Here you can find selections of my verse dating as far back as junior high school, or as recently as last month. Some is bad, some is good, some is serious, some is just plain silly.



Poems written before junior high



I Poem

(I’m pretty sure I wrote this around the age of 10 or 11. As a kid, I loved reading Willard Espy’s Almanac of Words at Play. It contained a story written with no vowels except E. I thought, “E? That’s easy. I’m going to do one with only I.” So I did. It’s not exactly a poem, but it contains a lot of rhymed verses.)



Poems written in junior high and high school




(Written for senior English class in high school.)


I want to write a poem

About the sidewalk,

One space on the sidewalk

(Don’t step on the cracks!)

Glistening gray, the trowel still nearby.

I want to write a poem

about the girdle of orange plastic

Printed in twisting gray letters, “Keep off,” or “Caution,”

About the gray mystery: Still wet? Or dry?

I want to write a poem

About settling your hand into the cold wet sidewalk,

And leaving your fingerprints there for eternity,

Or plastering a leaf there, to fade away

bit by bit in the rain

And leave its fossil to be trodden under rubber shoes.

But how can I write a poem

About this hard square stone,

The sidewalk,

The metamorphic sidewalk,

The breaker of natural laws, that freezes, liquid to solid,

while the mercury clings, unchanging, at 70 degrees?

It’s so hard to come up with metaphors

For something concrete.



Canterbury Alien

(In my senior year of high school, my class read the stories told by several characters in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” and then we were each assigned to create a new character and have that character tell a new story. Being who I was, I insisted on making my character a space alien, and telling its story in a sort of fakey spoof-Middle-English.)


An Alyen there was, a curyous Thinge,

Eight Eyne, and Fingeres growne on each Winge,

Of which there were, vertu, threescore and fyve,

She muste have been the fynest Flyre alyve.

But ’twas not ryght to thinke of it as She;

Syxe Genderes on its Worlde there’s said to be.

It had, howe’er, a jolly Tale to telle,

Excepte that it communycaites by Smelle.

It broughte alonge a Roubotte for Translationne,

And so was handeled our Communycationne.




Well, Menne, thy Speech my Minde doth full astounde.

How funny to communycaite by Sounde.

And ’twas not easy, a Roubotte to get

That words in Middle Engylishe could set,

And rhyme them also, to the very Lettere,

As well as the Iambick Péntaméterre.

But soft! my Talé I must now relate,

Instead of lyke an Idyotte to prate,

My Smelle-Glandes thus to putte to betterre Use.

I was, one Summere’s Nyght, on Betelgeuse,

(Or rathyre, on a Planette near that Starre)

Where Flowres tall as Trees and Mountainnes are,

And Beastes instead of Legges grow fleshy Wheeles,

And Ayre like Hydrochlorick Acidde feeles…

There mette I withe a sevyne-legged Manne

Whose compounde Eyne were whyte as is a Swanne.

He raysed a Shield and wayved his trustye Dirk,

And saide, “Whanne layest thou with Captaine Kirk?”

When I confess’d I knew notte what he meante,

My shuttyle throughe a Tymé Warp he sente,

Shoutynge, “My wingéd dame, I thoughte I knewe

That Kirk hath layne with evrye Alyen true,

Yette here’s the only Alyen, lyve or dedde,

Who’s yet abstained from Captaine Kirkes bedde!

Thys one Exceptionne proveth sure the Rule,

But I wysh notte to thynke myself a Foole

In havynge thought thatte Rule to be perfecte.

I seek, thys Imperfectionne to correcte.”

As through the Tyme Warp finylly I felle,

I founde myselfe with Kirk in a Hotelle.

He was a wingless Manne, his Lymbs but foure,

With butte two Eyne, and not an Eyelashe more,

He hadde no Furre, except atop his Hedde,

So ugly wase he that I feared his Bedde.

He rose up, and acrosse the Room he wente,

And (so I thoughte) with lechyrous Intente,

He did approach me, ande I spouke a Greetynge:

“Hands off me, Kirk, or thou’lt receive a Beatynge!”

His Nouse he clutch’d, and to the Floore he felle,

For what I said hadde quyte an awfulle Smelle.

Whenne once the Ayre had cleared a lyttle Bytte,

He leanéd backe and tooke a Breath of itte,

and sayde, “Whatte kinde of Alyen arre you?

Youre Eyne are redde, and you have morre than two,

You have no lovely Bosomes on youre cheste,

And neither is your Bodye scantly dreste.

I thought all Alyens were human Gyrles,

Except with larger Breastes, and goulder Curles,

and cladde in sexierre Leotarde or Caype

But on the whole no different in theyre Shaype.

To fynde an Alyen comminge inne my Dorme

Who differs so muche fromme the Humyn Forme

Hase made me nowe the leaste aroused of Menne.

I’ll never bedde an Alyen again.”

And so returnéd I to my own Yeare

(The Tyme Warp having stille remainéd there).

The Moralle of my Talé, gentle Lords,

As translayted to you in Englyshe Words

Is thys: Whatever life we meet on our trek





(This poem was published in my high school’s literary magazine during my freshman or sophomore year.)


I love a girl, and know that she loves me,

I love her with a love of steel and granite,

I’m sure that she and I would be quite free

To wed, if she were native to this planet.

