Friday, December 31, 2010


This was the year that started outside of Vegas. It’s not as glam as it sounds. I like to hike in the desert.

This was the year I started to build a walkway out of individual stones then quit halfway and questioned the direction it was going. I’ll continue building it someday. I still have a sense of direction and still have the stones to finish what I started.

Some of our modern machines died this past year and needed to be replaced but in the rush of daily life I was too busy to see the metaphor. Most days I’ll take clean clothes over epiphanies.

I finally got the chance to visit the castles where my long-lost ancestors learned masonry, chivalry and fighting. It’s a learned thing, listening to stone.

This was the year that the tomatoes did poorly. The roses, empathetic, didn’t do much better.

This was the first year that I wrote every day, built a blog and some stronger writing habits. It’s fun seeing your name in print next to others who are pretty good.

I got to spend two days with Kay Ryan and listened carefully to everything she said. Here’s a summary: speak with your own voice or not at all.

I picked up the banjo then put it down and wondered what the hell was I thinking.

My prayers resumed then stopped then started again. It’s a fine thing the teacher isn’t grading for punctuation.

I couldn’t stop marching, for religious tolerance, for GLBT rights, for battered families, and in the footsteps of St. Patrick. Still no shortage of snakes in this world but they seem to be getting better at evasion.

This was the year I caught glimpses of the man my son is becoming and they almost always filled me with joy.

With every passing year I’ve learned of more passings and reminders of stories that don’t get told until we’re gone. I felt the triumph of someone who got a second chance and her stories are just starting to form.

You might have caught my self-absorbed tone over the solstice. Only catharsis, maybe caused by the dark days and rapidly rising river. But the days are already getting longer, we’re survived floods before and I live on higher ground than I used to.

La vita e bella - life is good. I’ll see you in 2011.

~ J. D. M.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Adieu, December

Are we finished yet? Seriously, I can't be happier that this year and this month are coming to a well-deserved end. Too many highlights to count (people, places and a Pushcart nomination) and a few speed bumps (correction: collisions) to remind us we're mortal (seriously, we already knew and didn't need any reminders). The only thing left to do is bid adieu and move forward. Read on...

Even in a good year this is an insane month
cursed by short days
tall expectations
and scenic views of redemption

First was the hate crime that lit up cable news
followed by marches and vigils
long talks about recovery
the grueling work of social justice

Then reminders of how shopping postponed is shopping hell
once behind you can never catch up
still I clung to my double standard
I reserve the right to play Santa for others
as for me, to quote Elmo:
all I want for Christmas is you

Just before we donned our almost gay apparel
there were no twelve days of Christmas
for us lapsed pagans

Only one long day in the ER
five more in acute care
six more in a tenaciously joyful rehab center
Christmas dinner on paper plates
and the greatest gift ever

I’ve never known a December like this
and wish to never see one like it

As much as I’ve enjoyed the joys of 2010
there is no hesitation in bidding adieu, December
until we meet again

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Morning

Botti on the stereo
brewing Costa Rican
Sunday has the kindest paper
a break in the December rain
new fungi out back
brief visit by the Bears
mail piling up
distant Advent memories
all the trouble in the world pauses

she says procrastination
I say you say that like it’s a bad thing
everything that should be done
can be done

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Even before the steam wafted away
before the sodden carpets pulled
and the charred rubbish hauled off
before the painful news got out
that this was no mistake

The offers arrived
for builders, rugs and paint
money, flowers and food
stronger light on darker days

Through gentle acts of grace we learned
their needs are small
these colleagues and friends

The beauty of their souls revealed
the most important things they know
are friendship, faith and time

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Never To Be Silent

Even I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
- Elie Wiesel

Even I swore
when I heard about the firebomb
tossed into the Mosque
near the street where I live

My vows are the opposite
of some religious orders:
never to be silent
in calamitous times

Whenever and wherever human beings
endure suffering and humiliation
I will take notice
and when the times demand it
I will act

Whether it’s a hate crime
or a homecoming game
we must always take sides
so I’m friending you now
from this moment on

The time for neutrality has passed
since neutrality only helps the oppressor
never the victim

Silence only encourages the tormentor
who loses all resolve
when the chords of truth sound clear

Silence never encourages the tormented
so I’m done being silent
and even if I have to swear
I’m taking your side

~ J. D. Mackenzie

[Last week, the mosque in our little college town was firebombed. We expect that those responsible will eventually be caught and tried. Meanwhile, the community response has been overwhelmingly positive. A real effort is being made to better understand our differences and to work toward a more civilized world.]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Hey ~ I've been away, doing a walkabout in Wales and Ireland, minding the store, the usual routines. Still writing plenty, just not blogging. Time to get going again. Enjoy...

