Friday, April 18, 2014

Anything, but

You can do anything
I tell my girl
Corralling my sadness
for another place-time

Who wants to tell
a child she is limited 
by her physiognomy
to a lifetime of
servitude and struggle?

You’ll go far
though in every place she will be
a vessel
for someone else’s idealized interpretation 
of a few scraps
parchment, bound
by tradition into
inescapable expectations 

Looks don’t matter
though breasts will be
the first and last 
of her that some men
Notice. Not
how brilliantly her mind

You are fierce and strong
which of course means
she’s a bitch, though
didja get a look at that ass?

I will protect you
as best I can, but
my needle and thread
cannot mend a
broken dream

Poets of G+ prompt: write a poem in which everything is lies
for National Poetry Month

Event Horizon

Swan dive into the black
(w)hole ineluctable
arms cross-wide out
feet dangling
behind, head
first into electric 

thin at the edges
or the middle - it doesn’t

in a blink

time dilates
without surcease

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Morning

a play in one act, for your amusement

Setting: 5 a.m. Friday. The sun has not yet risen. A cool spring breeze flows gently through my bedroom, where Darling Husband and I sleep to the melody of robin-song.

Smoke Detector 1: Let me sing you the song of my people

Smoke detectors 2-infinity: We will sing with you, brother

I rise and stumble downstairs to listen to the glorious chirping

Unfortunate Puddle: Let me bathe your feet in cold dog urine. All the girls are doing it.

I fumble for the mop and spray bottle and clean a bazillion square feet of wood floor

Unfortunate Puddle: I shall return!

Smoke Detectors (all): Chirpety chirp squeak squeal!

I take matters into hand

Smoke Detector Eleventy: I weep for for your ignorance as you tear me from my hearth and home. SDE screams in mighty agony

All the other smoke detectors wail in disbelief. The children wake and begin to cry. I mercilessly storm through the house, pulling down smoke detectors and gently stacking them for later battery replacement

Smoke Detector The Last: I will sing intermittently and at random, in mourning for my family. You.Will.Not find me.

I spend 20 minutes searching for the last smoke detector and finally find it in the unfinished basement

Me: AHA! Gotchu, fucker!

Unfortunate Puddle: I'm ALLIIIIVVVEEEE! Let me shower your hand and arm with dog urine, filtered through the floorboards above. All the girls are doing it.

I throw the soaked detector in the trash and mop myself with paper towels as I head to the shower

On-Demand Hot Water Heater: Poor girl, let me shower you with delightful hot water. Better?

Me: mmmm.

ODHWH: PRANK! switches instantly to ice water


Alarm Clock: Wakey, wakey rise and shine! Are we ready for another GREAT day?

*The End*

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Break

We are on vacation. Usually we start with simple plans that become distended and unwieldy with nearby opportunities and potential adventures. This time, though, I refused. I declared unscheduled hours not gaps to be filled, but breathing spaces. No add-ons. No supplemental adventures. My husband pounded at my resolve, wheedling with promises of family memories to be made. I stood firm. No racing against an agenda of reservations and schedules. Therefore this year’s journey isn’t an epic story to be told with rueful laughter, but a series of small moments.

I read aloud, alternating between a young adult dystopia and a children’s fantasy about mermaids. For once there are no distractions — we are driving, only driving. I lose track of time and distance. I pause. The children prompt me: more, please. At home they are pulled away by friends and electronics, obligations and activities. Here, now, I have them in their entirety. Though my voice is raw I continue, silently delighted in their attention.

The dog and I walk the perimeter of my parent’s town. There are more birds here than at home. More wildlife. The leash protects hidden deer from the jubilation of a city dog. Bird song rises, pulling crocuses and tulips from the freshening earth. Their gaiety is contagious. It snowed in the night. Normally staid trees — elms, cottonwoods — are dressed in icy finery, dollops of snow on their branches mimicking the coming floral frippery of plums and cherries.

On the final run I abandon my husband to the role of instructor, arcing around the Ski Patrol’s mop-up crew and reveling in a moment’s freedom. After a day of snowplowing and slow, wide turns, it is a relief to head straight down. I’ve stopped fighting my skis. My turns are light and quick and I feel as if I am floating. Only the sound of metal edges scraping across thin patches of snow belies the sensation. I crest and pause, waiting for my son, arching to glimpse the bright jackets of my husband and daughter. I see nothing. The sky has grayed with an impending storm and I cannot distinguish the peak from the clouds. Leftover leaves clatter across the snow. The people have all gone. Columns of aspens rise like smoke, waving in the rising wind. Branches creak without rhythm. Our family is the last down the mountain, which rises massive and icily indifferent. The wind blows. I close my eyes to listen, as if sight hampers my hearing. I come to wonder if there has been an accident and begin to imagine digging the toes of my stiff boots into the snow, carving five hundred steps upward in search of a broken child. Red flashes between the trunks and “They’re coming” breezes back to me from a ski patroller rushing to an end-of-season party. Again I am alone. I dismiss the vestige of responsibility that holds me in place and fling myself down the mountain, catching up to the wind and passing it, flying down, flying alone, flying through the rushing air until I run out of mountain.

The sky darkens red an hour early. Mud drips from dust-sodden clouds, leaving random red-brown circles on sidewalks, roofs, windows. Three years ago the wind picked up sheets of Mongolian soil and dropped them halfway across North America. I walk to the car, draw a line across the window with my finger, and bring it to my mouth, imagining I can taste the colorful geometry of the Gobi desert.