I’d hold her hand and feel our love connection,

I’d kiss her lips and feel their soft caress,

But all the ways her species shows affection

Are based on body parts I don’t possess.

Don’t tell me I don’t love her; that’s a lie.

(Do you not know the penalty for perjury?)

It’s just that, to have children, she and I

Would each need quite a bit of plastic surgery.

So board your starship, but you should live daily in

A desperate fear that you might love an alien.



Chemistry Problems

(I’m better at puns than chemistry.)


My grades are abysmal in chemistry class.

I don’t care whether sulfur’s a liquid or gas.

All I know is that atoms are not very big

And Neils Bohr is the name of some Irish guy’s pig.


The things that I know only worsen my plight.

I fume because no one says “nuclear” right,

But the things I don’t get are more fun to relate.

For example, I can’t tell a base from home plate.


A catalyst’s lining up names of some cows,

That’s the only conclusion my thinking allows.

And unless you think shooting at gemstones is cool,

I can think of no root for the word “kilojoule.”


I suppose “chemistree” is a tree, like a maple,

And “metallic bonding” means using a staple.

A mole is a creature a gardener avoids,

And C3PO4 means a quartet of droids.


But for those who don’t sell their old chemistry books

Or associate fission with rods, worms and hooks,

Or try to turn on the electrolytes, they

Have a talent I don’t, and I guess that’s okay.



My Fingernail

(Inspired by an injury I got. Not for the faint of stomach.)


I slammed my index finger in a door

And it’s become a vile shade of violet;

It’s tingling, throbbing, swelling, fat and sore;

The nail might rupture if I tried to file it.

When it has turned the color of molasses

From being full of fluids, pus and crud,

I’ll poke it with a needle, wearing glasses

To shield my eyes from any squirts of blood.

Not rotting eggplants, nor a dying snail,

Nor Romeo’s lips while flushed in loving ardor

Could be as reddish-purple as a nail

That’s recently been mangled in a car door.

If I do this again, it will abolish

Any need I have for purple polish.



What my Mom Built for Me

(A Sonnet)


My mother, who made me, made this computer.

The former is a great accomplishment.

The latter is no reason to salute her;

I wonder where my mother’s talent went.

The motherboard she put in this computer

(If that’s the part responsible for speed)

Is slower than a snail, though snails are cuter.

Oh, wherefore did my mom commit this deed?

She could have bought a competent computer,

The fastest, best computer you can buy.

But no, no less than building one would suit her.

My mother is behaving like a guy.

I think that when I clicked, I was thirteen.

So shouldn’t something happen on the screen?



The Ballad of Noah’s Ark and the Fishes

(This was one of the first poems I wrote in high school: Mr. Froehle’s class, freshman year. It won Honorable Mention during my sophomore year when I entered it in a poetry contest sponsored by the College of Saint Catherine.)


The Whales and the Dolphins, the Stingrays and Sharks

Were quite unconcerned with the building of Arks.

When the Heavens declared that the flood-rains would fall

They counter-declared, “We aren’t bothered at all!”


A Camel walked into the Ark, then another,

And two Flying Squirrels who hated each other,

But later were forced into matrimony

While Sea Turtles smirked up at them from the Sea).


The Unicorns’ entrance drew laughs from the Whales

(who could tell they’d mistakenly chosen two males).

The Swordfishes giggled, the Sailfish guffawed,

And the Chickens’ arrival brought sneers from the Cod.


The Flying Fish leapt through the air in their mirth

When ten feet of rainwater covered the Earth,

But a young Moray Eel took a gulp and cried, “Ish!

“I can’t live in this; I’m a Salt-water Fish!”


The Creatures who generally lived in the Ocean

Became overcome with remorseful emotion.

They begged for assistance at starboard and port:

“You’ll all be to blame if our lives are cut short!”


Despite all the ruckus from Deer and Gazelle,

Who felt that the Fishes could all go to Hell,

And the Rhinos who cried, “It’s their own bloody fault!”

Noah dumped over a truckload of salt.


The Fresh-Water Fish were offended and cried,

“Hey Whale! Keep your salt on your own bloody side!”

But somehow they managed to get through the Flood

And the ship was, at last, washed ashore in the mud.


When the Dove flew to Noah and gave him her Leaf,

No one concealed their tremendous relief,

But the Animals felt a bit Predatorish,

And that’s why so many Land Creatures catch Fish.




(I used to write poems about practically every pun I came up with.)


There’s a part of your brain (I’m not positive where)

Called your “hippocampus.” There is one. I swear.

And frankly, there’s only one way I can find

Of explaining the name of this piece of your mind.


The cells in the brain’s hippocampus, I think,

Are chubby and gray (with a faint tinge of pink)

With teeth that protrude from a huge lower jaw

Like any old hippo that you ever saw.


They wallow around in your cerebral goo

And store information inside them for you.

They work from their childhood until they are grandpas

Learning your life on the brain’s Hippo Campus.


They study all night to remember your name

And take lots of tests on your favorite game.

When they take a big test and they really do rotten

They get a bad grade, and you say, “I’ve forgotten.”


The hippos are friends with the rest of your brain,

And harm to it causes them anguish and pain.

So too much TV or a needless lobotomy

Is a mean thing to do to the poor hippopotami.



KS Theory

(Another silly pun poem.)


Kansas, in the year 2101,

Will be the most divided state on Earth.

