Thursday, October 29, 2009

Circus Siren


Read Write Poem gave us a picture (go check it out) of rides in motion at a fair or carnival or circus and this is what I came up with. See what other folks had to say.

Circus Siren

The circus came to town just once,
bringing tents and rides,
and more excitement than one
girl could contain.

We went, of course, everyone went.
The grass near the school was transformed.
I ate pink cotton candy off a paper stick and
I remember a large snake in the side show.

Half-way up the tiered seats in the tent
we watched horses, and acrobats,
and clowns and dogs, and
I ate salty peanuts from a paper bag.
The ringmaster in his colorful suit
announce more acrobats
that spun in the air and walked
impossibly thin ropes above our heads
and I couldn't hardly believe it
was finally over.

Then we headed to the rides,
large metal arms spun in all directions,
blinking their siren lights at us and
teasing us closer. I was tall enough
and boarded with so much excitement
I must have been vibrating.

The giant beast slowly woke from hibernation
and crept in a circle, then it whirled
faster and faster, until
all at once the inner section started spinning
too and my stomach spun in a different
direction and my hands desperately
gripped the bar with white knuckles
and my eyes wouldn't focus and my family
asked the attendant to stop the ride,
and he didn't and I was whirling and
green and unconnected.
And the ride finally slowed and stopped.

I tripped a bit as my feet reacquainted
themselves with an unmoving ground,
and my stomach kept spinning and I
threw up into a trash barrel.

I lost the cotton candy and my excitement,
and prayed no one I knew had noticed.
The tinny music sounded sad
and the bright lights no longer called to me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Bars


Go see what other poets contributed to the Totally Optional Prompt: Laundry. As for me, I didn't write anything about laundry and am sharing something completely different.

The Bars

We went to the bars.
We went to the bars, but not to drink.

We went out of our way to get to the bars,
squeezing too many into a car, or hopping from bus to train to bus.
We paid the cover charge or the membership fee,
and squeezed into the dark, loud, crowded spaces.

The bars smelled like beer and clove cigarettes and patchouli.
They were always too warm, even if you found
a winter breeze from a side door, propped open a little.
There were too many bodies there, moving bodies.

We went to the bars to dance.
We went to the bars to dance with each other,
without men to hit on us.
Some woman was always trying to impress the DJs,
with a song request calculated to prove
superior knowledge of the latest releases, or
a dance move practiced to look casual-but-sexy.

We held hands at the bar,
in the open. And we danced.
We danced close to one another.
Our bodies moved in rhythm to the music and each other.
Our hands and hips talked even when it was too noisy for conversation.

We went to the bars to play pool.
There was more space to breathe by the pool tables
but you had to pay attention and move out of the way
as the players tried to out-butch each other
in their efforts to impress someone special.

We could sometimes nab a just-vacated seat near the windows,
out of the way and cozy, a good place to sit close, lean in close;
a good place to kiss and be kissed.

We went to the bars to hear live music.
We listened to singers on the tiny first-floor stage:
a woman playing an acoustic guitar with heart-on-her-sleeve political lyrics;
two women with love songs about women;
or a baby-dyke with a rock edge.
We crowded at the tiny tables and watched,
some drooling at the guitars, more at the singers.

We stood in line at the bars to get in.
We stood in line at the bars to order drinks.
We stood in line at the bars to go to pee,
a long line on the basement stairs to rooms
marked "Women" and "Men,"
not caring which was which because we used them both,
as if we owned the place.

We went to the bars because that's where the women were.
Women like us.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Not Sorry


I haven't been writing any poetry I can share, so I tried a different approach. This is a work in progress, but I think I like where its going. Check out what others have to share at the Monday Poetry Train Revisited.

I'm Not Sorry

I thank the summer
for the heat that makes me sweat
and wilts the houseplants.
I perversely appreciate the high humidity
that brings mold on the wind,
into my nose,
making me sniffle and sneeze,
and my eyes water.
I bless the dry spells
that make the crispy weeds crunch
beneath my feet
and fill the air and my mouth with dust.
It is unapologetically summer
and no Back-to-School / Halloween / Christmas
sale in the stores
will convince me otherwise.
I dream of wading
barefoot along the dappled edge
of the creek,
hat off and sunburned,
and I show up late for work
with no remorse.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins 136


Don't forget to check out the Friday Fill-Ins from other folks.

1. Reading a ba-jillion books on vacation is my favorite summertime indulgence.

2. My favorite John Hughes movie is Some Kind of Wonderful.

3. Silk is something I love to touch.

4. The full moon truly seems to have brought out the crazy in people this month - especially those behind the wheel of their cars.

5. I'm late for work right now.

6. When daylight fades this time of year, the mosquitoes start looking for me -- specifically me.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to the end of my first week back at work from vacation, tomorrow my plans include helping Chelle wash her kayak and both our cars, and Sunday I want to figure out how to fill our refrigerator again!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

2009 Books So Far


I can't believe it is August and I haven't posted about the books I've read so far this year. Granted the year got off to a slow start, and I have been posting them in the sidebar on the right, but it is high time I filled you in.

Brain Plague by Joan Slonczewski
feminist S/F and fantasy
I have really enjoyed each of the books by Slonczewski that I have read starting with A Door Into Ocean (which won a Campbell Award in 1987). But I can't leave my brain behind when I read her books, no I have to have it engaged or I'm left in the dust. Not that I mind. Brain Plague tackles the not-all-all-small question of what lives are worth saving. An artist adopts a colony of microbes that set up residence in her brain. She can communicate with them, and they with her. Each gains from the partnership. But where are the lines? What are the responsibilities, to each other, or to society? Are the microbes even safe or should they be removed as a disease-causing virus would be? You can read this one alone, but you'll know more about the background of the world if you have already read A Door Into Ocean, Daughter of Elysium, and The Children Star. But I wouldn't line them up to read all in a row. I like to let one percolate for a while before diving into the next one.

