I Remember My Gramma’s–a poem

As I was wading through a box of really old writing to find something for a project I’m working on, I found this poem. It’s from 1997 or 1998, at the height of my Kerouac/Beat Generation poetry period when all I did was read the Beats, drink coffee, and write poetry (can’t say my life has changed much: now, instead of re-reading Kerouac’s “Maggie Cassidy” I re-read the Brontes and out-of-print Fantasy, drink coffee, and write fiction). I cannot image writing  a poem like this again– I moved into a phase where I went from the Beats to the Romantics, and that’s where I’ve stuck for the past fifteen years.

This poem is about my Grandma Bieker, made of vignettes of my memories interwoven with my childhood inner life . . . It’s clunky and ungainly, reaching for but never quite grasping a lyric Whitmanesque quality. But. .  . But I found parts of it amusing enough to want to share.



I remember my Gramma’s–

tiny apartment for a tiny woman.

The smell of perfume lingering from

room to room–a pink mist

clinging to her bombshell helmet

angelic hair–twirled into curls,

and I’d kneel and watch, playing with curlers,

casings and bobbypins–making soldiers, aliens,

Cowboys and Indians–

And the Indian in

the upstairs apartment

who’d scalp noisy young boys

all but sending me into a faint

when he knocked at the door

only to ask for a little sugar–

The old Scottish woman two buildings over

no more than a slip

stretched thin on time

waiting for the wind  to blow her away (Soon

she was gone–

To Death or Mist and Fog or Angelic Wings)



Bricks of Government cheese

too hard to use for a house’s foundation–

Kettles of John Setti

Pots of Chicken and dumplings

seasoned with salt and a dash

of spit strung out from lips to spoon

to splash in the broth–

The cars that passed in twilight

counted and strung like pearls

across college-ruled paper

(the most counted 71 in a day)–


Curled up teddy-bear soft

on the belly of the tattered fold-out

orange tweed couch–

periwinkle sheets smelling

of the basement laundry room–

the cuckoo’s soft lullaby

the tick-tock of the clock

easing the release of dreams

Across the street the

junkyard dog howled warnings

wandering between rust-chewed relics

of old jalopys– scaring off spectral

burglars who threatened to hot-wire

these apparitional autos.


The apricot tree out front its stones

gathered greedily by me and my cousin–

bloodthirsty pirates stashing our stolen

pit doubloons–

buried and mapped on earmarked

bloodscrawled business stationary–

Never to be seen again–

Secrets drowned by Davey Jones’s locker. . . .



The Spider’s Dilemma

I stepped outside a few minutes ago, just to feel the unusual February warmth and stare absently at the city light and night sky, and was struck by the moon. It’s a full–or nearly so–shrouded in wisps of clouds like the tulle for a bridal veil. It was behind a criss-crossing tangle of branches that made me think of a web, which led to this poem.


What will the spider do

when she awakens to find

the moon

caught in her web

Winter, A Witch, A Window

I write somewhere between 150 and 200 poems a year. Most of them are terrible, while maybe 2 or 3 are actually publishable. Between these two extremes are poems that I usually post here on the blog–they’re a little strange, a little silly, and have a sparkle I can’t explain. This is one of those–a melange of the strange and silly.



She watches with cat’s eyes

the blood tacky on the yuccas, the snow

from the sun setting over the foothills


She fingers the windowsill latch

painted shut single pane

and pine frame

which she could open

with word and a twitch

of her nose


She runs her tongue

past teeth tanned

mummy-wrap off-white

by cups of black tea–

she drinks it now

the cup rests upon the sill

amidst dust and beside

a desiccated winter fly–

strokes the ridged


skin of chapped lips

and would smile

but for the lack of

chapstick, lipstick, salve


Her breath catches in her chest

a mouse snapped in a trap

as he passes on the path

below her window

behind her house

in the sunset’s blood

until only sneaker-soled

diamond prints

twinkle in the snow and dust

and the kettle shrieks

tearing its hair out for the attention

she saves for him.

Kooky Cookie poems inspired by Basho

It’s a hot night. Unbearable. I tried sleeping, but it led to tossing and turning and calling down curses upon Summer. So what does one do when one feels all hot and bothered on a Summer night? Why get up and read Basho, of course. One haiku in particular stuck out for me, and it’s pretty obvious why. Inspiration struck my boiled brain, and I sat down and whipped out a baker’s dozen of pomes and haikoos in “homage.”

