La Luna

I walk the path sometimes at night
through my yard to the house.
I take great care to maintain the yard;
nature responds with her blooming beauty.

On dark, moonless nights
little can be seen.

On this night, I turn the corner to
catch sight of her-
a bright smile in a sea of darkness.
I am enchanted, entranced,
enthralled by the moonbeams that
cast a new glow on this garden
very different than the light of day.

I forget my path, my yard, my home.
I gaze dumbly at the sky and dream
that I could float away
to live in the sky with her.

I spend my night outside,
to watch as she crosses the sky.
I forget where I am, where I belong,
until the sun emerges in the east.

The moon loses her shine in the light of day.
The spell fades quickly as I remember my home.


I was probably right to be nervous,
lying on my back, looking up at her,
when she began to smear Vaseline
all over my lips.

I grew very tense as she pushed, prodded, and
tried to work herself into the proper spots.

I gave myself orders:
Be loose.
Don’t forget to breathe.

She kept at it with force,
with determination.

She knew what she wanted to accomplish;
all the cooperation she needed from me
was that I stay still and let her work her magic.

My tongue had gone numb, but I thought I tasted blood.
When it was over, she gave me antibiotics.
She’ll take my stitches out in two weeks;

my gums should heal up nicely.

Delivering Papers

Winter in my childhood
was two solid months covered by snow—
late weekday evenings and early Sunday mornings,
long, empty sidewalks and quiet alleys;
my active young mind wandered aimlessly through fantasies
as my cold feet carried me purposefully along the daily route.

I stuffed the bottoms of my pant legs into the tops
of cheap plastic boots that sank well below
the bright surfaces of the snow.

Sometimes the flakes stopped falling
but held firm to the ground
while icy winds battered the upper layers
until they became a solid sheet.

If I stepped softly, slowly
I could walk across without breaking through.

Or, I could stomp a perfect foot-sized
hole, and use a stick to write my name by it.

Stage Fright

Every little sound echoes behind me
like whispers bouncing with the bright light
magnified because everything in the room
is white.

The paint on the wall in front of me is dull, flat,
but the ceramic tiles that cover so much
of the room’s cold surfaces
and the bright clean porcelain of the sinks
leave me feeling like I have a floodlight
at my back.

The squeak of a faucet handle,
the paper towels being ripped from the wall,
sound like missiles flying and crashing down
as I try to focus and relax.

The only touch of color when I entered this
restroom of deafening whiteness
was the deep yellow tint in the basins of so many

Every urinal, in fact, but the one directly in front of me.


Every time a big truck drives by
or a car door in the distance slams too loud
I wonder if it’s the sound of one coming.

I’ve been out here a year and
the first took the longest to hit.
Not long after, a couple came
within a week of each other.

When the shaking stops, we all
walk out of our offices, eager to check
on each other, and share our nervous excitement.

I rather enjoy it, I have to admit.
When I mistake a heavy coworker plodding
for the first moments of a tremor,
I feel let down when the ground stays still.

I long for a good quake, but all I get is phone calls
it’ll be longer than we thought before my fiancée joins me here
my teenage brother signed up to be a US Marine
my close friend’s cancer is back; he has less than a year to live.

I would rather have a slipped fault,
I’m not that concerned about safety.

I don’t know a thing about survival.

Winter Rain on a Sunday in a Small Midwest City

I rested on a lofted bed
in the single-occupancy dorm room
of my first lover.
I did not love her; it was just that she
had made it easy for me.

Others before her tried, but this one reminded me
of the first girl I really loved—light-colored hair and eyes
that smiled warmth, smart but not boring,
raised Protestant but agnostic, ahead of me in our teenage years, and
woman enough to show some affection but
feminist enough to make me earn it.
The two even had the same name,
though one was Jenny; the other, Jen.

I looked down at Jen from the comfort of her loft
to see her smiling at me in her papasan
chair. I wondered for a moment,
what I was doing there.

It was a cold and quiet Sunday evening;
Jen had made macaroni and cheese.


