Monday, March 31, 2014

Headline Poem 3/31/14 -- Down the road

I read this headline today -- about a dying man and his daughter. The community came together to create a special memory for them. One line caught my eye, "Down the road." Of course having lost my own dad young, I understand that line. The little memories I have mean so much, and down the road, they make me smile, and love everyday. 

Down the road

Years from now, down the road, you'll remember the aisle
you walked holding his hand, the last gift he ever gave to you, solid, where layers upon layers of hope and fear collide, in this memory, for life. 
You know he'd give anything to stay, but he can't. That's not how it works. 
Like a pebble, small but mighty, you'll smile with sunshine in your eyes, happy to have lived with him, happy to be alive. 

Down the road, there will be times when you'll curse the stars, and be upset for what you are without. 
You'll know how longing feels, true. 
But, you'll also know how high you can climb, and that you have gifts, insights, and a friend on the other side. 
This loss will allow you to connect with others who know how it feels, famous authors, strangers, and characters who seem real. 
Life will lead you through adventures, license plates will pass from differents states and countries. 
People will share their memories with you, letting him live on through them. 

The hardest part may come when you have children of your own. 
You'll be sad for what you are without, and may fear what they could lose, like you, but it will teach you about strength and being nice. 
There may be some who will try to knock you down, who will see your vulnerability as weakness, and may even try to use it to get ahead. 
You'll see through them. 
You'll see what's real.
Vulnerability is strength. It means you are alive. It means you feel. 
Trust your gut, even when some people say you have a hole. Do not let them tell you that is weak. Holes are everywhere. 
If someone tries to use that against you, know that they are probably hurt. 

Write love letters, write for you, even if someone tells you not to. 
Climb mountains. Jump with frogs. Drink fine wine. Laugh at yourself. 
Visit with true friends. 
Listen to poems. Let them take you where they will. 
Let the ocean splash inside of you. 
And no matter what, give and receive love.
His absence will hurt, but it is also the greatest gift. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Headline Poem 3/30/14 -- The Beggar & The Skeptic

I read this article today about beggars in Hawick, on High Street. Here is the link. I think this is England, excuse my ignorance. I also saw a few beggars on my own today while driving through Las Vegas, Nevada. One in particular, mixed with this headline, led to today's poem, "The Beggar & The Skeptic."

The Beggar & The Skeptic 

She sleeps on a bed carved from olive roots, 
A castaway since birth,
with unforgiving sight, and crooked teeth
A poisoned eagle's message lures her,
a liar says it's time to leave
Go disguised in the morning when you rise
Walk through the desert and weeds, do not stop,
until you reach the wild sea, (pretending to be peaceful and trouble free)
The beggar abides, hopeful to please 

He smokes from his two-faced opal pipe, 
smirking as he watches with two shrouded men
She begs, as she was told, for anything the giving hands will give,
food, money, madness, advice 
She receives
The howling winds and skeptic plus two all watch her silent scream
They used to beg with wailing rocks, they used to believe, these skeptics three
She does not stop, plowing through concrete jungles chalked with dirty intentions, 
worse than coyote cries and sunburned eyes
As a child she was covered in salt

The beggar lies, the beggar lies
The skeptic justifies, the skeptic justifies

Days turn to years, when she reaches the sea, the eagle flies, talons deep, the beggar and the skeptic plus two meet
They are the same
Reunited, only to be asked to flee
It's not safe, say the skeptics three 

The wise man circles his hands, mixing smoke and images in his mind
He draws a picture, and says they must go east
The skeptic questions, the beggar agrees

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Headline Poem 3/29/14 -- A Spring Sojourn

For many, this week begins Spring Break. There are a few headlines swirling about this recess to recharge, but I'll focus on the break part. One of my favorite words, sojourn, comes to mind. Rest, reside, temporarily travel to places near and far that make you happy, and that feel like home. Today's poem is about my own spring pilgrimage. I also added a little tribute to Mother Earth, who last night, shook things up a bit with an evening earthquake in Southern California. 

A Spring Sojourn 

my soul
calls home

Each year, unique beginnings
replacement hitches, flat tires, and infamous leaks,
You get the gas, I'll take out the trash
Six pairs of socks, at least, yes, bring your rain coat, and don't forget the dog leash 
Where is the dog? Susanna! 
Through the hustle and bustle, the earth shakes, a reminder of who's in charge
You're only entitled to so much control
Prepping for the windy roads,
I sing along to my favorite travel songs --
Fast Car, Get Out The Map, Carolina On My Mind...
Rejoice in the chaos and noise, omm,
we bicker like my grandparents used to,
they stayed in love omm 
Morning turns into early afternoon, neighbors' beautiful grandkids play with ours on the lawn
Everything's packed, shit, tires are practically flat -- give them more air, easier to travel when you're full
One more stop for cash, and we're on the road
Umm mom, pull over as soon as you can, the Thule is loose on the van! 
Cars whiz by, let's go!
Fed-Ex trucks on their way with deliveries, orders, good, and bad news, wrapped, licked, and stamped
Ice cream dessert in the desert, almost to our first stop, 
Sin City, where boy meets world, flashback to our oldest at five years old, processing the Circus in the stars, and naked women scattered on the floor
Bug-eyed, mommy, whoa, mommy whoa
It's okay buddy, let's go
As the years pass, we discuss
Same places, different faces, all on the way to our temporary home
a spring sojourn 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Headline Poem 3/28/14 -- A Major Divide

Millionaire Row on Troost Street (Photo credit NPR)
I read this article today about a major divide in Kansas City, Missouri.

