NaPoWriMo 2019

Anticipating NaPoWriMo 2019

I always remember – one teaspoon per cup and one
for the pot – a simple recipe that solves all ills.
Sometimes I forget not everyone’s been exposed
to nautical rules of the road – not everybody
alters course to starboard to pass port to port
in a meeting situation – though they should –
nor do folks automatically maintain course
and speed if stand on in an overtaking –
though it’d be better for them if they did.
I try to remember to walk a mile in others shoes
before passing judgement, and to pay attention
to running lights at any crossing of paths –
And always give the older ones the final word
in an argument that’s of no consequence anyway.

#NaPoWriMo #2 – Subway poem

I pause at the escalator
and motion with a head nod
and a smile: “You may go ahead,”
I tell the lady silently amid
the buzz of commuters and
the roar of machines.
She thanks me with her eyes.
Why do we need words?

Around the corner the Yellow Line
train is arriving. I hear
its high-pitched doppler sound –
the sound of incoming
is the only sound that matters –
a departing train’s sound
has no value to commuters.


#NaPoWriMo2019 #3: Tax Blues

last Sunday in March,
headstart on April.
Hard to wax poetic
about Turbo tax –
though I am thrilled
we got it done on time,
two weeks before the due date.

Federal tax we owe.
State we get a refund.
Can’t say I know why,
can’t say I care.
Writing that tax check
is a drag, man,
hate seeing that money go out –
but the refund is a ball
that still has bounce.

#NaPoWriMo2019 #4 – Early bird prompt: self portrait of a sub-par playwright

They think they love the work –
think they know it
through and through.
But they don’t recognize
the creature behind the curtain.

Surprise, my comrades!
It was always me.
You never really listened,
never read between the lines,
never sought to seek
the true identity,
Not mine, and certainly
not your own.

No longer sure I can save you –
I can barely save myself.
The play is pure fantasy,
so don’t base your life
on it. And what’s between
the lines is a magic trick,
a three card molly
you will never figure out.

#NaPoWriMo2019 #5 – an instructional tweet


You know what it means.
You know who it’s for.
Get over yourself or get some help.
Good luck on the journey.


#NaPoWriMo2019 #6 – cherry dreams

The cherry blossoms
reached peak bloom today.
They were magnificent
in their splendor,
all along the campus
and the river.

Tomorrow’s rain
will wash the pinkish petals
into sewers underground,
flushed to secret places
in our dreams and memories.

These cherry dreams,
alas, do not bear fruit.
It is only for the visual –
no chance to taste, to chew,
to savor by the handful.
And blossoms make me sneeze.


#NaPoWriMo2019 #7 Elegy for A. – A sonnet

Our tribesman battles for her life –
small things we lose can be replaced.
A sister’s love we replicate
with sadness near the end,

and joy that soon, her journey done,
and celebration knowing that
her contributions were not made in vain.

We mourn our own unfinished lives:
the goodbyes that we failed to say;
the compliments we should have paid
at little costs but great reward.

We recognize our end must come –
embraceable at every stage
of life. Avoid the waste, the vain.

#NaPoWriMo #8 – Villanelle – Blues Villanelle

This love song is a villanelle:
The format makes it easy to recall –
Poetry in two shades of blue.

Repeating sends the thoughts aflight:
The lines of text emerge in time –
This love song is a villanelle.

The words and sounds convey their truth,
The essence lies inside the tune –
Poetry in two shades of blue.

The blues they wail at disco night
Become the Sunday morning hymn –
This love song is a villanelle.

Our wanderings are all askew:
Our feet are painted backwards bound –
Poetry in two shades of blue.

We celebrate in loss or gain
In joy, in sadness, and between –
This love song is a villanelle:
Poetry in two shades of blue.

