The Art of Falling

Come off a horse enough times,

and you learn how to fall—

like snow, rain or love,

all goose-down and no elbows.

The horse spooks at a leaf, knocking you

sideways, the saddle slipping—

and well, you’re going down again.

Relax, you’ll get used to it.

Relax, you say to the lobster,

just before plopping him

into the roiling pot.

Relax, you say to a friend,

on the eve of another bender,

and to yourself,

falling off a ledge

onto a concrete floor.

It’s easy, when you imagine

a soft landing.

But when your mother sinks

into her pillow in her final hour,

she knows she’s not falling with grace.

Blah, blah, blah, she mouths,

flicking the back of her bruised hand,

as if brushing away a gnat,

when the priest lowers his head

to trace the thumbprint of oil,

first up and down, then sideways,

on her glistening forehead.


*Originally appeared in Poet Lore


First Tomato

Hardly worth plucking, 
or eating, though the color’s right.

But it’s the first one
he’s left for me, 

a wolf peach,
morning gift to ponder. 

Diminuitive ovoid,
not my usual plump Early Bird.

Broad light fills the house
with margarine and joy,

though just yesterday
we almost lost 

our two old ones—
determined as we were

to shoot the other
when the first died.

We howled for their lives
as we learned

what a partial fruit
the human heart is.

Tomayto, tomahto,

What’s the difference?

It’s this: 

When the sick horse rallied,

we celebrated
with our sun-warmed love apple

still pumping on the cutting board.
How fierce love is.

 "First Tomato" first appeared in The Tishman Review (2018)



the careful architecture on his side
of the bed: pillows stacked horizontally,
the ones in front in taller columns,
a hand towel shading the reading lamp
casting dampered light
on his absence.

On her side, jumbled linens,
errant silver dog hairs,
a throw piled in the center
of their catawampus raft,
as if to separate his loot from hers.

A keeling vessel they’ve shimmed
with the thinnest of chapbooks,
tossed sweaters and tights,
smelling of yesterday,
half-spent ampoules of water,
bite guard, body butter,
an alarm clock flashing noon:
everything left
too long on display,
like Christmas lights in March,

as if they’d already disappeared—
a head-on crash, a kick
from a startled horse, a simultaneous
fatal slip in the shower.

"Pompeii" first appeared in Cumberland River Poetry Review (2017). 

Cut it Down

I limbed the dying
leaves and branches.
I painted it yellow
to catch the sunlight,
red to fill the gash
infuriating the trunk
where decay had set in.

I kept what I could.
All ribs and spine,
chalice of air,
a mouth of thirty tongues
beseeching the sky.
Some branches were dancers,
arms extended in fifth position.
Others writhed from crimes of excess.

I pondered my new genre.
You must come see my yellow tree.
I began to laugh and entertain.
Slowly, I started
mumbling to the wind.
I thought I felt
a tuft of green
sprouting like a frilly hat
from the dancer’s head.
Or was it only a dream of greenness?