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She Lay Curled In An Animal’s Trench

She lay curled in an animal’s trench
Soft shed hair helped keep her warm.
She patted the ground hoping for lion
but most likely flighty hyena lay here.
She pulled in handfuls of dust and chaff,
plucked shallow weeds.
They smelled of old blood and broken loyalty.

Obsidian sky dripped malachite meteors,
low slow and long.
Chandeliers of stars once reflected in the pond
that lay east of her chin
But the water was gone
consumed by tongue and air.

Rested, she rose and twisted tufts of weed and hyena
into her hair.
She spat into the sandy earth and ground it in her palms,
painting the four points on her face.
She continued her long walk west back to the sorting place
determined to be a mirthless, disobedient beast
until the sun came back to retrieve her.

(Persephone’s Staircase)

The Don’t List

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It’s going to be too far
That’s going to be too hot
That is way too deep
It’s too cold for that

It might hurt
It might burn down
It might be too loud
It won’t last that long

It’s too dark for that
It might have bacteria
That’s too scary
It’s probably poisonous

That’s going to upset your stomach
That’s going to spoil your dinner
That’s going to swell your eyes shut
and give you bad dreams

It’s never a good idea
It’s a crazy idea
It’s a bad idea

Yeah, but Mama what if it’s not?

Forced To Breathe

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Something about the placement of the sun and moon and perhaps Mercury in retrograde had something to do with why I ran out of the house and down to the shore. I couldn’t put two thoughts together. I couldn’t decide whether to sit or stand or eat or drink or write or wash a dish or leave or stay. Just before the tipping point I put on sunglasses, left my phone on the table, and got the hell out of there. I really don’t know what it was that moved me to go in that second, was it the universe pushing me, it must have been because the dolphins were present in the bay.

I stumbled out through the dune path and bee-lined for “my” spot but a summer sunbather was there. I veered east (still not far enough away from her music playing) and dropped into the warm sand like Simba on the grassy hillside the night he needed to sort things out.

The dolphin pod was not passing through our little spit of the Chesapeake this time. They were hunting playing for croaker and mullet. Normally when I see dolphin their backs and dorsals seem black, probably because of distance, a trick of the light, presbyopia, or all of the above. Today, though, they were clearly sparkling gray and white. No sweet faces seen, just bodies and flukes. Some were in groups of three, one larger-bodied and two smaller-bodied beings huddled close and loping gently along. As for the hunting playing party, it was a foamy free-for-all.

In the space of a few moments four colorful jet-skis passed right through the dolphin patch, a small Coast Guard boat came flying out of the channel, and in the not too far distance a submarine was under way, all while the sunbather had her back turned from the water and her buddies were splashing around. I felt as though I was looking at a painting where someone said, “paint everything you will ever see ocean side.” It felt crammed and unpleasant, no rhythm or ease. I forced myself to wait out the desire to leave, so I watched the boats and dolphins and jet-skis disappear. I listened to the waves curl and release and it became easier to breathe. Whatever I wished for, hoped, or wanted became irrelevant as I let the simple hissing water mesmerise.

Hands in hot water washing a dish, I mused that dolphins don’t have to decide to write or sleep or interact. I cannot live unhemispherically because I would miss my dreams where mermaids tell me you exist. I like purple ink on my fingers after I write, and reading dog-eared pages filled with moody, conquering kings.

Taxi Ride

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There was a time when I didn’t want to fly because I hated flying. You know, the act of flying. That thing where wheels up, pressed into seat and all the bad things happen in the first few minutes or the last few minutes when rubber meets the road when it’s all gonna be okay or it’s the moment you wished you burned your journals before you left home. 

            Then there was the time I learned to understand how the act of flying works: you get over the fear of the crashing thing and realize the bigger picture is you’re at the mercy of the airlines. Sure you ordered a ticket online (which no one taught you how to do, you figured it all out yourself, wishing you had someone looking over your shoulder to guide you and say good job!), then you marked the days you’d be away, getting ready for the big day like you were cramming for a test the night before hoping there’d be no mechanical failures or oversold seats or the other dumb things dumb airlines do.  It all works out, once you realize how flying works, and as long as you keep taking deep breaths and pretend you are a mourning dove flying or a dolphin diving you are fine.

