Understanding Poetry

Happy National Poetry Month! This comic was inspired by one of my favorite poems, "The New Poetry Handbook" by Mark Strand. This month on Incidental Comics, I’ll be exploring the world of poetry. A place, as Marianne Moore famously said, of  ”imaginary gardens with real toads in them.”


Luk O’Connor - “Prayer for the Man Who Raped My Best Friend”

"May there be men out there that know that silence is not synonymous with yes."

Performing at the Saint Paul Poetry Slam.

Thank you, Luk O’Connor. You brave poet, you. Thank you.


More like SLAMuel L. Jackson, amiright?

(Seriously though, this is Samuel L. Jackson performing slam poetry about BOY MEETS WORLD, and it is my everything.  If you had any doubts about Jimmy Fallon’s new gig, BOW DOWN.)

I love everything about this. EVERYTHING.




This hurts.


Super sad…

Collector of Hearts

A professor was speaking to a room full of beating hearts that were safely tucked behind the shields of people’s breastbones. He spoke of endurance, and he said that when people died in marathons he would go and collect their now still hearts, cut them open, and examine them.

I pictured fallen bodies left behind on the trail with heart shaped holes in their chests—the shields of their breastbones no longer needing to guard, to defend. 

That sounds grotesque perhaps, but in my head it’s beautiful. Sad, but beautiful. Leave the body. The heart is what matters. The body can—and does—go through hell. But even in death we must tend to the heart.

Especially in death.

Oh what we can learn from a heart that stops beating! But imagine what we could learn if we’d only open up our own hearts while they’re still beating…

Ode to Gertie Sue


My dear, sweet Gertie Sue:

Thank you. Thank you for being my dog. My love bug.

I adopted you when you were a little over a year old. By adopted I mean my pops forked over some money so I could claim you as mine. (Thanks pops!) How anyone could have ever given you up is beyond me, but I’m grateful they sold you to that pet store and I’m grateful I went there to get some treats for Whiskey Jack because there you were… Waddling around the store. Pawing at people for attention. Being your all around cute self. 

You had been there a month before I met you and somehow people had resisted your charm. But then I came along, immediately fell for you like the crazy dog lady I am, and wouldn’t you know all of sudden other people took an interest in you and wanted to take you home. Good thing my brother put a “hold” on you! (Thanks brother!)

At first Whiskey was a little ornery that you were invading his home, but it didn’t take too long before he couldn’t keep his paws off you. Everyone fell in love with you—whether they had two legs or four—and you loved everyone. 

Thank you for loving me and for loving me so completely. You and Whiskey are the only creatures that I have seen nearly every day for a good chunk of the day for the past six years. There’s a special bond that develops out of that. Especially considering you followed me everywhere. Even the bathroom. I loved that you’d sit on the bathmat while I showered as if you were keeping guard because you were such a ferocious dog after all. (Remember when you were mistaken for a pit bull?! Too funny.)

You saw me scrubbed out. Dressed up. And everything in between. You loved me just as I was and drooled on me regardless of what I was wearing.

And if I was ever sad and didn’t want to see a human being, it didn’t matter because I got to see you. You’d invade my personal bubble (which I didn’t mind), snuggle up to me, and lick away my tears. (And that’s why it’s so hard to grieve you because you’re not here to lick away my tears.) You saw me through some really crappy experiences like the flood. And through it all you always found a way to make me smile and laugh—generally with your burps and farts.

Almost every morning you’d saunter your chubby self up to my head, if you weren’t already snuggled up by it to begin with, and snort in my face. A wake up call I grew to anticipate and always loved. When I’d pluck you from the bed after giving you morning kisses and place you on the floor, I’d wiggle your ears and your jowls, and rub or smack your big beautiful belly. Sometimes you’d stretch with your little butt in the air, and then you’d wiggle off after Whiskey who would dash back and forth as if to say, “Hurry up already!”

At night I’d scoop you up and put you into bed, get ready for bed myself, and then return to find you cozied up right smack dab in the middle of the bed. You’d gaze at me with your big brown eyes and a look that said, “Yes, I’m in your spot. And what?” You’d often get wild on the bed and want to play so much that Whiskey would jump off and hide underneath the bed until you and I were settled in for the night. Then he’d come back up to cuddle, and we would all fall asleep to the sound of your snoring. 

