Reanimated Lavender Granola Switchblade Nun rides again.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Recurring Dream Of My Childhood

Alone in a strange city at night--
everything dark, wet from recent rain,
lights too far away or just reflections in the damp pavement;
buildings empty hulks, yet somehow watching,

no sanctuary.

A car pulls up to the curb--
a late 40's or early 50s model,
black, maybe a Buick or a Hudson,
and though well out of date, shiny as a snake.

A woman in red dress steps out of the passenger side--
she's vaguely Hispanic,
wearing pearls and heels.
her cheekbones are high, she's almost pretty, but cold,
pretending to be helpful. A man sits in silent shadow behind the wheel.

"Are you lost?" she asks me. Yes. The curb feels like a cliff.
"Get in," she says, gesturing toward the car.
I don't want to.
It feels like a shark's mouth, a precipice, no good end in there,
and yet, I am lost and by myself,
in this strange city at night.

Sometimes I get in, and then it gets much worse--
they drive me to a doctor, a doctor who is not human,
whose treatments are misery, and who cures nothing.
Other times, I have some sense of a memory warning me
not to go with them, and I refuse.

My temporary escape is no joyful thing, but rather,
a stay of execution to be taken up on another night.

Not really a poem, but an accurate description of a recurring nightmare I had as a child.

For Bjorn's "nightmare" mini-challenge at Real Toads. 

Super Skittles

Skittles the wonder dog, recuperating at home from her spay procedure on Thursday.

Resting on her favorite snowman blankie.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Good News / Bad News

The good news: everything has been saved,
locked away for you:

real love, sunny skies, and on and on.

The bad news: you need a key to open the door.
You have to make the key yourself.
The lock is in a foreign language.
No interpreter.

The good news is, the world turns and turns.
Tides come in, then go out.
The equator is a ring on which hangs the key.
Already made, already spoken

by your own hand;
from your own mouth.
For Susie's challenge at Real Toads.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cliff & Clarity

At the cliff,
no Dairy Queen.
No airport.
No cinema.

Just the Confused,
with their dusty feet.

At the bottom of the cliff,
the No Longer Confused
in their matchless silence.

In between,
an empty space that is not empty.
Each entrant fills it (briefly)
with flight, adrenaline, instant regret, or transport.

As with all spaces 
of sudden clarity and 
you cannot live there.

Just when you so want to tell the world
--yes, that recently rejected world--
what you know,

Here comes gravity the motivator,
solid ground the schoolmarm,
and permanence the principal

to shut you up,
lest you warn those wide-eyed others
on their way
behind you.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Chinese Box

The restaurant was a Chinese box.
My order was wrong,
then right,
then wrong again.

The waiters were men,
then women,
then men.

You were angry with me,
then not;
then you weren't you, or at least,
didn't seem to be.

An alchemist came and turned the soup to stone,
the stone to a poem,
together to alone,
despite all assurances printed on the menu card.

Lunch for 2.
Dinner for 4.
In your hand an apple,
then nothing; then a core.

I said, "My love...."
as I dug with my fingers all the way through the world,
to find a hard queen, a woman dissolved
in your eye looking back saying, "Now what, girl?"

For "Play It Again, Toads" at The Imaginary Garden. I was inspired by the image at top, which is by my dear friend Daryl Edelstein, and also by the image below, which was taken by Karin Gustafson.
 Optional--and quite insane--musical accompaniment.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


I am not the girl for you.
Mornings and evenings, 
I am lost in the roil and flock of myself.

Here is the hungry
coming out from me,
motion by slim margins denied.

I'm all sharp looks,
resenting restraint,
ready to die
if by dying I rise.

Do you think
you're the sky?
You look to me like a stick on strings,
a store-bought bell.

