All copyright © 2003 remains with the authors.
All copyright © 2004 remains with the authors.

Deborah Humphreys

i'm still
in the process
of packing of
unpacking of
then finding
and losing
for weeks
i have missed
with far flung friends
no time
for even a couple of lines
the lost scrap of paper
with a melody
the lost internet
correspondance interrupted

iiiiii'mmmmm baaaccccckkkkk


now on Grafton Ave
Newark 07104
6:15 pm


(after reading Jill's wednesday shot, this was my day in the USA)

like traffic on these urban streets where
double parking is deemed protection
against being blocked in
i weave in and around
such obstacles, stubborn against
lines someone else painted as
reasonable, drawing compliance
or the ire of meeting at crosshairs

i weave the sound of knots
and oughts and nots, one right
after the other running through my brain
not turning back or pulling loose those skeins
of tangled thoughts
not even noontime angelus has tolled

but i have stopped at the obligatory pause
to let someone else pass through this hell
some call a neighborhood. and it is

i suppose. this intersection has become a crossroads
and a drama good for retelling later in creole, portuguese
spanish and whatever twisting of phrase passes for explaining
to the insurance company how metal spun out
like a toddler's top and came to rest on my front bumper
(already jagged like a ripped nail from a hit and run at stop and shop)
thinking "oh well, two for the price of one."

Deborah L. Humphreys
at home on Grafton Street
Newark, NJ
Wednesday, 7:55 pm


"if i sleep, clowns will eat me."

monday night it was hard
to sleep and i was thinking about
all the nights before
school would start when
summer closed shut
slammed like the last book
of required reading and the order
from the sears and roebuck store
had finally arrived and was arranged
carefully in the proper drawers
new things
not unfamiliar
how many years have i gone into this
ritual forest each september
and now
years long past childhood
my friend wears the shirt that proclaims
these night terrors about clowns that leads me to believe
she is brave and ready
for the realities of dealing with the innocence
of other people’s children not knowing where
to line up for the bell and administrators
who show up with their summer homework
undone. clowns will eat me even if i stay awake
for lunch

Deborah L. Humphreys
Newark, NJ
Wednesday 7:12
almost ready for the staff inservice day at the Newark Public Schools Office of Early Childhood Education and 7,011 children ready for the New Year



Just a little note. Our sisters are opening a space (638 Elizabeth Avenue) for women in the downtown of Elizabeth NJ to come and be at home (away from home) to be creative, reflective, supported/supportive. It's neither a retreat house or a social service agency. It has yet to really be defined. It is called Josephine's Place, honoring Mother Josephine O'Brien who despite her Bostonian/Irish-Catholic upbringing--helped our community move forward in the 1960s at great personal cost. Judy the person helping to get the house together asked if I would write something for the opening--and, hey! It's Wednesday. Hurray.

do you like
this having a somewhere
that fits you fine like a new
coat, the one you stare at
through the glass of your waking
walking dreams, where it is really
new, not hand-me-down new
or bargain table found

this house is like that, this place is
precisely what surrounds you
cool silken lining closest to your skin
and wool woven thick, weighted for protection
for traveling, for going places
we know the hidden spaces, the hiding places
holding spaces, the extra places we willingly set
the niches, the pedestals, the under-the-bridge places
the world accommodates us unsure as they are

of our loyalty or the depths
of our anger or our ability
to incorporate josephine's place
into our many lives

Deborah Humphreys
Newark, NJ
24 september 2003
words I carried with me all day
now 7:32 pm


for the detainees at the Elizabeth NJ Detention Center (a former ShopRite warehouse)

falling off

the world we discover
is flat, imagine that we have been mistaken
misinformed, led astray
lo these many ages we took kindly
to the creed that life must be
global, encircling, sustaining
and, if not perfect, at least
certain as october's
moon coming round. it is our pride
ourselves standing brittle and dry like ordered stacks
at harvest awaiting the victor's parades
and the workers
illegal, undocumented, under the gun
following in groups like vessels
stem to stern, the nina, the pinta
the santa maria, the feastdays

our cristophers celebrate the passage
with the familiar, the communal, the original
words carried like testimony
and repeated so often, so mindlessly, so reverently
images were not lost, but stolen
taken hostage for triumph
and those who first crossed over
stand at the edge
of their own political science

Deborah Humphreys
Newark, NJ, USA 7:31 am


snapshots dropped (24 roll pick up)

wend STAY when

click, click, caa ah lick, clicks clix,
pix, cool picks, the picts pictures, yankee pitchers
pit chores mi
amis outta hear con text, text ures text aisles
snap, snaps, snapxxxx s napzzzzz sun apse
sol, solas so/l/a/s solace con suelo consol (an la/ sin)
cheese, cheez, geezz us

retrato retro grabado graph
grab griangraf, green automat----ick

the treetop struck like a match
goitse gotcha gonzo

Deborah Humphreys
coming home at midday
Branch Brook Park
Newark, NJ


the fact
she reminds me
of my sister
on a good day
the fact
that she shares
the same sorts of genetic endowments
academic associations, the pus color rage
i can see under skin
that barely contains such living
between pileups of shoulds and oughts
the disenfranchised loneliness
a mother with alzheimer's
all of this, any of this
in common
makes it
to fire her
after an initial relief
a rush of adrenaline
before the how is lost in a search
for the dust-covered face of authority
the untangling of procedures
of separation, of letting go
cutting losses in structures
organized for redemption
this is not family, i remind myself
she is not my sister

