It’s Not The Hand You’re Dealt (But How You Play it)

Forever she told me
that she always felt Life
dealt her nothing but bad hands,
each full of strife.
I replied in encouragement,
Knave to her Queen,
“Don’t fold, you’ve got
one more hand to be seen.”
She sighed and said,
“I got nothing here but a nine.”
I said, “Toss those four
and let’s see what we find.”
So she looked at the dealer
and said, “I’ll take four.”
He chuckled and said,
“Is that ‘cause you can’t take more?”
Then the dealer grinned
His indecently superior grin,
dealing the cards, saying,
“Ya know, gambling’s another sin.”
I put my hand on her shoulder,
‘cause she was my Muse,
as the dealer said,
“I’ve a full house, so I guess you lose.”
She looked at her hand
and then back at me,
while I kept my poker face,
the lesson I’d hope she’d see.
“I’ve got this pair of deuces,”
she said to his sneer,
“And oh, look, I’ve got another
just like it right here.”
The lesson she learned is even
an Ace-high full boat can lose
to someone whose hand
holds nothing but twos.
So stay positive, keep hope,
and don’t lose your mind.
Bad hands happen, but (Who knows?)
you might pull your own four of a kind.

Day #10 of the April 2018 PAD Challenge (I’m a third of the way through without a miss) called for a Deal or a No Deal poem. In the old days, I’d write one for each instance on these Two for Tuesday specials. Don’t know if I’m up to it these days, but thought I’d deal you this bit of whimsy. Call.

The Rose

The rose
weighs heavy
in his hand.
All around
he feels
their eyes,
upon him,
solemn faces,
flat and gray
as rain-spattered
He gives her
his rose,
weighty with
meaning, but
too late.
Here, all around
stare angels’
fat and gray
on rain-spattered

Sunrise Again


Photo by Joseph Hesch

I’ve missed you, day-pioneer,
first-light blazer of time-trails.
We’ve not met since our friend
left me holding her in final-sigh.

I confess, during this cold earth-rest
I dreamed to join the forever-sleepers
beneath the far, flat margin
of life-light and eternal-dark.

Today you were waiting there for me,
golden-greeter, life-illuminator,
encouraging one more cast
into the eastern sea of tomorrows.

I felt the leash-tug forward,
telling me look not back
at the long, black, only-me
lying at my feet.

Taking a tentative step, I sensed you,
warm upon my face, she,
warm against my leg, and we,
sharing soul-sunrise again.

My Swedish friend Björn Rudberg has asked that we try to write poems with Scandinavian style phrases called kennings. A kenning is a very brief metaphoric phrase or compound word that means “to know” (derived from Icelandic, but exist in many other languages like Swedish and German). It was used extensively in Old Norse (later Icelandic) and Anglo-Saxon poetry to add both color and better meter to the skaldic songs. For instance “whale-road” was used as a kenning for the sea in Beowulf, and “wave-stead” replaced ship in Glymdrápa.

Readers know I make up a lot of compound metaphors because sometimes words don’t exactly exist for my feelings I express that even I don’t understand. This is another 100-word poem, and I think a poor effort, at using kennings to express my emerging from a long winter–of the body and soul. But that photo up there is the sunrise that inspired this piece, and it wouldn’t be denied.

Christmas Tales


As I gaze out the window of my second floor writing lair this morning, the sun stretches the shadows of the trees–vacant, red-bud maples and the solid spruces–almost due south to north. A blue jay swoops and sits on the limb in front of me and we each check the nuthatch scurrying around the branches in three dimensions like a three year old full of candy running through the house on Christmas morning.

The dit-dot footprints of the wild ones, their own Morse Code, write messages and stories across the snow. That blue-white sheet, with one snowfall above another, works a lot like what a writer would hope to do. So much has been written beneath this surface, informing with depth and height that etched above.

And that’s how this Christmas message works, too. What I don’t see out there, what you don’t exactly feel, is the second set of plodding prints to and from the house, running perpendicular to the rest of this natural manuscript. That emptiness extends into the house and to hearts within the walls.

But, like all those tales told in the snow…that’s life. And today is a day to express the joy we feel for the life lived here among these sleepy, shivering trees and that life yet to come. It’s been a good one, as I hope yours has been, is today and will be, along with ours.

Now, as you can see, I’ve got some reading to do out back. Merry Christmas, friends! Blessings of this season to all!

Maybe Tomorrow

Description unavailable

A week’s freezing cold didn’t bring me
the numbness I need. Always before,
lack of sensation was my refuge,
even before north winds turned my eyes red
and the single digits froze each fingertip
a deathly white, white as the snow
that slapped my cheeks with raw reality
this morning. Maybe tomorrow.

The snow was our canvas, upon which
we painted winter-wide murals and
our ever-whitening portraits, from those
two feet and a chubby snow angel
to the broad icebreaker paths we’d carve,
leaving wakes of winter, like rustic frames
in our personal galleries of year after year.
I could just stay alone by the window,
watch it fall, pile, blow across the grass,
jealously watch scratchy weeds break the trail
we once blazed in the bedsheet smoothness.

But I can’t. I must move along, muck up
the natural perfection with my pen-nib boots
writing this diary entry for one,
the same painful one as yesterday’s.
No cold, time, or any vacant expanse
of paper white are numbing enough,
still can’t dull the pain of this life’s winter,
eyes red and fingers wrung deathly white.
Maybe tomorrow. Please, maybe tomorrow.

I don’t want to keep writing these poems, but I can’t seem to lift out of this damn dark ink well. Maybe tomorrow.

Bienvenido al Purgatorio

Fresno Couple

Photo © Tom Clark, 2011

When she arrived, I wished
mi cara welcome to Purgatory,
this stopover on our journey
from Hell to Heaven.
It is much like the fable
the black padres taught us about
the comforts of the Afterlife.
A myth, no more. But a myth
is better than nothing. Yes?
Perhaps a Heaven really is just
over that hill where the sun
sleeps with tomorrow.

For tonight, though, I am sleeping
with mi ángel, a gift like
cool rain dropped from the clouds.
She comforts my dreams
with her body as I hold
hers together with mine.
Our coupling is a prayer
for the rest of our journey,
where, without fear, we test
the truths of Purgatorio and Paraiso,
because muerte, death, is just
another fork in our road.

I wrote this free-write poem in response to a prompt from my friend Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday for June 14, 2013. She asked me to look at some dramatic photographs from multi-genre artist Tom Clark. I chose this one and tried to I imagine a simple man lying there with his lover trying to reach their Paradise together…one way or another.

Dessert at L’hôtel du ciel


Angel Food Cake [154/366]

Angel Food Cake (Photo credit: timsackton)

The moments of sadness in life
always end, just as the shorter
moments of joy end even sooner.
That’s just the nature of our days
until we leave. And when we do,
we expect a something else,
hopefully a something better,
a something forever — Heaven,
Valhalla, Tian, whatever your Hereafter.
Some blissful Eternity is our reward,
the fabulous prize and parting gift,
for being a good human during
your finite moments of dawn to dusk.
It will be the eternal dessert you earned
for eating those damned Brussels sprouts,
eschewing sin and sorrow until
there’s no tomorrow. No more moments.
But perhaps some judicious maneuvering
of the little green orbs upon my plate
might garner me at least a warm slice
of après dîner approbation in
L’hôtel du ciel. Garçon, un moment!
Menu di dessert, s’il vous plaît!