Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Like a doting parent,
I lovingly tended to this egg I had created
and eyed it nervously every day
waiting for signs that it was hatching.
If it ever would.
Isn’t it funny how we conduct experiments,
which by their very nature will either work or not work,
yet our job security is predicated on success?
I mean, you aren’t always going to hit a home run,
but Biosolutions had invested a lot of money in this,
and we had competition.

Then one day I signed in at the lab,
and glanced gloomily at my egg,
which really should have hatched by then.
I noticed the tiniest crack in the shell.
My hands shaking and my heart pounding,
I watched the crack lengthen ever so slightly.
I called to Han Mei, and she ran right over,
accidentally knocking over some toxic solution
onto the floor, but we didn’t care.
“It’s hatching!” she cried.  “I can’t believe it’s hatching!”
“I love you,” I told her, suddenly blushing.
We were both married to other people,
so it was awkward,
but she just smiled.

From the makings of a Canada goose,
we had fashioned a pterosaur.
Perhaps not the most practical resurrection
but not as dangerous as other specimens
you can imagine.
And we could envision all kinds of applications
in paleontology and conservation and the treatment of disease.
Not just a pterosaur for the sake of a pterosaur.
This was just the beginning.

We weren’t sure what to expect
from this new, yet ancient, life.
Would it be covered in feathers?
Would it have a long beak with sharp teeth?
Would it imprint on us?
Would it survive for more than a few hours?
It looked like any kind of helpless, naked baby bird,
to be honest,
not like Science’s greatest triumph
or the disastrous consequence of playing God.
Han Mei named it “Phoenix,”
both after the mythical creature
risen out of the ashes of extinction
and the city where it was born.
Her eyes were filled with tenderness,
the love of a new mother.
She sang to it as she fed it by hand.
I was not as emotionally involved and told it once
(although I rarely spoke to it),
“You look more like a Frank to me.”

As the weeks went by,
and our tiny, fragile babe grew into an
enormous, ebony-scaled, hissing winged beast,
I’m not sure where it all went wrong.
Maybe we should have picked something
less aggressive than a goose.
Why on earth, I wondered later,
would I want this creature to share any
traits with a goose,
the most horrible of God’s creatures.
Even so, we weren’t expecting it to breathe flames
and start communicating psychically
with Han Mei.

She changed too,
became something red-eyed and ferocious.
“You’re becoming too attached,” I warned.
She told me that we had a responsibility to Phoenix,
even if things were admittedly getting out of hand.
“This was a mistake,” I told her,
referring both to our creature and our affair.

Biosolutions wanted to shut the whole thing down
after the very unfortunate incineration
of an important stockholder.
This meant, of course, that the beast would be
“shut down” as well.
I knew that Han Mei wouldn’t take this well.
“You need to be reasonable,” I insisted.
“Scientific and objective.”
She told me she was going to free Phoenix,
give him a new life among the rust-colored boulders
of the desert.
“That would be highly irresponsible,” I insisted.
“And I don’t think our relationship is working out.”
She laughed and spat in my face.
She climbed on Phoenix’s broad, scaly back,
and he emitted a horrible piercing screech,
revealing his long, thin pink tongue and razor-sharp teeth.
“This is just the beginning,” Han Mei cried.
Then they smashed through a large plate glass window to freedom.
I watched the silhouette of rider and dinogoose
grow tinier and tinier and disappear beyond the horizon.

Henri Rousseau

I have no time for the child prodigies anymore.
No interest in the arrogant authority of youth,
beautiful, wildly successful, and celebrated.
I look now to the starving artists
the has-beens, the wannabes, the never-weres,
the ones who worked a day job their whole lives,
the ones who were panned by critics,
never sold a piece in their lives,
the ones who went mad or killed themselves,
the ones who were buried in paupers’ graves,
the ones who never gave up.

Henri Rousseau was one of these.
A tax collector by day,
he picked up his brush with a new purpose in his 40s.
He painted the jungles of his dreams
with children’s books as his guides.
He never left France,
never looked a living tiger in the eye.
But his tigers are wild and ferocious and alive,
crouching and stalking in seas of green ferns.
They called him childlike and primitive;
now he’s considered a self-taught genius,
but he still had to work part-time jobs
and play his violin on the street to survive.

So here’s to the discontented baristas, cashiers, and cubicle slaves,
who wonder if it’s too late to even try anymore
but go home at night and create,
seeing the world with new eyes,
whether the world is ready for it or not.

