Wednesday, October 22, 2014


the day it ended
you sat on a straight-backed chair
waiting for words, but
the words you
heard, cut

do you
winding raffia
around coke bottles,
dipping rubber band tied
tee shirts in pans of color dye
creating psychedelic patterns
when do you recall climbing up
mountains like a billy goat
or tasting blue ice cones
or drinking cold Tang
catching fireflies
or sledding
down a

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Poor workmanship?
Saving money?
No quality control?
Too many to get out in too short a time?
But the real question
is why it took so long to notify people.

Monday, October 20, 2014

To Follow

And Ruth said, Intreat not to leave thee,
or to return from following after thee: for
whither you goest, I will go; and where
thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall
be my people, and thy God my God.
Ruth 1:16 KJV

Didn't you care that you turned your back on your own tribe? Your own identity. Did you wonder about acceptance in a foreign place? Did you think about what your family might think? Why take the risk? Once you followed did you ever wonder about the decision? Naomi did everything to dissuade you from leaving.

What was it that pulled you? The trip back to Naomi's home wasn't easy. In some ways I expect that it was treacherous.

How could you simply accept her God? Maybe you had already begun and this was a final step.

Once I lived next door to someone who played the guitar and sang Appalachian folk songs and hymns. Born in Beloit, Mississippi --home of cotton and Delta Blues— she learned scat singing, how to string her own dulcimer, and believe that every word of scripture was true. She quoted scripture so often that I expect she had memorized most of the books.

Add a Phi Beta Kappa key to that and four boys, a husband who also came from Beloit, bags of pecans sent to Maryland from the family pecan trees, and a slow drawl that made seconds feel like minutes.

She kept extra Bibles, tracts, and a list of verses for every occasion on a bookshelf in the kitchen.

In this neighborhood of transplanted Southerners, Bible studies were more popular than bookclubs. And so I began to attend a morning Bible Study. Two small children and a break from teaching left me some time to indulge in the study and a silk screening course.

"Start with Genesis," she said, "and keep reading until you get to the end. Just read it like one long story."

And so I began to read. She sang Kumbaya while I drank tea at her maple kitchen table.

"What do you think?" she asked.

"How," I say, " does Abram simply answer hinnneni , here I am, when God calls him? And then follows God's instruction to drop everything and leave his friends, his neighbors, to go somewhere strange—alien."

"Keep reading," she says.

I followed her to a tent meeting where a man of the cloth swayed and prayed and people walked to the front to accept Jesus, where people raised their hands in the air and called out amen, amen—Lord amen.

I followed her to the end of Revelation—always asking questions.

We went to Harper's Ferry to a dulcimer festival. A group from Georgia sang Amazing Grace. She sang Amazing Grace in her kitchen.

I just kept following along until I stopped following her and began to walk along on my own.

Do the questions ever go away?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finding a Plot?

An open window made it easier for my Uncle Murray to call up, " I've got hot bagels." That was years before the neighborhood changed and no one on the ground floor left a window open. Every Sunday my uncle, an early riser, made his way to the bakery and bought bagels and bialys.

My father only ate bran muffins and while my mother liked bagels she preferred to sleep past 7:00 am on Sunday. If no one responded to his calls he continued walking home. Sometimes I went to the window and he handed me a fresh out of the oven bialy. I ate the warm onions that filled the center first.

My father loved his privacy. My uncle thrived in a busy chaotic environment. Their younger brother Ruby had a wonderful sense of humor. Their sister Rose wanted to sing on the stage, but my grandparents didn't think that was a proper place for a young woman. Rose sang everywhere else.

It's the recipe for family stories-- enough stories to write a book. Plot lines just emanate from every family.

What happened to the remaining bagels in the bag? Did my father ever deviate from bran muffins? Who laughed at Ruby's jokes and why did he tell so many humorous tales? Did Rose every move beyond the rented halls?

The nuggets, perhaps, for NaNoWrMo?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

National November Writing Month

To decide to participate or not participate--

On November 1st thousands of writers, either professed or want to be, will begin writing and counting. In 2013 over 400,000 people participated in the NaNoWrMo marathon -- complete a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. I did it once and never tried again. Each day a computer counter added up the words I wrote and gave me a count. Nose to the grindstone and with no discoverable plot I plodded along.

