Listen and Repeat




Say, “I want to drink a beer,”

says the man in the speaker.

It is seven thirty in the morning,

and I have been practicing,

for twenty minutes, how to say

Jo quiero beber una cerveza,

only sometimes the man tells me

to ask for a cold beer, una cerveza fria.

And I do. I ask for un sandwich frio,

too, and repeatedly query, Quanto questa,

how much will it cost, or else I insist,

Hablo un poco de Español, or

No tengo mucho dinero,

I don’t have much money,

but mostly, the man

with the low, clear voice prompts me

to ask for beer. Cold beer. And though

the sun has just barely risen

over the mountain, and though

I only rarely drink beer,

and though I am sipping on a latte,

driving my children to school,

I find myself craving a cold,

cold beer, preferably with a lime,

preferably served on a beach

with a breeze, the sun a giant

glittering peso, the bottle slick

with its own cold sweat,

and some man I don’t see insists

in a low, clear voice, voy a pagar,

jo voy a pagar, I’m going to pay,

and in my perfect Pimsleur accent,

I say to him, gracias, señor, muchas gracias,

and sip my cold beer, waiting

for the next lesson.


Go Ahead and Test It




next time it is overcast, gray

a little soggy and damp,

go for a walk, notice

how little light it takes

for the world to shine

Dear Ralph,



Wait until the necessary and everlasting overpowers you, until day and night avail themselves of your lips. 

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Essays and Lectures”



I believe in ripeness, the wisdom

of waiting. Here on my counter,

the melon sweetens and softens.

The peppers slowly turn from green

to red. The tomatoes become less

like stones and more like kisses.

Terrible to taste an early grape,

the way its sharp juice rucks

the soft lips. Terrible to eat

the berry before it’s earned

its blush. And still, the misery

of waiting—how eagerness

rises up in us, a surge of please,

a tide of want, a rush of now.

Yes, to the wait, the awful wait,

how this trial of patience

brings us closer to ourselves,

how it makes the future inevitable

ever that much sweeter.

One Insight



how beautiful they are,

all those smiles

I don’t see on your lips


for Barbara Ford



We sit on the couch in the low lamplight

and talk for hours about the heart,

its longing to know and be known.

I watch your hands as you speak, how

your long fingers dance. And sometimes,

my eyes catch on a moth amusing itself

at the edge of the room, content in shadow.

We are both well aware that pain

can also be a blessing, that just because

something is not going right doesn’t mean

it is wrong. There are problems

we will never solve, but tonight, it is not

about the solving of things, it’s about the feeling

of them, the willingness to lean over the edge

of the well-lit world, the thrill of fluttering

in the darkness together.



All morning, I make myself useful—

mow the lawn and vacuum

the carpet and scrub the potatoes

and slice the melon and straighten

the shelves and look out the window

and see the snapdragons I planted

last spring not because they were useful,

but because they are so beautiful.


I’m now going to dazzle myself with the pluperfect.

            —Jack Ridl



And isn’t it dazzling, the notion

that an action not only began in the past,


but was finished in the past, or,

as they say in Latin, it was perfect.


Not like these leaves, that began

in the past as green flags, but now


transform into gold flame. And we all know

what happens next. No, not like


the boy who once fit in my lap

and now looks me in the eye.


Not like the dream I had for my life

that changed before it could


be achieved. What really ends?

What do our cells not remember?


Even the dead are here in this room,

on the streets, in cafes. We carry


our history with us everywhere

we go, and it wriggles out of its


perfect cage and dances through the ending,

though we thought we’d shut the curtain,


though the director has long since yelled “cut,”

though the audience has already left,


see, here it is, even now, progressive

and as present as these cut sunflowers,


spilling their pollen all over the table,

hardening their seeds into future gold.

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