Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pilgrim's Progress

This is a first for me...a holiday letter (inspired by receiving Meg and Mike's) - to all the people who neither know nor care what has been happening in my lousy little life for the last year or so. This time last December I was in the Slough of Despond. Deeply entrenched, over my head, and out of my mind. Better this year, as long as I don't forget my daily drugs, which prevent me from crying over lost keys and hairbrushes, to say nothing of the lack of money to pay the skyrocketing oil bills and the lost children. My investments lost two grand last month. Plus depleting my Sefcu savings to pay for Arthur's funeral.

Yes, my dad finally died of Alzheimer's on Halloween. What a day to die, huh? It was long overdue and a relief, considering his miserable existence. We enjoyed the costumed nurses, especially Larry. We did not enjoy the beside vigil, watching and watching for every twitch and labored breath. He was warm now he is not. My mother is still there in the nursing home, generally jolly and largely unaware of her loss. She is suddenly crocheting again.

It was a year ago last week that I had to kill my Oliver and I will never be the same. I miss him every day. My losses have been great. Michael and Andrea took my babies and moved to Oregon in October of 2006 and I have not seen them since. I cannot breathe when I think of my Lily. And Michael's betrayal, which is how I view it. Not even a phone call, altho I have called them. You have children so that they can break your heart, I guess.

Courtney got married a couple of weeks ago. She is living in my house. I have not seen it, nor even been down the driveway since the day I left Lily standing there by the moving truck. I was invited to the wedding and tried to be unobtrusive. I only went because Lauren and Josh and the grandsons were there.

Joshua, as usual, is my salvation. He married Amy and Egan last October, just before his brother left. Egan will be five next week and is a joy. And, the greatest joy - they are having a baby next summer. A life is taken and a life begins. Josh is happy and that is all I ever wanted for him.

I am still imprisoned in my parent's house with Lauren and Tristan and the animals. The other boys have moved out and are living lives without us. We don't see much of them. I don't know if they avoid their mother deliberately or are just in their own orbit. Zach comes to pay me for his computer. It is not good here. I am overwhelmed with bills. Lauren seems to be getting her act together a little, working hard at her job at the apple orchard, but not contributing to the expenses. She is at a party there tonight.

I have spoken with both sisters, both of them reluctant but civil. The wedding and the funeral necessitated civility. We divvied up Art's ashes and buried them together, just the three of us. I miss my sisters, although I don't much like them. We used to laugh.

Eli is the light of each day. His smiling face gives me reason to get out of bed in the mornings, and greets me with delight when I come home. He and I visit Tony to do our laundry. Tony is good to me in his peculiar way. We went to his Christmas party last weekend and he asks what I want for Christmas. He refuses to give the only gift I need from him, although he loves me, I know this. We had Thanksgiving together, the two of us. Chinny is at his house and she seems content there out of Eli's way. I could use a cat again for cuddling. Or an arm around me or warm legs in bed. I am hungry for a human touch.

I think often of Nancy who has been lost to everyone. Today is her birthday and I would talk to her if I could. Deb is busy and happy and in love with Mark. That is good. My poets have become good friends. I love Tom and Larry and Mike and Cathy, who is not well. I love Mary Jane and the lib ladies are good to be around, although the job has become quite complicated and stressful.

Tony's mother sent her annual check yesterday. She is well and I wish I were there with her in the sun. The sun has not shone here is a long time. I worry about my future. After all the years with Tony, he has made no provisions for our future. We are both getting old. I became 60 this year and the kids gave me a wonderful party. It was nothing to celebrate but I went along.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


They stalked her through
the flickering aspen forest
quicksilver bodies
twining from tree to tree
dropping through
the muted silver sunlight,
into her thoughts, they asked
no ransom, stealing for
the pure round-bellied joy of it,
eating away, eating away
at her, all unassuming

In the mist,
rapists and thieves,
they denied her
they loved her grief
the grieving that she earned
and owned,
turning aside their
faces they keened with
satisfaction, sated with their claim,
they murdered her slowly, but
robbed her first.

No tears

The veterans are killing themselves, day by day, thousands since this war began, in combat zones and back at home, leaving so many to grieve. What a legacy this war is leaving.

Monday, November 5, 2007

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die...
Clive Campbell


Thank you, George W., for sending us a flag. All folded in a lovely triangle. Big and heavy. Big enough they say to cover a casket. I flashed to the cargo hold of the airplanes with their flag covered baggage and I wanted to talk to my father about the war. He was such a patriot, such a law-and-order guy. So proud. Another veteran gone to the grave. They are dying 1000 each day.

We buried part of the ashes in the family plot next to my mother's parents, near all the Braydens and Christians and Bakers. Just the three girls there, with our three orange roses to be buried with him. It was a glorious autumn day, blue sky and golden trees. We all hugged each other and I told them both I loved them.

Lauren and I went to lunch and chatted easily about the wedding, Courtney's wedding, on Saturday, and about Cheryl and how bleak her life is. We have all been remembering many things. On the way home we went to the nursing home and threw out all of Arthur's clothes, except for a few things Cheryl wanted. There were so few things there. Ragged and faded. I never noticed him looking ragged and faded.

My mother was watching a movie in the day room and we didn't talk to her. She has not missed him or asked about him. Except for the initial moment when she said "I don't know how I will ever cope without him" she has not mentioned him again. His bed is empty and remade. I wanted to say one more thing to him. I don't know what.

Marion had her hair curled and her pearls on and seemed to enjoy the little service on Saturday, with all the family there, Bill and Gloria and all the grands- and greats-, and David and Casey and Jimmy and his parents. The baby faced minister was pleasant and the flowers looked autumn-y next to Arthur's picture in uniform. He was a handsome guy.

Steven Barr called and some guy who knew Daddy 40 years ago. Lauren has been getting most of the calls on the house phone. I have heard from Elaine and Deb and Tom and Timmy and, of course, Cathy sent me pink roses. I don't have much emotion left in me. I cried so much for Oliver and Michael and the kids. Michael's birthday was Friday. Josh and Amy came from Hillsdale where they were spending the weekend with her family. They will be back for the wedding and I got a room in the hotel so we can goof around.

back to work tomorrow

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Dying Part is Over

My dad died a couple of hours ago in his bed at the nursing home, after we had all gone home exhausted. God bless my dear son who drove up from the city and surprised me, stayed til 9 p.m. and drove back. It was so good to have him here.

It was a strange and funny and tragic day. The staff was all dressed up in costume (my pal Larry was an absolute stitch in a white tutu with angel wings, huge boobs, a multitude of tatoos and Dorothy's sparkling red pumps and a long black wig). The staff had made a haunted house in the basement of the nursing home and had a party for the residents. My mother came out with some very funny stuff. I will explain later how she was reacting, but it is a long story. The Wicked Witch left about 1 p.m. but the Drama Queen and Josh and I stayed, trying to be sure he was comfortable as possible while watching his every struggling breath. I made the right decision about the DNR. The staff was great. There are lots of stories here.

