I seem to have run in a great circle and found myself at the finish line.

Let me tell the tale
of a girl who didn’t stop,
who climbed up every mountain
without a pause on the top.
She’d dance until each blade of grass
was clothed in drops of dew,
and the sun knew her by name –
but the silver moon did too.
For a fear had settled in her bones;
a fear of sitting still,
that if you’re not moving forward
it must mean you never will.
So in time her dance got slower
and she looked at all she’d seen,
but found gaps inside the places
that she’d never fully been.
For she was a human doing,
a human moving, human seeing,
but she’d never taken time
to simply be a human being.

~e.h.

 

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Sometimes you find what you’re supposed to do by doing what you’re not supposed to do.

In twos, shouldering burdens fifty times our weight, I marched next to you
as the teeming crowd lumped us into boxes, our bright futures
fated as our cardboard crowns perched precariously on our heads –
further evidence that our participation-trophy-childhoods hadn’t lost
its steeled grip on the helm that directed our prescribed paths
while we gulped anti-anxiety pills down with the rest of our choices.

Of all the decisions made to sit here -in row 27, seat C – how many were my own choices?
Hundreds of parents leering, like the oncoming boot to crush the ant, to congratulate us,
to mechanically applaud your first (last?) step on a path
that looks too much like theirs for us to be satisfied with the future
ahead. And based on the number of trembling lips and the listless lost
atmosphere lingering over the graduates, it’s not all in my head.

Tassels swing like the gallows as we twist back-and-forth, our heads
unconsciously refusing to accept this ceremony and wondering if we chose
to play along in the first place. But here we stand – and then sit – and then stand again – in a game already lost.
I wish I could roll the dice again because I keep landing on Boardwalk and you
swallow my pink paper money as if that could guarantee your own future.
There are no shortcuts on that path.

But I say that as if my path
was any different, too innocent to cause heads
to roll. Each generation thinks itself better than the last, but the future
contradicts the intentions of the past. I wonder if my own choices
be as devastating – from the ones who could only afford Mediterranean Avenue, to you
who have invested everything you own to never lose.

But if you play the game like that, I think you’ve already lost.
Truth be told, there is nothing I can do to prevent any backlash, no path
so smooth. I just wish that would’ve been in the parenting manual you
read when I was the size of a grape, an apple, when my powdery bald head
fit in one hand. Did you regret any of your choices
when you contemplated this little future?

What relative term – because here we stand, in that imagined “future,”
in the millisecond before it lingers in the present and tumbles into the past. I lose
you in the crowd. I’m on my own now. And so, I make the first of many choices
and hesitate on the stage, my outstretched hand reaching for the paper to start my path.
Thoughts pound, insistent knocking on the door, in my head
and I turn, eyes scanning the crowd, peering for you.

Because on graduation day, you’re old enough to finally realize
that the only path you care to take
is the one that heads home.

If a woman is not Cleopatra, who owns Egypt?

On March 21, 2009, a sweet old hag of a good girl whispered goodbye to su hijo in the East Los Angeles apartment that echoed as hollow as the heartbeat that stopped right when she wanted it to, regardless of whether or not she knew it was what she wanted.

She wrote a poetry chapbook and published in 2002.  Alane Rollings helped her edit it and so was gifted a signed copy – could anyone give a more personal gift?  (Did not J.K. Rowling have the same idea when she turned a book into a piece of a soul?)

Alane was the second wife of writer Richard Stern – not that anyone outside of academics would know who he was since he basked in the shadows of his fellow friends and writers (he said after all, that he didn’t need to write, only that he wanted to do so). But Richard too died and Alane survived him, although she moved out of the house that reminded her of him.

And she left all her books.  Once the writer was gone, the writing never mean anything to her either.

And so it came, that a poetry chapbook by the name of Good Girl was given to Wilson. Wilson owned an antiquarian bookstore in Chesterton, Indiana.  And like a good girl, it sat quietly on the shelf, gathering dust but holding back the sneeze.

Until one very normal August Saturday morning, when I nodded to the accordion player at the European Market and ducked in the bookshop to avoid the piercing glare of the sun AND and the florist who heard me say that buying bouquets of sunflowers were a waste of money.

And finally, such a chapbook finds a home on my own bookshelf, awaiting the day when I can read it to my baby girl.  Because she needs to know that womanhood is ugly and that some people add mascara and blush to the title of “mother” to disguise the pain that comes with it – the heartbreak that I’m sure that same baby girl will inflict upon me before too much time passes.  Because all decent human beings need to know who Lee McCarthy is.