A Major Divide

Top of the morning to ya with a tip of your tall black hat, on millionaire row,
slums submerged just below 
the surface. 
A prominent shift divides already divided lines,
race and class and economics 
hit you in the face, a punching bag of fate. 

Ripped and shredded, cut deep, 
lives no mirror can place,
distorted beyond recognition, 
widening the break between 
the white and black, the have and have-nots,
the poor meet not-poor, 
hard to ask "how do you do?"
when you are not a part of them, nor are they a part of you
the language sounds the same, but it's spoken in different tongues. 

Money is thick, on Troost Street. 
Wads of cash, flash, green.
Troost Street lines separate more than cars and pedestrians. 
School children sit and observe the push and pull, 
parents fearful they might congregate,
together black hands and white hands, voices shrill, we need more lines!

Manipulate -- do not desegregate. 
I to you, and you to them. 
We are not friends.
We do not share the flight down
the major, divided street in which the hate cannot escape. 
Money creates what money creates.

East of Troost, down on 18th and Vine, you will find 
more of your kind.
Before you bridge here to there on etched-in lines, you must decide 
if it's worth it to dissolve time. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Headline Poem 3/27/14 -- Beacon Street

Boston (Photo credit Boston Herald)
New England quarterback Tom Brady watched this morning as a fire burned in Boston, a few doors down from his house on Beacon Street. Here is the headline. Two firefighters died in the blaze. I wrote today's poem as a song. I tend to do this, humming to a tune in my head. I think I could sing some of these poems to life if I could only learn to play my guitar that is starting to collect dust in the corner of my room.

Beacon Street  

It must have been scary
It must have been sacred
It must have been surreal
For you

Out there on the ledge
all of the life lines
just passing right by
For you 

All of the times that we made our sweet love
I had forgotten about you
But times like this lead all of us to take some time to 
just recall what's real

It must have been scary
It must have been sacred
It must have been surreal 
For you

Out on the ledge
The fire's burnin'
My wheels are turnin'
and I'll do anything to stay alive right here 
You should have studied a little harder
and stopped a bit less in your tracks

The years have been blurred now,
and I just I wish I'd tried a bit harder
back then 

Right now there's a ladder 
it's climbin' right up here
it's going higher out there 
No matter what, I'm at his mercy
Please God, don't take me, not yet
Please Lord don't leave me
Please let me stay here 
and be
Please let me stay here 
and be

I'm just not ready
Somebody needs me
I'm not too steady
down here 

Out on this ledge now,
But please
Just leave me down here 
I'll tremble less down here 

First kiss is flashin'
First love is teasin'
First loss is trickin'
First miss is missin'
Right here

I close my eyes, the smoke is blindin'
Last embrace, last call, last smile, last glimmer of sunshine
I thought it was too bright, 
but boy was I wrong
down here  

Out on the ledge now, they all flash right by,
and I realize
it's time

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Headline Poem 3/26/14 -- Almost Indigo

Harlem, NY (Photo credit Google Image) 

You know that feeling that you've met someone before, been somewhere before, and are connected to a stranger you have no reason to feel connected to other than it just feels right, like your paths crossed because that was part of the plan, and the way it's just supposed to be? Think about those that you know, and those that you used to know who are no longer in your life... they may be alive, but they are ghosts. Some are in them and still feel far away. Then, think about some of the places you've been that just feel like home, whether it's the first time or the tenth time you've been there. Today's poem is about this constant drifting of people in and out of our lives -- teaching us, envying us, loving us, and changing us. It is based loosely on the line I read in this headline about a woman who moved from Oakland, Ca. to Harlem, NY. -- because it felt like home. 

Almost Indigo

Resting somewhere between blue and violet, there are days when it's hard to believe I'm part of the same rainbow
From India to Europe and back to Greece, I traveled the natural world without release
Why did I leave in the first place?
If I were her and she were me, would we believe the things we've seen, or would we be fools to go based on sight alone?
We are the color blue, with different tones

There's a letter on the fridge, I hung there before our stupid war
I never dreamed that would be how I'd learn cursive,
those times are no more
I hung on to that piece of paper like nothing before
This was when she became almost indigo, almost a ghost,
which are supposed to be white, but she taught me ghosts can wear any color, be anything
There is no set attire for those who seek to come and go

Harlem was like a secret, flushed, I'd wake to the memories of my dreams of this place
waiting for me by the bus, kissing him, and holding it
alleys and restaurants, drinks ordered and delivered in shiny blue-green glasses, heels under the table, coy,
almost indigo

Oakland held me as long as I'd let it, but
the key and lock and latch and safe rusted, needing to be abandoned like a dog with a full belly,
at least you've been fed, now go, now go

Almost indigo, I did my research by checking the stars and the constellations
I knew about Libras and Capricorns, and sensed when it was the right time to go
more grounded than you'd ever know... but God doesn't give just anyone Sagittarius Rising, and a song like mine
there is no way these wings are supposed to hover rather than fly

thank you
your letters meant everything to me, but I got so caught up in them that I thought I couldn't do it on my own
I had to learn that I could do it on my own
in Harlem, my home

the lady on the corner knew I had the gift, just like I knew she'd given birth to a son named Jeremiah
she wanted to run when I took her palm and started to trace the lines
she knew I knew
she knew
she knew she wasn't home
almost indigo, it was time for her to go...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Headline Poem 3/25/14 -- They Say

Darrington, Washington landslide (Photo credit Google Image) 

Yesterday, authorities told loved ones, and the world, that there were no survivors from Malaysia Flight 370. All passengers and crew perished in the Indian Ocean, they say. The survivors want evidence, and there is none. Also in the news since Saturday are the headlines about the Darrington, Washington landslide. They are looking for survivors, but are finding more bodies each day. Here is a CNN article about 9 questions that still are lingering regarding the flight disappearance, and another about the deadly landslide. Today's poem is about what "they say" -- they being the media, and those watching, reporting, and sometimes, but not always, sharing they facts.

