women in gardens and restaurants

poem #2

I wrote a lot of poetry between fourth and eighth grade, then stopped, then started again at age twenty-two. I don’t take my poetry as seriously as my fiction, but some people like it: Dancing Girl Press published one of my chapbooks and Finishing Line Press wants to publish another one, probably in 2022.

The new one, City Walks, contains twenty poems I wrote soon after I moved back to my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Here is one poem from it, and one other poem that didn’t make the cut, inspired by the Edward Hopper painting above. I love to write poems inspired by paintings.

A Woman In a Community Garden

Her lettuce ripened early. Her tomatoes are fist-size.
Every morning, while squash flowers bloom,
she pushes a double stroller from the house she rents
six blocks away. They gave me a ninety-day notice,
she says. They want to demolish the place.
They demolished the last place I rented too, she says.
I am fed up with this city.
But her garden is so pretty: dainty carrot tops, rough cornstalks,
her toddlers dancing between rows, oblivious
to debt, bureaucracy, people who only want to make money,
to a world larger than pumpkins darkening toward fall.


When you talked at me yesterday,
I was like the woman in Chop Suey
who looks past her friend.
Her blue hat low, her eyes focused
internally, a red tea pot
between them. If I had disagreed
you would have become upset,
so what is the point of our friendship then?
I want to argue in harmony,
to hold competing ideas in tension.
In the painting, her friend’s hands are on the table.
Hers hang at her side.
Afternoon light casts shadows.
There is no food left.
If that were my coat
I’d put it on and go outside.