Friday, June 6, 2014

Exquisite Meadowgrass Corpse

Written by nine people between the ages of 11 and 55, in blue and black ink on one side of a ripped out page of a composition book, while sitting in lawn chairs under the yellow and white striped tent, being entertained by the Chimney Choir, which wasn't a choir at all.

Transcribed here by me in nine different colors.  Remember, in an Exquisite Corpse, the writer can only see, and therefore respond to, the line right before his/hers, as the paper is repeatedly folded over as it passes from person to person.

NB:  All spelling, line breaks, punctuation, and capitalization have been retained from the original.

"Am I really going to desicrate
this grave forever? Of course
I am."

I smiled as I lifted the shovel and
lowered it sharply on the grave

The body of the innocent fell
sharply into the freshly dug grave

Innocence was murdered.  Without a care.

In one shake of a storm

A lonely crow burst through the clouds

Exploding into feathers and
dust, black as the darkest night

that flew into the air

Like a bird dropping on a

Monday, May 5, 2014

sorry, not today

dear deadwood,
     it was a nice attempt at a bridge.
thank you for trying.

dear god,
     you'll want the blue eyeshadow, right?
and cochineal lips?  i can't wait to help you with your makeup.

dear devil,
     i might take up running with you in
garden of the gods someday.

dear deer,
     fleeing on four legs like you would be faster.
and quieter.

dear underworld,
      the fences have fallen.
guarded by sad monsters with patient eyes, you beckon.

dear cloud dragons,
     i'd like to lift my eyes to your breath.
but prickly micky mouse pears threaten
my chacoed toes.

dear dyc,
      i will resist the urge to pick you.
we won't bleed.
our hearts beat too cleverly.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ten Books

Ten Books.  Thanks, Marie Newell Walden.  I think.

I have to admit that this scares me.  But I'm glad she tagged me, because that means she cares about what I think.  I think.

According to the most recent FB sharing-thingy, you're supposed to:  "list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard--they don't have to be "right" or "great" works, just ones that have touched you."

I know they don't have to be "right" or "great" works, and that part doesn't bother me so much.(although I do retain a slight envy for some of my friends from seriously-literate homes)

The real problem is that I can't even seem to wrap my head around where to start.  It's that "Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard" part that is troubling me. Because summoning those book titles.......  I know that if I do this right, it will take me back to a chair or a season or a heartbreak or an epiphany.  Good books, the really good ones, are like that.

There really is only one place to start:  6th grade.

1.  A Wrinkle in Time, Madeliene L'Engle:  the first time I realized that there was somewhere more than this world and somewhen more than this time.  See, I can't stop using the word "time!  What the hell IS time anyway?!  Mind=blown.  My absent father's Ethan Allen black leather chair.  Spring Break. Age 12.

2.  The Grey King, Susan Cooper:  Responsible for the fact that I still always spell "grey" the English way.  Lessons Learned:  Honourable Good Wins.  Setting Matters.  Fate.

3.  Flowers in the Attic, V.C. Andrews:   Seriously, if you were in high school in the early 80's, and DON'T include this book, I'll call you a liar.  Evil is Real.  Horrible things Happen.  Is it ok to enjoy this book so much?
And shit, that author has the SAME LAST NAME AS ME!

4.  The Chosen, Chaim Potok:   Easily one of the first real grown-up literature books I read ON MY OWN.  A book I chose (from a selected list of books, however).  Haha!  You see now the power of choosing!  Understanding the idea that within one religion, there are many.

5.  Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte:  Lying on my tiny single bed at the University of Lancaster, age 22.  The moors of northern England were my backyard.  It was early spring.  I was in love with everything.  I was the only one I knew who hadn't read it.  The language carried me away.  I had no idea that a novel could be all this.

6.  The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger:  This kid's life makes absolutely no sense to me, and yet I understand exactly how he feels.  How is that even possible?

