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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hold My Hand

On Thursday, while I was thinking happy thoughts in California, a woman brought a little boy to the rescue center of Real Hope for Haiti in Port-au-Prince.

Says Licia on her rescue-center blog, “This is Darlens. His age is unknown. He weighs 11 pounds. His mother was going into Port-au-Prince, the day of the earthquake, to give blood for a family member that was having surgery. She never returned. They never found her. The father was killed when a house fell on him. An aunt brought him to the clinic to see if we could take him. He is severely malnourished.”

P’ap jamn sispann priye,” Licia writes. “Don’t ever stop praying.”

Licia offers us another Haitian hymn. This is #114 in Chants D’esperance (Spiritual Songs):

Cher Senge, kinbin min-m, ede moiun rete fem
mouin bouke, fatige, telman
nan loraj, nan fe noua, klere rout la devan
Kinbin min-m, che senge, fe-m rive

Dear Lord, hold my hand. Help me to stay strong.
I’m tired and fatigued so much.
In the storm, in the dark, clear the road before me, Lord.
Hold my hand, oh dear Lord, make me get there (to the end).

The photo is from the rescue center's blog.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Purses for Haiti

Heartline Ministries has a women's sewing program (which has been suspended in the aftermath of the earthquake because the home where it is held is being used as a hospital now). They make purses for sale, raising money for Heartline and for the women who make the purses. The sales are split 50/50 between Heartline and the women.

You can buy a purse on the website. There is an inventory of purses in the US, so they ship out the same day. Purses are not being mailed from Haiti. They're beautiful purses, of many different types. The women who make them are pictured, and you can buy their designs specifically if you are so moved.

The cost of the purses runs $25 to $40 US dollars. I've bought four. You can even hold a purse party at your home, as people do with Pampered Chef and Tupperware. They will send you a selection of purses and information about the women seamtresses. Check it out on the website.

I'm leaving this up for a couple of days. You can visit the blogs of Heartline, listed on the top left of my blog. Tara and Troy partner with them to run the little makeshift trauma center in Port-au-Prince. This is one awesome group of people. May God bless them.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Meaningless, But Nice

This Happy 101 award is dished out to me by Fandango, over at Dragon’s Lair. I don’t know what I did to deserve it. Fandango called it another meaningless internet award.
I am to link to Dragon’s Lair and then tell 10 things that make me happy. I am always happy to think about happiness.
I shall ponder that and get back to you.
(Leaves computer and goes to pet cat a while. Makes some coffee. Interacts with husband. Goes to an AA meeting. Reads mail. Enjoys thinking happy thoughts all day long.)
Okay, I’m back. I have thought of a few things that make me happy.

1. My cats. They are young cats, rescued by my aunt and hand-nursed in infancy. I have inherited these cats, who love human beings and my dogs. A favorite game: I place dry cat food on the kitchen counter. Cats play hockey with them, sending hockey-puck cat bits off the counter to the dogs. The dogs hang out below, loving this game.

2. The smiles of my daughters. Enough said.

3. Stones. Stones from the beach near me. Smooth, ocean rubbed stones. These I wire and hang from driftwood and place in my garden and on my walls. Stones of all types. Precious stones in jewelry stores. Which I have hardly any of. Stones that I hang from my ears. Stones I bury in the ground and make mini-piazzas of. I am stoned on stones.

4. A fresh cup of Italian roast coffee, made ready by my husband when he leaves the house, so all I have to do is press a button, and voila!

5. The scent and sight of narcissus in my garden. They always smell and look like spring in the midst of winter.

6. Poetry. I am happy when I’m writing it, and I’m happy when I’m reading the work of others. Poetry is a gift from the Creator’s Spirit.

7. The Caribbean sea. We’ve paid five visits to the Caribbean, mostly to the Bahamas. Those islands are amazingly beautiful, and I can’t help but feel that living there ought to be a blessing, instead of a tragedy, like Haiti.

8. My recovery from alcoholism. I love the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. They have saved me from a literal hell.

9. Camping at Big Sur. It’s a paradise of big redwoods on the coast of California. This is a photo of the Pacific ocean on the way to the campground.

10. My husband. He’s the greatest guy on earth.
I'm to pass the award along by linking to their websites and telling them on their blogs. So here's to Tall Kay at Aha Moments, Akannie at Elegant Blessings, Madison at Fight of Your Life, and Prayer Girl. It's your turn to tell us what makes you happy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gutter Talk

Earthquake in Haiti

Now I lay me down in the gutter
I pray the Lord my soul to take
hope for help is slim or none
I may well die before I wake

When millions cry sweet Jesus
come and lay one lowly
drop of water on my lips!
who am I to plead for me

I am the blessed one, I know
I am not entombed
the souls of my dear city pray
that help is coming soon.

