Thursday, February 28, 2008



[This week's Monday Poetry Stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect was to write an apostrophe - a piece that directly addresses an absent person or a thing. Go see what the other folks came up with!]


I don't know how you do it,
how you keep me captive
for hour after eye-crossing hour,
helping me etch that vertical
line in my forehead ever deeper.

I don't know why I let you.
I don't like that line very much,
and I'm not too fond of you either.

I find satisfaction in all
those numbers, lined up
column after tidy column,
with totals and sub-totals.
Wrap a bow around it and
sound the trumpet fanfare!
Ta-da! The spreadsheet is done.

And good riddance, Excel,
until the next time.

Sign Language


[This week Totally Optional Prompts asked us to send a message. This didn't happen today, but it could have.]

Sign Language

The man in front drones on
as I try to keep the frosting
from the coffee cake off
my shirt and I look
across the conference table.

I catch her eye,
point to my lip
and wiggle my finger a little.

She uses a napkin
to wipe her mouth,
then gives me a small nod
and a smile.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Weather Emporium


[This week's prompt at Read Write Poem was to write about weather. See what the other folks came up with here. I wrote this just today and I need to tweak it a bit. I realized that it may not be obvious that I moved away from where I grew up.]

Weather Emporium

We imported our weather from
Colorado, when I was a girl,
watching it head straight for us
across the prairie, determined
to be ours in a day or two.

Now my weather is more
cosmopolitan. Mexico's
Gulf sends rivers of moisture.
Canada drops icy wind on us.
Africa's coast twists together
wild, wet, windy
disasters to unwrap.

And occasionally
we get domestic weather from
Colorado, albeit altered
on its longer trek
across the continent.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My 10


[Back on February 10 I was tagged by ...deb to write a poem that describes myself in 10 stanzas. It took me a while but here it is. ]

Me in Ten

I was Daddy's little pink princess,
dressed perfectly in ruffled lace,
held by my daughterless uncle in a toy store
where passers-by mistook me for a doll
until I moved.

I am a fire sign who has always loved being in water,
even when my lips turned blue
from the cold Cape Cod Atlantic,
and even when I was afraid
to jump off the public pool diving board.
I taught my best friend to swim before we were 10.
At 17 I renewed my Red Cross lifeguard training
while I still had mono:
swim lap, cough-cough-cough, repeat, repeat, repeat.

The first thing I remember cooking is scrambled eggs,
stirring them from the top of a tall stool
because I was not tall enough to see the top of the stove.
I used to wear my father's mother's apron,
a connection to a woman I think I would have liked.

Not even the dictionary at the public library
looked as roughly-used as the one we had at home.
My dad told me to "look it up"
more times than I can count.
The heavy book was good for pressing
lucky four leaf clovers between its pages.

I dug in loose dirt in the park with sticks.
I dug in Daddy's garden with a shovel and hoe.
At breakfast every morning I heard the farm report on the radio.
I have never adjusted to the New England growing season,
but I notice when we are overdue for rain.

I learned about myself by how I was different from Mom,
yet I have so many of her mannerisms!
We both finally left that small town.

Books and music
have always filled my world:
Doctor Seuss and nursery rhymes,
Encyclopedia Brown and Danny Dunn,
Nancy Drew and Isaac Asimov,
Robert Heinlein and Joanna Russ,
Katherine V. Forrest and Douglas Adams,
My Fair Lady and Sound of Music,
Fiddler on the Roof and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass,
The Partridge Family and Billy Joel,
The Sensual Sounds of the Soulful Oboe,
Meg Christian and Cris Williamson,
folk songs, campfire songs, patriotic songs,
choral singing in SSAA, SATB, SSAA, and SATB again

I love to watch flickering flames
licking logs in the grate
hissing and spitting as they
turn wood into heat, smoke and ashes.
My front toasts as my back freezes,
then I turn and let my face cool down
as I try not to set my back on fire.

I have been part of a couple for more than half my life.
We celebrated 25 years together this month.
It was 21 years before we were allowed to be married,
and the IRS still makes me say I'm single.

I get my stubborn from both parents -
a double-dipping.
(My poor wife!)

[I'm not up to coming up with people to tag for this, but if it strikes your fancy, please give it a try and let me know you did it.]

Friday, February 22, 2008

Spicy Chant


[Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect gave us a doozy of a challenge this week in the Monday Poetry Stretch. We were challenged to come up with a rhyming chant (check out the prompt, which includes an imbedeed YouTube of Tom Lehrer's song, "The Elements." Below is my effort, containing most of the spices in my house (and containing only one that I don't have but I really needed for the rhyme!) Check out the other folks' chants too.]

