Friday, June 30, 2017


Frayed and Worn

But here we are
Ten breaths older
Bloated moon in the window
Sky black as onyx
Stars too shy to stare
As we raid the inventories
Of all our old wounds
And you sort through the album
Saying this one
This is the one that did it
Holding up a picture of two
Twenty-four year olds
The frayed and worn photo
Of us on our wedding day
A couple of cubs
Not yet turned into bears
Not having become cannibals


Somewhere In Senegal

We are running on broken glass
Past startled zebras and giraffes
Baobab trees shaking from mortar fire
Would-be assassins gaining on us
With their jeeps and armored cars
We only ever wanted clean water to drink
Shoes or shelter were luxuries we couldn’t afford
We have nothing to offer but bones and bodies
And still the marauders advance with weapons firing
As the yellow parrot flies by like a hoax
Saying This way
Go this way


Of My Father

The hands of my father could crush things
His stare lit forest fires and raised whole buildings
If he laughed you felt safe the way hunted deer do in the brush
I remember his breath smelling of motor oil and Old Milwaukee
His mouth a trapdoor or chimney
The heavy footfalls that meant emergency and danger
Being flung down a flight of stairs
Slapped on the thighs by black leather belts
In the photo I find of him he is younger than I am now
Holding a long-handled axe across his chest while smiling
When my daughter asks who he is I tell her
It’s nobody I ever knew



Tonight I am searching for that boy again,
Age nine,
On the edge of everything—
A cliff, a catwalk, a firewall, puberty.
In this old photo he looks like someone with promise,
A would be astronaut or comedian
There is no car wreck yet
No dead girl
Or prison sentence
Simply ripe youth
I tuck the picture into my shirt pocket
Get out of the car
And as I make my way across the lot to be checked in
I tell myself that there’s
Still time for him to save himself
When my son is finally paroled


Your Spot On The Mattress

The bed moves on its own volition
Like a slain elephant squirming away from poachers
Sometimes its sheets try to strangle
Pillows want to smother
Coiled springs search for a jugular
But there is no light in here
And the moon outside the window is shy
Or too embarrassed by my foibles
It’s been sixteen nights
A friend has recommended therapy
The neighbors cower and look away
My son says it’s not healthy it’s sick it’s not right
Yet I cling to the sheet anyway
The part with the large crimson stain
Where you once lay
I keep my voice soft and steady
Asking was it me
Tell me please
Was I the reason you did it




Wednesday, June 28, 2017


What to do When You Feel Less Than Zero

In the in-between
the clouds won’t part again
and the moon is a stranger who insults your
taste of music,
your choices and conclusions,
while everything congeals
and conspires as usual,
the same old hoaxes,
those familiar promises
unraveling like the life
you’ve been living for years.
Going down again,
you float on razors,
on spikes and crimson oven coils.
It’s enough to banish anyone,
enough to make one want to
vanish into an ashy mist.
In the bathroom,
there are plenty of pills,
a sharp blade, scissors,
a dull tub that might be
filled to overflow.
But there on the lampstand
is the slip of paper
with my number printed neatly.
Do you see it?
No, look again.
Reach for it.
Go on, please.
Call me anytime, it says.
Really, anytime.
Call me and I’ll be there.


People Are Dying

I am flipping through Facebook selfies
taken by bored and insecure homemade models while,
on the other side of the world,
a vest bomb filled with nails and wire
rips through an afternoon bazaar,
killing thirty… thirty-two… thirty-nine…
and maiming many more.
Nothing makes sense.
Online, someone is spouting cleavage.
Another one pouts for no reason.
Here’s a smile.
Here’s a cheek.
There’s a lipstick stain.
Everywhere around me,
people are dying,
real and imagined
whether they know it or not.


Mirror in Birds

The still sparrow
sits on a branch,
frail as a ball of hair,
its beak badly bent,
both limbs broken,
no way to lift or peck.
I see it from the couch window
where all my days are spent now.
“Move,” I say.
“Even just a little.  Move.”
As if it hears me,
the bird’s head swivels,
meeting my eyes.
“This is you,” it says.
“Move,” it says. 
“Even just a little.