Newark, NJ
begun at 4:55 am
Deborah L. Humphreys


(Stage directions for snap (in case of formatting disturbances) poem is centered-- reading can also at centered "i" or be read down or maybe even from the bottom up; bidirectional (although it may sound like my pet "Furby" toy))

they look
of building
along a line

yet orderly
but in a row
hanging out


at a november


through a veil
of twig
four perfectly ovals
last of season
hanging on
waiting on
a breeze
a goodbye


Deborah in NJ
6:37 pm


seasoning in newArk: a discussion with my friend Yolanda
about tomorrow in three tongues--the bird, el pavo, turcai/

seas on soups on
it's the season,
"dice mi amiga"
"arsa m'chara"
chattering in thirty something degrees
in a light fleece wrap
it's the seasoning
not crisp like the lecho/n asao of navidad
the sound of craiceann, the skin of the body
of this flightless bird prepared with the herbs
adobo, ajo, sofrito sal y pimiento of eternal travel
what are the irish condiments, i wonder

but this turkey resists
two days of marination
                    "the turkey does not grab the seasoning"

close your eyes and pass the tofu
savor the flava, el sabor
the hint of leftovers
the last si/ob home, el tapo/n in bayonne
freedom until the rush
of monday morning

Newark, NJ
8:05 am
Deborah L. Humphreys

the finished book:

maybe you have a tendency to
keenly feel the cold, the loss
of voice
in seasons that follow
the gathering of the fallen
feathers of poems, of white-dry stories
hard work pressed
between the skins
the sheets of revered trees

the stain of ink and scar
the well-meaning lives
of industrious poets
suddenly out
in the cold
and wondering if they will ever

stretched out on the couch
Grafton Ave, Newark, NJ
7:06 pm


make my day a little holiday fill-in-the-___________-poem how do you make time time for all the times ____________________ sits in front of you like a take-no-prisoners two year-old or a________________ or a wall rising up, the tide of days before _______________ when you are supposed to make merry make those scrumptious desserts ________ always expects and then on top of that as if that were not already over the moon make space in the living room, ________'s room, the guest pull-out couch, the squeezed-in-tight place in your heart and make peace around the table, the____________ and make do when________________. just how do you make it look so easy. oh how you make me smile!

Deborah in NJ
a poem for our gathering
of family service workers
in daycare centers in Newark
Deborah L. Humphreys SC


currier and i've got a lovely view outside my back windows

the snow fell like a blessing
in disguise
a covering of white
over the oil-slicked skin
of a swimming pool, the tar lagoon
the abutting neighbors have
abandoned to the elements
once-upon-a-summer ended and the plastic
bobbling toys went inside, the boom box music
the seasons turned, the sun and the shimmer of wind
across the top, kalaidescope of mold
and like the early snow now, the brown oak leaves
covered up whatever was living in the jello

my flight of lochness escapades
noirin says keep the back bedroom
when it rises
it will eat you first.

Deborah in NJ
a snap inspired by the weather snaps


the new


a month
days so bitter
so stiff
i make myself
get up
move about
words pressed
into brew
tap uh tap uh tap uh
a drummer's beat
a poet's keyboard
click a click a click a
like a heart
a poem
like an ekg

Deborah Humphreys
Newark NJ
7:53 am


these things happen

but in december
with a perfectly clean sheet
31 clear postage stamps of space
in front of me, middle january
looks safe, even possible
and on that reckless
in retrospect advent day
of peculiarly seductive east coast weather
i commit to paper to time and energy to an event far enough
to expect myself
and 35 others
to be there
in the same upstairs room
the feel of advent again
the ground blanched
before the salt trucks pass
the skies fill up with the grey white
billowy breath of "hurry home"
go to the store, come back prepared
remember when i did the great snow dance
sleepless at the vigils when snow was as tall
as my fourth grade shadow and i knew nothing
of the messiness of phone chains, canceling
caterers, or chancing work for another equally
winter day

Deborah Humphreys
Newark NJ 7:54 PM


the nuns said we could
--when we listened?
live lives like those girls
from the early times
we could barely sit still
because ours was already running
ahead of us. adventures awaiting
our names to be said out loud
from the canon each and every day
by a priest, a bishop, a pontiff
somewhere in the world
agatha, lucy, agnes, cecilia, anastasia
sounded like girls we could hang with
play hard to get with
agnes was a girl who could not be burned
so they cut her. i wanted to be
brave like agnes, take up her name
for my confirmation tag
but I came up before the judge
unable to stand up
against my mother who ruled
agnes too much for a pretty little
girl and i folded agnes into anne
the mother of the mother of god
for the sake of the kingdom until
i found that deborah had been a judge
and i could answer to that