The Postman (Il Postino) by Antonio Skármeta
fiction, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver
I kept hearing how wonderful this book was and I never picked it up. I finally gave in and loved it. It is the story of Mario, a young man in pre-Pinochet Chile who happens into a job as a postman with a very particular job: his job is to deliver the mail to the famous poet Pablo Neruda. He gets the job because he has a bicycle. Mario is a dreamer, a lover of movies, who thinks if he can get Neruda to autograph one of his books of poetry, then he can use it to impress the girls. And somehow we get carried away with Mario learning about metaphor and about the lovely Beatriz, and about a country's upheaval.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Book 7 in the series
Chelle and I read the whole series to each other out loud. It took us forever because we have too many other distractions. But this was a very satisfying end to the series. I am content.

Delights & Shadows by Ted Kooser
I know I must have heard the name Ted Kooser more than once, but it never sank in. Then I happened across him reading some of his own work on YouTube and I was hooked. I bought this book and enjoyed it immensely. I like his language and the pictures he paints. My favorite is probably "Skater", where his description turns just as the graceful skater herself. But even his titles charm me: "A Jar of Buttons", "Depression Glass", "Applesauce", and "Bank Fishing for Bluegills." Each is something I've seen or done, but Kooser looks at things a little differently and I see more by looking through his visions.

The High King's Tomb by Kristen Britain
fantasy, 3rd in the series
This book, a long one, is about sorting things out. The first two were quite chaotic in their pace, leaving broken people and a pile of messes behind. This one deals with a now-adult Karigan and her companions gathering up the pieces and laying groundwork of repairs, perhaps alliances, and hopefully a plan to protect the kingdom against a deferred threat.

The Exile and the Sorcerer by Jane Fletcher
fantasy, first of a series
This one kept popping up on the "recommended for you" list at Amazon and I finally decided to try the first one. Imagine an isolated chain of islands where young girls must drink a nasty potion when they are growing up, the result of which is that they are all super-strong. The society this makes is the flip-side of misogynistic. But the heroine doesn't fit in, fearful she'll be stoned by her family and clan if they ever find out she only has romantic feelings for women. She ends up pledging to find and retrieve a magic chalice, a task she knows she'll never complete, but which allows her to leave with her dignity, and that of her family, intact. She finds her way to the mainland where she can make a living on her strength, but has oh-so-much-more to learn. A bit of action, some romance, some mystery - I was entertained enough I bought the next two books in the series.

The Black Ship by Diana Pharaoh Francis
fantasy, a novel of Crosspointe
The first book in this series, The Cipher, gave me some fits. I wasn't sure if the fast-paced ending was worth the slog at the beginning. I decided that I'd give the sequel a try. This one starts out with another character entirely, a ship captain with attitude that only gets him in trouble. The pace on this was better, and before long, there is a swirling in of characters from the previous story, enough that I wanted to know more. I'll be back when the next one is available.

Dervish Daughter by Sheri S. Tepper
I picked this up at a book sale at the local library and recognized it as a part of a series, one of which I'd read years ago. Unfortunately, I seem to be reading the series backwards, which means that I'm still a bit confused. I read Jinian Star-Eye which I believe is book 3. This one is book 2. That means I still need to find Jinian Footseer which I think is book 1. To complicate this even more, I believe these together may be just one of a trilogy of triologies. I may never sort the story out entirely! These are good stories, and I think the characters are alright. But these are not on the level with the newer books by Tepper (such as Grass or Shadow's End or a Plague of Angels).

Fiddler's Green by Ernest Gann
This book turned up at my house when my wife mistakenly ordered it, thinking it was something else. It didn't cost much and so wasn't worth the postage to return it. I needed something to read one day and picked it up, thinking I'd be so bored after a few pages that it would go straight to the pile of books to give away. I don't read a lot of books by men, and I don't read a lot of books with so few women characters. This book was first published in the 1950's and it is set in San Francisco, along Fisherman's Wharf, and in the sea nearby. The book spells out the story from a number of viewpoints, a crook with ambitions, a detective who wants more, an immigrant fisherman who can't understand his American-born son, the son who is embarrassed by his immigrant father, the waterfront bum who can't remember beyond his last (or next) drink, and more. What I found most interesting is the inner dialog each of the male characters has. Most of the time, there is a thread of competition, of comparing oneself to the others, measuring your standing, or protecting it. I started to wonder if that is how most men do run their lives? Or was this just a theme in this book? Was it true in 1950's San Francisco? An interesting read.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher
fantasy, Book One of the Dresden Files
My older brother told me I'd like the Dresden Files TV show on the SciFi channel a while back. He had some of the episodes on DVD when we were both visiting my Mom and played a couple for me. I liked them well enough, but kept thinking I should probably just read the books. I picked up the first one and I definitely like it better than the TV series. Harry Dresden is a wizard, the only one listed in the Chicago phone book. In this first book, he has a very bad week (give or take). I'm hooked.

Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris
the first Lily Bard Mystery
I have read most of Harris' vampire series with Sookie Stackhouse, so I was wondering if I would like this series or not. Lily Bard is in hiding (from her past) and picked the town of Shakespeare because of it's name (and hers) - sort of a "why not?" kind of thing. She cleans people's houses and apartments, and does some other odd jobs for folks, so she sees and hears a lot. This book opens when she can't sleep, goes for a walk to clear her head, and finds a body dumped in her own neighborhood. She ends up trying to help solve the murder without people looking too deeply into her own past (which she wants to keep in the past). We do find out what her past was (let me warn you it is grisly and disturbing) and we see that Lily is just starting to arrive at a point where she can let people back into her life.

Idaho Code by Joan Opyr
lesbian fiction
If you are going to read this around other people, you may have to warn them ahead of time that there will be either giggles, or snorts, or other outbursts from you. Why? Let's see... the book opens with Bil, an on-the-rebound baby dyke (now living back at home with her parents to whom she has not told she is a lesbian) sitting in church next to her mother at a funeral. They are sitting directly behind the widow and daughter of the deceased when Bil's mother's cell phone rings, her mother answers it, and proceeds to carry on a short-but-loud conversation with Bil's brother, Sam, who has been arrested (again) and needs to be bailed out before his chemo session the next day. Springing Sam may not be so easy because he might have killed the funeral's honoree. Oh, yeah, and Bil has had a crush on the widow's daughter since she was in elementary school. Can't forget the old flame who arrives in town to help fight the anti-gay bill up for a state vote. Throw in Bil's best friend, a drag queen who lives at his mom's place, which happens to be a kind of lesbian-survivalist camp with guns and softball. Quite a wild ride, with lots of chuckles.

