Saturday, May 31, 2008

Four men stand with clipboards behind the pitcher's mound
the boys they've exiled to the other field run at them one
at a time to field a ball batted by another middle aged man.
Two other men in shorts stand along the first base line wearing
gloves. After each boy catches and releases to the man wearing
a mitt at home, the men put their pens to the clipboards. Another
boy comes loping hopefully onto the green field, runs, watches,
misses a high fly ball. They keep two boys in the infield to lob
throws from fielder boy to the man at home plate. The batter
lofts the ball for his own swing like a tennis player, loose and
high. Nobody has their clipboard trained on him. On the ground
around the writers, white paper coffee cups that look like
baseballs from this distance. The batter has a five gallon bucket
of balls beside him, like a golfer at the driving range. Another
boy sidles up, bends, rocks side to side baseball player style,
catches one ball then moves into the shortstop position,
another go-between for the next boy up. He has caught
the ball, his throws are accurate and long, body easy, shortest
up but strong. Paper on clipboards waves in the wind like the American
flag presiding over the field. The men hold the paper down,
and now the boys run back, all of them, notebook paper numbers
pinned to the backs of their baseball shirts, to stand around
their coaches between first and home, eight of them now in
a line around the infield, one at bat, boy pitcher with that vat
of balls tosses to first base, the first short stop, the second,
boy in full catcher's protective gear crouched behind home.
The smallest boy, at third, in a red hat, catches a popup, lobs
easily to first base. Dust rises behind the pitcher's feet before
he lets go each throw. The metal bat plinks every hit from
the boy in red shirt waggling it, adjusting his right sleeve
clear of his shoulder like Ichiro, pulling up as they all do on
his pants. The men with the clipboards hold them carelessly,
the pitcher whanging his throwing arm like a catapult.
The batter and catcher wear hard helmets, everyone
wears baseball gear for what must be a try out, the bases
plump and new, the grass where it should be and just
the right height. They move with economy and mannerisms
of professional players. Nobody jeers or chats in the outfield.
They've learned their movements from television as much
as from older brothers under the lights by the high school.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Observe the cow's mellow machinations.
All along, you've had the abililty to breathe
unaided, to open and close your mysterious hand.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The poet across from me at dinner
attends a dream class. Her brother
is schizophrenic. The difference she
says is that she is able to find her
way back. I don't want to discuss
my dreams - sitting high school tests
with babies in tow, waterless pools,
my teeth clicking together in my
hand. I wonder what she put into
the salmon sauce, if I can borrow
her bike. I plot all day to swipe
lilacs from along this winding road
discover everyone and their dog
walking the next morning at 6 am.
I stomp Powder Point bridge's
wood planks, wander beige sand,
beachcomb the dumped gravel at
high tide, surprise a brown rabbit
humped among the hosta coming
home. Car tires crunch the drive
and I grab lilac branch and yank.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It is so public in the public space when
sitting in The Hot Chocolate Sparrow
with latte and laptop here in Orleans
on the Cape. Is this your paper? and
now I've lost escape route through
Sheffer through my too literal honesty.

I came down yesterday through rain
and windshield wiper drone, around
the round about into town and then
out a sand track to watch Sue and Roy
transplant shrubs, backhoe in their
drive , lumber stacked for their remodel.
House plans in my hand, blue certainty
of front elevations. I am melancholy
too this morning under the bright sun.
Planting lilacs partway into maple shade,
Sue said she will never again marry, is
committed as any, disillusioned. She
meant she said no disrespect. I want
her to say more, but drag a hose to soak
the lilac plunked into its hole. She joins Roy
winding yellow twine around a cement
post, to the Highlander's back bumper.
Roy puts the truck in drive, eases forward.
They're in work clothes, I stand around.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Swim team churning four bodies per lane
chicken wings, cupped hands, whirling feet,
flip turns angle them the opposite way. I
reach, lengthen, alone in my lane, deliberate
and half asleep, my favorite dream swim
state, early morning, thoughts flitting fast
as my scissoring ankles, lifting my heavy
arms from tense shoulders, releasing my
neck, until I meld with water and glide,
garden hose sunk into the deep end cooling
the pool below its noontime hothouse state.
A boy in knee length loose trunks rushes
past me, girl in sleek yellow tank suit, both
clutching white foam between their thighs
while I kick loosely, widen my back, enjoy
the well my arm makes for crawl breaths
either side. When I was younger I was
burdened with competitive narration as
I moved through other swimmers. I so
longed to be admired, to feel better than
in the years when every day in every way
I praised my wake, ignored what lay ahead.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Reading Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates,
Revising poems, lying around gaping
at the sun in a blue sky, high wind
waggling the high branches, squirrels
in the attic, the dishwasher banging
madly downstairs as though it is
hitting a cookie sheet with a ladle
to call us back to the kitchen. Maybe
we have left a burner on and it is
concerned. I'm in the midst of my
alternate life, where I sit on a screen
porch in the evening with other
women writers and we muse about
whatever we feel like and then we
do the dishes and go up to read in
bed, each one alone and fine with
that. We have eaten the last of the
75% dark chocolate and shown
each other our crowns and bridges
and talked of friends with cancer
and friends who have grandchildren
and others who are dying or have
died. Memorial Day, a list of those
I have lost: Grandpa Fred, John
Cline, John Melvin Gamache, my
grandparents and my great grand-
mother, Shawna's friend Beth.
Tomorrow I drive south to Cape Cod
to Eastham to visit Sue and Roy.
This is not and I know it is not
a poem. It is evening and I have
happened upon internet connection
and so am writing on line though it
is evening so all is odd and discom-
bobulated and east coast time. I've
drunk wine, and eaten salmon with
my housemate writer friends, and
now I'll settle into bed with Michael
Pollan's In Defense of Food. I would
rather still be reading Sue Vreeland's
Luncheon of the Boating Party, which
I thoroughly enjoyed but which I
finished reading last night. Sigh.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My arm smells like chlorine, I have swum in the pool

but I did not sit at the Duxbury Free Library nor

buy books at WestWinds Book Shop; they were closed.

