Ten for tenWord

Image: firstgradewow.blogspot.wow

Image: firstgradewow.blogspot.wow

It’s my turn to tend the bar for dVerse Poets’ Pub Meeting the Bar and for today’s prompt, I’ve gone back to the future and borrowed a form that Brian Miller created–the tenWord. Stop in and link up here, Thursday at 3:00 PM EST. Stop by–hopefully with a poem of your own, or just to read what others are sharing. I’m posting my poem in advance to give you a head start, if you like. (Don’t tell anyone, okay)? 

Ten for tenWord

the mountains
wrap themselves in mist—
a gauzy, white scarf.

your eyes speak to me
of untold pain,
of loss.

hot coffee
seeps throughout my body
and awakens my spirit.

a dark, overcast sky
covers the valley
with oppressive stillness.

early morning—
the first dove call,
urgent, longing—without answer.

waiting rooms—
anxiety and impatience—
let’s get it over with.

lantana sprawls
underneath the trumpet vines,
purple and yellow blooms.

desert rains—
light sprinkles tickle.
we wish for a downpour.

a swath of white clouds
the Santa Rosa mountains.

Will Write for Food–Monday Meanderings

evidence of things not seen
©Brian Miller, 2014
Used with Permission

the world is a watch with dead batteries
or unwound @ 2:30 am

except a dumpster cat
pawing an empty glass bottle
in tinkling circles

loading dock concrete chaps the back
of my legs /// a car occasionally hums by

its engine giving it up well in advance,
enough to shut
my eyes

so i don’t lose the 6000 stars
shivering in the dark

each breath solidifies slow enough
not to fall but settle to the asphalt

(capital-T)They are close enough
all the hairs on my body reach
as far as they can
in un/mouthed

until the second hand
begins to move again,
somewhere in the shadows
to my right.

Image: Filip Spagnoli

Image: Filip Spagnoli

I’m aware that Brian had another image in mind when he posted this poem, but, for me, it spoke of the homeless—as did the first poem he wrote for the dVerse Poetics theme of The Invisible Man. It seems that homelessness has been screaming at me lately for a couple of reasons: it plays a significant role in my 2nd novel. A homeless man, a homeless shelter are right at the center of the storyline.

And then, couple of days ago, when I went to pick up my laptop from the computer hospital there was a homeless man seated at the door of Staples™. Dressed in camouflage, shielded by an olive-green baseball cap and his bedroll in a shopping basket, I expected his request for money, but it didn’t come. I went in, retrieved my “baby” from the tech-doctor and exited the store, still waiting for him to speak. When he didn’t, I did.

I asked if he could use some cash. He stood, and said he would be so grateful. I handed him what I could and he extended his calloused hand. I found myself looking into eyes that met mine with clarity and grace. We chatted a while. I was tempted to, but didn’t ask him the source of his troubles. Being a fiction writer, I invented the backstory, assuming Jim was a Vet, dealing with PTSD, the tragic outcome of seeing too much ugliness in the line of duty. Before I left him, he invited me to a church service on Sunday, in a small storefront behind a nearby McDonalds.

I felt guilt (that comes easy to me given my background) cradling my nice laptop to my chest, knowing that I have (not everything I’d like to have, but) a lot. I felt humbled…that happens sometimes when I meet someone who emanates a certain something I’m unable to name. I felt called to learn more about, to do more for these men and women who have such struggles in life.

Too often, you hear that homelessness is the fault of the person involved. Is it their fault that they were downsized from their jobs, that they offered to put their lives on the line—to be sent into conflict? Even if drugs or alcohol or other unfortunate choices contributed to their situation, wouldn’t it be better to help instead of blame?

True. It could be that the cash I give won’t be used for food—but that’s not up to me. It’s their choice. (I once heard the poor defined as someone who is unable to make a choice.)

I think of Mother Theresa. I don’t remember the exact quote, but someone asked her how she really expected to make a difference in tackling the issue of poverty. Her answer was something along the line of “One person at a time.”

From now on, when I meet someone who is homeless, if possible, I would like to stop and talk, to really look into their eyes, to speak to and, no doubt, learn from them. In the meantime, I want to use the pen (or keyboard) as a sword and, if nothing else, remind myself and others of the problem, realizing it could someday be me.

