Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thoughts on Getting Published

For VMI and the rest of the writers in my life:

I read the words you wrote and thought, "more people need to read this." It's the highest compliment and the most cliched conundrum. If poetry is written and only two people hear it fall on the page, is it still important?

When I spoke of you tonight, you weren't there so you couldn't hear me. Some of you are miles and miles away, and some of you live around the corner. Some of you are dead. But were my words about you untrue or unreal? Didn't they exist, like fireworks, alive for those few vibrant seconds before they faded into the night sky?

I know that when I decided to be better I didn't even hear myself. Doesn't mean I wasn't exploding in big reds and greens against the big black backdrop. It doesn't mean it wasn't loud or didn't happen.

Maybe Heaven for us will be one big script reading. Perhaps then we'll get the feedback and validation that all these rockets require. Or maybe we'll just be dead and someone will stumble upon our words and nod knowingly. Or at least use them as kindling to light some fuse or maybe just wipe their ass.

Either way, I'm happy we're all matching up these thoughts with words and grateful for the moments we take it a step further and make art. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that's what keeps this big hot ball going.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Standing on my friends' deck, late at night and out in the country, I could hear the wind before I felt it whipping around my body. The noise in the distance, not quite distinguishable, but foreboding, on its way. I wrapped my long sweater around my short body and cocked my head to hear what was in store for us all.

When the wind came, it was loud. I heard it come up through the untouched woods, breathing hard. As if wind could be a team and they were rounding the corner of tonight. So strong and low, I braced myself for the inevitable.

And before I knew it, it was gone. It just roared by me, not stopping for answers or peace or even a cup of tea. It took some leaves and scared a few small animals and then it was gone. I guess it was then when I realized that I was not even a rest stop in its quest.

I don't know what scared me more--the ferocity of a force blown by or the indifference it showed when it was blowing through. Ultimately I guess I find comfort in strong winds that blow by without blowing me over.

I guess.

It was a race, I think. It was collective and scary and whole. It sweated and groaned and bent branches. Its exertion and determination were inspiring and I clapped when it blew by.

But I was not the finish line and maybe that's what made it so disconcerting. It was going everywhere and would finish nowhere. But I happily applauded when it crossed my path, matching its intensity with a hearty "Bravo," as I thanked it for kissing my cheek on its way through. Because this is no mad dash.

This is a marathon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hard Rain

Last night, coming home from a girlfriend’s house, the proverbial skies opened up. I laughed as I walked down the street, an unopened umbrella hanging from my wrist.

“Seriously?” I yelled at the sky.

“Seriously,” she answered.

And with every cold drop that hit my face, I smiled a little wider. Because seriously? This is what it feels like when our hearts love a little harder? This is what it feels like when we finally get honest with ourselves and our souls? I thought it would be warmer. I thought I’d use my umbrella.

Remember when we transplanted all those plants last year? You taught me how to firmly grasp each root ball so as to save the center of it all. How to gently massage them, letting them know we were quietly waking them up, moving them to bigger and better places to unfurl. It’s a delicate process. When the rains came last night, they watered all those seeds I planted a long time ago. I didn’t know it would rain that hard. I didn’t know how it hurts to grow.

Last night’s rain took the last of the remaining leaves from the tree outside my bedroom window. This morning I woke to bare branches and missed the amazing yellow I’ve been so blessed to wake to for the last few weeks.

But I know that come next spring, green tips will push their way out of dark soil, strong and sure of themselves, regardless of how far they are from where they came. And they will breathe in the scent of a love well learned and they will bask in the glow of a heart well worn. And we will scatter our seeds again and again and again. Because we are perennial. And we are loved.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Clown: A short short story

He thrived on impossible situations. Especially those of the love variety.

If there were a clear cut path to Mecca, he would blithely pass it by in favor of an overgrown artery just off to the side. Forging through the bramble, fighting burrs and bees, he would soldier on to the beat of his very own drummer. His heart thumps steady but slowly into the dark and cloudy night.

