This is what you shall do

I read Whitman’s poem last night. Really a worthwhile read.

This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labors to others,
Hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
Have patience and indulgence toward the people,
Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
Or to any man or number of men,
Go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
And with the young and with the mothers of families,
Read these leaves in the open air,
Every season of every year of your life,
Reexamine all you have been told,
At school at church or in any book,
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul,
And your very flesh shall be a great poem,
And have the richest fluency not only in its words,
But in the silent lines of its lips and face,
And between the lashes of your eyes,
And in every motion and joint of your body.

Subtle Part of the Forest

In his story,
My student wrote:
“our parents decided to move to a more suttle part of the forest.”

Yes, he misspelled the word. 
And he was misusing it even if he spelled it right.

But I'm not taking points off.

Because now I want to move
To a more subtle part of the forest.
A place off the path,
But just off the path,
A place that everyone passes 
But not everyone sees.

A clearing bounded 
by pine needles and leaves.
Within, giving loamy earth.
The air
is the mingling scents of green. 

Sun light rays down 
Defining trees
Giving them their shadows.
Forest dust shapes the sun shafts
that shooting-star bugs plunge through.

Wires Tangle

A poem inspired by tangle wires
Wires tangle 

Like lives 

Like loves. 

Electricity twists wires 

Like lies twist minds. 

Wires twirl into one another 

Like legs intertwined.  

Wires find each other 

Like the time 

Even on that first day  

You just know  

You'll be best friends


Autumn Glory

I celebrate your splash of color 
Your delicate yellows 
Citrus orange 
Majestic Red 

I honor you, 
Because your changing hue 
Is the glory 
Of leaves dying. 

I will not forget your  
Verdant green 
Your spring and summer 
Wind dances 
Hushing and shushing together 
The brief glimpse of your 
Light underside. 

And trees 
I don’t blame you if  
You already shed your leaves. 

I’m tired too. 

High Meadow Lane


I throw the empty drawers 
Onto the pile in the dumpster. 

I turn away from the refuse, 
And look up at the family home. 
Somehow, still, my house. 

With the “Sale Pending” sign in the yard. 

I have a key for the Realtor's lock.
I enter through the back deck door 
Like I always did. 
Into the family room that I visited 
So many times 

Dad’s been gone awhile.  
But the ghost of his recliner 
Still fills its emptiness. 

I say hi to mom 
Because she’s only been gone a month. 
Her recliner is still there, 
So I can picture her better 
I say “Hi” again, and then I say, 
“But you’re not here.” 

 I walk through the kitchen 
Into the dining room. 
We have emptied the house so totally, 
That the few drapes 
And the one cabinet hanging in its corner 
Glare out against blank walls 

I turn to the stairway. 
The stair treads that mom hooked 
With her children’s profiles on them 
Are still there 
Secured with my father’s nails. 

I step on the silhouettes of my siblings, 

Up on the landing, I lean through the door  
Of my sister's room. 
Cable cords are in a snake bundle under the windows 
Hemmed back by hollow space. 

Still my sister’s room 
All these years later. 

I turn to  
Still my room. 
It is for a little while longer. 
And always 

The persistent bed and desk 
Hold their space in the past. 
The dresser with the record player. 
Ghosts of my clothes sloppying the floor. 

For a moment I am him. 
Or me.  
The me back then. 
Slipping out of my sneakers 
Without untying them. 

Dreaming my way out of a hated 
Scribbling high school poems 

Records spinning 
On the stereo 
Over and over so the grooves deepened.  

Typing poems, 
to be given 
to scattershot loves. 

Hours long phone calls with 
scattershot lovers.  
Tangling my fingers in the coiled cord. 

Even the great escape to college 
Was followed by the return  
at each break 
Head hung like a parole breaker  
returning to a cell. 

I come back to now. 
I shake my head. 
Those small turmoils 
Were so huge. 

It was hard, sure, 
But it was so easy. 

Dreams I’m still dreaming 
Bloomed in this room. 
Achievements I only glimpsed here 
Have been accomplished. 

Talking to me back then 
I say: 
“I made you proud. 
A lot of your dreams came true. 
I haven’t done all you wanted, 
but you know: 
I’m starting to believe that’s part of the point.” 

I’m back on the stairs    
Descending through emptiness. 
At the bottom, 
I cry enough to feel like 
I got that part done. 

I pause in the family room. 
It is already changing. 
Becoming not mine. 
Not my families. 

Always ours. 
Not yet the new families’ always. 

For them 
A space awaits.