Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My Unopened Life

lay to the right of my plate
like a spoon squiring a knife, waiting
patiently for soup or the short destiny
of dessert at the eternal picnic—unsheltered
picnic at the mouth of the sea
that dares everything forgotten to huddle
at the periphery of a checked cloth spread
under the shadowy, gnarled penumbra
of the madrona.

Hadn’t I done well enough with the life
I’d seized, sure as a cat with
its mouthful of bird, bird with its
belly full of worm, worm like an acrobat of darkness
keeping its moist nose to the earth, soaring
perpetually into darkness without so much as
the obvious question: why all this darkness?
And even in the belly of the bird: why
only darkness?

The bowl of the spoon
collects entire rooms just lying there next
to the knife. It makes brief forays into
the mouth delivering cargoes of ceilings
and convex portraits of teeth
posing as stalactites of
a serially extinguished cave

from whence we do nothing but stare out
at the sea, collecting little cave-ins of
perception sketched on the moment
to make more tender the house of the suicide
in which everything was so exactly
where it had been left by someone missing.
Nothing, not even the spoon he abandoned
near the tea cup, could be moved without
seemingly altering the delicious
universe of his intention.

So are we each lit briefly by engulfments
of space like the worm in the beak of
the bird, yielding to sudden corridors
of light-into-light, never asking: why,
tell me why
all this light?

Tess Gallagher

Monday, January 29, 2007

Things sure can change quickly.

Bought the food. Had fun shopping.
Cherry tomatoes, marinated artichokes,
pepperoncini peppers, roasted red peppers, romaine, romano,
ricotta, spinach, fresh Italian flat leaf parsley etc. etc.

And even leeks and whipping cream and
a rotisserie chicken and some yukon gold
potatoes for a leek soup tomorrow.

Brought it home. Put it up. Picked up
my son. We drove a little while (practice
time...permit last Tuesday).

I ate a late lunch and felt sick by the time
I got Wes. He'd had an off day. We didn't drive
much as I was being overly panicky and he
was overly sensitive.

I am a control freak. That's why I always
so the driving anywhere I go. I'm a lousy passenger.

That's why I won't fly. That's why I am terrified
in taxis and on buses and trains.

Needless to say, the mood left me.

It's like you walk out your door at 1
in the afternoon and it's sunny and mild
outside and you're loving it
and then the temperature bottoms out
and before 2 it's 35 and pouring rain
and sleeting and you can't get warm
and it doesn't snow (because it's not cold
enough so you would like it to get colder
if it's going to do this switcharoo on ya,
which is what you like
if the temperature is going to drop
and you don't have to drive anywhere) and your sensory
system doesn't know how to respond to all
this dramatic change, as it should because you are made
for it to respond, but it doesn't and so you just cry.

And then the damn brand fucking new dishwasher
won't work. And you;ve already decided you
weren't in any frame of mind to do the antipasto,
etc. etc. so you decide on the soup but then you are pissed
that the damn appliance won't work.

And you don't cook dinner.

And you don't open your bottle of wine

But you drink lots of cuervo and hope
you just get numb or something.


For no reason. For every reason. For wrong
reasons and right reasons and somewhere
in between reasons.

And there's no book I want to read right now
and no movie I want to watch and no person
I want to call or talk to except my son
but he's in his room and needs some space.

Oh the joys of living with M.
Bright sun this morning
but no incentive to do anything.
Still jobless and looks as if I may remain
that way for some time. Still, after nearly
4 months, in a state of disbelief
that I was fired. No recourse. None.

Finally made myself take a shower.
Hair is dry now, so I am going to the grocery.

And I am going to cook tonight.

I am going to make an antipasto salad,
spinach and sweet Italian sausage lasagne,
and garlic bread with grated fresh parmesan
and slices of fresh garlic.

And I am going to open my bottle of Tosca
from Chateau Thomas Winery,
though I told myself I was going to wait until
the weather got warm and the neighbors
and I could get together and share some wine
and candlelight and poetry and food on their patio.
But, hell, why not just have it now?

How can I pass up this wine this night with a description
like this:

This is an equal blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wine is dark in color with a fragrant nose of dried
fruits, such as fig, cherry, and blackberry.
Bouquets of oak, clove, chocolate, and vanilla
are accented with hints of tobacco with anise rounding
out the generous mouth-filling experience...

