Protected by Copyscape Web Copyright Protection Software

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

House of Sticks

House of Sticks

Lindy has a thing for picking up sticks
wherever she goes—the park, of course,
but also parking lots, surprisingly, with
their flotsam of trash, will sometimes
yield souvenirs of trees, and people’s
front yards where a tree clapped its hands
and threw a twig, and the ocean coughs up
sticks among the kelp, wrecked histories
of trees from foreign lands, stories caught
in their cellulose and they’ll never tell.

Lindy has trampled on sticks, passed
many sticks by with hardly a glance.
She has picked up a stick and then
thrown it away. She has walked
with a stick and then cast it aside,
as if it had finished what it wanted
to say and its mystery was solved.

But some whisper to Lindy and Lindy
picks them up, holds them up to the sky,
turns them this way and that, studying
their curvature or architecture or God
knows what. Maybe she imagines
a skeleton with that bone of the tree.
Whatever they say, whatever they are
is for Lindy alone, her ears and her eyes,
and she won’t explain why if you ask
her, only shrug with indifference
holding on to the stick. And that stick
comes home, joins others in jars,
and Lindy’s house is a tree
of myriad limbs, a Joseph’s coat
of a tree. It must sing like a choir
only Lindy can hear, as branches
grow over the windows and doors,
break through the roof and reach
for the sky.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Argument with God

I’ve decided to tackle God, as the Poetry Bus drives around the world picking up passengers this week, steered by Dana at Bug’s Eye View.

The Bug has offered three good prompts for us. The first is based on Isaiah 1, verse 18, in which God says, “Come. Sit down. Let's argue this out.” Dana wants us to tell about the argument we would have with God. The second one involves “The Hunt for Red October” and Sam Neill’s dream of living in Montana. The third prompt deals with the leafless trees of winter. I present a two-fer this week because I have strong feelings about the first and third prompts (sorry, Sam, you're a nice guy, but ... ).

I imagined that I could put God on trial for allowing the deaths of my father, mother, and older brother’s first wife, my dear friend. What came wasn’t a poem. It was a one-sided courtroom dialog between the plaintiff’s attorney and God, whom we can’t hear, who sits in the witness stand.

God on Trial

The plaintiff calls God Almighty to the witness stand.
Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you … God? ––
Please state your full name for the record. ––
Is Jahveh your first name, or your last name? Adonai, Lord, Elohim, I Am … Which of these is your legal last name? How, sir, shall the court address you? ––
Mr. Jehovah, the complaint filed against you by the plaintiff, Chris A., alleges you acted with reckless disregard and in fact caused the premature deaths of her father, Merle W., killed by cancer of the brain at age 53, and her sister-in-law, Jere W., killed by pancreatic cancer at age 46. In addition she alleges you exercised the same reckless disregard in the affliction of Alzheimer’s dementia upon her mother, Frances W., resulting in her death by same. How do you respond to these allegations? ––
You maintain then, Mr. Jehovah, that “reckless disregard” does not apply, because in your omniscience, not even a sparrow falls to the ground without your knowledge. So is it fair to say that you were aware of their impending deaths but still chose to let them die? ––
In what way, in your view, were their premature and tragic deaths a benefit either to themselves or to the plaintiff? ––
All right, then, we will stipulate that the deaths of Jere W. and Merle W. were not premature, because you in fact planned that their lives would conclude in the manner and at the time they did. We return, however, to the question: Would you care to explain in what way were their deaths, the manner of them, and the timing of them, a benefit either to themselves or to their loved ones? ––
If it is always a benefit to believers when they die and, as you say, go to heaven to live in perpetual joy with you, why then do you not simply let all believers die and go straight to heaven? ––
I beg your pardon, Mr. Jehovah. Question withdrawn. Let us rephrase the issue: Did you, with foreknowledge and intent, deprive the plaintiff of the love and companionship of her family members? ––
With respect, Mr. Jehovah, a simple “yes” or “no” is sufficient. ––
Your honor, would you please instruct the witness to respond directly with a yes or no answer to the question: Did you, or did you not, with foreknowledge and intent, deprive the plaintiff of the love and companionship of her family members? ––
Mr. Jehovah, would you please explain for the edification of the jury what you mean by executive privilege and diplomatic immunity?

As you can see, I didn’t get very far in putting God on trial. Maybe I need to change attorneys … Anyway, here’s a poem about leafless trees, sort of, and God too, since I’m still a little ticked off about his claiming executive privilege in my last outing with him. The funny thing is, I like God a lot and thank him pretty often for being very, very good to me. I guess I’ve had to wrestle with him a bit, and that’s what these two items today are about.