With joy for air I lay me down
here in this dusty gutter
and pray for others who survived
only to mercilessly suffer

The outstretched arms are busy
helping those who might still live
in the rubble in my broken city
for them I beg you: Give!
The top two photos here were taken by John McHoul at the Heartline medical clinic, a kind outpost of aid in a sea of suffering people. The bottom one was taken by Enoch at the Real Hope for Haiti rescue center. You can see my links to them at the top of my blog on the left, so you can read about their day, two weeks after the earthquake. The crisis there continues unabated, even if it has dropped off the top of the news media.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Old Stuff That Still Works

Today I’m going to sing the praises of some old things in my possession. I don’t so much own them, as I just live comfortably alongside them and use them as needed. In this throwaway society, they have been old friends to me, working out a long lifespan in my company.

First, my refrigerator. In 1987 I bought this aging General Electric fridge from a friend who has since passed away. I paid two hundred dollars for it. It has faithfully hummed away through two earthquakes, a marriage, my drunken stupors, my neglect, my rush of caring every year or so, and 20 years of my sobriety, not to mention three moves.

Last year, when we moved it to put in a new kitchen floor, I looked at its old eggshell white appearance and promptly went down to the appliance store. There I asked about fancy new ones that cost upwards of $1,500.

The fellow told me, “They all run on computer chips now. They’re harder to repair. Yours is actually made from replaceable parts. Keep it if it’s still running.”
So I did.

Second, my cell phone. I got this old Cingular Samsung in 2006 when I relapsed and took it with me to rehab, where I didn’t use it. I think four years qualifies as aged for a cell phone. I can’t take pictures with it, and it doesn’t work when I go to Big Sur, but on the other hand, I’ve never dropped it, washed it, lost it, or had it malfunction. I actually feel fond of my cell phone.

Third, my blessed laptop. I bought this HP in 2004 when I went into business for myself as a writer and editor. My fingers know this keyboard like the back of my hand. I had it serviced this past year, and mumbled to my computer guy about getting a new one. He grumbled back at me: “If it ain’t broke, don’t replace it.”

This is also my theory of marriage.

Finally, I must tell you about my phenomenal egg beater. It’s a portable Sunbeam Mixmaster. This thing is one of the oldest items in my collection of usable old things. It’s so old, I can’t even tell you the first years of its history.

In 1976, my beloved father bid on some abandoned box containers down at the local moving company. The rule was, you bid blind, not knowing the contents of the boxes. He liked a challenge.

It was a treasure hunt, the day we went through those boxes. They were someone’s household goods, left behind in Barstow, California, a veritable oasis in the Mojave Desert. I got most of the stuff because I was furnishing my college home. This all happened 34 years ago, and I’ve lost memory of what the other stuff was.

The Sunbeam Mixmaster, however, has been a vital part of my household ever since. My father died in 1983. My mother has Alzheimer’s now. But my Mixmaster is still beating away, with a lot of Sunbeam smiles.
What old stuff are you still using?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ants Invade My Kitchen

Ants marched across the kitchen counter yesterday by twos and threes. Sometimes half a dozen of them huddled around an invisible spot on the tile. Occasionally a scout found its way to the other side of the sink.
Although I crushed them with a relentless fingertip, they kept showing up. We've had eight inches of rain. They're desperate.
They're as relentless as my fingertip. They will find food, or they will die trying.
I spent Sunday "touring" Port au Prince with people I am starting to love, Troy and Tara Livesay, Dr. Jen, the McHouls, Casey and Licia. Troy's Tweets are essentially lines from the front of a battle against time and suffering. Tara's house is the makeshift Hotel de Livesay, putting up all the folks necessary to their little makeshift trauma center. Dr. Jen and her crew perform astonishing medical miracles ON PLASTIC FOLDING TABLES from sun-up to the wee hours IN A HOUSE. Beth and John McHoul try to keep the place running. Casey and Licia have charge over orphans in another backyard, trying to find a house for them.
I've never seen such heroic people. It's been two weeks since the earthquake, and the need is simply exploding. People are dying from infection in tent cities. People with major traumatic injuries are just now finding medical aid after TWO WEEKS of suffering, and they're finding it in a house in a suburb of Port au Prince, where the Livesays are.
They need morphine. Antibiotics. You name it. Troy and his team scrounge through the network of tiny emergency organizations (using the term loosely) and haunt the airport, looking for supplies. Diesel fuel is 15 dollars a gallon; the wait is five to six hours for that.
What are they eating? When are they sleeping?
A distressed pregnant woman showed up at their gate late Saturday night. Dr. Jen was able to do an emergency c-section and save the infant child, as well as the mother. It was their first birth, in a sea of injuries, death, poverty, misery, and they were overjoyed. Here's an article about the trauma center, from Minnesota public radio.
All of these photos are Troy's and John's and Beth's and Enoch's. Tara and Dr. Jen pose with their patients for Beth. John and Troy's cameras capture a tent city, where injured people are waiting, and a University of Miami field hospital at the airport, where conditions are a hundred times more sophisticated than they are back at the house.
I'm going to be like the ants in my kitchen: relentless. Please pray. Please give. Please don't forget Haiti.

