The Queen Wears Saffron


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“They left me. The dogs. The afternoon!”  I cobbled together what she meant. I heard the panic in her voice, but that didn’t stop me from brushing my teeth and buying her a Slushie before I pulled into her empty driveway.

I entered the house, de-pursed and -jacketed myself onto her sofa. I took note of the state of her home. It wasn’t until I reached the second stairway that the dogs decided to make a fuss, but the herd did not murder me as she always fears. The dachshunds are a noisy lot but they know I’m not afraid of their “yeah just you try it” eyes and ivory teeth. They flop over and let me love them like the pussies they are.

She needed someone to take the dogs outside for their afternoon walks because everyone left her. I did my best in shifts and had some success as they relieved their bowels and barked at the breeze inside a plastic white fence. She asked me to stay and of course I did, willing to stay until midnight.

I brought the queen a blue Slurpie because I know it’s what she likes. I walked her dogs because it’s what she needed.  I listened to the queen whose house has been on fire since I’ve known her, Judge Judy playing in the background.

The queen sipped and nipped at food which I found encouraging, her dogs circling her wagon, allowing me on her bed. I complimented the lady on her bedroom curtains not because I felt I had to but because it was sincere.  It seemed to make her happy. I understand now why she says her bedroom is cold: the north wall is one big window that faces the Chesapeake Bay, and it’s hard to keep out the north/northeast wind from your eyelashes this way. The view is beautiful, if only one is okay sleeping under a pile of covers.

The queen was strong enough to ask for help in getting her dogs outside to relieve themselves, yet she wouldn’t allow anyone to delve into why her body is wasting away. I find it hard to ask and receive help, and her cold fingers remind me that I am a fool. She apologized for the current state of her home where she served everyone homemade meals and tried to save everyone from themselves because it was her job. I held her cold hand and noted the “watch it, punk” look in Izzy’s eyes: I told them both, “No worries.”  I left them resting in a nest of clean saffron sheets and a gray throw.

We all let each other down when we do not talk, when we do not speak the real. When we do not truly listen to each other.  My prayer for today is wrapped in saffron and dandelion, tiny pollens stuck to my fingers and nose, that we stop and we listen, and we grant ourselves peace.

The Pleiades Are Not Amused


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“You want me to what?” she said, nearly choking on her raspberry-flavored coffee. It was 11 AM. She was fully awake but not yet showered or dressed or fed. She’d spent the morning reading Twitter trying to make sense of the outrage, impotent, her body filling with her own outrage and bile. Her lips and throat were dry. She pondered more coffee. She pondered the pain in her shoulder she’d ignored for months. She pondered the call for submissions and wondered just what do you mean, call for submissions? You talking to me? She pondered emailing the editor to make some small talk, to see how he’s feeling these days. She supposed if she wrote to him he would reply kindly and she could take it as some kind of encouragement to answer the call, but the man is busy and he ain’t got time for loiterers.

She thought about answering the call for submissions, the deadline is plenty of time away. A comfy goal. She wrote a little poem long ago that would be perfect for their upcoming tome, absolutely perfect, but what was the title–what did she call it? Where did she save it? What file? Which drive? Or should she begin a new piece just for their next issue?  Should she search for it now or take a shower first? Or have another cuppa joe? She couldn’t start, do an actual anything without being clean and watered and fed, who can actually doing anything in disgrace?

“What do you mean, call for submissions?” she murmured. Might as well ask me to divert rivers to clean out the king’s stables, she thought. It’s only been 30 years of shit piling up. No biggie. She supposed she’d get started after lunch. No sense trying to find a poem in a haystack on an empty tank. Her mind drifted into wondering what she should wear today, something comfortable, was there enough dirty clothes to take a run to the laundromat yet, and then she thought about putting meat out to thaw for dinner and prep veggies for a nice salad. Better use up the cauliflower before it goes bad…

A Storm Day


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The morning is so dark as I write, but I look forward to the promise of rain. I finished the last page of a journal, one that took too many years to write and the wind and rain have come. A battleship passes. Foghorns are lowing. The winds are gusting at 30 driving rain from the North, Northeast. It is a writing day, a living day.  In the early morning hours gray but still the finches (sparrows?) were active, flitting, calling in words I cannot mimic. They were rejoicing in the rain, here are the worms and the grubs and they can feel the spring coming, I haven’t heard their ruckus in so long, how I missed them, missed windows open, hearing wind in the pines.   And now they are silent in the darkness of 11:41AM, wind gusting, a candle burning for someone who doesn’t know her way in the dark yet.