They Say

There was a man who blew me away
in the grey skies as we played,
and promised each other to stay 

wish so much that he would be here now
with me in the morning light,
but we know that it isn't right 
That's not how the story goes, 
I'm telling you it's hard to believe 
that he's not coming home
That's what they say 

Around here it's always sort of weird
spinning and skipping stones
I'm always, but never, alone 
He said he'd never leave 
He said he'd be in the rain 
He said he'd always stay 
But that's not how the story goes
He's not coming back to me 
That's what they say 

Staring out at miles looking for pieces of him
no yellow or white lines to blur 
just memories of fruit and baptisms 
There will come a day when my life will end
until then I'll just wait for him
they say things I don't want to hear 

I never wanted to let him down
I never wanted to live alone
they say I will 
they say I am

It's hard to believe he's not coming home 
what do they know
what do they know
what do they know 
what do they know 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Headline Poem 3/24/14 -- a little village of race fans awoke

(Photo credit Google Image)
This entire article is about how the company Burrtec Waste Industries in Fontana spent today cleaning up after the big NASCAR race at the Auto Club Speedway over the weekend. People had fun; beer and food were consumed. Some brought entire sets of furniture to leave behind after the weekend was over, and a waste company cleaned it up. That's it. I liked the second line of the article, which is the title of today's little poem about race fans and trash.

a little village of race fans awoke

crawling out of motorhomes and trailers
morning after steps slower than in days past
creep in on little fog beds
a reunion year after year of noise and energy
cheering and beer games create memories and waste
cleaning up debris and tokens of fun must go unnoticed
field interior becomes home
until the races are over
on monday morning
a little village of race fans awoke

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Headline Poem 3/23/14 -- Crazy of Days

Russian Navy Takes Over Ukrainian Sub in Crimea.  This image on the news triggered a conversation with one of my kids, and then a reflection on my part. Many of the things we tell our kids just don't make sense in "the real world." You can't just take something that doesn't belong to you... except submarines, countries, and other people's wives... crazy of days.

Crazy of Days

You and me in the crazy of days
Dividing fragments of heres and theres that we see
To make wholes we believe in and beds to lie in
Borders are changing and we have our hearts set on Zion

The submarine has been taken over
Submerged so long it doesn't realize it isn't over 
The nerve of the man to take the plaque and flag down 
Marking an exchangeable value that he can't take back now
Like before it was theirs
And then theirs 
And now ours

How do you explain this world to your kids?
We talk about shopping malls, lawsuits, and missing planes
But have countries killing their own, making stones, and throwing them 
Is the history in books so far removed, we no longer learn from it?

We can go to space if we have the funds 
Donate money to anyone
We can travel the world to volunteer 
As long as there are layovers to cheer
But not everyone is allowed to go 
Hard to believe, but the world is round and not fair

And then there are she and he and their affairs
Kissing one and making life with another
How do you explain what we've read and seen to each other? 

There's a key hole to peep and another to pry in 
When you're older we hope that you use the right one

Until then please watch both sides
Read this and that and then make up your own damn minds
Learn how to think and how to discover
The world is not ours, but it's ours to wonder and uncover 

Me and you in the crazy of days 
One step turns into four and then five, and more
We are the ones who we need to rely on
For the mouth that we feed becomes what we need, and so on

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Headline Poem 3/22/14 -- son of a nazi

Aribert Heim with his son RĂ¼diger in Germany (Photo credit The Atlantic)  
Today's headline is "Being the Son of a Nazi."  Few words are needed if you choose to read the article, and contemplate the crimes. 

son of a nazi

shoulders young but strong
hold the burden of heavy oven heat
and deadly toxic gas
unnecessary operations  
left tortured bones piled and distorted 
shattering images of a father
like derailed train tracks en route 
home from the 11 million war
delicate fingers could have been friends
but instead hate created enemies 
of brown freckled knees, purple skies, and blue eyed men

Headline Poem 3/21/14 -- a day without armor

The Land in North Wales (Photo credit The Atlantic)
I read this article today -- "The Overprotected Kid" by Hanna Rosin, and could not pass it up. It was published two days ago, but because it was re-posted yesterday by NPR, and still being talked about today, I'm counting it as today's headline. Plenty of us say, "there is no way my kids will ever have as much freedom as I had growing up." Ain't that the truth! This piece talks about so much related to playground dangers, parenthood cultural shifts and norms, and childhood freedom. It even introduces us to a playground called The Land in North Wales, which is made to have dangers and unpredictable territory for kids to navigate through on their own.