Topeka will make war on Hutchinson

And be on rotten terms with Leavenworth.

Olathe and Wichita will often quarrel;

Beloit will shoot a missile at Hanover;

‘Twill be quite clear that this is all immoral,

But folks will think that it will soon be over.

The mayors will try to hide the disarray,

But soon, when everyone begins to see,

The governor will be obliged to say

To all his people, speaking on TV,

“There is a fact our state cannot ignore:

Kansas, we’re not intoto any more.”




(What if Macbeth were a parrot?)


Macawbeth, Thane of Parrot, proudly pranced

Along his country’s long and dusty streets

Until he reached a grove, whereon he chanced

Upon a cauldron and three parakeets.

The three took off their feathered hats and bowed,

And hailed Macawbeth by three titles greater

Then e’er he’d dreamt of, then they cried aloud,

“We’ll say no more. Perhaps we’ll see you later,

As soon as we Bird Sisters, wing in wing

Are met in thunder, lightning, or in rain.”

They vanished; then came missives from the King

Who said, “Macawbeth, fear not death and bane!

By order of the king at Dunsinane,

No pun intended– Polly, you’re a thane.”



Stairway Love

(This poem was published in my high school’s literary magazine during my freshman or sophomore year.)


Alone, my hall pass clutched within my fist,

I deviate from my appointed route

To bow my head and let my throat be kissed

By steel-warm water from a metal spout.


My tongue endures the water’s iron bite,

I lift my moistened lips and take a breath,

My eyes upon two figures then alight,

A sight that all my calmness murdereth.


His lips find hers, their fingers gently touch,

And envy fills my unbeloved heart;

I yearn to feel a pair of lips in such

Enamored madness, pierced by Cupid’s dart.


Alone am I, who never felt true love,

My lips unkissed, my hand unheld, my eyes

Unpraised by famous maddened blarney of

A maddened love, who for my kisses dies.


Ah, how I long to sit on stairways locked

In love’s force-field that shelters lovestruck pairs

Who laugh at little girls whose way is blocked

When we attempt to pass them on the stairs.




(I think I wrote this as a high school sophomore.)


Assuming that somewhere in deep outer space

There exists or existed an alien race,

Consider this story before you suppose

That we’re being invaded by green U. F. O’s.


There’s an alien species far off in the skies

Which possesses a head and a mouth and two eyes,

It has arms and legs and can speak, hear and see;

In short, it’s like us to a startling degree.


Their existence, in fact, very easily can

Be the greatest coincidence known to man,

But now I expand the Coincidence List:

These aliens know that we humans exist!


And considering laws we have proved to be right

Which limit all speed to no faster than light,

You’ll be startled for sure when I start to discuss

The fact that their ships could transport them to us!


A planet that close which has spaceships whose crewmen

Both know of and closely resemble the human?

Get real! But there’s more. If conditions demand it,

Their bodies would let them survive on our planet!


For these four coincidences to combine,

The chances are one in five billion and nine

But millions of people (who may include you)

Just simply and plainly assume that they’re true!


This absence of logic has made itself known

To the alien presidents over the phone.

They’ve made up their minds, on receiving this call,

That our planet’s not worth taking over at all.




(More about alien improbability, written around the same time. I was quite the outspoken skeptic back then, apparently.)


We’re deeply convinced that our chemistry teacher

Is some sort of extraterrestrial creature.

If old Mrs. Curtis is closely inspected,

An alien invasion just might be deflected.

For instance, her name is suspiciously weird.

Her surname reveals the dark secrets we’ve feared.

It contains the three characters C, U and R…

And so does Arcturus, the name of a star!

If you plot on a map both her church and her home,

And the house of her seventeenth cousin from Rome,

They form a triangle, which everyone knows

Is the shape of some recently seen UFO’s.

Add that to the paint job on one of her cars,

Which is red, like the planet we Earthlings call Mars,

And you will agree that this series of incidents

Just couldn’t possibly be a coincidence.




(I think I wrote this one when I was in junior high school and irritated with some cousins and classmates who were obsessed with violent video games.)


C’mon, make your choice. Will you be Mr. Dead,

With stainless steel claws growing out of your head?

Or will you be I’m-Gonna-Murder-You Bob,

Whose very appearance is grossly macabre?


Don’t choose to be Ernie the Flesh-ripping Goon,

Because he reacts like a total buffoon

When Quentin the Evil Deranged Mutant Mummy

Shoots Red-Hot Attack Bullets straight at his tummy!


I’ll give you a tip: When the Screamers arrive,

With their Flesh-Melting Rays which no one can survive,

Apply your Professional Gut-tearing Wrenchers,

Which crack them in half like a cheap set of dentures!


If they shoot you with globs of Corrosive Green Mud

And you’re left in a pool of computerized blood,

Remember (the experts have said that you should)

That they are the bad guys, and you are the good.



Clytemnestra’s Remorse

(I was assigned in my junior year of high school to use the words “garrulous,” “succinct”, “complacent,” “sullen,” “contrive,” “calamity,” “carnage,” “sanguine,” “specious,” “implacable,” “invidious,” “malignant,”
“conundrum,” “enigma,” “oblivion,” “imminent,” “inexorable,” “insatiable,” “conflagration,” “fastidious,” “inextricable,” “hackneyed,” “dirge” and “barren” in sentences. Since these were words from the play we were
studying, Agamemnon, I made that the subject of this poem.)