Empty beach chairs sit on the balcony holding court
Arms touching discreetly
Waiting for rain.

My Pilot pen, made in Japan (Samurai?)
A full container of ice cream placed carefully in the garbage
Because I couldn’t unstick the lid (all the tricks were tried)
And my old-lady hands and fingers hurt all night and day from the trial
Well, at least I can still hold the pen.

The light is brighter now, I feel I need to get moving. Henry’s birthday is tomorrow. Light is calling. I know the temperatures will fluctuate and I will still need piles of blankets and layers of clothes before my skin can be exposed, no matter how glorious the air from the south feels. My little toes know frostbite, and seagulls have an agenda.

The Day Begins


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When one is well-slept, watered, and fed with good food one can get organized. The home falls into place, the body falls into place, then the laundry calls and the writing gets moved to the side again. There have been more “again” days than productive writing days, and I suppose that’s how it was meant to be. Things are as they are at the moment, not forever. I made two substantial lists, neither one has a due date. They’re written in pretty green ink, the most pressing tasks of household and writing are highlighted in pink or blue. No exclamation points, no post-its, no self-defeating deadlines. Just lists of things that need attention, and the slow simmering surety that they will be attended, and attended well.

I began the morning caring for my plants, then caring for myself with a cuppa joe. The pink clock ticks loudly, sometimes too quickly, and I notice myself running to keep up with her, an act of self-defeat. Slow down, fool, that clock is 10 minutes ahead and you already know you’re working in good time.

Breathe. It all comes back now, everything that’s been out of sight, out of mind, that deserve better than being kept in cobwebs. Time to bring things back into the light, back into the sky where the cold air breathes. I will hold you, one by one, attend you, one by one, memories, writings, and you.

The World Awaits You, or, Meeting Henry & Seeing His Travel Slideshow


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Prepare to be uncomfortable. Prepare to be challenged. Prepare to leave your Western constructs and ideals behind. Get a passport and go visit Kerala on Friday.  You will give me one hundred reasons why you can’t, and Henry Rollins will give you one hundred twenty reasons why you can and you should. You will be a changed person when you leave your doorstep Henry promises, just as J.R.R. Tolkien promised in his tales, but there’s more at stake here in terra firma of 2018.

I wanted so much to tell you what it was like listening to Mr. Rollins give us the backstory of the photos he’s taken on his Travel Slideshow tour. I wrote a pile of pages and when I took a breath, walked away, and came back all I could see was me fan-girling all over my Dad trying to get him to understand why it was so important that he listen to this rock band, see how smart and wise they are, full of boundless passion and world interest, won’t you love them just like me, Dad?

Henry doesn’t need anyone to fan-girl all over him, and he doesn’t need me to promote or explain him or his books or his tour. Henry has, however, explicitly asked all who will listen to get a passport and travel.  To get uncomfortable, to be challenged, to try to see the world without Western filters. To see the people who aren’t making headlines, the young and old, everyone in between whose clothes are clean though they sift through garbage for food, whose children are happy and playful though they play in graveyards, who sell their fresh foods at the market and have better diets than we do. Discover colors and tastes, notice the flesh, the sinews, the strength, the smiles, the customs that make us different and one.  That Ismail and Awa and Hai on the street ain’t the devil but just a dude, as we all are, having a life, doing their thing, and it’s the politicians that really fuck everything up. And we have the power to make a change, not a “Democracy or else you backwater jerks” kind of change, but the kind that brings access to clean water, food, healthcare, and school without fear.

For those of you who are already doing this, you get it. This is old hat for you.  For those who have a problem with anything that whiffs of globalism or liberalism, I hope you will still give travel a chance.  Anyone who hasn’t seen Mr. Rollins on his speaking tours, I say see him pronto. He’s an entertaining and insightful speaker, and you will not be unmoved one way or the other.