The house owners are outside, planting impatiens

and summerizing their wood decked sailboat beside

the garage. It must feel strange to circumnavigate

the perimeter of your own house, but they owe us

what we paid for - privacy and primacy as the sun

greens the long lawn.

and then I lost my internet connection, but continued writing, and you know this was the best poem I've ever written and lost - so big, wider than my arms can reach and never another one like it in the vast vast ocean.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday morning, Duxbury, Mass.

Air travel is miraculous, three thousand miles in a day -
My land! as my gramma used to say, who never flew -
but me and you, we do, and it's not so glamorous.
Turbulence yesterday descending into Atlanta,
everybody's breath sucked in, flight attendants
belted into jumpseats silent over their Gourmet's.
Taxiing to the gate, we reassert our kinship to each
other and the ant - "I'm here, I'm on the ground,"
ritual opening of the overhead bins, general din,
flight attendants in rubber gloves ready to clean
the heads, terminal cacophony, hanging television
glare and I'm not really there but almost late
for my next flight. The girl who hoped for
an empty seat must move beside the single man.
My book opens, her book opens and we're off again,
a second bag of tiny pretzels put away. But as I say,
this lift off is miraculous. Five miles above storm
clouds and moving steadily north. Landing gear
thumps into position, we near Logan's peninsula,
hit the runway, the pilot says "ouch" over the PA,
we expect miracles today, are angered by delay
of what was impossible for almost everyone
two winks ago. We're cross at the luggage
carrousel, crowd in at the beep and amber light
whose flashing might be code to say my green bag
lags behind in Atlanta. The official behind the lost
luggage counter has the apologetic yet jokey
manner that deflects our angry disappointment,
the man and woman in front of me on their way
by car to Canada, though not yet and maybe
not tonight. I leave with a form and promise.
Hours into the line at Budget car rental, I listen
for my phone, imagine my bag beating me home.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The ether of television where everything is epic,
rain showers, the reemergence of Elizabeth Shue,
filters into my work space between the books.
I understand his need for distraction, treed tabby
not his problem, not his those wolves at the door.
TV white noise covered my mother sobbing over
the dishwasher, dad downstairs, under the hood
of his car, or asleep in the black Eames lounger
that meant we were middle class but didn't
care about the Joneses who had a new boat
my mother would never possess. She could feel
her life slipping further into the black well of
the disposal. I lay on my bed or sat at my
homework cardtable copying out the world's
neatest geometry homework, my brothers and
sister at the foot of the TV, my door locked.
Television drone I prime my engine, zip flak
suit, in the air, gone. It turns itself on now in
the afternoon billowing heavy as DDT cloud.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sheffer Crossword Puzzle Poem Draft

Did you go to Qwest Field to see the Dalai Lama?
My daughter went, wore her reporter pin.
He didn't seem so daunted by his lofty role
A bunch of people bathed in his mystique
dithered on and on the radio as I drove to work
through the Montlake avenue dark with crows
mysterious why they weight the phone lines,
cluster on the lawns across from St. Demetrious,
past the disheveled house, woman in duster
on the porch, ripped shade pasted to an upstairs
window. The Lama has left but not the crows.
The stair railing to her door bows outwards under
a rope of English ivy thick as a man's forearm.
What was once the yard bristles with too much
leggy foliage. Maple branches brush the front
windows. Inside the blinds sag slaunchwise.
Did she have children? When did her husband die?
I imagine newspapers clutter the front room,
discolored Asian art behind smudged glass,
musty smell of unwashed clothes, plates piled
in the chipped porcelain sink. Clutter softens
echoes between the night rooms, raccoon thumps,
mouse scritching under eaves. Who will embrace
us when we have shrunk so far away? No more
mama, lama, priest or lover to hear us shuffle
the stuffed hall, slippers slogging the rain dark
rug under the gap where the maple root sank
into the moss rotted roof, how long ago?

I've seen some hot hot blazes
come down to smoke and ash

In a movie, the father reads to his little girl,
my husband leans in, remember little girls?
birdseed under bare feet in the bathroom,
red cedar hamster bedding, easter bunny,
dressers and the dryer stuffed with small
bright clothes - how many housecat life times
until my fleshy upper arm shivers in dim light
faded pastel housecoat with ripped piping
hanging from the half sleeve as I fluster
over the rusty latch of the torn screen door.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My mother has emptied the smallest
drawer in her kitchen, part of moving
from this ungainly house she and my
father have lived in forty five years.
This drawer is smaller than my smallest
drawer. When she opened it to show me
what she had accomplished my medulla
oblongata rang and rang and it was all
I could do not to rip the drawer off its
track and jump on it. They have a
3600 square feoot house. this drawer
less than one square foot. I see my
not-so-future self poised over drawers
in this kitchen Goodwill box at my knee
pondering each crumbling raisin cookie's
place in the pandora's box of my childhood.

