welcoming in

jostled awake by brash amtrak steward
at 5 something a.m.
barking at passengers to wake up and make space
at some stop in washington
where no one gets on
and therefore none of the aforementioned requested space
is needed and therefore
there was no reason
to be jostled out of coach car sleep
which is already cramped and fleeting
gray in a thousand forms
out seat 17’s window:
the mighty columbia rolling and rolling
gray black water
white grey sky
black gray mountains rising up alongside
a river i have called home
calling me home again
the invisible shield juniper gifts me
to fend off any weird energy
james and i marveling at a fallen twiggy branch
wrapped in moss and usnea and lichen
as we wind our way up
into the fern-filled tree-filled forest-filled forest
whose wind whips branch tips
that sway over us

capitalism he says
about the suffering he sees
in the medical unit in his nurse work
at the hospital –
those swirling in addictions,
those in post-stroke situations
with no family or loved ones at their side,
those  cycling in and out
through the revolving door situation
of treatment but not healing
two and a quarter hours
of forest under our feet
mossing our hearts
fresh-air-ing our lungs
jimmy and i
counter-perched in the kitchen
while kaij, shiz, gina and james
lean along the cupboards
big cubes of ice clinking in the whisky
while juniper writes into the margins of the year
acorn-ing her badassery,
one item at a time

one by one
feeding clementine wedges to birdie
in the backseat
(me facing forward
her facing out the rear window in her car seat)
as we zip through the rainwet roads
pointing to the lights
as we go)

birdie in my lap as we sway backforth
in rocking chair and read
the fish book
where the little fish lost his mom
softly aloud

arms around the tree that four people
could hug at once
lips to bark-kiss
at midnight
while the neighborhood and beyond
explodes in sizzle-pops and clack-a-clacks
and deep booms
and i dig my fingers into soft dark earth
welcoming in

shadow light reflection rhythm

animal tracks braiding/criss-crossing
in the north dakota prairie/plains,
snow that appears blue in shadow
and that glitters in sun
the sagey gold reds of dried grasses
rising up

black oil tanker after oil tanker
curving around the circle-shaped track
and barbs wiring the surrounding
all signs that earthblood
is extracted here

sunbasking in the sightseeing lounge
while two fellow passengers talk about
processing with housemates,
one reading an indigenous people’s history
of the united states,
the other digging through a pouch –
the clink of tincture bottles against each other
we must be heading to portland

the shadow/light/reflection rhythm
glinting off our car
onto the freight we pass on the left
and how i have to actively encourage resistance
to filming and just take it in
surely there is a name for this phenomenon
(the effort of resisting the compulsion
to reach for the cameraphone)

crescent of moon
that i have to squint at to unblur
and the blueblack montana sky
inky behind ki

eating jack’s mac and cheese
with added brussels sprouts and kale
(jack would not approve)
while writing letters
in seat 18
mountains magic-ing along horizon
for the tears from
thinking of the sweet home of you
snow under streetlamps
swirling down at the montana/washington border
alongside towering evergreens

the sloughing / helping me help

the mental note i make
to add garbage disposals
to the profane list
while the drain sucks uneaten rice noodles
down down down
chopped into bits in the water
that will eventually be processed clean
for showering and drinking and peeing in
once again
new berlin is hell without you
and sometimes family is too
and sometimes right now is especially
how it takes half a day
to slough off the anxiousness
despite the yoga
and the kid time
and it’s not til i’m juggling calendars
and logisticating and strategizing and
have my hands wrist deep
in 800 plans
that i realize the sloughing has indeed occurred

dad opts for the treadmill
due to the range of no rain to mist to rain
that could occur
on the two mile loop
while i step out
into the gray and take photos of treetops
and clump and clomp in my boots
through the range of no rain to mist to mist-rain
the pacific northwest winters
alive in the gray and cool and wet on my skin
the message comes in
while i round the ponds
and prairie glasses
i would love to be your plus one
hands deep in bluepuff coat pockets
fingers surprised and heart softened
by the flat white lake michigan almost-heart-shaped rock
nestled in there
score! i say outloud to myself
in a joking voice complete with a goofy face
about the neon earplugs
still sealed in their plastic packet
smashed on the ground at the end of a driveway
and how i get to say it twice
because the epic walk happens in two installments