Eye in the Sky

All milk and smoke, the winter sky arcs overhead
rimmed by bare branches of trees

Lie down beneath it
like a hard brown chrysalis
on the dry ground

and look up
Stare at the pearly white eyeball staring back at you
with its branching network of nerves
through which the vision of yourself travels
to the unfathomable resting mind behind the eye

Marvel that you ever bother to cry out
to the God who turns this eye on his creation
and feel the chill of it all
in the tiny chrysalis that is you

(Photo from Wikipedia Commons, God bless 'em.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday, the Sabbath Day

Here is a Flash Black Friday 55, the G-Man Mr. Knowitall’s challenge to write a tale in exactly 55 words. He's taking Thanksgiving off, though, so visit next Friday.

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Honor Black Friday, therefore, as the sacred day of our savior, the credit card. Fix these words in your hearts; teach them to your children when you sit at home or walk along the road. Write them above your doorframes: Go forth and multiply your sacred debt.

My daughter, for a lark, went to Target at 3:45 a.m. this Black Friday morning, and the lines of people stretched 20-deep for a half-mile. The store opened at 4 a.m., and she says it took 20 minutes for all those people to file in the door. What did she buy? I asked. DVDs and shampoo, she said. Flannel pants and flannel shirts. She doesn’t have a credit card, just a debit card, so she can’t spend what she doesn’t have.

She was in and out in half an hour, she said, even though there was a line of people halfway around the store’s main aisles waiting to check out. People just stopped and stood behind the last person they saw standing in a line, even though all the check stands beyond that first one were open and empty. So she just kept walking, past the humongous line, past empty registers, until she came to the last register and bought her things. Say Amen, somebody.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Enough Is Enough

Enough: as much as is needed.

I poked fun at Walt Whitman the other day for being, um, excessively excessive. But then I ran across this bit of his, and it struck me as a perfect example of a thankful heart:

"I have perceive’d that to be with those I like

is enough.

To stop in company with the rest at evening

is enough.

To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh,

is enough."

May your Thanksgiving be blessed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bountiful Poverty

You know you live in a small town when the front-page news includes an announcement that Bob's Big Boy is coming to downtown. Don't know what a Bob's Big Boy is? It's a coffee-shop chain that considers itself an art form, using words like "dramatic," "striking," and even "breathtaking" to describe its architecture, which looks like this:

Its diner fare includes the "vintage" double-decker Big Boy burger, along with fried chicken, fried fish, fried steak, and the "classic" chili spaghetti. I can't wait to try that one.

Chili beans used to be a staple in my family's diet, not because of our ethnic background (my dad was from Oklahoma and my mom was from a Norwegian farm family), but because we were poor. In 1966, my parents had suddenly uprooted our family of five and plunked us down in a dinky travel trailer behind a little market on the edge of some sand dunes in the Mojave desert. They had no savings, but Dad had found a job in his trade that was just enough to support us.

We'd left almost all our belongings behind in our old home town. We three kids slept in sleeping bags. For entertainment we had a transistor radio and a deck of cards to fill the evenings with family games of gin rummy. A couple of times a month, a library bookmobile parked beside the little market. Mom's older brother and his family lived down the road, so a couple of times a week all 13 of us gathered there to watch TV. On Sundays we'd all hop into my uncle's World War II Army surplus Jeeps, with my cousins on little motorbikes, and we'd go out in the desert, "boondocking" as my uncle called it, exploring canyons, abandoned mines, traces of old homesteads, and searching for wildflowers in the spring.

Dried pinto beans were cheap and Mom bought them in bulk. She cooked big pots of them, sometimes just plain pintos and onions, and other times with chili and a little ground beef added. We ate many meals of beans with homemade white bread and fresh oranges for dessert. We hadn't had a stay-at-home mom in a long time and not a lot of homemade bread either, so it seemed like a treat. The fresh oranges were wonderful too.

Today I'm thankful for a child's spirit that saw, not the poverty, but the small pleasures that arose from it, and for my parents' ability to make do with what resources they had, even making it all seem bountiful and adventurous. There might have been times I felt deprived, having no privacy, having to adjust to the strange new desert world, but what I remember is goodness.

And the memories make me smile: discovering the desert in bloom, listening to the new band called The Monkees on the evening radio, the taste of butter melting on warm fresh bread, the joy of getting white go-go boots ... even hearing my father use the word "shit" for the first time, when he gathered the three of us kids to announce we were driving our mother crazy, and we were to stop it immediately if we didn't want her to leave us.