So garrulous that speaking is my art

I shall not speak succinctly now to thee.

Complacent though I seem, my sullen heart

Regrets contriving this calamity.


War’s carnage done! The sanguine joy and pride!

My specious tale of love and hope grown dim!

Implacable, the Furies by my side

Encouraged my invidious scheme for him.


A plot that stank of my malignancy,

It gave him the conundrum to resolve

Of whether to annoy the gods or me!

(That enigma a man will quickly solve.)


And once he had insulted the divine,

A man’s life and his lover’s life were mine.


A girl whose words were all considered lies,

Whose hope into oblivion had faded,

When urged to flee her imminent demise

Inexorably could not be persuaded.


Revenge, the insatiable conflagration

That led to my fastidious mind’s plot

To clean the earth of that abomination

Ties us in an inextricable knot.


Our hunger for revenge, from overuse

Should have grown hackneyed! Suddenly I hear

The music of a funeral dirge let loose

And wish my manly eyes could shed a tear.


A loving heart grows barren, cold and cruel

Once it has lost its long-beloved jewel.



A Narrow Fellow

(In, I believe, sophomore or junior year of high school, I was assigned to parody a poem. The poem I chose was “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass” by Emily Dickinson, shown here, and my parody follows it.)





A narrow Fellow in the Grass

Occasionally rides—

You may have met him— did you not

His notice sudden is—


The Grass divides as with a Comb

A spotted shaft is seen—

And then it closes at your feet

And opens further on—


He likes a Boggy Acre

A Floor too cool for Corn—

Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot—

I more than once at Noon

Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash

Unbraiding in the Sun

When stooping to secure it

It wrinkled, and was gone—


Several of Nature’s People

I know, and they know me—

I feel for them a transport

Of cordiality—


But never met this Fellow

Attended, or alone

Without a tighter breathing

And Zero at the Bone—






A Narrow Fellow this one is

But by no means a Snake—

He’s like a Hyphen— longer, though—

A Breath— a Pause— a Break—


Divides the Words as with a Comb—

A Comb devoid of Teeth—

Allows a Speaking Man to pause

And take some Time to Breathe.


In Dickinson’s Snake Poem

Two thoughts he oft Attaches—

But when a Younger Writer

I typed him as two Dashes – –

Because I didn’t know then

The way that one must tell O-

bedient Computers

To type this Narrow Fellow.


For Commas, Quotes and Colons

And Exclamation Points—

I feel a sort of Trembling—

A Tightness in the Joints—


But when I meet this Fellow

While traveling through a Tome

I greet him with a Smile—

and read Another Poem.



Here are some poems written during my college years.



We Pay the Dam

(In my freshman year of college I wrote this nonsense poem, which reads the same right-side-up and upside-down… when written in this particular font, and if you ignore spaces between words.)




Human Alien

(While studying abroad in 2002, I wrote this song. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to write music, and my voice is completely untrained, and I wasn’t quite decided on how the tune was going to go for some of the verses. If you know a musician who can make something better out of it, please let me know.)



Macaroni Penguin



(The macaroni penguin, like the macaroni pasta, got its name from the Italian word “macaroni,” which means something like “magnificent” or “dearest darlings” (sources differ on the exact definition). However, the penguin thinks it was named after the pasta, and has rather indignant feelings about that.)


I’m the macaroni penguin, but I find that name absurd;

My topknot is the loveliest that’s found on any bird.

I really think a human sounds a little like a phony

When he compares my awesome crest to slimy macaroni.


You call my hairdo cheesy when you ought to call it chic;

I think that I would bite you with my long and mighty beak

If I should see you stare at me while elbowing a crony

And whispering, “Pre-pasta-rous! It looks like macaroni!”


Upon my noodle there is nothing vaguely like a noodle,

But when a gorgeous plume of mine was found by Yankee Doodle,

He stuck it in his ugly hat while perched atop his pony

And just like all the rest of you, he called it macaroni.


The feathers that adorn me are of gold and fiery red,

So long and slender as they come cascading from my head

That anyone is full of the most putrid of baloney

If he suggests they look the slightest bit like macaroni.


I’m glad that I’m restricted to the very deepest South,

Far off from any Homo sapiens macaroni-mouth,

Away from you crass primates with your crania thick and bony,

Where none within my earshot call my feathers macaroni.



“Don’t Make my Dreams come True”

(I had a dream. I wrote a song about it. It’s supposed to be sung to a sort of country-western tune. Not intended for George W. Bush fans.)


Long before the election of the year 2000

And the inauguration of 2001

I dreamt I was George W. Bush

And got assimilated by the Pokemon.


I was forced at gunpoint to declare myself

To be a Pokemon named “Georgie-Poo,”

And since then I’ve been careful of folks

Who promise to make all my dreams come true.



Oh please don’t make my dreams come true

‘Cause you sure as heck can bet your tush

That I don’t wanna be named “Georgie-Poo,”

and I don’t wanna be George W. Bush.


Now I don’t remember much else of the dream,

But when I saw a mural the very next day

With pretty painted pictures sayin’ “Reach for your dreams,”

Well I turned and looked the other way.


A while ago a guy I know

Was scared ’cause he dreamed he got his head shot through

So I told him about that dream I had

And I said “Some dreams just don’t come true.”




