junior varsity – #poetrymonth #poetry

junior varsity

At the crack of the gun
they lurch and surge
with all the chaos and color
of three hundred
discarded candy wrappers
whipped by a summer gust

they come
glowering
prepared
determined
charged with anticipation
of the pain to come
and the deferred joy
of the finish line
three miles away

We parents
behind our cameras
bark inspiration and optimism
imagining rather than feeling
the ground tremble
under the pounding ferocity
as they gallop past.

Barriers – #PoetryMonth #poetry

barriers

cheap whiskey, neat
in an antiseptic hotel bar
across a broad table
its fake wood grain sticky
with syrupy drips
and saccharine words

secondary colleagues
chatter and whine
about pretentious plenaries
and boring breakouts

glass empty, bill paid
duty complete, I rise
offering feigned regrets
to cover one final glance
at your mahogany hair
and flushed cheeks
and tired green eyes

you catch me
at the elevator
we both push fourteen
and laugh, surprised

on the slow rise
I relish the strawberry scent
of your lip gloss
and ask after your kids (good)
your job (fine)
your husband (oh, you know)

what are the odds
in a hotel with 2,000 rooms
yours would adjoin mine

as we mumble our goodnights
in the dull fluorescence
I wonder if you also wish
that the only thing separating us
was a thin panel of drywall

Final day for free books – March 27

Today (March 27) is the last of a 5-day run where all my books are free on Amazon for Kindle. Get them all here (click title or cover for the Amazon page):

LIFELIKE
For teens and adults
Have you ever loved someone who could kill you with their paintbrush?

Jewel’s artistic talent is like magic, as if her brush were a witch’s wand, not a simple painting tool. She thinks she could surpass the old masters, if she could only escape her parents’ plastic existence. When she’s finally out of high school, she flees to San Francisco and a fresh start.

What she doesn’t know is that her talent is fueled by an untamed and dangerous magic which makes her an unwilling threat to the people she loves. When a mysterious, alluring art teacher promises to train her to control and harness that magic, Jewel puts her future–and her body–into his seductive hands. She soon discovers she’s not his first pupil, however, and as she learns the truth from the girls who came before, Jewel is faced with a terrible choice: Give up painting and spend her life running away, or risk her life–and her very soul–to destroy the man she’s fallen in love with.

SEMPER – first in the “New Eden” trilogy
For teens and adults
Three hundred years after nuclear war destroyed most of the Earth, Southshaw exists as a lush oasis in a desolate, charred world steeped in radiation. The Ancients were able to keep out the mutants and preserve Southshaw’s mountain valley, establishing a peaceful and thriving community built on faith and simplicity of life. Technology is forbidden, as the pursuit of knowledge is believed to have led to the nuclear apocalypse twelve generations ago. It is Semper’s duty to manage the community and provide spiritual leadership to Southshaw’s citizens.

Dane is in line to become the thirteenth Semper of Southshaw. On the eve of his sixteenth birthday, however, he finds that the ghost stories from his childhood and the frightening tales of mutants in the north are not just legends. But the legends are not entirely true, either. And suddenly he’s faced with a choice he never expected to make: should he take his place as Semper, obeying his cruel uncle and twelve generations of Southshaw Truth, or should he follow his heart and risk exile and death to unearth the real truth? An exotic huntress, a mythical ghost-man, and a tailor’s daughter hold the keys to his answer. And to the survival of Southshaw–and possibly all of humanity–itself.

FORSADA – second in the “New Eden” trilogy
For teens and adults
Lupay isn’t afraid of fighting, but what can one girl do against an army? Thousands of Southshawans, whipped into a war frenzy by a fundamentalist demagogue, are poised to sweep in and crush her home of Tawtrukk, and Lupay is powerless to stop it.

Or is she?

Driven into hiding and pursued even into the depths of the mountain, Lupay and her friends do their best to resist. But resistance won’t withstand the onslaught forever, and ultimately Lupay must choose: flee into the radioactive barrens of the Desolation, or rise up and fight fire with fire, like the legendary Tawtrukk warrior queen, Forsada.

FREDA – final book of the “New Eden” trilogy
For teens and adults
In the aftermath of war, false friendships, failed loyalties, and new alliances make truth difficult to see clearly. The battle for Tawtrukk is over, but the madman that started it all has escaped, and now he has instructions for detonating the nuclear bomb that stood dormant in the Southshaw chapel for thirteen generations. If he can’t be stopped in time, Freda will have to find some way to lead the survivors to a new home over the mountains, into a land she’d always been taught was an uninhabitable wasteland of smoldering radiation.

Cryptic clues left by Southshaw’s Founders three hundred years ago suggest that the land may not be as desolate as everyone thought, but can those clues be trusted? Can Freda unite the bitter, angry remnants of the Southshaw, Tawtrukk, and Subterra peoples? Can she get them to follow the clues when many think they lead to death instead of to the paradise Freda believes they promise?

THE BAD LIE
For 3rd to 6th graders
Jay had hoped to spend the summer after fifth grade at his dad’s in New York, but instead he’s stuck in boring day care while his mom works and his friends bike around and have fun. Jay’s weekly bright spot is the day care’s golf outings at Fair Elm Country Club on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Although his cool friends make fun of him for being in day care, he likes golfing with Becca, a smart girl on the fringe of the popular group who’s really helping him improve his putting. When his friends convince him to “have some fun” one night with their bikes, things turn bad. Jay’s efforts to stay out of trouble backfire, causing even more problems and almost destroying his friendship with Becca. On the verge of starting middle school, Jay has to choose: He can either lie and keep his popular friends while avoiding punishment, or he can own up what he’s done and win back Becca’s respect.

