Friday, April 29, 2022

Poem In Your Pocket Day: "Questions" by Rachel Richardson

Today is Poem In Your Pocket Day, almost the last day of the month...this is a day when people take a poem with them through their day to share with the world.

I've chosen this poem, "Questions" by Rachel Richardson, which examines the disorienting, disbelieving space one can occupy after losing a loved one. Many years ago, I experienced a string of losses of family and friends, and the incongruity of the continuing presence of all the silly, inconsequential daily-life things next to the empty space a loved one leaves is difficult and leaves one searching. This marvelous poem captures both the outward casual sense of the passing world as well as that yearning, pining, internal state.

The poet has this to say about her creation:
“I’ve been fascinated lately with algorithms and the things we expect computers to do for us. This poem came out of an internet search of the thousand most popular questions people googled in 2017 (and the astounding profit they generated for Google). Even though many of the questions seem vapid, I can’t help thinking that what we want to know, ultimately, is how to live. This poem is for my dear friend, the writer Nina Riggs, who died in February 2017 and who taught me the best answers I know to that question.”

by Rachel Richardson

If there’s one true thing, it’s that
Google will make money off us no matter what.
If we want to know
what percentage of America is white
(as it seems we do)
what percentage of the population is gay
(as it seems we do)
what percentage of the earth is water:
the engine is ready for our desire.
The urgent snow is everywhere
is a line by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and
many have asked, apparently,
where am I right now. Also
when will I die. Do you love me
may be up there, generating
high cost-per-click, but not
as high as how to make pancakes,
what time is it in California.
So many things I wanted to ask you,
now that you’re gone, and your texts
bounce back to me
undeliverable. Praise to
the goddess of the internet search, who returns
with her basket of grain,
67,000 helpful suggestions
to everything we request:
how to solve a Rubik’s Cube,
what to do when you’re bored,
how old is the earth,
how to clear cache,
what animal am I,
why do we dream,
where are you now, come back.


In honor of National Poetry Month, I have shared work by myself each Friday. I leave you with a new poem, "Competition." It was David Sarnoff who said "Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people."


I don’t want to go back to
all the times I was blind,
to disappear like a ghost,
to be exhausted but
pretty on the inside,
to taste the world
in a sweet poison.
What if one day
it plays on repeat,
over and over,
what if the answer is now
and they never heard the question,
the one about what time it is,
always the same time,
because they never heard the question.
I imagine walking away from it all.
Will I miss it tomorrow?
Next year?
Ten years?
I’m not interested in
competing with anyone.
I never was.

©JEF 2022

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

"King County Metro" by Geffrey Davis

This year for National Poetry Month, I have shared lovely, moving, and powerful works by extremely talented poets. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed sharing them. Let's close out our poetry celebration with a very touching poem by Geffrey Davis called "King County Metro." This type of writing where one moves back in time to see what was, before the break down, is very dear to me and how my own mind and emotions work.

King County Metro
by Geffrey Davis

In Seattle, in 1982, my mother beholds this man
boarding the bus, the one she’s already

turning into my father. His style (if you can
call it that): disarming disregard—a loud

Hawaiian-print shirt and knee-high tube socks
that reach up the deep tone of his legs,

toward the dizzying orange of running shorts.
Outside, the gray city blocks lurch

past wet windows, as he starts his shy sway
down the aisle. Months will pass

before he shatters his ankle during a Navy drill,
the service discharging him back into the everyday

teeth of the world. Two of four kids will arrive
before he meets the friend who teaches him

the art of roofing and, soon after, the crack pipe—
the attention it takes to manage either

without destroying the hands. The air brakes gasp
as he approaches my mother’s row,

each failed rehab and jail sentence still
decades off in the distance. So much waits

in the fabulous folds of tomorrow.
And my mother, who will take twenty years

to burn out her love for him, hesitates a moment
before making room beside her—the striking

brown face, poised above her head, smiling.
My mother will blame all that happens,

both good and bad, on this smile, which glows now,
ready to consume half of everything it gives.

Photo by Hamilton Matthew Masters

Books by Geffrey Davis can be purchased at his website:

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Poetry of Rock and Roll: "Higher Hell" by Echo and the Bunnymen

To observe National Poetry Month, I have posted song lyrics that also double as poetry.

