This is a poem I have been working on for a few years that I have finally been able to complete. It was first inspired by a Saved By the Bell episode in which Zach Morris writes a love poem to Kelly. It then grew and changed from there.

Disclaimer – This poem is an amalgam of various people I know or have met who either are experiencing or love someone who is experiencing an addiction. It is not about one person in particular.

To: The Straw in Her Cup

Dear Straw,
You suck.

I hate to break the ice so abruptly
But the thought of seeing you next to her
Is a bit hard to swallow

I thought she was done
Playing with tools so plastic and so hollow
When she was down to her last straw

See, it took her 90 days to get your taste out of her mouth
90 days til she could no longer feel your tingle on her tongue

Leaving you was like waking up from surgery
She was sore and tired, but better
Except her stitches were sewn in the curves of her smile
And she still can’t seem to stretch it
Like she used to

Sometimes the healing hurts worse than the disease

Now she hides her face again
It’s what she calls recovering
She says she’s just withdrawn
But I can tell that she is suffering

I’ve seen that look in her eyes before
Both predator and prey consuming herself
Until she is both empty and satisfied

And she tells me a little bit of you won’t hurt
But you taste a lot stronger than she is right now

And when she reaches for you, she reaches with both hands
So she can’t hold on to both me and you
And I don’t have the strength to hold on to her
While she’s holding on to you

You’ve been her anchor through so much pain
But she forgot that anchors are designed sink
And anchors aren’t meant to move or grow
You poured liquid down her throat when she was drowning

So now she’s twelve steps from leaving you
And twelve steps away from me
It’s hard not to think she’s choosing you over me

I wish I was angrier at her
But I think I understand what it’s like
For the only thing you really want
To be the only thing that destroys you
Over and over and over

With her they call it an addiction
But with me they just call it love

There’s no rehab for loving an addict
Trust me, I’ve Googled it.

So I’m stuck writing a letter to a straw
Because that straw is all that stands between her and relapse
And you’re just letting it happen

Knowing that every drop you offer her
Is one less molecule until she’s quenched

And with every ounce
With every sip she takes from you
I want revenge

I drink straight from the cup now
At least that way
I can choose how much of this I take in


Dear Superman,

I carved an “S” in my wrist waiting for you
Placed it on my chest
You know I bleed red and blue

I’ve looked over ledges of buildings
Longing to jump
Longing to fly
Even if for just a moment to be like you

Fate has been good to you

You’re the hair with the front curl kind of guy
Always gets the girl kind of guy
Saves the world kind of… I
was never so lucky

I never could change the perceptions of the masses
Just by taking off my glasses

Now, I’m not blaming you
But I need you to know that
I am fighting a war between good and evil
Just to get out of the bed in the morning
There is a cosmic battle
Each time I look in the mirror
And I see what’s missing

You don’t know what it’s like
To be your own kryptonite
To know that the most dangerous element
Of destruction is your mind

Mind – racing faster than a speeding bullet
Although at times I imagine
That they are neck and neck

Don’t tell me it will be alright
Don’t tell me I can change

Your powers weren’t built to protect
Someone like me
Only to destroy me

Someone so human
They aren’t worth saving

You can save the world
But I am galaxies
Supernovas bursting and black holes
Tearing the light from inside of me
I am in constant ebb of stability and eruption
I am terrifying up close
But beautiful from a telescope

You don’t have the vision to see me
Maybe you should put your glasses back on
And get your underwear back inside your pants
For goodness sake

Why is it that every time I’m around you,
It feels like I’m the alien who’s invaded your world?

That somehow I don’t belong.
I’ve been pulling my hair out
Trying to find the answer

See, you don’t know you’re a villain
Until someone else is declared the hero
Until you learn that someone else is super
And you’re not

Maybe you actually are doing some good
But I’ve seen you step into the telephone booth
And anyone who can change that quickly
I don’t really trust

I’m not saying that I’m perfectly right
Or good or just
But at least I’m not pretending

At least my clothes aren’t a costume

And the pain that I experience
Lets me know that I’m still breathing
And you haven’t stopped me yet




When you receive a broken gift
Do not ask for the receipt
Do not look for the warranty
Or the exchange policy
And whatever you do,
Do not try to fix it.

For our first anniversary
You gave me an antique pocket watch
The face was cracked
And the hands didn’t move
They just kind of shook

It was embroidered with a silver lining
And when I opened it up,
It was engraved with the words, “Until the end of time.”

You said you were sorry
The engraver took longer than expected
And there just wasn’t enough time to fix it

I wanted to say that even a broken watch
Is right twice a day
I wanted to say that it will remind me
Of our moments together when time stands still
All I said was, “I love it.”

I still carry it with me
And I still forget the time’s not set
So about once a week,
I’m either very early or extremely late for something


When you first told me you were broken
Your face was cracked
And tears formed out of the canyons of your eyes
Said, “Body don’t work like it should.”
Said, “Body be enemy.
Body be sick.”

You said you were sorry
Time won’t look
Like the dreams we passed to each other in letters
Like the future postcards we forgot to send

I wanted to tell you
You were the only dream
That’s ever kept me awake at night
I wanted to tell you
All I ever wanted out of time was you
All I said was, “I love you.”