My mother slept through the whole dying thing, thank you, God. Lauren the sister and I will be back at the nursing home early in the morning trying to explain this to her when she wakes up and doing the funeral home.

I cannot comprehend the world without my beloved father in it somewhere.
I am very sad and will be shedding tears soon, but right now there is just a feeling of relief.

Always Art's daughter

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Assault of the Lamb

Eli is rolling around on the carpet trying to disembowel his lamb with his flailing hind feet. The lamb occasionally emits squeaks of protest but seems to be holding his own. I am holding my own in a sea of mixed emotions.

After five years of death in life, my father appears to be down to his last hours. Matter of factly, we have wished to release him from his failing frame for a long time. Now I am wondering how I will carry on when the last physical evidence of his existence is gone.

I sat for hours beside his bed, stroking his still-warm skin, listening to his horrendous breaths and rattling cough. His hands are mottled with red and purple. I could circle his forearm with my hand. His mouth hangs open and I swab his mouth with a wet sponge. He is on a pain med and oxygen. The furrows in his face have smoothed. His eyes open now and then, but he is not seeing anything on this earth. The hospice chaplain says he is looking into his future, to the place that God has prepared for him as he promised, and it is a comfort to believe that. I read him the scripture about the mansions and I sang, very quietly in an embarrassed way, some of the good old hymns we used to sing. I told him everything I needed to - what a good father he was and that I wouldn't have wanted any other. Sometimes he held my hand very tight. Sometimes he was agitated and pulling at his sheets and at the oxygen canula. He made noises.

I talked to him about Tennesee and the magnolias and cutting down the cedar tree. I talked about his archery range and going to Will Roys' Drive In for chocolate milkshakes and the moths flying in the yellow bug lights. I told him I only went on the UFO hunting trips in the hope that he would stop for ice cream. I told him that his mother was waiting and that he would see his brothers soon. I just can't imagine the real world without him. I wanted to cling to him and beg him to stay. When I had to leave, I kept wanting to touch him one last time, fearing that the next time I saw him his skin would be cold and empty.

Cheryl came and I could not stay there with her. She wanted to give him medicine to cure the pneumonia, and do everything to save him, and she was crying and distraught. I warned the nurses they must ignore her. His treasures, Mr. Fitz and Marion and Anne and, of course, Larry. Everyone so loving and compassionate. Heather and my daughter were coming over and they will make Cheryl leave. But then again, I don't want him to die alone. My mother will be frightened. She won't know what is happening. How will we ever explain it to her. She has not been eating either. Ice cream. All she eats is ice cream. She seemed very tired today. And has no idea that Arthur is dying.

Exhausted and bewildered

Saturday, October 20, 2007


This movie gripped me. It was quiet and intense. It was also a good murder mystery and made its anti-war statements in a subtle way. I took T-rex with me and he seemed to understand it and said he really liked it. Saradon was excellent as usual, but it was really Billy Bob Thornton's show and he was great. I, of course, was all torn up imagining the dead kid as a son or grandson. The Tuesday vigil is going to be a big one, with other groups joining us. I wish it didn't all feel so futile.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Bush Joke

A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, "What are all those clocks?" St. Peter answered, "Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move." "Oh ," said the man, "whose clock is that?" "That's Mother Teresa's. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie." "Incredible," said the man. "And whose clock is that one?" St. Peter responded, "That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe told only two lies in his entire life." "Where's President Bush's clock?" asked the man. "Bush's clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a ceiling fan.

Good Morning, tHom

Forgot to mention that I cut about 10" off my hair. You put the idea in my head.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Jazzed for Peace

I was privileged tonight to meet Jimmy Massey, an Iraq veteran who is making the protest circuit speaking out against the war. He made me think of Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy movies. No, he's not short, but fresh-faced and earnest, and he looked so young. It is hard to believe that he has seen the atrocities that I am sure he must have. He was at our vigil tonight at the clock park, along with Dahlia, a lovely young Iraqi woman who is also a speaker about the war. Dahlia warned us on Jimmy's behalf that the increasing number of vets who are speaking out publicly are putting themselves in jeopardy of serious retribution from the government and the military. Massey told us that the mission statement of IVAW is Get the Troops Home Now, Take Care of Them When They Get Here.

It is little enough that we do, the ten or twenty of us who manage to drag our butts to the park on Tuesdays with out signs and our candles. Last week some dumb ass motorcycle guy shouted angrily at the group. Tonight there was one older guy in an SUV that gave us a vigorous thumbs down for our efforts, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive from passing motorists who respond to Honk for Peace signs with horns and peace signs.

I have a hard time imagining that our miniscule efforts can have any significant effect on the course of the war, to say nothing of the repair to the Constitution, the restoration of US credibility in the world or justice to the criminal administration that has devastated our country. There is so much to be done and there is so much ignorance and apathy. How can so many people be so uncaring and uniformed? Most of the people that I talk to do not understand what is going on and how their own freedoms are being infringed upon and taken away. The parallels have been pointed out in that amazing essay someone wrote comparing the US to pre-war Germany. It is frightening. If everyone who went by the park tonight and honked would just have stopped and held a candle for ten minutes...

peace now.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

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Nuts and Bolts

You swung the golden handle in a half-circle to open or shut the latticed metal doors and the elevator would clatter between floors on command. In the early '50's I was very impressed with those fancy doors at the Albany Hardware and Iron Company. My grandfather was the manager of the store, thin and bald and dapper in his vested suits and his wire-framed spectacles. I was so proud on those special occasions that he would take me to work with him on a half-day Saturday.

I was thrilled that my grandfather had a key to let us into the store before the customers started arriving. I could prowl the dim, deserted aisles, tiptoe-ing through the particularly spooky spots while he turned on lights and set up for opening. The cash registers had windows across the top where black numbers on pieces of white metal popped up noisily when the clerk hit the big round keys. The machine made glorious dings and chings, and the money drawer practically flew open to transact the cash exchanges. I was allowed to practice hitting the No Sale key when there were no customers.

Better even than the elevator and the cash register was - I still don't know what it was called - the pneumatic thingy that was able to transport money and messages from floor to floor. Need change for a $20 in third floor housewares? Stuff the bill in the gleaming brass tube, twist it shut, and stick the contraption in the brass pipe that ran throughout the building. The pipe mysteriously sucked the little messenger down to the first floor where the clerk there would whoosh it back to you with the proper change. How cool. Better than e-mail, or voice mail, or fax, and simpler to understand. I loved it and begged to send experimental posts through the tubes - pennies, gum, thumbtacks. My grandfather had the patience of a saint.

The old building sat sadly vacant for years with the long vertical sign easily recognizable on the front of the tall building on lower State Street. I don't get downtown much, but it is probably now a Curves or a Starbuck's or some other such irrelevant business, housing nothing as useful as screws and door hinges and garden tools, and making lovely memories for nobody.

