Thursday, July 25, 2013

For Kate on her Sixteenth Birthday

Kate turned 16 on Sunday. Time is turbo-speeding! I can't believe she's just two short years from graduating from high school. Will you please stop growing, already? Anyway, I thought I'd post the poem I wrote for her special, coming-of-age day. I sure love her with all my heart, which was recently fixed, by the way. Maybe I'll write a post about that someday soon.

For Kate on her Sixteenth Birthday

She sits lotus-style on her bed,
grasshopper legs
and angled elbows
softened by a wide raspberry smile
and Jersey-calf eyes.
And though she's stunning
by the pickiest standards,
her playful, childlike demeanor says
her physical beauty
is almost an afterthought
(or a parenthetical phrase)
which serves to enhance--
never to define.

"Jump on me, Mom!"
She's almost sixteen,
could pass for a college student
now that the braces are off,
but still my little girl.
I leap onto her bed,
and she flails out her skinny arms and legs,
squealing as she flattens beneath me.
I roll over and we lie side by side,
laughing and talking
like young friends.

If I could have chosen each of her qualities,
if I could have designed her like I would a dress
or a quilt, if I could have genetically engineered
each detail to create the perfect daughter,
the limits of my wildest dreams would have prevented
my ability to produce
my dear, beautiful girl.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


It was a miracle, the first time
I saw a beating heart:
a gray and white, fuzzy-grained rhythmic 
splotch of light in the core of the silhouette 
of my perfectly formed 20-week fetus.
My own heart flopped in my chest
as the evidence of life traveled
to my view through sound, gel,
and the skill of a chatty technician.

I had never seen something so
beautiful as the living, beating organ
of life I held inside me.
The dim room, the hospital gown,
even the cool gel on the ultrasound
wand became symbols of the living
love inside my womb. And that heart,
oldest of all symbols, held a life-
time of its own love to give and receive.

Today I enter a dim room
and lie down on my side, hospital
gown open in front. The gel
seems colder, the technician more subdued,
the wand without the magic it held years ago.
Through it, an image travels,
but this time, my body holds
only one heart. The arrhythmic splotch
of gray and white light on the screen 
holds my emotions hostage.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 18

So why can’t I think of anything to write
today when my mind’s eye is so dynamic.
Creative plots weave themselves with
twists and spirals, knots and dead ends,
which of course is a just a morbid pun.
But I can’t write about those.

The unknown factor is what chills me most.
If there were a timeline, for example, or
an itinerary, I could wrap my head around that
and free up the space that’s giving birth
to its own outcomes, few of which diminish
the tension in this headache behind my eye.

Or the thudding in my chest.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Titles are like hors d’oeuvres.
They’re supposed to perk up the appetite,
get the glands prepped so they’re
ready to digest the main course,
the substance of the meal.
But if you know a little French,
hours d’oeuvre literally means
“outside of the work.”
And if you’re anything like me,
if it’s a good one, you eat far more than you should,
and you’re left with a diminished appetite
rather than a heightened one.
I lose steam a few bites in, and
dinner is downgraded to doggy bag status.

I’d rather save it for later.
A nice spot of crème brulee after
the meat and potatoes have had time to digest,
after the blank page that signifies The End.
Only three or four spoons full.
Just enough to close your eyes,
lean you back in the chair
and evoke a sigh.

Or best yet, leave it until the dishes
are cleared away, if it’s a good one.

“The After Dinner Mint”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Silver folded icing coats an Alpine lake
sitting at the base of a bald, bearded,
ice-capped mountain backdrop.

The whispering wind wishes I were there.
My murmuring heart longs to belong
to this landscape, to escape from the
drudgery of here and now.
Lungs, still coated with winter’s murky offerings,
ache for a cleansing peppermint breeze.

Take me away to dip my feet in the run-off waters,
to renew my soul as we wander along
pine needled grounds, unmarred by
foot-trodden paths.

Writer's Block

I can feel them getting fidgety
in huddled groups, making sloppy signs
and plans for picket line chants.
They’re sick of being used,
stretched, and sometimes sacked
if they underperform on the job.
They’ve had enough, and they’re
not going to take it anymore.

