The Water Trick

A Poem About Calming Down My Kid

The world we’re in’s mundane. Inert and brute
The magic we do have is sparse and rare
I’m not a wizard, but I know some spells
I cast them when the tools I bring to bear
Upon the world are insufficient for
The task at hand, the bringing up and care
Of Violet, the little one whose laugh
Is like birdsong exultant on the air
But even she gets moody, cries and yells - 
Who doesn’t need a tantrum here or there?
One invocation I have mastered is
The one where, Violet on my hip, I snare
A water glass within my adult grip
And say “I’m thirsty” through her siren blare.
The faucet on is usually enough
Alone to cease the histrionic fare
Lift up her curiosity anon
As up the glass is filled, no space to spare.
The giant glass I bring to adult lips
I quaff the thing with one long pull, no air
Do I take in throughout this sorcery
When I am done, I fix on her my glare
With smile affixed, ‘n exaggerated “Ah!”
Relief I spill, some patter, keep her there
In tow, astonished at the alchemy
Forgot her tears, complicit in our prayer
Now she demands a turn to try the trick
A little water pour I for her share
The tiniest of sips she pulls on her own turn
But, ah, her “ah!” makes mine downright threadbare
The summoning complete, we stash the glass
Vacate this place, through cluttered house she tears
The tantrum gone, illusion all dispelled
I know some spells. I use them here and there.


Want more poems? Click to read through the archives!

Thanks for reading. This is Phil.


Photo by Stephan Müller from Pexels

Learn To Whistle

A Poem About Marmaduke And The Illusion Of Freedom

The bitter cold befell the fencéd yard,
The leaves have left the bare and neighb’ring tree,
The ground betrod by beast gone packed and hard,
The birds, before they migrate, make a feast
Upon the treats left in the bauble here,
A hoisted house upon a frigid pole
A home for none, yet fashioned homely dear,
Aloft, away and safe from beastly souls.
The hound a thousand days has watched this box,
Its tenants, ever cycling, come and go.
The hound knows these alone have shook their locks,
Though how they spend their freedom, he’ll ne’er know.
But studiously has he built the skill,
More birdlike has he made himself these years,
To fly, perchance, escape th’ perennial chill,
Make bluebirds ‘stead of beasts his unchained peers.
The mind within a hound could not have known
Wholesale the avian traits need not acquire,
But start he in on whistling, not to hone
The flight which would have loosed him from the mire.
Nearby a neighbor, alien to the jailed,
Remarks with stupid brilliance how he’s failed.


Who among us, am I right? We see a greener pasture, maybe a new job. We know we need to prep if we’re going to take on a whole new lifestyle like zipping up a fresh new layer of skin. We build up the image of our new selves in our minds. Me, the new person. Me, the kind of person that lives in that new pasture. Me, adored by my interesting new peers. We get to the interview and they ask the million dollar question: “But, can you do the job?”

The one thing we forgot to prepare our minds for!

The truth, of course, is the bluebirds don’t have it so much better than a dog locked in a yard. Even the most intelligent bird in the sky, maybe the crow, doesn’t have the brainpower of a big dumb dog. Dogs seem to experience love and feelings and highs and lows, and birds just experience FOODFOODFOODSURVIVESURVIVESURVIVEHAVEBABIESSQUAWK.

Still, it might be nice to be able to fly south every once in a while. Even learning to whistle has its perks, I guess.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Hello to you.

This is Phil.


Image: “Marmaduke” by Brad Anderson

Bone Cellar

A Poem About Marmaduke And The Folly Of Man

A yellow house, the height almost of man,
Before the carnage stood, all witnessing
Along with its creator, owner, liege,
The host of its backyard, and of the siege,
And one more spectator from o’er the wall
Made large his eyes and paled as white as pall
To spy the damage done by wanton beast;
A frenzy of hellation, force unleashed
As earth became upturned at beastly rate
To undermine the house and risk its state.
And why? Wherefore this horse, this Marmaduke
Should offer pious soil such rebuke?
The master spake, addressing friend and God,
Describing why the brute should turn the clod:
“He asked for a bone cellar, I told him no.”
Thus to the planet: Need it? Make it so.
Man builds these houses o’er the dirt he’s worked
But, ne’er enough, the beast pulls back in jerks
What luxury it wants with no regard
For neighb’ring needs, for safety, for the yard.
What future holds this progress, tainted stones?
A pit beneath the surface for our bones.