Rain soaked, lantern out, he makes his trek, despite the moon taking a well-deserved night off. She’s had a rough week at the diner, constantly attending to the needs of townies demanding recognition. She can see him but he can’t see her. She’s laughing at him, high above the insulation of her stormy ether. He laughs too, albeit unaware.

There are moments when the tempest lets up and the gales die down. He doesn’t take the opportunity to rest because he knows that these are the times when he can put down his pack and run.

Possessing nothing more, he is light and wet. His feet make squishy sounds as they slap through muddy earth. He’s lost his shoes but that just makes him move faster, toes making contact with the soft terrain, heels digging in to maintain his foothold. The rhythm of this run is redeeming him.

Out of breath, he slows. There are no obstacles in his path, but night is black and the moon is still laughing. Mysteriously, impossibly, he hears her. She didn’t mean for it to happen, but one of her giggles hitched a ride on a soft breeze and he’s caught wind of her revelry. She makes herself be quiet even though now it’s probably too late.

He doesn’t know what to think but knows he must keep moving. So he divorces why from what and keeps on. There are levels of knowing, and it doesn’t bother him that he is just on the second floor. If there is a penthouse, it exists regardless of whether or not he finds it.

The moon is getting sleepy and she really should just go to bed. It’s hard to take her eyes off his expedition, but time doesn’t really take requests. She has no choice but to tuck herself in and turn on the television, which will eventually give way to light.

The television stretches its beefy arms and its clumsy fingers wipe crud from its eyes. Its not all there yet, so it puts on a rerun.

Our journeyman senses the reoccurring of dawn and hurries his gait. As daybreak arrives, he notices that he is not on a virgin path per se, but rather that road less traveled. There is evidence of previous adventurers. One even left a thermos.

The sky lightens and he realizes he is nearing the end of this groove. In fact, there is a clearing up ahead and sounds of civilization are calling to him. His calves are spattered with drying dirt and he wonders what they will think of him when he finally stops to rest.

He has nothing to offer so he will have to take before he can give. Lucky for him, the cacophony of sound in the clearing is a large and mighty circus. Fearless acrobats and bearded ladies beckon to him and he goes to them.

He is welcomed unconditionally. Music wakes him up and freedom is served in hot steaming mugs.

“How was your trip?” asks the ringmaster.

Our journeyman pauses and thinks. “It was mine.”

“Welcome,” says the ringmaster. “We’ve been waiting for you and we’re happy you’re here.”

So our journeyman decides to become a clown because of his unusually large feet. He figures that at the very least, he will have an easy time finding new shoes.

A few days into his new life as a clown, he realizes that he is incredibly content and supported, but there is something that he misses. He looks around, but he is alone. Television beams bright and he stares at its screen.


He doesn’t quite know this, but he is missing the sound of the moon. He longs to hear her chortle, her cackle and her banter. She’s been busy serving slop. He walked away from her, but it’s he who feels abandoned. She’s just been trying to make ends meet.

The ringmaster pops his head up from the bamboo shoots and startles our journeyman.

“Don’t fret my young charlatan. Everyone misses her. But she visits at night. She checks in on you when you are sleeping. While soaking her feet in a salt bath, she counts her tips and sends you blessings.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dear Me,

If I knew what to write, I would right it. If I could, I would tell you how I've replayed the tape and identified all the instances where I went wrong. And once I'd found them, I'd want someone to judge them. Is there at tribunal? Because if there was one, I would prostrate myself before it and ask for its forgiveness.

How long do I have to be sorry for squandering you?

I read somewhere that when someone's wounded, the first order of business is to stop the bleeding. So I found a tourniquet for you. I can't be sorry for that.

But what's next, exactly? Explain to me, please, how I go about finding an experienced surgeon to suture up the holes when there's this big fleshy scar in his way? Who do I tell all the details to? Who do I direct how to save you? Who judges you now when I've deemed everyone else unworthy?

My mom explained how white knights are always in demand but she's pretty sure we don't need one anymore. She said it in a nice way, and I agreed.

I just wish I could tell you how I went wrong and why. I would make it all better for you and I would save us. And if I couldn't do that, I would tell you to forgive me and give us clearance to begin again. But you'd have to mean it, because I'm running out of patience. Aren't you?