The Seedling and the Tree

The ink is still drying on your lips
from the last note you’ll ever write
to me

The moon knows, the owl knows, and
mother earth has seen this movie a million
times or more

People said we looked alike,
years the only difference, the deepest
gully of all

But there were no bike lessons, no ball tossing
on the front lawn opposite other sons
and fathers

That would have been a kind of larceny,
having precious time filched from you
for petty trifles

Even as you sign away your life to
the greedy lawyer wearing black,
I forgive everything

After all I was once just semen and egg
half of it yours, half of it not,
a seedling searching for life



Monday, June 26, 2017


…How was your weekend?  Mine was uneven, but I made it through.

…On Saturday I read at the Seattle Public Library.  It was one of the more strange readings.  Kind of hard to describe, so I won’t.  I read a poem and a flash piece which I’ll post at the end of this post (yes, I know I used “post” twice.”)

…I always check my junk mail folder because sometimes an email comes through there that’s actually important.

Here are a few of the things I found the last couple of days, the headers anyway:










-VIOGRA, 60% OFF (Yes, they spelled it “VIOGRA”)

…I hope you have a great day today.  It’s my birthday.  It’s taken me decades to warm up to liking my birthday, but I do now, so wish me one please.  I’ll take your wishes.  Wish me good things, please.

                                                    The Resiliency of Epidermis

            We don’t touch, we never do anymore. 

The mattress might as well be an island, a continent, a sea where it’s only safe to float, because the air—spiced and hot—is what holds us in place, what condenses us.

After the accident and so many surgeries, we can still breathe, but the fire left our skin too tender.  Even the slightest breeze against our flesh can feel threatening.  Doctors said, “The epidermis is only so resilient.”  They said, “The healing process will take some time.”

And now, look--your eyes flutter open, pupils the color of hot coffee--and it’s as if each of our irises is threaded together with invisible yarn, unable to look away, to disengage.

“Good morning, Peach Pie,” I say.


Your face is the color of raw hamburger, yet you’ve never looked more beautiful, and so I tell you this.

“I feel like a bag of wax,” you say.

“Not even close.  You’re stunning.”

Your lips try twisting into a smile.  “Stop with your lies.  I look hideous.”

“We look the same.”

“You weren’t burnt as badly.”

“Ah, but you were, and so I was doubly.”

When you swallow air, I can see how difficult such a simple act is for you, how the air burns going down.

“I can’t even touch you,” you say.

“Sure you can.”

“The doctors said—“


Our eyes are what matters.  I tell you this without speaking and so we set aside words. 

Our eyes become hands, fingertips, lips, and curious tongues.  It’s a clumsy, blind man’s game, a search party in utter darkness, yet we work past what reality tells us. 

When I enter you, there’s a gasp of foul morning air.

“Oh my god.”

“You can feel me?”

You nod.  You say my name.  You tell me not to stop.  You say, “It’s been such a very long time.”


Friday, June 23, 2017


I Promise

And the night is sometimes like this,

cloudless, barren and naked,

same as a nervous girl

disrobing for a boy the first time.

Look, even the stars are

too shy to show themselves tonight.

Somewhere an owl is watching,

pensive and patient,

but what use is that?

Or the temperamental moon,

nodding its head northward,

space a never-ending shall?

You merely want what other people have,

dreams that make no sense,

an evening without waking and

wondering why love has

abandoned you this way.

But listen, sometimes the night can

no longer keep secrets.

It needs attention, too,

someone to seem interested in it,

as fickle as anyone of us.

There will be other evenings, though,

I promise, when love will arrive

like a hot seam of wind through a closed door,

wrapping its flesh-filled arms around you,

it will caress your face and smooth your hair.

It will say you’re beautiful and be truthful.

It will answer every mystery and riddle

you’ve ever had.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017



…I am home from having been down south a bit at my second home.  (It’s not really my second home, but might as well be.)

I spent the good chunk of a day walking downtown Portland.  It was lovely and mesmerizing, and in some respects similar to San Diego.

I started at a coffee shop called Mug Shots were they played Fleet Foxes “White Winter Hymnal” and Hard Fi “Hard to Beat” (who even knows Hard Fi?) and my favorite Cure song “Close To You.”

