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“In Praise of Children Who Don’t Listen”

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

As Finishing Line Press’s Chapbook of the Day, I offer you a poem from my forthcoming poetry book, And Yet.

In Praise of Children Who Don’t Listen
Rita Coleman

When asked why, they say Sometimes I don’t want to listen.
Fair enough you think.
You remember what it’s like
Filling every waffle hole with syrup
Pondering the swirling bathtub drain
Feathertouching a cicada shell, brown, brittle, cramped
Gazing out of focus, losing what self you have in dreaminess
While people taller and older interrupt your world.

But you say I need you to listen
Because saying it twice or even three times demands
more words for your tired mouth
That squirrel could bite
No running on the couch
That is not stable
Over and over day after day, alert, you repeat
Because your job is keep little bodies safe.

Yet you long to uphold the right to not listen,
To silence those damnable interruptions for a
A glint off a golden dome
A mockingbird’s tumblesong
A green bite of parsley from the earth
Sensations, colors, shapes, gaining admittance–or not.
Now that you’re older you can. But do you?
Or do the conspirators have all your attention?

First Poetry Collection, Mystic Connections

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

A celebration of my second poetry collection, And Yet, available now at https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/and-yet-by-rita-coleman/until June 18, would not be complete without celebrating my first-born collection, Mystic Connections. Available at Amazon, Mystic  Connections, was published in 2009.

Here is what poets have said about my debut chapbook.
Mystic Connections is crafted like a sacred circular hoop, and by the end, it has returned to the ethereal state with which it began. There is something for every one who seeks the spiritual in the sensual world.” Ed Davis, author of The Psalms of Israel Jones and Time of Light. 
“The clear language and evocative imagery of Rita Coleman’s poems helps the reader see deeply into the nature of the universe and the self. In her poetry she crystallizes moments into wholeness and peace.” Gary
Pacernick, author of Something is Happening.

Below is a favorite poem of fellow poet Ed Davis and my friend Jean Evans, from Mystic Connections.

Once Upon A Time Rita Coleman

Running, running, running, his lungs burning with the fire of freedom,
an escaped slave jumps off a limestone cliff into cold Massie’s Creek and turns to stone.
Red hounds bay and wheel in confusion and black-hatted trackers halt,
cursing their misfortune.
The man of stone brushes past ragged beards of algae and
stirs a benign cloud of silt,
sinking like the rock he has become.
His frantic mouth gapes in dumbfounded terror and
his black eyes glitter with panic.
He lies between half-sunken boulders, his head the lip of a new waterfall.
In rock consciousness, he cries out, “How did this happen? My wife, my children,
what will happen to them?”
Tears of desperation roll from his stone eyes,
swept away in a simultaneous wash by creekwater spilling over his chiseled face.
A low moan rides the water,
ascending the limestone cliffs past ferns and red spiders,
rising into ashen clouds that hover near the earth.

Hundreds of miles away, his wife feels a sorrow so fierce it breaks her heart.
She keeps cutting tobacco while the high sun bakes the red clay at her feet
and the foreman on his roan circles the field.

As the ears of corn turn down, the run of Massie’s Creek becomes a trickle
with mudcats searching the bottom downstream.
Leaves yellow and redden and torrents of rain obliterate the man of stone.
A leaf drifts onto his eyes, shielding him from the pain of separation.
When the breath of winter blows, he freezes in a curtain of ice.
He lives in the circle of seasons, first losing granules from his stony face,
then small chips of rock.
Lambent moonlight, full and soft, rolls over his features still frozen in fear.
Generations of water creatures flow by on their journey through time,
and the power of water softens his face.

Hundreds of miles away, his wife and his four children ride North in a wagon that jounces over ruts and cuts through gaps in the old mountains where, on the far side, the soil is brown.

Millions of gallons of water flow over the man of stone as hope
rises each morning and isolation cloaks his small world at dusk.
At first, a small chunk of his brow loosens.
Next, part of his lower lip flows out to the calm pool downstream.
In a spring flood, most of his nose falls off and is lost to the roiling water.
But his eyes, intact and searching, scour the cliffs, the maple, ash and oak
that spring from its surface, for something.
No one notices. Who could see an African man turned to stone,
his head wedged between pocked boulders, the rest of his broken body underwater
where crayfish dart from beneath him to another rock.

A few miles away, his wife, gray and gnarled, thinks of her husband and her breath quickens. His body, muscled and glistening, his voice, rich and gentle. Their three children that live bear his wide forehead and her simple nose.

