Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A New York Moment
By Nonnie Augustine, © 2006
Revised 2010

Harvey C. Hamby was drunk.  Usually he held his liquor well, but   he was off his form.  Stumbling over an ottoman, he landed on the floor in soft sprawl.  As he fell, his left foot shot out behind him and socked Glenda Steinberg in the back of the knee, and she fell, too, taking the waitress, Elena Rosita, and a tray of champagne glasses with her.  Roger Steel was looking at himself as he passed a mirror and he tripped over Harvey. As he fell he reached for Edith Fisthe and she went down on top of Roger.  Harvey grabbed the ottoman and tried to get up as Sheila Rider was sitting down. She screamed when she felt a hand under her ass and Jimmy DeLuciano, startled, took a step backwards and fell onto the couch, landing in the lap of Judge Anna Pavlorroti. They had never been   friends.

The Plaza banquet room was crammed with well-heeled New Yorkers, and all this falling, pushing, pulling, and tripping continued to have a ripple effect through the crowd, who had gathered to celebrate New Year's Eve with newly elected Mayor Mary Flanaghan-Silverburg.  The Black-Eyed Peas chugged along with loud laughing, cursing, crying, and moaning coming from the crowd, who were soon almost all on the floor.

The big screen T.V. was tuned to Times Square, and the ball was about to drop.  Harvey, who had not yet managed to get off the floor, turned his head toward the screen, but was sidetracked by Lenora Black's fabulous cleavage. She was lying on her side and her breasts were roughly at Harvey's eye level.  He'd always been hot for Lenora Black, and he was drunk enough to sneak a feel, as he faked trying to get up.

Lenora hissed, “Harvey, dear, get your fucking paw off my tit!”

Harvey complied. The Mayor, realizing there were journalists and photographers in the room who were upright and busy, couldn't come up with any idea other than turning out all the lights in the party room.  So she did. It's anyone's guess what happened in the dark after that, but the big ball did its thing, and the New Year began.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Between Holidays


I chose 
to believe you.

Held my tongue
as I buttered my bread.

My heart beat harder, faster

while I nodded, tried to think

of something, anything safe to say.

When you spoke, your eyes
over the Christmas tablecloth,

smiled at our good dogs,

studied the Fraser Fir in the corner,

bright with faerie lights.

When you looked at me
your mask was in place.

I chose a peaceful meal-
never mind the cost.
I’ve hoarded better moments,
and stockpiled trust.
Maybe in the spring, I’ll ask again.

Friday, December 24, 2010

No Wonder Charles Dickens is Still Going Strong

Dickens had something there-with those Christmas Spirits. Well, maybe not so much the Spirit of Christmas Future. I don’t have much of a feel for that one at this point. Pretty sure I’ll spend it with Drago, my brother. Maybe we’ll go somewhere, you know, hook up with more family or do something exotic. Salzburg, maybe. Mozart in the Dom Cathedral. Snow and roaring fireplaces in the restaurants and cafés around the city. Mmm.  But if we went away, we’d have to leave our dog and cat, Blossom and Sam, and knowing us, we’d feel like that would be a crummy thing to do.  Dunno. Christmas Future made sense for Scrooge, though. They had to show him what was coming if he didn’t lighten up. It was the right thing to do for the old goat.

The Spirit of Christmas present is a nice size this year. Drago and I spiffed up our house. (Lydia came over with a covered litter box and Sam’s corner is much more private and presentable.) We went on a significant spree, really.  Of course, Dad’s not here to roll his eyes or talk/cuss us out of spending the money, but he would have liked what we bought, once he got used to the new stuff. Leon and Rae sent us an excellent espresso machine and tomorrow morning we’re going to our neighbors’ and one of them is only four. Nice. I’ve got most of the vision in my right eye back, after surgery for a couple of retinal tears. Except for the tiny bugs that float around all the time, my eye’s in pretty good shape. There are gifts to open and many, many cookies. I’ve shown splendid restraint so far.

That leaves the Spririt of Christmas past and that one’s a bugger. Seems like there’s been hundreds of them back there, taking turns giving me what we used to call warm fuzzies, God help us, and a few right hooks to the chin. Mom’s been around since Drago got the decorations down. She is indeed a Christmas Spirit. Always went kind of nuts, even scary a few years, getting everything ready, but by Christmas Eve she'd be okay-a star, in fact.

Oh, jeez. Just got lost in memories again. Buying presents, with money and not so much, cooking, not baking, crowded dining room tables, Scotch pines and Frazier firs. I need to spend some cat and dog time, I think. Too many Spirits at the moment. Oh, Drago’s back from yoga and shopping. Says he got me something good. That’s all right, then. Merry Christmas. xxoononnie

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nonnie and Drago and the Good Life

Nonnie and Drago and the Good Life

On Thursday, while I was napping (I have a no-expiration-date note from my first cardiologist, the one I had such a crush on, that prescribes guilt-free naps every day. Pretty cool. ) a Breville espresso machine arrived from our brother in Philadelphia and his wife.  My brother Drago put it together then we admired it, read the instruction booklet, and talked about it a lot. Didn’t get up the nerve to use it until Friday morning, when I made myself a delicious cappuccino. When Drago got home from teaching Yoga, I made him a macchiato. I’m a barista! On Saturday Drago used the machine to make a regular cup of coffee, under my supervision. He was impressed, and will, no doubt become a barista, too.

So, there was that. Also, new leather furniture for the Florida room had been delivered about a week ago; my brother and I mulled décor, Drago rearranged this and that, and the room looks great, except for the kitty litter corner. Drago has assembled all the pet products under a milking stool I found up in Pennsylvania back when I was still a wife and bought things like old milking stools. Lydia, our housekeeper, says people will see it and say “What a beautiful room! And y’all have a cat.” It’s not smelly, though. No really, it isn’t. Drago cleans the box all the time and our cat is nothing if not neat. He even comes in from outside to do his business. I’ve decided I like Sam’s corner. It’s so honest. No coy screening devices for our household’s cat stuff. “This is who we are. A man, a woman, a dog and a cat.” The dog, Blossom, owns half my bedroom.

The kitchen is getting up-scaled, too. Drago bought us a black ceramic glass-topped stove, which was delivered Saturday. Dunno. He and I are on a spree, I guess.  It’s super sleek-looking, and, I believe, will work, which is nice in a stove, don’t you think?

Hmm. Here we are, way down the page and I haven’t talked about the ritziest thing that happened this weekend. Friday night Drago was féted by a secret admirer. My brother and I and five of his friends were treated to a splendid supper at a very classy restaurant-so classy that President Obama and the First Lady chose to eat there when they visited our city. We never found out who arranged this dinner in Drago’s honor, or exactly why whoever it was (we figured it was the doctor and friend in our party, but were finally convinced it wasn’t, and Drago shot down the idea that the secret guy is from New York, because he’s sure all his friends in the City have died by now) went to all the lovely trouble, and not to be crass, expense. The head chef even came to our table to wish us a fine meal and assure us that everything had been taken care of. My brother and I think the mysterious event might have been in honor of Drago’s still being alive. Well, you know, he’s had AIDS for twenty-seven, give or take, years and survived three kinds of cancer. He’s not just hanging on, either. My brother recently became a Level 5 certified yoga teacher and a practicing Catholic Buddhist. Oh, it was a fine time. I got to dress up, didn’t need my eye patch, and felt pretty damn sparkly. Drago loved his féte and that we have a marvelous mystery to ponder. I hope the dear man (we were told it was a man) reads this blog post. If you do, I want you to know that I think you’re a peach! xxoononnie

