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—for Rachel



between the cactus,

we walk, our conversation

daring to step wherever it wants

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Sometimes, she said, being uncomfortable

is what we need to do.


And I think of the scald of hot water,

how it cleans the stain.


How being covered in abrasive fuzz

is the only way to harvest the peach.


How the seed is carried by the burr.

It is human to seek pleasure, shun pain.


But think of the tree, how it lets

the gale rip away what is dead.


And the grape, how it bubbles

and foams before it becomes wine.


And the cactus, how it needs the drought

as much as it needs the rain.

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Should We Tell Her?




Somewhere in my heart

there is a tiny woman

with a crimson scarf

and hair pulled back

who is balancing

on a tightrope—

she has not yet learned

that it is okay

for her to fall,

that the net

will always catch her,

so she keeps doing

the same boring walk

back and forth

thinking how brave

and how proficient

she is at staying

on the rope,

never learning

she could also

jump and swing

and leap and twirl and fall

and get back up.


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Looking for god under the bed—

finding dust bunnies.

Sacred dust bunnies.

Of course, I think,

but to be honest, friend,

I don’t really see

the divine

in these drifts of abandoned hair

and fuzz and grit,

no matter how much I’d like to.

Now I know how I get in my own way.

For here on, I’ll need to question

my eyes more often.

Lower my standards? Perhaps

feel myself being held

up to the light

to see what shines.



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for Corinne, skate skier extraordinaire



The meadow was a violent scourge of white,

and still we chose to leave our cars and ski.

The wind and blowing snow obscured our sight,


lashed through our hats and stole our breath, but we

leaned into it and laughed, as if the storm

were nothing more than an excuse to be


more brave, more willing to eschew what’s warm

so we might face our fear, find joy in risk—

and sure enough, I felt myself transform


from nervousness to animated bliss—

and we for hours skied amidst the gusts

and for that time, knew nothing more than this:


to meet the crazy storm. When scared, to thrust

ourselves into the howling world. And trust.

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Those boys who jumped you at the dance—

I want the chance

to find them now

and ask them how

they feel about themselves as men.

But then again,

perhaps it would

feel twice as good

to sit them in a row and read

them poems, see

them squirm to Poe—

then let them go.

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for Wallace Hartley and the musicians of the Titanic



And as the splendid ship began to list

and as the people scrambled on the decks,

the band struck up a ragtime tune, and next

they played an autumn waltz. Yes there, amidst

the screaming and the shouts, the band persisted,

giving to the night what they gave best—

the peace that comes from melody. They blessed

the crowd with song till waves consumed the ship.


How is it that they all agreed to stay?

Some artist’s creed? Some sense this was their gift?

Survivors say they heard the soaring staves

of hymns escort them as they rowed away—

still heard them as the aft began to lift.

And sink. Then nothing but Atlantic waves.


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Say it’s a hundred pumpkins

and you need to get them all

into the car, but the car

cannot hold all the pumpkins.

A mathematician might tell you no,

it can’t be done, citing volume

and the properties of matter. And a fixer

might tell you how to tie the pumpkins

to the roof of the car. A Buddhist

might suggest you let them go.

But any lover will tell you

that pumpkins make good carriages

and that with that many pumpkins,

there’s bound to be a pair of glass

slippers around here somewhere.

And, hiding amidst the seeds

and the strings, at least a little

happily ever after.



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Love Lessons



When the favorite sweater

becomes threadbare at the wrists

and already you’ve mended it

repeatedly: when you find yourself sewing

on top of your sewing and there

is little left of original thread,

is this when you decide

that the sweater is better worn

with holes, that not everything

needs fixing, that sometimes

what is most loved is what

is most beyond repair?

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One Prayer




with no snow

to make snow angels

I flap my arms

make night angels

send them to you

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