Thursday, July 28, 2011


Every day you Mama flirts with Constantine in this goddamn market, maybe he you daddy. But you lick you ice cream, little pink tongue like a cat’s, flick, flick. Lick fast, girl, the heat’s gonna melt it. Like summer’s melting me. I ‘member when I ate ice cream with my mama. Ten years? Twenty? Dunno how old I am, but I ‘member how the cold creamy freeze my brain. What? You holding that cone out for me? Spit rushes, my fingers twitch close, and you jump, drop the damn thing, laughing at me scooping the mess off the sidewalk, all greedy.


A retread from last summer, but certainly I feel the heat pulsing back up at the pavement at me a year later. Originally Published in Dog Days of Summer, an anthology of 100 word stories pulled together by Michael Solender. Read on for more summer heat. Peace...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Poetry in Place

This week's story is a poem, actually, and part of the LANGUAGE>PLACE Blog Carnival. This month's edition is hosted by Walter Bjorkman, a fellow Marylander, at his digs QUIK-BAKE SYNTHETICS. Peruse the mighty-fine holdings of writers you will recognize. My small contribution is HERE.

Enjoy, and peace...

Monday, July 18, 2011

The knee bone’s connected… or mystery diagnosis

For about three months my right shoulder has had these weird tingles, like it’s fallen asleep. The pins-and-needles feeling comes at random times – while dead-heading daylilies, sleeping on my side, flipping pages in a book. Being the half-assed clinician I am, I ran to the nearest medical authority – MEDPEDIA – to read up on all the possible causes for what is medically termed parasthesia.

The first step of the differential diagnosis is to characterize other symptoms. Pain? Nope, just an achy feeling at times, often upon waking. Weakness in arm? Double nope. Hand weakness? Not at all, though sometimes my fingertips felt tingly, too. Any swelling of the joint? Redness? Blueness? None at all.

Just the tingling, which was started to cramp (pun intended) my writing style.

Reading all the possible causes of tingly shoulder freaked me out. Multiple sclerosis? Sarcoma? Multiple myeloma? Arthritis? Dislocated shoulder? Mini-strokes? Oh my. I made haste to consult my primary care doctor. She ordered a full-body bone scan and lab tests requiring six vials of blood and two cups of pee. She then wrote me out a referral for 12 visits to a physical therapist.

Now I am not a physician, nor do I play one, though I DO create characters who think they are doctors. Thus, I do have some credibility in assessing my physical health. Furthermore, it IS fun to pretend you’re a doc with a patient’s life in your hands. So please, play with me and name that diagnosis. Other relevant information to consider:

>Height: 5’2’’
>Weight: Just north of normal BMI
>General health: Excellent
>Exercise: Walk 10,000 steps most days, pilates, yoga
>Hobbies: write, read, some gardening
>Hearing: within normal limits
>Vision: blind as a bat without corrective bifocal lenses
>Family history: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, cancers galore, emphysema, lupus

All labs and blood work came back normal. Can you guess my mystery disease?

Winner gets a copy of DAMN SURE RIGHT, a damn fine collection of edgy shorts by the damn fine Meg Pokrass, published this year by Press 53.

Feel free to ask clarifying questions in the comment section. Have fun, all you Doogies! Peace…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

JUST BREATHE (Miriam's Story)

Arms by my side, I lie on the floor in the dark floating on a raft of breaths. I try to relax – that is why I am here, after all – learning to relax, but the towel bunches under my lower back and I want to yank it out, pull hard, like a Christmas cracker, for the pop, the small prize, the fortune, but of course, no such luck. My stomach gurgles thinking of the almond wafer melting in my mouth, which in turn makes me think of communion, though why I don’t know, I am the wife of a Unitarian Universalist minister, we have potlucks, and Catholic churches give me the willies.

The instructor’s voice wafts disembodied over my head: Remember to breathe.

