Blessed Commotion

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gray morning 5:30
take it slow
purple ink on my writing finger
scribbled notes on junk mail
some important message needs decoding
something about Friday melanoma (again)

Michael Shannon sings with a band
I think he wants to be Jim Morrison
an Aztec frieze of fearsome teeth and feathers
neck bent, back bent, knees bent
hearing the secret, being the ceremony
sweat
becoming
apart
receiving
transmutation connection
high-five.

what feathers can I be on this soupy morning?
mmm. I shall wear a blanket of all of you,
an Aztec frieze of fearsome teeth and feathers
that I plucked when you invaded the sparrows nest
brown brood barely able to fly hiding on the shed nearby
neath the tree some might call a weed but full of green
shade and safe from blue jay, osprey
cardinal witnesses the catbird wanting to infiltrate
and the raven–I heard the raven’s feet touch the lamp
when it landed and croaked, wanting fledgling meat
vulnerable, but he was late to the show.

feathers for my blanket made of attempted murder
a witness, an empty nest,
red, blue, black, brown, white
Coffee on the way to the job, I’m late (again)

Upon Finding The Dragon’s Egg

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I awoke abruptly, squintingly, because the sun peered in my bedroom window, an alarm my body cannot refuse. Strange sun, Jim Morrison said in his notebook poem, and I opened my door after I put clothes on (but not shoes because no one needs shoes to walk from the balcony to the cool beach sand that was not far away.)  Strange sun well-riz on my right also known as East, the train of cool blue dawn retreated into the distance, laughing gulls squeaked overhead and moved on instead of making their usual mocking laughter from the breakwater that sounds like children a mile away calling out for help because they are drowning.

I walk barefoot on a beach where I found seashells in all stages of their lives tossed on the shingle by an uncaring sea, but all those shells and emerald mermaid’s hair wafting in the tidal pools are gone.  The Army Corps of Engineers came and did one heck of a job building up this little spit of land that had been slowly reclaimed by the ocean one winter storm, one summer hurricane at a time and now my feet trod sand the size of peppercorns instead of soft, creamy quartsy silt I fell in love with, all those tidal pools gone.  I am grateful yet disoriented. Strange.

So this morning I woke and walked and found the dragon’s egg. Should come as no surprise to anyone because the system that came from the west moved in and brought us a week of rain and a night of high wind, fearsome wind too early for hurricane but made us reach for our batteries and bottled water anyway.  I plucked the egg from the sand poor thing blown from her nest, abandoned, knowing that’s the worst thing I could possibly do but when did I ever abide by the rules, and I held it in my hand wondering what could I possibly do?  And then the shell broke, the creamy satin shell broke open and spilled out venom all over my hand and it hurt like the sting of a bee that begins slowly and takes over your interstitial fluids and spreads out and swells because it really, really, does not want you to be offending it yet you have by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and you are paying for your transgression. I held the dragon’s egg, seeping fluids hurting so much, but my pride kept me from screaming so I ran down and into the cold, cold water and submerged me and the egg hoping the pain would ebb.  The silken shell stuck to my hand. The venom came forth like a ginger lady’s tresses, Rapunzel-like, then dissipated in the brine. The shell dissolved and my pain dissolved too as I panted hopping foot to foot hoping not to step on a skate just going about his business.

Cue Up The Serenity Prayer

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It was a casual but sincere parting at the end of a brief conversation. “Hope things are going your way,” she said, and I laughed and laughed. I threw my head back and cackled like a madwoman. If anyone in the apartment next door heard me they would have believed I was destined for the funny farm in a funny jacket in a funny ambulance.

‘Hope things are going my way.’ As if.

Darling. Baby.  If things were going my way the world would look a whole lot different let me tell you:

If things were going MY way, Donald Trump never would have emerged from his black and gold glass troll cave. He’d spend the rest of his days in his gilded cage with his tiny, cold hands and his tiny cold heart typing tiny cold words that would endanger no one, rather like a mosquito buzzing in one’s ear.