Several characters lost their way and became entangled in a labyrinth of forgotten facts and altered circumstances. Conflicts arose that I hadn't anticipated and one character left the page.

Recently, and since I had participated before, information began to arrive in my gmail account. Guidelines for completion, ways to prepare, reminders to associate with my local group, pep talks-- all to entice participation. I could even purchase a completion T-Shirt early as an incentive.

I admit to framing my first, and only, completion certificate. I hung it up for a month and then put it away.

" Was it any good?"
" What do you intend to do with your 50,245 words?"
" If it's just a meandering list of words, why did you continue?"

Two approaches to this journey are suggested.

One of the many organizers suggests that you "Plan ahead with an outline."
Another of the many organizers suggests that you. " Wing it."

Of course I could enter the November PAD race. Each day another poetry prompt appears and my task-- write a poem. Sometimes there's a specific form. It's less daunting.

Ah the vicissitudes of life.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Spattering acrylic paint is not for the faint hearted. The instructor's ink spatters were uniform, small, and dense. When I brushed a toothbrush with a palette knife large splatters hit my paper along with the tiny ink spots.
I wasn't the only one experiencing a diminished sense of accomplishment.

Soon people asked those who successfully moved along spattering different sections of their paper with tiny dots, " What kind of toothbrush?"
" Soft or hard bristles."

I switched to a different toothbrush and the results remained the same. Finally, I admitted ineptness and proceeded to spatter my paint with a wild abandonment. So what if gobs of paint rested among the fine mist of paint?

Once accepting imperfection I covered my paper with color ignoring the errant globs.

It's quite freeing.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Literary Critic

If a writer's words fly off the page, rearrange themselves into grammatically acceptable sentences and no one reads the words...
I expect that the writer may dip into a phase of sadness. After all the writer thought that the words made sense, conveyed emotion, spoke to readers, and made a difference.

The writer went to the bookstore, stood in front of a shelf of books, and imagined a space opening up.

A sign appeared in the bookstore window-- too many people write books and too few are worth reading. We need readers, not more writers.

The writer went home, put away paper and pen, and began reading. Everyday the reader selects another book and begins reading. Soon the writer will begin writing reviews of grammatically acceptable sentences and pronounce judgement .

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Antiquated Scholar

you scribble meanings behind words
allow multiple possibilities
you eschew simple sentences,
resort to obscure references
and roll out your knowledge
—a red carpet leading to
more obfuscation

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

No More Labels

Today my sixth envelope arrived containing address labels. Perhaps someone spread the word—include address stickers and a person is more likely to contribute to your cause.

Perhaps someone spread the word. I like fountain pens, write with a fountain pen, and own five bottles of ink. Ah ha, here's an individual who writes letters, sends bills out in the mail, has an extensive correspondence, and finds that writing a return address is a waste of time.

Has anyone—certainly not the company supplying fold out sheets of address labels—informed these groups that fewer and fewer letters are posted. More and more people pay their bills on line. Even invites are done by email.

I don't want to appear as a curmudgeon, but I'd appreciate it if I didn't receive address labels or small scratch pads, or calendars, or nickels taped to the request for money.

I am unfamiliar with almost all of the groups sending out thick envelopes of goodies.

Last week a dream catcher, a medallion, and twelve cards arrived along with the labels, and two dimes.

I'm saving the coins for the Salvation Army buckets.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Reading opens up a universe of possibilities. Today I found myself wondering about the golem, transplanted wombs, the first transatlantic cable, Rilke's obsessions, and how to plan a perfect day. Then I wondered what I meant by perfect. Too much planning is akin to too much stirring.

Ponder something long enough and the result may lack spontaneity. Don't plan and you may lose out. Equilibrium. Find the mid-point, the place equidistant from extremes.

Let it flow. I once spotted a book titled, I think, Don't Push the River, Let it Flow. I expect that the author was writing a self-help book. I liked the line and gave it my own meaning.

A question in the newspaper-- what are we going to do with all that data? Now there is something to ponder, but not for too long.

Back to the perfect day--let it flow.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Viewing the Goya Exhibition

Goya's line, with one continuous movement, breathes life into a figure. A light gray wash adds substance. I am captivated.

While I marvel at his large paintings, astounded by his virtuosity, his prints capture my imagination.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Making of a Fan

The Red Sox went home and the Yankees went home. Either I picked a team or my season as a fan-- done. Not ready to throw the towel in, I checked the teams still standing.