Well now that it’s 2001

And that nightmare election is over and done,

I think ‘bout Bush sometimes and wonder

If we might be better off with a Pokemon.


But still I’d hate it if he got assimilated

to a Pokemon named “Georgie-Poo,”

‘Cause I’d have to be George W. Bush

if that particular dream came true.





“Sich Aendert die Englische Sprache”

(A parody of Heinrich Heine’s “Die Jahre Kommen und Gehen.” To get it, you have to have read that poem in the original German, and also know some things about linguistics, like the fact that the English language used to have genders for all nouns.)


Sich aendert die englische Sprache,

Geschlechter steigen ins Grab,

Saechlich allein ist das Genus

Dass ich fuer Sachen hab’.


Die Loeffel, der Gabel, das Messer

Sind alle jetzt sexlos “the,”

Doch lieb’ ich nicht nur “es,” ich liebe

“er,’ ich liebe “sie”!



Her Solution

(A Sonnet about a king, a dragon, and a princess with attitude.)


Once upon a time, long, long ago,

A dragon terrorized a tiny land.

The king announced, “Whomever kills this foe

I shall award my lovely daughter’s hand!”

The girl, who had not been consulted first,

In outrage took a knife and ran away.

When she stayed missing, all assumed the worst,

And sank more deeply into their dismay.

The mood was lightened when there came the news

That someone, after all, had slain the beast!

The king threw off his sadness to enthuse,

“Whom may we thank, that we have been released?”

The princess entered with the dragon’s head,

Stuck out her tongue at him, and went to bed.



Within the Walls

(The best (?) of two worlds: more high-brow linguistic play, sung to the tune of a song I learned on the bus to day camp.)


I did a little plumbing

And there inside the wall

The centipedes and roaches

Were playing a game of ball.

They told me, “Close the wall up,

Go back the way you came,

Please leave and stop disturbing

Our intramural game.”



Man and God

(What does “playing God” really mean?)


God created hair and baldness,

Man created the toupee.

God made ninety elements,

Man adds new ones constantly.

God gives Man a deadly virus,

Man takes pills and stays alive,

God gives flowers golden pigment,

Man makes Yellow #5.

God makes wolf, Man makes chihuahua,

no one thinks that this is odd,

Man tries genetic engineering…

Oops, now Man is playing God.



Pun with the Wind

(My worst pun poem ever.)


How do the germs from one man’s sneeze

Get to another man’s nose?

How do the seeds from a cottonwood tree

Get to a new place to grow?

How does my state get pollution that comes

All the way from Ohio?

The answer, my friend,

is “Blowing in the wind.”

The answer is “Blowing in the wind.”



Ups and Downs

(Random silliness.)


To avoid attack by a hippopotamus,

It’s best to make sure he doesn’t notice you,

So don’t stand upwind from a hippopotamus

(Though standing downwind is pretty bad too).




(A silly haiku in German.)


Eine Kuh hat sich

In einem Haifisch verliebt.

Ihr Kind heisst “Haiku.”



Coo-Coo Haiku

(A silly haiku in English.)


“I coo and you coo,

And we all coo for haiku!”

Said the Asian dove.



The Most Important Letter In My Name

(To the Tune of “America the Beautiful.”)


Oh, beautiful for E and R,

for I and K and A,

Oh, beautiful for all of these,

Especially the K!

I’m Erika, I’m Erika,

God shed his grace on me,

But not on those who write my name

And spell it with a C!



Here are some poems written for the course “Language of Desire,” which I took in January as a college soph or junior. Note that some of them are slightly R-rated.




A Poem with Geographical Metaphors


This morning I gazed at a tropical vine

That branched at the end into shoots young and fine;

and rioted gaily in freedom, and there,

While gazing upon it, I thought of thy hair.


This forenoon a wide open plain I went through,

That to every horizon within human view

Was unmarred by the subtlest hillock or crest,

And there, my beloved, I thought of thy breast.


This evening I ventured deep down in the caves

Where among the stalagmites lapped cool gentle waves,

And stalactites protruded like fangs from above,

And in that place, thy mouth I imagined, my love.


Tonight o’er a dormant volcano I walked

Where from pits in the surface so rugged and pocked

Bubbled mud of a pungent and sulfurous kind,

And beloved, this brought thy complexion to mind.


Our hearts, my beloved, forever are knit,

Thy soul unto mine doth impeccably fit,

And therefore art thou so exquisite to me

That the beauties of nature remind me of thee.




An Aubade


Arise, beloved, morning is not far.

Look thou, the sun glows like a crimson gem.

That’s just the light that’s on the VCR.

Get real, my dear! It’s only four AM.


But covetous young rogues no minute spare

To bring themselves that which is coveted.

Well, they can soak their heads, for all I care.

As long as it’s still dark, I stay in bed.


The lie we lived last night has borne its fruit,

And other sleepers rise to start the raid.

Go back to sleep and let them have the loot.

In either case they’ll get it, I’m afraid.


And yet, beloved, custom says we ought

To watch them open gifts this time of year.

I guess so; after all, it’s stuff we bought.

Go get the camera. Merry Christmas, dear.




A Poem Inspired by Carl Phillips’ “Toys”


They line the racks and shelves, each one spread out across its plastic hanger, showing off,

as if I were perusing some museum built for voyeuristic men, not shopping

the lingerie section. As if the things were so much more attractive


than the underpants and hose a couple aisles down that every one of them deserved

not just three times as high a cost, but its own personal display stand.

