the year in poetry 2015


mirrored with water
gleaming white
frozen salt


In dream
a music festival
and I walked searching for a bathroom
an old friend
had a baby girl with him
I touched her head
she smiled

Contemplate returning home
before returning to music
lost in the crowds
sun evening
on either side of the street


Washing dishes
while they play hide and seek
I hear his footsteps
the vibrations in the floor
my hands are wet

night out the window

He thinks about hiding next to the stove
then the pantry
settles on squatting
next to the portable dishwasher

plain sight
with his hands covering his eyes


Instinct takes over
clutch toilet seat sides
heave chest and stomach convulse
vomit all
vomit all

It’s okay soothe
rub back and shoulders

It’s okay
pause and repeat
then hug and clean up


Early early
6am finds us
cutting paper on the couch
shapes and scraps and snowflakes
while Jack Skellington on the tv
we are paper cutters
working in a factory
he says


Ride music waves through time
what you were
and what you are
past and future
in general sense
but specific moment
time hops
even to a second
a fragment
and twinge of specific
felt again after thirty years
just as it was ago
notes and tone
the quality of reverb
transportation to and from

what do you feel?
possibility, bitter and sweet?
what do you feel?


Cold morning
ice air that cracks cement
burns face
while snow marbles over
dark ice
as walk by park
foot foot
I feel the temperature drop
when I walk over the ice


What did you do?
how did you live?
tolerate so long ago
these frigid winters?
in Illinois
by the lake
pre Chicago
no heat
but community
wanting inside
bundled together
breath frozen
hanging in heaps
in the air above you
your family
through long nights
strength in numbers

What was your day to day
when the weather
could kill?


Small nerves in the small place
beneath my chest
is it my stomach
a small knot of empty
that is there
more often than not
small nerves
faint and persistent
letting me know I’m alive
tiny fear and worry
both hollow
let it in
give it space to move around
make itself at home
it’s already here
it knows its way about
it might as well
make itself comfortable


Shuffle puzzle pieces
with pictures and letters
we put them together
he active
me suggesting
he saying the letters
sounding them out
as the pictures assemble

Waking up still
laying on the floor on my side
the hardwood the track lighting
his small bed

The smell of wet
earth and stone
in the subway tunnel
rising to work day
under new snow
gray buildings
hide clouds
soot slush puddles
run trickle rivers
down stairs
and water seeps
through subway gaps


Miniature block towers
monuments to play built without thought
primary color brick houses and cities
stuffed couch cushion monoliths
spaceships with windows
jump platforms
and zombie traps

The floor strewn with crumbs
uncountable snacks
crackers, cheese, cheerios, pretzels, popcorn
embedded in the pile of old carpet


The first mist morning
of the year
chill with warmth on the breeze
mudflows and black pack ice thaw
the black wings of that crushed pigeon reappear
having been under snow since January


Wake to pain in my neck
and my son who whispers
dad, can we wake up?
and gray light from the window


My feet crunch quiet and soft
one in front of the other
three dogs, a man on skis
sirens weave in and out
and the woodpecker at intervals
knocking rapid succession

It sticks to my jacket and eyes


This morning he yells at me
voice rising to screech
then runs at me
fist and hands pummel my legs
my knees
voice rage and disgust

I had refused to help him when he yelled
a command at me
I asked him to ask politely
and he yelled stop it and I walked away

now facing this condensed anger
he grabs my shirt between his teeth
and tears a hole


Over the weekend
at the botanic garden
eating our lunch of

peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches, greek yogurt
with caramelized bananas, vegetable chips, potato chips,
chocolate chip cookie, chocolate milk and water

we sit on the outdoor patio overlooking the lagoon
sunny and bright
and cool with mist from the fountain in the air
and you ask me to take your picture
while you pose like a strong man, flexing arm
in front of face
and chocolate stains around your mouth


Irving Park blue line
the secret exit

The stairs descend
then branch before us
to the left to the right

Holding hands as the smell of pigeons and pee
he with Swedish fish in a bag

the wall spanning mural
bright with alebrijes
from one side of the underpass to the other
the giant bird at its center

it’s a bat bird he says


Taking him to school
on the train
the first humid day of the year
our hair is thick
piled on top of each other
in curls

Carrying him on my shoulders
as he mashes my hair into my eyes
and sings and touches the
tree branches as we pass


A glass bong with Bob Marley engraved
on the phone with his mom in Puerto Rico
sí tú sabe ma, tú sabe

a tv expands the living room
on the walls – unstretched canvases
music electronics, instruments, accumulate on floor

he eats an egg and ham sandwich toasted

books – the sexual politics of meat, Chomsky latin America
Jodorosky El Dedo Y La Luna. Cuentos Zen, Haikus, Koans

he tells me about his new job, how it came about
his liminal relationship
the woman who lives in Wisconsin
the woman who comes into his bed every morning at three
a rape victim advocate
an unsustainable situation

His hair is cut short and responsible
his shoes are black vision streetwear high tops
his pants are black jeans
his shirt is black with the Chicago bulls logo on it, smoking
the band name twin peaks above it

We are to play music today


Two women on the train
one sits reading
a purple dress
her eyes painted dramatic like a queen

One stands holding a thermos of coffee
she leans
head pressed into the chest of her partner
her feet flat on the floor Achilles tendons stretched
her body a straight line
forming a triangle


