how does a poem mean

how does a poem mean

asked the coyote who

appeared out of the desert night


I responded that a

poem’s meaning was

based on the coyote’s dream


of the next Rexroth or

Ginsberg to determine

why the wind blows on Mars


or of the next Pound or

Dickerson to determine why

we laugh at the sun and cry at the moon


and why we are alone

in the universe surrounded

by the drama of our karma life

A Ride Mister?

Lonesome highway blues,

itchy eyes — aching head,

steel guitar honky-tonk AM,

after an all night run.


Interstate 80 west, 

open full moon road,

the creative life blood soother of my soul.


She was sitting on a bench 

at the last rest stop before Wyoming emptiness 

in her paisley gypsy hippie dress, 

blond dreadlocks hanging free to a waist slender and taut,

ger eyes betraying longing sadness only the poet could suffer.


‘A ride Mister?’ she asked without spoken words.


Her backpack and soul fell into my rickety van

urgently asleep on a mattress from a late night dumpster

in my last night of confinement before the reaper came again.


On Medicine Bow Peak I dropped a sacred crystal

into the empty cairn — an offering to mountain gods.


She smiled approval when she kissed me peace.


An eagle circled above.

Prayer flags fluttered in silent air.

Dana’s Story, Part 5

After another month of my job search, I had three interviews, one with the District Attorneys Office. I was called in to the A.D.s office on a Wednesday and offered a position which readily accepted, although it certainly wasn’t my first choice, but it was a job and I would gain needed experience. I was to start work the following Monday.

Russell was happy for me but had to tell me that the D.A. job wasn’t the as good as if I had tried harder. My parents felt the same way. At this point, I didn’t care. I was employed and was getting really tired of Russell and his distance from me. But he was too tired most of the time to want any sex which was a welcome relief. I wondered if this is the way all marriages were. I remembered my parents being more like friends than couples I saw in the movies or on television. Maybe this was as good as it would ever be. 

I was received with open arms at the D.A.’s office on my first day. There were a number of junior lawyers who welcomed me and seemed happy I was joining them. Then I met again with the District Attorney, the first time was my interview. He welcomed me and showed me to my cubicle. He introduced me to Glenda, the senior attorney I would be working for, a short squat woman I guessed to be in her forties. She looked tired and worn out, but contrary to my first impression, she proved to be a ball of energy and fun to work for. She explained how our working relationship would be, handed me two briefs to research and directed me to the Human Resources Office where I filled out all the paperwork for my employment. Still wanting a bit of independence, I had opened a separate bank account and had my pay deposited there. I would be happy later that I made that decision. Back at my cubicle, I began my work.

The work was much more interesting than I had anticipated. Glenda was helpful and her guidance, invaluable. I liked her and the other members of our team. I seemed to fit in, was loving my work, was learning and producing more every day.

Several weeks had passed and my co-workers kept inviting me to join them after work on Fridays for drinks and maybe dinner. I felt obligated to Russell and always begged off. But he was hardly ever home until late most of the time and had usually had already eaten something. So, the next Friday when I was asked out after work, I accepted. We went to a sports bar that was a regular watering hole for the group. And I had fun, I had a lot of fun talking and laughing. Most of the group were around my age, most were single. I had several glasses of wine and was about ready to call a taxi to go home, but everyone insisted I stay and have dinner with them. I walked in the apartment around 9;30, well fed on a burger and fries and still a bit tipsy. Russell wasn’t home so I went to bed, read for a few minutes and fell asleep. From then on, Friday nights were my nights to go out and enjoy my life.

About a month later, I got home after my Friday night outing and Russell was already there, steamed that I wasn’t home when he arrived. I had had a bit too much wine and was feeling pretty silly and laughed, telling him I was out partying with my colleagues from work and that he should grow up. That didn’t go ever well and he told me I shouldn’t be out like that, that I was a married woman and it wasn’t right, it could reflect badly on him. My giddiness immediately turned to anger and I told him that I couldn’t care less what he thought or about how I might reflect on him, that he was never home, that he was being a pompous ass, that I was just out having fun and enjoying my friends, and he could go to hell. It went downhill from there and I went crying into the bedroom and locked the door, screaming that he could sleep on the couch.

I tried to reconcile the next morning by telling him how I felt about him never being home or us being together, about how he was constantly working or taking clients to dinner all to which he replied that it was required for his work and that I was being selfish. He was working too hard to waste time having fun and that maybe I wasn’t working hard enough. I was fuming, so I turned and went out for a stroll by the Lake to cool down. The next few weeks were filled with tension and I was thankful I hardly saw him. The only times I ever did see him was in the morning when we both were rushing get to our respective jobs. At night, I made it a point to try to be asleep when he got in.

Russell wanted for us to go to see his parents for a weekend every month or so. They were within an easy three and half hour drive. Des Moines was another two hours so I hardly ever saw my family unless I made it a point to fly there. Russell only went with me the first two times and always seemed to be too busy after that. After  two years, I stopped going with him to visit his except for maybe some holidays. I always wondered what they thought, what excuses he told them. 

I had no one to talk to about our problems, so I carried all my anger and confusion inside. Things finally settled down after those few weeks, but things had changed between us. It seemed as if Russell was wary of me now and even more disconnected, as if that were possible. From then on, for the next several years, we were living apart under the same roof. I was miserable and poured myself into my work and my colleagues. Then I met Jessica Morgan, an expert witness for a case I was working on. She changed my life in ways I would never have imagined.

railroad days

railroad days

freight hopping

cigarette smoke

filled empty 

box cars


empty liquor


back and forth

to and fro


rocking rolling

from here to there

from there to here

across great plain miles

grey faced 

blue bib overalled

steam engine

soot covered

quiet broken




empty towns


hobo jungle 

tin cup coffee

lost souls

no home now

gone since the old dirt road was paved.