People say that men must have invented them, but I read once that a French lady


fashioned the first one from two handkerchiefs, at a party when she couldn’t stand

to wear her corset any more. “It was delicious,” she said. “A nearly naked feeling.”

The name was taken from the corset it replaced, the “brassiere,” or “arm protector,”


or literally, “armer,” like “leggings” for “leg-coverings,” a body part plus some generic suffix.

Armor, I think, and laugh as I imagine iron plates rounded to cup soft flesh,

Chain mail wrapped around a stomach, stiff cold sleeves with hinges


at the elbows, creaking underneath a blouse, ending in gleaming gauntlets,

when what was meant to be protected was not the lady’s bosom, or her arms,

but “virtue,” and I laugh harder at the value placed on clothes.



Lovers’ Block

A Poem that Fits, as I See it, the “Contemporary Aesthetic”


When I glance periodically at your face

as expressionless as Windows 98 and every phrase

that comes to mind is either the wrong thing for the context

Or so much the right thing that it would make

it even more obvious than it is already

that I’m struggling to think of things to talk about


it’s like when you have to write an assignment

in the next two hours and you think

and pace and bite your pencil or stare

At the computer screen and twine your feet in the chair legs

And the twisting of your toes and tightness in your face

and nervous sweat and every fold of your clothes and where

the light is coming from and noises the neighbors make next door

and everything you think and everything

you sense ties yet another filament into the net between

the words hidden inside you somewhere and your conscious

mind with its power to reproduce your thoughts in other

forms outside your locked-in head.


I stare at you and wonder

if I should ask what you did yesterday

(but no, that would sound like an interrogation)

or if you’ve seen some movie (no, too much of a non sequitur) or maybe

say something about the weather (no! no! no!) and silence grows

like creeping Charlie weeds across the space

between us where for people who belong like this

it might grow nicely, daffodils and lilies lining

that distance like a well-kept path.


But creeping Charlie is a live net of tendrils

Each one tender, delicate, but let a summer week

pass without weeding and the tangle blocking

all the plants you want to grow from growing

is so thick you’ll never get it all out.



Laments of the Creation

A Dramatic Monologue


I am a life, made out of deaths. Things that were once alive

Were cut apart, pieced gruesomely together, and in some mystic manner

I do not care to know, brought back to life. I am this creation,

And the one who made me is no god.


He too is made of death, as all life is, from worms

That eat dead men, to grasses that consume through hungry roots

Particles that once were worms, dead in the soil,

To beasts that feed on grass, to men like him who eat the meat of beasts

And, in them, eat the meat of other men.


But he is made of dead things in the way of nature,

The way the dead have become part of the living since the world began,

And I am made of larger pieces, things more clearly dead,

And therefore more repulsive to humanity.


The hate with which they met my love set me aflame with rage;

Now let these other flames consume me, here alone upon the northern ice,

For but a moment let me have the beauty I possessed in death before I lived,

And crumble down in ashes to the ground and billow up in gases to the air

And be in death a part of living things again, but this time in the ancient way.




A Poem with Animal Metaphors


When I was almost a teenager and walking in the park

My mother and I found a dove.


He had once been a pet dove, she told me, because he was a foreign kind

And tried to eat the wood chips in the flower bed, and didn’t fly away

But let her catch him in her hands. We took him home

and kept him by the mirror above the dresser

And he thought the dove in the mirror was female

And tried to woo it, bowing down and telling it he loved it

with his strange and gurgly coo,

Until he noticed the dove in the mirror was cooing too

And then he realized it was male and tried to kill it, and we hid it from him with a towel.


I tried to build him a bigger cage, and bought him sprays of reddish-brown

Papery-shelled fresh millet seeds, which were his favorite food,

and when I saw a cage of doves like him at a pet store

I bought one and brought her home to him.


They couldn’t tell me if she was a she, but I guessed she was

because I saw the other doves seek her attentions with their courtly bows

and cooing serenades. She cost ten dollars and had lived

in such a tiny, dirty cage that her tail feathers

were tattered from colliding with the bars, and her magenta feet

were crusted over with dove droppings and I had to hold her down

and pick them off, crumb by smelly crumb,

(Scratching the scaly skin sometimes and almost crying at the blood).


I suppose if we had given him a dove

with parasites and half her feathers missing and a tumor

in her side, he would have loved her just as much,

Bowed and cooed, and been so eager to help build a nest that he would take

All the twigs and grass stems handed to him (when before he wouldn’t

Touch a millet seed that human fingers offered)…everything he did for her.


When they had children, one of them I gave

To a lady who had been my fifth grade teacher. She and I

Had been through a lot together; when I was almost a teenager

And desperate for love, the other students in her class

Would tell me some boy wanted me to kiss him, and laugh at me when I tried to.

Once they wrote “I love you” on a scrap of paper, signed it with a name I hardly knew

And put it on my desk. I had it still, pinned on the bulletin board next to the mirror

and the dove cage, just in case by some unlikely chance it might be real.




A Sonnet


Persecuted in a world where no one was like her,

Bewildered by the social customs of humanity,

Her first attraction was to some fictional character

She’d read about in books and seen in movies on TV.


The girl who could identify with no one who was real

Saw her reflection first in his imaginary plight

And feelings she had never felt and thought she could not feel

Were roused within her by a man unable to requite.