It’s hard to know what to wear this time of year
for early risers wrapped against the cold
the layers right for morning
have us wilting later on

Rotting comes so easy
to this season of regrets
the lingering heat, light and moisture
force a slow, death march of mold

There’s a graceless aging
when some colors seem mis-matched
like the garish plaid and gold chain
in the rag-top roaring by

With a sharpness on the outside
and a warmth that comes and goes
you can’t help but wonder if
October is a He

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trudy, from Cameron Parish

I recalled her from summer break last year
with long legs and a confident smile
acting like she owned the beach
permitting the rest of us to be here
so long as we kept our distance
and minded our manners

Sometimes she’d sing in a high, soaring voice
sometimes she’d mutter and scold
and while I couldn’t make out the words
it was clear she got the blues

Someone done her wrong
somebody left her
her heart was broken
her life was over

But something was different this year
this year she sang like she meant it
because someone had done her wrong

Every place she traveled
everywhere she slept
everything she ate
everyone she loved
all destroyed

She could still fly and sing
as well as any gull on the gulf coast
but I had to wonder
if that were enough

If her life depended on staying up forever
depended on someone hearing her song
would I see her back here next year
with her long legs and confident smile?

~ J. D. Mackenzie

Inspired by the Poetry on Wednesday prompt, What's On Your Mind? From Rallentanda's evocative list, I chose Environmental Issues.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Homage a M. Prevert

Comment trouver les mots
à la fois brefs et constants?
On a tant vu,
tant aquis et tant perdu
Comment nommer
la seule chose qui tient
en ce moment même?

J'adore être ici
ma table à ce café
Chateau Margaux
qui sent le chêne limousin et le cassis
une bonne cigarette anglaise
la laine douce et souple
et le parfum inégalable
de Paris en automne

J'aime Gaston
la sérénité au poil
pas de jugement
il est tout amitié et affection

Je suis rassuré
qu'on peut me reconnaître
sans m'arrêter
sans s'attendre à un tête-à-tête
c'est me respecter

Je suis reconnaissant
que les jeunes poètes enthousiamés
ont cessé d'appeler
pour sonder ma pensée
ou pour me connaître autrement

Qu'y a-t-il à ne pas aimer?
Qu'ai-je perdu?
Qu'est-ce que je n'ai jamais connu? su?

Je la joie de cet instant
le présent sublime
l'actualité transcendante

English Translation

Homage to M. Prevert

How can I find the words
both brief and enduring?
Having seen so much
gained and lost so much
How best to name
the only thing that matters
at this very moment?

I love it here
my table at this café
Chậteau Margaux
redolent with Limousin oak and currant
a good English cigarette
the comfort of soft wool
and the way only Paris
can smell in autumn

I love Gaston
all serenity and fur
he never makes judgment
only friendship and warmth

I am relieved
that some people recognise me
but rarely stop anymore
and do not expect conversation
this is respect

I am grateful
that eager student poets
have stopped calling
wanting to know my mind
or other ways of knowing me

What is not to love?
What I have lost?
What I have never known?

I love the joy of this moment
the sublime present
the transcendent now

~ J. D. Mackenzie

[Inspired by POW Week 11 prompt: write a poem in the style of Jacques Prevert with some French sprinkles, featured at]

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

So, You Really Want to Direct?

That’s it?
So you really want to direct?
You think it looks easy?
Maybe it only looks easy
because I make it look easy
Maybe if you knew how hard it is
to get most actors to act
then you’d mind your own business
of flubbing lines and tripping on your tonsils

This is inane
You have no script
You have no budget
You’ve given no direction
I am a professional!

Try something else

I’m your new Patriot Act
Everything breath you take
I’ll be watching you
Even when you’re sleeping
Especially when you’re sleeping
Except you won’t know it’s happening then
But I’ll be here stalking you

Use your imagination

How about a close shot?
Since you were too cheap to get a real location
let’s do this scene close up
dressage scar and all
no room for error
no need for second takes

Dig deeper

Well, here we are lost on an island
and our options for optics are quite limited
use that if you like for an ophthalmology exam
but don’t even think about it for gynecology

I need more anger

Who’s tripping on their tonsils now
Mr. ex-boyfriend director?
Did you even know I played Portia in Ashland
and all three witches in Macbeth
when the other two called in sick
because I could?
And where the hell is my Evian?

Much better
We’ll work it out in edits

~ J. D. Mackenzie

[Based on the following Poetry on Wednesday Week 10 prompt: the prompt for this week is the photo shown at]

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You There, In the Plaid

As the new son of an old nation
you got a gentle start
in pastoral South Lanarkshire
schoolboy days in Paris
wine, wisdom and worldliness
how soon the world can turn

Dispossessed of your ancestral lands
but never the blue and green tartan
cursed by the Crown
friend-in-arms of the Bruce
defeated at Methven and Dalrigh
victor at Brander, Roxburgh, Bannockburn

A hard life during hard times
made more so for the wars
that never seem to end

Sometimes on a walk
through the green grounds at St. Bride’s Kirk
I imagine your thick, black mane
damp with sweat and others’ blood
I can almost hear
your deep baritone thunder
across the plane of battle
Ye shall all die, thieves of England!