We shouldn’t have to flatten the curve

I’m a healthy person. I have a healthy family. Only once in 10 years have we even come close to hitting our annual deductible.

Yet conservatively speaking, in premiums alone I’ve contributed over $125,000 to the healthcare system over those 10 years.

Now I’m sheltering in place, can’t see family and friends, can’t travel, can’t go out to bars, can’t watch soccer or basketball on TV, can’t imagine the horrors that my friends with small children are facing with school closed probably until the fall.

By now we all know why this is necessary: Flatten the curve so as not to overwhelm the medical system’s ability to treat people. I’m not an asshole; I don’t want people to die because they can’t be treated.

But it should not have to be a choice between hundreds of thousands of deaths and destroying the economy.

Look, Congress, I really appreciate that if I miss work because I get the virus, you’ll help me with 2 weeks of sick pay.

But what happened to my $125,000 from the last 10 years?

In America, we buy “health insurance.” But there’s a problem: the health insurance industry is not a healthcare industry; it’s in insurance industry. Insurance is about minimizing financial risk, which means eliminating anything that looks like unnecessary spend.

As President Trump famously said, “I’m a business person. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.”

Health insurance is an insurance industry, not a health industry. It’s run by financial people, not health people. It squeezes the healthcare providers until what society gets is minimal acceptable capacity, at maximum allowable price. It squeezes out redundancies and contingency systems for catastrophes because at some level of catastrophe, insurance becomes untenable. It makes more sense for the insurance company to go bankrupt than pay out.

I always hoped I was getting more for my $125,000. I hoped those premiums were propping up the world’s best healthcare system, with the best equipment and staff… and the best capacity. I always thought I was getting something more like the green line:

Notice the area covered by the two curves is roughly equal. Social distancing, sheltering in place, and plunging America into a recession won’t stop people from getting infected. It’s all designed to keep our healthcare system from getting overwhelmed, which would lead to more deaths.

But where did my $125,000 go? And why did my 401(k) drop 30% in the last three weeks? And why are people I know getting laid off?

All because Americans have been frightened into believing the myth that government-paid healthcare will be inefficient and lead to unnecessary deaths, so a private insurance industry can keep their shareholders happy?

America, it’s time for a different system.

one afternoon – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

one afternoon

It rests in the rolling shallows,
this boat that once had a name
and a worthy purpose,
bumping against its crumbling dock
in the absent-minded rhythm
of the water’s eternal rise and fall.
Cracked and clouded windows
stare at us with a vacant scowl
like marbled eyes in the rest home
when other people’s grandchildren
tiptoe past the open door.

You and I meander the trampled grass,
reminisce around rocky inlets,
taste the spiced breeze of low tide.
We stroll along the polished train tracks,
their shiny new gravel peppered with
discarded, rust-crusted spikes.

stillness – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

stillness

The little purple rose,
petite petals gathered
in restrained propriety,
stares all day
out my bedroom window
like an old maid
with her plaid blanket
of rough Scottish wool
smoothed across her lap.

With the patience of generations,
she watches the changeless scene,
her gentle smile turning toward
the winter sun’s waning warmth.

All she asks is
a sip of water
a few kind words
and the rich taste
of her deep-rooted memories.

detaching – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

detaching

A snip, a slice–
One rose past its prime,
its petals turned sepia
and brittle
like parchment
left too near the hearth,
tips and tumbles
to thud in the dust
at my neighbor’s feet.

I watched her all morning
as she eyed the bush
not unlike the way a crow
inspects a squirrel carcass
squished on the street.

Three times her snips rose,
and thrice she relented,
retreating to survey the bush anew.

I finished two mugs of coffee
and one crossword puzzle
watching her seek
the perfect pruning position.

The bush, for its part, never flinched.

This warrior,
with her feints and posturing,
armored in her striped cloth gloves,
and flop-brimmed sun hat,
and flannel yard shirt,
glowered like crusaders of old,
the grim grime of eons
etched in wrinkles
on her face.

One snip.
One slice.
One step toward peace.

make or break – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Make or break

Stubborn,
snow clings
in the high branches
against the gales
pouring from stoic granite peaks.
A gray day.
Quiet. Tensed.
I twist tight my scarf,
turn my face to the winds.
Only in their sharpness
does clarity come.

If it comes at all.

I’ve walked
up this mountain
through hip-deep snow
for a dozen lifetimes,
and I will walk it
a dozen more,
building footprint stories
erased by time
and the failures
of memory.

Ever bright,
the lights of your cabin windows
gleam in the distance,
like a tiger’s eyes–
both curious
and disinterested.

As I plunge forward ,
I wonder
not for the first time
whether this climb
is truly
worth the effort.

epiphany – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Epiphany

As I walk
A rainbow shimmers
Ten hundred gleaming drops
In red, orange, green, indigo
Shaking and quaking
An ecstasy of color
A brilliance of joy

And when winter’s fingers
Flip the world topsy-turvy
And paint a silver mask
Over every color

I know

In the rhythm of my pulse
In the mists of my breath
In the scrape of my steps

That one day the gray
Will be shaken loose
And sent scattering
Like flies off the shiver
Of a horse’s back.

three paperclips – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

three paperclips

one brown candle squats
lonely in a cold corner
as gray autumn
begins slipping
into dark winter

three paperclips lie beside it
discarded
and I wonder
about the candle’s flame
now extinguished
about the absent papers
now unclipped

is there perhaps
a fourth paperclip
lifted from the abandoned jumble
to experience
the thrills of interoffice mail
or the long, lonely exile
of a government’s underground archives

or maybe
it was twisted and bent
to poke at a stubborn lock
or wrought with haste
into a circle of angles
by a young man without time
to buy an engagement ring
before his ship sailed to battle

if only I had some papers

if only I had a match