"If she says 'shit,'" he told us at the end of his speech, "you say, 'Where and how much?'" That was frightening and funny at the same time. One of us, I don't remember who, actually said that to her the next time she said "Shit!" and got back-handed for the literal interpretation of Dad's edict. But it became a legendary family joke, and I'm grateful for a child's sense of humor in what might have been a scary adult situation. The look on my father's face, when he was called to account for his child's smart-aleck behavior, was priceless.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Poet as Superhero

This was my view today.

The Poetry Bus is enchanted this week, with my request that riders write about some aspect of their lives. On a wild hair, I tweeted Walt Whitman, dead poet famous for self-observation, and asked him to ride with us. He’s the superhero of poets who write about their lives on earth, the epic poet who heals the sick and conducts the universe too.
First he wanted to read all 1,347 lines of “Song of Myself.” No no no. Just a soup├žon, hold it down.
So here he is, the veritable Superman of Self:

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you ....
I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new-washed babe .... and am not contained between my hat and boots.”

Nice, Walt. That’s enough out of you.

Walt would be totally jazzed by the idea of American astronauts tweeting hither and yon and playing “Name That Land Mass” from space now that they have internet access. (Hey, how far exactly into space does the Web go?)

Thinking about stuff like this was what kept me from writing the poem I wanted to write today: “A Day in the Life of an Unknown Poet.” I know it sounds riveting but I just couldn’t do it. I can’t tell you how many times my mind buzzed off like a little blown-up balloon released from a kid’s fingers. Pffftttttt.

Look! The California Coastal Commission told L.A. that no one, not even that great sprawling asshole of a city, has the right to close access to California beaches even at night, like the city has always done. Pffftttttt.

Look at this crap about the global economy, currency valuations, portents of trade wars! Why did this U.S. Fed head announce on the eve of an international conference that Hey! the U.S. is going to fart around with its currency valuation and blow $600 billion into the national economy? Was that wise timing? Pffftttttt.

Oh, cholera in Haiti! and the U.N. peacekeeping crew from Nepal pretty much caught with their pants down. Now, that is real shitty. What a world. Pffftttttt.

Look! A gopher has taken up residence at our rental house next door, dining off apples and hollyhocks, lovely for him, double crap for me, who will now have to spend days hunting him down. Gophers aren’t allowed in my personal space. It’s a fight to the death. Pffftttttt.

Oh, and by the way, check out that madly growing morning-glory vine on the side of the rental house. Holy shit, it’s invading the kitchen!!!! Coming out through the kitchen cupboards and behind the refrigerator like a horror film. Double-double crap! Tendrils of tenacious, malicious morning-glory vine disappearing under the foundation of the house… This looks seriously bad. Pffftttttt.

Now it’s raining, lovely rain, pattering perkily on the glass roof of my office. Just another day in the life of an unknown poet.

Here are the wonderful poets riding the Poetry Bus today, as we tour the world and celebrate ourselves:

Rachel Fox

120 Socks

The Bug

Jeanne Iris

Dave King


Titus McKay

Carolina Linthead

Emerging Writer



Peter Goulding



The man himself: TFE


The Watercats



Dick Jones

And here is my Poetry Bus ticket, based on something that happened earlier this month: unzipping a box given to me by my mom, and unearthing almost 50 years of photographs.


The woman—
who refuses her gray hair with a blond rinse
—is not aged.

In her lives the young girl laughing in 1963,
before Jackie, John’s wife, and that bloody pink suit.
In her is the teen with solemn eyes. Alive and well in her
is the young woman in black robes and mortarboard,
smiling wide with a degree of joy she earned herself.
In her, the bride with wide hopes.
In her, the wide mother with child.

A parade of photographs marches around the bed,
playing the hymn of her middle-aged life. This gift
from her mother, zipped in a box, captures the roots
that ground her today in the earth of herself.

The passage of time has smoothed her rough edges,
leaving behind tracks of the years in her eyes.
You are a crone now, says her masseuse, kneading
the network of aches that lives in her shoulders.
You are the wisewoman who has found the answers
she sought. Lord knows where the diploma is.
That marriage is over, but the hopes remain.

The woman—
who has grown strong and weathered many storms
—still dances.
She hears the music of the seasons
and she raises her arms high above her golden head.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Lasting Impact on Humanity

Awakening on the anniversary of her entrance
into the world, surprised to find herself
still here, and still aging, Chris searched her past
thoughtfully for some lasting contribution
she might have made to mankind. Finally
it blossomed, her pearl of wisdom:

If you want the straight poop, go to the business end of the cow.

