An incompetent misunderstanding of time

I’m better off writing this poem tomorrow
during the solstice when days are balanced
like the teenage June I spent driving
through the same swarm of gnats
that congregate over dirt roads to nowhere,
past the same herd of deer,
so tranquil and ever present I assumed they were dead,
stuffed and set out for eternity to frustrate
hunters and lions with no land rights,

but I knew they were alive
because I was.
And what was the harm of wasting time driving?
I had it trapped and sitting in the bed of my truck,
time, waiting to be set free and spill about
the dust covered coulee like cleansing frost
or pungent sagebrush,

like liquor on ice in a humid sunset,
the kind of sunset that people lock in cages
with cameras and paint,
the beautiful kind made from summer death
and asphyxiating heat that was always there, lurking behind
abandoned houses and under old tires, even in the winter
when heat is supposed to be playing cards with
its grandmother in Santa Fe.

I hope that I find it,
the right hour, the right second
to begin, for without it I am

But for now, I will just write a single phrase—
“loneliness without time to understand.”
to leave in a drawer to remind a future self of this
task I’ve promised a now older self to complete,
and I will stay rooted in discerning paralysis.
It is comfortable here—
death or inspiration will come
soon enough.


The road through the mountains

It’s impolite to begin a poem
with an expletive

you lost,” was all he said, at first.

Not that he said much more later,
but it is what he opened with.

The “fuck” was not in anger or distress,
it was maybe a conjunctive adverb,
the Montana “consequently.”

It was spoken as rare punctuation, a verbal quotation mark
indicating “so says I” and seemed as much a part of the man’s speech
as the droop of his left eyebrow or hole in his neck

I tried desperately not stare at.

you lost,”
teemed between question, decorative, and imperative.
I’m in my car doubting.


(me this time)
Let me try this again.

Who wouldn’t stop for a
figure who stood in the middle of the road.

He had been there as I approached,
just an idea at first that grew into a man,
a sentinel, it seemed, to the road through the mountains.

I looked past him towards the road through the mountains.
Fingers drummed the steering wheel,
thought of spitting but thought better of it.
“Does this road go through the mountains,” I asked.

So says I
“Gotta go around.”

I nodded as if I understood the situation,
noticing the stillness of the foothill grass,
the dog unmoving in the bed of the truck,

the rigid back of the head of a woman, with dark
wispy hair in the cab.
Through glass of the back window and rear-view
I could see she had no face, only eyes but her eyes looked
so tired they may not have been eyes at all
but sockets too long filled with tears or darkness,

the strangeness of life.

The dust of my approach reached him,
rural courtesy pulled along my wake.

I thanked him.
I went around.


Last time,
I promise.

The problem with poetry
is that my words set to capture
the innumerable birds of the wilderness
with the tenderness of
an axe slicing orchids,
but cannot explain
the hole
in the neck.


Wind chimes

A wind chime plays for me nightly.
Only for me
and my dog
who rummages about the yard silently,
sniffing and biting at the snow.

It’s my neighbors chime,
but it’s solely mine after dark.
I don’t know them,
inside their house which is close enough
to spit upon, but their chime
hangs above their back porch and
talks mindlessly to me about it’s day as I stand
taking in it’s quiet banter.

It is a dark winter breeze that whisks it to life, softly, tunelessly
like a child discovering keys upon a piano for the first time in the next room.

The motorcycles and adolescent’s whining cars are not mine.
But the chime is,
and the night is.

And my dog, I suppose,
she’s mine too.


Thoughts During Summer Heat

“How do ticks,” I think, “know how to find me?”
As I watch three amber drops of blood cross
the moonscape of grass and gravel towards my backpack,
the scent of me, or aura, attracting their cause.

I can’t imagine pulling that much barbed wire
that divides the wilderness into sirloins and porterhouse
like a butchers dismantling of beef, but the haul and plant
of a million fence posts seems well within the realm of possible,
I think.

How long will this hot stillness last before the wind billows back,
buffeting my mind from the distant cloud
that reminds me of her?