And just to give you a tease, here’s a stanza from a poem called “Conrad’s Mother”:

A woman who lives alone

will go out at nine o’clock at night

to buy ranch dip for the carrots, cappuccino

truffle chocolates for the office, and yoghurt

even though they’ve taken the h out.  

Don’t be married unless you’ll be very married.

Marriage
BY LAWRENCE RAAB
Years later they find themselves talking
about chances, moments when their lives
might have swerved off
for the smallest reason.
What if
I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?
What if you’d been out,
as you were when I tried three times
the night before?
Then she tells him a secret.
She’d been there all evening, and she knew
he was the one calling, which was why
she hadn’t answered.
Because she felt—
because she was certain—her life would change
if she picked up the phone, said hello,
said, I was just thinking
of you.
I was afraid,
she tells him. And in the morning
I also knew it was you, but I just
answered the phone
the way anyone
answers a phone when it starts to ring,
not thinking you have a choice.

Poetry is dropping a rose petal in the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.

To relive my poor brain from straining it’s neurons to understand the biochemistry within it’s own biochemistry (so meta), I enrolled in a poetry workshop course that requires us to write enough poetry to create a chapbook.

Not only that, but we have 16 weeks to create a potentially publishable chapbook.

And, that potentially publishable chapbook must contain around 25 poems(!), each representing it’s own color woven into this literary masterpiece that bleeds from the fingers hastily typing “vivid verbs” for the deadlines.

As if I could manage that (on top of my two jobs, other schoolwork, and wedding planning)…

Here’s something that we kinda like and are willing to subject to your ever-reading, ever-critical eyes.  Bon appetit.

Breakfast

Little feet slapped the kitchen tile,
pitter-pattering to the table.
Chairs scooching
across wooden floors
as tiny fingers grabbed tiny plastic forks.

Butter spattered against blueberry flapjacks
as maple syrup pooled on the plates.
Crispy bacon crumbled
as tiny teeth chomped,
washing it down with chilled milk.

“Another round!” my breakfast bar flies
cried, tiny heads peering around the door.
Tiny messes galore as I made a few more
and as my husband gave me a kiss,
I wondered how much I’d miss

breakfast
when they weren’t so
little anymore.

Whenever it rains, you will think of her.

I found a new poet that suits my fancy and who has wooed me with words that both thrill and hurt at the same time, like the satisfaction of ripping off a particularly large scab: Bianca Sparacino.

I found a new book who’s silky soft pages have drawn me in like the purring of a cat as my fingers revel in it’s fur: the Book of Common Prayer.

I found a new spot in Starbucks in the middle of everyone and it’s like getting lost on stage amidst all the other dancers: the little round table against the wall-length window.

It’s raining. I can hear the pitter-patter of the drops punctuate my swallowing as the coffee slowly seeps into my bloodstream with the familiarity of my favorite drug. What a melancholy day.

It’s wonderful.

All of my new things match my melancholy mood. Grey is a neutral and it goes with everything. Sparacino’s words echo the idea that every person is build upon the foundation of their past and sometimes the concrete crumbles just a bit and makes every moment after that a little shaky. Sometimes you have to paint your life masterpiece on a grey canvas. Not that it’s a bad thing — all the colors seem brighter after that. The hardest part is finding a friend who is enough of an artist to understand that the background cannot be changed without changing the painting entirely.

And the Book of Common Prayer? The words slide off the tongue and splash into our soul like rocks thrown into a puddle. The initial emotional impact gets your attention but it’s the subtle intellectual ripples in the aftereffect that actually make the difference. It’s hard to see a poem that describes humans as fallen and frail human beings and not immediately realize the depressing atmosphere. At the same time though, one wouldn’t be able to appreciate the depth of emotion that drips from the Psalms without first recognizing the contrast.

And the corner table in the middle of all the retired people drinking coffee and reading the newspaper? Well the newspapers are grey enough without the grey window shade pulled down next to me. My mocha sits in the shadows of the table, a single drip clinging to the lid as the empty cup mocks me. No matter. I can still watch the raindrops racing each other down the pane, despite the greyscale wash.

It’s wonderfully melancholy. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a day like this. That’s the thing about rain. It doesn’t mean that it’s a bad day, an unproductive day, an un-motivating day.

There’s nothing wrong with the rain. It just doesn’t know how to fall upwards.