Nomad's End, The Comet's Tail



In my latest book, The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory, I ponder the nature of memory–what we remember, what we forget, how our identities are built by and shaped by memories.  While I can’t recreate any single memory into a perfect film of the past, I can stare at the open sky of existence, trace the collective particles, and sculpt them into meaningful shapes.

A review of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory is just out from New Pages. Here’s an excerpt. Please click the link below to read more.

“. . . memories and un-memories push against each other throughout the text, the tension between them driving the narrative and forming some of the book’s most vital and memorable moments.”

New Pages

Nawrocki Broadside 2 (2)

The Sky’s Version of Truth
So what about the laziness
of light, taking its sweet old time
getting to the eye. The sky
having no reason to be false
teaches memory, a peek
of what old people must have seen:
Cassiopeia learning to dance, Orion
earning his bow, Taurus deciding
to charge. A navigator’s dream.
What the eye catches is an old light.

What we rely on most is thriftiness.
Whatever speed it takes,
the open road is just dotted lines
a tree’s last goodbye to summer,
just lament. It’s a different kind
of blindness—seeing too much
seeing with the heart, light alone
or a blade of grass.
Loving the blindness, the eye sees a pattern:
the round dome of sky,
the traffic of night, ad infinitum.
Connect the dots the sky is saying.

I see a banjo, the spokes of a wheel,
the claw of a crow catching me. Maybe
a duck-billed platypus playing the trumpet.
I can almost hear a star’s last sigh.
Perhaps legacy is spelled out
the way memory returns to you
so many years later: you remember
the leaves, the rain, the sound
of a breath stopping three rooms away.

This poem appears in Nomad’s End, published by Finishing Line Press, 2010. Order your signed and personalized copy here.

Poems, Potato Eaters, Signed Copies

Escaping the hook

I’m looking forward to an upcoming post-Christmas family reunion. Here is one of my favorite poems from Potato Eaters, my first chapbook from Finishing Line Press. The photo, too, is one of my favorites, found in an attic box years ago. That’s my mother, on the right, and two of her brothers on the left.

Click the yellow BUY NOW button found at the bottom of the page (or this link) to order a signed copy.

Fishing with My Brother

My brother, who is prone to nosebleeds
hasn’t the efficiency to heal wounds;
on his left arm burn marks permanently
blister. His chin bears the scar of the second
fall on the steep hill below the house.

You can’t get any better than that
he says, pushing the fishing line
into my face. Of all the fish ever
to swim in this pond or that, this
one decides to end life on a hook,
its flesh torn and gaping. We
could take a lesson, learn when to give
up, when to know enough is enough.

dana-john-ferne-swingsetHe throws the fish back. How did he become
so elemental? How did he know
the average heart cannot drown
itself too deep, forgetting its purpose?
I want to tell him walk a bit with me
and we’ll cry to the birds who nest by us
in the fairy tale. He’ll listen, I hope.
I can’t wait to see him plant fields, discover
electricity, and cut a strong path
through jungles. But there will be time for that.
Nine times out of ten, it is speed
that breaks us; we grow too fast
trying to fly, or escape the hook.

Nomad's End, Poems, Signed Copies, Uncategorized

Not entirely idle

Happy Fall! Here’s a poem from Nomad’s End, published by Finishing Line Press. Purchase a personalized signed copy of the chapbook by clicking here . I’ll pick up the shipping!


Occupation of Autumn

Afternoon on the last day of September
begins with sun shifting across
the tiara of sky. The equinox has passed
and autumn carefully plots
her revenge against the vacancy of summer.
Bulbs await planting, else
the vernal daffodils won’t appear,
and soon the cascade of burnt orange leaves
will need raking. But for now
the lists of unaccomplished tasks
grow like unweeded sprouts
left to frolic in the dormant flower boxes.

Yet we are not entirely idle
and do our own plotting, opening
the screen door, filling the feeder.
Anticipating migration, it dangles
under the porch overhang, filled
with kernels for sparrows and squirrels.
When they exit for afternoon naps,
the feeder flutters in the soft breeze:
a mirror ball, a festival of white patches
kaleidoscoping in a living room lightshow.
The day continues shifting; soon
the dance of light will vanish
as surely as the frost will come,
purposeful in its vocation.


