Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Book of John

The first time I fell in love I was fourteen. I found a love note
Stuck between the pages of my bible at church camp; a goofy
Stick figure with glasses waving at me from the book of Galatians,
An almost a realistic portrait of your sharp, crooked smile. I inserted
Your name into the sermon like blasphemous Mad Libs and church
Acquired a feeling of Spring.

The second time I fell in love I thought I was experiencing
A miracle. You returned like as a prodigal lover. I was 16 so
I swallowed every word of apology like it was the last thing I’d
Ever hear you say. I found love notes in my mailbox; I
Found you calling some other girl by the same nickname
That you used for me. I stayed in bed for four Sundays in a row,
Hoping you’d lose your happiness in a field like Judas.

I let myself fall in love again, truly but cynically. We left
Campus so we could pretend we weren’t Christian for a minute.
I dug so deep trying to find the truth; I didn’t climb out in time.
The day you died you took a piece of my faith with you, like a pound
Of flesh, payment for the belief I had in you. In death you were
More honest than ever before.  Now, I only fall in love with facts. 

Monday, April 29, 2013


I love learning to communicate in
A language other than my native English.
I gladly memorize nouns and tirelessly
Absorb new conjugations because
Te lo digo de corazón, honestly,
I am learning more than a new language.
I am learning fresh ways of thinking
About what’s in my heart.  Esperado,
Hoping and waiting are sometimes the same thing.
Dejar, to quit is to leave something behind.
En espanol, a storm is nature’s way of tormenting
The earth; I own my hunger; wives are handcuffs,
I have found a language that understands the way I feel.

I wish I had the capacity to learn every language.
Imagine the thoughts I could have, the poetry I could
Write, the ideas I could share, if I could delve into the
Speech patterns of all of my earthly neighbors. We wouldn’t
Build a tower tall enough to anger God;  we would just
Make a blueprint of our similarities, full of doors
Flinging open with every entiendo.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dog Bite

I paid off my hospital bills from the overdose
And then I got myself bit by a dog.
I tell this story among friends with a punchline:
I thought it would be fun to play naked fetch
In the fenced-in backyard on a sunny spring morning
And when the paramedics arrived I was still naked
And of course they were good looking, rim-shot, laughter.

Funny, yes, but I still hear the screeching of
The jealous fight, two beloved dogs
Rolling toward me almost cartoonishly
Gnashing at one anothers’ jugulars, pulling me
Into the swell of fur and saliva when I tried to wrench them apart.

I still see the crazed eyes and heavy teeth that missed
My jugular but left a crack in my wrist and craters
On my arms before I managed to close them
In separate rooms. I still see the paramedics follow
The trail of blood and fur to find me and the truth is
That this tale has a moral, not a punchline:
Anything can be used as a weapon
When I am angry enough with myself. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.-George Eastman 

George Eastman picked a strange place to embrace light.
Covered in clouds two thirds of the year, Rochester
Provides very little sun. I sought desperately for light.
I worshiped it for every second of those scattered 165 days
That it chose to emerge over the city. I tried to know the light.
I brought it flowers, paid for its dinner, begged it
To answer my questions. I wilted for lack of light.

George Eastman would have been more successful in the desert,
Where it’s sunny for most of the year. I followed the light.
I learned about its ancestors and met its mother.
We shared meals with the whole community. I swallowed the light.
I grew into a panoramic photograph, worthy of being framed.
My hometown is jealous. I know the light.

Friday, April 26, 2013

CPR/First Aid

I realized what it is about emergencies
That produces such panic in me:
When I give you breaths, I become your lungs.
When I push your chest so hard your ribs break,
I become your heart beat.
When I stop your blood flow, I am
Keeping your very life inside of you.
No amount of training or exposure
Can prepare me for moments of such intimacy.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

An experiment

The many poems of day #25 are based on this prompt from Hillary Kobernick:
Writing Prompt #19: Backwards and ForwardsThe goal of this writing prompt is to think about how to stay focused on the story you’re trying to communicate. When I was in a writing workshop in high school, a poet told me: “editing is mostly about removing words.” This prompt challenges you to do just that.Start with a draft a poem you already have. It should be long-ish. Say, 25 lines minimum. (If you want an extra challenge, start with a paper or chapter—it doesn’t necessarily have to be your own work.) Now, take the main theme/image/idea of that poem and reduce it to a kwansaba: a 7 line poem with 7 words in each line, each word no more than 7 letters. 7 X 7 X 7. Now, reduce it to a haiku: 3 lines, 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second line, and 5 in the third line. (This is tricky because now there’s no more limits on how long the word is—you can use a 5 syllable word in the first line, if you want.) You may need to narrow your theme to one image or idea. Now, reduce it to a six word story, a la Ernest Hemingway. This is a one-line poem with just six words in it. It doesn’t have to be a story, but stay focused on the same theme.Take a breath. You can stop here if you want. But, just for fun, you can also go the other direction: take your six word poem and expand it to a haiku, then a kwansaba, then a longer poem. Add details you didn’t have in the poem you started with. Focus on a different part of the theme. Let the longer versions take you a different direction. You may end up with a new draft of the first poem, or eight new poems.

