To Obama: A Poetric Thought

Wishing on a star: Senator Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

(photo by Getty images)

Here is a poem for President Elect Obama.

To Obama
(listen to poem as a podcast)

I don’t know who they think they are
carrying on about Change
when the reality is that change comes so fast to us
that it’s never visible until the aftermath
when the shadow of reflection is cast upon the landscape
and we understand how everything is different now
and the old order,
come and gone.

Yes, I am one of those,
the guilty many who is doing all of this carrying on,
with hopes in my heart that the course will be altered
by fresh ideas and fresh faces and the intellect
that guides you
even as I refuse to let my dreams shackle you
to my own expectations.

No, it is my children who speak through me
to you
and whose nightly whispers you must heed
in your head as you sit through briefings
and meetings and dinners with dignitaries
and consider the World from your seat up on top of the mountain.

Will others do the same?
Will they temper their expectations
and accede to reality?
Or will they claw at you with visions
of how it should be, how it could be,
how will it never be
even as you hold them off with a misplaced word
to soothe the lions outside the fence
whose only instinct is for blood.

Change us, perhaps, but don’t change yourself
and let us look back in ten years time
to finally understand that our path was forged amidst all of this chaos
in such a way that we never even knew
we were moving.

Here’s hoping for the best in the next four years ..

Peace (in the world),

I Dream in Twitter: A Podcast Poem

I’ve been thinking about Twitter a lot lately, about the pros and cons, and I woke this morning with the lines of this poem dancing in my head. (Twitter is a network that connects people by asking them to write about what they are doing right at that moment) So I worked on it and recorded it as a podcast, sharing it out.

I would love to know what the Twitter friends think about it.

I Dream in Twitter
Listen to the podcast

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters
that cut off my thoughts before they are complete
and then I wonder, why 140?
Ten more letters would serve me right
as I write about what I am doing at that moment
in time,
connecting across the world with so many others
shackled by 140 characters, too,
and I remain amazed at how deep the brevity can be.

I find it unsettling to eavesdrop on conversations
between two
when you can only read one
and it startles me to think that someone else out there
has put their ear to my words
and wondered the same about me.
Whose eyes are watching?

Twitter is both an expanding universe
of tentacles and hyperlinks that draw you in
with knowledge and experience
and a shrinking neighborhood of similar voices,
echoing out your name
in comfortable silence.

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters,
and that is what I am doing

Peace (in poems and podcasts),

A Second Place Poem

I found out last week that a poem I wrote during my OnPoEvMo project last year (one poem every month) garnered second place in a writing contest hosted by our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. The poem is about race and prejudice, and trying to investigate why our skin makes us feel so different from others.

Here is the poem and here is the podcast:

Like Birds in Flight

I can’t crawl inside your skin
I’m claustrophobic with the fingers of history wrapped around my neck
and, besides, your black doesn’t fit with my white.
We clash.

Or so I have been told, not in so many words, of course, but in so many looks.
Which leaves us both here with this sense of intense misunderstanding

and missed opportunities that come from rage at the ways of this world.
No one ever told me that you were always the same as me,
with the same dreams,
the same heart,
and you, with your ancestors on an timeline that intersects with mine only in pain and infinite sadness,
you look so different from me — on the outside.
Your black doesn’t fit with my white.

I often wonder how it would be if we had a covering of feathers instead of skin
and you were to become haloed in a rainbow
with hues casting deep shadows that I could just swallow up like worms on a summer day after the storms have cleared away,
filling me whole with experience and reality,
and then maybe — maybe — I could finally feel your light, your strength, your sense of being you.

Just you and nothing more.

Your black would fit with my white.
We would no longer feel tethered by this solid Earth
and instead, as one, we would rise to the clouds on the upward draft of hope
and avoid the fears that keeps us rooted so firmly in our own minds.
I look at you.
I don’t see you.
Instead, I only see skin.

Peace (in understanding),

A Poem for Bella

We put our family dog, Bella, down to sleep yesterday and so it was a very sad time for all of us here, as our three young boys have known her as a friend and protector, and she was the first dog that I ever owned.

We also had a snowstorm here in New England during her final days and the pure whiteness of the snow, and its temporary nature, reminded me of her white coat of fur and those thoughts and the sadness of making the decision to end her life to spare her suffering sparked this poem in her memory.

All One of the Same (for Bella)
Listen to the Poem

I covet the unblemished snow —
the blanket of white replenished in this candlelight’s flickering glow —
knowing all the while how temporary this is
and how this earth will surely rise up to reclaim it
for another time;
another place.
It is all one of the same.
This flurry of contemplation brings on such a sudden sadness of loss,
so I reach out my fingers to gather up every flake falling
in order to watch the world disappear.
I hold tight to the memory of the moment
so that it
— all of it: the snow, the whiteness, the love —
may live on inside of me forever.