Water burbles, glides, and surges past the man of stone.
His right cheek breaks off.
His eyes begin to fade as memories of his life as a man slip away.
“Here I lie,” his rock consciousness thinks, “Here I die, here I change.”
Sun dapples warm him as shading trees filter light.
Night wind cools him from heat that slows the creek to a thin ribbon.
Iridescent-winged dragonflies dip into the water to sip.
Blue herons, wait, still in the shallows, to spear a wriggling blue gill.
Snow swirls and melts on his face and into his water.
A cascade of ice freezes the waterfall the man of stone has become.
Melded into all that is around him, he senses, rather than sees the gradual change
as vernal breezes coax nascent leaves into unfurling greenness.
Again and again, the seasons heave and fall, circling over and under him
like blankets of mist and surprise until he is merely a suggestion.


A young woman with glistening cocoa skin clambers onto a jutting rock.
With one hand on the cliff face beside her,
she steps cautiously over large pocks to a mossy overhang.
With a sigh, she settles on a natural depression in the limestone
and wipes trail sweat off her forehead.
She gazes at the waterfall, dreaming of nothing,
her legs swinging over the edge.
Her green eyes widen as she thinks she sees
a man’s face in the stone under the smooth fall of Massie’s Creek.
She tugs in her pocket for a small, red notebook, certain of a story in the treasure she has found, collective and personal, a remnant
of a past remembered.

And Yet, My New Poetry Book

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

AND YET, my new poetry book, is now available through Finishing Line Press. Presales, which determine the press run, begin today, April 27, and run through June 18. Books are shipped August 11, 2017. The cost is 14.99 plus 2.99 shipping. www.finishinglinepress.com Click Bookstore

Now that you have the basics, I’d like to give thanks to the many poets who have inspired and provided suggestions for the poems in this book: Pauletta Hansel, Poet Laureate of Cincinnati, the women of the Practice of Poetry and the Practice of Spiritual Memoir, my fellow students in Creative Writing Vision classes at Thomas More College and Ohio River Retreats at the Thomas More College Biology Station, the poets I’ve met through Conrad’s Corner, a poetry radio program on WYSO 91.3 FM, and my first writing circle, “Mudrock Writers,” who aided me in shaping my writing and “putting it out there.”

The title of this book, And Yet,  is taken from a poem of the same name. Here it is.

And Yet 

Rita Coleman

Out of the inky spill
emerge tiny objects
sculpted into
faces, words, wings.
Drumbeats coax
them into villages
of shadows.

The search for sky virtues
designed only for the earth–
caves, fields, rivers–
leads to dwellings of
long-ago mothers
and terrified children
vigilant for night monsters.

Starborn birds
drop feathers of hope
reassuring lost ones
they will find the way.

When forgiveness is served
knots of fury untangle,
woven love
cradles earthen plates
and primitive paintings
lit by a circle of firebright,
all of it fragrant as star anise.



An Elm Tree: 125 Years

Friday, February 10th, 2017

“What caused it to die?” I asked, writing out a check larger than our mortgage payment

“It’s an elm tree,” he said. “Dutch Elm Disease, kills the elms.” He paused.  “It’s like today, the Ash Borer’s taking down the ashes.”

Earlier I’d walked out to what was now a stump and asked one of his workers how old he thought the tree was.

“Oh, a hundred and twenty-five years,” he said. “Not too old.  It looks older than it is.”

Not too old?

I looked at the circle of rings, the elm’s history. Once past the sapling stage, a wide ring stood out, a year bursting with growth: the mid-eighteen nineties. 

To what events had this elm tree been privy?

Every year, crops were planted and harvested, primarily corn and wheat, in this land, once a Revolutionary War land grant of 1200 acres.

On a clear day, the Wright Brothers and their flying machine rose into the air over the Huffman Prairie.

When the first automobile came rattling into the driveway, chickens squawked and flew out of the way, feathers drifting everywhere.

The power and light company strung electric lines alongside the road, and days became longer than sunrise to sunset.

Family constellations came and went: big farming families, a mother and son, a husband and wife, a newlywed couple and her teen daughter.

Over time, land was trimmed off the acreage until a mere two acres remained.

On the eastern property line beside a broken-down fence, the elm tree shaded in summer and grew deep roots in winter.

Last summer, a new hammock went up between two majestic maples, near the elm.

The big elm had lost big plaques of bark and leaned further over the neighbor’s paddock.

I didn’t want to think about.

The fact was: I was losing another grand tree.

Over the years, two maples, each well over two hundred years old, came down. An ice storm left the black locusts looking like stunted giants missing significant limbs. A wind shear–a tornado according to our immediate community–downed twenty five mature trees, mostly maples and locusts.