Tara with the first baby born in their center

Young patient at the center

A tent city

The University of Miami field hospital at the airport

Troy, with those who have assisted him on Saturday

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bear With Me

In honor of those living still buried under the rubble in Port-au-Prince, I share here the first verse of Haitian hymn #6 in Chants D’esperance (Spiritual Chants):

Lord, there’s nothing I can give you
Only one heart that’s tired and suffering
And without you I cannot heal
My misery is in front of you

Segne, angnin m-pa ka ba ou
Sel gnou ke ki bouke soufri
E san ou mouin pa kab geri
Mize mouin devan ou

May the eternal God gather them in His almighty arms.

This is one of my two favorite blogs from Haiti. Licia, Enoch, Lori, and others are blessing many lives in that sad city. It's their brother Casey who is broadcasting the words of the hymn.

Here is another. Kim and Patrick are part of the informal distribution network springing up for lack of more organized help.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oh, Haiti!

I’m devoting my Saturday blog to a message received Friday night from Partners In Health (PIH), a medical organization working in Haiti. Ali Lutz, Haiti Program Coordinator for PIH, writes this report:


Wednesday morning, a strong aftershock earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, temporarily shutting down operations at the general hospital in Port-au-Prince, as well as several other PIH sites outside the city. Since then additional smaller quakes continue to disrupt efforts on the ground.
Here's a quick update on our work in Haiti despite these challenges.


PIH's surgical teams continue to race against time to provide surgical care to earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince. Operating rooms at the central general hospital (HUEH) in Port-au-Prince are fully operational again after being temporarily evacuated on Wednesday in response to the aftershock. PIH is still coordinating the relief efforts at HUEH and reports having 12 operating rooms opened 24 hours per day. Across the country, we have a total of 20 operating rooms up and running.

To date, PIH has sent 22 plane loads with 144 medical volunteers - orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, surgical nurses and other medical professionals - and several thousand pounds of medical supplies to support the more than 4,500 PIH health care providers already in Haiti.


Despite these accomplishments, our teams throughout the country continue to report a great need for additional medicines (antibiotics, anesthesia and narcotics), medical equipment (anesthesia machines and x-rays), medical supplies (IVs, tubing, irrigating saline), and water.


"There are very sick people and too little space and time," reported PIH Women's Health Coordinator Sarah Marsh from our hospital in St. Marc. She added that we will lose more patients to infection in the coming days if we don't find additional medications, and explained that is only for lack of supplies - not patients - that the surgical team risks performing more operations. A volunteer orthopedist also working from St. Marc stressed that we will need full medical teams on site to manage dressings, skins grafts and other post operative care for another 6-8 weeks.


Our sites in the Central Plateau and the lower Artibonite are dealing with increasing numbers of patients and families seeking both medical treatment and refuge from devastated Port-au-Prince. Finding space and beds for post-operative care has become the next major challenge. In Cange, PIH's 104-bed facility is overflowing: the church is serving as a triage center and the school as a recovery room. People are arriving in Cange at all hours of the day and night; many simply have nowhere to go.
"Our houses were crushed and our businesses destroyed. So we came to Cange," said one man who arrived in a bus with 12 relatives, including his mother-in-law who was critically injured.

In Belladaire, near the border with the Dominican Republic (DR), up to 1,000 people are camped out at PIH's hospital in temporary shelter, searching for family members and medical treatment. We expect that people will continue to return to the countryside, having lost their family, livelihoods, and homes in the capital city, and meeting the needs of this displaced population will be a major task in PIH's long-term rebuilding efforts.


Finally, recognizing that many of our own Haitian staff, who are working tirelessly to save the lives of others, have also lost their own families and friends, PIH is also developing a post-trauma mental health and social service program to serve both staff and patients.