(I believe I created this pearl myself. I don't think anyone thought of it before me. So it's my gift to the great anals of human wisdom, right up there with "I came, I saw, I conquered" and "It ain't over till the fat lady sings."

It's Flash 55 Friday. Visit the Host with the Most, Mr. Knowitall Himself! for more blockbuster statements in human history, in 55 little words

(I didn't take this silly photo, and I don't know who did)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Alive and Glad of It

Me at the dawn of my life (on the right) with big head and older brother.

My birthday looms on Friday. November 19 has always been a favored day, a day of celebration for me, when I expect nice things to happen. I like the fact that I’m alive on this planet.

I am better now than when I was 15. I’m better now than when I was 36. I’m just better now than I was, because I am becoming that which I could be. One of my mottos has been Friedrich Nietzsche’s statement, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

This is me when my secret life included sexual abuse. Can you see it on my face? Remember what Nietzsche said? I surpassed it.

And this is me clowning with my mother on college graduation day, having earned my BA. They gave me a great gift, my parents. I was the first in three generations to graduate from college.

This week I provide the prompt for the world-famous Poetry Bus, created by the world’s most famous blogger, Totalfeckineejit. For bus tickets this week, I have decided to require…

Poems that address your existence on this earth. Good, bad, or indifferent, tell us something, anything, about your life here.

Come back Saturday or Sunday to tell me if you want to ride the Bus I drive this week. I’ll do the linkies starting then.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Got Any Money in the Bank?

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, and today is money in the bank.”
Red W., AA oldtimer

I sobered up in a dingy AA clubhouse in the Los Angeles area 20 years ago. I showed up in my designer high heels, with my $100 haircut and boutique clothes, straight from work in my publishing house, right before the 6 p.m. meetings started so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. I found a seat at the acres of long folding tables, metal chairs, and metal ashtrays and waited, staring into the middle distance with an eff-off lift of my chin.

I sort of liked the grimy place. It was a broad open space with a podium and a battered metal desk on a small stage at the head of the room. Hung on the “off-white” walls were signs in inexpert calligraphy announcing profundities like “First Things First” and “Easy Does It.” It was far better than the first hole-in-wall AA meeting place I had stumbled into, which had been the size of a bathtub stuffed full of bikers and gray-skinned heroin addicts who scared me.

I made $65,000 a year editing a fitness magazine for a world-famous bodybuilding firm. From a small-town girl, I had made myself a denizen of LA’s sophisticated side. I was 36 years old. On Saturdays, for fun, I spun around the LA freeways in my new little car with a bottle of Stoly’s and the windows down. Now I drank vodka in the morning before work, and I drank all day long, all night, weekends, everywhere, all the time, and I was ready to try AA.

In those meetings at that clubhouse, someone would get up, sit at the desk at the head of the room, and talk about alcoholism for a while, telling his story. A long-haired musician from Detroit. An aging make-up artist from the film industry. Some guy from PG&E. Then he’d pick people to go up to the podium to say a few words. The things people said were honest and searching and I could relate. I drank coffee and listened. Came back four evenings a week and on Saturday mornings at 9.

One evening the Mo-town musician looked down the tables and pointed his finger at me. I went to the podium and looked at all those people. I didn’t know shit from Shinola and words stuck in my throat. So I dropped the defenses and just told them the truth. I’m new. I drink all the time. I need help.

After the meeting a bossy, expensive little woman told me to come with her. She led me across the room to a corner table, to a white-haired elderly lady in heavy make-up surrounded by other women. “This is Helen,” she said. “You need a sponsor.” Helen told me that from now on I was to sit at her table with her “gals.”

Everything changed.

Eight years later I stood next to her bed while she died of pneumonia. Twenty years later I stood next to my mother while she died of pneumonia. I’ve been able to part of the human race. I’m not afraid of life or the dying that goes with it.

Every morning I get this day right here. Today is money in the bank. I don’t have to solve all the problems in the world. I get to do my best with what faces me now, be kind to the people who come across my path, and try to remember to say thanks somewhere along the day, the more often, the better.

Monday, November 15, 2010

No Butts, No Glory

This is a cruel photo.

I've attempted to reduce the damage by cropping the territory on the right side. Still, this is an example of what I was going on about yesterday. (The photo I was taking is the fourth one down on my sidebar.)

I wrote "No Guts, No Glory" (below) yesterday morning, but I wanted you to see it today if you hadn't already read my existential study of butts and that strange poem. Such courage! Such curiosity!

