Back when I knew what I don't know now.png


Piece-by-piece, laid out
carefully, just as you explained.
Float, gaskets, fittings. New parts arrayed
to the left of the damaged carburetor.

Screws turned, separation, methodical
disassembly – after all, part of
the recovery process – parts placed
to the right to be cleaned, reassembled.

You coming by every few minutes,
to check my progress, give a reminder,
less hands-on than when we replaced
a transmission the year before.

Glancing beneath the back edge
of the upraised hood, starting the engine
and seeing your smile as you pull the throttle
and those barrels come to life.

Life, and those lessons. We do our best
to build. Sometimes, we need to rebuild.
No more reminders, but I still remember
those lessons and feel your presence.

Twenty-five years ago from today, we lost my father.
I prefer to focus on his birthday, but this came to me last night, a silver lining, of sorts.


Image source:

never really gone

never really gone

The Dark of Decemberthere is absence

and there is not

your face mirrored in a grandchild

the memories of you gathered by my sons,
images they hold for truth, twenty-five years later,
their eyes seeing things I took for granted

my thoughts when I hold your tools,
when I use them

never really gone,
you are here

Father’s Day 2018

Labor of Love

Labor of Love

Labor of Love

Rushing to finish
concrete before it sets
on a hot, dry August morning,

the drone of the cement mixer
laboring to turn out a single concrete pad.
Twelve feet by twenty,

a terrace on the side of the pavilion
we built the year before,
a place for family gatherings, reunions.

One more draw
for that long drive to visit
your retirement home in the country.

To see you and hear the joy
and laughter of those gatherings.
Our last visit thirty years in the past,

that pavilion still stands,
different voices,
children, in the home

that once was yours.
If I were to go now, I know
I would hear the same laughter,

the faint ring of hammers,
the drone of that mixer,
and know that I still miss you.

The optional prompt for Day 4 of National/Global Poetry Writing Month is to write a poem that is “about something abstract – perhaps an ideal like ‘beauty’ or ‘justice,’ but which discusses or describes that abstraction in the form of relentlessly concrete nouns and adjectives.” This definitely has concrete!

NaPoWriMo 2018

Work, as an Ethic

Work as an Ethic

Work, as an Ethic

It was 1973.
My car would be in the want ads in two days.
Big problem.
Like throwing a switch, the transmission was shot.

You said, “Well, it’s not going to fix itself.”

Off to the junkyard, for a used transmission.
Right across the street, a transmission jack at a tool rental.
Four hours and $75 later, drove like a charm.
Two days later, sold for $200.

You said, “Better than $25 for scrap, right?”

Blue collar child of the Depression.
Working full-time from the age of thirteen.
Little sense in living beyond your means.
If wanting more meant working for it, then so be it.

You taught me that, and so much more.


The optional prompt at NaPoWriMo 2017 for Day 10 of National Poetry Writing Month/Global Poetry Writing Month is to write a poem that is a portrait of someone important to you.
Image source: (edited, here)

NaPoWriMo 2017GloPoWriMo 2017

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

The Dark of December

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

It was the day we said “goodbye”
that I remember,
not the day you left us, forever,
although the news from that early,
early morning phone call
three days prior
will always stay with me.

I prefer to think of it as
a farewell gathering.
Your friends. Your family.
All of them mine.
Composure isn’t really important
in a situation like that, is it?
Yet, it is, in order to get through it,
and it was hard to maintain
after reading a moving poem
written for you by your grandson.

My own words, written
nine months earlier on a premonition,
long before any indication of
your pending departure,
sounded to me like the voice of
someone else, as I looked into the eyes of
your brother, your friend,
and saw your own looking back at me.

I imagine those eyes, still,
seeing me each step of the way, since then.
My years are now longer,
but will they ever be as full as yours?
While your last six months seemed like a lifetime,
you had not yet reached old age as you
raged, so long, against the dying of the light.

…with a respectful nod to Dylan Thomas.



He is a young man
As he regards his newborn son
       lying just beyond the glass,
He is struck by the realization
       of the responsibility he now faces
As a father

No longer a newborn,
He is now a young man
Through his experience as a parent
       he is gaining a new understanding
Of his father

No longer a young man,
       he lies recovering
       from yet more surgery
The young man is struck by the realization
       of the responsibility he now faces
As a son

On the eve of Father’s Day,
He comes to realize that it takes
       more than a holiday to make a father
Just as that father may be loved
       on more than just that day

I wrote this for my father in 1993.  The video has the story behind the poem, as well as a reading.