Monday, May 31, 2010

The Savage on the Bus

It's crazy on TFE's world famous Poetry Bus this week.

Blogger Bill, with a devious mind, made us do this:
1: Think of (or find) a sentence. 2: Delete the second half of it. 3: Think of as many different ways of finishing it was you can. 4: Now, delete the first part of the sentence, leaving only a collection of "second halves". 5: Play with these and concoct a poem out of them.

I felt like Julia Child, with a pinch of this, a bit of that, concocting a strange meal. Here is my sentence:
"A pantheress, thinking and throbbing, is a savage
queen caged in the middle of a miserable street."

Pablo Neruda, Ode to a Black Pantheress

The Savage

She can rip you apart with claws and teeth
this teenage girl with topaz eyes,
who paces the night like she owns it
all sharp edges dressed in black,
a cold judge of humankind.

She searches for something,
intent on her hunger—
lock up the village goats
and be wary yourself.
Kindness will not save you.

This fierce beauty
is enraged by you,
your miserable domesticity,
the cereal you eat.
To her you are edible

So throw her some meat.
Watch. She will grow old
and tired all too soon.
Then she will slink
into the cage that awaits her.


See what other writers have done with this prompt. Start the tour here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lost Youth

This is me 30 years ago.

At the time, I worked for Hugh Hefner in West Hollywood, with a wonderful group of talented people who produced a secondary men’s magazine for Heff. I lived in Santa Monica, California, a beach city in west Los Angeles.

On the weekends and evenings, I wrote my own material: vignettes, poetry, random essays and rants. When I wasn’t partying, I was writing. Sometimes I partied and wrote at the same time. I’ve saved a lot of that material, and occasionally I look back at it and marvel at the free spirit, the free-wheeling writing, the youthful style.

Writers like Tom Wolf, Hunter Thompson, and Joan Didion had impressed me in the mid- to late 1970s with their radical, new approach to nonfiction, which was personal, gritty, and clever. I was a hippie from the ‘60s who was attracted to anything revolutionary. Instead of writing as a detached, invisible narrator, the new journalists injected themselves into their work, becoming part of the story, and they focused on revealing the humanity of their subjects. Those writers have influenced my writing style for decades.

I was deeply into drinking and drugging too. At the time, it seemed to be the gateway into uninhibited thought, into free association, into creativity itself. I think now that might have been true.

Looking at these photos now, I’m struck by how resilient I was, how eager I was to explore, experience, and invent. It would be another 10 years before the drugs and alcohol beat me down and destroyed that sense of power and possibility.

Today, I’m glad I was what I was. I like this young woman. I’m thankful for everything that brought me to this day, this life I now lead. I’m thankful that Something was there, 10 years later when the addiction shattered me, to save me from self-destruction and renew my life.


This is a Sepia Saturday post. For more personal glimpses of history, visit the Sepia Saturday blog here.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cuss Words and So On


The parents’ lessons linger long:
Anything worth doing is worth doing well
Put your back into it, girl
You knucklehead! You numbskull!
Shut up or I’ll give you something to cry about
You’d gripe if you was hung with a new rope
And worst of all:
Which meant the sky was going to fall.

This is a Friday Flash 55. If you want to tell a story in exactly 55 words, post it and go tell the host with the most, the G-Man.

I’m sure my parents said some fine things about life, aside from that one gem about “Anything worth doing is worth doing well,” but what I remember today is the more colorful stuff.
Some of it was funny, and some of it was hard.

From the get-go, doing what we were told without complaint was the order of the day. Punishment was swift and corporal otherwise. If I cried afterward, I got that awful “Shut up or I’ll give you something to cry about.” I hated that one. It was demeaning.
But I grew up to be a good worker and not a whiner.

My dad was the source of the colorful life lessons. Although he liked to call his kids knuckleheads and numbskulls, which isn’t nice, he also criticized with a home-grown humor. He was the one who said, “You’d gripe if you was hung with a new rope” and “Watch out or you'll trip over that lower lip.” Another favorite is “You got champagne tastes on a beer budget.”