This morning, things are different in this blogger's life. I'm crashing. The steroid treatment has wound down. I slept for 10 hours. My lungs haven't come clean, they aren't sparkling new, I'm screwing them daily because I will not stop smoking. (Take a breathing treatment, Chris, and have a little ciggie after.) When I know the right thing to do and I choose not to do it, I give myself a crapload of inner conflict. Please don't give me advice.

But it's a gorgeous day in my neighborhood, and I'm hitting an AA meeting, and where there's life, there's hope.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No Guts, No Glory

After five hours of sleep, I was talking to my beagle in bed this morning.

Why do I bend over so much? I asked him. I’m always bending over, pulling weeds, looking at stuff, showing the world my broadest aspect.
I know this because the family is always taking photos of me doing this. I pay them not to publish them.
Is it my nature, my physique, trauma suffered in Mrs. Philbrick’s second-grade class? I asked the dog. The dog didn’t know.
And why do I always bend over with my butt to the world? I’ve tried facing the world, but then some kind of gravitational force swivels that big beam right back where it was.
My dog was useless as an analyst. Remind me not to pay his bill.

Writing assignments were wrapped at 2:30 this morning. On steroids this week, I was a hummingbird on crack. Everything was terribly interesting, especially details, like constructing a sentence. I rewrote sentences like a maniac!
Put the clause here, no, put the predicate there, wait, it saves three words if I put the subject this other way …. Where’s that note I made? Hey, check out the world economic summit and learn about currency manipulation. Look at that! Some lady in London clears out her late sister’s house, takes an old vase out of a closet, and some guy in Asia buys it for $83 million! What a world!

So I sweat blood to earn my 15 cents per word. Kept hammering at it, struggling with it, missed my deadline, didn’t give up. I want to do good work. I want to touch people. I want to be proud of myself.

I’m a recovering alcoholic and I finally got my hands on Life’s Little Instruction Book, that book of secrets that tells me how to navigate my way through my messy world. AA’s 12-step program, mixing spirituality, realism, and laughter, has completely transformed my attitude and my abilities.

It hasn’t stopped me from turning my butt to the world, though. Maybe tomorrow.

Speaking of butts, it’s time to wave my ticket to ride the world’s greatest Poetry Bus, touring the planet now. The poet Karen of Keeping Secrets is driving, and she wants us to talk about turning points. I could talk about turning my butt around, but I won’t. Enjoy the tour, starting here.

The Assault of the Lungs

The Lungs were not my neighbors or members
of my social milieu. They played no role in the world
of my memories, of deserts, woods, oceans, or Alps
or child molestation or the death of my father.
They taught me no courses, paid me no wages,
did not attend my weddings or my lover’s quarrels,
sent no cards at Christmas or bills in July. They never
set foot in my home, never asked for a handout or a
donation, never played a role in anyone’s jokes. It was odd
how they burst into my life like an FBI raid, throwing me
to the floor and cuffing my hands.

I felt as you would naturally feel, finding yourself
prone on the floor under the barrel of a gun
pressed into your back, when you had simply restocked
the toilet tissue in the bath and expected no harm.
What? and what? your astonished mind asks
in spite of college degrees, an intriguing career
and regularly reading The Smithsonian. What?
Then someone bends over your ear and whispers.
Maybe they wear a pantyhose mask. Maybe their hair
is coiffed and their suit cost a fortune. What do you know
with your nose in the carpet? They whisper your name.
They accuse you of crimes, and all of the crimes
are ordinary acts, the sum of events in your daily routine.

You stare at the threads of the carpet and wonder
what the hell? in dull disbelief, gasping for breath
amid dog hair and dust because vacuuming fell so far
down the list. The accusation goes on like a litany
of sins: against who? Against you? The poor in the
world? The whispery voice says you’re paying
“for this” and they haven’t decided if you’ll live
or you’ll die. “Who are you?” you croak and at last
they announce they’re the Lungs and you’ve known them
all of your life. You’ve screwed them all of your life.

They left, unaccountably, slamming the door, with me
on the carpet. I felt as you naturally would, breathless
with fear, powerless too. Where was my cell phone?
Do I call the police? They hurt me, those Lungs. I cried
like a baby, a rictus of wailing plastered on my face.
An ambulance then, if I could get my hands free.
Thank God for husbands who pop in the door all hearty
and hale, trailing their tools, but able at last to adjust
to surprise at finding their wives laid out on the floor.
To the hospital we flew from the assault by the Lungs.
I’m home now, and frightened, breathing in dread
the Lungs will appear and exact their revenge.
They’ve scarred me for life but left me alive. What
do I do now? I wonder, and watch the front door.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This Is Me on Steroids

The treatment for my pneumonia requires that I take steroids along with antibiotics and inhalers. I seem to have a lot of energy, and I am in a really good mood. Here’s what I do on steroids:

Write a 2,500-word brief for a law professor that a) details the civil-rights violations of hospitalized Alzheimer victims, and b) advocates enforcement of state and federal self-determination laws by imposing punitive measures against medical facilities for violations. Compile copies of the pertinent regulations, rejoice that the guy is interested, and send the package off.