Monday, December 13, 2010

In My Dad's Karmann Ghia

Two days before Christmas, Dad said with aplomb,
"Tomorrow night we'll go out for some holiday charm
for your too busy Mom, so she won't have to cook."
(All week she’d been wearing that crazed-lady look.)
But that morning angels started a huge pillow fight,
a blizzard that blew all day and all night.
For the first time I felt that snow was a blow,
but Dad, brave Dad, said, “Dress warm, we’ll still go.
In the Ghia we’ll do it, if we all can fit in it.”
I sat on one brother,
the others sat on each other.
We sang carols and laughed
And just about crashed.
We slid, spun, and yowled
on roads barely plowed,
but we made it and Dad said it
would be a night to remember
for each family member.
Once again, he was right.
We still talk of that night.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Nonnie's Goat is Got

It’s not her Alaska! What a creep. That caribou stopped to see what was going on with those strange creatures slithering over there and what was going on was they were trying to kill him! And she did. She missed a few times, even though the caribou was standing still, poor thing, but then she got him. And I saw it and felt sick. Oh, I know I shouldn’t have clicked on anything with her name on it-but I did. Now I’ve seen a caribou, a reindeer for chrissakes, murdered. I saw a snuff film. Don’t give me logic. I eat meat, and I've bought leather furniture, but jeez louise! I wouldn’t go to wild country for a go at killing animals. I don’t even see how she and I can be of the same species, let alone gender. I mean, she thinks scientists lie, (why would they?) shows videos of herself doing rotten things, neglects her children, (Oh, yes. She has a special needs baby who needs her, now! All the time she is busy doing stupid stuff that baby is missing crucial time with his mother. I’ll betcha, she isn’t with him this very minute.) tries to put down the best people, (but she's no good at it, she suffers from RHD, Republican Humor Deficiency) tells whoppers, entered a beauty contest and who knows what she reads, certainly not Billy Collins or Mary Oliver. You know what? If I had a chance, I think, I really think, I’d punch her right in the stomach. I don’t think I’d try to talk to her. I don’t think I could. I’d just punch her hard as I could. Although, maybe it wouldn’t hurt her much because she probably wears one of those SWAT vests, one that’s made to order so that she doesn’t look fat… but she might feel a punch, right? So…maybe she and I are the same species. It took her to bring the violence out in me, though. What a creep.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Nonnie and Drago Have Three Big Days

On December 1st my ex-husband and I settled our settlement. He gave me a lovely cashier’s check, we went to Panera’s, where he had an Italian sandwich, I had a scone, and we both had coffee in mugs. (You can ask for a mug in most of these coffee places you know-saves trees and helps your spirits.) Then he drove me home, and said hello to my brother, Drago. This settlement took years to get to. I didn’t even have a lawyer anymore. She’d given up and moved to Alabama. (Okay, maybe she had other reasons as well.) The morning went smoothly, diplomatically, a bit nostalgically, and it was all absofuckinglutely wrong.

My former husband was thinner and healthier-looking than I’ve ever seen him and I was a moon-faced, eye-patch wearing, cane-dependant wreck. I’ve had eye surgery for two retinal tears and a retinal hole and have had to take steroid eye drops which have given me facial edema (Drago concurs) and since I still can’t see anything but light and dark blobs, oh, and blue for some reason, I have to wear this black patch so that my good eye has a fighting chance. Hardly charming. A woman who’s gone through a divorce, hasn’t remarried, and hasn’t seen “him” for four years would want to be a slender, better-looking-than-ever, poised, witty and graceful Meryl Streepish knock-out, dontchathink?  I’ve used a cane for years, because of balance issues due to body part fails that we can talk about some other time, but what with nerves, vision decrepitude, and shock at how good my ex looked, I wobbled even with my support system, my little carp. (My cane was hand-carved in Italy and is topped with a fish head with green glass eyes that fits my hand perfectly. I love it.)

On December 2nd, Drago went to his most excellent doctor/friend and got the beautiful news that his throat (which there was reasonable worry about) did not look cancerous, and that Dr. Daube didn’t even need to see him again for three months. My brother has had AIDS since the early eighties and he’s survived cancer three times already, so this put us seriously in the frabjous day range. To celebrate my plump check and our hearty relief over his news, we went shopping on December 3rd. Old furniture in our Florida room needed replacing, and now I could get to it.

The first place we went was a bummer. I think I scared the saleslady with my eye-patch and fishcane. She said hello and then found other people to help. But the next store we went into was just the thing. I bought a burgundy leather couch and recliner. It’s so nice to have money to spend, isn’t it? Then, since we were right there and in simultaneous good moods, we went into an antique store across the street. I’d been before, but Drago never had. I was a little nervous about knocking something over, but my brother thought I could manage the winding paths through the treasures and junk (I mean why would someone want a collection of old lunchboxes?) if I was careful. We found, then lost, then found again, the perfect table for an awkward spot in our house and an intriguing porcelain lamp called to Drago.  So I bought the table and he bought the lamp, and we headed home, each of us tired, but satisfied. We’re going to get the carpets cleaned, too. I’ll pay. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right .... B. Dylan

Angelina Jolie doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving out of respect for Native Americans. I’m sure there are many Americans who choose not to celebrate the holiday for one good reason or another, but my brother Drago and I planned to do something festive. You know, carry on with things, even though it looked like it might be down to the two of us. We could go out, I thought, but I hoped something else would come up.

Sure enough, he and I were invited to share a feast with new friends of his, Louis and Julio. My brother and Julio teach yoga at the same gym. Big relief for me. I hadn’t really wanted to go to a restaurant, but the idea of Drago and I having turkey and trimmings at home by ourselves seemed kind of, well, paltry, compared to the grand family gatherings of the past. There used to be a lot of us. I even had a husband and stepchildren for awhile.   Last year, when Dad was still alive, we’d had our neighbors over, which we’d been doing since Mom died, but they were planning to visit Ben’s daughter. So, okay, then. Now we had plans.

A day or two after my eye surgery (see previous blog if you’re curious about that) I was on the Internet looking into designer eye patches. Drago came into my room with his phone. He’d gotten a text, he said (he hates texting) from Louis accusing Drago and the fitness director at the gym of bitchy gossip about Julio’s yoga-teaching being a bit swishy. At least that’s what Drago thought the text said. Neither of us are great shakes at reading these strange communications.  There were a few texted back and forths, and a phone call with the fitness director (boy was she mad about all this nonsense) then silence. Drago didn’t hear from either of the guys, and they didn’t show up for the classes he taught. In fact, Julio didn’t even show up for the class he was supposed to teach.

Time marched on and Thanksgiving Day was looming. (I had mixed feelings about the plans to go to their house by this time, anyway. One likes to look nice when one is the only woman among gay men at a dinner party-and I was stuck wearing a black eye-patch, over my eyeglasses. I’d tried under, but that looked even weirder.) Two days before the damn holiday, I suggested we order a small turkey and side dishes from one of the groceries that does that sort of thing for people like Drago and I were turning out to be: folks with no folk to bother cooking for, or anywhere to go. So we did that.

Then, at noon, on Thanksgiving day, Drago got a text from Julio saying (my brother was pretty sure,) that Julio and Louis had forgotten to tell him that dinner was switched to Friday at six, and they would like confirmation that he would be coming. I guess I was still included in the altered plans. Who knows? Drago, with admirable restraint, texted back, (he thinks) “I think not.”