The task ahead is a monumental one. And even as we heal wounds, mend broken bones, and provide basic necessities (food, water, shelter), its true magnitude grows before our eyes. But we know from 20-plus years of accompaniment the resiliency of the Haitian people. Through poverty, strife, hurricanes, disease and hunger, our Haitian friends and colleagues continue to amaze us. Their determination, spirit, and ability to overcome and survive is inspirational and humbling.
Partners In Health is determined to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to ensure that their struggle succeeds.
With your help, we know we will be able to do so.
Kenbe fem,
Ali LutzHaiti Program Coordinator
Partners in Health

Please take a minute to visit Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center. This group is in the trenches with Haitian children.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Hero's Journey

In 1988, Joseph Campbell became one of the world's most recognized experts on mythology, heroes, and quests. He identified archetypes in myth, religion, and psychology that are shared by cultures down through the centuries and around the world.
In '88, PBS broadcast a series of interviews with him, conducted by journalist Bill Moyers, called "The Power of Myth." Campbell died in 1987, but the PBS series exposed his ideas about the hero's journey to millions of viewers. The directors of the "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings" films were influenced by Campbell's theories.
During the membership drive that accompanied the broadcast, you could buy the entire six episodes on videotape for a certain donation. I did.
A few days ago, I wrote a poem about that situation.

Joseph Campbell Is My Hero

Only the resting cats
sphinxlike on the floor
show moderate curiosity
in their half-lidded eyes.

Joseph Campbell on TV
and his theories of mythology
fly through the air into my
brain and I finally understand

what makes me tick,
a chore you long ago
abandoned in favor of the
secretary half your age.

While you sleep the rest
of the righteous I’ve pledged
$500 to receive the whole collection
of Joseph Campbell myths

a strange extravagance in light
of the blood on your plastic
Visa card and the scarlet spatters
on our yellow kitchen floor.

I have drawn first blood
in this battle, as I fling my wrist:
take that, you monstrous fridge:
take that, you sly old sink.

Joseph Campbell loves me
more than you do. The cats
know this and as I slide from
this reality, they wink at me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Random Image Series, III

Views from My House

The stone candle sculpture that lights the way to my front door

The sky that welcomed me home last night...

And the sight that warms my heart when I get home.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Update: 6 a.m.

Haven't slept all night. Sitting here in the rainy dark with an earache throbbing in my head.
I had a shock this morning when voicing my own philosophy to myself: It could always be worse, so praise God it isn't!
I could be entombed in Haiti.
Puts everything in perspective.
Forgive my sometimes dismal outlook. I think so small sometimes. Here comes a giant bolt of lightning, and thunder cracks. It's awesome. After so long without rain, this storm system is magnificent! (Sudden thought: should I get off the computer?).
More gratitude:
* My mother is well-housed and comfortable as she slides into Alzheimer's.
* I can just get in the car and drive to a doctor if I wish to, for treatment.
* I am warm and dry as a storm rages outside.
* God is answering prayers in Haiti. So many stupendous reports of His providence are on the internet. Read here how Kim and Patrick were able to slip through the jammed airport to meet their incoming supply plane.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Random Image Series, II

Views of Roxy

The Good

There's a little bad and a little good in most things. For me that has seldom been so clear as it was yesterday. Both heartache and happiness paid their visits.
The Good: The storms continue after a long drought. We got a few beautiful inches by noon, with more forecasted today.

The Bad

The Bad: My mother forgot how to put on a pair of pants yesterday. The deterioration of her cognitive abilities is swifter almost by the minute. It was heart-breaking to watch her helplessly stare at a pair of pants on her lap.
As I watch her lose her mind, the caretaker's report was endlessly bad: She roams at night, yelling at people who are trying to sleep. She has lost her expensive hearing aid, and her false teeth are stained a brilliant orange for good, thanks to Tic Tacs. She struck the caretaker with her cane when the caretaker tried to help her dress.
When I talked to her about it, she said, "I know it's wrong! I'm sorry! I just want to go home!" For Mom "home" is heaven.

The Ugly

The only ugliness in my personal life is my mother's dementia. Everything else is beautiful. My hubby's enchiladas were made fresh for supper. The grandkids were here when I got home from Mom's, and they are gorgeously robust and lovely, full of laughter.

Father, please guide the search and rescue efforts in Haiti. Please hasten the aid and multiply the food and medical treatment. Bless all the people of Haiti, and bless those who reach out to help, like Dr. Jen who's working in the field.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Random Image Series, I

Views from my refrigerator.

When I grow up, I want to be art.

After the storm
The mighty oak still stands
While others fall

There is always a reason to chew through the restraints.

