Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Four of Cups

The first time, I shoved the ball toward the hoop
with all my might, missing by two or three feet.
The second time, the ball hovered on the rim
and dropped in. My brother punched me in the arm

as my father cheered. I dashed into the house
to tell my uncle I had made a basket. On TV,
a cross-legged man in an orange robe was on fire,
motionless as traffic swirled around him. Sobbing,

I flung myself outside. “Why would a man
light himself on fire?” I bleated. My uncle
stepped into the doorway: “The boy just needs
to get used to it.” (My Dad told me later

that in WWII my uncle’s plane was shot down 
and that my uncle was still having nightmares
about it.) My brother kept bouncing the ball.
My Dad put his arm around me for a moment,

then sauntered over to my uncle to ask
what had happened. Soon they went inside.
I paced the driveway for awhile, then grabbed
the ball, shooting again and again until I made it in.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Eight of Swords

As the tetherball chains chimed, we hung out
under the monkey bars. I was the disputed
tetherball champion of my class, but he refused
at the beginning of recess to play against me. 

When I asked him why, he told me about his cousin:
As he was riding his bike through the park, near
the rioting, a policeman pulled him down and beat him.
“He’s only twelve years old. He wasn’t hurting anyone:

Why would they do that?” “I don’t know,” I mourned--
“C’mon, let’s play tetherball!” He turned away, “I can’t. 
My family says I can’t be with white people anymore
because you just can’t trust them.” “But I

didn’t do anything!” I shouted over the ringing chains.
Squinting and sweating, he just shook his head
at everything I said as fists were thudding and balls
kept whirling. I didn’t play tetherball ever again.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Fiddleneck in House Pits near Pounding Stone

Throwing a pine cone at my brother, 
I reeled through brittle needles to hide
behind a short, flat stone in the middle
of the forest:  I was the cowboy 

and he was the Indian. As I jumped up 
to toss a dirt clod, I saw smooth cups
brimming with humus in the stone
Standing transfixed as he charged,  “Stop!”

I yelled, as he pelted me with pebbles.
“You’re dead!” he shouted, “Told you--
I’m the cowboy!” Dizzy, I felt 
I was about to remember something,

Pestles in Pounding Stone

falling into some other life that I once 
had known. “Boys!” Dad shouted, “Time 
to go to the lake!” But I couldn’t move
from the stone in the middle of the woods. 

Finally, Dad ambled over. “What 
is this?” I asked. “Mud people 
lived here,” he sneered. “Let’s go!”
“Where are the mud people? Where

did they go?” I wondered aloud, but he
didn’t answer. For a moment I
was afraid, as he walked farther
and farther ahead of me, that I

could be like one of the mud people
who had vanished, so I paused,
alone between the strange stone
and the tiny boat by the shore.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Toad in Tree Root
(Note: If you would like to hear a "concept album," click on the title below.)

One of us poised near tree roots,
grasping a ball of twisted, wet paper
wrapped in rubber bands, the other, in front
of the shed door, waving a broken broom handle.

The ball flew like thought

from mound to shed, and both of us           Open a door.
connected, four or five times, whacking
it over the leafed-out fruitless mulberry

to plop in the neighbor’s yard. Like

super stars in a world series game,
for an afternoon we were sometimes one 
with bat and ball, clearly reading

the opposition. Then Dad died,

and you soon moved away. The tree 
rotted from within, a stump where
two toads made their home                       Open door #2. 

in the hollow roots, the eaves

of the shed dangling a long beehive,
the house finally abandoned. 
In the shed thick with webs, 

I found the broom handle

and stepped up to the plate.  As 
I swung the bat, I recalled
how you smacked the ball so sweetly

that it sailed high over

the tree, over the fence,
and kept flying to where                          Open door # 3.
we could never find it again.

Monday, December 8, 2014


Bad Fairies

My brother blew me a booger,
my sister boxed up a roach,                      Find some coins.
Jack wrapped a moldy burger,
Sally pinched till I screamed “Ouch.”

A bully gave me a wedgie,
the pastor put coal in my sock,
teacher awarded dried algae,                         Take a different path.
my best friend forked over a rock.

But I gave the best presents ever
to throw one and all for a loop.                             Open a door.
They’ll think me and doggie so clever
when they unwrap their gifts stuffed with poop.