The Street I Never Go Down

As is often the case, I sit here with good intent to write my end-of-term comments–a dry litany of repeated phrases dulled by. obligation–and find myself instead writing poetry, the stuff I would rather share with my students who already know that I care dearly about them; who know that I give damn about who they are, how they struggle and when they shine in their ragged testimonies of perfection. Nothing in my comments will ever be as new and real as my own journey to chart the nuances of my day. 

I live in a small town interwoven with roads I thought I often traveled, but one street caught my eye today–the long dead-end behind Haley’s garage–and I realized something I missed in these twenty years of suburban life.

It reminded me that I need to keep looking and not give up my greater job of seeking, and so became this poem–a simple exercise in counting syllables, which I hope they read this more deeply than the comments I about to write about them.

The Street I Never Go Down

Some old cart path I have never traveled, 10
Houses plotted onto unknown earth 9
Plushed in idosyncrancy 8
I avoid out of habit 7
More than benign intent 6
Or childhood fear, 5
And so promise 4
These last breaths– 3
remains 2
Of 1
This dry, 2
Regretful 3
Day of promise– 4
To live once more 5
In mysterious ways 6
Discerning shrouded secrets 7
Lurking like cats beneath porches, 8
The palpable breath behind drawn shades, 9
Somewhere on the street I never go down. 10

When the same thing happens again

When the same thing happens again

I wonder if God is testing me, giving
Me some affable warning
Or, perhaps, a more
Stern rebuke, replaying
A foolish mistake,
Rehashing and reminding me
Of a harsher possibility.

It is only a small 10 mm wrench tightening
A loose bolt on the throttle body,
slipping through the same gap
Between the carburetor float
And the cylinder head
And then leaning almost impossibly
Against the same tread
On the rear wheel.

It is enough to give me pause–
Enough to make me rethink,
Reflect and redo…
I am overtaken by
An almost visceral response
And reach for a 3/8ths inch wrench
With a ratcheting head.

It fits snugly and tightens smoothly.
“Damn English,” I mutter
And their stubborn recreation
of our same God.


I have been here before

I have been here before

Trying to pull a final day
Back into the night, execute
Some stay of time,
Some way to wrap
The fabric of Summer
Around the balky,
frame of Fall, sloughing
My skin, unable to stop
This reptilian ecdysis—
This hideous morphing
Into respectability.

My students, tame
As lab mice, won’t understand
My unblinking eyes,
The hissing of my speech,
The expansive hinge of my jaw—
Or my insatiable appetite—
Until I swallow them whole
Into my elongating belly, feasting
On their impeccable,
Transient joy.

Yesterday did not become a poem

Nothing became something else;
No thoughts filled my head
With wonder or wisdom.
Listless sky. Jumbled frames.
Fleeting images:
Chattering squirrels,
Distant rumbling
Of rush hour traffic.
Today I am more determined,
But all that is left
Is the promise
Of tomorrow.

How do I know

what I know?
The sharp angles
of this simple cottage
in every board sawn,
shingle split
and beam hewn
into place
goes together
placed, splined,
slid together,
bound more
by intuition
than knowing.

In the unfolding chores

The day sometimes slip away from me,
a huge pine half-bucked in the backyard,
the kids old tree fort cut into slabs,
a ton of coal waiting to be moved
in a train of buckets
to the bin.

Sipping cold water on the back deck
I hear Emma rustling for soccer cleats
and singing some country song,
probably hoping I will remember
that her part of the day
is also mine…

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