Poem in the Kitchen Cabinet

060215I taped the poem there so long ago I forget it, though I open that cabinet door daily to grab a plate, a glass, a ramekin. Before you know what kindness really is / you must lose things. In this room where so much of life happens, where we land in the morning and in the evening, often in between, where we discuss schedules and finances and the finale of Mad Men. You must see how this could be you, / how he too was someone / who journeyed through the night with plans… I believe in poems in pockets, poems pasted into the covers of daily planners, poems on cards pinned to bulletin boards. I believe in poems wherever we place them, wherever we find them. Feel the future dissolve in an moment / like salt in a weakened broth. I taped this one in the kitchen cabinet because it was the one we needed, would still need, would always need as we went forth as human beings trying to make our way in the world. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore. I taped it there to remind us when we would inevitably forget.

June 2, 2015

Read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Kindness” here.

Praise Song: Books of Poems

040315Praise how they come into the world, despite their unlikeliness, and how they just keep coming. Praise lines, verses, stanzas spilling down the page, praise white space en mass in this paperless age. To judge the Balcones Prize, I  must read 37 books, and in this box they wait for me. Inside, a thousand poems with their pronouncements, their suggestions, their nuance, their clarity. They wait for me from cold apartments in Soviet Russia and the once-burned landscape of Hiroshima, from the deep seas of a father’s past and hands joining across a kitchen table. Praise the belief that we still have something to say. Praise the publishers who help us to say it. Praise the notebooks and napkins and open Word documents out of which they came. Praise the order, the voice, the desire to find just the right word. Praise, again, the lines, verses, stanzas, white space. Praise the music. Praise the need to speak it.

April 3, 2015


033115Most days slide by on the calendar without much to say for themselves, and it’s true that I’ve made it my intent to celebrate in those days the small things — feet on the coffee table outside on the deck, the perfect Spanish tortilla, bluebonnets dashed with unexpected pink. But some days stand out on the white pages of dates. Today, for example. It’s the day I sent my friend Jane the latest draft of the poetry manuscript I’ve been working on. That deadline kept me going. And on this day 11 years ago Chris and I met for the first time. We shared a plate of fajitas and began the conversations that’s been going ever since. We’ll celebrate tomorrow, when I don’t teach until 9pm. Tonight we connected late, when I got home, talking as we often do at the kitchen table. Some of it was funny, some of it dark, but all these years later our appreciation for each other is undimmed.

March 31, 2015

Poetry in the Sun

020615What more can I ask from a Friday afternoon than this: the weather breaks, sun arriving after days of gray. I take my freshly painted fingernails to Koriente, where Jay begs me not to blog about the restaurant. He’s too busy already! On the back deck I open L’s manuscript, these short poems shot through with storms and wind, with fathers and daughters, with grackles and butterflies, with pink shirts and rabbit ears. I make notes in pencil. I flip forward and back again. At the table next to me, they talk about seeing Elijah Wood at the coffee house. I’ve come to understand that the world is often a harsh place. We must love these bits of sweetness.

February 6, 2015