Here are some samples of my poetry. Much of it was written during the time I was on sabbatical in Virginia and refers to events and people there. Some is more recent. I am not yet certain about the presentation of poetry on the web, but hope this experiment will at least be enjoyable for a few folks.

After the sunset

I waited after sunset
to watch the encroaching dark
consume the red flowering of the day

It came on time
beginning in the east (that horizon of hope)
then stretching its dark hand overhead,
pierced by stars

And as it was pierced
the red flowed away
to royal blue, then black.

I thought the pierced hand would bleed again for me
but I did not wait to see

Inscription on a Card

If you should lose this card,
snatched by the wind as you tighten your coat

Turn to watch it skitter away, but don't give chase

It is a passing image of the gift we have both received

It is the finger pointing at the moon

John Lee Hooker

I apprenticed in the blues then, borrowed it from experts.
Savored the small loneliness of hitching in the rain,

or hiking on the road while the trucks roared by, wailing,
or sleeping on the tile in all-night public bathrooms.

This light loneliness taught me Hooker's love of travel
He was always leaving, tossed out in the night, stealing away.

My heart's not ground so fine as Hooker's
lines don't rhyme and slide in rhythm.
and the savory smoky loneliness I once borrowed

is a wound too deep to feel.

When I try to grasp this absence
As I sit or sleep or shave
My thoughts slip away and mumble and limp, filled in by commercials
What fool would make a beer that looks like tap water?

So now I'll get the records
And have Hooker hold my sorrow
His rhythm and his words
His growling and his grumbling and his grief
will hold my sadness captive for a long, licking inspection.

Thoughts on Finding the Servant's Entrance to Monticello

On the little mountain, buried into the hill,
the subterranean entrance of the scientific palace
suprised me with its clean, inviting darkness.
A furlong it ran, connecting outbuildings

stable, kitchen, smokehouse, storage for the hot, odorous, and servile

to the open and expansive precision of Monticello.

The flat slate floor of the tunnel
did not bow with the weight from thousands of trips taken
to serve the meals and carry the water

But the squared whitewashed wall-stones slouched,
holding years of foggy water and Virginia clay back
from flooding the tiles.

They were cool to touch, these stones.
The sort I have leaned against for refreshment
on sticky southern mornings after a long night's work.

The finger prints of others lingered there. One leaned just so
--head down, sick at heart and soul-tired from work,
a moment's pause before sleeping
Another paused on the way in to light the fires of the morning and to pull the shades.
She had slept well, and lingered only to savor the coming work.

The guide calls the outbuildings "dependencies."

Does the house depend on them, or they on it?

And did Jefferson depend on the slim dark girl who lived near the
smokehouse and walked the cool morning corridor to light the fires,

or did she depend on him?

Miller Time

When you spread a line of mortar on a course of bricks, turning your wrist as the wet sand slides off the trowel leaving a sheen

You can place it just where it ought to be - mounded up in the middle, like a mole run, with enough to reach the edges when you lay the brick down.

After spreading out the line, you can walk back down the scaffold, in time with the bouncing of the dusty and mortar-soaked boards.

From there, you place the bricks down, not quite one at a time - remember to reach in your mind for the next as you scrape off the excess.

If you are good, there is only enough excess to butter the end of the one just laid as the next one nestles in.

Float it down smoothly, not back and forth, just tucking it in place.

And mind the taut yellow line - lift your thumb up and press with your palm 'till the brick settles in.

Remember to sweat with the heat that makes your trowel handle swell from the warm salt that glides down your arm.

Don't forget to stoop from the pain in your lower back from that pallet full of brick you lifted back level before it tumbled

And be sure to feel the sweat in your eyes, and running down the back of your pants

And the searing heat that you cruise through, bearing its weight, shifting slightly so it slides past till Miller time.

It works like walking, since the next brick, the next scoop of mortar, is on the way as the last one lingers.

It is simply a matter of doing the next thing.

The Feast

There must have been extra wheat flour that day
for young and old, with and without teeth,
the virtuous and the ugly
we all walked away from the altar pursing our lips
pulling with our blunt tongues at the germ that remained stuck between tooth and gum

Long, slow and swaying lines of penitents
walking with bovine grace to our seats, nose to tail.

We have eaten God
and as we stroll to our seats and smile and wave at friends
we clean Him from our teeth.

St. Olaf College
Psychology Department
My Main
Research Projects