Here is a poem I started in 1986 and never finished after getting feedback from the editor of a poetry journal. She was right, of course, but until now, I didn’t know how to finish it. Works-in-progress often take that — progress not in the work, but in the poet.

On one level, it feels like the piece has grown. On another, it still fails. I still only like the opening and close, and cannot find the expression of the middle bits. Maybe in some poems, the How it’s Said doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s only the How it Feels that does.

Thanks to my partner and her music for the inspiration to progress.


i have radical thoughts
and other times
they are radical
only by their

i have trouble concentrating
while you are near
because loving you
my thoughts

i struggle in swimming
against your tides
of constant criticism
and demands for my

i image you’ve never
been my life’s work
but simply dark resonances
of a misspent youth
and lies old lovers

maybe it is time
to cut you loose
and buy a dog

Type it. You know you want to.

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