Wednesday, January 21, 2015



…Early tomorrow morning I’m boarding a plane and heading to Santa Fe where I will meet with some cherished writer friends and others I know only virtually.  Our reading is Saturday night.  It’s a talented group.  It’s a fun group.  Hopefully no one will get arrested.

Out here in the boonies on this little old lake around now, near five o’clock in the late afternoon, we get the most amazing sunsets—usually smears of fuchsia clouds, lavender or plum.  Tonight they look like the deep blue color of a new bruise.

…I won’t likely be on here until I get back, since I’m not taking a computer.  The last trip I took my laptop on either myself, my roommate, or one of the housekeepers stepped on it and now it looks like a roschach test pattern.  The only way I’m able to type this is because I have it hooked up to a monitor.

…So I’ll leave you with some facts I found interesting, and some insight I found revealing:

--Only 45 percent of the populations makes New Year resolutions and of those only 8% are successful.

--Children raised without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crimes.  Nine more times likely to drop out of school.  Twenty more times likely to end up in prison..

--With the recent plunge in gas prices, US motorists will save $97 billion this year, or $750 per household.

--Annual income from the estates of celebrities:
#1. Michael Jackson $140 million
#2. Elvis $55 million
#3. Charles Schulz $40 million
#4. Elizabeth Taylor $25 million

...“I ain’t afraid to love a man.  I ain’t afraid to shoot him either.” Annie Oakley

“Wisdom begins in wonder.”   Socrates

“You and I are not cool.  And that’s all right.  I’s what most of great art is all about.”  The Good Wife

“Death has a way of bringing family together.” Justified

“Everything you notice is important.  Let me say that a different way: If you notice something, it’s because it’s important.”  Verlyn Klinkenborg

“Let us read and let us dance - two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.”  Voltaire

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Listening Device

She tells me I don’t know, I don’t know,
I never knew.
She claims I only see spots and scotomas,
that I miss the truth
hiding in the fringes,
out of breath but beautiful.

Another time she says she is a cut-out,
not flat,  
not like that,
but living pages and improper pictures.
“Here,” she says,
running my hand across her spine,
“maybe you can read me a story.”
The nurse pokes her head in, mouths, Everything okay?
the same way she does every day.
When she’s gone,
I turn back to the woman on the bed
whose eyes are a blind man’s milk-blue.
I hit Record on the device,
say, “Tell me again how you met Dad,”
and she begins to laugh.

Land of Ten Thousand Lakes
The waves rewind that summer when we would float belly up, the sun a round door, your hair tousled like vines, the color of wild strawberries.  You said they weren’t freckles, just store-bought bruises.  We laughed about it.  You called your father by his first name.  He moved you to Minnesota, land of ten thousand lakes.  You should have been happy there.  You should have tried harder to stay afloat, alive.

Not Telling
That summer the neighbor girl snuck out alone.  I saw her from my bedroom window.  No one else did.  The police think I’m not telling.  I’m not.

Mother May I
We played Mother May I even though you hated asking for permission.  Dad said he didn’t play favorites, yet you’re the one he calls.  I have a wife now.  She counts my breaths.  She measures their depth before stepping out of bed, tiptoeing off to use the phone.

The Split
Summer sings, song of seagulls cawing as they pluck French fries from plates.  Children squeal.  Poolside speakers blare, “I like to move it, move it.”  In the reflection of your mirrored sunglass panels I see how frightened I am, a small, thin spider.  When I look again, your answer is as clear as murder.

The Drive
It was a two-tiered gun rack behind the pickup’s headrest.  My uncle had eyes the color of dead grass.  He smelled like chili.  He drummed the steering wheel while sucking on a toothpick.  The air was hot and wrong and I knew where we were going.

You are a window that I open to find another; somebody’s idea of a joke, a tease, a torture.  I climb the chain-link and slice my legs on the razor wire, flop down on my solar plexus.  Ollie Ollie, All in free!  The wind is streaming, the motor’s revved.  You couldn’t hear me if you wanted.

The table was essentially a tall stool, wobbly with legs that jutted out and made sitting close difficult.  The waitress came at the wrong time, or maybe it was the right time.  The glass struck me forehead-high, jagged pain like lightning, but at least your drink was empty.

I step away from the glass.  The detective says it’s two way, she can’t see me.  I tell him she has me confused with someone else. 

We stop writing about the moon.  Inside your cupboard are plates of china with chinks in them.  Your mother calls them poor man’s freckles.  You say you have your own, but you keep the lights off, shades drawn, covers up.  You tell me what’s important are the stars.  “Look how they glitter,” you say, “as if they have their own secrets to keep.”

