Monday, April 30, 2012


When spring comes around
tractor beams of sun
rub out winter white
the pitchfork turns
leaves molted a season ago;
all returned to humus,
energy for the coming light.

Birds darken the sky,
replace blue with grey
and the lonesome cry
of gathering, and in branches
and under logs mossed velvet
life scurries awake,
erasing slumber.

There comes a day,
just one, when tree limbs
stretch to clouds, shake off
their grey, and cerise buds
unfurl to peculiar yellow
green before fading
to drab, the burnt-out
monochrome of summer.

Another April finished. Another month of poetry, another birthday, another singular day when the landscape goes chartreuse. I feel a little sad, and relieved; April reassures with its predictability. Peace...

(Painting by Gael Murakami)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What a Wonderful World

Today I officially reach 'midlife'. It amazes me fifty years have passed--it seems only yesterday I graduate from college and left the nest, striking out on my own.

Time is sneaky that way.

But what a ride. What a beautiful, joyous journey, even with the bumps and bruises and people who told me no. Any pain dealt along the way has made me stronger and, I would like to think, able to live with greater grace. Those who have tested me have pushed me harder and to limits I was unaware and, in turn, made me reflect on my own actions and words.

Although my body creaks and aches, my innards have never felt more in their skin. Every year gets better, and every day seems more rife with possibility than the one before.

Today, along with coconut cake and moscato d' asti, I count my blessings: my husband and children, my family, my friends virtual and cyber, my colleagues and students, alive and dead. Thank you.

I give gratitude for a job that challenges and inspires me, for the gift of writing, for a secure home and a beautiful garden.

I give thanks for all that is yet to come, the good, the bad, the changes that challenge, for all that is life. What a wonderful world, what a wonderful life. Peace...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

MIDLIFE: A Poem and Conversation with JP Reese


The summer disappeared too quickly
and yet the light still burns the hills
these late afternoons for far too long.
Our hands grow smaller. We’ve learned,
finally, not to reach beyond ourselves.
We resemble one another
but cannot reassemble the lovers
who have vanished. Each evening,
we speak with bright razors
stashed beneath our tongues, slash
towards each other’s jugular, cut
new wounds to expose the blood rush
that gratifies but can never replace desire.

Today marks Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day, the jewel in the crown of National Poetry Month. MIDLIFE, by JP Reese, is the poem folded in my pocket today, the one I will pass out when I do my errands, the one I will share with my friends and family. This poems speaks to me on so many levels: the passage of time (which I feel acutely this month and year); the changes that occur in relationship; the loss of youth, of innocence.

I had the pleasure and honor to ask JP three questions about this poem and writing poetry; her articulate and honest answers make me appreciate both this poem and her presence in the poetry

1) What specific incident or individual inspired you to write this poem? The poem is a general treatment of a situation I think many couples who manage to make it into midlife together experience, combined with a specific mix of my own memories. I did not make it out of my forties with the spouse I married in the 1980's, but our relationship and its outcome is only described toward the end of the poem. My current struggles with late middle age, fading beauty, lost possibilities, and the economic downturn that has beaten up so many people is another part of the poem's inspiration. It incorporates the observations of two people who are both me and not me--one present and one long in the past.

2) The tone of the poem changes from an image of peace and calm to one of almost anger: "Each evening/we speak with bright razors/stashed beneath our tongues...". I sense this imagery reflects regret about past youth. Can you describe this more? What do you foresee for the second half of this life? The images of anger and cutting words actually are less urgent to me in this poem than the quiet angst and malaise suggested by the previous lines in which a couple slowly schools themselves over time not to dream, not to reach beyond themselves, to try to be content in the small space in which they think they have managed to achieve some sort of balance. What you read as peace and calm is really a sort of giving in or giving up as time grows short; it's a slipping away of the passion that drives us to strive toward our goals and not give up until we've achieved them. I think calling it a requiem for lost youth would not be inappropriate.