As my fiction teacher used to say, we got
us some rough sledding. How do we take
oral troth and turn it into action? I want
to stab the empty drawer with a fork and
run screaming. I ran. At twenty-one, I
saw I wasn't going anywhere, sludgy head
sludgy heart sludgy body no sleds no snow
no future but what I saw sleeping in my
parents' bed, accumulating in their closets.

I watch my father stick two rubber bands
in the emptied drawer. They have no
intention, they never did, they never will.
I am damned sad for the waste they
have laid thick in boxes and on shelves.

Away from the house my mother laments
again, is uncomfortable, wolfs her lunch at
the bright painted brand new mall styled
Jewish deli. I fidget. Fold my napkin into
an envelope. Maybe I can fit inside it. As
my daughter manages the conversation.

My mother asks us back inside
where my father watches baseball
in the room next to the drawer.
It is snowing in my brain like a TV
on the fritz. Nobody winds
my grandmother's metronome,
but it ticks with my grandfather's
stopped clocks downstairs.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Moon's orbit widens no matter that we bay
for it like all we love to stay, this sheaf
I've written rife with fever flush like flu
you in my blood molten holy as ore
I would open be praised and bathed in
blood-blissed and loony calling, come close,
go away, run. Do you know what I saw?
what I feel bouncing off reflected glow,
lopsided orb, your shadowed planet,
my high blonde haunch, no smell of you
behind your ear under cold-hearted light.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Last night was the first of three Jack Straw Writers readings at the JS Foundation on Roosevelt in Seattle. My friend, poet, storyteller, educator, and social activist Merna Hecht read, along with Jennifer D. Munro, Kevin Craft and Wendy Call. Jack Straw records these readings and KUOW airs them, usually, as I remember, the following fall. Having worked with director, actor, poet and radio producer Elizabeth Austen, each writer got her or his work to live in the air. It was a pleasure to listen. Merna's statement of purpose in the JS Writers Anthology states that she wants, as a poet, "to give witness to the brokenness in family and daily life that occurs as a result of war, violence and ethnic conflicts." She was successful. In Kitchen Confidential, she writes:

"Why not get lost in what we love,
the world hurts us anyway."

then moves from the ringing of her kitchen timer to an explosive device timed to go off that will grind down another woman's hopes.

"You will fare well in my kitchen
where a cornmeal dumpling
with freshly picked blueberries
puckered beneath golden crust
will surprise you with cardamom,
lime, and cassis,
guarded recicpes
for keeping the hungry mouth
of the world's pain
on the other side
of the kitchen door."

In the next stanza she compares a 375 degree oven to the incinerating heat of a car bomb that violently interrupts hands reaching for olives.

She writes of making bread with empathetic connection to the bread making mothers of her students from Somalia, kneading conscious awareness and care for the world into sensory experience to make us resonate too with disrupted lives, even, dear Merna, in France.

The other writer whose work moved me was Jennifer D. Munro, whose memoir-in-progress is about "marriage, miscarriage and motorcycling."

Before I went to bed, I checked my email and read that a good friend's third marriage is in shambles, that her current husband is seeing someone else. They were having problems, she knew, but thought they would work on them. He thought if she were the "right" woman, they wouldn't be having problems, and started looking for the "right" woman. There is always more, and it always hurts. I don't understand. One of the things I loved about Merna's pieces was that she wrote that she didn't understand this, didn't know that, kneading in that information, which added to the force of her work. Life is work if we keep walking into it. I am indignant my friend must walk through another failed relationship. My indignance does not help anything. I was indignant when Jim's dad was deathly ill, was going to die. Indignance distances with its righteous point of view. The fire around me keeps me warm and separate and spinning around my own soveign self. My husband's brother has been trying to get divorced for over seven months. His lawyer quit this week. He isn't he reveals a divorce lawyer. Everything would have been fine if everyone was amicable. I was indignant. This I thought was criminal. The lawyer should have stated his position early on. Perhaps he did. We stood away from the proceedings, we didn't do anything to help. What can we do? Who are we to take charge? And if we took charge, would we do a better job? We cannot right the wrongs of the world, or even of our family. We sneer at the decisions of people in power, people running for office, people who we have never met. We don't - I don't - know what to do either. I don't even know how to talk to my own husband to get him to listen to my point of view when it differs from his point of view.

A Poem Draft

If I pay attention how can I not feel mad?
What will I do, spend every minute at the spa?
The world's a maze, our corn, their maize
on days like these I seek the solace of the ode
healing waters of the Oh! Religious eau
to lave what ails, the pounding head, the ulcer,
sooth me with what I love, construct the sac
to cradle, spin me dizzy as with beer.
I can barely sit here, sun in my eyes, my ego
gleaming gold as a fake tooth for all the fruit
rotting outside Burma, diesel through Laos
I'll give you an earful, shuck you, I burn red
as the setting sun over melting ice, a slight
whip to the back end of the wind. Oh Enemy
thy name blurs. What have I set alight?
Ten billion acres with seeds of praise?
Can't take bulldozers from razed schools' flanks,
can't raise children from death's ranks. Give
thanks? Water brought to boil, shuck sheaves,
inedible silk, slide ears into the pot, table set,
fresh butter pat on a blue plate. Now wait.
I have hands to smoothe napkins, snip tulips
for the vase, eyes to sense steam to stop
the pot boiling over, ears that have heard
too much, mouth to call loved ones to my table.