If things were going my way, cancer would not be a thing, fullstop. And we could really do without Ebola, Zika, and Lyme, too.

There would be no mounds of plastic on the shores of rivers or floating in abysmal ocean trenches or excavated from the tummies of whales and turtles. Nope.

If things were going my way everybody could hoof it to their corner store and buy fresh food for dinner. I don’t wanna hear about food deserts any more, ridiculous. Why should only people with cars or Uber or a Metro card be the only ones to have access to fresh greens? NOBODY should be eating Spam from a can and TV dinners every night of the week!

And don’t even get me started on clean water for Flint, Michigan. If things were going my way, we’d never hear the words “another school shooting” ever again.

Yeah, things are going my way, just zippity doo, because I have the leisure to think about things and complain about it to you. Or pray then start a revolution…

Patience For The Queen

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The Saffron Queen is a dream of blood now. She is garnet and green veins, though she wishes they were blue, strong and heroic like Princess Diana. She is needles and nose mucous, pretty in that blouse she bought for her trip to Puerto Rico, pink lace, denim and sandals she waits for the drip to be done so she can vape her troubles away.

The Garnet Queen’s hands are talons now, gripping, grasping, seeking prey to tear apart on the rocks of her teeth. This lady is no raptor seeking meat, she wants to kill the heart of you with her cruel, crushing words. And now she curls up like a baby and weeps, begging for love, sipping from her “Kwanzaa” cup, lost in a place she did not ask to be. She drifts off and the fear and the hate and the sorrow melt away.

She is Changeling, someone replaced her in the night with someone else, there is no other explanation for why she has gone. She is lost and believes she is alone, no one cares, even though her man strokes her hair and I press dressings to stop the bleed where she pulled out the IV.  She is Changeling, wondering why her children haven’t come, hating them and laying curses on them forever.

A cold front moves in over the ocean, rising thunderheads captured in steel gray and mango moments before the rain, a dramatic photograph she took that sits on the floor of her room instead of hanging proudly on someone’s wall. I like to remember my fierce potted plant friend as photographer lady, the unfinished woman wondering why her children never call, her man working so hard to please her. May her Kwanzaa cup brim with love tomorrow, may the grace of the Universe find her man and fill him with patience and strength, and I’ll not fail to remember the dachshund pillows next time.

Bodies In My Trunk, Respectfully, Goodbye.

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I know the blue footlocker didn’t materialize into my teenage life like something that Scotty would beam up to the Enterprise, all magical-like.  I know the footlocker came from somewhere, and I’m guessing I got it either from a friend or from a yard sale. I kept the locker in my room somewhere. I’ve worked hard trying to remember where I kept it. Strange how some memories are present, the kind you can stub your toe on, and other things are just so unclear.   It wasn’t the centerpiece of the room, though. That was my stereo. This footlocker is dinged up, dogged up, gouged blue metal with brass corners and lock. I think I kept stuffed animals on top and glasses of tea.

When I left my teenage home I brought the trunk with me, my strong shoulders unceremoniously stuffed it into my Bronco, hauled it up two flights of stairs, and I kept it somewhere in my apartment. I’m not sure where. It wasn’t the centerpiece, though. That was my stereo.

One night, a man suggested that he was going to bring me, his soon to-be-wife, to meet his mom tomorrow, a backwards proposal. I squealed and we rolled around on his waterbed by the light of his Plasma Ball (look it up), and I hugged him so hard, excited and happy and it all felt so right. Later we dragged a 10,000 pound couch I got from a neighbor I no longer needed to my Dad’s house. Everything else got moved into my future-spouses house via our trucks, including the rusty, dusty footlocker.  I remember opening it on the bedroom floor, exploring old yearbooks and notes from boyfriends rediscovering all those feelings. I did not write down all those things that flooded back, blooded back, as I remembered those high school days. I shoulda. We tucked the locker into a root cellar where my old stereo went. I mean, he had his sound system and mine wasn’t needed, after all, just like some of the stuff that came from my mom’s apartment after she passed, and Dad’s house after he passed along, too.

