Grandma Sharon Talks to Her Teenaged Self

You couldn’t have known that law school
was out of the question,
when you were Girl of the Month your senior year
and answered the question about your future plans.

No one told you, because your parents didn’t know,
how hard it is to pay for college
when you don’t know how
to navigate the system.

Your job at the Mexican restaurant,
just you and the owner on weekends,
paid the rent. The landlord’s garden
yielded turnips. You didn’t like turnips.

So, what’s a girl to do?
Get a full-time job, taking classes here and there.
It took another twenty-five years
to get your graduate degree,

find the job that you were meant to have,
teaching kids to read and write.
You couldn’t have known then,
that it was your calling,

something you might have missed
if you’d been more affluent,
if you’d had more information.

I don’t believe in fate now.
You didn’t believe in it then.

Almost Perfect Day

Before the last moonbeam disappears
you’ve filled your canteen with water
and your thermos with coffee
and backed up the old truck to the boat trailer.

Never mind that I prefer to sleep in
on my days off, I’m with you.
We drive on back roads to a place you know,
and slip the boat into the water.

As the sun comes up, fog rises from the creek.
We cut through the mist to a deep hole
filled with old brush. We once found crappie here
and hope to again. But even if we don’t

it’s the day on the water that’s the thing,
the hush, the stillness, you and me
communicating without words, until
“Damn! Tangled again.”


Our temperate climate has grown balmy,
so maybe it’s time we head across the border
to Canada,
find a place where our children and theirs
and theirs and theirs can survive
for the next millennia or so.

of the fittest
or the fastest.
What it comes down to
seems to be migration and luck.

Note: The title comes from the novel, North, by Donna Jo Napoli.

The Creative Paradox

Writing is a solitary endeavor.
Whether in your room or in a public space,
you are in your own head
creating worlds out of electrical impulses
and words.

Sure, you look outward.
You listen.
You even converse,
then take it all home with you,
or to the diner where you work,
your coffee going cold as you write.

Publishing is a social exercise.
What you wrote in private
becomes public. For a poet especially,
there are no secrets.

How do we navigate both worlds,
come to terms with the self’s two halves?


The blues!
I loved the music
my parents called sinful,

so locked in, they were, to the idea
that only gospel
could carry me to heaven.

I gave up their gospel
for my music,
found heaven
in a wailing guitar.

If You’ll Excuse My Cliche’

Nothing seems to lock a box
and throw away the key
like religion.

Who makes the rules?
Whose version of God?

Who writes the holy texts?
Who interprets them?
Who gets to decide what is and isn’t sin?

What is sin, anyway?
If it’s a sin to hurt another,
shaming is a sin.
Shame destroys.

Who says it’s wrong to question God?
God’s existence?
Heaven and hell?
To question anything?

If there’s only one right way to heaven,
why are there so many different roads
and road maps?
Draw your own damn map!

Don’t get locked in to someone else’s prison
of beliefs, someone else’s definition
of good, bad, holy, unholy.
Seek your own truth.

Love and compassion
are the only holy texts
you need.

What Love Looks Like

Biscuits and gravy!
I wasn’t much of a cook,
but I had a family to feed,
so I learned the scientific formula to create magic
from flour and fat and leavening,
from flour and fat and milk.

I experimented to find more perfect formulas,
and 21 times most weeks,
I put my formulaic meals on the table–
meat and bread and vegetables.

When I knew more, I weaned them from sugar,
from fat and flour,
kept experimenting
because delicious is as important
as healthy.

I stir honey and blueberries into yogurt,
cut cantaloupe instead of cake,
serve greens every day, seasoned with seeds
and spices, pickled beets and fresh tomatoes,
flavors from every continent,

and when my granddaughter visits,
lay in a supply of good aged cheddar,
white and crumbly,
and can upon can of pork and beans.

Random Thoughts

It’s easy to skip breakfast
if you don’t get up till noon.

Nike’s snoring.
Do they make CPAPs for dogs?

Whose idea was it to name the white cake Angel Food
and the dark cake Devil’s Food?

And what about that sinister left hand?

Of course it’s okay to do laundry
during the Poetry Marathon.
Just don’t forget to add detergent
as you ponder your lines.

Maybe you should try the prompt next time.


It takes a certain amount of selfishness
to be a writer.

Like your teenage granddaughter,
you have to ignore everyone around you,
lock yourself in your room,
refuse to speak,
eyes on screen,
fingers tapping furiously

Like your cat,
you can’t be bothered
by someone else’s attitude,
by nos and do nots.

Like your dog,
demand to be let in the door,
to be fed.

It’s not always about someone else–
lover, friend, the needy, your child,
that insistent dog.
Sometimes it has to be about you
and the story you must write.

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