Category Archives: my poetry

Itchy Feet

“You should forgive him,” my mother says.
“He can’t help it that his dancing causes heartache.”
“Drop it, Mama,” I say. “Don’t should on me.
The day I forgive him will be the day
the Eiffel Tower topples
or the Tallahatchie Bridge gets broken into dust.”
I swear that woman thinks I should jump through
ten thousand-thousand hoops for Jim Bob,
but I’m so sick of jumping
my lung’s about to burst.
I’m ready to bolt from this family and find another.
Any family will do, as long as it’s not this one.
I just can’t shoulder the burden anymore.
Besides, my feet are gettin’ itchy.
I hear that down there at the river shallows,
where thirty sinners gathered to be baptized last night,
there’s a preacher-man from Mountainville—
some say he’s a prophet—
who can tell me what I need to know.
Think I’ll go and visit him,
him and all those sinners.
My feet are gettin’ itchy
and I’d best be on my way.

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

More Thursday Poets’ Rally, Week 54 here
More The Sunday Whirl Wordle 26 poems here
More The Poetry Pantry #71 poems here

In the Fallow Garden

original. Wordle 25

In the fallow garden,
beside the rippling koi pond
a little bell tinkles,
calling the swallows to rest
from their rambunctious flights.
I offer each of them a crumb of cake
left over from last night’s birthday celebration
at the ballroom on Forty-Second Street,
where there was no hat rack
for my obsolete headgear,
and so I had two choices:
to sit as a wallflower with my hat in my lap
or to dance with my hat on.
I chose to dance,
swirling and twirling around the floor
(by myself, of course) until 2 a.m.,
when John came in his automobile
to fetch me and take me home.
(I so admire his beauty and grace
the way his strong hands grip the wheel,
keeping us on track,
the way they search my face in the dark
pausing at each pore and follicle
to give thanks and bless me.)
And now it is the morning after,
and with my hat perched on my head
I feed the swallows crumb by crumb
beside the rippling koi pond
in the fallow garden.

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

More The Sunday Whirl #25 here
More The Poetry Pantry #70 poems here

As Jesus Walked

“Remember the little church where Dad preached
that walking with Jesus was an adventure?”
my sister Rachel asks after the funeral.
Fearful that she is going to become maudlin,
I turn my face to the wall and say nothing.
“Come on,” she pleads. “Don’t you remember?”
“What if I do? Then what?”
“There is no ‘what,’” she says. “I just feel
so lost and alone now that Dad’s gone,
and I thought that remembering something concrete
from his preacher days might help both of us.”
“Well, you thought wrong!” I snap. “I’m
not looking for signs and wonders
to multiply like loaves and fishes.
I don’t need a myriad reassurances
that Dad has gone to some so-called ‘better place.’
There is no better place.
Wherever I am is the place.
He’ll be with me in Mexico when I stumble, weeping,
through the cobbled streets of San Miguel,
and when I come back and circle the block on my morning walk—
if you let him go.
Free him from the prison of your memory
so that he can walk with me
as Jesus walked with his disciples by the sea.”

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

More Thursday Poets’ Rally, Week 53 here
More The Sunday Whirl, Wordle 24 here
More The Poetry Pantry #69 here

After the Accident

After the accident
that broke every bone in her body, save one,
and though the healing had scarcely begun,
she’d sit in her chair by the window,
and look outside occasionally,
envying the fluid motion of the passersby,
strolling from shop to shop,
peering in windows with great devotion,
worshiping cakes and dresses and shiny new tools
that pry and slice and hammer and chop.
Then ever so slightly she’d move
her finger, beckoning to Baby Blue,
parakeet prisoner kept in a cage,
and chat with him for hours about such things
as weather, religion and stories of coming of age.
He’d clutch his perch and incline his head
as if he understood every word she said.
Then creaking upward from her chair
and taking care not to jostle Baby’s cage,
she’d lurch step by painful step to the mirror
to comb her hair, trace
each scar and furrow on her face,
and tremble with rage.

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

More The Sunday Whirl, Wordle 23 here
More The Poetry Pantry #68 here

Kyrie Eleison

Wordle 20

Birdlike, quivering
three women haunted by the Holy One
seek answers to their questions:
Even though we have lost our way,
must we crawl in abject humiliation
for the rest of this seemingly endless journey?
If we are attacked by hordes of insects,
may we swat and crush and stomp them
or must we accept their bites and nips and stings
as Your just judgment on us?
What if, as we stumble on,
one delicate blue flower blooms beside the path?
Shall we understand it as a sign from You
or simply a distraction?
When we goof (we cannot bear to call it sin),
do not bar us from Your presence, Lord!
Instead, hitch us to Yourself
with cords of mercy, grace and love.
O God, keep us from the rack
and all barbed and studded instruments
of enhanced interrogation!
For our faces become pallid, fearing
that our bodies might be broken into bits as bread
is torn and scattered before ravenous pigeons.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

More Postcards from Paradise at Recuerda Mi Corazon here
More Monday Poetry Train Revisited #136 here
More The Sunday Whirl, Wordle 20 here
More The Poetry Pantry #65 poems here

A Visit to the Attic


She sweeps the dust
    from the lid of the steamer trunk
    with the hem of her apron,
    murmuring a fervent prayer
    to the One who called her here.

