greeting season

I often say I hate winter

my circulation sucks, I’m always cold

I’ve never had enough warm clothes

or warm enough clothes maybe

or maybe just warm enough thoughts

because in winter

everything dies

colors leave

everyone preaches

but

2022 was a fucking onslaught.

I don’t think I hate winter

the days are short, I’m always inside

I never have enough time

or enough quiet

or maybe just rest

yet in winter

everyone slumbers

colors stand out

everything changes

Warm welcome, winter.

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therapy poem 3: macho

I dread moments

when clients make me a topic

preferring to listen, to walk along side

but he said

“you’re the only woman I know

who acts the way

I think

a woman

should act

you know

kind and caring”

for a moment I forgot

that I was at work

that I was a therapist

that I had filters

“everyone should act that way”

I stated matter-of-factly

we are trained to restrain

preferences, opinions, advice, commands

I am seldom so direct

his eyes widened

I repressed the instinct to smile uncomfortably

or apologize

but then

after a brief

–and interminable–

pause,

he agreed with me

I mentally exhaled

and he told me

all

about the gentle, kind, caring self

he kept hidden from the world

after the world hurt that person

and our work

finally began

hourglass

You ask me who I am

Because I asked you if you know

Trying to ricochet my question

As if I can use this language to define myself

Something I didn’t ask you to do

I could show you, maybe

if you were looking

But first reconsider

the nature

of the question

Don’t you know yet?

if you do not see me before I go

if you do not see me before I go

here is what I hope you know

first, it’s okay – it’s really okay

whatever you didn’t get to say

second, the bulk of my life was very good

even if it didn’t end how you felt it should

do not allow an ending to eclipse the rest

I love you all and I’ve done my best

I’m sorry for any mistakes or pain

and don’t worry; everything circles back again

game show tv

as a child

I did not understand

the game show

friend or foe

two compete as one

a team

trivia or logic puzzles or the like

at the end, each chooses privately

friend or foe

two foe choices, all earnings are lost

one foe choice, aggressor takes all

two friend choices, an equal split

surely all can see

the only winning move is friend

it is the only way to ensure

someone wins at all

even if one mind keyed more locks

trust that the other hoped for other doors

luck may spotlight one mind

but kindness spotlights much more

whereas guilt-ridden theft

is indubitable ruin

again and again the show baffled me

as humans often do

bright

when my mind is aflame

with the knowledge of the stars

I am in awe and fear

will the light burn through my skull

small pinprick beams forming constellations

will my head make a nice lantern

where did the off switch go

it’s too warm to hold long

I go dim again

Jesus Girl

She knew my ex, though they weren’t exactly close.

She asked if I was studying the Bible and I said no.

(But I would.)

We had so much fun at her house, up in her room.

I remember how her hair wouldn’t stay neatly tucked behind her ear.

But I don’t remember any passages we reviewed.

We didn’t go near the so-called clobber verses.

She didn’t bring it up.

(But I would.)

One day, I crashed the party with, “I guess if there’s a chance I might offend god, I should just date men.”

And she said, “Yeah, that’s probably for the best.”

I stopped going.

We lost touch.

Years later, a mutual friend blurted out,

“You would never guess what Jesus girl said to me! She said if she was ever going to date a girl, it would have been you!”

Then He laughed.

And I didn’t.

(But I would.)

dirt

students overwhelmed spaces at my high school

back then its mascot was still “the confederates”

when we tried to change

the backlash was total

that year a lot of rebel flags

and angry bumper stickers filled the parking lot

horticulture class was in one of the overflow trailers

with an attached greenhouse

I signed up to be away

from all my advanced classwork and stress, sometimes

an elective, voluntary, for fun, as a hiatus around nature

to see something green, to see something grow

the class to which I was assigned was composed of 20 or so older kids

only one was another female, and she quickly stopped attending

the majority had been assigned, having no interest in any electives at all

they were boys psychologists would have diagnosed with “conduct disorder” or “oppositional defiant disorder”

it was not a good semester

within minutes each lesson, the teacher would send me away to the greenhouse

I would re-pot plants to the muffled sounds of her increasingly hoarse lecturing

standing at the edge of a table piled with soil

plenty of the guys were not too bad, really

(unless you were trying to be their teacher or make them take anything seriously)

two jokesters, black seniors who took no shit from the far outnumbering rednecks, had taken to calling me “itty bitty” in a bantering-but-brotherly tone

once, a camo-capped boy behaved uncharacteristically well in the morning

and got sent back to the greenhouse with me

he walked up behind me and pushed my torso and face into the dirt

he kept his weight on my back for a few seconds

slid his arms down my arms

said something I couldn’t hear through all the dirt around me or maybe in his voice

laughed

spit chew on the ground

left the room

after class, I asked the teacher not to put me back there with just one person again

exhausted and already crying from her morning’s futile labors,

she took in the sight of me, apologized, and agreed without asking any questions

fine by me

I stayed to make sure she was okay, as I often did

I was sometimes late to my next class – comments about this being unlike me were made often

I didn’t bother to explain

beyond noting horticulture was very far away from my usual halls

once, the teacher was very late to class and the boys got bored

they shoved me in a small space, along with an air freshener can that they’d rigged with a piece of toothpick to keep spraying

this caused a raucus class war, on the other side of the door

while I coughed in the dark and, panicking, struggled to end the aerosol onslaught

the jokesters pulled me out in a minute or two, no time at all apparently

I don’t know what they said or did

everyone treated them noticeably differently after that day

nobody messed with me again

though they never ceased heckling our poor teacher

when she came in that day

she didn’t even ask about the chaos of the room

she held a box of kittens she had been rescuing from under the trailer

like a lifeline

those belligerent boys spent the rest of the term

adamantly refusing to be taught or controlled

but also

bringing the kittens toys, food, blankets, litter, and treats

gently petting them and saying kind words

nobody is simple, I suppose

she told me she would have quit early that year if it hadn’t been for me and the kittens