Searching my Spice Rack

Nutmeg and some celery seeds,
turmeric and mustard seeds,
oregano and poppy seeds,
rosemary, basil, sesame seeds.

Cayenne pepper and chili powder,
rubbed sage, allspice, garlic powder,
crushed red pepper, curry powder
ground ginger and cream of tartar.

Dill, black pepper, cinnamon,
cumin, cloves and tarragon,
thyme and pods of cardamom,
paprika, mace and marjoram.

Coriander and salt that's grey,
star anise and caraway,
parsley flakes and leaves of bay,
perhaps vanilla beans today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008



[Read Write Poem asked us to write an ode on a body part (pick a part - any part). This piece isn't close to my heart (!) but it will have to do as a start. Read about other body parts here.]

Paean to Papillae

Without you sweets would not be sweet,
and bitter would be bland.
I need your help for sour treats,
and salty needs your hand.

Of course I speak of papillae,
ten thousand strong or more.
I do not jest - I mean it really -
my taste buds I adore.

And now the fifth of senses that
papillae can convey
to round the tasting far from flat
umami saves the day.

With taste buds I have shared such meals
as you may never know
From cheapest eats to rare ideals
without them - oh, my no!

I can't image eating out
or even eating in
without them - no there is no doubt
I love them like my kin.

We taste together dishes fine,
from first course to the last.
We share a favored glass of wine
of vintage unsurpassed.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

American Sentences from San Francisco


[Brought to you from my almost-over vacation in San Francisco, here are a couple of American sentences.]

I sit and smile in my shirtshleeves as the locals pass by in parkas.

Grey men in dark blue watch from dim corners with slim hopes and cardboard signs.

Friday, February 15, 2008



[The Monday Poetry Stretch over at The Miss Rumphius Effect was to write a metaphor poem. This is my entry for that, and my submission to this week's Totally Optional Prompts (emphasis on optional this week).]


My allergies are thieves,
sneaking up silently
to steal time from my day.

Cigarette smoke is a cat burglar,
avoiding detection by
floating over on the warm breeze.
I don't notice the invasion until later.

Even the flowers are accomplices this week,
disguising their breath-stealing powers
with perfect Valentine shades of red and pink.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

My Winter Gardens


[This is my contribution to Cafe Writing's February Project poetry option. We were asked to write about gardens, as inspired by the poem you can find over there. Go ahead and look - I'll wait.]

My Winter Gardens

My January garden grows shivers,
self-seeding on the frozen wind
until all my neighbors have them too
and no one wants my extras.

My February garden nurtures icicles,
the transparent taproots longer each day,
though I lose a few, now and then,
when the weather gets too warm.

My March garden's bounty is mud,
a slow-starter, first shallow so that
I slip when crossing the yard, but
later deep enough to swallow boots whole.

The Merger


[If you haven't checked out Cafe Writing, I strongly encourage you to pop over there. There are a set of prompts each month - great for those of us who have busy schedules that mean a week goes by too fast! This is for the Pick Three prompt to write something using three (or more) of eight words. I wrote one poem and then I found another in those prompt words, so you get a two'fer.]

The Merger

The freezing rain completed a hostile takeover overnight
and in the process drowned each leaf and stem.

In the morning every twig was encased in sparkling ice,
magnified as if gilded by invisible hands.


I allow myself to be astonished
then time moves me to another state -
as fast as a perfect snow flake melts on my nose

Thursday, February 07, 2008



[Totally Optional Prompts thought perhaps we could create a mystery thriller this week. And I think I did!]


The butler did it! This I know
because the note here told me so,
the scrap of paper held as though
there were no stab wound there below.

At least I think that's what it said.
There was an awful lot of red
smeared around from where he bled
from being beaten 'round the head.

But "butler" makes me shake with fear
because the only people here
are butlers, gathered once a year
to polish skills for this career,

and me, the gal from down the road.
I left for town and then I slowed
and stopped to visit this abode,
returning money that I owed.

At being shown into the den
I entered smiling, first, and then
I see the body, hand with pen.
I hope and pray. I count to ten.

But, no, the body lying there
is dead and now it's my affair
to move from shock and raw despair,
from sudden slap to be aware

and on my toes to find the one
who started this and may have run
or chose to stay and have some fun
in thinking he'd not be undone.

