Photo by the author.

A poem

It’s been a post-apocalyptic winter around here,
the sun smothered by ash-gray rags sodden with snow,
the snow wrung out on our heads by the bony hands
of Arctic winds. Some ancient ice god wants us dead,
judging by the icy daggers he hangs around our houses.
At night, he presses his face against the black windows
and claws at our blankets with his frostbit hands;
if he can’t have us dead, he’ll bury us alive,
throwing a white pall over everything that breathes.

Even so, this morning I woke and went walking
along the icy shore — warm blood…

He might lose advertisers over it. But what the hell good was it to be a journalist if you didn’t report the news of the world as you found it?

Photo by Himanshu Pandey on Unsplash

Jeremiah Madison Peach was not in the habit of considering the plight of the fat black flies that accumulated against his office windows on sunny afternoons, but he was in a contemplative mood these days. There were three tapping against the glass today, painstakingly surveying its surface millimeter by millimeter for some passage to a more expansive world of wind and dust and light. Just outside the window, the wind wove the ash trees’ branches into an ever-changing quilt of shadow and light, and the mid-afternoon sun flashed off the glass and chrome of the cars passing slowly in the…

A poem, with a side of basil.

Photo by the author.

If it’s miracles you’re after,
then in the darkest days of December
purchase packets of tomato seeds
and hold them close, like holy cards,
and recite the litany of their names
as a stay against winter’s cruel claws:
Brandywine, Oxheart, Black Krim, Rosella;
Honey Gold, Pink Girl, Moon Glow, Tigerella;
Chianti Rose, Sunrise, Orange Jazz, Tangella.

And wait. Attend.
Abide as the Earth spins you around again
to the laughing days of late February,
the sound of snowmelt running
off rooftops in strings
of shimmering beads,
singing the prelude to spring.

This is the time to begin.
This is the time…

Like Huck Finn, these independent spirits have found a home (and a little adventure) on the Mississippi River.

The Latch Island boathouse community in 1995. Image © Mary Farrell. Used with permission.

Soon as it was night, out we shoved; when we got her out to about the middle, we let her alone, and let her float wherever the current wanted her to. . .. Yonder was the banks and the islands, across the water, and sometimes on the water you could see a spark or two — on a raft or scow, you know; and maybe you could hear a fiddle or a song coming over from one of them crafts.

— from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain


Image by: Architect of the Capitol via Wikimedia Commons

God knows, we’ve fought enough these past few years — but for one night, we make a truce. A poem.

As darkness settles over the land,
we gather above the wide river —
some thousands of us Americans
come for Fourth of July fireworks.

Our long shadows linger in the last
light, entangling us with one another,
and perhaps with the shadows of armies
once encamped here, waiting for war.
God knows, we’ve fought enough
these past few years — it’s been us
versus you, we the red & we the blue;
and even we who would wave
the white flag of truces
have shed our share of blood
and borne our share of bruises.

But for now we sheath…

Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, April 17, 2014. Image credit: Levan Ramishvili

Their friendship transcended their ideological differences. Will we follow their example?

Twitter exploded in the most predictable of ways following the announcement of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It took minutes, not hours, for some users to unsheathe the partisan knives, deploying the same toxic rhetoric that has been poisoning our political discourse for years: name calling, personal attacks, cruel taunts, bullying, veiled (and not-so-veiled) threats of violence.

But there were plenty of tributes and condolences, too, from both sides of the political divide — heartening not only for their basic civility, but for showing that despite our political differences, most Americans still believe that we share certain foundational…

Into Cassino, May 1944 by Peter McIntyre. Licensed under an Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

A poem.

My grandfather didn’t like to talk about the war,
but if you asked, he would share this story.

On a cold April morning just outside Monte Casino,
he walks into a field, dry stalks breaking under his feet.
His living breath makes small curling clouds of fog,
lit by the morning light for the space of a heartbeat
before vanishing on the breeze. White frost flecks
the land, and the men lying dead upon it. He pauses
before the form of a youth looking up as if perplexed
by the snowflakes falling from this clear morning sky;
or perhaps wondering why he is dead…

Millions of Americans say they could justify violence in the wake of an electoral defeat. To stop a post-election nightmare, we need to act now.

Image credit: Delphotostock. Licensed from Adobe Stock.

Does anyone else wake up at 3 a.m. worrying about the future of democracy in America, or is it just me?

As I lay there in the dark listening to the snoring of our asthmatic dog, I find myself wondering what will happen in the aftermath of the November elections. This being the middle of the night, the doom-and-gloom side of my imagination has free reign, serving up nightmare scenarios like these:

  1. The Democrats win, but many Republicans don’t accept the result as legitimate because they are convinced the vote was “rigged.” Some of the more extreme partisans turn out…

What if graduation rituals celebrate more than individual achievement?

Photo by Good Free Photos on Unsplash

My daughter wants nothing to do with her high school graduation: she doesn’t want to wear the cap and gown, she doesn’t want to take graduation pictures, and she definitely doesn’t want to participate in a ceremony. Luckily for her, the in-person ceremony was canceled, replaced by an online ceremony. Even so, she views it all as just so much empty ritual.

I can’t say I entirely disagree with her. I felt the same way about my own high school graduation back in…(erhum, cough, cough)…well, a long time ago. …

Photo: Tetiana Kurian. Licensed from Adobe Stock.

A poem.

I have come here to harvest humus
from the rotten bottom of the compost
I left by the apple tree last fall.
Raking away the shrouding cover
of dry leaves reveals the dark heart
of newborn earth.
Leaning into the spade,
I slice through the soil
and lift it into the rusty wheelbarrow.

The apple tree stands by,
her wide boughs bespangled
with white blossoms:
she has thrown herself into spring,
pouring perfume over my head,
and over the greening land,
with no thought to the cost —
a bride beaming beneath her veil,
every night her wedding night.


Jerry Windley-Daoust

Exploring the good, true, and beautiful in poems, stories, essays, and books. Let’s keep in touch! Get my bio + social and email feeds at

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