Reanimated Lavender Granola Switchblade Nun rides again.

Friday, November 30, 2012


In the winter,
I married a small wooden box.
I carried my devotion around in a coal scuttle,
and named each of the kitchen utensils
as if they were children who might one day attend university
and, subsequently,
slowly forget us.

My husband was made of cherry wood,
wide as he was deep.
I mailed him the dust from the nursery
where we grew liniment and bitters
from window boxes buried under the floor boards.

One day, going on spring,
the sky turned the color of a fouled well.
It rained river perch;
they came down inside overcoats of ice, like a devil's fairy tale
and all the while,
my husband was one lung and I was the other--
with no heart in between,
inspiring and expiring
without any conscious thought at all.

for Mary's Mixed Bag "connection" at Real Toads.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


These are the things that are called my hands--
so wearisome they are.
Their only desire is to touch you,
but how can they?
You are vapor in a sieve held by a ghost.

These are the things that are called my lips--
such a tiresome pair.
Their only desire is to speak your name,
but how can they?
Curs cannot sing nor do starlings say the Mass.

This is the thing that is called my heart--
singular in certain light, seen through a particular lens.
Its only desire is to mean something to someone,
but how can it?
It is a poem spoken at an impossible frequency, a dead language a sleeping lover
.........whose face is obscured by the moon.

dark bird by coal black

dark bird come on so quiet,
you dun even know she there
til she start to steal your heart and hair
to make her tarry nest.

dark bird stick her beak in your ear,
say, listen to me dear,
you ain't worth much.
then she tell another lie--
there ain't no sky.

dark bird turn your blood too thick
til you feel so sick
you can't fight. can't work up the nerve.
then one day she gone, just the way she came.
so now you know her name--
goddam dark bird.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Merciful The Shortening Days

Merciful the shortening days
When leopard hours incline toward black,

Gather my grief in corset and stays
A Plenty against dissembling lack...

Bring tonic of time that forgetting invites,
Let gray go the cat whose claws score the wound;

Just soften my sorrow with poppy-gone nights
When merciful dreams lay me skin-close with you.

for Kerry's challenge at Real Toads.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book review: "F5"

F5: The Devastating Tornado Outbreak of 1974F5: The Devastating Tornado Outbreak of 1974 by Mark   Levine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

F5 is the story of the April 3-4, 1974 "super outbreak" of tornadoes which spanned from Alabama to Ontario and from Illinois to Virginia. In 17 hours time, a staggering 148 tornadoes appeared, including two killer twisters which hit Limestone County, Alabama, the focal point of Levine's book.

The title derives from the Fujita scale (now the Enhanced Fujita Scale) which categorizes tornadoes into any of six groups, from the F-0, which might topple your patio furniture, to the terrifying might of an F-5, whose winds can exceed 318 miles per hour, and can disintegrate a sturdy home in under thirty seconds.

While Levine does touch on such things as how twisters form, he doesn't let his story become bogged down with too much dry science. He focuses most of the book on a handful of residents of Limestone County who lived through the storm, some of them forever altered physically, all of them changed in some way by what they experienced. Woven throughout, are snapshots of the United States in 1974, a country freshly withdrawn from the war in Viet Nam, and led by a president who would soon resign in disgrace. In Limestone County, schools had only been integrated a few years before, and wheelchair-bound George Wallace had been re-elected governor by a large margin.

In F5, you'll meet a black pastor who sat with his wife and three sons on the living room sofa as the storm intensified. Soon enough, the roof flew away and all of them found themselves airborne inside the fury of an F5 tornado. Then there is the teenage couple who are sucked out of their car and hurled into different parts of a nearby field. Later that night, as she is being wheeled down a hospital hallway with one of her feet hanging on only by a few tendons, she sees her boyfriend being wheeled toward her. She calls out to him. The dazed young man's reply: "Who are you?"

Levine does spend a fair amount of time talking about Ted Fujita, or "Mr. Tornado" as he came to be known. During a research trip into the areas hit by the twisters, the single-minded Fujita and his young assistant stop to eat in a local restaurant. Fujita cannot contain his excitement at the opportunity to collect and analyze so much data. He raises his glass and proposes a toast. "To tornadoes!" The assistant looks around nervously at the people around them, some who had buried loved ones. "Perhaps you shouldn't do that," he advises his famous mentor.

