Featured

Almost

I received a rejection email from a lit magazine for a set of poems this morning. It was the standard, “does not fit our needs at this time” rejection. However, the magazine also told me that my poems made it to the final round of selections, before being rejected, and I should feel free (with a small reading fee) to submit more of my work in the future. It was as if I was told that my poems were almost good enough. But not being a hand grenade, nor a game of horseshoes.. almost is almost an insult. I know that it was supposed to be read as a compliment: my poetry was better than the outright rejections, yet still was found lacking. I laughed; It was funny. I am not bothered by rejection letters. They are just part of the game of submissions. A couple of years ago, I received a rejection from a magazine that had previously published a couple of my poems. In the rejection letter, the editor, I imagine in an attempt to be helpful, commented on what I could do to improve my writing, citing both positive and negative examples. I found this more troubling than the almost-good-enough rejection. The commentary was the sort one gets in undergraduate writing workshops. In other words, not really useful, or germane to what I was doing in the poem. I did not ask for feedback; I have been doing this awhile, I know what I am doing. I feel that if you did not select my writing for your publication, a simple polite no is good enough. I do not have to see your reasoning. I do not think, in the stereotypical manner, that the publisher did not “get” my writing. I just figure as the statement in most rejections pronounces: they do not fit, or they are not what we are looking for at this time. Or it is not the type/style of poetry the editor likes.  I write what I write. I stopped a long time ago trying to write what I think some specific magazine, or editor will like. I don’t need a gold star, or the affirmation of someone else.  I send out my work, because I would like it to be read; but, not to the degree that I will change the way I write. I am not trying to be arrogant, in fact, I see it more as humility.  I write my poems, and they are poems, not experiments, or assignments. If you don’t care for my style, or what I say, that is okay. If you do like what I wrote: cool. I send my writing out sporadically. Normally, I will send out to several magazines at the same time. Not simultaneous submissions, for I write all the time and have a large backlog of poems. After my flurry of submissions, I continue writing; I forget who I sent poems to, then they slowly come back to me with rejections, and the occasional acceptance, which is always a thrill. I have never been one to see POETRY as a career, where I have to get published all the time, in all the BEST magazines. I don’t think one can be a professional poet.  I do take poetry seriously: I read it all the time, I write it all the time. I even teach poetry, and conduct poetry workshops with my students.  I send some out every now and then. Some get rejected; some get accepted. 

Waiting (nourishment)

from “Change” a work in progress

Too often, when I find time

to write, the clamor of the day

staggers about drunkenly,

muddling my thoughts. So,

I wait, go for a walk, cook.

Eventually all the falderal

falls away to silence;

and, I write again.

(January 22, 2019)

Chromosome Damage (work in progress, part 3)

(41)

The sideways shift and snip

Clatters across the sand.

It’s easier to move out of the way—

Trouble passes, one remains

To proceed with plodding step

Along one’s path.

(3)

Time’s slow arc

(34)

All the variables led here

As inevitable as this morning’s

Sun striking the sycamore’s white

Bark; no god laughs as our choices.

(14)

A left, a right, a yes, a no:

Life’s crushed to binary.

(16)

I close an eye

To see the obvious

Connection: the moment.

(15)

I stumble step across a bridge

Swinging above a crevasse.

(21)

No saints guide us home,

Nor care how far we fall.

The emptiness opens

Like an aura.

(43)

This morning everyone sleeps in

As fog drifts between the trees

Near the creek and the gray sky.

The last brown leaf has fallen

From the sycamore; the solstice

Passed under a full moon.

(30)

Dusk and dawn, progressive

And simultaneous, flow through

The landscape. Yet, we think

Our futile actions have consequence.

(19)

Like you,

Light bends

Along each wave’s edge

Into separate

And singular parts.

A Present Absence


As if braille,

I cannot be traced

Without a quick

Flutter of fingers

Across the page.

Even as I hide

Within words,

My handwriting,

Like kudzu, disguises

My intent.

I don metaphor

And stand still

To cloak certainty

In comfortable 

Deniability.

My whispers are

My camouflage—

Hints and misdirection

Like bells nearby 

In the dark.

(December 3, 2018)