Later in the day, our friend and housekeeper, Lydia, (I have a heart thing and don’t do heavy cleaning. Well, okay, I don’t do much light cleaning either) came over with lovely, cooked Cornish hens, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce and even chicken broth in case the stuffing got dry. I could see well enough to heat all that up, and Drago and I ate Lydia’s home cooking rather than the take-away turkey dinner we had stashed in the garage refrigerator.  Then I watched “Night of the Iguana” on Turner Classic Movies, 
(I wonder how that particular movie got slotted for Thanksgiving) TCM, and Drago worked on his current drawing. We’ve each been producing a steady stream of jokes about this FUBAR, then not at all FUBARED, first-holiday-without-other-family or friends, for each other all week. Drago and I did fine. I wore my patch, didn’t have to put a bra on, and my brother has Zenned his way far beyond intrigues, especially texted intrigues. One of these days I’ll write down his stories about Christopher Street, in NYC, in the early eighties. You know, before AIDS really hit, when he and his friends were doing fine.

Um. If you don’t know what FUBAR means, you can Google. It’s a real handy little acronym. Easy to text, too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

First there was an exciting, interesting, scenic, warm, loving, poignant week and then there was a frightening, frustrating, blurry, chilling, discouraging week

What happened was my brother, Drago, and I traveled to Philadelphia to visit my other brother, Leon, his wife, Rae, their new home, their funny, stately, standard poodles, Ajax and Harry, and a bit into the week, go to the Moravian cemetery on Staten Island, New York, where Mom’s, Dad’s, and my brother Ric’s ashes are staying. We met our cousins, Simon and Cosette, at the cemetery and after some time there we went to an excellent Italian restaurant, La Strada, (real name) right there on New Dorp. Simon and Cosette are from different sides of our family, and had only met each other once before, in 2006, when they put my mother’s “cremains” (I didn’t know that word until last March, when Dad died. I don’t like it much. Just don’t.) in the wall, which sits on the highest hill on Staten Island, giving all the ashes and bones  a lovely view of the bay.  Lunches, dinners, a visit with Leon and Rae’s daughter and four month old grandson, playing with the poodles, taking walks around, admiring every single thing about Leon and Rae’s converted carriage house, the kind of Eastern/autumnal weather I miss most, seeing my cousins and helping them get to know each other, which for some reason I felt they already should have -like something got messed up there- all that was very, very fine. I didn’t fall or knock anything over and I think I did a good job of keeping up. Well, Drago was there to help me in the airports, and everyone toned down the outings for me, I think.

Then came a massive change in mood. Right after Drago and I got to the Philadelphia airport, to fly home to Panama City Beach in Florida, I started seeing spidery black things in my right eye. Not your regular floaters-these were seriously alarming. I didn’t say anything about it until after my brother and I got through security, then I told him I had almost no vision in one eye. (By that time, when I looked at what my eye could see, there were only light and dark blurs and possibly a billion little black dots.) We kept calm, probably for each other, and because we both badly wanted to get all the way home without a fuss.  I did indulge in great bursts of cursing, shouting, and bewailing my fate, but carefully kept all that to myself. By the next afternoon I’d seen three eye doctors, and the day after that, a Saturday, I had undergone eye surgery for two retinal tears and a retinal hole. I also looked uglier than I can ever remember looking as in a bloody eyeball, bruising, swelling, one helluva dark, crappy looking, eye. This second week of quiet terror has ended. I still can’t see, but my vision is supposed to come back, and I don’t look as scary. I’ve been told to keep my head down 45 minutes out of every hour, which, of course, I’m not at all good at. But Drago took me back to the eye surgeon yesterday, and the doctor was satisfied with my progress. Our cat and dog have been keeping me company when my brother is out, or in, for that matter, and although I bump into things, I’ve kept my balance almost all the time. (I did fall over an armchair.) I plan to cook tonight-but not chop. I’m not up to chopping.

I know this is a long blog entry, but I’ve been musing all week on the fantasticality of one week rolling right into such an utter mess. Remember the Vonnegut novel where he keeps saying “So it goes…”?  He really had something there, didn’t he?


Saturday, October 30, 2010


The hour is late and he is gone for good, at last.
I welcome the howling storm this night
as the furious wind is blowing past our lone cottage.
The shadow cast by the oil lamp hides no threat
as the rain's percussion is hard and fast. Our home's
the haven we craved at last. Lightning's our trumpet;
each strike proclaims that we are saved.
My good dogs were restless, followed me
with their round brown eyes. When I spoke,
they settled, stretched, laid down their heads.
The fire, one far more generous then he'd allow,
warms our souls and cooks our mutton stew.
My tabby cat, calm and curled on the hearth,
will not cringe from heavy boots tonight.
We four, two dogs, one cat, and I,
have had sweet comfort, ease,
since I returned and fiercely cried,
"The deed is done and he is bound for hell at last,"
And even now, the screaming wind is blowing past.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm not a witch...either.

But I wrote a poem about one.


In her painted cave I lay
on panther pelts, my cold
blood warmed by fire,
my mind revived
by the brush strokes
on her stone walls.

Wearing a shawl
patterned all with green,
crimson, and saffron moons,
silver figures carousing down
her gown’s black depth,
she whispered ancient words
and fed me Witch’s Stew.

The storm sped boulders flung
by the Tyrant of Blight Mountain
against her rocky door.
The monster raged at me,
an arrogant fool who,
with near deadly misperception
of my strength, my wit, had scaled
the high granite steps that slowly
led to his gates of sculpted bone.
Thinking I’d the stuff of heroes,
I’d stalked him there alone.

This Highland Witch schooled the Brute
with black steely grace, and rescued
my full-shamed, half-dead self.
Healing here in her cave, I’ll try to learn
heroic Magic, earn honorable love,
and value her onyx, endless courage.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Madeleine Went Into a Funk the Other Day

On Monday, Madeleine read the breakdown of the Federal tax dollars in an e-mail from an old friend who’d been sent it by a friend of hers during an Internet conversation. She (Madeleine, I mean) hadn’t been looking for trouble. She had some time before needing to start dinner, so she’d sat down at her computer. Of course she’d been aware, in a vague way, that a sizable chunk of each dollar she paid in taxes went to the military, but if she’d ever seen how “they” disposed of each of her tax pennies with such precision, she’d forgotten.

It turned out that the US military took 26.5 cents of every dollar. Military debt got another 5.4 cents, and then there was veterans’assistance which got 3.5 cents, making the total 35.4. Madeleine felt like a chump-a guilty chump. She should have known, for instance, that only 2.5 cents went to energy and the environment, and that a mere 2 cents went to education. State taxes were supposed to handle public education, but, well, they didn’t, did they?

And maybe if more than 1.3 cents were sent along to transportation, people who lived anywhere outside of big cities would be able to get to their jobs and everything else without having to drive, which always struck Madeleine as being an especially idiotic fact of American life. Like that poor family of five she’d seen straggling along the side of the road in the heat. The parents in their thirties, the baby in a stroller, the tenish boy and the sixish girl were skinny, blond, and holding full plastic bags. (There were two bags in the baby’s stroller.) Clearly they didn’t have an operable car, so where were they supposed to work? There wasn't much going on, job-wise, within walking distance of where they were walking. Madeleine hoped they weren’t going to join the homeless, but it wouldn’t surprise her to find that they did.