F5 is entertaining, but does take nearly half the book in setting the scene. Once the twisters arrive, however, it is hard to put down. I do recommend it.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 26, 2012

Admiral MacFarquhar's Lady

Admiral MacFarquhar's lady
had eyes the color of a Caribbean sea.
Her hair held the many reds of an east African sunrise,
but, given her choice, she'd keep a cottage on the Rue de Compiegne.

Admiral MacFarquhar's lady
was, to her husband, a quaint gew-gaw; an astrolabe.
And while her ways did tend toward the stagey and the sensual,
even women in the bible are sometimes allowed a little strut and promenade.

"Look, Edward," she said, showing the Admiral his new son,
lately a denizen of his own secret waterway--
"Is he not more beautiful than any Antediluvian curiosity?
What will your search for Atlantis gain you, that you couldn't find here, with him, and with me?"

Alone again shortly thereafter,
Mrs. Admiral MacFarquhar took a train car to Paris
to visit the National Saint Creola Shrine.

There, she knelt, sending silver prayers to dance between the rafters
where the holy are said to be housed, and there is
at least a gambler's chance of intercession from the hand of the Divine.

Admiral MacFarquhar's lady
had eyes the color of a Caribbean sea;
her hair held the many reds of an east African sunrise,

and they say she lived for many years in a cottage purchased by her son--
quite a pretty one, with a garden full of climbing vines
that bloomed in Spring on the Rue de Compiegne.

for the dolls at Real Toads mini challenge #24. This flame-haired beauty is the creation of Ms. Chelsea Bednar. The photograph is by her mom, Margaret Bednar, whose photographs so often tell me stories that I just have to write down.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Truth In Advertising


seeks same,
for friendship, romance,
long walks in the rain.

I've got big green eyes
and a very open mind;
clear delicate skin,
and fingers long and thin.

My heart is near the surface,
and always plain to see;
but I can be tough, and I've got guts,
you'll see as you get to know me.

So give me a call, I'm a fly on the wall,
just listening for the right one--
and if she's you, with sweet love true,
just watch me come all undone!

A little light-hearted poem for Real Toads mini challenge #24, in which we get the chance to write about some truly remarkable dolls. This one was created by Emma Whitlock. Great job, Emma!

Herd Memory


The moon is nothing but a dusty ball of rock.
Men were made to go and find out for sure,
flung there like a little handful of rice
at the wedding of desolation and ruin.

The bride wore a white dress
and her chalky carriage was pulled by moon horses,
made from pale stones and solar winds.

When the astronauts came home,
one of them married an albino ticket taker
from a traveling circus.

Their children were wild--
with black hooves hammered from the spaces behind the stars,
and their bedroom shelves filled with rows of Mane N Tail,
they were vain, high stepping Gypsies.

Farmers wanted to shoot them
for eating all the clouds after midnight
because they wanted to see the moon.

"Grandmother," they said,
"Look at us. We are beautiful."
The kin tie pulled them toward the sky like kind redemption,

Where each night they hovered half-way,
hooves up, heads down, arrayed across the sky
Shining Brightly.

This poem is for Real Toads mini challenge #24, featuring a collection of amazing dolls. The one I have written about here was made by Junsung Lee. I think it's gorgeous.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Mama got candy and a burlap sack,
opened up the bag and stuck it in the back.

In went one girl, three, then six,
crowding in the sack for the peppermint sticks.

Mama closed the bag cos Mama likes tricks,
took us to the Elbe and threw us off the bridge.

Six girls fight and six girls scream,
Six little witches on the surface of the stream.

We didn't sink and we didn't drown,
big black dog came and led us back to town.

Six in the door and six up the stair,
six little witches with leaves in our hair.

We hit Mama in the head with a brick,
then stabbed her through the heart with a peppermint stick.

for A Word With Laurie ("burlap") at Real Toads.

photo: singer Amy Lee

the 4th stanza refers to Trial By Ordeal, in which an accused witch is bound and thrown into a pond or other body of water. if she sinks, she is innocent (albeit dead), but if she floats she is guilty of witchcraft.

large black dogs are a common symbol of the devil or evil.

666 is, of course, "the number of the beast".

Thursday, November 22, 2012

ομορφιά (Beauty)

It is a breach of etiquette to use another woman's cosmetics--
that is for young girls
painting each other's new, blank faces
until a woman they can be emerges.

One must never walk out of one's front door
without looking one's best.
Beauty shows respect for others as well as for one's self,
and lets lesser women know
to lower their eyes.
It invites men to blind themselves
on the unexpectedly keen edge
of genuine feminine power.

