November Poem 7: Marina (Part 8)

I woke up to throbbing pain and matted

Blood. I rinsed my hand and the new bar of

Soap in the sink and then began to rub

The bar against the ragged flap of skin

On the back of my hand. I watched the white

Bar streak red before it began to build

Up a pink lather. And I watched the blood

And soap and water drain. And I was done.

Now, I had been sober for more than a

Year. I met with my ex-wife again. She

Called for our daughter who wouldn’t come.

That night, I looked out the porthole and saw

A drop of blood that I had missed, and I

Watched the moon shatter on the windblown waves.


Marina (Part 7)

Marina (Part 6)

Marina (Part 5)

Marina (Part 4)

Marina (Part 3)

Marina (Part 2)

Marina (Part 1)

How I Write: a Walk Through


November Poem 6: Marina (Part 7)

I looked out the porthole and pressed my hand

Against the wall to stop the blood. The wall

That I had scraped and painted for him. For

His dream. The dream that he had left in my

Hands for me to squander. And here it was

My blood painting the walls. But the view out

The porthole remained unchanged. The lights still

Shone their spotlights on the docks with their boats

Tied and floating on the soft rise and fall

Of the water in the protected cove

Of the marina, and the moon still hung

In the sky painting its reflection on

The water. And then I thought I knew why

It was that Jimmy had so loved the sea.


Marina (Part 6)

Marina (Part 5)

Marina (Part 4)

Marina (Part 3)

Marina (Part 2)

Marina (Part 1)

How I Write: a Walk Through

November Poem 5: Marina (Part 6)

And when Jimmy died, I failed. Many God

Damned times. Overboard and adrift drowning

In the ocean of drink. I failed back to

Drinking so hard I thought I would never

Come back up for air. But the boat was there

Like a life raft with those portholes staring

Like two steely eyes, Jimmy’s eyes, staring

Like lighthouses guiding me away from

The rocks. I couldn’t take their saving stare

And one night drunk and angry I lashed out

At those portholes, and the bottle in my

Hand sloshing with the dregs shattered against

The wall. The glass cut deep into my hand.

I leaned my head against the wall in pain.


Marina (Part 5)

Marina (Part 4)

Marina (Part 3)

Marina (Part 2)

Marina (Part 1)

How I Write: a Walk Through

November Poem 4: Marina (Part 4)

And damned did we both know it wouldn’t be

Him, not for much longer. And that last time

He was in the hospital I made him

A promise that I would find a crew and

Get the boat working. And I knew that the

First step was to find my daughter again.

My ex-wife wanted me to be able

To say that I had been sober for a

Year before I could see my daughter but

Only if she wanted to meet with me

Again. Because, my wife said, drinking had

Made me mean and our daughter suffered at

My hands. But when you’ve spent years on the street,

Failure is always one cheap pint away.


Marina (Part 3)

Marina (Part 2)

Marina (Part 1)

How I Write: a Walk Through

November Poem 3: Marina (Part 3)

As I painted that boat and as he got

Weaker, I got stronger. Despite the booze,

I got stronger. And when we got that boat

In the water, he let me sleep on board

Under the condition that I get my

Life together. And I tried. I started

A.A. He waited, parked in his chair on

The dock taking in the ocean breeze and

Watched me take off bag after bag clinking

Full with old bottles. He said now the crew

That he sent to meet me wouldn’t be put

Off by the mess and alcohol reek.

He said I needed these people. He said

I needed someone I could call family.


Marina (Part 2)

Marina (Part 1)

How I Write: a Walk Through

November Poem 2: Marina (Part 2)

When I first pushed Jimmy out to see the

Boat, I saw the change. The deep lines around

His eyes softened and the tremor in his

Arms nearly disappeared. He pointed toward

The streaks of rust that came down like runnels.

He said, just a little scraping, a coat

Of paint, and she’ll be seaworthy. He braced

With his hands on the armrests. He almost

Had the strength of the years before the chair.