Here are the poems I wrote going from large to small:

1.“Write drunk; edit sober”.
Thanks for the advice, Mr. Hemingway.
It’s good to know there’s someone else
Who understands the
The barriers of sobriety and how they stop me
From exploring those parts of my mind
That most need to be exposed.
I don’t always want to face
what’s underneath this skull of mine;
I can’t always push past this without something
To blur the edges between my feelings and my filter.
This intimate recording on paper
Is sometimes like removing my clothes and
Then unzipping my chest
So that I’m naked and my heart is falling out.
And who does that sober?          
But when I'm able to express something
I couldn't previously figure out how to say
or when someone understands something
I couldn't previously make them understand:
the cold and the angst are entirely worth it.

2.At the advice of a certain writer
I now “write drunk and edit sober”.
Tipsy, I unzip my leather bound chest
And expose my hear t to the masses.
When one of them follows my ideas
The cold and shock are worth it.

3.I remove my skin
To expose the gory truth.
The cold is worth it.

4. Drink to keep warm while writing.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Baby Lottery


When it comes to passing out babies,
God has a strange way of picking
winning lottery numbers. It would appear that
The chances of a woman getting pregnant are
Calculated not by how many tickets she plays
But, rather, in direct proportion to how badly
She wants a baby: If she wants a child so much
That she’s already picked out a name and staged
The nursery for its arrival a woman is fifty percent
Less likely to produce that baby. If she is a teenager
Living in foster care and headed toward a life of
Poverty it is two hundred percent more likely that
Biology will work as it should and she will
Have twins. If she is a single, career-driven woman,
She is at high risk for being left with a convoy of
3 children after her sister dies and leaves them to her
In her will. God does not listen to pleas.

If God controls this lottery he does not seem to care
Who wins the prize. He does not seem to be bothered
By single mothers, gay mothers, or no mothers;
So why should we? If there is an open womb available;
A sheltered and provisional place to stay; if there is a home offered
A safe and nourishing place to live; let us employ them.
A fetus can grow in a womb that wasn’t ready for it;
A child can flourish in a non-traditional family.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013



Pain drips from generation to generation
Like water in a leaky roof that no one
Can afford to fix in a house that no one
Is brave enough to leave. It might be damp
And moldy but it’s safer than the street; safer
Than the vulnerability of asking for help. It’s
Cold, but it’s familiar.

I want to remove every roof. I want to let the sun in
And dry up the puddles until there’s nothing left
But bright flowers peeking up between floor tiles
That were once drowning in perpetual grief.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Socially Anxious Poetry


I started by cowering in the back of the room
Mouth open in awe of the woman before me:
She spoke my mind without ever meeting me,
She spoke her experiences to life,
She spoke.
I started by crying in the back of the room:
I could have written that myself
But I didn’t.

I walk through every day afraid of
The next moment someone will speak to me.
Kind words or not, human interaction is terrifying.
Drugged up or not, I have no idea what to say
When you smile and greet me.
I may have strong opinions and the words to share them
I may be talented at all the things I try
But the only thing that matters in the moment is that
I can’t catch my breath.

Yet, here I am! Alone, onstage, barely breathing,
Because I found power in poetry and I propelled myself forward;
I found healing in yelling my thoughts before an engrossed
Audience; FINALLY someone is listening, finally, someone is
Hearing me and cheering me on, finally, I don’t need a surrogate,

I walk through each day with my eyes lowered
Afraid of the vulnerability of eye contact. I flinch when
Someone tries to hold my hand, I don’t know
How to deal with a compliment. But,
I have meaningful ideas and I have found the words to share them.
I stepped in front of a crowd without a bullet proof vest and I
Emerged with lungs of steel and a voice like a siren and I
Will continue to shout from the stage
For myself
And for the person cowering in the back of the room, waiting
For their chance to come to life.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The last straw

