Featured Poems from Sand River


The following poems appeared in the chapbook, Sand River and Other Places I’ve Been from Finishing Line Press.  The book is now out-of-print, but the writer has several copies on-hand available for purchase upon request.


In the summer of 2010, my daughter turned two,
the heat blanket-thick, too hot to sleep, too moist to be awake,

wet behind the knees and in all the private creases.
Walking through the door, I stripped down to bra and panties,
baby down to diaper, and we ran
like blonde Cherokee through the house.
On the morning Leah passed,
a gray pigeon slammed into my classroom window,
the glass hip-high to ceiling, a twelve-foot expanse
of sunshine and crackling spiderwebs on impact.
The bird’s neck cracked a final bend as I tried
to pull eager students back from the view.
They did not know death when they saw it.
Disjointed with pale efforts and a drought of words—
A kind word uttered and repeated… a star
fallen from the blue tent upon the green carpet.*
I was nineteen when I met her
in the crisp fall of ‘96—
fresh soil and she was wisdom and water,
and her smile glittered so brightly I would just bask.
I want to be fluid for her,
give forth lines that make meaning of
‘helpless’ and ‘cancer.’
The darkness comes,
that place I dwell with nothing
left to pour forth—
In the depth of my soul there is a wordless song … it refuses
to melt with ink on parchment.*
My ink is the cracked residue,
the pigeon-cracked window.
She handed me The Prophet. “This is for you.”
and I said,
“Speak to me of friendship,”
And she answered, “Let there be laughter.”*
Down a white gravel lane, I once rode in a carriage
restored and preserved, her father silent beside me
as he drove some wide-open stranger his
daughter brought home like an eager stray.
How many of us had he seen?
I cascade with words and rain and
too many such moments
for coherence.
I remember that while I twisted
and struggled to be,
knotted around in my darkness,
she stood firm in the light,
no fear of the day,
and she just knew herself,
Perhaps she was saying, even as that gray bird
stepped off his branch into flight,—
Let me sleep, for my soul is intoxicated with love,
and let me rest, for my spirit has had its bounty of days and nights.*
I want to do right, frame her radiance so others will know
But I mourn, grieve rivers that flow from the center
and I watch pieces of me float away.
Then I remember fall twilight and crisp air.
I imagine she picks me up from the bookstore
in her ketchup red ‘62 Volkswagon.
I am nineteen and she plays mix tapes
of Leonard Cohen and the Beastie Boys
all the way out to Ponca lake
with our bottle of strawberry Boone’s Farm.
We sit on a musty car blanket and tell
stories under the stars.

  • from Kahlil Gibran’s Tears and Laughter
  • as first appeared in Chiron Review, Summer 2011
  • and then again in Sand River in 2012.

Blackwell, One Late Night

We sit in matching navy recliners, our feet sprawled out. We argue
over which show to watch next. I like “The Dog Whisperer.” You
prefer “House Hunters.” You stare at my naked feet.

When the shaking begins, I think a tractor-trailer has made a wrong
turn down our lonely street. But then the shudders continue, and the
hairs on my body raise, and I watch you lunge from your chair, the

footstool slamming back, and you turn, such devastation in your eyes,
so much helpless sadness, the moment seems to stretch out like taffy.
Too late, you think, too late to seek shelter, too late to pull your mother

from her bed, her bones thin and light, too late for me to cradle our
daughter, to carry our burdens along the length of the house, the
interminable hallway, back outside to the cellar. In your eyes, I see

the whipping tail of the tornado above our heads, the twisting damage
of the roof spinning down Chrysler Avenue, us strewn over the prairie
like spice sprinkled over the cook pot.

The quiver up through the ground stops gently, my bare feet now
next to yours. An earthquake, not an Oklahoma tornado, and we are
giggling at the absurdity and our own panic, but there’s a shadow on
your face, and I’m suddenly cold.

  • as appeared in Sand River, 2013

Afternoon at the Donut Hole

Part I
I can see Big Ed from Hydraulic,
and I wonder why we can’t do this
at his place or mine.
I wonder if he’s ready for me to meet his mom.
Does the wattle control the sound a rooster makes,
how loud would that be if they just
put a siren in the belly?

Part II
The smells find me as soon as I swing open the door—
crisp maple bacon, peanut butter, fresh coffee beans
I want tea,
something cinnamon
that makes me feel alluring and sophisticated.
I want him to smell me and the cinnamon
and think of Christmas morning and presents.
Tea is grown up,
and I am SOOO an adult now.

Part III
I sit across the enameled face of Mr. Rogers,
stare into the eyes of my love,
my soul mate,
and I want his face to crack like a Braum’s ice cream sugar cone
in the hands of a two-year-old…

The bastard.
I will never meet his mom.

  • as first appeared in Naked City, Aug 2010
  • and then w/ credits, in Sand River, 2013

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