Go visit Tara and Troy Livesay in Haiti here.



The sun is rising over the hilltop, and it is blinding in a small break in the clouds. Beautiful!

A flock of cedar waxwings drops in to snack on the last of the red berries outside my window. They are grabbing a last bite before the second storm begins. What do birds do during the storms? I am so happy to see these waxwings. They are beautiful birds!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hey, My Face Just Folded!

I looked out my eyes at you
thinking my thoughts
when suddenly my face collapsed
and I couldn’t see you anymore.
I stopped thinking as my face
folded in upon itself
And all that was left
was my empty brain
looking in.
Sometimes when I look at my dog, I feel grateful for the simplicity of dogness. For Riley, there is joy, hunger, pleasure, curiosity, excitement, drowsiness, and complete one-ness with the body he inhabits. There are more thrilling dog lives than his, but he is at peace with what he has.
A friend trains dogs in agility courses, and they have a lot of fun. I wonder: Do dogs wish for more? I know there are dogs with complicated psyches. Would Riley be something other than what he is, if he had choices?
Humans have choices, and they wish for more. I want to feel satisfaction and contentment, like my dog seems to. Often, I do.
There's a certain edginess that I like, though. It makes me reach out to people, write poetry, investigate things to gain knowledge, keep working. Work is good. Striving is good.
It rained all day Sunday. I wanted to accomplish certain things. A few, I did. Mostly I investigated conditions in Haiti on the internet and left much undone here. My creditors probably wish I had spent more time writing checks, if they knew what I chose to do instead.
Chris is on the edge
Her soul needs to be restored
Five birds sing to her

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Here is a photo of the universe, taken from the Hubble.

Somewhere beyond that vastness is a speck of a star called the Sun.

By the Sun is a speck called Earth.

A speck on the planet Earth is called Haiti.

In Haiti, it is Hell.

Here I sit, after spending my Saturday evening in a ballroom surrounded by people who were deeply into the wine and the filet mignon, celebrating the citizens of the year for our beautiful little community. Not one word was mentioned about Haiti. Not. One. Word. It was all I could think about between bites of filet mignon. I don't drink, so I didn't share the imbibing. Why couldn't we pass the hat for Haiti? I wondered. Just the price of one glass of wine, for the humanity suffering in Haiti. Oh, it gave me chills.

Just wanted to connect with you all out there and say human being to human being, I feel the same as you do. Helpless. Sent the money I would have spent to a nice dinner out. What good does that drop in the hat do? So prayer, yes.

Here is a link to Tara and Troy, who are doing ministry work in Haiti and are caught in the catastrophe. I found it via Hope at "A Song Not Scored for Breathing" (she's on my blog roll). Tara is blogging from the streets of Port-au-Prince.

My hubby and I lived through the '94 earthquake in our city of Northridge, when a portion of Los Angeles buckled and went dark. We know what the upheaval of the Earth is like and what the aftermath is like. It is very long. What's happening in Haiti is immeasurably worse.
God, the Creator of the Universe, bless us all.

This morning 16 years ago, we stood in our ruined home in the earthquake's epicenter, trying to make a path through the shattered living room and kitchen to get to the back door. We had huddled through the darkness for the light to see by. By daylight we waded through the wreckage and got in the truck to go find our little girl who had spent the night across town. Ah, God, the rubble in the streets. Whole walls sheared off tall buildings. Buildings pancaked on top of people and cars. Everything concrete and brick lay broken where it fell. We found our daughter safe and weaved our way back through the streets to the house. It was only the beginning of a long nightmare.

Six years ago, I clinged to a chain-link fence in an alley of my small hometown, as the earth shook again. The heaving of the ground is indescribable. I clinged to the shaking fence and watched the building in front of me collapse on my friends. Made of brick and mortar, two stories tall, it simply crumpled in slow motion and crushed those people.

Please don't stop following what's happening in Haiti. It has only begun.

Photo credit: a fugii

Saturday, January 16, 2010


No poem came to mind today. No ideas. Only images, side by side: My warm blankets. People crushed in Haiti. The sound of my laughter. Others' grief.

"'Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'
Again and again we seem to hear God saying this to us.
'Come unto Me' for the solution of every problem, for the overcoming of every temptation, for the calming of every fear, for all our need, physical, mental, or spiritual, but mostly 'come unto Me' for the strength we need to live with peace of mind and the power to be useful and effective."

A thought from the Twenty-Four Hours a Day book.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Zen of Pruning Roses

A dozen rosebushes dot the landscape around my house, and it’s a January ritual to prune them. This is an art form I’m trying to master.

