Ride The Wrong Train

“Be aware of your surroundings.”
“Wait, slow down.  We need to know where we are going.”
“Let me look at the map.”

There is a push for every pull.
There is a strangle hold for every soft touch on the shoulder.
There is longing with every release.

Ride the wrong train.
Walk down a different street.
Rush, the days can be short.

Dec. 23.  I throw on yesterday’s clothes and rush out the door.  I am not even sure where I am rushing, because I am not even sure where the path begins to the place I am rushing to, but I have purpose and adventure on my mind.  I rush.  I can’t remember if I bothered to brush my teeth before I adventured.  Dec. 23 is one of the shortest days of the year, and I was not worried about anything else, except this:



I did not remain aware.  I did not know where exactly I was going.  I most certainly did not look at a map.  And, (drumroll, please), I had no idea which path led back to the rental house once my escape, err, beach walk, was over. But I most assuredly resolved not to tell my “pay attention to your surroundings” husband (who was probably just getting out of bed) about my, uh, path finding folly.

The steps that lead to the public access parking lot, and a westward walk on the road was my choice to wend my way to the rental house.  On the third step I find a large whelk.  A real beauty.  I pick up the shell, and the creature inside is wiggling.  I wish I had taken a picture, but I considered this situation a sea creature emergency. Here I go rushing again…I ran back to the water and pitched the shell back to the sea to what I hope will be a long, satisfying whelk life.

Maybe I should have explained to that wiggling creature to be more careful and aware of its surroundings.  The public access steps, or the public, in general, is no good place for a whelk, but on Dec. 23, it was surely a good place for me.



Red Thread

A thin red thread     zig zaggy     hangs from the hem of your favorite skirt or cuff of your best blazer.  You are careful,  But the whole garment starts to unravel. You bring the skirt to a seamstress or the blazer to a tailor.  They are busy.  So many skirts and blazers to repair.  You must wait.

When you do get to pick up your favorite skirt, from afar it looks perfect.  Just like new.  You try on your best blazer.  Just visiting an old friend.  Maybe the thread color doesn’t quite match.  Maybe you notice a tiny pucker or pull.  That favorite skirt or best blazer is not like new.  It is not as perfect as you thought.

You can’t remember if the skirt was ever that great.  You can’t remember if the sleeves of the blazer were always a tad long.  Maybe you imagined your favorites. Maybe you didn’t.  Maybe the skirt was the right length.  Just below the knees. Maybe the blazer was the perfect fit.  Across the shoulders.  Maybe you are over thinking the whole zig zaggy thread problem.

Wear the skirt.  After all, you are told,  this was an expert seamstress.  Wear the blazer.  After all, you are told, this was the best tailor in the city.

You realize you may never feel exactly the same again about your favorite skirt or best blazer.  But this is what you have to work with.  A thin red thread hanging off a hem.



Master Gardener

Plowing through another separation
the paragon of letting go
grows into some
silent master gardener
farming good-byes.
the dog and I walk
around the lake
thinking a tick might attach itself
and maybe want to stay.


Poetry Apprentice

The story my mother told me goes something like this:  When she graduated from high school, her father told her she had to make a choice.  Either get married or go to college.  He was not paying for college if she was going to get married.  She chose marriage over Brown.

She also, however, told me she should have been a nun.  This proclamation never made much sense to me no matter how many times it was stated.  My mother was not Catholic, or any other denomination I could discern.  She drank, smoked profusely and gave birth to 3 children.  I never witnessed any sort of repentant behavior that even remotely gave me pause that my mother would have been suitable for convent life.

What my mother lacked in true religious fervor was robustly atoned for by her love of all variety of writing.

When she was in sixth grade she was given a poetry book for perfect attendance in Sunday School.  Yep, Sunday School.  I was told that this poetry book was the only good that ever came out of church.  I do not know if that included the Bible.  I was a preschooler, who was I to question.  Let me rephrase that.  I was a smart preschooler; I did not question.

The book has always looked like this.  I never asked why or how the cover was lost.  My mother would have had it about 48 years, and I have had it about 28 years.

Being a compliant and good natured child, my mother set about instilling in me a love for all manner of writing as well.  While she made it abundantly clear David, the oldest child, was her all-time favorite, I was the youngest, the only girl and of a sensitive nature.  This sensitivity mixed with my mother’s authoritarian rule actually made for a healthy contrast where poetry was involved.  Instilling her admiration for poetry would not be difficult, because her enthusiasm was contagious and oh! she could recite with such passion and soul.