I am not Sherlock Holmes, you know,
nor Marple, nor Hercule Poirot.
I want to run away, although,
perhaps a little quid pro quo

would make up for the prior loan.
For meager friendship I'd atone
by acting quickly. I alone
might bring to light the now-unknown.

I snooped around in fearful dark,
expecting that I had a mark
upon my back where knife would park,
when driven there by maddened shark.

I pulled the note from frozen clutch
with my hands shaking from the touch,
and then I lost my mystery crutch
because I had assumed too much!

I had though "butler" was the word
that on the paper scrawled and blurred
put blame upon the servant herd
and to the killer it referred.

But there amidst the crime-scene clutter,
from the scrap I voiced, with stutter,
that one word I'd thought to utter,
wasn't butler! No! 'Twas "butter".

So it seems the dear departed
had a grocery list just started
when a stranger in had darted,
leading me to plots uncharted.

Absent-minded Limerick


[This was inspired by Mad Kane's Limerick and Haiku prompt of absent-minded and/or memory. Go check out the other ones and give it a try!]

Absent-minded Limerick

I forgot that the front door was latched.
When I looked down my socks were unmatched.
I have to concede,
it's a sad day, indeed.
I am lucky my head is attached!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Market Day for the Poetry Stretch


[I knew what I wanted to write as soon as I saw the photo-prompt at this week's Monday Poetry Stretch. Click over there to see the inspiring picture.]

Market Day

I traded the ram for a lamb.
Next I traded the lamb for a ham.
Then my envy was stirred
when I swear that I heard
the yam say, "I yam what I yam."

Monday, February 04, 2008



[And last, but not least, in my triple-threat response to Read Write Poem's prompt to think about clothing...]


On an average winter day,
I head out in a coat
and my black leather gloves.

The gloves fit me perfectly
now, the thin leather stretched
to just my shape, worn but warm
enough and they feel more
grown-up than yarn or fleece.

Their softness holds echoes
of the dresser drawer that held
Mom's many leather gloves.

They were white and bone, black
and brown, camel and navy.

She had short
ones that barely
reached her wrist.
There were some that kept
her wrists warm, tucking into
the sleeve of her winter coat.
And there were long ones for very special occasions,
like dressing to the nines for a romantic night of dancing.

The ones lined in silk were her favorites.
And they all fit her
like a glove.



[My second response to Read Write Poem's dress up your poetry.]


On the days she wears jeans
and plain knit tops,
She blends in with the guys,
just another worker bee in the hive,
expected to respond to
whatever the queen bees tell her.

But when she wears feminine
slacks and soft shirts, and
shoes you can't dance in,
she blends in with a different crowd
and the queen bees know she is
busy like them.

A New Parka


[Read Write Poem's prompt for us to use clothing to spark our poems sent my thoughts and fingers flying. This is one result.]

A New Parka

I haven't skied in two years,
but that doesn't keep me
from wanting a new parka.

I want to replace the boxy,
red jacket, with the black
trim - the only extra-large
sized one that fit, back
when I was skiing more.

The one that works just fine,
but there is a faint
dark stain on one side,
that I notice every time I wear it,
even though no one else does.

I want a purple jacket, feminine
but not girly. I want it to have
pit zips to keep me cool
as I fly down the hill in style.

I want to walk into a store and try
on dozens of jackets in my size,
discarding those I don't like on
the merits of color and zipper pull shapes.

Instead, I dread
trying on racks of black jackets
in sizes a little too small, or else
in men's sizes that swim in the
wrong places.

But I'm keeping my eyes open
for a purple jacket, feminine
but not girly.

Saturday, February 02, 2008



[When Sunday Scribblings prompted us this week to write about foul I considered writing about on lunchtime at Mad River Glen when we kept getting brief breezes of a foul odor form the next table over. It was body odor unlike any I had smelled before, causing me for the first time to reach for words to describe it: reek, miasma, fetid. That's the one - fetid! But other than that, there was no story, so instead I give you this.]

"Foul him! Foul him!" From where I sat in the bleachers I could clearly see and hear the coach yelling to one of the players on the court. "Come on! Foul him now!"

In basketball there are accidental fouls and there are fouls committed on purpose. The coach wanted a foul to slow down the momentum of the game, to put a halt to the other team's run of scoring.

There's just one problem. Just as a pitch in baseball can only be called a "ball" by the umpire, in basketball a foul is only a foul if one of the officials sees it. The high school boy in home-team white was committing foul after foul, but wasn't getting caught. Finally, he launched himself at the other player, and swung his arms wildly, contacting the other player in a blatant and visible foul. This time, the ref saw and called him on it.

