Poem: Cracks in the plaster

Sometimes a poem is very literal and serves to capture a moment or experience. Sometimes it’s a metaphor. Sometimes it’s a little bit of both.

Photo via Pixabay

Cracks in the plaster

There are cracks in the plaster.
Sometimes I stop, and stare, and
fret over them.
The carpenter says not to worry,
the house has good bones,
it won’t fall.
But I see the cracks,
long and jagged,
like a tiger raked its claws across flesh
and left behind wounds that
leak the house’s life.
It’s normal, contractors say.
Old houses wear and weather and tremble and groan.
They get a few stretch marks,
a few scars.
The structural engineer says there’s no need
for him to come.
It’s just cracks, not an imminent risk of collapse.

Just cracks.

So we patch and conceal and hide them,
pretending they were never there.
Out of sight, out of everyone’s mind
except mine.
When I run my fingers over the fresh paint,
I can still feel them, faintly,
leaving behind a ridge like a scabbed-over scrape.
I wonder at the cause,
the root behind the symptom,
and ask without answer if it
will continue to worsen,
if there’s a hidden disease that will
eat through studs and joists and beams
like cancer through skin and organs and bones
until the ceilings crumble and the
walls buckle like weary knees,
until it’s too late,
the whole structure beyond repair.

All because we dismissed the cracks in the plaster.


Poem: In the Arboretum

Small moments can make big memories. One such small moment flitted past, hummingbird-quick, thirteen years ago. At the time, the exchange lasted seconds. But it has hovered in the peripheral vision of my memory, causing me to glance sidelong at it, time and again.

Photo by Adina Voicu

In the Arboretum

He plunges his nose into a lilac cluster and
drinking the scent into his lungs 
the way a marathoner gulps water
a dozen miles into the race, 
as if the dainty petals’ perfume
is the sustenance of life.

He catches my gaze and quirks a brow.
“Yeah, I stop to smell flowers. 
So what?” he says,
words a soft-tipped arrow
fired from a smile’s bow.
He doesn’t realize
he owes no explanation to me,

Because while he admires the flower,
I admire his attention to the bloom.

Poem: Murmuration

Two volumes on my summer reading list included Good Poems, American Places compiled by Garrison Keillor, and Amanda Lovelace’s collection The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One. Both books have inspired me to dabble in poetry again.

As always, I can’t promise my poetry is any good. But there’s joy in the writing.

Photo © Walter Baxter (cc-by-sa/2.0) (geograph.org.uk/p/5991171)


A flock of blackbirds
over a rural stretch
of Route 23.
Starlings, or grackles maybe,
thousands of
black pixels against
a blue canvas of sky,
shaping into
a half-formed image
before dissolving
like a dream
escaping waking’s grasp.

I pulled my car
to the shoulder to watch
them dance
to the metronome of
my hazard lights,
searching for
meaning in
their pattern as they
swooped, ascended,
condensed, separated.
Eventually they blended
into the tree line, and
I wondered if maybe

the meaning was
never in the pattern,
but only
in the flight.

Poem: The Grade School Rule

It’s been a while since I dabbled in poetry. But the mood struck this morning, and this one flowed out.

The Grade School Rule

In grade school,
teachers always told us
to use pencils.
“Ink is too permanent,”
they would warn.
“Use your pencil.
Especially for math and spelling.”
They expected mistakes
that we would have to remove,
and they didn’t want us
to ruin the page.

Life doesn’t listen to 
the teachers’ advice.
We are handed a pen at birth
to start scrawling our stories.
a chapter can be salvaged
by scribbling out errant words.
But the blemish on the page –
an ugly dark slash of ink – 
unable to be erased.