I don’t know if that made it all worth it

but it makes me feel better

and still I hope she is doing well,

surrounded by thriving plants, happy cats, and various other things that grow just a little bit healthier

with some good dirt

Re Verse

I was on an island

in the Bahamas

before hurricane Sandy came

my first such trip, saved-for, carefully planned

I felt melancholy

trying to enjoy my 4 hours ashore

before they swept us back onto a cruise ship

for an ahead-of-schedule (and utterly miserable) journey home

I couldn’t manage enjoyment

imagining the fears of island inhabitants

stiff smiles that didn’t reach eyes

for the sake of a few dollars they were sure to need soon

I gave someone all of my cash

left the beautiful tourist area

walked around to the unkempt side

wild island plants strewn across sands without footprints

I glared at the approaching black mass hopelessly

then steered my heavy body

back to my intact home

I was on the Riverwalk

in Tampa Bay

before Hurricane Ian came

I felt a little melancholy

trying to enjoy my anniversary

before flying back off to safety

I managed it this time

the driver had said,

“Beautiful weather today, sunshine, nice breeze. Of course, it’s because of what’s coming soon.”

he was still happy about the day

his smile reached his eyes

I soaked up everything that made the area beautiful

knowing more than a sunset approached to end it

irrational as resenting weather is

I still spared a glare for the out-of-sight tempest

over the river somewhere

predicted to flood and rage through

I stayed up-to-date with the news

Tampa Bay “got lucky” a local reported

and I stared, stunned, at the photos

reverse storm surge

not everyone got so lucky as Tampa

not everyone ever will

every good day is someone’s worst

enjoy good days anyway

I temper relieved gratitude

with concerned compassion

try to move forward in kindness

but have the courage to look back

and take action

even small hands help

I told you

the next time

someone tells me

“I’m an asshole.”

I would believe

you

told me

nobody knows how

to be

with Gandhi

she had said

“it’s exhausting

to be

around such a good person

all the time”

I won’t apologize

for being

ever again

I know

you want to be okay

I, hope

for the same

you want my heart

but you cannot stand

the size of it

you want to hold it

in your hand

but

you can’t fit it in your sight

I told you

I showed you

I’m not what people see

opaque skin

stuff the light away

blinding

I asked if you knew me

you want to work

on it

I’ll work until I drop

it’s what I do

just say

go

worse

What is worse

than suffering?

Someone you care about suffering.

What is worse

than someone you care about suffering?

Being the cause of someone you care about suffering.

What is worse

than being the cause of someone you care about suffering?

Your good intentions and very attempts at kindness being the cause of someone you care about suffering.

But

Is it only worse because of your own experience?

I know nothing; I never even knew what I thought.

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One for sorrow

Two for fear

Red for flesh

Blue for tears

White for lies

Stripes for bars

Don’t forget to count the stars

April Showers

ninety nine percent

of the time

I’m fine but

every once in a while

it’s like my mind is on

fire and I need

a lifeline to guide

me, out of the sky

and back inside. But

my pride feeds me

lies about the eyes

of passersby and I

try not to sigh

as I shy from the type

of advice they’d supply.

“Don’t cry!”

“Just try!”

“Maybe next time!”

Not lies, just tired rhymes.

They beguile for a while

in line

with the design

of the wires

we all have to climb

just to get by

while others stockpile,

the same bile

and fake smiles

that will cause the dial of time to

stop.

who

You look.

You look like someone.

You look like someone I used.

You look like someone; I used to.

You look like someone I used to know.

You look like someone. I used to know who.

You look like someone… I used to know who cares.

You look. Like someone I used to know, who cares, anyway?

You look like someone I used to know. Who cares? Anyway, you look again.

wizard vs therapist (or, therapy poem 4)

when I was a child

I wished I was a wizard

it took a long time for me to realize

humans cannot be trusted with magic

greedy, short-sighted, violent

I became a therapist instead

(after a brief detour)

working with those same humans

vulnerable, well-meaning, overwhelmed

when they say,

“I need to process trauma”

or

“I wish someone cared about me”

my ears take in those needs

and together we get to work

but

sometimes

they say,

“I just need to pay my heat bill”

or

“There are no shelters taking anyone like me in”

my ears take in those needs, too

I want to respond helpfully

but my mouth cannot print money

for the first time

as an adult

I wish I was a wizard again

babies

you arrive screaming

what a terrifying thing

infinite potential for harm and kindness

more screaming, more and more, at all hours

like you know about this place already

I, on behalf of the shattered

then partially and insufficiently reconstructed

planet, apologize

what suffering will

you cause, alleviate, survive

and who will you blame?

completely dependent

requiring the most meticulous

blend

love and competence

balance

nurturing and nudging

every broken person

was one of you once too

I remember that every day

I chose them

for my laboring heart

and perhaps excessively conscientious mind

(someone has to choose them and you appeal to far more)

but for you

I offer deepest hope

meager resources

a desperate longing to protect

and bandaging when needed

I know

nothing could spare you

from the machinations of this world

still we share it

awe and fear

complexity and wonder

only fools see cute simplicity

you make everyone a fool

we are court jesters

desperate for your smile

however brief

Earthbound

trucks trailers and campers keep right

I steer none of these

but I move anyway

the right side of the bridge to see

a brief, uninterrupted expanse

where

sea and cosmos merge

the sun cannot draw a line here

calling it the horizon

fire and earth create such anchors

water and air are for floating

at night, this bay drinks darkness

by day, reflecting light

a void; a mirror

brackish, of course

who wouldn’t be?