Friday, January 16, 2015


                                                  A Car Ride of Second Chances

            It was my therapist’s idea.  Ordinarily, he merely listened, taking a note or two during our sessions, but I could tell my exhibitions of misery were frustrating him, which is why he came up with the suggestion last week.
            When I objected, he said, “Don’t forget, you’ve made mistakes in your marriage, too.”
            That poison dart stung.  I felt a moment of betrayal, but then realized the irony of my thinking—me, who’d been the unfaithful one.
            I call our lawyers before leaving, tell them my wife and I are just trying to get out of town for a couple of days, drive to Portland--where people are less likely to have heard the news.
            The second lawyer, the needling, suspicious one who often seemed to be on the prosecution’s side, said, “Check in.  Call when you get there and give me the hotel’s phone number.”
            He was a squat neckless blob, a human Jabba the Hut.  I imagined shoving a stick of dynamite down his throat and watching him choke on it right before all 300 pounds of him splattered across his mahogany office.  See, that’s what all this had done—turning me violent and resentful, into one batshit, childless husband.
            My wife gets into the SUV while I finish loading up.  I see the Millers across the street watching us through parted drapes.  When I give them my middle finger, they disappear, their curtains sashaying like randy ghosts.
            Ghosts.  I believe in them now.  Sometimes it takes a tragedy to open up your mind.  I see her ghost every day, several times a day.  She glides across the room, floats above my head, always swaddled tight like a cocoon.  I hear her gurgle and coo, feel her hot baby’s breath.  She never cries.  Never.
            Near Tacoma, the vehicle starts to rattle the way it has all month, although now there’s an added rumbling sound beneath my feet.  Just another one of our broken things, I think.  I turn the radio up louder, even though it’s a ridiculous rap song.
            My wife stares out the window, any number of thoughts going through her head, or maybe nothing at all.  Or maybe she’s reliving everything.
            Approaching Chehalis, I turn the radio off.  The car still sounds as if it’s going to collapse.  I say, “Hey.”
            She doesn’t turn and for a second I wonder if she might be sleeping.  When I lean forward to check, it’s too late.  The deer has loped onto the highway. 
            I brake hard, even though as I do it, I realize you’re supposed to hit the accelerator instead.  The animal slams into the fender—fur, hooves and horns--twirling in the air as if in slow motion.  I’m certain that it’s going to land on the windshield, break through the glass and crush us.  But it doesn’t.  Instead the deer drops onto the top of the SUV like a boulder, then rolls off the back end. 
            The car finishes its skid, squealing in a semicircle, spraying gravel from the side of the road.   The air smells like burnt rubber.  Over our heads, in the middle space between us, there’s now an inverted dome of metal from where the deer landed.
            “Are you okay?” I ask.
            My wife is pale, the color of faded lavender, and her chest heaves.
            “Are you all right?  Are you hurt?”
            She shakes her head, eyes the widest I’ve ever seen them.
            Police arrive less than ten minutes later.  They want to call an ambulance, but I won’t let them.  “We’re fine,” I say, “just a little shaken, is all.”
            When he checks my ID, the officer’s face corkscrews and I know he’s realizing who we are.  “Where you headed?” he asks, the inflection in his voice not unlike Jabba the Hut, my attorney.
            “Portland.  For a break, a getaway.  Just a couple of days.”
            “Your people know you’re going?”  I understand what he means.  This is unbelievable.  I feel myself ripen with anger.
            “My people?”
            “Lawyers and such.” 
            I want to tell him to go fuck himself.  I want to ram the door against him, break his hip or a few ribs.  Instead I say, “They do.”
            “Good idea.”
            He stares at me for a few seconds, but it feels longer.  Then he leans down, looks across at my wife.  “Sure you’re not injured?”
            “Just shaken,” I say again, and the officer chuckles.”
            The SUV won’t start, so the police write up some kind of note and stick it under a windshield wiper.  “Be a bitch of a bill, towing that all the way back to Seattle,” one of them says almost merrily.
            “I’ll have it towed to Chehalis, get it fixed there.”
            “Yeah,” he says, and I don’t know if it’s a question or if he’s agreeing with me.
            “Want a lift into town?” he asks.
            “We’ll call a cab.”  There’s no way in hell my wife and I are getting into the back of a squad car.
            “Sure?”  He’s disappointed.  Probably wanted to grill us on the ride in.  “Save you fifty, sixty bucks.”
            “I’m sure.”  If he doesn’t get the fuck away from me, I’m really going to whack him with the car door, get out and mash his face in with my boot.
            Finally he says, “Suit yourself,” then to his partner, “Let’s go, Bob.”
            In the rearview mirror, I watch them walk back to their cruiser.  “Can you believe those assholes?” I ask.  But my wife doesn’t answer because she’s started sobbing.