Thanks, Gramp.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Don't read this 2

My breath is a treadle sewing machine behind my collarbone. A creaking bellows. An angry alligator. I am trying to make a poem before I sleep, but I cannot think. I keep falling into old song lyrics. Regularly, my diaphram spits out a cough and I must fight to control it, to keep from barking and choking. Even Eli has taken refuge under the bed.

Lots of things hurt in the night. Things that are more bearable by daylight.

It has been almost a year since I have seen Maddix and Lily. They have been surgically removed. I am still stunned. I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the times that I will ever see them again. Lily's birthday is coming again. You have stolen a whole year of her from me. Why did you do this, Michael?

I press my fingers into my cheeks. I take slow breaths. Shallow. Do not disturb the alligator.

I think of Laurie in her chicken dress that Easter Sunday, with her curly head, standing in the tulips on my parent's lawn. She was so beautiful and I thought that everything was going to be okay. I thought that marrying David would turn him into Arthur. I thought that we would be Happy Family and I would be June Cleaver in a Marianne Faithful kind of way. I thought I was doing the right thing. I didn't know anything. And I didn't do a very good job at any of it.

Eli has come out and climbed on the chair beside me.

I want to be another person and I am surprised because I always thought I liked me.What am I going to do now?

I locked my doors again tonight.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


My throat hurts.

My nose is running.

I have my socks on.

I am too cold to think.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


The earth practices dying
the sap chills and slows
strangles the trees
into the colors of death
red and gold and orange
the leaves are choked

Purples and pinks and greens
gather their skirts in mourning
brown and shrivel and droop
in sad anticipation
of the end of life

Spiders seek shelter in structures
habited by unwitting humans
field mice and house mice
battle for basement
housing in shoes and boxes

Ponds and streams
slow to a walk
hiding perch and bass
burying turtles in thickening mud
silencing the frogs

There is a moratorium on birth
no kits, no fawns just
drowsy bears and squirrels
shivering with worry
over the lean months

who can love this
ominous prelude
to the dying of the earth

I hate it

Friday, September 7, 2007

Gloria Steinham's glasses

I am looking like Gloria Steinham. The hair is long and various shades of blonde and gray. I am constantly brushing it out of my aging face. My mother and my sister were rolling their eyes at it when they thought I wasn't watching. And my appalling tattoo. Same old, same old. Even when my sister is trying to be civil, she is hurtful.

There are worse people to look like than Gloria, even as she aged. I always admired her look, if not her agenda. She was obviously educated. Attractive, smart, expensively dressed. I am wearing her glasses, heavy framed, mine are blue. I don't dress like myself anymore. They don't make my fashions in extra large.

I threw my extra large tie-dyed tank dress in my bag and took myself to 40 Main Street for consolation tonight. (I know, hope springs eternal - I was lonely and sad and trying to divert my attention from the tears that were lurking.) I made a plan, which was useless, to keep myself busy this weekend, to be busy and happy and not sit around here with the animals, reading and playing that stupid word game and trying not to think about the elephant.

Yesterday was my father's birthday. His 89th. On the recommendation of his doctor and the nursing home staff, we have called hospice for him. It appears that he cannot swallow. His mouth was leaking baby food from the lunch they tried to feed him. The baby food. Just writing those words does not reflect the horror it was to watch. This is my dad, my dad.

They asked how we felt about a feeding tube and we both said no, Lauren Meacham and I. They don't know how long it will take him to die. They assure us it will not be painful. Starving isn't painful, I guess. Hospice will watch out for him and keep him comfortable. Whatever that means. I want it to be over. Let him have a heart attack and go. DNR. Don't make us all suffer through a prolonged dying, wondering what is happening inside him, what, if anything he is thinking and feeling. Where is my father anyway? He has been gone for so long.

We don't know if he can hear us. We talk to the empty air and the air doesn't move. I rub his papery hand and he wipes at the spot as if his hand got dirty. Does he know I touched him? Does he want me to? Doesn't he like it? Somewhere in his empty head does he know it's me? Or, after 60 years, have I become nothing?

What do we tell my mother when my father dies? He talks so much to her, she tells us, that she can't shut him up. He is her second skin. For all the life we've known, she has never been without him. If he is not there, will she know that he is gone? Will she say where is Arthur and we will say Arthur died. She will say oh, no, he didn't, stop kidding me. Really? You're full of it, she will say, and then again she will say, where is Arthur and we will tell her again Arthur is dead and then again and then again, and she will never believe us and keep asking and asking and we will have to say that Arthur is dead five million times until she dies, still asking.

I just got up to get another soda and I locked the door. Both doors. I have lived in their house for three years now and I have never locked the door. Arthur will not be home to chase the foxes fromt the bathtub.

Missing my dad again

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Bloody Winter

It is five a.m. and winter is coming.
The books are gathering on the shelves.
The moon is a curl in the sky.
A dog is snoring.
The cat is watching for dawn.
Conversation is bottlenecked.
Windows are broken here and there
letting the lies fly in and out.

The mail is arriving.
The furnace is not running
but the lights are on.
Cars are dead on the lawn.
It is a slaughterhouse here.
The blood is thin and pale and dries
in familiar patterns when it hits the air.
Everyone is sleeping in small beds.
Something doesn't make sense.
Legs and arms are piling up.
People are without voices.
Their silhouettes have no eyes.

Snow is waiting for the leaves to fall.
It is time to prune the raspberries.
Bruises form like icebergs
and never go away.
It is no one's birthday.
The cake is ready.

Arthur's daughter

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

I am not having any party. The neighbors are having a party. Their lawn is set up with tents and awnings and nets for games. The sun and the sky are perfect, cooler than it has been. Just enough to mourn the summer.

I just want to stay in bed. Eli has been his cutest self, teasing me to get up, with his head cocked, offering me his paw. Even Chinny sits beside him, imploring me with her big yellow eyes. I have nothing to get up for. Except to have a cigarette.

I think of party days. When I would be in the kitchen squashing cooked potatoes through my fingers and stealing bites from the hard boiled egg yolks before I put them in the salad. The doors would be standing open, the kids running and asking what time we were leaving or the company was arriving, Max trying to be several places at once. Tony would be running to buy ice and stocking up the refrig with so much beer I had no room for the hamburgers and salads, and asking if I thought he should buy wine.

My sister would be on the phone with my mother, working out the details of the day. Who was bringing what and what time we would eat it. We would probably have cake for Arthur's birthday. He would love the day, the conversation, the family.

Tony's mother and father might be there, Eunice ceaselessly smoking her long brown cigarettes and Milt, in an orange sweatshirt, with his cigar. John and Linda would come and we would build a fire in the evening and swat mosquitos and keep the kids from falling in the blaze. Linda would entertain with her stories and her opinions and yell at John for being stupid and a man. When everyone else left, we might play Trivial Pursuit at the dining room table.