Discouraged minds want to know: after all these years, what made you leave?
As if there were one moment that changed my opinion, one thing that
Might bring me back. But I have a list that is years long and it goes like this:
It’s the existence of other cultures outside of white picket fence suburbia
That aren’t suffering for lack of steeples and Sunday school,
The recognition of beauty and goodness in the differences I used to fear.
The survival of other religions who preach the same love and peace
Without the violence, guilt and shame.
It’s the appreciation of joy in non-believers’ eyes,
The families in South Africa who shut their doors before we reached them.
The children who continued to starve after hearing the word of God.
The fifth rape of the same loyal follower and the blame
Of the victim and the sins we all commit without even knowing.
It’s the boiling down of my faith into bullet points and digestible phrases;
The incongruity of the classroom and the material world at Christian college;
The sensation of weightlessness when I unlocked the fence holding back my intellect.
It’s rebirth and finally finding joy that used to be slightly out of reach
Outside of the church, on a self-sufficient, sacred journey in the desert;
The discovery of life before death, in everyday existence,
The freedom and healing in acknowledging my struggle with abject depression
And decisively proclaiming the things it makes me feel.
It’s the joy of sex outside of marriage, with both genders, without shame,
The patterns that have repeated all my life that demonstrate I was born this way;
The unadulterated joy of accepting myself without need for outside approval.
It’s acknowledgment of my own weaknesses and the way they prevent me
From being able to speak intelligently on behalf of the supernatural,
Empathy for alternate circumstances; sympathy for the routine mistakes of humanity;
Rejection of judgment and recognition of the common ways in which we all struggle.
It’s intolerance, fear of the unknown, clouded explanations and contradictions ignored:
All of these things were the last straw.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fun with word banks

#20 is five different, little poems.
Silent ivory
Ghosts float among heavy rain.
Move beyond the wounds.

We run from salt ghosts
Elusive floating lanterns
Ivory sea coasts.

I want to move beyond the
Half blooded ghosts
That have absconded with the present.

Move beyond the rotten ghosts
That float in the rain like lanterns.
Do not squander your youth
Fishing through the elusive silence
That plays like driftwood on an ivory radio. 
          Ghosts drift like wood
          Amid salty rain on
          Ivory coasts. Hold your lanterns high.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Personal Ads

1. Complex and empathetic social worker
    Seeks quirky, chemically imbalanced mate
    For a loving do-it-myself project.

    Must have problems- I won't know
    What to do with you, otherwise. What do people
    Talk about when they're not crazy?

2. Lonely, shy, somewhat single female
    Seeks quiet roommate who adores me unconditionally
    And always pays rent on time.

    In other words, a dog with a job.

Thursday, April 18, 2013



I am connected to you by six degrees-
Or maybe less. I live in the bedroom where
You lost your virginity to the girl who lived
Next door for decades before she moved east
To go to the college where my cousin was
Accused of sexual harassment by the foreign
Exchange student who moved on to engineer
The parts of the plane that flew a genius to NASA
To create the shuttle that flew among the stars
That we are all made of.  Star dust takes decades to
Return to the earth above the airport where my
Cousin returned with his adopted child who grew up
In the south and broke the mold by becoming
An activist and introducing me to you when you
Needed a place to recover and now you live in this
Bedroom with me.  We are naïve to our roles in creating-
These connections are who I am.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I have fallen in love with ghazals!


I was reborn in a hospital bed, studying the poems of Rumi.
There is so much left to be read; welcome, new life.

To the desert I was led, following luminous intuitions.
Among the cactus I began to mend; welcome, new light.

I’ve got memories scarred into my head, suspended in unstable shapes.
They mark places from where reality fled; welcome, new story.

This is where I find my daily bread, living not on this alone.
It doesn’t taste like what you said; welcome, new knowledge.

Among the mountains I have bled, looking for an answer.
Meet me there and we’ll forge ahead; welcome, new love.

Look at all the mouths you’ve fed, Emily, on your journey forward.
Without you there’d be one more dead; welcome, new poet.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Poetic Gymnastics


I am doing poetic gymnastics tonight:
Inverting, reverting, imitating
Writing backwards, writing across, using
Fake translations, getting drunk: nothing
Is coming out. I am poetically constipated.

Somewhere in me there has to be some poem.
I am made of poems. I have, however,
Extracted every flowery synonym that was close
Enough to the surface to be easy and now,
I suppose, I’ll have to do some real work
To find the next layer of authentic expression.

I think I’ve always known this: that one cannot
Dredge poems from one’s fingers with a little
Bit of exercise. A poem requires a lifestyle
Of heart opening observation and wrenching
Self-reflection, bleeding onto paper.
Tonight, I am too depleted to write a poem.

