Poetry is Written in Words: Thirty-Two

Poems from my Merriam-Webster Word of the Day project. For more information, look here.

hummock : a rounded knoll or hillock

Then one day
yellow bulldozers
shape hummocks
dig a pond.
Turtles. Dragonflies. Frogs. Snails.
Water lilies bloom.

shadorma 477 : 11/16/22

apropos : with regard to (something) : APROPOS OF

Leaves droop flowers brown
lack of rain.
Another breathless morning.
Hazed sky. Ground baked hard.

shadorma 435 : 7/27/22

teleological : exhibiting or relating to design or purpose especially in nature

Winds blow. Ferns shiver.
Teleological minds
Theorize. Explain.
Winds blow. Ferns shiver. Clouds skip.
Voices call. I don’t ask why.

tanka 382 : 1/10/23


“Hummock.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hummock. Accessed 16 Nov. 2022.

“Apropos.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apropos. Accessed 27 Jul. 2022.

“Teleological.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/teleological. Accessed 10 Jan. 2023.

Poetry is Written in Words: Thirty-One

Poems from my Merriam-Webster Word of the Day project. For more information, look here.

headlong : lacking in calmness or restraint

Headlong dive.
Brush into color
and out. Fall
and flip drips
Sunny-Side Up Fried Egg (gloss).
Now stroke the wall gold.

shadorma 410 : 6/11/22

emancipation : the act or process of emancipating : to free from restraint, control, or the power of another

one day it happens
paints and brushes set me free
into a new life I choose
the colors and I take flight

tanka 305 : 6/19/22

oblivion : the fact or condition of not remembering : a state marked by lack of awareness or consciousness

Loops of colored lights
Pink twists of cotton candy
Let the carnival
be tonight’s oblivion:
A sky full of Ferris wheels

tanka 368 : 12/17/22


“Headlong.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/headlong. Accessed 11 Jun. 2022.

“Emancipation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emancipation. Accessed 19 Jun. 2022.

“Oblivion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oblivion. Accessed 17 Dec. 2022.

Poetry is Written in Words: Thirty

Poems from my Merriam-Webster Word of the Day project. For more information, look here.

duress : law : compulsion by threat

under duress I
said I was sorry although
I wasn’t but if
I held out Mom would not let
me go back outside and play

tanka 310 : 6/29/22

pathos : an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion

Doomed lovers
play out destiny
on the screen
I feel it
The pathos of their parting
The three of us weep

shadorma 433 : 7/24/22

endemic : characteristic of or prevalent in a particular field, area, or environment

Sheath dresses
endemic back then.
Sherbet tints.
Big party –
twelve tables of bridge players.
I can’t locate Mom.

shadorma 494 : 1/23/23


“Duress.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/duress. Accessed 29 Jun. 2022.

“Pathos.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pathos. Accessed 24 Jul. 2022.

“Endemic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/endemic. Accessed 23 Jan. 2023.

One Dozen or So From the Archives: Episode 12

Another installment of poems still waiting in the archives to be heard. Finishing up loose ends.

If you want more details, here’s the Big Long Explanation. Otherwise, just read as many or few of these poems as you’d like. And thank you, as always!

These poems are all from Repairs, published 2017.

There Is No Map For This Road

The roar of the lawn mower as you pull the starter
the smell of chlorine in your soaked bathing suit
the rattle of knives against pots in the dishwasher
the tines of the comb scraping your scalp.
The cord of the blinds you let down
running through your fingers too fast
The words still fresh on the opening page
of the book you pick up to read again
The first turn in the road
when things start to look familiar
coming home


Desk and Sun

stripes my papers
across the desk
These words here
these ones

across the desk
I lay my hand on the wood
taking its warm for myself

across the desk
I leave
gone just a few minutes
I return
The desk
in shadow.


The Business is Concluded

The house
burned to the ground and gone
scrape the lot clean and build a new house
Somebody else can do that.
While I won’t say I won’t look back
I won’t go back.


Society Do

The big party
it was full of people in fancy clothes
running out of patience
growing disillusioned
with the caterers
cross-referencing the information
among themselves
in a negative way
you can get better eats
at the supermarket, can’t you?
though at least one guest
was deciding to wrap up some of this shrimp
for breakfast


It’s Getting Ideas

I don’t have your imagination
Explain to me why I found
a can of baby peas
creeping through the rocks
in the flowerbed
outside the garage. My goodness!
Throw the poor thing
into the river
and let it swim away.



She goes into the kitchen
straight from work
wearing too tight high-heeled shoes
scuffed up at the toes
stumbles and staggers
a split second to reach equilibrium
never stood a chance
the floor too slick
Dinner will be late.