Long ago, it was Grandpa Baker and "Etta who could never be left out of anything" and sweet Aunt Ethel and maybe Maybelle with her two obnoxious children and whichever husband was in her wake at the time.

Grandpa and I and my sisters, Aunt Ethel, maybe my father, would play croquet on my parent's front lawn while my chubby mother sat in her lawn chair and critiqued. We had the best iver croquet set which my grandfather giver-of-great-gifts had brought from Albany Hardware and Iron where he worked. Gramp and I played croquet endlessly, long after the others had conceded defeat. We were the best, he and I.

I am the grandmother now. Alone with my dog and my cat and my books and computer. The children and grandchildren are scattered. Michael in Oregon, Zach in California, Laurie on a trip to NYC. Josh lives in the city, married now with Amy and Egan. Tony is living in his own house. My sisters don't like me. My parents are gone. Gramp and Aunt Ethel and Linda and Milt are all dead. Eunice in Florida, John in South Carolina.

There won't be any cake or potato salad. No Max. No children. No campfire or croquet.

And I have no reason to get out of bed. Except to have a cigarette. One of the long brown skinny ones like Eunice smokes.

Feeling sorry for myself

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Voyeur

They were lovers.
Anyone could tell.

stroking each other's limbs with oil
careful on every curve
more oil than was necessary
more stroking than was essential

hair shining blonde and dark
breasts teasing colored strings
whispered words against soft faces
a furtive kiss on a pale shoulder

umberellas hot pink, lime green
popsicle orange, every blue in the sea or sky

I brush the sand from my ankles and sip
the rusty sweetness
from a paper cup
of warm Coca-Cola.

How Magnolias Smell

His feet were filthy dawn to dusk

from early spring until the snow fell

Shoeless he walked to school

chopped firewood

gathered eggs in the chicken coop

kicked at dirt clods walking

as his Uncle Dion plowed the acres

behind the mule, with the 3-legged dog

Etta cooked grits and eggs

baking powder biscuits with honey

all in the woodstove even on

the hottest Tennessee days

He raced with his brothers through the pine forest

way down the sandy lane to the tenant shacks

raked magnolia blossoms on the huge lawn

They waded in the milky

farm pond catching bullfrogs

watching for snakes

and played whatever boys play


in their denim overalls

At night they washed up in the metal tub in the kitchen

cranking water in a bucket from the stone well

never having hooked up the plumbing

to the shiny bathroom on the landing

They slept in the huge room in the attic

with china chamber pots beside their beds

They cut down the cedar tree one summer

immersing the whole "plantation" with the scent

and the green lawn with red shredded wood bits

and strutted in their teenage splendor

back and forth on the fallen giant

Arthur and Byron and Lyle the baby

handsome grinning faces so brown

their teeth glowed white in the photos

Arthur's teeth are mostly gone now

the thick dark waves of hair are short and grey

and spiked in all directions from the pillow

His sturdy brown feet lie quiet

blue veined and soft

whiter than white on the white sheets

He doesn't know his brothers are dead

for my dad on his 89th birthday

September 6, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Second Best Cat

Chinny has always been my second best cat.
I'm not sure why. She is beautiful. Her hair is ebony, thick and soft and long. Her paws are dipped in milk with little tufts of hair sticking out between her toes. Her tail is thick and plumy and her chest a white bib. She is prettier than Ollie was. And smarter. Her eyes shine. Or glitter with evil when she is annoyed.

She was friends with laid-back Max, but couldn't abide bouncy Eli until Ollie died. I guess with the referee gone, they had to make their own peace. She doesn't run when he chases her anymore and calmly steps over him to claim her place on the bed. There are no more angry skirmishes in the night.

Chinny was born here in my house in the early morning hours twelve years ago in May. I sat with my glasses and the vet book observing as four black and white kittens slid out of their mother. Each kitten had a white mark somewhere on their head and I named them accordingly to tell them apart. I didn't plan on keeping any.

Michael took Chin away to Syracuse when he went to college. It only lasted until Christmas because of his roommate's huge dog. Michael had to build a ramp for Chin to get to the top shelf in his closet to escape Aslan. He asked me to baby sit the cat when he came home for the holiday. She is still with me.

Chin was here when Willie was born and killed. I almost didn't live through that and still never developed that special feeling for Chinny that I had for Will and Ols.

Do cats feel love? Do they love back? I think Chinny loves me. She seeks affection more than Oliver ever did. He was more the king and I his royal subject. She is on the back of the couch behind my head or on the arm when I am sitting there or trying to lay on the keyboard when I am online. She insists on her nightly love fest when I get in bed, although she is more patient about letting Eli have his turn and he usually moves aside obligingly. She lets me play with her toes and rolls over and presents her belly for rubbing. She likes being combed and lets me take the knots out of her long hair as if she knows I am helping her.

She has been going out on the deck this summer after having been inside for all these years. Getting braver, she wanders a little and is honing her hunting skills, which appalls me when she catches something. She is fast. She plays with toys if I tease her with them, but mostly just does the cat thing, lazing around. She doesn't do the tricks that Ollie did, hiding behind the shower curtain or under the sheets when I make the bed. She will never be Ollie, but she is getting closer to my heart.


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Saturday, August 25, 2007

My Beach Hair

I am wearing my beach hair. I feel pretty, oh, so pretty. I am only partially sane. The house is empty again. The thunder is sneaking around. It thundered while I slept. Eli has become an extension of my body. Now at my feet, curled against my stomach on the bed. I showered him with iced tea, trying to pour it without watching the glass. It fills my lap as well. I don't want to stand up. We will be up late, having slept the evening away.

My beverage refrigerator sits within reach of my computer for my constant infusions of diet Coke through bendy straws stuck in the secret hole. The bathroom refrigerator is for food - hot dogs, mayonnaise and soggy Stouffer's chicken and rice which doesn't stay frozen. No ice cream. I balance my food on the edge of the bathroom sink, juggling the tv dinners among the makeup and Pear's soap. A few china dishes are in the hutch in the living room. The rest are packed away in the basement. I eat off paper plates. Everything is nuke-able. I have no need of pots and pans. There is a cupboard for my groceries. Crackers, soup, vegetables in cans. And Skippy. I eat a lot of peanut butter. I ate Phyllis' tomato for dinner, dunked in dressing, and bread with Skippy that I shared with Eli. He shares everything I eat. My dinner companion. I hate to leave him tomorrow, but the "vacation" planning has been so complicated, he is better in the kennel.

I thought I would be going to Maine alone. Tony and I have barely spoken all week. He is playing golf tomorrow and will be incoherent by the time I see him. I will do my laundry, take Eli to Carl's, pack and spend the night on Main Street. Tony wants to leave at 5 a.m. I am sure he just said that to annoy me, but I didn't rise to the bait. We'll see, we'll see. What a bizarre life.