I was in Powell’s for well over an hour.  I got a bag of terrific books.  Made me happy.

I saw a shoplifter being chased out of vintage clothing store.  The manager was on the heavy side, so  she gave up quite quickly.  The thief had four pair of pants with the hangers still on them tucked under his arms.  While I don’t condone his actions, he really looked like he could use some new clothes, that and a good meal.

It’s hard not to run into homeless people in Portland.  I decided I would give some money to whoever asked.  I gave away a lot of money.  But that’s okay.

I found this artist sitting on the sidewalk outside some store with her work displayed and I bought a really cool piece.  She was so proud and happy, so of course that made me happy.

I saw a scraggly looking young guy, maybe twenty, pushing a stroller with a toddler inside.  The scraggly dude crossed Broadway in bare feet, smoking while singing to a Green Day song and still somehow managed to get that stroller across the street.

I had some fabulous steak and eggs for breakfast and some delicious sushi for early afternoon Linner (lunch and dinner combined).

I saw some really unique and compelling retail.  I took a ton of pictures, even of odd random things that were artistically appealing.  People would stop and wonder if they shouldn’t be taking a photo as well.  (It’s not too difficult to get me excited about something—just splash some multi-colored paint on an old Schwinn bike and I’ll be clicking away.)

Places I walked by had very fresh, fun names:
Garnish, Fringe, Potted In Portland, It’s All Good, Bamboo, Largo, Zeus Bar, Quick Fish Poke Bar, Self Edge, Wild Fang….

Oh, and I bought some handmade soap (another thing I’m a sucker for), some cool cards and some jewellery.

In case you can’t tell, it was a fantastic day and the night was even way, way better…

...Here are some things to ponder on a Wednesday evening: 

-"I will make love my greatest weapon and none on who I call can defend against its force....My love will melt all hearts liken to the sun whose rays soften the coldest day." Og Mandino

-"Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time." Betty Smith

-"Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly." Robert Schuller

-"At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then inevitable." Christopher Reeve

-"It's kind of fun to do the impossible." Walt Disney

Saturday, June 17, 2017



…I’m headed down south to Portland early tomorrow morning, back Wednesday, so thought I’d post now.

…The day before yesterday I got an email offering me discounted belly dancing lessons and today an email came through with the header: Awesome Wood DIY.  Made me laugh.  I don’t really need any help giving myself awesome wood.

…As I write this there’s someone swimming the length of the lake.  Brave soul.

A little farther down, there’s a stream of thirty geese floating away because I just yelled at them after they were destroying the lawn next door.

…The downside to running long is it sucks the life out of you and there’s scant creative energy to muster.  But don’t most good things have a downside?

On a related note, I definitely have the ugliest toes on the planet.  We’re talking Neanderthal feet and toes.

…My boy has a new song out and I don’t think I like it much:

…What I do like is So You Think You Can Dance, which is literally poetry set to motion.  I wish more people watched it.

Here are my two faves from the recent episode:

(This guy was on all kinds of violin scholarships we he discovered dance and gave up everything for his love of it)

(These two are from Russia.  Never seen anything quite like them.)

…So Happy Father’s Day if you are one or have one.  I hope you have a great day reveling in love.  I’ll be reveling in a little mischief, not a lot but hopefully some.


Friday, June 16, 2017



                                                                  The Psychic                      

My mother says her friend is psychic, that she can predict the weather and impending divorces, so when the woman comes to visit I’m just as nervous as I was when Doc gave me the news.

            It might not have been so awkward if Mother had been with, but be that as it may, I offer “Coffee or tea?” and the psychic says, “Yes, black,” which throws me even more off balance because it could be either, right?

            While I fill a canister with tap water, she slinks up behind me like a cat as her supple hands move across my little bump of a belly, threads of electricity humming from her fingertips, taking measure, reading signs, tapping here and there the way you’d test a melon.  I wait a good long time before I finally say, “Well?”

            She removes her hands and dusts her palms off, a baker done for the day, and says definitively that it’s a boy and that he’ll look just like his father but be as destructive, too.

