Saturday, April 30, 2011

It Was the Best of Times. . .

Ace was afraid of smart women. He wanted a simple minded girl who would follow him anywhere, have babies, and cook large pots of noodles with chicken while he plowed mythical fields and dreamed of wheelbarrows of dollars streaming to the bank. Instead he got Delilah, a wrong-headed teenager with strong legs and a chip on her shoulder and a hunger for settling in.

The babies came: pop, pop, pop. Then he got a taste in his mouth to wander, looking for gold streets, a better life. They hit the road with everything they owned piled in the back of a 57 Chevy station wagon. The good times were short, the bad times stretched for years.

Minimum wage jobs and loveless kisses pushed them so far apart that Delilah packed up and left, leaving the kids behind and ripping the dream right out of Ace’s heart. Transplanted to an efficiency apartment with a hide-a-bed and a radio from the Salvation Army, she set about to find the real thing. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Big Women

I've always loved big women. Women like my grandmother, with large hips, heavy breasts. Warm, loving women I can trust to keep my secrets. Women who know how to offer comfort without imposing solutions. Women who understand my stories without having to hear all the details, who know that no matter how difficult the process, it's the journey that matters. Women that helped me become my own mother, able to heal myself. Thank you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Once in a Blue Moon

she finds herself
lurking in the shadows
moving between who she is
and who they want her to be 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I used to love hats and wore them to mass in the first blush of Catholic conversion. On Easter Sunday I showed up in my new maternity dress with matching beige cloche only to see it’s twin perched on the head of an elderly woman sitting to my right. After mass, I went straight home and threw it in the trash.

We were newlyweds, married first by a Baptist preacher in the home of Ms. Hamm, the church pianist. Later we took our vows before the Virgin Mary, John in his dress blues and me swathed in baby blue polished cotton, trying to hide my huge belly. I felt pious as I laid the cluster of white daisies at Mary’s feet. Later I wished I had kept them for a souvenir.

Later still it didn’t matter anymore. A second baby, a disorganized move to California. A shabby apartment two miles from my in-laws, transplants from Brooklyn who talked too loud and too much. We quit going to mass, quit talking to each other, quit planning for the future. Within six months it was all over and I never, ever wore hats again.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


The women in her life had backbone, stood up for themselves and others. They marched for gender equity, the right to choose their own partners, control of their reproduction, the right to receive a fair wage. They wrote letters, staged demonstrations, and refused to settle for less than full equity. Sometimes they went to jail. And sometimes they grew tired, hoped for the younger generation to take the lead. But they never, never, never gave up.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Too Many Balls in the Air

Sometimes I just feel like letting everything drop. But I don't. And I'm glad for that.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


she once loved a gentle, hardworking man
 and when she left him, she felt free

then she loved a violent man
 when he was gone she was filled with compassion

next she fell for a pretty man
 and was infused with style

her new love for a strong man didn't last
 but it left her healthy and strong

for a short while she loved a younger man
 and when he was gone she embraced age

and at last she loved an older man,
 a gentle and strong, handsome and loving man
 and she felt blessed

Thursday, April 21, 2011

For John

Backward, turn backward,
O Time in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!

Elizabeth (Akers) Allen 1832-1911

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How's That Organizing Thing Going For Ya?

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words!

Why I Sometimes Miss School

The kids. Especially the ones that live away from town, who have mothers and fathers that care about their education, that want their sons and daughters to have what they never did. The bling-thing? Well, too much tv but it inspires their creativity so I give them a pass on this.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Fried, boiled, mashed, baked with butter and sour cream. Sautéed with onions, cubed in potato salad. Potatoes in the stew pot, soaking up the juices from the beef chunks and fresh home grown tomatoes. Potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Potatoes as a weapon chunked at the boys who try to catch the barn cat hiding in the haystack with her new kittens.

Potatoes that turn to vodka, vodka that turns to Bloody Marys, Bloody Marys that turn to romance, romance that turns to marriage. Marriage that turns to babies, babies that turn to grownups, grownups that turn to old men and women, sitting at the table, eating mashed potatoes. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Relieving the Pressure

Over the past 4 and a half years I've spent over $13,000 on storage. $13,000! This month, I'm finally moving everything out of the last storage unit and into the garage. It's not ideal. But it's a step toward someday having a normal life: my own house, my own furniture, my stuff out of boxes. Before I'm too old to remember where it came from, why I'm keeping it in the first place. And I can finally quit paying that monthly storage bill.

Friday, April 15, 2011

James at 13

Her heart is full of grief.
Her heart is broken.
The pain runs out the bottom.
Love flows in the top
runs out the bottom.

