Monday, September 26, 2016


Paper Jewelry

His excuse is he can’t help himself, hers she’s heartsick.
To make amends he knots together fortune cookies with optimistic predictions
and fashions a necklace for her
but she is drunk with sickness when he comes home,
she slumped in the bath wearing her work clothes,
her nylons and heels,
rolling a rubber duck back and forth between her palms
like a link of lava.
“But I made this for you,” he says.
The paper jewelry pierces her, same as a sword,
shredding a sheet she’s been holding over her heart all this time,
the last vestige, the final hiding tool.
The air ignites, whooshing up between them,
leaping tongues of fire now,
reaching for the truth
they both know
but can do nothing about.


Voyeur Pawn

The glass is like dirty lake water
yet he can see himself reflected in it,
little boy with the ugly face
though not yet scarred,
hip-high to the skirt beside him,
his mother bartering the clerk,
her fingers bare and trembling,
Inside the case is a collection
of things you’d find in a garage or a house
or a jewelry store.
None of them look new but there’s a glint of gory sin
in studying them,
the sight of all that secondhand loot,
the tarnish and worn spots of a woman’s hand mirror.
a musician’s harmonica,
a pistol’s trigger.


Twenty Stories

She says Babybabybaby.
She says Whyyouwanna.
She says Oooeeeyeahsirrr.
She’s got the radio up so that the wall clock pops and shimmies with the bass.
Luther rides the arm of the sofa and she’s all up on him,
horseback riding his knee
using her slapping palm for spurs.
She says Yippiekiyay-aye-aye.

My sister takes my hand and pulls me to her room and says she can’t get it,
Can I?
So I tug back the latch and force the window open
even as scales of dried paint rip off the wood seams,
fluttering to the ground twenty stories below.
“What now?” I ask,
but she’s already leaping,
arms out like Superman,
mouth full of wind,
her journey just getting started.


Hold Me Hard

The world is an empty well and you’re welcome to it.
Dark eye dug so deep.
Drop a penny and hear it do nothing.
If we jump together, though,
We might not have to land.


Mistakes in Paris

In the sheet this morning I
found more evidence of you:
three strands of your
sun-brushed hair.
 From there I walked out to the veranda wrapped up in your scent.
The baguette vendor shook his fist at me.
A flock of foreign birds, so tiny and severe,
smeared the sky,
busy with their gossip,
and wiped out my apology.


A Fine View

I have a good view here, a fine view
of the lovers in their canoe,
her feeding him first a sandwich square and next her actual hand
which must have retained
some traces of condiment.
The young man looks famished.
He does not stop rowing nor does he stop mouthing each finger.
Her laughter is birdish.  It echoes around the lake,
mocking the unloved
but most of all, me who rises at last to draw the blinds.


Friday, September 23, 2016


…It’s raining fairly hard right now but that hasn’t deterred the guy outside my window.  He must really like to fish since he’s the only one out on the lake.  He’s also standing up in a small rowboat.  So my summation is he’s not very bright.

…My dog keeps curling up right next to my feet.  It’s cute, but I’m afraid I’ll forget she’s there and roll over her with my chair leg.

…What have you got planned for the weekend?  I hope it’s something exciting.

…Here are some things I like on a dreary Friday:

-“Anyone who says they know just how a person feels is a fool.” Lucia Berlin

-“It’s the scariest thing in the world to feel alone.” Miley Cyrus

-“In a field
I am the absence
Of field.” –Mark Strand

-“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” - Annie Dillard

-"So you think that you're a failure, do you? Well, you probably are. What's wrong with that? In the first place, if you've any sense at all you must have learned by now that we pay just as dearly for our triumphs as we do for our defeats. Go ahead and fail. But fail with wit, fail with grace, fail with style. A mediocre failure is as insufferable as a mediocre success. Embrace failure! Seek it out. Learn to love it. That may be the only way any of us will ever be free." - Tom Robbins

-“I had nothing to offer anybody but my own confusion.” Jack Kerouac

-“There is so much more in experiencing the unfamiliar as familiar.”

