Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

Black Friday may have put retailers in the black and had shoppers seeing red, but for me, Black Friday was gold and blue and green-- the colors of nature. On this gorgeous day after Thanksgiving, my daughters and I went for a hike along the Interurban Trail and checked out Woodstock Farm. Apparently everyone else was jostling for good deals on today's hottest gadgets (also known as tomorrow's junk-- do you really think a giant inflatable shark is going to be handed down to the great-grandkids?) so we had the place to ourselves.

So, while others were waiting in line for that amazing sale on Blu-Rays or iPads or what-have-you (or even worse, sleeping this beautiful day away because they were up all night shopping), we were here.

We hiked, picnicked, cloud-watched, leap-frogged, rolled down the hill till we were dizzy (that would be once for me and about ten times for the girls), told stories, took pictures, bird-watched, hiked back, and enjoyed one hot chocolate, one apple cider, and one hot buttered rum.

For me, Black Friday isn't about getting a good deal. It's realizing you already have it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Things I Did Today

Filled the birdfeeders
and raked up dead leaves
Pulled out the rotting tomato plants
dropping their overripe fruit like
chastisement bombs
Cut down brown iris stalks
and mopped dark footprints off
the kitchen floor
Brushed my daughter’s hair
tearing through mud-colored knots as her
little body tried to dance away
Told you I was leaving
this time for good
Although maybe this isn’t a list
of things I did today
but things I could have done

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Playing with Color

That's one way to play with color...

I took the suggestion from Victoria at the dVerse Poets' Pub and invited my two daughters (4 and 6 years old, respectively) to help me write a few poems with color as inspiration. I love their unconventional choices and the way they already enjoy playing with language, just like their mom! Here are three of the products of our combined color-play.

Blue is fast.
It's soft as pillows.
It is cloud boats,
cloud stars, cloud moons.
Blue sounds like sky
like a tiger
like the letter "s."
Blue is flowers
in a mountain meadow
and smells sweet
like crispy fall leaves
under my feet.

Red is happy.
I want to paint the walls red,
paint my ears and my belly,
paint the dog and the chandelier.
Red feels like sitting on an airplane.
It is the breath in my body
and the breath
coming out of my body.
Red tastes like bananas
and burns my tongue
like lava.

Yellow feels like the slap
of lilypads against my skin.
Yellow is a colander dripping
in the dishrack.
It colors the cat and the picture
and the mug on the table.
Yellow sounds like boots crunching
through snow,
like rain clouds
coming closer.

Click here to see how others played with color, and maybe try it yourself!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I walk beside the river
dark and green as bottle glass
it undulates silently

I scatter stars like breadcrumbs
some stick to the sky like white
bodies on black flypaper

some fall
and I step on them
crack them like snapped branches

some sink in the quiet green
bleed bright tendrils that glow
like little highways connecting fish cities

the moon eats the rest
stars disappearing in its
crescent smile

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

the last step

the lustrous little leaves cluster
in the still-warm footprint,
lining the edges,
filling the instep as if
to cushion
the already fallen.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hands I've Held (II)

The last day of school
we sat on the flowered lawn
and listened to Nirvana covers,
the band hot in their torn flannel but
too cool to take it off.
I spun a buttercup
between my spring-pale fingers,
gold petals pulsing with the beat.

I was drunk with the heat
and the music and the flashing flower and
the last day of school so
I confessed to you
just a boy
who sat next to me sometimes
who sat next to me now
“I’m sixteen years old,” I said
“and I’ve never held a boy’s hand.”

You took the flashing flower
twined your fingers through mine
said “Now you have.”
It was a kindness, like helping
an old lady cross the street,
but of course I fell in love with you
for a little while
until I gave my hand and so much more
too much, much too soon
to someone with hands bigger and weaker
and less kind than yours.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rid of It-- Mag 80

I’m rid of it all, those things that stole my life from me.

The books are in milk crates on the sidewalk, dusty leatherclad classics pressed unwillingly against paperback thrillers. Lamps cast into the alley trash because I will live by the light of the sun and other stars. I gave the curtains to my sister. I have nothing left to hide. I will eat with my fingers, scooping and plucking, licking and wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. No fork will steal from me the intimacy of eating.

The cats left of their own accord after I explained things. We’ll still be friends. My bed is at Goodwill, propped up against other lonely beds. I don't need sleep, that substitute for life. I don’t need dreams. I’ve said goodbye to music, to voices and touch. I will sit bare. I will walk free. The spareness of my life is the new luxury.