NaPoWriMo #9 – Possibility sonnet

A Posse Ad Esse – Possibility Sonnet

From the possible to the actual
has to be at least a two way highway –

thought and reflection come before action
but action must result in new thinking

and reflection – a circuitous route
that self-reinforces and never ends,

creating a stronger relationship
and a tighter bond – esse quam videria.

And I’m not just showing off my Latin.
It’s an honest statement of fact: to be

rather than to seem moves the possible
to the actual and the actual

back in mirror sync with the possible –
opening multiple possible worlds.

NaPoWriMo #10
gifts of joy abound –
sometimes in non-descript places,
at unexpected times,
and for unanticipated reasons.

a friendly smile,

an unencumbered sigh,

a silent, non-verbal gesture

can be a gift shared,

a joy redeemed.

I’m not telling you

anything you don’t

already know, haven’t already

figured out from scratch.

Don’t look in the places

where you already expect

to find your gifts of joy.

Look elsewhere, between things,

inside of thoughts and dreams,

between the lines and strokes

of poetry and songs lyrics

and works of art. It might

surprise you what was always there.

#NaPoWriMo #11 – Dum Vivimus Vivamus

Dum Vivimus Vivamus

While we live, let us live.
Is it so much to ask?
Oh yes, we’ll make mistakes –
and lose some Facebook friends
along the way . . .
there may be some Twitter blocks,
maybe even some shadow bans –
but when did social media
become the arbiter
of good taste anyway?

Let’s not hide from decision.
Let’s strike while the iron’s hot
and bang that softened steel
into something brand new.

NaPoWriMo #12 Happy Anniversary!
It’s my parents’ anniversary.
Sixty four years ago on Easter
they said “I do,” fusing family
and friends from Guilford County, NC
and Pittsylvania County, VA
into a new social network.

I came along a few months later.
My sister says I was their love child.
I bear no shame, I harbor no resentment
in being their little love creation.

When the going got tough,
my mother would say, “I made
my vows.” You stick with it
to the end. A lesson well learned.
An internal honor system.

#NaPoWriMo #13 – origin poem

Regrets that I missed
the cowboy poem prompt.
I always liked cowboys,
even wanted to be one
when I grew up, along
with fireman and policeman –
anything in a uniform, you know.
But when I fully discovered
the magic of reading books,
all other occupations faded away.
I’d be a librarian, and show folks
how to find the magic
I’d discovered. Then came scouting,
and football and track, and coach
told me I could break the 880 record
if I worked hard enough. Distractions
I won’t bother to mention
pulled me off the athletic path.
This story has a conclusion.
Two careers later I retired,
retooled, and became a librarian.
And it is still magic.


#NaPoWriMo #14 – boring collections

I have a very boring collection
of fountain pens. None of them
are fancy or expensive, just your
garden variety everyday writing utensils.

I clean them out monthly with hot
running water to dislodge all the old
encrusted ink. In my imagination they are
my brushes and palete with which
I create works of art, poetry
I hope will stand the test of time.

My favorite color ink is a mixture
of forest green and empyrean blue.
I name it navy green. My wife insists
I mix it near the kitchen sink.

#NaPoWriMo #15 – sonnet for a Saturday morning

(A thunder storm woke me up way before the crack of dawn. The sound of the rain was so relaxing, the thunder so comforting. I fired up the iMac and saw where the new Donald Glover and Rihanna video, Guava Island, was live streaming for free on Amazon Prime. I have to say it was a 55 minutes well spent. I wrote this poem, then made some coffee, a San Salvador blend from Trader Joe’s.)

This story has a happy ending.
I’m telling you up front so you know
what you can expect – how to overcome
any temporary darkness that may
attempt to cloud out the light we emit.
This story is not a pop video.
It won’t make you dance or sing. Ain’t no blues
to wail, to welp, to beg, to plead, to scream.
This story ends in celebration.
But Twitter and Instagram won’t tell you
what’s really going on. You have to read
between the lines, between the images
that flash past you faster than light or sound.
Don’t be depressed. Arise & celebrate.

