Monday, April 29, 2013

The Cruelest Month

How does one "be happy" during the cruelest month? Here are 30 suggestions: (In retrospect  I should have given these to you guys on April 1 to help you along. Sorry!)

  1. Surprise someone. I surprised Brooke with dinner. Since I got home early, I made chorizo tacos and rice and beans with all the fixings.
  2. Learn a new dance. "Puddle Dodger"'s a dance on a bike.
  3. Get dirty. Re-potted plants, rode bike in rain, deep cleaned house: check.
  4. Acknowledge people who serve you. I am a generous tipper when I go out to eat. When you've been a waitress you know.
  5. Make your baseball predictions. I predict many double-headers late in the season once the rain subsides.
  6. Enroll in a class that interests you. I should have taken a poetry class this month. I needed a peer group to workshop things.
  7. Prepare a meal you've never cooked before. Jesus and I made chicken shawarma and falafel for our Middle Eastern food night.
  8. Stretch and breathe. Ok.
  9. Walk in the rain. Impossible not to.
  10. Make a flower arrangement. As soon as we get some flowers around here!
  11. Make 3 wishes. Summer. Personal Yacht. Free food.
  12. Attend a baseball game. Maybe once it's warmer out.
  13. Start a book club. It's called the Will Someone Read What I'm Reading Club.
  14. Meditate. Ok.
  15. Account for everything you value. Like write a list? Didn't we just do that last month?
  16. Vary your exercise. Pass.
  17. Visit a museum. Waiting for summer free days.
  18. Do something excessive without guilt. Excess usually means food for me.
  19. Rent a foreign movie. I failed to do this. I rented some great American movies. I watched trailers for foreign movies--several documentaries and some Oscar winners.
  20. Clean your house from top to bottom. Spring cleaning! Brit and I did that a few weeks ago.
  21. Look a homeless person in the eye. I do.
  22. Do something you've been meaning to do. Bleach my hair, buy a desk, finish an art project...I was productive in April.
  23. Let everyone go ahead of you. I frequently let people cut in while driving...I believe in road karma, so if I let someone go ahead of me, I hope that when I need to make a left turn on Ashland during rush hour, someone else lets me go.
  24. Imagine something wonderful. An 80 degree day.
  25. Go hunting for bargains. Why go hunting when the bargains come to me? Thanks, Groupon!
  26. Do something for someone as if you were doing it for yourself. For me this means cooking.
  27. Tell someone you love him or her. Every day.
  28. Do a complete makeover. I bleached my hair!
  29. Avoid profanity/be polite. I do.
  30. Barter with someone. I barter with my roommates to decide who is doing what chores. I will do almost anything to not do dishes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The first nice weekend

On the first nice--weekend--day of the
year, all my neighbors are out
on their porches and balconies.
I forget how much I learn with just an
open window and the willingness to listen.
I hear the hoarder discuss her business travel--
two weekends each month--while above her
the new neighbors choose a cable provider.
The blond gardener eats a salad as she
reads, surrounded by her numerous
ferns and already-flowering foliage.
The circus neighbors continue
endless yard improvements--reseeding,
fresh compost, and several raised gardens,
but still plenty of room to practice flame throwing.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Please tell me
April is almost over
These poems are
Hard to write
Every day or even every
Third day and
I want to use a different form to
Capture my adventures.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chicago has wettest April on record

If you feel especially soggy these days,
don't feel bad. Chicago has wettest April
on record. There is nothing we can do
about your leaks, floods, and water damage.
Our April is the wettest on record. We
apologize for any inconvenience, but
there is little for us to do. Please take this
voucher, good for one sunny May.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Startler

I startle easily.
That is, I startle others with
a frequency
that startles me.
I'm not scary, not like
animals, dark-alley killers,
or bill collectors.
I don't hide around corners,
in nooks or behind doors.
I don't wait for you to
wander past me so I can
jump out with a yell,
arms outstretched,
laugh at your expense.
No, my method is subtle. My
footsteps are quiet. I don't take up
much space
in a room, and if you
don't expect
me to be there,
my presence is enough
to boost your
heart rate

Monday, April 22, 2013

homage to my hips (by Lucille Clifton)

homage to my hips
by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Forced Celebration

