Berl’s Poetry Shop (a found poem)

12 Oct

This is what it is like
to be loved by me
cinema of the present
in the circus of you
cutting time with a knife
making dying illegal.

The woman in this poem,
citizen, unleashed, not nothing.
You must look hard
to see what’s there
I am you this morning
you are me tonight

Anything could happen
in the presence of absence
one sleeps, the other doesn’t
technically, it is not my fault.
The French exit:
thanks and sorry and good luck


This poem is a found poem, composed entirely of titles of poetry chapbooks for sale at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop in DUMBO (Brooklyn, NY). Berl’s is devoted to selling poetry books and chapbooks produced by small press publishers. I visited Berl’s for the first time this past Friday morning. As part of the events of the annual Poets Forum, held in New York by the American Academy of Poets, we were treated to a Brooklyn Poetry Walk led by Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang. Berl’s was the first stop on the tour, which took us to the waterfront, where we read Walt Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, and to Cave Canum where we heard two readings by some excellent and up-and-coming young poets.

I love creating found poems, and book title poems in particular. Titles are very important, and authors spend a lot of time choosing the titles of their books, so I think it’s neat to find interesting titles and weave them together. As I was surrounded by hundreds of poetry chapbooks at Berl’s , I couldn’t help but think that of all book titles, poetry book titles are probably the ones with the most thought put into crafting them.

To all the poets whose titles I used in this poem: thanks, and sorry, and good luck.

UPDATE: A few readers wanted to know the process by which I did this. Usually, I pull books off the shelves and then rearrange them to create the poem. I stack them up and take a photo, then write out the poem in a post, like this example from a few years ago: The Lovers (a found poem). However, I felt kind of funny just pulling books off of the shelves at Berl’s, because they are arranged in a certain way and I didn’t want to disturb that. So, this time I just walked around the store and jotted down a list of the titles that jumped out at me. That part of the process is the “found” part. I try to just let the titles hit me so I have a good list of interesting titles to use for the poem. Then, when I actually wrote the poem, I read over my list of titles and just started playing around with combinations and order. I am a bit of purist, so I don’t alter or truncate the titles in any way. Also, I use the whole title, one per line, or in the case of one word titles, I will separate those by comma. There were a number of two line titles that I kept two lines in the poem. Lastly, I did not add any extra words to the poem apart from the titles.

Here is a photo of my journal where I wrote the list of titles that I selected so you can see how I fit them into the poem.


Fly By Day

9 Sep

My flight departs when I put my left foot on the pedal and coast, down the driveway, onto the street, swinging my right leg over the saddle. If I had wings to beat, they would be my two feet, pedaling down the asphalt runway. This is my morning flyby. My feet push hard against the pedals: pushing away worries, pushing back years, pushing against thoughts of you which I can’t ever seem to escape from. I keep pushing until my thighs protest, my chest heaves. Lightheaded and flushed I soar through the streets of my neighborhood. I admit, I do spread my arms like an eagle, because it feels good; this is the closest I come to actual flight. I pump my legs and ascend higher and farther, as if this is all I have. This time, cutting through space, where I run to you and away from you at the same time.

The retired men, putzing around their yards in my neighborhood know me. They line the streets and cheer as I speed past, just a blur. As they watch me go by, I recognize the look in their eyes, it makes me want to keep going and never stop.

Hot drops of rain fall
on my helmet, I welcome
them, and feel alive.


I wrote this, my first haibun, for Dverse Poets Pub’s first Haibun Monday. Having never explored this form of poetry before, I am not sure that I totally nailed the form, but I enjoyed writing it. As I was on my bicycle this morning, these were my actual thoughts. Thoughts which were followed by a sense of dread that I would not be able to work my ideas into a coherent poem. Then I got home, hopped on the computer, saw the Dverse post and boom! Haibun!

Oh Say, Can You See?

26 Aug

I can see you
13 rivers red blood brothers
13 pillars victorious mothers

blue promises in the night sky
your stars shining as they guide

give me liberty, give me life
bless the fruit of our strife

o majesty, wave your banner over us
bless our battles in the dust

your colors dipped in God we trust
I can see you, I will be you
wave, wave, wave


one thousand places where you are not

24 Aug

rollinggreen grassy field, zephyrs concourse
saltcresting gulfstreamwaves, miles from land
hayloft of a barn, Tennessee horse farm
mossyaired spaces in between forest trees
nestlecurled beside a hollow rotting log.