I need the beach. I want to walk the shore and take pictures and let the breeze blow in my crazy hair.

Chinny is draped across the back of the couch. She and Eli seemed to have worked out a plan. There is no more arguing for a prime spot on the bed. They even touch noses once in a while.

I had a pain for Ollie today, when I stepped out of the shower and he wasn't on the bathmat, paws crossed, soft-eyed, waiting for me. I haven't been thinking of him so much lately. Still, every time I do, my eyes fill up.

Eli is watching the door as if expecting someone. I hope not. I took off my dress and am sitting here half-naked. I don't think Lauren will be coming home. T-rex is with his father and Zach, of course, is making his own life now. Monday is my first baby's birthday. She will be 41. I feel a poem in there, but seeing as I can't use my Word, it may not get written. I have become very dependent on using my computer to compose.

It is midnight and the air is heavy. Josh and Amy are back in the city. It must have been awful there today. Tom was lugging Tara's junk up three floors, I think he said. I am so glad that Josh has Amy and Egan. All of our lives are changing and changing. But I have Eli.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ladies Lunch

We had lunch today, four grandmothers, that is what my friends are now. We relished our cheeseburgers with token slices of tomato and lettuce. We ate all our french fries, waists thickening perceptibly with each swallow. We told stories of the antics of the grandchildren, agreed that each of them occasionally would benefit from the application of a mother's hand on their darling little bums. How our hands itched to apply it.

We are varying shades of blonde. Neatly coifed and plumply dressed in summer colors. Pink nails, coral toes, myself the only one tattooed and pierced, wild hair. I didn't want to talk about children. I wanted to talk about thong panties and cops in garter belts and California. I wanted good gossip, hair raising tales of neighborhood sex, and drunken barbeques and who we knew had been snorting cocaine.

God, we are all ready for the Price Chopper bus. We parted with hugs and assurances that next time we would bring more photos of the grandchildren.

Save me

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007



Posted by Picasa

When did I get to be the grandmother

They started taking over. Giving directions. Making decisions. Making fun of my driving. They walked slow and waited for me to to go up and down the stairs. They waited on me. It was awful. Not that they did it, but that suddenly it seemed like the natural thing to do. I felt like, well, like an old elephant. Then I realized...I am an old elephant.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

To the Bronx

My virgin drive to the city, in Tony's car with Laur and Zach and Trex. Dinner Friday night at an Irish restaurant. Visit to the new apartment - it is huge and in a nice Irish neighbor. Night at the Ramada Inn with swimming (Okay, so I took a nap). Saturday at Van Cortland Park.

Amy's family was extremely interesting. Both of her sisters have married nice men. Megan and Dan live in Rochester and Megan looks and acts very much like Amy. Amy has buzzed her hair off and she looks terrific. Josh has been calling her his angel and they are talking about getting on "the adoption list" (and having a baby of their own). Sister Ginny and Daniel (yes, they have the same name problem that our family does) are missionaries in Guinea. They have adopted three chidren. Boys 7 and 6 named Elijah and Corbin and baby girl named Simka who is a heartbreaker. (Pictures on Picasa) Ginny and I had a conversation about their life there.

Her parents are pleasant. Dad Bill-2 was quiet, Etta more outgoing. I sat next to them at dinner and across from the great grandfolks. Bill-1 is a retired physician who is delightful with a friendly wife named Marilyn who looks very much like her stepdaughter (Etta). Amy's brother (Bill-3) is single, working on his doctorate in Japan, home for one more week, and is a real treat. Her father's brother - his twin John - came from PA with his wife Roberta. All very friendly and seemingly accepting of our foibles for a family of evangelicals (although we did try to tone it down).

J&A fixed a picnic - abundance of food - and a pinata in the park. Egan was wearing a purple tattoo. The guys all played soccer and frisbee and showed Trex how to hackey. All of them are involved in the church in some way. Josh's friend Jeff (from the Outsiders' tour) broke the pinata after the kids all had a shot at it. It was a perfect day.

We left around 3:30 to get Lauren home to make a frog cake for tomorrow. The drive back went faster, fewer traffic tie ups. Not a bad drive - I didn't like it, but would do it again. The boys slept most of the way. It was 6 when we got home and I did not pick up Eli. It is strange not to have to look out for him before I roll my chair.

I have downloaded a copy of Picasa, the photo program on the recommendation of "uncle" John, who does a newsletter for his church. I have all the photos on there now and it is a better editing program than what I have been using. The photographers were out in abundance. Amy's is a whole family of picture takers and I couldn't stay out of the way. Seeing myself - oh, Lord, I recognized myself. I am the grandmother.

the elephant

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Social Justice Center

In 1977 I looked pretty hot. Slender again after the birth of three children, I had great legs and better curves. I was sitting in the bar of a hotel in New Jersey waiting for my husband. I was chatting with the bartender and trying out a new drink he had recommended that involved amaretto and cream and strawberries. I was wearing a very snappy red and black suit with red pumps (sorry, folks, but it was the 70's). It was mid-afternoon and I was trying to tune out the revelry from a table of six business-types in suits who were ending their day with libations. They kept shooting glances my way. One of them got up and approached me. "Can I buy you a drink?" he asked. Politely, I said no, thank you. He persisted. I continue to refuse. Finally, he made a crude remark about me sitting in bar alone in the middle of the day, implying that I was a working girl. Flustered and furious I got up and left the bar. In my room I cried and stewed for a few minutes until I calmed myself and went back downstairs. Resolutely I approached the table where the men were still whooping it up, and proceded to give them a piece of advice. I am a married woman with three kids, I informed them icily. I am in this bar to meet my husband who is here on a business trip, probably the way you guys are. How many of your wives are home being accosted in a bar right now while you are out of town hitting on other women in a strange city? You are totally out of line, as well as obnoxious. Surprisingly, profuse apologies followed, from all the men and I stalked back to my room feeling proud of myself for not letting the moment pass to speak out.

Last night at the dumb poetry reading at the Social Justice Center, with Tim and Dennis and Obee and Mimi and Tom, I read my Las Vegas poem which mentioned being married by a judge holding a white Bible. The Bible I had in mind was one I had (and read) for many years, with a white leather cover. Following me, some goofy black dude got up to the microphone and in front of the whole crowd, challenged me to read my "white" Bible more because I would find that it was a Bible for black people, too. I was stunned and not sure if he were joking or not. I felt much the same as I did that day in the hotel. After the reading I approached the man. At first I spoke calmly and asked him if he was joking or serious. He was totally serious and resisted my efforts to explain about the cover of the Bible as opposed to the content. As it became obvious that either he wasn't wrapped too tight or was just fixated on this race thing, I chastised him for his mistaken assumptions and his rudeness. We parted without coming to an accord.