7.  Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte:  These characters' lives make absolutely no sense to me, and yet I understand exactly how they feel. Another one of the books I "chose" to read from Ms. Six's list (AP English, Senior Year)  Sometimes wish I hadn't read this one on my own, but had had some guidance.  It truly is, as Dante proclaimed, a "fiend of a book — an incredible monster."   Heeeeaaattthhhhhcliffffff!!!!!!!

8.  The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien:  I didn't read The Hobbit until I was in my early 40's and had two school-age boys.  I was blown away.  I couldn't figure out how in the world I had come through my childhood without this.  I cursed my family.  I cursed my teachers.
I could read it a hundred times.  I want to read it again.  My husband and boys are watching part II of the movie at this very moment. I have no desire ever to see it.  Part I was the sorriest excuse for a movie made from a book EVER.

9.  Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins:  Philosophy can be funny.  Everything is connected.
“The rich are the most discriminated-against minority in the world. Openly or covertly, everybody hates the rich because, openly or covertly, everybody envies the rich. Me, I love the rich. Somebody has to love them. Sure, a lot o’ rich people are assholes, but believe me, a lot o’ poor people are assholes, too, and an asshole with money can at least pay for his own drinks.” 
My husband does not like Tom Robbins.  Sometimes I wonder how I can be married to him!

10.  Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov:  Duh.

These books found their way to me through people, mainly teachers and friends, and sometimes, yes, even family.

Not a single one of them was formally "taught", however.

Please share with me one of your ten in the comments, if you feel the desire.  I would love to learn more about the readerly you....

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yeah, Phid died.  But I was doing just fine.  Really.  John's sister had arrived, and we were talking about all the stuff that needed talking about:  Where's the will?   How to tell Bill?  Whom to call?  When to have the wake?  All was well.

Until it was time to set the table.

John's in the
living room, with the lights on, strumming
Here Comes the Sun
into the stale air
pushing out the darkness with
"Little Darlin', it seems like years since it's been here..."

everything's so alive
and yellow and light and empty

i enter the dining room with
five white plates
because there are five of us

but suddenly I don't know
where we're all going to sit
because she sat there
and there later, after the wheelchair
and there's no place for us
for all of us
because there's five of us, and only five chairs,
and if i place a plate for all of us
that means there's no place
for her

and i sink to my knees
holding the white plates that i can't

she took up so much space, for so long, and now she's gone,
and i don't know how to fill her place
at the table

Thursday, September 20, 2012

bread and wine

My mother-in-law is dying. I know I've said that before. But this time, it's for real.

Here's what it's like, right now...

For twenty minutes every day, you stab little watermelon chunks with a fork, swirl them in the juice at the bottom of the bowl, and wait for her to open her mouth, the sign that she is ready for the next piece. The rest of your day is go, go, go, but during this time, you stop. You are present. You stare at the lines in her face, the colors of the blankets, the shape of her body under the covers. You try to memorize it all: every color, every curve, every sound.

How ignorant I was then! How could I possibly have thought that artichokes and strawberries somehow constituted some sort of "Last Supper"?! People who are dying don't eat artichokes and strawberries! People who are dying eat...watermelon.

 People who are dying say things like, "a loaf of bread and a jug of wine", and expect you to know what they're talking about. Last Supper, indeed! The only thing your small mind can conjure up is Jesus, until she gives you another clue. You have to ask for it three times, until you finally make out her whisper: "The Rubaiyat...... Omar Khayyam".

And then you mention that you wished you had your computer, because you'd look it up. The dying person knows what he/she wants, and tells you to look it up on your phone. She may be 86 years old, but she knows that you can find anything you want on a phone!

 Thank goodness the caregiver has a smart phone, even if you don't.

 And so you begin to read (I highly suggest you read this aloud.  Just do it.  Please):

 Wake! For the Sun, who scatter'd into flight 
 The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
 Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes
The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light. 

You scroll down to see that there are "CI" verses. So you go to the middle, somewhere at random, and read aloud some more, filling the room with rhythm and rhyme:

 And we, that now make merry in the Room 
 They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom 
 Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth 
 Descend--ourselves to make a Couch--for whom? 

 Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, 
 Before we too into the Dust descend; 
 Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie 
 Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and--sans End! 