While doing dishes
I hear laughter upstairs
he laughs loud

I lay down on the bed to
watch them play charades
they take turns drawing cards
and acting for the other to guess

She hangs a picture on the wall
he flies a kite
she drinks through a straw
he is a chair

They laugh and I laugh
the track lights on
through the window
the last glow of day
behind rooftops
tired from riding my bike
home from work


The death star flowers in bloom
purple spindles radiate
from impenetrable core
on single green stalks
thick with length

How long will they last?
weeks. A month. No more.
they rise from ground covered
with green leafed
plants abundant with humidity

They surprise as I walk
to the train in the morning
every year I forget they exist
and every year they return


Allowing myself to feel sad
even when I don’t know why I feel sad
allow myself to feel how sad
makes the rest of my body feel

He dances
naked on the coffee table
after his bath
wet hair already curled against his head
a butt shimmy
his two hands up shaking raised pointer fingers
he turns himself around
a huge wide open mouth smile
laughs hysterically
and we laugh too
then stops.

Face serious and calm
arms clamped to sides
he straight falls onto the couch cushions
lands board rigid

Then rolls over laughing again
body stretched long and pressed into cushion

Diffused light
through window
sun set behind clouds
part of his face is lit
part of his face is shadows

INXS – What You Need


In the midst of summer
wild heat blooming off black pavement
waiting for the light to change
at California and Milwaukee
the car door opens
a woman leans her head out
over the gutter
and vomits
gags and vomits into the street
then coughing
slams the door shut
the light turns green
the car drives off

Walking to yoga after work



Music in the cemetery
again as evening falls
and sun disappears
glow behind trees
the band in lights
projected at a distance
long notes held longer

she raises her hands
slow then slower
high above her head
the cymbals tower
in this way she keeps time

Hair in eyes
guitar neck
angled high towards his face

He greets the crowd
a soft voice
thanks us
a song for his wife

Damp air
from earlier rain
blankets us
keeps us warm

With their backs to us
bass and guitar faced into amps
feedback perfection wall
the show ends


Two things he says

1 – enchanted of meatballs

Instead of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

2 – I want two sandwiches
one will have
ham cheese and mayonnaise

The other will have
cheese ham and mayonnaise

For breakfast usually


On the train
reading morning
while seated

a young woman standing
in front of me
reading Slaughterhouse Five
short dark hair in curls
gold bulb earrings dangle long from lobes
jean jacket cuffed with sleeves
crop top black with midriff bared
a flow ankle skirt with swarm of rainbow
and leather ankle boots

for her
it is 1992 come again



The foam from my pee in the toilet formed a map of the Atlantic

Hand drawn fifteenth century cartography

The continents pulling apart as water tectonics ruined their structure

What sign this?

What portents?


My son was sick on Saturday. We woke early. Earlier than usual. I told him I’ll get up, but I’m just going to sleep on the couch. I’m not happy about this. We got down to the kitchen and before I could turn on any lights he said, Dad, my stomach hurts. My first thought was – Is he hungry, or does he have to shit? I asked, what does it feel like? He said, like this. Then he threw up on the kitchen floor. I quickly picked him up out of the encircling puddle. Set him down. He threw up again. I moved him again. It’s okay, I said rubbing his back as he looked dazed and surprised. I don’t know why I did that, he said confused. We went to the bathroom to clean him up, wash his body and face. New clothes. Then on the couch watching Dora while I cleaned the kitchen floor.

Two hours later and he threw up on the couch. Then the carpet. And then my hands as I tried to catch the dark bile to keep it from staining.

He swung between wanting to play – building towers, Batman, falling in the water – and curling up next to me and sadly saying I’m tired.

Four hours later while he curled next to me as we watched Team Umizoomi he said Dad, I have to go to the bathroom. He looked at me with the look. I carried him and ran to the bathroom, setting him on the floor in front of the toilet.

Instinct takes over
clutch toilet seat sides
heave chest and stomach convulse
vomit all
vomit all
It’s okay soothe
rub back and shoulders
It’s okay
pause and repeat
then hug and clean up

kids shows

yo gabba gabba
wonder pets
peppa pig
ni hao kai lan

fucking atrocious abominations:
go diego go
fresh beat band

notes –

  • expect updates on these lists
  • evan lurie does the music for backyardigans and oswald
  • sesame street is clearly acceptable and needs no further mention. they recently showed video clips of families and included poc, multi-racial, and same sex parents.

kind of how i feel

her overall piece is about the artist, alice neel, and the choices she made as an artist, human, mom, etc. and the whole thing is worth a read, but this little section spoke to me today.

courtesy of jessica hopper.

I thought of art-making as instinct until I had William, and now, I think of it, like everything else, as a choice. It would be easier, much easier, to be only a mom–not to write, not to fill his every nap and night time with work or trying to keep up on music or reading or ideas. I think when you become a parent, everything outside of that relationship shifts to being a choice, even the things that seemed immutable, automatic and absolute before–those are secondary, or at even further down the list. Your old hours seem a luxury, you cram where you can–your inner artiste has been deputized to other duties.

To have both–“a life”, or a job, or a modicum of creative fulfillment–and a family is to “have it all” though, right? Really, just to feel human and a continuing participant on Earth–BOTH seems the minimum. That choice of making art is choosing to live, choosing to continue your existence–beyond being a vessel, a minder, a milkmaid and a parent.

this eloquently puts into words something that i’ve been feeling for the past nine months now. well. six months. the first three, i couldn’t really think at all.