Poems #11-13: “Nightcap,” “Wasted,” and “Whispers in the Night”

I know it’s been a couple of months since I posted anything, but there wasn’t any reason to give an update until now. Even so, this won’t be much of one. I spent the past few days proofreading what I had written for I Will Be King in the hopes that it will inspire me to write more. We’ll see if it works. I’ve written about a dozen poems since my last update, so I’m including a few of them in this post. I sorted through the poems I’ve written since 2014 in case I decide to publish second editions of my earlier collections, but I haven’t integrated them into those texts yet. There seems to be quite a bit up in the air at the moment, but at least I’m feeling like doing something again. Anyway, here are the poems:


or go?
Stay or go?
Stay? Go? Go? Stay?
A simple choice. Profound consequences.

© 2018, all rights reserved.


saved in
a beer bottle
is lost


© 2018, all rights reserved.

Whispers in the Night

When darkness falls hard and fast and deep,
I hear your muffled call slithering through my sleep
past the demons’ dreams etching scars upon my soul
to ease the wretched screams slipping past my firm control.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #10: “Returnee”

It’s been awhile since my last writing update, but there wasn’t anything to report. I wasn’t doing any writing (poetry or fiction), and the poems I had written earlier in the year had nearly run out. I wasn’t even thinking about writing until about two weeks ago, and even then, there were only brief moments and a few ideas. I tried to follow up on one of those ideas about a week or so ago, but it just didn’t work. The character’s voice felt artificial and the writing was forced. It didn’t feel natural, and the story petered out. I tried again a few days later, and the same thing happened. I still like the idea, so I will probably go back to it at some point, but the story wasn’t ready to be written and I wasn’t ready to write it. Then, a couple of nights ago, I woke up with another idea and jotted down a few notes about it. It ruminated, and this morning I wrote the short story inspired by that idea. What’s encouraging is that, even though it didn’t flow as easily as I would like, it didn’t feel forced. Writing it reminded me of how it felt when I was writing short stories in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Most of the stories I wrote back then were short, idea-driven stories that could be completed in a few hours, and this one is like that. I might post it in a few days, after I revise and proofread it, but for now, here’s the only poem I have left from the ones I wrote earlier in the year:


A change of pace;
.     an old routine;
An open mind;
.     the same old scene;
A brand new world
.     rearranged;
A new beginning
.     with familiar friends.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #9: “The Ovarian Lottery”

Sorry for the delay in posting this poem. I’ve been dealing with my Spring allergies and spent much of the past few days drowsing. I’m also running out of poems to post, since I haven’t written much of anything this year yet. Anyway, if you haven’t heard of “The Ovarian Lottery,” it’s a term coined by Warren Buffet. He says he “won the ovarian lottery” by being born when and where he was and with the mental abilities that made it possible for him to take advantage of it.

The Ovarian Lottery

Born this day, a screaming brat
A boy? A girl? It matters not.
whose life is but a spark of breath
that stretches forward into death.

Will this breath be first and last?
Will a dozen decades pass?
Will a century grow old
before its story has been told?

Will it live a life of joy?
Will its hatred overflow?
Will love come its merry way?
Will it be someone else’s slave?

Will it crave its daily bread?
Will it have a gilded bed?
Will it never suffer want?
Will it sleep beneath a cot?

Will it have a temperament
suited to its environment?
Will its full potential rise
to but a fraction of its size?

Where and when this brat was born
determines much of what will come;
the rest results from DNA
and all the things that come its way.

Some have luck and win it all.
Some have none and drown in toil.
But none of them is in control
of when and where they have been born.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #8: “Flashback”


It is an old cardboard box,
dark brown and pitted by age,
topped by a dusty, misshapen lid.
I haven’t opened it—haven’t even
seen it—in decades, and now
it sits there accusing me of neglect.
It was an old fossil my mom
discovered in her garage,
and she wanted it gone.
“It’s yours,” she told me.
“Take it with you.”

I lift the lid and the ancient
glue gives way. A side flap
pops loose, but the other
three hold their shape.

A Dungeons and Dragons
boxed set stares up at me,
bringing back a few happy
memories of sword play
and magic spells. I lift it
and find the silver-gray
graduation cap, flattened
by time and long-forgotten.

I cringe and force back
the unpleasant memories.


Yes, that was what they
used to call me: Muskrat.

I can still feel the cold, hard
concrete floor of my father’s
fur shed; the piles of muskrats
stacked like cordwood next to
the skinning chair; the short
brown fur nestled in my palm;
the smell of tainted flesh and
clingy little balls of excrement
squeezed from the naked carcasses;
the blood caked on my fingers
after hours and hours of skinning….

I had buried that in the past
to collect dust and mildew,
and now it’s back again….

Why did I keep that cap?
Why do I still keep it?
And the graduation program?
The tassels?
The prom night catastrophe?
The diploma was the
only thing that mattered to me,
and I keep it with my college diplomas.

Then come the little knick-knacks:
Christmas ornaments from my grandma
that I never used, an ashtray I made
that looks like a rumpled fez, a package
of men’s handkerchiefs I never opened.
I never missed any of those,
but I still can’t throw them out.

A stack of letters to add to the
box of correspondence I’ve kept
in my closet for years.

Bank receipts I’ll have to shred,
even though I haven’t banked there
since the 1990s.

Nestled in among them
like a dagger from the past
is the Survival Knife.

I smile.
My dad bought it for me, and—
as gifts go—it was poorly chosen,
and I had forgotten about it.