Knowing Best

I am her mother and I will decide
if in the life of a girl
it’s even possible
that a sense of originality
can be of use
or is desirable



the slap of the wake
against the dock pilings
The motorboat far out in the lake
long gone


Bad Cost/Benefit Ratio

Inside that low-grade angry
wrongly convinced of an interested audience
taking aim at the world
there is an idea or two.
Once in a while
one hits the target
but I don’t like what I have to go through
waiting for it.


On the Nature of Gift-Giving

What is it about this gift here
perfectly appropriate
and from a very nice person
What is it about this gift
that it sings
on key
and with such insistence?

And why instead do I remember
the present you gave me
the one so wildly out of tune
why is it the one I laughed to receive
and that I hold so tight in memory?


Aria High Stakes

The choir is singing at top speed
pursued by the piano keys
tripping over themselves to catch up
You don’t know anything about music
but you love the thrill you’re getting
being a part of an audience
running for cover


The Bride and Her Mother

The bride said:
Mother, I have always dreamed
of my wedding day
and I so hoped to start off married life
with the good omen of
a perfect wedding day
including our relations and friends
in a nice ceremony and
elegant reception. It will cost some money,
but what a lovely memory
for all of us, including you,
of course.

The bride said:
Mother, you must understand
My wedding is everything. Every detail
must be exactly right. The expense is of such small account
when perfection is the object. I am sure
you agree. It’s that you haven’t thought about it
enough. When you do, you will surely
open your checkbook
a bit wider.

The bride said:
I must have more to spend
if I am to have the wedding I deserve.
Do you want our relatives and your friends
to think we are not up to it? That we
are too cheap to do things
right? That we don’t know how?

The bride said:
Give me more. I mean it.


Poetry is Written in Words: Twenty-Nine

Poems from my Merriam-Webster Word of the Day project. For more information, look here.

Luddite : one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest…broadly : one who is opposed to especially technological change

No Luddite,
I just like the feel
of the pen
writing out
notes in looping cursive ink
stacks of index cards

shadorma 434 : 7/26/22

bombast : pretentious inflated speech or writing

My boss and bombast
Condense the hot air she blows –
Tropical typhoon

haiku 1066 : 1/11/23

assiduous : showing great care, attention, and effort : marked by careful unremitting attention or persistent application

Your fingers
squeezing the pencil
blunted tip
pressing hard
with assiduous slowness
you scrawl a squashed “4”.

shadorma 450 : 9/5/22


“Luddite.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Luddite. Accessed 26 Jul.2022.

“Bombast.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bombast. Accessed 11 Jan. 2023.

“Assiduous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assiduous. Accessed 5 Sep. 2022.

Poetry is Written in Words: Twenty-Eight

Poems from my Merriam-Webster Word of the Day project. For more information, look here.

bravado : blustering swaggering conduct

Burst of bravado.
Spewed a few bald truths. Wigged out
in other words. Oops.

haiku 1058 : 12/10/22

hyperbole : extravagant exaggeration

So they say. But I
discard the hyperbole
Trim its frayed loose ends
Free up the truth. Skeletons
in her closet want to talk.

tanka 346 : 10/17/22

perspicacious : of acute mental vision or discernment : KEEN

How we have missed her
the perspicacious insights
the tart tell-the-truth
that balanced our sugared lives
All lost to us now. We mourn.

tanka 339 : 9/21/22


“Bravado.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bravado. Accessed 10 Dec. 2022.

“Hyperbole.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hyperbole. Accessed 10 Oct. 2022.

“Perspicacious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perspicacious. Accessed 21 Sep. 2022.

First Day of Spring

First Day of Spring

I’m wearing a
snappy pair of
orange tight pants
I’ve twisted my
orange curly hair
into an orange
tiny tight top-of-head bun
I’m arranging an
orange show-off display
of orange stalky flowers for
orange-loving shoppers to buy
and take home
and orange.

I love living in a world where
not only is all of this possible
it is happening to me.


Poetry is Written in Words: Twenty-Seven

Poems from my Merriam-Webster Word of the Day project. For more information, look here.

paladin : a trusted military leader (as for a medieval prince)

and rank: Figurines
grab shelf space.
Who’s the boss?
Pink mermaid? Stern paladin?
Fat simpering clown?

shadorma 492 : 1/16/23

fresco : the art of painting on freshly spread moist lime plaster with water-based pigments : a painting executed in fresco

a forlorn fresco
melancholy in makeup
the sad circus clown

haiku 1079 : 3/1/23

substantive : having substance : involving matters of major or practical importance to all concerned

After the dinner
substantive discussions lag
Digestive matters
take precedence over talk.
Oh, why won’t that fool shut up?

tanka 335 : 9/11/22


“Paladin.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paladin. Accessed 16 Jan. 2023.

