Saved by Form

I set the timer for fifteen minutes, pushed start,
then sat, waiting for Inspiration. First I tried
this, then that. Then “the other thing,” but
eight minutes later, still, I had no poem!

Then, with six minutes to spare, huzzah! I was saved!
By Form! Two stanzas! Four lines each! No rhymes!
Less than a minute left now, but nothing to fear.
I knew I would be done by the end of this line.



Saturday morning in Espoo.
Puddles in the gravel driveway
My wife has driven away in the rain
with our first daughter to
gather mushrooms in the forest.

These days, I barely recall my American routines
Five years abroad, I am practically European.
Our second daughter naps. I prepare for
my brother-in-law’s birthday party.
Voilepäkakku, coffee early on, and

later, for some, drinking in the city.
The stillness of this house in rain
is something I have come to love.
Rubber boots and coats by the door, through
which my wife and daughter will soon return.

June 21st, 1977

Elvis stopped, twice; grinning sidelong
That toothy, twinkling, contagious smile,
Then continued on. “Unchained Melody.”

That night he held the world in his arms and squeezed.
“I need your love, I need your love.”
Six Tuesdays later he was still squeezing,

But on Wednesday I got up, and Elvis did not.
We should remember our mothers.
We should sing for them while we can.

(Note: This poem is a loose imitation of “The Mower” by Phillip Larkin.)

Kirk’s Original Hardwater Soap


The smell of Kirk’s Hardwater Soap is how I best remember my grandfather.

There are a few other memories of him as well,
like once when he got mad after hitting his thumb with a hammer.
And him not getting mad when I spilled red paint
all over the basement workbench and floor.
Then there was his long open back gown when I visited
him in the hospital before he died of cancer when I was seven.

There is a memory too of him washing himself
in Kelly Lake, after swimming out to the sandbar,
but mostly it is the smell of that soap.

Photo taken in Times Square, 2010

It’s been on my desk since I started this job, that framed
print of the selfie we took in Times Square –
September, 2010, our first date – the Golden Arches,
and the red stripes of TGI Fridays behind us,
me in a light-yellow shirt, you in a turquoise scarf and a
necklace you still have. Glasses we’ve both since replaced.

I don’t notice it always, but today I do, recalling
the different time and country in which it was taken.
Then, we did not know our future – my moving, our children,
the unending mettle required of us all – but clearly, we knew
something, my arm around your neck, hand on your shoulder,
my thumb pressing your upper arm, holding on.