He once told us solemn youngsters, “Do what your mother says. If she says, ‘Shit!’ you say, ‘Where and how much?’” I actually said that to my mother the next time I heard her say, “Shit!” I got in big trouble.

(To tell the honest truth, I had to take the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous before I could let all this trauma lie peacefully in the past. It also helped that I grew up.)

Dad walked jauntily and carried a big belt. Mom had a sharp tongue and a temper. She was a slammer of cupboard doors. On the other hand, she was also the source of the funniest cuss word I’ve ever heard.

I think she made up that word “Shingamucka-high-lo!” (which I present to you phonetically since I have no idea how it would be spelled). It always had an exclamation point behind it, and it expressed either shock, contempt, dismay, or surprised anger over a bad thing. I find myself using it these days to express the same reactions.

Has anyone out there ever heard the word “Shingamucka-high-lo!” in any form whatsoever?

I ask in earnest because a) It would be cool if Mom made up a word, and b) my first husband used to say something that sounded like “I chi notay pin chay cab rhone!” when he hurt himself, and then I started using it too (thinking it was a Japanese cuss word from his navy years) until I married my beloved Joe, who is fluent in Spanish, and he informed me it was a nasty insult that mustn’t be used in any context except a street fight, and then only if I wanted my butt kicked.



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Big Sur Magic Photo Tour

There's a place midway along the coast of California where rugged mountains meet the Pacific ocean, creating one of the most beautiful areas of the United States. For miles and miles, the slender road named Highway One clings to steep mountainsides, winding its way through canyons, cliffs, and high narrow bridges, and the speed limit rarely tops 35 miles per hour. Until the road was built, in the 1930s with convict labor, the only way to traverse the mountains was via horse trails and precarious wagon roads.
Because of the high rainfall, rockslides often close portions of the road for months at a time. When we followed it last weekend on our way to Big Sur, four slide areas were under reconstruction.
And so begins our photo tour of Pfeiffer Big Sur state park, where one of the world's three remaining redwood forests begins. Here, in the coastal redwoods, are the world's tallest trees. This area suffered an enormous wildfire in the early autumn of 2009, bringing down many trees, denuding mountainsides, and causing massive landslides that winter.

A fern ravine filled with rocks exposed and tumbled by rainfall.

Fields of clover fill the shady areas.

My daughter Milo and I took a hike up a canyon near our campsite.

Our humble abode in the state park.

Along the rocky Pacific coast, beaches are scarce.

Pfeiffer Beach is subject to fierce riptides. On the path to the beach is a memoriam for a young Kansas girl who was swept out to sea and drowned some years ago while wading at the ocean's edge. Her mother and grandmother also drowned trying to save her.

My husband skips stones on the surf. Temperatures were in the high 50s, and it's a windy beach.

Milo and Kaleb sit on a boulder at the foot of the steep bluffs edging the beach.

This is new growth rising from a fallen redwood. Even when felled, redwoods live on.

I share a last name with this Calochortus Alba, also known as a white globe lily or fairy lantern.

Looking up into the canopy of an old redwood. They are an ancient species, with the older ones in the park dating back to the signing of Magna Carta.

The Big Sur River, which many would call a creek, was flowing fast with rain runoff. Steelhead trout that were born in this river are able to find it again after a season spent in the ocean, and this is their time for swimming upriver to lay eggs.

Blue jays in the state park are used to people.

Fungi will eventually help break down this redwood log.

New growth at the foot of a redwood seared by wildfire.

A variety of grasses line the trails.

The late afternoon sun shines through a grove of young redwood.

Hope you enjoyed this taste of a beautiful place in our neck of the woods.

Thanks for traveling with me.