Like an inspired prank, or a purposeful
lesson, my car--not mine, the one I use
to buy organic groceries and chauffeur privileged children,
would not start today. Not a sound
came from her engine as I turned the ignition.
A dome light, left on the entire weekend (thanks to
privileged, forgetful children), sucked all life from the battery.
And so it was, on this Earth Day, I
walked to buy organic groceries and escorted privileged,
forgetful, and bummed out children on the train.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Egg Boiler (by Gwendolyn Brooks)

The Egg Boiler
by Gwendolyn Brooks

Being you, you cut your poetry from wood.
The boiling of an egg is heavy art.
You come upon it as an artist should,
With rich-eyed passion, and with straining heart.
We fools, we cut our poems out of air,
Night color, wind soprano, and such stuff.
And sometimes weightlessness is much to bear.
You mock it, though, you name it it Not Enough.
The egg, spooned gently to the avid pan,
And left the strict three minutes, or the four,
Is your Enough and art for any man.
We fools give courteous ear -- then cut some more,
Shaping a gorgeous Nothingness from cloud.
You watch us, eat your egg, and laugh aloud.

Ode to the Cason Burger

I had the best burger of my life last night. I want to write songs about it, but this serious/silly poem will do for now.

Thank heaven for the cow who
sacrificed herself for my dinner.
She was a beauty, and her meals of grass
became much more for me.
Sitting on that bun, buttered delicately
like a fine mist of dew on a peach,
her medium-cooked beef took me to
a place where tastes explode like fireworks
over the oohs and aahs of eager taste buds.
Don't let me forget the cow who gave her milk
for the camembert that melted over the beef
like a silk scarf draped over a lamp, adding
mystery and a hint of drama to the room.
And the pig--oh, what a pig, applewood smoked
until crispy and sweet salty, floating on that cheese,
the entire trio swimming in Dijon on arugula floats.
I could end here, the memory of a perfect burger
lingering in my mouth even the morning after--but
my memory won't let me leave out the surprise win:
ginger poached pears, poised and stoic, ushering
this burger into the hallowed halls of food legend.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Self and the Mulberry (by Marvin Bell)

The Self and the Mulberry
by Marvin Bell

I wanted to see the self, so I looked at the mulberry.
It had no trouble accepting its limits,
yet defining and redefining a small area
so that any shape was possible, any movement.
It stayed put, but was part of all the air.
I wanted to learn to be there and not there
like the continually changing, slightly moving
mulberry, wild cherry and particularly the willow.
Like the willow, I tried to weep without tears.
Like the cherry tree, I tried to be sturdy and productive.
Like the mulberry, I tried to keep moving.
I couldn't cry right, couldn't stay or go.
I kept losing parts of myself like a soft maple.
I fell ill like the elm. That was the end
of looking in nature to find a natural self.
Let nature think itself not manly enough!
Let nature wonder at the mystery of laughter.
Let nature hypothesize man's indifference to it.
Let nature take a turn at saying what love is!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Week End

Unending shards of glass cut my face,
melt and mix with my sweat.
I blink, the road changing instantly:
dry, wet, slick,
it reflects the orange streetlights as I
emerge onto Western Ave, congested with
rush hour stragglers and now the glass
turns to knives, no longer scratching, but
slicing into me. I don't feel my legs anymore.
I am only a face, blindly making my way

I woke up so early

The Whole Foods wasn't even open when I got there.
I had to wait in my car--not my car,
the car I use to get organic groceries--
while commuters fought to make the light
on Ashland. I watched from the empty parking lot
as traffic stalled, pedestrians crossing between vehicles
stuck in the intersection. I cleaned the garbage
from the car and wondered why I don't do
mornings more often.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Curriculum Vitae

A woman stands next to me,
contemplating the sprinkles and frosting
in the baking aisle at the grocery store.
Her basket holds marshmallows and cereal,
her phone balances on her shoulder:
"Let me call you back. I have an interview
in five minutes." She only hesitates a moment before
adding a bag of chocolate chips to her resume.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Some Days (a poem by Billy Collins)

Some Days
by Billy Collins
Some days I put the people in their places at the table,
bend their legs at the knees,
if they come with that feature,
and fix them into the tiny wooden chairs.