a day without armor 

kids are not free to
find dangers on their own
no concept of navigating
through unsafe terrain
or climbing fences and
getting bruised

a manufactured playground
is created because
they do not have the chance
to explore,
sheltered from real adventures,
those times are no more

grownups once given space
raise babies who will never know
what it's like to be
gone all day
alone with friends
in woodlands and hills
snacks packed, 
unspoken rules
kids being kids

they raise kids
whose lives are planned out
all routes mapped
The Land has fires and mattresses
and places to climb
without much interference
from the adults in their life

it's still a park
because kids today
are afraid
of strangers and dangers
and ice cream vans
of being taken or falling
or unfamiliar land

walking to school 
through alleys no more
they don't hunt for dinner 
or run out the door
injuries on the playground made parents sue
baby brothers and 
broken noses 
led to mandatory
rubber armor 
that must be in use

gone are the days when
a girl of six can
ride her bike 
to school a mile each way,
past a bar, a state beach, and a liquor store,
where she stops once a week
to buy a Twix 
crossing the freeway bridge
to play after class
with a friend from school
whose parents her parents 
have never met

street friends do not congregate
on a Saturday
without a call or text 
ahead of time

waking with the light,
eating cereal, and heading out
to Alpha Beta for a pack of gum
and then back home with
an adorable puppy, 
found and named, 
from three blocks away
stuffed gently in the bike basket
at the ripe age of eight
no parents around 
to keep them safe 

a day without armor 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Headline Poem 3/20/14 -- dear you

(Photo credit Pinterest)

Today is the first day of Spring. It would have been my grandma Bernice's 95th birthday. It is International Day of Happiness. And, I am in love... with love, with spring, with my husband, with my children, with my mom, with my breath, with myself, with art, with nature, with music, with poetry, with friends and family. Today, a love letter.

dear you,

today, i give you myself in spring
new, like flowers
bright, like sun
fresh, like grass
happy, like wind

when the new flowers bloom, the bright sun nourishes them, the fresh grass welcomes them, and the happy wind lets them go

thank you for embracing me in spring,
my gift to you

you deserve it

i love you,

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Headline Poem 3/19/14 -- implied contentment

(Photo credit National Geographic)

Today, I read this article about a rare albino redwood tree in Northern California. What caught my eye was the fact that this tree is usually weak, and small, and relies on another tree. In this case, though, this tree appears to be strong. Albino trees seem uniquely able to endure stress, and this particular tree is one many hope is saved. This article started me thinking on trees, and their power, and symbolism. A birch tree came to mind, known as the watcher. I imagined a strong female watcher usually able to survive only when relying on something else, and thus, this poem about a mistress and her implied contentment came to be... things are not always as they seem.

implied contentment

on the couch with a book,
or striding in a silver dress
purchased with a card she does not own
and never will
rings and sapphires glisten in the birch tree shadows,
forming in early autumn, remaining rigid through winter
eye-like impressions
dangle night after night
Beating her fists 
on her chest, 
rattling caves and cavities until they fill with muck

He's not yours, 
and never will be

Defeated on hot pavement 
She lies down 
    the  jewels 
 are    not      enough

You give advice like badly bruised potatoes
For sale, but not pretty
Someone will buy them, despite their use
You tell her 
she will never listen 

Do not fall for a man who says he does, but doesn't
He will lick the sauce off the tiny ribs and throw the tender meat to the dogs
To watch them fight,
and beg for more

A bastard in a camp of thieves
Pearls, your eyes, white and bright
Impure gifts only meant to weaken and falsely impress
He watches you want him, 
You boost his ego 
with his stupid tricks
They're not even good ones

You wait in a boat in shallow water,
Grounded, sure,
boats are not built to stay on the shore

The mistress wants more,
implied contentment,
she will never get it 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Headline Poem 3/18/14 -- Rock, Paper, Michigan

Fab Five University of Michigan, 1991(Photo credit Google Image)

I have a tendency to obsess over things. When spun positively this means I am passionate, and like to do my research. NCAA March Madness is upon us, and this reminds me of two things: 1. The last time I actually followed college basketball, when Jalen Rose and Chris Webber played for Michigan in 1991, and 2. My love of college campuses, and college towns. Today's poem took me down several past paths where I longed to live in some of these towns.

Rock, Paper, Michigan

In high school,
I sent away for a least a hundred college brochures
Pre-internet and social media,
I could not follow these schools on Instagram
for constant updates and images of classes and picturesque views

When I wanted to know what the campuses looked like
in Fall, Spring, Summer, and covered in snow,
(I longed for seasons, as only a girl who has never shoveled snow can),
I had to do my research

I'd fall asleep reading Encyclopedia Britannica,
pondering state birds, and famous presidents, most popular exports,
percentages, tedious details, sometimes scribbled on paper,
sometimes swirling in my head

Marist College in Poughkeepsie, San Francisco State, Western Connecticut
The east called to me, but it was not meant to be
I've learned you cannot fight the tide, regardless of the coast

When I met my husband,
we drove cross country
with lists of the things we were looking for in a city
Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Wisconsin
We fell in love with East Lansing and Ann Arbor,
and of course the small town of Chelsea where actor Jeff Daniels had a home,
but there was no university, and that was a must 

Rock, paper, Michigan,
or Idaho,
no, no, too far,
we have parents as grandparents to think about now,
we chose Northern California, but it didn't last
It caused stress and weight gain and loss, and friction, and mud,
but as two sets of scales, we evened out measuring and tilting and weighing

Riverside is home
to oranges and us
to heat and us
to wind and waterless ways
and us
to friends and community and jobs
and us
to love and us
to us in love

Foreign sand will always beg
to be between our toes
as will the need for unfamiliar food,
candy bars wrapped in odd-looking paper
museums with names we will mis-pronounce until we've tried a few times
the magnetic pull of rocks, and papers, and Michigan
will hang out like a crush at the local diner,
hoping you come out,
and he can make it look like an accident that you ran into each other
at just the exact moment in time
fate, manipulated,
how can something so hopeful start with a lie?