She’d been a teacher, and had been worried about almost all of her kids, but especially the homeless children. She’d been able to arrange for one boy, who’d been picked on because he smelled bad, to take a shower in the gym every morning. Anthony fared a little better in seventh grade once he could show up in class clean. Housing and community got 7.2 cents of her tax dollar. Hmph, she thought. Did his family know about those 7.2 cents and how to get their share of it? She noticed 3.7 cents went to Food (agricultural subsidies/nutrition help.) “So what” Madeleine thought, if fast food was still the cheapest way to fill up empty stomachs?” She’d just read on the Internet that MacDonald’s hamburgers and fries could last at least six months without even growing mold. They just got harder and a bit shiny. She wanted her 3.7 cents to take care of getting fresh fruit and vegetables to those kids walking along the road the other day.

Health was getting the next biggest chunk: 20.1 cents. That sounded good. But health in America was a mess! Her neighbor was giving up his insurance. Ted had been paying $800 a month, just for hospitalization. He couldn’t do it anymore, and was crossing his fingers that he’d stay out of the hospital until he was eligible for Medicare. Madeline watched or read enough news to understand that reform was on its way, but Ted had to drop his health insurance now. Not in 2014 or whatever. He was the nicest guy, always willing to lend Madeleine a hand with stuff she couldn’t figure out, like her new television remote.

Her tax dollar gave the Government (a separate category on the list) 9.8 cents. Almost a dime out of every dollar. That seemed fair to her, she thought, as she put on a pot of coffee. But government got it wrong lots of times. Like that young woman from Delaware running for Senate. Her vote would count as much as a senator from California. Madeleine did some Googling and found out that the population of Delaware in 2010 was approximately 870,000 people, and that this year’s population of California was about 37,205,591. How could that make sense to anybody?

Madeleine always voted, paid what “they” told her to in taxes, had spent lots of time working “off the clock,” so to speak, because she had often felt that was what was needed. But that didn’t seem to matter much in the scheme of things. She wished to hell she felt like she had a bit more power, more “oomph,” more understanding, of how things were handled. It rankled that 13.6 cents had to go to national debt, military and non, because these expensive, expansive wars hadn’t done much good, had they? Foreign aid got 1.3 cents. Even though Madeleine mostly read poetry and fiction, she’d read enough John LeCarré to know that foreign aid was a mysterious deal indeed.

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher were the TV guys she trusted most, but they didn’t get around to everything she wondered about. Sometimes there just wasn’t a punchline, she guessed. Once again, Madeleine sat for a while in a puzzled funk. Then she got dressed and took her dog for a walk. That was something, anyway.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Helping Gracie Up

Helping Gracie Up

Gracie’s Dead met for lunch on a terrace overlooking the heavenly Adriatic Sea. Well, the spirits gathered weren’t just Gracie’s Dead. Except for Annie Claire, they each had many, many links to the living. Annie Claire was a heaven-born, and having been among the living a mere eighteen weeks, and in a womb at that, she hadn’t time to make connections, other than to her mother and father. Because Gracie thought of her lost daughter every day, Annie Claire always had easy access to her mother, and knew Gracie inside and out. Her father? Not so much.

Teresa and Otto, one set of Gracie’s great-grandparents, were hosting the festivities in a spirited version of their beloved Trieste. The party was winding down, and several of Gracie’s dead relations were dozing, lulled to sleepiness by the mild sea breeze.

“Okay, dearhearts. Let’s all have a cup of whatever you want to help you get serious, and we’ll have this meeting about my mother, shall we?” Annie Claire, a teenager now, called out brightly from her seat at the end of the long table. The dishes quickly cleared and cups and saucers, carafes of hot coffee and teapots, creamers and sugar bowls arrived.

“I’ll start things off with a brief report about Mom’s progress. She’s only left her house once, for groceries, in the last two weeks, but she has started playing piano again. Although she’s promised her brothers she’ll come visit them, she hasn’t bought any warm clothes for December in New York, or made plane reservations or anything. I’m worried that she’ll poop out on the trip.”

Dorothy, Gracie’s mother, said, “Well, I’ve been badgering her about new clothes, you know. E-mails and catalogues in the mail. I’m afraid she still has the “too poor to buy clothes” thinking she inherited from me. Damn that Depression!”

“Keep trying, Grandma. She’s never traveled anywhere without some new things to wear, which she also got from you, and she’s got more money in the bank then she ever had. You’ll help her with this security thing, I’m sure of it! Look how far you’ve come!”

“I have come a long way, it’s true. Then again, I’m in heaven,” Dorothy said.

“I’ve been working on her about music,” said Alex, Gracie’s brother. “She doesn’t want to perform, but I’m getting through to her, I think, about giving herself a break. She’s done enough. Jeez louise!”

Gracie’s father, new to death, and still fairly dumbstruck with heaven-wonder, cleared his throat. “I want to help her, but almost every time I visit her, she ends up thinking about how miserable I looked in that nursing home. I’m beginning to think I should stay out of her mind, at least until she perks up a bit.”

Ollie, a handsome Springer Spaniel, barked to get the crowd’s attention, then spoke in heaven’s universal language. “As we know, this sort of thing happens to the living when deaths stack up on them like some of ours did. Our Gracie’s faith is wobbly right now, and she could spiral dangerously down. However, I’ve talked to Blossom, who’s a lovebug if ever there was one, and she’s agreed to go back to the living and become Gracie’s dog. We don’t have all the details worked out, but she’ll get there soon, and then Gracie will have to take Blossom for walks, and she’ll start talking to her neighbors, going to the store to buy dog food and toys, all that soul-warming pet stuff. And we have plans for a particularly comforting and personable cat, Harry, to hang around Gracie’s house so that she can rescue him. Leave it to us. Gracie’s going to be fine. In fact, I predict that very soon she’s going to learn to just be. Animals are the best at just being and that’s what she needs to do now.

“All right! Hey, everybody!” said Annie Claire, who’d begun flitting around when Ollie was talking. “Mom’s starting to lighten up a bit. We’ve helped, I’m sure, but I think she wants to feel better herself, too. She was playing Mahler on her piano, then she switched to Mozart, and now she’s playing Scott Joplin! Thank heavens! No one’s ever been sad and played Ragtime.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fear and Loathing on the Weather Channel

The Weather Channel people are nuts. Hurricane season will convince you they’re crazed if you don’t already think so. Watch them for spell. Once in awhile one of the weatherpersons slips and says something like, “Yes! We think this one will make it to a Category 3 and it has a great chance of making landfall!” Then later on you hear, “Well, as you see, Carmella didn’t make it- fell apart in the Caribbean, but we still have hopes for Dexter.” I find it whoppingly strange that the directors don’t give the weathercasters hell when they give it up about how much they root for disasters, but what do I know about keeping a 24/7 weather channel going? Did you know they have a daytime show called, “It Could Happen Tomorrow!” Yeah. They make stuff up.

Ah, “daytime.” I now sometimes watch daytime. ( Oh by the way, in the U.S., if you mention “daytime,” you’re talking about TV. We all agree on that, at least.) For most of my life I easily avoided TV before the 6 pm news. Way too busy to sit down in the middle of the day to listen to talk, follow a soap, sleep to the sports channel. My ex-husband watched golf on weekends when he wasn’t playing golf, but I was excused from either misery. When my dad was still alive and pretty much confined to his armchair, he’d have one sport or another on TV, sound muted. Tennis was his thing, but he’d watch them all, even bowling if there were no other choices. Damn if I didn’t get drawn into the Tour de France every year for the last five years. The scenery! Oh,God.