Indulge in an act of shoe repair to mend my favorite slippers.

Cross-examine an old friend, via email, who has retired to a sailboat in Mexico and fallen in love. Quiz him at length about her, the circumstances, and the emotional/philosophical conditions of falling in love with a stranger.

Make yet another attempt to concentrate on my overdue writing assignment about local charity programs during the holiday season.

Wander in the garden with the pruning shears, investigating the whereabouts of two praying mantises that live in the dahlias.

Query the family corporate attorney about the legal interpretation of certain provisions in my parents’ trust, comparing the instructions to the actual intentions of my parents.

Stand in the middle of my sunroom office and whirl my arms in big circles because it feels great.

Have AA meetings on the phone with sober friends. Explore big issues like spirituality in marriage, how to pursue a goal, and the best way to treat a sore throat.

Cope with a bedtime panic attack, afraid I’ll stop breathing in my sleep. Wake my husband to warn him of my impending death and remind him where I keep all our essential papers. Ask him to stay awake and keep me breathing. Forgive him when he chuckles and goes back to sleep.

Make a little autumn bouquet and ride into town with a friend to put it on my mother’s new headstone, taking a photo to send to out-of-town family.

Stay on top of respiratory treatments and medications. Check for improvement with my new lung-exercise toy.

Eat a gloriously crisp Braeburn apple. Then grab a few Cheetos for nutritional balance.

Tackle that overdue writing assignment again. Try to write a lead paragraph. When that fails, take the beagle for a walk. Ponder my upcoming 56th birthday. Laugh at the falling leaves. Thank God for my life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Pleasure Flash

I woke this morning to one of the best rock songs ever: Grace Slick belting out Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” ... hearing that powerful woman howl: REMEMBER!!! WHAT THE DOORMOUSE SAID!!! FEED YOUR HEAD!!! FEED YOUR HEAD!!!

And I jumped up out of bed feeling like a million bucks, wanting to write a happy poem, loving my coffee, loving my life. So great to be alive when people are singing and my feet feel like dancing!

Go forth and be grateful! Feed your head!
(Here's "White Rabbit" on Youtube)

The Puss’s Tale

My dainty white socks and tidy white bib
jazz up my plain tabby soul, and I fly
from the floor to the sky, to the table and lap
pleasured with morsels and spine-thrilling hands.
I’m queen of a world so intriguing and fine
that even my eyes and my whiskers must dance.

Can you tell a story in exactly 55 words? That's the G-Man's Flash Friday challenge. Check out other tales here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Eleventh Hour

My father, during the Korean War

Veteran's Day, eleventh month, eleventh day. Men and women fight many kinds of wars, and survive or die.

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 dark 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?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Today's Peculiar News

Thanks to my garden for a bouquet in November.

So between breathing treatments for pneumonia, I found these snapshots of life on our planet in today’s newspaper:

Two gargantuan bubbles have been discovered erupting in the center of our Milky Way galaxy, NASA scientists say. With the energy of 100,000 supernova explosions, the bubbles might be a “belch” from the black hole known to be at the center of the Milky Way. “Wow,” said one astrophysicist.

The world’s whales seem to be suffering from severe sunburn, indicates a study out of the Gulf of California, and the thinning ozone layer might be the cause. Whales spend lots of time on the ocean’s surface, said a study author, and they can’t put on clothes or sunglasses to protect themselves from ultraviolet radiation.

A little more of Pompeii crumbled on Saturday with the collapse of the gladiator barracks. Surviving the explosion of Vesuvius 2,000 years ago, the ancient city struggles with modern life. Said an Italian spokesman, “We’re tired of commenting on the continual collapses and damage to the archaeological heritage of our country.”

Regarding the worst oil spill in U.S. history, former BP chief Tony Hayward told the BBC this week, “What was going on was some extraordinary engineering. But when it was played out in the full glare of the media, of course, it looked like a lot of fumbling and incompetence.”

Creative cuisine: On today’s menu for the powerless Carnival cruise ship adrift off Mexico following an engine fire, a head-to-head chef cook-off might make something fabulous of the U.S. Navy food supplies ferried to the ship’s 4,500 passengers: Pop Tarts, crab meat, croissants, and Spam.