The idea of possibilities shrinking and goals gone astray is much sadder to me than a nasty interchange because as we reach late middle age, many of us, myself included, can't persuade ourselves as easily as we once could that there's still time to change direction, still enough energy and passion to navigate through dangerous waters and emerge in a better place.  It's the idea of settling for something less than what you've hoped for in life that is saddest of all for me, and also the realization that there is no one else to blame but the individual who looks back from the mirror each morning.  Some people might call this settling for less realistic, but I think it's a surrender of sorts and find it troubling to contemplate.  Peggy Lee sang it best in her song "Is That All There Is?"

The transition in the poem to an angry tone is actually the end point to which my previous relationship evolved.  I found myself angry most of the time, and I was, unfortunately, very able to think up and blurt out extremely cutting observations that were hurtful, both to my (now) ex-husband and to myself.  He was usually swathed in layers of self-medication, so it bounced off him more often than not, which only served to increase my frustration and anger, which I often turned inward. Our relationship deteriorated from one of love to one that became almost a competition to out talk, out maneuver, out argue one another. Since I divorced, went to graduate school for my MFA, and remarried, I have never been that angry or felt the need to destroy someone with words the way I once did, so the conclusion of "Midlife" is actually the past, and the beginning is more an observation of the present. 

Don't get me wrong; I don't feel that all is lost. My creative life has never been better or more successful and for that I am grateful.  This poem isn't a direct confessional, but I do see friends and family who have learned not to imagine that there may be more than what they presently have as they age, and others who look back longingly to a time when they lived every minute with energy and optimism, and I fear and still try to avoid the same fate. 

I never want to be content, because a healthy discontent with the way things are keeps me fresh, interested, and moving through the world on my own terms. Also, enslaving oneself to the past, both its triumphs and tragedies, is another kind of death in life to me. I believe in a sort of continual evolution of being.  Every five years or so, I look back and realize I have once again become a different person than I was before, and this change works for me.  Stagnation is a killer of hope and dreams, and the poem implies that ideology.

3) Can you tell us a bit about the history of this poem--when it was written, how long it marinated, how many drafts, did the first version at all resemble this exquisite and tightly-woven version? This is the biggest problem that using a computer to write poems creates--there is no longer a trail of handwritten visions and revisions (to paraphrase Eliot) to follow from the genesis of a poem to its final version.  I'm sure this poem was probably twice as long when I first began to write it. I always fill poems with much more than I need to as my thoughts pour onto the page. If this recent poem progressed as most of my new poems do, (I have an entire thesis of older poems I revise regularly and submit only occasionally), I probably began it and worked on it for a number of days in sequence and then walked away for a month or so, then went back and diddled with the words and the imagery until some force inside me took over. When that happens, and it doesn't happen as often as I would like, my mind goes on automatic pilot, and the poem seems to write itself into its final incarnation.

That place a writer is sometimes able to conjure, a sort of writer's nirvana, is the state of being I try to create when a poem begins to work its magic in my head. I love that feeling of control. It's almost like a drug to the system and I come out the other side with a piece about which I am proud but I am also usually physically spent.

I rarely decide a piece is completely finished and I can put it to bed.  I guess my work is a mirror of the way I live my life.  I am always messing around with my work, even after it's been published, as "Midlife" was at Mad Hatter's Review Blog (thanks to Marc Vincenz), and in my chapbook Final Notes.  It will soon be a part of an anthology entitled, Argotist Otherstream Anthology, Vol. II as well. I guess three publications are good enough for "Midlife." After three trips into the world, I think I'm satisfied that the poem has done its job and is finally finished. Unlike me, it can rest now and remain as it is.


Three lives indeed—we can only hope as writers to get one life out of a work. JP, thank you for your insightful observations on poeming.

For more information on how to obtain a signed copy of FINAL NOTES, JP Reese's brilliant debut chapbook, contact her at Please include your e-mail address and home address, and you will receive a reply with ordering and payment information.