You succeed in barely not choking up and crying. And then, in the scrolling, you see it. And of course you read it. Aloud.

 A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, 
 A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou 
 Beside me singing in the Wilderness-- Oh, 
Wilderness were Paradise enow! 

We're getting close, friends. This person is gone.

Monday, December 12, 2011

two things and more

My husband has been gone these past two evenings, leaving home around six-thirty, to be up at his mother's before seven, the time at which the shift of "Bill's Girls" ends...
But that's another story.

Having this time "alone" with my boys, I forget to:
1. think about Dinner,
2. prepare Dinner,
3. clean up after Dinner, and
4. clean up after cleaning up after Dinner.

Don't get me wrong here, my husband appreciates everything (just about) and anything (almost) I manage to get on the table. And likewise. And I really do enjoy it when we all sit down to Dinner, and light the candle, and say nummy-nummies, and talk non-stop about our days. Or at least try to. Usually the conversation does a degenerate doublebackhandspringdismount off the table and into the sewer by the time Dinner is over. Such is family life with three boys.

For the past two nights, though, it's been dinner. Frozen pizza. Michelina's microwaveables, single-serving yogurts, Wheat Thins and cream cheese, juice....whatever else they can scavenge for themselves in the kitchen that requires the bare minimum of preparation. Can't say as I blame them.

Meanwhile, I take a bath. When Bennett interrupts my bath to tell me he wants to listen to Christmas carols, I ask him to ask Grant to put on the Traditional Christmas Carols Pandora station for him. He wants the music on to help him finish up his GT geocity project that's due tomorrow. Grant robotically does what is asked, then returns to his Manga book, which he borrowed from his friend Mika who borrowed it from a friend. In the back of my mind, I think, "That's what makes a book truly good." Even though I could never read it.

You people who have no kids, yeah, I'm talking to YOU! You have NO EARTHLY IDEA what parents and teachers go through during the weeks before Christmas. It's just one deadline and due date after another. Book Project? Check. Final GT project? Check. Scrooge Musical? Check. Orchestra Concert? Check. Concert Band Performance? Check. Poem Memorized? Check. Goodies baked for teachers? Check. Goodies packaged and labeled for teachers? Check. Goodies in backpack to take to teachers? Check.

And those are simply the activities that my family experiences outside the bounds of The Little School. LSV has its own built-in stressor (not counting The Ball and Medieval Day and Robin Hood Family Book Club!): The Beta Quadrant Show. In Three Days. I know what overwhelming satisfaction and happiness will come after we've successfully pulled it off, so it's worth it. But the working up to it....... it's just so

After my bath, I plan tomorrow's LSV schedule with an attention to detail that would make someone with ADD proud (because they do, you know, pay exasperating attention to detail. When they want to.).

What was the main idea of this story again?

Oh yeah, I got to spend time with my boys this evening, just helping them with projects, and hanging out. Which brings me to the fact that all I originally started out to say in this blog post is that I would like to share two funny things that made me laugh tonight, one involving each of my sons.

Bennett's gem: Up in his bunkbed, while hugging me good night, he asks, "What, exactly, is the meaning of humbug?"

"It means when know, when you feel.....well, it means humbug."

Seriously, that was my answer. Good thing the boys thought it was hilarious. Remember when you first realized that some words truly have no definitions? They just ARE? And that to know the word, you have to know so much more than the word? You need its context, its story, its period, its character. Having just played the young man Ebenezer in Scrooge, and actually getting to say "humbug", well... he realized he already knew what it meant.

As for Grant, tonight he finished writing the entire Desiderata in calligraphy. Of course, it's not in any kind of font I tried to teach him, like Carolingian or Gothic. No, of course not. Instead, it's his own script he "invented". Then he refused to use lines under his parchment (ugh!)..... , and refused to start over if he made a mistake (ugh!), but damn! he wrote THE WHOLE FUCKING DESIDERATA in calligraphy! By candlelight. And now he wants to make copies of it, bind them, and sell them at SPQR on Thursday night during the Medieval Fair portion of the show.