Alternative band Echo and the Bunnymen released their sophomore album "Porcupine" in 1983 and this track closed the icy, intense collection of songs. Songwriter and lead singer Ian McCulloch said of the album's songs, "I think Porcupine was a classic autobiographical album, the most honest thing that I'd ever written or sung...I found the material from it really heavy to play--like, really oppressive. That's the only reason why I didn't like the album. The songs were great but it didn't make me happy...A lot of songs are about coming to terms with the opposites in me."

Higher Hell
by Echo and The Bunnymen

Smack in the middle of today
Got to learn new words
Merely got to simply say
I think we all misheard

Cracked in the middle of me
Have to find my heart
Smiling equates with happy
But I know they're miles apart

Just like my lower heaven
You know so well my higher hell

When confronted by
Continuing the course
Will you open up
Or do I have to force
The words right out
Of your stubborn mouth?
Stunted of course,
Guilty in their growth

Just like my lower heaven
You know so well my higher hell

Crashed through the floor today
I couldn't find my legs
Suppose you live and learn
Learn it again and again

Smack in the middle of today
Got to find new words
Merely got to simply say
I think we all misheard

Just like my lower heaven
You know so well my higher hell

(when confronted by continuing the course)
(will you open up or do I have to force)
(the words right out)
(of your stubborn mouth)
(stunted of course)
(guilty in their growth)

Friday, April 22, 2022

"A Tour Of Broken Stars"

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am sharing work by myself each Friday. This poem expresses my fascination with physics and entropy, and the difficulty in trying to hold such enormous, mindboggling information in our heads.

A Tour Of Broken Stars

Cooking over open fires
    embers flying, orange dots
    joining stars
Against the wall at night
    in shadow, you’re an animal
    like the others
    joining stars
All the antecedents, all the
    time to come and all the
    expansion, burning and
    joining stars

©JEF 2022

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

"Bone & Silence" by Gerald Fleming

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am sharing exquisite poems by talented poets each Wednesday. This startling poem by Gerald Fleming speaks succinctly yet profoundly of impermanence, permanence, death, and the unfathomable shape of what those things truly are.

Bone & Silence
by Gerald Fleming

    A long time passes—long even in the understanding of stone—and at last Bone feels entitled to speak to Silence. There are prerequisites: proper depth, aridity, desiccation, ph balance, density, and a kind of confidence. No loam: say salt, say dust, say southwest Utah. And when the conversation occurs it is understood on Bone's part what to expect from Silence, so one could say that expectations were low, but such is a pattern of our thinking, and in this case the entire dry dialectic is different, and in fact expectations were high. There is a moon shining, unknown to Bone, intimate with Silence. There are mammals overhead, the noise of whose small feet are perceived or unperceived.

    And after all this discursive talk, what at last does Bone say to Silence? What would you have Bone say to Silence? We could try Is there anywhere we can go for a beer? and that might get a little laugh, might qualify as ineffably human, almost religious. But we know better about Bone & Silence—need only look inside us, have the bravery to cease this chatter, this scrape of pencil on paper, to leave the rest of the book blank, get out of the way, let the conversation begin.

Gerald Fleming's books can be purchased through Sixteen Rivers Press.

Happy Birthday Taurus!

Monday, April 18, 2022

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "Slow Down" by Art Feynman

To observe National Poetry Month, I am sharing song lyrics that also double as poetry.

And California-based artist and musician Art Feynman (the nom de musique of one Luke Temple) has written a pretty profound sentiment into his song "Slow Down."

Slow Down
by Art Feynman

Slow down, don't crush yourself to make a diamond, yeah

Every day it's just the same sound hum'n
The old galactic common freeze
I bet you bet when your eyes were in the darkness
Before you had someone to be

Slow down, don't crush yourself to make a diamond, yeah

Everybody going (with it baby)
(Faster faster faster faster)
The universe (the universe)
(Faster faster faster faster)
Slow down, don't crush yourself to make a diamond, yeah

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Happy Easter 2022!

Easter developed from the Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre, derived from the Anglo-Saxon Pagan month of Eostur-monath (which roughly corresponds to our month of April). This month was named after the goddess Ēostre or Ostara who symbolized the dawn, spring, renewal, and rebirth of the earth after the long winter.