For all I am unable to bear, I apologize, for
all I do not do or seek to do, for all who suffer
whose names I will never know, I am sorry.
All the power all the glory. Holy Holy Holy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

As I was young and uneasy before the apple boughs
were ploughed and wine grapes staked in their stead
afraid to be happy lest I be caught and shamed,
I told my cousins stories above the Columbia River
it was brown it was lovely those hills my fields of praise.

The major poet asked who I admired. Stafford,
Hirschfield, Ashbery. Who did I study with? Nelson.
What did he say? Nelson said everybody is a poet.
When he said I should send my work here and here.
I thought, that's Nelson Bentley not my poetry.

My lines make promises and don't keep them.
I veer wildly, smart aleck, wham awful sad.
He said here's iambic pentameter and two
lines later hexameter. Hand at his throat,
he lobbed what he landed on with the other.


J. A. M. J.A.M. J.A.M.

jam, jam, jam
I want some jam!

-first poem, age 1 1/2 (for my biographer)


How imporant is the work? Is it poetry? What is poetry? Who gets to say? Who can write it? Who has a tin ear? Is it me? Can I tell a dactyl from an iamb? Does that matter? What about intuitive leaps? That is all the fricking hell I have! If I read your work and get your work, in the sense that I sense something going on, I cry or I reverberate or I exhale with pleasure at a line but I can't remember anything later does this matter? If I read other poets about poetry and I understand... But this isn't about understanding or about getting, this being poetry. What is poetry? a writhing of the guts? Words making music that brings solace without that hallmark card retching - is wretched related to retch? If a wretch retches are we sadder than if you or I do? In the world scheme of things we are wretches - tiny nobodies whose bodies may as well be the ones discovered in the wreckage of Sichuan buildings. A reporter stood by and spoke into her mic or her cell phone as a fallen building was being excavated for bodies. She told us three women had brought Mrs. Choo a sheet and tore it into three pieces in case Mrs. Choo's three family members were found so Mrs. Choo could cover their faces. A commonplace in that community the reporter said, then told us she saw a hand. I thought she would spare us more, I was driving home with a jar of coriander for the simmering dal. There's a ring on the hand. I felt her self-awareness, reporting as it happened, Edward R. Morrow, Walter Cronkite, but I felt revulsion. This was invasion of privacy and the insertion of the reporter's emotional response for our entertainment.

Each of us is wretched and will experience wreckage. What will be wrecked? What has been wrecked? I loved lost cities as a child - Atlantis, Machu Pichu. Who were these ancients? What remains among the ruins to remind us? Pages of amoebic coins stamped with faces of dead greats inside National Geographic. The past was alive! A long long time ago people lived lives! They combed their hair with these ancient combs with missing teeth! They wore these blackened earbobs with chipped stones! Here is the canoe with the hole in the hull they used to cross vast waters! They existed!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dogwood leaves like seagulls flying
over the ocean at sunset at the Cannon
Beach art gallery before we head out
to climb Haystack Rock at low tide,
orange and purple seastars pasted
to the rocks and alounge in punchbowls
in the sand, sea gray reflecting gray
sky like today in Seattle where this
dogwood buds on borrowed time if
we open this window to a door to
a garage. Pink clematis has grown over
Japanese maple and waves like a beauty
queen at each wind waft as Rabanco
back up beeps overwhelm robins. They
tell us it will be summer this weekend,
then back into darkness according to
today's P.I. pictograms. Rhododendron
leaves pump up and down like a small
child's toy and I miss having children
which I remember as making paste
and mudpies, trips to aquarium and zoo,
animated movies and shopping for shoes.

Aging is a honing process, the best shorn
from the lamb cylinder earlier in the gyro
so that now we're talking about my mom
on Mothers Day when my daughter and I
took her to lunch. She is so weighted with
regret and longing and inaction she can
barely move, hates the cane she needs to
stand up out of the front seat of the car.
As we headed out the front walk she
called out to neighbors across the street
who disappeared silently into their dark
garage. We all noticed and said nothing.
The area's changed, they could be rude
or crackheads, not making a comment
about her. "When I can walk again," she
told us angrily, almost 83, dropped her
sad moot point. She grimaced over her
salad so that we worried she'd bitten
down on an olive pit, launched a story
that meandered into another story and
another, each starring a new person,
we have met none of them, it was a single
tale with wave after wave of unhappy
endings. The protagonist tries hard,
meets calamity, and fails, and we were
Pilgrims thrown again and again into
the Slough of Despond, between which
there were interludes of remade history
where my brother wasn't mentally ill and
she wasn't responsible for abandoning him
because He's A Good Man though he has
a problem picking up good deals on eBay
so that he's had to sell his drum set and his
red tractor he bought to work the yardwide
plot of Montana land he owns until, look at
the time! we left her off and went home.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ten thousand flamingoes crowd the wadi
would you feel less guilty if there were none?
remove your watch and set it by your bed
begin each day with clean mouth and elan
Neruda faced the world and wrote the ode
your poem is not a card trick to bamboozle
sensory overload dazzle fluff, Reno style
shrimp like gear teeth round communal bowls
beside the fireplace where you hung the saber
Myanmar cyclone aftermath, pass the ribs
every day there's too much information, prod
to action prod to prod until shock's the point
action's gangliar echo severed from aim
and once more into the breech my friends
is only worth a dozen points on the GRE.


