I’m running an ebook giveaway on Goodreads for my new poetry collection. You can enter here.
My full-length poetry collection Outward Arrangements: Poems is now available in both paperback and ebook versions on Amazon.
The book includes 26 color photos that were originally posted to my Instagram account, inspiring the companion poems. I had previously posted a few examples here. Now I thought I would share a few other excerpts from the collection.
The Last Leaf
The last maple leaf
did not want to leave the tree,
even though his mother
told him it was time to go,
time to break free from the limb
and fall to the ground.
The little leaf said,
“Why, why must I leave
when I can still cling to this tree?”
“Because,” his mother replied,
“it’s part of life, the cycle of nature—
we drop to the ground during fall
and return in the spring.
So come on, let go.”
“I will not. I will not,” the little leaf said.
But a stiff wind stirred and the leaf
lost his grip and twirled to the earth,
falling into his mother’s grasp.
“See, that’s not so bad, is it?” his mother said.
“No Mom,” the little leaf said.
But then he asked, “Mom, am I still a leaf
if I’m no longer connected to the tree?”
In Need of Houdini
You are wrapped in chains
and stuffed in a metal chest.
The key has been discarded
and the box dumped
into the ocean.
You can’t stretch your legs
or flap your arms,
and you’re stuck in the box—
unable to lift the latch
and swim free.
How long can you
hold your breath?
The Great Equalizer
The democratic nature of parenthood.
It doesn’t matter who you are—
man, woman or trans, gay or straight,
Black, white or any other shade,
tall or short, skinny or fat, rich or poor—
when your toddler is wailing
in a grocery store or shopping mall,
when the feet are stomping, the arms swinging,
the cheeks reddened and the tears rolling—
all you want to do is pick up the child
and make the crying stop.
Wealth, social standing and comely looks
mean nothing to kids; they’re not impressed
by your credentials and you can’t negotiate
with these little angels and tyrants who rule the world.
Two clichés apply here:
parenting wipes the slate clean
and levels the playing field.
All mothers and fathers desire the same thing—
the health, safety and
development of their offspring.
The goals are simple amid the frenzy
of a life marked by stress and lack of sleep.
They are: eat the chicken nuggets, drink the apple juice,
recite the alphabet, put away the toys, finish the milk,
wave bye-bye and go down easy at nap time.
the key to happiness—
the realization that
there isn’t one.
You can’t coax
make plans for it.
You can only
attain it by accident
through the act
of living itself.
Point of View
flee the space
inside your head,
and seek the magic
of the world instead.
I am in the final stage of preparing my latest poetry collection for publication. I am going the self-publishing route via Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon and IngramSpark for wider print distribution. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to learn and I’m nervous the whole thing will be a mess when I confirm my title and hit “publish.”
Here’s a description of the book:
Outward Arrangements is a full-length collection of narrative, observational and meditative poems written in free-verse style and covering such topics as identity, self-esteem, health, family, parenting, advancing age, nature and the evanescence of existence. The work is a journey of discovery, as the author looks both within himself and in the outside world to seek meaning in everyday life.
One section of the book originated as the text in Instagram posts, with the poet sharing his delight in making odd revelations—like finding an empty baby stroller parked on the sidewalk, a pair of Chuck Taylor sneakers left underneath a city park bench and an old pay phone toppled and splayed on the ground. Here the poet pays close attention to his surroundings, observing things that could be easily overlooked, and using those objects of chance as the starting point for stories. The photos that sparked the poems are included in the collection.
Using raw and honest language, the philosophical poems in Outward Arrangements pose universal questions, reflecting on what it means to be alive today and addressing issues and emotions that people wrestle with in their daily lives. In this way, the collection is accessible to a wide range of readers.
If anyone is interested in reading an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review on Goodreads or Amazon (after publication), please email me. I can send you a PDF of the book. Thank you!
I wrote this poem a few years ago, and it has added meaning since I haven’t attended mass since the pandemic hit last year. I dusted it off today for Palm Sunday and revised it.
Looking at the attendees
at mass this morning—
a mix of people
holding palm fronds,
a diverse collection
of human specimens,
cells and blood wrapped in skin
and topped with hair.
