Friday, January 31, 2014

Headline Poem 1/31/14 -- year of the horse

(Photo credit

The Lunar New Year 4712 has arrived! It is the year of the Horse. Today's headline poem is to honor the animated, active, and energetic sign.

year of the horse

foals walk just after birth
strong, energetic, and independent
even with a crises, they can hold their own
do not be afraid of those who run

fire, earth, metal, water, wood
strong and sturdy
ensure productivity by doing good
stand tall in the pasture or on parade
love one another and prepare to serenade

the year of the strong horse
is here for all
embrace the restlessness and hear the call

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Headline Poem 1/30/14 -- Oranges & Milk

(Photo credit USA Today)

Today, some elementary students in Utah went through the lunch line, only to find out there was not enough money on their cards to pay for their meal. Their food was taken, thrown away, and they were offered milk and oranges instead. 

Oranges & Milk 

Water from the faucet goes

Wash your hands and get in line,
it's time to

Lunch is served on plastic platters with dividers down the center 
a veggie
    a fruit
        a slice of pizza too

A woman with a netted bun yells out, you're outta cash!

Sorry for the confusion, you'll have to give that food back!

We've got oranges for those of you who cannot pay today!

While you're at it, grab a milk, while we throw your meal away!



Tears fall from the eyes

Here's a tissue honey,
If you go now you won't need a pass!
We want you thinking, creating, and innovating,
It's time to go back to class! 


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Headline Poem 1/29/14 -- 55

(Photo credit usf anthropology)

As of today, 55 bodies have been found near Dozier Reform School in Florida. The school was closed in 2011, and many horrific stories of abuse have surfaced about this school that many boys called home over the years. There is an ongoing investigation. 


55 sets of eyes, teeth, legs, and ribs
some buried properly,
others strewn and hidden away
no funeral if you're not missed
no one lookin
outside those walls
no explanation once you leave those badly beaten halls
Marianna on the hill
the 'white house boys' called home
some dead 
some forgotten
some disappeared while their mothers begged and moaned

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Headline Poem 1/28/14 -- For Pete

(Photo credit Andrew Sullivan, New York Times)

Today, we lost a legend. Pete Seeger had a public life. He questioned the status quo, and through his music attempted to make sense of cultural situations and circumstances. He was active politically and socially, and said that singing with children at schools for over 70 years was one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. The news of his passing inspired a blog post (which I hope to share soon) and today's headline poem.

For Pete

a good song reminds us of the fight
of why we get up and dressed in the morning
and raise hell when we have to at night

it keeps us grounded like stones in a river
rushing by or stagnant

makes us want to stick our hand in the ground
to dig, touch, and plant roots

flowers will bloom if you let them
in Alabama, Vietnam, or a Mansion on a hill
a good song calls us home
to the heart, hearth, warmth, and food

a good song may send us behind bars,
especially when we ask others to sing along
some of the most beautiful things are ugly, broken, and alone

don't run from the dirty jobs
don't pretend they aren't there
they matter just the same as the beauties
in fact they matter more

a good song makes you linger
on a smokey mountain road
too cold to head out,
too cold not to go

Whether chasing bears in Cumberland
or bringing our soldiers home,
a good song speaks to strangers
and welcomes them in like friends

so have a seat and listen
to the music I'm about to share
it will do your soul some good
to introduce it to your ears

a good song makes a difference
whether big, simple, or small
it may not make bad guys good,
or brothers and sisters all,
but it will liberate folks to care,
and catch them when they fall

Monday, January 27, 2014

Headline Poem 1/27/14 -- this poem is about sitting

(Photo credit

Today, I read a headline about meditation. It seems all sorts of folks are now seeing the power in simply sitting, breathing, and of training the mind to be in a mode of consciousness. People are embracing the power of this self-regulating technique in the workplace, on the athletic field, in the classroom, and in their personal lives. Today's poem is my attempt to capture the tranquility, but difficulty, of being in the present moment. Here is a link that may be helpful.

this poem is about sitting

for all the world to see
not on the top of a building
or at the front of a ship at sea
but here and now
in this poem
upon this ground
that is solid and fair
it is about looking at this moment in time,
not ahead or behind

this poem is about sitting
not with my head in the clouds
or in the sand
not anywhere but here

there is coffee to drink
and there are dishes to do
there are authors to read
poems to write
lights to turn off
dust to sweep
engine oil lights to check
noses to wipe
kisses to give (can i do that in this poem about sitting?)

this poem is about sitting
not as black or white
democrat or republican
American or Vietnamese
this poem is not about choosing
between chunky or smooth
appetizers or a main dish
brown or white rice
caffeine or decaf
chocolate or vanilla
butter or no butter
toilet paper rolled over or under
i see you smile -- you have this same dilemma
there are more...
flannel or crisp 100% cotton
pedal down or on cruise control
long or short
smooth or rough
for here or to go?