Putting aside how Marmaduke managed to ask his master specifically for a “bone cellar,” we have to wonder why he would ask. Surely no paid contractor would execute it to his high standards. Plus, he himself is a digging machine.

Are doghouses a thing outside of comics and cartoons? Were they a thing in a bygone era? I’ve met a lot of dogs in my time, some of them I am lucky enough to call my friends, and none of them have had a doghouse. Is it meant to be a primary residence? Or just a big house-shaped toy in the yard? Like a toilet paper tube for a big, big hamster.

Anyway, toil as we might, our bones are destined to feed the earth some day. Have a good week!

This is Phil


Image from Marmaduke by Brad Anderson

My Kid Fell Off A Rock

A Poem About That Time My Kid Fell Off A Rock

Their mother out, both girls I had with me.
Let’s go out to the park, I tell the kids
And troop them to a hilltop where we see
A baseball game. They draw in dirt with twigs
And hop from rock to rock, the oldest does,
I hold her hand, the baby’s in the cart,
Then here comes mommy, walking, meeting us,
I turn the infant toward her so she’ll start
Exalting, cheering, what a happy thing
Except, behind me now there comes a wail
Of sudden pain and fear, the older sings;
She’s fallen off the rock. With dirt all veiled
She rises, facing us, a bloody wound
Beneath her eye for all the world to see,
A perfect walk among the park has swooned
My kid fell off a boulder publicly.
The photos of her, weeks and weekends hence,
Show not our walk, but scabbing evidence.


It’s crazy, seeing your kid bleed. You become full-body aware that you messed up; that’s not supposed to happen, blood coming out of your child. You curse the universe. You call shame upon your own house for eternity. Stupid rock. Stupid gravity.

Look, they’re going to jump from rock to rock. Or they’re going to climb the coffee table or run headlong into a goddamn wall like they didn’t see it there. It’s like the old oil prospector once said; there will be blood. And it’s going to suck. Pack bandages.

Thanks for reading. I put out a poem pretty much like this one about once a week, so if you’re looking for a way to read one poem a week without buying an anthology of poems and setting a reminder on your fitbit or whatever, you might do well by subscribing to Little Epic. Id sure appreciate it.

This is Phil.


Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Deer In The Yard

A Poem About A City Deer (And Death)

I wouldn’t say our house is in the sticks
Or even in a suburb, I’d not say.
From house to house the space is not lain thick;
Just little lawns and narrow alleyways
And concrete rules the borders all throughout,
Garages, if we’ve got them, are attached,
And densely drew our architects our plots
Atop a hill atop a swampy flats.
And so when I looked out a summer day
Into our postage stamp of grass behind
The little home we have and saw what lay
Astride our flower bed, I searched my mind
A moment, wond’ring, could we get a deer
Into our yard by chance, a stowaway?
We’ve had our share of skunks and possums here,
And cats and cats and cats come every day.
Dreamlike it lay, relaxing on my mulch,
My wife confirmed the vision was the truth.
And kids, our kids, their little heads’d approach
To peek again and laugh and sing their youth.
She phoned up animal control. They said
They live all in the graveyard on the hill
And sometimes they come out to try and get
Some food when food is thin, or when they’re ill.
The swamp is going, malls and roads spring up,
A new one every day through the morass.
So up the hill the creatures all trip up
To share our graves, to prune our leaves of grass,

Our little postage stamp we scarcely use
Except to share among these disabused.


What they should do is move the graves into the swamp and build the malls on the hillside. But then I’m not in charge of malls or graves. Some day, I tell myself.

Thanks for reading these emails, folks. I think once I have a bunch of worthy poems out there maybe I’ll try to get them into a chapbook that people can buy on a “pay whatever amount you want basis” so you all can have a little something cluttering up your bookshelves, and won’t that be nice.

Go forth and tweet about my content, I beseech thee.

This is Phil


Photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen from Pexels

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