By the way, Brian’s poem refers to a break he took during an elementary school read-a-thon. We never know where our poetry may take another. Thanks, Brian.

Like a Good Neighbor

Photo: su250.com

Photo: su250.com

Like a good neighbor, Barney was there.
Kept his mouth shut, didn’t dare interfere.

Like a good neighbor, Barney stood by,
covered his ears when he heard Kari cry.

Like a good neighbor, Barney ignored
signs of abuse from the couple next door.

Like a good neighbor, when the coroner came,
he told the cops nothing, had no one to blame.

When night came upon him, no sleep to be had,
Just like his neighbor, Barney went mad.


Written for Brian Miller’s prompt over at dVerse Poetics where the challenge is to write something based on a slogan. I chose State Farm Insurance’s jingle: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” That’s how the rather sing-songy couplets happened. Thankfully, this is fictional.

Freedom–dVerse Form for All

Brian has us writing a story of 55 words, no more, no less. I did a severe edit to get this exact.


Photo: YAbeyond.com

Photo: YAbeyond.com

Such a brilliant sunrise—an odd day for them to find his parents’ brains spattered on the wall.

He stuffed clothes in a bag, clenched the address Grandma sent him when he was five, slipped it into the pocket of his flannel shirt.

No one could suspect him. Shit, they didn’t even know he existed.

News Flash!!!

I’m excited to announce the release on Kindle of my first collection of poetry: Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, today, Thursday, August 22nd. You will find it for purchase on Amazon (Free for Kindle Prime members). Reviews on Amazon or Goodreads would be most welcome. Thank you.

Cover Photo: David Slotto Cover Art: Victoria Slotto

Cover Photo: David Slotto
Cover Art: Victoria Slotto


Early pale-pink dawn
egret rests at water’s edge
in shut-eyed prayer perhaps
contemplating pleasures
of inviolate freedom.
Of a sudden, flinging
white wings wide-open
he soars into the freshness
of a flawless new beginning.

Photo: Graham Owen

Photo: Graham Owen

Over at dVerse Poetics, Brian Miller invites us to write a poems using random words offered by a friend or chosen from pages of a book. I chose mine from the poetry of Mary Oliver. I cannot get enough of her work.

The words I happened upon: Nouns–pleasures, egret; Verbs–fly, fling; Adjectives–pale-pink, unviolated; Random–prayer, edge. This is a wonderfully creative prompt. I hope you will join us! They fit a scenario I witnessed this morning!

The Summer of 1948

The Summer of 1948

Photo Credit: Floyd Bariscale/Google Images

I perch in my pepper tree.
Pungent scents, fingered
leaves embrace me.
A lady bug, dressed in red
with black polka dots
climbs my arm, tickles.

Ocean sand, white as the rind
of a watermelon, clings to my
bare toes.
Only hours ago I ran through it,
reaching out, stretching to catch

The smell of hot concrete
dampened by rain showers
lingers along with DDT
sprayed from a can with a
plunger like a bicycle pump.

I slip down the gnarly trunk,
enter the house by the
screen door near the
Bendix with the ringer where
Mama found a black widow

She’s melting a blue cube
of laundry starch
in hot water.

“Did you know I’m four
and a half today?”
I ask. She nods, smiles.
The black fan whirrs
in the background.

“Go on over to Stewie’s,” she says.
“It’s almost time for
Kukla, Fran and Ollie.”

Cross-legged on the floor
I watch the 12” screen,

Understand I am.

Fun his-tory/her-story prompt today at dVerse,  offered by Brian Miller. This is a really old one about a time way back when.  Hope you are able to read…Google Chrome users (only) are getting weird messages. I have no idea how to correct.

Coexist–dVerse Poetics

outside the window
branches of the maple
stir in autumn’s breath

emerald green and forest
cache vermillion leaves
complement each other

differences delight
need not disdain

Today at dVerse Poetics, Brian Miller asks us to consider bumper stickers. I’m not a bumper sticker person, although I hold strong-enough opinions on certain topics. I prefer to consider the wisdom of Native American Spirituality that invites us to honor each person’s Sacred Point of View. I have found richness in many belief systems and that has only served to nourish my own.

