Mar 30 2013

last year’s man

at this time last year,
no, a week earlier,
this was my garden.
this year is different
and that is as it should be.
so i’ve swallowed my impatience
and it’s saturday
and there is sunshine and
pierogies to be made.
really, all i had to say was:
there is sunshine.

Mar 28 2013

pull up a chair
{scintilla day 16}


What would it have been like if your life had turned out
the way you wanted when you were a kid


Early in the morning, and sometimes late at night, this is the chair I sit in. A strong chair, as the Cowboy Junkies song goes, one sturdy enough to hold me in place while I write or dream or drink tea and stare out the window. A chair strong enough to keep me grounded. And so I sit here pondering this question, trying to remember all the things I wanted my life to be like when I was a child.

It’s a hard question to answer at my age, hard not to filter my response through everything I’ve learned since then, hard to remember what I really thought when I was seven, or ten or fifteen.

I remember that I wanted to be a photographer. I remember that I was painfully shy and awkward and what I wanted most was to fit in. I remember that I always felt different, and what I wanted instead was to feel special. I remember that there was always this strange ache in my heart that I could neither define or relieve. But that makes it sounds like I wasn’t happy, and mostly, I think I was.

I don’t remember wanting to be a poet. One day I just started writing. But I didn’t really think about it, I never thought about growing up to be a writer. I just wrote when the poetry was there, like an impulse or a bodily function. I wrote through all my fears and awkward years, my first heartbreak and my tears, all that angst and lost girl floundering.

In school, I wasn’t the artsy type. I was a nerd. A full-blown geek, one of the smart kids who dressed like a dork and got almost perfect grades. For a while, in high school, I tried harder to fit in, I bought designer jeans and permed my hair, I got contacts and the same shoes that all the girls wore: docksiders and clogs. But I never even managed to fool myself into believing that I was like them. They knew too many things I didn’t. They saw the world in a way I couldn’t. They knew how to do their hair and apply their makeup, how to flirt with boys and get asked to the prom, how to sneak out for parties, how to run with the crowd.

I was never that girl. By the time I was a senior, I stopped trying to be. No, I stopped wanting to be. I dressed like a hippie (when this was so NOT in fashion). I let my hair grow long and straight and parted down the middle. And mostly, I kept to myself. I was waiting. For my life to start. I hadn’t yet figured out where I wanted to be, but I had figured out where I didn’t want to be.

My guidance counselor tried to talk me into going to college for engineering. I had the grades, but absolutely no inclination. And I admit that there are times now, in moments of bill-paying, when I wish I had. When I consider how my life could have been if I’d walked down that path. But my soul would have been miserable. I knew that even then, though I couldn’t have put it into words.

Ultimately, the real answer to this question is that my life would look almost exactly the way it does now. If magic existed and I could change things, there would be slightly more money and lots more windows.

And I might be driving a ’67 Mustang.

But other than that, I’m good.

I have this chair and a pencil and these words and some stories.

And I love life.

It can’t turn out any better than that.




this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

Mar 27 2013

{scintilla day 15}


Tell the story of how you got the thing you are going to keep forever.


I have a house full of things. Being a very tiny house, the truth is that it is filled with too many things, despite all my efforts at discarding.

But the things that I’m going to keep forever live in a closet in one small box marked mementos.

This tiny matchbox-size sewing kit, made from construction paper and containing a piece of felt, some thread, and a couple of needles, lives in my desk drawer. It has been there since my son made it, probably twenty years ago now.

I’ve actually used it once or twice, to sew a button on or mend a hem, but that was a long time ago. Before I’d learned the value of something so small and tiny and unassuming.

Now, I understand.

And I keep it where I can see it, almost daily, to remind me.

There are no things that matter. There are no things we get to keep forever.

There is only love.

And if you have something that contains just one tiny
little piece of someone else’s heart, well,

then you have everything.




this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

Mar 26 2013

waiting with the patience
of no choice

for surely
something wonderful
is about to happen

the sun will set
and color will come home

the moon will rise
and stars will dance with midnight

a seed will burst through the soil
a leaf will unfold
a flower will open
an egg will divide

somewhere, a face cracks into a smile
somewhere else, tears are falling

and in all the miles between
anger and silence and joy and rhythm
form a quilt of square and triangle
rectangle and hexagon
inviting you to settle under
snuggle into
cover over

the rich dark soil underneath
wet and dank and teeming with
worms turning
turn turn

a darkness that feeds you
through the hollow cave of night

until morning comes and warms you
with promises promises
of another day

another chance
to sit there


stand there


for surely
something wonderful

is about to happen





Linking up today with the fabulous dVerse poets for Open Link Night, join the fun!