I tore out my memories. They were not as understanding as the cats. Some went easier than others. My adolescence was relieved—grateful, even—but my thirties screamed as they flew through the air. I clipped my fingernails and tossed out the children. All I have left is this umbrella.

Take it.

I want to feel the rain. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Magpie Tales #78: Paint

     She was almost done. There… and there… and there. Finally! She wiped her forehead with the edge of her hand and set the paint roller in the tray. Backing into the doorway to get a better look at the bathroom, she was already shaking her head at the color.
     “Damn. I really thought this was it.” She reached over and absentmindedly scratched behind Calliope’s ear. “Lichen,” which had seemed subtly soothing when it was just a dot on the lid of the paint can, now bounced between the walls in the small space, intensifying the pale green to the color of chewed spearmint gum.
     “Maybe light blue?” Zoey sighed. “Or maybe I should just give in and paint it white.” Calliope blinked once, slowly, her lichen eyes glowing spearmint in the bathroom. She raised her tail and stalked from the room.
     Zoey sighed once more, just so she could fully appreciate exactly how tiring the whole thing was. She dumped the tray, roller, and brush in the bathtub and turned the faucet on the whole mess. Fatigue struck a blow between her shoulder blades and she sagged, turned off the faucet, and left the tools percolating in grassy bathtub soup while she went to bed.
     When she woke in the morning, she rolled over to face Calliope who was blithely licking her front paw.
     “Look at you,” Zoey said grumpily. “You get to lounge around all day, and I have to paint it all again.” She thought about going to look at the bathroom. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. But when she closed her lids, she felt fluorescent green glowing behind them. She pulled on her favorite yellow sweatshirt (“maybe pale yellow?”), slid her feet into a pair of clogs, and took her purse off the hook.
     “I never want to see green again,” she told an unsympathetic Calliope as she closed the front door.
     When she returned, a safe if boring gallon of “Buttermilk” in hand, she didn’t notice anything at first. It was as she was trudging down the hall to the bathroom that she saw them. Little green paw prints, phosphorescent against the dark wood floor.
     “Noooo…” she breathed softly, setting the paint can down. She followed the prints to the bathtub, where everything was just as she left it last night. Other than the footsteps, which led from the sickly pea soup, over the bathtub’s edge, and down the hall. Multiple times. She turned back to the hall, noticing now that there were several trails. One led into her bedroom, across the white carpet (“honestly, what was I thinking with white?”) and up onto her petal pink duvet. She followed another trail into the guest room up to the window seat, where leafy paw prints decorated the ivory pillows. The last trail she tracked down the carpeted stairs and across the living room floor, over the new armchair and to the new couch, where Calliope curled obliviously, nose tucked under mossy paws.
     “At least I’ll have something to remember you by after I kill you,” Zoey muttered. Calliope cracked open one eye, an infuriating sliver of impassive green. The unconcerned eye disappeared again. Zoey turned her drooping shoulders toward the stairs and followed the paw prints to what was left of her weekend.   

Thursday, August 11, 2011

From Tonasket - July 12, 2011

I am alone in this beehive cabin. In a pensive mood, I read a book of poems while the others rush from here to there, collecting tools and coffee and hairbrushes, buzzing about solar panels and fishing and how full the propane tank is. I read a poem by Samuel Green, "Laying Stone," and am overcome. I brim with sadness and awe but even if the others stopped long enough to listen, they would not understand, they would not love this poem the way I love this poem.

Gradually, gradually, they do settle in their places. They make their quiet lists or tune the guitar or look at the atlas. It is I who needs to understand-- they practice their moments of poetry their own way. I leave them to their poetry, and go back to mine.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mag 71

they do not recall
the messy heat of birth
their molten changeable nature
the way they screamed
after the slowly leaving heat
hot soft bodies growing cold
their durable changeability replaced
with fragility
heavy liquid weight transformed
into frail and flawless suspension

time flows like a fish
around their paralyzed forms
for our feasting eyes

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Eyes Have it

Most people don’t notice this (or if they do, they’re much too polite to comment on it), but my eyes look like they belong to two different people. No one is symmetrical—and I should know, being an optician for the whole of my adult life. Having to explain to people every day why I’m adjusting their glasses to sit straight on their face, not straight on the table, and yet not end up insulting them—“Dude, your right ear is half an inch lower than your left. Yes, your glasses are going to look crooked when you put them on the table. But they’ll be straight on your face.”—that really brings it home. But my eyes go beyond thwarting symmetry. They each have their own personality.