Gentle and sweet over pints and in love
all fury and ferocity in a good fight
beloved yet savage ancestor
we owe you all

And for reproducing before your final clash
on the frontiers of Andalucia
Thank you

As true as your spirit lives on
I will follow thee or die

~ J. D. Mackenzie

[Based on the following Poetry on Wednesday week 9 prompt: WHO AM I? Write a poem about a well know person, celebrity, historical or mythical figure. Please do not reveal the name. It should be fun to guess who it is.]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Botti & Lucia Heat Up Emmanuel

It’s time we left our work and went to play
We’ve been at it for hours, I know you’re tired
The days don’t get much longer than today

There’s nothing like the solstice to inspire
So pack your gear and get your second wind
Let’s head out to the beach and build a fire

All our friends are here so let’s begin
To barbeque and let the Fosters flow
We’ll do a little sailing if there’s wind

The stunning sunset makes your soft hair glow
Let’s shake things up as we dismiss daylight
When stars come out the music starts to slow

Botti’s horn was made for summer twilight
Everything I love is here tonight

~ J. D. Mackenzie

[Poetry on Wednesday Week 8 Prompt: Choose a piece of music that expresses Twilight in Summer. Make sure it is on You Tube so that we can listen to it while reading your poem. In Terza Rima Sonnet form, please.]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Right Here in Tuscany

We staggered through the final days
of our exhausting year
Your blue eyes told me everything:
just get me out of here

With carry-on and tickets
it’s sure nice we both pack light
We snuggled up with Ambien
for our twelve hour flight

I’d found a bello Tuscan villa
half a world away
Close enough to town for us
to shop there every day

I don’t worry much about
the words that I don’t know
Everyone can understand me
when I order Dolcetto

They don’t have a phrasebook for a pair like you and me
Maybe we should write our own right here in Tuscany

The locals have a way with words
that charms us every time
Botti piccine il vino buono means
small barrels hold good wine

But all I really want to do
is shed our clothes out by the pool
and slowly, gently carry you
the way we always used to do
remembering why I married you
I hope you feel the same way too

They don’t have a phrasebook for a pair like you and me
Maybe we should write our own right here in Tuscany

There’s no internet to translate what you mean to me
so let’s create our own new language, here in Tuscany
right here in Tuscany

~ J. D. Mackenzie

[Based on the following prompt from Rallentanda: This week's prompt is Italian. The aim is to use a sprinkling of Italian words in your poem.]

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Love's Lament

To thee I send this written ambassage
By legal courier, registered mail
To show thee worthy of thy sweet respect

I cannot blame thee for my love
Thou usest with my best man
My second cousin, the pool boy, et. al.

I hated you
When it would have taken less courage
And been far less expense to love

Were I hard-favoured, foul or wrinkled old
Then mightest thou pause, for then I were not for thee
But having no defects, why dost abhor me?

I do forgive thy robb’ry, gentle thief
Of my home, my pension and full custody of the kids
Not all of whom appear like me

But I forbid thee one most heinous crime
Theft of our season tickets to the theatre
Kill me with spites, yet leave these alone

I feel shame that I was so innocent
All the things I had learned
Had been wasted

~ J. D. Mackenzie, Will Shakespeare & Charles Bukowski


Sonnet 19
Sonnet 40
Venus and Adonis
Sonnet 26

As the Sparrow
My First Affair

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Auntie's Dining Room

In my time I’ve seen and heard all
it’s true these walls can talk

My Lady’s story
begins and ends softly
a well ordered life filled with
abstinence, letters and calm

All of her needs were met in her time
temperate friends and hounds
quiet walks on a quiet lane

Rare visits from that truculent nephew
true to his dualist inclinations
and spurious joys

Looking back
it was as if the passions of the world
wound up tight like a vengeful mainspring
and ticked down the hours until
her passing provoked a clarion call

And once sounded
with curtains drawn and music loud
what foul fury and Teutonic tempo!

Who knew the gentle footman
whose name I never worried to know
could so quickly devolve into savage frenzy?

Or that his tender couplet
complexion rosy and netherparts pale
could likewise surrender
her garments and decorum
even as swift?

My Lady’s cherished order
like torn clasps on foundations
even now a fading memory
so undone

~ J. D. Mackenzie

Inspired by Rallentanda’s prompt:

The Dresden clock continued ticking on the mantelpiece
And the footman sat upon the dining-table
Holding the second housemaid on his knees--
Who had always been so careful while her mistress lived

From ' Aunt Helen' by T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dating In Wonderland

Alice, Allison
Elise, Elysium
Champs d’Elysees

As her mind melted
so did the names
of everything around her
including her now-separate self

The evening began simply enough
her date, a cute Polo model with blonde stubble
and she with new blue eye shadow
that matched her dress

After the appetizer course
the Ecstasy (his idea) kicked in
their table got rubbery
her throat tasted metallic

Note to self:
no more sashimi or Vitamin X
on an empty stomach

When Polo guy morphed into a rabbit
(and not a nice one)
he still had cute whiskers
but his tanned ears grew white and long
and he affected this nervous custom
of burrowing her
under the table

Already stressed about
her parents and career
this was a bit much

It saddened Alice
that her life had come to this
a litany of less than stellar choices
fueled by a bad batch of Bliss
culminating in a dreadful date with a lugubrious hare
whose fondness for cruel titillation
was rather queer, indeed

And if that weren’t enough
there was no lemon for her tea

~ J. D. Mackenzie

[Inspired by Rallentanda's Poetry On Wednesday prompt #4 from the Charles Blackman painting Feet Beneath the Table]

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Trevor's Epiphany

My young poet friend
is love-struck and high
he wants to tell me
about his new girlfriend:

Dude, he starts to say
because at twenty
everyone is Dude or Babe
except for his parents

he tells me
his new girlfriend is smoking hot
kind of short, like an Epigram
but built like a vigorous Epic

She’s direct as a Cinquain
with a wicked sense of Senryu humor
very old school, Alexandrine kind of class
and not one Cacophonous bone in her body

