moon poem



We decided the dog will travel back and forth with the kids.

Shark-toothed weeds edged the moon pool,

and your brow creased as though dreaming.

There’s no point talking, you said,

if we’re going to get emotional.


Last night she lay across the threshold

of my bedroom as lunacy struck and shed

its merciless light.


My plan is to stick to routines. I choose

the wagging tail for my journey between the towers,

the lolling tongue.

ace of cups poem


One is more stable than two.

With two there is a swirl of smoke,

a scattering of hand tools,

a Swiss file so fine it will snap.

Pass me the D-string, you say.

There, that packet with the black and gold lady.


Drops scatter,

the bird plunging straight down.

We drink bourbon with mint leaves.

We listen to the Dead, and I cannot

discern a single one of the words you love.


This beak-first idea

runs my cup over, or at least

keeps filling and filling it.


woman as landscape

I’m curious about the whole idea of comparing a woman’s body to a physical landscape. Is it sexy only because literary history has taught us it’s sexy? Or is there something inherently erotic/romantic about the metaphor?

Top-of-my-head examples: John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland” (although is she a theme park or a nature preserve in the song? hard to say) and the Great Lakes Swimmers’ “Your Rocky Spine” (Listen to it! It’s so bee-ootiful.):

It’s not a new metaphor. Way back in 1600, John Donne’s Elegy 20, “To His Mistress Going to Bed,” trumpets her naked bod as the explorer’s prize:

O, my America, my Newfoundland,
My kingdom, safest when with one man mann’d,
My mine of precious stones, my empery;
How am I blest in thus discovering thee!

Sex as discovery and claim-staking is a pretty sexy idea, old as it may be.

Here’s what I want to know:

1. Can the metaphor stick for the male body, too? Do we have any examples of women describing their male lovers as uncharted landscapes?

2. Is it sexist? I mean, if the woman is virgin territory, then the man is the conquering hero, right? In grad school I remember learning how narrative (whether drama or literature or film) automatically and necessarily posits the feminine as the passive territory to be moved through by (male) protagonists. One of the feminist theorists we read on this was Teresa de Lauretis.

3. What’s so sexy about woman as landscape? My current theory is that it’s based on exaggeration: the body writ large, so that it becomes more powerful and profound than it could ever be in real life.

Any thoughts? Let us know in a comment…

and now for a bit of poetry

I’m no poet, but it is springtime, so what the hey:

Cherry Blossoms, High Park
The dog won’t run faster
Beside my bicycle.
Her halter twists the skin
At her jaw, and she shakes,
Wrenching me off course.
You ride on ahead
Too young for the bike lane, really,
Little white helmet a poor shell
For your greenling ribs,
The budding front teeth
In your still-soft skull.
We lie on root-heaved grass
And look up.
“The clouds came right down,”
You say, “and got stuck on the branches.”
Over the din of picnickers,
Japanese shutters, ice-cream truck engine,
I tell you each flower means a cherry.
You reach up a downy arm beside mine,
Point a haphazard circle:
“But first all these flowers will fall.”

thoughts on playing god

Today I attended a four-hour meeting to vet submissions for a creative writing journal.  It was a sobering experience–not only because of all the bad poetry we had to wade through

(but my friends, let me just remind you that comparing a person’s eyes or hair to something way bigger than eyes or hair, e.g., oceans, galaxies, forests, dunes, night skies, The Moon, The Rockies, The Abyss, The Heavens, has been done before; and if it was ever done well, it’s doubtful you can do it better, so why not steer in a different direction?)

–but because of the readerly fatigue and cynicism that set in halfway through the meeting.  As we read the last-minute submissions aloud to each other, I caught myself tuning out.  I snickered at particularly overwrought lines.  When it was my turn to read, I let my boredom or disdain slip through in my voice.

Then I thought about the flipside, which is downright chilling.  Imagine our best writing comprising someone’s grueling committee work.  Becoming subject to editors’ caffeine cycles, mood swings, collegial antagonisms.

I’ve taught creative writing courses before, but that’s completely different.  There, you take whatever crosses your desk and consider how to help the writer improve it, whether the trajectory will be from hellish to abysmal, or stellar to stratospheric.  Vetting is totally mercenary:  pass/fail, thanks or no thanks.  Dithering is right out.

My own manuscript is Out There as I write, crossing the desks of people with the kind of power I brandished for four hours today.  Golly, but I wish them all the broad-mindedness and patience and humor I didn’t have.

Now that I’m thinking about it, though, there was one positive attitude we did share in the meeting today: the willingness to be wowed.  We were desperate, in fact, to be wowed.  We were dying for it.  Why?  Because our loyalties lie not with the hundreds of hopeful writers whose work we weeded out, but with the journal itself–and we really, really want the journal to be good.

It’s not the editors’ attitudes we writers need to worry about, then.  It’s our books’ ability to fulfill their hopes.  A strangely reassuring thought, since after all we can’t control others’ attitudes, but we can control how well we write.  Right?