-“You should have changed if you wanted to remain yourself but you were afraid to change.”

-“We are not interested the way we thought we would be interested.”

-“Our days are as grass and our years as a tale that is told, she rightly believed.”

-“Short-lived are both the praiser and the praised, and the rememberer and the remembered: and all this in a nook of this part of the world.” Joy Williams

-"The greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising up every time we fall."  Confucius


Wednesday, September 21, 2016



Dear Chicago, 2016

In the streets
500 dead by September 1st
Blood-stained cement cracks
Crimson asphalt
Shattered windows
Crack vials crushed underfoot
Child on a swing never makes it high
Girl on a date has her kiss stolen by a slug between the eyes
Bullets like silver rain, a thrush of metal hornets
Everyone ducking
With nothing to hold onto
If there is no anger
There is no hope
And next year will see new records
Only coffin companies the beneficiaries
Of such senseless slaughter


We are learning how to say Please
The master has a whip a belt a chair a chainsaw
It doesn’t matter. What’s important is obedience
Children in Africa have it worse we’re told
Who cares what they say at school
A shirt or blouse will hide those scars
We live in a root cellar of fear
The air hot and hairy going down
Coming up like a fist through a neck
Please can I have some water?
Please just a husk of bread?
Sis wants to put an end to this
Says there are no more rainbows
There never were any
Please can you tell us what we did wrong?
Please can I skip a beating today?
Sis rips her sleeves one evening
Makes two scarves, one for each of us
Ties them from the ceiling
Stands on the chair and tells me
Watch closely. This is how you do it.



You said it was the wagon’s fault
That it buckled beneath your weight
Wheels going wobbly hitting a stray stone
Sending you headlong into
Oceans of vodka
Clear as spring water
With more than a million
Shards of glass reflecting
What was left of you and how you
Chose the bottle instead of your children


Magic Carpet

You are busy eating strands of your own hair
Which hasn’t been plucked or pulled yet
But there’s still time for that
Mother’s got her bee eyes swirling again
It’s anger, not alcohol, that’s made her drunk
We can’t pick our parents, our DNA
The same way you can’t help but look like your mother,
The woman my mother hates so much
Step-sis, if I could I’d build you a raft fitted with oars
Send you soaring over rapids, through pitted water
Anything other than have you stay here
With a family who eats its young and
Still is never sated
But for now take this carpet
Go on grab a seat
Make it float and hover
Take it for a ride across the world


Naked As A Sculpture

Yesterday you were covered in butterflies
And tonight you are shimmering stardust
I don’t want to miss you but my memory is a pushy beast
Even eating this mushy pile of pasta I see film reels
The way you bit your lower lip and licked the top one
Whenever you were contemplating motives
How wide your eyes went while applying mascara naked as a sculpture
We made things once—soap, candles, oblong clay pots, love—
But there was ruin along the way, dead plants and dead babies
The hammock we bought in Mexico sways between two shaggy cedars
It’s yarn the color of dirty lemons, smelling like cat urine
When I lie down in it the sides reach around like a clam shell trying to envelope me
The first time in years something held me that tight, not wanting to let go



Monday, September 19, 2016


…It’s a gun metal gray day and I’m feeling a little random.

…After the bombing in Chelsea yesterday, I woke up thinking about 9/11.  I actually think about it quite often—how bizarre and surreal it was, how if it had been a movie no one would have believed the story.
I remember driving to work for a week afterward and the sky was empty.  In Seattle, there are always planes in the sky, headed to or from SeaTac, or else float planes landing on Union Bay.
I remember when flight resumed and seeing a plane for the first time toggling between buildings downtown and how frightening that image was, a sight that would have been ordinary any time before 9/11/2001.
I also recall seeing hundreds and hundreds of flags, some large, some small stuck like fence lats in yards.  My kids and I would count them as we drove home.  The stock market tanked and a lot of businesses skidded or went out of business, but the flag making companies thrived.  They sold out of all their stock.  Such a sickening and enormous loss of life had bonded Americans and patriotism was at its zenith.  Now, with the election less than two months away, it feels like the schism dividing us is as wide as ever and that’s a little depressing to me.

