Wednesday, February 27, 2019


After his divorce,
Ian took up running.
At first it was just a lark,
something to get him
out of the house
and a few pounds lighter.
A goal to complete a 5k
as a symbolic triumph.
Maybe, somewhere down the line,
he could meet a lean woman
with long brown hair,
probably named “Jen.”
Defined muscles on her thighs and calves,
technical running shirt and colorful leggings,
a “26.2” sticker on the rear windshield
of her Subaru,
and they would jog together
into the sunset.
But it didn’t really go that way.

Ian found that after the initial struggle
to get off the couch and control his breath,
running came naturally to him.
He remembered being a child
with boundless energy
and the joy of speed
and the wind at his back.
I can make it to the stop sign without stopping.
I can make it to that mailbox without stopping.
I can make it to the finish line without stopping.
5k turned into 10k turned into half marathons.
He ran a full marathon, not like the Kenyans, of course,
but he made it to the end,
and that was not enough.
He found himself just a few years later
running 100-mile races in the desert
stumbling up mountains and crashing through brambles
His feet blistered and bleeding,
toenails turning black and falling off,
knees and shins torn to shreds by thorns,
and his family and friends wondered, “Why?”
But he didn’t really have an answer for them.
He just had to go farther each time,
push himself harder,
see what happened when he fell down
and couldn’t get back up again.

It was raining that April night
and the steep path was slippery
and hard to see.
He had already slipped several times
knees and hands mud-covered.
He was far from a checkpoint,
didn’t have any assistance,
no other suffering runners in sight.
He pulled a tasteless protein bar out
from his backpack
and chewed mechanically.
Suddenly in front of him appeared
a glowing orb.
It floated towards him
and hovered in front of his face,
seeming to observe him,
judge him.
It emitted a high-pitched tinnitus whine.
I’m hallucinating, he thought,
rubbing his eyes.
It had happened before
on lonely trails
when he was dehydrated
and overheated.
The orb did not vanish like other mirages
he had seen.
It radiated a light-bulb warmth.
Even though he sensed a malevolence,
he was almost magnetically drawn
to touch this iridescent sphere.
He reached one shaking finger out to it
then all was illuminated by a blinding flash
for a moment
before he was plunged into darkness.
Spinning, tumbling, blind.
He lost consciousness before he hit the ground.
When he awoke,
he was in a different place.
A flat plain covered with yellow grass
waving in the wind
under an orange sky.
Only one black-limbed tree near the horizon.
His back started to sweat.
Not a soul in sight.
A shriek echoed in the distance.
All he could do was run.


With ironic perfection,
Debra suffered an aortic dissection
when her boyfriend of three years, Jake,
quietly suggested they take a little break.

She experienced a sharp shearing pain
that radiated down her back and up again
Her vision blurred, and she lost her breath.
As the world went dark, she prepared for death.

She woke up in a hospital bed,
steadily beeping machines near her head.
A cracked sternum and surgical incision.
She stared blankly at her television.

Her cardiologist thought the cause was hypertension.
He explained her condition to her with condescension.
Some nurses were brusque, others were gentle and kind.
Friends asked to visit, but she politely declined.

Wilting yellow roses from the grocery store
too far away for her to smash onto the floor.
If Jake had the courage to visit her face to face,
she’d tell him to go launch himself into deep space.

Ironing Board

Nothing so useless as an ironing board
in the home of fatigue and distraction.
Of course we have an ironing board.
Everyone does, and I’m pretty sure
it was born the same year as I.
We got this from Matt’s parent’s old house.
Spent maybe six years of my life there
with the scarlet shag carpeting and white paneled walls
in the family room,
reclining on the bright red couch,
straining to hear if his parents
went up to bed,
hearing the heavy thumps
of an elderly Scottish terrier,
a black brick of a dog,
climbing the stairs
one by one
above our heads.
But what did his parents do for an ironing board
once we took theirs?
Did they have a spare?
Maybe when you have children,
you buy extras
and tell your sons and daughters,
one day this ironing board will be yours,
and you dream of them ironing their dress pants
and starching white collars,
but ours remains folded up somewhere in the basement
hibernating in mildewed darkness
until the next moving day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


Plummeting to the ground
like a broken-backed bird.
The wind makes it hard to breathe.
This is actually taking longer
than I thought it would.
Or am I falling in slow motion?
I wasn’t expecting time
to observe
or have a think.
I’m breaking through
thick white cumulus clouds.
They should be made of thick cotton
and break my fall,
but they are made of misty nothingness.
Wouldn’t it be great
if they were unexpectedly sticky?
Or shattered like glass?
The sky is the same blue
that children use to color
their pictures on your refrigerator door.
Can you believe I don’t even know
how I got up here?
I just woke up like this,
I’ve had horrible falling nightmares before
and wake up with a start or a stifled shout
in my own bed,
but this isn’t that.
And this falling is actually more enjoyable
than the dark descents of my dreams.
If I stretch my legs out straight behind me
and press my arms flat against my sides,
I am a screaming bullet.
If I open my arms and flap them like wings…
well, I still can’t fly,
but my dive slows a bit.
It’s something to do, anyway.
The ground beneath me is a field of green and brown
growing larger and larger.
Over there is a tree.
A pond not too far away.
A red and white cow bends its head to the grass,
chewing with a lack of concern.
A black and white shepherd dog snoozes
in a ray of sunshine.
I think I hear a trace of birdsong.
What a lovely...

St. Sharon of Tallahassee

St. Sharon of Tallahassee
(she’s not very well known yet)
was assigned to be my guardian angel,
and for forty-two years,
she protected me from plane crashes,
car crashes, a large feral cat,
and several deadly strains of flu.
Then one day, she sat me down
with a cup of Lipton decaf tea
and a slightly smashed,
but still wrapped, Twinkie
and informed me
that she would be taking a few months off.
“I just can’t stand these Chicago winters!”
she explained before I could object.
“I need a little time in the sun.”

“But…but…” I sputtered,
“Winter is when I need you most!
Polar vortices and slippery roads!
Remember last year
when the office parking lot
was a sheet of ice?
You got me through it, Sharon.
I got home in one piece.”

St. Sharon gazed at herself
in her Avon compact mirror,
admiring her bright blue eyeshadow,
reapplying her cotton candy pink lipstick.
“Did you know?” she said,
“In some countries, you’d be well beyond
the average life expectancy?”

“But not here!” I cried.
“This isn’t the time to be
a marginal employee, Sharon.
Besides, don’t you have a boss
to answer to?
You know, the BIG BOSS?”

“Oh, She has bigger fish to fry,”
St. Sharon shrugged.
“Besides, everyone deserves a vacation
once in a while.”

“Where would you go?” I asked.
“Is it somewhere I could follow?”

St. Sharon had not anticipated resistance.
“It’s a resort,” she explained,
“but not really for your type.
All-inclusive, of course.
They have dancing and bingo
and karaoke and arts and crafts
and movies at night.
Don’t worry, hon,” she assured me,
patting me on my shoulder.
“Just buy some good winter boots
and be careful of what you eat
and maybe call your insurance agent.
Before you know it, I’ll be right back!”

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t survive
January without her.
So we compromised,
and I took her on a Caribbean cruise.
I think she had a pretty good time
and also saved me from
bad sushi, a fall off the deck,
an ill-fated spin class, and
a shark attack.