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Thursday, November 04, 2021


 If I'm being politically incorrect, so be it, but I enjoy seeing men at work. Maybe it's one of my old lady things. I don't remember this being a particular pleasure for me when I was younger. The men don't have to be young, tan, ripped—all that. They can be the guys out back who are taking out shrubbery and Teddy Bear cacti because pack rats (Jeez louise!) hide there and they are unwanted for many reasons (their worst sins involve getting underneath cars and trucks and chewing on wires) and the men are also pulling up scrawny volunteer Palo Verde because because.  I'm staying out of discussions about all this; I know they know better. After all, my brother Peter and I had a tropical jungle around our house in Panama City Beach and I never wanted to see anything go. He would get on pruning rampages, though. A couple of times a year I'd have to dash outside to steer him away from plants that really deserved their place in the dirt. My mother's plumbago disappeared after one of Peter's "clearing the clutter" days. Ah, well. 

I don't know anything about the machines they are using either, but they can pull targeted green or dead things without hassle. Watching from the deck gives me a close up of how diggers and such work and I am impressed. Today these jobs are done by women, too, of course, but the crew here are all men and except for one guy, grey-haired. They are also incredibly nice and work in our community full-time, so we can all get to know each other. When Robert, the brother who moved to Tucson with me, goes East to get his stuff, I'll be okay because of this crew and because my neighbor is an excellent neighbor. She is the first and only woman I know here, apart from dear, teenaged Melia who lives with her dad on a little hill a short walk from me. I'll be okay. Yep.

The quail, doves, wrens, finches, woodpeckers, Phainopeplas, and hummingbirds who dine out back several times a day came back to the yard as soon as the machines were quiet and the guys were gone. The quail, who are startled by everything, will have to find a new place to hurry to because the pack rat shrubbery is all gone. They will, I'm certain. I don't think it will take them a minute to adjust to the differences in the yard because they dearly love to eat.

Later...Our yard and my neighbor's yard are pretty damn naked now. Our view is spectacular and there are big plans for replanting and shoring up the rock wall that keeps our desert dirt from tipping into the little roadway between our building and the ones south of us in this compound. You know, a little over a month ago I lived in a small apartment within an assisted living facility in Pensacola. My view was of a parking lot, gorgeous live oaks beyond the cars, (a good thing) and from my recliner, which doubled as my bed (my choice and it was okay) a television. I watched way too much television back there. Today I watch birds, the occasional family of javalinas, and men at work. xxoononnie


Tuesday, October 26, 2021



A Situation

Too few truck drivers—80,000 too few means that my stuff is elsewhere in America. Movers aren't moving. "Goods" they call my pile. Apt.

Clothes, bowls, bone china coffee mugs I've had in my cabinets, in my hands, for thirty years, Sheffield stainless flatware my former husband and I bought in England when we lived in England, the set of Poole pottery chosen during a day trip to splendid Poole, towels, waste bins, paper clips, my mother's china cabinet, my brother's bookcases, my French writing desk, my oxygen concentrator, couch, armchair, recliner/bed, the coffee table my brother painted then used découpage to cover with Van Gogh prints from an art book sacrificed to the project, but worth it, supplies of toilet paper and paper towels, paper clips, bandaids, art made by my father and two of my three brothers, all the books I couldn't give away before I left the assisted living facility and the photo albums I needed to keep. I see I mentioned paper clips twice. Well, I really need some right now.

So many of us are waiting and waiting. At the ports, all the big ports, (meant to be busy) ships loaded with containers containing almost everything wait for stevedores to unload and drivers who'll drive. Helpless shopkeepers wait with empty shelves and shoppers lower expectations. We whine in solidarity, don't we?

The kindness of neighbors (sorry, Tennessee Williams) saves my brother and I. We have borrowed beds, a table with four chairs and a folding chair for the deck out back. The excellent pots, pans, and knives my brother successfully shipped from Philadelphia mean we can cook. Well, he can cook.

Ah, well. I make my morning phone calls to the broker and the trucking company and on rare occasions a human responds with a non-answer. In all the years I've been knocking around I have at least learned about letting go of things once I've done what I can. (I've called Legal Aid and I may call the West Palm Beach Sheriff.) I realize I wouldn't have a mess like this if I hadn't been so trusting, naive, flattered when I booked the move. Flattered? Yes, because the charming agent (two weeks later, when I complained, he became insulting) read some of my writing, stuff he found online, back to me over the phone and he soon convinced me that theirs was the outfit to choose over all others. Silly Nonnie.

