Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

This City Street

Walking down
this city street -
pop sizzle and thrum,
Friday night sturm-
angst throbbing
doors slung open,
tables spilling,
concrete river
humming chit
chatter chortle
laughter escalating
desperation slinging
pomegranate mojitos,
appletinis, cabernet
sauvignon, goat
cheese pizzettas,
sly bullshit to air
space, words suspend
vapid in boom-boom-
boomlay-boom bass
clicking heels
lacquered nails,
innuendos bubble
champagne, lipsticked
rims, sighs, hopes
promises unfurled
whispers--I am
sated in the comfort
of my skin.


A snapshot of Boston's Newbury Street this past Spring 'round midnight... a detour on the one-year anniversary of the LANGUAGE>PLACE Blog Carnival, created and hosted by the inimitable Dorothee Lang. Check out the 24 destinations on the colorful map, then read on. Peace...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Poem I Wish I Had Written


I think of it with wonder now,
the glass of mucus that stood on the table
in front of my father all weekend. The tumor
is growing fast in his throat these days,
and as it grows it sends out pus
like the sun sending out flares, those pouring
tongues. So my father has to gargle, cough,
spit a mouthful of thick stuff
into the glass every ten minutes or so,
scraping the rim up his lower lip
to get the last bit off his skin, then he
sets the glass down on the table and it
sits there, like a glass of beer foam,
shiny and faintly golden, he gargles and
coughs and reaches for it again
and gets the heavy sputum out,
full of bubbles and moving around like yeast—
he is like a god producing food from his own mouth.
He, himself, can eat nothing anymore,
just a swallow of milk, sometimes,
cut with water, and even then
it can’t always get past the tumor,
and the next time the saliva comes up
it is ropey, he has to roll it in his throat
a minute to form it and get it up and dis-
gorge the oval globule into the
glass of phlegm, which stood there all day and
filled slowly with compound globes and I would
empty it and it would fill again
and shimmer there on the table until
the room seemed to turn around it
in an orderly way, a model of the solar system
turning around the sun,
my father the old earth that used to
lie at the center of the universe, now
turning with the rest of us
around his death, bright glass of
spit on the table, these last mouthfuls.


Sharon Olds wrote The Glass in observance of her father's death. I am in awe of this poem, how she confers such grace and beauty in an object that is quite horrible. Her own repugnance is manifest at the poem's beginning, but watch as she slowly softens towards the mucus-filled glass and turns it into a glorious sun, the remnants of her father the new center of her universe.

This poem teaches me so much about the thread of tension that must pull through a piece. Here, the tension wavers between horror and awe. The poem swings like a pendulum between these two extremes, deftly and transparently.

Much of my writing has focused on my own father's struggle with cancer and eventual death. I write around events, as did Olds--she wrote many versions of this poem. All I know is every time I read these words, by the end I feel my heart has landed on its knees. Peace...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Future Is Here...

and it's name is AMAZON.

Who needs a bookstore? an agent? and now, a publisher? No need for these middle-men -- Amazon has it all wrapped up, or so says the or so says the New York Times.

Fascinating new twist on the "market" called publishing. What do you think -- crisis or opportunity?


Monday, October 17, 2011

Weary of Dreary

I grew tired of gray, of death and dreariness, of depression economic and spiritual. Winter approached, the season of black on white, and it would be days before the sun painted color on the hill.

I grew weary of feeling dreary.

The past months had worn me down, a rounded pebble in life's river. I craved beauty, jagged edges to slap me awake, a haven of light. I craved an antidote, so I created ==> THIS.

Enjoy, and peace...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Eh, not me either. The well’s gone dry, so to speak. Then again, maybe my silence is a sort of PTSD reaction to the two memorial services I attended last week. Plus the loads of bad news that Keeps. On. Ticking like that damn Energizer bunny.

Seems everyone’s got it bad -- death, illness, lay offs, depression. Me, I’m actually having a decent spot of stasis with kids/hubbers/work/class (knock on wood). But so many people I love are having a tough go and my heart aches.

I managed to riff off this little poem over the weekend. One way to work out the sadness. First new writing other than a paper for class in weeks…


Today I baked an apple cake
three apples firm, not bruised.
New crop apples,
you would say, better
for eating out-of-hand,
but all I had in stock.

It is the dice of apples
that makes the cake,
too small and sauce;
too large, teeth break.
You supervise even now,
your admonishments louder
than the radio’s bray.

Flour sifts, ghost veils,
brown sugar churns
with butter, nuts cracked
for crunch, bones
of the cake. Collected,
the cake settles into
its greased glass coffin.

Cinnamon reminds me
of that mountain afternoon,
walking through sweet hay
fields to the orchards, fallow
then and frost-bitten.
Wizened fruits hung still
in cider-spiked air.

We carted our rare prizes
in brown burlap, bundled
in your lap, at your feet.
The truck bounced down
the rocky hillside,
and we laughed.

Later, with apple ache
rounding our bellies,
I cut into the cake
still warm, vanilla ice
puddling on your plate.

I wish grace to Cathy. Rose. Renee. Lynne. Becky. Henry. Your losses are mine, I wish I could shoulder them fully. Peace…

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Humpty Dumpty Sat On a Wall

I don’t remember much about falling off the wall, but what I do remains vivid – first the rending crack, a shaking sigh, and the green of the grass, each blade a perfect sword. My insides oozed out and coated the ground with a pearly sheen. The stark brilliance of the sky pained my eyes. Angels sung, a low thrumming hymn, and this peace, this grace overtook me and I cried, I cried, I was so happy! But then the men came in their shiny white jackets and picked up my brittle shards. My mind slithered down the hill, a rainbow of gold and pink and black. They caught the black but the rest escaped, and they bundled us up and carted us away in a screaming car and deposited us in a room without color or light and here I stay, swaddled like a baby, me and the black.

To this day, most people think I fell off the wall. Saying so kind of smoothes over the awkwardness of that event, just like calling someone who is rip-roaring drunk indisposed. But I know the truth, and until I speak it they will keep me here. “For your safety,” they tell me. Meanwhile, they bring me teeny white cups filled with luminosity: blue triangles, orange ovals, yellow spheres. Sometimes I swallow, sometimes not. What keeps me sane is the memory of that day looping through my shell of a head, the only other color in my otherwise black-and-white world.


Humpty Dumpty appeared earlier this week in 52, the final quarterly (and grand finale) of the 52/250 Flash-A-Year Challenge. Editors extraordinaire Michelle Elvy, Walter Bjorkman, and John Wentworth Chapin asked several of us *chronic* flashers to retell a fairy or folk tale. I chose Humpty because I'd always wondered if his crack-up was literal or metaphorical. Several of my older stories appear in weeks #44 (ANT FARM), #48 (TAINTED LOVE), and #52 (PHANTOM SISTER). Allow yourself to linger here -- fabulous work by many names you will recognize.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011


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.


My friend Joe passed away this morning after fighting cancer with indomnitable spirit and grace. He leaves behind his wife and daughter, not much older than my son. Both are full of his same grace. I wrote this story for him when he was first diagnosed; this is how I will remember him -- solid, a calming presence, full of life. Peace...

Monday, October 03, 2011


How did this happen? Just yesterday it was hot, muggy, and I sipped white wine with raspberries from the garden...