Pride in teaching and in students

I have always been proud of teachers. Since my beginnings in the career, and reflecting back on my time as a student, I hold teachers as professionals in their craft akin to lawyers or doctors or CEOs. I and my fellow teachers have one of the most important jobs to do in order to keep a community aware and functioning and to help grow individuals in ways they find relevant to their upcoming adult lives. It is an amazing task that I am proud to be a part of every day. 

For five years, I have been focused on becoming the most professional, most effective teacher I could be. I arrive at school early, work through lunch, and stay late refining lessons, grading with meaningful feedback, and generally working to make my class periods and assignments as coherent as can be. I take great pride in my work ethic to better myself as a professional.

Yet, it has taken me the better of five years to extend that pride into what my students do every day. As a teacher in high school, there will always be distractions to this emotion. Teenagers will always be deficient in ways that may frustrate teachers: they are distracted, they are ignorant, they deal with issues that pull their thoughts away from the tasks I expect them to complete and comprehend on a daily basis. But, this is a teacher’s duty–to reach out and teach these students despite of and in the face of these complications.

Listen in on any teacher meeting and, in my experience, and these issues will be on the tongues of those present. Teachers, myself included, get hung up on what students can’t or won’t do, instead of first stating what they can do, what they are doing, and what we as teachers should be commending them for. 

For example, as I was spending my lunch hour picking up the pieces of the morning lessons and adjusting plans for the next day, the editors of the school newspaper for which I am an adviser came in during their lunch hour to plan. This was a group of students willingly giving up their sacred lunch time to attend to something they took pride in. They worked, laughed, and analyzed as they sifted through the articles written so far for our latest edition. Notecards were written and moved about the planning bulletin board as they discussed what articles should be featured on the front paged and made notes to what articles have yet to be written in order to report back to the class. It was truly an amazing event in a school setting. 

But at the time, I just sat behind my desk, oblivious to what was happening in my room. I graded. I brooded. I thought about tomorrow in the context of today’s mishaps. I trusted them to do a good job and paid them no mind.

The editors finished their work, happy with what they had accomplished and it wasn’t until I got home, thought through two or three more pedagogical conundrums that had irked me throughout my day, made dinner, and put my infant daughter to bed that I reflected on this event: students who wanted to take ownership of a task were taking pride in their work. And this realization filled ME with pride, and a bit of humility that I couldn’t stop to recognize the greatness that was happening right in my own classroom just hours before. 

Paramount to all the work teachers put in to make themselves an effective instructor and instrument of learning, teachers have to open their eyes to the positives students exhibit daily. We must take pride in the successes of our students and let them know that we value them and their work. It could be something as relevant and large as planning the school newspaper or as small as reading quietly for ten minutes. This type of feedback, immediate feedback, is just as important in my mind as knowing what questions students got wrong on a quiz or where a comma really goes in a sentence. 

Pride is not a passive emotion. It’s closer to joy than happiness, but it’s a joy that is best when shared explicitly. People value being valued. I take pride in my students noticing I am a hard-working teacher. All students should know that I take pride in the things they do, however small those things may seem in the sea of hormones, distraction, and memes that is high school. 


A Hunting Story

That one summer Saturday late-morning
breakfast over and you hop
into your father’s truck,

not the company one
but the shit one,
the one before company money,
the one that smelled like
high school beer,
self-changed oil,
cigarettes of a time your father wasn’t your father.

The hot breeze blows in from cracked windows
and cracked floorboards
and the steady hum
reminds you of your cat
but not the shit one
that hisses when you go near the food bowl
but the one that loves you
and sleeps on your feet,
lets you pet it too hard.

That warm hum that seemed to permeate comfort and heat
when your father took you hunting
for the first time in the very truck,
the shit one
that my father drove
when he wasn’t my father.

In Montana, the most tender thing you can do
is put a gun in the hands of someone you love.

You left at unknown hours.

You left for unknown weather.

You left for unknown coulees –
the things of childhood memories:
Digging out that old, shit truck from a snow drift.

My father laughed,
dressed gruesomely in orange and red,
sipped on a beer,
checked his fingers for blood,
checked my fingers for cold,

stuffing cut spruce into the wheels rotating on
snow turned ice underneath

that truck, which now rots in some yard far from my father’s house,
bones of a frame, eviscerated, used, appreciated,
cherished but now gone,

a sacrifice
for me and my brother.