Dennis challenged me about the encounter, accusing me of having an anger issue. He was right that I was angry, but it was not uncontrolled. It was a matter of confronting injustice, which Dennis, I thought, would be sympathetic to. If we do not confront racism (or abusive parents or obnoxious salesmen or whatever) and attempt to defend what is right and true, then we are not fulfilling our responsibilites as citizens of the world. I used to be a non-confrontational person. I avoided the unpleasant and swallowed a lot of stuff I should have spoken out about. No more. I was angry and I made the effort, despite my innate aversion to it, to go to the root of the problem and make it right. I did the right thing.

Not a Racist

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

101 State Street

We are celebrating Joshua's wedding this weekend.

I married his father on a sunny May day in 1966 in a church that was not mine, or his. I was pregnant and wore a yellow dress with a white bibbed front that hung loose around the small round of my middle. I never did get very heavy with that pregnancy. I was hardly any bigger when my daughter was born at the end of August.

My friend Dolly was my maid of honor and her boyfriend Gary stood up with David, who looked like a mile of bad road. Three parents and all our sisters were there. My one sister was a chubby little 12-year-old with knock-knees and the seven-year-old pale and skinny and waiflike. The few photos that survived show us all looking hesitant and and a little confused. I was not yet nineteen and David was 21.

It was pretty much of a gamble. I probably married the wrong guy, but then, my other choices were not much better and I thought, of course, that I loved him. We "honeymooned" at the Villa Capri on Central Avenue, and I escorted the drunken groom a few blocks to our apartment on State Street. A railroad flat, three rooms one behind the other with two tall front windows looking on a row of un-rehabbed brownstones on the old Albany street not far from Washington Park.

What a country girl I was, frightened out of my skin by the appearance of a monstrous bug on the bedroom floor the first week we lived there. I spent the whole night in my Aunt Ethel's platform rocker in the living room with my feet in my lap to keep them off the floor. When David got home from his night shift at the Watervliet Arsenal, he introduced it to me as a cockroach. They were also in the bathtub. I insisted we pack up and move by the next weekend.

We moved in with his mother on Homestead Street and my dear Aunt Ethel bought us a car. What a car it was. A 1961 white Thunderbird convertible with red interior. When the baby was only a few weeks old, David racked up the beautiful car on the train tracks underneath the Dunn Memorial Bridge. He arrived home walking, reeking of alcohol, with a ragged hole in his elbow.

He almost missed the baby being born. We were in the old Hopper's Bar on the end of Johnston Road with his mother and a transient boyfriend. I was not feeling well -with good reason as it turned out- and not up to the regular Friday night bar hopping he refused to miss, so he left with his friend Wayne Barden. The baby was not due for almost another month. The transient boyfriend drove me back to Homestead Street finally and left me in the care of David's sister Linda.
As was usually the case, Vi's phone had been turned off, so when my pains got bad, Linda got nervous and walked about a mile to a pay phone, called her mother at the bar, and the transient boyfriend had the privilege of driving me to the hospital. They located my husband just in time for the birth.

I had a perfect tiny girl that David wanted to name after my sister. She weighed six pounds and had a head full of curls.

Josh has married a soulmate I think. She has a child of her own and he and Egan seem to adore each other. He is a good dad. He didn't invite his father to the wedding.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Zach is back

...and he is in love with California. He is packing his life up to move it out there. I am feeling my losses. Lady Bird Johnson died this week. I never liked her. Paul Salisbury also died this week. The little fireplug. Tom and I visited Cathy after our pottery lesson today. She has admitted to not doing well and that is a blow. Dwight and Shanna and the kids are with her. That is good. Baby J is working with cousin Will. I have not heard from Elaine. Another worry. I need to call Deb. My biopsy was fine. My neck is still ugly. Eli got a haircut on Tony's porch today. Tony swept the dog hair off the grass. I fell asleep on his couch. We are invited for breakfast. I saw many of my parents peers at the lib concert this week. Still going strong. Andrea sent a photo of the babes. I don't know if I should answer.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

My back is burning.

Someone might be putting out a lit cigarette on the skin next to my spine. Yet, I sit here at my computer, in the position which causes me the most pain. Hedy says it is arthritis in my neck, but I doubt her. The pain is so strong that I can hardly work sometimes.

Eli has moved again to lay at my feet. Always moving as I do. To the couch. To the bathroom. To the bed. I am braless in a spotty tie-dyed t-shirt. I have stitches in my leg from the biopsy. My hair is wild. I have iced and heated my neck according to Mary's instruction.

I have canceled my Sushi date. My reluctant Sushi date. I hate Sushi. I have checked my email again and again. The mail never comes. I am tired of doing my laundry. I would rather sleep on top of the sheets. With the cat hair. Chinny is on the back of the couch. Fat and fluffy. There are never enough hours. To paint to read to sleep to brush the dog. Eli is checking the window. Nobody comes. Casey comes. She comes for Lauren. Then Tracy. With a sad story. Zach calls his mother. Lauren cries. Cars go up and down and in and out. Tom did not come with the video.

I am on the periphery of the world. Tony is on his porch. The pizza man is coming. I am the keeper of the money. I am the keeper of the porch.

Looking out

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What Dennis Said

Another Poem for Etta
June 2007

I never liked you, old woman
your froggy mouth snapping lipless
to catch my imperfections on your eager tongue

your righteous southern Methodist
intervention offered with that prissy little smirk
you thought was softening the whipcrack

of your god-almighty words
oh, you could charm the neighbors
with your clever liquid drawl

you weren’t born a redhead for no reason
in your long black gloves and feather comb
showing off that unbecoming flirt in you

your jowls quivered baby powder soft but you
were all bones and angles and faded sunbonnets
in the cornfields with your brother and the mule

gathering eggs from the hen house
chopping heads off squawking chickens
on the bloody stump with the long-handled axe

cranking buckets from the rock well
there were king snakes in the cistern
Nigras down the dirt road through the pines

baking early morning biscuits
in the wood stove after
a nose-holding trip to the two-seater

no spare flesh but sacrifice
you were a brittle woman
abandoned to raise three sons

intruding into the lives of others
taking your secret self to the grave
leaving me to mourn the little yellow finch

dead under the giant cedar
and the graceful curving staircase
to the slant-roofed garret rooms

in the old farmhouse
and the magnolia-scented
summers of Tennessee

only your granddaughter

Monday, June 25, 2007

Zach is gone

We have lost another one and the house seems to be echoing a protest. He is such a presence flying in and out, with his rosy cheeks and his intensity. His little brother will be missing him, and his mother, and me.

Young men are dying now, his age, lost forever to the ones who love them. The funeral for Shawn Martin of Delmar will be this week, whenever what is left of him returns. Casey's Jared is somewhere in the fighting, and my little cousin Logan, we don't know where. Someone is counting the dead still, but more and more they are just numbers instead of living, breathing people. Eighty this month so far; the "96" only a memory. I visit their pictures and try to meet them and imagine the loss of them in the lives of others. It seems like all, and the least, I can do.