#NaPoWriMo #16 – random thoughts

We are the generation that grew up
on Star Trek and Star Wars
and Lost In Space and Kung Fu
and the Apollo program.
Can I get a witness, y’all?

We already know there are civilizations
out there more advanced than we,
and some less. We memorized
the Prime Directive* (though the old definition
needs to be “decolonized”) so we’ll know
how to act when we meet them
in inner or outer space.

Our superpower status/unipolar moment
may not have given us the best preparation
for the future prospects and challenges
of intergalactic diplomacy.
Georgetown and Johns Hopkins
and the Foreign Service Institute
might want to second check their curricula.
Times are changing fast.
Are y’all hearing me?


The Prime Directive, also known as Starfleet General Order 1 or the Non-Interference Directive, was the embodiment of one of Starfleet’s most important ethical principles: noninterference with other cultures and civilizations. At its core was the philosophical concept that covered personnel should refrain from interfering in the natural, unassisted, development of societies, even if such interference was well-intentioned. The Prime Directive was viewed as so fundamental to Starfleet that officers swore to uphold the Prime Directive, even at the cost of their own life or the lives of their crew.


A people who free themselves from foreign domination will be free culturally only if, without complexes and without underestimating the importance of positive accretions from oppressor and other cultures, they return to the upward paths of their own culture, which is nourished by the living reality of its environment, and which negates both harmful influences and any kind of subjection to foreign culture. Thus, it may be seen that if imperialist domination has the vital need to practice cultural oppression, national liberation is necessarily an act of culture.  –Amilcar Cabral


And more random food for thought:
late for #radlibchat today

#NaPoWriMo #17 – language, a riff on a classic

our language is such a bastard being –
ill-betrothed and misbegotten, no doubt
God would not require that we write poetry
in it, so many words that look alike,
and sound alike, yet have different meanings.
Well, some rhyme, but not they way they should.
God must have been on drugs when he told us
to make a joyful noise with this mess.
Maybe it’s not all God’s fault, but clearly
there was a screw-up somewhere near the top!
“To make a poet black and bid him sing”
had nothing to do with racial protest,
and i can’t believe y’all fell for that crap!


A riff on Countee Cullen’s Yet I Do Marvel, reproduced here:

I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind
And did He stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!


#NaPoWriMo #18 – Sunday night before the storm sonnet

It is not my wish to be a center,
the center of anyone’s attention
save my own, and maybe not even that
most days. It’s too much work, too much effort
to keep all the little pieces on track,
all the debts paid, the payroll met each week.
Instead, take me to the periphery
where I can read my books and write my poems
in total peace, not concerned with no one’s
interiority except my own,
a river flowing gently to the sea.
Plant my seed deeply before the storm comes,
irrigating the dry soil above it,
leaving my future calmly in its place.

#NaPoWriMo #19 – lunch break sonnet

I don’t know all the answers –
Hell, I don’t have half the questions!
It’s not like chemistry or physics
Where if you memorized the equation
You can plug and chug until
All the units cancel.
No. Life is much more complex
Than experiments in a science lab.
More complicated even than nuke school
with mandatory study hall.
The beginning of it all is obscure.
The end is an unknown unknown.
The middle is a spring thunderstorm –
Dark clouds gathered – lightning piercing the sky.


#NaPoWriMo #20 – machines

Ray wants to write Haiku tonight
but I won’t let him – I decide
what gets written & how & why.
Ray’s at his best operating machines –
processing inputs that produce output,
while he minds gages and thermometers
that measure the machine’s internals.
Ray also likes to garden – I let him
do it every now and then. He loves to see things
pop out of the ground, break the surface
and lean towards the sun. I think it’s odd
but I let him because I know machines
capture his soul and try to convert him
while gardening brings out his soul’s sweetness.

#NaPoWriMo #21 – Barr report release

They are not happy with AG Barr’s remarks.

They are not going to be happy when the report is released.