About JP Reese: JP Reese has poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, book reviews, and writer interviews published or forthcoming in many online and print journals such as Metazen, Blue Fifth Review, A Baker's Dozen: Thirteen Extraordinary Things, and The Pinch.  Reese is a poetry editor for THIS Literary Magazine,, and Associate Poetry Editor for Connotation Press: An Online Artifact,  Reese's poetry chapbook Final Notes was published by Naked Mannekin Press in spring, 2012.  Reese's flash fiction has won the Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize.  Her published work can be read at Entropy: A Measure of Uncertainty,



Do you have leftover prescription drugs hanging around your medicine cabinet, lonely and unused? DON'T flush them down your toilet, give them to your friends or family, or bury them in the backyard. Prescription drugs can be toxic and can leach into your groundwater. Also, it is ILLEGAL to share prescribed medications with other people. Most individuals who abuse prescription medications obtain them from friends and family--NOT corrupt internet sites or shady characters dealing on the corner. Unused medications are a target of visitors, real estate agents, and workers who come into your home looking to divert for profit or for personal use. Saturday, April 28 is NATIONAL TAKE-BACK INITIATIVE. You can turn in unndeeded medications that have worn out their welcome to one of hundreds of sites across the nation. No questions asked. Click here TO FIND A COLLECTION PLACE NEAR YOU. And help reduce the supply of prescription medications in your neighborhood. Peace...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thankful for who I am NOT

Today I felt tremendous anguish--more and more, people are failing in the honesty and integrity departments. My body often aches, but today my soul ached, this deep, visceral clenching beneath my heart. Then, I stumbled upon my friend's blog, found this, and the pain disappeared. Thank you, Elephant Child. Peace...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

AT MILEPOST 33: an elegy in ten parts

I have driven hours now
down roads wending
through wood and field.
All slows to childhood:
endless red clay, the kudzu’s
slow creep, the pitch of pine,
the sky opening to sea.

Cormorants dive-bomb
skimming up blues and other
chum churned in the ferry’s wake.
Ahead, the island
where we fished and dreamed
amidst sea oats singing
at higher pitch
than the gulls’ keen

The sun burns a hole
through blue sky,
waves churn grey-cold, a wintry coffin.
By the time we gather one mile
past the ramp, the sea mirrors sky.

The wind lifts
sifts you fine between our fingers;
you want to leave.

With hands lent-like
we walk our paths
salt spray on our cheeks,
hearts to burst, we scatter
you, a final wish.

But I cannot let go.
I have regrets.
I have memories.
I have needs.

I remembered we walked into sky,
coral colored, sure of the night
and the next, and I wondered
while I crushed morphine tablets
and Ativans in the marble mortar
you gave me when I became a healer
whether you regretted going
the extra mile for science

If I had known
the trip to the hospital
was the last time
you would ever be outside
I would not have rushed
you through the rain.

I am not sure why I favor
forgotten detritus from
God’s great tumbler: the cracked
scallop, the lusterless
oyster, the conch which
sounds a half-sea.

We left milepost 33.
The sun burned holes again.
The light pained us
and pains us still

But tonight the moon pounds
the ocean full and unabated,
the engine thrums
deep through my soles
constant with the sea,
your pulse, a memory ago.


I crafted this poem from remnants of five other poems, all written during or after my father's unsuccessful struggle with cancer. I like the way these pieces quilt together, found pieces stitched with new words. Let me know if you think it works.

I miss him so. Peace...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tasty Tuesday Tidbits

PLEASE check out the excellent interview and poetry of Mark Kerstetter, master bricoleur, poet, artist, philosopher, and friend. His work and ideas are featured at CONNOTATION PRESS. You will not be disappointed.

And... for something old and something new. This out last week from the American Library Association: TheTop Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books in 2011:
•ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
•The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
•The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
•My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
•The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
•Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
•Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
•What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
•Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
•To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

And... one of my wee fictions has found a nest: MAMA LOVES BIRDS up at BLUE FIVE NOTEBOOK. Thank you wunderbar editors Michelle Elvy and Sam Rasnake for publishing my words.

