Driving My Father Through the End Times, a Sestina

For six months we drove to the clinic every day–
infusions to cleanse his septic blood.
Sometimes we’d stop for coffee along the way,

and I’d try to go inside the shop alone,
but he’d insist, he could walk on his own,
so I’d help him out the passenger seat and we’d shuffle

into QuickTrip, get donuts, too, then trudge
toward the clinic for the cure, a dose a day,
antibiotics for his heart that wouldn’t heal on its own.

He refused surgeries, transfusions of blood.
He even drove to church to do his prayer shift, alone
at two AM, a 24/7 adoration of the Virgin, his way

to ease the shame, I guess, maybe for his wayward
youth, he didn’t say. I’d chide him as we stepped
from car to curb, tell him not to drive alone,

to let the others pray for him this time, a daily
vision of healthy cells washing his blood.
Always the father, he never did listen or own

his eldest daughter had some sense of her own.
On these drives we’d talk politics and the way
the country was heading, the bad blood,

the fear one candidate stoked, but walking
was painful, and he grew weaker by the day.
He watched the news from his recliner when he was alone,

but he didn’t live to hear the words I alone
can fix it. He believed what he saw with his own
two eyes on cable news, the lies they spun every day.

He wouldn’t have it when I said propaganda was their way.
I tried to show him how they twisted the truth, stomped
all over the facts. But his kidneys were failing, his blood

ever thinner. In the end, all that mattered was blood
relations, forgiveness, love. In hospice, I left him alone
the night before he died. Still thought he’d walk

out of that place. The nurse said he was afraid on his own
in the dark. Even with opiates, he couldn’t find a way to sleep.
He asked for me. I drove right over. He stopped breathing that day.

There was a blood moon, auger of end times, in the days
before his death, a lone orb pointing the way,
an opening of sorts, a door for him to slip through, quite easily, on his own.


I wrote this poem last year and was thinking of including it as part of a manuscript I’m working on, but it doesn’t quite fit the project.

My father died in the spring of 2016, right after the Republican primaries. He was still following politics up until maybe the last month of his life. When the primaries came around, he was too sick to think about voting.

He watched cable news quite a bit when his decline set in, although he read a lot, too. When I told him that Fox News was biased and prone to hyperbole if not outright lies, he downplayed it and said, “Oh, they can’t do that, they have to report the facts.”

My father was an old school, corporate conservative who saw the Republican Party as the party of wealth and prosperity. His parents, my grandparents, were blue collar union workers from PA who always voted Democrat.

I think he wanted to be different from his father, who did not receive any schooling after eighth grade.

I’m sharing this poem now because of the recent red moon we just experienced, and also just because I want to.

Sestina spiral.

Getty Images, Allure Magainehttps://www.allure.com/story/super-blood-wolf-moon-january-2019

“My God, Help Me To Survive This Deadly Love”

“My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love”

Dear Cosmos, Dear Gaia, Dear Aliens on Earth,
Something-there-is that doesn’t love a woman,
Something-there-is that doesn’t love a child
Something-there-is that doesn’t love a protest
Something-there-is that doesn’t love this wall of words.
Something-there-is that doesn’t love.
Grazing each other’s beards to kiss, my brothers’ love
makes quiver the mouths of phobic Earthlings.
Something-there-is piles on lies to wall themselves in.
Something-there-is loathes a woman’s
blood, her milk, her wide hips, her breasts bared in protest.
Something-there-is refuses the Syrian child
washed ashore, his cheek turned to one side, as if in child’s
pose, his death not stark enough to awaken love.
Something-there-is throws grenades on protesters,
Native Americans circled in prayer who touch the Earth,
who protect the water that sustains our life. Women
are the watery portals we all pass through, a porous wall
we penetrate from one life to the next. No brick wall
mortared with hatred us can contain our childlike
trust that “no lie will live forever.” Women’s
rights are human rights, but not unless we love
our blackness, the origin of humans on Earth.
Something-there-is cages black bodies, protests
Black bodies, stops, frisks, gasses Black protests,
beats and murders black bodies behind cell walls.
How much of our comfort will we risk to free the earth
from this machine of distortion? Will our children
forget the sky once reflected blue before we love
the planet enough to disobey the spray-tanned man?
His rattling Tic Tacs warn  men and women
to flee the fetid breath no mint can mask. We protest
his code orange stink by committing ourselves to loving
even those who sting our eyes with pepper. The only wall
that divides us is made of fear and lives in us. A child’s
mind, a pure mind, is the force that binds us on this earth.