Only one small problem while trying to make the copies ... the printer wouldn't work. Grant had just replaced the ink cartridge, and something was wacky. Right at the point when he was most peeved at the printer, I casually, only a bit cruelly, said, "You know, there's a low-tech answer for every high-tech question."

He turned on me as if I were a vampire and he had a wooden stake in his hand. "No. Way. I am so NOT copying this whole thing over ten times. No Way."

It was at that moment, I think, that he truly got the whole "Writing During the Middle Ages" thing. Oh, he knew it on an intellectual level, how monks spent years of their lives copying manuscripts, and about the importance of words and the significance of access to them. But this was visceral. And it was terrifying.

And it was very, very funny.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

a letter that turned into a poem

your pants down
while from your mouth, pain
from the wall to the mirror to your second son to me
like khet
with the eye of horus
splitting your 84 years of shit into angry lasers

no longer will i
after 5 pm
endure the bombardment of
vodka-laced two-way tasers
your anubis

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Most days, I wake up, head directly downstairs, and make coffee. After my cup is poured, I carry it upstairs, throw on some clothes, and pull my hair back into a pony tail. I might brush on some blush, or don some jewelry, but preparing for my day is certainly not slow and deliberate. Getting ready in the morning is a chore. It doesn't help that I really, really hate to get out of bed. Sometimes I wish I could just go to sleep in my clothes; it would make mornings that much easier. No one loves Pajama Day at LSV better than me!

But today, I took the time to take care of myself. While prepping and primping, I realized that I am thankful for:

eyebrow pencils
eyebrow pencil sharpeners


body hair
Quattro razors
warm water

head hair
hair brushes
cute barrettes

Yup, this Thanksgiving, I'm grateful that I am hairy. I'm grateful for all the things I can do to my hair. I'm grateful, even, for the fact that I can remove it.
If I so choose.

Monday, June 13, 2011

an aching kind of growing

When a child first catches adults out — when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just — his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.

John Steinbeck

Sunday, March 27, 2011

me as an ape

Well......, I suppose that "Drawing" could be considered an "Elective", right? And during the time it is being taught to my students by Chris Alvarez in his Second Floor Studio, I could be having my "Planning Time" downstairs at Jive's. An hour and a half twice a week to actually plan lessons, complete with all the espresso and breve I could want!

But, no. Instead, I straddle the horse seat thingy, struggle my 18"x24" pad of newsprint onto the easel, embrace my unforgiving Sharpie, and ready myself to listen to the Master.

Drawing. It's something I've never been able to do. Never done. Never learned.

The 90 minutes spent drawing on Tuesdays and Thursdays is the reward I get for planning outside of school hours. I also, of course, hope to show the kids that learning is a life-long journey...... we say it, but do we really model it?

Anyway, Chris's homework was to draw a self-portrait of our face, while looking in the mirror, in a single-line contour drawing. Here's how mine started. Feel free to laugh! I did! Then Bennett came to check it out, and he laughed, too! :)


Then Bennett and I had a conversation that went like this:


And so I continued:


I'm going to try it again, and this time, start at the eyes (the worst part, in my opinion). I'll put on some music as well. And I'll slow down.

I hope, in the words of Mr. Chris, to "fail better".

Saturday, January 29, 2011

unsolicited advice from a woman with no daughters

a poem for Audrey, Meme, Ruby, Finn, and Sophia

they'll say
"Just Be Yourself"
as if that were THE ANSWER
i say
"Be your Many Selves"
keep your closet full of the different
yous and change as often as you like
accept and love them all
your girl friends will be
your source
for everything
this never changes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

words of wisdom

My more-often-than-not awesome husband, while reclining in bed, in response to our discussion of The Chosen in which I said, "You know, that was the first religious book I read that had a profound effect on me", promptly retorted:

"The first religious book I read that had a profound effect on me was Mad Magazine.

Monday, June 28, 2010

letting this one go.....

She was sleight of frame but strong in form. Her sparse long hair, the same drab color as mine when without highlights, hung down her back in a thoughtless ponytail. She asked me if I was "about ready to check out?" I supplied the openness she was looking for when I replied, "Why, yes, I am. Why do you ask?"