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre
fantasy or S/F
Another find from the book sale, this is an older piece by McIntyre. A good story, though the main character was a little too "oh-woe-is-me" for a while, but fortunately came up with a plan to help dig herself out of trouble. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it has some interesting underpinnings of thought on how people might live long, long, long, long after nuclear bombs poison large swaths of the world. But the focus is not on that, but on a story of a young woman's quest and the people she encounters along the way. It leaves some questions unanswered, but many in a way that invite you to think about what might be.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
children's fiction (junior-high age)
A story about a girl who doesn't fit in and the strengths she discovers in herself. A nice story that isn't too frilly. Set in a well-rounded environment, it all makes sense and the people are largely believable to me.

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews
a Kate Daniels Novel
Kate Daniels is back and in deep doo-doo as usual. There are a lot of returning characters, with developing storylines. Some new foes appear, and some new facets to those friends. A lot of fighting and some sizzling verbal sparring between Kate and her would-be-suitor. Along the way, we are treated to some more of Kate's mysterious history, and why she is so driven and paranoid. I had to stay up late to finish this one.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins 133


Check out the other Friday Fill-Ins!

1. Ice cream and almonds make a quick and easy dinner (not healthy, but you didn't ask about that!)

2. Bon Appetit is the book (ok magazine) that I'm reading right now. (I'm saving the books for vacation - keep reading.)

3. July brings back memories of sitting on the hand-crank ice cream maker while bigger relatives turned it as it got stiff toward the end.

4. My inattentiveness as a sign that I'm ready for vacation this week was obvious.

5. They say if you tell your dreams you'll remember them (maybe?)

6. I try to compose difficult e-mail messages outside of my mail program, just in case, to give me time to think it over.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to having the laundry and dishes done,
tomorrow my plans include packing, packing, and a long car ride, and Sunday I want to drink chai on the screen porch of the vacation place.

In case you didn't catch on, I'll be on vacation for a couple of weeks. No internet for me until August.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Midsummer in Oz


Read Write Poem gave us a picture to spark our imagination this week. It reminded me of something and then I started playing around with that idea and this is what I'm still playing with. I don't think it is in its final form, but for now it amuses me and I'm happy to be playing with words that seem to be cooperating for a change!

The picture is here

Midsummer in Oz

Call me Jack Bottom,
ridgey didge grandson of my great-
grandfather, Nick.
Many times great- and so am I!

Family stories say he could do any-
thing better, weave faster,
roar louder, be more like a wall
than the wall itself.

I don't weave cloth, just
web pages full of advice for
politicians, businessmen,
footballers, and jackaroos.

They'd all do well to lis-
ten to me. Jack-of-all-trades,
that's me, though I see myself
more in a supervisory role.

Now last night I was vis-
iting out in woop woop, with the sky wide
open in all around me, and I stopped
in a pub before heading to dreamland.

Robbo, he said to call
him, and a good fellow he seemed,
listening to my suggestions
for hours on end.

I planned to sleep under
the stars and he cuffed me lightly
on the head as he left, and next thing
you know I heard people screaming.

"Bunyip!" they bellowed, and
they pointed at me and ran. I thought
I'd had too many tallies and headed
for my blankets.

I woke this morning with a hang-
over and a fuzzy head and I wonder
if those stories about Gramps
Bottom were true.

So I'll sit here a while, and spin
my next column, about the best way to keep
fleas away, and if Robbo comes by I'll see
if he will join me for a cold one at the bar.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Horoscope words words words


Totally Options Prompts encouraged us to think "horoscopes" for poetry this week. I dove in and looked up my horoscope for Wednesday on nearly a dozen different websites. I didn't know what I was going to do with all of them, but I then thought about putting them in a Wordle.

So a cut-and-paste later, I had a massive Worldle that was too hard to read. So then I used one of the Wordle tools to restrict the number of words and got something that I thought might inspire me.

But now I find it too distracting all in itself. I trace words around and around. And so I decided that sharing this word-picture will be my contribution this week. Enjoy, and let me know if you find a poem in it!

(click on the image to see it bigger)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Still Cloudy


It's been gray and cloudy and rainy here for so many days on end that I feel like I'm growing mold in my mind. That influenced where I went with the abecedarian poem I wrote for Tricia's Monday Poetry Stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect. With so much water in the air around me, I had to put a bit of ebb and flow into the alphabetic effect.

Still Cloudy

Charcoal clouds crowd the sky,
covering blue and carrying drizzle.
Dull days drag on,
an endless effort to endure,
each day echoing every other.
Flat light makes for faint faith
that flooding will ease and
evaporate. Encircled by erosion,
an evil essence drenches the ego,
'til duty droops in dreary drudgery.
Can't the confounding cumulonimbi
cruise away? I crave contrails
curving across clear cerulean.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Grandma's Yard


Back in March I wrote about the trees in my childhood yard. I've been meaning to follow it up with a post about my Grandmother's yard. I finally wrote it!

Grandma's Yard

My grandma lived on the other side of our small town. It was just over a mile away, so we were over there at least once a week. In nice weather, we spent a lot of time in the yard. Grandma's house sat on a corner lot, and she owned the next lot too, so there was a lot of space to play.

The first trees we always saw were the two large cedar trees on the narrow side yard by the street. They kept the east side of the house shaded and kept the grass from growing. Hidden in the shade, beneath a small roof was the "side door" that opened to the landing of the basement stairs. Morning glories climbed up a trellis on each side of that door, white blooms on one side, dark blue-purple ones on the other.

