Strange Days Have Found Us (Again)

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September 23rd, 2001 was a strange day. Mom-in-Law urged us to go out and celebrate our wedding anniversary. We both felt rather numb and confused by the situation. We felt like this is no time to celebrate. We had a gift card for a place we’d been meaning to try, we heard the food was great, and Ellen was ready to babysit our son. Why the hell not, I guess. It was a most interesting evening at the Lobster Place*, a meal we’d never forget. There’s something wonderful and charming about being dressed to the nines and walking in to what was essentially a cafeteria, the only diners there. We ate fresh fish on plastic plates, tables draped in red and white-checked plastic, drinking coffee from plastic cups. We were out of place, it felt a touch surreal, but it was a good night in a terrible time.

It was hard to know how to behave in those early 9/11 days. Everything was uncertain in ways our Gen X had never seen. We were stricken, wounded, counting our living and dead, wondering “what’s next” and how do you go back to work after something like this? I wandered grocery aisles looking at soup cans like, “What am I even doing here?” It wouldn’t be the first time I felt that way. Every time I lose someone I love, it’s the same thing: Am I really stirring soup? Am I really folding socks? And why the fuck why?

In January I began to worry about COVID-19. I’d heard about it but had no idea how real it was going to be. It is March, and I’m in week two of social distancing which is hilarious because if I get any more socially distant I’d be in a pine box pushing up daisies. I have my books and notebooks and pens. There is an ocean out there that speaks to me endlessly. What more could I want? I don’t want to be bothered and I try not to bother anyone around me. I can be social when I choose but I am not a team player: I’d rather be home watching the game, shouting at your dumb play safely and ignorantly from the comfort of my home. And now all the weird things are happening, like I understand why the young people hit the Florida beach on spring break because there is only One spring break (and graduation) that may happen in our lives. Weird things like people hoarding TP. This isn’t the blizzard of ’77 when nobody could get to the store for a week because the snow was piled ten feet high. Weird things like being asked to stay home with the people we love, the children we brought into the world because we wanted them, and then complain and ridicule them endlessly on social media. Weird things like measuring the worth of our Greatest Generation against a woozy economy. I feel woozy about my place in the world. What I want, what I need. How to worry, when to worry, and dealing with the shock of people who say “I don’t care about Italy’s dead, I am with America first.”* It’s weird trying to manage how to deal with soulless people without losing myself in the abyss. And all that, the weird, the worry, the sorrow, is ok.

So it is March 25th. There are a lot of numbers out there ready to overwhelm. I hope to do more than wander from room to room avoiding social media. I hope to create and help in some small way where I can.
In the meantime, I haven’t forgotten.


*name changed
*trumpist who has 500K viewers

When Science-Author-Types Play Tricks on Me (Bastards)

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I reached into a bag of Scientopoetism.
Darned thing bit me in the knuckle without so much as a
“Howd’ya do,”
Not properly introduced and teeth in my metacarpals, I asked
“May I have those back?”
She said no.
Never reach into a bag of Scientopoetism without an offering first.
Coffee beans dipped in espresso might do well, though
the bite might yet be deeper, you never know.
I began writing with my left instead of right,
which I suppose only adds to the experiment,
and for that I suppose you want my thanks?

Perfect Black Shoes

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I sneak downstairs to dispose my trash in purple twilight
before the morning rush
before the sun is too bright
and I am stunned by what lay on the damp asphalt
two perfect black shoes, velvet
empty
abandoned before the belching dumpster

I stopped short and wondered
could someone bring chalk and make this an invisible
crime scene
for a woman lay here and all that remains are her perfect black shoes
sideways

When I returned from inspecting potatoes in an empty grocery store
I discovered the shoes upright, side by side
pretty as the day they came from the shoe store.

On my midday inspection of the balcony, I saw a man carrying
a pair of perfect black velvet shoes.
Halloo there I hailed.
I inquired.
He replied, they are perfect size for his wife,
they just need a little dusting…

Seaman, you of all should know better than to bring
discarded clothing into your life?

Bonfire for E.

