Josh’s Top 10

In no particular order.



You Are Only Given Two Lives

A syringe

I envy the junkies
and the addicts

An ashtray

and everyone else who has the specific comfort
of knowing precisely how they are destroying themselves.


The tragedy and the beauty of life is
it’s rarely the regret you expect to feel
that you actually will.


You are only given two lives;
the best one begins
when you realize it’s the only one.


Before I Can Give You My Heart

Don’t let them eat your brains

before I can give you my heart.

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It was your brown eyes
that first caught my attention,
and the symphonies of your voice
that held me there,
and I hope you won’t
take it personal
that I ran away.

It’s not fear of commitment
nor is there some other girl;
truth be told,
I was worried about my brains.
You see it’s just really bad timing,
what with the swarm of zombies
and the collapse of all civilization.
If you have not been eaten yet
then somewhere beneath the apocalypse moon
maybe you too are looking skyward
and thinking of what almost was.

Don’t let them eat your brains
before I can give you my heart.

The Third Draft

The first draft is the most fun.The second draft is when it all starts to come together.The third draft is the hardest, because this is the draft that has to get shorter.But it's all so necessary, you protest to yourself. It will all be ruined if every detail isn't in place.

Yet sometimes I am guilty of lingering too long, and there is power in brevity, so maybe I will leave out everything after the


The first draft is the most fun.

The second draft is when
it all starts to come together.

The third draft is the hardest
because this is the draft
that has to get shorter.

But it’s all so necessary
you protest to yourself.
It will all be ruined
if every detail isn’t in place.

Yet sometimes I am guilty
of lingering too long
and there is power in brevity
so maybe I will leave out
everything after the

Everything That August Left Behind

June is such a lazy month;
and January’s a bore.
November is a lonely month
May leaves me wanting more.

December tries too hard to please
and April can’t make up her mind;
September will promise you everything
that August left behind.

July’s too hot, October’s not,
March is February with sun.
The month that I accomplish things
is clearly not the current one.

Multicolored Geometric Shapes Without End

A young boy in a vast expanse runs from a multitude of Tetris pieces as far as the eye can see pressing in on him in the darkness.

I don’t think I realized this
in the ’90s
when I spent my Saturday mornings
dropping multicolored geometric shapes without end,
but if you stop to think about it
Tetris is a surprising apt analogy for life in general.

  • The only way to get rid of your mistakes
    is to work diligently to turn them into opportunities.
  • You have almost enough time
    to figure out what you’re doing
    before everything speeds up.
  • Complaining doesn’t let you take a move back,
    nor will it make the next piece any better.
  • Sometimes you get a piece that has no use
    and you have to figure out how to make it work anyway.
  • Everyone hates a square.
  • And above all else
    the pieces will always keep falling
    whether you’re ready for them or not.

I admit that life isn’t as entertaining as Tetris
and that the soundtrack is frequently worse
so the analogy isn’t perfect,
but neither is life
most of the time.

The Seer

A cloaked and hooded shadowy figure lurks over a small village in the night of a dark, eerie forest, leaves blowing beneath the full moon overhead.

A quiet town, on prairie found
the gentle people sleeping.
The dawn has come, the morning sun
finds a gruesome secret keeping.
The first to rise found a grim surprise:
an arm and two bloody feet.
The village woke to find Fred Oak
ripped to pieces in the street.

With no passers through, the village knew
the killer is one of us.
And the paw prints found across the ground
made everyone suspicious.
Now many a year had passed by here
since the legends first began;
no one believed til this gruesome deed
in wolves disguised as man.

The bite marks chewed in the wolf’s dead food
confirmed our fears were true:
somewhere within family and friend,
one of us was loup garou.
Once blood was cleaned from the grizzly scene
and Fred was proper buried,
the entire town then gathered round
so justice could be carried.

Between our kin, family and friends
we’d never broken trust.
But truth was out, there was no doubt:
a killer was among us.
We all were scared as we joined there
each solemn and perplexed.
But we all knew if the wolf’s not slew
Might any of us be next.

A silent crowd stared each other down;
no one would speak the first.
But the silence broke when the elder spoke
and said “Waiting makes it worse.
The daily sun is halfway done;
soon moon will be overhead.
The hungry beast again will feast
unless first we kill him dead.”