Peace (in dog heaven),

OnPoEvMo: Forgotten Relics in a Flattened World, October 2007

This is the final poem in my year-long project to create at least one poem per month for an entire year. Some months have been easier than others and the past two months, I have felt the well go a bit dry on me. But I wanted to wrap things up somehow and this poem came to me one early morning. My next step is to come back to all 31 poems (yep — 31) and see which ones are worth editing and revising and publishing. My intention is to use Lulu self-publishing to put together a book of the poems from the year.

But for now, here is the last podcast poem:

Forgotten Relics in a Flattened World
(October 2007)
Listen to the Poem

It’s done now
30 poems plus one and I’m done
but I don’t think I will ever be finished
with this one —

the words will never stop dancing
although sometimes they break apart if I drop them
and shatter into a million different thoughts —
I bend down to collect them with my fingers
and glue them back together in a frantic attempt
to understand —

even then, some words will scuttle off to the corner and collect dust
as forgotten relics
until the time comes when I am in no mood for anything
but quiet —
it’s then that they come out of hiding to join me
as old friends crawling into my pocket
for my fingers to hold as comfort food–

a year spent in poems is absurd
if you think about it —
the pressure to create something so great
sits so heavily on the mind
that you feel as if there were no more poems anymore ever to be found
no more rhythm anywhere in this world that you haven’t beat your head upon
or felt the pounding of in your heart —
the flattened landscape slowly becomes something literal
you wonder if the edge of the abyss is just beyond you,
just beyond your vision,
just beyond you …

no, this poem will never be done,
not ever.

Peace (with self-motivated projects),


Two Poems for the Price of One

I have two poems to share as part of my One Poem Every Month for a Year project (which ends in November). The first one I started writing last month, as I watched my youngest son twist the corners of his favorite blanket over and over again, and the second poem I wrote just the other day. As my students were doing freewriting in the classroom, so was I and in the silence of our work, you could almost hear the echoes of stories and poems being undertaken in our minds.

On the Cartographer’s Map
(Sept. 2007)
Listen to the poem

This creeping cord
of tension slips
its knot
and moves as a snake to the heart
I’d fall apart
but the world needs
an Atlas to keep it balanced
(precarious as it is
and such a reluctant hero, burdened)
Always there is this sense of renewal
just around the bend
with outstretched hands waiting
to grab this globe and spin me free
on the cartographer’s canvas —
crisscrossed with longitude —
layered with latitude —
I am wondering all the while where the edge is
where I will fall off
and tumble into the nothingness.

Comfort Corners
(Sept. 2007)
Listen to the poem

He reaches for the corner, timeworn and faded
with fingers clenched tight
around the corner softened by tears and worry and cries,
as the comforter is dragged from room
to room to room as if it were a tail that could not come unattached.
His three-year-old eyes are intense
and anxious
as he moves from one corner
to the next corner
to the next
and he slips the fabric between
index and ring fingers — always, always, index and ring fingers —
and slowly twines the crux of blanket for a few seconds
in a gesture of relaxation before moving on to the next corner,
and I wonder, sitting here, watching him, as a father removed from sight:
what comfort does this movement bring to him
and how did he ever discover it?
But the boy just closes his eyes
and rests and there
in sleep,
the twisting and turning of his mind
continues, unabated and unresolved.

Peace (in poems),

OnPoEvMo: What is the What, August 2007

I recently finished reading Dave Egger’s What is the What — a harrowing and yet ultimately uplifting fictionalized true story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. It really is a fine novel and you should run out and get it right this second. The What in the title refers to an ancient tale of the main character’s village in which the original people were asked to choose between a world of food and shelter, and the unknown, the What. They chose the world of food and shelter, and spent the rest of their days wondering what is the What that they missed out on, considering the violence and sadness of this world.

Inspired by the book, I wrote this poem for my One Poem Every Month for a Year project and thought I might try it as a spoken word/music piece with my Looper software. It is a slightly strange production, I’ll admit right upfront.