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welcome enter
how did we find each other
doesn’t matter
our candles burn the same

i am crone in the cave naming
sea life remains
one long tide at a time.

the mother of me sees the mother of you
i have balm for that.
you are still spring and fight
where I am retreat and ruminate

the world is blind at night,
but for a little moon
we are unsafe on the waters
and deepest african shores
still we prowl, seeking danger

we are eating and drinking and laughing
when we should be
writing
writing
writing

when next you see me, darling
bring your book and your pen
refuse all distraction
enter the cave hungry and wet
and longing

bring basil and pepper and vinegar
ghost pepper
empty cask
bring your longing and prepare to
dash it on the rocks
fearless woman, rise up
stain your fingers with woe
and love and find liberty.

March 14, 2020

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Before I opened my eyes I could feel the light on my lids.
For 10 seconds I thought I was in my bed at my parent’s house.
When I opened my eyes I expected to see the 6 panels of cold glass,
peeling paint
in a bed a little too cold but pillow deep
For 10 seconds my body felt no pain, and my mind did not reach
for the usual noise.

When I did unpeel my eyes I was a little surprised to be in this bed,
warm, safe, no peeling paint, and no fear.
Strange my self reflected on that time and place I have no love for.

I do not believe dreams are random. They come for us.
I was sent 10 seconds for a reason. A reminder. A connection.

This morning I take note of the message: 10 seconds without pain
or fear: safe, secure, and OK.

Holy Morning

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Abruptly awakened
(charley horse and other reasons I rose before I was ready,
remembering a dream of sorting legos with my son and baby brother)
I dress in the dark and remember that I have headphones
and it’s the first time in weeks I can motor

down to the beach in cold flip flops armored in Carhart, otherwise
I crest the dune and come down into the beach and see a gull, torn.
Omen she is, she tells me ‘Ware, what you seek you will find here”
I take up the dare and keep walking, wiggling cold grains from my soles
giving up once I arrive at The Place.

I turn east and study the horizon with “The Crystal Ship”
absorbing me–that piano–one hand, now two
never heard anything so beautiful
god why can’t I do that
he croons effortlessly and the water has not come to hear him
It’s only for me and a wish of you, I suppose…
The orb rises behind thick clouds
I’ve seen the water mirror but not this morn
Small waves rise up and comb the shore though I cannot hear them
drowned out by Jim and Dionysus
(another flashing chance at bliss another kiss, a nother kiss)
Should I read what I wrote so long ago?

The trance is broken by dog-walkers, neighbors, sweet and kind.
Sweaty headphones off now for momma raised me right,
thou shalt not be rude to thy neighbors

I don’t need a reason why.
I am awake and alive
purple ink on my wrist
candle burning
it is morning
I am writing.
(rejoice. delicate.)

AWOL

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I stalk
like an old lady
black t-shirt sweatpants thing
but you don’t notice me
sitting in the marble lobby waiting
echoing
I bring you my offering
Pieces parts
Hope in a bag
Crumpled
The kind that chokes turtles and whales
that somehow carries a can you help me
I am strong
with purpose
Solve my problem
Like an astronaut drifting without hope
rescue me, we planned for this
didn’t we?
His last words to me
I locked them in
I love you more
eidetic sunset, sunrise
Your need. mine.
I’m here always, but you are gone
I don’t want to lose the last of you
the best of you
this is my Graumans’ you
I carry on in a crinkly brown bag
like elder ladies do
hand to pigeon
I love you
I miss you
And that’s okay.

— Kenny’s kid

Isn’t All Poetry Confessional?

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They had to call it something.  Everything has a label, has to have a label otherwise it cannot be understood?
Things cannot be as they are, they must be classified and microfisched for further review by busybodies who write the law.

I wanted an MFA tag, but that’s fruit from the Tree of Knowledge (of)  
I refused to pay the price.
‘stead I carry pomegranates in my apron
I never share them because that would be truth-telling, that would be
the real deal.
Who wants to hear more sylvia plath confessionals
yet another unhappy woeman
writing names in the sand
counting down?

I would rather have been Mary Oliver in the end
some kind of smooth stone you keep in a mason jar
or a sassy fawn named for a childhood friend
the one who still carries the North star

or better,
a body carved with hieroglyphs of the sea
wrapped in a Robert E. Howard shroud, epically 

or simply

e e cummings
      free