My yoga teacher says the same thing every Thursday night. How ridiculous - breathing is an autonomic function, buried deep in the brain stem, as instinctual as apple pie and motherhood. Or perhaps not absurd, since motherhood eludes me and is the reason I am prostate in corpse pose on a carpet trod by hundreds of filthy shoes with a dozen other women all trying to envision the same thing: a tiny sperm swimming up the fallopian canal, making it’s touchdown with the egg, the fertilized embryo dropping like a feather to settle in the womb. Maybe I should heed the warning to breathe. Maybe these three years we’ve focused on the wrong body part – maybe it is my lungs that need fixing, not my baby making organs.

I want to return to the meadow, the one the instructor walked us through minutes ago, the one carpeted with sunshine and daisies and tall, waving grasses. In my imaginings, I wear a white dress and run in slow motion towards my first lover, a tall man, a philosopher with long wavy hair who proved, in the end, rather abusive. But how I loved that hair! Running my fingers through those auburn strands, braiding them into baby dreadlocks after screwing all afternoon on the narrow dorm mattress we threw on the floor. Bring me his head, I think, that will help me relax. I giggle in the quiet.

The instructor stands over me.

--Anything wrong, she whispers. I shake my head, mortified to be singled out. Then just breathe, she says.

Just breathe. Just relax. Right. As if relaxing will fix my faulty womb. The hormones haven’t, nor the nightly progesterone shots in my gluteus maximi, or the countless surgeries transplanting our beautiful, delicate embryos in their beds of nourishing tissue. Not the second mortgage making all this joy possible. Just breathe. As if the reason for my miscarriages is due to not breathing, not relaxing. I don’t have time to relax. I should be grocery shopping, the only milk in the refrigerator smells like sour cream. I should be making a casserole to eat later this week, or paying bills, or scrubbing toilets, anything other than lying here staring at the back of my eyelids.

--Inhale deep, she tells us all. From below your belly button. Breathe from your uterus. Bathe your growing baby in positive energy. Breathe in that golden sunshine from the meadow.

I concentrate on the three 4-week embryos cleaving to my uterine wall, sucking up nutrients, dividing from one cell to two, four, eight, sixteen, growing into a blob the size of a peanut, a golf ball, limbs emerge, a head, a spinal cord glints in the ultrasound. Hello, I say to my future child. I love you. Tiny fingers wave in amniotic fluid and for an instant everything goes white, goes warm, and I float with my daughter in the calm swells of my body.

--Breathe deeper. The floor shudders as the instructor walks past.

I breathe in, to bathe my babies in that golden sunshine, my blood pulsing around them, protecting them, but halfway through the inhale my throat clenches -- it is all so impossible, the embryos are too tiny, too fragile, mere cells surrounded by disaster.

Air wooshes out. I breathe in again, one, two, and on three my throat constricts again. I cannot I hold enough air with one breath, so I breathe and breathe, faster and faster, my chest heaves, my pulse thrums in my ears, and my baby disappears in a jagged flash of light. The meadow peels back, the flowers, the golden waving grass, my white dress, gone, all gone, and somewhere in the room someone gasps, someone cries, and the instructor kneels beside me, her hand on my back , and she holds me, she rocks me, and I want the floor to split open and swallow me, a useless woman who cannot make babies, who cannot even breathe.


Meet Miriam, the Minister's Wife. She's younger here, though not by much, a decade or so, but this is how I envision her story opening. At least today. Peace...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's so hot

the city might explode,
a single stare or slight
and whoosh! the hucksters
lining Howard street
with their china girl
and boosted dvds will
tumble into a catalytic
clysm, an end all and be all
heat rising from sunparched
asphalt and peanut shells
and the sultry ammonia
of morning piss
i feel the tension
in the airless air
the vacuum of the subway
tunnel the covey of youth
wise-talking at the bus
stop slouching towards
night and cool and
the bullhorn of jesus
from the sinnerless
man passing out tracts
on the corner.