Yes. I shall open it. It's a perfect choice for tonight.

I can get us another
bottle of good wine then. They're busy people anyway
and the last time we had ourselves such a night
it was completely serendipitous, and lovely, I might add.

Who knows if such a scene and such a night will ever
be repeated? The sounds of the county fair, only blocks away,
floating on the breeze, my oldest son, his wife, my youngest
son, his two friends, coming and going and participating
in the conversation. The soft bubbling sound of the fishpond.
The glow of candlelight on everyone's faces making the whole
world seem softer and more welcoming. The fire lit in the
firepit, the taste of a perfectly balanced cabarnet on my lips,
the sky filled with stars and constellations whose names few
of us knew but whose light we gazed upon as we took stabs
at calling out our best guesses.

I had Billy Collins sign the page of the poem I read
them that night. I had left the book sitting near
the candle and red wax dripped down the page.
I shared the story with Billy. He said: Glad to hear
the book's getting some use.

Ha! Then he smiled, and I smiled, and he signed my
book on that page.

I feel a little better now. A little more hopeful now.


Part One: LifeXXXII

HOPE is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Woke this morning to clouds


Didn't get excited until I put on my glasses
and saw the snow flurries. Cloudy and snow
flurries I can do. Would really like accumulation.
We haven't had any this winter.

So, in a happier mood, I decided to search
through the fridge for leftovers to use in this
morning's breakfast (I hate wasting food
and no one here eats leftovers except me
unless I cleverly sneak them into something).

I found:

a baked potato
1/2 red pepper
roasted asparagus

And I had other things, so I

diced the potato
chopped some scallions
sliced fresh garlic into thick pieces
chopped the red pepper
chopped fresh cilantro (fresh is the only way
to ever have cilantro)

I added all that to some olive oil and cooked it until
the potatoes were browning and the garlic was soft
but not overly cooked. It still had that wonderful bite
to it.

then, I

beat up (I'm so mean and testy some days) 5 brown organic eggs
chopped the leftover asparagus into small pieces
chopped more scallions and cilantro
grated some provolone

So, I had scambled eggs with all that yummy stuff in them
Oh yes, fresh ground black pepper and a bit of sea salt too.

I even added a touch of cinnamon to my coffee and some
Frangelico hazelnut liqueur.

All because of a few snowflakes. Which makes me think of
something Leonard Cohen said on a documentary
I watched the other night. He said:

Every time you grab at love, you will lose
a snowflake of your memory.

Alas, the sun has come out and the snow has stopped.
Well, if I can't have the snow, the sun will do just fine.
Been too grey here lately, as it always is here in winter.


Organic eggs, fresh herbs, few processed foods.
I eat healthy, but I am thinking about a comment
I made to a friend of mine who also ate very healthy,
nearly all organic or homegrown food. It would amaze
me when she would lash out at me for drinking a diet
coke. She'd tell me all the awful stuff in a diet coke
and how dangerous it was to drink many of them
and so on. And she'd eat all that healthy food
but she'd:

snort coke occasionally
smoke pot when she could get it
drink whiskey fairly often
drink beer (about a six pack) nightly
trash her lungs with unfiltered camel cigarettes
do some mushrooms if someone had any

Here she was, this tiny little thing, all of
100 pounds soaking wet at 5' 2".
Never gained any weight drinking all that beer.
Stayed relatively healthy despite a few colds
from all the cigs (at least 2 packs a day).

Maybe the healthy eating helps balance out some
things. I just know I didn't like the diet coke
lectures. The skillet calling the pot black
kind of thing, or is that the pot
calling the kettle black or is it the kettle
calling the pot black? I'm not very good at cliches--I have
a knack for turning them all around or leaving
out key words--though I have been accused
(years ago on Melic) of using some cliched words in my poems
now and again, so I must know something about them.

Anyway, I don't know what she's doing these
days. She left me. Like people often do.
I, who loved her so and was there for her
in so many desperate hours. She found
someone else to wear my shoes.

Yes, we are all expendable. I know. I am finding
that out more and more each day.


Here's to food!

Osso Buco

I love the sound of the bone against the plate
and the fortress-like look of it
lying before me in a moat of risotto,
the meat soft as the leg of an angel
who has lived a purely airborne existence.
And best of all, the secret marrow,
the invaded privacy of the animal
prized out with a knife and swallowed down
with cold, exhilarating wine.