“Fresco.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fresco. Accessed 1 Mar. 2023.

“Substantive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/substantive. Accessed 11 Sep. 2022.

One Dozen or So From the Archives: Episode 11

Another installment of poems still waiting in the archives to be heard. Finishing up loose ends.

If you want more details, here’s the Big Long Explanation. Otherwise, just read as many or few of these poems as you’d like. And thank you, as always!

These poems are all from Repairs, published 2017.

Every One of Us

Dangerous lives
on the fifth floor
They eat bad food at their desks
consider it nothing
to spend an hour
or more
each day
placating a person with a made-up mind
who has a dozen good reasons
one of them always right
every last one of them.
They fix things
clean up payroll files
hand you a business card
follow the regulations
attend seminars on big-picture thinking.
They can’t leave the job
when it has no end
Just call it a draw
and start again tomorrow


Not at Step One

They had red plastic cups but you
You drank straight from the bottle.
Next thing you know you have
spilled all over the dress
your credit card
had to go lie down and rest
after you paid for it.
A lot of howling
that you realize it’s coming from you
doesn’t fix the mess.
a lot of dry cleaning
and maybe
slow down drinking
straight from bottles
and maybe
oh maybe nothing
it’s going to happen again and again
one way or another.


Sent In to Find

I peeled the apple
ate it
reached the core
filled with seeds
packed tight with information
like boxes in a file room
containing the plans for future trees
and more apples
and I knew just what to do


Hospital Case

Greenstick fracture of your reputation
required surgery. Notorious
the doctor noted on your chart.
You can wriggle out of this one
the voice of your survival instinct
told you
in the feeble glow of the nightlight
after the nurse went off
leaving the sheets on the bed
all bunched up.
No one likes you anymore but
cheer up they’ll put you back together
because they have to before they
throw you out the door into the parking lot
I’m an honest man
you told the doctor
in the emergency room
and she said
You display no symptoms of it that I can see.


Times Have Changed

See you later, cupcake
I knew you’d get a laugh out of it
it’s the shoes that give it away every time
or maybe the eyeglasses in that fashionable style
limited edition. High school isn’t ever over
is it? Not deep down. Come on, just laugh


Long Suffering

crying all afternoon
standing in a puddle of tears
by dinner
knee-deep at bedtime
swimming the next morning
it’s time to send out a rescue boat
I guess
or we’re all going to drown.



wearing black-rimmed glasses
and a dark suit
stunned by the music
it will be a big money-maker
this song
it hypnotizes everyone who hears it
and when the dust settles
everyone’s got new friends
and going out to dinner with them
staying out late
loosen that tie and sing!


Job Skills

driving a bus could be
among other things
though you probably need a sense of humor to enjoy it
and that,
you haven’t used it for years.


Fire Ants

Two million ants in the basement and
you leave me sitting on the sofa
and writing a list
it’s not poetry on the page
it’s just me and three counts of
so sorry for your sake
but I burned the house down
I couldn’t think of what else to do.


Coming Right Up At You

The best coffee this side of town
sold right here
slaps you right in the head
Apologies for that little bit of attitude
aren’t forthcoming
Normally people are grateful.


Start It Off

The alarm didn’t go off
The morning
it was a nightmare a stinking nightmare
I can’t afford to be late to work
Twenty-one stories up
the shattered window
the glass raining down on the sill
shinny down the drainpipe
I go
belting away down the sidewalk
swinging up into the bus
the door shutting on the two inches of air
I brought in behind me



The dead tree
standing in its silver underskin
upright and tall
knotted and scarred
spattered with
insect holes dark and
from the ground up
through its twig tips
on borrowed time
waiting for the day
when the call comes
but for now
plenty of room to stretch
here in the sun
host a hawk along one
reached out


Poetry is Written in Words: Twenty-Six

Poems from my Merriam-Webster Word of the Day project. For more information, look here.

perceptible : capable of being perceived especially by the senses

The baby crying
her distress perceptible
and how it carries!
Louder than a fire siren!
(Maybe they should hire her? Hmmm…)

tanka 364 : 12/3/22

lachrymose : given to tears or weeping : TEARFUL

We stood there
small lachrymose group
our old car
hauled off to
the junkyard. Good-bye, old friend.
End of an era.

shadorma 482 : 12/7/22

festoon : to decorate, adorn – : to hang or form festoons on

On the floor
festoons of blond curls.
A small girl.
First haircut.
Scissors snip. The child unsure.
Is it tears or smiles?

shadorma 411 : 6/14/22


“Perceptible.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perceptible. Accessed 3 Dec. 2022.

“Lachrymose.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lachrymose. Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

“Festoon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/festoon. Accessed 14 Jun. 2022.