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.

Poetry is Written in Words: Twenty-Five

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

cloying : disgusting or distasteful by reason of excess…also : excessively sweet or sentimental

It was his
cloying aftershave
that sank his
I’ve always thought. Who needs a
a lifetime of stink?

shadorma 467 : 10/21/22

rancid : having an unpleasant smell or taste usually from chemical change or decomposition

I wished those mean girls
deep into a garbage can
rancid and oozing
decked out in curled necklaces
of rotting banana peels

tanka 336 : 9/15/22

brackish : : somewhat salty… (also) not appealing to the taste

another late lunch
I eat alone. Brackish sludge
in a crazed-glaze bowl
thick rim chipped and abraded
washed and dried too many times

tanka 318 : 8/4/22


“Cloying.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cloying. Accessed 21 Oct 2022.

“Rancid.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rancid. Accessed 15 Sep. 2022.

“Brackish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brackish. Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

One Dozen or So From the Archives: Episode 10

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.

Bicycle Thief

The bicycle has a flat tire
has been in the garage for two years
with a flat tire
is never going to leave the garage
flat tire or not
You see how it is.
Surely now would be a good time
for someone
to want to steal a bicycle
and solve this problem for me.


Evolution of a Straight Line

Started off as a sway
a tilt became a slant
progressed to full-out diagonal
This tree and gravity
Two parts of a triangle
on the way to folding up on itself.


First One Awake

First the bathroom light
never the bedroom.
Don’t wake up anyone else
anyone who still has time on the clock.
Then the kitchen.
Just the light over the sink.
You want to take your time
turning up the lumens
at five-thirty in the morning.
Let the sun do that for you
against the closed curtains
you open to let in
pale squares slanted across
the kitchen floor.



The room so quiet
a luxury of silence
and it’s all for you
as much as you want
this volume of space filled
with nothing
Overflowing. Take both hands
pull toward you
and again
as many times as you do
it will renew itself
for you.
in the healing presence
of enfolding absence
in the generosity of alone
in the relief of being
in silence.


I Had a Vision

I want to paint sun and trees and moon
people dancing
houses full of furniture
kitchens and tables
dishes in the sink
Cars at the gas station
swimmers in the pool
sunbathers on the beach
a flock of birds
that carry a message
to a woman sitting in a wood
Nothing saleable
the right person comes along
and gasps in recognition
and not
Not nobody who has a dollar ninety-eight
and thinks this one here will do fine
above the sofa because
it matches. People
have seen plenty of
what they have already seen
but not of what
I’ve got to show.


The Extravagance of Infinity

The endless flat green sea
ending here with me.
I am the center.
Just beyond the surf
I put my feet down
shaping them to
the cool ridges
of the sandy bottom
the endless flat green sea.



Marriage cut down on the traveling
paid off the role-playing end-game
convinced me that I wanted orange
never to answer the door after midnight
and it’s Friday and I need ninety grand
Has anyone seen my suitcase?
It was a gift from my husband.



I peel the onion
uncover a stone
split it in two
a walnut
its core filled with seeds
spilling out raindrops
flickering in the sunlight
the least little bit
with laughter
at me
and my desire to peel
the onion



Slicked-up roof tiles
red turned silver
in the straight-down pelting-hard rain
all along the rows stepping up to the ridge
turn their backs
to the flat gray sky



Can the bush
so bowed down in the rain
the weight of the white blossoms
yesterday such an attraction on a sunny day
now bending the branches to the ground
Can it come through
Can it raise itself to the sun
Can it?



I took a bite of that cake
so sweet
so delicious
the more the better
Cut me another slice
I cannot raise my fork to it.


When Then

I liked being ignorant.
If I look back on things
Having no idea of anything
I was happier
and maybe better off
most of the time
There’s no substitute for it
that state of being in the dark
it was a great place to be
having no clue
living unseeing and stupid.
Now I’m smarter
understand clues
see in the dark
I’m going to tell you
I’d turn around right now
if I could.


Poetry is Written in Words: Twenty-Four

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

speculate : to meditate on or ponder a subject : REFLECT

eyes narrow
assessments begin
I see it
I feel it
You speculate. You conclude.
In silence I wait.

shadorma 486 : 12/23/22

eleemosynary : of, relating to, or supported by charity

The will. The long word.
Eleemosynary. What?
A cat charity?
That’s where Grandpa’s fortune goes?
It’s time to start meowing.

tanka 391 : 2/1/23

despot : a ruler with absolute power and authority

With his permission
we exist. The cat rules us
as the mood takes him
A somewhat benign despot
his claws clicking on the floor.

tanka 393 : 2/8/23


“Speculate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/speculate. Accessed 23 Dec. 2022.

“Eleemosynary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eleemosynary. Accessed 1 Feb. 2023.

“Despot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/despot. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Poetry is Written in Words: Twenty-Three

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

waggish : done or made in waggery or for sport : HUMOROUS

the needles
wind their waggish way
through the yarn
an absurd blue
rolling chuckles off the balls
into smile-shaped scarfs.

shadorma 429 : 7/20/22

facsimile : an exact copy

Tried to remember.
Could not. Details turned and fled.
Time to fabricate –
reel out facsimile facts
Yarn-spin and weave some whole cloth.

tanka 333 : 9/9/22

motley : variegated in color

the box burst open
disciplined yarns wound in balls
a gleeful escape
the motley twists of color
tangle the living room floor

tanka 361 : 11/29/22


“Waggish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/waggish. Accessed 20 Jul. 2022.

“Facsimile.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/facsimile. Accessed 9 Sep. 2022.

“Motley.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/motley. Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

We’re Due to Hear from Them Again

We’re Due to Hear from Them Again

As early as
Tomorrow the
Circles that have been forming
They will intersect
the offers of Vague Hospitality
will increase to
High Velocity
and Hammer us

Protrusions will be
smoothed and polished
Their Basic Design
will Shape

In here
the Eyeballs will roll
the hands will make motions
as if to tear out Hair

Not another Mind-numbing
dinner party with


Little Vines 3/4/23

How about a visit from the Vines? Say hello.

Two turquoise rings I inherited from my aunt
slipping around on my skinny fingers.
I wash dishes in a cloud of suds.

Standing in the rain
The sun
And it does exist
What would it look like to you now?

The radio blares out a melody
Someone shouts the words
to a whole different song –
Good enough.

Your brother
and his story.
Well-rehearsed. Dramatic. Festering.

Absolutely nothing could make me look.
I was sure.
I looked.

Not of the earth
this mist that is clearing
No, it fell from the stars.

the just-right tight
Sins + alchemy
black velvet gown

get inside the remarkable qualities of
and late in the day disobedience

It’s mad worship
what she requires.
Pay attention.
Like I didn’t.

you wonder if
even in the pouring rain
but I can’t tell which is which.

The sun
A turquoise circle
High in a yellow sky

A dim blue light.
Three eggplants? Three eggplants?
I was hoping for a beer.
I slam the fridge door shut.

the writer tired out from a day of
pushing nouns and verbs
into marriages of convenience

Winter separates them
Those who were here
Those who survived

We are simply a fellowship of round shapes
rolling free and easy on the open road but
You may know us better as “tires”.

being small and young
in flannel pajamas
five minutes from bedtime