This is the way
I want to sing for you,
the way the rain does
as it pummels the house—
there is no way
to ignore it,
battering the rooftop,
the windows, the porch.
Nothing to do
but to break off in the middle
of your whatever
and count the seconds
between the flash
and the rumble
and marvel at how the rain
touches everything, everything,
even reaches inside
with its deep gray scent,
oh tides of it, fearsome tides.
You may not like it,
but at least you stop
and listen.

It is not so easy to change.
Consider the sunflower you dug yesterday
from one crowded corner of the garden
and moved to another more open space.
How you dug all around it to keep the roots
intact. You pre-watered the new hole.
You told it what would happen. You held
the stem firmly and pulled with great care.
But it didn’t matter, all these precautions.
The sunflower wilted, bent double, leaves
flagged. So why should you not expect
the same when you make a great change
in yourself. It doesn’t matter that the end
result makes more sense or seems healthier.
Change is hard. Though you tell yourself
it will be okay. Though you tug at your own roots
with great care. Here you are, bent double,
dreams flagging, looking dead or close to dead.
And that sunflower, darned if it isn’t on the edge of bloom
even right now outside the window.
It doesn’t always go that way.
But sometimes a gray sky comes along
at just the right time to slow everything down
and damn if those petals aren’t just about
to come up gold.

a q-poem for Lian Canty’s alphabet menagerie

It was a funny little man
I met on the street, with the sparklingest
look in his eye.
He said, I have some things
right here in my bag that I think you might
just like to buy.

Now I had a quarter,
shiny as a quasar, and a new dollar
crisp and clean,
and I said to the man,
show me what you have
that I might give to a queen.

First he pulled out a quill.
For just one dollar bill,
he said, and I declined.
Then he pulled out a quail
with a curving crest—
I said, Not what I had in mind.

Not fancy enough for the queen?
he said, and he pulled out
a red and green quetzal.
That’s lovely! I cried,
but please, no more birds.
He twisted his arms like a pretzel.

Okay, he said, you are not
easy to please. How about
some Queen Anne’s Lace?
Though the blossom was fair,
it smelled terrible
and I made a sour face.

How about a queen bee
to make her honey
whenever she wants something sweet?
How does that work?
I asked the man,
he said, Watch her carefully.

Or would she perhaps like
quartz crystals—
how many would she need?
Or maybe a book
of clever quotes—
do you know what she likes to read?

My dear man, I said,
that’s it! You have shown me
the best way to make an impression—
not with something I’ve bought
but with curiousness.
I shall bring the queen a question.

How it Changes

I may never travel to Neptune,
I’ll never eat a newt,
I’ll never ride a narwhal,
but I’ll always love you.

They say the North Star’s brightest,
they say nightingales sing best—
but to my ears and nose and eyes
you’re finer than the rest.

You’re more prized than the needlefish,
as elegant as a nautilus,
as cheerful as a nasturtium,
and lovelier than the narcissus.

I’d make you a nest of my love,
I’d draw you blank staves for your notes,
I’d spin you blue thread for your needle,
I’d carve you oars for your boat …

and I’ll nudge you from my nest
and push your boat out to the ocean—
I will always, always love you
though some ways are too sad to mention.

Eighteen Small Steps

Those who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps.
—St. Gregory the Great, from a letter to Augustine of Canterbury

teach me crosswise
streets, how to believe
all directions are possible


at my next shindig,
inviting happiness
and grief
for a
ménage a trios


she’s got everything she needs
ever since she made best friends
with nothing


sitting on the bench
I wonder if adventure forgot
or I forgot
to send the invitation


I would like
to want
to be at a shindig,
but dang, this couch
is so darn soft


forgive me
if I spray paint your thoughts—
I just knew a little bright orange
would do you
a heap of good


what’s up
with all those shenanigans?
well, she said,
you can’t just have one,
can you?


I asked the quince
about pleasure—it said baby,
time to get reckless


what is there
not to love
about grace?
the shaman says
now try loving fear


nice idea, but whoever
says all answers
come from within has never
seen your belly button


what’s a rain dance
except a snow dance
just a few adventures early?


I think the world
is addicted
to paradox—
I think I am
addicted to the world


the world gave me light,
I wanted shenanigans—
oh foolish woman,
now surrounded by shenanigans
all I want is light


every once in a while,
but hey, world,
the rest of the time
let’s dance


it’s not that I forgot
to stand in the light
it’s just
that darkness
was holding my hand


indecision settled in
like a fog—every morning I practice
turning myself into a sun


will you like me better
if I cover myself in chocolate
said my sorrow


with authenticity
as my compass, every road
is the right road

Game On

I so wanted
for you to be
the one to bring
me love and
happiness, but
the world
could hardly
conceal its sparkle
when it slapped
my own hand
on my heart
and said tag,
you’re it.

Just Sayin’

all those stars
not a single one
out of place
but your hand, darling,
belongs right here


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