I shouldn’t be here. I should be writing
the Next Great American Novel, or
living it. I should be exploring
the world by sail, finding myself
and romance, or at least taking a chance
to find something worth seeing, or
writing about. I shouldn’t let my
sentences run away from me like that.
I shouldn’t wander, but stick
to some determined path.
The Next Great American Novel needs
discovery, or coming-of-age, or
love, or the hero’s journey. Maybe
an inverted hero’s journey, like he
begins in victory and finds despair
or a fall from grace, like he sees
the dark side of the righteous path,
like, despite his hero status,
is a she.

PAD Challenge 23: I shouldn’t be here


Shark snapped selfie.
Missed his remora peak from behind,
flashing signs like ideograms
for one extremely well-timed

photobomb. Once uploaded,
shark sees instant fame for the suckerfish.
Helpless to see his own image eclipsed
by that gang-banging wretch.

It was there all along: billowing
behind sails in ships of clouds, waiting
in the corner of your eye, slipping
through your fingers, leaning
just out of reach, stepping
just past the next hill, hiding
in plain sight, one moment of daydreaming
away, close but no cigar. Are you catching
my drift? What was it, you’re asking.
I’m having
trouble remembering.
It’s on the tip of my tongue.

PAD Challenge 21: a hidden message poem

Even if it’s unwise. Hold on to it.
You never know when it might
come in handy. Fold it up and file it
in your head somewhere, for later.
Make categories of the kinds of advice you receive:
love life, diet, habits to form or drop, politics, places, etc.
You get the picture.
Write it down if that helps. Be polite
and make sure your advisor knows
these shared words matter.
Share with others whatever nuggets
of useful information you glean.
Maybe revise first. Make it yours.
Honestly though, it may be for the best
if you simply ignore what I’ve said.

PAD Challenge 20: Always (blank)

He loves her like the alpenglow the sunset casts when they go hiking.

She loves him like sleeping in on Sundays
until the smell of coffee tricks her out of bed.

He loves her like staying warm
in winter clothes while walking in the snow.

She loves him like her favorite ice cream flavor.

He loves her like diving into the lake
on the hottest day of summer.

She loves him like finding a free parking space downtown.

He loves her, not for her eyes,
but for all the smiles they remind him of.

She loves him like a smoke after sex.

He loves her like the poems he reads, and tries to write,
but can’t not mangle the words.

She loves him, but thinks
the word is overrated.


PAD Challenge 19: write a love poem or an anti love poem

Forget all those dicks
who say you can’t do it.
Forget trying to win races
you never signed up for.
Forget beauty pageants.
Forget singing and dancing
to the whims of some Napoleonic
choreographer. Forget the stares.
Forget getting trapped on the Aurora bridge
with a stalled car and
forget two hundred angry faces
blaming you for a day
you wish you’d stayed in bed. Don’t
forget the guy who finally stopped
and gave you a jump.
Forget failed job interviews
and hours spent staring at the ceiling
not knowing and fearing you’d have to
move back in with mom. Forgive your mom.
Don’t dwell on each loose stone
and slippery hold between you and the top.
Forget about falling.

You got this. We’re behind you
and we can catch you, but
you don’t need us to. Forget about us.
Take a breath. Reach your hands high
and grasp that first hold.

PAD Challenge 18: Forget what I said

It’s important to maintain
the element of surprise.

Remain silent while parents
coddle a nervous boy. Cling

to shadows with extended
claws. Don’t let the light hit you

or you’re out. Laugh aloud as
the switch is flipped, but stop when

junior starts to listen. Don’t
let his suspicions grow too

soon or he’ll holler them back,
just keep him on his toes.

Shuffle by toys from bed to
closet and whistle like wind

through drafty windows. Emit
a spectral glow until he

glances, then hide from sight in
the corner of his eye. Brush

his cheek as you clamber down
below the bed. Whisper, ‘sweet

dreams’ as he starts to nod and
watch him jump awake. Then, loom

large in silhouette, lean in
and grin with flickering teeth.

Hide from his screams while haggard
parents claim it’s just a dream.

PAD Challenge 17: an elemental poem