Monday, October 19, 2009

The Whip-poor-will

Will I?
Will you?
Will power.
Will it all away.
Will it wither without will?
Will we weather this too?
Will we whittle it down to nothing?

Will we wade on
wondering what we we do?

Will we wait until the
wailing's through?

Will we wax before we wane?

Will we give it what it takes?

Would we want to?

Would I?

Would you?



Wednesday, October 14, 2009


For W.O. and everyone who came before and after him.

You used to ride a Harley. You rode a Harley when we met. You wanted a Harley when we met. You worked on Harleys. You wanted a Ducati. You bought a CBR because you liked to ride fast. You think motorcycles are stupid but your tattoos and everything else about you tells a different story.

I wear a size medium motorcycle helmet. The salesman was surprised. "But you're so little," he protested, because it didn't make any sense to him. "I have a big head because I have a big brain," I explained. I'm not sure he understood.

We rode fast and then we rode slow. Mostly we rode hard and then we crashed. When you think about it, we didn't really have a choice. It was get on or get off, so we got it on. And then we got off.

Looking back on all of you, I laugh at myself. I am nothing if not predictable. I miss each of you. I miss all of those opportunities to score some leather pants. Each and every single one.

When you contacted me the other night, it had been over a decade since we had last taken a ride. I am glad to be reminded of the person I've always been. I am glad my last name rhymes with a brand of hard liquor. I am glad you found me because it made me remember and find myself again.

I ride slower now. I think harder. I am less dangerous and less raw. Upcoming turns are not so scary so I don't need to take them so fast. I've accumulated the requisite amount of gravel beneath my skin. I call them scrapes now. Just like you did.

I hope you are all riding fast and hard and then I hope you get to ride slow too. I hope you all hang up your helmet at the end of the day and thank the entities who need to be thanked for the opportunity to ride another day.

And then I hope you wake up and do it all over again because our roads are long. Because each day presents an opportunity for our memories to imprint some hard tracks in soft asphalt. And because it always feels so fast and so good.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Sitting at the impressive dining room table, enjoying my breakfast, I could not put my finger on what it was that felt so good. There was the cross breeze that played catch with itself from one screen slider to another and the harmonious banter of sisters who have known each other too long. But also, in the background of a crisp bite of apple was the sound of sea hitting shore.

Up close, it's a violent sound. Nature's drumbeat hits hard upon soft sand, relentlessly letting us know we are too small for this world. Build what you will, it will not stand in the wake of these ancient tides.

But from my vantage point, a half mile away, eating my apple, I am comforted by the sounds of currents bigger than me.

A few years ago I was at my lowest so I turned to a good friend and told him, "I am not ok." And he said, "Let's grab a six pack and go for a ride."

I let him drive and we wound up atop a tightly winding section of road that ran along the Delaware River, featured in many a BMW commercial. We got out of the car and set down our beer on a precarious piece of a precipice before dangling our feet over the barrier that separated us from the steep stony cliffs of a crazy river bluff to watch the sun start its beatific descent.

"You know," I said, "Not many people would bring someone as suicidal as I am to the top of a mountain with booze. Just saying."

He shrugged like he wasn't worried at all and started to explain how many years of river it took to create a gorge so deep. I listened and tried to imagine how long it would take for a single drop of water to cut through a mountain.

Nothing in my life seemed so hard. Grave can't compete with gravity.

And so I continue to be humbled by the big things that make me feel so small. I finished my apple, put my plate in the dishwasher and stepped out on the deck and cocked my ear to the ocean.

I asked it big questions and got no answers. But still, tonight, I hear that steady crashing, telling me I am small, asking me to be bigger.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Indian Summer

We wheeled my dad to the beach today. Because we are taking our summer vacation in October we were able to score one of those big homes, adjacent to the shore. So it wasn't a far trip- a smooth ride in the wheel chair across a paved parking lot. Then a fairly straight but bumpy boardwalk until we had to tackle the first set of stairs. Mom helped Dad to stand up, grasped his hand and slowly led him up a steady ascent. The sun is strong here but because it is October it is not too hot. My diffusely pregnant sister took the beach chairs and I clumsily heaved a heavy metal wheel chair up twenty seven stairs. We all paused and took a rest at the top of the dunes. Splayed out before us was the majestic view of the Atlantic ocean, a delicious sea breeze, and a second set of twenty seven stairs that led down to some empty white sand.