Mom would drive past those trees and park in the small, blacktopped "driveway" next to the back door. That parking place had rosebushes along both sides. My favorite was a shade of pinky-orange that Grandma told me was her favorite too.

We nearly always used the back door, going through the back porch into the kitchen. The only time we used the front door was at Halloween when we pretended to be strangers and thought that we would confuse her with our masks.

A concrete walk ran across the yard from the back door to the garage. We sometimes tried to catch leaves of grass on fire, using a magnifying glass, but never had any luck. There were no trees in the yard between that walk and the street, just a pole where the clothesline hung. With no shade, the sheets and shirts and housedresses fluttered in the sunshine on washday, and dried quickly.

On the other side of the street, the closest tree was a large shade tree. I remember it as a tulip poplar, but I may have that wrong. I think there was an elm tree at one time, but like most elms, it became diseased and had to be cut down. Near the southwest corner of the house was the largest maple that I had ever seen. I loved playing with the maple wing seeds that would flutter down like helicopter rotors.

On the southeast edge of the house were some kind of evergreen bushes, trimmed to stay between the house and the walk. They sometimes had fleshy red fruits on them and since the grownups hadn't said anything about them, we dared each other to eat them, telling each other they were poisonous. They didn't taste like much, so we never ate very many and since they never made us sick they couldn't have been poisonous after all.

To the south of the maple, in a nice sunny spot was where Grandma had rhubarb planted. We were told from an early age not to eat the leaves because they were poisonous. Since all the grownups told us that, we didn't dare to try them.

At the back of the yard, on the south edge along the alley, was a pussy willow that had grown out of control. It was taller than some trees.

On the west edge of the yard, next to the neighbor's back yard, was an olive tree. I liked its soft grayish leaves, and wondered why there were never olives on it. I decided we lived too far north, where it was too cold for it.

Along the west side of Grandma's house, under the dining room windows, were spirea bushes. They bloomed their soft sprays of white just in time to use as filler in our May baskets.

Another spring flower was what Grandma called "nekkid ladies." These flowers sprouted up on fleshy-colored stems, and bloomed a soft pink. Only after that died down did the green leaves come up. We always waited until the greens died back before cleaning them up, so that the flowers would have enough energy stored to come up the next spring.

Grandma had peony bushes at either end of the row of naked ladies. I think they were white or maybe pale pink. And Grandma got help digging them up each fall. She stored them in the basement until spring.

My favorite thing growing in Grandma's yard was the redbud tree growing in the northwest corner of the yard. It was very large – big enough to climb. And Grandma did let us climb it, much to my mother's dismay (she wasn't big on tree-climbing as an activity).

But best of all in Grandma's yard was the swing. When I was little there was an old glider-style swing that had benches facing each other. Four of us could (and did) swing back and forth at the same time. It was wooden and eventually fell apart, but while it lasted it was like flying.

There were tulips and forsythia, daffodils and dandelions. We searched the clover patches for the lucky ones with 4 leaves. And on hot summer afternoons, Grandma's painted metal chairs beckoned us to sit down with a cold glass of lemonade, where we could kick off our shoes and run our toes through the soft grass in the shade.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Late Limerick


Mad Kane is once more providing inspiration for limericks. These days she is providing a first line, our job is to complete the poem.

I've been busy, but finally finished the prompt from last week (now that the next prompt is posted). Oh, well. Here it is anyway.

There once was a guy with no hair
who wandered with nary a care.
He heard no one's jeers
due to fur in his ears.
It had moved from up top to in there.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Unexpected Guest


I haven't been writing, but now that my spring concerts are over, I should gain a bit of time to myself again. I also have some vacation days to sneak in before the end of the month, so here's hoping the muse will work with my limited time.

Totally Optional Prompts this week was "Unexpected Visitors" and that fit in nicely with my first foray into the world of Facebook.

Unexpected Guest

I'm sitting pretty in my p.j.'s,
comfy on my couch,
watching the world from the window
of my little laptop.

Then another singer sells me
on the plan of a page
for our chorus fans to adore us,
a focus on Facebook,
another window to the world.

So I sign up,
join forces on Facebook,
post some particulars,
sweep open the shutters,
cast open the curtains
of my world window,
and I wait.

Just two-days time
passes by and Pop!
a blast from the past casts a query,
"be my friend," she extends
a once-familiar wave wandering
toward my open window.

I cringe and cram coverlets in the way,
heaving heaps of unknowing
into the chasm of change
built in separate states,
wincing away from the wide-open window.

I click ("don't be sick!"), and
tick, tick, tick, the time
rolls back, and I'm smack
dab in the long-ago days,
with a faded photo from
there and I recognize the "then"
in us both, our backstories bridge
the welcoming at the window.

I greet my guest with a grin.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Evening Daydream


Read Write Poem always finds such stimulating pictures for the Read Write Image prompts and #15 is no exception. This week Deb gave us Sunset by MorBCN, which I am showing you here according to its Creative Commons license.

It led me to this poem.

Evening Daydreaming
Flat water lay in the blue boat,
not the other way around.
The slim boat floated in the air,
pushing aside salmon clouds,
and avoiding the ripples of time
that threatened to sink dreams
back to reality.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Memory Love


I've been listening to podcasts of WNYC's Radio Lab. An episode from 2007 was called "Memory and Forgetting" and the following are quotes from one person or another in that show:

"Memory is a structure that connects one brain cell to another."

"Every time you remember something, you are changing the memory a little bit."

"… the more you remember something, in a sense the less accurate it becomes."

"… the safest memory, memory that's uncontaminatable, is one that exists in a patient with amnesia."

These stuck in my brain so much that I had to write about it. Even though it is nowhere near being in a final state, I decided it was OK to share at this stage.

Memory Love

Science says I build my memories out of bits and pieces,
each and every time. Memory is an act of creation.
And every time I remember something, I change it.
I can't help it. None of us can

I handle my favorite memories so much
that I've rubbed off much of the paint and
worn the corners down. No longer neat cubes,
they are set on a course to become spheres.

I pull them out to look at them lovingly and,
like delicate paintings exposed to bright light,
I wear a little of each away with my adoration.

