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teacher, librarian, chess instructor, author, storyteller, expert on boys and reading.

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A Moment at the Beach

“You are going to have to
get off my car,” she said.
“I need to drive away now.”
He stared back at her as if
he didn’t understand a word
that came from her mouth
and he didn’t budge.

“Oh, come on,” she said. “It
was fun, but this was but a brief
encounter, a walk along the beach
on a spring morning. We come
from different worlds, you
and I, and for how long can we
keep meeting in the middle?

“I need to go back now, I
have a job, a husband, and
granted he doesn’t listen half
as well as you do, and he doesn’t
have your piercing eyes, but I
love him, and besides, your
table manners are atrocious.”

And with that she threw the
last of her fries out into the
parking lot, and the gull lifted
off for the black top buffet,
and she sighed, got in her
car, and drove away.

(Published in the Portsmouth Herald's "Random Acts of Poetry")

Where the stones always so smooth?
So unresisting to the fingers’ path?
They feel as though they were
as if rounded at the spinning of the world
so slick and firm in my palms
but they were not always so.

Time is the enemy of jagged edges
and nothing abiding stays the same
a stone lives only a season of the life
of the sea and a wave is but
an ocean’s passing thought
the days of man are moments to a stone.

Did it hurt this wearing down?
I would like to think it did, but of this
I have no memory; rocks feel no pain
but oh, the cold, the laying bare
of the stone beneath stone
as the outer rock capitulates.

Easier, yes, to let the waters flow
over surfaces that offer no resistance
and easier still once the erosion
has begun, a leveling so gentle
you do not feel it abrade but
the labor of ocean takes its toll.

The tide is persistent, defeated but for
a day, or no just resisted. What hurry?
Time is the ally of eternities, it can’t
help but endure past days, past lives,
past memories, as rivers empty into seas
and oceans, their basins never fill.

Void begets void, and that wicked
old snake, his tail he swallows still.

First Time at the Library
Published in Public Libraries, March/April 2003.

My daddy said that I could pick
Most any book I see
From rows and rows and rows of them
Stacked high as two of me.

The books were falling off the shelves
And piled up on the floor
The lady there behind the desk
Was stacking even more.

I asked if I could take one home
She said, "Take two or three.
I have to put the rest away
And need the space you see."

She showed me every single book
That fell within her reach.
"Here's one for reading on the bus
And one for on the beach.

"Here's fifteen pets piled on a bed,
And here's a flying frog
A girl with pigtails long and red,
A teacher who's a dog.

"Here's one about a pig that sings,
A spider that can write."
So many, many, many books
Without an end in sight.

I trembled as I said, "I want
The one about a horse.
It's blue, I think," I said, "but I
Forgot  the name of course."

My daddy slowly shook his head
He didn't see much chance.
But then the lady stopped and stared
Like she was in a trance.

A thousand books piled all around
Ten thousand, maybe more!
Her eyes took in the lot of them
Stacked ceiling to the floor.

I thought that she had gone to sleep
So rigid did she stand
Then smiled so sweet, reached out and put
Black Beauty in my hand.


Flitting, darting
A restless quest
To fuel a fire
That burns your breast
Seeking sweetness
For selfish glee
Bringing gifts
So heedlessly
Your touch a trigger
You fire life
Igniting beauty
In vibrant strife
To equal you
In colors bright
They dazzle, dumbfound
And delight
But in tableau
Their beauty ends
Enlivened only
By the wind
Whilst you with
Generous energy
Prove a lovely
Vibrant Persephone
Their season ends
Those blooms of spring
And hummingbird
On fragile wing
Too soon I fear
You will expire
Sweetness smolders
Consumed in fire.


(Published in the Portsmouth Herald's "Random Acts of Poetry")

I walked today beside the sea,
that was sparkling in the sun
in the wake of an ocean storm to see
what damage had been done.

The waves had carried so much away,
familiar dunes, niches had disappeared
the road that paralleled the shore
hung suspended in the air.

Shrub trees had risen, or so
it seemed, on roots that lifted high
like tip-toed dainty ladies intent
on keeping their dresses dry.

So much was lost it seemed
to me, mountains worth of sand
paid in tribute to Poseidon
a fatal loss of land.

Yet was the Earth diminished?
Was there an increase to the sea?
The shore, I found, stood on the seam
of two eternities.

Ten billion tiny grains of sand
ten billion water drops
armies ebb and eons flow;
the battle never stops.

Sorrow is a fluid truth
like tears tides rise, subside
endurance is made of stony stuff
like sand it shifts, abides.

Loss is the eternal shore
sight of a slow explosion
pain wears wounds that never heal
a perpetual erosion.   



Blues ain’t got nothing on country
who needs Chicago and Detroit City?
the notes they all began
in Memphis and Louisian
and they ain’t forgot
how to break a heart
down there in Tennessee.

Blues ain’t got nothing on country
cause in pain and guilt and shame
slice them how you please
all our hearts still bleed
whether black or white
by weight or height
we’s all about the same.

Blues ain’t got nothing on country
whether you’re in shades or cowboy boots
taking liquid comfort and pouring in
drinkin whiskey, beer, or bathtub gin
getting tight or going easy
in honkytonk or speakeasy
pain flows up from the roots.

Blues ain’t got nothin on country
and you’ll know that by and by
cause I’m gonna put me head
down on the varnished bed
of a cigar-burned bar
to the sound of a steel guitar
and just lay me down and cry.


My Storytelling Creed

I believe in fairy tales
I believe they're true
I believe in fairy tales
Do you believe them too?

I believe in wishes made
when stars fall from the sky
I believe if birds can fly
Then maybe so can I.

I believe in magic spells
If you can only make them rhyme
I believe in unicorns
And Once Upon a Time...

I believe that leprechauns
Hide gold at rainbow's end
I believe adventure lies
Just 'round the river bend.

And I believe that every day
There's magic in the air
That heaven's not beyond our hopes
Its just beyond our fears.


Chili Dog Poem
(Published in the Portsmouth Herald's "Random Acts of Poetry")

Truck stops are a terrible place to write poetry. The men who
gather there want the music up too loud;  the roar of rubber on tar
has burned a trough in their ears that needs the cooling flow of
bland rhythms and obvious rhymes. How hard it is to resist.

The waitresses at truck stops are too substantial,
too there. Tips depend on being noticed,
and noticing waitresses makes it hard to write poetry.
They are always grabbing something, dropping something,
at every table they run past to get to empty tables in the back.

The older waitress wears a skirt and plastic hair and calls
the truckers hon. She is practiced, packaged. Half mother,
half mistress, just as they would expect. The younger one wears
jeans too tight and trades a table to wait on me, wearing a made-up
name that she hopes I will remember and forget who she really is.

The customers talk too loud on the phones conveniently provided
in every booth, of wives and to girlfriends, to kids they say they long
to see over wires they tug to global lengths. They want to talk, to me
or worse to the old geezer two tables past me, about his home state
sports teams, his daddy’s farm, and the lump he found in his groin.

There are no stories in the truck stop, no images to focus the mind,
no lessons to learn, no metaphors. There are no muses here.
There are only men in diesel-stained hats, a pregnant waitress
with no ring on her finger, and a poet eating chili dogs with a fork.
Poetry by Michael Sullivan