Mexican rooftop, anotherplease tequila
sunrise filtering through empty playground
swings, floatspinning down a lazy river
in a warm rainstorm, poundingpavement
in the everincreasing heat of daytime.

an airplane holding pattern slowwaltz,
banking over the Panama Canal,
hilltopview of Manhattan, twin lights, painted desert
highwaygunning towards Pacifica, that
bar in Copenhagen, wintermidnights
on west 57th. the Jewish weddingdance
in Buenos Aires, au pied de cochon
Amsterdam, Aachen. Gare de Lyon.

who do I kid not? you were there, are
there, always will be and anywhere
elseplace I go you ceasenot
to leave your footprints for
even the windleaves they carry
your indelible invisiblemark
even in watersounds i hear your
wonderous laughter


Places. Kennings. An experiment and some truth. Can you guess the influences?

Take a listen:

Break Through

20 Aug

I’m looking for a spoon.
I’m looking for a spoon
to crack an egg. To smack
through the oyster shell
of my heart, the soft boiled
container of my soul.
That shining spoon
has to fit my fingers
it needs to be surgical steel
with the right balance
of stem and bowl
so when it thwacks
upside the egg, it’s ready
to dig, to scoop out
all the glorious goo,
all my runny ideas
and inspiration in one
yellow flow, but first
I need that spoon.


The Audience Awaits

5 Aug

I went outside to watch
the stars tonight, curled
in my Adirondack chair
but those stars, I swear,
peered right back at me
blinking their diamond eyes
in the quivering silence, inquiring
in some universal Morse code,
So, what are you
going to do next?


Pelicans Pause

29 Jul

Perched upon pilings,
pelicans pause, pensively
primping and preening.


We went to Ponce Inlet, FL last Saturday to participate in a poetry reading at Lighthouse Park (I got to read 4 poems, YAY!). Afterwards I wandered around the neighborhood taking photos. Across the street from the park, at the marina, there were a bunch of large pelicans perched on pilings, almost 20 of them. Pelicans are curious birds, and I love to watch them. This group seemed to be waiting for the resident head boats to come back from their morning fishing trips.

Wrote a haiku about them, because lately I have been in a haiku sort of mood.

This Idea Must Die (American Sentences)

24 Jul

This idea must die:
The Tao of Twitter
Calming your angry mind.


A found poem at my local library, culled from the “newly released” bookshelf.

American Sentences are a type of modern haiku invented by Allan Ginsburg. They are Sentences with 17 syllables and can be solo or in groups.

The Armchair Railman

21 Jul

My Dad, he loved trains
he loved the chug of them
the noise and wind
of a full steam scream
the metal and fire and hold on
for  your life, looking
for the next stop
coming round the bend

Standing on a platform
with places to go,
hat in your hands
miles stretched long
stitched across the land
heads hanging out
windows, whooshing past
abandonded depots
in towns that time forgot

My Dad, he loved trains
never met a station
he didn’t like, and
built railroad altars
throughout his life
to hold those engines
in the palm of his hand
my Dad, he loved trains.


Well, thanks Bill. This is the type of prompt that I need. Something to help me out of my poetic rut.

Trains are in my blood. They are an Eyde Thing (as are planes, but let that be another poem). My dad loved trains, and he knew all the lines, all the railroads, used to travel to obscure places just to see their train stations. He was famous for saying, “the train used to stop here, in this little place!” with the same tone of nostalgic amazement, every time. Trains brought life, and my dad celebrated that. It fascinated him, much like boats and ports and maritime history fascinates me. Ever since I was a small child he used to buy train sets and built model railroads with my brothers and I. He never stopped, up until he passed away at the age of 71 he built train sets and models. It was his indulgence in his later years.

The photo is of the old train depot in Gettysburg, PA. I took this photo while I was visiting Gettysburg with my mom and one of my daughters. Local legend says that President Lincoln arrived at this station with his train car when he came to deliver the Gettysburg address. Gettysburg is a bit off the beaten track, so it didn’t get much traffic and the train station shut down in the mid 20th century. My Dad went to college at Gettsyburg, and I imagine that he probably got a kick out of the train station there, just a couple of blocks from campus but historically significant because of it’s place in time and history.

The Philosophy of Goodbye

19 Jul

so much depends upon
the backseat of a car
a sundress, a boyish grin

so much can happen in
a makeshift time machine
your hands, gentle in my hair

so much depends upon
the urgent silence of
not taking ourselves too seriously

with you, I never felt time
slip so quickly
through my fingers, before

and letting you go
is the bravest thing I’ve ever done
with a smile on my face

but none of this explains why
I feel like I am missing a limb
the ache of which haunts me

Live oak tree limbs.

Live oak tree limbs.

I have been tiptoeing around my thoughts and ideas, looking for something to spark a poem. I have been wanting to write for several weeks, but I have been holding back, knowing that my thoughts are not clear, my feelings too raw. There are things I don’t have words for. There are things I don’t want to put into words, because words are insufficient. Silence can be a good friend.

Last week, Brian posted a prompt over at Dverse, to write a poem about the philosophy of something. The first line of a William Carlos Williams poem immediately came to mind, so I used that as a springboard for this poem. I tried to keep it raw.


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