I megaphone my message:
Words are cheap! If you won’t do the job
I know where I can get a thousand more
just like you who will literally work for free.

What are you going to do? They mock.
Outsource? A collective guffaw ripples
around the periphery of the right side
of my brain. And the truth is I do need them.

Without words, I am alone in my silence.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Greeter

You gotta give the guy some props.
Anyone whose vocal cords can endure an entire day of,

“Helloooo, and welcome tooooo

spouted off with religious zeal
to the incoming herds, their heads and eyes down

as they grab their carts and stampede
past, avoiding the guy like he’s

calling them to repentance instead
of greeting them at the store’s entrance.

I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy,
but he sounds more like a sports announcer

pumping up the enthusiasm in the arena
at the beginning of a game

than a geriatric has-been whose retirement
benefits just won’t cover his medical bills

or his wife’s prescriptions. Or maybe
his wife is gone now,

and he doesn’t have anyone to come home to
or to greet when she comes through the front door

at the end of a busy day.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Note to self:

You probably will regret it,
so quit saying, "Ah, what the hell."

Laundry does not do itself.
But somehow it still manages
to multiply and replenish
all over the laundry room floor
when left unchaperoned.

It takes the right kind of hard work
to get what you want.
Frantic work doesn't get you
anything but frazzled.

Cynicism, like smoking, can be thoroughly
satisfying, and may even make
you seem cool. But in the end, a daily
habit will lead to loss of friends
and possible cancer of the soul.

John was wrong. In the end, the love you
take is not equal to the love you make.
In the present, the love you receive
is greater than the love you give.
So love.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The blank screen

with the blinking vertical line,
a portal from the space beyond
or the place behind.
It dares you to discover what word
may slide out from its hiding space,
only one sideways step
away from immortality.
Find me, it blinks, and if you
stare at it long enough, you will.

The Faith of a Child

On the Christmas Eve when I was seven,
after the excitement had faded
into murmured breaths and
turn-tossed tangles of blankets and legs,
I awoke and remembered in a moment
of chest-squeezing panic
that I had neglected to ask Santa for
a pad of paper and colored pencils.
It was a by-the-way request
I had intended to include
along with the toys on my list.
But instead, it fell by the wayside.
Desired, but not so intensely that it stayed put
in my young mind when I was
confronted with the task of
reciting my hopes and dreams
to the white-bearded man at the mall,
who I knew to have the power to make me happy.

A pad of paper and colored pencils.
Simple, to be sure. No big deal, really.
An easy gift for Santa to come by.
So I did what any other church-going
seven-year old with a very basic
understanding of making requests
to powerful beings would do.
I prayed to Santa to bring me
A pad of paper and colored pencils.
Satisfied, I rolled over with a bit of covers
clutched in my hand, which my sister
promptly yanked back into its proper place,
never quickening her steady breaths,
and I went back to sleep, so sure my
prayer to Santa would be answered
with a pad of paper and colored pencils
poking out of the top of my stocking
come waking time.

I smile now at my childhood simplicity.

But still, I pray.
And that pad of paper and colored pencils
remain elusive as they were that
decades-ago Christmas morn.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ode to Hope

Oh hope, you false-feathered thing,
we are too intimate. You’ve been
my bedfellow far too long,
and I think it’s time for me
to meet someone new.
Really, it’s not me, it’s you.
And no, I don’t want to stay friends.
I’m done, actually.
I’m tired of you leaving me hanging
for days, even weeks at a time
only to disappear with a phone call,
an email, or the ubiquitous text message.
You’ve bailed on me one too many times.
But you always come back under the
guise of fresh starts and clean slates.
No more. There’s the door,
so use it!
And when you meet reality lugging his
suitcase in to fill the drawers I’ve emptied
of your things, don’t bother saying a word.
Because he doesn’t even know you exist.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Someone needs a hug!

I love embracing when it involves
another human. Wait, I must qualify:
when it reciprocally involves a human
I love, embracing
is a fine way to share a moment.