Our supper guests have gone. My mother and I step easily around each other, putting away leftovers, wiping counters. Chores done, I sit at the kitchen counter with my book as my mother sits in an armchair with her crocheting. The dishwasher groans and swishes quietly. Voices drift down from upstairs where my family is working on a puzzle. I turn a page with a papery whisper. Mom counts stitches under her breath. We do not need words to take comfort in each other.

The splashing of fountains and the water slide are so loud I cannot hear their made-up rules. The ball is tossed and thrown with joyous desperation between watery attacks on opponents. I rush between my husband and children, leaping to grasp the beach ball and falling laughing into the water. They wade toward me until I pop up and toss the ball away. My son shakes water from his hair and throws it back — over his sister’s head — right into his father’s arms. We grin and he throws the ball again.

The hike is up and up and up. We walk along a fin of rock six feet wide which falls to sand and scrub below. Sheer walls rise just out of reach to left and right, black varnish pocked with red where weather has taken bites. Farther and higher and we are above the walls, perched atop our slice of sandstone hundreds of feet above the brown gray valley where golden sun pours across the floor, mirroring the clouds above. Rain falls in intermittent curtains, parting and closing to obscure the La Sal range rising at some incalculable distance. Storms dance all around us as we scramble toward the arch at the end of our path. Dry balls of snow fall. Wind paints my arms with cold. Ravens hop and caw, opening their wings like sails in corvid mockery of the earth-bound. When we find the arch my family is underwhelmed. I answer my son’s gripes by saying that the important part was the journey, not the destination. For once the aphorism is not a cliche.

I am layered to inflexibility to fight the chill. Supper is an exercise in creative cookery since one of the stove burners doesn’t work. I slowly remember the rhythm of camp cooking, warming hot dogs in the macaroni water, heating broccoli on the lid. We huddle companionably around the table to eat and savor the last hour of daylight with card games. Somehow, without walls, our family is more intimate. Despite the cold I linger, urging another round, until it is too dark.

I wake, nose icy, huddled in my sleeping bag. I hear cars on a distant highway and gaze at the tent roof, unsure if it is time to wake. Both children have drawn close in their sleep. My son, who treasures his lone bed at home, has his back to mine. I am curled around my daughter, who has snuggled into the curve of my belly. Their warmth soothes me. I close my eyes and wake much later to the dawn.

April Moments

Rain curtains billow
Revealing distant mountains
Dusted with fresh snow

Robins hop green paths
Between clumps of melting ice
Suddenly, crocus

Asparagus stalks
Verdant ditch to dinner plate
Spearing winter’s bite

Spots of bright color
Jackets, hats left by children
shed like autumn leaves

Four linked Haiku about spring. From a prompt in the Poets of G+ community for National Poetry Month

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Indiana maybe. Somewhere
not long before Chicago
we rolled into dark shelter 
behind a growling semi

You slept, contorted
narrow seat pushed
forward to fit kids
behind us: yin/yang somnolence
underneath collected miscellany
and two days worth
of snack wrappers

I sank behind the wheel
into a fretful pause

Short hours later
I slipped from
The leather seat grown
stiff with morning chill
the kinks out of thirty hard
hours driving west

The dogs leaped over waves
of dew-encrusted grasses
swishing wet to the knees
cresting hills fog shrouded
suddenly limned
by the rising sun 
Cattle lowed
in a distant barn

I meandered through the rest-
stop bathroom, coffee shop
then settled back in, captain
of our dreamy prairie schooner
and raced the dawn toward

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sublime to Infernal

The kindergarten class stifled giggles and shuffled their feet as they entered the school office. I could barely see their faces, glowing with excitement, over the desk. Although many had passed through before, this time they were on an official visit. That didn't prevent them from twisting to see the security monitors and artifacts from years past mounted on all four walls, nearly to the 15 foot ceiling. Their teacher called for attention, took a deep breath, and in a jumble their tiny voices followed hers in the first line of We Shall Overcome. Latecomers chimed in a beat behind, accidentally harmonizing with their classmates until the stumbled ahead to the right word. At first earnest, by the second stanza they relaxed and grew louder with confidence. The third stanza was harder. They'd started wiggling and glancing around again, but the adults who had been drawn to the sweet and spontaneous concert were rapturous, the beauty a balm after a frantic morning. I found myself in tears as little black boys and tiny white girls sang shoulder-to-shoulder, a fragment of a dream realized. Our applause was forceful with gratitude, not just for the effort of the children who stood before us, but for the opportunity to cherish that moment.

Hours later that same day, the school completed a monthly fire drill and we moved directly into a lock-down practice. Two of our students were ill and waiting for guardians to collect them. Until then, they were in my care. I shepherded my charges into "safe" spots in the nurse's office and myself huddled under the desk. The school was silent as the principal and assistance principal checked each room, testing to make sure all the students were safely out of sight of any attacker.

I fidgeted, shifting my pretzeled legs awkwardly, picking at my shoelaces, stifling the urge to jabber. The clock ticked mercilessly. I missed my cell phone, sitting on the desk above. Over and over again I thought "I didn't lock the door. I didn't lock the door." and regretted that thoughtlessness that could cost a child's life. The floor outside the door squeaked. I fretted the decision to place one child in a corner, the other behind me. The clock ticked. I mentally reworked our hiding spaces, putting myself in that corner, both children more safely under the desk. Perhaps in a crisis a shooter would focus on me and overlook them. 

The all-clear finally was announced and I awkwardly unwound myself, casually pointing the children back to their cots. I finished up some paperwork, signed the children out when their parents arrived, prepared for the end-of-day rush. Children shouted joyfully at the bell, racing to buses and play dates and after-school activities. I cleaned off my desk and headed home, more aware than ever of the hope our children present, and how very vulnerable they are.