One way with art by Lauren Elder

One Way to Ask, as the title implies, is a lot about questioning, wondering, querying. In fact, I developed the form of the poems, called queron, with the idea of querying as a key element. This poem, "One way" serves as the opening poem. It sets the tone for the book.

It has to be good because it's the hook. I am really struggling to get this tone right. I don't want it too hard to understand, but I don't want to make it pat and give the reader the wrong impression that my poems are direct as stand-up comedy. I want to talk about questioning without using the word question. I want to make the reader's mind slip without making the reader frustrated at me.

This one is still shifting and settling, sometimes line by line, sometimes word by word. For all I know, the comments you leave right here might oust this poem as the opener before the book lands into print. But for now, "One way" leads the way into my book, with art by the amazing Lauren Elder

Learning how to ask. The train pushes birds
into thundershower noise, a clapping
chorus, an old typewriter setting words.
They figure eights—hundreds of wings chopping
air. I think clouds. I think of the condors.

To practice asking is like sculpting smoke.
You have to keep giving up the figure.
Threads of the material keep tripping
your cough reflex, blowing your work to air.
You have to soften where hard luck frays you.

I have my first manual typewriter
in the garden. The earth helps it dissolve.
Last I saw it’s euphorbia, I think,
that grows up through the chasis. We’re absolved
for all the dancing and tapping we’ve done.

Experience as solvent. The great page
keeps evolving our story past our tools.


  1. Perfect poem to start the book, Dan. Incredible imagery. There were a couple of possible typos, though. Did you mean to write "They figure eights"? Or should it be "They figure eight". Also "chasis", I think is chassis. Anyway, minor quibbles on an otherwise beautiful piece. Really love the art too.


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