Friday, February 26, 2016



…Oh, Friday, don’t you look so happy?

 “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” William Arthur Ward

“If the mind is like a hall in which thought
is like a voice speaking, the voice is always that
of someone else.”
--Wallace Stevens

“We only have two jobs on this earth.  The first is to learn and the second is to cope.” Shameless

"I don't like work... but I like what is in work -- the chance to find yourself. Your own reality -- for yourself, not for others -- which no other man can ever know." Joseph Conrad

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face." Eleanor Roosevelt

“I don’t think many people appreciate silence or realize that it is as close to music as you can get.” Toni Morrison

“No, no.  Stories are a different kind of truth.” Emma Donoghue

 “Forget safety.  Live where you fear to live.  Destroy your reputation.  Be notorious.” Rumi

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” Zora Neal Hurston

"Someday, in years to come, you will be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow of your life. But the real struggle is here, now, in these quiet weeks. Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process." Phillips Brooks

"The way I deal with arthritis is to keep moving. As long as I can play hard tennis, as long as I can ski or ride a horse - all kinds of things can come your way. As long as you can, do it. People who retire die. My dad retired and died shortly after. Just keep moving." 76 Year Old Actor Robert Redford

"I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade - Commenting on his 8 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, during which he was tortured over 20 times." James Stockdale

"There's a reason I swam five straight years and didn't take a single day off. There are reasons why I swam every holiday, every Christmas, every birthday. I was trying to be as prepared as I could, and I tried to see what I could really do and what my potential was. I just really did kind of whatever it took." Michael Phelps

"Aspire, break bounds. Endeavor to be good, and better still, best." Robert Browning

"Who would have ever heard of Theodore Roosevelt outside of his immediate community if he had only half committed himself to what he had undertaken, if he had brought only a part of himself to his task? The great secret of his career has been that he has flung his whole life, not a part of it, with all the determination and energy and power he could muster, into everything he has undertaken. No dillydallying, no faint-hearted efforts, no lukewarm purpose for him." Orison Sweet Marden

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" Robert Browning

Wednesday, February 24, 2016



They looked like that—minty-green, tangy lemon, plum-colored.  She tugged her knee-highs, hiding the bruises like a good daughter, beckoning her first boyfriend forward.

Summers we started fires.  Twig piles, then brush fires, abandoned barns behind our trailer park, empty residences.  The last one—our lives—smoldered longest of all.

Angelic Cynic
Slick lips, light as scarves or gossamer.  He took her that way, a new Houdini, made her fly.  He said, “Abracadabra,” and for once she believed.

In the office elevator he smelled garlic and shrimp.  She was older, her lips swollen berries.  He took them, said, “Marry me,” as she swooned.

Electric Red
My daughter paints everything fire-engine red—lips, lashes, hair, nails.  There’s a rough, new boy now.  “Don’t worry,” she says. “He’s nothing like you, Dad.”

Coconut Surprise
My daughter returns from the tropic tent with a tongue stud.  She says it’s to keep her focused, clicks the bead, says, “Or maybe ecstasy.”

Full Moon
The power’s out, everything frozen while moonlight lifts off the lake.  You take my hand and lead.  You kiss me hard, say, “Shut up, stupid.”

Scotch on the Rocks
He’s passed out, a polar bear snoring, Jimmy Fallon on TV.  You empty his half-empty glass in the sink, thinking half-empty, half-full, time to leave.

Rock Chick
My daughter visits: half-shaved head, studs where eyebrows should be, wearing torn fishnets and studded stilettoes.  She lights up a cigarette and I listen.

Peach Perfect
Summers we picked fruit along with the migrants, mother sweet on the foreman, Dad just paroled, the sun a gold peach asking too many questions.



Monday, February 22, 2016


…While I was gone, I had two things published:

…I read eight books, mostly thin ones.  (My goal is nine a month, 100 a year):
-God Help The Child—Toni Morrison
-The Daylight Marriage—Heidi Pitlor (pretty farfetched, and the dialog didn’t ring true, yet catchy story)
-Pacific—Tom Drury (the strangest book I’ve ever read, but very clever and funny in most parts.)
-Room—Emma Donoghue (really great.  Topical, with an inventive voice.)
-An Oregon Message—William Stafford
-Selected Poems—James Tate (he died last year.  Witty poems, though I didn’t get a lot of them.)
-A Sport And A Pastime—James Salter (lovely prose and a very nasty book, especially for its time.)
-Our Souls At Night—Kent Haruf (his final novel, published posthumously.  It’s simply adorable.)

…I’ll just say this once: never fly American Fucking Airlines.  They are the worst.
First there was a six hour delay at SeaTac because one of the crew was supposedly ill.  (Don’t they have contingency plans?)  This caused a missed flight to Mexico and a stay in Phoenix, which is actually a nice place, especially Tempe.  Go there if you ever can.
On the way back I miss my flight with three minutes to spare.  Had to sleep on an airport bench.  No one—either time—ever said they were sorry.  No one ever even looked me in the eye.
In the service industry service is the very thing that separates you from your competitors
The lack of soul, compassion and competency at America is striking.

