Letter to Bei Dao



Two doors fell in love,

and their daughter was a window.

She stepped through her parents

into the lowering light

of the train-whistle new world.

Goodbye mudroom! Goodbye!


Is He Right for Me?

I asked the weeping psychic, walking on the muddy track beneath the soft ceiling of spring clouds. I had dreamt of God as a lover, myself warm and completed; then rent, sent out alone into the cold morning with a painful splinter in the sole of my foot. It is the last day to think before the blossoms erupt, the trees frantic with yellow and hectic pink, the necessary beckoning, light too bright, instinct overcoming. Once again I tread through a field of lowing cows under northern clouds, lonely, longing for Him.

Spring Crazy

I wrote this spring poem last May but golly, this mood has overtaken me once more. Points if you can guess the Cole Porter song which inspired this poem.


I’m Ulaanbaatar


It’s May I’m out of register

it’s the cherry blossoms I’m quick and dirty

I need some means restriction

a mistake seen from afar

Maybe it’s the lilacs I’m mindful sex

I’m back of the envelope I’m Pearl Square

I’m a baby near a boiling kettle

a tiger on a calendar

Could it be the apple tree I’m instamatic

I’m back of the house I’m your city’s lake

There’s restless agora within me boundless

I’m street antibiotic I’m Ulaanbaatar

It’s May ferns forcing the forest floor

I’m an epidemic alphabet I’m your rabbit

the wind the rain the newly-opened window

it’s very late I’m still awake          a door ajar




The world is wild with blooms today. Me too. Redbuds are making their presence known across the city. Me too!

Here’s a poem I wrote for Duffy about a redbud.


The Redbud Blooms for Just a Week


I stand at the curtained window, discreet,

watching you wait beneath the redbud,

the expression on your face oblique.


Years ago, men dug a hole in the rocky peat.

I held your hand as they lowered the sapling down.

We watched the tree straining to meet


the sky as it grew to sixteen feet.

The redbud has entered a stage of discernment,

has grown ring upon ring in winter cold, summer heat.


It exudes a faint scent, sweet.

Your bus appears and you are away.

Soon, workday green will arrive; flowers retreat.

The Gathering Wave

I can feel it now, a gathering wave of political poetry–BAD political poetry–rising up to crash upon my Facebook feed and in anthologies everywhere. It will often rhyme (that one-syllable name with the plosive ending will be so hard to resist) and use a four beat line. Or it will be a rewriting of some anthem or creed. It will be about an explicit political event. It will contain a grandiose character undermining himself with his own statements. It will contain well-worn phrases of rhetoric from politicians and the media.It will all be so HEART-FELT! Such good intentions! The sale of the anthologies (reaping single digit profits) will benefit progressive organizations. THERE WILL BE READINGS and I will have to go to them.

This is a lot of snark coming from someone who truly thinks we need political poetry–GOOD political poetry–right now. What will make it good?


  • It might not be about any recognizable political event. Read Medbh McGuckian to understand this point. Any poetry written in a time of civic crisis becomes political.
  • It will tell absolute truth (important in a world where “alternative facts” apparently exist.)
  • Or it will make everything up. Poets are not bound to the rules of journalists.
  • It will contain language which is fresh, interesting, original, and not a hint of rhetoric which we hear around us.
  • It will contain NEW ideas. The ideas of the current administration, as disruptive as it attempts to be, follow along well-worn tracks. So do the ideas of the opposition. The poet needs to bring something new.
  • It will contain feelings other than outrage and tenderness.
  • It will disrupt.
  • It will not reflect, but transform.
  • No ideas, but in things. I stole that from Dr. Williams. Let’s close with this incredible political poem he wrote.

The Red Wheelbarrow

William Carlos Williams, 18831963

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white