Perhaps the love I give these memories
makes up for what I take away.

Meanwhile forgotten memories are stored
away in my mind, wrapped in protective plastic
like grandma's couch, perfectly preserved
yet unloved.

And speaking of sharing - have you been over to the Monday Poetry Train Revisited yet?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Shoes and Me


I seem to have misplaced a month. OK, not really misplaced - I watched it fly by, but I haven't posted here. I haven't written off-line either, stories or poetry. I haven't read any books either (well, I did read one-and-a-half pages the day before yesterday, but I'm going to have to re-read that part when I I next pick up the book.

What have I been up to? Well first there was some heavy-level neatening up of the house in preparation for Passover and guests. Then there was menu-planning and cooking for the same. Then as soon as that was over I (finally!) started and quickly finished our tax returns. And overlapping that my wife's niece and her mother came for a quick visit. That was followed by laundry so that my wife could head off to a conference.

I finally realized that I'd feel better if I just dove in an started writing again. So I looked up a bunch of old, old prompts and picked one from the first year of Sunday Scribblings. The prompt, "my shoes" launched this piece. Sorry it's a bit long - but then so are my feet!

When you are very small you don't know what shoes are. The adults around you may ooh-and-aah about how cute they are, but then they are likely doing the same thing over your fingers and ears. Probably the same reason that baby vegetables are popular – the whole tiny and sweet thing.

Then shoes become a struggle. You want them on when your mother wants them off, and vice versa. And for those of us who grew up before Velcro, the laces wouldn't stay tucked into those little "don't bother me" plastic, "childproof," barrels. Or the buckles on the straps were just too small to manage.

Around the time I started kindergarten I tried to learn to tie my own shoes. I wanted to very much to tie the laces, but I just couldn't get it right. We even got oddly-shaped cutouts in school, that laced up and we could practice on. (OK, I think they were supposed to look like a shoe, but the point of view was not what I saw when I looked down at my feet – it was like a snail's eye view of someone else's feet. But I digress…)

Fortunately my older brother came to my rescue. He says now that teaching me to tie my laces was self-defense; that he was tired of doing it. Whatever the reason, his lessons stuck and I moved into a phase of being at peace with my shoes.

I don't remember much about my shoes before I was nine years old. I am sure there were dressy shoes to wear when I needed something to go with a fancy, lacy dress. I'm sure there were sandals for the summer, and boots for the winter. Mostly I remember Keds. I always had white ones – or at least I did for about a day after they came out of the box. They then moved toward gray at a rapid pace that could only be slowed down by occasional trips through the washer and dryer.

Then my feet started growing. No one in my family had tiny feet (at least not after infancy). But I remember outgrowing a pair of dressy sandals I had worn only once or twice. They were simple and not too little-girly so my mom gave them to someone who could use them – my best friend's mother! I couldn't get my brain wrapped around the fact that my feet were bigger than a grown-up's.

Until that time most of my shoes came from the shoe store downtown. There was only one shoe store that was on the "bank corner" (across from the First National Bank and catty-cornered from the Farmer's and Merchant's Bank). The man who owned the store happened to be our next-door-neighbor and his son was a year younger than I was. For a small town, there was a pretty good selection and he was happy to order anything for us to try on. Trips to buy new shoes took longer and often involved that option to order something to try on when it came in a few days later. Mom grumbled about all the multivitamins she had given us when we were little. She also threatened to make us wear the shoeboxes since they were bigger, though we knew she was just teasing.

I was eleven years old when I entered sixth grade. That fall I was tickled to have a new pair of leather penny-loafers. They were pretty simple shoes, but I loved them, especially after Daddy showed me how to put a real penny into the vamp on each one. I was greatly saddened to find I had outgrown them just a month later.

The good news was that by the end of that school year it seemed my shoe size had finally stopped changing. The bad news was that I wore a US size 10, narrow.

Finding shoes in that size was hard enough. It was tougher still finding ones that didn't accentuate the length of my foot or that didn't look like it belonged on someone two or three times my age. Lace-ups were a better bet since they helped keep the shoes on my narrow foot. Straps across my foot seemed to help the illusion that I didn't have canoes on the end of my feet.

And by the time I was in high school I had entered that love/hate phase that I swing through even now. I coveted leather Frye boots like I saw in the magazines, but there was no way to fit my long foot down the shaft of a boot that didn't zip up. I needed tall black boots to wear with my flag-waving outfit for marching band. Getting those boots involved a trip to St. Louis and a huge department store.

I could no longer borrow shoes from my mom. Even the strappy black sandals that seemed a little big on her. I learned to set my expectations low when we went shoe-shopping. I went for whatever fit and had good support. And it helped if it didn't look like it belonged on a drag queen (no offense, ladies). I get away with sneakers at work a lot of the time, and I always have two or three pair of black shoes to wear with my long black choir skirt.

As an adult, I found that trips to try on shoes at warehouse-style stores needed to be a solo expedition for me. While friends could try things on in each aisle, I had to wander a lot further to see out the few pairs that were (supposedly) in my size.

It was with great delight that I discovered a shoe store for hard-to-fit sizes. It is not so easy to get to (you have to know where you are going or you'll never find it). But the man who runs it is patient and knowledgeable. He will order anything for you and sends out e-mail with a picture of each new style that comes in. My (now) size-11 average width-with-a-narrow-heel feet don't phase him and I can try on box after box of shoes in MY SIZE.

The only problem I now have is learning to balance the "it fits!" feeling in the store with a clear-eyed evaluation of how comfortable it will really be later. Does it have enough support? And occasionally I have purchased a pair of shoes that is so truly comfortable that I don't realize until a couple of weeks later how unattractive they are.

So I still hate that it takes a special trip to find shoes for me. I don't like that I have to try shoes on to know if they are really going to fit or not. But I do love the pair of grey suede flats I have (though I can't wear then for too long – not enough support). And I like the red sneakers I have nearly worn out – they are so cheerful! And I love the brown microfiber pumps I got for our wedding that I now wear with some dressier slacks at work. And I love it when I'm not the one with the hardest-to-fit-feet in the shoe store.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Come From


[Sunday Scribblings prompted us to write "I come from..." and I took them literally.]