…Enough whining.  (Sorry, but that felt good.)
Here are some things I like to start off a new week:

"One lives in the hope of becoming a memory." Antonio Porchia

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.  We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." Aristotle
"We can often do more for other men by trying to correct our own faults than by trying to correct theirs." Francois Fenelon

"It is better to say, 'This one thing I do' than to say, 'These forty things I dabble in.'" Washington Gladden
"The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert

"Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he's been given." Anton Chekhov
Facta non verba—action not words

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglas
“Your nearness is the nearness of planets.” Henry Miller

“Vice, virtue.  It’s best not to be too moral.  You cheat yourself out of too much life.”  Harold and Maude

Saturday, February 20, 2016



…I’m back, but a bit flustered and trying to catch up.  Just read about twenty stories for my editing gig.  Two were good.
…The sun in Puerto Vallarta  was very nice, always eager, ever generous.  The scenery stole breath.  People were quite kind and smiled a lot.  I love Mexico.


Wicked Water

I wanted a way to kill water.
            The river ran like a gray scar, screaming in certain sections where it got caught up by boulders.  Birds fluttered in the tree tops.  A deer poked through a clearing on the other side and cocked its head at me.
It should have beautiful, but it took my breath away for all the wrong reasons.
Ironic, I thought, that Ann had been a swimming sensation in college.  Before we’d married, I loved watching her in the pool, so fluid and controlled, each stroke like glass.  The last time I’d seen her she was surrounded by water, too.  I thought she’d fallen asleep in the tub.  The jets were on, the water churning what must have been gallons of her blood.
          Our son never learned to swim.  He came to this river with Jared, who turned out to be his lover.  Jared said they liked to raft to the other side.  It was safe, he assured me, so long as two people paddled.  But then they’d gotten into a fight, my son angry because Jared wouldn’t come out publicly, wouldn’t let them be like any other couple. 
         When he dove in, Jared told my son to stop screwing around, to grab the oar, but the current had already caught him.
          It would have happened right there, where I’m headed now.
          The water bites my skin.  Its liquid limbs tug hard.
          I don’t resist at all.  Instead I let rage do the work. 



We drink fortified wine
from pails that once held beach sand.
It seems fitting.

You recall the time he wore that cape to school,
the day he jumped from the roof hell bent on flying.

Our friends said everything happens for a reason.
Neighbors claimed God has a way of caring for his mistakes.
I don’t know.
He’s gone
while we remain.

The wine is thick and pungent,
percolating in my gut,
speaking a foreign language.
The television is dead gray.
The air painted dead blue.
yet we remain.

Cynic’s Escape

There are people who eat their own young.
Cars burn beside rutted streets.
Murder broadsides the innocent.
The cowboys are dressed up drunk
but some sharp hack has written a screenplay,
a new ending where we actually get out alive.


Just Before The Apocalypse

The dead dance to show tunes.
Autopsies are taken.
Someone suggests Mother May I.
We get nostalgic just before the apocalypse.



Mermen show up in our soup,
these bearded swimmers
with wry smiles
carrying staffs
and signs that say
We wash the dishes in silence,
our minds dripping with soap,
as clean as these utensils
that once brought us sustenance.


Thursday, February 11, 2016


…Hey Thursday, how you doin’?

…I leave for Mexico tomorrow on a 5:10 am flight.  It’ll be nice to see the sun and know that it’s actually out there.  I won’t have a computer with me, which means there’ll be nothing new on this blog until a week from today.

…Here are some random things I learned so far this week:

“To Kill A Mockingbird,” first published in 1960, was the 9th bestselling book of 2015.

It took J.R.R. Tolkien 12 years to write “The Lord of the Rings”.

The inventor of high-heeled shoes was Leonardo da Vinci.

Alaska is 425 times larger than Rhode Island.

Hitler was once named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year while Gandhi never was.

There are 89 gun deaths a day, in America, the most of any country in the world.

Osama Bin Laden’s father had fifty children.

Since the civil war in Syria began, 250,000 people have been killed and 10 million displaced.

…And here are some funny musings from friends on Facebook this week:

-Morning sex should be mandatory on Tuesday mornings, it's your reward for making it through Monday

-Men writing on candy hearts...
💜Nice jugs
💜Bend over
💜Are those real? And can I bring a friend?
💜Can I bring a friend?

-the gynecologist mildly slut-shamed me and the ucla clinic still doesn't have free tampons

-I frequent a small business about 1/2 mile from my house, Henry's Ice Cream. Their slogan is "Ice cream makes you pretty!" I just consumed a pint of cinnamon ice cream from Henry's. I am fucking beautiful.

