30/30 Poems in November: Beautiful Wild Thugs

ufomxgheugk-todd-diemerThe last day of November, 4:00pm.
pouring rain, nearly dark.
If you’ve ever lived in New England,
you know what I mean– dank, the kind
of chill that’s hard to get out
from inside your bones,
and how what you want more
than anything is to cancel everything,
climb under the covers,
turn on the twinkle lights
and off the news,
and get cozy.

As we ducked into the car,
I said this would be great
in the spring– just think of the flowers!
And that’s when she reminded me:
The rain rots the leaves,
and that rot becomes the most fertile
place for beautiful and wild things
to grow. Obviously you hear
the metaphor and run home
to write about it, but then autocorrect
changes things to thugs
and suddenly beautiful wild thugs
are growing out of the rot,
taking the dark humor
and making it into something new,
something with a whiff of hope
you might catch on your way
from this season to the next.

Let’s be beautiful, let’s be wild,
let’s turn things into thugs
and thugs back into things
that grow from the mulch
and have survived this and worse.
It’s the last day of November
and nothing is what we imagined.
I will not tell you to get over it,
but here — stand under my umbrella
until the skies clear.
The sun’s up there somewhere.



Thanks to all of you for keeping me going writing 30 poems in 30 days. Because of your generous support, I met my personal goal of raising $500 for the Center for New Americans. (If you’re so moved, you can still contribute.

This was a fabulous practice for me, and sparked me to finally get cracking on my third collection. “Why I Was Late for Our Meeting” (working title) is in the works. Stay tuned!

29/30 Poems in November: Hipster Coffee Shop

hipstersWhat is it about hipster coffee shops,
always some achingly sexy song playing
like Modern English or The Cure,
Mazzy Star or Joy Division —
something you might have listened to
25 years ago when your own ache
was like a distant star
that had exploded but would still take
decades to reach your life?
Over in the corner at a tiny 2-person table,
a mama with a newborn
nursing in a sling. The scent of rosewater
wafting over. A lonely-looking guy
wearing red headphones
drinking from a lime-green mug.
A social worker on her lunch break,
rainbow ribbon hugging her name tag —
she looks so familiar
you can hardly keep from asking
are you someone?
Of course she is someone. You are someone,
too, sitting there at your laptop
typing a poem
nobody here will see,
not the young man with Down’s Syndrome
eating quiche,
not the dude with the funny winter hat,
not the grad student with her Mac
and soup
or the cute baby dyke couple
looking like long-lost twins.
It’s raining, just like last time
I sat here, two weeks ago
while my wife retrains her body and brain
just up Main Street,
and I wonder what it is about these gloomy
grey days that brings a certain comfort,
what it is about hipster cafes
and people-watching
and being anonymous in a public space
that is so very freeing.
I’m wearing a faded green t-shirt
that shows off my tattoo
and tight-fitting jeans
with red leather boots,
and this is about as dressed up as I get.
Let’s paint the town red, I want
to say to her when we reunite
in 20 minutes.
Then a woman so skinny
I think her legs may snap
walks in and I cringe,
the mama holds the baby up
for a burp and kisses that tiny head,
and I breathe in wondering
about all of the ways
our lives pass each other by,
our lives pass and yet
no time has passed at all
since I sat here 25 years ago
listening to that same song,
that same sexy ache,
that same refrain.


27/30 Poems in November: Truth

day-6Kitchen-table revelation
we can change our minds
we can change our thoughts
we can get up
and turn down the heat
when the room gets too hot.
Truth is kitchen-sink
everything but that.
Truth is mad smacking
can’t change the world
just like that
one little voice
in the clanking universe.
Truth is forehead-smacking
honest inquiry
arm’s length and speak
your mind girl.
Truth is big love
and the empty sink
means nobody is eating.
Truth is kitchen table
strewn with papers
not one of them
life changing.
Truth is smack-dab
in the middle of chanting
some one-syllable name
for God you were gob-smacked
by your own foolish heart
and saw that it was time
to stop blaming yourself
for everything
that didn’t go as planned.
Truth is
you didn’t think
for once were in the moment
and in the moment
you knew what you wanted
needed and you asked
and received
and how we live
with the consequences
of cowardice and courage
may weigh the same
on the kitchen scale
and the karmic scale
and the scale that weighs
hearts and bones
and doesn’t judge.
Truth is kitchen trash
can overflowing
so cinch up the bag
and take it to the bins
in the garage,
take it to the landfill
take it to the streets
take it to heart
when you made up
your story
and declared it to be



Q: What is #30poemsinnovember?

A: A literary fundraiser for Center for New Americans in Northampton, MA.

The Center for New Americans welcomes and serves immigrants in Western Massachusetts with free English classes and a range of support services. Participating poets aim to raise $30,000 over the course of the month.

Writers do their part by writing one poem each day in November. Friends and family do their part by donating to support this effort. Powerful new poems and financial contributions translate to community support for immigrants.

I’m just $140 away from $500. Help me reach my goal.

26/30 Poems in November: Take Care

amherst-yoga-centerI wiped my eyes and
arrived late to class
rolled out my mat
in the spot my sister
saved for me.
For the first twenty
or so minutes
I sat on the sobbing
that would’ve taken
over if I let it.
I gathered my breath,
gathered myself up
into the body
An hour later,
there I was standing
on one leg,
warrior three
followed by half-moon
an arc unto myself
one hand to sky
foot to floor,
steady strong
surprising myself
with what comes
so readily
as soon as I step away
from the struggles
that feel insurmountable.
Later, a three-hour nap.
A movie date with my wife.
Strife ain’t going anywhere
so we have to make time
to take care of life


24/30 Poems in November: Thanksgiving

photo-1461023058943-07fcbe16d735Stay, stay, stay.
Not like the Taylor Swift song, silly.
No, more like stay
so that your life isn’t haunted
by leaving.
Stay because waking up
in the arms of love is worth it
but doesn’t come free,
and pure doesn’t mean painless.
Stay because there is no other,
better life. You tried that once,
twice, three times a lady
and I love you so stay.
Stay and run on a day when streets
are empty, knowing days like these
are recipes that call for choices–
you can stir up the sadness
or embrace the one in front of you
with mad love and gratitude
for what is right here, right now.
Stay because we can’t undo
or change the past but we can circle
high above our lives before
swooping down into each other’s arms.
Stay, let’s see what happens
when we keep living,
when it is enough to sit in the kitchen
adding more cream to the too-strong
coffee, adding more minutes
to the meter, parallel parking
my body snug up against yours
and staying put, giving thanks,
thanks, and more thanks
for you.