A single turn of the key in the lock,
    and from the sacred vessel she lifts a cloak
    wrapped in skins of animals she has
    never seen and cannot name;
    she fingers a rusty stain.

“What does it matter,” she wonders,
    “if the truth is never known?
    I bear its residue in my blood and bone,
    and no infernal breeze can drive it away.”

Satisfied, she wraps the cloak
    within the redolent skins again,
    sings an old but comforting hymn—
    There is a balm in Gilead
    to make the wounded whole
    and dances down the stairs.

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

More The Sunday Whirl #19 here
More Monday Poetry Train Revisited #136 here
More The Poetry Pantry #64 here

Nothing Is Wasted


Nothing is wasted—
  not the aborted revolution in Tiananmen Square;
  not the desperation clenching your gut
    when you discover he’s left you for another woman;
  not the cheap perfume the old lady
    in the elevator (see her slouch in the corner)
    sloshed on herself before she left the house,
    the sickening scent offending every stranger she meets;

Nothing is wasted—
  not the slab of cracked granite tossed aside carelessly
    in a corner of the sculptor’s studio;
  not the light bulb that someone
    forgot to screw into the hallway socket,
    so now you stumble downstairs;
  not the little snowstorm of cigarette ash
    that will have to be brushed from the table
    and everything cleansed and polished
    before your mother comes for supper;

Nothing is wasted—
  there are stories to spin,
  poems lying in wait for you,
  tales aching to be told.

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

More The Sunday Whirl Wordle #18 poems here
More Monday Poetry Train Revisited #135 here
More The Poetry Pantry #63 here

To Build a Poem


To build a poem, you need stones—
some call them words—
and you need the right ones.
Some, like seditious and tremor, are not suitable;
they will crumble in your hands like old mortar—
it’s no use trying to build with them.
Set them aside and choose something else,
something simple, yet sturdy and enduring,
something you will still be proud to hold
twenty or fifty years from now.
Choose words of granite.
In building a poem, you undertake a sacred task,
let no one hinder you;
no stigma can be attached to those who choose
each word with care.
Remember: The nether regions are filled with those
whose work is shoddy and sporadic—
cast in plaster, not carved in stone—
be not one of them.
Pledge to me—or to yourself, at least—
that you will not enmesh your work in words
that waste away to dust at the merest touch,
but that you will choose words that dance and chant and sing of all that is holy.
Then you will be able to show us the single tuft of grass gracing the desert wash,
and the fire of mercy blazing down from ten thousand-thousand stars.

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

More The Sunday Whirl Wordle #17 poems here
More Monday Poetry Train Revisited #134 here
More The Poetry Pantry #62 here

Praying in My Classroom

Wordle 16

A pilgrim looking for miracles,
I move from desk to desk,
reading the notes my students scribble
in their composition books,
their tender words
crawling across the page like lizards seeking light.
One of them writes of how he swept the horse stalls
before filling them again with fresh straw.
One writes of cement gushing from the chute of a truck—
the foundation for the family’s new home;
another of an early morning walk with his flock of sheep
before the sun ignites Tsé Bit’ A’í and it becomes
a fiery winged creature rising from the desert floor;
another of the rusty nails that pierced both his heels
three summers ago
as he scampered across a pile of old lumber behind his hogan—
he says you can still see the scars;
still another of how she torments
her younger sister without mercy—
“There’s something cruel in me,” she writes,
“and it wants Kelsey to hurt, hurt, hurt.”
And I pray:
Dear God,
even the prophets were not blessed like this!
I am standing on holy ground.
Do not remove my feet from this place
now or ever.

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

More Monday Poetry Train Revisited #133 here
More The Sunday Whirl #16 here
More The Poetry Pantry #61 here
More Postcards from Paradise


Wordle 15

To the thief who stole my guitar—
I know that Jesus enjoins me to turn the other cheek
and to pray for those who persecute me;
but this morning, still grieving my loss,
I prefer to live in the Old Testament, not the New,
and like the prophets of old, I have a vision for you:
May someone drive bamboo splinters under your fingernails
so that every strum of the stolen strings is exquisite agony.
May you live in constant fear that your deed will find you out.
May you hear voices accusing you in the night,
and may images of the torments of hell disturb your sleep.
May only weeds sprout in your garden,
and no beans or corn or squash grow there ever again.
May peaceful, holy moments flee from your life like dust before the wind.
May regret pierce your soul like ten thousand rusty knives,
with no one to stanch the bleeding.
And if ever you are caught,
may you be locked so long in a fortress
that you never walk out alive.
May the jangle of the jailer’s keys
be the first music you hear in the morning
and the last notes you hear at night.
And may I be privileged to hear your death rattles
just before the jailers carry you out feet first
to dump you in an unmarked grave.
So be it.

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher
More Wordle 15 with words from Wallace Stevens here
More The Poetry Pantry #60 here