to go, to go where?
where is everyone going?
ok, sorry, don't answer that,
this is a poem about sitting
in the moment
breathing in the fresh air of life
and listening to it
each and every deep ambiguous breath
in and out
listen to it
and to nothing else
let nothing disturb your equanimity

do not let your sixth grade teacher in to this poem about sitting
or your ex boyfriend
or the last song you heard on Pandora radio
or cartoons you remember from your youth
or start to plan out your next meal
there is no time to hum the "living spaces" ad
this is not a poem about walking or talking or thinking
about the past or the future
this poem requires no plans


and now it is done.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Headline Poem 1/26/14 -- swim

(Photo credit global

This man is 104. He is a competitive swimmer, and is breaking records. A new age group is being created because he is about to turn 105.


like an elderly polar bear,
slow and respected,
stopping means death
that is not an option,
not yet

doctors say he should not swim
rest, stay on the sidelines
that would kill him within

his arms are injured,
but he gently plunges in
he loves the challenge
of competing against no one

alone in the water
fragile body gracefully
makes its way from one end to the other
he savors every slow moment

cheers urge him on
wet lanes welcome
the aches, muscles, and pain
they disappear
only rhythm remains

head taps the side of the pool
no need to check the footage
he's won

after the race,
he glides over to the side
where there is
a walker waiting for assistance

if only he could swim on land...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Headline Poem 1/25/14 -- My dream is to wake

(Photo credit Angelo Merendino)

Today's headline poem is based on the love story of Jennifer and Angelo. Jennifer, pictured above, passed away in December of 2011, at age 40, from breast cancer. Her husband captured the entire battle in photographs. His pictures take us on their journey of strength and integrity -- of dying, and and loving someone who is dying. Today on his Facebook page, "My Wife's Fight with Breast Cancer," he posted that he is selling copies of the picture above to raise funds to participate in an exhibit in Maine, where he will once again share the story of he and his beautiful wife.

My dream is to wake

My dream is to wake every morning,
rested from a night of sweet slumber
Wrapped in crisp, breathable sheets
To these eyes of brown 
And the smile that melts all hearts

It is a dream because although I wake to the beauty,
it is only in pictures that I see the most amazing woman,
and touch the softest of skin

She is shared with the world now
Cancer took her
like she has taken us

We are still allowed to dream, laugh, spin, be free

I want to always remember the love of life through death
the fragility of it
the complete powerless vulnerability that is breath
the smell of seasons and salt, and fresh cut grass
my dream is to wake, taking all of this in
because she cannot

Now she smiles elsewhere with her healthy body 
and soulful love, always near, but never here

knowing his dream is to wake, 
beside her, 
she follows him where he goes... he knows 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Headline Poem 1/24/14 -- Although there is a baby

Today's headline poem is about a woman in Texas who is brain dead, pregnant, and on life support.  Her husband and family claim she would not want to live this way, her lawyer says the baby is "abnormal," and today a judge ordered she be taken off life support by Monday. 

Although there is a baby

Although there is a baby,
Where is the dignity 
as a woman 
Unable to breathe and bathe 
Birth her unborn child on her own continues to lie but not thrive?

Although there is a baby,
What kind of life exists when she cannot feel the baby inside,
of movements and precious moments
Milestones undocumented?

Born to a brother and father 
the memory of her,
Mother who tried to carry you 
Together now and forever
Life outside the womb 
Is not meant to be 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Headline Poem 1/23/14 -- a shorthand goodbye

(Photo credit Yahoo News) 

My grandmother used to write in shorthand while talking on the phone. I had never seen that style of writing until a few days before she died. She wrote something on a piece of paper while in a hospital bed with a window view. We have yet to figure out what it says, but after reading today's headline about how the internet continues to help crack the code of a grandmother's notes before dying, perhaps I will try to solve our puzzle as well.  

a shorthand goodbye

there is something regal about the city in spring
she made it through the winter
she can do anything
eyes crystal, warm and clear, like looking at a painting, 
or the reflection in the mirror... 
my body is lying in a bed, but I am far from there
up at my house with the view, the most incredible view 
on the phone with a girlfriend
writing in shorthand
twirling my hair
making plans for a game of bridge
the windows are open
it is a balmy spring afternoon
the wind blows through
five weeks past my forty-fourth birthday 
I am young again
I have a room filled with jewels and clothes and a bathtub made for a queen
he treats me like a queen, though sometimes he has a wondering eye --
most men do
I am far from the room in which they all gather, 
staring at me, saying their prayers
I appreciate them, I hear them, I love them, and I will miss them
I am forty-four though, legs crossed, necklace dangling, laughing on the phone
doodling and taking notes
dating the conversation like I date everything else, documenting that I was here, and when...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Headline Poem 1/22/14 -- call of courage