Monday, May 24, 2010

F the Fairies: Poetry Bus

F the Fairies

I ain’t no friggin’ fairy
no stupid stardust in my eye
won’t catch me wearin’ tutus
or flutterin’ up in the sky

I got a jelly roll belly
to go with cottage cheese thighs
I got a butt like a woman
and I wear a woman’s size

I know how to hold a hammer
light a stick of dynamite
I can drill a hole in a rock
and hold my own in a fight

I ain’t no prissy female
gotta outline her lips just so
needs gobs of goo on her face
before she can go out the door

I ain’t into none of that shit
with me you get what you see
I am what I am and that’s it
someone with the strength to be me

TFE's Poetry Bus rides again with Terresa at the wheel and providing the prompt above. I'm late with my entry, being as I was camping in Big Sur, California, without mod cons. However, I took the photo prompt with me and an old-fashioned pad of paper. A voice came over me, and this is the poem you get for your trouble in coming by my place. Other riders write better than me. Start the tour here.
(I swear, the photos are killer)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Glorious Big Sur and a Sick 55

The California coastline approaching Big Sur

I'm heading up the beautiful, rugged California coastline to camp at Big Sur with my family today. We'll camp among the redwoods and hike the Big Sur river (which is really the size of a large creek) and the park trails this weekend.

I grew up in a camping family and have slept in campgrounds from Washington state to New Hampshire. We keep three lug boxes ready with camping gear at all times, so I consider that we're earthquake prepared too.

You won't hear from me until Monday evening. I won't have Internet or cell phone service. I won't have a blow dryer. I'll have a tablet of paper, a camp stove, and a tent... my three requirements for camping.

Maybe I'll get lucky and catch some crawdads for jambalaya one night.

In the meantime, here's a Flash 55 to remind you that love wears many faces. For more intriguing attempts to tell a tale in exactly 55 words, visit the host with most, the G-Man.

It Must Be Love

You glare at me as if
you could burn me to ash
with the power of your rage.

Your veins want to pop
at your temples and blood
suffuses your face.

Your hands tremble
with the force of it.

Only love could excite so much passion.
I want to hold you.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Am a Personal Slave

Theme Thursday

Katie, Mystery, and their yellow brother
Since I was a child, I've had a cat. I've had Lizzie, Miss Black, Stretch, Buck, Emily, NoDad, TwoTone, and Asher. Doesn't sound like many over a lifetime, now that I think about it.

But Buck, a wonderful female manx I rescued from the pound, lived with me for 13 years, Emily (a graceful white) for 18 years, and Asher (a delicate gray) for 12 years.

NoDad, whom we bottle-nursed after we found him abandoned in the backyard by his feral mother, was named for his unknown father tom. His half-sisters, TwoTone and Asher, came along a few years later, same backyard, same feral mother. TwoTone vanished in the night when she was about five, and NoDad lived to be about 10. Asher died last summer, and it broke my heart, as all of them broke my heart when they went.


Last August, my aunt found four abandoned, unweaned kittens, and she bottle-fed them, groomed them, loved them, and gave me the two females. We found a good home for the two males. I named the girls Mystery (an explorer) and Katie (a mellow sweetheart).

The two kittens are nine months old now. They rule the house. They tell the three beagles what to do, and they use the dogs as sparring partners when the dogs happen to wander by.

Mystery harasses Riley

I would like the girls to be cuddlers, but they aren't. When they wish to be petted, they present themselves. When I lie down, they apparently get a telegraph and they arrive to lie at my feet. If I try to touch them, they will simply get up and walk off. They have rules, and I obey.

Mystery likes to sit on my husband's lap when he's watching television. She doesn't like my lap at all. But her sister Kate joins me at the computer every day to lie awkwardly on my lap while I work. I don't like it much, because she uses her claws to keep herself on my lap. But I obey.

So, now I am owned by two cats. They treat me fairly well. I am their personal slave. This is the usual way of cats, I hear, but all my other cats let me be the boss, so this behavior is a new experience. They are training me well, as they have trained the dogs and the husband.
Must go. I think the cats are calling me...
Katie giving me an ESP order

For more pet tails, oops, tales, visit the Theme Thursday crew.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Those who dwell among the beauties
and mysteries of the earth
are never alone or weary of life.