But when it comes to embracing my grays
or my age, or even my inner child?
Not so much.

An embrace should be a mutual exchange,
not a surrender to the inevitable.
Maybe my birth certificate reveals that
I am firmly entrenched in Middle Age,
but why should that dictate the kind of
clothing I wear or my activity level?
And just because I like to dye my gray hairs
doesn’t mean I’m afraid of who
I’m becoming. Or dissatisfied with who I am.

It might be different if those things had
something to give me in return.
Wait, I must qualify:  give me
something I enjoy in return.
But no. Gray clashes with my skin tone.
Age attempts to steal my grace, not enhanced it.
And my inner child? She throws way too many
temper tantrums.

So it’s been decided. I won’t embrace anything
Until it can embrace me back.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April 8

If you want to get rid of undue stress in your life,
it’s simple! Just stop doing things that stress you out.
Like laundry and cleaning the cat box,
or hearing the shrieking blare of your alarm clock.
Just go ahead and turn it off—
No harm, no foul.
Stop feeding the dog and the kids as well.
Eschewing the critical thinking skills that go into
dinner decisions can save any dozen
skipped heart beats in the five o’clock hour alone.
Work is no longer an option,
which is good since the alarm clock now
rests in pieces on the floor below the big hole
in the wall you’re not going to have to fix
now that you’ve eliminated the tension in your life.
And that tax check that’s due next week—
the one you haven’t had the courage to write?
No worries! Just shove your money concerns out the
door with civic responsibilities and
that dinner you volunteered to coordinate for the
elderly folks in your church.
I’m sure they won’t mind.
The kids don’t need lessons or help with their homework.
If they can’t do it themselves by now,
there’s not much hope for their futures anyway.
So don’t worry!
And most important of all, get yourself some duct tape
to plaster over the miniscule mouth out of which that
bothersome voice in your head that keeps nagging
you to write a poem a day.

What was I thinking?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ten points for each allusion you can find!

How can I say I love you when
it's all been said before?
No new and clever turn of phrase
will prove I love you more.

What metaphor of summer's day
or red, red rose will show
the magnitude of love that burns
within my heart and soul?

I will not count the ways I love
or miss you when you're gone.
Nor shall I weave with golden threads
a mat you'll walk upon.

And yet, by heav'n I do believe
my love for you is rare,
though sonnet-pleading fantasies
suggest none else compare.

I only know I love you! though
my words fall short of depth.
Accept my oath: that I will love
you better after death.

April 6

I was out of town for the weekend, so I'm posting yesterday's poem today. Yeah, it's haiku--but did you happen to notice that it's spring outside! Haiku is popping from apricot tree limbs and bursting from daffodil buds. Embrace it!

Seeds in earthen wombs
kissed fertile by sunshine gold.
Blossoms paint the land.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Pieced-together flat lands extend
beyond the broad horizon.
A quadrant of wheat nestled
into angled fields of sugar beets
just pushing up to feel the sun
bathe their leafy greens.

A quilt from the vantage point
of clouds, puffing and rolling
their way across an expansive blue sky.
But rather monotonous from ground level,
blurring by at 75 miles per hour.

A river runs through it, a silver ribbon
snaking in and out of view. A foot note
to an otherwise unbroken disertation.
It seems impossible that it could go anywhere
at all, level and endless as its host land
appears to be. Until it arrives


For millenia, rolling water and undercurrents
carved a groove which deepened to a gorge,
walls which descend layer by layer
to a white and green swirl of activity.
Here a jagged outcropped ledge.
There a pile of car-sized boulders
where the wall gave way, how many years ago?
A grand chasm of diversity and history
which would be hidden beneath a blanket of crops
if not for the river.

What other flat, imagination-numbing scenes
only lack a catalyst to expose the
poetry-worthy beauty lurking beneath the surface?

And how can I get a river
to run through me?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

This poem ain't gonna write itself

No, dear student, I can't tell you
how to write a poem.
I can read you all my favorites
and hope that you feel connected
to the poet's emotions through her words.
That you will be inspired to accost your own
feelings which you will lovingly,
painfully display in lines and stanzas.