The years when there was nothing better to

Straighten a man up than hard work in the

Salt air. And the strength he lacked, he brought out

In me. He bought that boat, and I saw his

Dream as I scraped that boat. I saw his dream.


Marina (Part 1)

How I Write: a Walk Through



November Poem 1: Marina (Part 1)

With the morning frost lighting the porthole

In the first rays of sun, I sat and watched

The reflection on my cup of coffee.

In the steam, I tried to imagine my

Daughter holding a sandwich and sitting

Across from me sharing a meal at the

Old card table where I had eaten so

Many times alone.  I pulled my scarred hand

Out of my pocket and warmed my fingers

On the cup before I took the first sip

To shake off the lingering grip of dreams.

The day was much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat against the dock and

Rocked me to sleep in fitful remembrance.


How I Write: a Walk Through


Happy Halloween: A reposting of all my Halloween themed poems from oldest to newest.

A Desiccated Heart


A desiccated heart

The tool of the patriarchy

Bringing down symbols in the trees

Text messages in the reliquary


Bringing down the gates

Cracking the iron bands

The heart a ghostly rose

Trembling in the temple

Of the black demon


Amid the carnage

Sated on the hill

Carrion beasts in full repose

A sputter of movement

Arose flapping wings


You spent your whole life absent

Alone in your chair facing the void

I chiseled our initials

On the hangman’s tree


Dead Woods


A well centered in a dead wood

Where ravens come to peck the eyes

Of the children floating in the tepid waters


The Wraith of Road 348


3 miles down

Under the lightning split elm

Tattered rags

Flapping the breeze

The wraith of Road 348


The Chugging Machine


The chugging machine

Sulfur and smoke

The building rose

Phantom scented seraphim

Bringing Truth to modernity


A Raven’s Cry


A raven’s cry

The clay bricks

Baked in the sun

Reclaimed by nature

Destroyed but replaced

Mineralized as fossil


Bubbling Acid


Dissolved tissue

A white steam frothing

A rose in the bowl

Of bubbling acid

Tearing away your breath



Twilight in Washington


When she feels the churning green glow of the

Hardening voices. She escapes into

The hard binding of her books. She had read

All of the books about vampires who

Fall in love with girls. Now, she has begun

To read about werewolves who fall in love

With girls. Next she will read about mummies

Who fall in love with girls. Then, ghosts who fall

In love with girls. Then, Frankensteins who fall

In love with girls. She was fifteen when she

Broke his corrupt hands and began to slip

From one man to another. Pulled to these

Books to see children rioting in beauty

To see things she had always never had.




The Twilight of the Vampire Mopeds


You won’t have to change the tires or fill

Up the gasoline. Just a few drops of

Blood and you will be racing down the street

Impressing your friends and getting chores done

Lickety-split. Just like Bella climb on

Edward’s back and race down the streets in a

Blur just above two hundred miles per

Hour. With a jab to the ribs, he will

Leap to a nearby stand of trees and flit across

The tops. Slice open a vein and pay for

The wide open American culture

Of vehicular freedom. All very

Reminiscent of The Little Shop of

Horrors that is the Texaco station.




Approaching Baba Yaga


The bright lights of the stadium lit the

Field leaching everything into shades of

Grey stretching long shadows from the cars

In the gravel lot like the pulling out

And across of the utility knife

To serpentine over the guide line. The

Family walked the paved path along the

Thicket of brush toward the shadow of night.

What could they want out there in the darkness

Beyond the bushes in the mist over

The creek where the mosquitoes bite twice as

Thick and the shadows hold whispers? Is it

The woman in the woods and the house on

Stilts? And do they know her terrible price?




El Cucuy into the Dark


Did you see the light outside the window?

Was there a man in the street wearing a

Black hood with an evil light behind his

Eyes, little one? Did you see him? He had

A flaming censor hanging from a pole

Hooked like Death’s scythe. Don’t look out the window.