I am swaying now in the hour after dinner,
a citizen tilted back on his chair,
a creature with a full stomach--
something you don't hear much about in poetry,
that sanctuary of hunger and deprivation.
You know: the driving rain, the boots by the door,
small birds searching for berries in winter.

But tonight, the lion of contentment
has placed a warm, heavy paw on my chest,
and I can only close my eyes and listen
to the drums of woe throbbing in the distance
and the sound of my wife's laughter
on the telephone in the next room,
the woman who cooked the savory osso buco,
who pointed to show the butcher the ones she wanted.
She who talks to her faraway friend
while I linger here at the table
with a hot, companionable cup of tea,
feeling like one of the friendly natives,
a reliable guide, maybe even the chief's favorite son.

Somewhere a man is crawling up a rocky hillside
on bleeding knees and palms, an Irish penitent
carrying the stone of the world in his stomach;
and elsewhere people of all nations stare
at one another across a long, empty table.

But here, the candles give off their warm glow,
the same light that Shakespeare and Izaac Walton wrote by,
the light that lit and shadowed the faces of history.
Only now it plays on the blue plates,
the crumpled napkins, the crossed knife and fork.

In a while, one of us will go up to bed
and the other one will follow.
Then we will slip below the surface of the night
into miles of water, drifting down and down
to the dark, soundless bottom
until the weight of dreams pulls us lower still,
below the shale and layered rock,
beneath the strata of hunger and pleasure,
into the broken bones of the earth itself,
into the marrow of the only place we know.

Billy Collins

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cat Power - Living Proof

You won't see my daughter's face in this one, but she's the one who jumps the hurdle. She and I both like Cat Power and have seen her a few times. She was in this a year or so ago. One more video and she gets her SAG card.
Sammy Kershaw - Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On

Ok...I guess I get some bragging rights. This is my daughter. She does not wear cowboy boots ever, does not listen to country music, rarely wears blue jeans, and doesn't hang out at Honky Tonks, but she does live in Nashville and a producer friend of hers told her to audition, so she did and she got it and she had fun. The next video I am going to post is more her style. It's coming up.
Warren Zevon- Keep Me In Your Heart

This one from the man who said, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." He lived life full throttle and died the same way.

How little it is to ask in dying "keep me in your heart for awhile."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sunny Day in Winter

Beneath the bare dogwood,
Helleborus pokes its green head
above the scattered leaves

I neglected to rake this fall,
an autumn that witnessed my own
steady fall into neglect.

Closer to the house, a stone
fairy sits atop the bones
of my beloved Two-Socks

who in her timidity taught
me tolerance. When I removed
her calico body from the street,

neck broken, tiny trickle
of blood from her mouth,
I cradled and kissed the

tender face that would never
greet me another morning
of my life. In the backyard,

beyond the leaves
and statue, stands the Weeping
Cherry, a gift from my friends

to plant in my father’s
memory. It is bare now
but no less lovely in its

nakedness. Oh yes, winter
has come and settled in my bones
and blood. I amaze myself

with the capacity I carry
inside to remember the dead
and yet still harbor the tenacity

to look without fear, to walk
among the ruins and scattered
memories, to wander this world

a hungry and incomplete animal.
Cash Hurt

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end

Just a song to help me get through the day. My thanks to Trent and Johnny.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lucinda Williams - World Without Tears (live)

Been a world of tears this day. And joy. Seems it is that way often. When I saw Lucinda sing this in Nashville she looked broken and unsure and I was totally convinced she was absolutely right and have found no reason, to date, to think otherwise.
Graveyard At Hurd's Gulch

His grave is strewn with litter again,
crumpled napkins, a plastic spoon, white
styrofoam cup tipped on its side, bright
half-moon of lipstick on the rim.
I want to scold her for the mess she's left,
the flattened grass and squashed grapes,
but I've seen her walking toward the trees,
her hollow body receding, her shadow
following behind. I'm the intruder,
come not to mourn a specific body
but to rest under a tree, my finger tracing
the rows of glowing marble,
the cloud-covered hips of the hills.
I always take the same spot,
next to the sunken stone that says MOTHER,
the carved dates with the little dash between them,
a brief, deep cut, like a metaphor for life.
Does she whisper, I wonder, to the one
she loves, or simply eat and sleep, content
for an hour above the bed of his bones?
I think she brings him oranges and secrets,
her day's torn and intricate lace.
I have no one on this hill to dine with.
I'm blessed. Everyone I love is still alive.
I know there is no God, no afterlife,
but there is this peace, the granite angel
with the moss-covered wings whose face
I have grown to love, her sad smile
like that sadness we feel after sex,
those few delirious hours when we needed nothing
but breath and flesh, after we've flown back
into ourselves, our imperfect heavy bodies,
just before that terrible hunger returns.