Today, I embrace the simple things
like routine, a family dentist,
and driving a soccer-mom minivan with a Thule on top

Monday, March 17, 2014

Headline Poem 3/17/14 -- Come and Walk Among Us

(Photo credit Google Image) 

Today, many headlines and emotions are swirling -- St. Patrick's Day, an L.A. earthquake, our 100 year-old-oak tree was cut down, and we just read and listened to The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and The Plain White T's. Life is a beautiful, crazy ride. Today's poem, is a combination of all of this, and more. Who knew there were so many connections between all of them -- trees and boats and earth and sea and walking away and returning -- Green cheers to you and yours! 

Come and Walk Among Us

It is a heart-warming experience
to borrow a book from a man 
who loves his mother,
and to listen to a sweet six year old 
read about a tree that lives
to give
and gives to live

Lucky is the shepherd
who served his time,
found a boat,
and sailed back to build a home
with wood 
from a tree he carved himself

Denied to be reunited 
with a fool who sold her soul,
he should have listened to the breeze 
and golden bees,
or to the earth that shook, 
or Saint Patrick
(sometimes captivity is the best teacher)

After 28 days, he turned his back
on the chills and squander,
hoping he didn't break anything 
when he 
slammed the wooden door the last time,
as his walking stick turned into a living tree

He imitates the chickens 
running naked 
through the hills,
pecking and vividly keen, 
members of a club 
most are denied

We are the tree that 
gives to live,
and lives to give
So be it, so be it, 
Come and walk among us...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Headline Poem 3/16/14 -- dog dance

Today's poem is based on this headline from the New York Times about the documentary "Anita," about Anita Hill. Ms. Hill is known as the woman who accused U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991. She is now a professor, and leads quite a private life teaching at Brandeis University. She received praise and death threats throughout this ordeal. The youngest of 13 children from an Oklahoma farm family, she is recognized for creating a vocabulary to talk about sexual harassment.

dog dance

they line up
single file
to walk the shame-filled
up to the desk
dog dance
dog dance
tail between their knees 
awkward and uneasy
anxious and unsure
unrecognizable even to them
can you help?
not sure you can help
can you help?
dog dance  
dog dance
tail between their knees

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Headline Poem 3/15/14 -- A Day at the Park

Ryan Bonaminio Park (Photo credit Google Image) 

Today, I read this article in the Press Enterprise about park safety in Riverside, Ca. Park violence is up, but overall city violence is on the decline. Security guards may soon roam the parks, although that plan is debated, and residents are torn about the idea. This poem is not about park safety per se, but I did spend part of my day at one of these parks, and, so, here is today's poem.

A Day at the Park

Wind blowing through the trees
Sun so bright I must look down to the ground
Or close my eyes while walking and riding my bike 
Though I want to hold my head high
To look strangers and passersby in the eyes
(I should probably wear sunglasses)
Good day to you neighbor of the world
Who came to dot and cross my path 
Like i's and t's 
Letters meeting in an unscrambled word
Wrestling and running
Rolled up sleeves welcome the heat 
And capture the rays
And playfulness of the day
The laughter is so thick you can smell it 
Sweat and spills and salty cheek kisses 
I hold you like a kite 
Beautiful and tight
Open to the wind
Soaring strong 
A baby in my arms
Snacking on celery and thick ranch dressing
Mixed with spit it drips 
And lands 
He's so cute I just let it linger before I give it a swipe
With his shirt
Cupcakes and carrots and juice boxes 
Childhood is legit 
Tag you're it

Friday, March 14, 2014

Headline Poem 3/14/14 -- Pi day

Pi Day (Photo Credit Google Image)
Today is Pi day. Here is a Pi poem. Three words, one word, four words -- Happy Friday 3.14!

sweet and savory
served all day long

Headline Poem 3/13/14 -- Born in Kentucky

President Johnson, 1964 (Photo credit Google Image)
Today's poem is inspired by this project featured on NPR about Appalachia 50 years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the "war on poverty," depicting the 13 states in dire conditions. Now, a modern Appalachian photographer is hoping to shed new updated light on the region by asking people to submit pictures taken in 2014. The project is called "Looking at Appalachia -- 50 years after the war on poverty," and you can find more information here. This story took me to back to my own history. I wrote about my father's mother in a poem titled "A Professor's Wife," included in my self-published book of poetry Two Sides of Rain, in 2012. I thought about her this evening as I read this story. She was born in Kentucky.

