This Cat

This cat slinks, creeps
into rooms, the ruins
of many a holiday
in soft golden light.

Mottled, she mews,
back arched clown,
perhaps of self
catalytic origin.

She’s fleecy, wooly
tufted, easily shocked,
as if any thought
is a threat

to one’s peace
full sleeper day,
like a vacuum
or a house rejigged.

The Gate

Those years after she lost
her memory she said she
mellowed as her hurt went
down through her bones.

Still she knew all the hidings
and when one was out of place
she awoke in the dark under
her worries and prayed

she hated she said when
someone did her like that
her ears keen on the gate
latch and the open and close

of the side door where they
escaped with such little
grasp of their own budding
sorrow like lily bulbs.

Clothesline

Tall steel T’s in concrete
about twenty feet apart
three wires pulled taut
but she needs a forth

with another on the way
wet clothes lines sagging
in the sunny backyard
of the corner lot on Mariposa

where a city truck pulls up
workers dash to the Village Market
and out hop back to work
when she hears a wolf whistle

as she dangles bras and panties
diapers socks and a white sheet
from the lines to dry and she
wonders at such sun in winter.

Free Words (some assembly required)

not spoken words
not hidden words
not hearded words

dug words
fished words
sifted words

surfed words
combed words
well travelled words

free words on
the sidewalk
skipped by

letters spewed
like weed seeds
across a manicured

lawn as solid green
as the village scene
where words score

sales counts
remaindered words
recycled words

composted words
buried words
words love lost

lost and found
words washed
up on a beach

words gargled
words swallowed
words repurposed

words typed
words scratched
words fallen

from the sky
like manna
made into beer

words loaded
words emptied
words cooked

words eaten
words wiped
clean

as tables
freshly set
with white tablecloths

words waiting
aside
words walking

whispered remarks
“Shall I hear no more?”
utterly.

(note: written while reading
noT wriTTen words
by Xi Xi, trans. Jennifer Feeley,
Zephyr Press, 2016.)


A Gift of Morning

To dose is to give, a gift. Not to be confused with to douse, to souse. I felt somewhat pickled yesterday morning waking up absurdly early to get to my 2nd Pfizer dose down at the Convention Center, no time for coffee. This diabolical virus travails! (And it’s not often I use the exclamation point.) But I felt peaceful, if not happy, and light in the early morning sun. I was reminded of commuting days, leaving home the morning still night. Ah, but the morning! The fresh starts! The spring smells fueled by a full spring sun. The Convention Center was again abuzz, as if for a game or a concert. The loop was well oiled, and I soon found myself sitting in the waiting area for 2nd dosers, 15 still, quiet minutes, like sitting in church, waiting. I prayed for peace, happiness, and lightness, for myself and for others who came to mind, those I love, and those I don’t, feeling none too much any of it – had I been in a cot instead of a chair I’d have fallen back to sleep. Holy Thursday on the Catholic calendar. The Last Supper. Today, Good Friday. All bearing crosses, awake and asleep, crossing, looping in lines for the wearying doses, soused by the pandemic, in procession, waiting.

It’s Its Own Thing

On our walk last night, birds,
low in the trees and on the ground,
in the grass and all around,
and it started to rain.

Tomorrow, it may be sunny.
It takes many shapes, this thing.
Sometimes it’s an ear ringing,
a particle of physics.

It is not Paris or San Francisco,
certainly not El Paso or Cairo.
It comes and goes like wind,
ubiquitous and protean.

It’s not me, though
I often have it, or not.
That’s just it with it;
you never know for certain.

It is a professional, white-collared
without capital, contained
out of site.
When it decides to rain,

not a thing you can do about it,
except dance or hustle home,
from which you want
to get away from it all.

An Approach to Stylelessness

Language, the dress of thought,
words its buttons.
What are we trying to cover?
Nothing.

The dress interprets
the body,
its own reveal, skin and hair,
apparently lacking

something necessary
to complete the ensemble,
where sound means
stylelessly.

Dress, the body licensed
for use, the slow decay
its words describe,
its missing buttons.

Spring, perchance

“Spring is like a
perhaps,”
e. e. cummings said,
“hand…”

For all I know,
as luck would have it,
mayhap e. had been
a weatherman,

instead of a poet.
Poets often talk
about things nothing
know they about,

like Spring,
but as things may turn out,
e. e. wasn’t talking about Spring,
but about a hand.

But Spring’s not here an either
or proposal; Spring’s neither
but here nor and there but per
adventure thru a broken window.

Through the Alley at Twilight

Twilight, the time of evening just before dusk,
brouhaha of shadows passing to their roost,
a calico on her last prowl before turning in,
ethereal blue rectangles lighting living rooms.

Porch lights welcoming neighbors and intruders,
strings of lights celebrating an open cafe or pub,
or a place to sit out on the stoop and talk,
couple browsing by in postprandial comma,

recalling injuries of the day, hair down,
disappointments, missed chances, kiss offs,
walking up or down the darkening alley,
unpaved gravel, ruts, the walk difficult,

but nowhere near impossible, preferred
way, the two birds scuffle, feathers ruffle,
they separate, then come back together
and drop lower into the trees, looking

for a mate that won’t hate to sleep alone,
will get up and fetch the bone without
undo complaint, make some coffee,
filter dreams, shovel another load of mulch.

Add Title

You say primordial like it was a long time ago,
but look around, see the ooze from the same
old sores seeping through the bandages of time.

Of universe you birthed forth, blind at first,
then you thought you could see, with eyes
no less, your ears and nose full of dark matter,

and through every pore of your skin comes
and goes all the bugs of a family fortune,
a species come true, true to life.

But you are not true to type or form.
You mix and mingle and wander,
one day fins, the next, feathers,

anything to get ahead, until one day,
you fall in love with another just
like you. Well, almost.

Is Poetry Good for You?

Here at The Toads, where we have, since 2007, contributed to the general discussion of literature, we sometimes get questions regarding the uses, benefits, and effects of reading poetry: Is poetry good for you? How long does it take for a poem to kick-in? What are poetry’s side effects? How long does a poem last? Will reading poetry help my anxiety, depression, or pain?

These and similar questions are often accompanied by anecdotal experience offered as evidence or symptom. Someone knows a guy who read a poem and joined a cult; another attended a poetry reading and woke up with a hangover; a mother noticed her daughter slipping a book of poems into her missal at Mass – what to do?

What’s the best time of day to read a poem? Is it ok to read poetry while on steroids? Should you mix poetry with television? Are there any good poems about math? Can you suggest a good gluten free book of poems? What are this poem’s contraindications?

Medical doctors may suggest reading no more than two standard length poems per day. All things in moderation, including poems. As for the opinion of the man on the street, Everyman, vox populi, the wisdom of the crowd seems never closer to madness than on the subject of poetry.