Finally, today’s quote: “It is a stupidity second to none, to busy oneself with the correction of the world.” (Moliere)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Damn the Leaf Blower

I left for the hospital on an ordinary day. I have returned to extraordinary autumn scenery. But the damn leaf blower has just begun howling in my yard. I was peaceful. Now I am mad. Leave my leaves alone!!!!! I holler this in my head only. The leaf-blowing fool would not take kindly to my criticism. So I write to him a poem full of wrath. He will never see this. Ha! It feels so good.

You May Not Have All of Me

Luscious red berries wait for the cedar waxwings
to swoop down and gobble them up
to strip the branches bare of berries
like I wait for you to swoop down and gulp
me up like a lukewarm latte, not delicious
perhaps but finished off, the cup stripped bare

Yellow sycamore leaves fall like a congregation
of large butterflies fluttering from the sky
one after another tumbling down in its last dance
before landing on the grass in final rest
The lawn wears a yellow blanket of leaves
and I wait for you to tire of them, to roar
your several engines designed to suck up
dead butterflies because you cannot stand the mess

The red berries are safe from you bushwhacker,
waiting for the cedar waxwings who are late
this year, because the fence protects the shrubs
from your finishing touch, your need for order
and finality. I love you but the wild things
tumbling in my heart cry out against you,
you finisher of things blind to butterflies

You take me lukewarm and swallow the last
drop, not to waste a moment or a latte,
tolerant of my imperfections, loving me
despite the wild things making messes
in our house, our yard, my private places
I wait for you to tire of me as surely you must
when your desire for order overcomes your lust
for the red berries in my heart, untouchable
beyond the fence and safe until the waxwings

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Exciting Hospital Adventure

Hello, all! I've had such an adventure in the hospital the past few days. It is lovely to be home today, enjoying the colors of fall as a storm passes over.

I had difficulties breathing late last week in an encore of the pneumonia I got the evening of my mother's funeral service in August. When all else fails and you're fighting to get air into your lungs, you become willing to do things you have never done before, such as wear pink lycra hot pants or go to a hospital. I've not ever been in a medical hospital. I never did hot pants either.

My ER doctor was a cute little lady named something like Dr. Platinum Blonde, only her real last name had to do with red hair and her first name was the pleasant spice commonly used in baking cinnamon rolls. I'm not kidding you. My ER nurse was a gorgeous girl named Courtney. I wanted to take her home and stare at her for days. I swear, they hire people for ER work who please the eyes while your body is in torture, because of it is good for your health.

So Dr. "Blonde" (insert something about redhead) says to me, I seem to have a case of congestive heart failure and acute pneumonia, with wild white cells and rampant inflammation. It's very interesting, she says, because I do not present as a usual case of congestive heart failure. I found this interesting as well.

They offered me a common anti-anxiety drug to help dispel the anxiety I exhibited upon hearing of my apparent impending death. I thanked them but no thank you, as I happen to be clean and sober, and we clean and sober types face congestive heart failure and large aggressive dogs with prayer and meditation.

So they popped me into the hospital and I didn't even have a chance to put on earrings or do my hair, let alone grab my laptop to record this special event. I'd been rather weepy and my eyes puffed up like marshmallows. The hospital gown did my zoftig shape no favors so I quickly went back to my sweats and they didn't fire me for it.

It was an exciting few days. They pulled me back from the brink of heart failure and stabilized the pneumonia. An x-ray tech came in my room with the bedside apparatus and said he was there to "do" my legs. "But I don't have legs," I said. He actually looked. The nurses and all were quite funny once I cracked a joke and turned down the pain meds. Paula the aide with menopause and an exotic accent ran around saying, "I am a HOT WOMAN today!"

I wrote what I thought might be my final poem, based on an emailed photograph of a distant family member that I received on Thursday last week. Here is what might have been my swan song:

To a Woman I Don't Know

My cousin the photographer
says you look like someone
we should know and he smirks
the knowing question: Who?
Your cheeks must mean something
after all -- I can't think
your bland smile is important
and anything could have happened
in those blue eyes.
When the Nazis had a party
they looked like you
with nothing to hide
except the unfathomable secrets
in their coffee every morning.

Well, nice not to have that be my swan song. I think I'll be sleeping and breathing exercises for a few more days, not to mention it is once again a deadline for my writing assignments. "Hello," I shall say in my new breathy voice, "I wonder if you might comment on the state of affairs at the food bank this Christmas. Hold on while I do a quick breathing exercise and then we shall have a proper interview, shall we?"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Love in the Sand

The Theme Thursday prompt today is two cupped hands holding a heart-shaped handful of sand. I'm having one of those days (and one of those nights) when I want to say something, communicate, whatever, but words fail me. So I'll say something about love and sand. More skillful interpretations of the theme will be found on the Theme Thursday blog.

