Lost at Sea

He saw the night sky crack like a violin

When he first began to drown.

It cut across the string of stars, every single pearl,

Dropping them, one by one, into the cold Atlantic.


Beneath the black waves, he gasped for all the ice in the wind,

Baring his teeth into the howling wolves of winter

As they shook his brain awake, his eyes reddened

And wounded by their torches, the faint fire of salt water

Biting at his dreams.


The ship behind him raised her nose into the darkness

As she flaked the splintered beams from her hull,

Littering the wild water with the bones of war,

Aching at her empty sides.


And still he wheezed, his ribs barbed with thin air,

Filling the tin cup of his heart with gunpowder and rain

As copper blood pumped into his mouth,

Dried and cracking, lined with pewter, rusting as fast as memories.


He struggled like a rag doll against the pitch and pull,

His eyes flickered their spotlights into the iron dark of space,

Motionless and far, a moon quietly pinning it all together


Until every shattered star on the sable swells drifted into view,

Pooling into a dazzling form, a woman

He knew from another world,

One where the fire is low and warm,

The sugar bowl is full,

And her hands are made of sky.


She shimmered in the shine of starlight

And beckoned his wincing eyes to stay awake

Just one hour more

Till all her lovely words could sing him to the shoreline.


Another poem…

As I write this,

I’m still breathing hard from a night of fitful sleeping,

My V-neck shirt clinging like dew to my warm chest

While the ceiling fan does its best to gin up

A gentle wind.


It’s, let’s see,

I’ll need my glasses for a bit,

2:38 in the morning,

And I’m jotting down my thoughts at the bedside table

Like the doctor said.

Oh, and my feelings,

I’m also recording my feelings.


The poetry’s been difficult these days.

It doesn’t flow like it once did.

The Nile’s all dried up, you’d ask,

Or turned to blood in plague? And I’d chuckle.

I tried some in the first stanza with the sweat simile,

But I think I yawned in the middle of it.


I remember you used to love a haiku I once wrote

About the cold side of the pillow

(Sort of on the fly, just to see you smile really).

Only now do I see why you liked it so,

As I cycle and recycle this old feather bag

To find that cool shadowy feeling in which to lay

My weary head.


It’s only when I glance over at yours in its pristine condition,

And I notice no sagging indention in the center,

That I remember your pillow is always cool now,

Both sides.


So, I’ll just lay my glasses back down on the nightstand,

At 2:52 in the morning,

And I’ll climb once more into my tempest of dreams

Where you and I are together again,

If momentarily,

And somewhat wispy in our world of memory,

Before my body shakes awake

At 3:41 AM,

And I lean for my pencil

From my sloppy and disheveled side of the bed.

On Reading Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”  Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

I drove home from school that evening,

My bag sprawled against the passenger seat,

Rain raking across the windshield,

And I mulled maddeningly over his opening line.


Poor Gregor, I thought,

It’s bad enough to endure

Unsettling dreams,

But to wake up one morning only

To find yourself transformed into a

Monstrous vermin…

What a way to go.


Then, as I drifted into my driveway,

I began to question the very nature of change.

The Metamorphosis, it’s called,

He awakes to find he had become

Something else entire.

Clever, but simply fiction.

No early morning spontaneous change for the rest of us in the

Real world.


I continued to ponder Gregor’s condition

As I walked through my kitchen,

Kissed my wife,

And knelt to the floor of my living room to tussle with my daughters,

To release the hours of giggling from the depths of their little lungs,

To wage another campaign in the infamous Tickle Wars.


I had almost forgotten Kafka’s novella

And Gregor’s plight,

When my oldest had settled her spurs in the floor

To summon her favorite horse for a quick saunter around the house.


As I bent to my hands and knees,

Lowering my back to help her saddle up,

I remembered the magic of change, the invisible truth that

Swells within the blood of fathers,

For all my philosophies and empty questions

Faded into shadow as my fingertips hardened to hooves,

Thick as iron,

And my mouth began to dribble the dabbled joy of stallions.


It was then,

As the cool carpet sprang forth with grass,

And the dusty wind howled through our TV screen to breeze across

My daughter’s laughing chin,

That I believed again in metamorphosis,

And I neighed loud enough to stay the dawn

And send Gregor back to sleep.