I weigh 
amount to

like love, or thermals.
But instinct drives me,
driven spiral-mad to know

That the rodent heartbeat of my inborn ambition
is out there,
stirring the leaves,
heading for its hole,

While I strain and scream,
knowing I can never spot it 
from here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: "Her"

HerHer by Harriet Lane

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

"Her" is a suspense novel about two women. Polished artist Nina recognizes new mother Emma on the street one day, and sets about insinuating herself into her life. She starts by snatching her wallet as Emma grapples with a stroller getting out of a shop. She then returns it in person and goes from there. Clearly, she has something bad in mind, all the while pretending to be Emma's new friend. Emma, for her part, doesn't remember Nina.

Emma *needs* a friend. She has a toddler and a newborn, and is doing all she can just to keep up and not collapse from exhaustion, let alone do much of anything for herself. Lane depicts her situation extremely well, but one things is missing: until almost the end of the book, there is no hint of any joy in motherhood for Emma. In fact, the entire cast seemed to me to be sour, judgmental, resentful and constipated. At one point, Emma's husband remarks about a novel he is reading, that he doesn't *like* any of the characters. Nina is annoyed by this and doesn't deem it even worth responding to. So I will.

Nina doesn't reveal what she's getting even for until late in the book, and when she does, it is something that, while slightly upsetting in the moment, is something that any normal adult would have grown up and gotten over years ago. Not Nina. No, despite having money, a husband and a teenage daughter, as well as a successful career as an artist, she sets out to systematically torment Emma mainly through a series of cruelly petty things she does to her young children on the sly. What 40 year old woman does things to tiny kids because she is resentful about something that happened more than 20 years ago? Not fun to read, and not even really suspenseful until the very end of the book. It kind of meanders along for the longest time.

As for the writing, Lane is continually launching into these long listy descriptive sentences that are all right at first, but become really irritating the more she does it. No one in this book just walks down the street. No, they have to notice EVERY little detail. It's like being stuck in a car with an acquaintance whose stories have wayyyy too many details, until you just want to throw yourself from the moving vehicle or else shake them by the lapels and scream "get to the point!"

Then there's the endless Britspeak. "Demob"? I was having to Google the Briticisms every other page. Plus, she assumes her reader knows all about London, and mentions things and places without any explanation at all, so I was frequently at a loss as to what she was talking about.

The worst, though, is just the sheer joylessness of the entire book. Nobody seems to really like anybody else very much. They sit around and silently judge each other for trifles, and although Emma is less this way than the rest of the characters, even she only seems to see the worm's eye view. Throw in the demented Nina out for blood to avenge what wasn't even a trifle, and it's enough to send anyone running for the antidepressants.

I just didn't *like* your novel very much, Harriet. Does that annoy you? Good, because your novel annoyed me.

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Some come sweet, from woman born,
not cradled by the briar thorn
and grow with sun and time that passes
not bitter like blackstrap molasses--

Astrid from the fire came
veiled and silent, sharp as cane
she makes you want her without trying
cloaked in all that's dank and dying,

Yet seeming skinned with fire's ember
red as rot in late September--
kiss her, call her, blister sweetly;
give yourself to her completely--

Astrid by the stone fence waiting
phosphor-bright and emanating
promise made that only passes--
Astrid gone to ache and ashes.

Incidentally, this is my 2,000th post at Word Garden.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wreath of Roses

I used stems to hold them in my hair,
the red of roses balanced there
to fire a fever in my head
a senseless sleeping, loved instead

Of you, a pool of glossy surface,
silent as some deathly circus
where all is mud and lily root--
cold lips to do what kiss can do

When offered with such artful lack
to turn my wreath of roses black.

For Karin's "artifice" challenge at Real Toads, which gave me the poem I needed to go with the image for Mag 301. Image by Ed Ross.

Note to my readers: comment moderation is now enabled. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Hello dear readers. I am taking a break from posting and stuff. Until then, this raccoon will entertain you.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Early Evening

There are gardens
on the moon,
bathed in borrowed light.

there is Earth,
and you in your kitchen,
boning a chicken.

The chicken awakes here,
stunned and multiplied,
become an eagle.

Look up,
darling of my heart,
preparer of southern concoctions.

You'll see an eagle 
pretending itself bees in profusion,
telling love to the flowers

in gardens 
on the moon.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chanson Pour Les Voyageurs

They slumped dead in their soup, those Canadian Frenchmen,
Their hearts stopped like cheap clocks
by the winter
or the wet
or the notions some men get...