I come from a family that valued learning and hard work. We practiced both, being told that if we didn't do enough of the former, we'd surely have plenty of the latter.

I come from the Midwest, and I like to think I absorbed a kind of practicality from there. I get my "horse sense" from my mom's side of the family.

I come from a long line of stubborn women.

I come from a long line of family comedians, where at family dinners we said, "the first liar doesn’t have a chance." One wisecrack was just an invitation for someone else to top it.

I come from savers. My parents lived through the Great Depression and a waste-not want-not sensibility was expected of us all.

Urban Perspicacity


[In the current project at Cafe Writing is a prompt to consider the following quote,
Weather means more when you have a garden. There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.
then use it as inspiration to write a poem about weather meaning more. This isn't what I set out to write, but some days I don't get to choose.]

Urban Perspicacity

I live with selfish city-dwellers,
who dream a stream of endless sunny days,
each rainless golden day melting into the next.

I hear the plants whimper with thirst,
and steel myself against their desperation.

I commute to work with urbanites,
who wish away winter and the cold and snow,
and delight in January thaws.

I crave the soft, white, insulating blanket back,
to tuck in around the tender feet of my shrubs.

I work with blinkered pedestrians,
who delight in suddenly unseasonably warm days,
amidst the slow crawl from winter to spring.

I pray the tree buds stay locked tight
against the cold days still to come.

I toil in air-conditioned isolation,
with those who dread umbrellas cluttering the hall,
and wet floors and spots on the newly-washed car.

I smile at the relief of parched plants,
and my mouth waters in anticipation.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Beginner


[I was browsing my regular haunts (see the right column for my current list) and on Mad Kane's Humor Blog I found a link to info on a robot violinist. My muse was waiting at my shoulder and I thought about some beginner days of my own. I have long since given up on the instrument, but my family still remembers, I'm sure...]

The instrument took quite some wrangling.
I blew it and set nerves a-jangling.
The oboe was shrill.
My big brother stopped still,
And he asked was I playing or strangling?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Clerihew Take 2


[This week Totally Optional Prompts encouraged us to rewrite. I looked for something I could stand to look at again and my heart wasn't in it.

Last spring I took a challenge to try my hand at the clerihew. I posted a couple then and decided that for my "rewrite" I would write another. It's late, but I did come up with one. I should try more of these when I'm awake.]

Jay Leno (host),
seen coast to coast,
competed with sleep and yawns (ours)
so will soon be on earlier by hours.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Three Women


[This week Read Write Poem encouraged us to write about eating, cooking, dreaming about eating, and more.
keep a running list of what you eat, what you cook, what you dream about eating, what you refuse to cook, what you wish someone would cook for you. Then, come back next week and tantalize our taste buds.
This has been spinning around the back of my mind this week. If some of the references have you a bit lost, look for information on the Jewish holiday, Purim.]

Three Women

Folding circles of dough into triangular cookies
I think of Esther, Queen Esther in long-ago Persia,
and I think of Ethel, my grandmother,
whose Hebrew name was Esther. I didn't know
either woman, I just heard stories.

As I fold soft dough over apricots
or almonds I think about the apron I used
as a child, the one my dad said belonged
to my grandmother. Now it is folded
in my closet, and I think it was not much used
by her, no old stains or repairs. It must
have been one of many, or folded away
to keep it nice.

I don't have her recipe for hamantaschen,
though she must have made them. She did,
after all, run a kosher household in Crown Heights.
I gather scraps of information like scraps of
dough, hoping to press together enough pieces
to make a whole. Surely she folded
and pressed edges over prune or poppy seed filling,
and surely she thought about Queen Esther.

I doubt Queen Esther made cookies,
but doubtless she ate ones filled with
apricots or almonds, like the tender, golden
triangles I take from the cooling rack, and pack
between folded layers of wax paper.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Taste of Grapefruit


[Don't forget to go see the other folks who have posted at the Monday Poetry Train Revisited. Some cool stuff there each week.]

A Taste of Grapefruit

The sweet-tart taste of red grapefruit
can't conjure sunny southern orchards
for me.
The sticky juice on my lips
doesn't recall its warm Texas tree.

No, the soft spray as I bite
takes me to Quebec City's winter carnival
with the city socked in with a blizzard,
and my delight at finally being able
to order part of my breakfast in French.
Demi pamplemousse, s'il vous plait.

Friday, March 06, 2009



We had a lot of trees in our yard when I was a girl. Daddy believed we should have a large variety so that if a disease infected one type we would still have shade. He and Mom started from scratch. The lot had been a field before they built the house, but I only know that from pictures.

I remember the locust tree out front. It had tiny little leaves grouped together in fronds. It was not a honey-locust or a black locust, but I don't know exactly what variety it was. I do remember that the cicadas liked the bark of that tree. They would anchor tight and then shed their old shells, flying away and leaving behind fragile empty cases. We would gingerly pull them off the tree and anchor the ghosts onto our sweaters. All the neighborhood boys loved it, but very few of the girls. Most shied away and some even shrieked.

Next to the locust was a clump of paper birch. The white bark was always shaggy and oh so tempting to pull. The branches hung down like a beaded curtain. My favorite memory of the birch is when a flock of goldfinches converged on the trees, feasting on the seeds and creating a flickering riot of golden yellow.

On the west side of the house were two gum trees. I didn't know if there were any other gum trees in town. I had never heard of gum trees. When I became a Girl Scout I learned the song about the Kookaburra bird from Australia, "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree..." I was delighted to discover that maybe gum trees weren't so unusual after all. They were a pretty tree, but I must say I didn't like them much. That was because of the seed balls that were prickly. Once the birds had their way, what was left was a stickery round skeleton that hurt to step on. That was only one of the reasons Mom didn't let us go barefoot in the yard.

There was a red maple on the west side of the house too. I loved the burgundy color of its leaves, standing out from all the other trees.