I’m not terribly good at it. The techniques I learned from a book are sound, but my execution needs practice. Every January, I practice.

The idea is to thin the canes to let light in, to promote growth in the direction you desire, to shape the bush in a pleasing way, and to get rid of old wood. Roses are not friendly creatures. It’s bloody work sometimes.

Every cane needs to be considered, every cut thought through. You have to look at canes from different angles, study their health, ponder the “eyes” that will become buds. You can’t be making tomorrow’s grocery list in your mind. You have to concentrate on the rose completely.

At least I do, even after 20 years of pruning roses. Pruning roses is a state of mind. You study the past, envision the future, imagine relationships among the lines of the rose. All of this is done while the plant is resting, for the sake of the future you can only imagine.

You can’t wonder about Haiti while you prune a rose. I have done what I can about the devastation in Haiti. Here’s the link to the Salvation Army’s Haiti efforts.

My old house was wrecked in the Northridge earthquake, and I know what it feels like when the earth heaves. The catastrophe in Haiti is unimaginable.

But this afternoon was a meditation on life. Feelings vanish while pruning roses. It’s about symmetry, and growth, and the promise of spring.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Weeping at Twilight

The Weeping at Twilight

The crying sound drifted through the twilight
some unseen girl, at first boo-hooing
that fake kind of crying children muster
and I, snug in my room, ignored it.
Then the sound became more throaty
more real than fake and it took on
that gasping sobbiness for which
there are no words. I grew disturbed
how it broke the twilight silence
and how old was she anyway,
hiding where in the dark?
Not a child, not by that dusky
sound of human pain.
I stopped what I was doing, got up,
and searched the twilight shrubbery
from my windows. No sign of her.
Then a wrenching howl
and faintly the words help me
reached my open windows.
I remembered then the nights
I sobbed in so much anguish
I cried out to the night help me,
help me
, as if someone might hear
might come down and hold me.
Why did my heart then harden
to the cry of the girl in the twilight?
Perhaps because someone will come,
or someone will not come, and she
will survive this desperation;
she will stop sometime and rest,
and the twilight will swallow
all of this.

weeping girl painting by shruthi, age 11, at saatchi gallery uk

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sex and the Chimichanga

Mr. Cha-Cha’s Chimichangas
I would gladly pay my wages
from the car wash for a week or two
just one more crunchy bite
of Mr. Cha-Cha’s chimichangas
the way he used to make them
down at Venice Beach on Sundays
Even if Anton said they caused the runs
and Pancho claimed he was a perv
Mr. Cha-Cha’s chimichangas
made those Sundays sweeter
than any slammed ’57 Chevy I ever washed

While we stood around his stand
waiting for the hot fat to fry a fresh batch
babes like madonnas in bikinis skated by
skin so smooth you could almost taste it
And we all wanted to taste it
but nobody knew how to get it
except the old man, who would pick
a chick coming at us, her color
no object, and he would give her
that little cha-cha-cha

With that shit-eating smile
and his apron never washed
smeared with chimichanga guts
Mr. Cha-Cha could stop a girl
in her tracks and he’d beg her to try
one of his humble chimichangas
and to tell him what she thought
because those simple boys
were useless, they were so hungry
they would eat dirt and here he winked
at Anton, or Pancho, or me

Whether she fell for him or not
when she skated off and vanished
Mr. Cha-Cha would mutter at us
I gotta do all your work for you
you big bad hefe scaredy cats you
and he’d hand around the fresh hot
chimichangas that burned our tongues

Those afternoons on Venice Beach
were so fine they made your skin shake
Instead of hot female flesh
we plowed into those chimichangas
and they tasted like the sun
baking the beach and sweat
and saucy roller-skating babes

Monday, January 11, 2010

To Know Peace

It is to walk the dog in the morning silence
on the first day of a new year
when diamonds sparkle on the lawns
as we pass by, and I breathe out clouds
small but white with every exhalation.

Overhead jetliners quietly draw
white lines on blue canvas sky
and the air up there is so still
the crosshatched trails linger
in the passage of the silver jets.

The soft winter morning sun
bathes my upturned face
as I trail the dog whose downturned nose
draws wet lines on the sidewalk
on his jaunt to check what has passed
in the night while he slept.

The crow caws, the robin tweets,
the little finches peep peep peep
as the dog canters beneath the trees
bare of leaves but ripe with berries
and I see the birds, salute them, listening
to their morning quest.

