Poetry Post-A-Thon: All Things Mundane

This one was published in Alaska Women Speak.

All Things Mundane


Years ago, my right eye lost sight

of the spring leaves. The ones I passed by daily,

unimpressed by their freshness, their greenness,

their joyful triumph over the barren winter,

as I carried my backpack in hand and

my university degree in sight.


Though, as spring turned to summer,

the eye clouded and blinded, and the

eye chart on my bare knees

was gray like water

in a used watercolor cup,

and my canvas was as blank as could be.


Uveitis, a strange word, never really explained

the summer’s lost colors

and the air conditioned exile

of photophobia

and sunglasses worn inside.

Nor could it prepare me for the steroids,

the pills,

and that last shot,

directly into my blue iris,

that brought back more than my vision.


As the fall leaves’ edges no longer blurred and

smudged like an eraser correcting a mistake,

but cut sharp around their respective

burnt orange and yellow perimeters,

the terminating season gave me their colors

and my vision a refined sharpness,

a rebirth of something that was once taken away:

a gift of all things mundane,

never to be taken for granted again.


Poetry Post-A-Thon: The Diagnosis

This one was published in Alaska Women Speak.

The Diagnosis

In my cave,

in the emergency room,

the doctor left the room dark,

with just a crack of light,

that bled in from the hall outside.


In just eight hours, my right eye had gone

from noticing the blurred hands

of the clock on the wall,

hands that smeared like ink on wet paper,

to the hot lightning bolt

of photophobia, pain that had me

holding my head in the dark,

and praying for no light.


For an hour, my fiancé and I

were left alone in the cave,

to watch shadows move underneath

the closed door frame,

as the eye specialist saw

a man who lost control of a chain saw

and injured his eye.


You’re lucky. He can see you too,


the doctor said,

as I imagined a slipped hand,

fragments of wood splintered in an iris,

a severed optic nerve,

and the blood that brought him to the hospital.


Later, the specialist caressed my hands,

as he scooped them away from my right eye.

I smelled the Dial soap

and wanted to believe him:

I understand this hurts.

I’m fairly sure of what you have,

but I have to be sure.


Then, like a piercing light saber,

the scope swept across my eye.

Before the pain could cut

through my brain, he stopped

and pronounced:

iritis, at a minimum.


The specialist dimmed the lights

and my right eye went closed again.

My left eye, the one that could still see,

saw the first doctor

who shadowed the specialist.

I knew it! His fist balled

in triumphant victory,

of a correct diagnosis,

of what I had lost.

Poetry Post-A-Thon: Someone May Have Said

This one was published in Alaska Women Speak.

Someone May Have Said

Someone may have said:

you need to have been lost once

to know when you have been found.

When you have lost bits and pieces

of yourself along life’s way.

When you are able to mourn what you have missed,

have experienced enough to realize its importance,

and have wished time could undo all your regrets.


Someone may have said:

you need to have been lost once

to know that you have been found.

That life is only lived through things lost,

a journey spent seeking things to gain,

when all that matters are the things you lost,

that were priceless and not for sale:

the things that made life worth living

Poetry Post-A-Thon: Urban Snack

This one was also published in the Yellow Chair Review

Urban Snack

The two ravens are dancing on the green plastic trash can

again. Maybe the same partners as last week, but who knows

they all look alike, with their jet black heads and plump chests

that puff out like chickens as they jump up and down, a rhythm,

a Morse code, maybe an ode to Poe, like toddlers anticipating

snack time and a handful of cookies. Today it is not the recycling day,

so they pull pizza shards out of the thin slit that gapes open,

because you were too cheap to upgrade to the next level, and

too lazy to put out that one last bag before the pick-up

last week, so the cavity rests overfilled. They caw at you

to remind you of this as they tap, tap, tap on the can and

chew crust like its a new type of earthworm

of the crunchier kind. Strips of hardened dough and flashes

of dried tomato sauce they rip until they find that last full

slice of garden vegetable you were too proud to eat,

that was two days old and flexible like rubber,

cheese topping like wax. They shred it with delight and fury

until you shut the living room curtains tight,

shutting out the brief daylight, as you pray in haste

for that humming truck in the distance to appear and

the garbage man to announce closing time, evicting the dancers

until next week.

Poetry Post-A-Thon: Purple Lullaby

This one was published in the now defunct Yellow Chair Review in an issue dedicated to Prince.

Purple Lullaby

It was by chance that I met Prince

when my life was constantly

walking in from the out door.

Being 10, ugly with acne, and

having a single mom in a nuclear

family town was brutal some days.

I counted heads each day at noon,

of the 4th and 5th graders in the

the long line that snaked out the hall

for lunch room seats, to see

where my bullies would be sitting,

and if I could eat in peace that day.

My cousin Jenny would invite me into her room

when I visited her, the sacred room,

behind the door that was always closed,

that opened to the Madonna, Springsteen

and Prince posters. A cheerleader

with ripped bleached jeans and crimped

blonde hair, Jenny and I never

talked about bullies, but Prince,

as we listened to When Doves Cry,

Let’s Go Crazy, and my favorite, Purple Rain.


At Christmas, she gave me my own Purple Rain LP.

Now, you can listen to it as much as you like,

she said. Not just when you are with me.


And, listen I did,

behind my closed bedroom door.

