Thursday, April 28, 2011

Everett Ave McDonalds

palm trees sway
in front of Mcdonalds
cool April breeze
moving homesick
palm fronds

across the street
signs for KFC and Taco Bell
shine in the dim early morning

free small coffees
bring in a weather-warn man
with a large back-pack
takes his coffee
with four cream
six sugar

somewhere a diabetic cringes

MIddle School Talent Show

social suicide
be-damned, courage starts early
some things are worth boos

Middle school talent show brings out awkward. Instrumental pop-punk performance. A girl sings along to a recording of her brother’s guitar, only a slight tremble in her voice. Blank stares from students and teachers. After technical problems the projector plays a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean while the theme is played on a flute by a 4’10 girl in a rainbow dress. Dads beam with ancient camcorders. Boys with big ears play piano. The “Cultural-Club” danced a hula. A girl in thick glasses and braids plays Beethoven—a thick Russian accent whispers to his right “you know she’s a lesbian”—this earns him a talk with an already annoyed principal. Classical music washes over the boys in football jerseys like salt on a slug. After the writhing an all too serious girl walks up to the mic in high heels and an acoustic guitar. Explains the genesis of her song—a shooting death in Arizona. The song is called “Tears.” A fourteen-year-old girl sings a theodessey, with the word injustice in the chorus. The Vegie-girls end the mandatory assembly with a song called “Salad of Doom.”

cynical teacher
somehow learns to admire
girls dressed like carrots

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wallace Falls

sun-breaks, inside jokes
up-highway two like old times
ten years gone too quick

The coffee put down roots as we started down the road. Conversation chattered fast. She needed to be reminded of directions after just six years of living two states south. Early in the morning we talked light. Careful to avoid troubles of the heart. We felt caught up fast, before we ever got to the trailhead. Exchanged questions about long-lost friends. Some burn-outs, some housewives, some on the PhD track.

hilltops were frosted
donuts, weather changes fast
here in late April

The trail was murky. Worn-out running shoes sunk deep into soft-muddy ground. The falls were bursting. We dove into the heart trouble. Wondered at God’s pedagogy. His reticence to use positive reinforcement. It was nice to hear a story that put my own in perspective. Nice until the sympathy pains dropped my heart on the trail. The vine-maples laden with moss listened to our sob-stories and drooped a little lower. The sun-breaks turned to rain. I put on my jacket in time for the hail.

God pleaded the 5th
on his reasoning behind
the change in weather

No conclusions were reached by the time we got back to the trailhead. No crystal ball was needed to see shittiness in the immediate forecast. We ate greasy diner food served by a middle-aged woman who spoke like a fifth of whiskey and two packs of cigarettes. The food sedated the conversation on the long drive back. The old evangelical in me wanted to pause a moment for prayer, but instead commented on the futuristic looking new Jack-in-the-Box just outside of Monroe. The prayer would have been for something more than functional.

decent weather comes
in spurts till mid-to-late June
let’s hope for more spurts

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pickle Defined

A cucumber
preserved in brine
or a vinegar solution
common varieties
include dill and sweet.

A baseball term
when a player,
due to some
base running mishap,
is caught between
two bases
in a nearly hopeless
back and forth
while the noose draws
tighter and tighter
until the runner
humiliated and tired
is tagged out.
This situation
is escaped rarely
through acts of God
or some lucky
error committed
by a defender.

An informal term
for a messy
or confusing

Two Poems, One Game

The Answer is No

Four-year-old Indian boy
leans forward on his bleacher
tucks his legs under the bench
hands outstretched in front
on the back of my seat
he comes in close
the bill of his cap kissing
the bill of mine
asks me if I live in a hotel
then hollers out laughter
and the tiniest bit of spittle
without waiting for an answer
his mom grins
my friends cackle
and the Mariners
let two more runs in.

Why Are You Being Such Assholes? I Just Want to Watch the Game

Before the start of the national anthem
barely after hitting practice
alcohol enforcement escorts
an unwilling and intoxicated man
out of Safeco Field

We pass him on the stairs
three large men with shiny badges
grip the back of his neck
his wrists and shoulders

He insists that he would prefer to stay
squats down freeing a hand
placing it on the stair behind him
forcing the big men to drag

His bloodshot eyes
turn back to the field
as he explains
he just wants to watch the game

As we pass we chuckle
at awkward positioning
like a drunken game
of stair twister
only with annoyed
law enforcement
and the loser,
facing hefty legal fees

The drunk hears our laughter
smiles at us and repeats his intentions
he just wants to watch the game

Well, the Mariners
ended up losing
9 to 1,
hopefully that will serve
as some consolation.