And... heading into the midstretch of National Poetry Month. Quite a challenge this year, but so far I am 16 poems for 16 days. Not saying they're good, but if you wish to take a pick at my snippets, head over to my alternative blog BLUETRUEDREAM.


Thursday, April 12, 2012


Friday night, after the players fold their cards and eat the last chocolate-covered cashew, after Henry has left to drive the old ladies back to the nursing home, is Kay’s favorite time of the week. For twenty minutes she has the sanctuary to herself. The quiet soothes her. No television blaring, no Henry bothering her for this little thing or that, no voices or memories filling her head. For a few minutes, she feels a remnant of herself.

Her fingers trail through the brass chimes Reverend Martin plays to end the moment of silence. Meditation is the only part of the service she misses, and she wishes anyone other than Reverend Martin delivered that peace. But despite her best efforts, he is still the minister, and when she remembers this, a small stone lodges in her throat and a steel taste fills her mouth.

The chimes fade. Kay picks up an empty coffee mug carelessly left on the altar. A cricket, trapped somewhere inside, chirps its melancholic song. Odd, a cricket in December. In the kitchen, she empties the coffee urn and rinses it with warm water. She stores opened bags of pretzels and nuts in plastic tubs and slides them on the highest shelf, safe from mice and Reverend Martin’s pesky son who steals them when he comes to church. Brat!
If she had children, she never would allow them to run wild through the building, taking what did not belong to them.

She finishes in the kitchen and turns off the sanctuary lights. In an instant everything turns into a slate of perfect black and she forgets where she is, who she is, forgets she is in church, and panic clutches at her chest, she is in the closet, the closet, and someone cries, ‘Mama, mama, please’, the doorknob does not turn, and she pounds and pounds until her fists ache, the mothball wool of coats drape over her, suffocating. Kay fumbles for the light switch and the room returns–altar, candles, chalice, organ, chairs stacked against the wall, speckled linoleum floor. She breathes again, the stone dislodges.

But Kay dislikes the gaudy fluorescence almost as much as the dark, and she deserves her peace, so she opens the drawer of the small table holding the chalice and withdraws the matches. She knows she should not do this, Henry yells at her when she lights cigarettes and candles. But this is her small secret ritual, her way of making good with the god she is no longer sure she believes in. Matches and candle in hand, she returns to the light switch. The room goes black again but this time Kay is not frightened, she remembers where she is. Her eyes adjust. She walks carefully across the sanctuary to the altar.

The match flares. The sulphur smell fills the air. Kay touches the flame to the thick white candle nestled in the pewter chalice. The candle sputters, almost flickers out, but then strengthens. The walls gleam gold. Her shadow wavers, a giant flung against the ceiling. She lights a thinner taper from the chalice candle.

For John, she says, my lovely son.

She grinds the end of the taper into the bowl of sand, and lights a second.

Bill, I miss you, my love. My one true love.

The second candle stands beside the first.

She considers lighting a candle for her mother. The wick takes, then falters.

For Henry, she says, and places the unlit candle in the sand.

The warmth from the candles fills her face, fills the sanctuary. For a moment, the world stills. Grace fills her, and forgiveness, even for Henry. Even for Reverend Martin. Her eyes close. Yes, even for Martin. Outside, a horn bleats. Kay rushes for her coat, her purse, her gloves, the Tupperware filled with leftover Chex mix, she is forgetting something, but the horn honks again, Henry hates waiting, and she does not want his ire tonight, not tonight, so she closes the church door and enters the dark.


This story appeared in the debut issue of A BAKER'S DOZEN: THIRTEEN EXTRAORDINARY THINGS, edited by the fabulous Michelle Elvy and John Wentworth Chapin. A small excerpt from my novel-in-progress THE MINISTER'S WIFE and inspired, of course, by real life.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Autumn and All

Across the river from the nuthouse
under the gush of grey
sodden sky flirting with the
sun—a fickle breeze tumbles
autumnal leaves through the last gasp
of meadows, golden and rusted

brambles and milkweed
the glimmering of winter berries.