Rhododendron buds like a finial display at Lowe's
some look like a hand holding playing cards and
the one on the highest limb looks a little like Chita
Rivera. Everyone's yard is filled with white and
lilac lilacs, blue bells, red and yellow tulips, that
mad color splash that is Seattle Spring. Bert's has
zonal geraniums, flat after flat, along with
azaleas. Mothers Day hung hot pink ballgowned
fuchsias, white lobelia earlobes dainty between
the dresses. I weed in my daughter's fleece pants.


Remember in January all that you swore off?
Cookie dough, cocaine, whatever it was
you were serious but it would get easier --
winter dark and cold overwhelmed by light
and warmth when we feel easier in our skin,
my pronouns all over the map, but you know
what I mean.

I'm out of joint and grumpy, not asked to participate at Skagit River this year, sent two emails and nobody replied. Called and nobody called back. Wah! I know they struggle for money to fund their project, and I know other things - my email provider decided to upgrade our service and left us without email for several days then went back to the original email format, I was out of town two weeks in February. Out of country. In Southwest India. WAAAAAH! So anyways, poor me.


A lemon just flew by. Lemon colored but it was a bird. Black on the wings. It was a male goldfinch, I just looked it up. In its mating colors. They molt in the fall, then again in spring to get the dandelion yellow plummage I'd chase after if I were a drab olive colored female goldfinch.


Monday, May 12, 2008

When you come out of the shit raise the flag
throw up a flare, wave your arm, toss a cap
we've grown impatient to pick you up at dawn
Really, we haven't lost so much as a fin.
Nothing much can touch us since Sawyer
built the wall without so much as a level
but you probably read about the semi --
bridge opening for Dwayne's dumb boat,
eighty thousand pounds, no jake brakes
jeez the psi on the dashboard alone, but
no, no more for all the peanuts in Perth,
last year's wheat alar like oil from silos --
couldn't hear the screams for your own yell
Well, hell, yeah hell flared in the woody
area back of Dean's. Looks like a tundra.
Sir Walter found a plain in Trinidad - tar
he used to caulk ships, by god we rival that.
We could pave from here to Brisbane
with the black lake over by the Lutheran
church on Blaine. What I wouldn't give,
but hey -- on second thought, stay
away. Really. Go home. It was my ego.
We haven't a spare rib here to lend.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

5:30 am my daughter called from Miami, was first as she'd hoped she'd be, to wish me happy mothers' day. I had awakened to my husband running downstairs, his phone ringing, or whatever it is is cellphone does. She's at the beach for as long as possible, she said. I've got that caul of melancholia this morning, and I shouldn't have looked at my poems, but I did, and I am so much less smart than I thought I'd grow up to be. How is it I can read other people's poetry and hum and reverberate with their music then open my mouth and grunt? Nobody cares about my poems about trying and failing. I don't care about my poems about trying and failing, or just leaving out the middle person, the one who works and works, and just going directly to the failure. Nobody cares. Maybe, now that sun, real, direct sun with no clouds between it and me, has blared up above the white house across the alley, the one with the chickens, I will face my face into the light and celebrate this sunny Sunday morning. Jim took off on his motorcycle a few minutes ago. He and his brother are taking their mother out to breakfast at Salmon Bay Cafe. I read a review this morning, looking for the phone number, by Rachel Kestler, who I know. Woo Hoo!

The rhododendron bud clusters are checkered, the hot pink of the flowers beginning to pull free from the yellowish sepals. Some of them look like fat asparagus heads. It is the season of the fat asparagus. I could eat it every every day.

A dog that looked like a fox just ran down the alley a dog that looked like a tall fox with a non fox tail. Could it be a coyote? there are at least two coyotes who live in the Arboretum almost across the street, it is early Sunday morning. It trotted past in the direction of the Arboretum. Is she or he the one responsible for knocking over the trash cans closer to 33rd?

I haven't done a thing to save the Quaking Aspen. Last year their leaves turned completely black and fell like hundreds of pirate eyepatches. They are horribly aphid-infested and need
to have aphid-killing stakes pounded into their hearts. I have gone flaccid in the face of calling someone to do this. You cannot buy these stakes at the garden store. This is a job for professionals. I know the trees are in danger for their lives and yet I do nothing. This is my confession.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


At any moment, she could fall asleep and lose everything.
Her ex-husband wanted time with their ten-year-old son
after a four-year hiatus. Which she granted - how could
she not? She's a psychiatrist, knows the law. Her son
texts that dad is acting weird, which is why she left in
the first place. More and more people have lost themselves,
wander listlessly with accusatory expressions. Are you
one of us? The male half of a forty-year married couple
leaves with no explanation. When he returns, he brings
unsavory people into the house. Her ex-husband, a high
political official, won't answer his phone, and when he does
won't let her talk with her son. "He's asleep," he says,
and she imagines the worst until another text sends her
into the subways to pick up her son. It is so late that
nothing is open. Everyone is asleep. They enter a picked-
over pharmacy and she downs uppers with two-liter
Mountain Dews, instructs her son to punch her in
the heart with an adrenaline shot if he discovers her
asleep. "You can be brave," she says and he nods. His
father was furious that he wouldn't sleep, and even
when he did, he didn't become the boy his father
hoped for. His mother, he knows, wants him for himself.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Born twelve years ago today one of nine

gone last June my companion all those years.

