Five Protopoems

With the crush of school starting Monday, I’m opting out of a formal post and offering an apologetic bouquet of buds from the pad I keep in my back pocket. Like everything written there, they may be on their way to becoming something else—poems probably—but maybe there’s something appealing in their half-formation.  I hope so.  This is all I have this week.


The increments within hours trip over each other in a crowded line.  We might laugh if we weren’t so busy looking away, hoping for an invisible order to descend and become the backbone of time.


The rhythm of a scooter passing over joints in the sidewalk, the pitch of a child’s voice stretching to my open window on the third floor…

Their parent’s voices are plainer, wheedling them to stop, go in, leave an evening chill no child can feel.

The children waylay every dog to learn its name.  They say “Bye bye” to use its meaning up.  And the traffic passes in sighs.  The light cools to gray as their scooters roll deep into twilight.

I look down to discover their parents, sitting and stooped, silent in their company.


Two orchids remain on the arm that once bore more blossoms than it could support alone.  Maybe the plant feels lighter with less of its life spent in show, but I watch days waiting for them to wither and fall.

Their faces peer up into the sun, turning from my attention.


I know what you are telling me.   You say, if I really look I might see the globe turning on itself and catch day from the front.

You want me to live before what befalls us.  But I’ve never believed.

If I could, you say, I might laugh my million cells open, burst like a comb of honey made perfume again or, like days loosed from borders of dawn and dusk, forget the count of seconds on seconds.

Your advice: stare into dark’s face.  When tears start, I might meet you fully.  We’ll swim in the same ink.

I know what you want—belief aflame in the heart of each atom.  Downwind, I smell the smoke, invisible and unreal.


Beneath the tracks, the roar of the train washes away everything but a shrug of futility.  I start to say what I began that, in that pause, turned to something else.

The sun crawls out of a cloud and draws a lattice of shadow on the sidewalk.  When it crawls back in again, I swallow the words.

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Filed under Chicago, CTA, Doubt, Experiments, Home Life, life, Meditations, Memory, Prose Poems, Thoughts, Writing

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