The Outback


A Very Mary Variation

A Pantoum poem of repeating lines using a borrowed line from

“This and That” – in this early dancing of a new day

The Outback 

in this early dancing of a new day 

a fresh adventure awaits 

are we ready? 

do we have all that we need? 

a fresh adventure awaits 

we’re hitched, strapped, hatted, and packed 

do we have all that we need? 

have we forgotten anything? 

we’re  hitched, strapped, hatted, and packed 

we’ve got a plan for no plans 

have we forgotten anything

to enjoy the journey? 

we’ve got a plan for no plans 

are we ready

to enjoy the journey

in this early dancing of a new day?



A Very Mary Variation

A five-finger exercise using a twisted first line and the word morning from

Mary Oliver’s “Cobb Creek”: it’s morning at the creek-edge


it’s morning at the funny farm 

wee-hour morning when we awaken 

on this particular morning, it’s windy-

tropical-storm-windy this morning (Zeta)

will power stay on this morning?



A Very Mary Variation

A mostly-Pantoum poem

using Line 3 from Mary Oliver’s “Meadowlark” – but now it’s more serious


he’s been lookin’ at real trucks for two years 

three-quarter ton pickups for bigger jobs than Ford Rangers can do 

but now it’s more serious 

he’s hiked his dress pants and signed his name 

three-quarter ton pickups for big jobs-

haulin’ trailers, pullin’ campers, country-boyin’!

he hiked his dress pants and signed on the line


no one knows why he hiked his pants 

mud boggin’, four- wheelin’, country-boyin’ –

always ready to ride the roads 

sometimes dogs curl up in bathroom sinks during storms for no apparent reason

a Clyde Edgerton character even had an unexplained habit of flushing raw cabbage heads down the toilet 

always ready to ride the roads

but now it’s more serious 

a quirky dressed-up country boy is still a Georgia country boy 

he’s gone and bought him a shur-nuff truck



A Very Mary Variation

Borrowed line #1 from Mary Oliver’s “Nothing is too Small to be Wondered About” from Felicity 


It’s fall

the time of crisping- 

crisp apples, crisp air, crisp leaves

the time of pumpkining- pumpkin pie, pumpkin carving, pumpkin spice 

the time of changing- changing winds, changing clothes, changing weather

the time of camping- campers, campfires, campgrounds 

the time of gathering-festival gatherings, family gatherings, harvest gatherings 

the time of celebrating-celebrating Halloween, celebrating Veterans Day, celebrating Thanksgiving 

the time of spiriting-

holiday spirits, liquid spirits, kindred spirits

the time of simmering- simmering soups, simmering chili, simmering cider 

the time of roasting-

roasting turkeys, roasting marshmallows, roasting toes fireside

the time of baking-

baking apples, baking breads, baking pies

the time of crackling-

crackling leaves, crackling wicks, crackling logs

the time of falling- 

falling leaves, falling temperatures, falling in love

Windows in Europe


A Very Mary Variation 

Using line 1 borrowed from Mary Oliver’s “The Invitation”

Windows in Europe

it could mean something

I’d flown to Europe for a weekend teacher conference 

somehow my parents met me there – 

Dad, who’s living 

and Mom, who’s not 

oh, but she pays her visits 

my dogs showed up,

too, there in Europe 

Fitz and Boo Radley

I had to reschedule

my flight to extend my stay – so I couldn’t fly home with her

but Dad asked if I wanted to see some windows

of course I did- there may be a message in them for me

we got on a bus and ended up at the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre, overlooking Paris from a high elevation