He wanted me to be like him—
a hunter, a trapper, a man’s man—
but I wasn’t, and I never would be.
I was bound for college—eventually—
to become the “educated idiot”
he always dreaded I would be.

I never used that Survival Knife,
and I always thought it was a waste
of money, just like the ornaments
and handkerchiefs.

Until it saved my life.

It happened about six years
after I wore that cap and gown.
I have always struggled with depression,
and I was deeply entrenched in one at the time.
It was the first—and only—time I thought of suicide.

Oh, I had thought about
being dead before, about
who would miss me, about
who would be at my funeral,
but I never really wanted to die.

Until then.

I could not live
the way I was, and as
I lay there contemplating
how to kill myself, I thought
about that Survival Knife.

Immersed in that unfeeling stupor,
unable to lift my head from the pillow,
unable to move my arms and legs,
I smiled—weakly—and almost
laughed aloud.

The irony of ending my life
with a Survival Knife saved me.

If I could still laugh, I realized,
then I could still live.

Was that why
I buried that relic
in my mom’s garage,
hoping it would never be

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #7: “A Child”

A month and a half into the new year, and I haven’t accomplished squat with my writing. I also don’t really feel very guilty about it, which is somewhat of a surprise. Maybe next week? Maybe not? We’ll see.

A Child

Cake batter
on her nose.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #5: “Bits and Pieces”

Unfortunately, nothing much to report again. I’m still fairly apathetic toward my writing, and I’m not sure why. Anyway, here’s another poem.

Bits and Pieces

The road…
The road…
The frost-bitten road…
The wood…
The wood…
The snow-laden wood…
The word…
The word…
The rhyme-fitted word…
The board…
The board…
The fence-mending board…
The road. The wood. The word. The board…

Now, where is the poem?

© 2018, all rights reserved.


Poem #4: “Discourteous”

I’m still sorting through things as I clean and rearrange my apartment, and one of the boxes contained printouts of some stories I wrote about 30 years ago. I’m going to go through them this weekend or next week to see if any are worth retyping or publishing. I also proofread my poetry collection, but I haven’t quite taken the next step of publishing it. I’m not sure why I haven’t, either, but every time I think about formatting it for the different e-book retailers, I get deflated and shy away from doing it. It’s a bit strange; I’m cleaning far more than I generally do and writing far less. Usually, I detest cleaning (which is why I generally don’t make messes). I have written a few poems, though, and three of them (brevettes) were published by Whispers as part of the January Activity. “Discourteous” is one of the others I’ve written this year.


Darkness before me,
behind me, to the left,
and to the right.

My car climbs the hill
like a snail on tranquilizers
trudging along, heedless
of the slimy trail it
leaves behind.

A dim funnel of light
spreads out before me
like a luminescent shadow
stretching into the night sky.

It fans out, forming
a diffuse canopy, and I
hit the dimmer switch
and wait for him
to do the same.

The pool of light
blossoms into a pair
of brilliant, piercing
haloes that stare me
down as if we are
playing chicken.

I squint into the
blinding glare and
flash the brights.

I shield my eyes and
flash them again.

He is close, now,
so close I could see
the whites of his eyes,
but my vision has been
consumed by those
blazing orbs.

He passes, and I am
thrust back into darkness.

I feel the vibration
from the rumble of my
tires skirting the edge of
the shoulder, and I ease
my car back onto the road.

My eyes adjust
just in time to see
a funnel of light
piercing the sky
above the next hill.

I cringe.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #3: “One in a Million”

Not much to report on my writing. A few more poems, some revision, and I’ve allowed myself to be distracted some more. At least I’m starting to feel a bit like writing, so maybe this week will see some progress. Also, I think three of my poems were accepted for publication (the comment suggested it, but it wasn’t clear); I’ll find out for sure next week. In the meantime, here’s a rondeau that I wrote this week:

One in a Million

“A single death,” said Stalin,
“is a tragedy, a million
deaths is a statistic.”
But is that realistic?
Was it really tragic when

Stalin died? Did his victims
mourn his timely passing?
Or were they ecstatic?
A single death—

if it is the right one—can
be far from tragic. One
less depraved, sadistic,
madman and that statistic-
al million would then become
a single death.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #2: “With Age . . . “

I have been holding off publishing 2017: A Year of Poetry while I ponder what to do about the changes I mentioned last time. I should have it published by this time next week. I had some last minute prep work to do for one of my classes because I wasn’t sure it would have enough students to run, so I’ve already failed to live up to my resolution. However, I have been doing more writing-related activities this year than I did most of last year. Unfortunately, most of it hasn’t involved any actual writing but the kind of grunt work that goes on behind the scenes. So, aside from a few poems, there hasn’t been much wordage. Perhaps this week I’ll get back into writing fiction by proofreading and revising what I have for I Will Be King. At least I’m starting to think about that book, which is a positive sign.

With Age . . .

My age is not reflected in my years—
though they are many more than once they were—
but in the youthful eyes my students bring
into the classroom. They are so young!
And I? I am on the cusp of middle age—
and then some—with the downward slope tilting
toward the grave. I see it waiting, six
feet deep, the headstone chiseled—all except
the date. It could be years from now or to-
morrow. And them? What future will they know?
What will they see when they look back from here?
Will they blame us—their elders—for all their
problems? Will we be deserving of their wrath?
Or will we find the wisdom for a different path?

© 2018, all rights reserved.