Southern Illinois Spring

The pond I fish
holds an offering of sky within
the water. I cast into clouds —
draw them close on the
ripple of a wave.

Geese warble
silently past my boat as
they fly at the waterline.
In the depths fish lurk, hidden
by a thunderhead — their darkness
masked by the gray, moving
forms rolling, building above.

Water spiders dance upon the
mirror surface flecked with dust
of protozoa. A breeze kicks up.
I pull on the oars, slicing
through steely sky. I draw
to shore as the rain begins.

Millions of ripples intersect
each other, unbroken as they
expand, dividing the sky among
themselves until the choppy water
arises in petulant waves. Fish
surrender to the moment
of anarchy, thrashing, striking
wildly at the line I cast again
and again. The sky takes
back itself and returns


I’m not sure how many years ago I wrote this, but it’s in one of my chapbooks.

Wonders of the Web

A cache of 1940 photographs
taken of my county,
aerial photos.


my range, township, section,
and see the farm from above.

Woods have slowly encroached
on the fields since then.
A pasture ran from the barn
down to the creek in the grove,

crops and trees
now divide
the former bovine demesne.


on a dot in the yard
to the shock
of a boy waving,
looking up
at the airplane
high above.

I look down,
wave back,
waver between
for a moment forget
my absence then
his absence now.



There are secret messages
in my poems, a cryptic flow
just below the surface.
One moment I’m strolling
barefoot on grass,
the next, I’m meters above,
perhaps millimeters.
It looks like I stride on blades
but a slight cushion of air
separates me from earth.

An ant would have to wedge
into the space. Sometimes
he does. Then I’m walking
on an exoskeleton
and no one knows,
not even the ant.

My wry smile remains a mystery,
to all around. Misdirection,
shading of art
delivers deep satisfaction,
no matter how thin.

Reading Other Poets

The ear
waits, alert
for the faulty phrase,

the one word
toward insincerity

or saccharine blush
in a bower
of pansies.

trims the “that”
that has no business here,

weeds the snarl
of ubiquitous,
blooming adverbs.

in minutiae.


to pithy haiku.

A poem for dVerse Open Link Night

Saint Nick

Santa slept on the stoop
waiting to be let in
because we don’t have a chimney.
He smelled strange,
Listerine or something.
Mom looked upset,
which is odd:
everyone is happy
to see Santa.
Maybe t’was because
he was a bit dizzy
and she was afraid
he might fall.
If I traveled
all over the world
in one night, I might
get woozy too.
When we asked him
for presents, he pointed
to the ones under the tree.
He said that was part
of the magic,
then handed me
an empty bottle.
He hugged me,
kissed the top of my head
and wandered out


(22 January 1997- 16 August 2011)

“Trod with a lighter tread.” –W.B. Yeats

You sniff the earth and air
for those who’ve travelled
this way before,
rushing headlong
toward who knows what,
then dragging behind
intent on a mystery
embedded between blades
of grass.

The jump and prance of play,
you bow, stretching, then leap,
chase a ball,
tug and growl at length of rope,
mock snap and charge
at my dancing hands
swirling about your head.

One by one
you left games
until only a nod
at their presence,
of the memory.

Yet you walked
where you willed,
slipped away for sojourns,
even on your last day
a brief gambit
between fence lines.

When reduced to breath,
a staggering stand
then sunken prone with pained voice
you ran ahead of us again
and laughed

just beyond our reach.

Zen and Out

I enter
the space
between my thoughts
and walk around,
stroll for hours
in cool breeze,
hear the sound of gulls
calling in the distance,
a steady soft roll
of surf.

Moist sand
slips between my toes,
ocean rippling over them,
walking the verge
between land and sea.

The distant ring
of a telephone
then a disembodied voice,
tinny and flat,
totals my bank account,
job prospects,
social life,
an endless litany
of inadequacies.

Slipping in the water,
I swim to get away.
Far out to sea,
no land in sight,
yet the voice
still mutters.

Saturday Poem

Orphan Tsunami

In the past
no news,
no warning tremble,
just a silent drawing back
of the ocean’s arm
before it delivered
onto the earth.

A perverse broom
swept the ground
adding chaos and dirt,
a tumble of refuse,
while removing life.

Now we track
long paths
across oceans
from point of origin
to point of despair.

are no longer orphans,
they only make them.

One Shot Dream

This is a bizarre dream I had last night. Tried to hammer it into a poem.


swirl counterclockwise
a vast oblong arena—
more a barn—
wooden beams above.

I swim within these grains, bits
of consciousness,
then will them
to cascade,
titrate into reality:
stairs and passageways,
neighborhood streets,
conversations on summer nights,
all close at hand
and tied to other souls.

I shuffle scenes
one after the other,
unsure whether seeking perfection
or staying ahead
of shadowed dread.