Born in Kentucky

We have a tendency to forget
that older relatives
had entire lives before we entered them, and that
they were more than wrinkly fingers and
collectors of quilts and pictures

They kissed and kept secrets,
and wore clothing that
hung to dry on a line
that we cut without realizing
creating a dead end,
with no intention of returning
to the ways of them...
not trapped in a cul de sac or isolated in a cage, just different,
unaware of what made them rage
we just didn't know them
like we thought we did

Happy were the children who ran free,
and sad were the babies who starved
and were deceived 
-- young, insecure, fruitful
before we arrived

There is no printed image of her in lace,
but I imagine her white gloves
and knee-high socks,
I wonder if she had dark or golden locks,
her dress blowing in the wind,
she, shyly stepping in

Mary Jane was a Gemini, and grandmother for many years
by the time I came around
it must have been a surprise to see a baby girl after so many boys
June 17, 1893 -- oh what the world must have looked like for James and Alice Baird

I met a woman short in stature, old in words
We called her Gobbie
from Davis, California
she made orange marmalade,
and seemed awkward around babies, like we might break
how did she raise three when she couldn't even hug us two?

     she didn't really hug them
     he forgave her,
     she was stiff

Her house pristine, but cute
round, colorful rugs and hardwood floors,
newspapers on the table to catch the spills
it made her comfortable, and that's all that mattered
I have a picture of her smiling,
and sometimes when I look in the mirror
I see her bony, older face
in mine
eyes, deep, and nose pronounced

She was a professor's wife,
married to George Haymaker Vansell,
who studied bugs in his home state of Kansas and beyond
he died playing bridge
one night, at a friend's house,
and never went home
she lost a husband, a daughter, and then a son
my father's death took a piece of her heart,
and put it on the shelf

mothers should go first
mothers should go first

I think she would be proud to know me,
but I bet she'd be disappointed with my laundry skills,
and the way I cook a meal,
I speculate
because I don't really know

The younger her may have laughed with me,
and run barefoot in the hills,
sneaking sips of her father's liquor, or smoking when we were alone
she was real, but is a photograph to me,
a symbol of tradition and blood,
linking me to him, them to me, and me to them

She comes from a place I have never been
today I make a vow to smell the Kentucky she called home, 
to feel the fabric of her sun-drenched days
my fingers through her hills
listening to the songs of the earth
that was hers 

Do the trees speak differently in Appalachia?
Do the ghosts linger the same?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Headline Poem 3/12/14 -- piano man in east harlem

(Photo credit The New Yorker)

Today's poem is based on the explosion that rattled New York this morning. Here, a CNN headline focuses on a piano store owner who was watching TV one minute, and the next, watching pianos fly through the air. At least three people were killed, 63 are hurt, and nine are still missing. The cause seems to be a gas leak. While reading about this story, I came across the song "explosions" by Ellie Goulding, and even watched a few piano tutorials for how to play this song. I thought it fitting to include one line of lyrics and a few of the notes from the beginning.

piano man in east harlem

sidewalk goes from smooth to
switchback edges
eyes wide and impressionable 
peer over the ledge
to grey boulder shadows down below
yellow meadow of cab cars and crates
now covered in black and white
delivery guys know where to park
like deer, they find solace in filling space
today, spring smiles awaken during dreams of sliver grass
to an explosion with a noise they can't explain
trapped and strained  
piano man in east harlem
trembled like he'd seen a ghost, 
f to dm f to dm
hum, hum, hum

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Headline Poem 3/11/14 -- three steps forward

(Photo credit Google Image)

Today's poem is based on this headline from ABC News about reporter Dan Harris's panic attack on live TV in 2004. He was a workaholic, covered war post 9/11, and has now written a book called 10% Happier, focusing on how meditation has helped him cope with stress. This story lead to today's poem.

three steps forward

take three steps forward
and then three steps more
no need to step back and listen to the voices
take heed
no need to ruin perspectives
and make good guys finish last
stand your ground by moving on

there are no windows to the souls
of our neighbors
whose paths require indecent resemblance
to postcards and packages
from people you do not know
there is a reason their dark door is covered in dust

take three steps forward
watching your tracks
marking the woodlands on the search for love
laughter rings out from behind the trees
a scavenger-hunt-stop kiss puts you in the lead

do not stay down if you fall on your knees
bruises leave
blood stops flowing
tire swings and arrows. you are not too old to discover

three steps forward
barrel laughs rule
three steps forward
we are cool

gather up the grievances you see along the way
burn them in a fire
that lights up your happy face
keep warm with the freedom and the decisions yet to be made
three steps forward

12:27 strikes and the lucky clock chimes
heads turn while he strolls along
wristwatches checked
retired community members trudge on
pavement pushing for pleasure
rather than racing through an office full of mud(slingers)

the judge's decisions are arbitrary and final
three steps forward
three steps forward

Monday, March 10, 2014

Headline Poem 3/10/14 -- A Song for the South China Sea

(Photo credit Wikimdia Commons)

It is not looking good for friends and relatives of those on board Malaysia Flight MH370 which went missing over the South China Sea. Here, this headline focuses on a couple from Queensland, Australia who are among the passengers many fear are dead. Today, a tribute to them, and to all of the victims of this flight, and others.