Newark, NJ
Feast of Agnes of Rome
10:15 am the day following


what did you come out to see
a reed shaken by the wind (Matthew 11: 7)

i have read this
line until it feels
like poetry, sounds
like sunday, tastes warm
like childhood which is no longer
safe but indeed
dangerous and i return
back to the sandy edge
of grace
carrying all these words
on sheets of past
impressions in yet another season
of wood and resistance

spirit calls, wind pushes
the source is the same
one that gives us wonders
some feet, others roots
the lucky ones both

the work is the work
we always have
where we stand
toes, tendrils of roots
digging in, a hold on
silken soil, once rock
a pile of stones
a banked fire

a little offering
of protection, swaying dry grass
camouflage, the succulence
of waxy leaves, the music
of pipers, ashes

a blessing, a mitzah
over time, mountains explode
geographies shift, we just try to live
the air of beauty about us
trace elements of wood, dispersed light
everywhere anyone can look up
sun's brilliant visitations
at the borders of day

Newark, NJ 7:55 am
Ash Wednesday
for the Vigil and a sharing of soup and bread
tonight at the Elizabeth Detention Center


Spring, sprang, sprung

days when words rest
on green beds, oval as eggs
wait to be scooped up

what is it about
hats and brick city flowers
we want to show up

scatter seeds, tear off
piece of cloud, dandelion
gets a brand new "do"

Deborah Humphreys
Newark, NJ
3:05 pm


written in memory of Barra "Bui/" O Donnabhain

spring. air. hearts a flight
beginning of golden may
we stand together
(earrach, aer, aerach
an che/ad la/ bui/ bealtaine
ta/imid d’aon bhui/on)
********* soft sunlight. we are
grateful for the small mercies
the cool speckled leaf
(solas bui/ gre/ine
is bui/ le bocht an beaga/n
an duilleog bhui/bhreac) ********* not just one pale life
dandelions' yellow bloom
BOOM...............scatter soft, white
(ni/l aon so/rt buiocht
na caisearbha/in bhoicht, bla/th bui/
go dti/ PLE/ASC bog, ban)

Just got back from an Irish language weekend in NY and some snaps from the trip.

developed in English
Newark, NJ
8:05 am

Deborah Humphrey's


(Begun yesterday, interrupted by a migraine, better today, apologies)

remembering grace

something left over
from the pious traditions
of an ordinary childhood
from a time of remembering
which saint's feast falls
on this date

agnes jan 21
agatha feb 5
patrick march 17
columba june 9

a gentle way altogether
to think about my girl heroes
those irish ancestors who made good
wrote loricas, held tough, held off
the demons--why not carry them
into my bureaucratic nightmares as well

but today grace comes
quietly as ever, another gemini
gone nearly a quarter century
whose souvenirs of vocabulary included
waists for blouses and binders, bras
who took the streetcars in jersey city
who lived her share, prayed hard
for anybody that everybody else forgot

no church
calendar honors her
but i
hold out this little snapshot
offer up for a sharing of grace

Sr. Grace Edward Hackett SC
16 June 1898 - 31 August 1981

Deborah Humphreys
Newark, NJ
begun 6/16/04 1 pm (on lunch break)
finished 6/17/04 2:34 pm (free until Tuesday!)


el di/a de san juan

(for my good friend Petra on this vigil)

legend has it
an answer to most
"inquietudes", questions
in their serpentine forms and indigestions
"ce/n fath", "por que/", "co/mo" "conas ta/"

the recipes
for seducing the sun
to stay as long as possible
the beloved to emerge
from the sea
from under the pillow
of dreams
to listen how the rosa
of lima belongs to san german
and the little-known san patricio beats out
san blas in the race
to rid "borinquen" of the unwelcome
"hormigas" and bugs

tonight, the vigil
the druid on the hill
milagros down the street in the breaths
before her "quinceanera" and at night prayer
i'm thinking about the beautiful
bonfires i long ago saw in the city
shaped like a tea cup
reading the leaves
the cartographer's symbols

Newark, NJ
10:18 pm


Poetryetc is a listserv relating to poetry and poetics which provides a forum for poets to debate their critical and creative work. The list has over the years run a number of projects for its members, of which Snapshots has been the most enduring.

Every Wednesday, Poetryetc members were invited to post short poems on any subject or in any form they chose. The idea was to make a poetic collage of instamatic “snaps” of that day that reflected the international membership of the list. The project has generated an astounding number of poems.

The first two runs, of six weeks each, and the first ten weeks of the third run, are archived at Wild Honey Press under Poetryetc Project. The rest - amounting in all to a run of a year - are archived here.

Poetryetc, like its affiliate Salt Publishing (, was founded by Australian poet John Kinsella. Salt is managed by Christopher Hamilton-Emery (, while Poetryetc is owned by Alison Croggon ( Poetryetc is now archived at and anyone interested can join from that url.

To contact the listowner: Alison Croggon

These pages are designed, maintained, and hosted by Rebecca Seiferle, the Editor of The Drunken Boat. To email.