You kissed me this morning very early
when you left, the dog and I
curled in bed before the sunrise
and I heard you say I love you
as you moved away. It is always
so, loving, leaving, coming home.
The leashes are invisible, but resolute.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Morning on Fire

"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances."
Martha Washington

This is my mother's 79th birthday. I have thought long and hard about her situation today. She is mostly deaf, severely demented, although she recognizes people and loves the clouds and the sky. She has her lucid moments when she knows her brain has failed her, and sometimes that makes her laugh, and sometimes that makes her angry.

She is my mother. She taught me to sew and to cook. She taught me to put my back into everything that needed doing. She made my first wedding dress. She treated me like a wicked stepchild for much of my young life. My mother is a mix of failure and humanity.

I try to remember that she has an infirmity, that she is not crazy. I try to honor her and treat her with the respect I would want to be treated. I'm glad I'm sober and can be present with her today. Sobriety is the finest gift I can give her.

For the most part she seems content to clip out newspaper bits and write the remains of her signature on scraps of paper, as if she knows she is fading. I find those slips of paper and they make my heart hurt.

We had ten good years together out of 55. We laughed, we talked, we worked side by side. She saved the life of my firstborn child. I have forgiven her everything except her failure to love me when I was a girl and needed the love of my mother. In time I will have mercy on that too.

She is a triumphant, angry, God-loving woman who lost her husband at the age of 53. She taught me to work hard, pay attention to the details, and to drive. She loves her sons, her sister, her long-dead parents, and the memory of the smell of rain in the desert.

I deeply love my mother, and I want her back. I don't want to shepherd her as a four-year-old child. She doesn't know I have become a poet, but she always knew I was gifted and willful.

The greatest joy I can give her are these photos of the red sky this morning. She will be in awe of them. Life is reduced to its most basic level. The heavens call her. Farewell, my dear mother. May you go homeward soon, as you pray you will. God grant you the desires of your heart, my sweet, childlike mother.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

From Trauma to Drama: Butterfly Tacos

A praying mantis snacks
on a little butterfly
holding it like a taco
munching headfirst
and I wonder
should I have shooed
the butterfly away
and let the mantis
go hungry
or was it right
to stand aside
and let sweet nature
show its ugly face
on a yellow daisy
one day in the fall?


This is a Hamlet moment. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have made yon yellow butterfly shuffle off this mortal coil.

What would you have done? Go ahead, sit in judgment of my existential angst.

This is also a Flash 55 Friday. To tell a tale in 55 words, no more, no less (I asked once), post it on your blog and run tell G-Man. It's posted a day late because I lost Friday among my earrings.

I've lost a whole day. I didn't realize it was Friday until my therapist called my cell and said, "Where are you?" I live in discombooberated time. I'm supposed to be the consummate professional writer, but damn, I lost a day. It didn't even hurt.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Daddy Is a Dead Man

The naked branches of the sycamore tree
are your arms, stiff and brutal, swinging at me.

You never wrapped those limbs around me
and pulled me to your trunk, simply holding me.

You stood alone and harsh on the landscape
of my life, implacable and unable to shelter me.

In all the long winter of my youth you stood
with your sticks, whipping me, claiming to love me.

You were my god, stately but diseased within.
You blamed me, and your switch delivered me

From some mysterious sin. I endured my growing
from your roots, until your death released me.


I conducted a difficult interview today. She's the local lady citizen of the year, heralded for her volunteerism and giving back to the community. Usually I warm them up with a few jokes and a quick photo or two and a laugh. I sat there for two hours and left there knowing no more about her than when I left. She wants to give kids a safe place to play while their parents work, but she wants to do it behind the scenes. I can say it in 23 words. How will I every stretch it out to 1,000? Ah, but that's what I do best: ferret out the others, the ones who will say nice things about her and maybe tell a tale of two.

Today's poem is the result of a lifetime in the clutches of someone who didn't have a heart for kids. I am what I am because of his training, and because of the training of a thousand other people who had a heart for a lonely kid. It is a triumphant poem because I did survive and he taught me on that harsh landscape that you make it or you break on your own power. I loved him mightily, and he once held me in his arms when a horse bucked me off. I will be forever grateful. You get back on that horse and you ride until he bucks you off no more. Cheers!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ode to a Plastic Sack

One in a billion
is this sack, my sack,
on this particular day
My white elastic
plastic sack
with loops for hands
held just so
by some all-seeing
eye that sought
the masterpiece
and found it
in a sheer glossy
sheet of petroleum
Oh, versatile bag
I could tie you
to my feet and wear
you like shoes
I could pull you
over my head
like a white helmet
in a rain storm
You could become
extensions of my
hands: I could pick up
dog feces and cat
crap without soiling
my fingers
Though you waft
like a linen curtain
in the breeze
your kind has
a great weight
Eight billion pounds
of plastic sacks
Manevering trash
every year
And you weather
many storms
One thousand years
will pass before
you decompose
far longer than
the United States
of America
will last

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Want Patience Now!