The blue and brass footlocker pockmarked with rusty volcanoes is in my bedroom now because I asked one of the apartment maintenance crew to help me upstairs with it. If I was a teenager I could have done it by myself, but my rotator cuff says no-go. We pulled the rusty trunk out of my trunk and we lugged it upstairs.  I asked the young lady who reminds me of me (you know, running around after her dad, wanting to learn everything) if she likes the Thirsty Camel so I could buy her lunch.  I’ll repay her as soon as she will allow me. I know she will say yes.  Meanwhile, the trunk where I told my son all the dead bodies are buried sits alongside my bed.  The rusty key is somewhere. I have a screwdriver plan B in case I can’t find it. From memory I know my yearbooks are in there and a shoe-box filled with notes from those I loved and loved me. Not sure what else I will discover, but the focus is that this is where the bodies are, a life left behind and should not be ignored.  How will I reckon them, those notes in ink I can still smell?  What can I do with the past that was part of making the me who is not the same me anymore?

I see a bonfire in my future, not an angry one filled with hate and the desire to harm, but one that burns hot and clean.

Crack In The Stone

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For me, the very best poems are the simple ones. I enjoy a simple table in a sunlit room with friends I love and foods that satisfy all my emotions. I am relaxed, at ease, a bit of sauce on my sleeve, a light touch on my thigh, a certain sadness upon parting: I will miss you all but take comfort in knowing I will see you again.  The very best poems are the simple ones.

I sat on the bed of the Saffron Queen and we exchanged many things until her daughter came in. It was awkward because I know both of them, so I went downstairs to fill my fancy water glass to give them time to talk. Suddenly there were three dogs in her room and it was more than she could manage, and suddenly it was just the two of us again. The queen spoke and I laughed and she said I was beautiful just then, my smile, something she’d never seen before.  I became self-aware, knowing why I rarely smile in her presence, guilty for that, suddenly looking for ways to be more relaxed and real on her bed where she lives now.

The very best poems are the simple ones. Life is real and death is real and friends are real and poems are real and sometimes I just can’t handle it all.

Work Zone Awareness Week

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It’s mostly starlings zooming by my work zone
blackflash streaks past the sill where I keep heart-shaped rocks
rusticles, and a plastic shell that some anonymous person placed
one day when I wasn’t looking
(I don’t have the heart to throw it away)

I am waiting for the dragonflies to drive by
misguided missiles on a southern trajectory,
herded mistakenly between these yellow canyon walls
forgotten which way is west!
Where are they?
(Soon
they’ll be here soon
don’t force larval days to arrive)

It’ll be election day tomorrow,
my work zone will become a dehydrated mess that I will abandon
in favor of watching warships cruise by
contemplating the nature of the clammy quartz I sit upon
fondly remembering Glen and Mike and Fitz and Steve and Lucy.

Sunrise kindles my work zone
predictably pedestrian in its charm
Fingers and face stiff in April’s chill
Slurping java waiting
for the skimmers to skim by
while I watch the paint dry,
rerouting all forward momentum
towards the laundry room.

Ah look, a white butterfly!

All Your Birthday Are Belong To Us

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you would never believe how big you can be
until your bellybutton turns inside out.
you would never believe how much pain you can take
(your mission, should you decide to accept it)
until you accept it, knowing
the pain train was coming,
ready to deliver a full body-blow
that you’d forget it like nothing,
all that stretching and bursting a shadow
a breeze on a mountain you left below
like the chat you made with the guy who
tattooed “always” on your tender skin
or the reason you put it there.

you would never believe how much you can figure out
curled up on a towel in the dark,
a hard plastic piece in somebody’s endgame,
you become your own mother
when you figure out the gore will stop when it’s ready
and not a minute before
like it does sometimes
so sweat it out, sister,
allow yourself a whimper, walk the floor
you ain’t dying though it feels like you’re birthing the whole damned world
tonight.

you would never believe that the body can shut off the faucet
a freaking morning miracle that you can breathe pain-free now
the clot-o-rama paused
courtesy of healthy organs the doctor said he would never remove
because you are fifty and want a reprieve
but you get what you get and you don’t get upset because
there are one hundred more birthdays waiting to burst through
before this is done.