She produced a Kroeger gift card with 20.43 scribbled in black ink on the front of it. "I was wondering if you could use this card to pay for your groceries, so I could get cash to put gas in my car." Here I was, with a cart half full of cereal boxes and baby shower non-necessities.... how could I say no to a woman whose only need at the moment was gas in her car?

"Um... sure... how does it work?"

"Here, I'll take you through the line and show you."

"So wouldn't it just be easier if I traded you the card for the cash?" I uttered foolishly as I opened my wallet and searched out the lone twenty buried within a dozen smaller bills.

As I handed it to her and received the gift card in return, I offered her an extra dollar to cover the remaining 43 cents. She declined, and mumbled something about maybe getting a bottle of water with it.

She then led me like a lamb to the self-checkout slaughter, and proceeded to pretend to be interested in bagging my excesses. She must have been viewing me with that particular combination of envy and disgust that has forged and fed most every revolution in history.

I continued to occupy myself with a temperamental self-checkout station ("Please scan your Soopercard now." "Please remove the last item from the bag." "Please place the item on the scanner.") which I had made even more cumbersome by having the audacity to bring two of my own shopping bags, which required an intercessory prayer to the lone clerk (who, I'm sure, deals with the idiocies of inept humans all day, and yet still manages to smile patiently) who did something mysterious to the scales and added two 5-cent credits to the little screen in front of me.

In the middle of all this chaos, my middle-aged con-woman excused herself to the restroom, saying she'd "be right back", but that she "really had to go", and that she would help me check out when she returned.

It was then, of course, that the doubts tiptoed into my dreadfully unmindful mind, as I struggled to look up cucumber codes, keep an eye on my purse, play bagging Tetris with my scanned items, and try to stop thinking about all the time I was wasting when people would be arriving at my house for Elise's baby blessing in less than an hour!

Lo and behold, she showed up again magically at my side to help organize the last of my goods into the two bags I had brought, and begin the check-out process.

Let's just skip the details and asides for now, shall we, as we arrive at the inevitable: the gift card had a balance of zero. She didn't appear to be too mystified, and actually said, "Well, I just kinda found it and figgered it had the money on it that it said." Then she asked the clerk if there was a way to check the balance. He asked for the card, and said he could make a phone call. While he was dialing, and before giving me time to process this new revelation, she asked our clerk where the water was, as she was quite thirsty, and disappeared, 20 dollars richer, down a brightly lit aisle that could have just as easily been a dark alley.

I would wait for another four or five minutes, as the kind clerk made his phone call that confirmed the zero balance. After he returned the card to me, I related my story, embarrassed though I was, to him. He reviewed aloud with me her appearance, so that he would be able to recognize her in the future.

In my mind, of course, I believe she had it all planned out, every single detail of the operation, beginning with the spotting of the ideal victim and ending with $20 in her pocket. And so I have to applaud, really, her resourcefulness. She made in ten minutes what most panhandlers make in several days. Was it dishonest as hell? Yes. Did she intentionally want to hurt me or make me angry? I don't think so. I told the clerk before leaving, "Well, I think I'll just chalk that one up to my naivete, and let it go."

Once again, what Odysseus pronounces in The Odyssey proves to be true: "All-seeing Zeus takes half the good out of a man on the day when he becomes a slave."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

pretty in pink

Occasionally I wander back through my blog, usually when looking for something in particular. I rarely remember post titles, so I often search using key words. If I know I accorded a post a certain label, then sometimes I'll simply click on it and sift. Obviously, my searches take awhile.

Today, I typed the word "pink" in the search engine, since I never bothered to make a label out of it.

It all started here. Then later it traveled to here. And last year at this time: here.

Pink Panther cartoons still entertain to this day. This afternoon I cruised north on Chelton next to a spotless duo-tone pink Mercedes. Deunan dons a pink robosuit for the final battle in Appleseed Ex-Machina. You can even buy pink Legos now.

