Depression is a choice.

A.B. CURTISS, Depression Is a Choice


it is a dark angry circle on the sun
a hole
filled with nothing
but dread
and Prozac

too flimsy to hold anything but

a window with its blinds
shut                       tight
on a bright autumn day

from the inside out,
a sudden winter storm of
suffocating ash-colored snow
leaving deep drifts of black guilt
against new fences
at sunrise

                        friendly fire
against an army of one
on a fictitious battlefield
more real than the chair
in which you sit reading
in judgment
your eyes loudly cheering
for the other side


This is October, a four-

week long foreign country of

oddly-colored trees applauding drily

for the first winter’s breeze—

a land of polished gemstone day,

quick cold evening,

hoarfrost-gilded morning


the place where I was born,

to which I return to

celebrate the passing

 of another year, another

journey down this cathedral’s

corridor and where,



I’ll lie in my own bed, the

table at my bedside littered with

a handful of souveniers, a

slim volume of poetry,

and a few dry scattered leaves.

I Think I Could Be a Poem

I think I could be a poem,
a free verse falling gracefully
down a white, white page
in an old book with fingerprint smudges
in the corners, and
labeled “discard” from
some small-town library–

I think I could be a poem,
a ramshackle tumble of words like
dishrags filled with gray dishwater
and bits of life leftover,
waiting to be wrung out on a
warm August evening when the
party has ended, and the guests
have all stumbled home–

I think I could be a poem,
waiting there in cool papery darkness
between pages, waiting
who knows how long for
your eyes to drink me in and
bring me back to life

Radio Silence

there is no news this morning

the red plastic radio

beside the aloe vera plant on the

kitchen window sill is silent

snow pats the window with white-gloved hands

the eleven-year-old across from me

munches toasted white bread between

teeth that need braces

crumbs clink like

cinders on glass across

the oak table

the battery-powered clock on the wall

ticks, measuring hours in millimeters

pine in the woodstove pops long red

cracks into the glass-smooth morning

east of me, a farmer’s dog yips into snow muffled air;

west of me, his voice

his voice

echoes from a white canyon wall

I think of how they tell us now

the smallest building-block of the

universe is sound;

at the center of each atom,


a horse in a neighbor’s barn clods

an iron-shod hoof against his stall wall

impatient for his breakfast

Morning rises away in waves

alive with meaning

yet so filled with silence




Finding a white stone on the stretch of sand

just below high water mark, I pick it up, thumb its glossy smoothness,

closing and shaking my hand to feel it roll around in my palm.  

Because no one is around, I succumb to my desire to put it in my mouth.

 immediately I see my father,

the rockhound,

licking an unlikely-looking stone, and showing me the beauty he’s uncovered,

there, such a small amount in such a small thing,

and I begin to understand,

just a little, how he loves small things

that, on the surface, right at first,

seem so ugly, so common, so unlovable—rocks,

arid mountains, ugly and ignoble towns,

mangy cats and people,

almost all of them, who

like stones require the polishing and

magnifying effects of time’s abrasive sand

and magnifying still water to both create

and reveal their beauty and nobility,

all the more beautiful for its diminutive size.

All this, my father knows;

in all this, he finds a kind of communion,

a kind of worship,

taking in the

ineffable, the

sublime, the


in tiny increments of intractable, startling beauty.

As I fall asleep,

the white stone an echo of moonlight

on the dresser by my bed,

the river whispers hushed mysteries, and,

in dreams at least, I think understand.

The Mermaid of York

one o’clock:

west wind slips on silent shoes

whispers off to bed

possibly not in Heaven

but in my neighborhood all

is silent for an hour

At two o’clock

with an audible pop

her eastern sister rattles

over my roof in un-sensible shoes

hurls herself, a desperate thief

against my window pains, clatters

among remains

of a later-than-is-wise dinner party

on my patio

settles in to sing over and over

the one line from that song I can’t banish from my mind and she knows it:

“swimming in your veins

like a fish

in the sea”

By two-thirty, I am thinking again of the mermaid

The tabloid cover

on the wind-

and sun-battered newsstand

strewing itself like driftwood

across Short Sands Beach in York,

Maine had pictures—

not drawings but pictures, I tell you

of the creature

who shouldn’t


can’t exist but

there she was in lurid newsprint-blurry colors

printed from the eight-by-ten glossy

you can see the original

down at the York Museum of Atlantic Wonders

hanging beside a tightly-lidded mason jar filled

with her remains

But that’s not what keeps me awake

they first saw her, much alive


a childish face, they said, torso of a young girl,

oddly heavy in the breast for one so young

hair an unkempt mane, raucous

with North Atlantic kelp

and Krakenweed

her body’s lower half a North Atlantic Salmon and she

was still alive

and grotesque

and beautiful

A boy threw stones

at her, they say, gathering them one-by-one

like tourists plucking shells and sand-dollars

from white, white sand,

gathered and aimed and missed, aimed and missed, aimed and


witnesses say she dove

disappeared with a porpoise’s stride

into North Atlantic breakers combed


and white

and clean

two days later,

sky and sand and sea swept

clean by a down-east wind,

they found her



and impossible

on clean white sand

But that’s not what keeps me awake

I went to the York Museum of Atlantic Wonders

later, when I could be alone

with her

stand before her cheap transparent casket

read the hand-printed label

see for myself the intricate magic

lacing a child’s body

to an iridescent-gone-pale Atlantic Salmon

Oh, she was real

she is still



But that’s not what keeps me awake

on nights when east wind

creeps through darkness pawing

window panes

stealing my sleep

and singing

not the graceful white curve of her clean white child-face

not the eyes staring from inside a jar into eternity

not the terrible knowledge such magic exists

No.  What keeps me awake is this:

in the watery dark

on her bed of kelp does her mother reach

and not finding her there

wake and wish

she could brush her daughter’s hair from her cheek

once more

the way the east wind combs the North Atlantic waves?

Dear Us America:

we are more than humming numbers on file,
more than debit and credit, 
and coupon and sale

I hope

we are Sundaymorningsoft sunshine
long ponderosa pineshadow
monochromatic winter evenings of complex blue shades
fresh snow mixed with wood smoke and creosote 

We are more than 
squabbling politicians and taxes
healthcare and education reform
video games and cellphone chats
and stock market portfolios

I hope

we are long footsore hours in soup kitchens
aching-backed movers of pianos and couches
holders of doors, keepers of secrets, helpers of dreams
givers of our last $100.00 bills

We are more than 
fistfights over football teams
wal-mart bags in mountain streams
neglected children and aluminum cans
fence-building squatters in the promised land

                                                                  the citizen poet