Having spent the night with Athena,
and with no time to go home,
I went to the SAV-RITE,
leaned my claymore against the glass display case,
and described the things I needed.

"Are you a winter or a summer?"
it said one thing that a sleety rain began turning to snow,
the flakes collecting in my horse's mane
as we stood tossing our heads and shifting from foot to foot
under a giant Revlon ad.
But that was contradicted by the lilies
blooming white as death,
white as a bride,
around our legs and up to our knees.

"I'm not sure," I told her.

I have come across Persia, Africa and France.
I have killed and I have enslaved
all who opposed me.
At times,
my red curls became damaged,
with no product to be had.
I wore a helmet
for six weeks on campaign
to hide my split, untrimmed ends
and my shame.

In Athena's arms last night,
I confessed what she already knew--
that my beauty is limited
by nature
and by the boundaries of artifice.
She kissed me,
wrapping herself around me like silken fog around an evergreen.
I wept to think
that she would do that;
that she would call me "baby",
and value me
as she does her owl and all those she loves the most.

My skin lacks a smooth, even tone.
I am blemished from sun, fire, injury, and fever.
I turned away from the SAV-RITE counter,
and went back to Athena,
where I found her pressing my hand-written poems to her
into coherent volumes.

I raised my eyes.
I asked her if she would rather be with Aphrodite
or Artemis
or Phoebe.

She took my hands,
dark with blood under their blunt, unpolished nails.
She said,
"Come back to bed,"
and so I did,
and trembling.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fireblossom Spills

Izy's Out Of Standard challenge wants to know our guilty pleasures. Not some simple-time shit like eating sweets. Not the stuff you giggle about at the office party or the ladies' lunch. The real stuff, the stuff you're not so comfy telling. But that you liiiiiiiike. 

I've written two. They're both true, but one is sort of goofy and the other goes a little deeper, a little darker. Easy one first.


jokes are fine.
Jokes are one thing but 
those double beds aren't funny anymore

open the door.
Forget the casserole and the radar range.
Forget Millie, she's strange anyway, and most of all
forget men, at least for this afternoon.
Forget it all and let me in.

I've loved ya since i was five.
Why would I lie?
I wanted to be you, but now I just want you,
and if I can't be with you then I guess I'll just die
and you'll have a lesbian,
a broken hearted pretty damn cool lesbian
dead in the drive.

Laura, baby,
let me in.
You'll never have to see Buddy and Sally again.
I can show you things the network censors won't allow.
I can show them to ya now,
but sweet foxy black and white woman of my dreams Laura,
you got to open that cardboard set door.
I'll light your Kent
and pay the rent, 
but sweetheart, you got to put down the oven mitts 
and come and let me in.


I gave it up.
(too dangerous
too demanding
too thrilling)

I gave it up
nobody who knows me
(unless they know me really well
or, unless they knew me
would guess that kiss-this independent me,
little sugar-lipped my-way me
was ever into
such stuff.

But oh, when I least expect it,
(when I've almost forgotten
all the sweet and the rotten)
some woman says
(she doesn't say it sweet)
some woman says
(she doesn't say it cold)
some woman says
(she says it like she just naturally expects it)
"come here"
"hand me that"

oh the shiver that slides up my back.
Oh how the air gets too thin to breathe
and I know,
I know,
she's recognized me.

But I've given it up.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Birthday

November 21st is someone's birthday.

Uh huh.

She is city,

and she is country.

She's a writer,

and she's a mom.

She's got her own cool style,

but you'll have to guess who it is!

Happy birthday, girl. May it be the best ever.



Monday, November 19, 2012


The Queen of the Vampires has her chin on the table and her hair up in a messy knot on top of her head.

Suddenly, she hisses bloodcurdlingly and shows her fangs.
Her eyes get big.
She turns her head from side to side.
"Haaaaaaaaaaaaa!" Her razor-sharp canines glint in the light of Danny's Coffee Shop.

Her opponent takes all of this in without so much as a blink, although he does flatten his ears.

Then he opens his mouth, and shows his own fangs,
looking about as threatening as a throw pillow.
It is the kitten Giuseppe Verdi.

"Oh please," says Denise the waitress, passing by.

Giuseppe Verdi launches himself at the Vampire Queen,
knocking her backwards in her chair
(or so she lets him think)
until she lands unceremoniously on the checkered floor of Danny's,
with the kitten on her chest, gloating.

