The Poet’s Garage is available now from Unsolicited Press, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other retailers.
Here are some sample poems.
When It Was Dark Enough
My father seldom talked about the war,
as if nothing had happened, but he talked
in his sleep. My mother never understood
what he said. Some attacks were malaria
and she fetched his quinine tablets.
He sat up sweating, clutching her arm,
nightmare unspoken. Water in her hands
cooled his sudden temper even in daylight.
When he first came home, his darkness
scared his mother. He wanted to start
a new religion, all false.
He brought back few souvenirs. Wooden shoes
for his sisters and an Arab knife—a gift
from North Africa, handle sun-bleached wood
wrapped with coat hanger wire, steel blade
sharpened by hand and bent in waves
from opening K-ration cans. He gave away
the chocolate bars and most cigarettes.
He told us he picked bugs out of his mess kit
until he decided they tasted pretty good.
Then he caught more and dropped them in.
We knew the war by his jokes. He was the only son;
his sisters all married veterans. They sat in a circle
at our family picnics, hands wrapped around necks
of brown beer bottles, red coals of cigarettes
rising in gesture and sinking to mouth and armrest,
quietly talking over the drone of mosquitoes
after their wives sought the safety of the porch.
We crept closer to hear what they said,
but they pulled their silence tighter around them
like an oily tarp on night watch, darkness descending
until they finally said it was dark enough
to light the firecrackers they brought.
They held their ears and smiled.
How to Build a House
First, wait until the snow clears.
Pull on rubber boots with wide soles
so you will not damage the carpet.
Walk until you find a depression
where deer have rested in tall grass.
Here you will sleep.
Walk out of the bedroom and turn in a circle
until your eyes water, facing the wind
Here you will place your chair.
The roof is self‑explanatory,
but walls are something you will raise yourself.
Be sure to plan your windows.
Now call your friends
and gather sticks for a fire.
If it snows before daybreak
you will have to begin again.
When the policemen come to arrest me
for forgery, I hide out in the garage
where I learned how to write, my manual
laid out on the bench, words stacked around me
like old tires, the pools of black grease
where lines have spilled, staining the sawdust.
I watch the detective watch the house,
his junkie nose running, he anticipates
my arrest and waits for my wife to come home
from the library. He reads her the charge,
how I forged checks in three counties.
The name is right but the description fails,
the forger stands taller, pounds heavier,
a different smith. My husband looks a mechanic,
she says, and he’s much older. I grin my
toothless grin, holding a bucket of greasy
words. A blue‑suited sergeant refuses
to believe her, saying I am both
smaller and larger, older and younger,
a mechanic, a smith. Look in the garage,
she says. Modifiers hanging on nails,
the cardboard box of active verbs, the files
of proper nouns. No signatures remain,
the author gone, only the spaces where he worked.
They gather the spaces for evidence.
I escape with the narrative, some of it
leaking on the way, until my book breaks down
in Pennsylvania. When my wife escapes
and brings my tools, I begin to forge a new
silence, and new name, a new library.
Man In Glass
Robot Writes a Love Poem
Smelling the Rain
When It Was Dark Enough
At the Leonard Cohen Concert
Terry’s poems have appeared or will appear in the following journals.
Abraxas: “The Poisoned Blood”
Blue Buildings: “Two Women Leaving the Church”
California Quarterly: “The Rattlesnake Exchanges Its Skin”
Centennial Review: “The Museum of Personal History”
Chattahoochee Review: “The Empress of Iowa Sheds Her Disguise,” and “Cider Press”
Cold Creek Review: “Light and Shadow”
Concerning Poetry: “Turning Back at the Rubicon” and “How to Build a House”
Cottonwood Review: “Shaky Charlie Talks About His Youth”
formercactus: “My Only Homerun”
Front Porch Review: “Family Dinner”
Great River Review: “Poem With Nude” and “My Old Furnace”
The Green Light Literary Journal: “River Walk” and “Life Line”
Kalliope: “Painting the House White”
Kansas Quarterly: “The Boxer’s Choice”
The Lake: “Blue Jay”
Lullwater Review: “Her White Tattoo”
The Mantle: “Smelling the Rain”
Milkweed Chronicle: “Weather Report” and “The Weeping Willows Green First”
Poetry at 33: “Wine Stains”
Poetry Motel: “The Man Who Never Dreams”
Poetry Northwest: “The Poet’s Garage”
Poetry Quarterly: “Last Words”
Puerto del Sol: “The Empty Bottle”
Rat’s Ass Review: “At the Leonard Cohen Concert”
Riggwelter: “Ice Age”
Rogue Agent: “Man In Glass”
South Dakota Review: “The Lives of a Cell” and “What to Do in the Case of a Gas Attack”
Split Rock Review: “The Crossing”
Third Wednesday: “Her Names”
Typishly: “Robot Writes a Love Poem”
Valparaiso Poetry Review: “When It Was Dark Enough”
Westward Quarterly: “What the Seagulls Know”