My right eye is my cynical eye. It’s a little squinty, a little suspicious. It’s literally smaller than my left eye, and it acts like maybe it’s got something to prove. I think it might be jealous of the other eye. My right eye is my Clint Eastwood eye. Go ahead—make my day. Don’t look at my right eye if your feelings are easily hurt, because it will judge you, and you will always be deemed unworthy. My right eye says that everyone is annoying, and possibly should be mauled and eaten. My right eye would do this, if it could. It’s the only part of my body that’s not vegetarian.

My left eye is wide-eyed and na├»ve. It’s open to the wonders of the world, and constantly amazed at the beauty of it and the people in it. It is perpetually astounded by everything, including things as commonplace as my cat or my morning cup of coffee. My left eye is always surprised. If you and I have been hanging out for a while, look at my left eye after an hour. It will be surprised. It will be saying “Oh! Look who’s here!” More than that, it will be looking at you with the wonderment of a newborn baby. If you want to feel beautiful and amazing, gaze into my left eye for a minute. It’ll give you a real ego boost. Of course, don’t look at my right eye after that. That bastard will take it all away again. 

"You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"

"Oh my god, you're like, so beautiful and amazing!"

 And here's the whole picture, in case you think I cheated and cropped from different pics:
Please don't ask what's on top of my head. I really have no idea. It was an interesting evening.

And I totally could have taken a new picture to exaggerate the effect...
but I respect you guys too much to do that.

Friday, June 10, 2011

SheWrites Blogger Ball #4

Welcome to my blog, SW ball-goers!

You all look fabulous, but while you're here, why don't you go ahead and get comfortable? Take those glass slippers off, let down your hair, and stay awhile.

If you prefer photos and snippets of writing to poetry and rambling, check out my other blog at

Here, let me help you with your coat...

Welcome to the SheWrites Blogger Ball!
(click the bookcase to return to 1st Books. Thanks for visiting!)

Monday, May 23, 2011


Like Wendy, sad at her window
we mothers wipe small fingerprints
from glass, looking through it for hints

of pirates or pixies below.
Languishing eyes search empty skies
for childish dreams we should outgrow.

That old dream outgrew us long since...
and Wendy waits at her window.

I wrote this for One Stop Poetry's form challenge. This week's form is the Octain, which consists of eight lines and eight syllables per line. I won't bore you with the other rules, but I enjoyed working with it!

Click here to read the other octains and high octains submitted.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Playing Dress-Up

After a morning of my daughters playing dress-up with my clothes and accessories, I'm thinking I need to rethink my wardrobe. Is it normal to have outfits that are so easily turned into costumes? Well, good or bad, now I know... with very little effort I can dress up as:

a lady from "Mad Men"...

...a bloodthirsty buccaneer...

 ...or a lumberjack!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hands I've Held (I)

Your warm fingers
angular and alien
hook through mine as if by accident.
We leave them there
our clasped fingers
and pretend not to notice our weightless hearts.

The day is gray and windy
trees fuzzed yellow-green with spring pubescence.
Cherry blossoms choke the gutters
drowning in Decemberlike rain.

Your fingers are like bare winter branches.

I wish I could go back to December
back to the bare simplicity
of naked branches and dormant earth
before the urges of spring
complicated everything.

For One Shot Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Burning

I keep the fire going
with sugar packets and gum wrappers
scrape the bottom of my purse
for goldfish crackers and crumpled tissues
a Starbucks napkin
a receipt for a swimsuit
I haven’t worn yet

I rip out the blank pages
from my spiral notebook
and feed them to the flames

silent people crowd the cold room
nodding at my notebook
too thin with straggling pages
they can’t help me
or don’t want to
but watch me struggle, scrabble for scraps

sticky lollipop sticks, ticket stubs
to that horrible show
that didn’t make me laugh
until there’s nothing left
nothing else to do but throw it in
my notebook
the words curling and darkening
fading into the satisfied smoke

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Warbler's Requiem

The robin's neck is broken
its beak splintered orange
having met
something harder than itself.
My youngest girl whispers
"She's sleeping."
Big sister knows better.
"Can we bury it?"
The toe of her boot,
the mud-caked suede gray-brown like feathers,
curiously nudges the spent bird.
Its soft roundness
gives way like overripe fruit
and she withdraws her boot
her face blank as snow.
I dig the hole under the holly tree
where the snowdrops have opened
and lower the once bird.
"Awww," says the little one.
"Ew," says the bigger one.
We sing it a song.
It notices nothing--
not the song
not the mocking worm swimming pinkly
in the freshly turned earth
not the tears on the oldest girl's cheeks
or that the little one has already run off,
already forgotten the robin.