A poem for my daughter, Julianna…

In the dream,

You and I were seated,

Side by side,

In the bench seat of a borrowed golf cart,

Touring the cracks and

Sparkling asphalt of our neighborhood

As the sun began to set.



We hummed through the endless turns

And quiet stretches,

Never bothering to circle back

(if that’s what one does in a winding subdivision),

And I laughed as your cheeks tightened

From smiling

And your blonde hair giggled in the wind.


I think we drove for hours,

You and I,

Always whirling around another corner,

Discovering the horizons that lilted with purpled light.


“Daddy,” you sang.

“Yes, Julie?”


I looked over at you

And your bouncing knees,

Clapping hands,

As you climbed the little ladders in your eyes,

Gazing into futures,


Eyelashes swept with spring.


The warm pull of our small motor

Rose into the sky

As you colored the clouds with your singing,

Like fingerpaint against infinite sheets

Of 97¢ construction paper.


“Daddy,” you sang.

“Yes, Julie?”


But then,


Our magic cart

Reached the end of the dream,

Our swirling atmosphere slurred to a stop

Like chalk,

Our wheels sticking on the fermata,

The song sustaining, the pedal dampened,

As my brain began to wake my body.


“Daddy,” you sang.

“Yes, Julie?”


I stumble through the early light

To open your bedroom door.


“I love you,” you sing.

“Good morning, Julie,” I respond,


And we both hear the click of the

Automatic coffee maker,

Heralding the dawn,

As we walk down the morning stairs



On Endings and Beginnings

T.S. Eliot once famously wrote, “In my end is my beginning,” a hauntingly lyrical and poignant claim on the glorious chapters of our story, the endless death-and-resurrection pattern of our lives. We move from day to night, spring to winter, orientation to graduation, birth to death…to rebirth.

Yesterday was my last day with my seniors, as they don the cap-and-gown and prepare to graduate into this busy world with the wealth of their dreams and plans excitedly following them like a beautiful comet’s tail or a squeaky red wagon obeying their urgent lead . As such, it seems inevitable to think on endings, both big and small, with a note of sadness, for it is certainly a grief to say goodbye to anything, no less a collection of wide-eyed teenagers ready to grab the world. 

And so, I dug into the recesses of writings past and unearthed an article I wrote ca. 2009 as I prepared to graduate from college. May our endings only ever serve as calls to see beginnings; may we learn, in all of our many evenings, to eagerly await the dawn.

2812548241_53fe9e959d_bThe inescapable truth of life is in its ending. By no means do I wish to sound morose or despondent, but it is the truth nonetheless. Part of the universal human experience is aging, the bittersweet feel of birthday after birthday as we watch that person in the mirror change on us. With every passing moment, we are collectively growing older. Unfortunately, Barrie’s play is fictional, and Neverland will always be just a little farther past our fingertips.

So how do most of us handle this? We discover how simple it is to reduce our life simply to what we tell strangers – “What’s your name?” “Where do you work?” “When do you graduate?” “Are you dating?” Whereas the answers to these numbing questions are important, they cannot become the identities that make up our life. The beauty of life is in the process, the things we embrace to get us from one photo album to another. Anyone can hold on to the big moments – graduation, promotion, championship, engagement – but the gift of life is so much larger. It has to be.

I often laugh at myself for relaying my goals and ambitions to people in the form of a personal bucket list, a seventy-year checklist of dreams. Though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, what I fail to realize is the extreme importance of those seemingly little moments: that night I couldn’t fall asleep or the time my best friend made me laugh so hard I choked on something. But the best part of these “everyday” moments is the surprise of God. Somehow we expect that God’s presence is at an all-time high during our celebrity moments, the times we feel exceptionally accomplished. We are tempted to believe that He is to thank when we feel great, and He is absent when we do not. But this is wonderfully wrong. Life is a race that we are ever finishing at a pace that is always uncomfortably fast. It’s easy to tell ourselves where we’re running, but the how is where we get caught. God is always willing to guide us through each big moment in our life, but the “everyday” is God’s playground for miracles, His behind-the-scenes workshop.

Of course the trophies, the diplomas, and the diamond rings are enormous moments to be excited about, but we should never lose the music, the midnight drives, and the out-loud prayers. We should never attempt to escape the everyday moments by way of that second star to the right; rather, we should learn to find the adventure in the little things. Of course, the daily process of life can be painful and overwhelming, but even if at times we feel it’s in circles, we should always keep running.