I don't remember the rest of that game but I remember the player telling the rest of us kids later that he had almost run out of ways to try fouling the opponent.

I watched a lot of basketball when I was in high school. I grew up where no matter how athletic the kids were, they tended toward lankiness, with bodies that big football players could snap like a twig. The kids in our town often had some speed and moderate height, so basketball was where our hearts lay.

I can clearly see the high school gymnasium, with its precious wooden floor on which we were not allowed to step unless it was with sneakers that had never stepped on dirt. Except for the teachers who could walk to the middle of the floor in polished loafers. (That always annoyed me, that kids had one set of rules to follow, and the adults had a different set.)

That gymnasium was probably the largest inside space in town; it certainly held more seats than anywhere else I remember. The upper tiers had row after row of red built-in benches and several aisles of steps that we ran up and down in P.E. class or for sports team warm-ups. The metal struts that held up the roof were painted red, and so were the railings along the walk of that upper area.

On the floor level were large doors that pivoted down to reveal folding bleachers that ran the whole length of both sides and along one end. I spent a lot of time in the bleachers at the end. That's where the high school band sat, to play pre-game, and between quarters, and sometimes during longer time-outs. We had a great view of the game but you couldn't take your eye off the action for even a second because if a loose ball came your way, it could do damage to your face (or to your expensive band instrument) before you knew what happened.

I never played basketball, myself, other than messing around in the driveway at home where Daddy put up a hoop for us. That was less than ideal because the driveway, although smooth cement, was both curved and sloped. So shots taken from "uphill" tended to be thrown too hard and shots from "downhill" often fell short. And loose balls had to be stopped quickly because they went directly downhill into the road, right at the intersection.

I was never a great athlete. In fact, I was barely a good athlete, and at some sports I was downright lousy. Team sports were just not my thing, although I gave some of them a try. There were others in my family, however, who were better athletes, and three played basketball.

My older brother was built to be a basketball player, and he did play. His middle name was William and the mother of one of his friends called him "Wilt the Stilt" after Wilt Chamberlain who, at the time, was in the height of his career. One of my uncles had played basketball. He played on the varsity team all four years of high school. And my mother played basketball. Although the basketball she played is nothing like you will see in the WNBA today.

You see, my mom played basketball in the 1940's, when rules for women's basketball were designed to keep it more ladylike, less rough-and-tumble than for the men. Among the things I remember her telling me is that there was no dribbling. And I remember reading that you were not allowed to try to grab the ball from another player. So to move the ball from one place to another, you had to pass it. As I understand it, the pass was often a bounce pass.

Now my mom was not one to take the rules at face value. When she was in school (a public school), girls were not allowed to wear trousers or they would be sent home to change into skirts or dresses. I'm told that she managed to get every single girl to show up one day in trousers. Faced with sending at least half the school population home, the "authorities" gave up.

Mom had played basketball with her brothers and other neighborhood boys, and she played by boys rules. The restrictions of the girls' rules chafed. Being a creative person, she found a loophole. She would bounce the ball in the direction of a teammate, and then, without touching the ball, she would run along side it with arms outstretched, guarding it. It was not technically illegal, but it certainly wasn't a standard technique. People started warning the other teams about her, to "watch out for" her. She didn't let that stop her.

In 1979, the Carter administration issued a "policy interpretation" for Title IX, which resulted in some new opportunities for girls in sports, at least in my town. I remember thinking about Mom and those old-school rules when my high school finally added a girls interscholastic basketball team.

At first the high school administrators were disappointed at the attendance and complained at the expense of hosting games. They were finally convinced to charge admission and sell popcorn and sodas just like at the boys' games. And you know what? When people were asked to pay for the event, attendance picked up. I guess they thought that if we were charging for it, it would be worthwhile. Just like the boys' teams.

Friday, February 01, 2008

After-Dinner Entertainment


I've mentioned that the Midwest town I grew up in was quite small. There were not a lot of choices for going out to dinner, especially if what you wanted was steak, as my parents occasionally did.

The Oak Room was the nicer restaurant connected to the motel at the north end of town not far from the Interstate exit. Not only did they have nice steaks, but they also flew in some nice filet of sole once a week, something that was a real treat for us land-lubbers. Of course, most of the time I went there I was a kid so my brother and I ate hamburgers. They were good too. Of course my favorite part was the spring water. The motel wasn't on town water, they had their own well. And I though it was the best tasting water ever! This is decades ago, back when the idea of selling bottled water would have been laughed off the stage, so to speak.