            When she’s gone, a scalding coil of guilt sluices through my gut, and still I look up the number and place the call.  I’m as strong as the next woman, yet, warned or not, there’s only room for so much evil in this world.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017


…I have a nice mention in the fifth paragraph of this interview with David Galef.  I’m also featured in his book, BREVITY and will be doing a panel with him and two others at next year’s AWP:

…This book is coming out on September 8th.  It’s always a big deal in my world, and this year I’m actually in it.  Yay.

The Best Small Fictions 2017 Guest Edited by Amy Hempel Series Editor Tara L. Masih

The Best Small Fictions 2017 offers readers 55 exceptional small fictions by 53 authors. This acclaimed new annual series, hailed as a “milestone for the short story,” continues to honor contemporary masters and emerging writers of short-short and hybrid forms from across the globe. Guest editor Amy Hempel chose the winners from a pool of 105 finalists: “They conjure and seduce, they startle and haunt, they are funny and searing, short and shorter.” The 2017 volume includes Pamela Painter, Brian Doyle, Ian Seed, Frankie McMillan, Karen Brennan, Stuart Dybek, and W. Todd Kaneko, and spotlights Joy Williams and SmokeLong Quarterly.

  “I believe The Best Small Fictions . . . is an extraordinarily important literary event.” —Robert Olen Butler

“The Best Small Fictions . . . could be at the forefront of a burgeoning cultural movement.”  —The Newtown Review of Books

“It will be well worth your while to spend a minute or 60 with some of the brightest concise writing available today.” —NewPages

“The Best Small Fictions has its finger on the pulse . . . each little gem contains a universe, teeth bared. Explore them at your own risk.” —Prick of the Spindle

“In this extraordinary collection of small fictions . . . readers are gifted with stories that slap wings onto their backs or drop anchors into their hearts, oftentimes both.” —The Small Press Book Review

“Super-short stories . . . have exploded in popularity. Where should newbies start? With Best Small Fictions . . . [r]eaders will be introduced to a wealth of fresh and existing talent. . . . Discover some haunting voices for yourself this fall.”  —BookTrib

Featuring small fictions by
Nick Admussen ~ Nick Almeida ~ Lydia Armstrong ~ Matthew Baker Amy Sayre Baptista ~ Karen Brennan ~ Larry Brown ~ Randall Brown Erin Calabria ~ Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello ~ Carrie Cooperider Emily Corwin ~ Christopher DeWan ~ Brian Doyle ~ Stuart Dybek Kathy Fish ~ Sherrie Flick ~ Scott Garson ~ Jesse Goolsby Michael Hammerle ~ Hannah Harlow ~ Allegra Hyde ~ W. Todd Kaneko Joy Katz ~ Jen Knox ~ Len Kuntz ~ Tara Laskowski ~ Oscar Mancinas Ras Mashramani ~ Frankie McMillan ~ Heather McQuillan ~ Cole Meyer Eugenie Montague ~ Pamela Painter ~ Alvin Park ~ Kimberly King Parsons Gen Del Raye ~ Mona Leigh Rose ~ Na’amen Gobert Tilahun Cameron Quincy Todd ~ Matt Sailor ~ Rebecca Schiff ~ Robert Scotellaro Ian Seed ~ Alex Simand ~ Julia Slavin ~ Michael C. Smith Phillip Sterling ~ Anne Valente ~ Harriot West ~ Joy Williams Keith Woodruff ~ William Woolfitt

…This is a little quiet at the beginning, but stick with it to the end.  It made me laugh:

…This is a little long, but it’s God talking about receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature:

 …This is a very long, but very touching story about adorable Chika:

…And lastly, here are a few things I like in the middle of the week:

-“You have changed the way I think about love.” Jack, “This Is Us”

-“You have all these things in life that are really fickle, but in the end it’s really about the relationships we have.” Bear Grylls

-“Remember, we only really start living when we do whatever we can to help other people live a better life.” Bear Grylls

-“One friend with whom you have things in common is better than three friends with whom you struggle to find things to talk about.” Mindy Kaling

“I haven’t given much thought to regrets.  When I get through living, I may go it then.” John Haws, 102 years old