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Responding to Facebook

“What’s on your mind?”  The white and blue screen asks.

What’s on my mind?  Money.  The cost of hospital-grade tubing that is in your nose when you wake up.

What’s on my mind?  The cost of honesty.  I’ve been racking up hopes and dreams, only to find expiration dates, boundaries, and under used gym cards.

What’s on my mind?  The relief that this moment will disappear from feeds by worthwhile-thirty.  This one is for the boring generations, STILL (italicized) on Facebook.

What’s on my mind?  I am too comfortable with this format of communication; and I miss coming home late, and thinking that “I’ll just be tired,” like when I wrote that letter the night before surgery, or on the eves of confessions past.

What’s on my mind? She walked by the fish tank…but she didn’t even tap on the glass. 

But what’s really on my mind…I don’t remember



Look on the Bright Side


Yes, she broke your heart.

Yes, I got that.

But let’s be honest

There are some good points,

And why not focus on them?


The top is on the toothpaste tube

For the first time in two years

And there are no long hairs in the sink.


The checkbook balances

For the first time in two years

And the lights you turn off stay off.


The caps are on the soda bottles and milk bottles

For the first time in two years

And there are no pizza boxes on the couch.


The medicine cabinet door is closed

For the first time in two years

And your T-shirts she slept in are off the floor.


The movie DVD’s are in the right boxes

For the first time in two years

And there are no bras and panties on the rugs.


The dresser drawers close and nobody hijacked your tweezers

For the first time in two years

And your décor is not candy wrappers.


So suck it up.

Get a porn library

And a puppy.




Reapers of the Water

The nets newly tarred
and the family arranged
on deck-Mass has started.

The archbishop in
his golden
cope and tall miter, a resplendent

figure against an unwonted background, the darting
silver of water,
green and lavender

of the hyacinths, the slow
movement of occasional
boats. Incense floats

up and about the dripping gray
moss and the sound of the altar bell
rings out. Automatically all who have stayed

on their boats drop to their knees with the others
on shore. The prelate, next taking up his sermon,
recalls that the disciples of Christ were drawn

from the fishermen
of Galilee. Through
the night, at the lake, they cast in vain.

Then He told
them to try once more, and lo!
the nets came heavily loaded…. Now

there will be days when
you, too, will
cast your nets without success-be not

discouraged; His all-seeing eye
will be on you. And in the storm, when

your boat tosses like a thin
leaf, hold firm….
Who knows whose man will be next? Grand’mére

whose face describes how three of hers-
her husband and those two boys-had not returned,
now looks toward

her last son-
it is a matter of time. The prelate dips his gold aspergillum

into the container of holy water
and lifts it high. As the white
and green boats

pass, the drops fall on the scrubbed
decks, on the nets, on the shoulders
of the nearest ones, and they move up

the long waterway.
The crowds watching and waving:
the Sea Dream, the Normandie,

the Barbara Coast, the Little Hot Dog, the God
Bless America
, the Madame of Q.-

racing past the last tendrils
of the warm pudding
that is Louisiana.


This poem originally appeared in James Tate’s first collection of poetry entitled The Lost Pilot (Yale University Press, 1967). Here’s a recording of Tate introducing and reading the poem (minute 5:27). In the introduction, Tate says this poem is about the blessing of a shrimp fleet he saw in Thibodeau, Louisiana. Here are some fleet blessings so you can add his intended imagery to the unintentional images that may also be spurred on in your mind by his lines. Long live JAMES TATE!



Bombing Vietnam

Good old Joe,
a hell of a pilot you were.
You was my friend,
you was a big child,
all heart, stupid as paint, sure,
but the feel in your talented fingers,
your far-seeing blue eyes;
you and that plane united to kill
every goddamned gook down there
living in that green placid land.

I thought of you,
bombing airstrips, roads,
buildings, villages, factories,
the whole place;
it sickened me and
was I ever up your
big face and down,
looking for tears,
for remorse?

I’m sorry, Joe,
best friend,
I gave you love and respect
with full conveyor belts,
encouraged you
to blow this green land
to hell and gone,
so it’s me and you,
doing a lot of death.

Now you’re dead, too,
burned to a crisp
in your crashed B-52.

He was Joe from Muncie,
a bull’s eye,
a real true soul
who didn’t think much,
an O.K. guy, a
stamper on
American roads,
and now he’s gone.

Read more "Jack D. Harvey – BOMBING VIETNAM"


Olan Mills

Once I wore a dead girl’s dress;
elastic bands loose on alabaster limbs.
The flash of a bulb captured
a sash of yellow ribbon and
eyes of rainless oceans.

The portrait hung there
submerging memories
of the daughter who came before me.

Her chance to fill the puffy sleeves,
stripped in evening slumber.
A babe drifted into black velvet
lined with stone, wood, and earth.

My Mother’s arms barren;
Daddy’s apple rotting,
leaving never a bite for me.
Still, I ache for the embrace
of her hand-me-down dress
on my skin once more.

A faded photograph,
on a pale yellow wall
is my only connection to
a ghost I call sister.



Sunday at Village Inn

Sunday morning at Village Inn,

coffee or orange juice? I am asked.

Every time, every day, those two drinks.

What if I want a milkshake for breakfast?

No, that is for dinner with your

chicken, bacon, ranch sandwich and french fries.

Always the same. Each. Time


is a constant, or is it

really? The clock always ticks at the same

rate – sixty beats per minute. A

metronome keeping the pace –

the pace of a walker, a jogger, a runner, a marcher?

Trumpets play too quickly, their egos

force it. Flutes play too slowly, their fingers

ache. What are the drums even doing?



at different rates, in different shoes, but still

to the same, old tune. Never

updating the song that plays when

the sports team scores their ball in the endzone

or the pep rally begins with the batons in the air.

Until that day that


The band director came.

The one that took the repeating

notes of the sheet music and switched them up.

The one that took that old song,

burned it to ash, then like

The Phoenix,

morphed them into a

New show to bring the audience to their knees.


Yet, in the end,

when the trophy is given

and the players celebrate their first place banner,

What do they do?

Have their milkshakes and

chicken, bacon, ranch sandwich with french fries,

at Village Inn, on a Sunday afternoon.