from the NaPoWriMo archives

I pray my poems will re-emerge
in anonymity. There, in the future,
is a place for the thoughts they represent.

The present tense has potholes
and pitfalls, so many detoured roads
with false and dark dead ends.

Let the words alone be immortal.
No name need remain attached,
an empty burden, a shadow, and a cloud.

April, 2016


last day of summer – a documentary

I remember watching
news reports on TV
about the war – after
supper each night –
and the day’s body count –

and soldiers’ funerals
on Sundays after church,
and mothers and girlfriends
on the front row crying,
and smelling salts.

Occasionally the president
would tell us we were winning.
And Walter Cronkite would say,
“And that’s the way it is.”

Last Friday of the Summer Sonnet

It’s Friday. I see the bean pie man hawk
his wares at Foggy Bottom after work.
We swap old wives’ tales about pie-making
as I pick up the coming week’s supply. 

I forgot to charge my phone last night.
Guess I’ll be untraceable on the grid,
incognito ’til I log in at work.

It’s Friday. At noon I hear the prayer call
from 4th Street, Bissau, Cairo, and Baghdad. 
Quadraphonic stereo pronouncement
In places where I have lived and loved.

I know this commute by heart – can do it
in my sleep – a circumambulation
at an invisible, mythic black stone.

The Lisbon Quintet – Five Sonnets

1. Bedtime prayer, or, burial instructions

If I should die before I wake —
Oh, never mind. My soul will know
Exactly what to do when darkness
Envelops me and she is freed and free.

Stuff my mortal remains, whatever’s left
Of me, in a weighted wooden coffin
Like the ones we kept in stock overseas
In abandoned embassy warehouses.
Put me on a Navy warship – bury me

At sea just beyond the 12-mile limit –
In international waters – let me sink
Silently, peacefully to the bottom,
Where lost shipmates are still on patrol,
And my ancestors await my return.

2. Disengaging the mind from work

Each night I dream of projects I complete,
Mainly ideas I’ve been thinking about
For weeks. And I awaken each morning
Feeling accomplishment & exhaustion.

No way to spend a August vacation,
I know. But today my outlaws have planned
A special lunch – Guinea-Bissau cuisine –
My favorite – and I can hardly wait!

We’ll save the nautical museum (I love
The ancient navigation instruments),
My favorite Belem bakery, &
the modern art museum for tomorrow

Or another day, any other day –
We can’t ignore a long-lost appetite.

3. Coffee with Pessoa at Martinho on the Praca

I write no more of love, the tales of woe,
Of romance that quickens a calm spirit –
Such stories that are songs of young and sweet
Naïveté- of passions’ fires aglow.

Today’s news crowds out former pleasant thoughts:
An earthquake, a mudslide kills the many;
A terror attack, abroad, at home, slays
The few and darkens the skies around us
With clouds of hate and unscaled walls of fear.

Let’s love today, each other, without shame
Or fear of censure, once more returning,
Once more forgiving acts of carelessness,
Mistakes we’ve made. Let’s journey while the sun
Is high and skies are clear and steps still firm.

4. Acknowledging the Muse – Pre-Eclipse

I think of you as my defacto Muse,
And I yours, at least until you tell me
we are not, or cannot be, or simply
just reject that source of inspiration

Our inner poets crave. The obstacles
Between us are many. The boundaries
That separate us are natural ones,
Neither fraudulent nor fake nor contrived –

It will be far easier to let things
Rest as they are, in peace and sanity,
And in denial. I would dare not blame
You or me, and life would just continue

As if our paths had never crossed, as if
This possibility had never been.

5. Watching photos of the total eclipse on the internet

Somewhere in the comings and the goings
I lost a day, or gained one, by my count –
Then I missed the total eclipse (but that
Had less to do with the time warp I’m in
and more to do with decisions I’ve made)
Because I was on the wrong continent.

I figured out it’s Monday. Tomorrow
Will be museum day – it’s all a matter
Of degree of intermediation
In the end, of what must be done to cure
The writer’s block that gets generated
By one’s own inhibitions. It’s taken
A week of full immersion to discard
Mine and let language flood these winding streets.


p.s. Some photos here

a farewell sonnet

To the AU Librarians

Dear friends: I’ve changed my mind, back and forth,
about how to write this farewell, what to say,
how to address you, what format to use.
Accustomed to changing countries every
two years​, I suppose I’m still on that track.
​The new job? An adventure, a challenge,
but it appeals to my missionary zeal,
like many of the far-flung places where
I’ve worked. I was christened Methodist but
raised Missionary Baptist, so there you
have it. ​Well​, for some, ​this may be​ farewell.
​A fond adieu – I wish you well in all.
Others, for whom fortune grants our paths a
​2nd ​crossing – ​I say – until the next!

archives sonnet

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a poem. And I am torn about posting today as the original form of this poem was split up into halves for August Postcard Poetry Fest and if I post it now, I wont be able to use it on a postcard next month. Oh what the heck? It is Hart Crane’s birthday, after all.

More context. In real life, I am undergoing a transformation/transition from librarian to archivist. I feel a bit like a caterpillar, but that is material for a future poem!


There are no spirits lurking in the aisles
And corners. Just cartons of documents,
​Details of lives. Whether well-lived or ill,
These papers tell the story – marriage, birth,
Land acquired, taxes. Death. It’s all there.
No need for the rattling sound of zombies –
Ghosts of events yet to come – in graveyards.
Might this be the judgement we fear? The words
And deeds, archived records we leave behind
Won’t deliver us to any heaven –
Or hell. It’s just a mirage, this image
Of hereafter we’ve been trained to accept
As truth, the certain object of our faith:​
​Dried, folded, faded, in a dusty box.


new post on the non-poetry blog!