Love on the Shore

We wandered through the garden of the seashore
through the long brown ribbons of kelp
the seaweed strands like purple spaghetti
the seaweed fans like white bones
the stones cast like confetti on the sand.

The tide ebbed and the surf supped on the land.
The lowering sun spilled a broad silver stain
on the surface of the sea so bright our eyes
could not bear it. We walked the wide brown
pathway of hard sand, following the footsteps

of someone who had gone before us down this
deserted, rocky stretch of coast. A woman
I said, in shoes with pointed toes and stacked heels.
No, you said, a cowboy with small feet in boots
and a long, cowboy stride. They vanished round

a bend guarded, like Scylla and Charybdis,
by giant boulders carved of sand turned to stone
by the millennia. There we came upon a dead
body, a seal carcass hidden among the kelp,
with vultures dining sedately like red-faced guests

around a table. It seemed as much a part
of the haven of the shore as driftwood and
shells, travelers all from some other port and
long dead, caressed by the sea and tossed up
as treasures on the sand for visitors like us to find.

We held hands and wandered on. I carved
I love you at the edge of ebbing waves, sure
that it would last until the tide turns and
erases the garden to begin all over again.
My love for you is not a stranger to the tides.

We climbed the bluffs and stood looking out to
sea like garden angels watching over our little
bit of heaven. We joined the other vanished ones,
leaving only footprints on the sand, and proof
that I love you until the tide turns.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dreams Go Up in Smoke

For this reformed pot-smoking, pill-popping, booze-swilling child of the Sixties, it's a little disappointing that voters in the progressive state of California just said no to legalizing marijuana in yesterday's election. All I say for myself is: It would have been interesting.

Californians also nixed the notion of being governed by the very rich Lady eBay mogul, even if she does come with one of the biggest piggy banks in the world. Over a hundred million bucks later, it looks like her dreams went up in smoke.

My home state apparently prefers the aging former governor famous for once being the boyfriend of a pop star. Any connection to stardom plucks at the heart-strings of the average joe.

But enough politics already. It's going to be 90 degrees today, with clear blue skies. I've got a date with the outdoors to bring some order to the weary ones you'll meet in this poem:

At Least the Red Geraniums Behaved

Shame on the dahlias.
Their stalks, at the autumn equinox,
should be tall and green,
thick with offshoots
blooming like crazy.

Instead they stand in a motley row,
stalks of desiccated leaves
brown as bacon. Just because
they weren’t tended and fed
is no excuse for their poor behavior.
The gardener was busy
tending dying mothers,
fending off bitter brothers,
defending the defenseless
from injustice inflicted
on an entire nation
by the federal effing government.
Couldn’t the dahlias fend for themselves
for one stupid summer?

It looks like an army
with a scorched-earth vengeance
blew through the garden.
Maybe the dahlias are empathetic
mirrors of the gardener’s
scorched-earth soul,
but the tumbling geraniums
never surrendered;
they cheerfully endured
and their bright red laughter
keeps the gardener alive.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's a Thrilling Day

I live in California, where citizens like being governed by movie actors. Today is Election Day, and we’re stretching our wings a little. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger becomes the Terminator of his own term in office today, and voters will replace him with one of two thrilling choices:

1) an aging former governor famous for being the boyfriend of an aging pop star, OR
2) the lady head honcho of eBay who has bid $120 bazillion dollars from her piggy bank to buy the governorship and who has never been inspired to cast a vote in her whole life.

It’s going to be an interesting day, and not just because of the duel between the old boyfriend of singer Linda Ronstadt and the voting virgin who wants to put California on eBay.

California voters also decide today whether or not to create a boatload of new tax revenue—money our impoverished state could really use—by legalizing marijuana “for personal use.” Pot would be legal just like alcohol. People older than 21 could grow it, possess it, and sell it in individual quantities (however much that might be), and the state would tax the transactions.

That would be a remarkable move by the state of California, because growing, smoking, and selling dope still would be illegal in United States of America. The local cops wouldn’t bust Uncle Bobby or Grandma G, but the FBI could raid the house, haul everyone off to jail, and give poor Grandma an icky room in Sing-Sing prison.

So today is one of those wonderful days when something surprising might happen. I must toddle off now to the voting booths. Tune in later for the much-anticipated results.