Rachel Carson

What do you think?

Photo: My great uncle and I studying the oaks.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Blues Collector

The Magpie Tales continue...

The Blues Collector

They call me Eeyore at work
and give me a stuffed version of him
to remind me I look on the dark side

Billie Holiday sings the blues
and people pay to ride her sorrow
(Am I blue?
What are these tears in my eyes
telling you?)

I take a blue pill for the blues
and it puts me in the pink
Do you think I might use
your blue suede shoes
to chase the blues away?

Eeyore says to Pooh
It’s sunny today
but it might rain tomorrow
and no one pays to ride my sorrow

I have a blue plate
by Currier and Ives
chipped (of course)
that I picked up cheap
in some thrift store dive

No Limoges for me, not
Blue Willow either
I married an optimist wearing
tennis shoes and I’ve skated
on thin ice ever since

He loves me madly as I am
a collector of the blues
but somewhere down the line
he might change his tune
For now
its Blue skies smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
do I see

I slip on those blue shoes
and go tapping, tapping
down the street


Check out what other bloggers have done with the Blue Willow prompt here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Red Floor

The weekly world tour of TFE's Poetry Bus is underway

and our ticket this week, thanks to Bus Driver Barbara, is to use the opening line

"I got down on my knees and smelled the new linoleum..."

One Last Gift

I got down on my knees and smelled the new linoleum
that dressed the kitchen floor
of my grandmother’s house in cherry red,
luscious red, the red of ripe berries
tangling with sweet madness all along the weathered wood fence down the hill.
Sweet madness it is in my grandmother’s house,
echoing the gentle madness in her eyes
as she surveys the small world that is her kingdom, the new red floor
he laid for her in the winter of her life, to give her one last joy
before her mind retreats beyond the fence
into the wild untamed wood where spirits whisper in the high-flung trees.
I smell his ancient love for her, three-quarters of a century old,
as fresh as a bowl of red berries,
although she has drifted and barely knows him.
His love is plain in the precision of the laying, each tile snug against its mate
in the long procession across the floor.
His care for her lives in the perfect square
where tiles meet walls, a sign of the tenderness with which he treats her,
though she treats him
with the civility of strangers meeting for the first time.
Her new floor is a sea of cherries in which she may wade girlishly as she performs
the ancient chores of sink, stove, table, and ironing board,
an instinct she has not lost,
as she has not lost the habit of tying on the apron,
wielding the mop and dishrag,
keying open the can of Spam and frying it up with crisp white chunks of potato
to serve for supper with the tomatoes
he brought her this morning from the garden
and presented to her with a certain shy flourish, red fruit in a yellow bowl.
She acknowledged his gift with a nod of her head
and a lowering of those far-gazing eyes,
cloudy with spirits that long to leave
and drift down the hill to the wild wood beyond the fence
vanishing into the high-flung trees.

Start the tour here.


Come Hell or High Water

Come hell or high water, Joe and I are married until death do us part.
It's 18 years today.

On Harmony

this is you
this is her
twin threads twining in space
up and up andupandup
sinuous as snakes
the dance of the double helix
making life grow high

this is you
this is her
round notes soaring
high and round as the moon
in a purple sky
full of light and high a bird in flight
a waltz of wind and feather
riding waves of air

this is you
this is her
a swelling rising rearing
crashing wave
shatters on the sand
and the sand soothes
calms and suckles
a soft sighing washing smooth
of rough edges and the fury

this is you
this is her
strong arms gripping
across the precipice of loneliness
strong limbs bowing before the wind
strong lines moored in heavy seas
above all holding fast
in the face of the storm

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Father

This is my father, in about 1950 before he married, looking more dapper than I ever saw him, complete with flower on the lapel of his double-breasted suit. I don't know the story behind the photo, and there's no one left to ask. He was an only child, of strong Oklahoma stock transplanted to California in the Depression. Does anyone have a clue about the make/model of the car?