Just lately, while lurking about on my own, I’ve become a Turner Classic Movies fan. Not every day, mind you, but if my heart keeps me going slow or the Florida heat keeps me in the house, I may indulge. That’s how I happened to watch “The Cobweb,” starring Lauren Bacall, Richard Widmark, Charles Boyer, Gloria Grahame and Lillian Gish. Some cast, huh? Vincente Minelli directed it, and John Houseman produced it. The film was about who was going to pick the new drapes for the library of an upscale mental hospital. All those talented, smart people spent considerable time and energy on this amazingly dumb movie. There’s a scene in it where Gloria Grahame, eyes blazing and in a fit of jealous, defiant, and yet somehow sexy rage, climbs a handy ladder with an enormous curtain rod and hangs her curtains, damn him!

Anyways, between the nutjobs on the Weather Channel and the general freakiness of some of the stuff on TCM and its ilk, I don’t think I’ll take over Dad’s armchair and watch “daytime” too often yet. Maybe only when James Franco decides to do a spin on General Hospital. Now that was cool.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Taking Stock

Taking Stock

Lovely, lovely, lovely,
my cat’s furry belly.

My mind’s got some fluff
but she copes well enough.

I've foundered in Florida with its heat and humidity,
palms and shells and churchy stupidity.

I have a sick heart and I do less and less,
but I finally own a fine French writing desk.

I could use a cruise, a steadier step,
a long walk in Paris with Johnny Depp.

It appears gone for good are dramas and bothers,
threats and therapists and drunk, needy lovers.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

just putting it out there

Oh, boy. Here goes my response to amazing Dr. Hawking and his friends. They get a bit silly, I think. And let's not even talk about that pastor with a gun down in Gainsville.

We each create God. Compassionate people create a compassionate God. Cruel people have a harsh God. Lots of us give our God a good sense of humor, and lots of us have Gods with long, puzzling list of rules. I think truly moral people create a God who is simple, courageous, and maybe most importantly, forgiving. How can science tell us about God? Beethoven, Shakespeare, Rosa Parks, people like that have told us something, and there have been holy men and women who were able to share their thoughts about God, but the God who helps me out is the one I need and love, and have since I was a little kid. When I heard about God from grown-ups, I don't remember being surprised, astonished, doubtful. "Yeah, okay. God-so that's what it's called." We're born knowing, I think. And maybe we die knowing. I hope so.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Some Touches

When I come home Blossom wiggles, gets her newest dog toy out of our bedroom, acts silly then sits and waits for me to say “bacon,” or “biscuit.” Sometimes, when we cuddle after a separation, she makes a particular sound. It comes from deep down somewhere in her small body and it’s a welcoming grunt that expresses such satisfaction and pleasure in my being there with her again that I feel like I must be quite all right after all.

My mother didn’t hug often, but when there had been months or a year apart she would smash me to her and not let go for a long time. These were fierce, no holds barred, gorgeous hugs. Then, just when I’d start the thought, “this is too much now,” she would let me go. And I wouldn’t get another hug like that until after another time when I’d been away from her. The year she did her dying we touched more than at any time since I was a baby, because she had to hold on to me to move from one place to another, every single time.

The last few years of his life I kissed Dad on the top of his head each night when I went to bed. I think this surprised him for a while. I’m not sure he knew what to make of it, but this goodnight kiss thing felt right to me. Dad got used to it, then expected it, then, finally, looked for it. It was hard for him to embrace me or anyone else unless he was sitting down, and that was awkward. I mean during his last years, when he used two crutches.

Sam is an Applehead Siamese. He’s a big guy and picking him up for a few minutes is sensual, gratifying, calming. Samish (my name for him) doesn’t fidget, can be counted on to purr, and sends you these luxurious vibes. He’s not a lap cat, but when you pet him, he participates. You know, gazes into your eyes, scootches around some, lifts his head for an under chin rub. Benefits a-plenty if you spend a bit of time with our cat.

Mom and Dad are both gone and I’m divorced. I live with one of my brothers, and he and I don’t touch much. Maybe we’ll hug before and after one of us goes on a trip, but it’s a brief affair, and with him the wide smile is the thing. He’s glad to see me; I’ve no doubt of that. Maybe he’s relieved too, because I have a wonky heart. My youngest brother gave me frequent, fine hugs, which were just right, unless he’d been drinking. Then they’d feel suffocating and uncomfortable. I don’t think he ever knew this. He’s gone now, too. My older brother has a gift for touch. He not only embraces warmly, he’ll give me spontaneous little squeezes, or put a hand on my shoulder at the right moments. He lives far away, though.

I have a lot more to say, but I’ll wind down here. The thing that occurs to me is that it’s a damn good thing I have Blossom and Samish for day to day whenever I want them caresses. I don’t think I’ve examined this business before, but it turns out I need to now.
Hmph. You never know when something will get your attention, do you?

Nonnie Augustine
August, 2010

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Blue, green, aquamarine,
black, brown, dangerous sheen,
salted, cool buoyancy,
poisoned slick murk,
fresh with dead,
crisp with crude,
the season to spawn,
to dive, to school-
ah, no, to be strangled
to be slathered and drown.

It’s fixed says he!
It’s over, writes she.
When desperate, we learn.
The next spill will be fixed
in days, maybe minutes-
we’ll spend to its end.
Some scientists crow
others study and cry.
Children quickly forget-
their parents pretend.

All watch while the tricksters
spin greedy new tricks.
But bellies churn.
and hearts ache.
Hope tries to fly
but the truth tramps it down.
In this God’s Gulf
oil and water won’t mix.

Nonnie Augustine
August, 2010

Sunday, August 01, 2010

With a Bow to Dorothy Parker

When his fingers sped along the keys,
I’d need to sit. I’d such weak knees.
I thought him charming, tall, and able,
then he overturned the table.
Chili, crackers, cheddar cheese
crashed on me-he’d been displeased.
I screamed, sighed, cried and cried.
To keep me home, he rhapsodized.
He sweetly played a Chopin etude,
while he cursed himself for being rude.
I forgave him, (oh, yes) and took a bath,
soaped off the food that sparked his wrath.

We again enjoyed unwedded bliss
as long as nothing went amiss.
Light toast and eggs, once over easy,
no cats or dogs--they made him sneezy.
But it seemed to me that stray he might,
sex had slowed to once a night.
One day I woke up twenty-two-
the sky and I waxed moody blue.
I found a note that he’d been smote
by the pulchritude of some other.
Now I’m on my way to Santa Fe
to find one way or another,
a man with flair in the western air.
Why not? A cowboy lover!

Friday, July 23, 2010

What's New With Y'all?

Roberta’s husband had a stroke and has an aneurysm in his brain that's gotta be seen to. Means a trip to Shands over in Gainsville. Her thyroid’s acting up again. Sondra broke her back turns out. She fell and went to the ER because she knew she’d done something bad to her knee, but the broken back was a surprise. Now the poor woman is in a back brace and a leg cast. Art hasn’t had a binge in a year, but he’s got pain pills now for his back, and who knows where he’ll go with them. He’s done that before, you know. Gone from pills to beer to whiskey.

Business is down ‘cause of the spill. Not that you’d notice right off. You have to know what this place is like in a normal July to ‘preciate how empty the beach is. This is one tourist season when locals aren’t complaining ‘bout the damn traffic. It’s a sneaky thing. Even Debbie and Matt’s plumbing jobs are off. Places ain’t getting rented so there’s a lot less calls from property managers.