We are bodies
moving toward death,
passing on a journey
leading to dust or fire,
burial or cremation.
But does the soul live on?
No one knows
for sure if a spark of life
exists after death takes hold.
But faith allows one
to accept this uncertainty,
trusting in the words
Jesus spoke and the work
And so we celebrate
his entry into Jerusalem
on this Palm Sunday,
while acknowledging Good Friday
will come for all of us.
While out walking, I passed this alley, and it sparked my imagination for an entry into a screenplay scene. This won’t go anywhere, but it’s fun to play along.
EXT. ALLEY – DAY
TOM COLLINS, a man in his forties, exits a building, opens the top of a garbage bin and tosses something inside. He closes the lid and sprints down the alley. Moments later, an explosion rocks the area and pieces of the green plastic bin scatter. ANGLE ON Tom’s face as he reaches the end of the alley. He looks back and three SECURITY GUARDS are in pursuit. One bearded guard cuffs his hands over his mouth.
You’ll never get away with this Collins. The human extension formula belongs to Dr. Reddick.
ANGLE ON Tom as he continues running.
Sundays always depress me.
I wish we could pull
them from the calendar,
make the weekend
Friday and Saturday,
and then skip
straight to Monday.
While I loathe the
wind, cold and snow
I’m always sad
when spring comes
and the chill
in the air departs.
With winter leaving,
it’s like I’m losing
a friend at the end
of the season.
Here’s a flash fiction story inspired by the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks.
I assume I was nothing before I found myself sitting here, staring straight ahead. But I don’t know for sure.
This is what I do know: I can’t move my head. I can’t smoke the cigarette pressed between the fingers of my right hand or drink the cup of coffee resting on top of the counter. I can’t touch the woman seated next to me or talk to the other two men.
This is my life. Suspended in warm, yellow light. Unable to move, locked in a soundless existence—no water running, fan whirring or grill sizzling. No sirens or street sounds beyond the glass.
Time drags on with no discernible shift—no transition to morning. Here night never ends.
Yet my mind still works. In fact, it never stops; I’m cursed with thoughts that run continuously.
I wonder: Why am I here? And where exactly is here? What purpose do I serve? Why put me next to these people and not give me an opportunity to interact with them?
Do I have a past? Did I exist before I became frozen in this moment—captured and imprisoned for eternity?
As you can see, I have nothing but questions that yield no answers. If only I could talk to the other people. If only I could pry open my lips and make a sound. Then maybe we could communicate. Maybe we could figure out our reason for being here. Then I could scream for help. But who would hear my voice and who would come to our aid?
If only I could stand up and walk around, stretch my legs and peek outside the window.
But then I would upset the balance of the composition. And so I will stay in place. Funny, right? I don’t have a choice. I can’t move even if I wanted to. So I’ll be here any time you feel like looking at me.
I’ve been so tied up with work, family and long-range creative projects that I have neglected this blog for far too long. I haven’t posted anything since January—not that anyone is missing my content.
But during my Saturday morning jog/walk in downtown Syracuse, I snapped a photo and composed a short poem. To me both represent the ephemeral nature of life. If I had not stopped running on the sidewalk to take the picture or pull out my mini notebook and jot down the poem, the image and words would have been lost.
The sun would have shifted or shadows would have altered the light hitting the buildings and the words would have escaped my mind. A good reason to always carry a smartphone, a pen and a notebook. You never know when inspiration will strike.
Giving Up Admission
I can’t keep
I don’t have
to carry on.
Can I let go
and fall into
A pithy aphorism pulled from a fortune cookie this weekend.
But the poet in me would like to rearrange the lines:
The saying also reminds me of a poem that appeared in my full-length collection Sidewalk Stories (Kelsay Books, 2017).
Action Defeats Anxiety
Is a saying I’ve kept
In my head to call upon
Throughout the years.
When in doubt,
I think it’s best
To do something, anything.
Go somewhere, anywhere.
Move from point A to point B.
Just make a decision,
One way or another—
As opposed to
Sitting there, worrying,
Pondering the situation,
And wondering how
It will all turn out.