Dorianne Laux

Monday, January 22, 2007

Maria Callas - La Mamma Morta

I think this is one of the most beautiful arias by Maria Callas. Yes, it was featured in the film Philadelphia. They could not have chosen a better aria. These are the opening lines:

"They killed my mother
Close by the doorway
leading to my chamber.
In dying,she saved my life."
What a weekend...

The Chieftains did not disappoint. It's hard to feel
sad when you're listening to their music. Even when
they choose a mournful ballad, the loveliness of the music
and the unique vocal qualities simply take you away
(think Long Black Veil). I enjoyed myself in spite
of myself.

I had never been to Bloomington, so I didn't know
what to expect. It's a college town, so there's lots
to do and many wonderful small restaurants to choose
from (all of the big chains too). I opted for Indian
food one day and Panera Bread the next.

But, as with any trip, I am always so nervous
at the thought of traveling that I nearly talk
myself out of going. It's not the traveling,
really, it's traveling with bridges to cross.

I guess I am never going to get over that particular
phobia. To get to Bloomington, I had to cross the Ohio.
I could have crossed into IN from Owensboro, Louisville,
or Evansville, and as Evansville is the closest option,
I took it, but those are the bridges that started
the fear. I had a panic attack going over the northbound
bridge when I was 17 years old. I was taking my great
aunt to see my grandmother. I remember her asking
me if I was ok because it became apparent that something
was wrong with me.

I have not been able to cross those bridges since without
fear raising its ugly head in my brain and heart. I can only do it now
because I'm on medication. It keeps my body from going
into a fight or flight state, but it can't keep my brain from sending
out signals like the Robinson's robot WARNING WARNING

So, if my travel plans include bridges to cross, then there is no way
to avoid the apprehension. But I refuse to give up. I just wish
I knew how to make this senseless fear give up the ghost.

Nashville, IN is 16 miles from Bloomington. What a cool place!
Small shops and art galleries, and, of course, 2 wineries.
I stopped in Brown County Winery and Chateau Thomas
Winery. Chateau Thomas had a better selection. They get
most of their grapes from California, but they get some
from Indiana, as does Brown County Winery. I only
bought an Autumn White at BC for my daughter. I prefer
reds. At Chateau Thomas, I got Lauren another white--
a Dry Gewurztraminer from the Yakima Valley. I liked the taste
and think it will go well with Indian food. I bought myself
a Tosca , which has an equal blend of sangiovese and cabernet
sauvignon. It's quite good.

I was more impressed with Butler Vineyards. I went to the tasting
room in Bloomington and sampled several wines, but decided
on the 2003 and 2004 vintage Chambourcin's. Both were good
for different reasons. The '03 is oakier and medium-bodied.
The '04 a bit fruitier and not as full-bodied but good. They actually
grow 80% of their grapes in Indiana.


So, it was worth it to cross the bridge, but I still paid the price.
There was no way to get home without crossing it again.


On Saturday night, I dreamed I was getting ready to cross
a bridge. I came to the top of a hill, and as I came down the other
side, which was the bridge, all I could see was bridge for miles.
Not just bridge either. It was a roller coaster bridge. I remember
just gripping the steering wheel and thinking to myself:

There's no turning back and you have no control, so just
let the car go. Just let it go and ride along. I woke up in a sweat.


It snowed 2-4 inches in the Bloomington area Sat. night, so I was also
concerned about the roads, but they were fine. I have to take 37
which winds through the Hoosier National forest (or near it). It's
very hilly and curvy and many times the speed limit is only
25 mph, so I wasn't looking forward to the idea of driving it in the snow.