Conversation of a River

Conversation of a River


“Late Fragment,” by Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

He says:
“When I die, I’ll still be reading this poem to you
in this remembered moment,
when my hands shake
and my ears grow hair, stiff as summer wheat.

So take this book, and let’s go down to the river.”

The air is innocuous as a song
falling on concentrated ears.

Her reply:
“I will go down to the river
to rest my feet on the steady current
to rest my frame in the shade of cottonwood.”

And she does love these summer nights,
more than others:
cool breezes
windows open
fans shooshing the breeze into other rooms,
other places
down to branches that dance on the bank.

He says:
“I’ll take you there.
Our time is in the river.”

And he walks her to the river
in his arms,
down steep banks and forgiving grasses,
beside boulders set by force and happenstance.

She says
nothing, but smiles.
He stands in the river, her in his arms,
and she smiles in the river

He says of the river:
“It reminds me of a revisiting of things permanent:
A campfire under a pastel prairie turning to wine,
the susurration of the river,” the one in which they both stand, holding hands.
“Of a love, not changed by the steel edge
of a river’s time
not chained to the ebb and flow of the moon,
but only grown, rooted, and flourished
next to the river.”

A peace now,
even in the constant and distant clamor
of crickets,
that has always been there
and always will be.

He says:
“How similar it all is,”
As if he could see what proceeds,
like the slices of an orange,
the river’s swell and balance of direction.

And she knows, setting her book on the bank,
there will always be rivers,
but this river is hers,
this river is his.

And they stand
in the tender musk of wet soil
in the beckoning light of dusk, or dawn,
in the river.


Mid Summer Fragment


The dog whimpers
and you slowly kick your legs
down to the concrete floor
like an old hinge.

The irregular, but constant flash and pop of idiocy
rages outside as you pull on the haunches of your dog
from underneath your bed.

If only your dog liked scotch
as much as you do.


American Auto

In the future
cars not only drive themselves
but start conversations with each other
in primitive Morse code:

Honk – high beams – left turn – honk
means, “stop driving like a douche-bag”
I think.

Their horns squawk with mechanical pubescence
testing limits of horsepower, torque, love.

The cars get mean,
shed mufflers on speed bumps,
stay out too late,
drink leaded.
Form cliques. BMW and Mercedes,
Tesla and Audi to harass the dwindling
human drivers in endangered species
(Nissan Stanzas, Ford Taurus’s),
the laughing stock,
the underprivileged.

Drive them off the road.
Take their gas money.
Damage their pride through
Morse code insults completely
lost in translation.

Trunk – wipers – honk – honk
“That chassis looks like American manufacturing.”
Real scorchers.

While passengers drink champagne
or take naps with the kids.
Dad reaches over to adjust the AC
on their way to the baseball game
in Detroit or Oakland.


On the wind catching your fly line causing you to curse loudly and miss a trout the size of your hamstring


My father never taught me,
he was too busy being a good father
or a good engineer.

I flail, land, and intertwine transparent line,
but the fish know my ruse.
They laugh.



I’m casting by moonlight
fluidly but something is different:
a change in the stars, perhaps,
or a new nightingale coo.

And the river is turned, sucked
into the mountains
instead of the sea.
The moon, not knowing what she does,
turns her bright face closer
To smell the night air fresh with closeness before unknown.
Who wouldn’t?
Who wouldn’t take pause to notice
the peat, the pine, the discrete nothing
and everything of a mountain river?

And the river lifts
and I’m still casting
like an idiot,
just swinging that fucking stick,
like an owner shaking a ball before an excited dog,
into the river now above me.

And the river lifts out of its bed
dropping rain and minnows
onto its barren and rocky bed
on its path towards the peaks,
a cloud
a dense one with malice in its head.

Spring catalysts turn to fountains,
tiny geysers
for deer and huckleberry
displacing water into air.
Fawns prance like children in sprinklers.

The moon is down.
The night alive with change,
a new order, a new geography.

Scientists will calculate and strain:
drinking coffee and sit cinder eyed
at flows and screens.

And I will fish.