My criteria: what team hadn't been to the postseason for years? What team didn't have a player traded from the Red Sox this past year? What team came from a state I've never visited.

I selected Kansas City. What a good choice. Perhaps I should read up on Kansas. I do have a friend whose father edited a small town Kansas newspaper. So I do have a connection.

To learn about Kansas I go to her poets. The poets write of loss, of farm land, of the prairie as a sea, of the scent of the harvest, the fear of drought, of a love of the land.

Up to my shoulders
In Indian Grass,
I find that I, too, have taken root
In this prairie,..
-- Roy J. Beckemeyer

I, too, have taken root-- as a fan of the team representing Kansas.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Lines and Words

Today I discovered a new, for me, art technique and I'm smitten. I sat for six hours, with a lunch break, learning how to let my pen loose on paper, trustIng that my initial lines will not morph into millstones refusing to change.

Nothing is a mistake, just a different pathway.

"In dire cases use a sharp exacto knife to scratch away the errant line."

" It's like getting a second chance."

How simple to scratch away the mistakes, to draw another line.

You can be forgiven for the careless or hurtful words you speak, but they can't be reeled in, or eradicated.

In an old tale, words are seen as goose feathers in a pillow. Tear open the pillow and the feathers fly about--once released you can't go gather armfuls and return them to the pillow. Some will always remain outside. It's like that with words. Once they are let out they remain out.

Tomorrow I'll practice this new pen and ink technique.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

In a Second

You might as well make the best out of this particular moment. Who knows what’s happening in the next moment. Cataclysmic events happen without any advance notice and euphoria may sneak up without heralding its arrival.

Certainly some things happen slowly—the unfurling of an event. We prepare for those happenings, but the others simply happen without prior announcements.

They can alter the way the world moves or stop the world from even moving.

I savor moments and bank them in my memory.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Reading in the Car

the sun went right
through my shirt, spread
out and chased any thoughts
of a cold winter wind snaking
its way under my coat
and letting loose with
a biting tirade

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Politics, As Usual

I am tired of political ads that paint half truths. It doesn't matter if the candidate and I live in a polar opposite zone. Why do outside groups create ads that depict the other as some sort of demonic individual?

Taking something and twisting it until it neither resembles what the candidate said or meant has become an art. How does anyone believe anything? Everything is permissible.

Recently I approached a candidate for one of the lower offices-- state representative-- and asked her why she was against a particular item. She responded, " I'm not. Those mailings distort what I've said."

The art of distortion is alive and well. What to believe and what to discard. 'It's an enigma, a conundrum of our present political climate.

Monday, October 06, 2014

You Said

listening is hard
getting in that place
with all its worn spots
and peeling paper
with all the torn promises
and forget-me-nots
in their clay pots
forgetting what never
belonged to you
is hard work

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Holy Holy Holy

And he said, Draw not nigh hither:
put off thy shoes from thy feet,
for the place where on thou
standest is holy ground. -- Exodus 3:5

Peter, eight years old, diagnosed as paranoid or perhaps as schizophrenic or maybe the diagnosis changed with each new doctor. He, along with five other students made up my class at Christ Church Child Center.

Maura was considered autistic. Each morning she built a church out of Tinker Toys and genuflected. Tracy at the age of five stopped talking. At eight she bore the label elective mute. Carl brought his lunch wrapped in layers of wraps -- Saran Wrap, aluminum wrap, and paper wrap. Scotch tape held the wraps together. David walked backwards-- down the stairs, down the hall, and across the room. Ellen lost her pronouns and referred to everyone as me. She sometimes slapped herself.

Each day we followed a set routine, handed out tokens every ten minutes. I taught them to read with varying degrees of success.

One day Montgomery County sent a crew to check the trees in a local park. They marked a large Black Oak tree as unfit and tied a bandana around her middle. I, along with six students and four other adults, took a field trip to see the tree before it was chopped down. We spoke to a man in a truck. Peter began to walk around and around the truck, laughing and jumping.

" Come back after we've cut the tree down," he said. " They might enjoy seeing how we grind up what's left of the stump." I asked some more questions and he asked some questions. Peter continued to squeal with excitement.

Two days later Tom, the man in the truck, showed up at the school.

"Yes," I said, " I know him."

He came to offer us an invite to visit the truck that they had used to cut down the tree.