Chattahoochee River, Cochran Shoals, November 25, 2016


A mock sestina for Poem

Jill and Carolee have a fun poetry site aptly called Poem, where they post a poem for participants to read, enjoy, study, and maybe use as a springboard for writing. The first for this season is Denise Duhamel’s mock sestina, Delta Flight 659: to Sean Penn.

My imitation is about a local celebrity, a gorilla named Willie B, who was kept indoors for 27 years, until they renovated the Atlanta Zoo. It’s so sad to see animals kept locked up.

I see this piece as more of an exercise than a poem, and a hard exercise at that. In Denise Duhamel’s piece, she plays on Sean Penn’s name, ending each line with a different word that includes the syllable pen. I’m very impressed with her results now that I’ve tried it myself.

Glass Houses

In Atlanta there lived a gorilla named Willie B
who died in 2000, the year before
911. He was forty, I remember,
because I was too, just beginning
a new millennium as Willie B’s heartbeats
were fading, six years after his baby

Kudzoo was born. The last time we saw Willie B
he squatted between
boulders on a hillside, behind
thick glass walls, maybe
listening to human kids bellowing
Willie B! Willie B! Bees

and flies drew invisible lines beneath
tree limbs where he lounged on a bed
of grass, near females nursing babies.
His eyes were as dark as tea. Crabby
kids pressed their hands on the glass, beseeching
Willie B to pound his chest like a typical beast,

as if he were King Kong, bedazzled
by a lovely blonde. But he was no sucker for bedlam,
he was the prince of his tribe, a beatific
icon who didn’t seem to notice the bedraggled
trees in the pretend forest, or the Frisbees
flying through the sky beyond

the walls of his outdoor bedroom.
His keepers had made him live behind
bars for twenty-seven years, in a room befitting
an ax murderer or an embezzler.
Now he was as free as the Bengal
tiger in the zooscape nearby.

He had a full belly and his days were benign,
a becoming epitaph for human beings
too, we who bate bears and belabor the point that we’re human.

A response poem to Holly

Dear Holly,


Stand still long enough in the present
moment, and Border Town springs
to life, a mirage of mirrored souls
strolling down Main Street amid a sea
of glass-front shops. Twenty-four hours
a day, they say, it may appear,

sometimes as near to you as a pear
in a bowl, a still life given as a present
we open by breathing, forgetting the hour-
hand, the minutes, the seconds that spring
to life in a primordial sea,
a briny home, birthplace of our souls.

Border Town, Edge City, we don’t know it by a sole
name; a phantom place appearing
as Atlantis, tendrils of sea
anemone fingers waving the present
tense in our faces, until the spring
that winds us loosens, a slack Slinky in our

chest that slows the hour-
glass sands. We plant the soles
of our feet, grow roots, soak up spring
water until openings appear,
inner floodgates that present
a view to the hidden city of Eternal Spring.

It’s a Shangri-La we thought we’d never see –
conjured countless times at happy hours,
downing gin and tonics to wash away the presence
of black marks on our mortal souls.
It’s like wind in the trees, or peering

into a well, fed with a spring
meandering from underground seas.
A cavern in the ribcage, it once appeared
to us as the cauldron of a witching hour,
but now has become our sole
mio, a sunny bow on a wrapped present.

Time is an unfurling spring, a malleable hour
in which we see the yards of our souls
uncurling, appearing to us as our own present.


Holly (Lost Kite) and I have been responding to each other’s poems in what has become a series. Here is her poem.

The prompt this week at RWP was to collaborate on a prompt, and then mix up the prompts to write a poem. I’ve got to admit that although I contributed to the prompt, I chose to collaborate by responding to Holly’s poem.