Confession, honesty and repentance are my first steps forward.

This isn’t a poem or a joke.

This is a confession.

Confession, honesty and repentance are my first steps forward.

From approximately 1985 to 2001

I participated in racist behaviors.

I called black people racist names.

I looked down on black people and laughed at racist jokes.

I was not an ally to the one black student in the graduating class of my high school.

I wish to repent these crimes

in earshot of America.

It took me 45 years to say these words.

It took me 45 seconds to say these words.

A wise poet once said you have to write about the one thing that scares you most.

Maybe this is the first poem I’ve ever written.

6.22.2020

The first 9 weeks of quarantine : a video retrospective

1.   COVID VIRUS PLANK

Back in mid March, 2020, I was on fire with vigor and optimism. This shows the transition from the classroom to the backyard spitting of fire by MC FLASHCARD:

2.   STALEY’s EASTER 2020

In early April there was lots of eating and drinking and being miserable, but no weeping. Here’s a trailer from our family Easter festivities:

3.   The Covid-19 Compliment

There came a point in late April 2020 when everybody in my family thought they belonged to the suckiest family in the world. Like we could not even give an honest compliment to each other. See for yourself:

4.   DEAR SENIORS

Then, in late May, my Seniors graduated and I wrote them this poem while suffering mid-grade cabin fever. The weeping had begun–slow at first, then steady:

5.   MAD COWS – MYSTIC PICKLE

My first band was called the Mad Cows. When we started we were in the 10th grade, Montgomery, Alabama. We reunited in the pandemic, and after 9 weeks of work, all we came up with is this.

(WARNING: may contain artistic quality issues):

HAPPY 420 POEM: STRAIN

 

Strain

In Trinidad the budtender said
Snowcap makes you memoir.

In Pueblo the budtender said
Sneeze Flower starts in your toes,
goes up your legs, and then
makes you memoir.

So many memoirists now
in hightower apartments
all across Lower Colorado,
self publishing first drafts
on CreateSpace at a rate
nobody thought to calculate.

This summer I predict
a memoirist apocalypse!
They’ll cut down all the trees
of the world and we’ll suffocate!
Even academia will take note!
how will they roll their
precious flowers then–
the fools! the fools!

THE 8 POEMS NOBODY WANTED

Word up, yo. I found these poems suffocating in a Google Doc from 2017. I’d sent them all out a million times to a million online journals with no takers (which makes sense).

It turns out I have a connection with the editors of this fine site; I traded 2 canisters of CBD-infused Flonase for them to post these 8 fairly-crappy poems today:

 

The Candle Throws Tantrums Against the Walls

On Christmas morning
I feel giddy with something simple
like a sunbeam flashing
off a metallic pinwheel.

We give Lois a sweater and help her
pass her arms through. The nurse
hands us a Sharpie to write
her name in the collar.

The bright rope that held her thoughts
is slack. I can’t tell if the punch
has grapefruit juice
or pomegranate sherbet.
There’s a man at the piano
with his back turned, turning
pages in a songbook, searching
for Silent Night.

~

Highs and Lows

The dementia ward plays Born to Run
from speakers embedded in the ceiling.
Lois is sad today. She can’t say why.
We walk outside to the reflecting pool.
There’s an airplane above us,
only a handful of people
even know where it’s going. 

~

When the Party’s Over

I watched her walk
across the lawn
with the shower curtain
held high, fresh
from the washer,
headed for the line.
Without being asked,
like a giant pine tree,
I stood there,
worried.

~

The Plague

Like a great darkness it moves
from one leaf to the next
through the thoroughly-washed
50/50 mix. 3 different strains
of lettuce and spinach
succumb to black slime
deep in the unpopular
corner of the crisper drawer.
Armies of manganese
and potassium suffocate
inside the quiet running
of the refrigerator.

~

Married To My Country
-after Wendell Berry

My country and I
trade fake smiles
for months.

There’s no use
to try and seduce
my country.

All my country complains
because the sun won’t walk
in the shoes of the moon.

~

The Cabin Wakes Up

The eyelids of two beagles
and a golden up first with the sun.
A forty-eight-nail tap dance
on the hardwood, their tags
tambourine the water bowl.
Loud cartoons and the empty bellies
of the five and six year old flip on. I rise
because the sun in my face
and a mildew scent on my pillow.

Grandpa starts the coffee quietly.
Grandma against the measuring glass
spazzes eggs with a fork
and the four teenagers begrudge every sound.
Their empty beer bottles, wine bottles
and bottle of rum
stuck to the table on the porch.
Their ping pong balls cornered
and they’re awake but not up

as the adults commit glass-on-glass
atrocities in the trash.
Their worried words
white-hot ping pong balls
from the paddles of their mouths,
and I’ve been that teenager
hearing just enough to know what’s coming
and knowing just enough to stay down.

~

Sweeping Alabama

The dogs–more afraid of stick than bristle–
run and hide as the 5 year old sweeps the walkway
to the cabin and sways to jazz on the radio.

I sweep out the studio that faces the lake
with giant bay windows. Several dead scorpions
cramp the threads of my broom, each in its own
sarcophagus of dog hair, dust and pencil shavings.
The prayer of their tiny claws open and unanswered.

A great drag out the window: wake boarders, skiers
and inner tubers. I wait to see someone swept
from their rope, their bodies skipped like stones
across the waves.

~

Urgent and Damned on the Rio Grande Under the I10 bridge

In a Bronco with tinted windows two teenagers
are locked in an awkward, equal-opportunity
sexual stickiness. There’s also 4 swastikas
spray-painted red on the turquoise supports.
One can smell a dead duck upwind in the reeds
and overhead one can hear the jagged ripping
of motorcycles, the steady forge of 18-wheelers
and the constant crackling of the desert sun.
The scent of fertilizer runoff from the fields
lifts off the river and one can feel the moment
urgent and damned, like a fly with amputated wings.

A NEW POEM ABOUT A FERN

My fern poem is here.

Eric Magrane, a poet/geographer from NMSU, put together a killer project in the form of Spiral Orb 15.  I encourage you to check out how he designed the online experience of the journal (it doesn’t rely on graphics and yet it holds me). For Spiral Orb, each writer was assigned a species found in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Southern New Mexico.

I wrote a poem to my favorite fern. When I found out my fern was called the Fairy Sword Fern, I thought I was getting lucky.  The speaker in the poem struggles with aging and marriage, and when he looks to the fern he is envious and this leads to anger.

Magrane put together a spirited reading where I got to perform my fern poem and hear top-notch poems about some of my favorite species like the ocotillo and the phainopepla. Here is the flyer for the reading that already happened, you know, for your records: