Me at MACLinks to the original journals are provided where available (note: for some reason I can’t get stanza breaks to always work in WordPress). Some of the poems here can be found in my books Muddy Dragon on the Road to HeavenReckless Constellations, The Magician’s Handbook,  Necessary Myths, or The Trouble with Rivers.




“He Knows What Makes Old Men Grumpy” in Superstition Review

“Elegy for a Turkey Vulture” appears in Bear Review.

“Walt Whitman at the Armory Hospital” in The American Journal of Poetry

“for these dead birds sigh a prayer” in Museum of Americana 

Two poems in About Place Journal 

Two poems in Watershed Review

“Gravity” at Split Rock Review

“Muddy Dragon on the Road the Heaven” in Superstition Review 

Two poems in issue 21 of Gulf Stream Magazine

“January” in Barren Magazine

“Trouble Light” in Cortland Review

“Vanishing Point” in Verse Daily

“Hexenkopf Hill Road” in Gravel Magazine

“Tree House Hill” in Foliate Oak Magazine.

“Ode to Hellgrammites” in Cider Press Review.

“Things She Couldn’t Let Go Of” in The Cumberland River Review.

“Confessions of a Snipe Hunter in Crab Creek Review.

“Tumble Brook” in The Kentucky Review.

“Belly Full of Bees” in The Good Men Project.

“Catch and Release” in Two Hawks Quarterly.

Two poems in the summer 2016 edition of The MacGuffin 

“For You My Love, Alchemy” in Amaranth Review

Two poems in the July 2016 edition of The Red Earth Review (Oklahoma City University)

“Bluegill” in vol 53 of The Southern Poetry Review.

“Ode to Scrapple” in Philadelphia Stories.

“Going Back” at Hawaii Pacific Review.

Two poems, “The Good Lie” and “Ode to Bats” at Superstition Review (Arizona State University).

“More Advice for My Daughters” in Issue 5 of One (Jacar Press)

Two poems at Marathon.

“Kabir Says” at Mason’s Road.

“Finding Water On Mars” at Split Rock Review.

Two Poems at Cheat River Review.

My poem Sick House published by Heron Tree.

A new poem called Water Girl featured in Cider Press Review.

Here’s a new one, The Catfish Nights, just posted in The Cortland Review.

To a Miscarried Brother, in Philadelphia Stories Magazine.

Two prose poems (or flash fiction) in The Citron Review.

* * *

The Man Who Works at the Swiss Hand Grenade Factory Loves His Family

And they love him back,

like a still life routine

as he walks in the door

each evening, hangs his coat

on the hook next to the backpack

his oldest son takes to school,

and his little daughter smiles

up at him from her puzzle—

unicorns preening in a field, they’re

touching noses, the unicorns,

and he reaches down to feel her

hair streaming over the back

of her neck, her skin the color

of halved pears, she so full

of everything now, the unicorns,

her father’s love, there’s food

simmering in the kitchen

and the day’s mail on a table

under a lamp he bought in Bern.

Outside the sun beginning

to fall past the living room

window casts a red light

on his eyes for a moment,

so he closes them, while

in Damascus a man pries open

a crate of hand grenades,

passes them out to other

men who take them into

the streets where Swiss

sunlight will burst

all over the morning.

>From Necessary Myths 



A slight rain moistens the yard

like lips parting to speak.

Night passes a blue hand over the window.

She is sitting in the kitchen, mourning the child

and waiting for the murmur in her head

to stop.

All month wind has battered the siding.

Crickets are gone.

Dawn is gone.
The taste of iron like blood

has made a home in my mouth.
When the hot stove ticks

the expansion of metal and air

I wonder what lies hidden

in veins, in the tissue

holding us together.

My throat wants to swallow

and move on.

My body wants to love another body

but can’t find a way.

>from Cortland Review.


Waiting for a Son


My pockets fill with a used up field,

some split jawless skull, some spent rifle shell,

some widowed rock of creek bed and the yellow

moon-skinned insect creeping up a branch.

The wind here smells like rats. I know the child’s

gonnna die soon. I know it’s a long walk to the bed

and the broken window where the tree sings

looks like a shiny mouth.

I would kiss the wet sheets where the she screamed

in labor. I would lift the bastard sap

with a still wombic heart like a small bird

I could squeeze into fits,

but the many fingered nights of my life

wrap around me now like the full-fanged snakes

I snap for belts. Seven months and nothing to count on

but pebbled of breast milk and a new grave.

So I kick the scattered traces of a fox’s fresh kill,

walk the few hours that she keeps the lamp lit,

while it wheezes like a kettle growing colder.

There’s always work to do. I’ll burn the fields tomorrow,

thinking of the ways I’ve waited for a son.