When they’re alone
she’s as bawdy as a barroom Limerick
yet sensitive and surreal
as a Spenserian sonnet

Their days together
are post-modern Idylls
and like a Canzone
her voice fills his heart with song

Nice to know
in a world that doesn’t get poets
they found each other
she totally gets him

~ J. D. Mackenzie

[Inspired by Rallentanda's Poetry On Wednesday prompt #3 from 'Fulbright Scholars' Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. Curious? Visit]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Deliberate Faults

In the strange, dark world
of priests and boys
the presence or absence of light
depends on your point of view

The holy church proclaims
you can do nothing with children
unless you win their confidence and love
by bringing them into touch with yourself

The extent of the problem
has been overstated
abuse cases have declined
suffer the children unto me

The use of stereotypes
reminds us of the more
shameful aspects
of anti-Semitism

Those who have suffered
deserve loving pastoral attention
some more than others

Pay, pray, obey

What say the lacerated lambs?
when told they’re at fault
their fragile worlds implode
as if all the angels took off

Who then to believe
the weavers of tainted wool
or the dreamers of corrupted dreams
their foundations ground to dust?

A bumper sticker
on my neighbor’s new car
caringly asks me to
Pray for our Priests

From all evil
all impurity of soul and body
all gluttony and sensuality
all hypocrisy and pretense
all imperfections and deliberate faults
everything that displeases Thee

Deliver them
deliver us all

~ J. D. Mackenzie

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Exodus Redux

My friend the national socialist
says it’s always the same thing
it’s about economics
when we follow the money
draw circles and connect lines
it all starts to make sense

We argue a lot in a friendly sort of way
and I can’t let this one go

I tell her
your point is flawed
and doesn’t apply to my world
in my world poets don’t think like that
our ghetto is big enough for everyone

Not so fast she says
aren’t there only so many publications
only so many pages in each one?
at any given moment it’s a finite number
the ship sinks when it gets too full
(so not digital thinking!)

She only sees the doors open to the good and the fortunate
which she interprets as the English-speaking and the quirky
this sounds a little too white supremist for my taste
having had a thing for Sandra Cisneros for the past decade

So I try to imagine if my friend is right
what if there are some poets who get ration coupons
and apartments with running water
while others are forced to leave town
carrying everything they own
surrounded by jack-booted thugs
who covet their fillings and don’t read poetry

The ex-adrenalin junkie in me
warms to this dangerous image
a new adventure and maybe a new career
in resistance movements

They may not like my dialect, my misplaced faith
or my distain for convention
but one thing they can’t take away
is my willingness to keep walking
until my feet hurt, until the scenery improves
and someone invites me to stay

~ J. D. Mackenzie

Friday, April 30, 2010

In My Last Month

There are poets I remember
This past month, though some have changed
And I’ve seen each week get better
Few have given up, most all remain
All these poets had their moments
With quatrains and prose
I still can recall
Some were rushed and some painstaking
In this month I've read them all

But of all these poems and poets
there is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I read with care what’s sent from you
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For poets now dead, I’ve known before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In this month I loved yours more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For poets now dead, I’ve known before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In this month I loved yours more
In this month I loved yours more

~ J.D. Mackenzie (sort of)

(Inspired by the poets of NaPoWriMo 2010 and the Beatles)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Across the Universe

Stephen Hawking warns us
against extra-terrestrial relations.
He thinks it would go badly for us
since aliens always want to be the top
and they never call
once they’ve trashed your world.

Our other searches for intelligent life
have left us wanting.
Maybe we’re looking in the wrong places
or we’re not patient enough.
Maybe we should search for
our own contentment here
sending out our most seductive music
and letting the right one find us.

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by D.S Apfelbaum’s NaPoWriMo Day 29 prompt, Front Page News)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


How is it we spend half of our lives
harming and neglecting the ones we love?

And much of the other half
trying to atone for it?

My intuition tells me I’ve been neglecting you
while counseling these dysfunctional families of words

Redemption is difficult, nasty work
but somebody’s got to do it

April is coming to a close
Have you lost weight?
Nice earrings

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Julie Jordan Scott's NaPoWriMo prompt for Day 28, Intuition)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mackenzie Rants Upon Day 27

Maybe I’d like Carolee even more if she’d
Arranged for us to have an easier prompt
Call me predictable, or call me
Katharine (I’ve been known to write under different names)
Even when the words are flowing like Guinness
Neither Nietzsche nor even
Zeus himself can begin to
Imagine my chagrin, knowing that
Every prompter has her day.

(inspired by the Day 27 NaPoWriMo prompt provided by Carolee Sherwood, in the form of an acrostic poem using my surname)

More Things I Know About Poets

Nobody is just a poet
even the really good poets
who are just poets.

Poets who favor the first person can be narcissistic.
Poets who write in the third person may have multiple personalities.
Sooner or later, everyone gets mental whether they write poems or not.

Poets who are parents of infants sound optimistic.
Poets with teenagers learn to stop making declarative statements.
Poets who get caught with teenagers are degenerate bastards.

Girl poets have better tattoos in better places.
Some guy poets have colorful tattoos
but only from a distance.