All afternoon they face one another,
the man in the brown suit,
the woman in the blue dress,
perfectly motionless, perfectly behaved.

But other days, I am the one
who is lifted up by the ribs, 
then lowered into the dining room of a dollhouse
to sit with the others at the long table.

Very funny,
but how would you like it
if you never knew from one day to the next 
if you were going to spend it

striding around like a vivid god,
your shoulders in the clouds, 
or sitting down there amidst the wallpaper,
staring straight ahead with your little plastic face?

Moving In

We have new neighbors.
They live across our bedroom window and appear
minimalist. Sparse furniture, sheer curtains,
scattered decor makes them seem torn
from a catalog. I have yet to see them in person;
I'm sure they're lovely.

Monday, April 15, 2013


For best results, they say, eliminate
sodium consumption, but I am not a snail.
I want Lot's wife to shake herself
over my soup. Give me a Roman soldier's salary,
I would march with Ghandi for independence
and flavor, anything to preserve
my sanity during a bland diet.
I don't mind water retention, I like my blood
with some pressure.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Just Listen

Loyal Readers,

You've been reading a lot of poetry this month, some mine, some not, some solid, some not--how about listening to poetry today? Here are some spoken word poems/slam poetry/poetry readings.

Marc Kelly Smith, "Slam Papi," founder of the slam poetry movement & Chicagoan:

Johnny Macrae, Canadian poet

Rives--this one almost made me cry.

Saul Williams, poet/musician (at their hearts, they are the same thing though, right?)

Franny Choi


I chewed two
pieces of gum this week.
I know it's not
fruit or vegetable,
but I think we
can agree it's not bread
or cheese either.

Friday, April 12, 2013


My bank decided they could trust me
with a credit limit of $1,000.
Me, the one who sort of paid her taxes today.
(I didn't read the last few pages of the online e-file instructions.)
Me, the one who whines when she is hungry, hot, or tired--
never mind all three, then I'm not even me, but a nasty creature,
a temperamental child, a force of nature that no one deserves to meet.
Yet: my bank trusts me with credit.
I eat lemon bars and bagels for breakfast,
drink wine and have chocolate chips for dinner,
order new contacts online in the middle of the night,
sleep with several stuffed animals.
Still: my bank trusts me with credit.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Blue Line

We shuffled onto the train,
somber as a funeral procession,
and rode into the city.

The gray sky and fluorescent lights
washed us out:
we looked like bored ghosts,
riding endless tracks in the not-yet-daylight.

When the train descended
underground, we looked
more alive, as if the earth pressing down
held us together.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Silver-Lined Heart (by Taylor Mali)