            At our hotel room, my wife sits in a chair by the window weeping silently.  She won’t stop and she won’t talk to me.  When I tell her I’m going for a walk, she doesn’t even bother to look up.
            There’s not much to see outside, the downtown area filled with feed stores and others that sell fertilizer and farming implements.  The sun is a ripe blister in the sky, its rays scalding my upraised face.  Almost blinded, I nevertheless walk up and down the streets for hours.
            I find a bar called “Last Chance Saloon”.  It feels like something out of frontier times.  I sit at the bar ordering whisky after whisky until the jukebox is drowned out by a jar of angry hornets scouring the inside of my skull.
            Back at the hotel, my wife’s still seated in the same spot, but she’s stopped crying.
            I sit on the edge of the bed next to her.
            “Hell of a day,” I say.  “Hell of a month.”  I sound like an idiot but I don’t know what else to say, and besides, I’m quite drunk.
            “I didn’t do it,” she says.  They’re the first words I’ve heard from her since yesterday. 
            “I told you I believe you.”
            “You don’t act like it.”
            “How am I supposed to act?  She’s dead.”
            “Everyone thinks I did it.”
            “We have lawyers.”
            “Why would I?  She was my baby, too.”
            “We’re going to have to learn to live with this eventually.”
            “What kind of mother would shake her child to death?  What kind of animal?”
            What kind of man would cheat on his pregnant wife? I think.
            It feels hotter in the room than it did outside.  My sweat-soaked shirt clings to my chest making it easy to see the rhythmic thudding of my heart.
            I slide off the mattress and kneel down in front of my wife.  Her hands, her cheek, her earlobes—everything trembles.
            “Look at me,” I say. 
            I reach over and lift her chin up.  Mascara is smeared down her cheeks like black scars.
            I don’t know if she did it on purpose or not.  The experts know.  But I tell myself I can live with it either way.  What I can’t do anymore is hide or lie.
            I take a gulp of air and swallow.  “I have something to tell you,” I say.
            I take my time.  I tell her everything.  Outside a stray siren wails in the distance while I wait for judgment, punishment or forgiveness.  Anything to set us right.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


…The sun is shining and the eagle is flying around the lake.  It’s Wednesday, a good day to be alive.
Unfortunately, there’s still so much evil in the world.

…This happened two days ago and barely made the news…

Hundreds of bodies remain strewn in the bush in Nigeria amid an ongoing attack described by Amnesty International as the "deadliest massacre" by Boko Haram.
Mike Omeri, the government spokesman, said fighting continued on Friday for Baga, a town on the border with Chad where Boko Haram fighters seized a key military base on January 3 and attacked again on Wednesday.
"Security forces have responded rapidly, and have deployed significant military assets and conducted air strikes against militant targets," Omeri said in a statement.
District head Baba Abba Hassan said most victims are children, women and elderly people who could not run fast enough when fighters drove into Baga, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on town residents.
"The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous," Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for poorly armed civilians in a defence group that fights Boko Haram, told The Associated Press news agency.
He said the civilian fighters gave up on trying to count all the bodies.
"No one could attend to the corpses and even the seriously injured ones who may have died by now," Gava said.
An Amnesty International statement said there are reports the town was razed and as many as 2,000 people killed.
A million displaced
"This marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram's ongoing onslaught," said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.
Boko Haram violence has killed more than 10,000 people last year alone, according to the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.
More than a million people are displaced inside Nigeria and hundreds of thousands have fled across its borders into Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria.
Emergency workers said this week they are having a hard time coping with scores of children separated from their parents in the chaos of Boko Haram's increasingly frequent and deadly attacks.

Just seven children have been reunited with parents in Yola, capital of Adamawa state, where about 140 others have no idea if their families are alive or dead, said Sa'ad Bello, the coordinator of five refugee camps in Yola.

...Unbelievable, unspeakable...

...I just thought people needed to know, though it's not like everyday citizens can do anything about it.