Down from them came my grandfather, the one I never knew--
The thing to do, it seemed to him,
was to take a Native wife--
The one who bore him twins, then
went mad,
went dodgy, foggy,
like summer grain gone bad.

The institution did what they could for her, the rest of her life--
The alcohol did what it could to him, with no wife and two boys
dark of hair
dark of eye
until the day he died.

And so now, here I am, a seed blown down from northern winds,
An island of French Canada and New York state,
in love,
as my grandfather was,
with the midnight moon.

There are no islands where you are from, and so mine has come to you.
What I really long to do is to stripe
color across your cheeks,
your shoulders, your thighs--
to paint a hand print on your pony
and a circle around her eye.

Pretend I am prairie, though I am snow and river ice.
Lay yourself soft across me and I will gather you like a willow,
murmuring something you can't quite catch
in French,
which means:
God is a madwoman after all, but as sweet as nickel candy--
as dark as owl's eyes,
and as beautiful as your hair.

For the Sunday Mini-Challenge at the Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, this time hosted by Brendan, who requests that we write about islands. The word "island" is supposed to be in the title, and it was in my working title, but I changed it when I was finished. I hope this does not disqualify me. 

Process notes: Much of the story in this poem is from my actual family history. However, the French-Canadian men with the inherited cardiac condition were on my mother's side. My father's mother divorced his father when he was five years old, in 1917, quite the scandal in those days. He really did marry a Native woman who bore him twin sons, but something happened to her after that and she was never right again. She lived out her days in an asylum. My grandfather became a heavy drinker, a gene that I inherited, though I have been able to be sober now for thirty years. My father told me that, when he went back to upstate New York for his father's funeral, everyone knew right away who he was, because the family resemblance was so strong. He also said that all the men asked after his mother--my grandmother--who was, it seems, the local beauty. She died when I was two, so unfortunately, I don't remember her. 

Voici! Mon livre.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Can you hear my thoughts?
You ought to be able to,
it ought to be a snap
there's an a app for that
a map for that
don't be an ass for that's the worst thing you could do, I think.

But if you can hear my thoughts,
it's not like you didn't know I was gonna say that
it's so easy
lemon squeezy
let's go crazy it's the sanest thing to do.

And la la la
I can't hear you, all you alien abductors
train conductors
found and fucked 'ers 
spinning around the planets like Super Nobody

La la la, oh
I'm not listening, here in the great midwest
what I like best
what I want to suggest
is that we change the station change the station....

So, can you hear my thoughts?
What did I just dream about?
Do I have to get out
the hand puppets just to make myself clear
and if you don't hear what I haven't said,
it's no use, like shouting at a foreigner, a waste of time I think.

For Marian's Music Prompt: Dar Williams. Image at top: Clemence Poesy.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

An American Girl In The IRA

If I had it to do over again,
I'd wear a stars and stripes bandana over my red hair
and a New York Yankees jacket
honeycomb stitched with dynamite sticks.

I don't really give a damn
about political ends, but I have an ax to grind
and would sharpen it on the queen's neck if I could.
Sean, or Jimmy, or whatever your name is,

show me the street or the face and I'll blast it good.

All I did was sit there and cry, like a Kleenex in a storm drain
last time I was in London.
I've never told anybody the full dig and degree
of your lesson in knifepoint humility.

So now here comes the limousine, 
or the Royals or whatever rat bastard shit the day serves up.
My hands are steady as the moment comes around,
then I'm a red white and blue runner, righteous high

on feet never touching the ground.

for mag #300.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Mother and Daughter

She said, "Ugly little thing.
Stay put and be quiet. Don't embarrass me."

But the Heavens,
as vast as I was tiny, called to me,
"Little one of mine..."

I flew, and she said,
"You're going to fall,

Yes, one day I will fall
back into the Goddess's hand,

vast and tiny, both.

For Flash 55 at Real Toads. Photograph by National Geographic, available for free download.