I can show you spoken word videos
and will you to look into the wounded heart
of a poet who has reached in, ripped out his soul,
and tenderly put it on display just for you.
And you can poke and prod around the core of
your being, and bravely reveal someone no one yet knows.

I can even teach you about similes
and metaphors and symbols in hopes that
you'll discover one lurking somewhere in
the right side of your brain,
like a fish in the cool shadow of a grassy bank,
nonchalantly eyeing the bait I've so
carefully cast into just the right current.

You see, you have to come out of the cool
to write a poem. Poetry requires opinion.
I requires unabashed honesty. You're not here to
maintain your image. You're here to stretch.
So let go of expectations. Forget about reputations.
Find something that speaks to you, then discover the
right words to effectively speak back.
That's how you write a poem.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Day 3

My name is
Writers aren't born
properly labeled, so it's
hard to know one when
one appears.

Julianna Baggott

The only part of my life's label that remains
perfectly legible is:

My name is

The space below is a smeared mess of
edit marks, erasures,
even some sharpied scribbles
followed by so many exclamation points
that Mark Twain would feel obligated to make a
snide comment about my
self-perceived comedic prowess.
Or would it be F. Scott Fitzgerald?

Either way, some part of my buried past
is a joke.

At the moment, the space is filled with 
three letters,
uppercased, bolded and rebolded:

My name is 

Though the very act of my fingers keying words
on this page will cause it to change.
I think I just felt the "p" soak into the tip
of my right pinkie, and travel with
the blood in my veins, making its way
back to my heart
and out of my skin to settle
below the red header, morphing the letters
that beat along with my heart this morning
as I dropped my children off at the airport
to visit their dad.
The "o" is already there,
no need for a replacement.
The soon-to-be-former resident "m"
rotates a quarter turn to the left,
and the "t" hops from keyboard to chest
to complete the me of the moment.

A skilled forensics specialists could lift
those letters
and the ones that came before
to reveal my identities all the way back.
Some would be easily discovered:
wife, teacher, daughter, friend.
Others would be harder to decipher,
their letters grown
faint from lack of use, or
from denial.

There was a time when

My name is 

held its position for months at a time,
though if I'm honest with myself,
it must have been surrounded with invisibly inked
words like lonely, desperate, afraid.

And there have been plenty of times when

My name is

held the space hostage.
Sharpied scribbles and exclamation points
soon to follow.

Today, I'm content with an adaptive
white space, even if it means the white
has transformed into ever-changing
shades of gray.
The black and white
of my world ended
so long ago.

My name is

My name is

My name is

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Day 2

Gathering Eggs

The day she removed her apron
and draped it over the egg basket
I knew life was about to change

These chickens, as dear to her as children,
still clucked, still pecked,
still layed.
But she
abandoned them.
They still needed her when she purposefully
removed from her midsection the square of linen
that daily held her collection—
the proof that her chickens existed at all—
and forever laid it aside.
As if to remove the reminder of her obligations to
and the dependence of those
who continued to live.

As if that would erase the memory of the dead.

The day she removed her apron,
what little was left of life light faded from her eyes.
A dull soul remained,
the cut away pain tucked in a pocket of linen.
Hope also removed,

The day she removed her apron,
I wanted to scream
into her deafened ears:
What about me? I’m still alive!
But life had already lost its value.
And death had already extended an invitation.

The day I donned her apron
And took hold of the egg basket handle,
I knew life was about to change
And I would never give up, nor
Abandon them.

Monday, April 1, 2013

It's National Poetry Month! I'm going to attempt to write one poem a day for the entire month. Wish me luck! Here's today's poem:

On My Way to Meet My Teenage Daughters at the Dentist After School

Lights flash red and white as we approach,
my youngest daughter and I.
Two of them—no three,
plus the first one that passed us
before the others shocked themselves into view.
That makes four.
On its own, speeding to its blocks-away destination,
a singing siren could be hopeful.
But the three left behind to flank the red and blue flashers,
and the yellow-taped, traffic-diverted section of road,
sing a different song.