 I hope you will take time to stop by the pub at dVerse http://dversepoets.com  to enjoy the company of fellow poets and their take on this theme.

The Cloud of Unknowing–dVerse Poetics

tule fog

Image by emdot via Flickr

The Cloud of Unknowing

Who covered our valley with layers of gauzy fog?
Before me, another car edges forward.
I follow dim tail lights, hoping that somewhere ahead
another leads the tentative parade.

Last week, a mountain spanned the landscape
on the lower third of earth’s canvas.
A two-lane highway wove its way through
rabbit brush, tumble weeds tumbled. Snakes slithered.

Today I see only dim tail lights, hoping that
tomorrow I will come home.

The Cloud of Unknowing is a spiritual treatise by an anonymous medieval mystic. It advises the follower that God cannot be understood through knowledge, but rather through contemplation. Oftentimes those who live in faith have to endure prolonged periods of doubt. Having spent time in California’s Central Valley and on the coast, I always found Tule Fog and coastal fog to be an apt metaphor for life’s journey at times like this.

Today at dVerse Poet’s Pub, Brian Miller asks us to see that which cannot be seen except through the third eye. Check it out at http://dversepoets.com/

thirteen ways of looking at shoes

Red shoes, Prada

Image via Wikipedia

thirteen ways of looking at shoes

shoes carry the world’s burdens.
in our time
few decisions that affect us all
are made by barefoot people.

some people are like shoes.
you put them on
they fit
you smile.

other people, like shoes,
can press you
hurt you
make you whimper.

it’s not wise
to purchase shoes
on the Internet.
try them on first.
same with people.

some people
have many pairs of shoes.
others, only a few.
what’s important
is that they give you comfort.
friends are like that, too.

as people age
they look for comfort
in a pair of shoes
and in their mate.

when shoes wear out
on the inside
they are useless.
you should throw them away
even if, on the outside
they look fine.
when people wear out
on the outside
too often we throw them away
even though, on the inside,
they are beautiful.

old people
may not wear
sexy shoes.
that doesn’t mean
they are not
on the prowl.

people wear
different kinds of shoes
for different kinds of activities.
if you try to run
in 5” heels
you will fall.
if you try to tango
in steel-toed boots
you will step
on your partner.
resilience is a key indicator
of success.

shoes come in all colors
and sizes:
diversity offers more choices.
that’s a good thing.

if your shoes are too big
you may stumble.
if you are too big for your shoes
you will crash.

shoes have their own
stories to tell.
they protect us
on our journey through life.
choose them with care.

don’t be afraid
to go barefoot
from time-to-time.
your shoes won’t mind.
touch Earth Mother
honor her
with your gratitude.

Inspired by Brian Miller’s prompt at dVerse Poets’ Pub: http://diversepoets.com after a style developed by Wallace Stevens.

thirteen ways of looking at trees

Image: The Art of Alison Jardine

thirteen ways of looking at trees

trees know
to bend with the wind
otherwise they will snap.

in the winter
trees seem to die
that is when
they send down roots
a lot happens
beneath the surface

some people are like trees
they reach out
provide food

like some trees
are invasive they
lesser life forms

like some people
without a lot of attention
nature provides
sometimes if they are weak
they need support
now and again
you have to prune
dead branches

if you plant a tree
you are responsible for it
make sure you choose
with care
it like adopting
a child or
a pet
due diligence is needed
before you commit

everyone should have
a special tree
to hold in memory
a place to go
when you are
in that way
a tree is like
a mother’s lap

once you put down roots
you will grow
if you become at one
with your place in life

learn from trees
even though they have differences
they are all trees
they belong together

trees are like families
they have to give way
to make room
for one another

even though trees
come in many different colors
they are still trees
contrast makes them
stand out

when you puncture
a tree’s trunk
with nails
it will bleed
when you puncture
another’s heart
with words
it too will bleed

in time trees
like people
will die
to make room
for new life.

I’m linking this poem to One Shot Wednesday at One Stop Poetry: http://onestoppoetry.com  The inspiration came from a prompt posted by Brian Miller on that same website for Friday Poetically. It is based on the art of Alison Jardine, the artist behind the image above. For some truly amazing art, visit her site at http://alisonjardine.com This poetry is also reminiscent of a form of poetry perfected by Wallace Stevens.