Don't Look Down

My parents took me to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park when I was too small to remember much. What I do remember is a picnic. I’ve since imported pictures of the panorama from later trips to the spot, but the original-authentic memory is eating grapes. Big purple grapes. On a golden-brown log. Legs dangling over the edge of a steep slope that went on forever. Down. Down. Down. The bag of grapes slipped and starting rolling. My eyes went big. Watching the bag go end over end. Nothing to stop it. Down. Down. Down. The thought came into my little head that if nothing would stop the grapes, nothing would stop me. Suddenly I became aware of my precarious perch. I threw my legs over the top of the log, ran back to the Dodge Caravan crying. Shoved my face into the crack of the seat and waited to go home.

It took me years to trust anything tall. Longer still to climb anything. I still can’t go up without thinking about how the trip down might feel if things were to go badly. Ski lifts, suspension bridges, hikes on narrow trails along vertical slopes—make me nervous. The fear of heights is not irrational. Everyone has it to some extent, mine is just louder. It means well, and has a good point: falling hurts. Those who dismiss this point are the ones who fall off tall things and break themselves.

Mountaintop views may be sweet, but they carry with them a real risk. Views like those, for all their stomach-twisting lip-biting trepidation, can be sweeter for those of us who can appreciate the scenery while not forgetting danger that comes with.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Searching for Hallelujah

[Sometimes I feel it's important to prioritize praise over artistic prowess, this is I feel is an example, Happy Easter!]

"Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!"

I thought it was in the closet
hung up somewhere in the back
but it’s not where I left it
the clutter underneath
(mostly unused camping equipment:
tents snowshoes, boots)
yielded no clues
I rummaged through
the miscellaneous evidence of
thwarted outdoorsy ambition
uncovered a long-lost drivers
cap red-black check type
of loud-impulse-buy
one expects to lose
but this was not
the sought after object

I couldn’t remember moving it
it should be where I left it
on a hanger in the back of my closet
next I turned to my room
which was already in disarray
I tore it up broke, the fallow ground
no corner left untouched
plastic storage bins poured out
drawers emptied
the whole process repeated twice
and started a third time
I needed to find it
my nice tie, dress shirt,
shiny shoes and new dockers
were all laid out and waiting
the service was starting in 45 minutes
and I was getting picked up
by a friend in 15 minutes
and I didn’t want to be
the only one at church without one
I haven’t used it in over a month
it’s become like a freshly-bought
long-considered gadget in my head
all I want to do I locate it
so I can play with it again.

Holy Saturday

“Come and have breakfast.”
John 21:12

The sunrise crept
under a shade
not quite long enough
into a cluttered room,
a wolf figurine
set on the window seal
for lack of a better place
and fear of losing
cast it's silhouette
on the far wall.

7:00 am
Holy Saturday
mixed feelings:
waking regret,
surprise at
a scenic picture’s
invasion of
a transitional
living situation,
confusion on
how the devout
ought to feel
sandwiched between
Good Friday and
Easter Sunday;
but overriding
these was
a faint but
ever growing
need for

Friday, April 22, 2011

Nowhere To Go But Down

There is no where to go but down

Your manager doesn’t change the radio station ever
you’re working doubles all this week to pay for a car you don’t like
that finds new ways of breaking in unfortunate situations
more often than not involving nice smelling girls in the passenger seat
and the DJ just announced the station is paying tribute to Styx all this week—
that stinking feeling—make friends with it
you’re going to be spending a lot of time together

Once you start rolling
momentum and gravity
will take care of the details

All your socks have holes and multiple tea-colored stains
and you didn’t know you were going to see her
and you didn’t know you’d end up going over to her friends house
and you didn’t know her friend had a strict no-shoes-inside policy
and she’s everything you ever wanted
and a few things you never thought to want but now do
and she was just slightly interested
but then you took your shoes off

There are ditches
on either side
form fitting
and looking for you

Five times a day you start to pray
but don’t ever get past ‘Dear Lord, please’
before a pair of eyes (the color isn’t important) barge in
your thoughts scatter
a vague-familiar-reliable-trustworthy
sense of impending doom
shakes the supplication from your lips
leaving you with a cringe

At the bottom
it’s not so bad
they have domestic beer
and cable
and its easy to forget
reasons to go anywhere.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Just Asking

She looked at me
asked if I was American
in the same voice
the special education teacher
at my elementary school
asked me
whether the words on the page
got all jumbled up
when I read.

I returned her stare
held it long
till it got awkward.

but I don’t see
what that has to do
with what we are talking about.

it doesn’t.
I was just asking.

It didn’t.
But she was doing
more than
just asking.

