One of my fondest memories as a kid was listening to my father recite poems like Longfellow's "A Skeleton in Armor."
My parents claim I was creating verse as young as preschool, but my first documented poem was "Boogie, the Gentle, Klutzy Cat." I like to think I've made a lot of progress since then.
My work has appeared in dozens of literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, The Atlanta Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Rattle. My chapbook, Explaining Relativity to the Cat, was published in 2004 by Pudding House Press. That same year, Diary of a Cell, a full length collection of poems, won the 2004 Steel Toe Books Poetry Prize, judged by Charles Harper Webb. Several of my poems have also been featured by Garrison Keillor on his NPR show, The Writer's Almanac.
The boy wasn’t sure if he counted
as clean or unclean, and anyway, there was only
one of him. It began as an act of goodwill,
offering to escort the zebras who were straining
at the ropes that led them up the huge gangplank,
eyes rolling, mouths wild with foam.
He lifted crate after crate of birds: starlings,
hawks, flycatchers, the beloved doves.
He didn’t think of himself, he was just a pair
of hands. He and Shem wrestled
alligators into cages, Ham loaded cases of wine.
He let the monkeys wrap their soft arms
around his neck. The boy’s father complained
to the constable about the abundance of noise.
First all that hammering, now this. I’ll never sleep!
Words that would haunt him. Water sloshed
around his ankles as he finally noticed
the crack and linger of thunder. A jar of fireflies
in his hands became a lantern that led him
to the lower holds. He buried himself
in the horses’ hay, listened to the rain
hard as a slap as the boat lifted from its frame.
Probably more fable than faithful
retelling. No one knows how he survived
or escaped notice, but he did bear children—
descendents who hid behind their mother’s skirts
but never cried, who would not add one more drop
to the water-soaked earth. They still wince
at the divine whip of rain, shake the hands of strangers
too hard, eager to be remembered.
—originally published in Prairie Schooner
The Glassblower's Heart
We held his heart in our hands,
passed it from one to another in wonder.
His was a heart you could see through,
understand. Caught mid-motion,
like a taxidermist’s snarl or a painter’s salmon
swimming upstream, the heart looked
nothing like its caricature: the arch of the aorta,
the imaginary flux from atrium to ventricle
and out. Valves blew open as curtains
in a light breeze.
The heart was hard, heavier than we expected.
The detail, down to the ridges and weave
of the great cardiac vein and the
left anterior descending coronary artery,
took our breath away.
Hot glass looks like cold glass, he warned us.
We were years away from this kind
of skill, our unscarred hands said we were young.
We wanted to be men not afraid
to make a thing so delicate, but there was
so much we didn’t know about hearts and the life
we could breathe into them.
—originally published in Beltway Quarterly
Imagine the geode of this world cracked open,
the radiance of everyday objects revealed—
the tea kettle and its shimmer of steam,
the spoon's hazy splendor, the window's
white cascade, every bush burning.
How the river becomes a needle
strung with burnished silver thread,
how the goldfish beneath the pond's surface,
restored of their luster, glimmer and glitter
like coins thrown.
It's no myth that the body has evolved
conspiracies to keep us grounded, humble.
We've had it all backwards: Heaven is ablaze
with the fires that forged us, Hell the dark curtain
that keeps us from seeing it. Our streets are packed
with haloed heads, oblivious to their own divinity.
What would be the harm in knowing that angels
walk among us, every face bright as a flame
hovering above the wick of their bodies?
Taking off the purple-tinted glasses
the doctor provided for my protection,
I revel in the time I've been given
along these wreathed streets, burning
the auras of the ordinary into memory.
—originally published in Crab Orchard Review