Or is it already a dirge?  

Before I see the stroller at rest on its side,
before the group of sidewalk gawkers,
some of them crying,
comes into view,
I hope in my squeezed and shrinking heart
that they made it through.
I frantically search for what
I desperately pray I won’t see—
willing each crunched car
and head of hair to be some other color than

A teenage boy with his head in his hands.
The spilled contents of a diaper bag.
An elderly woman sitting on the ground.

My relief is visceral when I’m sure the cars
and faces at the scene
are unfamiliar.
And though I hurt for those who will receive
that heartbreaking phone call—
a life stolen or marred by simply being right here
a few, frightening moments ago,
I unsqueeze my heart to make room for the gratitude
of a mother
whose family is intact for another day.

Monday, January 14, 2013

More than a year

since my last post. How did that happen? I guess I'd better think of something interesting to blog about.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Miss Jane!

Last week Jane asked me if there was a song that reminded me of her whenever I hear it. Immediately I was transported back to a moment almost eleven years ago. It was in the car an the way home from the hospital where Jane was born. I was feeling particularly weepy that day because we had decided that Jane would be our last child, and I was struggling with coming to terms with never being pregnant again, never going through the birthing process, never having that monumental first night alone with a brand new baby at my breast. The finality of it all weighed heavy on my fragile emotions of the moment, and I began to cry. And then a song came on the radio. Something about the music soothed me immediately (the words don't really mean much, so I won't include them here). I knew in that moment that this song would always remind me of Jane. I was filled with extreme gratitude for my precious little gift who slept in her infant seat behind me. Ever since Jane was very small, she's been a child who cares deeply for others. She is a natural nurturer--whenever anyone is sad or lonely, she is the first to comfort and care. She loves to touch and make connections with everyone in the family. She hugs and kisses and loves. Ever since that day in the car on the way home from the hospital, Jane has brought a soothing influence to my life. Jane turns 11 tomorrow. We're having a Spa Party with her friends for her birthday. It will be filled with soothing, comforting activities like facial masks, foot baths and massages. What a fitting way for my sweet Jane to celebrate her 11th birthday. I love you, Jane!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Emma through the glass

Time sure has a way of passing us by, doesn't it? For example, when Emma was baptized on her 8th birthday, her Uncle Greg said to me, "Just think, only eight more years until she's driving and dating!" Of course he was giving me a hard time, and I immediately told him to shut the heck up. How could it be possible that my little angel of an Emma Lu could ever grow up enough to drive a car. Or worse--to date a boy!

But guess what? It's happened. Emma turned 16 last month, and she got her driver's license and had her first date. How did this happen?

Here's the poem I wrote for Emma's birthday:

Its neck,
long and slender as her own,
knows the soft white fingers of her hand.
The body's curves
between shoulders and
rounded bottom
mirror the beginnings of
her own blossoming form.
Each coaxes music
from the other.

She draws her bow across strings
of time, each note perfectly attached to the next.
Whole notes first, wobbling and unsure
until they divide--
quarters, marching forward
lagging faintly behind the
tick, tick, tick
of the metronome.
Elbow, wrist, fingers dance slowly
as they learn where to fall,
where to hold.

Steady quarters give birth to eighths, then sixteenths.
Fingers dance--lithe and rigid--
up and down strings
four to a tick,
her stretched fingers bent
on conquering the moment
before it is lost.
They skip in a blur
so much so that none can say where
the previous has come from,
nor where the future will go.

Sixteen years slip from
her bow
and resonate throughout
the curves of bodies.

Until they divide again.

Today Emma is attending an orientation meeting for her new job. She'll be working at Lagoon this summer. A real job for a real 16 year old.

Where did the time go? It's just like "Julie Through the Glass." (Go 4:36 into the video below, and be sure to have a tissue handy!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thirdly, this is the story, and I'm writing it.