We went, but we didn't just watch as spectators. Tom and a friend of his took each student into the cab of the machine and let them look out the window. They spun the cab left and right. Peter, who never let anyone touch him sat on Tom's lap. Time stopped for a few moments. Peter sat still, then laughed and applauded. Tom lifted him up and they came out of the truck and together walked around and around the truck.

And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush was not consumed.
Exodus 3:2


Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Middle

Everyone knows that the Cheetah is the fastest animal on land while the Peregrine Falcon earns accolades for being the fastest animal-- land, water, or air. According to those who measure these things his speed can reach 389 mph.

By comparison fish loiter, dog paddle, or swim in circles. The sailfish, when desiring to, swims at 68 mph.

Statisticians supply us with endless lists of the best in countless categories: the best restaurants, the top ten highest grossing films last year, most catastrophic storms, highest mountains, coldest place on earth. Deepest lake.

What about the other side? Who is the slowest? The manatee lolls around in the water-- barely breaking a sweat. The Gila Monster may look forbidding, but he stays put. Slugs-- sluggish.

How about everything in between? Not the fastest nor slowest. Not the best nor the worst. Somewhere in the middle.

Statisticians ignore most of us-- the great middle. We don't write best sellers,nor poetry that Emily Dickinson could say, " If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry."

We're not the MVP of a sport nor the lead singer of a band.

We're the majority which is the top of some heap.

Friday, October 03, 2014


Walking around Walden Pond conjures up thoughts of Thoreau and Emerson and all those thoughtful transcendentalists. Margaret Fuller still holds sway over many. At the Alcott house actors wear period costumes. The whole town is a testament to their continued grasp on our imaginations.

People come to pay homage to what is left of Thoreau's home in the woods. They seek directions to Author's Ridge to see the graves of those erudite folks. They tread the very battle field walked by farmers with rudimentary firearms. They buy buttons that extol simplicity -- phrases uttered by Thoreau.

Not many drive over to see the prison?

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Totally Organic

According to some people fountain pens have made a comeback. I own two old fountain pens-- 1970s. They still write and because they have gold nibs they do more than write-- they glide.It's organic. When I use a fountain pen I am connected to what I'm writing.

No computer alerts me to an egregious spelling error or a sentence which doesn't fit the rubric in the computer's memory. No one suggests changes or turns my sentences akimbo. Fragments aren't underlined.

Unfettered, I pursue my own idiosyncratic writing with a fountain pen filled with purple ink.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Art of Creation

Gott spricht zu jedem, eh er ihn macht,
dann geht er schweigend mit ihm aus der Nacht.

God speaks to each only before he's made,
then silently goes with him from the night.
---Rainer Maria Rilke

tethered to space and time,
dipping my toes into paradox
and contradictions while
stirring scrabbled eggs
I read the poem again.

a hymn of creation,
a universe sitting on the precipice
between design and completion.

I place two pieces of bread
in the toaster while I lose
myself in shifting ideas.

God places a hand on my hand.

we stir the eggs together.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Burmese Food

Tea salad with green tea leaves
sharpen my palate while I dip
triangles of warm bread in yellow
sauce and drink cold water to stem
the heat, shrimp next to pumpkin slices
and zucchini in a sweet sauce
compete with noodles resting in a tangy mixture
I listen to the conversation and
like the food it changes from dish to dish.

Monday, September 29, 2014

At Least Get Your Feet Wet

It's about fit. Some folks love a frenetic pace and constant activities while others enjoy watching the minutes accumulate while they read a long and convoluted book.

Quick drinkers of coffee or sippers of tea, plain iced coffee or an extravagance of flavors, a horse race or a tortoise trot.

Put them together and compromises are necessary. Without accommodations it's akin to wearing shoes that rub or a tight hat.

I'm preparing myself for a large family vacation with scuba diving, water skiing, skin puckered, water loving relatives, in a place where being in the water, or on the water--takes precedence over everything else and I don't even own a bathing suit.

Perhaps I can find a hill to climb.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Whose Freedom

Butterflies cooped up in a butterfly palace seem aimless in their flight patterns. Perhaps they sense the end of migrations or the false heat. The flowers, while real and colorful, lack some variety. Do the butterflies recall ever living in a garden, or being carefree and liberated?

Maybe everyone is not granted the right to see everything.