Tonight I wrote this poem about a 28-year-old-woman who called and confronted her former basketball coach and teacher she claims started sexually abusing her when she was 12 years old, and a student at a Riverside middle school. The accuser recorded the conversation on her phone, and posted a video on YouTube. The video has gone viral, the now assistant principal has resigned, and the investigation is ongoing. Today, a second victim came forward. 

call of courage

her hands shook 
as she made the call
she had been waiting to make 
for 16 years
she wanted no other children violated
by the disgusting 
and manipulative 
who took her childhood 
and left her 
with nothing
but a long-paused regret 
and the admission of wrong

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Headline Poem 1/21/14 -- Salt and Blood

(Photo credit Reuters)

Today's poem is based on the headline regarding the dolphin killings in Japan's Taiji Cove. I understand that the anger here is caused by the brutality in the trapping and killing of beautiful and extremely smart creatures. These dolphins are deceived, unfed, and trying to escape the bloodied waters. I wonder about slaughterhouses, hunting, eating meat, and the role of culture and traditions. Of course, I have more questions than answers...

Salt and Blood

they only know to trust
not the hands that feed them
because they have never been fed by hands

trust in the water filled with salt
trust in routes and instincts that lead to food, breeding, and home

salt clouds water before it settles
sometimes dissolving, unnoticed
sometimes masking the alarming distaste of a thing
it can distract
it can burn

when it is mixed with blood that oozes from trappings and trauma,
it stings,
it hurts

we beg to swim and float in it, yet we use it
to kill
our ancestors did it -- does that make it okay?

we are outraged by the sight,
but eat pigs and cows and chickens
(sometimes even while visiting aquarium parks),
fattened up only to be led down a waddling walk of shame,
so forcefully obese they can hardly move
slaughtered behind closed, bloody doors
stunned, brain dead, hung, bled, skinned, cut, packaged, and shipped to our dinner table
does that make it okay?

I have listened to students back from a November week away, talk about the
animals wild and free whose meat fills their refrigerators
our family will eat well
does that make it okay?

Meanwhile, I glamorize the Alaska Frontier, but wonder if I'd ever have the guts to kill and prepare the animals I eat every single day 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Headline Poem 1/20/14 -- Happy, now and then

(Photo credit Pinterest)

Today's poem came from the headline, "Happier people keep healthier as they age." It makes sense that the happier you are, the healthier you are. The article even notes that helping older people stay happy is good for the individual, and for society. I just finished a bike ride and picnic with my husband and three kids, and this article from LiveScience inspired me to reflect a bit on my life now, and then.

Happy, now and then

I know there will be a day when I will wake not because there is work to do but because there is nothing particular to do, and I will decide where, and if, I'd like to begin

The house will demand straightening, but the beds upstairs will already be made in the mornings, instead of messy from dreams of goblins and princesses -- oh how I will miss that!

There will be no cereal, or jelly on the table after breakfast, no socks littered at the bottom of the stairs (unless they're mine), no yelling out reminders to brush hair and teeth, or time-left warnings of 5 and ten minutes until... 

I know one day I will calmly walk through the house contemplating which album to play the whole way through 
My husband and I will sit peacefully on the porch, like we do now, listening to the church bells and birds, and talk about the day

We will smile fondly, even longingly, when a young family passes by... we remember those days, we will say -- it wasn't easy, but it sure was fun

I know that one day life will be simpler and quieter and completely up to me, and him -- we will have made it through the wild years, and will know what that means like no one else

Memories of us are ours, things only  we've shared will hang in picture frames, and be recalled over dinner with friends 
The relief will show in loving lines across our faces, deep and defined, because we earned them 

We will be super heroes with silver hair sharing a life that's completely different, but still ours, ready for round two 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Headline Poem 1/19/14 -- Syria

(Photo credit

Syria is a place I have never visited. My grandfather's father was from there. It seems every day I read of more lives lost in this war-torn place. Today, the headline that caught my eye is Iran being invited to attend the Syrian peace conference. Hopefully, there can be peace there soon. Makes me wonder if I'll ever be able to visit the far off places my family members once called home... time will tell. 


Abandoned Aleppo
Name changed 
American soil becomes home
Left before his own blood could stain the walls red
Different women cook old recipes
Liquor smooth and wet, 
they adjust 
Belly laughs pierce new rooms
While he wonders if future great-great grandchildren will ever return 
to the place he left 
before he knew them

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Headline Poem 1/18/14 -- Maria Rose

(Photo credit KPBS)

There are fires burning, and no rain in sight. Today's headline poem is based on the news that California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency in our state. Mother Nature may still surprise us, but right now, farmers are hurting, and water must be conserved. In the meantime, I write this poem for a make-believe farm woman I will never know.