My image for the day yesterday: black cattle ambling down
solid white hills. They looked so beautiful and nonchalant
about everything that I felt calm just seeing them. I kept that
image in my head as I crossed the bridge.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah

What a loss of a great talent. I remember the first time I played Buckley's version of Hallelujah to my friend, Charlye. She told me that night that if she died before me, she wanted it played at her funeral. I honored her wishes.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hey Laurel, you remember the pictures of leaves you sent me?
I plan to place it on the wall by the French doors (behind
the really sick looking ficus, which is doing much better
I might add). In one of the pics, you can see Oreo, my
black and white feline friend. In the other, you can see
Dante, the old boy. The colors aren't as vibrant on the scan as they really
are and I have changed some things
(brought in more sage green and gold accents). Thought
you'd enjoy seeing the room. It's painted merlot. I am going to send your pic
to my sister as she has the know-how and capability
of enlarging it. I think it's just perfect for my livingroom!
Started my morning with Buckley (which may or may
not show up here, so here's the link) :

Some sun yesterday but cloudy again this morning.

Finished Memories of My Melancholy Whores and
the Alice Sebold memoir Lucky. I would definitely
recommend both, but Marquez is one of my favorite
writers, so that's not an unusual thing to recommend.
Sebold's memoir is about being raped at the age of 18
on the last day of her freshmen year at Syracuse. Troubling
to read but interesting. Trying to finish
The Volcano Lover--slow start--hard to get into.

Also reading Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life

Making a trip to Bloomington to see The Chieftains.
Hope that picks me up a bit.

Each day I go to the mailbox and hope for some good news
about another job but nothing so far. I wish I could
just enjoy some down time and know that when the right
thing comes along, I'll know, but there's just not much
around here. I also am not ready to start on my master's
though I know it would help to have it. I'm quite tired
of school at this point.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How 'bout some REM?
How's that Beck song go?

It's early stuff...lot more hip-hop
than later Beck..

"I'm a loser baby, so why don't kill me"

Hum, hum hum Hum hum hum,
I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me...

Damn it gets so boring to be depressed.


B's heart cath went well. Needs some additional meds. Not good
news, not bad news. The stents are ok.

I've been going over and over my termination from work
day after day, as if that is going to change anything. I just
can't f'ing believe I lost my job. After the initial shock, I felt
some relief. Now I am back to despair.

Then I go from that to thinking about Dad.
Then I think about the time I didn't cut the damned
grilled cheese into triangles
or I went into a frenzy when a plate got broken
or when I threw my sister's music box against the wall
and busted it into a milllion little pieces
or the times I called my brother all sorts of unforgiveable names...
or just anything, anything and I just go off.
I just go off on a boo-hoo tangent. About what a loser
I am or how I seem to screw everything
up one way or the other. How everything is my fault.

Even global warming.

Hey, I at least recycle!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Another rainy morning...

no sun since
last Thursday (I think). Basement flooding
but not as much as it has in the past.
I think I'll just stay in bed and read today.
Last weekend, when I was in Lexington, I bought
Mary Oliver's New And Selected Poems, Volume One,
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Memories of My Melancholy Whores,
and Alice Sebold's Lucky. Have read some of the Oliver
and am enjoying the work. Other than that, I haven't
picked a book up in the last week. Unusual for me.

Spent yesterday afternoon at Ashley's. She invited
several people over for a chili luncheon. Lupper
as she calls it. It's still difficult for me to be at gatherings,
but I made it and enjoyed myself for the most part.

Tomorrow B. has a heart cath. Not her first, but the first
was an emergency and she didn't have time to think about
many things. Her attitude worries me. I'm not so sure
she wants to make it through whatever has to be done
and I don't know how to convince her that she does.
When people tell you they're tired and so done with things
and you say I understand because I feel that way some
days too, you have to realize not everyone says it as
loosely as you may on any given day. I do feel it some
days, and I am not so sure I am saying it all that loosely,
but I am not ready to go. I'd like to think that I will want to

rage, rage against the dying of the light

I hope she'll find reasons to want to do the same.


Ashley's taking the GRE today and asked me ride
along. I could have stayed in Evansville at Barnes and Noble
while she was there, but I am just going to stay in today.


Lauren lost one her coworkers to cancer last week.
42 years old. Such a loss. It hit Lauren hard. I know she
went to the hospital to see her about a week before
she died, but her friend was out of it for the most part.
At 25, I was still a stay-at-home mom. I had
not lost anyone close to me when I was that age. This year,
Lauren's lost her grandfather and a coworker she cared
for a great deal.