Dana’s Story, Part 4

Russell started work the day after we arrived home in our new apartment. I spent the day unpacking, finding a grocery store and stocking up. I hated driving in the Chicago’s traffic, plus I had to take everything up an elevator. I saw another resident with a cart and put it on my list of things to buy. 

Russell was home at 6:00, pleased to find dinner almost ready and wine chilling in the fridge. He poured himself a glass and turned on the television only commenting the his day was “Alright” after I asked him. Other than that, there wasn’t much conversation. Nothing about how my day was, where I found the groceries, how nice the place looked. Nothing. I poured myself a large glass of wine and went to the kitchen to finish dinner, remembering that he hadn’t talked much when we were dating and realized I probably shouldn’t expect anything different.

The next days and weeks went by with studying for the bar exam which I had signed up to take in late August. Some days I went out exploring the area, looking in the windows of expensive shops on Michigan Avenue, strolling along Lake Michigan, and enjoying almond croissants and dark coffee at a Parisian bakery a block from the apartment.

Russell was already working nine and ten hour days five days a week and a few hours on Saturday as well. He was too tired to go out much, and thankfully didn’t want to have sex very much. We managed to go to a few movies and have dinner out  every so often. I managed to drag him to The Art Institute one Saturday and I could tell he was bored silly. We left early but I went back a week later during the week, by myself, and spent all day there viewing the amazing collection of art and wishing deep down that I had studied art instead of law.

I began looking for work, dropping my resume off at various law offices that did family law, especially divorce cases. I was particularly interested in working with women. Of course I would have to pass the bar first. 

August came and I took the exam, patiently awaiting the results for a week of hand wringing anticipation. I received the registered letter on a Friday morning, set it on the kitchen counter and stared at it for a long time before I mustered up the courage to open it. I had passed. I was now licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois. 

I called Russell at work, which he had told me never to do, but I was so excited I did anyway. He was in a meeting and was not to be disturbed. So I called my parents who acted like, ‘why wouldn’t you pass it?’ I opened a bottle of wine and waited for Russell to come home. He called at 6:00 and said he was going to have dinner with a client and would be home late. I didn’t bother to tell him my news. I ordered out for pizza, finished the bottle of wine watching a Netflix movie. Such was my celebration.

Dana’s Story, Part 3

I had never been to a city like Chicago. I was shocked and un-nerved by the busyness, the tall buildings, all the people. Our apartment was located a few blocks from Russell’s bank. I wasn’t close to anything which made no difference since I had no job. The apartment was on the tenth floor with big windows, but all I could see were other buildings. It was nice, not very spacious, but plenty big enough for our needs. We bought what furniture was essential for the bedroom, living room, and kitchen plus a desk for Russell in the second bedroom. Both our parents had given things like lamps, dishes, and some other necessities. Neither of us had any  idea about setting up a house but it sort of came together.

The next step was the wedding. Both Russell and I wanted a small, quiet simple affair, but, of course, my parents wanted to invite half the republican Party and Russell’s parents covered half of eastern Iowa, so the guest list was huge, most of these people neither of us knew or had ever met. If it were up to us, we would have had maybe a dozen or so people that we even knew, a few relatives, a few college acquaintances and maybe some high school friends.

Be that as it may, the invitations were sent. I had my dress, my mother had hers. We had the rings and managed to find a best man and bridesmaid, Russell had a guy he knew from high school and I, from law school. I had few friends and Russell had even fewer.

Since I was from the middle of the state and Russell was less that sixty miles from the eastern side of the state, we elected to have the celebration in the small college town of Grinnell right on Interstate 80, midway between, so there would be an easy drive for our guests.

The day came, we did the ceremony, there was a huge reception where we received congratulations from people who we didn’t know until we were tired of standing. We clumsily did the first dance, cut the cake and did all the right things to placate our parents. Then it was over at 12:30 A.M. 

Russell and I took turns undressing and putting on our pajamas in the bathroom as we were too uncomfortable and embarrassed to do it in front of each other. Russell was pretty drunk and fell into bed, instantly asleep. I crawled in, maintaining as much distance as I could from him in the king size bed. I lay awake a long while thinking about what I had done and wondering what the future might hold. I felt relieved that we had postponed the sex.

We flew out of Des Moines the next day for our honeymoon in Cancun. Russell had insisted we be by the ocean and wanted to go down to a resort there. I told him it was summer and would be really hot. It was in the high eighties and he got sunburned the first day on the beach and was miserable. 

We tried to have sex for the first time on the second night. He just got on top of me, shoved himself into me. It hurt like a hot poker was being rammed into me. He was inside of me for about a minute, grunted, his body stiffening, and rolled off, rolled over and went to sleep. That was far from what those books had told me. It was certainly not pleasurable but painful and messy. We had sex once more that week and it was awful and painful every time we did it from then on. I hated sex but felt it my duty as a wife.

I spent most of the honeymoon studying for the Illinois bar exam and Russell spent his reading through a bundle of information from his new employer, most of the time being spent indoors because the sun was so blistering hot. I would have just as soon been back home in our new place in Chicago.