Christmas 1954: I am but a wee thing lying on my mother's knee. I like the way I'm watching my dad with my older brother, wanting to be in his arms.

For the first two years of wedded bliss, my dad was a "sheet metal man" by trade and a member of the National Guard on weekends. Always the class clown, he met some kindred souls and made lifelong friends. From his poor beginnings, he later went into business for himself as a heating and cooling contractor.

Dad's roots were clear in his pronunciation of "crick" for "creek" and "jurnly" instead of "generally." Poorly educated, he was a whiz at mathmatics, and he could visualize and construct complicated air-duct systems. He liked to write songs although he couldn't play a musical instrument, and he could spin a good yarn.

He whipped me for the last time when I was 16. He wasn't always a great dad. But he grew more loving as the years went by. When I was 28, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. In six months, he was gone. He left me with a mean game of dominoes, a killer instinct in gin rummy, and a knack for telling stories.
Here's one of the last poems I wrote for him:

Chemo Strikes the Child’s Colossus

Black hair streaked with silver
slithered down the drain.
As far as he could see
down the long white length of him
down the slick white walls,
his black hair swept.

Did he clutch at straws.
Did he lift rough hands in disbelief
before he laid his face in them.
Not moving, making no sound,
who was he then:
the bald man bowing
head to the water
to the unknown

This is a Sepia Saturday post. For more personal glimpses of history, visit the Sepia Saturday blog here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rocky Relationship Flash 55

Can you see the screaming skeleton's face in this rock?

Relationship Trouble

When you say I don’t meet your expectations
I want to tear out my hair and ululate
like women do in the East, to show you
there is a death
and it is me you have killed.

Here is my body. Here is my blood.
Take and eat. It is given for you.


This is a Friday Flash 55, a tale told in exactly 55 words. It’s hosted by the G-Man, Mr. Knowitall, and you’ll find dozens of creative storytellers on his blog today.
The first part of this poem was a little statement I felt like making one day, on behalf of a friend with a relationship problem (it's not autobiographical). I added the closing lines (traditionally spoken by the pastor during Holy Communion) to make it 55 words. Then I went looking for an appropriate photo from my files. I chose the rock surface, not seeing the skeletal face until I embedded it in my post. Synchronicity at work?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Unleash the Beast

Wind on the Hills

The wind flows through the tall grass
like a hand ruffling the green fur
of a large benevolent beast.

She sails along the edge of the field
in her little red car, furious
with him, furious with the savagery
abroad on the earth, furious
with the job that leaches her energy
and feeds her nothing but a paycheck.

At first she doesn’t see the tall grass
and the wind flowing through it
like a hand stroking fur.

Then she sees the benevolent beast
and she stops the car
she gets out of the car
and she gives herself to its power

Today the subject is anger. There's righteous anger, helpless anger, blind anger. There are lots of ways to be mad.
Yesterday I was in a cold fury. Someone who is in the habit of insulting me took one step too far. My boundary cracked.
One of the habits I was taught in sobriety is restraint of tongue and pen. Live and let live, let go and let God.
But that doesn't make me a doormat for someone's grubby shoes. I'm encouraged to speak my truth and stand up for my beliefs.
So I took a while to pray. I consulted a trusted mentor. And then I began to write.
As if it were a beast, I unleashed my anger.
As both a Christian and a recovering alcoholic, I know that anger is the wind that snuffs out the candle in the mind.
And so, when it was all said and done to my satisfaction, I went back and erased, by choice removing the excess, leaving only the cold bare skeleton.
I said what I had to say and no more. There's freedom in that kind of restraint.

Then I consulted my mentor once more.
And I sent that anger out. It has flown out of my mind to the one who inspired it.
I live in a valley among these hills. Today I have peace.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Fatal Headache

Since Sunday, Mother's Day, I've been a daughter (blue) more than a mother (proud) or a human being (reasonably content).