We dove right in, my mother and I.  And I am pretty sure I was the only 4 year old in my neighborhood who could recite around a hundred poems from the 19th century.  I recited “The Duel” (Eugene Field) on command:  “The gingham dog and the calico cat, side by side on the table sat…”

When I was quiet or withdrawn, my mother would look at me.  “The world is too much with us; late and soon.”  (Wordsworth).

If she needed me to help her:  “Will you walk into my parlor? said the spider to the fly.”  (Mary Hewitt).

When she finished a book that she really enjoyed, she would recite the whole of “There is no Frigate like a Book…”  (Emily Dickinson).

And every spring:  “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”  (Joyce Kilmer).

Thanks, Mom



Now You Dear Things Grow/Earth Day 2017

Now you dear things grow
said my mother after planting
holly hocks, bachelor buttons and anemone.
What funny names, thought Little Girl me.
Now you dear things write
said NaPoWriMo asking for a georgic,
a poem about agriculture or rural affairs.
Don’t know much about agriculture,
though I hear it’s called Monsanto now.
Rural for me is more suburban.
I think my husband is afraid if we own
some land I’ll morph into a reclusive
goatdogunicorncat lady
though I hear unicorns are owned by Starbucks now.
I can write about affairs, though.
Not those, get out of the bedroom
and into the dirt.
You know, that soil we supposedly all return to,
though I don’t see how, as many are encased
in cement in land that is becoming a
whole lot more scarce than death.

A Host of Golden Daffodils by Wordsworth
was recited so often by my mother
Little Girl me thought it was written exactly for
the hill full of daffodils just before the
bend that led to Mansfield State College,
which I read the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
is considering closing, because apparently
no one wants to go to college next to a hill
with a host of daffodils.

But the annual chant was
Now you dear things grow
by my mother
and grandmother
and great grandmother.
Or was it a command?
All three women, tempered dictators.
Now you dear things grow
probably was a firm decree.

My mother proclaimed
me hyper-sensitive and overly empathetic.
Inferior traits
that turned my voice of
Now you dear things grow
into a wish or hope
maybe a request, if I’m feeling bold.
There is a bias toward nurturing and
tending possibility.
To plant, to peer over the soil each morning
with ephemeral anticipation is mine.
Big Girl me says
Now you dear things grow.
It is more than a whisper.

Now you dear things grow.
Now more than ever.
Mercy and grace.
Restraint and forbearance.
Kinship and connectedness.
Now more than ever.
We can grow!
We can grow!
We can grow!



You Gave Them To Me

It’s better to descend than ascend.

So first you must reach the top and claim victory.

Nope, victory is overrated.
Besides, who says victory is at the summit?

I agree “summit” is a state of mind; however, the high road provides the best view.

The high road is windy and cold.  Stay below for the bright forsythia and green moss.

There is great comfort in closeness and confined quarters, but it is the horizon that provides direction and is best viewed from an apex position.

The sun rises just over the deck.  No reason to worry about that pesky horizon.

Some see the horizon nearer than others.  The sun rises and starts new each day, climbing high in the sky and only setting when it is time to rest; until rising again.  Climb, Sun.

I see the sunrise on the deck.
The moon, too.
You know why?
Because you gave them to me.
All of them.
Sun, clouds, wind, stars…
All mine.
From you.
Time to climb in bed…


Mrs. Baldwin

Picked every one of them.
So lovely and intoxicating.
Pinks and purples
With the sweet scent of Spring.
Easter perfection on a stem.

Picked every one of them.
Perfectly in a line along
Mrs. Baldwin’s front sidewalk.
Presented them to my mother
With the open innocence of a preschooler.

Except, no.
My mother marched me across the street.
Mrs. Baldwin opened her door
And saw a four year old holding every one of her perfect, sweet smelling, Easter colored hyacinth in her little hands.

Still a bit shocked at my mother’s abrupt rebuke and
the forced pilgrimage back across the street,
I mumbled an apology.
Mrs. Baldwin, smiling, gracious and patient
Unlike my mortified mother.

A deal was struck between the two women.
The pilfered bouquet was split in half.
I considered this a victory
The price of which was having to listen to my mother.
“Never do that again.”

I admire every glorious, perfumy, delicious hyacinth.
Thank you, Mrs. Baldwin.





Filler Paper


She did not write it down.  She wrote everything down in that little journal with the boy on the cover holding a chocolate chip cookie with the title “My favorite Things.”  The journal was a gift from her sister-in-law, because if it had actually been from her brother, it would not have been at all.  It would have been a five dollar bill in a card that read, “I don’t know what to get a young lady.”   And she probably would have taken that five dollar bill and gone to Fay’s on a Friday evening with her mother and bought a journal.  So she could write everything down.