Monday, April 15, 2013

27th Movement


I stand before you today as the 27th movement in a symphony of providence;
An exquisite opus played to sold out crowds, evoking awe and bringing forth tears
Stirring idle artists to new endeavors, transforming lives. I am the climax in a romantic movie.
I am stage presence; I am the only thing in the room when the lights go down.
I am not merely a result of my own virtue; I did not
Get here on my own.
I exist because of measure after measure of the right notes at the right time.
I am the result of decades of cracked instruments, bleeding fingers and imperfections reworked
I was born when a geniuses’ sweaty midnight inspiration
Exploded following weeks of ashen stagnation
I rose from hard work and fate mixed with mere chance;
Here in equal parts because of hours of finger bleeding practice
And because of notation written well and skillfully taught.
I emerged  from musicians with the right style of talent
Brought together on delicate instruments and led
By a conductor who was born with a tempo where blood should have been.
I am an audience willing to listen, a critic with a kind ear and supportive words.
I am a work of art that can only be played under the right circumstances; I am a tune
That’s forgotten when favor declines.
I am a masterpiece that concludes when fortune expires.  

Sunday, April 14, 2013



Woke up this morning with
A bomb in my belly and my skin
Was a quivering wick. I almost
Wrote you all letters: exactly what
I’ve always wanted to say to you,
In succinct honesty.  It’s probably better that
I slept in instead; went for a jog;
Took some medicine, let the rabbit  
Bite me when I tried to pet her. It’s
Probably better, for once, that I stopped
Unlocking the cage around my voice and
Let the anger simmer down into something
My audience can swallow. Where would we be,
Then, if I had struck pen to paper? In pieces,
Spread over 3,000 miles, mouths agape.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tucson Spring


Spring brings flowers blooming in unexpected places,
Most surprisingly among the sharp needles of cacti.
In showy routine they change to fruit;
Folding closed and maturing into nourishment.

I never planned to put down roots among these blossoms
But I died here and spilled seeds into soaking monsoon soil.
Now I grow and bloom again and again like the cactus flowers;
In an enduring Spring I fold, mature, and transform into fruit.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Broken Poem


I’m trying to tell you something important
But this poem is broken.
I took it apart and spread the pieces
On my kitchen table: the synonyms, the rhythm,
A clear message and some well-meaning passion.
All fragments accounted for, all in working condition
But they won’t move together, won’t connect like
Cogs in a clock, won’t sound the alarm I so urgently need.

I’m straining to share a heavy, untold story
But my sentences are no longer logical.
I’ve used dictionaries and thesauruses, peer review
And scribbled revisions but I still can’t form
Something that makes sense.

So I’m offering these pieces, carefully preserved,
In hopes that some poetic mechanic
Will hear the clanking of my efforts to put
Them back together and provide the right device
Or a detailed instruction manual, something
That will empower me to get these oppressive
Tales off of my chest and out to the audience
Where they belong.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nesting Poem


I opened Sinner and saw a circle:
God made man perfectly and wonderfully;
Man sins immediately upon being made;
God made a need for himself.

I opened the image of your lip curled in disgust
And saw a man in need of Sinners,
A priest without Sinners lacks purpose
So you built them with weekly rebukes.

I opened my chest and found the creativity of man
The way we carve puzzle pieces to fit empty spaces.
The way we shape God to cover our anxieties
And people to fit under the minute umbrella of this God.

I opened my core and found the clear contour of birth;
The shape of Me before I was filled with Ss and Is and Ns.
I found genuine rebirth and there was no blood involved
Just a gentle belief in my own innate virtue.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Popcorn, Little Dove


Corn kernels, little doves
Two languages, two ideas
Both fly.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cat Noir


The domestic cat is a natural born killer
Displaced to an unnatural environment.
She pays homage to her treacherous instincts
By chasing sinister shadows all day, like a
Hapless detective in a film noir. She doesn’t
Know what really lurks in the shadows;
Is it a vindictive mouse, returning from the
Dark underbelly of the backyard to exact revenge?
Or a bird, heart as dark as its feathers, emerging
From the foggy gray sky to pluck the cat’s last
Shred of dignity from her languid paws?
The cat’s pursuit is a hopeless one; she will
Never find the answers she desires. Darting
From one dark corner to the next she will search
For answers in the shadows until she lists into madness.

I find her one morning splayed on the cold tile
Of the bedroom floor, depleted from a night of stalking
The elusive mysteries of her domain. I reach to comfort her
But she slaps my hand away, squinting at me with weary
Yellow eyes. I know what she is thinking:
We are not so different. She runs from room to room
Chasing what might be in the shadows. I do the same,
Only silently, and in my restless mind.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Four Corners

Poetry Month Poem #8/30

The Four Corners is the only location where four states touch.
A visitor can cross all of the boundaries at once
By stretching their arms and legs in different directions.

