for people who break into song in real life

Category: Poems (Page 2 of 7)


A sonnet is fourteen lines, seven times
Two — and since I squeaked in just
At the end of 19-double-seven, I must
Have developed an affinity for the rhymes
That can only fit in lines assigned to perfection’s
Numeral doubled. I also love rules.
They were the things that proved my ego’s tools
To construct an edifice designed for pain deflection.
See, if I get it right, then I’m in–
In where, I don’t know, but I’m not
Out. That would hurt and cause a lot
Of sensation labeled fear. Rules = win.
That’s why (though I floundered) I liked ballet.
No one telling you to improv–just do what they say.

Weather Conditions

Where were you when you learned that love held
Conditions? What was the moment when cause
And effect taught the lesson of merits that swelled
In your mind like a sprained joint? Learning the laws
Of deserved connection — that’s the tenuous path
You may not veer from if you are to maintain
Your safety sense in your ancient brain. Math
Of a higher order is required: you strain
To balance the equation and solve the variable
Weather conditions, but wind doesn’t blow where you bode,
And your stick house in the woods, durable
As you believed it was, wasn’t built to code.
Sitting on leaves, you feel the sting of rain.
Standing, you find that you can walk with pain.


My students taught me that when a pop song
Elicits certain feels, it’s appropriate
To say, “That’s a mood.” They’re not wrong.
Frequency relationships arranged commensurate
With time have that effect. I taught my pupils
That ostinato means a note gets played
Over and over, and when a composer puts duples
and triples together, that’s how tension gets made.
We long for a different note to sound. Our guts
Catch or want to undulate the mismatched beats
Out of our limbs. In ancient well-worn ruts
Our neurons wheel, and the song repeats.
My brain has practiced that–dissonance rehearsed.
With humble harmonies I’m getting better versed.

What You Need to Know to Start Your Day

The New York Times sends me morning briefs,
And the subject line insists this information
Is crucial to the day’s commencement. Griefs,
Intractable power wringing, and a nation
In need of some C batteries for its soul-
Finding flashlight crowd the bullet points
Interspersed with tales of the viral toll
Biological and technological. Joints
Designed to keep the body politic moving
Seem inflamed and brittle these days. Reading
This electronic newsprint, I’m feeling
The tight-wound anxiety outside preceding
Me on masked errands–let’s get some healing.
To start your day, know this: you are loved.
By your inestimable is-ness my theory is proved.

Inside Voice

Some moments the wise part of me
Hovers gently outside my body and observes
Me being a dad cliché, running limpily
To wave down the struggle bus. Nerves
Inflamed and awaiting the slightest brush to claim
“Irritant!”, I am the very model
Of a modern rager. Generally, I aim
To go slow, and I expertly coddle
My hubris saying, “Look at what a Zen
Boy you are.” Then my two-year-old
Does something exactly like me, and again,
I hear my mouth spout–an unvalved scold.
My words become my boys’ inside voice.
Please let my speech sing the loving choice.

Thank You

Thank you, God, for thank you–the very act
Of saying I’m grateful shifts my molecules
Into a kick-ass bell choir formation backed
By saxophones. Seriously, it’s like the rules
Say, “find something you didn’t conjure
Up yourself like your breath, heartbeat,
Or a strawberry, and just add wow. Sure,
Pulse, respiration, and fruit to eat
Become quickly unnoticeable in the whir
Of electricity we’ve managed to channel into
depressive distractions grasped in our palms. These
Hands can open in humble receipt, though–renew
The remember that we hold grace-forged keys.
Thank you, God, for thank you–this technology
Plenishes this story maker’s scarce mythology.

A Little Tenderness

I bet you talk to yourself the same way I do
Sometimes, saying shit any sane friend
Would shut down were we to direct our spew
At them. I’ve gotten kinder and managed to mend
A few tears my words ripped, but mean
Patterns like to reassert, and I feel
That familiar constriction squeeze just between
My ribs and belly button. I can heal
That twinge if I stop and put a hand on my chest
Or cheek, and I give it a rub like someone who’s
Compassionate. And I thank that wringy pest
That grabs my guts for his anti-venom cues.
I hope you say kind things to you today.
Go slow, and tell your squeezer I said hey.


My wife has an unconquerable wart on
Her index finger. We’ve named her Eternia and brainstormed
The art for the sci-fi fantasy series “Spawn
Of the lndestructible.” One night, Melissa formed
A theory that the mutant growth had burrowed
A path to her being’s core, and I guffawed–
The juxtaposition of a wart and furrowed-
Brow existentialism (in a broad
Sense) is objectively funny. She’s always making
Me laugh like that. I remember a day
Before I told her I loved her. We were baking
With friends, and she muttered a joke only I heard her say.
I thought to myself, “this woman I really get.”
To date, that’s been my brilliantest thought yet.


The most chocolate-and-flowers-worthy reason
To celebrate on this saint’s day is your
Honey-kissed forehead on mine–two bees in
Goldenrod celebrating more
Sweet surprises than we can count. Did
You know St. Valentine’s the patron of bee
Keepers? Me neither. And here–hid
In the buzz of my heart is the un-wordably free
Meaning of your name. To be the one who gets
To be here, make you laugh, frustrate the hell
Out of you, and rub your shins sets
My wings vibrating, and I’m flying swell.
The Greeks and Allman Brothers join my exalt–
Melissa means sweet with just enough salt.


Sixteen years ago I said yes
To many obligations that should have gone
In the terrible idea file. Years of stress,
Wakeful nights, and plots involving pawn
Shops ensued, and thousands of monetary
Energy units evacuated the overdrawn
Struggletown called Chase. Lacking a fairy
With an alchemical wand, I relied on
Eight-day work weeks and hourly account
Tallies, racing to bank machines with wet-ink
Checks, my dam-plugging digit amount
Insufficient (with penalties), my brain on the blink.
The last of those effects was paid today.
Please take this debtor’s advice, and just say “nay.”

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