how much it means and how good it feels
to be held/seen when
rob, church-fresh, across from me
at the table where he eats the shepherd’s pie soup
and i eat the mushroom melt
saying how his heart has been going out to me
all day
and what an act i pulled off yesterday
the five of us
(chris, kadejah, izzi, nica and myself)
who could stand to continue playing no trumps
laughing around the table
at the Arnold Schwarzenegger quote
on gay marriage:
I think that gay marriage is something
that should be between a man and a woman
rainsounds, yes rain
on the rooftop
in the night
tomorrow’s high: 54 degrees
but this is
still december
isn’t it?
you’re an excellent rock i text
juniper helping me help another human
who hangs on to this world by a thread
by sending links and support information
virgo earth rooster she replies

the home of her

here’s to 44 not being a total shitshow
rolan writes from the beaches of ft. lauderdale
after i send blessings
of reveling in the everyday small magics
and of nourishment and being held
the roar and hum

in the gray morning
of trucks and machines
digging and messing
with pipes or wires
as i snake through the subdivision
running in pink barefoot shoes
running not to escape but to move through
juniper sitting neatly with toothbrush in hand
and everything terrifyingly tidied
and me, warm from a post-shower run
haunted by the made bed
and the empty coat rack

so you can breathe i say did you pack smidgeon
you are the only unicorn sparkleberry
and you mean the world to me
she says

you are the only tiger eye-eyes
and you mean the world to me
i respond

both of us crouched on the floor
in the bedroom i ached through my first heartbreak in
twenty six years ago

orchestrating your clandestine escape
when i don’t want to show myself either
regardless of how hard i don’t want you to go
but also wanting you to be able to breathe again –
this is love

the yellow-orange abandoned/lost beany-giraffe
on the blue recycling can lid
that i pick up for a moment
on the way into the park
and on the way out

yao yao at that age
where the fun is in repeating the same game
again and again
but her joy is so sparkly and contagious
that it’s mostly easy to do
as we get on the playground boat
and rock to our destination
where we get out and swim
on repeat
and repeat
and repeat


the opłatki wafers
we hold out to each other
pair by pair until everyone
has offered everyone else
appreciations and wishes for the next year
don’t make me cry i tell mom
before she starts talking
and dad: i wish more for you
the unfinished phrase
ellipsesed by watering eyes
sweettart i call the non-alcoholic drink
dad made me
with bitters and lime and lime


the white table cloths
and the red and green placemats
and us sitting in front of them
passing dish after dish around the wigilia table
of mushroom barley soup
of kapusta
of pierogies
of fish
of brussels sprouts
of bread
of the citrus salad
and practicing the fine art
of taking small portions
so one can finish
what’s on their plate

any talk about the alaska cruise
(drink packages and gratuities and dressing in layers and bring a raincoat)
turning me into the sullenest teenager
since the lion-shaped hole in the plan –
something about sailing the pacific
in an eighteen-floor ship
at these times
in horror

but alongside the home of her
the five minutes of silence
(after hours of loud)
i suggest we sit in
so ami and i do
as dad gets up and walks away, then mom,
then dad comes back to sit again
eyes closed with us
sharing the basic fears and basic desires
of the enneagram
with ami and dad and mom
in the living room
making tyler proud


the storytellers in us

huggie snuggie i curl up on the bed
calling the puff scarf
stuffed in its sack
that i choose to pack
(a little slice of juniper)
with me
the tea tree and geranium antibacterial potion
i spray all over the amtrak seats
that the person before us has left
a biohazard (used bandage clumped up on the seat
and mask tucked in the )

side by side on the empire builder
and across the table from a fancy hot chocolate at colectivo
making extreme sad crying faces
that make me think of the one butoh dance i’ve seen
until we we laugh so hard
we’re almost unfit for the public
almost following the shoreline
peter at the wheel
we blur through whitefish bay
and all the lights shimmering
(trees aglow in windows
everything lit up in yards
and along rooflines)
in the neighborhoods of the very rich
but despite this
something warming in me
a la little kid in the backseat cruising through
candy cane lane

the small owl from the 30% off bin
following us around at whole foods,
past the empty egg nog shelf
and while we search for tortillas

the storytellers in us
rising (or not) to the occasion
of jack’s christmas gift game
while the fire dies out
and our plots and characters run amok
falling off into sleep to the rhythm
of juniper’s snoring
while transfixed by the flickershiftlightdance
on the ceiling/tossing the ceiling fan shadow
from the fire in the fireplace
on the folded out futon
in peter’s living room

glowing in

laughing at how as adults
sometimes while we sleep
we dream about peeing
and then we actually do so
in the bed

kerchief the cat
meowing at me
on the snow dusted blacktop
that curves down towards the mailboxes
everything grey
everything white

eyes burned
by laptop screen
from a two-day marathon
of applicationing
which means there is no poetry here
just more screen
more drone of the furnace
more excavators digging out
what wants to nestle
in this ribcage
halfmoon now
but still bright white
glowing in through skylight
elevensomething p.m.