…So changing gears…

…When it’s your birthday, people pretty much write the same thing on your Facebook page and something is better than nothing, of course.

It was my birthday three months ago and someone wrote this, which I thought was great, not just because it was for me, but because it’s a cool thing:

your Birth changed the World;
your Matter matters to all
whose lives your life’s touched.

a Birth-day Haiku
to wish you much Peace,
Love, and Happiness

…I told you I was feeling random.

…Here are some things to ponder at the start of the week:

-“Doing the impossible is quite fun.” Walt Disney

-“Writers are desperate people, and when they stop being desperate, they stop being writers.” Charles Bukowski

-“There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.” - Leonard Cohen

-“You have to be really disciplined and you have to really want it.  No matter what.” Caroline Leavill

-“I’m just a person.  I don’t protect myself from it.  You just get on with your day with hurt feelings or not.” Rene Zellweger

-“The secret to a kiss is you only go ninety percent of the way.”  Hitch

-“I love books.  I love that moment when you open one up and sink into it.  You can escape into a world, a story that’s more interesting than yours will ever be.” Elizabeth Scott

“The meaning of awe is to realize that life takes place under wide horizons, horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era.  Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

-“Stop thinking about shit that ain’t happenin’.” Rob Bell

Friday, September 16, 2016



                                                           No Direction Home


            She wants the sun in her mouth, to swallow it whole, be scalded from the inside out.  But even that would not be enough.

            Her husband is a scratched record on repeat, a smiley face written with blood.  Can’t he see the broken dinghy sinking into the sea?  When will he stop trying to be Atlas, Gandhi, Jesus, Harry Potter, Mother Teresa, Dr. Phil?

            It’s cruel, yet she wishes she was the coat-rack thin widow.  Then there’d be no instruction, no direction home, and the ocean’s arms could have her, crush her, drown her like she deserves.

            The crow picking at her plate with its wet, yellow eyes has a reason to be here.  Everything else is a sham, a hoax, trickery with a fake, suntan grin.

            Coconuts kill people.  Water kills people.  Yet a child is born every three seconds anyway.

            Her mother told her she was no better than one of Manson’s girls.  Her mother wants a divorced daughter, a jailed daughter, an invisible daughter.

            And here he comes, holding a drink tray like it’s a Bible, like it’s a gun, which in a way, it is—each swig a bullet full of dust.  There’s not enough tequila in this entire fucking country, not enough sperm, no embryos. 

            The taxidermied  sun, the waxen marauders and the fake breast floating devices in string bikinis—all of it is enough to make her start de-limbing herself with a dull blade.

            No one really knows why the sun sets, why stars fall and babies die.  No one knows why a passing shadow sometimes becomes a garrote that squeezes and squeezes, but never quite tight enough to finish the job.


            The sun wants to wound us.  Even the crows are untrustworthy, stealing frites, stealing melon slices, filching a toddler from the middle of the pool in broad daylight. 

We melt like white chocolate yet there are ice cubes in your eyes, you lips stitched with black thread, the surrounding skin raw, red and puffy, an old wound that looks freshly slit.  When we first started there was no masochism, no punishment and you so often purred or hummed symphonies—Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” “Moonlight Sonata,” “A Little Night Music.”

            Wounds, wounds, there are wounds everywhere.  Take the obese orphan boy for example, him with his ketchup frown, slumped like Jabba the Hut on a barstool, raising a cheek to fart because he can now.  Or the widow who wants to weave her flesh into bone, become skull and stalk, a sign with no direction home.  All this while the Hispanic activities director dances poolside urging everyone to join along, to, “Move it!  Move it!”

            Does anyone see the broken dinghy sinking into the sea?  I do.

