A Darn Good Reading: Friday, 7 pm


You know it’s gonna be good when a building is eating your name.

Come on out Friday night to Fall Out Urban Art Center (2609 Stevens Ave. S, Minneapolis).
Doors at 6:30, reading at 7:00. (Free, of course.)

One poet::One poem. This will be a great night to celebrate the Christian literary community and hear some great work. I’m especially excited to be reading with a former student, Rebeccah Carlson, and with some of these honest, impressive, hardworking people:
Daniel Bowman Jr.
Thom Caraway
Susanna Childress
Dave Harrity
Angela Shannon
Sarah M. Wells


From “The Kingdom of the Ordinary” by Marie Howe.
We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store
and the gas station and the green market and
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry,
as she runs along two or three steps behind me
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.
Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?
Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,
Honey I’m sorry I keep saying Hurry—
you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.
And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking
back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,
hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.

“I trust you to choose the right words”

What does one speak into the space of dying?

My friend Ann is dying. Weeks ago, when we could talk, I asked her what she wanted me to do when our visits would no longer be conversations. She asked me to read Psalms (“but not the enemy ones”) and poetry. I’m not sure if she said the words, but what she told me was this: “I trust you to choose the right words.”

I’m not sure I have. I’m not sure I can.

I’ve spent the last month revisiting my bookshelves and have found that most of what the living write about dying is not for the dying, it’s for the living. The words we write about death are ironic, violent, protesting and sharp. Even the Psalmist greets his death and deliverance with promises of vengeance to enemies. Vengeance and protest are menus for the living and will not sustain those passing from this place.

So far, I’ve read her Wendell Barry (whom she called “that poor man in the woods”) and “Farewell to Shadowlands,” Lewis’ final chapter of Narnia. We shared one of Christina Rossetti’s prayers and Kailyn Haught’s “God Says Yes to Me.”

What does one speak into the space of dying? This is not a rhetorical question. What do I?


getborn-logoLast month, another child arrived in our midst, and I stood again with the questions of birth. What is it in labor that women share? What do we each hold and endure ultimately alone? What does it mean to deliver a child? We know what we’re laboring for, but what are we laboring with?

Poetry and trying (again) to understand our experiences of birth in this month’s get born post.

The Season

when the smell of the oven holds up the walls
wet leaves tape sky to earth
I crawl inside music
its afghan knit
fringes to cover the backs of my hands.
I go underground
past the roots
the fertile soil
the wellsprings to
where rock sweats
but stays bound.
You think it’s easy
to choose health.
Yoga, sleep, a crisp afternoon run.
A matter of discipline.
A bit of prioritizing.
It should be easy
I can see that
with her smile from those footie pajamas
his Love you, mama.
Think of all the good things in your life, mama.
You could teach for me, mama—
I would pay you
four dollars a week.
You want to be connected to nature.
I’m straining against Saturn.
When sun sinks each autumn
I go with it.
Love you, Mama.
Think good, Mama.
For me, Mama.
How can melancholy
be moldable
and not respond to that?

Encounter: Alicia Suskin Ostriker

An excerpt from “Propaganda Poem: Maybe for Some Young Mamas” by Alicia Suskin Ostriker from the Mother/Child Papers:

I am telling you and you can take me for a fool there is no
good time like the good time a whole mama
has with a whole little baby and that’s
where the first images
of deity came from—sister you know it’s true
you know in secret how they
cut us down

because who can bear the joy that hurts nobody
the dazzling circuit of contact without dominance
that by the way might make you less vulnerable
to cancer and who knows what other diseases
of the body
because who can bear a thing that makes you happy
and rolls the world a little way

on forward
toward its destiny

because a woman is acceptable if she is
acceptable if she is a victim
acceptable also if she is an angry victim (“shrew,”“witch”)
a woman’s sorrow is acceptable
a deodorized sanitized sterilized antiperspirant
grinning efficient woman is certainly acceptable

but who can tolerate the power of a woman
close to a child, riding our tides
into the sand dunes of the public spaces.


Marching the traditional academy road and teaching creative writing at a private university can begin to reduce poetry to the canon. Mix in a little Baptist history, and things can spiral toward family-friendly. This month, one of my creative nonfiction students invited me to the Soapboxing Poetry Slam at the Artist’s Quarter in St. Paul.

So now, a little counterpoint from some local poets:

Toussaint Morrison – “Jenny”

Michael Lee – “Anvils (Dear America)”

Paul Dosh – “Quality Education”

Dylan Garity – “Live”