Mar 25 2013

oh, piddle puddle
{scintilla day 13}


Post a photo of yourself from before age 10.
Write about what you remember of the day the photo was taken


For my fourth birthday, all I wanted was a Jane West doll. Jane was a cowgirl, yes she was, and that’s who I wanted to be. The day came and I put on my blue party dress and waited, anticipation running through my mind like Flame, Jane’s trusty horse. Presents were opened, no Jane.

Still, I waited. At long last, my Nana handed me a box. I ripped the paper off, and there she was. Or so I thought. It was indeed a Jane West box, but inside was a new… outfit. My birthday balloon instantly burst. I’m pretty sure there were tears.

After all my gifts were opened (still no Jane), an old paper bag was placed in front of me, crumpled, unassuming. I peeked inside, and there she was. And there were smiles, and laughter all around. Was it a cruel joke to play on a four-year-old? Perhaps. But that was my grandmother, a strong, flawed woman who raised eight children practically by herself, worked full-time as a nurse, and had a slightly twisted sense of humor.

I believe, now, that she was trying to teach me lesson. I had talked non-stop about Jane for months. My grandmother came from poverty, a place where you made do with what you had, or didn’t have. I think, looking back, that her intentions weren’t as cruel as her joke. But I still remember the sting of that misguided betrayal.

Fast forward eight months.

My family, along with my aunt and her six kids, went camping for summer vacation. Three adults, ten kids, one large canvas army tent.

And here’s what happened: It rained. All week. The old tent was not waterproof, if you touched it from the inside, water would begin seeping through. Which my dad made the mistake of telling us. So we all had to test his theory, and he was right. As soon as you touched it, just a little fingertip…a drip would form, and then another, and then another. Pretty soon it was as wet inside the tent as it was outside.

That was our week.

On the last day, we packed up our soggy camp, planning to attend a birthday party on the way home. I put on my blue dress. On our way out of the park, I asked to use the bathroom. My parents stopped by the side of the road and pointed me in the right direction, there, across a field of grass. (You could do that back then). I took off running. Somewhere between the car and the building, bam! I went down, face first into a puddle hidden in the grass. When I stood up, I was literally covered in mud from head to toe. But no one in the car had seen. I ran into the bathroom, bawling my eyes out. My party dress! Ruined.

I stood inside the door, sobbing, no idea what to do. A girl, 13 or 14, approached me and asked if I was okay. I’m sure I bawled out some sort of unintelligible response. And then she took paper towel after paper towel and wiped me as clean as she could, and walked me back to our car.

Most girls her age would have laughed. She did not. And I still remember the comfort of that small act of kindness.

Same dress, different day.

A blue party dress that taught me, at age four, a little bit about life, expectation, the hurt that only comes from those you love, and the kindness you find when you least expect it.




this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.
this story was also my first contribution over at Vision & Verb a few years back, but it fit this prompt so perfectly that I decided to re-post it today.

Mar 23 2013

starry starry night

if i had known it was you
on the corner that night

all staggered and cerulean blue
spinning me blindly
with a bump to my shoulder
down a dark-sided rocky path

i would have turned back
and taken your hand

filled it with bread
and boxes of paint

covered the mirrors
and sold you on hope

written you ‘cross the sky
in one long blinding comet

and then reached for your ankles
so you couldn’t float away


but your path was set
long before you were born

an arched trajectory
of red ochre
burnt umber
alizarin crimson

left to trail behind you
in the stare of eternity’s night

while i wander this path
in the darkness, this ever blinding
always wanting
mars black shadow hole
of crow and star and


always listening

for the echo
of your footsteps




Linking up today with dVerse poets for Poetics
(on interactions with historical people)

Mar 22 2013

redux: a list
{scintilla day 10}


Sometimes we wish we could hit the rewind button.
Talk about an experience that you would do over if you could.