One thing though-we’ve had rain. So even if it’s 109 out there ‘cording to the heat index, the yards ain’t turned brown yet. Still green which is something I enjoy. Between the heat and the fleas, the neighborhood dogs are miserable. For dogs, I mean. Can’t get a dog down too bad unless you’re one of those cruel fuckers.

So, what are you gonna do? There’s good stuff, too, that’s for damn sure. Lindy and Mike’s baby was born over 8 lbs. and he’s eating like he wants to double that by the time he’s a month old. Hard on Lindy, though. Breast feeding. Carl’s working on a clean-up crew. Don’t know how they do it. On the beach in those boiler suits in this mess a heat. They say the oil stinks, too. Don’t know ‘cause I’ve stayed the hell away from it. BP station on Front Beach is gonna close, I’ll betchu. Ain’t a soul crying for them. Well. There’s local people owning the place that’ll have to get ‘nother line of business. Good luck to ‘em.

So, I got the word on heart failure. So? Doesn’t mean I’ll keel over tomorrow. Least I’m not out in that sun. House is cool and I got General Hospital, (James Franco’s been on it, you know) Dr. Oz, Ellen and when I need to, I get out. Maybe not like I used to, but what the hell anyway. Ain’t none of us is getting any younger. Dog and cat are doing good. God bless ‘em.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

On a Drawing by Athos Menaboni

The female sparrow hawk, fierce,
glorious, hovers above her mate.
Menaboni sketches her with beak open.
I imagine her call, “killy, killy, killy.”
The male’s wings fold down;
his claws wrap around
the branch of Georgia pine;
his head twists around and up
to fix her with black, marvelous eyes.
His russet back is rounded but not meek.

She is set to hunt, is ready to fly wide and long.
He has just flown in. His belly almost full,
he’s at rest, reflective, quiet.
Perhaps she’ll settle close to her partner
or he’ll leave his perch to join her in fearsome flight.
The hawks will decide in their next quick moments,
but the artist has made his choice, and so does not care.

Nonnie Augustine
July 8, 2010

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Little White House

FDR had a summer home in Warm Springs, Georgia. As one might expect, there are servant’s quarters, a guesthouse, luscious mountain scenery, a fine verandah, and sentry posts that were manned by Marines. Three Marines watched over Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his guests. That’s all. Huh.

The main house has six small rooms, darkly paneled, and humbly furnished. The only piece I coveted was an excellent cook’s table because of its sensible size. The icebox was on a little porch and the pantry displayed mismatched china and silverware. The two-roomed guesthouse is in the same rustic style with more of the gloomy dark pine paneling. The cook had a room over the garage, and so did a married couple who traveled with President Roosevelt.

He had his fatal stroke while posing for a portrait in the “Little White House.” The painter, Elizabeth Shoumatoff, her easel, FDR, and Lucy Page Mercer, who was visiting that day, must have been crowded in that small sitting room. (Eleanor wasn’t there, but then she seldom visited the house in Warm Springs.)

After my tour of the museum and house, I went to the gift shop, of course. I bought two soup mugs for my brother Peter and I. They are printed with acronyms for programs that got started during the New Deal: CCC, FCC, FDIC, FERA, FTC, NLB, NRA (National Recovery Administration, not the rifle NRA) REA, SEC, SSB, TVA, and WPA. Whew! My new mugs have the full titles of the programs listed, too, and let me tell you, it’s an impressive list. Maybe you’d like to read about them. Just Google and they’ll be there. I’ve always thought well of FDR, but after visiting his summerhouse in rural Georgia, I love him.

Friday, June 18, 2010


My Dad’s Studebaker. That was the first car I remember. We’d moved to the New Jersey suburbs from Staten Island so Mom had to learn to drive. She did pretty well, too. (We had to go on the lessons when they couldn’t find someone to watch us.) The Studebaker was green and not very big. We were a family of five then.

When my youngest brother showed up we got a Chevy station wagon. Two-tone blue and white. It seems to me it was only a little while before our next door neighbors got a much fancier station wagon with a removable third seat in the back instead of the plain space we had. I was old enough by then to understand our wagon had been eclipsed.

About the same time we moved to a bigger house, because we needed another bedroom (because I was a girl and the other three kids were boys) and a second bathroom, if at all possible, Dad came home with a tan Chevy Impala. Sleek. And then, amazingly, he bought a Kharmen Ghia! Mom and Dad needed two cars by then, because even though Dad car-pooled to the city, Mom had a hard time on Dad’s day to drive because there was a lot going on by then. We were a busy family, although not nearly as busy as families of six tend to be now. Jeez Louise!

The gods were smiling on my next-oldest brother and I, because we each had a senior year in high school when we got to drive the Ghia to school. This gave me many cool points that I’d been sorely lacking because I was a ballet dancer and no one at Ramsey High cared about that. Peter was okay even without the Ghia, but it didn’t hurt. There were other family cars after that, but they weren’t important to me because I was in college and then on my own.

It was six years before I had to have a car. I moved from New York City to Albuquerque, you see, and of course, a car was a necessary part of life.

So, my family was addicted to oil, from the get-go I guess. Well, no guessing about it-we were. I’m sorry, pelicans and turtles and everyone else, but that’s how it was. I live on the Florida panhandle. In this town pretty much everyone has a car. When you see adults walking or riding bikes, it’s a sure shot they’ve lost their license for driving drunk. Not a damn thing to do with saving the environment. It’s a mess, isn’t it?

Saturday, June 05, 2010

"Sore must be the storm"

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

Emily Dickinson

The corners of my mouth have turned down, there’s a slow burn in my throat, my shoulders have crept up and I wish I had a giant foot to stamp. All this has been going on since yesterday morning when I saw a photo of a pelican, sitting still, soaked in oil.

I felt better for some time in the late afternoon, when, returning from getting-the-mail-walking-my-dog, I found a Fed Ex box on my front porch. I’m glad I’m still thrilled by the sight of a package sent by someone I like. I hope I feel this way about presents as long as I last. Turns out I got fine gifts. He sent me a paper collage of wonderland, I think, beautifully framed and ready to hang. Taped to it was a Templar Cross, just the right size, on a silver chain. There was a magnifying glass in a black leather case, too, because thousands of bits of paper, most of them tiny, are in the picture.

I had a happy hour or so, then, as I do way too often, I checked my home page on the Net. One of the news feeds about the Gulf of Mexico, and its death, began with another picture. In it a pelican was trying to fly with ragged, heavy wings. The poor bird looked terrified. There was a link for more pictures by the photographer, Charlie Riedel.

How dare they? Or we? Do I have to hate myself, too, for a part in this monstrous insult? I can tell you with certainty, that never in my life have I wanted to move safely stashed oil from one place to another, more useful, place. I had a thin understanding that people were doing this thing, but I suppose I trusted that they knew what they were about. Horrible as the Alaskan spill was, a drunk captained that tanker. Exxon had a huge Human Resources lapse with that one.

So. My paper collage, its exquisite goodness, the cross, and the glass helped to soften the hard lumps in my throat and chest, but frustrated anger is brutal and its been holding on to me tightly. I don’t feel up to dealing with these physical symptoms of rage today. I have things to do, but I can't get going. Yoga would help, and I’m sure yoga practice won’t hurt the planet. Well, I do it with a DVD and that takes electricity, energy, all that. What doesn't?