"Your arms are thick and flexible," observed my mother, in a moment of clarity on Sunday.
In response, I held out my arms (I was wearing a bright red sweater) and did a series of arm exercises for her. She smiled at that.

"It's very easy to lie down on the rug on the books," she said. I wonder what this meant. She used to read many books. She encouraged us to read books. In her final years as a reader, she went through Reader's Digest Condensed Books like water. I'm not clear on what she meant by lying down on the rug on the books, but it's a whole sentence, and that's good.

"[Unintelligible] happened to Germany?" she said softly. I took it as a concrete question and answered it in the context I knew she used to be keenly interested in. "Germany was devastated by the war," I said. "It was defeated and divided into East and West. It was rebuilt, and later it was reunified."

She stared at me. I stared at her. Where would we go next? I was pleased we were having a conversation.

Later that night, I Googled "Alzheimer's stages" and surfed the medical websites, learning about my mother's brain. I learned about dying neurons and tangles and the slowly shriveling brain. This is my mom, I thought as I watched the illustrations of the brain areas being destroyed by protein plaque and tangled up nerve endings.

Fifty percent of the blood in our bodies flows through a mighty mass of vessels in our heads when we are thinking hard, planning, organizing, writing, exercising the brain. Vivid sparks of life transmit information. It literally lights up.

My mother's brain is like a spaceship with its systems shutting down. The mainframe computer has a virus. Last to go will be the engine room, trying to propel the ship in darkness.

She has entered stage six of Alzheimer's seven stages. The ability to form words will keep her there in stage six. Words are precious connections between the brain and the world. When the brain fails to make words, the body systems begin to fail. In stage seven, only sounds can be made, and the brain loses its ability to voluntarily move muscles. Physical deterioration follows relentlessly.

I woke with a headache this morning, but my head is full of words. Words keep us alive. How do you like that?


Monday, May 10, 2010

Poetry Bus Goes To War

The WWII Canned Food Queen

I have put up a storehouse of food
more food than I could eat in a year of gorging
more food than my neighbors could eat
if I were to share

They eat boiled tongues of Jews in labor camps
says Mrs. Mayer at the dry-goods shop
and they eat soup made of boiled shoe leather
but they’ve always been a little strange, the Mayers

I buy my jars there, the paraffin, and the sugar
but so many things a body can’t buy anymore
like butter, thank God the Russells make their own
and they take my canned goods in return

I don’t go to the Mayers’ store as often since
she started telling tales from some relation
who “got out” she says, the world has gone crazy
she says, but my Roger’s over there

He’s saving the world for democracy
although I haven’t heard a word from him
in a worrisome long while, but I suppose
they keep him fairly busy in the Airborne

Imagine, my Roger jumping out of planes
he was such a frightened little boy, afraid
of the dark, and I don’t think they sleep in tents
they’re taking France by storm I hear

We’ll show those Germans a thing or two
and get it all sorted out over there soon enough
Well my mister will be wanting his supper
and I believe I’ll serve my apricots

Bought several lugs for almost nothing
last summer and it was a hot week in the kitchen
but I love these little orange balls in a row
I love my rows of jars, I love my precious food

With this poem, I’ve joined TFE’s Poetry Bus world tour. Our stalwart driver this week is PJ Nolan. Our assigned task is to go through a bunch of photo archives, using a secret number, then use that same number to land on one photo, about which we write.

I did a complicated bit of counting, and my photo is from the U.S. National Archives, created by the Department of Agriculture Extension Service.

A note about this poem: A generation of women came out of the Depression saving everything, and as the U.S. went into World War II, they continued to do everything possible to be frugal. My relatives were among them. I admire their courage and dedication.

But they were also unaware of the Holocaust and skeptical of the horrors described by American Jews. They were naive about the utter devastation in Europe for various reasons, one of which was the American propaganda machine. Another reason was the almost complete lack of on-the-ground news in mainstream radio and newspapers.