Gulf Island Driftwood

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
-John 3:8

firs and Madronas
lean over the sea cliff
stare down at the water
Indian paintbrush
pokes through dead grass
neon highlighters
in a sea of khaki

a solitary piece of driftwood
bobs restlessly in the channel
the wind pushes it north
inching towards Galiano Island

the sun is diffused in light clouds
comes in soft through smudged windows
young couple looks out at Salt Spring Island
her hand rests on the inside of his knee
like it belongs there

the diamond glints
her face is lit up
by window light
reflecting off
his bald head

the wind is not constant
changes direction
stops altogether
sometimes for days on end

it's hard to tell
where the log will end up
or how long it will take
to get there.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Wish Vancouver Had More Thunderstorms

or A Sleepless Night's Consolation

The heavens are telling the glory of God
and the skies proclaim his handiwork
Psalm 19:1

it would be nice to have that kind of energy
if not gossiping about the LORD’s affairs
at least, I would hope, I could clean my room

but a new mouse moved into the wall
next to my bed, two feet from my pillow
I could tell he was new by his breathing
his chewing was less frantic than last one

it was 2:45 in morning
when I took a second helping
of the store-brand NyQuil
green licorice flavor
went down slow

the sky was thundering last night
rain funneled down broken gutters
hitting the sidewalk
in uneven bursts

between the sky crashes
and over the smack
of roof-run-off
against the concrete
I could hear
the steady rhythm of raindrops
effortlessly playing their song
on rhododendron leaves.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lessons Learned

or Bill Leavy's Apology Is No Consolation

Every year
we ignored history
emphasized selected statistics
rookies’ potential
discussed generously
pictured in soft-focus

We used to be convinced
from January to mid-September
the Seahawks were going to the Superbowl

And once they did
but we don’t talk
about that anymore

Now we talk about the draft
look further down the road
with feigned optimism

We never mention the Superbowl.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Creative Laziness

or How to Survive Being Thrown into a Lions Den

Every time I hear critics
yammer on about the problems
with the film industry today
they list the lack of originality
at or near the top of the list
pointing to a remarkable proliferation
of remakes and sequels
these being the results of
creative laziness
on the part of film-makers

But these remakes and sequels
are not a new phenomenon

After the success of the original
new versions of the Acts of the Apostles
(which was itself a kind of a sequel)
were written
and this was way back
in the first and second centuries

One remake included a story
of Paul being thrown into a den of lions
but (being a quick thinker)
he baptized one of the beasts
and ended up having a long
and thoughtful conversation
with the big cat

This story doesn’t strike me
as being the result of
creative laziness.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Little Too Quiet

8 million monkeys
swung from 9 chandeliers
while a court-reporter’s fingers
burned with fury
trying to capture the dialogue
building to a cresendo
like some self-important
10 minute rock ballad
the drum fills grew more frequent
pulses quickened
amps went to 11
keys started flying
from the type-machine
the monkeys convulsed
in a violent dance
as glass rained down
then the lights went out
and it was quiet.

A match flared in the black
but the room was empty
nothing was left
except the remnants of a type-writer
monkey poo and broken glass
the match went out
and time went on
against a background
that left no contrast
to measure it by.

Tomorrow maybe an archaeologist will come
and collect samples with the aid of unattractive grad-students
the findings will likely be less than conclusive
but this will only stir up controversy
what books will come of it?
only time can tell.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Conflict Resolution

[this was the 100th poem I wrote this year, so I felt I should post it. It's really more of a rant, and was written only to further avoid doing mounting school work.]

There are those who have been trained in conflict resolution. And these people are always the most annoying. Every discussion is perceived as an argument. Their voices are soft and calm, which is just a camouflage for their complete dickishness. Their maturity put on like poor-fitting dress shoes. They have to be developing blisters. Smug looking punks who constantly take the high road and inform you of their superior choice in routes. Who have techniques and use careful statements that start with “I feel.”

I feel like those trained in conflict resolution would be more successful if they simply admitted they're assholes like the rest of us.

Stellar's Jays and Crows

There was a kerfuffle in the front yard this morning
the stellar’s jays and crows were arguing again

If I understood rightly, and I think I did
the jays were squawking about pink cherry blossoms
and how they smell better than the red ones
the crows were screaming a counter-argument
they refused to budge on their position
though I think they knew they were wrong
but crows are stubborn creatures
who win arguments by attrition
cawing louder and louder
the same points
until the other side

It was clear the jays had lost
an argument or two in this fashion
they were in no mood to lose again
they looked deep into themselves
searched out the most annoying sound they had
blared it with all their tiny hearts
but this just entrenched the crows more
the debate raged

I put my headphones in
turned them up
and started my run.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Walking On Sunshine

[I'm working an exegesis paper on Joshua 7, hence the poem.]

Alas, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?
Joshua 7:7

It’s not often commented on or remembered,
but after crossing the Jordan
Israel got their asses handed to them
the first time they tried to do a thing on their own.