We had all we needed, but still found ways to want. We played football and smoked Marlboros and formed the first gang our tiny all-white town had ever seen. We stole warm cases of stale Old Milwaukee from the bowling alley and lit trash on fire in the patch of woods at the edge of a field behind the high school. We camped out behind each others’ houses on hot summer nights so we could sneak away and take joyrides in unlocked minivans. We wasted evenings at the little league ballpark trying to talk the concession stand girls into giving us sweets. We talked a lot about girls but spent our time picking fights with outsiders, or each other. We bailed hay for six dollars an hour and drank bottles of cold Bud Light with farmers. We rode dirtbikes and shot rifles. We thought we had nothing but soon realized we would eventually inherit that small town. We wished we wouldn’t.

Steps into Life

Admit that you’re human, that life can feel like it’s too much.
I’m just a regular guy. Sometimes I don’t feel like being around people.

Realize that others struggle, too, and might be able to help.
You seem to understand where I’m coming from. Maybe you could give me some pointers.

Commit to being a part of life instead of just surviving.
I know I’m not always going to feel like it, but I’ll take your suggestions anyway.

Take a good, hard look at yourself. Don’t be scared.
The truth is, I would rather masturbate than get to know someone new.

Tell the truth about who you really are.
I’m lazy, arrogant, and only care about myself. Or I’m just scared you might not like me.

Imagine yourself as you would like to be.
If I start acting like a friend, maybe we’ll get along. Maybe we’ll even like each other.

Ask for help.
I’m not sure how to do this. Don’t give up on me. Let me know if I make a mistake.

Think about people you haven’t treated well, and be ready to make things right.
Maybe I shouldn’t have blown you off the other day. I’ll make it up to you.

Make things right.
Let me take you for Chinese food, and we’ll talk it over.

Ask yourself regularly if you’re doing your best. If you fall short, fix it.
I didn’t answer the phone because I was watching TV. Maybe I can turn it off for a minute and call you back.

Stay in touch with why you’re doing this.
Life is short, and precious. Let’s use our time to give each other comfort and support.

At this point, you’re ready to help others do what you’ve done.
Admit that you’re human, and that life can feel like it’s too much.

My Space

There are a few good reasons, at least
not to take my laptop to bed.
But when I’m lounging on the recliner
watching youtube or reading fark,
sometimes I just feel like getting under the covers.

Much like my earliest experiences with cable television,
I stay up past my bedtime, my mind passive but not at rest
as sounds and images fall into my unguarded brain.
I wake up tired and sore, without energy or creativity,
and suffer through the day, waiting for another round.

Last night I almost went to sleep
but checked my email one last time, and then,
for the hell of it, signed in to myspace
in case I’d received a message.

I happened to see a link
to the list of people from my high school.
It’s been a while since the last time I looked.
With a single click, I cast aside an hour of sleep or more.

The glowing screen in the dark room
showed me pictures of faces I’d forgotten.
Some looked exactly the same, but I had to stare at others,
look deep into their pixilated eyes and search for a trace
of the memory, real or imagined, of a split-second smile
as we passed each other in the hallway at school.

My neck propped up on a folded pillow,
I read about the people I grew up with.
Support our troops. I have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Who I’d like to meet: Steven Hawking, Bill Gates, my dad.

I add them all as friends.
And when I wake up in the morning,
stiff neck again, I have messages waiting.
I realize that I only lost touch because I never had it.

Born Again

I was sitting at home when the call came;
I had the afternoon off and the house to myself.

I anticipated telling a telemarketer to get lost.

Instead I heard a shaky voice on the other end,
barely more than a whisper; after a few odd questions, she said:

“I think…I think you’re my mother…”

Thirty-four years later, and now I was back in that hospital room:
eyes bleary with tears so I couldn’t even read the papers I signed;
my shaky hand scribbling a signature that only resembled my own.

Thirty-four years later, and I still hadn’t figured out what I was going to say.
“Um…I hoped you might find me someday,”

My voice was barely more than a whisper, like hers,
but inside my heart screamed:

I just wanted you to be okay!! I just wanted you to be okay!!

“I hoped I would, too,” she whispered.

“Would you…would you like to meet?”
My body trembled the way it did
that day, as I went home without my child.

“I would love to,” she answered.