>from The Wisconsin Review, vol 27, no 3, Univ of Wisconsin




The Sea Mother

Sometimes the wind

makes the sound of children

calling for milk.

My daughter, you will ask

about the risk, the distance

it takes a life to sail

out of the bay.

Remember your father

and the sweet lick

of shells on his hands

or the way sand

clung to his legs

like a webbing of frost.

There is nowhere

you can go

where the sea

will not find you.

Your bed stricken

with the lather

loves brings

or dreams that begin

with salt.

Some day you will return

to the house

and wish for waves

like small hands

that can touch

the places you have never


and I will be here

in the last brackish light

of sea birds

telling you everything

you believe

is true.

>from Whiskey Island Review, 1994, Cleveland State University


Tying Flies for a Friend

by Grant Clauser

The time isn’t anything of course,
or the hair plucked from a rabbit’s cheek,
feathers pulled from turkey wing, mallard neck.
Each thread pull, each twist,
tight against the steel hook
the barb surgically sharp like a threat,
the promise of a deep jaw set.
I haven’t seen you for years.
I hear your legs are gone,
the fight, gone too.
And yet I’m here at my desk,
tying flies and thinking of the moon
on the Bushkill, pale evening duns
lifting off the water like ghosts
while rainbow trout slipping in and out
of moonlight, gorge on velvet insects.
The water, cool against my hand
as I release the trout, one swish of the tail
and it’s part of the night again.
You laughing under the willows,
a pair of bats flying just above your head.
I twist a little bit of that night
into each set hackle, into the wings
cut from flight, into life.

>from Philadelphia Stories


What My Wife Doesn’t Know About Bass Fishing

Sometimes you have to wait for hours

or come back to the same olive hole for weeks.

Learn the names of plants–aurum, touch-me-not,

the leather leafed swamp rose and purple scent of skullcap.

Think fondly of insects, talk to yourself about moss

and the tendency for stumps to know more than they let on.

Count on rocks to move suspiciously under you,

and consider the challenge of wind.

Know the false habits of water, what can hide in a ripple

or swell like shame the instant it breaks waves.

Be wary of strangers, especially birds surveying the bank for snails.

but mostly prepare for lightning,

The kind that begins deep along a fine line of cattails

like a sudden emergency of water snapping away

what’s left of your patience,

committing you fatally to the spot.

>from Gray’s Sporting Journal/Gray’s TV.





for Keith Sheaffer

I know why, from textbooks,

some of the stars over my yard

appear blue, while others shine yellow

or red or phase in and out of sight completely.

I know how the earth moves,

how rocks shift and crumble, how these small stones

below my feet seem to have arrived

as if by legs, and I know how cells spread

along a spine, cancer, drilling into bones

meant for dancing.

And yet, it’s still a wonder to stare,

to think about the vast space between us,

between earth and star, light

and the dark stomach where rock is born,

and even the corrupt strands of DNA

gone haywire, radically dissolving

their nature—

so that like everything else, it’s almost too easy

to remain speechless, to fold my hands

across my lap and talk to you

instead about the stars, the earth,

the garden I will plant in spring

for a harvest that will come

without you.

>From Schuylkill Valley Journal, vol 32


Watching It Leave

The first killing frost

draws water from the last leaves

like a sunset pulling its light

from a forest.

I won’t cut the grass again

til June, won’t touch

the shears hanging in the shed,

or sit by the pond

with a glass of wine

and the scatter of dragonflies.

When you think

you have finished something,

you’re wrong.

You will never do everything

on your list,

and the moment you see autumn

lose it’s stolen hour,

the hour when a heron

turns its dagger mouth

away from the pond

and leaves, you know

what empty means.

You know regret

as the sound of cicadas

typing furiously their songs

in the pine trees,

how they pace their fury

by seasons, their seasons

by years and their years

patiently catacombed

in the soft earth.

When it comes, winter

with its first cold fires

like nails in the door,

be ready, be something

holding warmth in its belly,

waiting for a signal

to call it home.

From Schuylkill Valley Journal, vol 32

follow me on twitter @uniambic

4 thoughts on “Poems

  1. Thanks Cleveland. I hadn’t looked at “The Sea Mother” in years, but came across it when putting old journals on a new shelf.

  2. “What My Wife Doesn’t Know About Bass Fishing” is such a good poem. I’m not a fisherman at all – last time I went fishing was fishing for Sunnies with my dad when I was seven – but this poem is really pretty and evocative. Just wanted to say that out loud. Found your page by tracing you out from your Philadelphia Stories poem this month (Want of Fire).

  3. Thanks Thomas. That poem appeared in a sportsman TV show read by someone with a real good-old-boy voice (not me). I’d post the link to the video but I lost it a few years ago and can’t seem to google it up. It’s one of the few publishing credits I was actually paid for.

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