Maria Rose

for a hundred years my family lived here on this unpredictable land
foolishly patient when the calendar betrayed and punished,
forgiven the next year when magic storms brought life and comfort
amazing that water from the sky can bring relief like nothing else can

at her mercy year after year, preparations made for a party no one might attend,
stood up, all no-shows, again
the nothing years starved and paralyzed
the only thing alive were scorpions and mocking cracks, thriving while they slowly died

my mother carried her doll, smooth with fabric for skin
through fields,
brothers hunkered down, while she and her sisters stayed close to home
the dirt in her fingernails never washed away
not even the rain could make clean the brown hands of
farm kids
a stone-throw from town, they lived in a different world
foreign even to their cousins who were never allowed to roam the way my mother and her siblings were

cracks in the earth widened, thickened and deepened each year
prevented from living a life of luxury, the fields demanded constant swerving, and back bending,
so much to tend to

like rust in a well, the orange color is beautiful, but it doesn't belong
they all knew
scrapes on knees went unkissed
there were too many knees

the bottoms of rivers once covered with water, swift and swollen,
like my grandmother's belly, pregnant every other year for twenty, now dry
the loyalty fades
the younger generation angry at their parents
we are not as patient as you!
we do not have to stay!

they did, until one warm January afternoon when my grandmother laid down for the last time
roots severed, cut and buried like the baby cords in too-hard ground
the only one worth staying for was now gone

Friday, January 17, 2014

Headline Poem 1/17/14 -- fish deaths

(Photo credit

Today's poem is based on scientific results that reveal the reason behind a catastrophic fish kill in a lake in Nevada -- depleted oxygen levels.

fish deaths

i am struggling to swim
i must gain oxygen
   there is not
i am suffocating
it's a shame us stocked fish cannot survive
      in a lake

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Headline Poem 1/16/14 -- Tribute to Meryl Streep

(Photo credit BBC)

2014 Oscar nominations were announced this morning. Meryl Streep has been nominated for yet another one. She doesn't keep track, so I am not going to worry about how many. I know it's a lot. She is one of my all-time favorite actress. Today's headline poem is dedicated to her.

Tribute to Meryl Streep

It's easy to get caught up in the glitter and fanciness that is Hollywood
Seems all some care about is bling and fancy shit

When I am discouraged by award show madness
Focused on weight and height
Breasts, beards, bronze, or light 
Designers, jewels, and the secret society rules --
who won't attend because they are off gallivanting again
Taking a stand against the Industry man
(who pays their bills, but won't share a table)

There is Meryl Louise Streep

Of course, a stranger
Knows nothing about me, nor I of her,
except for what she has looked like every year of her life since 1979, and 
what I read on Wikipedia...
Married to the same man, four kids
a Cancer
Born June 22, 1949 in New Jersey
Vassar, Yale, and an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Princeton U.

she reminds me of the art behind the game
the grace
and class
the honing of skills
the pushing of limits
being relevant by being real

She is a woman behind her roles
make up is an addition, not a distraction
she becomes who the part demands she becomes
for her, for them, for us

With her we stroll lanes,
rage down rivers, and 
sit anxiously in courtrooms and corridors
she is a bitch, she is a whore,
she is timid, she roars
like lions out of Africa,
she is complex,
she is complicated... 

she sounds like all of us

Germany, Switzerland, England, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, 
She has a maternal great-grandmother named Mary Agnes McFadden from Clondahorky, Ireland 
Oh to have a conversation with Mary Agnes McFadden!
Perhaps we already have...

Headline Poem 1/15/14 -- Crooked Priorities


Today's headline poem is based on 25-year-old Clayton Kershaw's $215 million seven-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Crooked Priorities

Three kids jump in
Driving home from school
Half-eaten lunches become afternoon snacks
My eyes on the road, ears open as they all wanna go at once...
Art was fun, my friend was mean, we dissected a cow's eyeball...

That's a lot of money!
my boy gasps 
when he hears the man's radio voice 
For baseball?! 
"Couldn't that be used for something else?"

Like pieces of a high-rise puzzle all laid out, where do I start?

Dinner at the table
We say,
Eat until you are full
Do not go to excess
Take what you need
Do not waste

Good advice. 

Meanwhile... hypocrites make turkey sandwiches for a homeless man wearing blue 

Game starts at six

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Headline Poem 1/14/14 -- selfie surrender

(Photo credit Paul Zizka/Caters News)

I love photography, and I love nature. Great pictures tell stories; they capture special moments in time that will never happen again. "Selfie" is a new term, and most people know what this is -- pictures taken of yourself. Plenty of people post selfies on Instagram and Facebook on a daily basis. We see people, appropriately and inappropriately, capturing their whereabouts and what-doings. We have become comfortable sharing #widn "What I'm doing now" with others. 