Now we celebrate by decorating eggs, a symbol of birth and fertility and new growth, and with chocolate rabbits, since bunnies are also a symbol of spring.

When I was little, I always loved Easter time because my grandmother displayed vases of daffodils and lilies, and panoramic sugar eggs around the house. And my aunt hollowed out eggs, cut a window in the side of the shell, and painstakingly assembled pastoral scenes inside using miniature trees and flowers, and tiny ceramic rabbits to make literal panoramic eggs. But the best part was the Easter Bunny who came to deliver beautifully dyed and decorated eggs in a basket full of chocolate and treats; my mom and dad would guide me through the house with clues as to where the Easter Bunny hid my basket (thanks Mom and Dad--I miss you)!

I hope the Easter Bunny brought you some treats! Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Eggs For Easter by Caroline Södergren

Swedish artist Caroline Södergren creates stunning eggs using a batik process that involves dyes and layers of layers of wax! Amazing.

Friday, April 15, 2022

"The Storm"

In honor of National Poetry Month, I will be posting work by myself each Friday. This is an older poem but it seems to reflect the current state of things...

The Storm

After the storm, along the
Water’s edge, the pieces
Lay, windows, walls, trees,
An occasional auto,
The elephant layered between buildings,
The zebra peeking out from splinters of wood,
A hand in the dirt, all the things
From our lives
All the precious things gone
All the things we can't have back
All the things that seemed so sure, solid
Evidence of our helplessness
Fathomless results

©JEF 2014

Bunnies To The Rescue 2022

I always say: if you want to see a grown man turn into a five-year old boy, just show me bunnies.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

BEAUTY: Egg Art For Easter--Elisa Sheehan

I previously celebrated the lovely eggshell art of Elisa Sheehan here, and she has been hard at work creating more beautiful little boxes and larger-scaled pieces featuring her designs. She makes gorgeous art from eggshells based on the Japanese art of kintsugi (previously here) where a piece of broken pottery is fixed using gold. This highlights the crack and the repair, giving the object a sense of history, of use, and of extra value. Sheehan does the same with eggshells which of course must be broken to be used. In her statement about her kintsugi eggs, she says, "I’ve always loved the Japanese art of 'kintsugi' wherein broken pottery is repaired with gold and rather than trying to disguise the break or flaw, it is highlighted and therefore elevated to a status of beauty. Its age is celebrated, its history is seen, its flaws are revered. I think it’s a good way to think about ourselves, others and our relationships as we age - not to try to look like our former, younger selves but to embrace our 'breaks and flaws' and to honor them and see the beauty in them."

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

"Song" and "Ave Maria" by Frank O'Hara

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am posting exquisite poems by talented poets each Wednesday. Here are two dynamic, vital poems by Frank O'Hara.
by Frank O'Hara

I am stuck in traffic in a taxicab
which is typical
and not just of modern life

mud clambers up the trellis of my nerves
must lovers of Eros end up with Venus
muss es sein? es muss nicht sein, I tell you

how I hate disease, it’s like worrying
that comes true
and it simply must not be able to happen

in a world where you are possible
my love
nothing can go wrong for us, tell me

Ave Maria
by Frank O'Hara

Mothers of America
                let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to
it's true that fresh air is good for the body
                but what about the soul
that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images
and when you grow old as grow old you must
                they won't hate you
they won't criticize you they won't know
                they'll be in some glamorous country
they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey

they may even be grateful to you
                for their first sexual experience
which only cost you a quarter
                and didn't upset the peaceful home
they will know where candy bars come from
                and gratuitous bags of popcorn
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it's over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg
near the Williamsburg Bridge
                oh mothers you will have made the little tykes
so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies
they won't know the difference
                and if somebody does it'll be sheer gravy
and they'll have been truly entertained either way
instead of hanging around the yard
                or up in their room
                                                hating you
prematurely since you won't have done anything horribly mean yet
except keeping them from the darker joys
                it's unforgivable the latter
so don't blame me if you won't take this advice
                and the family breaks up
and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set
movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young

Monday, April 11, 2022

Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "Dawn Chorus" by Thom Yorke

To observe National Poetry Month, once a week I am featuring lyrics of rock n' roll (or post-rock n' roll) or pop songs that also double as exquisite poetry. For the first song lyric post last week (here), we looked at beautiful, profound lyrics from a Radiohead song called "Daydreaming" where I said no one can kill me (emotionally speaking of course) like Thom Yorke and Radiohead can. Their music and lyrics often speak to a deep part of myself and how I see the universe.