This could be the kind of list that goes on forever,
filled with things like:

the time I yelled at you for not picking up your toys

the time I forgot your birthday

the time I turned left instead of right

the time I threw a book at you

the time I messed up the banking and left you
stranded at the checkout

the time I scratched your brand new tub
while cleaning the fish tank

the time I said the words I knew would hurt you most

the time I burned you with a match-tip
because I didn’t do the joke right

the time I sat with my friends instead of you
at the concert

all the times I bought something I didn’t really need
instead of saving my money

all the times I didn’t take the time to spend with you

all the times I said no when I should have said yes

all the times I said yes when I should have said no


But really, this is the only one that matters:

all the times I didn’t say I love you
when I could have.




this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

Mar 21 2013

{scintilla day 9}


Talk about where you were going the day you got lost.
Did you ever get to where you meant to go?


truth be told
i get a little bit lost
every day

drawing your own map
makes living with questions
the only direction

but somehow
i always find my way
back home




this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

Mar 20 2013

a whirlwind time
{scintilla day 8}


Describe a memorable experience that took place
while preparing or eating food


It was one of those crazy humid hot summer days in late July or early August. One of those days when the air just hangs on your skin like an extra set of clothing. By early evening, my family had gathered on the front porch because it was just too hot to be inside, and rain was on the horizon. My cousin, who was a year or two older than I, was staying at my grandmother’s house, just kitty-corner across the street. He had come over to spend the day hanging out with my brother, probably playing G.I. Joe or War or some such thing that the boys were always playing back then.

I’m sure that we were all drinking Pepsi, because that’s what we drank every night back then, one of us would walk around the block to the corner store and buy the eight pack of tall returnable glass bottles. And then most nights, to go along with it, there was either popcorn or some sort of candy. On this night, it was M&Ms, the biggest bag you could buy, divvied up between the five of us. (Me, my three siblings and my cousin). We held them in coffee cups, because you know, you always had to be certain that no one got more than their fair share.

I don’t think my dad was home that night, he worked trick shifts, so his scheduled rotated every week, one week 7-3, one week 3-11, one week 11-7. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to adjust to that change every single week. No wonder he was always falling asleep at the kitchen table…but that’s another story.

I remember little else about the evening until it happened. The wind picked up, there was thunder and lightning, and we sat there on the porch enjoying the show and the cooling temperatures. And then the rain came, and the wind picked up even more, and my cousin started to get scared and wanting to go back home to my grandmother’s house. We told him to stay put, and I don’t really remember why he felt the overpowering need to leave just then, but I do remember that he grabbed his M&Ms and hopped on his bike to scoot across the street at almost the exact moment that what I can only describe as a mini tornado came zooming down the street. I’m sure there is a technical name for such a thing, a whirlwind or dust devil, it wasn’t very tall, maybe eight or ten feet, but it looked exactly like a tornado funnel. And even though it was small, it was powerful.

I had never seen anything like it before that night, and I have never seen anything like it since. We generally don’t have tornadoes here in western New York. It traveled straight down the center of the street, and you could see leaves and branches and debris swirling around in its path. My cousin zoomed across just in time to avoid it and the giant chestnut tree that came crashing down right behind him, blocking my grandmother’s car in her driveway, but somehow managing to avoid doing any real damage to it, or to my cousin.

He made it onto her porch and looked back over at us and we looked back over at him and I’m certain that we all had the same mouth-wide-open, holy crap! stare on our faces.

He was okay, and the tree, though a major inconvenience, hadn’t actually destroyed anything. But his M&Ms were gone, and so was the cup. We all searched for it the next day and never found so much as a shard.

Apparently, along with her temper, Mother Nature has a sweet tooth.




this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

Mar 19 2013

reflections of impermanence

we’re always looking for something to ground us
a way to tattoo ourselves onto existence

indelible ink wash rivers
flowing through veins of indecision

brushing all sharp edges into
smooth curves and blurred remembrance

fitting pieces together in a nest of silt at the bottom
while the corners get washed downstream

memory is a gazing pool of fortitude
what we forget is the skeleton of living

winter freezes everything that runs





Linking up today with the fabulous dVerse poets for Open Link Night, join the fun!