A Puff of Fluff

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A Puff of Fluff

A Puff of Fluff

Three surviving kittens
Of an abandoned cat
Living under our house.

Mother left for work.
Sisters visited friends.
Stepfather saw opportunity.

“Let’s learn to shoot,” he said.
Crawl under there,” he said.
Get those damn cats.”

He’d won the rifle at poker.
Each kitten was posed on a fence post,
mewing and blinking uncertain eyes,

like political prisoners dragged
from dim cells to face execution.

We stood together, he and I, 
Fresh in life yet holding death.
He demonstrated the mechanism.

Schooled by scars of war,
He modeled the stance.
“Squeeze lightly,” he instructed.

The first kitten exploded
In a puff of fluff, disappeared.
He slid a bullet in the chamber.

He handed the gun to me.
The stock was shiny smooth.
He fit it to my shoulder.

“It bucks. Keep it tight,” he warned.
A smell of oil and gunpowder.
“Close your left eye,” he said.

“Line up the sight and the notch
With your target,” he said.
Wordless, I did as he said.

“Steady. Squeeze.”
The stock slammed my shoulder.
My ears were deafened.

The cat was gone, annihilated.
One perfectly good kitten remained.
He ejected the spent shell.

He filled the chamber.
I had started to cry.
“Don’t be a sissy,” he said.

He handed me the gun.
I shook my head no, a rare refusal.
He raised the weapon and fired.

The third kitten exploded.
“Don’t mention this to your Mom
Or the girls. They won’t like it.

Little did he know,
I hated him and the machine.

. . . j 
From the Senses and More Such collection

Impressive

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Impressive

Whenever i read

a poem

and trip 
over a word

deliberately set
as a trap—

to catch my ignorance,

a word 

i do not recognize—

like a stranger 
approaching, 

potential danger, 

in a dim
piss reeking
late night alley—
intent unknown,

i turn the page
lest i be taught
a lesson

I don’t care to learn.

. . . j
from the Senses and More Such collection

Fare Thee Well

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Fare Thee Well

A slight rise in the earth,
a gentle knoll near the school’s entrance,
marks the spot where we
 
teachers
 
gather on this most happy day—
the remnant hour of another school year,
to wave good-bye
 
(God be with ye, Child)
(We did our best.)
 
to our charges, their heads stuffed with us, 
 
Colts to pasture, now set free,
to cavort and buck as they please.
 
And we, stern taskmasters all, discover 
our smiles once more,  

cast off our titles, Mr. or Ms.,
 
to become again, simply,

Barb, Phil, and Marv; 
Dale, Terri, and Dean;
Mik, Rin, and Debbie; 
Carolyn, Doug, and Ted; 
Dawn, Frankie, and Alexa;  
Arlys, Joan, and Roland,
and all the rest.
 
Amid the deafening roar of honking buses 
pulling away, young faces appear tight to the	
windows, frantic waves, joyful smiles, tears, 

and the occasional flagpoled

middle finger.

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

Gunslinger 101

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Gunslinger 101

Several school shootings
have prompted some 

bloodthirsty citizens 

to urge school administrators  
to encourage and force

classroom teachers

to arm themselves and be trained
to defend their classroom with handguns,

a half-baked idea if I ever heard one.


The idea is that if an intruder,
bent on destruction, bursts into,

a classroom,

amid an otherwise dull 
lesson on proper nouns,

(always capitalized)

the teacher stands ready,
calm and brave,

like Billy The Kid,

(who’d murdered many,
but caught a fatal bullet

himself at twenty-one)
 
to protect his students and 
maybe even himself.

I can see it now—

me cowering behind my desk,
the insane shooter shielding

behind a wriggling

armful of shrieking Jennifer,
while wildly reducing the 

blackboard

to shredded chips of powdered
rubble with one of those 

AK47 gizmos.

Meanwhile, I’m peeking over 
My laptop, waiting to get a clear

shot 

an inch or two above 
Jennifer’s shoulder,
			
without grazing her ear, 

all the while wishing I had
buried a few IEDs in the floor

near the doorway 

so he could experience firsthand 
the finality 

of smithereens.

Despite my lack of Seal Team training, 
I cursed out loud the fact I had 

neglected to string up 

a few strands of barbed wire to hold him
at bay while I rummaged in my desk

for a spare grenade to lob, 

but I didn’t dare take my eyes off him
for fear he might touch Jennifer

improperly.

My best option seemed to be just to
wait until he blazed through a thousand 

rounds of ammo,

and the local Swat Team could swoop
in, and mistaking me for the shooter,

riddle me with bullets, 

and ask questions later, 
just like on

one of my dreaded pop quizzes.

. . . j
from the Senses and More Such collection

Orville

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Orville

I saw a hawk soaring high overhead,
and wondered what he thought and said.

I watched while he plummeted and flew by,
And yet could not imagine how or why.

Coming near, he cocked his head, 
and I inquired of what he read.

“Tolkien, the Bible, and the Bard,”
he shared, uttered while braking hard.

He landed gently, my knee his stool. 
“Of what does your mind use for fuel?”

“Much the same as yours, I must say,
but also, of Steinbeck, Updike, Hemingway.”

His eyes were unlike any I’d ever seen,
huge and rounded, incredibly keen.

“No poets then, if truth be told?”
His eyes glittered, a mine of gold. 
 
“Oliver, Kilmer, Poe, Emily, and Frost,”
I hesitated, my memory somewhat lost.

“All masters of the word and thought,”
he mused, “such wisdom can’t be bought.”

. . . j

You

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You

From my window
I glimpse the sea.

From the shore
I closer be.

Imagination
carries me across.

‘Tis but You, 
I long to see.

						
. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

Wonderments and Such

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Wonderments and Such

Children should discover
the tales of Robin Hood, 
Hansel and Gretel,
Snow White

and many others of course,
but also,

they need to visit beaches
and get down on their knees to play

in the sand. 

For it is there they will 
begin to imagine

how many countless 
grains of sand 
cling to the edges 
of our world.

And thus, 
when they turn their
gaze to the night sky 

they will also
wonder
how many stars 
torch all corners 
of our Universe.

And so too, 
these story tellings,
these imaginings, 
these wonderments,

will help them 
peek inward

and examine themselves
with a much greater

sense of humility.

. . . j
from the Wonderments and Such collection

Like Bogey and Bacall

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Like Bogey and Bacall

If i were ever to be young again,
i’d cash out my savings,
and start up a yogurt company.

With all due respect,
i’d call it

Humphrey Yogurt,

with flavors like

African Queen—
hot romance and lemon,

Casablanca—
smoky piano and vanilla,

and

Key Largo—
grave danger and chilled chardonnay.

silly boy that i be.

. . . j
from the Wonderments and Such collection

Guilt

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Guilt

A storm’s wrath had wrenched
the robin’s nest from the tree above.

Jerry and i, boys of ten or so,
stumbled upon it the next morning.

The mother robin stood her ground,
fluffing her feathers in defiance.

We two, imitators of brave hunters,
executed her with a BB gun and laughed.

Jerry grew up, played college football,
and became a famous California detective.

i went on to teach children our language,
and lay bare my shame in poetry.

. . . j
from the Wonderments and Such collection

Onrush

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Onrush

Pollution is not an unknown x
To be solved.

Snow gathers and freezes at elevation.
Air, cold and clear, cradles all.

The ancient streambed, a collection
of scrubbed stones waits to deliver.

Sensing warmth, purity comes alive, 
melts, and gravity guides the path.

What happens upstream
Concerns us all.

. . . j
from the Senses and More Such collection