I liked the way that the waitress/hostess there knew to put us at a table underneath a light, so that my dad wouldn't embarrass us by making a fuss about it being too dark to read the menu. Of course, I don't know why he needed the menu, he and my mom rarely got anything other than steak or the fish special.

But one of the things I liked best about eating there had nothing to do with the meal or even the table. After we had eaten, my brother and I would ask to be excused and we would walk down the hallway. The hall ran from the restaurant to the kitchens, with restrooms part-way down. There was also another hall that branched off to the less-fancy dining room where there was a buffet.

My brother and I were always very careful to stay out of the way of people carrying trays down the hallway. But what we were there for, other than to stretch our legs, was to look at the artwork.

Local artists had works for sale hanging in the hallways, on both sides. Even if the pieces didn't sell, they were still changed out every couple of weeks. I remember looking at nearly everyone and deciding if I liked it or not. And when Mom was finished with her dinner, while Daddy paid the bill, I would show Mom which ones I liked better. One time she even ended up buying one, though I didn't know it at the time. As it turns out, the artist was the mother of our dentist (yes, remember this was a small town) and Mom liked it too. It now hangs in my office at home, although it really isn't my style any more (and sometimes I think I'd like to change the frame). But I digress.

We didn't have any formal art galleries and certainly no art museums in town. We didn't have much public art either, so this was about the only opportunity for us to see artwork without a trip to a bigger town or city.

There was another place we went sometimes. It was downtown - keeping in mind that "downtown" was a single street with a total of maybe 25 businesses along it including the two banks, a shoe store, a few clothing stores, a furniture store, two drugstores, two five-and-dime stores and a couple of jewelry stores. Across the alley from the furniture store, two doors down the other way from the Sears catalog-only (except for appliances) store, was a small bar. There were a couple of booths on the front wall next to the entrance, and then no more than 6 or 8 other tables. The bar was along the back wall of the main room.

I am pretty sure this was another hamburger-type place for my brother and me. But there were two types of extra entertainment here. One was the juke box. We cold play three songs for a quarter. After we ordered, one of our parents would give us a quarter and off we would go to pick out music. Some choices were pre-ordained. We always played "Misty" because Daddy liked that. We always played "Joy to the World" because my brother really liked that one (especially the "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" part because my niece's cat was Jeremiah and he didn't look anything like a bullfrog).

That left one song that we had to agree on from what seemed like a long, long list. I was two-and-a-half years older than my brother and I usually got my way. Especially since he got tired of waiting for me to read through everything on the list. After all, they did change things up a bit and if I we only played one different song each time we went (maybe twice month) it might be I'd miss something. Of course in my pre-teen years, I didn't know most of the songs and few of the artists. We didn't get much radio that wasn't country-and-western, so if these were pop artists, this might have been the only place I could hear then, unless they were on a TV variety show. And now, I don't remember anything we played except those two standbys!

That was the during-dinner amusement. After dinner was also special if a little scary.

The restrooms were way in the back of the restaurant across from the kitchen. To get there, you had to go past the left end of the bar into the back room, around a pool table and past another door to the alley, and finally down a dim, little hallway to the restrooms. I remember dim lights, cracked linoleum, and a lightweight door with a screen-door kind of hinge. I have to think it wasn't dirty, because I don't think my parents would have taken us there. But it was far from new.

And that pool table! At that time I didn't know anyone with a pool table. If no one was playing, and if we promised to stay out of the way of the waitresses bringing food past, we were allowed to "play" pool. We were awful and I don't think we got any better. But we thought we were pretty cool, rubbing those chalk squares against the end of the cues and holding our fingers "just so" for balance. We were careful not to scuff the felt, and we nearly always kept the balls on the table (although I think my brother was so short, it can't have been an easy thing).

If there were people playing pool, we never asked to watch. We might go slow on the way to the restroom, but we were too intimidated being around all those grownups we didn't know.

I guess this was my childhood version of a night on the town.

Friday Fill-Ins 57


Check out other folks' answers at Friday Fill-Ins.

1. Once I was told I looked like Wonder Woman.

2. I hate being sick.

3. Today at work I had no meetings scheduled, but two food-centric events to attend.

4. What's Hello Kitty all about? (no, really, I just don't get it!)

5. If I make a mistake I itch to fix it right away.

6. When I woke up this morning, I thought I needed more sleep - then I did! (oversleeping in the process).

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to being finished with a very busy work week, tomorrow my plans include dinner in the North End and Sunday, I want to do something just for me!