Never show someone your poems
on the first date.
Poets who proclaim their love
using only poetry are spineless.
Never tell your girlfriend’s parents
that you’re a poet, it sounds too much
like a shoe-maker or a barrel-maker.

Poets who break up with someone
using poems are pathetic.
Partners of poets who break up
because of their poems are literary critics.

Villanelles are beautiful but technically hard.
Assonance is illegal is some southern states,
but it’s fairly common in Europe and
readily available in Amsterdam.

Some rock lyrics are poetry, but
some rock lyrics are poetic crap.
Jazz and poetry are soulmates joined at the genitals.

Many poets used to drink Absynthe
but it got expensive and rare.
Now it’s making a comeback.
Some poets are blessedly sober
and for many, we like them better that way.

Anyone can be a poet.
Not everyone can be a poet.

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Jill Crammond Wickham's NaPoWriMo prompt for Day 25, Scraps)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A New Reason to Cry

With puffy eyes and tear streaked cheeks
she turns to me and says
Every time I watch that movie
it gives me a new reason to cry

It could have been Ghost or the Laramie Project
Old Yeller or Rent
Life is Beautiful
Love Story
Gone with the Wind

I love this side of her
a sentimental contrast
to the armor and the persona
our day jobs require

Tonight it was Mimi and Angel
there’s only us, there’s only now

She’s right
they’re right
there is no day like today

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Joseph Harker’s NaPoWriMo prompt #25, First Things First)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Red Wench in Mourning

As you'll cast vote, take heed.
This Blue commit Violence upon No-one
save former Candidates then vanquished,
and even then mostly through Laughter.

The shards that remain of our Founder’s Charter
require thou shalt return home
to mismanage the ice, or schlepp salmonoids.
Confer as thou will in strongholds
as Orlando and Scottsdale, only to suffer
searing signs that proclaimeth
Beauty Fades, Lies Endure.

I'll not quit gazing your way,
nor the way of your fairer self Tina Fey.

Vile and vain! Too late thou shalt repent
and study civics. The base injustice
thou hast done my Nation by dumbing down:
Yes, thou shalt feel the harm,
spite of thy past Disgrace.
And all those Falsehoods which
thou so long hast bleat’d;
Dispatched by fact checkers and Truth.

Heav'n has no Rage, like a GOP Candidate cast down
Nor Hell a Fury, like an Alaskan Woman scorn'd.

~ J. D. Mackenzie

Shamelessly nicked from The Mourning Bride (1697) by William Congreve and further inspired by Marie Gauthier’s NaPoWriMo prompt #24, Find a Phrase)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Implausible Couplings

Today was huge in the field of vital speeches by major public figures

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed the United Nations with a plea to increase the use of land mines

Glen Beck taped a segment of his Fox program based upon verifiable research and facts

CEOs on Wall Street unveiled a new public relations campaign titled Doing What’s Best for America: A New Culture of Responsibility and Caring

Pope Benedict the 16th spoke at the weekly Vatican staff meeting on the importance of hiring and retaining priests who care deeply about the safety and welfare of children

Public policy wonk Sarah Palin held forth at the Hague on an exhaustive list of complex topics ranging from constitutional law and monetary policy to effective parenting

The not quite Reverend Fred Phelps announced that his ministry would now be based upon Christian principles

The Olsen Twins spoke separately and in complete sentences

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Sage Cohen’s Day 23 prompt, Unlikely Couples)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blue- Eyed Squall

You, crowing about
the fierceness of tomorrow

Your rantings about reverberations and rust
have no traction with me

Your heart has become an emporium
for intergenerational fears

A blue-eyed squall whose attempts
to make me dizzy only fail

Do not try to distract me
with your new saffron colored underwear
or tendrils of a new weave

I will remain up
I will not flinch

Hey, nice earrings

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Catherine's Day 22 NaPoWriMo prompt, Wordle)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tell Me A Story

Tell me an unforgettable story

Start it out when all seems lost
when the heroine is on the brink
crushed by her own conspicuous flaws
battered by external threats
then somehow she beats the odds
prevails by her own hand
and lands a happy ending

But not so fast
while you’re at it
your unforgettable story must be
filled with losers and rogues
Admit it, her antagonists need
torn clothes and rotten smells
so let us hear their sneering distain
for our dominant culture
If she can‘t attract villains
help her find them
Your story should hint
of a slim chance they’ll defeat her,
until she asserts her true self and
dispatches them with cunning and pluck

Imagine a sound track
for your unforgettable story
picture a bard with a lute
and green tights
one of those Ren Faire types
who are better suited for third person ballads
than living their own emotional truth

In this unforgettable story
show us her flawed parents
how they celebrate her triumph
and finally manage unconditional respect
to go with that unconditional love
they’ve affected for years
When she earns her redemption
let’s make them stop asking
are you seeing anyone special?

Tell me an unforgettable story
where the guy we want her to be with
starts out really flawed
we’ll want to like him anyway
but first we need him to change
like in those vapid Disney films
where she fixes him right on cue

Your story can’t be over
until our heroine has kicked some serious ass
and the happily-ever-after starts
It’s only then, when she gets her man
on her own terms without the help of others
the plot point being her personal triumph happens first
it’s only then we can relax

Remember, she doesn’t need him to be successful,
but once she’s tasted her own success
she wants him at some level
and most of us are okay with that

Can I make it easy for you?
Tell me an unforgettable story
where the boy gets the girl
or even better,
where the girl gets the boy
make it so he’s totally cool
with her power
and make the girl you

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Kristen McHenry's NaPoWriMo prompt #21 Perfectly Flawed)

The Curse of Heroes

We place them high on pedestals
tilt back our heads to watch
then gawk without pause

We craft a new mythology
borrowing from the best of the past
projecting our fondest trust

You think your job is stressful?