Must needs let it go, until tomorrow morning's phone call and text time, eh? 


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Sunday, August 26, 2018

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My family in Buffalo, N.Y. visiting my cousin, Alan, and his parents. That's Mom, Ricky, me, and Peter, with Robert, the tall teenager, in the back.




Two Weeks and Three Days Later

Ah, Peter. My housemate, my best friend, my brother, died of a vicious metastatic cancer on August 9th, 2018. I drove him to the oncologist on July 17th for his biopsy results and his doctor gently told him that he couldn’t cure his cancer; it had metastasized to his liver and Peter calmly opted for hospice care. The doctor approved his decision. Having seen how Peter had suffered in the weeks leading up to this appointment, and having seen how my brother struggled to make the trip across town with me and sit in the waiting room and the doctor’s office with dignity and grace, I understood that his days of leaving the house for medical attention should come to a stop. I drove us home as carefully as I could, but seemed incapable of smooth braking and we both winced every time the car jerked again. He tried to comfort me.

So then there was a bit of time. His close friends came by with homemade soups and smoothies, yoga music, essential oils, and a foot massage (Sandy and Lisa), a wonderful Saturday night dinner (Katrina and Roger) from one of his favorite restaurants, with extra soup offerings from our Chinese place, (he loved the egg drop soup and Katrina brought some by every few days after that as long as he could eat) flowers, love and comfort. And he told his friend Victor, who has a house-painting business, to paint the house white. He’d have a big white tombstone, he said, because he wasn’t going anywhere. (Peter hasn’t. His ashes are here and if I ever leave this house, I’ll bury them under his bedroom window.) Christine, the hospice nurse was so good, so kind. Thank you, Covenant, for sending her to us. My brother Robert was here for Peter’s last week in his body. Robert left Philadelphia for Florida sooner than he’d planned and came as soon as I said “we need you now.”

Peter and I, eighteen months apart, grew up together in northern New Jersey, in a town called Ramsey. Robert was the oldest and Ric, who died in 2008, the youngest. We lived for the first 10 years there in a G.I. neighborhood. Two to six kids in every house in our development, fathers who commuted to NYC for their jobs, and in almost every house a mother who stayed home. Some of my most vivid memories of Peter are of playing in the woods, skating on the pond, practicing for circuses and parades around the neighborhood. Peter was the director and producer, ringleader of the circuses, inventor of new adventures. He’d usually take a backstage role and give his friend Cormac the Tarzan part or whatever, and I either played Jane, or, my favorite, the monkey. I could write a book about my brother, and maybe someday I will, but the pain of missing him is acute right now and I think I’ll close this down now.

First, though, I need to thank you. For comforting Peter with your cards, calls, and visits, and for holding me up during the worst of the last three weeks before he left us, and for your wonderful support since. I was so sure I’d go first, you see. Peter was the one who knew how to take care of things, do things. I cooked, collected stray cats, read, and wrote poetry. But my brother Robert, my cousins, neighbors, all of you that I haven’t met except online, but feel that I know well, and my dear friends will help me. I’m learning to ask. Later today, a Sunday, Phyllis and Paul will pick me up for dinner at Richard and Sandy’s. Lynne cooked me a delicious dinner on Thursday and listened while I talked and talked and talked, Chris took me shopping for a rug for my dog yesterday, and a  neighbor cut down a branch that had fallen too close to our fence. Soon, I’ll get back to the Unitarian services I love and maybe find I can begin giving back, eh? One line of poetry, by Czlaw Milosz, has nestled in my thoughts again: “There is no one between me and you.”


Saturday, January 13, 2018

This is in my book, To See Who's There. I'm a descendant of immigrants, too.


