Poetry Friday: “A True Story”

In the aftermath of three large hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) the news has been filled with stories of communities recovering, trying to survive after the devastating impact of these incredible storms. Despite a lot of discouraging news, I have been moved by the reports of neighbors helping neighbors, strangers fishing each other out of flooded streets, the transcendental power of human decency. In the poem “A True Story,” Jennifer Maier uses eloquent, well-paced couplets to describe a man being… Read more

The Vocation Trap

My wife is finishing up the first of a multi-year graduate program in nursing. When she graduates, it will be with a doctor of nurse practice. (This will also, coincidentally, mark my retirement. Or so I keep telling her. She has yet to comment.) Anyway, her pursuing this degree has been a conversation we’ve had for close to fifteen years. But finances and children and accessibility to a program and then finances again have always pushed it. Maybe in a… Read more


Last night I sat on the curb with my three youngest children, while my three eldest walked in the homecoming parade. My paraders each represented a different sport in their team jerseys and class colors. They walked in leagues of friends, shoulder to proud shoulder, sharing the inside jokes of those in the social center, tossing out Smarties and Laffy Taffy to townie kids who scrambled and wrestled in unbecoming ways for the toss offs. My son, who is on… Read more

Richard Osler’s Hyaena Season

We’ve all suffered wounds in some way. If not the physical wounds of war or other violence, then the psychic wounds of broken relationships. We struggle against the evil both within ourselves and outside in the world. Richard Osler’s new poetry collection, Hyaena Season, fearlessly probes all these wounds, all this evil. Let’s take the title poem in full, with its epigraph “For the Bushmen it [the hyaena] was the most clearly accredited representative of the power of darkness and… Read more

Bridal Veils and Blessing

In the back of the closet right, where I’d stowed it years before, I found the wedding veil I’d rescued during the final ransacking of my mother’s house before it was put up for sale. The closet was musty and midsummer-hot, and the cloud of folded tulle spilled off the shelf like a meringue off a pie. I breathed in the heat—eyes closed, I might even have been back at my childhood home—and wondered if the veil was going to… Read more

Poetry Friday: “Underwhelmed”

Put on your hiking books and grab your compass, magnifying glass, and shovel: this poem is taking you on an exploratory adventure. What the poem is tracking down is  the manifold concepts in the word “under.” Some of the poem’s “unders” are recognizable: like “under the splay-handed palms,“ “under the coral’s forest of horn,” “under God.” Others the poet has invented: “under the tender humidity,” “under the ticking aloe,” “under stillness.” There’s a playfulness to the many “unders” we meet… Read more

I Am Not Your Negro

Near the beginning of Raoul Peck’s documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, James Baldwin says that in 1957 he couldn’t stop thinking about a photograph he saw at every newspaper kiosk in Paris. It was of the fifteen-year-old black girl Dorothy Counts, who was surrounded by a white crowd filled with revulsion at the sight of her. Dorothy walked to school in Charlotte, North Carolina in the wake of integration in the south. Samuel L. Jackson voices Baldwin’s words: “There… Read more

My Kite Boy

This post originally appeared at Good Letters on June 5, 2012. I woke at one thirty with a start. My heart pounded in my ears. My wife was warm under the covers beside me, in the heavy rhythm of sleep. Through the hiss of the white noise machine I could hear the wet clicks of our schipperke, Sgt. Pepper, under the bed obsessively licking his paw. I was afraid. I did my quick mental inventory. Everything was as it should… Read more

Painting Brings the Ancestors Around

On a November evening last year, I walked to my rosemaling class and sat around a table of women. We represented a wide range of ages and backgrounds, but we were all raised with rosemaling—breadboards and spoons and carved horses and Välkommen plaques all made of basswood. We were all trying to invoke the people we’d lost, the people who’d taught us who we were. Rosemaling, traditional Scandinavian folk-painting, depends heavily on brushstrokes and pattern, but it doesn’t ever feel… Read more

Questions for the One Who Waits

Psalm 27 is read by Jews from the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul through the Jewish High Holidays: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year; and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Read more

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