Diary of a Poet

Browsing the Archive on a Summer Afternoon

The Pacific Northwest is roasting under its first big heat wave of 2022, and I’m trying to sustain the energy for writing that I had in the spring. In spite of my best efforts, my mind wanders, and I find myself sitting on the floor in front of the bookshelf. Then I get a brilliant idea, which will help me avoid the writing I’m supposed to be doing for at least an hour: arrange all of the journals I’ve been published in in chronological order!

Every writer who publishes in literary journals and small magazines probably has a shelf or two filled with contributor’s copies. In these days of online journals, actual physical magazines are becoming rarer, but I still get a few every year. When I leaf through them, I feel a profound sense of gratitude to the editors who chose my work. I’m often amazed and humbled to see the other names in those issues: Naomi Shihab Nye, Charles Harper Webb, Mary Ruefle… as well as the voices who’ve left us: John Oliver Simon, Lyn Lifshin, Carol Frith, I find some gems in those journals, by poets whose work I see regularly, and poets I’ve only seen once or twice. 

I can’t help noticing that Jack Kerouac’s image shows up on the covers of two of the journals. The 2021 issue of Redactions features a painting by Scott Poole titled “Kerouac Listening Through the Static,” and the 2014 issue of Beat Scene, from the UK, shows a photograph of Kerouac from the early 1960s. Is it a coincidence that right now I’m reading The Dharma Bums? The cover art of the other journals ranges from a plain cover with just a name and date to beautiful, unique artwork selected specifically for the issue. 

My contributor’s copies date from 2003 to 2022. That’s nineteen years of writing, submitting, waiting, and the joy of seeing my name in print. No matter what age I reach, publishing my work will never get old. 

Here’s a poem of mine I found, from the 2014 issue of The Main Street Rag


after the storm

the street is wild and dirty 

the ceiling with

its mystery of tiny holes

drips water from a leak

wetter than the gallons 

that roll off the roof


you said, the wind can’t break us

the rain can’t break

the fern, fastened to its hill

sending spores like letters to the world

at the mailbox a giant maple leaf

wets my face with a cocky slap

and I believe you

And another one from Red Rock Review, Spring 2011:

Woman in the Berlin Airport

You think you know me

but the landscape

my skin makes with my hair

is what you recognize.

I was chosen young

and brought forward to wear

the face you stare at now.  In

fact, my beauty is an accident,

my life a series of airports.  

Strangers allow their eyes to linger

as if my body were a waiting room,

but remember: I am on my way

somewhere else, just as you are.

Yes, look at me.  

Your eyes are as insistent 

as the voices that spread

from hidden speakers, warning

against touching strange packages.

Ok, back to the writing. 

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