...Not to leave things on a dour note, here are some lighter notions to consider:

“The unreasonable man attempts to adapt the world to himself. The reasonable man attempts to adapt himself to the world. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”  George Bernard Shaw

"We are so good at finding
the distance between bodies
and then measuring it,
as if the most important thing
were how to enforce the unit
that underlies each system.
the apple inside
the gravity
the tree tries not to believe in.”
-Christopher DeWeese
that underlies each system,
the apple inside the gravity
the tree tries not to believe in."
-Christopher DeWeese

“Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”  Nido Qubein
that underlies each system,
the apple inside the gravity
the tree tries not to believe in."
-Christopher DeWeese

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Rumi

Monday, January 12, 2015


                                                         Big Oak

I am busy holding myself together.  In the mirror I am pulleys and strings and wrong answers.  My sister claims I am thinner than her, a broom handle.  She says she can make bows out of my skin.  She tosses candy wrappers at me and chuckles.  Mother watches from the kitchen, blurry-eyed and bored, drawing hard on a cigarette, as if self-emulating.
            Our house is a bear trap that I hate.  The walls smell like sins and sewers and burnt offerings, so I go out to the backyard.  I make sure no one’s watching.  I hide behind the big oak, use my hands to dig, fingertips going raw in seconds.  I shouldn’t have buried it so deep, but it’s hard to be trustworthy with the world.  The planet feels heavy and sluggish, a jug of gasoline, sloshing forward so obese.
            I dust dirt off the metal box and open it.  Unwrap the cloth and take out the photograph.  We were three.  My twin looked like me, maybe a little smarter with his lip cricked.  I feel guilty that I can’t remember him.  We would have shared meals together, TV time, sang.  We might have played tag round this tree.  Dad said we were playing Hide and Seek and that he didn’t see Jesse tucked behind the rear wheel.  I might have been the only one who believed him.  Still, he shouldn’t have killed himself.  Losing both of them has dried up all my sweet spots.
            I hear the new man’s truck pulling up, coughing like a dragon, stereo thumping full blast.  No matter what she says, no matter how many times she hits me, I’ll never call him Dad.
            I put back the box, bury it, stand up and watch the sun dart through the leaves of the big oak as if it’s a playground and the spackles of light are alive.

Friday, January 9, 2015


…I’ve been in a funk.  I think traveling to Spokane and having to deal with all my dad’s stuff is the impetus.  It takes me back and brings me down.
Then there are greedy people thrown into the mix.  What kind of person would open the safety deposit boxes without telling the Executor of the Will?  A pretty shady person, is what I think.

It helps to read poetry when I’m I a funk.  “What We Carry” by Dorriane Laux and “The Village” by Louise Gluck have been my go-to volumes.  You’ll find a bit of them below.
Speaking of below, here are some things I like for the weekend:

“I would rather die standing up than live kneeling down.” Stephane Charbonnier

“We stand in the sun and the sun heals us.
It doesn’t rush away.  It hangs above us,
like an actor pleased with his entrance.”  Louise Gluck

“To get born, your body makes a pact with death, and from that moment, all it tries to do is cheat.”  Louise Gluck

“But there are truths that ruin a life; the same way some lies are generous, warm and cozy like the sun on the brick wall.” Louise Gluck

“Just keep going.  Everybody gets better if they keep at it.” Ted Williams

“Put your heat, mind, soul and intellect into even the smallest acts.  This is the secret of success.” Sivananda Sarasvati

“The first one gets the oyster; the second gets the shell.” Andrew Canegie

“Of all the animals, man is the only who that lies.” Mark Twain

“Of all the animals, man is the only one that blushes, or needs to.” Mark Twain

“Let’s kick their ass and get the hell out of here.” Gen. George Armstrong Custer

“I don’t always know what I’m talking about, but I know I’m right.” Muhammad Ali

“Never eat more than you can lift.” Miss Piggy

Wednesday, January 7, 2015



            He taught me how to steal—what is was like for the other party involved.
            His kiss was quick, not stealth but sudden, a frog’s tongue slapping a moth dead and swallowing it blink-fast.  I thought that would be it.  He promised me just one, just this once.
            I turned away when the others came, sloppy and sour, his fingers prying me apart like starving shrews.  I saw red and black attack each other behind the garage doors, behind my eyelids. 
            His breath smelled of earthen things—peanuts, hops, barley. 
            He tried to provide a decoy.  He said, “You’re beautiful.”
            He said, “You feel so good.”
            He said, “Breathe and it won’t hurt so much.”
            He took one thing but it was more than that.  The article he stole had attachments, compartments and cupboards, tentacles, all of it adding up to this virgin I used to be.
            And now my daughter’s grown and when I come to her room I make her put the phone away and turn the computer monitor off.  I grab her chin too roughly, but I need her to see my eyes, discover what’s missing and cannot be returned.
            She throws up a bridge.  She says, “It’s not like that.”
            She says, “You don’t understand.”
            “Mom,” she says, “this is totally different.”
            She explains that she loves him.
            And maybe she does, but those bruises I keep seeing are each a warning and a stain, a rupture where dignity’s bled out.  It might be different and it might not.
            When I pull her close, my baby girl struggles, and that’s fine, I think, let her fight.  But what I say when I press my mouth into her hair is, “I’m not letting go,” and I mean it this time.