Our Zach will be returning, still on this earth, in California or New York or points where we can find him, and touch him, and hear his voice.

Zachary, so anxious to go and start your life, be safe and be happy. We'll be here.

only Grandma C.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What I Want

I want to go to Vegas
on a four-day junket
in the cheap seats
and in the Chapel of Love
pledge my undying
to the man of my heart

I want Elvis in black leather
to walk me down
the petal-strewn aisle
lip-synching The Wonder of You
up to the altar massed with white tulips
where a dumpling of a justice
in a genuine black robe
will pronounce the words
over a white Bible
with his wife of 52 years
standing by to witness

I want my arms overflowing with
orange poppies and lavender roses
I'll wear a slinky black dress
with my sun-soaked breasts
barely covered
not virginal at all because
I am no virgin and don't
want to be
there will be no rings
just in case
my love and I will flee
in a rented yellow convertible
with the top down to
a neon night and cruise
the Strip so everyone can
see me and know
that I am loved and then

we will lock ourselves for
three days in a schmancy hotel
with room service before we
pop a coin in some slot and fly
backover the Grand Canyon
to our separate houses and
I know the sex will be
the best I've ever had

Today I want to be married

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Crow Ink

Crows know.
They take their black,
raucous selves,
fire up that attitude
and never look back
at their abandoned nest
high in the pines

I wonder, sometimes,
if our lives might be no more
than the art of crows
written, for awhile
on the sky
then, in an instant,
erased by the wind…
--Sharon Auberle

(from CROW INK, 2007)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

After the party

Catalpa blossoms are littering the driveway, frilly white on my red car like crumpled tissues, the scent of the heavy-headed peonies perfuming the morning air.

My sister timed her arrival for the middle of my party, perhaps to play to the biggest audience. Mistakenly, I greeted her with open arms, ready to be friends again. Her imperious self was temporarily dormant, unleashed shortly with the infusion of scotch she didn't wait long to order. It was, as she planned, a black note in a sweet day. Making nice, she informed me, is not the same as making amends, and amends is what she was looking for - her "birthright" which I "stole". I can't make amends. I cannot give her what I do not have and I am never to be forgiven.

My other sister, the one who relented and sent a birthday card, did not appear at all.

There was no surprise visit from Michael, which, although I didn't expect it, was constantly in the back of my mind. I was waiting to see Lily and Maddix come shyly through the swinging door. Josh had warned me they were not coming.
But, still...I was waiting.

It was a day of curiosities. A day of the expected and unexpected. I did not expect the tribute that Tom paid me and it was, perhaps, the most meaningful moment of my day. Josh's reading of my poems was exquisite and I was so proud of him. Lauren's planning and cooking and execution skills are wonderful, although there was much about her that was worrisome. My talented Zach was upset about his broken mousse whose taste was not affected by the texture.
Baby Josh was there with a woman, looking handsome and hugging me. Amy, looking lovely, took the photos, Egan was his engaging self and very well behaved. Courtney came and Heather brought Emily who plastered herself with chocolate. Jimmy and Floyd brought flowers and lugged tables and chairs. Marion and Arthur sat in the nursing home.
That was all my family.

My gifts were both charming and plebian, from the lotto tickets to the artwork. Diane Shedd's painting, obeedude's Bruce Springstein, pottery from the Darlings. Obeedude came in costume as he threatened and so did Willow whose mom dressed her in a birthday outfit.

There appeared many poets, not so many library people, few of Tony's friends and many missing who should have been there. There was no dancing, too much leftover food, and as always after a party, that vague feeling that something else should have happened.

Just thinking.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Years

...I am born in May.
...they call me Barbie.
...we live on Woodlawn Avenue with Irvin and Emily.
...the tulips are blooming in Washington Park.
...I fall out of the green wooden swing mother walks me in my stroller to see Mr. Mudge.
...we visit aunt Ethel on Hurlbut Street next to the school.
...and Aunt Kate with the bum knee and Uncle Ralph
...and their snappy little Jack Russell with no name.
...I play with my ice cream.

...I am a college dropout
...I am the mother of baby girl
...I am sexy
...the world is at war.
...we live in a trailer in Clifton Park.
...David works nights at the Watervliet Arsenal.
...We drive a Thunderbird with no reverse.
...I have all my parts. sisters are in high school.
...We meet Chris and Carol Mouyos.
...Susie and Elaine become my best friends.
...I play the guitar.

...Big Josh gives me a birthday party.
...Linda and John are there.
...Baby Josh learns to walk.
...there is no Zach, no T-rex.
...Tony and I play pinochle with Milt and Eunice.
...We live in our own house in the orchard with Max. sister lives next door.
...Cheryl lives in Florida
...Nancy is my best friend.
...I don't know Jackie and George.
...I play Trivial Pursuit.

...Ollie is dead. And Max.
...and John and George and Susie
...and Linda and Milt and Chris
...and all the aunts and uncles
...Michael is gone. And Nancy. sisters hate me. parents are locked up.
...I smoke cigarettes.
...I have a tattoo.
...I have a nose ring.
...I have new knees.
...I have six grandchildren.
...Two of them are missing.
...I have been to Paris.
...the world is at war.
...George Bush is an asshole.
...I play computer games.

...I am planning to be dead.

Contemplating changes

Sunday, June 3, 2007

3 a.m.

My mosquito bites are itching - my right arm, left wrist, the back of my right thigh, my left calf and both ankles...the sole of my foot?

I am trying not to move.

The fan is blowing gentle air over the double bed where Eli is snugly against my back and Chinny at my feet. They are both peacefully unaware that it is 3 a.m. and I am wide awake.
I might be sleeping, too, had I not slumbered away half of the muggy afternoon on this bed with them. They don't seem to have any problem sleeping and I am too polite to disturb them.

In a fit of frenzied ambition, I spent the evening performing such trivial tasks as cleaning the mess off the coffee table, sorting the library books, hanging up clothes and watching Notes on a Scandal (which was quite good, but overdue at VPL). At midnight I was eating spinach and playing a video game. At 1 a.m. I started a book, thinking I would perform my obligatory nightly read-to-relax maneuver for a few minutes, and got enthralled in the memoir of a woman whose husband was hit by a car(while walking their dog) and received a traumatic brain injury.

Lauren has not been home since Friday. In fact, the only human I viewed all day yesterday was Zachary my darling for a short exposure. I worked a long time on this blog which is assuming a life of it's own.

My afternoon nap had been one of those awful rubber-cemented-to-the-bed experiences where I thought someone was calling me and I just couldn't get up. Not expoxied-to-the-bed, because I seemed to move my limbs, struggling like a swamp creature in a morass of clinging goo.

I can't tell if I am awake or asleep when that happens.
It scares me.