Then a sudden din as we all jumped in,
each crying an accusation.
Amid the noise, Sheriff raised his voice
and halted the conversation.
“We can shout all day, but that’s not the way
to sort out which is which.
So gentle folk, I propose a vote
to hang the son of a bitch.”

Chilly with fear, no culprit clear
it seemed our only prospect.
So we each agreed, on count of three
to point out our chosen suspect.
With no other choice, in calm clear voice
the Sheriff was the host.
He counted three, each pointed we
at the friend we suspected most.

When we counted votes we found the most
were pointed at Sam O’Shallows.
Protested he, “It wasn’t me!”
still we strung him from the gallows.
Hanging from noose, his life was loosed
his body twisted in the breeze.
That deed now done, I think everyone
was almost put to ease.

With daylight spent, to our homes we went
and tucked our children into bed
That evil day, we could only pray
that the wolf was truly dead.
That night we found that the only sound
was the hooting of the owls.
Til midnight broke and I was awoke
by a nearby creature’s howls…

The Courage I Will or Will Not Have

High above the clouds in a starry night sky, a solitary figure sits alone on a floating island, looking down, back turned to the burning bridge behind.

I sat down to write a funny and heartwarming poem
about a box of kittens
and a stodgy businessman
and a mixup at the port authority
but instead I’m thinking about a girl
and how close her lips were that summer evening
and how the same sun sets on different people
every day of my life.

The regrets I cherish most
are the things I didn’t do.

And on the other side of the sunset
another man I will think of as myself
will face an identical struggle
to write a poem
about the courage I will or will not have,
as unknown to me today
as this poem was before the last sunset.

The Rains of Kansas

A car driver's view of a sprawling city from the freeway with the plains of Kansas in the background, dark grey storm clouds gathering ominously in the wide blue sky.

The rains of Kansas
smell like wet leather
and agriculture.
In the winter all you can smell is frost.

Half my life ago I was a boy
and I left the plains
for a grander life in the city.
But the prairie breeze never left the boy.

You don’t travel here
so much as drift.
Sky so big you can hide forever,
and a lifetime away
the horizon waits patiently for you.
All the things inside of me
are so much nearer than I admit
(at least to myself).

It’s true that I recognize the dirt roads
and the familiar smell of wheat
but this place isn’t my home
and neither is anywhere else
that can be seen from a rearview mirror.

Ensign Not-Quite-My-Brother

A black-and-white pencil sketch of a calm, lonely window. Outside dark clouds gather; inside, a toy soldier sits on the floor by a bench in front of the window.

My sister’s sister
had a brother
who served in the war.
And while I sat in school
and played with toy cars
he huddled with the men in the trenches
who were told to fight bravely
and live strongly
and otherwise be nothing like me
except for occasional tears
and thoughts of mother.

I guess then that we’ll never know
if he fought bravely enough.
The triangular fold of the flag
and the black-and-white photograph
of Ensign Not Quite My Brother
sit patiently in his room
and so do I when the house is empty.

In my soul it is always just about to rain.

Mittens, Kentucky

An old, hand-drawn map of Kentucky on wrinkled, browned paper. In the upper corner, the words "There's no such place as Mittens, Kentucky" are furiously circled in red. Melancholy notes are scrawled all around the map, which is adorned with pictograms and doodles of indeterminate significance.

There’s no such place as Mittens, Kentucky
and every single person you ask for directions will tell you so.
The car smells of a thousand miles
of beef jerky and no air conditioning,
and the back seat is a museum
of empty plastic soda bottles
and all the crumpled road maps that haven’t helped so far.

With her head resting against my chest she told me
she loved me
and alone in that night
we both almost believed it,
or believed it enough to stay warm.

There’s no such place as Mittens, Kentucky
and there’s no one else staying in the hotel.
Insomnia and I walk the drifting hallways,
empty rooms behind paling doors
one after another
after another
and another.
The man behind the desk resumes his pornography habit
as soon as I’ve checked in
and the hotel bar isn’t open on Tuesdays.
In the lobby is a crooked rack stuffed full of road maps
to all the places I have no reason to go.

There’s no such place as Mittens, Kentucky
and no one riding shotgun in the car.
But there is the lingering smell of her cigarettes
and the lipstick she left in the glove box
and enough memories to keep me driving for another night.