            You mirrored aviators make me look like a stranger, a felon moments before the crime.  We came here because we had cried enough, because the house kept screaming, kept repeating, kept terminating what we both wanted so badly.

            Don’t you see?  The sun, surf and pool are simply actors, ineffective placebos.  None of this is real.  None of this is enough.  He only balm of consequence is for you to finally unlock the chains, remove the vest bomb and realize that it wasn’t you.  You did not kill our child.  The bathtub did.  He water did.  But you, of all people, are innocent.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


…After getting feedback—(“I have to honest.  I didn’t like this at all”) I spent yesterday reworking the beginning of a new novel.  I hope it’s turning out better.  I think it is.
Meanwhile, friends on Facebook were coming up with witty stuff:

 -Son: Mom, you know how you say you want to be a princess on your birthday?
-Me: Yeah?
-Son: That's how you choose the next guy you love. The one who treats you like a princess on your birthday and all the rest of the days too

-Somebody on the radio just said "I'd rather eat chicken nuggets than scorpions."

-Holy sheeite! When did picking up a dime I dropped on the floor become an advanced yoga posture?

-Liam has asked ever since our bear-sighting if the bear is going to be my boyfriend. I think this says a lot about my type. Big. Dark. Lumbering. Eats a lot. Sleeps a lot.

-When the guard at the post office mumbled handsome as I passed, I was embarrassed, but thrilled. Then I realized he said, have a good one.

-"Owen, you need to stop hitting people."
-(Owen in crying voice): "I just hit people because I want them to fight me but they never do!"
-"Why do you want people to fight you?"
-Owen (still in crying voice) “I want people to fight me so that I can prove my strength.”
(Still crying) "I want people to fight me because I want to prove my strength."
-I thought about texting an ex-boyfriend last night: "remember when I barfed and then you stayed with me until I fell asleep?" But I didn't want to make him miss me more than he surely does

-One of my student's sentences: "I look forward to battering myself." Fish and chips anyone?

-Real thing I just did on a dating site:
Guy: Truth? Or dare?
Me: Get off the planet


…Lastly, here are some things I like on a Wednesday:

 “The role of the writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” Anais Nin

 “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” Martha Graham

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” Ansel Adams

“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” Georgia O’Keeffe

“Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” D. H. Lawrence

“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” Willa Cather

“I found that the sunshine in New Mexico could do almost anything with one: make one well if one felt ill, or change a dark mood and lighten it.  It entered into one’s deepest places and melted the thick, slow densities.  It made one feel good.  That is, alive.” Mabel Dodge Luhan

Monday, September 12, 2016



                                                               Haiku on Skin

            She wants it to be yesterday, last year, the night of their anniversary, with the citrus taste of nectarines dripping from his lips to hers, the night outside their hotel window revealing a shy, gunmetal gray moon, their bare legs roped together loosely.  He had been as gentle as she’d guessed he would be, boyish almost in the furtive way his hands roamed her skin, drawing out swaths of goose flesh, making up haikus on the spot, writing the words across her ribs and belly.

            The morning after, they were going to try the French place for breakfast but once there he realized he’d forgotten his wallet.  Back at their room, he encountered the thief who would scuffle with him, who eventually flung her husband out the window.

            Now, she brings in a bowl of nectarine slices, their sweet scent enveloping the room.

            He hadn’t remembered anything prior to the fall, not that night, not even that she’s his wife.

            Getting into bed, she says, “Scoot over a little.  Come closer.”

            “Why?” he asks.

            She bites off a chunk of nectarine and dabs it across his lips, same as she has done almost every night.

            “What are you doing?”

            Naked flat-backed on the mattress, she takes his hand and splays his fingers apart. 

“Write a haiku on my skin,” she says.

“I can’t write a haiku.  I don’t even know what that is.” 

His eyes are dull gray dimes, yet she’s not ready to give up.

“It’s easy, just three short lines,” she says.

“This is crazy.”

“Come on.  Try,” she says, leading his fingers to flesh.  “I’ll help.”