Bill Bixby

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Peanut Butter for My Mother

I am washing peanut butter off a knife when I realize that my mother has washed her last dish. What a tempting thought. To never wash another dish. To never do housework or laundry. Or anything that you don't feel like doing.

Of course, that may be a bargain with the devil. My mother has traded much.

She will never drive again. Or write out her Christmas cards, go to K-Mart with my sister, eat in a restaurant. Or roll around in bed on a hot summer afternoon naked, with a man. Though, I guess I don't know that for sure.

I sit on the lawn where we played croquet, in front of her house, wave to her neighbors, get mail from her box. I stand in the kitchen where she stood on the old yellow floor she was so proud of, looking out the same window at the pond where she swam, and the garden where her father weeded vegetables. I sleep with the dog in her marriage bed.

I can open the window to the sun and the breeze she has been denied, walk up the shadowy road where she strolled with my father. The city girl who became a country girl for love.

The telephone rings and I answer expectantly. She will never answer again.

The sky has grayed and thunder sounds. Eli is nervous, hugging my leg. We have finished our peanut butter sandwich. Maybe next time, I will make one for my mother.

Counting the ice

Thursday, May 31, 2007


I saw her from a distance
poised sleek and graceful
her coat light against
the green foliage

The road stretched straight
simmering with heat
she crossed before me
and I slowed

watching for her mate
and saw instead
a spotted fawn emerge
hesitantly from the trees

then dash madly
in his mother's wake
spindly legs flying
over the concrete

I rolled by cautiously
and saw them hovering
together in the trees
looking back at

a tiny awkward twin
stranded on the other side
of a strip of speeding cars
waiting for rescue


Monday, May 28, 2007

Flying with Lily

I dreamed...
  • I was lost in a city
  • a mugger wanted my cell phone
  • I was screaming
  • my phone broke
  • a policeman wouldn't help me
  • I ran into a factory
  • there was a wedding in the basement
  • the bridegrooom stole my cherry wallet
  • he used my credit card for his honeymoon
  • I was locked in the basement
  • I had no phone, no money
  • Tony came to save me
  • we escaped
  • Tony disappeared
  • I was flying with Lily in my arms
  • a golden retriever was flying with us
  • bad guys were chasing us
  • we flew around the city
  • I was afraid to fly over the water
  • Lily was cold
  • the water was endless
  • we were getting too tired to fly
  • I thought I might drop her
  • we flew inside a hamburger stand
  • no one was hungry
  • the bad guys were outside

I tried to wake up

  • my mother was home
  • we heard glass break
  • she got into my bed


Sunday, May 27, 2007

I hurt myself

...with anger, with doing on angry impulse what seemed right and turned out badly. Should I be sorry for saying what I felt? How can I apologize for truth? I would take the words back now, but they are in the air, and I can't grab them.

Who was the foolish one? Who counts the cost of ice?

Sister, mother, grandmother and still olliesmom

Memorial Day

I was sweating in the shoe aisle at KMart
not wearing combat boots
but desert hot, sweating, sweating
my red tee shirt damp on my chest

My uniform was black capris
not khaki or camo, my leg ankled
with a light bulb chain
that hung like dog tags

The man ahead of me in line
was opening his pool
for the holiday weekend
and buying party ice

The checkout girl admired
my nose ring while I paid for
sandals which would
never see the desert sand

I turned on the air in the Cruiser
and pulled into the line of cars
people hurrying to swim
and have a beer with their burger

The sun glinted on the roofs of shiny
speeding cars on hot pavement
no desert drab, no tents, no dust storms
no drone of tanks and humvees

Thunder sounded in the distance
not the thunder of guns or ieds
but the rumble that brings
cool rain and dripping eaves

over a wide white porch
with a swing and the chatter
of children and a breeze
to stir the green leaves

I stopped at a drive-thru
for an icy root beer that
beaded the paper cup with sweat
and reached for my cell phone

to be sure that all was well
at home and say that I would
be there soon and there was
nothing to be afraid of

Thank you from Barbara
Mem Day 2007

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Family Dinner

The old folks were in polyester
flowered shirts and saggy pants
pretending to be ordinary people

pretending to know us when
God knows who they thought we were
- the servers, the chefs, the caterers

they ate with gusto
the chicken, the bright peas,
the lemon meringue pie

they wanted iced tea with no ice
so they got their money’s worth
not knowing the price of the meal

we answered their questions
their over-and-over questions
each of us in turn

giving different answers
to the same questions
we made up answers

we made up stories
we showed photos of grandchildren
they pretended to remember

and fathers and brothers and dogs
still alive for those who had outlived them
who counted the cost of ice?


Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Million Bells

...are ringing in the wind that has darkened the day, ruby and topaz blooms, violent greens.

  • Eli was a dandelion puff rolling on the cut grass, under my legs now, waiting for thunder.

  • I have done nothing for my birthday I didn't feel like doing.

  • I hardboiled eggs and ate one. Just the yellow part.

  • I ate French toast with strawberries for breakfast and filled my eyes with Bradley Moak.

  • Egan had two ice creams and a lollipop at the school bazaar. His tongue was blue.

  • I don't know what Maddix and Lily did.

  • T-rex zapped people with a hand grenade.

  • Lauren found love.

  • Tonight I will put on some jammies and watch Desperate Housewives.

  • Maybe with popcorn. And some Zero.

  • I will restart my life slowly. Tomorrow. This week.

  • I'll see how it goes.

  • Maybe I will try harder.

  • I don't want to promise.

The Birthday Girl

A Crowd of Cows

Under a tree in a Florida pasture, they are jostling for space in the shade. They are brown suede and black velvet, sleek and soft-skinned. We glide by in our red Mustang. My cheeks are getting sunburned. The wind makes a snarl of my hair. I am holding a straw visor on my head with one hand.

The cows have a tree and they all want it. I want the sun and the wind and to go so fast I leave my life behind. I can almost hear them politely asking one another to move over a little. No one says anything to me.

How long do they let cows live before they eat them?
Not longer than 60 years I'm thinking.

My birthday 2007

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Playhouse

The door stands open on a plastic room
crowded with brown and brittle leaves
there is no echo of happy voices
the children are gone

The yellow slide curls down to the empty air
the swings hang limp
there is no dancing in the wooden tower
no toys in the sand

There are no rosy cheeks,
no silken hair, no tiny sneakers
No one is laughing
in this little empty house.

Grandma C.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Before we go home
we lie on our backs
in the long grass beside
dented buckets of berries
smooth and tiny and round
hard-won from low bushes
a long day of slow-picking
smooth blue berries
and tiny green worms
into dented silver pails
hooked on our belts
we lie purple-handed
in the long grass

Irvin Baker's granddaughter

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Day One

Blue sky, Eli at my feet.
Thinking about the babies. And the ocean.
Eli and I had swiss cheese and crackers for lunch.

The sun roof in my car let lots of helicopters in.