who knows what this meant to you? member

of our pack alert to verbal signal and to food

did you love me? does it matter? You were

well behaved almost always but the but

made you your own being. The walk when

you bounded from leash grasp disappeared

into a back yard disappeared gone phhht

until I was limp with weeping. Escaped

out the Toyota door, me in the bookstore

shoe store owner called me to fetch you.

the day you and Nikki stole the cooling

pork loin off a countertop ate all but garlic

cloves spit out on the floor. Coming home

to you lying by the door we'd know you

had sinned, find an unopened bread

loaf on your bed or garbage scattered

across the kitchen. Bought you a lumbar-

support dog bed came upstairs

to the livingroom recarpeted in rent foam

you ran off at Houghton Beach, over 120

pounds. I felt you let me wrestle you to

ground and I said Bad girl. No. No run.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

My books arrived from India!

I'm always having to invent and abandon
writing strategies. Back to Seattle from
Chelan, I find no juice in the crossword.
Have to trick myself into the trance state
for poetry another way I haven't found
yet. Ed Hirsch sent me a note thanking
me for sending him my poem. He liked
he said seeing his talk return to him
as a poem. So that was fun and
that is done. Yesterday I looked at
corpses on the page, printing them
on my mysteriously functional again
printer. I have several thick slabs I have
no idea what to do with. I have difficulty
reading them, hearing them, owning them,
knowing them, believing in them. I
remember disowning an art project I
made from drawing on a coke bottle with
Elmer's glue ten minutes before class -
college art: the line. I had been excited
about and by it in process. The teacher
praised it, I felt unworthy, hadn't taken
enough time, in that tedious studious
way I approached classes - poring over
syllabi and textbooks and class notes,
asking always what does the teacher
want? ran away from college like
a six year old with my thumb out --
trying to escape everyone I tried
to please to find what I'd want.
And now here are my awkward poems
I want, make, love, abandon,
one by one by one by one.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mom and Dad have tried, my mother says,
to contact Mike, the Estate Sale agent. He's
never home, she says on the phone, and I
know she's hedging, but they have been
working, she says, between doctors'
appointments and dentists' appointments.
We spend a lot of time doing that, she
says, and then we have to take naps.
But I've said to your dad we have to
get to work on that room. As an aside
she tells me Mike won't work with us
until we clear out this junk. When Jim
and I stood in the basement surrounded
by the junk, offering to move, remove, sort
through boxes, closets, cupboards under
the dark stairs, they told us Mike would
deal with all of this. Don't get rid
of anything they said Mike said. You'd
be surprised what people will buy.
Reality has shifted under my mother's
words my entire life. She has taken books
to the library, she says. The box was too
heavy, so she put the books in bags
and took them to the library. I pulled out
my shoulder she says, but that's okay.
She has emptied, I realize, that one box
on gramma's maple trestle table
facing the full bookcase she has yet to
touch. The records she thinks of as Lyn's.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

More Tony Hoagland

The second chapter of Real Sofistikashun has the title: "'Tis Backed Like a Weasel": The Slipperiness of Metaphor. It is broken into three sections, each titled metaphorically: 1. Cloud, 2. Whale, and 3. Weasel.

His premise in the first section, is that metaphor is a gift and that "an urge to claim wild similarities is one of the earliest markers of the poetic spirit." The kid lying in the backyard pointing upward calling out, "elephant, raspberry, big wheel," doesn't care about the metaphor equation Hoagland gleans from Stephen Dobyns, where object half and image half combine to make a functional metaphor, and she doesn't care that these shapes she is fetching exceed logic. She's just reaching into that unknown vastness inside and making metaphors with clouds.

Metaphor, Hoagland says, is slippery, and it is huge. Can this be why his section section is titled "Whale"? He talks about how metaphor's work lessens the poet's, the metaphor eliminating the need for a thesis statement, the unintended adjunct meanings that creep into poems via metaphors, these additional meanings making metaphor uncontainable and elastic. He brings in Mary Oliver to tell us how unnecessary extra images will make our poems wild carnival rides that lose their sense of purpose and disrupt the poem's cumulative power. The proper status, he illustrates with a poem by Robert Hass, of metaphor, is to serve the whole, to function almost underground, underwater maybe, working and moving the poem forward, to "supplement and augment the poem's discourse" but not devolve to self expression or self glorification.