So this song from Thom Yorke's 2019 solo release called "Anima" really hits home for me. Like "Daydreaming," this song "Dawn Chorus" is also infused with a sense of sadness, wistfulness, regret, and a cosmic weariness. But it goes further, to "that" place for me...

The title refers to the start of the day when birds wake and begin to sing. But it also brings to mind that classic tune--the third section of the William Tell Overture by Rossini called "Ranz de Vaches" which is a type of Swiss melody, traditionally played on the Alpenhorn in order to summon cattle--used during cartoon and film sunrises...played so often as the soundtrack to a sunrise that it has become a cliché. The ridiculous, Polyanna sense now associated with this tune speaks to a vapid perspective, akin to toxic positivity. It is this idealized and unreal sense of looking at the world that Yorke pushes against in the lyrics. Basically, when you tire of pretending the world is a beautiful bouquet of sunshine, then you can perceive reality. You will be able to see what is important in this world. You will be able to live authentically, without regrets.

Dawn Chorus
by Thom Yorke

Back up the cul-de-sac
Come on, do your worst
You quit your job again
And your train of thought

If you could do it all again
A little fairy dust
A thousand tiny birds singing
If you must, you must

Please let me know
When you've had enough
Of the white light
Of the dawn chorus

If you could do it all again
You don't know how much
Pronto pronto, moshi mosh
Come on, chop chop

If you could do it all again
Yeah, without a second thought
I don't like leaving
The door shut

I think I missed something
But I'm not sure what
In the middle of the vortex
The wind picked up

Shook up the soot
From the chimney pot
Into spiral patterns
Of you, my love

You take a little piece
Then you break it off
It's a bloody racket
It's the dawn chorus

If you could do it all again
Big deal, so what?
Please let me know
When you've had enough

It's the last chance
O.K. Corral
If you could do it all again
This time with style

Thom Yorke, October 2020 by Luca Carlino/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Friday, April 8, 2022

"My Mom As A Young Waitress"

In honor of National Poetry Month, I will be posting work by myself each Friday. My mom died in 2002...and her own stories of her life have mingled with my own memories of her when I was young, along with my dreams and sorrow at her death. This is an encounter that happened...somehow, somewhere.

My Mom As A Young Waitress

You don’t know how pretty you are.
Harried, hurried, scared,
brushing aside a lock of strawberry
blond hair with the back of your hand
on the way to the kitchen,
your first day at a new job,
at Your Host Restaurant in Rochester,
trying to be fun, bubbly, outgoing,
worried about doing a good job.
I sit in this red padded booth,
years before I will be born,
and see a young girl, innocent,
coming toward me, stopping at my table,
smiling, pad and pencil ready, asking,
“Can I take your order?”
I look up into your
sparkling soft blue eyes,
and smile back.
I want to say,
“You’re so lovely.
And you’re sweet.
You’re perfect,
just how you are.
You should like yourself more.
Everything’s gonna be okay.
You’re gonna have what you
always wanted. And it will be
a boy.”
I want to say,
“Hi Mom, I miss you so much!”
In my silence, you ask,
“Sir? What can I get you?”
“Uh… a bowl of tomato soup
and a tuna salad sandwich, please.”
I eat, watching you wait on the
other customers. When I am done
and paid, you happen to pass me
as I approach the door.
You smile and wave:
“See you again, soon!”
I say, “Yes…
Yes. You look for me, okay?”

©JEF 2006

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

"The Birthday Interviews" by Derrick Austin

In honor of National Poetry Month, I will be sharing exquisite poems by talented poets each Wednesday. Let's kick off the month with a special, evocative poem by Derrick Austin who had this to say about the creation of this engaging work:
"It’s only in the past few years that I’ve been comfortable writing explicitly about my personal life. It’s still very much new territory. But recently, I was tasked with writing a poem about the day of my birth, and that is how ‘The Birthday Interviews’ was born so to speak."