They were given a simplistic view of what lay in Europe. The 82nd Airborne mentioned in this poem, for example, suffered enormous losses during the D-Day invasion of France, with half its men killed or wounded in the ferocious fighting. My narrator's Roger might well have been killed in the first three days of landing behind German lines.

So this poem is not a celebration of the achievements of the heartland's housewife during the war. People were starving and dying in Europe by the thousands, the tens of thousands. And the housewife didn't know.

To see other attempts at photo-prompting, visit our illustrious driver.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

If I Were a Cat

This is what I'd do:

Instead, this is what I do:

I pull this crap out of my grass. It's called burr clover. It's "fruit" (using the word loosely) is a round hard sticker ball half the size of your pinky nail. That sticker ball breaks into segments and spreads burr clover all over. It also sticks in your bare feet.

I looked one day at the grassy median between the sidewalk and the street in front of my house. Large patches of this weed from hell, all knotted up in the grass, had established themselves with great fervor.

Since Monday, and that's all this week in case anyone is keeping track, I've been breaking my back and my arms and my shoulders and my thighs, everything except my head, struggling to yank this ferocious alien monster out of my grass. My grass loves the soil aeration it is getting as I stab my pointy sharp weeding object into the lawn and heave it all about.

I tell you, I'm breathing hard after my latest bout. I hate burr clover so much, I pull it out of my neighbors' yards. Do I have an obsession? Yes. But I prefer to think of myself as determined, as a fighter on the side of right, as a force for good in the universe, which, as far as I can see, has no need whatsoever for burr clover.

Then I come in the house, aching in every joint, and there's my cats and dogs and hubby, all comfortably lazing around on the furniture. If I were a cat, I would sit in front of my hubby like this:

I would stare at him until I drove him up from the couch and out into lawn. I would drop the gloves and the pointy object at his feet, and I would trot away for a good nap.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Love Gymnast: Flash 55

Flash Fridays are about telling stories in exactly 55 words.

Here's a tale about a lady named Doris who is insanely in love with her new beau, Guido. She sits at her desk, thinking of him:

The audience of organs freezes in midbeat.
The stomach recoils, leaps high on its toes,
lands, sprints, does a stunning
double back flip with a twist, sticks the landing.
Thunderous applause from the kidneys.
The intestines wave their arms.
The delirious lungs whistle
and the heart pounds its feet
in the bleachers.
Meanwhile, Doris shivers.

Go see G-Man for inspiration

The photo is from a gymnastic coaching website. Sorry I can't be more specific.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sweet Peas

Your Gift To Me

The first sweet peas of the season
spring up around the garden gate
white as the half moon
and blushing pink as the dusk
that falls on them like a soft cloak.

A trinity of dusk, moon, and sweet peas
unite in a small bouquet
I present to you, husband
and you pause in your evening chores
to bend and breathe deeply
the fragrance of sweet peas.

Your smile is like the half moon
in a dusky sky.
This is the only essential thing
that has happened all day.
It slides safely into the pocket of my memory
for pondering in leaner times.

Theme Thursday this week is "pink."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fake Accents & Other Garden Tips

My Cecil Brunner rose runs rampant, scenting the air.
Gardening tip for growing this rose:
Give it lots of neglect.

I caught myself in the garden doing something really silly: Talking to myself in my idea of a British accent.

There I was, productively doing maintenance work: Trying to fix a sprinkler head, pulling the oxalis that was taking over the dahlia bed, failing to fix the sprinkler head, digging a damn hole around it to get it unscrewed, getting a new sprinkler head, installing it and checking the stupid thing, yanking up more of that bloomin' oxalis ... and all the while talking nonsense in a fake accent.


Maybe that fake accent is part of me. Maybe that's why Mom's eye surgeon (Dr. Rashid, not native born), asked if I were from Australia.

I've never lived outside the lower half of California, for Pete's sake. Blimey!

I told my daughter about this discovery of mine, and her response was ho-hum. "You always do that, Mom," she said. "I always found you bent over and whispering yourself." Doesn't that paint a pretty picture?