It’s funny how soothing I found your snoring to be considering all other snoring annoys the heck outta me. But yours charmed me. Especially since you could be found snoring while sitting up and with your eyes open. 

I always loved to cuddle with you. My heart would melt a bit when you’d nuzzle your big head onto my leg or arm or chest and smack your mouth. Thanks for doing that. I’m so grateful we took one last nap together before you passed. The couch seemed to just barely fit us, as it always did, but I was on my side with you nestled under my arm and into my chest and I kissed your head. Now the couch seems huge. You were quite the lapdog, my friend. 

Thanks for taking treats from me so gently too. You’d stand or sit attentively, but were always patient for me to give them to you—never snapping them from my hand. On our last day together I gave you lots of treats and some of my Cheerios, and you were just as gentle as you always were. 

I miss all of this about you. And I miss your frolic—butt bounding joyfully from side to side with your head tilted back. Such a happy trot—especially after you’d poo! I miss your raspy bark and how it would lift you off of your front feet. I miss the way your jowls would jiggle when you’d exhale deeply. I miss how you somehow would manage to squeeze half of your body under the bed when playing with Whiskey—you’re butt would stick out and you’d have to scootch backwards to get out. I miss how’d you shake the crap out of your foxy toy and how you would hover your body over it so Whiskey couldn’t take it from you. I miss how you could surprise me with kisses because of your underbite. I miss how when one of us was upset at night you’d curl up by my head and rest your head on my shoulder and neck area. I miss how when you had a scratch it was such an effort to get your hind leg going to scratch it. (That always made me giggle, but then I’d try to scratch it for you.) I miss how observant you were of puddles or ice patches; you’d do your darndest to get around them, or, in a surprising burst of athleticism, you’d jump over them and sometimes even in an almost parkour-like maneuver. I miss going for little walks with you and Whiskey and how you’d always bring up the rear. I miss how easy going you were with me. I mean, I never imagined I’d wipe a dog’s rear end, but I had to do that with you frequently (when you were pooping); you’d see me grab a baby wipe and you’d turn your bum to face me. “Alright, alright. Let’s get this over with.” You’d also let me clean your face after eating and drinking. (I don’t know what to do with all of your drool towels now…) AND you let me put you in a tutu on multiple occasions! I miss carrying you as if you were a toddler. Going up steps was hard for you, but I didn’t mind carrying you because you’d snuggle in for a hug and I could kiss your meaty leg. Oh, I miss your weight and your warmth… Whiskey is just so tiny in comparison to you and he’s never been much of a snuggler, the lil’ jerk. So independent that one! Sigh… I miss how you calmed him and how you would waddle into the kennel no problem leading the way for him and how you two would groom each other like an old married couple. You’d lick his ears and he’d lick your nose wrinkle. 

I’m grateful I could hold you while you passed. You licked my face just before the vet came in, and then I held you close staring into your warm brown eyes—making note of your eyelashes and how in some places they started turning white. I pet your ears, rubbed the soft skin of your belly, and held your paw. I stroked your little cheeks too—so many adorable whiskers. And you were the best girl until the very end because you didn’t even pee on me. (I wouldn’t have minded if you did, but thanks for not doing that because I had just washed my jeans.) And before I let you go, I kissed you on either side of your noggin right by your ears.

I’m sorry that you had such a hard time pooping for so long, and I’m sorry I couldn’t help you more. 

There’s so much more to say. So much more I miss about you. And it’s only been a day. But I just want to say thank you and I thank God for you—that you were my dog and I was your person. You made my life so much happier in the six years that I was able to claim you as my favorite girl. Whiskey and I miss you so very much.

I love you, Gertie Sue, my little lump of love. Always have. Always will.





Everyone is always in need of something that another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word or deep empathy. There is no better use of a life than to be attentive to such needs.
Jonathan Safran Foer
Words are small shapes in the gorgeous chaos of the world.
Diane Ackerman


The birth of a book. I find it mesmerizing.