"What are you two morons doing?" It is Chloe, all blonde hair and parole violations.
Gathering all of her dignity,
or as much as she can while lying on the floor with a kitten on her chest,
The Queen of the Vampires says,
"We are playing Leopard and Villager. I'm the villager."

Chloe smirks. "How come I've never seen you balance a basket on your head?"

"I could if I wanted. I just don't feel like it," sniffs the Vampire, snatching up Giuseppe Verdi and kiss-mugging him.
He allows this for a minute, then runs off.

"Borrrrrrrrrrrn freeeeeeeeee," screeches Chloe.
"Nice," says the QOTV. "You could kill a cheerleader at twenty paces with that voice."
"Do you really think so?" asks Chloe, pleased.

Just then, the little bell above the door rings,
and the Dark-Haired Chick walks in.
She is immediately pounced upon by a large black blur,
which turns out to be the QOTV in black panther form.
Taking the Chick in her jaws, the QOTV drags her into a booth.

"Wtf?" says the Dark-Haired Chick.
"You're the Villager," explains the Succubus,
sitting at her favorite spot in the corner.
"Just go with it."

It's a typical Monday night at Danny's Coffee Shop.
Try the mocha cappuccino.
When God makes one,
She always sneaks Giuseppe Verdi a little bit of whipped cream.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Saph Says What

Like the old record should have said--
hit me, babe.
I'm nothing but a bell girl,
nothing but a plain spoken girl.

Hang me babe--
haul down on that hemp.
Swing me babe,
and I'll sing it, like truth down from the mountain top.

Ring me babe--
with a Claddagh or a Labrys;
or deny, and deal with my silence--
no more sugar on a Sunday morning, no more sweet talkin' tongue in the bell.

for Marian's Music Challenge: "Soon Enough", the music of Aimee Mann. I struggled with this; it took me three days and a near-total rewrite, but I finally have something I am happy with. Here's a Til Tuesday song that I used for inspiration.

...and also the Doors song I referenced in the poem. Robbie Krieger wrote this song as "Hit Me", but Jim Morrison refused to sing it that way. If you listen carefully, you can hear that the band had some fun with it as they chant the old Ajax laundry detergent jingle "stronger than dirt" at the end.

I'm adding these images, as several people have mentioned having to look up what I was writing about.

Claddagh ring

Labrys ring.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Dani's" Coffee Shop ?!?

Hey, check it out... road trip! All the Danny's Coffee Shop girls--and even the rarely seen Danny himself!--are visiting my Sista Poet's blog today. So head on over to My Heart's Love Songs and see what they're up to!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How To Write A Poem

Start with a blank page.
Fill it with what excites you the most,
the thing that causes you the most pain,
the thing you are most afraid of being judged for,
and that you least want anyone to know about.

Don't lie.
Don't hedge.
Don't worry that the wrong person will read it--
they will.
Don't worry that no one else has ever felt this way--
they have.
Don't think it's not good enough--
it is.
Don't think it's the best you can do--
it's not. Do it again.

dress it up in the most beautiful language you can imagine.
throw out two thirds of it.
Start over.
Do it better.
Make yourself cry.
Make someone else cry.
Never be satisfied.
Never let yourself off the hook.
Never stop saying the thing that you're terrified to say.

don't waste my time, princess.

For Kerry's challenge

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Dr. Van Stiefer, a man alarmed by illogic
and disquieted by the slightest chaos,
opened his surgery on Carriage Road East
to very little fanfare.

That would shortly change.

As a medical student, Van Stiefer could barely contain
his boredom when faced
with the halt and lame.

At St. Cecilia's Hospital,
attendings had to stop the young man
from amputating in cases of sprained ankles
out of ennui and expediency.

But now,
now is his moment.

Dr. Lars Van Stiefer has a revolutionary idea.
He hopes it will alleviate, or entirely prevent
an array of difficulties and infirmities.
He will treat romantic love as a neurological disorder,
like tremors, or rabies.

His patients, beset with every variety of odd behavior,
will be brought in by stretcher,
and he will bandage their hearts, tightly,
with clean bandages,
leaving only the tiniest new scar.

Good order will be restored,
and following a brief period of recovery, 
they can go back to work,
or to their wives and husbands,
ready to face life with new health and calm.

Dr. Van Stiefer is celebrated, feted, 
asked to speak before august gatherings of renowned physicians.
The dreary halls of St. Cecilia's fade into dusky memory,
and the doctor takes to his celebrity
with dignified grace.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Van Stiefer's womanly emotions
begin to wobble on their axis.
When the doctor arrives home,
without ceremony,
without display,
without humor,
she broods, and piles his plate with medical texts,
inviting him to use them as
supper or suppositories,
though she does not phrase it exactly in that way.

