Saturday, February 27, 2010

Left Behind

 "Left Behind" photo by David Wicks

unpaid bills
unlabeled pills
poorly made plans
unscoured pans
songs with sour notes
parades without floats
friends without mates
unwashed plates
keys with no locks
shoes with no socks
shirts with ripped seams
a life with no dreams

What's on your list?

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Her feet are swollen
her fingers arthritic
she worries about leaving her grandchildren
at home alone all day

The lady next door promises to look in on them
but she knows they will slip down the block
to wait outside the bar
where their father sweeps floors
pours shots of bourbon for the regulars
and takes the trash to the dump every day

If their mother were here
If the train had moved more slowly
If the yellow van full of teenagers had not
         pulled so close to her daughter’s pickup

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

For Years

The girl carried around a small torn photo of her father. When anyone asked, she'd say she cut it from a magazine. We wanted to help her, but we didn't know how.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Another Chore

Her first marriage to the father of her two sons was filled with testing, testing, testing. What would she fix for dinner: beans and fried potatoes (her family’s staple diet) or cabbage and halushki and other odd sounding, foul smelling dishes, recipes handed down from his Czechoslovakian mother and grandmother. 

It didn’t help that she got pregnant right away, squeezing a crib into their tiny trailer house out on Airline Road. Georgia from next door tried to help soothe the teenager’s anxiety with humor and practical advice. “Ya know there’s only about this much difference between one man and the next,” she’d say, measuring with her thumb and forefinger, then letting out a big, deep laugh that lifted the spirits.

Even when Georgia cracked two ribs moving her refrigerator from one side of the kitchen to the other, she just taped herself up and kept on going. And when the baby got the colic and cried and screamed for 24 hours straight, if was Georgia who brought over the paregoric. “Now only a couple of drops,” she cautioned. “It’ll let him get some sleep and you too.” And, of course, she was right.

The worst part of that time was the sex. At first it had been ok and sometimes even fun. But after the baby was born it was so painful she had to bite her hand to keep from crying. Finally, she went to see the doctor out at the airbase and he immediately put her on penicillin. After a couple of weeks, the pain was gone, but the pleasure never returned. Sex became part of her job, like cooking, and washing dishes, and taking stuff to the laundromat.                                            

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Shut up
Shut up your mouth
Shut your eyes
Shut your ears
Shut out your fears
Shut out the light
Shut out the night
Shut out the shame
Shut out the blame
Shut in your heart
Shut in

Where the Money Goes

Her arthritic fingers 
smooth the embroidered linens
arrange the ribbons by color, by width
The turistas are slow to come this year
they bargain, as always,
but without spirit

The Mercado will close soon
and Lupita will take her business 
to the street corner
The man who owns the land
is impatient to find better tenants
ones with bigger ideas and
more money to make them real

Her daughter already works
at the maquilladora,
twelve, sometimes fourteen hours a day
plus long, dangerous bus rides
to and from the grey building
that looks north across the river
past the smoke and noise
to the place where the money goes

Some 200 women workers have been murdered near Ciudad Juarez since 1994. See the 2003 documentary, Senorita Extraviada, or the fictionalized version of the story, Bordertown, starring Jennifer Lopez. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Holy Shit!

I ain’t nobody’s fool but for sure I’ve been stupid a time or two. Especially when there was a man involved.
Like the time Marcy and I headed for Las Vegas on a dare. I was already in my uniform headed for the bowling alley to serve up burgers all night and hot fudge sundaes to the drunks who poured out of the bar at 2:00 a.m.
Marcy always got the good shifts. The breakfast crowd of moms and retirees, league bowlers in their matching shirts, dragging along a kid or two. They didn’t tip much but at least they were sober most of the time.  
So, how come she always got days and I got stuck with nightshift. And that jackass cook Charlie who’d come out of the kitchen gnawing on a hunk of rare sirloin like it was a Dunkin Donut, freaking out my customers so’s I was lucky they stayed around long enough to pay the check, let alone leave me a decent tip
Marcy was so used to getting everything she wanted that everybody—and I mean everybody—just caved in. We couldn’t both work days cause someone had to be home at night to watch the kids. Man, she had it made. Most of the time she slept through her share of the baby sitting. If she bothered to sleep. Came home one morning at 3:00 am and she had a fucking three-piece band in the living room. She always did go for musicians. Didn’t care what they played or what they looked like, just so’s they were musicians.
“Hey, Joe, you got that cornbeef up yet? This guy ain’t got all day.”
So, like I said, it’s a Thursday night and I’m getting ready to leave for work and up drives Marcy with these two jokers from the carpet place over on Lyndale. Bernie and George. They ran the place for their uncle, this old guy from Brooklyn.
Next thing I know we’re all on a plane for Vegas and I’m still in my white blouse and black skirt and Bernie’s saying “Don’t worry, Baby Doll. We’ll get you a nice dress.” And it’s the first time I’ve ever been in a plane and I’m looking out the window and seeing all those lights and thinking “Holy shit.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mildred Anna Griffin February 13, 1888-December 29-1954

 More to come...

Guilty Pleasures

Donna secretly smoked cigars. Of course everyone knew cause you can’t just Listerine away that oakey smell. She still remembers the first time she lit up a stogie (that’s what her father called them). The deep burning starting at the back of her throat, moving down to her chest, then a faint sweet aftertaste.

