Sharing my poem “When It Was Dark Enough” for Independence Day

This poem is set at a July 4th picnic during my childhood. My father and uncles were veterans and I wonder what they felt and what memories the holiday revived.


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.

Sharing a Poem for Father’s Day: “My Father’s Tools”

One of the typewriters my father fixed

Our father repaired typewriters, a lost art. Here is a poem recalling his shop in the basement where he let me help him when I was young.

My Father’s Tools

Leaning over typewriter frame, hands
ink dark with calluses, my father reaches
around type bars and brackets, levers
of tempered steel, hooking a spring,
placing the smallest screw
with magnetized driver. He adjusts
to touch, aligning letters
until they flow in perfect lines,
finger strike to paper.

Broken machines wait on bench
with glass jars of spare parts,
needle-nosed pliers worn smooth,
small torch for soldering type,
hooks, benders, crimpers,
oil can with long nozzle,
cleaning tub with black solvent.

He lets me scrub the type
and pivots, bathe them in oil,
wipe them dry until they shine
like reborn souls. Now the typewriters
are gone but I keep his tools,
fixing any problem. I show my son
how to grasp each one, correct angle,
knowing the tool by its function.
He adds his layer of fingerprints,
imagining machines he will build.


This poem is included in my collection, The Poet’s Garage.

Award Opportunities for Published Books

Sharing some recent research on award opportunities for published books. If you published a book in the past year, this might be helpful. Most do not allow self-published books, and some require your publisher to nominate. In any case, be sure to check the eligibility requirements because they vary according to location, publication dates, and submission details.

When I started my search, I found most awards request manuscripts, and the award is publication, which is wonderful. But what if your book is already published? My list is not exhaustive, of course, and I tended to focus on awards that consider books from small presses.  

The Poet’s Garage Pod

Just for fun and to celebrate the launch of my poetry collection, The Poet’s Garage, from Unsolicited Press, here’s a brief podcast of the title poem.

Based on a true story, the poem tells how we learned there was another Terry Tierney, a suspected felon, living in Lincoln, Nebraska when we moved there. My arrival aroused several official computers. The police and the social services department thought I lied about my quiet life as a graduate student supported by my tolerant, librarian wife.

Ironically, when I wasn’t distracted by writing poetry in Lincoln, I was working on my dissertation about William Makepeace Thackeray and his various protagonists as doubles of himself. Those doubles have much less contrast with one another than me and my apparent double.

The cover of The Poet’s Garage depicts the poem, complete with pools of grease where lines have spilled, the cardboard box of active verbs, and the files of proper nouns. As in the poem, the poet has eluded arrest, so far.

Reading the Poet’s Garage

The Poet’s Garage is available from Unsolicited Press, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other retailers. You can also support your local bookstore by searching for them on Indiebound.