Nomad's End

Late Comers

A poem from Nomad’s End, published by Finishing Line Press, 2010.

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What logic is in the spray of water
on our faces as the speed boat takes us to shore
in the late September evening. Our crew
moves along volcanic wreckage—a cast-iron skillet
melted and covering the land with a thick, black sheath.
Retracing Darwin’s steps, we encounter
marine iguanas creeping out of the tide
on inch-legs, sunning the skin of their necks,
as two wide winged albatrosses fence
with long beaks. As they dance, we search
for proof, follow footprints to the cliff
where the balloon-throated frigate bird blooms
in red love. We stumble upon two tortoises
mating in the forest under the ground cover
green and thick with storm-tossed debris.
They sing praise for 200 years of love. They know
what late-comers we are to this world, amateurs
attempting logic, dance, reproduction.
We’re just spectators, ruffling in the leaves,
horsing around, standing hitched
and still on this earth.

Poems, Uncategorized

A Gathering of Sorts


IMG_0469A Gathering of Sorts

As morning curdles its way to noontime,
autumn plays its lazy guitar.
To join the living world,
we make our way to the post office
with enough change in hand for three stamps.
Their duty is delivering messages:
a utility bill, the insurance payment, a letter
to a friend. In the front of the line,
a woman’s daughter spins
and spins in her orbit.
Gathering packages in his arms,
a man, Santa-like in tweed jacket
and leather cap, stands beside
a painter covered in plaster.
He sways and looks away
from us, staring instead into
the clouds of his day.

Each day we perform ordinary acts:
we teach algebra, refinance mortgages,
cook dinner, journey to the moon.

Each day a mixture of light and color
penetrates our trust. We place our faith
in little things: the oak’s red summit,
a stamped envelope,
holding the door for each other
as we enter and leave each other’s lives.

Click the title to find Potato Eaters, where this poem first appeared.



Before Your Train Leaves

A poem from Nomad’s End, published by Finishing Line Press, 2010.


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Before your train leaves

a handful of minutes need to morph
into their shape, crust like atoms
becoming a molecule and tell a story
with thrift. No time to dawdle.
Back-story, established by your eyes,
advances the plot, though I am more interested
with the syllables of touch than
the tactility of speech. We pool
into the sparse bed and handle
each other like pottery clay, mold ourselves
into familiar shapes. I smooth
your back as moments hoof between
the walls of the room. They assemble
in the sphere of a clock above our heads.
Before your train leaves, the hands
will complete their circle; our story
will end as most do, with goodbyes
filling the grooves between scripts.

Four Blue Eggs, Poems

The Beauty of Faces

Babci’s recipe, mom’s hands, Amy’s poems.



I eat the bread with raisins and some butter
remembering how I first learned to knead it.
My mother’s hands would shape the bread

in careful mounds, the counter floured
in a dusting, light as graying memory.
I mix the dough with raisins and some sugar

moving the moist glob with my hands.
She’d warn me not to knead too gently,
her hands would show me how the bread

should give and tug, like elastic,
then surrender; let the yeast begin
to tease the bread with flavor and some nurture.

Standing in the kitchen, the light streams in;
the heat takes over with deft precision,
my mother’s hands would ease the bread

into awaited sleep. She tells me now
to let it sit, give it time, watch it rise.
I eat the bread with raisins and some butter.
I long to see her hands rising in my own.

~published in Potato Eaters, Finishing Line Press, 2008


The Beauty of Faces

We hold tightfisted to the beauty of faces
because photographs have no sound
unless we tap into the orchestra behind them,
try to hear the family’s voices piped
and whistling the day they were recorded
as we can only imagine how glaciers
moving in and out of the landscape
create sound spacious enough to crack
the horizon. So, too, the hiss and spit
of the northern lights must be dreamed
because our ears are inefficient
as old telegraph wires.

So the house
on South Colony Street carries
children’s laughter up the front stairway
sloping toward the kitchen
where Josephine’s peeled oranges hum
like music from the Victorola
filling the heart with remembrance and history,
pulling toward a place called home.

~published in Four Blue Eggs, Homebound Publications, 2014