I keep sending out resumes and filling in applications
but nothing has come up yet. I got a call back
from the court system about a Court Designated Worker
position I applied for, but the position originates out of the
Lexington area. I can't do that. I can travel from my region
but I can't relocate to Lexington, so I'll have to keep checking
the website for a regional CDW position.

I have to try to get these cobwebs out of my head. Time for a cup of coffee.


Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Night With Rosemount

It was beer first, didn't matter
what kind. That was long after Strawberry
Fields and high school, long before ad-
diction became a possibility.

I wasn't afraid then, Bud Light
or Coors in my hand, that one day
children, friends, lovers, and others
too numerous to mention would leave

me. I remember them, curled
inward on their sofas, or lying face-down
on the bathroom floor, tiles imprinted
on lovely cheekbones, their mosaics

decorating the still-firm tissues of youth.
But in my dreams, they don't need
me any longer. I have become
what they feared they would become.

Last night, when I was sleeping, one
of the dears found reason to say what bores
old drunks can be, how taxing and tedious
their comings and goings. I woke knowing

my exit from her life was in many ways
quiet as a snow-filled morning, rush hour
madness come to a complete halt. I knew
then there was no turning back. So, tonight,

Rosemount and I had communion, and I
praised a January with the front door
wide open, and I asked forgiveness
for those with no excuse not to come.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Language of the Brag

I have wanted excellence in the knife-throw,
I have wanted to use my exceptionally strong and accurate arms
and my straight posture and quick electric muscles
to achieve something at the center of a crowd,
the blade piercing the bark deep,
the haft slowly and heavily vibrating like the cock.

I have wanted some epic use for my excellent body,
some heroism, some American achievement
beyond the ordinary for my extraordinary self,
magnetic and tensile, I have stood by the sandlot
and watched the boys play.

I have wanted courage, I have thought about fire
and the crossing of waterfalls, I have dragged around

my belly big with cowardice and safety,
my stool black with iron pills,
my huge breasts oozing mucus,
my legs swelling, my hands swelling,
my face swelling and darkening, my hair
falling out, my inner sex
stabbed again and again with terrible pain like a knife.
I have lain down.

I have lain down and sweated and shaken
and passed blood and feces and water and
slowly alone in the center of a circle I have
passed the new person out
and they have lifted the new person free of the act
and wiped the new person free of that
language of blood like praise all over the body.

I have done what you wanted to do, Walt Whitman,
Allen Ginsberg, I have done this thing,
I and the other women this exceptional
act with the exceptional heroic body,
this giving birth, this glistening verb,
and I am putting my proud American boast
right here with the others.

Sharon Olds


Happy 16th to my youngest today! I managed
to mortify him already (bought a cake shaped like
a guitar).

He said, "Mom, are you ok? Ummmm, I could see
you getting me something like that 4 or 5 years ago,
but, ummm, well, are you ok?"

Clearly I am not ok. I should have baked him
a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting
and decorated it myself.

I have no explanation for the cake (it's actually
made out of cupcakes).

All I could say was, "Well, you do like music and sometimes
you play your guitar and I just didn't know what you
wanted and I thought it would be kinda funny
and you guys would get a kick out of it and, well,
you're right. It is kind of weird, isn't it? For me to get
that and not know how weird it would be and all, and, well,
I'm sorry."

It's all ok. We're ok. Funky brain here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Learning the Language

We grow into who
we are. Step by tiny step
into a future laid out
before us like the language
we would grow to speak
and learn to unlearn
and then relearn,
despite our rants
and our raves,
in spite of ourselves.

No. The first raw taste
that sits on the tongue
like beets. Too red, too
root-filled to ignore.
No again. This time
the unsavory bits of chopped
spinach, a green we swallow
in reluctance. We have not yet
learned the loveliness of
green and No, nor the unbridled
joy of sating ourselves
with tuberous things. Things that grow
underground in the dark, wet
places we are yet to know.

And then, one day, a normal
day in most every aspect
of the word normal, all of our oral
expectations are met, and it’s
a resounding yes! as mother
pokes the spoon in. An unspoken,
understood yes! that fills the room.
Yes, I will eat that. And this. And more
than you will ever guess in your long life,
Mother. Eat, masticate, at times
regurgitate. Mess myself up in ways
you never expected, you who followed
the step-by-step.