Yesterday morning, I read some posts where people were commenting on the God -given gift of experiencing love and tolerance toward our fellow man, woman, AA member, you name it.

Everyone acknowleges that this is hard but it grows with maturity. As the old-timers say, aging in sobriety has given them a great deal of patience and tolerance. These two important qualities don't drop into our lap at --oh, ninety days--and become part of our spiritual took kit forever.
Yesterday I commented on someone's post: someone who faced as I did, a meeting wherein some folks would drone on and on, never minding anyone else's right to speak. The blogger asked for patience and tolerance to realize that we never know who plants the seed in the alcoholic's head. At the end of the meeting, a newcomer woman stood up, and she said: "I have heard exactly what I needed here this morning, and I'm ready to stay sober today."

That was awesome, and I took that lesson into my women's meeting yesterday morning. We read from the Big Book and then go around the table sharing our comments or our realities. There are about 20 of us in an hour and a half meeting. If we all share briefly, we make it around the table.

I prayed for patience and tolerace as woman after woman talked at length about sobriety. having babies, dealing with using friends, having bad dreams, their ex husbands, their lives as problem drinkers, and on and on it went. Our long-time members were two beacons in the fog, but they didn't say anything about people shortening their talks. The story we had read was "Doctor Bob' nightmare" and I wanted to hear about that, to talk about recovery from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.
But I remembered the girl who stood up somewhere else and said thanks, this will keep me sober today. So I kept my mouth shut when I wanted to slap some people with the book and cry out anything after three minutes is ego!!!!

There were two minutes left for me to speak at the end of the meeting. I have no idea what I said. But I practiced patience and tolerance for and hour and a half, and when it was over, I heard several women say to one another, that's just what I needed to hear.

I have a lot of patience and tolerance to learn. I asked to learn it. Where better to pick it up in the rooms of AA.

The photo here is of my brother and his grandson, learning out to blow blubbles. This is patience and tolerance in action, and I love it!!!!!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Memories of Melmac

I was raised in the heyday of Melmac, when just about every household in America had it in the kitchen. I ate from, washed, dried, and stacked Melmac plates every day of my life for two decades, because those plates were indestructible. They were white with a brown and yellow wheat pattern. I grew to hate those dishes.

Why do I bring up Melmac? Well, melamine, that hard plastic resin, is making a comeback. On Saturday, something possessed me to buy a stack of mixing bowls in rainbow hues.

I lost my grandmother’s glass mixing bowls in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Every breakable dish in the kitchen was hurled on the floor. All my vintage glassware and crockery was in a heap of chips eight inches deep. I went out and bought cheap replacements, including lightweight plastic mixing bowls.

So here it is, 15 years later, and I saw this stack of mixing bowls on a shelf at the store. They are sturdy and colorful. I thought: I’m tired of cheap plastic.

They are made of melamine. So are a lot of dishes on display these days. The bowls have sat on the kitchen counter for two whole days. I am trying to work through a strange reluctance to actually own these mixing bowls, about which I have mixed feelings.

I think it has to do with my memories of Melmac. So I wrote a poem, hoping the Muse would tell me more.

Ode to Melmac Dishes

Oh, my Melmac dinnerware
you trudge through my childhood
like the heavy shoes I wore
(Dr. Scholls, what a bore
but serviceable and virtually
indestructible, designed
for fortitude, not for class)

I grew beside the sinks
of my childhood, washing
Melmac dishes with a rag
listening to my mother nag
about the quality of my work
while my brother kicked back
dishes that didn’t pass

I still can see the brown, the
white and gold wheat pattern
I still can hear the clatter
of Melmac plates and platters
on porcelain-painted iron
smell the soapsuds dripping down
feel the heft of plastic mass

Sometimes I dried instead
of washed, with a muslin towel
stitched by Grammy, killer of fowl
and grower of beans, she
whose presence seemed to rule
who spoke more kindly, far less
meanly, to a troubled lass

All my life the Melmac plates
rested in the cupboard
when they were not being used
To the plastic plates was fused
the growing pain of one
young girl who wished for love
and had her wishes dashed.


It appears that I feel sorry for the lonely little girl who did her chores without much affection from the people around her.

Now, thank God, I've made peace with that troubled childhood. All's well that ends well. And by Sunday night, the new mixing bowls were in the cupboard, ready for a batch of cookies. Maybe this afternoon....