I'm currently working a poem that lists: dos and don'ts, beliefs, rules, what I'm for and against, and this is one of the model poems I've found helpful. It's a tough line to walk, between uplifting and cheesy, and Taylor Mali toes it here. I don't care. There are too many sweet little nuggets: the image of champagne flutes in a car trunk, the idea of celebrating "long, cold winters" (HA), and the simple inspiration of "And as far as writing poems goes,/I guess you should." Yes, yes I know. I should.
Silver­‐Lined Heart
by Taylor Mali
I’m for reckless abandon
and spontaneous celebrations of nothing at all,
like the twin flutes I kept in the trunk of my car
in a box labeled Emergency Champagne Glasses!
Raise an unexpected glass to long, cold winters
and sweet hot summers and the beautiful confusion of the times in between.
To the unexpected drenching rain that leaves you soaking
wet and smiling breathless;
Here’s to the soul‐expanding power of the universally
optimistic simplicity of the beautiful.
See, things you hate, things you despise,
multinational corporations and lies that politicians tell,
injustices that make you mad as hell,
that’s all well and good.
And as far as writing poems goes,
I guess you should.
It just might be a poem that gets Mumia released,
brings an end to terrorism or peace in the middle east.
But as far as what soothes me, what inspires and moves me,
honesty behooves me to tell you your rage doesn’t move me.
See, like the darkest of clouds my heart has a silver lining,
which does not harken to the loudest whining,
but beats and stirs and grows ever more
when I learn of the things you’re actually for.
That’s why I’m for best friends, long drives, and smiles,
nothing but the sound of thinking for miles.
For the unconditional love of dogs:
may we learn the lessons of their love by heart.
For therapy when you need it,
and poetry when you need it.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
I’m for hard work, and homework,
and chapter tests, and cumulative exams,
and yearly science fairs, and pop quizzes
when you least expect them just to keep everybody honest.
For love and the fragile human heart,
may it always heal stronger than it was before.
For walks in the woods, and the for the woods themselves,
by which I mean the trees. Definitely for the trees.
Window seats, and locally brewed beer,
and love letters written by hand with fountain pens:
I’m for all of these.
For Galway Kinnell, and Rufus Wainright,
and Mos Def, and the Indigo Girls,
and getting closer to fine each and every day.
For the integrity it takes not to lightly suffer fools.
For God, and faith, and prayers, but not in public schools.
I’m for evolution more than revolution
unless you’re offering some kind of solution.
Isn’t that how we got the Consitution?
For charm and charisma and style
without being a self­‐important prig.
For chivalry and being a gentleman at the risk of being called a male chauvinist pig.
I’m for crushes not acted upon, for admiration from afar,
for intense sessions of self love,
especially if they make you a nicer person.
I’m for the courage it takes to volunteer, to say “yes,” “I believe in this,” and “I will.”
For the bright side, the glass half full, the silver lining,
and the optimists who consider darkness just a different kind of shining.
I’m for what can be achieved more than for what i would want in an ideal world.
I’m for working every day to make the world a better place
and not complaining about how it isn’t
So don’t waste my time and your curses on verses
about what you are against, despise, and abhor.
Tell me what inspires you, what fulfills and fires you,
put your gaddamn pen to paper and tell me what you’re for!

Statement Pieces

My neighbor, the hoarder, currently has three clocks on her mantel
separated by a stack of books, a ballerina figurine, and a kitchen pan.
A giant orange kimono hangs on the wall above.
Her desk, which is also her table and home to bowls filled with unknown substances,
various articles of clothing, and an old-timey handheld telescope,
sits behind her couch. I think there is a couch there, among
overgrown ferns, half-assembled shelving units,
one of possibly two or three cats,
lamps, blankets, decorative tins, empty booze bottles, and collectible plates.
In her yard, 38 unique plant holders hold just dirt and the dry brown
remnants of last year's garden.
One of the plant holders is a bedpan.
Two are shaped like chickens, with holes in their backs
where a plant should grow.
The first leans precariously on a compost pile, resting its head on the tarp-covered grill, while the other
sits on a cinder block, weedy grass growing around her like a nest.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


11:30: leave apartment, forget deodorant.
3 beds made
3 loads of laundry
dinner for 3 prepped and prepared
1-800-CALL to return 3 pairs of stockings and exchange 3 more,
and can we get the hole in this jacket fixed?
Target: return Cap'n Crunch and Arnold Palmer,
we have no need of those two.
Stand in line at post office. Pay with cash.
Whole Foods:
2 kiwis
1 dozen eggs
3 pears
1 bottle of ketchup
1 red pepper
a handful of carrots
Pick up 13-yr old.
Drop off 13-yr old.
3 navel oranges, no bag I'll just juggle them to the car.
Fill up with gas:
8 gallons and several hundred rewards points, never redeemed.
Ride home: Damen, Webster, Leavitt, McLean, alley, Armitage.
Eat dinner, or don't, or sort of do, then give up and snack all night.
11:30: fall asleep, forget to brush teeth.

Love Hungry For Itself (by Taylor Mali)

Love Hungry For Itself
by Taylor Mali
I love my wife, but I have never loved her
the way she deserves to be loved.
Nor has she loved me in the same way.
Once, we went to bed together
too tired to do anything but kiss,
which we did with our lips drifting.
But after the first dream, love hungry
for itself, we found ourselves making more
with great desire and the divinity of dark.
Leave me this great imperfect love
in which the body knows to seek
what the heart does not think it needs.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Perfect Wife

I can put dinner on the table--
not just food. Dinner:
hot, colorful, food pyramid-approved.
While you eat, your laundry sits on your (freshly made) bed--
washed, dried, folded, ironed.

I can clean a bathroom, change a light bulb, program a TV remote
--but that's nothing compared to how I
replace a water filter cartridge, rewire a closet light, or plant a garden.

