Links 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 Necessary Myths or The Trouble with Rivers.
Blogger and editor Tim Ellison posted a very kind commentary on his reaction to my poem Falling in Love with a Fiji Mermaid. You can read his commentary here. The poem was published in the American Poetry Review, July 2014.
“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
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
I want to tell her
about the hawk nest,
how the mother spread
her stippled wings
and brought the chick a robin,
how those eyes followed me
as I paced the weeds around
the dead cedar tree
and the chick cried for more
as the tree shook—
the hawk disappearing
in the fog.
I want to tell her
the new child will cry
but we will carry her
to the garden and the spring
and one day she will fly too
and we will wonder
about things we lost,
forget about things we said,
footprints behind us in the snow,
feathers blown across the yard.
>from Miriam’s Well
Under the kill of snow and ice
grass lays stale around robin tracks.
nothing to keep them here in winter.
No connection or fight for boldness,
but gypsied grackles in storms
of ten or twenty feather my front yard,
clawing each other over scattered seeds.
What can I say about them anymore
than my own rude life allows?
Outside at the feeder those desperate birds
yap a dull cold beneath the tree.
For days I’ve done nothing but lean out
across the bed waiting for the one crow’s
So much for duty or the slow way
we dedicate ourselves to earth. First
he landed in a small fury, gawking
from the tender top branches, then stared
as if waiting to be announced.
I wanted to call him something new,
anything warmer than crow.
What I need to say is something
about the urgent position of sky,
how everything is blamed on weather,
as if winter intended for use to hope
as well as freeze. When the crow finally
swarmed down at that yard of grackles
the whole sky woke in a frenzy
calling itself storm.
Because I’m still here and the crow
is off looting some neighbor’s yard
I expect only more snow. The sun
will break unnoticed about the house,
and that means cold, then mud.
If I stay here admiring the obsessions
of winter birds standing like shadows
noticing nothing but themselves
then I have to say “good luck” in a voice
that makes most birds fly south.
>from RE Arts & Letters, vol XX, no 1, Stephen F. Austin State University
Car Plunges Into Susquehanna River
She screams. She screams. The water seeps
through seams of the auto windows. An aquarium view
of the river bottom. Bass push and poke.
She screams. She screams.
From the bridge the bubbles bubble,
and the rail tumbles, tangled with a tire
and the rear axle of her auto. A maker’s defect.
Crowds conspire to the scene.
People watch, and watch themselves.
But for the grace of God, (and good mechanics)
that could be us. Lean forward, lean back, don’t fall.
There’s room enough to see for all.
And what of her, clawing at the dash?
The muffled horn carries through waves
and startles carp who’ll mill for days later
after the men who tried to save her.
Sad girl. Sad river. Sad the water
flowing over back seat and gearshift.
Sad the way her hair bobbed and flowed
in the silty current. Sad the river goes.
>from Cumberland Poetry Review vol XVIII, No 2, Nashville
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
or dreams that begin
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
>from Whiskey Island Review, 1994, Cleveland State University
Tying Flies for a Friend
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.
Feeding the Lake
Perhaps the mallards knew
the sun was moving slower
this time of year.
Perhaps the last green vines
crossing the trail
never minded our heels
of if we stopped to look
up, seeing the sleek stretch
of geese angling toward
the cold lake and what
you spoke so softly
I couldn’t hear
but they all came at once—
gulls looping and swerving,
dashing bread from sky or water,
and then two masked swans,
heads up to our chests and hissing
after our hands.
Every bird from that lake
around us like camp smoke
following at every turn
till all the bread was gone.
We probably won’t return til spring.
The lake now frozen over,
perch and walleye drifting numb
through the strange dark
and the birds all scattered
through sky and wood, listening
to the creak as ice pushes
up the bank.
Far away now I listen
as you sleep, exhaling
any of the days last words,
the light smell of bread
falling on the sheets.
>from The Seattle Review, vol XIX, no 1
Saving The Marrow
If we remember the blue nights
when air felt like new kisses.
If we look behind to watch the leaves swirl
up in a whirlwind, scattering bright
and impatient on the street.
If we return to your parents’ house
to comb the attic for hints
of having touched there.
Then it is time to watch for signs.
To follow the dry map of our hands
along all the narrow roads
a sixteen-year-old drove
for the rush of nothing
but the a reminder
of the smooth arms
of that girl and the dream
of someone paying attention.
It’s all the same
and seems so now
when a strange voice
or the distant sound of footsteps
running through the yard at night
brings it back like
snapping a finger.
But weeds creeping up
over our shoulders
remind of the spent soil
we left behind
like reasons for
So in the secret bones
where we save the marrow
borrowed for a few short years
spent mostly now in chairs
we can sometimes taste
the spring of strong deer,
the length of leaves
mulched into something new.
>from Panhandler, No 28, Univ. of West Florida
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
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
>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 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
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