In the third section, Hoagland says the metaphor, is "an enriching device, but must not toss the rider from the horse." But, he says, the metaphor resists logic and care, is "an allergic reaction to too much reality." He brings Act 3, Scene 2 of Hamlet to illustrate. Polonious, the unimaginative keeper of the status quo, has been sent to bring Hamlet to an audience with his mother. Hamlet, wildcard and metaphor maker, is dangerous. He resists Polonious's attempt to bring him to heel with metaphorical play with a cloud, calling it first camel, to which Polonious agrees, then weasel,Polonious agreeing, "It is backed like a weasel." "Or like a whale?" Hamlet asks, and Polonious follows after, "Very like a whale." Hamlet, "that subversive figure, that poet, will not cooperate -- he continuously changes his images, ...moving out of reach," which "protects his right to dream, which, like all freedoms, is dangerous."
The signboard outside the Variety Store
announced a new DVD shipment - $1/each.
Even after WalMart appeared on the way
to the airport on its own new blacktop
Apple Blossom Road, the Variety Store
persists beside the parking lot it shares
with the new blonde wood Starbucks.
I whipped the car around in the Lakeside
Drive-in parking lot and we went in -
past the outside folding tables piled with
lime green and lurid pink flexible plastic
beach pails, imitation Crocs and wrench
sets attached as thoroughly as tied
quilts to cardboard. Indoors in
perpetual gloom were the dimestore
reek from childhood, glassware with
flagrantly unconcealed seams, and
familiar looking 1000 piece puzzles.
A twenty something man with black hair
and Spanish accent leaned behind
the counter where the weeble bottomed
white lady used to sit. I'd never seen
DVD's in such narrow packages. We
sorted through at least 40 copies
of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,
which we've seen, blocks of 20 to 40
copies of each movie you've never
heard of. Carnival of Souls begins "as
three young women in Kansas drag
race on a wooden bridge... only one
of the women... emerges from the murky
depths... goes onto Salt Lake City
to become a church organist... haunted by
visions of spirits." In Werewolf
of Washington, Dean Stockwell "gives
an unforgettable performance
as the haunted reporter in this
surprisingly lighthearted horror film
that can be enjoyed by anyone."
In The Ape Man, Bela Lugosi plays "a
gland specialist scientist who transforms
himself into a semi-simian state when
an experiment goes wrong." According
to the liner notes, "his only hope is to
find the anecdote..." Another sad film
from Bela's declining years, The Devil
Bat, shows how "Dr. Carruthers (Lugosi)
uses his genius to enlarge bats and then
train them to attack wearers of a certain
perfume he has discovered... in this well-acted
tale of terror from director Jean Yarbrough."
I remember babysitting at thirteen, never,
ever turning to horror films, which left me
with Roller Derby, rough-looking women
racing raggedly around a rickety looking
track while pulling one another's hair,
hauling back and solidly punching each other
smack in the face, pulling each other
to the floor and skating over the downed.
One night I looked up to see a man
looking in at me from the window
of the door to the garage. My father
who was visiting the family behind us,
leapt the fence, but the man had gone.
The police nabbed him two blocks away,
an albino, they said, on the loose.

Monday, May 05, 2008


I lug the old green lawnmower
from the shed, the one with
the Sears handle bolted on
after the original one busted off,
the old Briggs & Stratton engine.
My husband takes the broken-off
pull rope from my hand and
lets out the choke. He gives
the rope a good yank. We do this
every spring. Hold our breath
and wonder if this is the year
it doesn't start. It starts after
five pulls. I push the mower
into where the dandelions took
over from the sod a few years
ago. Mow lightly over the corner
where the violets crowd sweetly,
roughly cross and backtrack across
the tough yellow dandelion faces,
the next generation aloft in their
tiny parachutes, dust and racket
rising around me like I am
the hurricane eye, Zeuss's wrath,
a woman whose fingers ring as
I let go of this accomplishment.
Here's a Billy Collins poem:

(it was written by BILLY COLLINS):

Man in Space

All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making the point
even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,

and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
their breastsw protected by hard metal disks.

-Billy Collins

Tony Hoagland uses this poem to talk about metaphor, its intended and unintended parts. And I quote:

In the Collins poem, which seems so tidy, so well "closed," we have the odd sexual subtext of the images - the spread legs and the shiny breasts of the Amazon women. These details probably come from the 1950's science-fiction movies that are the cultural source of Collins's image. Those movies were made, after all, by men, not women, and the result is the oddly confusing image of proto-feminist go-go dancers. It's Barbarella night at the Playboy Mansion! Although this is a poem of feminist empathy, it totes some funny baggage with it. (And doesn't it also, by the way, suggest that women are aliens?) I this sense, metaphors, like prescription drugs, should probably carry a warning label about possible side effects. A label on the Collins poem might say, "Warning: this politically correct poem could prolong your sexism."


Hoagland says, in the next paragraph: A metaphor's luminosity lies not just in its equivalency but also in its unmanageability." He goes on to celebrate metaphor's "fantastic elasticity" and to introduce me to Laura Kasischke, who he describes as "one of the premier image-makers of my generation." He quotes Mary Oliver, from her book on craft, A Poetry Handbook, and says "Oliver may come off here as the Miss Manners of poetic convention." He goes on to say nicer things about what she says about controlling the image, lest the poem "end up like a carnival ride... In the shed electricity of too much imagery the purpose of the ride -- and a sense of arrival -- may be lost." (Mary Oliver, from A Poetry Handbook, quoted in Real Sofistikashun.)
And I know what Tony and Mary mean, and yet, and yet. What if the poem can be a carnival ride and those sparks and bursts are the only things we can depend on? What if sometimes the brown paper covered grab bag, unexpectedly and rarely, that seemingly random combination of geegaws, odd colored paper and stickers, delights and enthralls and is experience enough?

And what if I'm fooling myself?


I have just finished Where the Sea Used to Be by Rick Bass. Poetry of winter, I wanted it to snow forever. I was imagining the story taking place somewhere far away, uvula of Michigan maybe, when in the last part of the book there is a weather report from Spokane, and all this fragile wildness snapped into place nearly next door.