here, let’s practice i say
from the spot we stand
hugwrapped in the human headquarters kitchen
her in red hoodie and me in browngray/black sweater rectangle
you go over to the stove and say
‘i’m just going over to the stove
but i’m not going away
i’ll see you in a bit’
the three advent wreath candles
and the jesus candle

poems for molting

the card emma hands me
at the pink desk with the typewriter
at 9 in the morning
that says: the poem you wrote for me –
as you listened to me share about my fears
and hopes, i felt so seen, known and cared for.
your poem has been a source of encouragement and affirmation

and i tuck it into the desk drawer
glowing alive already knowing
that that was the best part of the day
which isn’t to say the day is going to suck
but just that it doesn’t get better
than this
and this/these
are the answers
to why people
and why poems
all the reds and whites and blacks and some greens and blues
in the almost sparkly stage light
bodies arranged on risers
and they sing

poems for beloved dead dogs
and poems for molting
and poems for inheriting the supportive and caring parents one never had
and poems as flowers, wild bouquets of them,
for heather who’s being schooled hard by cancer
and poems for an 82 year old woman who, after losing her husband to Alzheimers says – it’s the first time in 58 years that i am alone
and a poem for a friendship that is 45 years old
and a poem for grace who, at 9 years old,
already has strong inclinations towards justice and isn’t afraid
to stand up for her friends

closest thing i’ll have to a proud parent moment i say
about  emmet and sequoyah
nailing their solos harder
than anyone else nailed their songs
and though i’m their teacher
it’s not even like i’m their choir teacher, but still

make art, make love, make money juniper says
across the table of salad and mussels from me
revealing her 2020 motto
get closer to god,
not capital g-o-d
but, like, being brought to my knees
by the universe
i say
about mine
because that’s what falls into my ears
though i’m not sure if it’s a commentary on recent months
or compass for 2020
or both
i like your claws, lion she says
in her grabbable black tank-top
with her grabbable uproar of hair uproaring
and we are limb-tangled
carried off into the hot dark night
on  body-worn waves of sleep

poems for everything

in my rushing out the door
with a hot pink desk stuffed into the hatchback
she reminds me
that the roads were slippery last night
little flame, glow bright for us
help us hold this space
lydia talks to the fire
that burns in the middle of the circle
while we pass the talking piece pinecone
shitshow i say
with a fondness for the familiarness
of a collective
and the shitshows that ensue
and also
with the frustration that comes along with
navigating a shitshow
and if i were cynthia, i’d call it a sheepshow

another round of exquisite knucks
with the students and i
just for old time’s sake
with emmet’s subtle colored but light markers:
tuff rope
dark oars
wild fern
grey leaf
bold pike
the smallest red river
blooming in the valley
between juniper’s fingers
where grey kitty
lisi cat back to his
wild after-meal prowling pouncing self
thanks to antibiotics
and pain medicine
a poem for a couple who have been together thirty seven years
and biked across the country on a tandem bike,
a poem for a midwife’s colleague and mentor
who has become a sortof surrogate sister
to one who has only had brothers,
a poem for a friend who plays the drums,
a poem to eat all the sadness in your heart

heart ferns

they remind me of rivers sarah says
about my poems
while we read aloud
from the circle of chairs we sit in
discombobulated in room 202
i want to record that sound sequoyah says
about the photocopier click and whir
going while she draws and arranges
and emmet folds

slippy slidey sidwalks
form the thin scrim of snow
shaken out from sky

mist-mist-mist-misting juniper’s heart ferns
in the poof-light
spirit crushed by mortality and heartbreak
i paste on a red heart-shaped bandage
and a purple flower bandage too
i need to go on a long walk through the woods
she says
grey kitty curled between our
almost-dreaming heads
while we read the final chapters
of harry potter book 5
wiping down lisi-cat’s puncture wound
with the blue-soaked cloth
the scab bumps like braille
through the tissue