In one corner of the yard was a dwarf sour cherry tree. It was originally in another location but was moved when my parents added an in-ground pool. The sour cherry tree didn't seem to mind. It was quite prolific, giving us gallons and gallons of cherries, even after the birds got some. Daddy tried all kinds of things to keep the birds from eating the bulk of the crop. I think what he finally settled on most years was lengths of cheesecloth draped over large sections, and several aluminum pie pans spinning and dangling from branches to scare away the critters. Even though it was a dwarf tree, we still needed a ladder to pick most of the cherries. A fair number went directly into our mouths, but there were still plenty left to cook with, as long as we helped to pit them. Mom would give us each an old, large, worn-out shirt to wear as a smock and we would sit on the back porch with the buckets and bowls lined up on the picnic table. Mom didn't make pies, but Daddy made jam. Yum! And some would be saved for later by freezing them in square plastic boxes.

In the back of the house, next to the dog run, was a tulip poplar tree. Its leaves were such a pretty shape, but the flowers were a bit showy for me. And the bits that remained from the flowers included a kind of spiky bit that was another thing to avoid with bare feet. The shade from that tree was terrific and I know the dogs we had loved to lie in its shade when the temperature soared in the summer.

At the north-east corner of the house was a pinoak. Mom kept cutting off the lower limbs to keep the view clear. I remember how straight its trunk was.

To the east of the pool was another cherry tree, though I don't remember getting more than two or three cherries off of it. I don't know what variety of cherry it was supposed to be, but I always called it a "weeping cherry tree" because its branches drooped. It was never really happy in our yard, but my parents seemed to want to give it more time.

In the north-east corner of the yard were three pine trees. I remember when they were planted, in a triangle in the corner of the yard. They were slightly different sizes so I thought of them as papa bear, mama bear, and baby bear trees. They grew quickly. Before long, they were big enough to hide in. My brother and I took bricks left from the house remodel and used them as pavers to create a floor in the space between the trees. It was a great area, like an out-door playhouse. I can still smell the pine.

In the south-east corner of the yard was an apple tree. Daddy bought it because it was a Jonathan Apple tree, but when it finally got big enough to have fruit we discovered that it wasn't a Jonathan after all. I don't know what he decided it was. He didn't like to the spray the trees and the apples always ended up buggy. More landed on the ground to rot or go into the compost pile than made it into the kitchen.

In front of our carport and shed was a copper beech tree. Mom loved seeing the giant beech trees when we vacationed in Massachusetts and decided they should plant one. Beech trees grow so slowly that it always seemed like a small tree to me. For years it was small enough for me to put my hands around. I think that by the time I was in college it was finally big enough my hands could not span the trunk. I would like to think that beech tree will be there for decades to come, but I can only hope it is still there.

Between the shed and the house was a sycamore tree. The bark on this tree seem to flake off, but that's what it is supposed to do. The seed balls were the same size as the gum tree's balls, but the sycamore ones were not stickery and didn't hurt. I now know that sycamores like to have "damp feet" and there are some gorgeous specimens along the Charles River near Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was another tree that no one else in my hometown seemed to have. When I was little the only other place I'd heard of one was in the Presbyterian church. They taught us a song about Zaccheus sitting in a sycamore tree (the savior for to see), and something about "come down" from the tree.

There were other trees in my childhood, but these are the trees of my yard. I hope you enjoyed the tour. Maybe another day I'll tell you about the other trees, the ones in Gramma's yard, or in the park next door, or the other handful of special ones around my childhood town.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009



[Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect gave us the following challenge for the Monday Poetry Stretch this week:
write a personal ad about your favorite animal or historical figure
So here's what I came up with. Check out the links afterward if you can't figure it out (or if you just want to see some cool pics!]


looking, i am,
for just the right guy,
with colors like mine,
and who really can fly.

i hang by the lake
but would move to the marsh
if the right guy would ask
and be mellow, not harsh.

i surf on the breeze
and i'll give you a clue
how to find me up there:
i'm a shocking-bright blue.

a stick for a figure,
i'm perfect, you know
but i'm missing a mate.
life is too short, you know.

so find me and show off,
i like a good dance,
you know that you're lonely
now come take a chance!

picture 1
picture 2
picture 3

Monday, March 02, 2009



[This was sparked from the Weekend Wordsmith prompt "ripped." Once I started thinking of all the ways that word might be used, I couldn't stop.]

Ripped from the Headlines

He is ripped, and goes shirtless
to show off his six-pack and
shoulders, and the powerful arms that he slowly
grew with dedication and weights.

His jeans are ripped at the knees
and stained with oil and paint,
manly stains that prove he doesn't
care about his appearance.

He grits his teeth as he rips
the adhesive bandage off his shin,
tearing out leg hairs by the roots,
and pretending the sting
in his eyes is from
grit blown in by the wind.

He tosses the bandage in the trash,
on top of the ripped shirt,
ruined beyond repair, and tainted
with the memory

when they ripped off his store
while he flexed his muscles
and stared down the barrel
of guns held by skinny-armed cowards.

For the Monday Poetry Train


[If you haven't stopped by the Monday Poetry Train (Revisited) yet, please do so and check out the links to some cool work.]

The Internet Doesn't Know Everything

I googled the name
on the trophy in my closet,
presented to me at my
high school graduation
to acknowledge my achievements
in fine arts,
and in memory of
a young woman
gifted in the arts,
who died in a fire at college.

I'm sure her family remembers
and I remember
but the Internet, at least for now,
doesn't know her name.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Finger Paints


[Cafe Writing this month includes a timed-writing prompt in which we are asked to consider this quote:
…should I draw you the picture of my heart it would be what I hope you would still love though it contained nothing new. The early possession you obtained there, and the absolute power you have obtained over it, leaves not the smallest space unoccupied..
~Abigail Adams (in a letter to John Adams)
then use 9 minutes (only!) to write about "a picture of your heart." Here's what I came up with. I tried to stay true to the 9 minutes (going over only to agonize briefly over a working title). I'm interested to see what others came up with. Nine minutes is not very long!]