He has already faded into night.

But if you must, do you see the neighbor’s

Roof? Do you see that small shape in the dark?

You can almost make out the eyes of the

Owl, blank like two holes in a skull. El

Coco, Cucuy. The disembodied

Head. He is watching, my son. Licking his

Bony chops. Have you been good? Yes, I hope.




The Curse of Old Raw Head


Black and white headed goose sliding slowly

Across the pond, is there mourning in your

Call? Why do you linger so long in the

Stagnant waters near the abandoned farm?

Where is your flock? Did they venture too close

To the marshy end where the old dock stands

Mostly sunken and half hidden in the

Muck and swamp grass? Did you fix your stare through

The gaps of the warped slats to the shadows

Under the dock at the dripping pile

Of bones? You were the one, weren’t you? The

One to hear the slosh and suck of his steps.

Did you see the fates in his dead black eyes,

Or just the dripping maw of old Raw Head?




The Roentgen Effect


In the red light of the basement dark room,

I have seen Death dancing. A dim specter

In the dark. A shadow skeleton that

Might not be there. Arms outstretched motioning

Me forward. He has shown me photographs

Floating in the chemical vats. Floating

An accident of exposure. Floating

An artifact of suffering. Of black

Limbs solidified in among the white

Trees of an early snow and short sleeves. Drifts

Piled upon the autumn leaves. Weakened.

Unprepared. My son and I chasing that last

Bit of beautiful weather with a small

Burned out fire and Death dancing us on.




The Specter of the Nue


Thin wisps of black smoke lay low in the fields.

They disperse almost as quickly as they

Formed. Their haze in the tall grass that has gone

To seed. The smoke gathers thickest in the

Brown grasses that eventually die back

To black spots of earth bare like life in the

Old house with the odd shingles hanging loose

From long years of wind. She couldn’t help him

Or leave him now. But she can watch from her

Perch in the branches of the unkempt wood

Abutting the old property. She could

Float through the weeds and up out of the ground.

She could watch and choke him with her fumes. Cursed

To make him suffer for the love she holds.




Death and the Black Dog


That last night, as I walked miles from my

Broken car with a blister stinging on

My left foot, a dog mourned a lonesome howl

Into the darkness of the shard of moon.

He sniffed along the gravel shoulder of

The old country highway. His dark fur could

Hardly be seen in the distance except

From the corner of my eye. But the faint

Green light of his stare so much like the light

That often woke me puddled in sweat. His

Presence brought a chill. Or was it the cold

Wetness of the wind through the roadside pine?

And the vision of a man watching from

The woods, and my blood warming his wet hands?




Enjambment of Pesta the Princess of the Plague


Nature is a woman standing outside

An open window blowing the breeze through.

Do you think her life does not extend through

The screen? Do you think she is just broken

Off to begin again on the next line

Sterilized by your four walls? But you know

She will come through and when she does, will she

Come upon her cart with rake to gather

The dead like so many leaves of fall to

Leave the few to escape the tines or with

A broom to sweep them all like dust gathered

On the floor of an empty tomb. You know

Life brings plague on the wind and none escape

Life alive. But you want to be the first.




The Bargain With Death


The queer light of sunset lit the old man’s

Face lighting his eyes with blood and fire.

The neighborhood dogs were howling in the

Distance with the old man at the front door.

He let in his neighbor and closed the door.

Breathing heavy, he nearly fell against

The wall one hand on his stomach and the

Other still grasped on the knob. The neighbor

Put an arm around him to help him to

A chair, and the hound in the corner moaned

Out a soft howl in his fitful sleep.

The old man lifted his hand from his shirt

To show a small spot of red spreading on

His button down shirt. The old man said, I


Told you about this scar the night I sat

With your wife all those years ago. I know

That you always questioned how I could know

The exact night to comfort her passing.

Tonight, I have seen the visions again.

