Shelter in Place Day 16

unfinished Easter sonnet 


the poultry processing plant worker dead

every morning more green buds

the folk singer dead

snow melting the trail to mud


the neighbor’s mother’s mother dead

the toilet paper factory worker has a fever

the dental hygienist dead

the city council closed down the river


Good Friday 2020 my sister

gives out the free lunches to hundreds

spring in time of a disaster

where the body was now only blood







Shelter in Place Poem, Days 14 & 15

Note: this poem is my attempt at a ghazal, a poem that uses a repeating end word and includes the author’s name in the last stanza. Read much more about the form here.

What comes to me is silence so I stare at clouds.
The air is filled with birdsong and the sky is dotted with clouds.

I sit outside alone and close my eyes to escape doubt.
I open them and see on the hillside the shadow of clouds.

Can I name even one of the dozens of birds on this slice of the mountain?
The robin, the magpie, the warbler are dark specks below the clouds.

As usual, I want this to last forever, the blue, the warmth.
I know it will fade to dusk and evaporate like the clouds.

Come back! cry the birds against the backdrop of the manmade fountain.
I search the changing shapes and coded messages of the clouds.

I imagine the suffering I know is happening everywhere
and send my prayers like birds up to the clouds.

If my name were a birdsong–Kim-ber-ly–what would it mean?
Above me the hawk circles and caws against the clouds.





Shelter in Place Poem, Day 13

The sun was setting and the moon was rising,
the moon was almost full and shone large over the mesa,
the sunset lengthened our shadows as we walked our regular route
talking and laughing in the warm, barely-spring air, the dog was lunging
at so many rabbits we decided to turn back just as two neighbors emerged
from their houses so we greeted them at a cautious distance and the girls kicked
a ball around in the twilight, and then a howl erupted out of the growing darkness,
and another, and another, all at once, and it was people, out on their porches
or in their yards, howling at the moon, howling into the darkness,
and we started howling too, our voices moving as breath
and sound from our healthy lungs and out into
the night air and up toward the moon.


Shelter in Place Poem, Day 12

The animals visit my dreams.

The rabbit says if I freeze

in fear, my fear will find me.

The hawk caws take the long view.

The horse lies down on my body.

Okay, I say. I get it. Horse.

The spider says, weave.

The turtle says, slow.

The mouse says study the details.

But what about the hawkI

I ask. The long view?

The mouse’s whiskers quiver.

The hawk swoops down

for the mouse. The bear growls,

her paws dripping from fishing.

The fish flashes in sun,

bleeding. I lay still, finally.

The horse is heavy,

whispering wait. She stands up,

walks away,

dips her nose into grass.

Shelter in Place Poem, Days 10 & 11

Not knowing what to say

I look for lines to steal:

late coffee and oranges in a sunny chair.


April is the cruelest month


But logic has no place here.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.

Somewhere someone was sewing a mask.

A rough beast slouches toward the foothills,

out of the cradle endlessly rocking.

Today we will take a walk

and draw a map.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes

in their stone boats.

Our maps our meaningless to them,

as theirs are to us, for now.


Poetry Reading!

Hi all,

I’m taking a break from my shelter in place poem on Saturdays, but if you are in the mood for some wonderful poetry today, check out John Brehm‘s reading. He is one of my favorite poets ever as well as a friend of mine.

His reading is today, Saturday, April 4 at 4:00 PM pacific (so 5:00 PM MDT, 6:00 PM central, and 7:00 PM EDT).

You can see his reading on Zoom at

or on Facebook Live at

His poems are funny and beautiful. Tune in if you can!



Shelter in Place Poem Day 9

I am thinking about Tupperware. I am thinking about fire and air, earth and water.


Dear fire, when you take everything, do you take everything? The black field of your wake is dotted with seeds we can’t see. Right?


It was so windy metal chairs scooted across the deck like clumsy oversized crabs.


When the fire or whatever takes everything, it still leaves the dirty dishes. They still have to be loaded and unloaded. The Tupperware won’t dry unless it’s set out on the dish rack, in the air.


Dogs seem particularly of the earth, especially this one, who my neighbors found running with a pack beside a gas station in rural New Mexico; who came when they called, malnourished, mangy, wagging; who they dropped off at a shelter while they backpacked for three nights; who they picked up on the way home after no one had claimed him; who they offered to us to keep because I’d said we could get a dog “when one came into our lives.”


Our house doesn’t even really touch the ground: built on the side of a hill, it rests on huge metal stilts. It shakes when the wind blows hard, which happens often.


Snow. Snow is a form of water, my least favorite form, except for ice, which is worse.


The dog was good at first, and gentle with the cats. He sniffed the frosty dead grass stalks for rabbits.


I keep organizing the Tupperware and it keeps getting messed up, as though a tiny hurricane blows through the drawer each night while we sleep.


Dear fire, you can’t live without air, but water is your enemy.


The snow silences the street as the dog and I walk through it. He would prefer not to be on a leash; I would prefer not to be outside at all, though I try to notice how pretty the world is covered in white, how huge the moon when the clouds reveal it.


We walk the dog on the mesa. One foot in front of the other, we climb up almost every day.


Dear fire, when you take everything, everything does eventually return, bringing to mind a tree in winter, a tree in summer, a tree in spring, a tree in fall. Is it the same tree, or a different tree? It is not a different tree; it is not the same.


When we climb the mesa in the wind advisory, dirt blows into our eyes and mouths. We illegally unleash the dog. We can see the city from up there, shrouded in light from the sunset, burning. The dog prances in the troubled air.

Shelter in Place Poem, Day 7, and fire poem study

Note: this piece is part of my long shelter in place poem as well as a “study” of fire for a piece I will write for an upcoming exhibition of the work of the artist Anna Kaye: check out her work here.


Perhaps it is time to burn



Two thousand miles away

my mother is burning the forest,

particularly its scraps and detritus.


Smoke follows beauty.


It’s wildfire season.


The burning of trash and debris

in one’s yard in a pit

seems particularly Southern,

or at least Eastern. Here in the West

such an act would cause disaster.

Back home it was merely a minor

social event, something to stand around

and stare at.




When four years ago

I got rid of all my old journals,

all the way back to ones I had in college,

I wanted to burn them

but I had nowhere to do it,

no fireplace, no wide expanse,

so I threw them in the dumpster.


Does beauty follow smoke?




Light a candle and imagine

you are burning what

you no longer need. Offer it up

to the lone flame. There is

plenty of time.




My grandfather, the smoker.

My grandmother, flinging suitcases into the bonfire.


Flames, nature’s masterpiece,

the original work of art.

You cannot look away

from a fire for long.


Whatever it is you’re burning,

name it.


Fire on the mountain, lake of fire.

Strands of smoke

like snakes being charmed.


Wet your fingertip with spit,

dip it into ash,

touch your forehead.


Brace yourself. It’s fire season.