(And now for the fan-girl part, because I hafta, and you can skip this no problem.)  Through my Dad, I was able to get a VIP ticket to meet Henry after the show. About 25-30 other people were there. We lined up and got to meet him and he was no different on the floor as he was onstage. When you see him on TV, that is the real, authentic Henry, as every good punk knows, there is not one fake thing about him.  My turn came and I approached him sheepishly. We shook hands. I thanked him for all that he does (What does he do? Well go look it up, he’s laid hands on more of our servicemen than our current president will probably ever do). I asked could I hug him, he said yes, and we did and some pics were taken.  As I walked away I turned back and pointed and said loudly, “KEEP GOING!”  He looked at me and smiled and hollered, “I WILL!”  So wonderful.  Do I need to meet him and hug his hard body again? No. But I will keep reading his work and seeing him live when he comes around. He inspires me, and I hope to get uncomfortable and be challenged and write about it from another part of the world before I kick the bucket.)

Impatiece, Truth Coffee, Newton’s First Law, & Meeting Henry.


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Much to do this morning in a hard, cold world that makes all travelers, all the living feel the world is against them, waiting to thaw, hoping to thaw soon, wondering where has everyone gone post-blizzard Grayson? The birds are still flitting past icy roofs and trees, streetlamps, bannisters. They do not land, only flitting, asking, “Where, where, where?”

I watch the ice cube melt in my blue and green coffee mug knowing that this moment defines me. Holding it warms my fingers but too hot on my lips and throat, I will not wait for it to cool in a cold, hard morning. I will force it to cool with ice I wouldn’t invite into my house, but I want to drink it and must have it now now now. 

I think of my son who negotiates his responsibilities, everything is tied to everything else. I can only write in green now. I won’t write with anything else, my thoughts won’t come in black or blue. (This isn’t true, but it was an interesting thought that flitted through my head, “Where where where?”) 

I sprinkle cinnamon in my coffee grounds and it makes the house smell heavenly. I can drink mouthfuls of you but you will soon be gone, and I will stammer in stunned cold deciding if I want another, and pace and taste my mouth to see if it is dry, note the time, scribble in green pen, watch patches of snow melt and drop from roof flashings, when I should be packing getting ready to meet Henry in Raleigh.

(I will only go if the roads are safe, I don’t know if the roads are safe, how will I know)

I will meet Henry Rollins tonight for my ticket says I’m VIP. I will meet his eyes, say nothing useful, he’s heard it all before, perhaps he will be chatty and not run for the door as soon as the gig is done, back to the hotel where he will pace and sip water and read and write and think alone, carrying small memories of us back to his room for he is all he needs.  He’s not afraid of icy roads, I’ll bet, but oh, he carries his own demons, and I wouldn’t swap concerns with him today. 

My coffee is almost too cool to enjoy now. God bless microwaves, heroes of the impatient, we who don’t have all minute to sort out which way we are going, let alone what color underwear to put on after a hot shower in a cold room, gathering speed to go forward. Or just pace and check the parking lot to see if the magic snow plow came in the night, or sit down and read bad news and lose all the goodwill the magic green pen brought me. It will be sunset soon in Raleigh, Henry does not await me, and my blue and green coffee mug pulls at my sleeve, saying, “Really? You gotta do this now?”




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20171231_203836Too often the ticking of the clock informs our lives.  Do not let the ticking of the clock inform your life.  It is loud and constant. It is easy to fall into the march of time, that everything must be done before it’s too late.

It is the day of the next year. The night before it all falls apart. We hinge our everything on the ticking of the clock, a countdown. Where have we been, what have we done, what have we yet to do? Lists on paper or chilled on ice in the back of our minds, all we failed to do, and we fear we’ll never do unless we state a resolution, loud and proud, in ink, on TV, on Twitter, that we will achieve that thing we’ve been chasing.

Do not fall prey to the ticking of time.  The clock is loud, but our love and lives should be louder. Forget measures. Forget time. Your magic doesn’t stop at midnight, it doesn’t begin at midnight, it never has. We are beautiful and powerful and hopeful and wonderful every night of our lives. Don’t fall prey to the ticking of time or trickling of bubbles in a glass. Forget the promises you forced yourself to make last year and the year before.

What if, just for tonight, you were here, hearing the ticking of the clock, and just felt happy that the wind is 16.5 knots, the sun will rise tomorrow, and whatever you wish will stir at your command when you are ready. Not tonight, or tomorrow, or maybe next week.  The world doesn’t begin or end tonight. So celebrate the changing of the guard, the return of the light, and give yourself power over your life.