They were walking on sunshine:
seas parted for them
rivers stopped
walls fell down.

Things had gone well.
Their troubles were behind them
still wandering the wilderness
with all the unfortunate parts
of their meandering story.
All of that was left
on the wrong side of the Jordan.
They were in the promised land now
the epilogue
living into the happily ever-after.

But they were their parent’s kids
with wandering eyes and selective memories.

First chance they got
they pilfered contraband
and were turned round
running and screaming
at the first bit of opposition.

What part of the story
did they imagine themselves in then?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Karl Malone

[just so it's understood, I hate Karl Malone, but I can recognize the fact he was awesome]

Karl Malone
was the best power forward
to ever play in the league

he retired the NBA’s
second leading scorer

points came
easy for him

but he never
won a championship
came close once
but fell short

while Wil Perdue
a player few have ever heard of
averaged just
five points a game
won four championships

the injustice
is what makes the story

A Missionary-Kid's Reflection

he grew up around it
the type of stuff you see
on commercials for the
Christian Children’s Fund


when he goes back
he worries because
he is unmoved
while others
less acquainted
with it

what’s wrong with him?
nothing that actually asking the question
won’t start to counteract

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stop Squirming

I’ve always had bad dental hygiene. Growing up, brushing wasn’t my thing. But frosted flakes were. I had lots of cavities. Whenever my sister and I’d go in for check ups, she’d come out smiling, talking about the flavor of fluoride she chose for her teeth cleaning. I’d come out with a half-dead face. The hygienist would tell my mom I needed to brush more.

The smell of a dentist’s office makes me cringe. Makes me remember the sound of the drill. The pain. The drool streaming down the side of my Novocain-ed cheek. I remember re-learning the same lesson, again and again. The masked dentist would tell me to open wide, and explain that the more I squirmed the more it would hurt.

Eventually I learned to sit still. Let the drill do its work. Waited for the discomfort to end. Focused on the happy thought that those things didn’t last long. And if I played my cards right, my mom might take me home instead of back to school, where I could watch cartoons for the afternoon.

Old Ladies Can Be Creepy Too

or She Was No Rosa Parks

The bus was crowded
I sat on the aisle near the front
careful to avoid eye-contact
did my best to pretend
I was somewhere else
head-phones in
eyes looking out the window

At Macdonald
an old woman got on the bus
moving slowly past the seats
reserved for the disabled and elderly
she pushed her way down the bus
stopping in front of me
I turned down my headphones

She had a clear-plastic rain bonnet
bright purple eye-shadow
red lipstick
spoke in a high pitched British accent
the type of voice you expect to issue
bewildered ‘Well I never’s

I listened to her explain
why she passed seats reserved for her
pointing to the sign
explained that she refuses
to sit in front of those signs

My inner-boy-scout began nagging me
in my polite annoyed voice
I told her she can have my seat
“So many nice young men in this city
you know, I often get offered a seat
but I don’t often get offered a lap.”

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The David Bowie Phase

It was a phase
I’m pretty sure
everyone goes through it

In the months
after I watched Labyrinth for the first time
I developed a crush on Jennifer Connelly
and an obsession with David Bowie

My mom refused to buy me pants like his
but I tried to improvise as best I could
strategically placing safety pins
along the back of my pant legs
to make my grey sweat pants skin-tight

The hair was easy
with enough of my sisters hairspray
I could make magic happen

My parents put an end to my prancing
when they came home and saw me
dressing up our dog to look like Ziggy Stardust
and singing a duet of Changes
(ventiloquism’s been a secret talent of mine,
I’m told since birth)

After that they took down all my posters
confiscated my cassette tapes
and signed me up for little league football

But the crush on Jennifer Connelly
that I still have.

How Sweet It Is

[Palette cleanser for the bunny poem. Best if read listening to the song.]

Woke up to grey skies
fresh puddles on concrete
the threat of new ones

But I hummed
cooking thick slices of bacon
there was a bounce in my step
on my walk to school

It was the first time
in a long spread
I wished the sun had come out
instead of overcast

As a compromise
I listened to Marvin Gaye
sing candy-sweet
love songs.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bunny Rabbits

[disclaimer: this is a depressing poem. let the reader be aware.]

"If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of you body, than for you whole body to go into hell."
Matthew 5:3o

What’s forgotten
in the stories
of rabbits
gnawing off legs
caught in traps
is the time

The general sense
of sacrifice
is remembered.

Not many
can picture the scene
without recognizing
the pain.

But the time
gets ignored.
Rabbit teeth
aren’t designed
for tearing flesh.
A job like that
would take


How many starve
while chewing?

How many die of blood loss
before freeing themselves?

How many give up and wait
for something, a savior or hunter,
to put an end to their plight?

How long do you suppose
they’d have to wait?