You love your friend, so you fly across the country to see her.

Your friend is grieving. When you look at her, you see that something’s missing.

You look again. She seems all there: reading glasses, sarcasm, leather pumps.

What did you expect? Ruins? Demeter without arms in the British Museum?

Your friend says she believes there’s more pain than beauty in the world.

When Persephone was taken, Demeter damned the world for half the year.

The other half remained warm and bountiful; the Greeks loved symmetry.

On the plane, the man next to you read a geometry book, the lesson on finding the circumference of a circle.

On circumference: you can calculate the way around if you know the way across.

You try across with your friend. You try around.

I don’t believe in an afterlife, she says. But after K. died, I thought I might go after her.

                In case I’m wrong. In case she’s somewhere. Waiting.

Read this poem on Poetry Out Loud.


Yesterday, a coyote sprinted
through my front lawn.
I thought it someone’s lost dog.

Tomorrow, something larger will come.
It will come like a snowplow,
heavily horse-powered and muffled
by what it shunts aside. 
There will be lights.
They will shine in through windows,
spotlighting intimate, tender moments—
a mother halving blueberries
for her infant son, a man
smearing ointment across his mother’s back.  

The way in which
the I-thought-dog made its wildness
known was the way it ran straight ahead,
not looking for or needing anyone.
Not lost but alone.
Not underfed
but hungry nonetheless. 

Read this on Stirring.

Trick of the Light

In France, the pickpockets
ask tourists to sign petitions
against social injustice,
then run their hands over
their intimate belongings,
gentle and needy as lovers.
It’s hard to judge them harshly,
such artistry.
Even the rush-hour crowd
hurrying toward the downtown C
parts for the woman in checkered spandex
twirling a hula-hoop about her waist
while standing on her head.
Dear unobservant god,
do not snuff us out.
We are beautiful and strange.

Read this on The Writer’s Almanac.

A Life

Each afternoon he took his pipe
and led his goats beyond the pasture
to a neighbor’s field behind his farm—
not exactly his but not exactly not.

As the goats clipped the tall grasses,
he sat in the chair he never failed
to bring. Sometimes he read, most often
not. The vetch climbed the goldenrod,

the dandelions turned from gold
to globe, and every day he went,
thinking to himself how good it was
to be almost but not entirely alone.


Read this on The Writer’s Almanac.

Intensity as Violist

That she was not pretty she knew.
The flowers delivered into her hands post-concert by the young girl, pretty, would be acknowledged only. To display was to invite comparison.
Skilled at withholding, she withheld; it was a kind of giving. As when meditation is a kind of action,
a way of leaning into music the way one leans into winter wind, the way a mule leans into a harness,
the way a lover leans into the point of deepest penetration.
After a ship’s prow cuts the water, the water rushes back twice as hard.

Read this and three other poems on the Poetry Foundation’s website.


A man can give up so much, 
can limit himself to handwritten correspondence, 
to foods made of whole grains, 
to heat from a woodstove, logs 
hewn by his own hand and stacked neatly 
like corpses by the backdoor.

He can play nocturnes by heart. 
They will not make the beloved appear. 
He can learn the names of all the birds 
in the valley. Not one 
will be enticed to learn his.

Read the poem on American Life in Poetry.

Not by Extraordinary Means

There is so much material     in the material world.

We have no yard; the philodendron pots are small; we’ll bury the cat elsewhere.

The Vikings were precise but not extraordinary

in their cruelties. King Ælla’s ribs were broken from his spine, then pulled open

behind his back to resemble wings.

Little brown bats are vanishing

like smoke from caves they’ve filled for thousands of years. It is a small thing,

but if you don’t add eggs one at a time to cake batter, the emulsion will break,

and the cake won’t rise.

The Vikings—sometimes they yanked the lungs through.

Salted them.

No, not by extraordinary means, my mother told the doctor when pressed. He wouldn’t

let her leave for the night. Then, in her smallest voice, But, yes, everything else, please.

Driving Alone

At Lake Erie, the sky collapsed
in snow. My headlights lit up
a miniature globe before me, a world
too small to navigate.

What does it mean when the only
signs we have of others
are the lights they send out?
I made it somewhere safely.

Or safely made it somewhere.
I can’t remember how. Who knows
what we pass unseen.

Read this and two more poems at The Boiler.


In 1916 Helen Keller and Peter Fagan were briefly, and secretly, engaged.

Fear unfurls in her throat 
like Mother’s peonies—
how they open and open, 
hands inside of hands.

And heat curls her hair
into angry bees, leaves welts
at her jawline. Her skirt, 
layered like the peony, 
complicates walking. Yet she loves
what is complicated: 
dresses with masses of ribbon, 
others’ hands at her back, 
the intricate wheels and rods
of a typewriter, keys
that fit her fingers like petals.

Mother hates the smell 
of oil and ink. She told 
Mother once that she loved 
best the flowers 
with velvet tongues, 
how they leave sex 
on her fingertips. 
Pistil, pestle, piston
She presses her open palm.

You’ve ripped your dress again
Mother says, the words
on her lips like molting skin. 
She takes each word in hand, 
imagines crushing
pinecones, eggshells.

Read this and “Show Horse” on Wordgathering.