In the beginning it wasn’t the smoking at all but the fancy box with the gold lettering and the velvety case that held each cigar. She figured anything given that much care must be worthwhile. 

It was about the only thing she had left of her father. She’d been too young when he died to care about keeping anything so they’d hauled it all down to Goodwill. 

They wouldn’t take the booze or the cigar box, so she took both home. Now it was part of her ritual, sitting each evening on the back step, out of sight of the neighbors, smoking and nursing two fingers of Jim Beam.

It was especially nice in the winter, her smoking time. It didn’t get that cold here in LA. She could lean back in the lawn chair and watch for familiar constellations to pass. Inhale, hold, breathe out. Sort of like the meditation class she took one spring at the YWCA. Here she didn’t have to worry about anyone watching, anyone trying to talk her away from her guilty pleasures.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Drugs, Drugs, Drugs. All You Need Is . . .

After sleeping all Wednesday night sitting up, I broke down and saw the doctor on Thursday who confirmed that I have a nasty bacterial infection in my lungs. 24 hours later all I can say is there's nothing like a good night's sleep!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


When I walk in my house I see pictures,
bought long ago, framed and hanging
--de Kooning, Arp, Laurencin, Henry Moore--
that I've cherished and stared at for years,
yet my eyes keep returning to the masters
of the trivial: a white stone perfectly round,
tiny lead models of baseball players, a cowbell,
a broken great-grandmother's rocker,
a dead dog's toy--valueless, unforgettable
detritus that my children will throw away
as I did my mother's souvenirs of trips
with my dead father, Kodaks of kittens,
and bundles of cards from her mother Kate.

--Donald Hall

It's embarrassing, impertinent to compare my life to that of an esteemed writer. But he captures so perfectly my affection for, and compulsion to collect, the detritus of a scattered past.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Like Something Wild

Lord have mercy, it’s good to see you. Why the last time I saw you was when you and the boys left that husband of yours and come back to your Daddy’s place.
Speaking of George, he sure looks old lately. Hard to believe he’s the same man as that young soldier in the picture album. So handsome, so full of mischief. I bet nearly every woman in town had her eye on him but he just had to have that mother of yours. Can’t say I blame him much. She did have that look. Some folks said it was a bad look, like something wild. But I think she was just stuck too early in life with a grownup body and a young girl’s mind.
Why she was only fourteen when they took off for San Antonio to get married and her already leaving her first husband behind. Then you came along, all eyes and curly blonde hair. You know I think that was the happiest time they had together.
Of course, everybody always said how you looked like her and maybe that’s why your daddy was sometimes hard on you. You just reminded him too much of her. She named you, you know. He got so mad when you changed your name. Maybe he felt like that was all he had left of her.
Well, honey, I got to go put on supper. I hope you find what you’re looking for. And it don’t matter to me what you call yourself.  

Slogging On

Have been a sick pup 
now it's time to buck up
and push on.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I never tire of photographing the walnut trees that populate the field across from our place. They sleep now, waiting for warmth to tease out leaves.

I could learn from their patience. I wish the days away, wanting spring right now, forgetting that it's all part of the birth/death/rebirth cycle.

Waiting for Spring

Genius is but a robin's song 
at the beginning of a slow spring. 
Kahlil Gibran

Friday, February 5, 2010

The best part of wakin' up...

Always a bit precocious, at about 5 or 6 
I spelled my first word: Folgers.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

From Hair to Infinity

My aunt made this dress for me, from florist ribbon. It was the first time I ever really looked at myself in the mirror. The dress was for a Halloween carnival at school. When everyone recognized me despite my Lone Ranger style mask, I cried and wanted to go home.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Love Love Love, All You Need Is . . .

Clark lived most of his life as a bachelor. As a child, he accidentally swallowed lye and severely burned his throat. Unable to eat anything with fiber, he loved melons so much he would suck out the sweet juice and spit out the pulp. 

He earned his living "rocking" houses in Lueders, a small Texas town south of Abilene. Sometime around '43 or '44, he rented a room from Anna, an unconventional widow who grew flowers and cactus on the south side of town. They soon married and Anna found the happiness that had been so elusive in her previous two marriages. 

When one of Anna's daughters dropped off her child for them to raise, Clark found new purpose. He taught the child to cook oatmeal and to make fried donuts. They had ten happy years together before Anna died of lung cancer. Some said it was from the pollution generated by the oil refinery on the edge of town.

The girl couldn't stay with Clark of course, since they weren't blood relations, so she went to live with her father. Over time, the letters grew fewer and shorter, until they disappeared completely. 

Twenty later she would decide to write Clark again, once a month, even though he never wrote back. And then one day a letter came from Clark's sister-in-law. She knew what it would say without opening the envelope. She was too sad to even cry.

Unconditional Love

A bachelor all his life, Granddaddy Clark (seated in the front) married my grandmother the year I was born. Even though we were separated when I was 10, that early unconditional love has sustained me the rest of my life.

After I went to live with my father and stepmother, Jack, his bachelor brother, moved in the little house where I grew up. They didn't have much use for housework, drank gallons of coffee, and smoked continuously. And they were loved dearly by everyone who knew them.