Solstice at the Thirsty Camel


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There is glitter on the table and salt in my book
gritty on my arm as I press down to write.
I sip and lick salt from my fingers.

No one sits in the center of the room
bodies huddle at the bar, hug the walls,
so I sit at the back where I can see you all
Ballcaps, hoodies, Santa hats, sweaters
Blondie in a ballgown texting who knows what.

I claimed a table for friends tonight,
brought a candle and journal to fill the time until their faces appear.
One by one they come and we make the ‘howdy stranger’ talk
over light beers, battered onions, and speakers playing a bit too loud.

She came in last, her withered body wrapped in sagging jeans
and a pretty white sweater made of cloud,
her face tells me her kitchen is on fire.
We danced around her fire all night trying to douse it with smiles
and talk of the sunlit moon, Saturn in transit, but
she wanted to sit in her kitchen fire.
We left her there watching as she poured old wine into older skins
wondering why everything in her world leaks
pushing hope away on the longest night of the year.

Lenny came on and gently, so very gently, plucked strings in the dark
to tell us about that famous blue raincoat, the one torn at the shoulder
and I knew we were meant to be here

and that we should always carry hope like a lighter in our pocket
for those nights we go astray.

My petal face is showing


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Well, I could choose to ignore the fact that Christmas is coming and let the cards write themselves, let the gifts magically appear fully wrapped in my sleigh so all I have to do is show up… or I could choose to ignore the fact that Christmas is coming at all. Or, I could make way. Clear the decks. Prepare a space–a quiet space–and open the book of Christmas past. Time to open my address book and look on the names.

So many people that have moved once, twice, thrice. I know their children’s names, but not her grandchildren’s names. It’s a basic book, so I have to squeeze in birthdates, anniversaries, the day they died. So many spaces are blank, but I am slowly filling in the memories.  So many changes, people who’ve moved on with no forwarding address, and that’s okay. It’s like walking into a silent church, I can smell the incense, I see faces and remember my heart big in my chest at seeing you and you and you. I light a votive today as I write cards for friends and family whose paths have diverged. You are remembered with love and I always carry a light for you.

I have a rex begonia growing on my bedroom windowsill. It’s my first. I had to re-arrange the sill because the prayer plant will need her own apartment soon, she’s taking over the place. Rex begonia saw fit to rise up through the soil and create a space for a bloom, and she opened today, five tender pink petals.  Pink like the address book I’ve been carrying around all these years. My desk is clear. My right pinky is smeared in green ink from writing everything I needed to say, finally. Begonia tells me if she can bloom here then, hell, I can do anything.

Writing through seasonal change


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If I were in New York on my drive in to work and on my way home I’d see lots of cars with christmas trees tied to the roof, headed for a warm house soon to be seated in a bowl of cool water the cat will surely drink from.  Folks will add evergreen nutrients and water their needley tree so its boughs will stay risen and green as they add tinsel, orbs of glass, or baby’s first ornament from sixteen years ago.

I haven’t seen many cars go by with trees on their roofs here in Virginia. Maybe that’s because they’re all on the interstate while my business usually keeps me on the “back roads,” or maybe it’s because folks lean towards artificial trees, who knows. Either way, there will be evening road trips where we pile into cars and head for neighborhoods where streetlights still look like gaslights decked in climbing pine needles, festive ribbons, homes adorned with candles and others filled with inflatable icons, christmas music blaring, preparations begun in September.

All I know is that I watched him take the fairy lights down. The backyard is his purview and he’s in charge or almost in charge of everything in it. There will be no christmas tree in his house this year because they are leaving, headed for the lands of three-foot-snow. The fairy lights will be gone. His yard will be empty. His puppy will dig holes far away and learn the joys of snowplowing headfirst at five in the morning.  All life is tucked into boxes marked this room and that room and his kayak will be stuffed last into the moving truck.  A new neighbor will come, and I doubt they will finish the mural his wife began on the property wall.  I will miss the tiny blue fairy lights that lined his fence, that gave me comfort all those nights I paced and watched the trees sway or thrash depending on the mood of the wind.

I think about the saying “still waters run deep” as I spritz my windows in preparation of sticking holiday clings to them.  That will be the extent of my decorating. No lights, no noise. Just a quiet acknowledgement that I still believe in peace and joy and love. Every card I sign carries hope and goodwill, and I wish it all for my neighbor as he moves into his winter wonderland.