Fictional Love Story #3

She gives him an icy glare,
frowning while brushing a strand of black hair away from her face,
still damp from the shower.
Inane morning news show, the TV too loud, pollutes the air.
He ignores this while chewing noisily on corn flakes
and stares at a framed picture of a beach just over her right shoulder.
She can’t stand the sound of his crunching.
He stands up suddenly, spills half a cup of coffee
and curses quietly while she wipes the lukewarm brew off her bare feet.
He does a half-assed job of cleaning the splatter.
He could never scale the mountain of her disappointment.
He walks out of the kitchen with the floor still wet and slick,
saying, as he departs, “It’s going to be a cold one today.”

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Currently he has a touch of arthritis and a persistent case of diarrhea.
There is a fogginess in his eyes of brown.
In our home he has hundreds of names, “Anubis, Nuba, Nunu, Nubanana, Nubanu.”
He tolerates the kisses I plant on his brow with aplomb.
No one loves this old man more than I.
He still lunges at full speed after flocks of geese and squirrels.


An insipid pop song stuck in your head
You just burned your tongue
Someone thinks you’re racist on social media
You step on something sharp on the floor
in your bare feet
You’re not wearing your contacts
Green-blue glow of a night-light
Did you take your pills?
You should always take your pills
Nothing’s on TV
You don’t want to read a book
Close your eyes
when the golden sun peeks over the horizon

I'm Totally Over It Now

I joined a writer’s group in college.
Most of the other members were older,
but for a time, I seemed to fit right in.
Our meetings were held on Sundays
in their glamorous off-campus homes.
(They would never have fit
in my single dorm room.)

Mark was the de-facto “president,”
an intellectual snob with a nasal voice.
He eventually started dating one
of our members, Leah,
who was basically just like him
in a female body.

Brett was the gentle vegetarian,
a good cook, kinda cute.
Wrote the kind of poems
you don’t really know how to respond to.
Painted morose portraits
in off-putting yellows and greens
and aspired to be a lawyer.

Sven was the cool, funny guy,
a hipster before there were millennial-era “hipsters.”
Bald, thick plastic-rimmed glasses, goatee.
I probably liked his writing best,
And I think it was similar to mine,
but his stories seemed more sophisticated somehow,
and so did he.

Francine was the beautiful poet.
Her works were inspired and effortless.
All the guys were madly in love with her,
but she had some bland Indiana boyfriend.

At that time I was trying to work out
what it meant to be
a Northwest Indiana “Region Rat.”
We were working-class people
whose dads worked at the steel mill
and were laid off from time to time.
I often felt different from all the kids I was meeting
who were from rich Indianapolis suburbs.
So I wrote stories about teens from my hometown,
and because I liked the movie Pulp Fiction,
all my characters cursed a lot.

Once I hitched a ride back home from Mark
in his vintage Volkswagen Beetle
and he seemed keen to gossip about the others,
analyzing their writing styles and their flaws.
He asked me if I honestly wanted to know
what he thought of my writing.
Not really, but I didn’t want to seem afraid.
He told me, voice dripping with condescension,
“You’re pretty good at what you do,
but I’m afraid it’s all you can do.”

One of our newest members, Sylvia,
approached me with evidence
that Francine had been plagiarizing her poetry.
Not just an unintentional phrase
but entire poems—famous ones, too!
Ones that we all studied in our English Lit classes.
Elizabeth Bishop was one of her victims, I think.
I don’t know how we didn’t see it before.
As one of the founding members,
I decided to take the matter in hand.

I emailed Mark with the
incontrovertible proof.
At the next meeting,
while I bored a hole in her skull
with my eyes,
Francine read a piece
that she explained symbolized
her plagiarism.
She talked about it like it was an eating disorder
and not a massive failing of integrity.
She was praised for her honesty.

Then they stopped inviting me to things.

I spent the rest of that year
stalking around campus,
lonely and bitter.
Fantasizing about the day that I would
be signing books,
and they would all spontaneously combust
with jealousy.

I wrote wildly experimental works
just to prove that I could do more.
I started a new writer’s group
that met in the Union,
and we behaved more like an actual
college organization
than a group of sixth-grade girls
with a secret, elite slumber party invite list.
I know that Mark and the rest thought
that my group wasn’t nearly as good
as what we had had before.
They did their own thing, and I did mine.

My true friends back home
supported me as well as they could.
Padraig prank-called Francine,
accusing her, “I know you’re a plagiarist!”
then hung up the phone.
I outwardly objected to such immature antics,
but I loved that he did that.

And here I am,
years and years and years
decidedly not famous,
no revenge for me.
But no one’s ever heard
of them either.
And I’m still writing.
I’m pretty good
at what I do.