As a young adult running to the southwest 
To start over, I passed by this monument, 
Thinking it was a hoax. I have four parents;

It was impossible to be with all four at one time.
Either they were not close enough to touch
Or I could not stretch far enough in every direction. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013


An ad comparing contraceptives to life jackets
Says that both encourage risky behavior
And the only way to avoid drowning is to stay on land.

It’s true that it’s nearly impossible to sink in dry earth.
But our bodies get parched in the desert
And our souls have an almost unbearable lust for life.

Safety equipment is crucial for quenching your curiosity unharmed.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Elegy for the Handwritten Letter

So many of my romances have been measured in paper love letters:
Those tangible testimonies to intense enthusiasm for another.
I let their piles grow on my bedside table as passion progressed;
Then, when the ink and desire stopped flowing,
I buried them in a sacred casket in the closet,
A cardboard box carrying the epitaph: “Proof That I Was Loved”.

Contemporary communication means
I’m losing these palpable paper trails.
I’m losing the ability to hold history in my hands as it happens.  
How will I know who loves me without their
Freshly drying signature at the end of their testimony? 

Friday, April 5, 2013


Telling people
What they already know
But making them hear it for the
First time.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Sometimes we don’t choose to hold on to something.
Sometimes an event sticks to us like a Cholla burr
So that we live it again and again and again:
When a pop star makes a song about being hit;
When a friend tells you how little she’s had to eat today;
When a client traces the story behind the scars on her wrists;
When a stranger brushes against you in just the wrong way.

At these times we wish we could let go.
We wish our skin would stop holding these moments
And we wonder:
How are they still attached when we’re shaking so hard?

This is why we ask for warning:
Tell us when we’re about to walk through a minefield of cacti.
Tell us when we need an extra layer of clothing.
Or, better yet, let us just stay home
With a journal and a pen or a friend or
A pillow that understands:
We’re trying to let go and pull away
But these moments have such strong hands.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Tentative Sea Shanty

I read two prompts this morning: one told me to write a tentative poem and one told me to write a sea shanty. I married the two ideas and this is what emerged. I found it really awkward to write a sea shanty while living in the desert in 2013 but I ended up kind of liking the result!

I might want to match my movements to yours
Swimming together to distant shores.
I might be ready to allow this anchor to lower
To the ocean floor and let it flower.

At least for now I think I’ll stay
Until loose grips let you float away.

Is it time to adjust our sails?
Are we willing to work 'til we fail?
I can’t see the horizon yet.
We should maybe stop and just forget-

The times before when we said we’d stay
Only to move when we looked away.

Do not fear the storm that blows
It only helps us follow the flows
That take us to our destination-
Old solid ground or new creation.

In the midst of the storm we’ll stay
We’ll either die or float away.

One day we’ll reach some promised land
And if on it’s ground we choose to stand
The journey will be worth the fight
Or we’ll see ourselves in wizened light.

We may both decide to stay
But likely I will run away.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bright and Dark

National Poetry Month Poem #2:

I am a 1960s pop art illustration
Emerging optimistically after a long, bloody war.
My soul rebels in vivid color
From within a thick black outline of a body.
This crying woman knows it’s time for change;
Time for me to take well-known images of pill bottles
And beer cans and cover them with brightly colored ticket stubs,
Love letters, and published poems, time to re-work
Abstract dreams of a successful life into steel
Sculptures of attainment. It was nice to try different shapes for a while
But now I know what I want: I want to live as a subversive work of art
Forever an oft repeated emblem with a familiar meaning;
An icon known and loved for being true in every color permutation.

Thank you, Lichtenstein!

Monday, April 1, 2013


Ît's National Poetry Month! This year I'm going to try to write a poem a day and share them with The Internet. Here is my Day 1 poem, based on a prompt from Writer's Digest:

Progress plods sluggishly, using heavy hands to pull
Stone legs up one tall stair after another. I balance at the top of the stairs
Always hopeful for the arrival of success though it looks so small from
This far away. Reoccurring sounds keep me kneeling there
With arms outstretched: One foot landing roughly, one long inhale of
Gasping breath, one groaning creak of bones; so I respond with a shout:
It’s possible. Someone came before me to build the stairs, someone
Taught me how to open my arms, someone will come after me to push
Progress through its last aching movements and into my limbs. All we need is
Just to keep moving: I will keep making slight adjustments in my muscles
To sustain equilibrium and progress will continue to lumber forth
Until we meet on the top stair in unadulterated triumph.