Love had been the smoke of someone’s chimney in the distance,

But it became the fire of which she built herself a hell,

Longing for him desperately she cursed his nonexistence

While people who existed found her only to repel.


Saturday nights, while others make romance reality,

In some old book or movie she must find her company.



Language of Love

Another Sonnet


There is no logic in your premises,

And yet I love to seek their origins,

To chart your past, your ancient families

And find where every part of you begins.

I love to draw already known conclusions

From laws that have no meaning at first glance,

And deep within your tangled convolutions

To find the order and the elegance.

The universe is strange, but I can see

The beauty in a paradox of space,

Or in an atom’s deep complexity,

Although I might design them different ways.

There’s chaos in the order that’s within

chaos, and in it, order once again.



Non-Love Poem

A Ghazal: a series of couplets that seem unrelated, but nevertheless have a common theme


If one has never felt attraction, there is no sexual orientation, but there still is sexuality.

There is desire that’s desire for desire. One can be hungry without hungering for a certain food.


Alien brain parasite, born together with your host, you live in beautiful and awful symbiosis.

You share your superintelligence, but devour understanding of humanity and force the foreign customs of your planet.


A new-hatched chick (experimentally pigmented purple) lies alone and bleeding

From sores in the impressions of its siblings’ beaks. Its only feeling is bewilderment.


Twisted meanings of words; when men chase women, those often chased are seldom chaste.

If you’re attracted to the other sex, but not attractive to them, are you “Straight, no chaser?”


Otherworldly creature trapped in human body, hated flesh that bears no alien mark except for one:

The constellation of scabs that spans its breasts where a compulsive tic has picked the skin away.


Twisted meanings of words; a “love magnet” doesn’t always attract.

Sometimes its north pole meets love’s north pole, and they repel.


In every throng of laughing children, one has “germs,” and they infect you if you touch her,

And you must go infect another, spread the plague forever till she is forgotten and confused.


I wrote a story in English, and wrote it again in German, and showed it to my preschool teacher.

I didn’t know I was supposed to wear a bra in junior high.


No Martian makes the anthropologist on Mars its mate, and if it wanted to, she couldn’t tell.

The repellent magnet for lovers finds its love for love still unrequited.



Lecture, LOV 101

A Retelling of Shakespeare’s “Let Me Not To The Marriage of True


As mentioned in last Friday’s Shakespeare pieces,

True love is of the minds. Your love’s not real

If it decreases when your lover creases,

Or you dump anybody over the hill.


Steel-reinforced concrete that doesn’t age

Till hell is frozen- that’s a lovers’ bond.

Your heart is your best love-locating gauge;

An idiot could make other parts respond.


If asked who the next Miss America champ is,

You won’t name any grandma that you know,

Yet lots of them are still the wives of grandpas;

True love will last however old you grow.


For homework, I suggest that you review

The Art of Courtly Love, Book One, Part Two.



Streetlight Serenade

An Evening Poem


There is no moon tonight, at least

whatever crescent glimmer might be seen

on clearer nights is blanketed from view

by summer fog that thickens to opaqueness higher up


and beads her with glass spheres in random patterns,

a bridal gown turned up, skirt open to the sky.


He is nearby,

Mature and needing, reaching love-stems out full-grown and strong

And heavy at the tips with fertile dust


but they are motionless, a branch’s length apart

and yet they yearn as though from miles away

to be a vine and twine and press themselves together,

mingle their life-potions, strike a spark in moonless night.


No moon, and all that shines on them this evening

and makes two flares of luminescent white

glow in the earth between the sidewalk and the asphalt

is one flickering street lamp,

its head and ball of brightest light encased within a thicker smaller fog,

a fog of wings, intoxicated on electric brightness,

as they beat and flutter, make a twinkling light-starved cloud.


A single pair of wings

moves on a lower plane, a shadowy matchmaker

who tonight is hungry not for light but for the scent of him;

its perfume-drunk antennae seek him out, it clasps his outspread body,

Burrows in, drinks deep,

Emerging with his life-dust mingled in the chalk-dust of its wings.


And when she feels its touch, it is like his,

A motion, powder-soft, on inner centers swollen with fertility,

a push of legs, a flash of wings,

a shudder as they part,

And she is empty, and yet full with a still-quiet promise,

still quaking gently as her silent white-winged messenger flies off into the mist.



On a Maroon-and-White Sweatshirt

A Poem Inspired by Anne Sexton’s “Song for a Red Nightgown”


I have a maroon sweatshirt with white writing,

or maybe dark red with creamy writing, but maroon and white

I think are my school colors, and what I have to call this shirt, since the writing

Says “Augsburg College.”


It’s a nice sweatshirt. It’s oversized and keeps me warm

all the way to my wrists, and over my hands if I want,

and inside it’s got a rabbity soft feel to it

that makes me want to be naked underneath.

That’s why I bought it, and not

because the white writing says “Augsburg College.”


I love Augsburg. I love it because the work isn’t too hard

and the people are friendly and it’s a small convenient campus

Tunneled under and crossed over with skyways like the web of a big mother spider,

saying “Don’t go outside, spiderlings, you’ll freeze in this Minnesota windchill!”


I love my sweatshirt, even though I’d love it just as much

if it were all maroon, with no writing at all.