If I were to tell you about a Native American man right now, you would think I was taking creative license with this story, you would roll your eyes and not believe me. So I'll simply say that we met a Native American man at our resting place and he was resting too. He explained that he had health problems and that he tried every day to get to the beach, but most days he had to rest here, at the top of the dunes. He said that he tried every day, and some days he made it all the way and others he just stopped and enjoyed the view.

I'm sure my mom and dad smiled and said something polite. My sister was already way ahead of us and I just kept going with my father's metal wheelchair. Eventually we all made it down and settled into our first beautiful day on the beach.

Because it was October, we were able to sit and enjoy the sun for much longer than we could in July. And, yes, the Native American man made it down the second set of twenty seven steps, walked past us and we nodded our collective hello.

"I'm so happy he made it," said my mom.

And we all murmured agreement.

I'm so happy we made it. I'm so happy we made it to this beach. That we can carry heavy things, shoulder our familial burdens and make friends with Native American men. I'm so grateful for this October sun, powerful enough to color my skin, kind enough to give my family a gentle reprieve to sit and watch the tide come in. Thankful for all those who offer us help along the way and inspired by the humor we bring to it all. Some days we make it all the way. And we always enjoy the view.

Friday, October 2, 2009


These days I come home and do a crossword puzzle every night. It's important that I finish today's puzzle because tomorrow's answers are always just around the corner. It gives me great satisfaction each morning to pick up the paper and peruse my last night's predicaments. Mostly I get it right, proud of my ability to tease out the rara avis that can be tonight's only right answer. But I'm more astounded by the rows and columns I've made fit in the wrong way. It's amazing that I've picked out the exact number of letters to form words that fit with other words, creating a whole block of right answers to the wrong questions. Isn't that always the way?

Most nights I watch Jeopardy. I don't form my answers in the form of a question and I don't use a buzzer. This makes me faster than the other players, smug when I get it right, dismissive of the very question when I get it wrong. Who would know that? Not me. Not anyone.

I turn off Wheel of Fortune now. They just put the answer out there, uncovering it one letter at a time. There is no challenge in slowly revealing one trite phrase after another. It's a waste of time and makes me die a slower death. It is an insult to the very concept of the wheel of fortune.

Then I usually cook a little dinner. Depending on how committed I am to bettering myself, I will either pair something high in protein with a leafy green vegetable or a bottle of wine with a take out menu.

In the mood for betting, I'll check out the neighborhood poker game. I haven't taken the whole pot just yet, but I play even-handed, waiting for my moment, winning over the sweet local boys with my smile and my new earrings and lip gloss. I rarely bluff. It's just not in the cards right now.

Occasionally I'll make something clean, or whet someone's palette. Once in a while I'll take out the garbage. To make room for more, of course.

All this is to say that things are still for me right now. But that's to be expected. One must hold the thing still to bore a hole in it. I am ready to be boring my way through tonight's puzzle to tomorrow's answer, today's seed to tomorrow's root, from today's tonight to tomorrow's morning.

I salute all of us being still and boring our holes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Her Thing

She was carrying her thing. Which made it cumbersome when he reached his hand out and said, "nice to see you again" because her hands were full. She bobbled a bit, because her thing was heavy and she didn't want set it down without care.

Not just to take his hand. She'd learned too much to do that.

So she teetered her thing on the edge of her hip, juggled the notion of full disclosure, and chose thinly veiled sharing instead. Maybe he was taken aback or put off. But she had little time for gratuitous prepositions, so she juggled her thing and managed to say hello, and if he was looking for anything more than that....well, then he would have to wait until she was just a little bit more balanced.

She said, "you don't even know me."

So he said, "Nice to meet you."

And she said, "Welcome to my blog."