The record turned around and around on the turntable,

a hypnotic motion that guided me

to the comfort of the purple rain.


Later, after my regular babysitter

was fired for hitting me,

I stayed with my great aunt who liked

Garfield, bodice ripper romances, and the Rat Pack,

and hated how modern music just repeated

the same lines over and over,

like Purple Rain does.


She couldn’t possibly understand how Prince

sang to me a lullaby,

allowing me to sleep at night.


Poetry Post-A-Thon: Away with the Bitterness

This one was published in Peeking Cat Poetry

Away with the Bitterness

Uncle’s sweet tooth had to be satisfied and
each day he would fill his brown paper
lunch bag with a peanut butter sandwich,
always with wheat bread,
and two peanut butter cups.

My eleven-year-old eyes watched
this ritual each day while eating
the Life cereal he had prepared for me:
a half bowl with two heaping
tablespoons of sugar and a seventies
era Tupperware cup of milk.

I would later learn that while he
breakfasted with me each day,
my aunt would be in the next room
giving herself the morning insulin shot.

Uncle would always be given sweets
because no one could think of
anything else he would enjoy.
Besides the occasional jar of Brazilian
or cashew nuts, were the Whitman candies
most people reserved as an obligatory gift
for someone they did not know.

His wife would watch the candy with bitter eyes,
for she could not have the crust at Pizza Hut,
nor the breaded fish at Long John Silvers,
which blocked her calls because she
complained too much on their hotline.

It was she who begged him long ago to leave
his love in England during the war
to join her in the States, or else,
the blood would run not from
the trenches of Europe,
but rather the veins
in her wrists back home.

On Christmas, he would smile knowing the candy
he was to receive, and she scowled
as he passed the chocolate caramels around,
encouraging all but her to a Merry Christmas:

Poetry Post-A-Thon: Chaos and Conformity

This one was published in Alaska Women Speak

Chaos and Conformity
The shoes sat orderly on three wood shelves
outside the Korean school
in shades of brown,
with no princesses,
no action figures on them—
nothing to outwardly distinguish one
set from another.
As you enter,
the foreign English language teacher,
you expect the shoes belong to bodies
that are
full of chaos,
full of yells,
full of squeals.
You imagine arms and legs smeared
with paint and paste.
the sea of gray and blue shirts,
pants and jumpers,
is a sea of conformity and calm,
shattered by the appearance of
the dissimilar,
the foreign,
of language
and of appearance—

Poetry Post-A-Thon: Bibimbap


She sees your pale blue eyes
and knows it is your first time.
She seizes your dolsot bibimbap,
out of your reach,
and starts whipping the stone pot
with the metal spoon.
She chants over your stone pot
of cracking rice, vegetables and
hot chili pepper paste.
Trapped, she commandeered your plate,
and you and your fellow patrons
nod and cheer her frenzy on.
As the silver spoon scrapes the pot,
her tongue talks to the concoction
like one of Macbeth’s witches
until the stone pot and the chili
pepper paste mixture are one;
the batter, just the right consistency.
Finally, she ceases to a smile,
surrenders the spoon to the novice
with a bow, and retreats to the kitchen.
Thank you, you nod and smile,
knowing nothing you do or say
could ever top that act.

Poetry Post-A-Thon: A Greeting at Imjingak

This poem originally appeared in Alaska Women Speak.

A Greeting at Imjingak

She ambled off the tour bus,
like she was crossing over rocks
in a rough river,
one half step at a time.
Glancing outside at the concrete building
like a child greets an amusement park,
she wore at least seventy years
in the lines of her smile,
a face that remembered a time
before the Forgotten War,
when the Koreas were one.

She bows her head,
Annyong hashimnikka,
she says to the young American couple,
the visiting airman and his wife,
stationed at Osan Air Force Base,
who were there because the war
never really ended in peace,
but in an armistice,
a pause in play,
a forgotten war,
between two Cold War superpowers:
one of which no longer exists;
the other whose boots still remain,
generations after they declared victory.

You both stumble and trip in your speech,
over the barbed wire that ties your tongue
and stings your stomach as you attempt
to return the formal, honorific
form of the greeting she used.

Inside you wish you were not there
so maybe she would not be there either.

The South Korean tourists come to Imjingak
to see what they cannot touch,
what they cannot feel,
who they cannot see in the flesh,
of a land that was once theirs,
the men and women who they once knew,
and decades later,
cannot forget.
The Americans come to see the plaques
from each state that gave men in combat,
that mark their success that divided
the Korean brothers and sisters
and repelled Communism to the 38th parallel.
They want to see the Bridge of Freedom
over the Imjin river
that returned their POWs
and ended their battle in the Korean War.

They want to glance at the forbidden land of North Korea,
beyond the fields of tank traps and mines
bearing three languages of warning:
Korean, Chinese and English,
to the concrete no-man’s land created
to keep the fragile peace and division.

Nothing could prepare your gut for that smile,
that glow that greets you at the bus,
the one which seems grateful,
rather than spiteful,
for your continual military presence,
the generation who still wants
your boots on their ground.

You stumble over the wires
that tangle your tongue:
you cannot say it well in Korean;.
you cannot even say it aloud in English.

You are sorry she is there,
and that you are still there,
and the Bridge of Freedom
did not set her free.