She went to Fay’s on a Friday evening with her mother, because while she was smart and had a few friends, those friends did not really do much on a Friday night.  So Fay’s it was.  Just to get out, to avoid boredom, though she was seldom bored, really, because she could always write.  Or read.

Where just a year or so earlier she read “The Incredible Journey” bought through her school’s Weekly Reader pamphlet.  And at the end, the animals running toward home made her cry.  The first time a book made her cry.  And it was like a first orgasm, because she didn’t know it was coming, but there it was and what a surprise.  Astonished, she would walk to the kitchen to report to her mother that she had cried and this was the most wonderful, amazing book she ever read.

But there they were at Fay’s on a Friday night.  It was difficult, you know, when you did not have pierced ears to find cute clip-on earrings that didn’t look like an old lady would wear them.  Fay’s had a jewelry counter with jewelry on clearance.  Her mother liked things on clearance.

Maybe she should just go to Rosenbaum’s some other Friday night and get her ears pierced.  Other girls had done it.  Those other girls were sporting little fourteen karat gold “starter” earrings in what had been perfectly beautiful untouched earlobes.  It seemed to be like starting your period, getting your ears pierced came at just a little different time for each girl.

But there was her mother standing at the clearance jewelry counter at Fay’s, so she ambled to the notebook aisle.  Wide-ruled looseleaf filler paper seemed so much more practical than fourteen karat gold starter earrings, which, once she finally did get her ears pierced a few months later, would cause such a bloody, pus-filled infection a month’s worth of peroxide could barely contain the conflagration.  She should have stuck to filler paper.

In the car, in the Fay’s parking lot, in the dark, her mother would pull out of her purse a pair of little pink flower clip-on earrings.  They were cute and not like something an old lady would wear.  Her mother did not pay for these.  They had no price tag.  Her mother was indignant.  But you can’t just take them.  Guilt kind of hung there in the car, in the Fay’s parking lot, in the dark.  Guilt was, at the very least, the gift held in her hand that took the form of cute pink flower clip-ons that an old lady wouldn’t wear.  So while her mother stayed in the car, she walked back to Fay’s, straight to the clearance jewelry and put back the cute pink flower clip-on earrings that did not look like an old lady would wear them.  Then back out to the car, in the Fay’s parking lot, in the dark.

“Don’t tell your father,” her mother said.

She did not.
And she did not write it down.



Santa Claus Knows Best

Do you know what I wrote on Sunday?  I wrote how my husband makes me smile and feel beautiful.  You know how long I have been married?  29 years.  My husband is kind, sweet, caring, and, yeah, he makes me feel mushy inside.  Do you think our 29 years together have been complete bliss?  Ha!  You bet, but every year right after Thanksgiving an insidious tune slithers into my otherwise delightful existence.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas I am married to 2 men– my legal spouse and Maurice Chevalier.  My otherwise sensible, responsible, trustworthy and analytical man loses his mind over a song about Johnny wanting a pair of skates.

Ron sings, in the worst French accent, with Mr. Chevalier.  “Lean your ear this way.”  Ron sings, in the worst French accent, without Mr. Chevalier.  “Susie wants a sleigh.”  Ron sent me a YouTube video of  “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”, so I would not forget my second, albeit temporary husband, Mr. Chevalier.

To maintain a marriage for the long term, well, you kinda, hafta, need to overlook your partner’s idiosyncrasies.  Now, Ron got lucky.  I have no ill manners or quirky, irritating peculiarities.  But to preserve my stable, loving union, I tolerate Ron’s perpetual allegiance to “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.”  My advice to you, dear reader, is if your partner begins singing in an awful French accent, beware, because Maurice Chevalier may soon follow.  It is not so bad if you want skates, a sleigh or a book with yellow, blue and red, because dear Santa Claus knows best.


There Is No Pattern





Do you know what the pattern is?  No, you do not, because there is no pattern.

You graduate from college a semester late.  Your mother angrily advises you not to marry him, but you get married anyway.

The promotions come.  Melbourne, Richmond, Bartlesville, Jackson, Memphis.  Until the closures come.

You never really wanted a baby (gasp), but there she was, all puffy and pink and amazing.

You quit work and threw yourself into motherhood with conviction and desperation to craft every detail perfect, sublime and well groomed.

But here’s the thing.  Your hair is turning white.  That man you should not have married still makes you smile and feel all beautiful inside.  And that amazing baby is a way more awesome young woman.

When you think it is Spring
It snows
Big, beautiful, sparkly flakes float down from Heaven
There is no pattern
All we really get is love.