Strength & Luck


       There’s no food in Ireland for Patrick Kennedy. He slogs with the other starving over the wintry road to Kingston port, hands the man his bit of coin earned working with the lordship’s horses. And up the gangway to ride the groaning bucking ship across the Irish Sea. Near to frozen in the open air he hears screams from the freezing below decks. A rotten beam has cracked, shattered, broken the back of a mother. The damn ship docks in Liverpool’s crazed harbor with sloppy, exhausted triumph.
       So Patrick’s in amid the shoving, bellowing, crying mass of countrymen lost in the dirty alleys snaking from wharf to dark city. A churchwoman offers bread and weak ale, saving him, he supposes—he’s that hungry. To sleep then, in a heap where he stumbles. The night brings him a dream of his father, still lively and digging up stones. Morning and an English pulls him by the arm back to the docks, signs him on and so he’s a stevedore—him, a boy whose life had been stallions, mares, and colts. Liverpool smothers in coal ash and fear’s roiling anger.
       When Patrick’s had enough of the place and the place has had enough of him, he scrimps the fare (gone low it has for the thousands and for the shipping lines wanting to carry them) and boards a steamship bound for New York City. At least that’s what they tell him—he can’t read the paper ticket, but he’s paid for it and takes his chances.
       The crossing is hell plain and simple, the only good being the end of it— a hundred or so poor souls with typhus ferried to hospital on Ward’s Island. His luck with him or so he thinks, he’s in the mass of them crowding down the gangplank. A cursing bastard in uniform grabs him by the neck, pushes him onto a cart. By sunrise he’s in uniform himself.  Patrick’s a private in the Union Army. Whatever the hell it is, whatever the hell the fight is about, he holds a rifle and boots too big for him are on his feet—he is in it now.
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       Because Patrick Kennedy survived the potato famine, the refugee frenzy in Liverpool, the rats aboard the City of Manchester, and the American Civil War to raise a family with Catherine, née McCarthy, I am here to write these things down about my great-great grandfather, born in Dunganstown, Wexford County, Ireland, 1836, dead in Richmond County, Staten Island, New York, 1888.

Monday, December 04, 2017

One poem is brand new, one is in my book, To See Who's There

Lucien Pissaro, 1916
Time Change in Florida #2

Sapped, yes. But not finished. Not yet.
So what if I mostly live in my head?
Who says I have to be out running around
improving body income outgo technical savvy?

The dizzy awe of a Southwestern canyon at my feet,
a clean expanse of sunlit snow, a seat at a small iron table
on a terrace near a bridge spanning a shady canal, a few ducks. Yes. I do yearn,

but fuck that. The wizardry of Greek goats on the cliffs,
the exquisite calm of Prince Edward Island, conquests and seductions—
random delicious recollections lively and reasonably true live on
in Whitmanesque abundance, drifting, thundering, startling.

Come to my sunny room. We’ll lie in my ancient bed,
sing German Lieder, dance the pavane.
Come to my spacious room. Help me get this right.

The Painter, the Actor, the Piano Player
1.
As fast as that I wake to astonishing desire.
I’d met you just once, but for them
(them the drained students trying to relax)
you are the stranger in the room,
(the room the shabby basement cafeteria in the old Juilliard building).
I can summon the flip of my belly as you stride to my table of dancers
(the room holds its breath) enfold me, kiss me (sighs)
and I refill here and now with that first taste of delicious knowing.
2.
A phone call about a blind date who will meet me
on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art primes
me for the man who has picked such a place.
I’m early, filled with notions.
From the top I scan the city crowd, see you bound up
the proud staircase straight to me. How did you know?
Your talk’s all of a failed audition for Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point.”
At twenty-five you’re too old, but still you buzz because the great director
has seen you now and maybe... We walk south on 5th Avenue.
As we enter Central Park at 72nd St., the next two
and a half years have begun.
3.
You arrive thirty-five minutes late (the first time I forgive you).
I’d raced downtown to my two rooms on 14th Street from Lincoln Center,
sweaty from ten hours in dance studios, desperate to shampoo my oily itchy head. Cleaned up seconds before your knock, I undo the police lock.
Your tweed jacket white shirt curly wild red/brown hair round blue smart eyes tall skinny grace punch me in the heart so that my chest contracts.
Did I gasp?


4.
A fast heavy rain lowered a bough of the too tall old rose bush.
One pink bloom is done for but the other holds its fat shape.
The greens outside my window quiver. My wild Florida garden
applauds the sky; thousands of leaves have had their fill. All over
is bright gray light. I’ve been working at my French writing desk
with its view like a painting. My brother and I have landed here together,
each single, each quiet.
I applaud my young men. See us painted by Chagall.
Three times in four years I stepped off the cliff to ride the currents.
While aloft I danced, bounced, sailed, dove in winds, rains, heat and cold
like I’ve not known since. Just turned eighteen, almost nineteen,
and twenty-one, I flew over and through New York City
with you and you and you. Whoosh!
Who pushed, who pulled? No matter.
My hand, your hands gripped tightly until one of us loosened, let go.
Ah, July’s fierce sun is back, but the greens no longer thirst
and will not droop for hours.

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