The headline that caught my eye today was "Photographer puts everyday selfies to shame." Whether these pictures are selfies or not, is up for debate. Nonetheless, they are beautiful images of man and nature co-existing. The artist, Paul Zizka, truly captures the intensity and calm of our natural world. Here is a link to some of his photography, and here is my headline poem for the day...

selfie surrender

blades of green grass
soil brown as it should be
moist stillness, endless gaze
messages swirl with nightly winds
peacefully he sits
selfie surrender 

measurements of height irrelevant in the night
do not stand
run your fingertips along the speechless earth
patiently waiting for absolutely nothing
the joy in surrendering to no words
no room for pictures not present
all else seems false and materialistic
hard to explain to those who do not
peacefully he sits
selfie surrender

colors are real, here
not captured in a waxy stick
what i'm doing now
for all to see
an artist takes what has existed long before him and makes it new
peacefully he sits
selfie surrender

eyes open, no fear of blinking
it's been captured by a click
it's okay
moment saved to share and reflect
if you had to explain it, could you?
peacefully he sits
selfie surrender

Headline Poem 1/13/14 -- Bridge Days

(Photo credit USA Today)

I really didn't want to write about the headline(s) focused on the George Washington Bridge that connects New York to New Jersey.  But, it has become inevitable, and the scandal is demanding a headline poem of its own. Do I care about the details surrounding the cones-up "controversy?" No, not really. I care that people were inconvenienced for what might be a childish game of payback. I care that one man was late to his first day on at a new job after being unemployed for an entire year. I care that emergency personnel could not get to the scene of a crash as quickly as they should have been able to. I care that people's blood pressure rose unnecessarily. I care that this closure nonsense happened two days before the anniversary of September 11th. BUT, I'm not staying up at night worrying about who instigated the closure, who has been fired since, and how this will impact Christie's political career.

So, that leads me here to this page for my daily dose of poetic justice. What about this bridge trouble on the G-Dubya is worthy of a poem? How about a bit of history about the bridge? Or about the strong metaphoric value of bridges overall? I'm racking my brain here trying to think of something. And then... it comes to me -- a make believe character waiting to get to work. Enjoy!

Bridge Days

Coffee goes from hot to warm to cold
I always order two, black with two sugars, no cream
Today, one will do

Sitting on the bridge with my music
there is usually traffic
but this is ridiculous

This is my drive three days a week
New Jersey to New York and then back
These are my Bridge Days
Where I sit and wait, stop and go

My donuts are gone, 
I always get three 
No sprinkles or filling inside, just three glazed
Sometimes I finish them all by the time I reach the other side, sometimes one or two
Today, they're gone and then some
I fear I'll be sitting here for lunch

Trapped, I start to sing some Metallica, hoping it doesn't soon become Johnny Cash
Banging on my steering wheel
All slicked from the Armor All
recently applied

I pick at my scab, gross I know, but I am stuck here with no band-aid
And nothing else to do
I try to stop the blood with my Dunkin' Donuts napkin
now spotted like a poisonious frog,
Dried ones brown, fresh ones red

I notice the crack on my windshield
I've been meaning to get that fixed
Damn truck kicked up a rock
And one got stuck, boom right there in the center, it's starting to stretch out pretty bad

My car's just been washed and fueled up, shouldn't have chosen the piƱa colada flavor savor from the lobby, damn thing's giving me a headache

I'm not one of those internet folks I see while looking around, staring at their screens while stopped
Liking, tagging, following, sharing, complaining, and tweeting out crap
Tweets are for birds if you ask me
I've still got a flip phone
No point calling my wife, she'll see it on the news 

I just gotta get to the other side 
Before I start singing the blues
Like a bridge over troubled waters, 
here it comes... 
Move those freaking cones! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Headline Poem 1/12/14 -- Pant-less Practices

(Photo credit

No Pants Subway Ride #NPSR 2014 is here! Started in New York, NY 13 years ago, it's now an annual event. Improv Everywhere started this pantless tradition in 2002, and now people all over the world are partaking. The premise is to go without trousers, look "normal" on top, and if confronted, just pretend it's a coincidence that your fellow passengers are also without clothing on their lower halves. Obviously, this was pretty natural to write.

Pant-less Practices

People wait all year
To pounce on the subway or train
Wearing half of what they probably should
Partaking in pant-less practices,
Showered (hopefully) in pride, perfume, and undergarments, 
These bold, pragmatic pioneers 
Pretend it's all proper in spite of their silly, planned predicament. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Headline Poem 1/11/14 -- Hemline

(Photo credit Esquire)

Today's poem is based, loosely, on an article in The Salt Lake Tribune. The article is basically about Utah and marriage. It discusses a bit of Mormon history, and the main thesis is that Utah seems to always be on the ground level when it comes to both defining and legalizing marriage. There was a word used toward the end of the article, though, that caught my eye -- fabric. Seems everywhere you turn today people are talking about Polygamy. There are TV shows and images around every corner. If you've ever been to Utah, my guess is that you've encountered women with long, homemade dresses playing in a park with their family, or picking up some essentials at a local Walmart. When I read the word fabric, I pictured an image similar to the ones I've seen from various shows and encounters, like the one above, and wrote the following. 