We get distracted by hero wannabes
mavericks drawn to costumes and perks
but not sacrifices and deeds

That we still have any heroes left
provides hope

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Jessica's NaPoWriMo Day 20 prompt, Heroes)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Shock and Awww

My friend, back from Afghanistan
went on the town in style
he’d earned a night of R and R
for it had been a while

He chanced to meet a comely lass
who charmed this lonely vet
her model looks and floral smell
would soon cause him regret

For once the two had settled in
and started to caress
her frock revealed the secrets of
a prince, not a princess

Soldiers train for everything
from IEDs to fragging
but nothing he had ever learned
foretold this kind of shagging

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Rallentanda's NaPoWriMo prompt #19, light bulb moments)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

NaPoWriMo Limerick

After hours crafting poems on my deck
my tired body felt like a wreck
Doctor Jen pushed and poked
then said, there’s no joke
you’ve got a NaPoWriMo neck

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(bonus poem, no prompt, just waiting for a limerick that never came)

Sweet William, Meet Marlene

Of the two cats in my life
thankfully neither are in my home.

My neighbor’s cat, Sweet William
embodies all that is wrong about cats.
No friend of personal hygiene or organic gardening
he willfully despoils my finest handiwork.
Were this not enough
he’s learnt to flip me off when finished.
And he leaves his Car and Driver magazines
strewn everywhere.

The other cat I’ve named Marlene
an enormous cougar (Felis concolor)
who haunts the foothills near my home.
She’s lean, muscular and tawny
like this poet I know in Portland who does triathlons.
I see her from a distance when I go hiking
usually around dusk.
She’s beautiful and harmless to me
but likes an occasional rack of lamb.
Or the odd poodle who just will not shut up.
I adore her physique, her authenticity.
We don’t talk much but I understand
she’s torqued that we humans have co-opted
the term cougar for more pejorative things.

In a perfect world
Marlene would make the acquaintance
of Sweet William.

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Irene's NaPoWriMo promt #18 Cats)

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Like that
she erupts
out of the blue

Like what?
I ask

We’re walking
on the 4th of July
holding hands
fireworks light up the sky

Like that
she lifts her gaze
up there, that one
way up high
with the pink part halfway down

I love the explosions
lots of cracking and popping
all the colors run together
nothing else matters

I don’t always listen
and I’m missing a clue
I could use a little help
what’s she talking about?

Her look of frustration
melts into affection
then she gently reminds
You asked what it’s like

So now I recall
when I asked her about
how it feels for her
what the French call
the little death

What’s it like?
She points to the sky
at the rockets’ red glare
takes a deep breath
and smiles again

It's like that

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Neil Reid's NaPoWriMo promt #17 from among the elements of fire, earth, water and wind)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Primal Memories

It started with the scent of jasmine
and before I even knew the source
just like that I was seduced
then once I turned and saw her
sight and smell forever linked
together they made me bold

Time strengthened our memory-smell bond
half-empty glasses of Cab on the nightstand
her own unique scent blended with my own
the comforting whiffs of daybreak
Golden Retriever breath alarm clock
first sharp hiss of French roast

Our lives connected at every turn
through the sensory richness
of travel and changing seasons
hot cider and fall leaves burning
popcorn at our favorite indie movie house
cherry blossoms in Kyoto in April

Today I can’t recall small things
like her favorite colors or the names of her crazy friends
but even months later
still scattered about my life and my home
her lingering scent controls my attention
I can’t get it off of me

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by NaPoWriMo prompt for Day #16 from Julie Jordan Scott, the art of writing from the sense of smell)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Channeling Dylan Thomas

There’s nothing here to keep me
No reason left to stay
I am running from a nightmare
I have longed to move away

There’s an island I am drawn to
I feel the pull from here
It’s time I got to Cambria
And set aside my fear

I am moving over water
I am feeling all alone
Now I’m channeling Dylan Thomas
I’m five thousand miles from home

Like an Armada survivor
Knocked by nature to my knees
I am washed up here defeated
Sprouted from the rolling seas

I’m walking round a village
Where my Granddad spent the night
Now I’m channeling Dylan Thomas
And there’s not a pub in sight

Beware the man who understands
There’s nothing left in store
Where death has no dominion
We’re vulnerable no more

I am pacing through a castle
Where my ancestors would fight
Now I’m channeling Dylan Thomas
Say a prayer for me tonight

So long as I have passions
And this worn hand still can write
I’ll be channeling Dylan Thomas
Say a prayer for me tonight

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Dale's NaPoWriMo prompt #15 Carrying a Tune. Credit is given to original clauses borrowed from Dylan Thomas without his permission, shown here in italics)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Graveyard of Pitiful Prompts

I should avoid this dismal place
seen in the mirror
with tangled weeds and overgrowth
choosing a form of water
musty smell of failure and fatigue
something changed today
guarded by the screeching gate
creating a new mythological beast

Is it morbid curiosity
alternate histories
or a misplaced sense of co-dependence
break-up checklist
that keeps me coming back
my recurring X dream
to this graveyard of pitiful prompts?

