The great unwashed

He would like the air quiet
when he partakes of his supper
her voices lurking in the shadows
of their modest home
to the sound of a tinny piano
behind doors, and at times
over their heads
at the kitchen table

He says, “I want to be alone with you,”
when they sit later, reading
and she smiles, and rises
bringing him a piece of pie
comforted in the muted crowds
surrounding their daily routine
filling the empty rooms
that grown children long ago

Cutting the last wedge of pie
on Thursday, for his lunchbox
she begins a shopping list
to prepare for the following week
listening to the whispers in her ears
of sprites and ghosts and back
alleyway detectives
about what the autumn will bring
cool breezes and
the voices of all the leaves




I stomp through your rooms
I scream my childhood until it echoes
I take off my shoes and lie on the floor
feet on the wall while I read

We live here in shifts
you with reality, I with my fairies
wandering in and out with one of them
on my shoulder. Scampering

when you come home you kick off shoes
you turn on music and from a shadow
we watch you dance away your day
before we find another place

to lie through the night

Sum of my parts


I was composed by
Dickinson and Poe
Ingalls and Alcott
Cummings and Keats;
A pen with the ink of
Matthew, Mark, Luke
John, Ringo, George
And Paul, the apostle;

Shaped by the lashes
of a leather belt
and overcooked vegetables
with Sunday roast, and
endless vats of gravy
poured into cups

put food on the pain
eat until you’re stuffed;

Composed by Rock of Ages
What a friend we have in Jesus
sung by saints and the
wife-beaters-closet bigots
friends and adulterers;

Unexpected kindnesses
wrapped in Jean Naté
and Chanel No. 5
a soft, wrinkled hand
with hard candy
wrappers that crinkled
during the prayer;

Constructed by long rainy walks
endless nights without sleep
teachers that saw through me
a welcome friend
in the middle of the heat;

Each cell, every organ complete
I won’t deny any of them
for to remove the painful limbs
would cause the others
to fall apart;

So I walk on
head up-chin out
this is me
take me or leave me
this is who I am
a sum of my life

Until I am done
I’m coming Grandma
some day-to sit next to you
and hear the rest of the stories

Of how we were all
stewed, and shoveled
into what we are

Rest in peace

Did you tidy up before leaving
did you make waffles for breakfast
and make the beds before you showered
did you read some chapters from a novel
or walk hundreds of stairs
did you know it was your last day

Did you make love
did you fantasize about your first meeting
did you eat your favourite doughnut and feel guilty
were you apprehensive about your eye doctor
telling you how your eyes have changed
at so young an age

Did you sing along with the radio
did you dance in your shower
did your kids fuss and make a mess
of cheerios on the sofa watching cartoons
did you get online and tell the world
about the pimple on your back

Did you walk past a church
did it make you think of your mother
did you smile when a child burped
and laughed, or did you scold
did you wipe up the baby’s spit-up
did you know it was your last day


In memory of Nykea Aldridge and all of the 762 people murdered in Chicago in 2016.

I tried to write a well – spoken tribute in her honor and for her children because I was so moved by what happened. The words just wouldn’t come. If we are this stunned by this murder, I can’t imagine how her family feels, especially after finding out the murderers were let out of prison early. If they don’t let this justice system work, it will never ….well, work.

I hate epilogues. But I felt I had to say something. Anything.


(easier to) Forgive

If we start adding up our slights
(when we bruised, neglected
and lied to one another)
we will lose sight of the treasures
(love, joy, peace, hope,
and patience)and everytime
we held one another and cried-
If we list them all (spiteful,
lasting, ungenerous boasting)
we will never get to where
we wanted to be (by now)
before we go

Burnt out (a psalm)

The night was full of promise
clean and crisp, a welcome respite
but morning arrived with burnt toast
eggs sticking to the pan

Jesus I need you when I lose hope
when my enemies,my own fears
my doubts that I can stay the course
threaten to rush the gate

A little peace that I felt in
the darkness
would be sweet
in the light of the new-born day


how is it that you
(in your calm solitude)
are aroused by
a rising tide of thoughts
excited by savage
and succulent delights

how does restlessness
come so quickly
[within] you, that can
skirt past fires of fancy
(your) indulgent red flames
of an inner feast

I remember you
and all the stony feelings
the depths of envy
(I am) astonished
how you come to me
in the midst
of your burning

fireworks of the heart
that were never tempered
(I have seen you)
spoil’d at last