cropped rain and fog on highway

It’s Only Natural

It’s Only Natural.

I am not immune to the wonders of the natural world.
I have seen peacock feathers under a microscope.
I know birds retrieve lint from the ears
Of a musk ox carcass to construct their downy nests.
I realize that the grand canyon of Mars
Is the same size as the United States.
I too know that when a blue whale dives deepest
Its massive heart slows down to two beats a minute.

But none, for me,
Can rank with a heated conversation one dressing room over at Marshall’s.
A debate in a movie lineup about the merits of Scorcese vs. Tarantino.
One Raymond Carver poem.
Give me the Lives column in a New York Times Magazine
About the writer’s troubled child.
Let me in on that moment when you knew it was over.
There for me lie the mysteries I care to unravel,
The fleeting moments between us drawing me back
Time and time again.

Hike your mountain. Portage the greatest rivers.
Give names to all the stars and constellations you have ever seen.
Then tell me about it when you get home.

** Photo by Joel Koop.

typewriter fixed

Becoming a Poet: A Complete how-to.

How to Become a Poet
Absorb whatever is around you
Like a box of baking soda in the fridge.
Be prone to hangnails
and mysterious rashes.
Cancel plans at the last minute.
Be unapologetic when saying no.
Judge nothing as beneath you, beyond you,
or outside your realm of interest.
Know everyone has a story to tell.
Carry a large overdraft on your checking account.
Dwell, no, fixate, on detail.
Realize everything matters or nothing does.
Wear an inordinate amount of black.
Or white.
Don’t mix.
Write poems you want to read.
Jot ideas on restaurant napkins.
Lose them.
Carry an extra pen.
Become accustomed to letters beginning
“We regret to inform you.”
Ignore them.
Write some more.
bride revised 349681__480

1/120th of A Second


Is sometimes all it takes to capture happiness.

If you’re lucky.

I’ve done it. Thousands of times.


One shot at a time, I would repeat to myself,

While double checking focus and f-stops.

The best it can be. All you can do.


Move on.

No hope of meeting client expectations

Not on this job. Thankless really.


It never felt like a Nikon

I was holding in my hands

But their lives.


The hours alone are punishing,

arriving at first light at the bride’s parent’s house

before the makeup even goes on.


Forty pounds of equipment in tow

Sunrise, and nerves already

beginning to fray.


The bride for starters is never quite satisfied with

her dress or her hair

or her bridesmaids.


The groom often bears the look of someone

who has just been given

some very bad news.


Groomsmen are a particular challenge.

Lining them up,

they visibly stiffen.


Roll your shoulders, unclench your jaw.

Pretend you have actually met, I cajole.

To no avail.


And there’s always the visual artiste in the crowd

who tries wresting the camera away from you,

just for fun.


By the time I get to grab a bite

the buffet has been ravaged.

The wedding cake looks like a Dali painting.


Drunken husbands and wives

remembering their own ancient vows

push themselves in front of me at night’s end.


I still love her, you know, he slurs.

She rolls her eyes, shakily fixing her lipstick

before I freeze them in the blink of an eye.


I am always the last to leave

in the wee hours

just as the cleaners arrive.


I gather them together for the last image of the day.

They wonder why the fuss.

They wonder about this woman


Heading off alone in the dark.


after chasing happiness all day long.

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Equine Therapy


They remember you:

Their  heightened perception always at work,

An enigmatic sixth sense,

So rare in humans.


They open wide their huge liquid alien eyes,

Shift quietly in their stalls.

Their huge nostrils flare in welcome

At your approach.


For you carry with you

The scent,

Indelible in their memory,

Of someone once kind to them.


Astride their backs

We borrow their majesty.

We borrow freedom.



resized low res cover photo for The Music of Leaving

Funeral Sandwiches


It comes down to the ceremony now, the detail.

Pressing your shirt with the cutaway collar, not too much starch,

the way you liked it.

I sent the shoes that were a bit small,

but they were so fine-looking and you would approve.

At the last minute I remembered your favorite photo of all of us

for tucking into your suit jacket pocket.


Now to prepare the food for the mourners,

sandwiches to begin.

Made differently today,

the correct word is painstakingly.

The butter must be spread

to each and every corner of the bread,

sliced precisely

from freshly-baked loaves.


Heap both sides of the bread lavishly with spreads,

no scrimping.

No celery, you hated it.

Remove the crusts.


Assemble them ever so gently

before making the final cuts

into perfect quarters.

Clean the knife after each one.

Display them proudly

on my most treasured serving pieces.

And cloth napkins.

Only cloth.


All is ready.

Invite them in.

I’ll get this right

for all the times

I didn’t.

scarlet soda



The sun was hotter.

You can tell.

Look at us squinting against it in photos then.

Everything washed out by the glare,

cheekbones, jawlines,

all detail surrendered.


we could be anybody.


The gardens, look,

they’re parched.

It hurt to walk on the grass.

We lay in scorched backyards

slathering butter on our chests,

chain-smoking, eating fluorescent cheesies,

swilling bright red soda.

Everyone burned raw.

Everyone looked deliriously happy.


We knew

nothing could go wrong.

Our lives lay ahead of us.

Men were above us,

landing on the moon.


da-vinci revised

Past Master


Among da Vinci’s countless notebooks, all written in code,

or backwards, to ward off thieves,

is found a jotting that translates to:

“Tell me if I ever did a thing.”


Hardest on himself,

his abandoned projects haunted him,

and those completed offer little solace:

scissors, the parachute, a clock with a minute hand,

the helicopter,

the first contact lens.


An upstart, he sketched Mona Lisa, no doubt, just to keep us guessing.

Her lips alone took him 10 years.

Voracious curiosity fuelled him,

climbing a mountain outside of Milan to understand

why the sky was blue.

dissecting human cadavers to perfect his anatomical drawings and,

it is rumored,



When he was commissioned to paint the Last Supper

he reluctantly put aside a joke book he was writing,

and throughout his life was convinced that if only we had wings

we could fly like birds.


Imagine this man’s to-do lists:

“Have Avichenna’s work on useful inventions translated.”

“Buy mustard.”

“Get a skull.”