.
The big-finned Pontiac, the drop-top LeSabre,
smacked up, motors seized,
abandoned and forgotten, these
proud one-owner beauties, tires bald with worry.
They are ashamed
and therefore hidden from view.
The lapse in attention –
the fender, the fluids, the column of steam,
the roadless wheel turning in the air.
Skid marks, glass fragments, injuries.
The Rambler, the station wagon bones,
we mustn’t see them. They lie
behind the wooden fence.
Maybe a shade tree man in a ball cap,
no good, finally, at fixing the mechanically expired,
or it might have been a lemon –
this place is the end of the road.
Dragged behind the fence
to bleach in the sun and settle into the dirt
for years and years of quiet rest -
horns still, radios dumb,
collector coins deep in the upholstery.
In blistered mirrors, objects may appear more distant
in memory than they are,
more silent than the stories they tell each other.
Behind the fence
the private battered cars lay low –
the humpback Dodge, the flatbed Ford.
We mustn’t see them.
Speaking only when you have something important to say –
we call this silence.
Repeating the errors of our ancestors –
we call this normal.
Attending the Methodist Church twice every year –
we call that religion.
That day you took the belt away from your mother –
we call that an ending.
What masqueraded as an affectionate graduation gift –
we call that a suitcase.
Asking me if Janet was pregnant when I announced our engagement –
we call that conversation.
A two-story wooden house with high weeds and leaky windows –
we call that the home place.
That day they blew taps at my father’s grave –
we call that Wednesday.
Waiting for something that probably won’t happen –
we call this the future.
That voice saying “I love you. You belong here” –
we call that the wind.
Being afraid of something, not sure what –
we call that the dark.
On the day he died, she was mad at him.
Not just annoyed, not quite furious, but mad
enough to not talk to him, to keep her distance.
And then the distance overtook her. It was
a bad bookend for a long life together.
Ghosts go wandering with whatever they packed
at the end, and so he would be sorry forever
for some little thing that didn’t amount to much.
She tries to suppose that the dead forget their troubles,
especially if they were forgetful in their lives.
Over time she found evidence to question this.
The gate to the barnyard was left open. Tools found
lying beside the car. And now there are muddy
bootprints just outside the back door. These infractions
made her stamp her foot and then she cried.
At the grave, now, the earth has settled. The wind has taken
away the yellow gold maple leaves. The first hard frost
has finished off the flowers. His name on the stone
seems crooked but maybe because of the hillside.
Far off a church bell starts to ring in the town.
I don’t know if saying sorry to the dead really works.
Or if the dead can say they’re sorry. It would help me
to know this. He watches her from some distance.
She shakes her head, then smiles.
He wanders away. There’s an end to it.
Let Me Have a Look at You
Existential clothing, always worn where you
never go. Never worn where you always go.
Jean Paul Sartre’s girlfriend’s sister’s dress—buoyant
yet concrete, colorful yet transparent, ingenious
but stupid, drab but poofy.
A complicated outfit—hooks, snaps, and buckles,
a quantum harness, comes with instructions
written in every language except your own,
made by unhappy rumplestiltskins at sewing machines
in abandoned shoe stores.
In a certain light, my dear, you are completely invisible.
A gift, celebrating who you may or may not be,
a statement of the shimmering uncertainty between us.
I could help you put it on. I could bring my tools--
my wedges and flashlights, my torque wrench and shoehorns.
I could zip it up, tighten the straps, turn on the electric
lights. I could follow along behind, picking up any parts
which fall to the sidewalk. And later, if you insist, I’ll help you
take it off, but I can’t stay because, as you may suspect,
at midnight I turn into a blackbird.
The cemetery road.
I was called upon to take Cousin Audrey
to the graveside service. She had little to say.
Her dark dress seemed to swallow her thoughts.
We were midway in a line of cars,
each with a funeral flag. Then
unexpected roadwork, orange cones and blinking lights.
Diverted into a parking lot, inching
forward, the flagged caravan
moved worm-like past
shops and stores as the rain began.
The windows fogged. We stopped
beside the loudspeaker of hamburger world.
A garbled voice called to us from the other side,
a bark of consolation. Yea,
it said, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
or something like. I stared ahead.
Audrey lowered and covered her face.
The Lord giveth and something something.
Of course He does. It seems fair.
The rain fell harder.
The wipers beat. But why are we here?
What is a life, I thought, then
remembered my sorrows, never far off.
Hell from beneath is moved
for thee to meet thee at thy coming. Yes,
I suppose it is. My father’s house
has many mansions.
Right After She Said "I Love You"
there was a loud screeching noise.
We both leaned to the east and
the dishes slid off the shelves,
the cups rocked on their hooks.
The pipes groaned. The windows shook.
Under the swinging chandelier,
I knew that everything had changed
beyond recognition. Words of love
had stopped the earth.
Outside, the wind died. Clouds hung
in the blue sky like pictures, unmoving.
How wrong can it be, getting that thing you want?
Ride Lonesome ☊
Lonesome is the name of the horse – hence
Ride Lonesome. I’m not sure how I feel about
projecting human emotions onto animals. Or onto
inanimate objects – most people riding a streetcar
named Desire are only going to the bank or post office.
The farm people going to Mount Zion in Iowa
are neither Zionists nor anywhere close to
Not sure how I feel about riding this horse Lonesome.
He does seem to know the way, at least. Probably,
he’s going someplace lonely. But maybe, wherever
he’s taking me, there will be another horse and they will
nicker and rub their long noses, go for a meal together
in the new green grass of springtime, and I’ll just
wait by a fencepost, and think him up
a new name.
Here are the Christmas cookies I said I would send.
I cannot come to visit again until the car is fixed.
It’s miserable cold here but we got new glass in the big window
which sometimes I look out of and just hope you
are being treated alright.
Little trees and bells and angels with colored frosting.
Some of them look like your father, of course.
You remember that Lois, your grandma, bought him
that cookie mold she said looks like him
what with the hat, and the baton that looks like a rifle
and the boots. I know these are maybe a little disturbing,
in a funny kind of way, but he helped decorate them
as a way of being nice (to you) so I hope you will just eat them
peacefully and think of it as a family thing—you know, a tradition
like jingle bells or good king whatshisname, or arrest ye merry gentlemen--
like chestnuts, you know, roasting over an
In the Rain
A man in a poem
is writing a long poem
about a man who is writing
a poem and a second man
who is standing alongside,
screaming at him
for some good reason
in the rain.
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