I’ll stay home today. At least I won’t drive.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Friendly Waitress

On my two-top young lovers gaze
at each other and talk, plan, share
her linguini, his prime rib. He butters
her bread and she murmurs, purrs.
Businessmen on per diems
pay for crass stares at my legs,
chest, hips with twenty percent tips.

Our king, the chef, rules his steamy
realm with steely eyes, paces his rum.
Later he’ll grow moist, maudlin, desperate.
The sous chef flirts, quips, chops and slices.
From behind the pastries, the old Greek
grumbles at the girls who pick up
meringues, tarts, and layer cakes.
The dishwashers talk broken-English
trash as they scrape plates-
not the paper-pale junkie.
His silence is frantic.

I hoist my tray with six covered dishes.
Never mind my bad back, no time.
At the big table a toddler’s made
an applesauce mess. His cool,
spotless mother requires my help.
Two more years and I’ll be a nurse.
With a gracious smile, I’ll dispense
pain pills a half-hour late

Monday, May 24, 2010

Barataria Bay

Barataria Bay

It’s a surprise that hearing from a particular man has had such an effect on me. Nothing like this has happened during these quiet years and I don’t think I ever wondered if it would. Oh, I must have. I haven’t been dead after all. How like me to pretend, even here, that I haven’t minded about being alone. I’ve ridden awesome, foaming, reckless waves of minding. Soon enough, I’ve found my feet again. There’s been no time to flail. Until now.

There are black pelicans in the Louisiana wetlands. They don’t like to be handled, so their rescuers tie their beaks closed as they try to clean them. But I wish these wild birds could attack with their long, efficient beaks, so perfectly evolved to do what they want to do. The oil has taken, will continue to take, their birdhood. They hobble and die on the beaches of Barataria Bay . There is no stopping it now. No, I don’t think so. Don’t even want to listen to the men and women at the microphones. Today I have heavy arms and sluggish legs. Tomorrow will be worse.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Punched in the Heart

Punched in the Heart

Whoosh! Right there in the Target parking lot. Unlocked my car trunk and saw a plastic basket filled with clothes and a bag with toothpaste, lotion… stuff my dad used at the nursing home. My brother put them there over two months ago, on the day Dad died.

I haven’t opened my trunk in that long. Something, huh? My brother took over grocery shopping, because of my angina, and, well, I’ve barely needed my car, let alone had a reason to load it up. But yesterday I checked to see if my yoga mat was where I left it the last time I took classes, a couple of years ago. Because it’s about time I did something, you know? I have the time now, don’t I? Doesn’t matter when I leave the house. So, yoga. Why not?

And there was Dad’s stuff. Really, really his stuff. A favorite pair of brown sweatpants, an olive-green vest that one of us kids gave him. Warm, and rugged-looking, you know? That’s the kind of thing Dad liked to wear, even though he hadn’t hiked in the mountains for twenty years. Maybe thirty.

It’s true that knees get weak when you’re hit like that. Mine did.  That damn nursing home. I didn’t want him to die there! He was supposed to depart from home, like Mom did.

The stuff is still in the trunk. My brother will get it.

I took the yoga class this morning. Wasn’t sure I’d go through with it until I actually left the house. I was late, but I took it. Dad would be pleased. Hell, I’m pleased. That’s all right, then, I guess.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Novel Begins...

A Novel Begins

By Nonnie Augustine

She was washing the dishes in the sink, (you’re not going to start with a pronoun, are you? Give her a name, for God’s sake!)
Kate was washing dishes in the sink, (where the hell else is she going to wash dishes? In a creek?)
Kate was washing dishes (was washing-great! Now you’ve got a boring verb and a gerund.)
Kate washed dishes (so? How exciting can you get?)
Kate washed dishes and Zach (trendy name, there, but, okay) did his homework at the kitchen table (we know Kate’s in the kitchen, don’t we? And where else would a kid, big kid, little kid? do their homework but at a table? Oh, okay, he could be doing it at a computer. So, I guess you’re going with “poor” since the mom doesn’t have a dishwasher and he doesn’t have a computer. Or he’s young. Okay, but jazz it up fast, for Pete’s sake!)
Kate washed dishes while Zach did his second grade homework (sentence finally works, but where’s the jazz?)
Suddenly, (oh, God! An adverb, and the dreaded “suddenly” yet!)
The peace in the room was broken (no way are you going to use passive voice.)
A loud knock broke the peace in the room (one knock? Who knocks once?)
Loud knocking broke the peace in the room (no, don’t like peace in the room. It’s awkward and we’re writing about people here, not rooms.)
Loud knocking startled them both (both?)
Loud knoking startled them. (mispelled knocking.)
Loud knocking startled them and Kate (put Kate, and now's the time for a pronoun, in a new sentence-vary the sentence length and besides you’ve lost the peace thing. Are you going to use a whole new sentence to get it in? I don’t think you need to do that.)
Loud knocking shattered their peace. (think I like that better-maybe not.)
She dried her hands, patted her son’s shoulder, and slowly unlocked the door. (Okay. But they’re in a city, aren’t they? Why not put a bunch of locks on the door? Give it some setting, why don’t you?)
She dried her hands, patted her son’s shoulder, and slowly unlocked the door’s three locks (unlocked the locks?)
She dried her hands, patted her son’s shoulder, and slowly (watch your adverbs. You know you love them-they’ll be all over the place and puleeze stop re-writing the whole sentence. You’re just doing that to fill your “goal” time and you know it!)
undid the door’s three locks (of course the locks are on the door. Jeez!)
undid three locks (better.)
Two (you’ve got to decide what city, finally)
Miami (good. Know a lot about Florida. Miami? Not so much.)
police officers stood at the door (how about some tone, here? Wouldn’t Kate call them cops? Going to use third-limited, right? Or go with third omniscient? Oh, right. A novel. Change voices later maybe, for narrative.)
cops (plain clothes? Uniforms?)
uniformed cops (good-gets you out of explaining how she knew plain clothes guys were police)
stood at the door.(weak verb, and where else would they be?)
confronted her (thank God, a paragraph! Turn this damn thing off. It’s early, but go cook dinner. Revise later. Or delete. Not yet. Don’t delete it yet!)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

After this last death,

After this last death,

I dreamt I lost at musical chairs, was forced to stand.

Strangers shoved me toward the outside door.

Fear stirred anger, overwhelmed grief.

Fierce, I yelled, “Don’t push me!”

Noise, smells, rushing.

Would out be better than in?

I turned the doorknob.

Cool, dark, quiet. Rustles.

Arms folded under my tight chest, I leaned

against the trunk of a tulip magnolia.

Nubs and edges of the massive tree scratched

so I stepped away, dropped my arms, opened my palms.

Breezes teased the insides of my elbows.

Dead family murmured, circled my wrists,

pulled me down the path. I was surprised by ease.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bob and Doris

Bob and Doris

I cut Dad’s hair today.
He coached me.
This is still new for him-
needing help.

He was Special Ops during the War.
Solved the rape and murder
of a French woman. The guilty U.S.
soldiers shamed their uniforms.
Dad damn near killed a drunk in his own squad
whose stupidity nearly doomed them all,
but cooler heads prevailed, stopped the fight.
The war over, his fluent German meant
a year in an enemy town.
Billeted in a castle,
he helped them rebuild
and rid themselves of Nazis.

Mom didn’t know him when he rang
her doorbell two years after he shipped out.
She held her toddler, Robert Jr.,
and said “Yes, can I help you?”
when she opened the door.
Dad was heavier, older, weary-
not the smooth-cheeked,
scrawny tennis player she’d married.
That young man died in Europe.
They had three more babies.
Two jobs for Dad. Weekends
he wore a gun again.
Patrolled NYC docks for Jimmy Sullivan
who moved him from dock to lonely dock when Dad
caught thieves. Dangerous nights in the oily salt air lasted through the decade shocked by death.