Hemlines float across the grass
Pebbles and stickers accumulate 
Dirt and syrup mix to make a crusty, pasty substance
Good for nothing
So low to the ground you don't notice until you take it off later

Undressing, you start to wash a load of clothes,
Detergent, homemade with a bit of added rosemary and sage
Grandmother says it will warn off spirits and keep you in the mood for cooking food
What did she know about the collections found on too-long hemlines in the grass?

Roses in the distance recall the days of spring
Water droplets fresh and stuck
Clinging on to the smooth surface they know so well
Too cliche to say we all have thorns like the roses here above
Instead watch the droplets happy to get to smell the sweet fragrance all day, 
In no hurry to jump or get ahead 

She blows out the candle that was burning at both ends
satisfied, she goes to bed
Rocky cliffs in the distance sing a nighttime song
Sweet voice of sky and moon 
Nature's lullaby,
Laundry on the line brings smells of sage and rosemary 
The drying hemline

Friday, January 10, 2014

Headline Poem 1/10/14 -- Woolworth's February 1, 1960

(Photo credit PBS)

In the news today, Franklin McCain, one of the "Greensboro Four," has passed away. On the Smithsonian National Museum of American History it is stated, "On February 1,1960, four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth's in Greensboro, North Carolina, and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. Their passive resistance and peaceful sit-down demand helped ignite a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the South." This led to a six-month-long protest that eventually led to the desegregation of the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter on July 25, 1960. In honor of McCain, and the three other Greensboro young men who took a fearless stand toward segregation and injustice, I write today's headline poem.

Woolworth's February 1, 1960

college students hungry for some food
freshmen situated halfway between manhood and the world
no fear that day in 1960 when they sat upon the stools
left hungry because of their skin, bright stomach colors, gurgling hues

fifteen seconds after sitting down, invigorated, invincible, liberated
a natural high, unafraid, unaware of what they were about to do
told no food, night stick present, tap, tap, tap, warning, tension grew

older white woman watching the whole thing walks up and whispers
"boys, I'm so proud of you," lesson learned --
do not judge until you've had an opportunity to talk,
Harper Lee knows, Atticus knows --climb around in his skin and walk around in it
same year, different voice

Woolworth's closed for the night, do not go home and fight
more the next day -- 20, then 300, then Winston-Salem, Asheville, Durham, Charlotte
sit-ins lead to positive change, did it start on a dare?
inability to comprehend living a life of segregation
four young men, influencing more, six months later, all can be fed at the counter
hunger no more?

Richmond, McCain, Khazan, McNeil
bigger than these boys, McCain is the second one to go
54 years later
The Greensboro Two
we thank you

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Headline Poem 1/9/14 -- Squeezebox Expansion

(Photo credit The Atlantic)

I hope I don't embarrass my husband and his siblings too much, but as a kid in the early 1970's, his mom made a lot of their clothes. He has an older brother, a younger sister, and a younger brother, and they were all fortunate enough to wear handmade, matching outfits. Picture Christmas photos and a lot of plaid! To top it off, my husband and his older brother played the accordion. Oh ya! I'm sure it built character, and hey, musicians are hot right?! This leads me to today's headline from The Atlantic -- "Accordions: So Hot Right Now, once considered glamorous and sexy, then forgotten, the instrument is making a comeback."

The article explains that European immigrants introduced the accordion to the U.S. in the 1800's, but that it really started to take off just before World War I. It became cool, sexy, and important. By the 1950's it was one of the most played instruments, and heck even Elvis and Lennon rocked them! The accordion lost its popularity for awhile, but it is now back because of bands like Mumford and Sons, Arcade Fire, and The Lumineers. So, to recognize the hotness of the accordion, here is today's headline poem. Enjoy!

Squeezebox Expansion

compressing and expanding
of the squeezebox expansion
not an easy task
keys, buttons, pallets, reeds
produces vibration that produces sound
in and out
not made for the weak of 
sweat dripping from the brow,
falls heavily onto the instrument
the sound
bodies and grilles
mechanisms meant to 

mumford and sons belts out tunes
youtube 'white blank page' 
tell me accordion,
"where is my fault in loving you,
with my whole heart"

gratifying, pleasing
miraculously melting your
sitting on the park bench
at the screen
you will be tapping
ebbing and flowing 
your own imaginary, invisible 


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Headline Poem 1/8/14 -- Haiku for Lions in West Africa

(Photo credit The Guardian)

Today's poem is for lions in West Africa, who now, according to an article today in LiveScience, are on the brink of extinction. Staff writer Tina Ghose writes that there are currently only 250 adults confined to 1 percent of their historic range. In order to save these threatened cats, governments and conservation organizations must increase budgets. Otherwise, they could be gone within the next five years.