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by Nicole Nicholson's Day 14 prompt, the cleaved poem)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Poem Starting with a Line From Norman Dubie: The Czar's Last Christmas Letter

Now that I am no longer Czar
I can take pleasure
knowing that ours
was the finest hour

Our horses ran the fastest
our armies were the bravest
our women moaned soprano
the world knew none like us

But now these striking peasants
cannot tell clams from caviar
they rape and burn like devils
and cause a wrath of hell

Wishing you and yours a Happy 1918,


~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by NaPoWriMo Day #13 prompt Poem Starting with a Line From Norman Dubie)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Remembering Our Code

We had a deal, you and I
as kids we took an oath
The enemy of my friend is my enemy
always there for each other

We survived the sixties
raised by distracted mothers and TV
Walter and Nixon and Bradys
the clothes we’d sooner forget

When we got older and you got boobs
somehow I didn’t but learned
to like boobs other than yours
and still we remembered our promise

The occasional glance across the room
reminded us we’d look out for each other
through your clumsy boyfriends and my coarse girlfriends
we had a deal

I wondered what happened when you heard the code
the dark hamster soars on the turbulent wind
wondered where you were when I needed you
didn’t we have a deal?

Then I learned too late
you were going through your own private hell
a hell you thought too big to sound the code
to call on your old friend for help

Though now
everyone wishes you would have
sister friend

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by NaPoWriMo prompt #12 Secret Codes)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dear Career as a Memorable Poet

I hope all is well with you.
I saw you on PBS tonight and you looked fabulous.
I’d read everything you’ve written
heard about the ashram and the awards.
You didn’t mention a lover
but you looked happy
so I’m guessing you’ve another one now.
You’ve earned what so many dream of.
It's nice to know you’re doing well.

Things are fine with me.
I have a more or less happy family
and a nice career at the college.
The obligatory house in the suburbs
and a cute dog from central casting.
Every once in a while I scratch out a poem
and share it with a few people who seem to like it.
I can’t complain.

Do you ever wonder why I didn’t choose you?
Sometimes I wonder that myself.
I recall a younger me wracked by fear.
Back then I thought nothing about
skiing off cliffs or jumping out of planes.
But the idea of not writing well
or needing years to learn a craft
when everything else came fast and easy
or writing well yet being ignored
I was not strong enough for any of these possibilities.

I was not strong enough for you.

By now it should be clear that I miss you.
How stupid is that since I gave up on you
and not the other way around?

Know this: if I had to do it over again
things might have been different.
I might have chosen you.
And right now I am wondering about
yet another possibility.
You have your life and I have mine.
But tell me, lover of my past life
if I said yes to you now
what would you do?



(inspired by napowrimo Day 11 prompt: the things you didn't choose)

Friday, April 9, 2010


I came here to think
but in the frigid foam and blue
my first thought was
this ocean is cold as hell

icy waves massage the shore
their painless slaps and
rhythmic retreats
remind me of time passing

sometimes all it takes
is a fleeting glance
imagining a mop of sandy hair
probably green eyes

sad, relentless memories
hand fed by
voyeured soccer matches
and piano recitals

any given month
it’s always you
moving as I’m watching

I stare and imagine
what if
until it’s too excruciating
to wonder any more

then wonder again
was it foolish
to have chosen
your name?

to visualize
eighteen candles
that never were?

so happy un-birthday
my interrupted angel
always right there
watching over me

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by napowrimo prompt #10 celebrate any of these: a birthday, wedding, baptism — any kind of celebration)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

We Deserve Better

Winter is barely over
yet we still bear the marks of that season of death
like scars made by talons sunk into our backs

We've lived on the fringe of a real life
for far too long and now it's time
to get that taste out of our mouths

We need to rest our yellowing bruises
and limp away toward something better

We will not be anyone's marionette
in this boring, soul crushing life any longer

We deserve better

It's time to stow away to somewhere rustic and real
I want to light torches of pitched pine and hike
down to the hot springs on the Wind River

We'll carry a jug of that stuff your cousin makes
when she's not making disturbing art
We'll lie in the swirling mineral waters
and pumice each other in the glow of a crackling campfire
Hike back through the late snows
massage the chi back into our needy flesh

I need to strum my double-O eighteen Martin
and I need to strum you, beloved
until your strings twang
and the alphas howl along

I'm missing the sweetest sound in the world
you know the one
let's make it together
again and again and again

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by napowrimo prompt #9 choosing your mission from among twelve)

Cherry Blossoms

Our little blue car
parked outside our favorite hang-out
slaps me back to the past

buying that car was torture
the pretentious purchase dance
teaching you to drive a stick

road trips kept us young and sane
the tent, the cooler
each other

I cherished our torrid love
shared on the road
nothing mattered more, until

the brutal passage of time
careers and obligations
sent us staggering apart

nice to see your little blue car
draped in a pink canopy
of wind blown cherry blossoms

it can only mean
your life must be better now

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by nanowrimo prompt #8 from among favorite love metaphors)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Another Try

Love has never seemed
funny to me, perhaps that’s
why Tankas seem sad
I’m willing to try again
both with this form and with you

