Storm Coming

by Donald Riggs

People hear about my daily sonnet
and say, What discipline! but when I try
to direct it in a particular
way, my hand, a dog straining at the leash,

yanks me in directions I never thought
to take, following the inscrutable
canine purposes that his nose directs,
other dogs having previously left
their own complex chemical messages,

or perhaps a burrow an alley cat
abandoned as soon as the conflicted
entity of dog and human tethered
together with divergent purposes
sent out signals of a front moving in.  

The moon was just a dim smudge in the clouds

by Donald Riggs

is the sentence I wrote when taking notes
in preparation for writing novels
just like Walt Whitman and some young woman
who spoke to us at school about how she

generated her prose, driving her car
with a pencil and pad of paper on
the passenger seat, whenever she thought
of a sentence, a phrase, a description

then later cut them into separate
scraps so she could arrange them however
they fit together, writing connections

between them.  I thought I’d do the same thing
but this sentence was all I wound up with:
“The moon was just a dim smudge in the clouds.”


by Donald Riggs

Even when young, irregularities
in the wallpaper fascinated him,
and he patiently peeled away the scrim
of Alice in Wonderland from Noah's
Ark, from a layer of solid green paint.
All this at night, on his side, in the crib
where each slat held him, an external rib
in the cage. The world beyond it was faint
with distance. Irregularities years
later still fascinate him; for decades
he has been trying to see if the wall
exists, under and beyond the brocade
the wallpaper has
evolved into, jail
with rococo ornaments on the bars. 

Second Guessing

by Don Riggs

Why is it that men–I should only speak
for myself now, but a woman once told
me the same thing, so I can't help but hold
it to be true, whatever you may think–
are mysteriously allured by those
women whose mouths are always in a moue
of dissatisfaction? Could it be true
that such men think, in taking off her clothes,
he could be the only man to make her
smile, as if his hands alone could conjure
up the delights of the flesh she has missed
in her relationships with other men,
who never is fulfilled, though often kissed,
whose disappointment makes us try again?


by Don Riggs

A wristwatch is a handcuff, it shackles
you to the consciousness of time; likewise,
time is no longer free to fly about
on its own; it is attached at the wrist
to your body, to your heartbeat's tattoo,
to the inequalities of the breath,
and to the slower, subtler cranio-
sacral rhythm that very few of us
notice, fewer even than those who note
the lopsided rhythm of the heart, man
slogging up a steep hill with a wounded
leg, favoring it, spending as little
time with pressure on it as possible,
shackled in his case not to time but pain.


by Don Riggs

She retains a sparkle in her eyes still,
but she is little more than a light shell
of her former self. How much, in the skull,
determines the person we are, or shall
become? She can eat a meal and not spill
anything, retains enough of that skill
and enough control so she doesn't soil
herself–none of that embarrassing smell.
If the eyes are the windows of the soul,
she stands there, inside, leaning on the sill,
watching, unable to name, a squirrel
undulating through trees, as if a spell
had been cast, pricked herself on a spindle,
and wordlessness covered her like a shawl.