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Country Verse

I said I’d never love you,

I said I’d never change.

I said I’d never open up

those bolted doors again.

I said I’d never promise

something like forever,

well, goodbye what I thought would be

and hello, hello never.


Real Verse

I said I’d never write a novel,

only poetry.

I said I’d never wear a dress,

now just look at me.

I said I’d never curse the rain

no matter how bad the weather.

Well goodbye what I thought I knew,

and hello, hello never.


The Bridge

Yeah, never comes around much more

than happy ever afters—

life sure gets more curious

the more I meet my nevers


Food Verse

I said I’d never eat mayonnaise

no potato chips for me.

I said I’d never eat fried food—

too many calories.

But deviled eggs taste fabulous,

and French fries even better.

Goodbye skinny waist and thighs

and hello, hello never.


Said I’d never write a country song

well hello, hello never.

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The hope that is left after all your hopes are gone—that is pure hope, rooted in the heart.

            —Brother David Steindl-Rast



And so tonight when my daughter says to me,

Mom, are you Santa Claus? I ask her if it

would make a difference, and she says, Yes.


I don’t want him to just be a hoax for making

kids be good. And I say, I’ve never thought of Santa

that way. I think of him as generous. And magic.


And she says, But magic’s not real, and I say,

Some magic is. And she says, Well, it would

make sense. You always know what we want


because you’re the mom. And I tell her,

It is my great privilege to work for Santa,

and she says, What do you mean? And I say,


Well, you know, buying presents. And she says,

Why do you think he didn’t bring us a big present

this year, like he did last year? And I hear


in her voice, against all fact, hope,

the hope that lingers when hope is gone,

a pure hope, the hope that goodness is real,


that there is generosity beyond comprehension,

that some magic is real. She rolls over in the dark.

I keep hope rooted in my heart.


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Dear Friends,

A week or so ago, I sent a poem titled Secret Agents, which outlined the story of a woman I have not yet met (Sherry Richert Belul) who sent me $5 in the mail as a reminder that abundance is everywhere. Since then, a small secret agent revolution has been happening, and Sherry and I have launched Secret Agents of Change!

On Feb. 17, Random Acts of Kindness Day, we will start our Secret Agent Challenge: Operation Love–seven days of simple “assignments” that spread secret joy, good-will and kindness in the world around you. Will you join us?

Here is a link to a video in which we talk about how we met through small acts of kindness and how we decided to create the Secret Agents of Change.

And here is a link to join our Facebook group, which is how we will be giving out the secret missions.

If you are eager to be part of the Secret Agent Challenge but don’t belong to Facebook, then email me. I am sure we can come up with some way to get you involved and in the loop! It’s a kindness revolution!



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Michelangelo wrote his love

forty-eight funeral epigrams—

not one of them brought back

the shoulders like chiseled marble,

the purr of his voice, his lips raw silk

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One Irreversible




late apology—

a week after it died of drought,

offering the plant water

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One Brevity




all its life

it never knew

it could be so bright—

this log just before

it’s ash

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What was the best advice you got as a teenager?

Question asked in the Positive Youth Development Training



Sitting in the old one-room schoolhouse

and trying to remember any piece of advice,

I come up blank, which makes me think brain scientists

are right: the prefrontal cortex had not yet kicked in.

Makes me think, why give a teen advice?

They won’t listen now. They won’t remember it later.


But then, clear as a clap, I am standing on stage

in my pedal pushers and my fake Izod shirt, and I hear

John Klug’s voice howl from the theater’s back row,

“I can’t means I won’t.” That is right before

he strides to the front of the stage, picks up the easel

and throws it into the empty audience,


where it lands in the training I attend thirty years later,

and I stare at it beside me, astonished he threw it,

but even more astonished at how simple it was,

the way he changed my life, how that afternoon

he guaranteed that every time I hear the phrase I can’t,

I see the chance to say instead, I can do it. I’ll try.

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One Friendship

—for Kyra


walking the icy hill

every step a triumph—

and us,

crazy enough

to walk it together

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They say opportunity knocks, but then
once it’s in, I’ve seen it punch. Explode.
Manhandle. Demand. Require. Kick.
Throttle. Strangle. Rebuke. Erode.

If only it only knocked, perhaps
I’d be more inclined to answer the door,
but sometimes, once in, it takes all you have,
and then, when you’re spent, it takes more.

*Dear Readers … this is just to say that this is NOT the poem I thought I was sitting down to write, but this is the poem that showed up. And any of you who have taken a class with me know that I am a big fan of the dictum of Jack Mueller, Obey the poem’s emerging form. So I did. I think I almost scared myself with this poem. Enough that I thought twice about sending it out. But here it is …

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Every Time



and after the lights were out

and after my mother had kissed me goodnight

I would pull from under my pillow


the book, the flashlight, and for hours

in the quiet house, no matter how difficult

the day had been, no matter how low I felt,


for those hours I was so glad to be alive

in someone else’s story, and every time,

when I when I tugged long enough on its lines,


I could not help but notice

how each story was my story, too.


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