The Birthday Interviews
by Derrick Austin

Mom said, I want to name him Patrick. Dad said,
He looks like a frog. The moon said, waning
crescent. The thermostat said, It’s South Florida.

Cumulonimbus clouds were not in attendance.
Mosquitos said, sugar of life. The night said, Welcome
young blood. Magazines in the waiting room said,

Jackie O and Charles & Di and Axl Rose and Cher
and Madonna and Oprah, skinny in a sparkling purple
gown, is the richest woman on TV. Ebony said,

25 Years After The Civil Rights Act of 1964
What Has and Hasn’t Changed? “Batdance” played on
the radio. The TV said, War on Drugs. The TV

said, Drought. The TV sang, Thank you for being a friend,
travel down the road and back again. Dade County said,
snakes and amphibians mangled by lawn mowers.

The United States said, The life expectancy of black men
is 64.8 years. 1989 said the following for the first time:
latte, caffeinate, cyber porn, viral marketing, Generation X.

Karen was the last thing the Atlantic Ocean said
that hurricane season. Voyager 2 said of Neptune,
What is this ring? What is this Great Dark Spot?

Saturn in Capricorn squaring Venus in Libra said,
Hello small bachelor, here’s your near fetishistic desire
for classical beauty; said it’ll take your Saturn Return,

a whole revolution, to begin loving yourself. Jesus
didn’t say anything but a senator said He did.
On a break, the attendant nurse bought a Dr. Pepper

from the vending machine. Then she went outside
with her menthols and Walkman to listen to self-help tapes.
The cassette skipped and skipped and skipped.

Photo by Danny Montemayor

Monday, April 4, 2022

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "Daydreaming" by Radiohead

I always say no one can kill me with a simple song like Thom Yorke and Radiohead can. For this National Poetry Month 2022, I will be posting song lyrics that double as exquisite poetry and this one, "Daydreaming" by Radiohead is pretty exquisite.

Enigmatic, gentle, broken, sad...the words capture a much larger sentiment that speaks to a sense of cosmic weariness, and a bit of the sense the Japanese refer to as mono no aware (here). I won't embed the video here, so you can concentrate on the lyrics but if you'd like to experience the other dimension of the song--the tender, profound music and Thom Yorke's quivering, emotional delivery--click here.

by Radiohead

They never learn
They never learn
Beyond the point
Of no return
Of no return

And it's too late
The damage is done
The damage is done

This goes
Beyond me
Beyond you
The white room
By window
Where the sun goes

We are
Just happy to serve
Just happy to serve

Friday, April 1, 2022

Happy National Poetry Month 2022!

April is National Poetry Month, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets since 1996. And this year marks the celebration's 26th anniversary! Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

"Without poetry, we lose our way."
—Joy Harjo, U.S. Poet Laureate & Academy of American Poets Chancellor

How to celebrate?

Read your favorite poet again.
Read some new poetry.
Find a new favorite poet.
Write some poetry.
Leave poems for people to find in public places.
Read poetry out loud to family and friends.
Dream a poem.

Throughout April, I'll be posting poems, some by me, some by others, as well as a series of lyrics to popular songs that double as exquisite poetry.

And this year, Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 29th! Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

Poem in Your Pocket Day was originally initiated in 2002 by the Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education, as part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative to all fifty United States, encouraging individuals around the country to join in and channel their inner bard. In 2016, the League of Canadian Poets extended Poem in Your Pocket Day to Canada.

Happy National Poetry Month!

To kick off the month, here is a lovely collection of haikus composed by poet Harryette Mullen during the 2020 COVID pandemic.

Conversation in Isolation
by Harryette Mullen

Neighbors nail the planks
dividing their yard from mine.
Our durable fence.

I walk half a block
before realizing I’ve
forgotten my mask.

One ant following
another, trusting we all
are going somewhere.

Stretched between two poles,
clothesline outside my window,
a robin’s rest stop.

Lemons fallen on
the sidewalk to be rescued
for my potpourri.

No one and nothing
touches me but this blue wind
with cool caresses.