For One Shot Wednesday

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Try Again Later

I'm not ready.
I've changed my mind.
I stare at the curtain behind you
try to close my mind to you
push closed
the heavy door within
lower the splintered bar across it
barricade it
with a peeling, painted wrought iron table
two deck chairs
my high school science teacher
and remnants
of clinging Christianity.
Please go away.
I peer through the glowing crack.
I don't see you
but please don't look
so sad.

For One Shot Wednesday

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

conscious stream

her excitement burbles and stutters
the same words crashing
incessantly incessantly
against the unreasonable boulder

trying to say it all
to say everything at once
pitch rising and rising
like vocal water vapor
consonants jumping from the stream
little silver fish glinting

can't recall what she was saying
but the way she said it
stubborn waves breaking free
rushing out
the rubbled boulder beaten
her blue eyes a waterfall

written for one shot wednesday

Monday, January 17, 2011


I hear my child call in the night,
Eyes crazed, cheeks flushed with fever.
I won't let her go without a fight.

Lips curl, tongue rolling bright
She begs me, please, believe her
I hear my child call in the night.

Her righteous shudders of delight,
Agonies of conviction seize her.
I won't let her go without a fight.

Her illness, a wall of impossible height,
Her fortress, a ring of believers--
I hear my child call in the night.

I watch her creep toward the light.
Jesus, don't make me grieve her.
I won't let her go without a fight.

Her faith convinces her they're right--
My faith says they deceive her.
I hear my child call in the night.
I won't let her go without a fight.

This poetry form is called a villanelle, and it's a lot of fun to work with. I wrote this villanelle for One Spot Poetry's Monday Poetry Form. Click here to learn more about the villanelle, and read other poets' entries.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Morning at the Lettered Streets Coffeehouse

I sit under the backwards espresso sign
sipping my coffee
perusing a travel book about Turkey.
The borrowed pages
smell like paprika.
Droplets gather on the steamy window
and travel down in groups.
The women behind me talk
about their trip to Africa.
The glowing sign faintly buzzes
and I leave half my coffee undrunk.
It is winter
there are no flowers on the table
and I will never go to Turkey.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Haiku #9

the hush between
fall and spring-- the icy breath
of winter

and one in the rigid 2-3-2 syllable form:

white heaped tables
green squares

(I would love to hear comments back on this last one, to let me know if it is easily understood)

One Stop Poetry Form: Haiku

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mr. Bilson - Part II

The hall creaked with each step under the brown carpet as I followed Mr. Bilson into the depths of the house. It smelled like old man in there, like hairless skin and arthritis cream and dentures. He asked if I wanted a cup of coffee and I said yes, partly because I wasn’t allowed to drink coffee and partly because I wanted to bury my nose in the cup. He went in the kitchen, where he disappeared like a chameleon against the yellow-and-brown color scheme. I turned back to the wall and forgot about the smell.

There were all kinds of knives. The card underneath each knife said what kind of knife it was, who made it, and the year it was made. Some cards also had names of places and years next to those. There were some really old ones. The oldest one was also the biggest. It said it was an Argentine Modelo short sword from 1909. It had a pretty long blade, but it was old and nicked. It wasn’t rusty, though, like a couple of them were.

“Which one’s your favorite?” Mr. Bilson was back. He handed me the coffee. It was in a Denny’s mug, and I wondered if he’d stolen it. I took a sip and tried not to make a face. Even I could tell it wasn’t good coffee, and I’d never had any before.

He was still looking at me, waiting for me to answer. I studied the wall. I pointed to a dagger, all open ends and decoration, with a ridged, rusty blade. It looked like it would fit in my pocket, and if Mr. Bilson didn’t have those watchful eyes I might have tried.

“The Indian Katar dagger, hmmm?” He plucked it from the wall and thoughtfully felt its blade. “It isn’t dated, but it’s an old one.” He handed it to me.

I felt uncomfortable with the knife in my hand. He just kept looking at me, and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with it. I felt the blade like he’d done, nodding a couple times awkwardly as if I knew what a good knife should feel like. I handed it back to him when I thought the right amount of time had passed.

“You’re one of those boys doesn’t speak much, huh?” he said, placing the knife back on the wall. “Too busy playing your computer games, I suppose. Forgot how to use your voice.”

“I talk.” My voice sounded rusty, like the blade. I took another swallow of coffee. “How did you know I played computer games?”

“That was my job, to get close to people. To notice things. It’s the height of summer, and you’re white as a fish. When I handed you the cup, I saw the callous on your index finger from clicking that mouse button all the time. It wasn’t too hard to figure out.”

“What was your job?” I asked, but he didn’t answer. He just looked at the wall of knives, so I looked too. How come it was okay for him not to talk?