I have grown into an occasional
bite, shunned an entire meal.
I have learned to love the observed.
A bottle of merlot, a fifth of tequila,
a shot of gin and tonic. These
are the substantial elements
of my existence.

Step by step, I fight my way
through briars no one else sees.
I drop from a pine fifty-feet tall
and come out unscathed. I watch
the slender bend of my ankle
get chewed up in the spokes
of a wheel lost in time.
But man have I grown!
The likes of growth so seldom
seen in all of the animal kingdom.
A regular anomaly of sorts,
my body an organism, my brain
a refugee. My use of language
once again relegated to a simple
Yes, a fitful No.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A comment regarding my poems:

I do think they suffer (suffer is too strong a word) from the fact that the writer seems to need to write them more than the reader to read them. In most successful poems, the equation is reversed. I think you'll write better poems about the experience in a few years.

This comment comes from someone whose writing
and opinions I respect a greal deal. I wish I could
reverse the equation, but wishing won't make that happen.
I'm disappointed that the work comes off as needing
to be written, but I think he's right.

And, I'm a little confused. Don't most writers feel
that what they write needs to be written?

I don't feel discouraged by his words, but I wonder if anything
will ever come of anything I write. Some of us are meant to
be readers of poetry and to just love the experience of it.
We don't all have to write it, but at one point in time, I thought
I may have something close to the ability to write not just a decent
poem, but perhaps even a publishable one.

I've had only 2 published--one online and one in a print journal.
Not to bash online poetry, but I still aspire for print pubs.
Alas, I may never see my name in Poetry or the New Yorker!

Which makes me think of the book Running With Scissors.
The author's mother was certain she was going to be the next
Anne Sexton, so she actually gave legal guardianship of her son
to her psychiatrist so she could focus on her poetry, or so says
Augusten Burroughs in the book, but VF printed an article
recently stating that the family he talks
about in the book questions the liberties he took
in his memoir.


For now, I can only content myself with writing things
I need to write, and, as my friend says, maybe in a few
years I'll write better poems. Not just about the experience
of losing my dad, but I hope about all experiences I feel compelled
to write about.

This from Jane Kenyon:

Not Writing

A wasp rises to its papery
nest under the eaves
where it daubs

at the gray shape,
but seems unable
to enter its own house.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Before Sleeping

I'm tired. In ways I can't explain.
So tired that everything else looks
tired too. Like the rural mailboxes
lining the road on US 41 South.
They lean into the curve of road,
colors faded, flags dangling and broken
by their sides. Year by year, they
have been laden with the heaviness
of obligations hard to fill (final notice--
we turn the gas off 8 a.m. Monday)
and known the emptiness of no Christmas
or birthday cards.


Too tired to complete anything. Gone all weekend.
Drove lots. Paying now.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Tonight, the southbound
sings relentlessly. I hear
and I don’t. Not like before.
Before your death, lonesome
was comfort in each whistle
blow, in each reverberation
of a window pane.

Pain becomes the immeasurable.
I am stuck at the stoplight west
of the hospital, eyes fixed on the building
whose white walls witnessed your passing.
Death, grief, letting go--these are things
I have no reference for measuring.

Room 370. I’ve walked by it too
many times to count since that last
night in April when you breathed
your last breath, alone, unimpeded.
I can’t remember why we weren’t there
with you. I don’t understand
how I couldn’t know, standing there
at the stove, making pinwheel sandwiches
for a Friday brunch, that you were gone.

The light changes to green,
the color of new. My reverie ends
and my foot responds. I make the left
turn by the CVS. Within seconds,
mind cogent and focused, I marvel at the way
a body keeps moving, long after
the dying, too soon for forgetting.


A rewrite. Too telly I think but more grounded
images. It's just good to write. If you stop by again, jim, let
me know what you think.

Here's another I'm working on. I think it has a long
way to go too. I am rusty, rusty and suffering from
major brain fog, but I shall keep trying to write. I've
always found it so cathartic and healing and helpful
and frustrating and amazing and fun and difficult, etc.
etc. etc.


In A Quiet Room

The back rooms of this house
are quiet tonight. My son reads
The Moon Is Down as I watch a story

on television about widows and mothers
who've lost their lovers and sons in Iraq.
He calls me to his room to ask what genre

this Steinbeck novel fits and how to answer
a question like this: "List memorable quotes.
Tell why they are significant."