You were never broken.
It was time that broke.

So when we said our vows,
We knew what they meant.
In sickness and in health
Wrapped around our ring fingers

And when we said our vows,
We knew there would be nights like these
Sleepless nights
Tracing paths around the parking lot
Until the pain passes
Lying on bathroom floors
Your hands didn’t move
They just kind of shook

You were brave
I was scared
So I held you
Wiped the hair from your face
And I called you a “badass”

We laughed because the only other option was crying

We rode clouds laced with silver lining
Tattooed engravings of forever on our souls
Slid down hourglass sands and called it “the beach”
We received time like a borrowed, broken present
Because, at any moment, time was all we had
Time and each other

So we take time
And grasp it in our hands each day
Then, careful not to stare at it too long
We place it back in our pockets
Reach out for each other’s hands
And walk

Friends, I discovered this poem this morning by one of my favorite poets.  It declares hope in the midst of the powers of this world. On this Good Friday, as we inch nearer to the hope of the resurrection, may this be a reminder of the power of death that has wrecked this world and the small ways in which we can produce change.

“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”
by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, copyright ® 1973 by Wendell Berry, reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

“When I Die”

Posted: 07/13/2014 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , , ,

For the past couple months, I have been a chaplain in a hospital, and I have been confronted with the realities of death. As I sit with people at the end of life or family members and friends who have tragically and unexpectedly lost loved ones, I have contemplated my own thoughts on death and dying. Below is a poem I wrote as a way of processing these experiences.

“When I Die”

Everybody wants to go to heaven
But nobody wants to die
Lord, I wanna go to heaven
But I don’t wanna die

So I’ll long for the day when I have new birth
Still I love living here on earth
Everybody wants to go to heaven
But nobody wants to die

When I die, I want you to laugh
Like a fall out your chair
Feet in the air
Deep, deep belly laugh
I want the memories of our play
To curve a smile on your face

I want you to sing
Maybe slightly off-key
And listen for the dissonance
Just know that it’s ok if you never sing on pitch again
And it’s ok if you do

When I die, I want you to cry
And catch each tear from your eyes
Bottle them up, and when there’s enough
I want you to use them to water our garden
So you can see that life springs from grief
And that hope is more than belief
You can taste it, and watch it bloom

When I die, I want you to eat
Maybe some blackberries
Because you love blackberries
And we never kept them in the house
Cuz they cost too much
But don’t worry about that now
Just let your hands and tongue get black and blue
From something sweet for once

When I die, I want you to rest
And then I want you to wake up
And then I want you to rest
And then I want you to wake up
And then I want you to rest
And then I want you to wake up
And then I want you to rest
And then I want you to wake up
Until you can take this clay cup
And drink the fray up
Until you don’t have to rely
On trying anymore

And I still want you to laugh

And when I die,
I want you to dance in the kitchen
I want you to play in the park
I want you to sit in the sunset
Watch the stars light the dark

I want you to fight
I want you to scream
I want you to hope
I want you to dream

I want you to love and be loved
To take and to give

Cuz When I die, when I die
I want you to live
I just want you to live

Several people have asked me if I have any copies of my poetry recorded.  I’d love to have more, but as of yet, I do have a few.  My next few posts will feature music I recorded a few years back with my buddy Ross Stratton in Ft. Wayne, IN.

This first poem is is an exploration of Genesis 1 and 2.

Creation to Conversation



If I just spoke… like… this…
Then maybe you’d think that I was reciting a poem
Maybe if I sped up my words just a little bit
Or if I slowed         it              down
Em-pha-si-zing each syll-a-ble
Maybe you would think that I had something intelligible to say
Maybe if I become righteously indignant about some cause that you have never heard about
Like the declining wolf population in Montana
Or how the prizes in Cracker Jack boxes just ain’t what they used to be
Or if I used some really complicated, nonsensical metaphor about dragons
That you’ll never understand
Then maybe out of pity, or passion, or confusion
You would snap for me

 But, as it is, this is not a poem

You see, because poetry is philosophy
Hand-scribed like Socrates
Played out like Odyssey
Or Shakespearean tragedy

Poetry is psychology
It’s the Rorschach test
Of the human condition

It’s Frost, Angelou, Yeats, Thoreau
And the “Nevermore” of Edgar Allen

Poetry is science
A hydrologic cycle
Cuz it flows out like water
Makes you shiver like ice
And surrounds you like vapor
Thick when you breathe it in

Poetry is religion
Calling God to God’s attention
Finding faith in frail conditions
In heartfelt cries for repentance
It’s the psalms of desperation
And salvation

Poetry is when truth
Makes love to imagination
And birth out to action

Poetry is a dragon
Yeah, that’s right! A dragon.
It spits fire out your throat
Sets you to flight
And it’s only purpose is to protect the greatest treasures of this world
Not of gold, but love, grace, and human dignity

Poetry is revolution
Breaking chains of institutions
From the quiet hums
To the “We shall overcome’s”
From the beat of a march
To the beatings of people

Poetry is the reflection of sacrifice
It’s the mirror of a martyr
And I am not dead yet

So until lifeless I lay
Over an open page or an open stage
I’ll continue to proclaim

This is not a poem