Morning Things That Make Me (happy)

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Remembering the moon in my window last night
My bedroom air is Goldilocks perfect
My plants are not dead
No blood on my sheets
A mourning dove or two sits on the shed
Rising to the sound of rain, but no–
it is wind, gustyalive
Water murky jade, large water churning
white caps advancing
A silent house
A perfect cup
A pen that does not write nonsense
(purple nonsense? illogic, pity, painful dysharmony,
prayers beside a sputtering black candle in a half-dark room
beloved specters berthed, tucked away safe and I am well)
A pen that did not stop
feet flat on the floor, knees bent with no desire to wander
from this slightly too narrow page — a morning miracle
The phone has not yet rung, there is still time
The gift of choosing which book to read today–
and which one to write

Another tally mark (gratitude) 

Speak For The Dead & Do Something For The Future

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Where there are people there is sound. Walk into a theater before the show begins and you will hear the low murmur of voices. In every mall, church, school, business, even the library, you will hear us making the talk, shuffling feet, turning pages, sniffling, fingers tapping keys or tabletops.

I cannot say you could have heard a pin drop when Emma Gonzales stopped speaking for five minutes, but I can say that you would have felt the overwhelming discomfort of silence. Approximately 200,000 people stood on and near Pennsylvania Avenue and experienced surprise when Emma abruptly stopped speaking. She gave no warning the silence was coming. People started looking at each wondering what was happening, but we realized what she was doing, and we stayed silent. I heard no baby cry, no toddler beseeching mom for a cookie. There was a breeze and the sun was almost too warm for a March afternoon in DC. Perhaps I heard people shifting from one leg to the other, placards slipping in sweaty hands as we stayed silent, thinking about 17 people dying in 6 minutes and 20 seconds. It was holy and it was horrible.

Five minutes is a long time for humans who really do not like being reflective to stand quietly.  Five minutes to reflect on what we have done or failed to do for our women, children, communities, our nation.

When the children of Sandy Hook were murdered I screamed in my head and my heart or I talked with anyone who wanted to talk about the tragedy, but for all intents and purposes I was silent. Tears I shed as a mother have little meaning now that the bodies are cool and the helicopters stopped flying over the school. My silence makes every mass shooting a problem I did not choose to solve: I was complicit. The best I could do was offer thoughts and prayers and hope that the right people would stand up and take on the job of trying to stop the madness.  Today my message is simple: Children belong in classrooms not body-bags. Teachers need budgets for classrooms instead of gun lockers. People belong in churches, theaters, and dance clubs filled with what gives them happiness in life. Military-style weapons (and their accessories) should not be in the hands of civilians. We can do this and keep our Second Amendment, too.

My son came with me to A March For Our Lives.  He surprised me at first when he asked to come, and of course I was glad and proud that he wanted to participate. His generation is getting tired of being gunned down in classrooms. They are speaking out, pissing people off, and I hope that by their example we of all generations will find a way to be a part of the long-needed change. I will leave you with the words of Emma’s mother, Beth:   “Somebody said ‘Please, tell Emma we’re behind her,’ which I appreciate, but we should’ve been in front of her,” Beth recalled while stifling a few tears, “I should’ve been in front of her. We adults, we should’ve dealt with this twenty years ago.” 

If you are so inclined, visit Moms Demand Action to learn about sensible gun reform, and what you can do to help decrease gun violence at all levels.