They are not going to be happy if/when Mueller testifies.

They were so certain SHE would win. Huge disappointment.

Nothing short of that will make them happy.

Can we be adults and just move on?


#NaPoWriMo #22 – Matilda

Matilda is the name
we give to the female voice
inside the smartphone GPS.

We rely almost exclusively
on Matilda. She never fails.

Funny. I remember a time
when we used paper maps
and yellow highlighters. Coast
to coast. Mexico to Canada.
I have logged some miles.

AAA would mail a stack
of maps, all bound together,
with the trip tracked out.

Now we have Matilda.
Sometimes I feel her tugging
at the steering wheel,
insisting we go her way.
One day it will all be connected.

#NaPoWriMo #23 – scooters and dog poop

No electric scooter are allowed
in this safe and peaceful space.
Scooters don’t come with helmets –
using them is not a safe practice.
They create unexpected trip hazards
and spoil the habitat, cluttering
the sidewalks and alleyways.

By the way, new neighbors,
don’t bring your dogs to defecate
on the campus. There are plenty
of authorized dog parks for your use.
Our campus grounds are not one.

Scooters and dog poop are high
on the list of prohibited items.

#NaPoWriMo #24 – a dream deferred

“You remember the children you got that you did not get.” Gwendolyn Brooks

I read somewhere
there have been
over 15 million black babies
aborted since 1973.

That’s a lot of lives
a lot of votes,
a lot of political
& economic power.

How many might
have lived, led fruitful lives
& been productive citizens?

15 million.
Maybe our Messiah came
but didn’t survive
the middle passage.

#NaPoWriMo #25 – poetry magazine

is about time
I stopped & read


month they arrive
and unwrapped and moved

the dining room table
to the coffee table

to my nightstand –
moving stacks.

#NaPoWriMo #26 – should have/would have

Maybe I should have
stayed in St. Louis
and finished that PhD.

By ’96 I would have been done –
maybe – then off to green pastures
and academic pursuits.

Instead I discovered Bissau,
and London and Filomena,
and all our adventures together.

And Angola, and Ghana,
and Cairo, and Damascus,
and all the silly spy shit we did –

calling ourselves diplomats
instead of cannon fodder.

#NaPoWriMo #27 – poetries

There is poetry
one writes on long walks
beside a slow river
emptying into the sea.

And a different poetry
on the subway, hustling
to switch to the Red Line
to reach the shuttle on time.

And a different poetry still,
inspired by music’s sound,
and the sculptor’s vision,
and the painter’s emotion,

and the architect’s dream
come true. All different
poetries, different types
of reflections off a mirror

that darkens on the edges
with the passage of time.

#NaPoWriMo #28 – bullets

I’ve dodged some bullets
in this life. Cigarettes
won’t take me out,
nor alcohol or drugs

though I may get run over
by a car in the crosswalks
in this town. And there’s poison
all around, in the food,

in the water and air
that might just be the cause
of my demise eventually.
But it won’t be sudden death

or overtime. No, this game
will end in regulation time.

#NaPoWriMo #29 — revolution song

It took some time
for me to recognize
the lyrics of our revolution
song was a villanelle poem.

I would have expected
a complicated sonnet,
or a love-sick ballad,
some blues to bring us

information for our liberation.
But in retrospect,
the villanelle was the best
form to kick it all off –

repeating lines – easy
to sing and to remember.

#NaPoWriMo #30 – minimalist

Watching spaceships launch
was the thrill of my youth.

As a young man I got to see
a night-time shuttle launch

At Cape Canaveral. Years later
I cried with joy in real-time
seeing the perfect re-entry
of Space X Falcon boosters.

post #NaPoWriMo Shorts

I sing your praises
again, again,
for hipping me,
a spry, old man,
to the eternal merits
of the stainless steel
French pressDon’t worry,
it’s half decaf,
and I’m up before dawn
reading American Gods.