The Barguest is coming to finish what

He started in the old grave yard in my

Youth. Will you return the favor I gave

Your wife? Sit and lend comfort, and don’t stare

Into the beast’s eyes when he breaks through the

Door. The neighborhood dogs continued to

Howl, and the old man’s dog fidgeted

And growled in his sleep. And the darkness was

Choking out all the light through window.




The Dark Imagery


And they walked through the rising vapor of

The creek below the bridge where mosquitoes

Work the keyboards to generate the text

Of my future masterpiece of modern

Poetry. They will find the ether, for

The thick air of meaning brings its own hook

And line to catch the words and breathe the lines

Of verse into being like the blood from the

Bare arms with bulging veins that draw out the

Mosquitoes like little vampires sworn

To the devil. Sworn to bring grief and pain

In long swaths of meandering voice. Sworn

To confuse those willing to subjugate

Their minds to the dark imagery of verse.


Of Murders and Memorabilia


I remember when I first heard about

The carved wooden legs like a tiger’s paw

Holding an apple. They glinted in low

Gloss and hunched near to the ground. You could have

Sworn that you had seen them move or tense or

Twitch ready to pounce. The handmade table

With swirls carved like eyes and a point in the

Middle like one long retractable fang.

A deadly venomous sting dripping in

Anticipation of the moment you

Dropped your guard. But there on the auction house

Floor. It was just another old piece of

Furniture. It’s probably not even

Valuable except the story of it.


The story of how they say it got the

Brown stain that could look like dried blood. If you

Thought about it really hard, you would be

Able to see menace in its designs,

But not really. They say, this was the one

That they recovered from the site of that

Grisly murder from two years ago. The

One that had been held in evidence. The

One that had been found with the bloodied head

Sitting on top. It was too clean. Not a

Drop of dried blood. And the finish had not

Been dulled by any harsh cleaners. But it

Would do for my collection. And hell, I

May even get it for a damn good price on it.




How I Write: a Walk Through

I like to write first thing in the morning before the rest of the family is awake. I make a tall cup of coffee and sit down at the kitchen table and write and write. If I am lucky, I will have a poem or two in the making within the first 15 to 30 minutes. If I have been writing for a long time and I have yet to strike inspiration, I go back and reread the words that I have written looking for an image that came up in my writing and I expand on it.

For example, in the first line of the last paragraph I used the image “morning” along with “tall cup of coffee” and “kitchen table.” I could take these images and expand them into something like:

With the white frost of morning on the window lighting in the first rays of the sun, I sit down to watch the steam rise off the cup of coffee in my tall white coffee mug. The rim of the cup where I sip from is stained the same brown as the peanut butter in the sandwich sitting next to it on cheap plastic card table where I eat most of my meals.

Typically, expanding on this image until it creates connections or connotations to other thoughts or ideas and I follow that rabbit hole as far as it goes. And as for my example above, the cheap card table and the peanut butter sandwich breakfast make this feel like a story about someone who has little money, and the frost on the window as well as the steam rising off the coffee along with the possibility that the speaker of the poem is poor makes it likely that there is no heat on in his or her house, so I could expand the narrative with those ideas in mind.

I pull my right hand out of the pocket of my tattered foul weather jacket and warm my fingers on the cup before grabbing the handle to take my first sip. The day was much calmer than last night when the wind had the boat bumping against the dock and rocking me to a fitful sleep of remembrance.

Now, as you can see the narrative has changed to show that speaker lives cheaply in a boat so I am going to have to go back and change the word “window” to “porthole” to match the nautical theme. And we also learn that this speaker has a story to tell. And the story along with the tattered jacket makes me believe that this person is on the older side rather than just being broke from being young and just starting out.

I can see that there is a lot more of this poem to write, but this post is getting kind of long so I will take what I have written so far and format it into poem form and finish the rest of the narrative at a later date. But for now, I am going to format the poem as a sonnet and again as a string of tanka so I can compare the resulting poems and decide which one I am going with as the final piece.

