Christmas Party

Last night everyone
At my adults-only
Christmas party
Got a stocking stuffer

I let Jill inside my mancave
And she destroyed it

Three couples tried to mount
My Peloton bike built for two

Five cocktail servers crawled
Around on all fours with cherries
In their mouths behind the wet bar

Six or seven hot
Yoga instructors
Taught each other a lesson

I saw eight chicks
Eating finger foods
With nine dudes
In the closet

Ten of Sven’s top eleven
Twelve-step friends
Spilled eggnog on the sofa

I’m glad I called Merry Maids
To disinfect the whole house
From top to bottom

One of the new girls
From Poland
Got so excited
When Santa came
Down the chimney

She sprayed Windex
So hard and so high
She hit the ceiling

Daily Reminders

Be normal
Be kind
Of normal

Don’t kill
Time just
Maim it

Make mistakes
Big mistakes
Over and over

Get a grip
Go for a walk
Gather stones

Say a prayer
Recite a poem
Express doubt

Split hairs
Throw fits
Skip stones

Take a chill pill
Better yet
Take two

Pet hares
Not porcupines
Count sheep

Shake a leg
Dodge a bullet
Carry a tune

Make mistakes
The same mistakes
Over and over

You can’t
Be normal
You’re a poet

Wish Me Luck

My name isn’t Chris Truman but I am Chris Truman
A character I created in college and wrote a lot about
To pass the time and make my professors think
I’m a real genius

Chris Truman is me poorly disguised
On purpose for dramatic effect
To poke fun at myself and my depression

For legal reasons I can’t share my name
Because I’m submitting this poem along with three others
To a contest run by a famous magazine
And on their website under Submission Guidelines
The editors say to keep things fair
Don’t put your name on your poems

They can’t know my name until they choose this poem
Or one of the other three for the grand prize
Which I know they will because I’m a real genius

I’m getting ahead of myself
They haven’t read a word of this yet
It’s self-indulgent I know but I’m depressed
I need to focus more on myself

The editors rejected me twice already this year
OK they didn’t reject me they rejected my art
And I’m worried about failing
To impress them again

Jean-Paul Sartre the famous writer said
In the end the loser wins which I believe does happen
For example when poets like me destined to fail at life
Use their pain and frustration to make beautiful art
They win people’s hearts and minds and sometimes awards

In 1964 Jean-Paul Sartre won the Nobel Prize in Literature
But he declined the award for reasons I don’t understand
And somebody called him a loser

Chris Truman never won anything in fact
One time he submitted four poems intended for a contest
Into the Regular Submissions category and the editors laughed
So hard the earth shook and he died
Alone like Jean-Paul Sartre


Mike Tyson said
Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth
And I’m thinking did Robin Givens know before she met
And fell in love with professional boxer Mike Tyson
And married him that he would punch her in the mouth

What plans did she have for her life
Before he punched her in the mouth
That first time
What hopes and dreams
Was she forced to abandon

My abuser hit me a lot too
And I learned that when I tried to fight back
This made him more determined
To hold me down

I want to punch Mike Tyson in the face
For hurting a woman I’ve never met
But I know deep down
I’m just displacing anger
Reserved for my abuser
Onto a former boxer
Whose quote about everybody having a plan
Until they get punched in the mouth
Reminds me that my abuser’s plan
To break my spirit failed

I’m making a fist he can’t see right now
Reserved for his face

Sundae School

Every Fourth of July here in Two Rivers, Wisconsin,
my dad, Pastor James Baskin-Robbins, picked cherries
with the Butterscotch boys from sundae school.

One day last fall after caramel nut class,
the Butterscotch boys, hopped-up on chocolate sauce,
mistook Dad, hiding behind an old oak tree,
for a giant woodpecker and went bananas.

All hell broke loose here in Two Rivers, Wisconsin,
where the charity Fight Lactose Intolerance says
the ice cream sundae was invented in 1881.

This Fourth of July, as God is my witness,
I saw Dad kill a giant woodpecker
behind an old oak tree.

As for my testimony, Your Honor, I swear to tell the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth will set me free.

Prop Comic

Wearing a plaid flannel shirt and bright orange wig,
My father, who looked a lot like Carrot Top,
Confronted me on stage in the middle of my act
And said enough is enough, he was canceling my allowance.

“Six years in stand-up school, you’re still a prop comic?”
Right then and there, adding to the tension,
An audience member, the dean of a local clown college,
Popped a weasel, my favorite balloon animal.

Poetry Today

“The desire to write poetry is a precious thing. It turns into a need on the one hand and a habit or practice on the other. If we were making a list of reasons to stay alive, and it seems we keep needing to do so, poetry would occupy a cherished place on the list.” —David Lehman, The Best American Poetry 2011

Sadly, what passes for poetry today is nothing more than politically charged chopped-up prose written by and intended for professionally trained poets lacking—among other things—humor, humility, and rhythm.

Politically Charged Chopped-Up Prose

Sadly, what passes for poetry today
is nothing more than politically charged
chopped-up prose

written by and intended for
professionally trained poets
lacking—among other things—
humor, humility, and rhythm.


“When we fill the jug, the pouring that fills it flows into the empty jug. The emptiness, the void, is what does the vessel’s holding. The empty space, this nothing of the jug, is what the jug is as the holding vessel.” —Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought

“Whether the stone bumps the jug or the jug bumps the stone, it is bad for the jug.” —Carl Sandburg, Harvest Poems: 1910-1960

“Some jugs are bigger than other jugs. All jugs are beautiful.” —The ten-year-old boy alive and well within me

Trauma-Informed Therapy

It’s the tension to release
It’s the burden to unburden

Not the speed, it’s the direction
Not the speed, it’s the direction

It’s a quiet voice that listens
To a body speaking softly

It’s the forest for the trees
An open mind. A field of vision.

Not the speed. The direction.
Not the speed. The direction.