Finger Paints

I need finger paints
in order to give you
a picture of my heart.

I need the bright simple colors
to stand out and show the
confetti it throws when
you make me smile.

I need to smear the color
on the slippery page
to try to convey the way it
beats faster when we kiss.

I may be complicated
but my heart is simple
enough for finger paints.
My heart loves only you.

I need finger paints
and just my own fingers,
to give you my heart,
perhaps a bit messy,
but sweet just the same.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Too Casual


[I believe I'll share this with the Monday Poetry Train Revisited. You should check them out.]

Too Casual

She said we were too casual, we Americans,
nearly always in jeans and t-shirts.
Her closet was full of silky saris
and soft salwar kameez, the cotton printed
with delightful patterns.
She stood graceful and polished
against our denim.

We were freshly-minted college students, bright
and confident that only an introduction
was needed to turn a stranger into a friend.
She said we were too forward, leaping
to given-name familiarity at the first meeting,
yet she was a friend by then, herself,
or she wouldn't have told us.

I looked at us through her eyes and saw
she was right. We were casual and forward.
We were racing toward degrees or away
from our pasts, testing the outlines of adulthood
as we tried the patience of our parents.

She was right. And yet, I was delighted
to be surrounded by intelligent women,
most of whom were also too casual,
too forward, and just an introduction away
from being my friends.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oil-and-Rock Roads


[I haven't been writing for the prompts at Weekend Wordsmith for a while, but I do look at them nearly every week. This week, the prompt "road" struck a chord.]

Oil-and-Rock Roads

My bike followed the oil-and-rock roads all over town,
smelly and sticky from the new coating,
leaving black spots on the frame,
and on my white socks.

My feet walked black-top main roads,
baked hot and soft in the humid summer heat.

My mom's car thumped along the concrete
of St. Louis Avenue, cracked and patched
from the never-ending freeze/thaw/bake cycle.

My grandad's hands laid the brick underneath
Gallatin Street, hidden below asphalt, except
for an occasional worn spot where the red
peeked through from the past.

My back turned to all those roads,
I sped east to the land of granite curbstones
where no one had heard of
oil-and-rock roads.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wanted: Contralto Solos


[Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect has asked us (more than once) to write an ottava rima poem and although I am past the "deadline" for last week's Monday Poetry Stretch, I was thinking about that.

And this month's project at Cafe Writing included a prompt to think about this quote:
I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,

To pray for peace, to plant a tree,

And sing more joyful songs.

~William Arthur Ward
then write a poem about one of those things. Enjoy!]

Wanted: Contralto Solos

I search, and hunt, and strive to find,
achieving only grievous hitches,
the alto solos which I've pined
for – gorgeous pieces – honest riches,
yet nothing shines, I'm like as blind
and suff'ring from a jokester's switches.
I dimly peer into the murk
and seek again contralto work.

The opera brings three kinds of roles:
the first are hags that seek to irk;
and next are evil women – trolls
who seek a sheath for poisoned dirk;
and finally lads off tending foals
or scheming how their jobs to shirk.
They feature itches, molls, or ditches,
playing witches, bitches, or britches.

Perhaps I should give up this grind,
and all the heartache that it brings.
Yet on the shelf must be the kind
of piece that I so want to sing,
that binds a heart and intertwines
all noble and uplifting things.
The poignant search continues long
for blissful, joyous alto songs.

The Return


[Sunday Scribblings prompts us this week with "pilgrimage." My dictionary defines the word as "a pilgrimage is a journey to a place that has religious or emotional significance."]

The Return

She hates going back there,
to the place of her birth,
but she can't help returning,
like the tongue to a sore tooth.

She packs her dwindling collection
of bright memories, then sees
them dim and tarnish with news
of each dead friend and closed store.

At the lunch with friends, hoping
to share news of children and
grandchildren and vacations,
she endures a recitation of obituaries.

She can't wait to drive away again,
vowing not to return
to the place filling up
with tombstones of her past.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The New Kitchen


[For the first Monday Poetry Stretch this year, Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect set us to write about our mother's kitchen. She'll round up everyone's (check them out) but here is mine. There were some details to the challenge and the hardest was to leave myself out of the poem!]

The New Kitchen

Was it just ten years ago
that the kitchen was new?
A new marriage, new house,
and the first dinner party
when she pulled the roast from one
of the pair of new turquoise wall-ovens.

She couldn't have imagined then
that she'd want more space and
a modern harvest-gold stove instead.
The demolition starts next week
but it seems like only yesterday...

The new dining table was set
at the end of the new living room.
Betty and Jake were already
having a drink with her new husband.
The new doorbell rang and while
Charlie joined the party at the bar,
Mary Lou brought her green bean salad
into the kitchen where the new countertops
sparkled with built-in glitter.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Word Painting for Read Write Poem


[This summer I had a conversation with someone about the definition of poetry. After thinking about it overnight I decided I liked the description "painting with words."

With that in mind, what follows is a word painting using the poem titles left for us in the collaborative prompt at Read Write Poem. Don't forget to see what others came up with here.

To make this, I took all the donated poetry titles, removed punctuation and fed them into a wordle. I then used the words in the wordle to inspire this word painting.]

Say This Isn't

Say this isn't this what America is:
the next sterling silver skyline,
warm splash of colours softly made;
Dorothy loving Sylvia in a poem,
and a dinosaur musical made of paper money.

Miss Ted moves against a blueberry door.
Next to the bones of a haggard afternoon,
hot and dirty in degrees at last,
she breaks the double-bass flute.

Gone are scraps meant for you in
an insoluble separation
of that marriage made of essential letters

A clay castle isn't rare.
The map meant somewhere else.
Haggard Minneapolis crows are gentle –
my biscuit minerals remain.

Shoeshine Assumptions


[Read Write Poem recently had the following photo up for inspiration.]

Photo: Routine by Tres (displayed according to Creative Commons license)

Shoeshine Assumptions

I bet he's fast.


Because no one

would stay put on that bench for long.