Unknown to him,
she forges a sympathetic connection with his nurse,
a certain Miss Pelby.
By the time they have lunched once,
been to the variety stage show twice,
and kissed a third time,
the wheels are greased for her own severe case of nervous illness--
that is to say,

No surprise, then, that Dr. Van Stiefer,
faced with the unfamiliar landscape of this domestic hiccup,
should have brought her,
the very next day,
to his surgery.

Was Mrs. Van Stiefer homicidal?
The doctor's own writings declare this an impossibility
in a woman of good background.
she was found in the waiting room by a medical equipment salesman,
with a bloody sleeve and a fit of the giggles.

Dr. Van Stiefer's esteemed colleagues,
arriving at graveside,
discussed among themselves what ought to be done for the new widow.
"Death by misadventure" having claimed her husband,
it was decided,
for her,
by these learned men,
that the prudent thing would be to recommend her into the care of the late doctor's nurse.

Mrs. Van Stiefer stayed on in her house,
under Miss Pelby's expert care
for the duration of her uncommonly long convalescence.

Thank you to Shawna for the word list!

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Favorite Dozen CD's Of All Time

...cos it's my blog and I can. This is a list of my own personal favorites, not an objective piece of journalism. Bosco is in charge of that stuff. I'm old, but not quite as old as this list might make you think; I came to several of these after the fact.

1. New York Tendaberry--Laura Nyro. Pure poetry, purely original, and full of a striking passion. As soon as I discovered her, I wanted to be her. There is something of Laura Nyro in almost everything I write. She showed me what was possible. Plus, she lived with a female partner later on, and that just endeared her to me even more. She is missed.

2. Red Dirt Girl/Wrecking Ball--Emmylou Harris. I put these together because they were issued consecutively, and I love them both more than I can say. I bought Wrecking Ball right when it came out. I did the same with Red Dirt Girl, then it sat in my cd carousel for a decade before i got it out and discovered what I had been missing. 

3. Song For  Seagull--Joni Mitchell. I think this was her first major release, and it is still my favorite. It's the folkie Joni, and full of soul, longing, and spirit. "My gentle relations/ have names they must call me/ for loving the freedom/ of all flying things". Oh, do I relate to that.

4. Famous Blue Raincoat--Jennifer Warnes. Here, Jennifer Warnes lends her voice--which is everything Leonard Cohen's is not--to the songs of Leonard Cohen. The combination is astonishing.

5. Cheap Thrills--Big Brother & The Holding Company. It's Janis. Need I say more?

6. It's A Beautiful Day--It's A Beautiful Day. Why wasn't I in San Francisco during the Summer of Love? Maybe because I was in grade school in Michigan. I was introduced to this music, which includes "White Bird", one rainy Sunday afternoon in the late 70s, at a friend's house. I left with borrowed copies of this, and Joni Mitchell's "For The Roses." That was a good day!

7. Wild Heart--Stevie Nicks. The Gypsy in me just loves Stevie Nicks, whose cool voice and rock n roll love songs captured my imagination and still do.

8. Fit To Be Tied--Joan Jett. This is a "best of" collection, and it really is. Joan isn't complicated. She just f*cking rocks. I love rock n roll...especially when Joan sings it. Oh, and she's "family", too.

9. It Ain't Easy--John Baldry. Long John Baldry was a big tall Englishman given to wearing big hats, making him seem like a giant. He was never a giant in terms of sales, but he helped Rod Stewart and Elton John (who takes the "John" part of his name from John Baldry) to get started, and he could belt out Brit Blues like nobody's business. This was out of print for many years, but has finally been reissued on cd.

10. Revolver--The Beatles. My favorite Beatles album. Issued just before Sgt. Pepper, you can see it coming, here. The reissue includes some cool songs like "Dr. Robert" and "And Your Bird Can Sing."

11. Person To Person--Tim Hardin. Tim Hardin was a drug-addicted, vain, impossible nutjob who hated performing publicly, or having anyone else perform his songs. He was also, for a short while, one of the most gifted and unique singer/songwriters ever. He wrote "If I Were A Carpenter" and "Reason To Believe." 

12. Mosaique--The Gypsy Kings. I can't understand a word, but I play the snot out of this cd, all the time. It combines Latin and Gypsy music with a pop sensibility, and has energy to spare.

That's my list. What's yours?