Oklahoma Haibun

Was it three or four years ago that the drought first dried up the creek? It was the summer that the okra blossoms burned up and dropped off, when my harvest was nothing but peppers and eggplant. I don’t like eggplant. Last summer, it was cool here, but blistering in Seattle. This year, I let the garden go. I planted and watered, but I didn’t weed. Volunteers took up whole patches. The bees, the birds, and the butterflies loved the lemon balm, the four-feet-tall marigolds, chickweed and Malabar spinach. I got a few potatoes, some early tomatoes, but then the petunias and the tomatoes burned up. I made note of what survived–vincas, cannas, those peppers again. There was still color, still food for the frogs and rabbits that moved into the garden. In the face of uncertainty, I’ll call that success.

My senator knows
Earth is not getting warmer.
His proof? A snowball.

Ancient Technology

How Grandma loved that attic fan,
and the breezeway between her house and the cellar,
and the big chest-type deep freeze that meant
she didn’t have to can every blessed thing
she put by for the lean months,

and the television
that got two channels, one out of Ada
and the other out of Ardmore, enough
as long as she got Lawrence Welk
and his lovely Irish tenor
on Saturday night.

Iowa

Iowa

Drove out of the parking lot,
opened the door of my yellow Camaro, threw up,
and drove on. Not sure I was the one
who should have been driving. Three women

out for a boozy lunch. This must have been before Mom said,
I’m not watching the kids if you’re going out drinking.

Someone brought up Iowa, that Freddie and Valjean,
were visiting her parent’s farm there.
On a whim, we picked up babies, packed extra diapers,
and took off.

At night, left your brother and Valjean’s little girl
with Freddie. Four women and a baby in a stroller.
We took you to town, to places you didn’t belong.
Valjean’s mom told me what a good mother I was.

In daylight, you sat in a box under a tree, giggled
and grabbed leaves by the handful. Your brother ran.
You guys loved that farm, the farm Valjean escaped.
Poor Valjean. Her mother doted on tiny, graceful you,

not the big-boned grandbaby all the way from New Jersey.
I didn’t understand then about family politics,
about Freddie, the nurturer, who just happened to be
a dope dealer, about disappointment,

or about the changes I had to make in myself
to be a proper mother.

Is This Your Boy, Jack?

Imagine you’ve never met your grandmother.
You’re four years old,
in a strange house.
There’s an old woman propped up in a bed,
your father standing by.
You walk in. Did he beckon you?
You feel the weight of his hand on your shoulder.
Almost seventy years later, recall the old woman’s words:
Is this your boy, Jack?

Your grandmother.
This stranger.
Just imagine.

Just Because I Write

the world doesn’t stop for me.
The kids call.
My husband gets hungry.
The chickens need clean water and hay.
I come home from work worn thin.

All day and into the night
I write lines in my head,
leave notebooks lying around everywhere.

Distracted, they say.
Yes, by the world.
Not by the words
and ideas.

Mary Oliver said,
and I believe her,
that for a writer,
it is the writing that matters.
So I’ll keep thinking,
composing poems,
creating characters and plots,
scribbling ideas and snippets in those notebooks,

even as the world comes streaming
through my door.

The End of the Book

I teach kids to read
I want them to love words
and stories
and books
like I do.

That means I mostly read
kids’ books, appreciate
the subtle sophistication
of children’s lit,
of children.

But…I just slogged through
365 pages
of adult action adventure.

Kids won’t put up with rambling,
with details that don’t matter.

But…I read it.
I liked it enough to finish.
And the last two pages
were fabulous, the best two pages
in the book.
It was about hope.
It was about goodness.
It was worth it.

But…it’s back to kids’ books for me,
at least for a while.

Test Poem

To Christian Politicians Who Pass Laws Making Hate Legal

You can codify
it, make it legal, but hate
is still not holy.

What I Learned Doing a Poetry Marathon

The real secret to writing
isn’t a secret
The pros have been telling you for years
to act on your intentions
and write

It’s about priorities
It shouldn’t be the lawn
that needs mowing
the laundry
that needs washing
the friend
who needs validation
The writing comes first
No excuses

No one faults the business owner
for doing business
So no one should fault the artist
for making art

For me
it has to be
about thinking
and writing

Forget about what’s for dinner
There’s always cereal
and canned soup
and some of us thrive
on words

Poem #12

Coming Home from Dinner

After dinner sky
sweeter than any dessert–
Whipped pink and white froth

On the horizon,
blue-grey clouds, jagged and thick,
like mountain ranges

Poem #11

Tower of Babel

No como arroz, y el no come frijoles.

He didn’t understand my English,
and I was afraid to use my Spanish.

What if we quit being so afraid
and just did our best to be understood?

St. Francis was on to something.