Poem #46: “I Am — Are You?”

Here is my last poem for the year. It seems fitting to post it on New Year’s Eve, a time of reflection. I wrote it earlier this Fall when I was discussing Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy with my philosophy students. If you’re not familiar with that work, you may still have heard his famous saying: “I think, therefore, I am.” (Cogito ergo sum.)

I Am — Are You?

As long as
I am
I am
must it not be

But what
of you?

Do you
apart from me
I am
not thinking
of you?

are you
a part of me
that exists
when I am
of you
and me?

© 2016, all rights reserved.

As for my New Year’s resolution, I intend to write and publish at least 2 more books for my Aftermath series and to play less Slotomania.

Poem #45: “Ought-ism”


What ought I to do?

A paralyzing question.
The good in me is adamant.
The bad says no one’s watching.
They are the same voice speaking.
No devil sits on my shoulder.
No angel whispers in my ear.

Just me

lost in conflict
staring at the candy bar
with my stomach

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Poem #44: “Claim Jumper”

Claim Jumper

The little thieves
have made a well-worn path
from their den in the creek bank
and through the copse of trees.

The trail ends under the barbed-wire fence,
and their tiny paw prints disperse,
spreading outward like the footprints
of forty-niners scrambling up the slopes
to stake a claim before the gold runs out.

The outermost rows—
so full of tiny golden nuggets!
—are theirs.

Or so they think. The box
traps in my hand say

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Poem #43: “The Paperclip Experiment”

I’ve written a few more poems over the past few days, and I just finished revising this one. It seems appropriate to post it, considering that the Fall semester is entering finals week….

The Paperclip Experiment*


A pristine
strip of steel
wire, untouched by
human hands, coiled
into redundant patterns
by robotic arms repeating
the same motion over and over
and over again without
growing tired. They
are all the same.


A box
of paperclips
to a child—followed
by a simple question: “How
many uses can you think of for
a paperclip?” Laughter. Excitement.
Imagination springs to life as they begin
exploring the possibilities and find
hundreds of answers. The
researchers proclaim
98% of them are

Middle School

It is a
study, and the
researchers return
to test the children again.
This time, half the students
have forgotten how to use
a paperclip, half have
left their genius


The research ends
with the dismal realization
that most subjects have become
paperclips, molded by the robotic
arms of education into the same dull,
repetitive patterns, fungible units
that have little use for

*In the YouTube video “Ken Robinson Paperclip” <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzBa-frc2JA&gt; (accessed 12/8, 2016), Ken Robinson summarizes the study on divergent thinking reported in Land and Jarmin’s Breakpoint & Beyond: Mastering the Future Today. As a philosophy professor, I have encountered many students who have misplaced their ability to “think outside the box,” and I do my best to pop the lids off those boxes to help students rediscover the possibilities. Perhaps some of them will find a use for a paperclip that will change the world.

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Poem #40: “Sisyphus”

The semester is winding down and I’m thinking about getting back into writing again. I’m not quite ready to resume work on Book 2 of Aftermath yet, though; I still have a week of instruction and another week or two of exams before I can shift my focus away from teaching and toward writing. So I decided to write a few poems to get the creative juices going. “Sisyphus” is one of those poems, and I’ll probably post a few others in December to close out the year. Next year, I think I’ll resume my goal of posting a poem a week (even if it is one from a prior year), but I’m not going to commit to that yet. We’ll see.


The trail ahead of me
was behind me

Each step I take
retraces the same steps
I took to get here.

Up the mountain.
Down the mountain.
Always the same view.

The boulder—
.     my constant companion,
.     my only friend—
never complains.

Yesterday, I counted
the steps. Today?
I won’t bother.


© 2016, all rights reserved.

Poem #39: “A Cry for Independents”

Okay, it’s the eve of the election and, rightly or wrongly, here’s a poem reflecting on my impression of it….

A Cry for Independents

Once again
our choice is limited
to two unworthy candidates
chosen by others—

one apparently corrupt
the other seemingly insane
(or so they say
about each other)—

and none of the rest
have a chance of winning
because only two parties
have the power and money
to buy the votes they need
to win.

© 2016, all rights reserved.