A Song for the South China Sea

A song for the South China Sea where ocean with its rising tide welcomes them with a calm lullaby
ever so gently and ever so smoothly, it brings nations together to mourn and to soothe

The shores will be lined with salty sea air, moist on the face, home for their tears
a March mayday was not to be heard, their children and loved ones did not hear a word

No worries, or cries, no disaster loomed chills, nothing to curse or rattle their fears
they just disappeared, together, in the night, holding hands, over the South China Sea

A song for the South China Sea we sing as they fly on outstretched, adventurous wings, smiles the last things to see
courage now taken from them for you, the hearts that are broken and do not know the truth

The melody lingers like a dance hall recital, left rocking and swaying long after it's over
Farewell to those who now swim, in the endless water, where freedom takes them in

Sign at the entrance says welcome to Poppy's, a sea garden now in a new world that beckons
Humble bodies unaware of pain unravel deep mysteries on the dark ocean floor where unity transcends boundaries and more
as goodwill lingers on the wave of hope -- waves tired of carrying the weight of fastidious anger mired with disputes

A song for the South China Sea we now sing
of a love that binds an altered course
sinking the hate on an anchor of pain
singing through mist until they meet again

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Headline Poem 3/9/14 Cherry Hill Mall, New Jersey

(Photo credit

Be aware! There's a finger bitter on the loose in Camden, New Jersey. According to this, and other sources, there was a dispute in a mall parking lot which led one woman (still at large) to bite another woman's finger, severely. So, today's poem is about this parking lot violence at a Cherry Hill Mall.

Cherry Hill Mall, New Jersey

Parking spots are a dime a dozen
Unless someone takes 
The one you've supposedly chosen
And that person is angry already about the color of her scarf,
or how her sister talks to her
Or how she holds a knife
When she cuts the bread that is served to her
     with butter on a platter
 Today none of this matters

Today, the righteous woman 
        Who came to try on clothes
     Bit a woman's finger 
All the way to the bone
Brown   curls   soft and    flowing 

Suppose they were supposed to meet
    more in common than a story on the news
Suppose the witness in the parking lot
  was there to meet her lover whom no one knows
 in the spot she claimed was hers, and she and he,
landed themselves shamelessly on the news 
       Roads and lots,    abandoned    and    reclaimed
have a way of         justifying their     unused   space

The woman on the screen may turn herself in
smelling like lime and cucumbers
from the homemade supper she fixes for her friends... 

While the     victim  
chooses       with one hand

from a menu
of soup broth and chocolate milk

Hospital cafeteria meals ordered for         herself

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Headline Poem 3/8/14 -- A Mother's Orchestra

In the news there has been a story about a pregnant woman who drove her three kids into the ocean. Another story explains that a mother and father left their kids in the woods. Today's poem is not about them though. I couldn't bare to put their stories into words today. I woke up today, as I often do, thinking about my own mom, me being a mom to my kids, my friends who have lost their moms, or who are watching them get older and change. I read a post on a friend's wall about some wise words of wisdom from her son about her own mother, and the strong bonds of knowing a person before they are born. This post, and the news about mothers (I suppose) inspired today's poem. Plus, it is International Women's Day. 

A Mother's Orchestra

A mother's orchestra plays with the strings from her heart
The notes are made up as she goes
Pretty melody and tear-jerking moves
tuned and tugged and strummed
she watches 
as her little boys become men
and her little girls become women
A mother's heart wants to wrap her babies up,
put them under her musicial wings
and keep them safe
But instinct tells her it cannot be
as difficult as it is, she must 
soak it up, 
And then even though it hurts,
give them space
For only with freedom will they learn how to play
Only with distance will they learn what 
to do
To tune, to tug, and to strum on their own
They'll come back one day
to their mother's orchestra
Where she'll be waiting 
With open arms and heart open
Like a well-used harp
Ready to listen to them play their own orchestra symphony. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Headline Poem 3/7/14 -- A bus ride through Georgia

(Photo credit Google Image)

Today, I read this headline about the dangerous roads of the deep south, particularly for cyclists. It reminded me of a bus ride many years ago...

A bus ride through Georgia

On a bus through Georgia
we drive through the night
though it is impossible to sleep
strangers, dogs, and empty flask reflections demand my attention

my military duffle bag is packed tightly underneath
my step-dad says any girl traveling by bus through the south should have one
it will make you look tough
I have never been to Vietnam and home like that bag,
stained with soil and sweat beyond its years,
looking tougher than it feels.
the bag is stacked in a pile with all the other luggage down below
I couldn't get to it if I wanted to,
and I wonder who else is trying to look tough, but doesn't have their bag to show

the woman next to me clutches her purse so tightly
it is clear she has learned from experience
tugging at it like multi-colored yarn
raveled and unraveled again and again
even I am a threat

the same man gets off the bus at every stop to check his watch and smoke a Camel cigarette
smoke ringlets leave his mouth much too smoothly
    he's hit a woman before, but says he will never do it again
    he's got God on his side now, and he has learned his lesson
my guess is he's been in jail, but I do not ask
his necklace is a gold chain from his grandfather Vincent Lee
Vincent was a bad ass from Buffalo, and I can tell he has friends in places I would never go
basement Italian dinners where big, balding men compare today's meatballs to their mothers'
Camel smoking man's mother Josephine's were the best, may she rest in peace

the south is an interesting place in the dark
tires roll over
dangerous roads like spokes
chugging along I can hear songs
and howling wind
and I see white lights and ghosts 
meanwhile the little girl behind me plays peekaboo 

a slender fellow two rows up thinks he is going to be the next big thing
he has jokes like no other, he says
he can make a dead man sing
he tells a few, and I stare at him not sure how to respond
one is about a swimming pool fiasco... too much lotion, but no punch
and the other is about jackhammers, and a bowling lawn
I smile, but am not amused

hours pass by
it feels more like days
then we stop and get off
having shared air and space,
I grab my big bag,
and go on my way

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Headline Poem 3/6/14 -- Never Wonder

(Photo credit Google Image)

Chapter 8 of the novel Hard Times by Charles Dickens is titled 'Never Wonder' because wondering is the antithesis of facts, facts, facts. Wondering will get you no where in the novel, during the Insustrial Revolution, or perhaps even in our McDonaldization-driven, irrationally, rational world -- have you guessed it? Today's poem is based on the decision to make the essay portion of the SAT optional. Some claim this makes things more fair and more aligned to the high school education kids are getting today, and others say it sends a mixed, confusing message about writing not being important. Regardless of where you stand, here is today's poem...