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by napowrimo prompt #7 finding humor in love )

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lord Leighton's Solitude

Our dream big list
included travel to exotic places
like most of the continents
and art collections
we couldn’t pronounce

When it came time to leave
we had the wrong luggage
not only did it not match
we’d packed all wrong

Hers was filled
with inter-generational curses
and needless clutter
making it difficult to lug
around temples in Thailand
or white beaches in Greece

Mine was lightweight
with blank journals craving ink
and room to bring things home

When our ferries went separate ways
I started to make her a scrapbook
it would be a sad reminder
of all that we missed

Seeing Lord Leighton’s Solitude
jolted me back
there were similarities
Sienna shades of brown
relaxed Victorian breasts
but this figure had
what my beloved lacked
an elusive solitude
her soul would not permit

That enduring image
seared in my mind forever
it was so unlike her
I never sent it on

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by napowrimo prompt #6 writing poetry from favourite images)

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Sometimes she’s so innocent
I can’t believe we’re in the same bed.
When she opens her mouth
out comes this sweet kid from the fifties
all virginal and optimism.
The soundtrack is swell
and the crickets are chirping.
I wonder wonder wonder:
how did I ever find her
and what is she doing with me?

Other times she’s a demanding dominatrix
forcing me to do degrading things
I never learned in Sunday School.
I’m her bottom and she’s my top.
She makes me beg for it.
It's shameful.
None of the safe words work.

Then she does this Oprah thing
putting me in a chair
and asking great questions.
She’s really good
at getting me to open up.
Before long we’re like this.
When we’re done taping
I’ve just told the world my whole life.

There are times
when she’s a high octane cocktail
one part each of Janis Joplin
River Phoenix and Heath Ledger.
There is no high like the high
when I unwrap her.
The first one was free but
all of it since then has cost me a lot.

Did I mention the priest thing?
I know only men are priests but
she hears my confessions.
At first they were tame
then I grew to like the penance
and had to go for more.
Afterwards, she forces me to serve her
and she knows she won’t get caught.

I’m her bitch now.

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(Inspired by napowrimo prompt #5 making poetry really personal by giving it a name)
Greetings, all ~
I'm shattered but not by the napowrimo writing. I spent a very long day on Saturday hosting a conference for writers in our small Oregon town. Being around creative people who generously share their magic, this energizes me and makes me happy. It's nice to complete the day with a notebook filled with ideas and several months worth of material to work with. Tired, gratified, inspired.

You'll Know

You wonder
if you’ll know?

When the hidden
is revealed
will you hear the crash
or the beat of wings?

At the consult
after an MRI
when your specialist
starts by saying
now this looks interesting

Or a meeting with your boss
and that term you can’t forget
through no fault of yours

Or maybe that forever relationship
gets complicated
when the inside out clothes
on the stairs
next to hers
aren’t yours

When the universe flips
and everything goes opposite
you’ll know

~ J. D. Mackenzie

(inspired by napowrimo #4 outside in or inside out)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Public Notices

On the last page of our local paper
in the classifieds
just below junked cars
I first saw them about a year ago
in big blocks of tiny, scrunched text
under the heading
Public Notices

Infrequent at first
they were easy to overlook
until there were two or three each week
then today
when it’s really hitting the fan
there were nine

Nine addresses and nine family names
a stark public outing
of neighbors, co-workers, real people
each of them
one step closer
to homelessness

I’m struck that these tragic words
Public Notices
are only a façade
that filters scant light
onto the invisible tragedies
of the newly dispossessed

What’s left to own
when you’ve lost where you live?
Only days filled with dread
the degradation of official-looking mail
its impact like an incoming sledgehammer
to the ribcages of those already down

Here now is the unsettling fear
that the blessed can’t ignore ~
more real than a Grimm Brothers wolf
or the vexing fear of a lethal trap
we could easily step into, causing
the sound of clicking steel
and the crunch of our own bones;
far worse is the loss of faith
in our own native gifts
and the cold uncertainty that this
somehow, someday
this could happen to us

~ J. D. Mackenzie

inspired by napowrimo prompt #3: scared yet?
Right Wing Porn

Naughty little right wingers
out on the town
spending other people’s money
making churchmen frown

Some of their adventures
made it to the news
going into sex clubs
for prostitutes and booze

Knowing of these escapades
makes us stop and think
if their poorest donors know
they’re buying whores and drinks

Less kinky members wonder
where the buck will stop
Michael Steele confirms the problem
goes straight to the top

These naughty little right wingers
love their right wing porn
a love cloaked by repression
and a hypocrite’s scorn

~ J. D. Mackenzie

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Weaving Threads of Shuffle

These days
I’m fixated on life
and how to live it

It’s not just about
having all the right friends
or a bountiful love life
a thousand kisses deep

What really matters
is what I’ve discarded
things like persistent kid fears
or the carnival rides
of sadness and euphoria.

~ J. D. Mackenzie

Tribute to MLK

Homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ~ Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Every day
I stand in the middle of two opposing forces
turbulent forces that crush when they meet

Justice and oppression
subjugation and liberty
chaos and order
darkness and light

How easy it would be to face my limitations
and accept what I can’t change except…

You and I
we’re in this together
and I know when I stand here
I won’t stand alone

~ J. D. Mackenzie