Haiku for Lions in West Africa

Lions on the brink
Majestic, endangered cats
Conservation now

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Headline Poem 1/7/14 -- Pass the Cheese!

(Photo credit

For today's poem I wanted to find something a bit funny, weird, and out of the ordinary. After all, this is the day that completes my first full week of writing a poem-a-day-based-on-a-headline. (I feel like there should be a hashtag there somewhere #atruereflectionof2014). I wanted something that really caught my eye, you know like, "Clown Leaves Circus, Claims Costumes are Too Restricting!" Or "Landlord Evicts Tenant After She Posts Signs for Missing Fleas." I found this -- a Velveeta shortage! I hope it's not too cheesy. :) 

Pass the Cheese!

This just in...
We are experiencing a shortage
Caused by high demand
Sorry for the timing, but
Our advice is to load up on our brand

Advertising Age, the trade publication,
Started all this mess
Since when is Velveeta seasonal?
I call BS!

In the weeks leading up to the Superbowl
We have "factors" "contributing" to a "shortage"
Of cheesy, liquid gold!?

Milk protein concentrate
Whey protein concentrate
Sodium phosphate
Less than 2% of salt

Someone must be feeling nostalgic
Up in mighty Cheeseville-land
In the 1930's
Velveeta gained the upper hand
American Medical Association's seal of approval
For all those gooey curds and whey

Surely someone can cut enough  
So that these hungry dippers can dig in and play

The timing seems perfectly set up
Staged just right you see
Get more cheese!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Headline Poem 1/6/14 -- how did he get there?

(Photo credit Jacquelyn Martin AP) 

Today's poem came to me while reading an article in the Los Angeles Times. A man, Nicholas Simmons, went missing on New Year's Day from New York. His family had been frantically searching for him, only to find him by seeing his picture in the newspaper. An AP photographer, Jacquelyn Martin, was assigned to the White House for the weekend, but with President Obama being out of town, decided to look for the perfect shot to show the cold weather in Washington D.C. She introduced herself to the young man, and took his picture. He was with other homeless men near the U.S. Capitol, huddled up against a grate attempting to keep warm. How he got there, and why, is unknown.

how did he get there?

hands frozen from the cold
dirty blanket
far from home
was it purchased from a store,
     bought before?
or did someone share it with him knowing he needed warmth?

nails dirty,
     but not as dirty as theirs
they've been there for months
him, only a few days
     days of haze
clouds of confusion
swirling like flakes of snow
glittering light
spinning darkness

a cat in a window
pressed up against the glass
longing to be out in the world
longing to go back

     how did he get there?

safety is an afterthought
safe from you?
safe from them?
     safe from him?

cold air brings relief
able to feel
limbs numb
     does he feel?

memories hot from sunshine
head there
body here
streets of nothingness
     his face pressed up against the grate

that's him
in the picture
"my baby looks so lost and
i will be spending the rest of my life making him well"

     pictures speak to strangers, are you listening? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Headline Poem 1/5/14 -- Inheriting a Marriage

(Photo credit

Today's poem is based on the news in Italy regarding Pope Francis and gay marriage. The Vatican is denying that Pope Francis directly supports gay marriage, and claims his recent statements reveal that he is sensitive to the fact that domestic situations are changing. Not all children go home to two married parents, and if they do, it's not necessarily a man and a woman.

Regardless of where the Pope, or anyone, stands on this topic, today's poem is for all of us. Whether you grew up in a home with a happy marriage, a broken marriage, or no marriage at all, you inherited one. We all did. 

Inheriting a Marriage 

The knobs of knees 
Worn from prayer
Do not go gentle into that altered night
Like fins in an algae covered net, you will be trapped 

Inheriting a marriage 
Decades later 
Different jewels 
Remember not the jaded rules
Lacking smiles 
Palms smooth from running the hands of the devil across the soul
Jagged edges no more

Inheriting a marriage 
That's not my name 
The mirror belongs to no one
The soap, the winter chill
Frozen water is not ice 
It is melted love 
Cold, but not hard
Do not freeze 

Inheriting a marriage
Two together walking side by side
Compassionate strangers in life
Cradle full of the makings of one
Hide while you can
This one will run

Inheriting a marriage
Stand not in my shadows
Make your own
Four working hands
Skip, create, love
Messy smiles 
Sloppy floors 
Hilarious togetherness
A partnership of understanding 
Not always in like, but always in love

