Guard Dogs

Guard Dogs


When Papaw Kidd died, he left

two dogs behind. They sat

on his porch, staring at trees,

waiting for family to come


and clean out his closet stuffed

with overalls and white shirts

and dirty boots. One German

Shepherd, one Cocker Spaniel,


both light brown and dusty

porcelain. Mommy fought

cousins to keep the dogs

for me, to hold, to guard.


My dad collects cherry seeds

My dad collects cherry seeds


stores them in his old Nestle

bottle, its inch of water

reddened with pulp and extra

saliva. He pitted cherries

with his tongue, brimmed his mouth

with dozens of seeds and spit.

They tumbled through his yellowed

teeth and splash and live and bleed.




I have scabs on my knees,

on my elbows, on my chin.


I fall, and catch myself

on the ground, not realizing


that it will be hard

to get up and walk away


unscathed. I carry my

scabs as badges, a map


of where I’ve been

and where I’ll go.

At The Circus

At The Circus


Baraboo, Wisconsin beams

red, yellow, lime green with promise.


Rain pours so hard it drowns

the circus, floods the streets, the tents,


the Rudolph noses and ghost-

white diamonded faces. Water


swallows the swinging trapeze,

the unnetted tightrope. Tigers


and elephants are gobbled

by Noah’s ancient waters.

Playing the ukulele

Playing the ukulele


for the first time leaves

you with fingers numb

as a child’s blue

ones after playing

in the blizzard, as

Mom’s after scraping

ice from the windshield,

as bones grown raw.

Shawn’s Poem

Shawn’s Poem


I never choke

her as we make


love. She reaches

up to me, grabs


my tongue, and pulls

out my spine.

The Frog and Cricket Cabaret Night

The Frog and Cricket Cabaret Night


Deep hums emulate from beneath

the fringe of the shrubs as the sky

fades to orange to pink, purple,


black. Drizzle mingles with splashes

from rippled puddles and pools, steams

to a boil. Kids in raincoats


and large red boots stomp in the dark,

across gravel, through water,

under leaves. Jars filled with lightning


bugs light their way, makeshift flashlights.

In their other hand, empty

jars, ready to catch the hums.


Giggles become shushed as creatures

leap back into the night, followed

by excited feet. They hide


beneath the corn stalks and fallen

tomatoes. The dirt becomes trampled

mud, ripe for tomorrow night.




Apples ripen at the touch of hands, we

pretend, like kid’s playing in the snow, real,

like flowing creeks sparkling with sun, cool.

We Love Because He First Loved Us

We Love Because He First Loved Us


When a father’s hand cradles a daughter,

envelops her in worn and wrinkled skin,

love pours down from Heaven and lands, sprinkling

open eyes with dew and streams of rich

velvet. Chocolate tufts mingle with half-formed curls,

enwrapping her fresh face with wisps of hope,

belonging. Steam rises, the weighted touch

echoes her aching heartbeat as heavy

cords spill from her wet chest. She endures being


anointed with blood, oxygen, and stomach

untethered. The womb cries, yearning the full

shape of life to come back home, to dance,

elated within a pocket of unsevered skin.

Hope fades as nurses, doctors rush, sensing

emergency and quickened pulse. Her father

finds a place to peer through the window,

insisting to be near as her mother

rolls, contorts, and dreams of her daughter’s life


still unblossomed. Crisp golden laughter chimes

throughout empty hallways beaming pink,

light, and flowery. She stands tall, his gruff hands

overlapping hers, tracing the stomach

vividly protruding. Curled hair glows

excitedly within her, mimicking.

Daughter becomes mother, empty and full wombs

united as one. Dew forms from half-hearts,

steam and love rise the way it once poured down.