And when he reads the first quote to me
that he finds significant, a quote about
Dr. Winter, a simple man so profound

that only the profound recognize him as such,
I think of the widow on the television,
about the last night she spoke to her husband,

about the profound way simple things
like the weather and the holidays occupied
their last conversation. And all the while,

the winds outside were shifting, the weather
turning, the men inside never knowing that death
would become the dictionary to explicate profundity.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Tonight, the southbound
sings relentlessly. I hear
and I don’t. Not like before.
Before your death, lonesome
was comfort in each whistle
blow, in each reverberation
of a window pane.

Pain becomes the immeasurable.
I am stuck at the stoplight, eyes
fixed on the brown walls that witnessed
your death. These are things I have no
reference for measuring.

Room 370. I’ve walked by it too
many times to count since that last
night in April when you breathed
your last breath, alone, unimpeded.

The light changes to green,
the color of new. My foot responds
and I make the left turn by the CVS.
Within seconds, I marvel at the way
a body keeps moving, long after
the dying, too soon for forgetting.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Late April

Six months to the morning since the day you died.
Another heartsore Friday full of sun,
temps in the sixties, a stirring in the trees.
We have put a winter in between our griefs--
between the gaping hole and greening sod,
between the wet funeral and the dry one.

There was a comfort in the numbers then.
We counted priests and limousines, flowers,
favors, the sympathies and casseroles
of those who came and followed to the end
in keeping with the common sense that holds
a strength in numbers: the more the merrier.

Late April now and now the number One
assumes its upright stance--the walking wound
that pauses among monuments to count
another season's emblements of loss:
one grave, one stone, one name on it, one rose,
one fist to shake in the face of God then go.

Thomas Lynch


It was in the sixties here yesterday, but winter
has returned. It's grey and windy and around
40. For me, this would be a perfect day to go
to the cemetery, but I'm not sure I will.

It's a 40 mile drive there. I'm not sure
I can find the green plastic cones I'll need
to place the artificial flowers in to sit next
to the stone. I'm not sure if my stomach
is going to quit hurting. I may not have time
to cook my traditional meal if I go. I may throw up.
I may develop another headache. I may have to drink
a glass of wine first and then I couldn't drive
or wouldn't drive because I would not want to
be arrested for drunk driving even though I would
not be drunk. I may need to finish the laundry
or take the boys home. I may get a phone call.
I'm not sure if I have the right clothes to wear.
I'm not sure that I can bear to look at your name
on that stone, Dad, and keep myself pulled
together. I'm not sure that I believe in much.
I'm not sure I can think of a good reason to go.
I'm not sure where you are or what good it does
to stand in front of the white marker that bears
your name and rank and the lines "Home the sailor
From the sea", part of a poem Mom wanted to put
on the stone but there are rules regarding such things
at the Veteran's Cemetery so there wasn't room for
the entire poem. I'm not sure I even know the poem
though Mom and I talked about it when we were
filling in the paper and making sure we counted
out even the spaces between the numbers and letters
and tributes to you and your life. I'm not sure
but I think the best thing I can do is lie in bed
today and work crossword puzzles and think about
words I've never heard of or have heard of but would
never use them the way they do in crossword
puzzles, and I'm not sure but it seems like a strange
thing to call those puzzles--crosswords. Cross words.
I am sure we had none of those before you passed or left
or died. I am sure it's easier to say I lost you
than it is to say you died or you are dead.
No. No cross words, Dad. Just words about the dead
you had loved and lost and the mower you wanted
to buy when you got stronger and could mow the yard
again and the promise I made to you that I would
not talk about what you said and I'm not sure
why I told you I wouldn't talk about it but I think
it's because I wanted you to rest easy that night.
No cross words then, Dad, nor any or rarely any in all
the years you were my father. I am sure of that.


I found these two poems:


UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me: 5
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Robert Louis Stevenson


Home Is the Sailor

Home is the sailor, home from sea:
Her far-borne canvas furled
The ship pours shining on the quay
The plunder of the world.

Home is the hunter from the hill:
Fast in the boundless snare
All flesh lies taken at his will
And every fowl of air.

'Tis evening on the moorland free,
The starlit wave is still:
Home is the sailor from the sea,
The hunter from the hill.

A.E. Housman