I mean, it's not pink's fault that its wimpiest shade got co-opted by the cancer industry and anyone else wanting to make a buck(et), now, is it?

It's time for the next generation of Survivors.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Objective: Today we will seal our fate, as evidenced by a multiple-choice questionless quiz.

not now
i'm too busy remembering
where i met you
and how

and why i remember
some so clearly
and others
not at all the first time

is sacred

perhaps i got that
wrong it is the
one ephemeral eon
now i see

a pink-cored cosmology
i dare not offend your
nimble and exceptional
mind by

writing anymore
geometry is death math
a one-degree-at-a-time backwards death march
from one hundred eighty to zero in a lifetime
infinite possibility and perpendicular pomposity
end at the forty-fifth parallel while waiting for results
that don't come

once again
we have failed
to ask
the right-angled

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

rough craft

i wonder what poem to put in my pocket
after i secret the life of bees and i
live the secrets of me
under the vespering prelilac trees
causing my eyes to itch and i
want a cigarette
to help me remember from which
i used to be

Sunday, April 18, 2010

a bath and an artichoke

I wish I could express to you how honored I felt to bathe Phid, with the help of the CNA, of course, in the monster jacuzzi tub they have at Pikes Peak Hospice. It is an amazing piece of machinery. To see it in action made me momentarily super grateful to be living in the first world in the twenty-first century.

While I was washing her hair, trying to be gentle, she said, "Oh, Sue, give it a good scrub!" So I dug my fingertips into her scalp, and massaged the heck out of it. Then I rinsed off the shampoo with the shower nozzle and watched the water cascade over her face and neck and shoulders and I could imagine how cleansing that must feel. After a good long bubbly bath, and a washing of the feet, we swaddled her in about a dozen warm blankets, wheeled her back to her room, and applied lotion all over her 83-year-old body. The CNA (also named Sue) and I worked well together, as she is one of those people who recognizes that she is not just doing a job, but performing a sacred duty.

After Phid was all tucked into her fresh linens (the bed seemed to miraculously make itself while we were in the tub room) and about to slumber off, she opened her eyes, looked straight at me, and asked, "What about my arteechock?"


She had mentioned wanting an artichoke twice before, and we just hadn't done it yet! I told her I'd go right away and make her one. I'd be back at 6:30. I bought three artichokes at Safeway, while a friend explained on the phone how to prepare and cook them. I had never cooked an artichoke before.

At 6:15 I called her and she answered with a smile behind her voice: "Artichokes take longer than you thought, don't they?" Yes, they do. I told her I was picking Sarah up at 7:15 and I would be there at 7:30 with her artichoke and her daughter!

Sarah and I "set the table", placed the mayonnaise and melted butter nearby, and let her at it. It was a pleasure to watch her hands, as they nimbly performed the duty they had obviously done so many times in the past. Sarah and I shared another. Then John and the boys showed up with grilled Korean steak from a neighbor's barbecue. I tore some of the tender meat into little pieces for her, and she devoured them ever so slowly. Then the strawberries she had ordered three hours ago finally arrived!

After living on toast, a few bites of tomato soup and a few spoonfuls of pomegranate applesauce for a couple of days, this meal was a veritable feast!

Friday, April 16, 2010

why i love my mother-in-law

Nurse: Are you in any pain? Do you need any medication?
Phid: Only emotional pain... and morphine won't help that.
Nurse: You'd tell me if you were in any physical pain, though, right?
Phid: By George, I'd raise the roof!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Phillis Watkins Spengler is dying. I am honored to sit beside her, doing nothing. If I even try to gently cover her exposed left foot with a warm blanket, she quips, "Oh Sue, stop fussing!" There is nothing left for me to do but sit and wonder.

I wonder about the secrets she is taking with her off into her afterlife.

I wonder what she sees in her mind's eye.

I wonder what it feels like to know that you are dying.

I wonder about the cruel, beautiful irony of crossing over just as the apricot trees blossom here on earth.

I wonder at the miracle of being able to stand on two feet, and then to walk, and then to run.

I wonder how long it will be now.