…And finally, here are some things I like from a writer hero of mine:

“It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life.” Anne Lamott

“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won't really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we'll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won't wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.”  Anne Lamott

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Anne Lamott

“You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town” Anne Lamott

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” Anne Lamott

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Anne Lamott

“Laughter is carbonated holiness.” Anne Lamott

“No is a complete sentence.” Anne Lamott

“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” Anne Lamott

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Anne Lamott

“Joy is the best makeup.”  Anne Lamott

“And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.” ― Anne Lamott

“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.” Anne Lamott

“I don't remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don't even know exist until you love a child.”  Anne Lamott

“Hope is not about proving anything. It's about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.” Anne Lamott


Tuesday, February 9, 2016



Smells Like Teen Spirit

On stage he looks like a flailing blonde elf
or a convulsing Hobbit
as his guitar shreds the air.
Here we are now, entertain us.
Years ago we shared stale PB&J’s
under a dilapidated bridge in Aberdeen,
fending off the advances of other bums,
getting the last toke in,
dreaming of a future where
the only thing that mattered was
then instead of now.
Kurt flips his head up, glassy-eyed,
sees me or doesn’t in the crowd,
and actually grins for once.


Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want

It was the year you liked The Spice Girls,
a year of scars and thorns,
going through your mother’s rose bushes because
that was the only way of sneaking out
without getting caught.
I never asked about your wrists,
the blood-encrusted stripes there.
I never asked about your father’s insomnia,
though I know now that I should have.
That song on the radio was and wasn’t ours,
hitting number one on your final attempt.
Blaring on my car radio now,
all these years later,
it brings up questions and crimes,
a litter of the things I never knew
but only suspected.


Appetite For Destruction

You named our son Axl,
our second son Slash.
At the concert in San Fran you got a backstage pass.
I could only look through the haze
that filled the air between bodyguards and me.
Afterward, on the drive home,
silent as a snail,
you grinned but wouldn’t give details.
We hit every red light.
A cop pulled me over.
There might have been a black cat (or two)
crossing the road without my knowing it.
In the morning, you were gone,
leaving Axl, Slash and me to figure out breakfast and
what our next move would be.



The boy had long greasy hair,
looked like a Hanson,
the cute one.
He even sang their songs,
that one, anyway.
When, off the cuff, he said,
“You go through all that pain and strife,”
you believed him,
as if these were his thoughts, his lyrics.
You painted his name
on the bathroom mirror with maroon lipstick
and carved it into the tree
that separated our two houses.
In 1999 they played that song
at our wedding as we danced,
the last night I’ve seen you so happy,
three minutes and fifty-three seconds before
I thought we still stood a chance.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


                                                            Ragamuffin Love

            “Don’t you think that’s a great lyric?” Yancey asked.
            “’We were always one argument from death.’”  Yancey says, crouched down near the stereo, amped up as usual.  “I mean, it’s like the summation of our entire fucking relationship.”
            “Why do you swear so much?” Mia asked.
            “Why do you sound like my fucking mother?” Yancey shot back, grinning.
            “Why do you smell like my dead grandfather who probably has maggots eating maggots out of his eye sockets?”
            “You’re wicked sick.”
            “Sometimes I just want to cut you open.”
            “God, I love you.”

            This was how it went, how it was, their modern romance.
            Then one morning Mia was struck by a cab on forty-second street.  It didn’t kill her but she became a paraplegic.  She spent a short life in that wheel chair.  She had been skinny before--a model wannabe.  Now she had guns for arms.
            “Fuck you’re hot.  You’re fucking smoking hot,” Yancey told her.
            “You like cripples?”
            “I fucking love them.”
            “Why do you swear so much?  It impugns your intelligence.”
            “Ah, come on; don’t fuck with me when I’m weak with all this motherfucking love for you.”

            They got married on December 25th.  It wasn’t a stab at Christianity, not that the pair were believers.  They were just too frightened and too lazy to commit.  No, they picked that date for unsound romantic reasons.
            “No one gets fucking married then.”
            “That should tell us something,” Mia said.
            “It’s ours, ours alone.”
“If we could’ve had a kid we would have named him Jesus, you know, using the Hispanic pronunciation, although we’d understand, you and I would, the significance.”
“Are you a fucking Christian?”
“Stop cursing.”
“I fucking love you.”

Mia’s first modeling gig had been both a train wreck and a revelation.  She’d got down to ninety-seven pounds.  She was so weak and so frightened that she cried the entire length of the cat walk, all three runs.
She was certain she’d be fired, but oh contraire, the crowd loved it, her, the crying girl, shrouded in mystery.  People wondered why she was sobbing.  Weren’t all New York models millionaires with their own drug runners?  Did she ingest a bad batch of horse or what, what was the reason for the tears?

“Do you ever dream about me normal?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I’m being serious.  Don’t you ever wish I could walk?”
“Are you kidding?  I lust after your withered limbs.  I love them.  I fucking love all of you, especially the wilted parts.”
Mia stroked Yancey’s head and his beard which was coarse but oily, with flecks of bread crumbs and bright elementary school colors she figured out were Fruit Loop flakes.

At the funeral Yancey howled and frightened family members moved away, making a shooing motion as they did. 
The pastor walked over to him.  “Son,” he said.
“You don’t get it,” Yancey said, “I fucking loved her.”

A day later the concerned pastor came to visit. 
“I can’t do this,” Yancey said.
The pastor asked for clarification.
“Life, without Mia.  I can’t fucking live without her.”
The pastor took Yancey’s hand and, against his cheek, tears streamed down.  “There can be victory in death--”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
 “--so long as you teach us.”
“How to love like that.”