A gentle Dad let
me trim his wispy hair today.
Released from my ministrations,
leaning on two metal canes,
he headed for my Mom,
who was in bed,
as she always is now.
Dad grinned like a boy-
all spruced-up.
Sparkling blue eyes said “look at me.”
Weak brown eyes saw her handsome husband,
and with a smile as fresh as twenty,
she said “You look fine.”
And I sat down to write a poem.

Nonnie Augustine October 23, 2005

Mom died on May 5, 2006
Dad died on March 3, 2010

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


On my two-top young lovers gaze

at each other and talk, plan, share

her linguini, his prime rib. He butters

her bread and she murmurs, purrs.

Businessmen on per diems

pay for crass stares at my legs,

chest, hips with twenty percent tips.

Our king, the chef, rules his steamy

realm with steely eyes, paces his rum.

Later he'll grow moist, maudlin, desperate.

The sous chef flirts, quips, chops and slices.

From behind the pastries, the old Greek

grumbles at the girls who pick up

meringues, tarts, and layer cakes.

The dishwashers talk broken-English

trash as they scrape plates-

not the paper-pale junkie.

His silence is frantic.

I hoist my tray with six covered dishes.

Never mind my bad back, no time.

At the big table a toddler's made

an apple-sauce mess. His cool,

spotless, mother requires my help.

Two more years and I'll be a nurse.

With a gracious smile, I'll dispense

pain pills a half-hour late.

Monday, January 25, 2010

View from a Train, from a Table


January 14th

On the train, moving through Trenton

at twilight, I see the bleak back of the city.

The houses we pass are dark, waiting.

The office buildings are emptying of

workers and shirkers,

or have emptied, and darkened,

have the night to themselves.

Everyone is on the move--

sheltered in cars or buses,

or on foot, rushing toward warmth.

I’m snug, and somewhat smug,

as I move toward New York with a seat

to myself, wearing my best black coat.

January 15

Even my cousin’s steam-heated apartment

is chilly as we drink strong coffee

at the table by the window.

We eat English muffins spread with tart lemon curd

and her warmth sustains me.

On this six degree morning we see an arctic Hudson.

There will be no ferry to New Jersey today;

they are ice-locked and idle.

The sun is just for fun, and might

as well have the day off

for all the heat it provides.

Without the crisp blue sky,

the scene would be

of an unbearably

gray, cold palette.

My fragile optimism

would fail me

if there were

no sun today.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Amy Gets Help

Amy Gets Help

Gently placing the gingerbread man with the others, Amy pictured Langston’s long face peering through the icy windowpane, waiting for her to arrive with the promised basket of baked treats. As she turned away from the fragrant cookies to hang up her apron, she heard a tiny voice call to her.
“Amy, keep us. Keep us, please. Don’t let him eat us!”
“Oh, no! They’re talking again!” Amy pulled a ladder-backed chair away from the old table, slumped onto it, and buried her face in her hands. After a few moments of quiet, she raised her head, and after a few more, she opened her eyes. Nothing moved. Amy stood up, took her bonnet from its hook, tied the ribbons under her chin, wrapped her cape around her, and while trying not to look at it, picked up the basket. Her fiancé and his guests were expecting her. If she walked quickly, she could still be on time. The Potts house was only over on Fillmore Street.
Just as she went down the last step of her back porch, a squirrel dropped out of the oak tree alongside her path.
“Langston Potts cooks us in stews, you know,” the squirrel chattered. “He devours every single thing he can. He’s a greedy, needy man.”
Amy missed her footing and sprawled on the hard December ground. She was struggling to sit when one of the gingerbread men escaped from the dropped basket and ran away with the squirrel. Her neighbor’s barking dog flashed by her, then, apparently satisfied that the runaway cookie and his new friend were truly gone, trotted back to the young woman.
“My dear, it’s clear that you can’t marry that man,” Collie said. “He’s mean and he’s lazy and you’re surely going crazy.”
“Am I? Is that why everyone and everything is talking to me?” I don’t think I can bear another minute of it.”
Collie arranged herself beautifully on the brown grass, and beautifully rolled her eyes. “Oh, really! Can there be any doubt? Do cookies, squirrels, dogs, and yes, I know about the Blue Jay early today, talk to perfectly normal women?”
Amy scootched closer to Collie and put her arm around the dog’s neck. “No, they don’t, but I must say I’m rather glad you all do, now that I’m a bit more used to it. But you see, I have to marry him. That’s all there is to it. I’m all alone now that Mother’s gone, my money won’t last long at all, soon I’ll be old myself and all shriveled up, and even if all he wants is a nurse and a cook like the Blue Jay said, and he’ll boss me around all day and all night, what else am I going to do?”
The marmalade cat across the street joined them while Amy was talking, and curled up in the tearful woman’s lap. The ground was cold, but neither Collie nor Amy seemed to mind. Marmalade never sat directly on dry winter grass if he could help it.
“You’d be better off dead than living with that rat,” the cat said. “His whole family is a ratty family. Animal haters, they are. I should hope you know that people who hate us hate you, too. You do know that, don’t you?”
“I suppose I do. Or at least…I suspected. But I wouldn’t be better off dead. Oh, my dears, would I?”
Collie, not one to agree too readily with a cat, crossed her pretty paws and paused a moment before answering.
“I concur with Cat. The man is a snake. Life as his wife is a dreadful idea. Yes, dead would be better. Take our word for it. We know.”
“Oh, you are sillies. I’m perfectly healthy. I’m not going to die between now and Saturday. Why would I? How could I? I’d better get up and go on. I’ll take him my baking. These that are left are quiet at least.” Amy pushed herself up and brushed herself off. “Thank you for trying help. I think you might be right about dying, but never mind. I promised him, you see.”
Amy walked down her path and turned into her street, April Lane. There was only one motor car in town so far, but this car had heard the whole conversation between Amy and the animals, and just as his owner thought, he had a mind of his own. So, he started up with a growly shout, and ran her down.
Just like that, she was dead. She was better dead than married to that rat, Langston Potts, but that’s another story.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


(Think summer.)

Art Coop

Nina, wearing a Mexican-flavored dress with a flounced voile skirt, fanned herself with a brochure about the Art Coop, sucked an ice cube, lolled in the armchair they’d given her when she’d first arrived. She’d been the warm-up act, the only poet, for the night’s open-air performance. Nina thought about removing her wide leather belt but didn’t want to make the effort. She was all but done in by heat, humidity, by August in Florida.

The second musician, who was a kid dressed in a plain black t-shirt and low-slung, baggy jeans, finally started. He sat on a low chair inches from Nina’s sandaled feet. She wasn’t expecting much. His teenaged girlfriend had been an annoying chatterbox since they’d sat down.

After a few nervous, jokey remarks, the boy checked the tuning of his glossy black guitar and played the first of several original, solo instrumentals. Nina closed her eyes and laid her head back against the scratchy fabric of the old chair. All the stuff taking shots at her that night- her drunken AWOL brother, her chest pain, the surprise of a friend’s rude behavior, discovering, mid-read, that she had the wrong version of a poem in her hands-disappeared. Nina swam through a cool sea of guitar notes, afloat and happy with the luxury of listening to extravagant talent on a steamy summer night.