Inspiration: It hit 100 degrees today in downtown Baltimore, and edginess palpated the air. This, a collection of images and smells and thoughts walking the blocks to my office.

This poem is my small contribution to the continuing LANGUAGE > PLACE Blog Carnival. The current all-poetry issue POETRY IN PLACE is hosted by the effervescent Walter Bjorkman, an amazing wordsmither, at his digs QUIK-BAKE SYNTHETICS. Please, take a gander and wander across the globe for poetry which will make you giddy.

In the good news department, two of my poems made the Robert Brewer's Top 50 Poems from the April Poem-A-Day Challenge -- Greetings from Motel 6 (Lucky #13) and The Kissing Tree (#32). This is the fourth year I've participated in the April PAD, and I enjoy the comraderie with exceptional poets, as well as the chance to play with words for the sheer fun of it.

Write hard, live harder, love hardest, and stay cool. Peace...

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Mountain Pose

He stood on his porch and breathed in, long and full. Behind his ribcage, on the left, a twinge. He acknowledged the pain and bid it away with his exhalation. Sun filtered through leaves, dappling him in light and shadow. He focused on the red bird in the hedgerow. He raised his left foot into the cleft above his knee. Breathe in. I will beat this. Breathe out. Bad energy. He balanced on his right leg, a statue. A flurry of wings. He remembered the needle sticks, the crimson-filled vials, and wobbled in the small breeze.

Lying in the dewy grass in corpse pose, the stars of heaven above him, it was hard not to let worries take over his breath. He thought most of the burdens on his wife and teenage daughter. He thought of his yoga students missing class, of no longer learning at the feet of his guru. He itemized unfinished projects. The moon rose over the tree line, a huge white ghost, the air so clear he discerned craters and mountains. He focused on the largest indent and breathed but the holes in the moon reminded him not of a face but of lacunae, the holes in his body left behind by marauding white blood cells that multiplied and multiplied until they conquered the red cells and built their own fortresses: lemon-sized lumps circling his kidney. His breath leaked out and he bolted up with a choking sound.

After the surgery he slept, his body too weak for anything else. People fluttered in and out of his room, angel shadows leaving fingerprints on his forehead, his cheek, the top of his hand. He remembered what he taught his students, to breathe out bad and breathe in good, and he surrendered to his breath. On each inhale he imagined golden sunshine flooding his bloodstream, his organs, his muscle and bone, then pushing dead cells and other debris through his lungs and pores on each exhale. Days passed. He breathed gentle arpeggios and dreamt of standing in a glade of redwoods, birds circling his head, mountains towering above the treetops. Fingertips tented in prayer position, he raised his hands over his head, feet rooted to the earth, and breathed.


Inspired by my friend Joe, a yogi who survived a 16 hour surgery this week that removed a kidney and other tissues eaten by cancer. He faces his ordeal with more courage and grace than I could ever imagine, supported and guided by his strong spiritual core. In life, there are those rare individuals who always teach, even under the most dire circumstances. Joe is such a person.

Please continue to give deeksha, to Joe, to your enemies, to any who suffer. Imbue the world with grace. Peace...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Deeksha is the Oneness Blessing. This gift derives out of the yogic tradition. Individuals who have reached a level of inner peace are trained to give deeksha to all who desire blessing. Givers of deeksha convey infinite love for ourselves, for others, for our world. In turn, those who receive return it to others. Deeksha is a spiritual path, but it is thought that as a yawn is contagious, so is deeksha.

This morning my friend Joe, a man of grace and dignity, a yoga instructor who gives the Oneness Blessing twice a month, will have his kidney and other tissue removed. Doctors found a 9 centimeter mass, as well as splotches in his lymph and possibly lungs. His wife is a wonderful caring wife and mother; their teennage daughter is a singer and actor bound for Broadway.

Today please set aside a minute and keep Joe and his family in your thoughts. Then perhaps another minute blessing someone else who faces fear and an uncertain future. Let's bless one another this day. Let's contaminate the world with love.

Thank you, and peace...