We’ve planted maples–sugar and silver–dogwoods, Colorado blue spruces, birch. We’ve seen some grow heartily while other snap in the extreme wind out here.

Now, one more giant was coming down.

I didn’t want to watch. I didn’t have to.

The tree company came as a surprise last Monday morning. I had several appointments.

It can be said that a tree dying is an act of nature. It can be said that a tree’s beauty never dies. It can be said that all things are transient.

Yet, these homilies do not fill the space in the distance where a tree once stood, where birds swoop toward nonexistent branches..





What Does a Killer’s House Look Like?

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

I went in search of a killer’s house today.  I knew the name of the street from a newspaper article.

I drove and scanned the two-block long neighborhood, looking at cozy homes with white siding, gray siding, yellow siding. Almost all remained original with three bedrooms, one bath, living room, and kitchen.

Was it the yellow house with a string of electric candy canes stringing the driveway?

My icicle lights still drape my deck railing.

Was it the gray home, a section of lattice leaning against against a faded front door?

Under our deck a piece of lattice is down: our old hound used to crawl beneath and sleep in its coolness in the summer. The previous front door of our farmhouse leaked air so badly in its last years, we covered it with plastic and a blanket in the winter.

Does a killer who fires multiple shots in one victim and a neat shot through the forehead of another have any identifying characteristics outside his house?

Maybe the home isn’t his. Perhaps, he rents it, shares it with a mom or a dad or both; a grandmother, a girlfriend or friends or friends’ family. Maybe he lived alone. Does he have family to share his life?

Our house is home to my husband and one cat. Numerous friends and extended family have slept on couches and floors.  My daughter lived here into her 20s and came back, briefly, in her 30’s with her young family to look for a house to buy.  Now two grandchildren come for overnights.

What does a killer’s home look like?

Probably like mine or yours with four walls, windows, doors, a roof.

Most killers’ homes may have no extraordinary outward appearance that would separate it from another house in the neighborhood.

But sometime during that person’s life, something went terribly wrong. Whatever the wounds, the pain, the desperation that lay behind invisible walls that allowed him to survive as long as he did, were just that–invisible.  Either no one noticed or no one cared.

I don’t think I’ll ever know what a killer’s house looks like.

All I can do is be vigilant with my own inner home and look beyond outer appearances.


Women’s March on Washington 2017

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Women’s March on Washington 2017. The Museum of Natural History

I may have missed Woodstock in 1969, but I showed up for the Women’s March on Washington in 2017.

On Friday, January 20th, my daughter, her friend, and I drove the 8 hours from southwest Ohio to DC, meeting sister marchers along the way at gas stations and rest stops.  Easily recognizable to each other with no outward symbols, we all had a look of expectancy, determination, and zeal.

Near a Frederick, Maryland gas stop,we marveled at a Trump supporter: blonde, middle-aged, she wore a red and blue, sequined Trump-Pence jacket and sported Trump leggings of our new POTUS’ face from her waist to ankles. That led to conversation with pink-hatted women parked next to us. Two adults and two teens, they gifted us with three pink pussycat hats they had made. We posed for pictures and parted with: “See you in Washington!”

On Saturday, January 21st, we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and piled into the shuttle bus, squeezing in 2 more women than there were seats. We were absorbed into slow-moving lines at the Franconia-Springfield station and met several hundred like-minded people. The sign, “A woman’s place is in the revolution,” sanctioned by Princess Leia, rocked us with laughter. Another,”Retired Marine–I’m with her and her and her,” blanketed us with gratitude.

By the time we packed the train and began moving, we had met hundreds of  jovial traveling companions. They had flown from as far away as California and driven from as nearby as Springfield, Virginia. After much bumping and jostling, we emerged at the L’Enfant stop and joined the crowd. We baby-stepped, stopped, shuffled, paused. We gulped fresh air at the top of the escalators. We emerged into a gathering of 500,000 of the friendliest people I’d ever met.

We walked north on 7th to Independence, the gateway to the stage near the Capitol. We tried going east on Jefferson, to no avail, to Madison, likewise. We skipped the jumbotrons in favor of moving toward the speakers.

We never made it to the stage. We passed the Smithsonian buildings twice, joined chants like, “This is what democracy looks like,” laughed at signs like ,”Get back in the DeLorean!!! We obviously turned the dial in the wrong direction!”

The platform speakers were still talking at 2:45.  We could hear roars of affirmation moving through the crowd like waves. The march, to begin at 1:15, was rerouted and marchers streamed on Jefferson and Madison and streets we couldn’t see.