            Then it’s all over and you need a ride home in the soaking thunderstorm that kept you from getting a gate, sitting long on the runway but that’s okay, too. It’s like being stuck in a subway car or the DMV. It’s inconvenient but at least you’re in one piece, okay?  So I walked the mile to find my bag (which is actually Dad’s luggage he never used) and went outside to see if there’s a Norfolk taxi black and white available.  Nope.  Life is full of decisions, you know, like should I sleep on the plane or watch a crappy movie that the chick with the prosthetic right arm is streaming across the aisle.  I chose the Eastside taxi instead of calling for the usual because I was so tired, I just needed to get home and didn’t care as long as it had four wheels and a go.  An elderly black man abandoned his fast food meal on the front seat and loaded my one bag. I told him where I needed to go, that I preferred the back way but he said I-64 was fine this time of night, no traffic, so I said fine, whatever. He drove like an old man and I liked it and then I was annoyed and then I liked it because I wanted him to move faster but if he did he’d be hitting the deep puddles that had accumulated during the thunderstorm I’d been sitting in at the airport.  Norfolk gets a lot of water but hasn’t found a way to drain it effectively.  He was a conservative driver and part of me was like “go man go” and the other part was like “thank you for not hydroplaning us into a terrible accident that makes me regret not burning my journals before I left.” 

And then!  And then.  He plugged in his music playlist and it all came home: Diana Ross of the 80s through the speakers.  Goddamn, I wanted my roller skates and silk shirt and forgot the airplane and my ache from sitting twisted so my elbow didn’t touch the other guy’s elbow and the crappy movie and leaving a writer’s nest and missing him singing ‘At Last.’ We made small talk. I told him to avoid the I-64 entrance across the way because it’s probably 3 feet deep by now, go back up town. He appreciated the advice from someone who’s lived here a while.  I tipped him good then dumped my stuff on the couch and slept like I hadn’t slept before. 

Lillies In The Vase

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Maroon lips, the blood we cannot talk about
Buddha robes, patient orange sit with me ten minutes straight,
silent
or thinking thinking thinking,
name your thought is it salty or sweet
Saffron savory, orange tang touch it with your tongue you’ll never go away unsatisfied
(are you less thinking thinking thinking?)
Pink pale prim fuchsia blushing from behind happy to share water with you
let us walk, step right. Step left. Step right. 

Blessed*

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They nest every year in a pine tree the next house over.
Fearless. Curious.
One dusk I saw five of them on the branches, then they flew off, long legs trailing.
But one stood on the roof peak, tawny legs, tan roof, beak before the breeze. Its crest feathers and remiges flowing back, and I can’t decide if it looked like a dragon or a princess…




*yellow crowned night heron (Look it up, as my dad would say)

(in Just-) e e cummings

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in Just- 
spring          when the world is mud- 
luscious the little 
lame balloonman 

whistles          far          and wee 

and eddieandbill come 
running from marbles and 
piracies and it’s 
spring 

when the world is puddle-wonderful 

the queer 
old balloonman whistles 
far          and             wee 
and bettyandisbel come dancing 

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and 

it’s 
spring 
and 

         the 

                  goat-footed 

balloonMan          whistles 
far 
and 
wee

Life vs Laptop

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She smiled at me from her shopping cart, her perfect baby chiclet teeth all white in a row. I waggled my fingers at her and we went on our separate ways. I hoped her Mom didn’t mind a stranger trying to be kind.
He pulled back his cart and said, “Excuse me,” though he seemed 100 feet away. We smiled and nodded and went our separate ways.
The maintenance guy held up my brother’s bicycle as he was learning to go without training wheels.
A neighbor plowed our driveway when he knew my spouse was wounded and unable to do so, then my son, years later helped plow out neighbor’s houses when they had no way to get free.
There are thousands or more moments like this that prove that we are kind. That we are love. That we are worth saving and fighting for. We, being humankind. Mostly all we hear about is abuse and conspiracy and things we cannot change, and I believe we are impaling ourselves on the negative instead of seeing the beautiful children, men, and women who smile and share and give, the unnamed, unheralded. I look forward to the day that we no longer report how nice Miss Denise was because it had become so commonplace.
Put down the phone. Put down the electronic. Walk outside and make eye contact with the world… the world! The world breathes and exhales and makes and changes and creates. The world that is not parliament or congress. Walk away from the screen and embrace the living skin of the real world. Inhale the life. Accept being inhaled. Give without thought. Walk away from QWERTY. The best of us is there… right there and it will never be reported every day but you will see it and stock it on your shelves.