            “You can’t be a girl,” I told my brother, “it’s not scary.”
            “You ever try walking in high heels?”
            He had a point.  Besides, it didn’t make sense to use our lawn job money to buy costumes.  Halloween came once a year and we weren’t dumb or rich enough to be wasteful.
            At the first houses I was embarrassed.  My brother’s lipstick and mascara were perfectly applied, but too colorful.  He’d made himself a macaw, a Madame.
            I got used to it, even though Mrs. Fitzgerald slammed the door on us and Bobby Graham’s mom called my brother a freak.
            “You’re not getting as much candy as me,” I said.
            And it was true.
            But at home he got even.  Still wearing a dress and nylons, he pinned my wrists to the ground and gave me Chinese torture until I cried.  Years later it was he who cried as he told me his plans.  I put my arms around him.  I held him strong.  “It doesn’t matter,” I said.  “Then I’ll just love you like a sister.” 

            I drove to LA to find my baby girl.  A few times I thought I saw her on the 405 sporting new hair color and different clothes, adjusting the lay of her bangs in the rearview.  But when I finally found her she was naked except for a pair of stilettos and a g string. 
            I should have looked away from the stage.  I tried, I did, but some kind of rigor mortis set in.
            She slid across the spot lit floor.  Her eyes were sharp and focused, and in them I saw murder and vengeance, ambition and renewal.  I saw myself and every single sin.
She arched her back like an acrobat, her spine as pliant as rubber.  She wanted me to see the bills stuck inside her waistband, none under twenty, two or three Franklins.
When she flipped forward I expected—I don’t know what I expected actually—but I didn’t anticipate her looking so much like her mother all those years ago, a virgin then, us unwed and me unraveled.  I didn’t expect that, nor did I didn’t expect my baby girl to grab my neck tie, twist it and say, “What now, old man?”


            Buttoning your shirt, your shoulders palsied, your fingers shaking as if from fright or Parkinson’s, you remember an afternoon in August, the sun scalding, berry picking done for the day, Uncle Jack handing you a bottle as he swayed like some dark shadow on the surface of the sea, saying, “Go on, take a swig.  Sixteen’s a man in most countries.”  The elixir tasted like flames, like sticking your mouth down a dragon’s throat, but it was also stunning and clever the way it wormed and warmed your thin blood, making you a new boy, one that was rich and popular and funny.  You danced what might have been a jig, filled your guts and brain until that bottle and the other was drained.  Some people wait their whole life for a sign, a shift to kick-start or reverse things, but that day in the field found you ready and ripe.
            In college it had the same effectiveness.  You drank from a glass, a mug, a tub, a vat, a funnel while you stood on your head, and you were a hit, weren’t you?  You ordered doubles and saw doubles, but so did the others.
            On your Honeymoon you threw up in the bathroom, slipped on the slimy hotel tiles, and Emily helped you to the bed but you made it up to her, and now, look, your kids are loud-mouthed teenagers.  Billy, the oldest resembles you before the accident that carved a Frankenstein scar across your forehead and neck.
            This morning you watch your fingers in the mirror as if they’re someone else’s; as if it’s a pathetic demonstration you’ve been paid to witness.  You straighten your tie but can’t get the dimple to take because the silk is too thin and then there’s blank space, white space filled black, but you come to and for some reason your inability with the necktie becomes a message you’re supposed to decode and maybe apply to your life.  So what you do next is you open the medicine cabinet.  Behind the aspirin is the flask you’ve stashed for hard mornings like this when confusion and loneliness abound, weighty thugs with too much time on their hands. 
You hold the container, listen to it slosh against your ear.  Medicine, but nobody’s cure.

            Blue trundles in, as dark as the weather, his coat musty-smelling, his hind quarters still raw but healing.  I keep warning him not to wander far yet he’s a stubborn old coot.
            We watch “I Love Lucy” reruns late at night.  She looks a lot like you, Lucy does, what with that preposterous red hair and those dimples, those astonished expressions.  They say dogs can’t see the images on television, but if that’s so, why does Blue always leave right when Ricky starts to raise his voice—leaves looking for another coyote to kill?