They let her dress him.
She touches his face, his body
checks to see
if he was taking care
of himself.
He’s not skinny.
She feels better.

She kisses his feet.
Like the day he was born.

My youngest son died on this day, in 1997. His brother lit a candle for him this morning. It is easier now, but not by much. Loss of a child is surely a mother's greatest sorrow. He left four children behind, none of which are in our lives today. I grieve for us all.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Looking Up

I miss my old friend Ric Masten. He died a four years ago after a long, brave battle with prostate cancer. His legacy remains, for many, many people, strengthened by the poems and drawings he left behind. One of his favorite sayings: Look up! One of the things I miss most was his ability and willingness to call me on my "stuff." RIP, dear Ric.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Just Another Unknown Soldier

Unknown, but only to those
who pass without knowledge.
To those who loved him, who waited for him,
To those who hold him in their heart
he is eternally known and loved.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another Ending

They slept until noon
woke several times to touch
then slipped back
behind the curtain of exhaustion
that blotted out memory. 

She almost didn't come back this time
It could not, would not
last much longer
this wordless liaison
with a stranger
she could never really know. 

Together they watch
the sun drop beneath the horizon
the green flash symbolic
of how they had begun
how they would end.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's a Hard Day's Night

He pretends to be a wild beast,
but when it's naptime, he just a big ole cuddler.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Good Morning Miss Handley

The desk clerk had greeted her with a big smile when she went to turn in the key this morning. For a moment she was confused and then relieved when the desk phone rang and he turned away. She dropped her room key on the desk and slipped out the door.

Her brother-in-law had loaned her his '47 Dodge, the one that had been sitting on his lot for weeks so she felt safe in driving it. If Bernard had reported her disappearance to the police, they'd be looking for her on the Greyhound bus or the train.

He didn't know she could drive, that Mildred had been taking her out to the old Smith place a couple of mornings each week to give her driving lessons. Turning the key on was the easy part. But she had a hard time getting her left foot and her right foot to work together.

The first few times they went out they had laughed so hard as the sedan lurched down the dirt road that they'd had to go make water behind the row of cedars.

Friday, April 8, 2011

On the Road Again

Traveling is the ruin of all happiness. There’s no looking at a building after you’ve seen Italy.” Fanny Burney
I simultaneously hold two opposing views about travel: I want to never leave home and I want to sell everything I own and hit the road.

At home I would finally clean the garage, get rid of all those boxes of useless envelopes, stacks of books that no one wants to read. I’d read all the history books on my shelves, starting with the history of the Vietnam war, moving on to all the small press poetry books that drifted into my bookcase, and ending with the complete works of Shakespeare. I’d get to know my neighbors better and start a local writing group. I’d walk at least a mile a day and spend more quality time with my cat.

On the other hand I fantasize about getting rid of everything I own, replace it all with a 23-window VW van and hit the highway, with no itinerary and no cell phone. I’d visit old friends and make new ones. Some places I’d stay for a while and sometimes I’d drive for days, pulling off the side of the road to sleep.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Taking the Long View

I've been living in one room for a long, long time. Over the years (yes, years), I've filled it with detritus that would make others cringe but which keeps me sane. And that, in that long view, is what matters.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Story in Three Voices

Note: On Sunday I went with my son John and his daughter Isabelle for a hike and picnic at Pacheco State Park. As a family activity, we took turns writing about our experience. We hope you enjoy our story as much as we enjoyed our outing.

The first thing we saw on this trip was lots of flowers and one kind was a poppy. The poppy is the California State Flower. There were many large birds flying over the meadow. One was a red-tailed hawk. The hawk disappeared behind a tree branch, we think to a secret nesting area. 

When we started hiking we thought we saw some cows but it turned out it was just some tree stumps. So we kept hiking where we saw different kinds of flowers. We didn't find the trail we were looking for; so instead, we sat down on a trail marker and enjoyed the natural beauty.With the sun on our backs and a cool breeze on our faces we enjoyed some of our delicious fruit and cold water. Then, with our hearts full of love for what we shared today, we packed our bags and said good-bye to Pacheco State Park, until we meet again. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The First Signs

Our Allen's Hummingbird returned this weekend, visiting the feeder outside the kitchen window. It's amazing how much joy this tiny harbinger of spring can bring. Our hopes are that his mate is nesting somewhere nearby and that we'll have babies soon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 1st

He capers,
he dances,
he has eyes of youth,
he writes verses,
he smells April and May.

William Shakespeare
"The Merry Wives of Windsor"