Last night I had the fabulous experience of listening to Daniel Handler, who is more commonly known as Lemony Snicket. I'm please to say he was easily the best author speaker I've heard. I'm not please to say, however, that I discovered I am older than him by a few months. Him and his 60 million books . . . but I digress.

The event was a fundraiser sponsored by Ogden School District. Every year they host a dinner with an author as the speaker. Most people have to pay big bucks to get a seat, but I just had to know someone whose mother was on the board of the sponsoring foundation.

The dinner was unfortunate. I mean, it was a themed dinner based on the unfortunate events. It was quite delicious. Cucumber soup, roast pork, cornmeal raisin stuffing, veggies, lemony cake, mmmm mmmmm.

Daniel Handler spoke for over an hour, then took questions for 20 minutes. Then he sign books for what I'm assuming was a least a couple hours afterward. We made it close to the front of the line. He spoke individually to each person in line, calling us by name, making jokes, and being charming in the oddest ways possible.

My favorite Daniel Handler moments/ideas:

  • His first book (not from the Series) was rejected 37 times. Thirty-seven. Wow. I know this is not unusual--that many authors keep trying rejection after rejection. But a number like 37 is unfathomable to me.
  • While he was waiting to find a publisher, an editor suggested he write children's fiction. He scoffed at the idea, because his first book was about a teenage girl who killed her boyfriend--not exactly suitable for young minds. And so he spewed forth an off-the-wall idea about three newly orphaned children and all the horrible things that happen to them. It was, of course, all in jest. The next day the editor called to ask him to write it.
  • His favorite fan letter came from a girl who told him, "I get curious when things happen." He does too, so he always makes sure things happen in his books.
  • Somebody left a cell phone on the podium where he was speaking. It rang during his speech. "This isn't part of the show," he said. And then he answered it. Unfortunately, the caller did not speak to him. So he looked at the phone and said, "How charming, it has a 'dismiss' button." He pressed it and said, "I fully expect that tomorrow this person's boss will knock on his office door and say, 'I'm sorry to inform you Mr. Handler has dismissed you.'" Oh, so funny.
  • One of Mr. Handler's favorite phrases he read in a book when he was a child was something like, "Thirdly, this is the story, and I'm writing it." Of course it was preceded by a first and second point, but young Daniel used to quote it frequently on its own. If he had an argument with his parents, he would use this quote to stop the argument and get his way. Of course it never worked.
  • During Q & A time, the fortunate children of rich parents who are yet living lined up to ask Mr. Handler questions. He clearly warned them that they would be disappointed with his answers. Despite the constant laughter of the audience, he didn't even crack a smile. The kids LOVED this. (My kids didn't get to go because they are neither fortunate nor are they children of rich parents.) Some of my favorites:
  • Q: Who is Beatrice? A: The person who all the books are dedicated to. *blank, silent stare down between questioner and Mr. Handler* Dismissed.
  • Q: Which character in the series is most like you? A: *after a moment of chin rubbing* Lemony Snicket.
  • Q: Where did you get VFD? A: Wow, you credit me with a lot, don't you? It's like before I wrote the series, there were only 23 letters, but then I came up with three more. I'm a genius!
  • Q: Who is your favorite character in the series? A: *after a moment of chin rubbing* Lemony Snicket.
  • Q: *new speaker, her first question* Thirdly, are they going to make a second movie of the series? *after the laughter died down* A: They tell me yes, but I don't believe them.
  • During the book signing part, Mr. Handler spoke to everyone individually. When it was my turn, I wanted him to sign the book to Emma, Kate and Jane. "And this is . . . you?" he asked. I told him they're my daughters. "I'm sensing an Austen theme here," he said. I told him that no, there was not an intentional theme in choosing the names of my daughters. "So they weren't all born in Austin, Texas?"

As a hopefully some-day-in-the-future author, I was inspired by Daniel Handler. His wit was quick, sharp and entertaining, but the thing that stood out to me most was that he is, without fail, true to the stories he wants to tell. He writes the stories he wants to write, and if people want to read them, that's great. If they don't, he'll still write. Today I'm taking a moment to consider my personal integrity to the stories I write.

And I'm still laughing.