Well, the fact is, babbling to myself out loud in an accented voice, talking about this and that, may keep me from cursing and from quitting out of exhaustion. I would like to curse the damn gopher that ate my dahlia this past winter, I would like to curse the dad-gum sprinkler head, I would like to stop stooping over to pull endless oxalis out of the soil.

But I keep at it, with this imaginary Englishwoman blithering on in my head.

So my gardening tip for today is: Talk to yourself while doing chores in the garden, and do it in a fake accent. Trust me. It works.

Do you talk to yourself? Tell me I'm not the only one who does it. What about the accent? Anybody out there pretending to be somebody else when you talk to yourself? What if you walked up to someone busily talking to herself: Would you think she was nuts?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

No Poetry Today

My daughter Milo and me at the beach

I went to see my mother today at the Alzheimer's care facility and I think she knew me, although I'm not certain. She seemed dazed.

I heard little in the way of Alzheimer's poetry from her today. For the poet in her mind, it was not a good day. She did say, "I'm slower than dirt." This is a new twist on the long-standing family joke that whatever dinner we had just partaken was "Better than eating dirt." But it was true. She was slower than dirt today.

She looked down at the flower bed as she inched her way in the walker from the patio to her room, and she said very clearly, "Yes, it's a mushroom." I went over and looked. There was a flowering plant with some bark ground cover around it. I said, "It IS a mushroom, Mom." I smiled at her. She smiled back.

Smiles are good. I love the smiles in the photo above, taken by my kid as a self-portrait when we all went to the coast last weekend. Sorry she cut herself out of it.

But here's a photo of her, so you can see how beautiful she is.

And this is what the Pacific Ocean looked like on the central coast of California last weekend. Milo is playing "Run from the Waves" with our four-year-old Jacob.

So what can make you smile when you're caught in a hard place?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll

Sex, drugs, rock & roll are the topics for this week's Poetry Bus, driven by The Watercats' clever hands while the Totalfeckineegit takes his rest from bus driving. We were supposed to record our reading, too, but alack and alas, I have old stuff and no microphone. I'm lucky I'm even attached to the Internet.

There's a little bit of everything in this poem, written for my best pal Tonya McClure. She lost her fight against cancer, but she was a Deadhead to the end. That's her beautiful mug up there, at the start of this post.

The Grateful Dead Girl

The Deadhead girl is tie-dyed all over, barefoot,
smoking reefer washed down by whiskey,
the whole psychedelic world at her fingertips.

The music grows wings and soars overhead
while the bass and the drums grow feet
and stomp the wooden floor in a cadence
ripe for dancing.
She dances, big beautiful girl,

with a curtain of hair that swings
in rhythm with the pulse of the Dead.
Love is free and it is flowing everywhere
within the planet formed by the music

and her awkward edges blur until she blends
with the sounds of the Grateful Dead.
She is the Grateful Dead and no longer tormented
by the dark otherness that plagues her
on Mondays, or Wednesdays,
in grocery stores or mirrors.

She goes home in a sweet cocoon of Deadness
with a panting heart and laughter
for having danced at the center of the music.

Decades slip past for the Deadhead girl
leaving only gauzy memories to clench
and clench she does on Mondays, or Wednesdays,
in supermarkets and in mirrors, which show
her neck has grown wings that flap unkindly
at her throat.

Her awkward edges have returned
with a vengeance,
for no longer do the reefer
and the whiskey lend a soft-focus loveliness
to the dark otherness that has always plagued her.

She knows now that love is never free,
and her fight with cancer needs a clear head.
Her children groan into lives of their own.
Grandchildren sprout in a corner of her life,
and devotion rocks her down to her toes.

Old Grateful Dead posters still cling to her walls,
as she contemplates death coming round
the next corner.
Dancing exhausts her
but she keeps the beat with her foot on the floor.
The concert soon will finish, but she’s grateful
she once danced at the center of the music.
For more sex, drugs, rock & roll, take a ride on TFE's Poetry Bus.