All along the river the reddish
leathery, stubborn, snaking
stuff of vines and other creepers
once verdant, persistent leaves sprawling
over hapless earth.

Yesterday the grass, now
the lace of frost traces maple veins.

Tomorrow the stark solemnity
of leave-taking—Then, the end
creeps upon them: surprised, they
burrow into deepening frost.

I have been reading a lot of William Carlos Williams of late. Here, a take on SPRING AND ALL, one of my favorite poems.

To see more of my poetic glimerings as we traverse National Poetry Month, detour to BLUETRUEDREAM, my blog of daily musings. Peace...

Monday, April 09, 2012

Poetry in Prose: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing—these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down, it required perfect balance and perfect posture. They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to.


I am reading war. How it is to be in war, to be a soldier, to face fear. This piece, excerpted from the brilliant short story by Tim O'Brien, is poetry. Read this small passage aloud, feel the rhythm, the mouthfeel of the words on your tongue. O'Brien writes of what it is to be a solider in Vietnam, slogging through jungle, fighting with your best friends. The entire story reads with uncommon music. The use of repetition, the way the story circles back to a common event, the magnification and contraction of phrases. If you have not yet read this classic, and if you wish to be a writer, then read it ==> THE THINGS THEY CARRIED.


Friday, April 06, 2012

A House by Sam Rasnake: A Favorite Poem

— after Edward Hopper

It must be morning.
Long bellies of cloud hug
such a thin edge of ground
there's no way of knowing
what world the road bends to —
uncut grass, browned deep,
an after-thought of scattered pines,
this house with blinds in place
behind dark windows. Someone
still comes here, still knows.
A creak here, a scratch there,
wind at the chimney's mouth,
then groaning under the eaves.

— originally published in Corium Magazine


First in a series of poems that have moved me. This gem, by Sam Rasnake, still gives me shivers. The long bellies of cloud, the creaks and scratches... don't derelict houses beguile with their mysteries? I stumbled upon this particular poem of Sam's at fictionaut , but it is but one of many--read on for commentary.

Back from Spring break visiting mom and sister and nieces in North Carolina. A short trip, but it felt as though we were away for weeks. A sign of a good trip. While away, some nice words about HOMESTEADING, a quiet story written for my writing class. Made me glow all day. Naw, all week ;^)


Sunday, April 01, 2012

April Showers Bring... Poems

'Tis that that time of year again, when poetry readers and writers revel in alliteration, meter, stanzas, and all things poetic. I will celebrate here by sharing poems by others, a few reviews of books of poetry, perhaps even an interview or two of poets and their writing processes.

Over at POETIC ASIDES, Writer's Digest editor and poet Robert Brewer hosts the POEM-A-DAY Challenge. This is PAD's 5th year, and the 5th time I will participate. Every morning in April, Robert posts a prompt, and the challenge is on to fashion a response. So join in and poem with us!

POEM IN YOUR POCKET falls on Thursday, April 26, the day poets across the planet use guerilla tactics to spread the word on poems. Share yours or a favorite. Stuck for which poem to fold in your pocket, read aloud, or distribute as a leaflet? Go here ==> POEM IN YOUR POCKET

I will post daily snippets of my own (hastily) constructed poems at my alter blog BLUETRUEDREAM. Please drop by and take a peek, and leave a tantalizing line or two of your own poems in the comments.

Poetry is not only showers and flowers and lovey-doveyness, and not necessarily confined to the stanza form. Indeed, prose can have its own poetic voice, a beat and flow that transcends the conveyance of meaning. Because my current work-in-progress, a story about a hunter who joins the Army and deploys to Afghanistan, involves violence and love and loss, these are the what I read: Sebastian Junger and Tim O'Brien currently on the bedside table. Passages from these authors read like poetry, and these I also will share.