Here is Basho’s haiku:

Awake at night–

the sound of the water jar

Cracking in the cold.


And here is a sampling of mine. Enjoy!


Awake at night

with an empty cookie jar

and a glass of milk whiter than

the moon.


Fingering the cookie jar

Finding only crumbs

Licking them from my fingers.


Feeling inside the cookie jar

I find only the Spirits of Cookies Past

but they don’t taste the same.



I didn’t live alone

I could blame


for the empty



Two Apple Blossom Poems

There is a line of apple blossom trees at work that I love to sit by while taking my lunch. Here are a pair of poems written while I was sitting there enjoying a Spring afternoon.



Petals of pink snow

pile up in the shadows

of an apple tree upon the grass

waiting for someone

to make

an apple blossom angel.



A bubble of gum on a girl’s lips–

apple blossoms

bursting from a branch.

Melanie’s Felonies–a poem

I have a terrible problem with constantly tinkering with my writing. Like Whitman, I continually revise and rewrite them. Some enjoy the moment of creation, whereas I enjoy revision. This poem is one that I’ve revised a number of times now. I wrote it over twelve years ago,and have rewritten it as many times. It’s been published twice, each time with substantial changes, and as I was washing dishes this evening, something in the damp grass and budding lilacs brought it to mind, so I pulled up and and began tinkering with it again. It was part of an abandoned series of poems I was writing about childhood along the lines of “Spoon River Anthology,”with an elementary school rather than a graveyard tying the poems together.

I can’t say that I’m completely satisfied with this rewrite, but it was quick and fun–and a nice distraction from my novel in progress. I will get back to it.


Melanie’s Felonies


That fateful first day of 5th grade

with her red hair in braids

and freckles speckling her cheeks

like cinnamon sprinkled on pancakes

Melanie sauntered into the classroom

carving her name on the heart

of each boy in our class.


I spied her from the swingsets at recess—

A boy at the playground waterfountain

received a kick in the shins

and his friend standing beside him

a punch in the stomach

for whistling at Melanie

as she flitted across the blacktop.


Her eleventh birthday she celebrated

at The Lucky Dragon.

She laughed at the boys who

prodded ginger chicken

and catapulted rice onto the table

with proudly fumbling fingers and chopsticks.

By her side, unnoticed, I

shadowed her – spreading the cloth napkin

across my lap and cradling my fork as she did.



The night I stayed at Melanie’s house

we pirouetted and sashayed

in front of her bedroom window

staticy nightgowns

clung to our bodies like saran-wrap.

With our eyes screwed tight and our heads tilted back

we spun around and around

and she made a wish.

When we opened our eyes

she told me to see

dangling from the elm tree—

all of the boys from our class,

an audience of monkeys swinging from monkey-bar branches

ogling us with desire.


Illuminated by her nightlight

Snug on her bedroom floor

in Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bags—

two pink inchworms we huddled


mint chocolate chip ice cream

still on her breath

tingled my cheeks

as we

shared secrets



alone in her bedroom at night

Melanie covers herself in a sheet


pretends to be a ghost.


Last fall going door-to-door selling

Girl Scout cookies

she kept all of the money she made

and in the front seat

of a broken-down VW van

in best friend’s backyard

she stole a kiss

from an unsuspecting boy.


On snowy December evenings

Melanie sneaks out of her bedroom

and strolls through the park.

She populates the stretches of solitude

with snowangels

and spells out the names of the boys

she secretly loves

with a stick.

Lying in the snow

she crafts constellations of their faces

in the stars.


Before we went to sleep

Melanie shed her sleeping bag

knelt down at the foot of her bed

and prayed.


The moonlight and starlight

and maybe even the nightlight

gilded her—

she reminded me

(forgive this blasphemy)

of the Virgin Mary.



The 4th of July


caught up in the excitement

of cannon blasts and explosions

pointed her forefinger and cocked her thumb

aiming directly between the eyes

of the man-in-the-moon,

fired! She turned to me,

leveled her weapon and

cried triumphantly

“Boom!” with a blast

that blew up my heart.


At the end of the summer

Melanie moved.

Without a “good-bye”

she disappeared—

like the sere leaves of the lilac trees

outside my bedroom window

shorn from the branches by a breeze—

blown to another corner of the earth.



Now at night

before I sleep

I imagine Melanie kneeling

at the foot of my bed.

Bathed in the moon’s halo

Her breath warms my toes

peeking from my sheets

as she prays for me.