Heart in Darkness

The heart is a muscle

The heart is a fist

it’s strong and it’s wary,

this beast in my breast.

My heart has been sleeping

My heart has dreamed dreams –

It wakens, now, flexing,

it growls and it gleams.

My heart is gone hunting,

My heart leads me on

Through starless dark forests,

on quick heavy paws.


My heart wants for nothing;

I turn and head north.

Centrifugal Force

In the beginning

the boys and their sleds

and half-size snowboards would pile in

on a snow day, headed for the Suamico Elementary School hill;

They were puppies,

interchangeable, laughing, careening

down the hill over and over –

later they’d play Minecraft,

fighting zombies in the dark,

building houses close together

for protection –

in a few years, their video games

will have guns, but they’ll still

watch each other’s sixes,

sleeping a little further apart on the floor

amid pizza boxes and empty Mountain Dew cans;

Not all of them will move on

to Dungeons and Dragons,

creating possible worlds and missions,

and sometimes they’ll just put on headsets

and play from afar.

They have differentiated in the

spinning force of adolescence – 

shedding loose articles, picking up

guitar, theater, weightlifting, skiing –

they show up in the driveway

in their own trucks and thunder down the stairs with their laptops;

The centrifuge spins faster, they are heavy with something they can’t name-

they are being thrown one by one by one by one

into the world where they pick up

jobs, vehicles, girlfriends,

habits, memories,


One day

not so many years from now, two will

arrive at the Kwik Trip, standing at different fuel pumps

rubbing their hands in the cold, and they’ll grin and 

give each other manly half-hugs and stand and talk about that one time

they went sledding in the middle of the night,

or maybe

they’ll exchange only


before driving away.

Breaking and Entering

Winter broke and entered years ago,

pressing icy fingers against our skin,

wandering under our shirts,

searching for our hearts,

listening as we slowly wound down –

we were watches kept in a drawer of an empty house.

But I think you must have jacked open

some painted-over lead-poisoned window,

somewhere, deep inside,

(maybe in that sealed-up chamber of a basement tomb

with a wood-burning stove and

a second-hand recliner with a place

for a beer to slowly warm, but not a place for everything)

letting a southern wind blow through

this Northern plain and breathe Spring into my heart,

or my cerebellum,

making me wonder if –

anyway then you woke and

Summer bloomed into my lips, my hips,

they rocked like ships

oh, and

I think for a little while, maybe, you and I

can keep the window open, keep

the two by four jammed

up against the door, keep it

barred against the

ravenous wolfish Fall,

where he waits,


the last of the ticks

as he licks

his lips

and yawns

at the door.

Wes and Jesus Come up Empty



we see paintings of the sea, and moonlight, and doom by

Winslow Homer, after we work on income tax forms and insurance and eat


burritos and watch Netflix, I don’t feel well,

it’s not a bellyache or a hangover or a fever or something that CVS can fix.

it’s like

this existential ache in my soul; it’s

not something that I really want to think about


I’d have to reach back all the way to the beginning

and anyway it’s dinner time and instead I’m reaching into this drawer full of


serrated blades that bare their

teeth along my fingers, but I’m careful to take just one.


Last week

I saw a TV commercial for a microwavable cup

with bits of vegetable and potato and peppers, you just add an


and your breakfast problem is solved, I am thinking

of this while you and I walk 38 blocks teetering on the edge of


this March Sunday morning question unsolvable:

is this it, or is there more? I wish I could just add an egg to this


Faced with that same question 27 years ago,

I stayed. Was it right? I don’t know. The thought of not having my


children, these particular ones, out in the wide world

brings me to fierce and sudden tears right there on the windy sidewalk.


choice is wrong, either choice is right,

or could be made so, perhaps you learn how you feel before the coin lands.


“Is he

a good dog? ….Who’s to say?”

Wes Anderson doesn’t help me here, or Jesus either; Micah 6:8,


is the right thing to do in this instance,

what leads to happiness? Do I say, stay, stay with this boy who is kind, this boy we


and who loves you, beyond measure,

even if you do not always sharpen each other, make each other better,


a knife against a stone?

The world is full of sharp things.



is a yawning paper cootie-catcher

on lined notebook paper in a 5th grader’s back pocket, first narrow then wide,


then wide, you can’t know what’s

inside, you just have to pick a color, and pull up the flap, the


on the other side propels you

deeper into the story, back and forth and back and forth


you don’t know how

you got there or where you are going, you just hold on and


back and forth and dark and

light, yin and yang, pain and pleasure, if you are lucky,


it closes on this world for good

and opens in the dawn of another, without any

guessing at all.

Black Horses Wet

And shining in the green field

As though they are just-painted models

In someone’s miniature world,

Set just



We fly down 577 while

Sun and rain leapfrog over each other,

Empty houses, fallow fields,

A woman pulling weeds

In a rectangular patch

Reclaimed from the wild,

Destined for the wild

In 40 years

Will I believe, bent and addled, alone and lost

that we stood healthy and hale

This mid-summer’s day on the golf course

While our handsome men teed off,

Tall and strong,

Our children swam, beautiful and shining

Like mythical Greeks

That we bantered and swore at our terrible shots,

Cheered the unbelievable putts, giving high fives,

Flirting because we were not yet old and

Could still do with possibility, secure

In our marriages, the present that was

Ripped wide open for us to take

Will I believe, contained to a tiny room with peeling paint

That money flowed like a river

Without noticing it,

Wine and dog food, iced tea and t-shirts,

Flip flops, coffee, huge boxes of frozen hamburgers

Golf carts and scotch, sweet corn, tenderloin,

Gas and books from the airport

That the river ran clear,

Herons flapping at the shore as in Yeats’ day,

That porcupines bent the trees, bald eagles

Sewed an invisible thread from pine to pine to unlucky fish to shore

That once a fawn swam in front of my kayak to the opposite shore

While white water lilies smelling of honey

Spread pedaled constellations across the surface of the water

That we lived in peace?

Will I touch my white hair,

Will I take Eliot’s peach and descend his stair,

Leaning on a cane, and say “my stars!”

Will I see that I was blessed beyond reason, beyond what I was due,

That He let me carry on this life without interference while

A spinneret of belief stretched from the stars to my hand,

Enough to hold me but not prevent me

From tangling with the world.

Will I pull a shawl around my shoulders and

Remember how I sat by the fire and listened

To the soporific rain that ended the game on the 8th hole,

Rain after a drought like crazy grace, like baptism, like

Freedom with abandon, like an invitation from the universe

To a party that’s been going on all along, but you didn’t know

Will I adjust my glasses with arthritic hands and

Remember this life

Think just how fast it has all gone,

That I have just been alive for a breath,

The time it takes to awaken and think your first thought,

And about to go into Dylan’s good night,

Or will the intervening years

Reap pain and loss from seeds earlier sown

And will I say

I can’t recall that

I can’t recall that at all.