The sonnet is a poem comprised of 14 lines with 5 metrical feet. A metrical foot consists of two syllables. One syllable is supposed to be accented while the other is not, but I don’t worry about that. I find that if you write enough sonnets you start to learn how to write in a pleasing rhythm even if it is not the traditional “Da-dum, Da-dum, Da-dum, Da-dum, Da-dum” rhythm. Also, sonnets traditionally rhyme, but I don’t worry about that either. And the content of the sonnet is supposed to follow certain conventions, but I let my story decide how to use the form rather letting the form decide for me how to tell my story.

With the morning frost lighting the porthole

In the first rays of sun, I sit down to

Watch steam rise off the coffee in my

White mug. The rim is stained the same brown as

The peanut butter in the sandwich that

Sits next to it on the old card table

Where I eat most of my meals. Pulling my

Right hand out from the worn pocket of my

Foul weather jacket, I warm my fingers

On the cup before taking my first sip

To shake off the lingering grip of dreams.

The day was much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat against the dock and

Rocked me to sleep in fitful remembrance.

The tanka poem is the taller cousin to the haiku. It has 5 lines. The first and the third lines are 5 syllables long, and the second, fourth, and fifth lines are 7 syllables long.  Tanka are typically about nature, and somewhere around the third line, the poem is supposed to take a turn. But at least no one expects it to rhyme, so I don’t have to break that rule. Often you see tanka as single stanza poems, but there is no rule against linking them together in a string.

The frost lighting the

Porthole in the first rays of

Sun, I watch steam rise

Off the coffee in my white

Mug with its rim stained the same


Brown as the peanut

Butter in the sandwich that

Sits next to it on

The card table where I eat

My meals. I pull my right hand


Out of the pocket

Of my tattered foul weather

Jacket and warm my

Fingers on the cup before

Grabbing the handle to take


A sip. The day was

Much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat

Against the dock and rocked me

To a sleep of remembrance.

For both forms, I had to make several changes to get the words to fit the meter of the lines. After condensing the text down quite a bit for the sonnet, I found that I only had 13 lines so I had to come up with another 10 syllable line which really seems to reinforce the narrative. But the tanka reads stronger because of the rhythm imposed by the layout of the line breaks.

While both the sonnet and the string of tanka have their benefits and drawbacks, I think I like the sonnet is better because of the extra line about shaking off the grip of dreams. So I will leave you with the sonnet as the final version of this installment of this poem.


With the morning frost lighting the porthole

In the first rays of sun, I sit down to

Watch steam rise off the coffee in my

White mug. The rim is stained the same brown as

The peanut butter in the sandwich that

Sits next to it on the old card table

Where I eat most of my meals. Pulling my

Right hand out from the worn pocket of my

Foul weather jacket, I warm my fingers

On the cup before taking my first sip

To shake off the lingering grip of dreams.

The day was much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat against the dock and

Rocked me to sleep in fitful remembrance.


What do you think?


Which do you think is the stronger poem the sonnet or the tanka?


Do you like this type of post where I explain the decisions I make while writing a poem? Should I write more posts like this one?


Also, please visit my contact page and send me ideas for future posts.


October Poem 56: All Those Nice Things

Often comes a fun

Day when bikini straps and

The smell of sunblock

Course this writing. The day when

Fluffy kittens bring purring,


Smiles, and bouncy

Hearted pawing with only

The slightest hint of

Claw. The day before the bad

Burn that brings fainting spells and


A bloody nose slammed

Against the corner of the

Wall. The day before

The hint of claw becomes bared

Teeth and claw sunken in skin


And meowling and

Rakes of the back paws with claws

Out for what he can

Reach during manic bouts when

He runs up and down the house


In the dark knocking

Over candles and flower

Pots and clawing at

The cabinet doors just to hear

Them swing open and slam shut.