I love my school, with the love one has for useful things,

the way I love my Swiss Army knife with four blades, scissors and a magnifying glass,

the way I love my recumbent bike, so smooth-steering and so easy on my back,

the way I love my sweatshirt for being warm and soft inside.


“Show school spirit,” the posters say, advertising

a rally or parade or football game. “Cheer for your sweatshirt,”

the posters don’t say. “Proclaim your love for this so-helpful tool you use!

It keeps you warm, doesn’t it? Don’t you love the soft and cozy

Feeling of the lining? Buy a banner, buy a bumper sticker,

Buy a sweatshirt to celebrate your sweatshirt! Show some pride!”




A Tanka : a form of Asian short poetry


The incandescent light bulb

Seems a bright haven, glowing with promise.

Deception! Poor moth, you taste no nectar.

But why beat indelible glass

With your body, till you are tattered and burned?



My Word

A Love Poem from One Inanimate Object to Another


Each year we become even lovelier still,

As we grow in the nurture of Almighty Bill,

But from ’95 all the way to NT,

You’re always compatible only with me.


You couldn’t survive installation in Mac,

And if you were to try, I would wish you were back,

For without you no words would in me be processed

(Well, yeah, there’s Corel, but I like you the best.)


I can run any program you ever could want;

(It just wouldn’t sell if they made one I can’t.)

But of all of the windows I look through each day

You’re the one facing the most scenic way.


We’ve had some hard times, but we somehow survive,

As long as you’re safely installed in my drive,

Consoling each other with comforting hugs

When every new version turns up full of bugs.


When I freeze and inspire a cold angry frown

With the permanent screen “Windows is shutting down,”

You crash along with me, enduring my terrors

Until I’m done “checking the hard drive for errors.”


As for you, the word “goosebumps” leaves people surprised;

It’s only correct if it’s capitalized.

Your spellchecker’s influenced by R.L. Stine,

But do I delete you? No, love, you are mine.


We care for each other despite all our flaws,

Together we bear them, whatever the cause,

Comprehended by only the most avid nerd,

You’re Word for Windows, I’m Windows for Word.



Poems written after college.



“Higgledy Piggledy”

“Higgledy Piggledy, My Black Hen” isn’t really a Higgledy Piggledy— but shouldn’t it be? Here’s my attempt to make it one.


Higgledy piggledy,

Gallus domesticus,

Feathered in ebony

blackness intense,

Hastens to ovulate

(Oft decatuply) for


Pedigreed gents.



Waiting For More Words To Change (The Descriptivist Dilemma)

The popular song “Waiting On The World To Change” inspired a parody.


Language isn’t static

It changes day by day

And those changes, they’re decided

By what most people say.

So when an error’s really common

You can pretty much expect

That within a few years it’ll be

The way that’s deemed correct.

So we keep waiting


waiting for more words to change

We keep waiting


waiting for more words to change

We know we can’t prevent it

And that it’s silly to resent it

So we keep waiting


waiting for more words to change

“Waiting on” means serving

That’s how waiters got their name

It’s not the same as “waiting for”

But it’s often used the same.

If some day the dictionaries

list the two as synonyms

It just means language has evolved

To suit the public’s whims.

So we keep waiting


waiting for more words to change

We keep waiting


waiting for more words to change

It’s not that we don’t care

But it’s the only option that’s there

So we keep waiting


waiting for more words to change

“Hopefully” doesn’t mean “I hope”

It means “in a hopeful way”

But some dictionaries list them both

‘Cause of what most people say.

“Nauseous” means “nauseating”

It does not mean “nauseated”

But so many people said it wrong

The original meaning’s faded.

So we keep waiting


waiting for more words to change

We keep waiting


waiting for more words to change

There aren’t logical excuses

For objecting to new uses

So we keep waiting


waiting for more words to change.



Beautiful Trek

The song “Beautiful Wreck” inspired another parody. This was before I actually watched any TNG or DS9, so I really had no right to say the things I said here. But I had to, because I couldn’t resist the fact that the original song contained a rhyme for “Trek,” a rhyme for countless words used in Star Trek, a mention of the phrase “Milky Way,” and even a mention of the phrase “seven years.”


All you newer Treks, I’ve given up on you,

‘Cause I like the original Trek, I do.

Of all of those shows set in the Milky Way

TOS, you’re the one I wish could have stayed.

You’re the one that’s least sub-par

What a beautiful Trek you are

Flying star to star,

Beautiful Trek you are.

They go crazy every seven years, you know

And so every seven years they make a new Trek show.

Except for TOS, ’cause you just got three,

Which is sad, ’cause you’re still the best Trek to me.

I’m still sitting here waiting by my TV set

But there’s been nothing good yet

But there’s been nothing good yet

You’ve got Spock’s pon farr

What a beautiful Trek you are

You’ve got Kolinahr

Beautiful Trek you are.

What a beautiful, such a beautiful

A beautiful Trek you are.

All you newer Treks, I’ve given up on you,

‘Cause I like the original Trek, I do.

Yeah, I like the original Trek, I do.

I like the original Trek, I do.

Yeah, you’ve got T’Lar

What a beautiful Trek you are

But not Tasha Yar

And not Selar

But what a beautiful Trek you are.

What a beautiful, such a beautiful,

Beautiful Trek you are.

What a beautiful, such a beautiful,

Beautiful Trek you are.


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