I will decorate a Christmas tree,
hand out Halloween candy,
hide Easter eggs,
wrap birthday gifts,
buy Valentine's Day chocolate,
and return any/all of these items when
you decide you changed your mind...
so you don't have to.

You just worry about winning the bread;
I'll worry about baking it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cruising Music

A man plays a harmonica in his car while driving down my street.
I rake last fall's dead leaves from the yard and think:
That's poetic, but dangerous,
making your own cruising music.

The Dream Keeper (by Langston Hughes)

I love the image of someone keeping my dreams "Away from the too-rough fingers/Of the world." 

The Dream Keeper
By Langston Hughes

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamers,
Bring me all of your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

This is Just to Say (by William Carlos Williams)

One of my favorite poems. I love "found" poetry.

This is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Saturday, April 6, 2013


I can't write today because
I'm cleaning my windows
There's laundry to fold
I want to use curse words willy nilly
All I want to write about is
Failed relationships
Secrets from my diary
Bathroom humor
I haven't had enough experiences
I've never been to Paris
I'm not a mother
I didn't read Anna Karenina
I don't live in the woods
I have to wash my hair.

Token Poem

We are only one week into this challenge
and already I'm poring over my Poet's Companion
looking for inspiration.
I'm more comfortable sitting with the poems inside
than sitting with the poetic voice I've developed--
I don't hate it so much as it annoys me.

Each exercise entices me,
makes me think
Yeah. Yeah, I could do that.
Then I try and realize
it's not as easy as I think and
is this really all it takes?
"It" being poetry
writing, crafting, composing

and no.

Friday, April 5, 2013


I dropped my phone in vinegar yesterday
now the keys don't always work.
I send strange messages:

Wats hapenig tonght?
here are yo?
Yum izza.
I loe you.

I'm a little worried
no one seems to notice.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

still unfinished

"Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you" - Roger Ebert
If my emotions never lie,
then the truth changes--
contradicts itself even--
several times each day.

that is okay. Because, in the words
of John Keats and his Grecian Urn,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

No where does he say:
truth is permanent
there is only one beauty
you have a lot to learn--

A Poem by a Poet

Because it is National Poetry Month, I'm writing a poem a day until the end of April. So are various other poets, amateur and professional (read: paid). Taylor Mali, one of the pros, is posting his poems on his blog as well, but this is one he wrote in January. I am a fan.

What You’ll Look Like When You’re Abducted
by Taylor Mali
This morning, I asked if I could take your picture
to have when we travel so that when you’re abducted,
I’ll be able to go straight to the local police and say,
This is what she looks like. Please, help me find her!
You who had just awoken laughed and said doing so
would likely make the police consider me a suspect,
which I said I could live with, having nothing to hide.
I’m an organized man. I just love you and want you back.
You looked unconvinced and sleepy still, but perhaps
remembered how once, decades before I ever knew you,
an official at the American Embassy told me the only thing
stopping her from issuing me an instant emergency passport
(to replace the one I had lost while on a camel safari in Kenya)
was two regulation passport photos, two simple photos, which
could be obtained from any copy shop or photography studio
I might be able to find open. In Nairobi. On a Saturday night.
I asked you if you wanted a shower before I took the picture.
Perhaps a chance to put on makeup. And I’ll be damned
if I didn’t fall deeper in love with you for saying, No.
My hair is filthy and disheveled. I’m tired and need my coffee.
Take the picture now.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Why is the wind always at my face in this city?
It pushes me back, forces me to work to get where I go.
It's a success that I get anywhere at all.

When I was a kid, I loved it--
the wind blowing against my face,
my hair dancing around my head.

Now I wish the wind pushed me
to my destination.
I don't need its help to feel like a model.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I dreamed about a job interview.
It went like this:
they suggested I let my hair down,
asked me to join them for a meal.

Before I found out if I got the job,
the interviewers turned into children:
they ate everything on my plate.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Every Mess Has a Silver Lining

Dirty laundry means I just got back from vacation.
Piles of books mean I'm never bored.
Dirty dishes mean I enjoyed a home-cooked meal.
Candy wrappers mean I had dessert too.
Exhaustion means I had a full day.