What is the What
August 2007
Listen to the Poem

What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What?
What is the What?
What is the What
is what the question is

What is the What
is what the question is
that takes us back in time
to the choices faced by our ancestors
whose voices climb up through the past
and whose ideas are marred by the
two diverging paths
and we live in this aftermath
of not attaining the What, which is the unknown,
the unspeakable,
since what was clearly decided at the start of the world
was to take this place as we see it today —
with animals for food
with walls for shelter
with family for survival
and to steer clear of the other — the What —

and what is the What is the question
that haunts us even to this day because
we came away with all of the above — yes, even love —
but also pain and hurt,
and death, destruction, violence,
such hatred inside of us that there are those of us
who spend the days, asking ourselves,
pleading with our Gods,
murmuring to the well of the world,
what is the What
and where has it gone
and why didn’t those poor souls choose the unknown

if truth be told
who can blame them
when all they wanted was to behold a land that held
food for empty bellies
and a room to escape the rains and the bone-chilling cold
and they weren’t thinking that the other road — the What —
might hold something truer, deeper,
more spiritual than this, this …
space of dead dreams.
So what is the What is what sinks below the surface
and drives us forward, even today,
toward something we can’t hold in our hands
can’t take it for granted
can’t understand how we got planted here
without the What
and yet, you can approach it —
move towards it —
when you consort with others of a similar mind
to try to find some kind of balance
between the world we were given
and the world, denied.

What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What?
What is the What?
What is the What
is what the question is

Peace (in the unknown),


OnPoEvMo: What to do with Words, August 2007

My tank is a bit on empty right now — it might be the slew of things I know I need to get done and get together before the start of school or it might just be that I have written myself out and need to rejuvevate the brain.

Still, the poems come.

Here is one I wrote as I thought about how to write a poem when you don’t have anything to write about (meta-poetry?).

What to do with Words
August 2007
Listen to the Poem

They say this “writing a poem” thing is just too difficult to do
so I just wait for the words,
kick back and hope for the best
and sometimes this slacker tendency actually works —
the words come fluttering by, on an arc before the eyes,
and patience here is the key —
don’t grab too soon
or you will be stuck with a net that has holes in it
with nothing gained, and everything lost,
while the best words will have gotten away.
The most obvious ones are often the least creative creatures
since they situate themselves so easily in front of your eyes —
no, the ones you want are crafty and sly,
and nuanced and covered in something like quicksilver —
the timing is everything if you want to find truth
so it helps to just stop thinking
just stop yourself cold right where you are before your brain
gets you in trouble,
and then, there before you, if the time is right
if the forces are converging
if the words are feeling frisky
the poem’s pieces will hover and take shape,
although what it all means as you take these gifts in the palm of your hand
and feel the warmth of words, well, that, my friend, that
is a complete mystery even to me.

Peace (in words),

OnPoEvMo: Superhero, July 2007

My sons and I were at a used book store this weekend and we picked up this quite large book about the history of Marvel comics. When I was my oldest son’s age (9), comics were a big part of my life. I had many, many comics, sorted by various categories, and could not get enough of these stories of flawed heroes and their adventures.

This poem for my One Poem Every Month for a Year project sprang to life as I perused the Marvel comic books and recognized many long-forgotten names and stories.

(July 2007)
Listen to the poem

The soul of a superhero
is deep,
complex and unfathomable —
full of inconsistencies that bend reality
on some sort of divergent ground
in which the powerless ignite,
soar, swim,
standing down the villains of oppression
and righting wrongs in spite of themselves
and their own limitations of

I stand here, a collector of souls,
piled dozens deep in a paper bag
and purchased with pocket change
how I, too, can be altered in some accident
or mishap,
and if it were to be for the better or for the worse
if I could suddenly fly and fight and protect
or if it is better that my destiny is to remain
immobile and passive in the face of the Evil
threatening to shatter this world
into tiny tentacles of suffering and paranoia
and dangerous illusion.

The child in me yearns for power that is just beyond me;
the adult in me fears it,
knowing as I do the responsibility of our
the bravery masked as impulsiveness and
that innocence that ventures close to imperfection.
Brazenness was never my virtue
and so my powers remain dormant
somewhere inside this timeworn paper bag
even as I await the calling of the hero
inside of me.

This seemed an appropriate time to use my son’s Comic Book Creator program:

(click on the comic to view the PDF version)

Peace (with powers of the unknown),

OnPoEvMo: A Stone’s Throw, July 2007

Did you ever have one of those days? You know, when it begins with a shattered window? Sigh.

This installment of the One Poem for Every Month for a Year project is about one of my sons causing some havoc at our house. At least I can say that he gave me some writing inspiration on an otherwise uninspiring day. (Just don’t tell him that — it would leave him off the hook).


A Stone’s Throw
(July 2007)
Listen to the poem

The sound of shattered glass
is no way
to start the day
and the frantic sobs of the seven year old,
screaming: “You are going to kill me”
is like icing on the cake.
Summer is the time of idle plans
and imagination
but that doesn’t explain how a
rock and a sock
and gravity
combined forces to leave a Pollock picture
of glass pebbles on the driveway
nor does it excuse the need to enter
the twisted labyrnth of the insurance company
on a day designed for rest and relaxation.

Peace (with the unexpected),