We stepped over the draped chain fence at the Washington Monument and saw into the slight dip ahead of us, a gargantuan crowd that was merely a small part of the overall mass. We tramped toward the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam and World War II Memorials. We crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge toward the Metro station and on to our hotel.

On Sunday, January 22nd, while checking out of the hotel, a sister marcher asked me why I was part of the march.

“Women’s right, human rights, reproductive rights.”

That was my initial reaction. Add: climate change, freedom for all ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, the right to health care.


My awareness of the feminist movement began in the 70s, during the second wave of feminism. My passion for it has never faded. In the last 50 years, the feminist movement has grown from bra-burning and a beauty pageant protest, to the inclusion of all peoples and the struggle for human rights

My daughter, born in the 70s, drove her friend and me, to Washington, D.C. and back to Ohio. In doing so, she linked my past and present, with our future, as women who will continue to speak out, to show up, and to support humane beliefs.






Draft to Craft Poetry Workshop – Reading

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

What happens when a group of talented regional poets come together weekly to inspire and encourage each other in their craft? Come hear for yourself on Wednesday, November 5, 7 pm, at Joseph-Beth Booksellers/Crestview Hills (about 3 miles south of Cincinnati) as poets from Thomas More College’s From Draft to Craft Poetry Workshop, led by Writer in Residence Pauletta Hansel, read from their work and talk about their craft. I’ll be reading, along with Kate Fadick, author of Slipstream (Finishing Line Press), Pauletta Hansel, author of What I Did There (Dos Madres Press) and The Lives We Live in Houses (Wind Publications), Jerry Judge, author of Luna Moth (Finishing Line Press), John Cruze, Kris Gillis, Annie Hinkle, Gary McCormick, Tony Otten, Nicole Rahe, Susan Scardina, Claudia Skutar, Chuck Stringer, Kelly Thomas, and Scott Whitehurst. A book signing follows.



TMC’s Creative Writing Vision Program is supported in part by grants from the John A. Schroth Family Charitable Trust, PNC Bank, Trustee, and Scripps Howard Foundation. For more information about Thomas More College’s Creative Writing Vision Program, visit www.thomasmore.edu.

Ending, Beginning

Friday, May 30th, 2014

When the ash wing dove

dips my way

on the day

that is my last

I will float

onto its feathered back

lean low

steady, ready

to soar into

the near unseen

a teardrop

in someone’s eye

a sigh

in someone’s breath

an ache

in someone’s chest.


The ash wing dove

flies closer

to the sweet place

landing from memory,

standing on

the unmarked target,


to the far world again as

my voice drops away

my eyes settle deep

inside me and

my body is a flash of gold.


Dedicated to my mother Suzie O’Neil and my ex-husband, Bob Speer.


Alternate Reality

Saturday, March 15th, 2014


If Narcissus the god had gazed at the narcissus flower

Blooming somewhere in the folds of the earth

If he had become enchanted by the warm yellow center

Enticed by slender, waving, come-hither lovelies

Entered the tubal opening, finding mirrored passion,

He would have beheld beauty staring back at him

Rather than the shallow reflection of his face in a pond,

A reflection, that when the wind arose, blurred, then erased it.


My Mother, The Atom Bomb Maker

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

My Mother, The Atom Bomb Maker


Fresh off the farm, a Mrs., a mother,

twenty-one years of living,

you came to work in the town

that didn’t exist on any map.


Tennessee, 65 cents an hour,

far more than birthing calves,

hoeing beans, baking cornbread,

tending to your baby, helping your mama.


Just up the road 40 miles, brand-new

buildings, a field of red mud so thick

you carried store-bought saddle oxfords

high above your hair, feet squishing in the muck.


In your building, a vague smell of metal,

gauges, chemical tanks you scrubbed while

flyboys bombed Europe, sailors scoured

the Pacific, one of them your Mr.


How were you to know,

how was anyone to know, that

uranium split into the power

of small sun would write history?


The secrecy endowed mystery

to your life, why nothing was ever

produced that you could see,

that anyone could see.


You blossomed into a beauty,

a flower behind your ear in one picture,

in another, the tallest in a crisp white uniform,

farm-tough, the leader of your group.


In your dorm, you learned nail polish–red–

lipstick–red–and face powder not meant for

the farm but a perfect blush for days and nights,

a small beacon, like so many in the shadow of the mountains.


When a second sunrise in as many days

lit up a land half-way around the world,

your voice called for answers:

How safe was this work?


Is it any wonder, the bossman in his suit

whispered “undesirable” creating a chain-reaction

leading to your “termination” (they called it),

releasing you into the freedom you helped win.


After the rent in the earth, your heart began

Mending from its own attack and you began

Living the peace that had come,

Living the peace that had cost.