I recognized the little café 

on the Rue de 

(Something in French) across the way – La Cremaillere 1900 

where I’d eaten some bland 

baked chicken 

and potato rounds 

in June 2019

we took a walk up some steps to an ice cream shop called Big Sur

where dogs were allowed inside

I wondered if Boo’s poodle heritage had anything to do with it 

and sat at a dirty table,

my parents and I 

the waitress took my order – 

but I didn’t know the flavor lineup so I picked chocolate mousse – 

but the waitress kept getting everything switched 

actually gave me my mousse 

(I took a couple of bites) 

and then gave it to my mother

then gave me someone’s bowl of Rice Krispies? they’d started


I tried to take a sip of water but it was someone else’s glass 

so the waitress snatched it away from me

and brought a container of milky ice cream water for me 

saying that should work for now

and in all this 

I watched a girl jump with a parachute from a high cliff 

and waited until nearly 

hitting the ground 

before pulling the string 

and landing fine

I never saw any interesting windows to speak of 

but I ate every last one of my Rice Krispies and drank the milk

and Mom shook her head and looked at me as if I should make a better choice than to eat like


when we left I gave her a bag she’d forgotten 

making sure Dad

knew I had recovered it 

embarrassing Mom, but letting him know to watch out for her 

we got separated at a bus stop,

but the brief visit was nice –

probably a good window 

of Melatonin

dreams like these let me know she’s still here



A Very Mary Variation

A Pantoum poem of expanding lines using the first four lines of Mary Oliver’s “It Was Early”


it was early

which has always been my hour

to begin looking

at the world

early has always been my hour

reading, writing, listening, thinking

about the world, awakening

to a new day filled with possibilities

books, pens, ears, mind

changing lenses and filters on the world

new possibilities in the darkroom

watching as images emerge

changing lenses, filters, angles on the world 

seeking with open eyes, open arms, open ears, open mind

through eyes not merely mine

it was early – the hour of awakening 

Morning Mists


A Very Mary Variation

Morning Mists

in the morning shower

where I think vividly 

whenever I open the ponderous book of riddles

I wonder things

like whether the sweat beads of the night are the mists of 

dreams that tried to cling

if tearful prayer is like a lane into heaven that leads from a dream

then is there any wonder that a steamy shower is like a vaporizing thought quencher? 

Lines borrowed 

from Mary Oliver 

 “The Dipper” – whenever I open the ponderous book of riddles

From Sidney Lanier “The Marshes of Glynn”  – like a lame into heaven that leads from a dream 

The Wind


A Very Mary Variation

First line borrowed from Mary Olivers’s poem “I Don’t Want to Lose”

The Wind

Just now, a moment from years ago: 

a snapshot from Timehop- proudly smiling you in a too-big necktie 

a blanket that tucked you night-tight and kept the hug warm 

a can of monster and robber spray – for peaceful sleep

a picture you painted – “the wind” 

memories,  fleeting just like that wind 

and a Bible verse-

God doesn’t want us to worry

Matthew 6:25-33

Something Watches


A Very Mary Variation

I used a borrowed line from Mary Oliver’s poem “Beans” as my final line today, describing yesterday morning

Something Watches 

a hideous cry pierced the dark silence of the early October morning 

a sound 

not unlike 

the screech of a barn owl 


the shriek of a bobcat 


the scream of a red fox 

I knew I had seen the last of the old hen 

something -I can’t name it-watches


 Today’s writing host, Susan Ahlbrand, challenged us to write a poem that forces us to look at the world or something in it in a different way. I borrowed my first and last lines from Mary Oliver – the first from “I Looked Up,” and the last from “Wild, Wild.” 


I looked up and there it was – 

left on a re-purposed junk mail envelope on the kitchen counter 

by my coffee cup

a love note 


in his handwriting 

with his always-handy 

shirt pocket pen

from when he left to go to work 

and sitting on top:

a cattywampus-shaped 

York Peppermint Pattie

in its silver wrapper 

the size of a half-dollar 

I could already taste the sensation –

the dark chocolate and mint swirling together 

the perfect pair of flavors 

his note read: 

because I love you 

I saved this just for you 

much love 

hope you have a wonderful Wednesday

(and an exclamation with a heart as the point)

I took a quick snapshot and texted him to say 


that was so sweet of you

I love you too

be safe 

but then received a minor confession: 

sorry –  

I carried it in my shirt pocket and 

it melted a little bit

I felt my heart stir 

as I gazed 

at the imperfect York 

seeing it much differently now 

than I had before

and after a tearful moment

I replied: 

all the better 

it’s literally heart warmed 

from you to me 

he quipped back:

that’s true 

better than my back pocket, I guess 

this is what love is