Five Five Oh Eight

I can tell bald eagle from robin,
coot from barn swallow,
magpie from mallard duck,
fruit bat from California quail.
I have too slow an eye for more,
my ear can't separate calls,
which for example may be
tree frogs that aria famously
in April, squirrels, the many
utterings of crows. I don't know.
When I was in high school
I imagined my poetry would
astonish with its nuanced avidity,
its accurate piquant heart.
Owl brown dowdy birds lift
vertically from phone wires,
dive nearly to the water surface,
wheel, fly pall mall towards
each other, avert disaster, voice,
open effortless mouths for insects,
each morning and dusk, aerobatic
geniuses in drab plumage.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

4 May Cute Car

My Morris Minor sat outdoors all winter
invaded by spiders but no mice.
On the west side of the mountains
I thought of it, alone on the hillside,
possibly moldering. In 1970, I almost
bought a psychedelic green Morris
from a girl whose mechanic boyfriend
had brought it back to life after they
found it overgrown with blackberries.
I have just driven my car 45 miles roundtrip,
loaded for the return with tomato
starts, Spanish lavender, rosemary,
Italian plum and Bartlet pear trees
in five gallon pots, the trees sticking
out the back passenger window so that
as we passed a bicyclist along the lake,
Jim yelled, "Left! Left!" and I swerved.
I wanted to love this car, but what
I love, after thirteen years, is how
the car gives people entry to talk
with me. A couple in the WalMart
parking lot circled as we loaded the fruit
trees into the back - they have a B&B
the other side of the lake, he makes
titanium bicycle pedals used in a top
secret navy submarine project. Last
week he sent a pair to Bath, which
is where I bought my car. My reward
for letting a surgeon slice open my thigh,
saw a foot off my femur and replace
it with a titanium shank. Then repeat.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

3 May 2008 Chelan Apple Blossom Street Scene

Sidewalk cardtables along Woodin Ave
Bake sale in front of the quilting store
benefitting a women's 2 year college
girl selling Manga drawings.
outside Vogue Coffee/Wine bar the boy
drawing on computer describes his
process using artistic wrist motions. A man
at a Worlitzer sings too softly to hear
near the Kelly's Hardware table
humped with four dollar throwaway
tools and glass mugs with apple logos.
Culinary Apple's apple logo mugs
face them across the street where
another man pushing fifty in Pendleton
plaid shirt sings "It Ain't Me Babe."
I'm sure this used to work for him
but the scrubby beard's gone roan
and I don't think anybody's going home
with him tonight. We're here for
the movie at the Ruby, named for
a daughter who went missing
in her twenties in the twenties.
New seats are on order, but if they
don't come in the next five weeks,
it'll be fall before they're installed.
Seven day showing schedule starts
June 13. We come out of the movie
at eight to a dimming sky and
awkward street life. The skinny girl
inking Manga drawings outside Radio Shack
folds in card table legs as her father
presses her computer gear to his chest,
opens the door to his Ranger. The live
woman singer has a nice folky sound,
but the amp is cranked too loud
at the Vogue. After we walk to Safeway
for cereal and strawberries, we return
to sit just inside the sidewalk below
the retracted glass wall garage door.
A goateed man comes from behind
the bar and yells into the mic something
about tips. The singer, already a little
embarrassed, is standing in front
of the amplifier and does an automatic
recoil she attempts to cover by
strumming the chords for her next song.

Friday, May 02, 2008

May 2 Poem Draft (May Day May Day)

Little birds spray into view through my window
like pepper from a waiter's showy grinder
lake calm as a chlorine pool, thrum from
my bad tooth or Lady of the Lake engine
far downlake. Two geese honk past, wing
distance off the surface, intent it seems on their
conversation as the little birds speak in flits
from juniper and deck rail. The light is true,
mist lifted an hour ago. My computer
is the one who's humming. I sit and wonder
what it is this human has to say.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Poem Publication Quandry

Here's my question: does it count as e-publication if the poem on a blog is a DRAFT and the poem you send out has been polished, though recognizably from that draft? Cuz if it does, I have to yank a lot of posts off this site.

May 1 Daily Poem

Sheffer Crossword Puzzle 5/1 Poem Draft


But we're human, travel to Sri
Lanka tomorrow, tour Hilo
the week after that. Ah, kid,
arm in the AppleJacks,
we want we want and I do
too. Show me antique peseta,
I raise crisp Krooni, can't expell
that wiggy engine of desire.
Aga stove that never turns off
Subzero, Wolf, for wilted celery,
Bright red washer set from Lowe's
oh they know - earth ails, we feed
the fire the smothering ash.


At 10 minutes to 7 it was Paul Hunter and me sitting at a table with a box of his two books.
At 5 minutes to 7 it was Paul Hunter, me and my husband at the table.
At 3 minutes to 7 I put together the black music stand
At 2 minutes to 7 my daughter Shawna walked in
At 1 minute to 7 my next door neighbor Cate arrived
At 7 we were joined by Neil and Annie who run a book group and work at the cafe
When I officially opened the reading, at 7:10, there were eleven of us around three tables which we mushed together.
It was a sit-down reading that kicked bigtime poetry butt.
I introduced the work of bronchitis-stricken Rebecca Loudon, and did my best to represent six poems from Cadaver Dogs, soon to be released by No Tell Books. After I introduced Paul, he read celebrations of (vanishing) farm life from all three of his books. The third in his trilogy is due any day from Silverfish Review Press.
If you were there, you know.