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Poetry Samples

​​Launching the Whale


My dad is a carpenter,

sort of like Jesus,
but he doesn’t believe in God. 

His holy space is drills and grinders,
roaring teeth spitting chips and dust. 

When I was twelve

we built a canoe from strips of cedar,

ripped boards for weeks.

The frame in the garage

was scaled like an empty whale,
bones lurching from the shop floor.
We arced on its new skin

with glue and heavy staples. 

​​Dad wore a green down-vest

like a tortoise shell,

he said it would comfort our shop-mammal
to be built by something familiar.

As the frame was full

with hull and keel,
we plied out staples

like final stitches
removed from a recovered experiment,
ran our hands down its sanded spine,
the work painting into our palms,
our pores absorbing the bonding.

When we rode the whale,

we launched it from the shore
like pushing a dead cow

back into the sea,

boots in the shallows
filled with lake water.

It would take us to the middle

where the big fish are,
where the casting rods

bend like cottonwood over glass,
dance jigs, whippin’ back and forth.

Dragon tongues.

This is how we sit,

me, navigator bow-boy,
front paddle like the steam engine

is tug boat, but little boat. 
Dad is stern, rudder man,

power in the deep dig,
he spanked the water good,
like it forgot to take the garbage out. 

We pull the trash from the beaver dens
and replace them with good sticks,
he says they don’t know any better,

the babies will get the soda rings

around their heads like the Spanish inquisition

and die slow.

We don’t want ‘em to die slow.
    “Keep rowing,

hard on the left, watch out for the log!”

I see the log.

The log looks like a floating dog. 
Put my paddle in it,

sank through like a fork in cat food.
It is/was a dog,

belly stickin’ out

like helium and rot. 

See how the K9’s are chipped

and peeled back?
Musta’ been eatin’ marmots.
Sometimes a stray dog will eat rocks
if it’s hungry enough.

My dad is a scientist. 

He doesn’t believe in god. 
His holy space is lakes and bug guts,
they cell through him

when we walk on the roots
and slipping path of the Yakima valley. 

We Swiss-blade open on the pond, 

make ripples like loons,

hoot-hoot against the quarry

for the echo, make campfire dance

with pucker-mouth lip wind
and sizzle up the iron-pan

washin’ in mountain water.

When the tent gots the squirts with dew
and embers burn down, crackin’
like mosquitoes on Dad’s neck
with his slappin’, and it’s dark as bears,
morning peeps over the ridge
and we are simple
heirloom pocketknives,
carving memory

into the tree.


A Different Countdown

 (First appeared in City Arts Magazine December '14)


we’re standing in the fog

and it’s too thick to see fireworks

from this side of town.

From this side of town, the sky

is just a flickering swamp.

We’re all celebrating midnight

and everyone here is who they came to be. People,

stumbling in the street like

loose-leaf paper, kissing on the

mouth, stopping traffic, trumpets

marching out of yesterday and I’m holding

Lauren’s hand. She won’t tell me until

the middle of March, that she’s leaving

for Chicago in May, that she loves me

and it’s permanent. I’ll pretend I’m going

to be fine. Next year will be a different

countdown. Somewhere, another couple

same as us, is floating around in the dark

cheering on the future for the last time

without really knowing it. Somewhere

everything is new and will feel the same

as it was before. Just over there, fireworks

are lighting up the sky

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