for people who break into song in real life

Category: Poems (Page 1 of 7)


Grandmother grew tulips, and I learned
They were for outside admiring when I picked
A bouquet of them for her. When the days turned
Warmer, these red and yellow bells in strict
Rows played music inside my stomach. They looked
Like gelato on a stem, if I had known
What that was–like God had gleefully cooked
A pan of custard for a rainbow ice cream cone
Display. I still think they should be edible.
Have you ever felt that? Something so fully
Joy and carbonation that the only credible
Action was just to eat it? Just me?
“Look what I brung, Grandmother!” “Brought brought brought!”
It wasn’t just grammar, but springtime and pound cake you taught. 🌷

Badass Prime Driver

You were kind to me when I was a frightened
Freshman gripping my backpack straps trying
To disappear into lockers. Your smile lightened
My textbook adolescent load. Lying
Ahead, you showed me, were possibilities such
As studying Mozart in places where other misfit
Toys could gather and make beauty–much
Aloneness relieved witnessing your musical grit.
Today, the Prime driver said, “Dan?”,
Removed his mask, and there was that smile
That made this scared kid feel like the man.
The symphony gig is on hold for a while.
In the meantime, you are being a badass
Making some bucks until you’re back with the brass.


Copenhagen made me want to buy
A pack of cigarettes, hold a cup
Of coffee and walk past palaces, flowers, and high-
Spired churches in a moody jacket sewn up
By smoke and caffeine vapor. I was a poor
Man’s Kierkegaard, existential
In museums and botanical gardens. Despite the lure
Of Duolingo’s proficiency promises, my credential
In Danish left me with the ability to say
“Sorry,” “thank you,” and “turtle.” Politely asking
My Nordic hosts, “Speak you English?” Would play
Out with perfunctory lingual multitasking.
It was beautiful, and people smiled when I tried.
And I reviewed the sensation of feeling outside.


I’m taking a songwriting class on the internet —
Ryan Tedder from One Republic teaches
You how to write and produce hits–no sweat,
Except there’re all these software knobs, and each is
More confounding than the other. Pro Tools,
It’s called, and the tools are clearly meant for pros.
Today I got my mic to follow the rules
And talk to the recording intelligence. God knows
When I will establish effective communication
With my keyboard. Typing “connecting midi
Piano mixer clueless aggravation”
Into google hasn’t helped. Pity.
This self-okay I feel being a beginner–
It’s new and nice, like I’m a fumbling winner.

White American Male

We wonder why White American men
Are split-off cardboard forts with our tin can
Transistor strings severed. Then again,
How could it be otherwise? “Be a man.”
What images does that command drag out?
Eyes like a mirror lake reflecting back
The image of one coming for a drink?
Ears like a wool blanket you can unpack
From the kitbag–scratchy but cozier than you’d think?
Those aren’t the pictures that emerge for me.
The man we mean is one who dams the lake
And stuffs the fleece down on the feel debris
Collected for years. March, and don’t bellyache.
No wonder we can’t hear you when you cry.
Tears might move that water. We’d drown. We’d die.


When I stood on the escalator descending
To the Bakerloo Line platform, I studied
(As only someone brought up in the the befriending-
Required rural South could) the un-buddied
Faces ascending past posters of American B-list
Celebrities starring in the West End production
Of Chicago. My interest in a tight fist
on a briefcase or a brow furrow tripped a deduction
In my brain about where each person grew
Up or where they were going, whether they
We’re happy or not– The briefcase gripper I knew
Needed to quit his job and write a play.
Assigning a story to my fellow Undergrounder
Quelled the loneliness of this moving stairs expounder.

Thank You Accomplished

Thank you for breathing, for feet that feel the floor,
For the register I stub my toe on that sends
Warm air into the kitchen this morning. More
Than that, thank you for a brain that blends
Appreciation for a pink cotton t-shirt
With a grateful hum for the heat and taste in my old
Coffee mug. My cold toes assert
Their gratitude for thick socks rolled
Up and available in my bedroom drawer,
And the cluttered filing cabinet in my noggin
Reminds me my unachievable chore
List means job, and Apple remembers my login.
Above all, let me say thank you with eyes
Open to gifts I forgot to recognize.

Learning Lines

You begin rehearsing when you’re very young,
Testing tactics, gesture, and use of voice
To guage what actions elicit embrace. You clung
To the director’s words and based every choice
On a raised eyebrow or the cessation of speech–
Which way of performing will win the boss’s
Favor again? If nothing else, you teach
Yourself how to ignore your secret losses
While looking competent but exhausted. When
They see how hard you’re working, they’ll take note,
Right? They’ll smatter you with claps. Then
You’ll be significant, reciting lines by rote.
Soon, you won’t even need a script anymore.
You’re memorized, tight-costumed, half lit. Encore.

“Enjoying the passage”

James Taylor wrote a song that said
“Time isn’t really real,” and I’ve heard
That in other places as well. My head
Always balked at this notion of blurred
Eternity invading the measured spread of hours
And days brilliant brains assigned to Earth’s
Revolution. But I feel this theory’s powers
Whirring past at globe-spin speed, births
And deaths of spirit-knit carbon rushing
By me as if chest-deep in a river
Alive and autonomous. Attempts to dam it are crushing.
So I swim and see where the current will deliver.
The lyric cites Einstein–he was mystified, too.
I’ll renounce understanding–I’ll float and cherish the view.

Thank You, Birdies

At 6:15 a.m. the birds begin
Their heavenly communication. Sequences
Of eighth note triplets call out questions in
The morning cold, and half note falling frequencies
Answer. Their exchanges evaporate early
Brain fog and buoy up my middle guts
Like a helium balloon. Leftover swirly
Dream thoughts clear, and my chatterbrain shuts
Its beak for these brief measures. Unable to rest,
It queries in its nerdiest voice, “What kind
Of bird IS that?” Like a museum guest
Fixated on the label, canvas-blind.
They don’t sow, reap or gather, these singers.
Their unworried tunes are sunrise joybringers.

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