Inheriting a marriage 
Voices don't match, but the words are the same 
Wood rotten from the inside
The house is standing 
No one can figure out how 

Inheriting a marriage
The fish swim upstream
They die together
Brown, black, yellow, orange, cream

Inheriting a marriage
Respect your partner
Nurture their soul and your own
Touch their skin
Listen to them dream
Be kind 
Remember that when they hurt, you hurt
The greatest gift you can give is your heart 
That's the madness, that's the art

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Headline Poem 1/4/14 -- Hercules out, Ion in

(Photo credit Frank Franklin II/AP)

Today's poem is inspired by the departing winter storm 'Hercules,' and the incoming storm 'Ion.' I'm watching the weather channel, and although I am amazed, it is hard to relate. I've been in snow, in cold temperatures, but I've never shoveled my car out of it, and I've never been stuck inside more than a few days. Snow Days? We don't have those in Southern California. What a wimp huh?! 

Hercules out, Ion in

Arctic freeze
Frostbite lingers
Frigid, frosty, swathing air
Stay home people, stay home
Connecticut Govenor warns, "Do not put your tongue on a pole..." Har, har, har

Hercules departs, Ion begins 
Green Bay vs 49er forecast is 1 degree
1 degree!
Ion is a massive system
Negative temps looming
Snow in Denver
Slick roads
Detroit 8-12 inches
A lot to deal with

Energy with two combined forces
Wind blowing in all directions
Dangerously cold
Frozen tundra 
Coldest in 20 years
13 dead

Second winter blast coming
Be safe, take advantage of the break
It's right around the corner...
Respond and prepare!
Holiday travelers stopped in tracks
Plans snarled
Grounded for days

Forecast at home is 72 degrees

Friday, January 3, 2014

Headline Poem 1/3/14 -- Unwed & Shamed

(Photo credit npr)

Today's poem is based on a story I read/listened to on NPR this morning about two pregnant teenagers, who, in 1968, were sent to a home for unwed mothers. They gave birth, left their babies for adoption, and were forced to never talk about it again. 

Unwed & Shamed 

Just eight years before my own birth
These things happen
To girls
To girls
To girls
Their mothers sent them away 
Go to Massachusettes to live in a home 
Change your name
Do not discuss this
Sad at night, she cried herself to sleep, feeling the baby move inside
Arms strapped to a bed
They were told nothing about giving birth
How many said 'yes' when the doctor asked if the young mothers wanted to see their new babies?
How many said 'no'?
Did the fathers know?
The babies were adopted
The mothers, er, girls went home
Never speak of this again
Questions avoided
Stress accumulated
Loads of heavy shame bundled up and carried
Everything changed
Nothing changed
Do you hear me? 
Nothing changed
You no longer have to lie 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Headline Poem 1/2/14 --

(Photo credit

This poem is written about an article found in the San Francisco Chronicle about a website that helps farmers find love... -- "Save a horse, try a cowboy"
Sun up, sun down life does not leave much time for love
City folk don't understand
I can't meet for a nighttime coffee, I have to get up to feed the animals at 5 a.m.!
The rural lifestyle leaves some stuck in a routine lacking love
Must drive for hours to meet someone you are not related to
Only one tavern in town
30 single men and one waitress
All these boys are like my brothers... we've been friends since we were kids
At first this site didn't really take off
Tricky with no internet access
Now, there are farmers checking dates with their Smartphones while tending to their crops and chores
Hard to find the one when you are a fourth generation rancher who does not leave home
Life revolves around the sun and seasons
Farmer man meets farmer woman
A family of four now -- every day they eat lunch together and pray
A 100-year-old almond farm in Glenn County has found love

Headline Poem 1/1/14 -- Homage to a priest

Happy 2014! I am going to attempt to write a poem each day based on a headline in the news. I have no clue where this will lead, and if this starts to become a chore, I will stop, because the last thing I want is for writing and staying informed to be something I "have to do." The first day of 2014 was great on a personal level. I spent the day relaxing with my beautiful family on the Northcoast of California; however, the New Year's Day headline that caught my eye was a sad one. Here is my first poem of 2014, based on a story in the Eureka Times Standard about a local priest's murder. Total downer, I know... BUT, in spite of the horrible crime, I am writing my first poem to pay tribute to this man of God, a stranger, and to start the process of documenting this year of news, in my words. May 2014 bring adventures, health, and love!

(Photo credit Eureka Times Standards)

Homage to a priest

A popular priest found dead in the church rectory
January 1st, 9 a.m.
He did not show for morning mass
Something is wrong with Rev. Freed -- please pray
The ambulance is called off
This is a homicide instead
The killer is at large
Church littered with yellow caution tape
On the first day of the new year
Yellow is the color of sunshine and flowers and love
Today it is of endings and crime and danger
The investigation is ongoing
Be aware