Never Wonder

Mr. Gradgrind's Coketown 
will leave you speechless, and thoughtless, and limp
Lift your hand after passing through and it will drop, drop, drop
Dead in its tracks
No questions acceptable 
when the answers we give are always true
No room for I in you 
or in you, or you, or you
Room for rationality 
at all costs
No sense crawling out of the cave
When all you'll get is shot

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Headline Poem 3/5/14 -- The Blood Ban

(Photo credit Yahoo News)

I saw this headline this evening about women in Nepal and Chaupadi, the tradition of banishing women "during that time of the month." It took me instantly back to college and a Women's Studies class where we learned about a similar practice of the Papago Women who run while menstruating, and return only when done. I imagine there are plenty of potential comments about banning bleeding women once a month not being such a bad thing, but in Nepal, women are dying during these bans... are traditions worth keeping?

The Blood Ban

Cycles predictable
and inevitable
around the world
and a "luxurious"
bubble tub
Cramps rip and moan
at home

Communal baths,
cleansing and connecting 
Iron liquid 
hues the color of nature's walls
meet the sun
Scales weigh in,
another view

Red sharks devour prey
A blood threat

Run to release
chores and children
and community 

Danger lurks outside temple walls
in Nepal
Chaupadi bans 
Do not touch

Strong enough ones,
may return
to endure another month
and to observe

replaceable warrior

swollen river
thick with tradition 

Brand new
like dew 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Headline Poem 3/4/14 -- there is an ice chest in the corner

(Photo credit CNN)

I read this headline today from CNN about the rates of mental disorders being higher among soldiers than civilians. Although the article focuses on the military, and suicide rates, today's poem is really about anything from phobias to depression or anxiety.

there is an ice chest in    the    corner

a box
with no windows
    no doors
no curtains with
 little fruit pieces
bundled and tied
no      mantle with pictures placed neatly so
 ceilings low

there is an ice chest in     the       corner
which offers some relief
you're not sure
you can open it             without support
even though     you've opened it   before, alone
and know
in fact you've been doing it for years

but now
   you don't trust yourself
and think
it impossible to try

(irrational and illogical)

uneasy   of     your     own  hands
help is     possible    
it isn't on its       way
it's  inside the  box
inside   the  chest
inside of you

Monday, March 3, 2014

Headline Poem 3/3/14 -- Misinterpretation

(Photo credit Los Angeles Times)

Pope Francis dropped the F-bomb during his Sunday blessing at the Vatican, according to this headline. He was discussing the crisis situation in the Ukraine, and apparently used a word resembling a "bad" one. Whether it was intentional, or a harmless mistake is up for debate. The Vatican is not commenting, and those in attendance can't un-hear what they may, or may not have heard. This misinterpretation has inspired today's unclear and confusing poem about a conversation gone all wrong, and right.


You smell my hand and say it reminds you of honey
Hunny I ask? Was she a pet rabbit when you were a kid?
No, honey the liquid you add to tea and biscuits
Like custard too
The colonel? 
I'm coming apart like glue
Who, you?
This conversation's going all wrong
Sideways like a salamander
Tilted like a truck
Wild like wrapped up paper not big enough to tuck
Even if you got it wrong, like a cheap imitation painting,
I'm glad you took my hand in the very beginning. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Headline Poem 3/2/14 -- For all the dreamers

(Photo credit Getty Images)

Today's poem is inspired by the Oscar's overall, but Jared Leto's acceptance speech for supporting actor, first up, really solidified the beauty of the night; the transforming of oneself into a character to move others. It is the human experience that we all have in common which connects us, and inspires us. His speech, his character, and his story of birth to a single, teenage, dropout mother, really hits home. He paid tribute to those around the world who are living through war, disease, and poverty, and who have not let go of the dreams. Today's poem is for all the dreamers... because the only way to continue to dream is to insist that those dreams are stronger than those who doubt them.

For all the dreamers

You've got your head in the clouds
You're so unfocused
Why can't you sit still?
You can't finish a project
Pay attention!
Not everyone who wants to be famous becomes famous
Dreams happen, but not to you
If you drop out of school, you will be nothing
Your dreams are too big
You're a fool
Insatiable appetite for excess
You're obsessed
Your energy would be better spent
changing the world in a different way

Forget you!
I'm a dreamer,
and I'm not letting go
You don't understand
What you don't know
I'm going to seek the art
Find the beauty
Value the truth
Make my own music
Work my butt off
Pull myself out of this mess...
I'll be known
For the gift I possess
One day,
I hope you find your own

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Headline Poem 3/1/14 -- Dragons of L.A.

(Photo credit L.A. Times)

Today's poem is based on this story in the Los Angeles Times about Cathy Youngblood, a woman with two degrees, who is currently cleaning rooms at a hotel. The article made me think of fearless dragons fighting back, even when it seems hopeless.

Dragons of L.A.

Dragons rebel
With shieldless
Mighty warriors with no sun
Movements calculated
Oven full of warmth
Dough rises 
But the bread isn't quite done