Monday, December 16, 2013

Good news for moi!

Time for the secret (see last blog if you want to know what it wasn’t)  to be told! A couple of months ago my credit card bought a Kirkus Review. This isn’t how it sounds. You have to pay them to review your book without any guarantee whatsobloodyever that they will like your book and give you a good review. You might only eke out a sentence from an otherwise bad review (there’s an article by a Kirkus reviewer, Melissa Faliveno, in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Poets & Writers explaining how it all works at Kirkus) and if that is the case you just have to lump it. For a not starving but not flush either author, this was a big gamble. But my cousin many times removed, Evie Robillard, who is an extraordinary poet and was a librarian, told me to go for it because librarians check the Kirkus magazine for likely books to order (okay, I know I’m over-explaining but I’ve never made a list before, well, cast lists when I danced but that's another blog post) and so I plunked down the money and asked them to review my poetry collection, “One Day Tells its Tale to Another.” And they did and the when I read the review I felt astounding relief. But the secret that I’ve known for a few giddy weeks and couldn’t tell you is that my book was “"Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2013" !!! They picked 100 books for this list out of 3,000 “Indies” submitted to them to review. Mine! Poetry! Here’s the review:

Like a well-wrought memoir, this medley of free- and fixed-verse poems combines vivid personal narrative with probing self-reflection.
“So, I did the thing / I would never do,” confesses a young dancer upon landing an art-smothering, body-pulverizing contract job in “Paid to Dance,” one of many seemingly autobiographical poems in Augustine’s debut collection. One can easily imagine the same confession from the older narrator sleeping with her friend’s husband in “Wine and Cheese Villanelle” or the jaded lover of “Sestina” who “learned to play double, just like him.” Compromise and disillusionment are frequent themes here, but so are resilience and learning, although the narrators are often too busy navigating their lives to recognize their growing wisdom. Augustine often layers the perspectives of the narrator, author and reader to bolster the poems’ realism and emotional sincerity, and it’s a technique she hones to near-perfection. On rare occasions, the poet usurps the narrator and lapses into bathos: “As we sit at this cafĂ© table / in Montmartre, sheltered / from the downpour, I see our future. / I will write it down on torn paper, / using a sapphire pen,” seemingly taking seriously Billy Collins’ satirical advice in his poem “The Student” that poets should, “[w]hen at a loss for an ending, / have some brown hens standing in the rain.” On the whole, however, Augustine demonstrates much greater control and precision as she works through multiple iterations of love and loss, employing to great effect forms as varied as the prose poem, the concrete poem, the villanelle, the sestina, the sonnet and the ballad. She reimagines fairy tales, evokes foreign lands through bodily sensation, valorizes women’s perseverance, and revels in the rollicking pleasures of sex, even when they come with risk. As her narrators age, she tightens the circle, mourning and celebrating with equal intensity. One narrator contemplates the “Three Things That Did Not Happen”: “I almost saw Nessie,” “I almost won the jackpot” and “I almost had a child. / She was there in my womb / until chromosomes killed her. / My God, that would have been something.” Among the losses, though, it “appears gone for good are dramas and bothers, / threats and therapists, drunk, needy lovers. / And...lovely, lovely, lovely is my cat’s furry belly.”
Poetry that often transcends its own bounds, spilling over into readers’ lives and forcing them to confront their own narratives.”
Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744
And here’s the link to the Kirkus newsletter—my book is 4th in the first row, because my last name begins with “A.” I’m really full of myself today, but I can’t take special credit for that. Right, the link: Kirkus Review

Monday, November 25, 2013

Trustworthy Nonnie

Mountain of Backyard Cats

I have a secret that I have to keep until December 16th. Difficult as this is, I will do it. Oh, I have told a few people known for their discretion or at least they are not known for being blabbermouths. I’m sure of that... Anyway, it’s not really about them, it’s about me and it will be easier for my confidantes to keep a secret about about me and not them. So, we’re good, right?

I can say these things:

I am not getting married or flying to Paris or a taking off for a hot weekend at some enchanted destination destined to fulfill my every dream, invigorate, inspire, and pamper me as I sip ambrosia with the reincarnation of William Powell.

I did not win 47 million dollars, or any sum whatsobloodyever in the Lottery.

I did not finish a new book. I can say, however, that I am five poems into a new book. This may not sound like much, but the five, no, let’s say six, poems I have written came together after extensive research, meanderings on the Internet, heart-rending plunges into the depths of my very soul, and filling up with literature by authors having (or having had) fine sensibilities. I’m currently reading William Faulkner who may or may not help me write another poem for this new book that I am definitely going to finish because I am a committed, serious, strenuous writer...brutal, even. I am amazed that I had to get this old to appreciate Faulkner. I do, now, though. It’s possible all I needed was more time.

It isn’t a bad thing like another open-heart surgery or a colonoscopy or a prison sentence for God knows what crime I may have been falsely accused of. That wouldn’t be a secret in the town I live in now, anyway. If you’ll notice, I don’t call it “my” town. It’s not mine; it’s theirs.

My brother and I are not getting another pet on December 16th. That would be extravagant. We have three excellent cats and a tender dog who live in the house with us and six more cats who have come to us and live in the backyard. We feed the backyard cats and they have my brother’s outside shower stall, which he misses, but there you go, to pile up in and get out of the wind and rain. We’re in Florida, so winter isn’t much of an issue. Although I should rub a rabbit’s foot or something because with the weather getting weirder every year, who knows?  They are all remarkable, people-cuddling, funny cats but they have to live outside. That’s all there is to it. I’ve taken two for their operations and rabies shots and the others are all scheduled to go next month. Responsibility almost rules me.

This secret is good news. That’s why it’s driving me crazy. Who doesn’t like to shout good news? No one. Some people seem to get a kick out of sharing bad news, though. I’ve known and even loved people who slam bad news in your face like slapstick comedians with coconut cream pies. That’s not my particular thrill. But, when I know something lovely, and you don’t, it’s hard for me not to give it up. Good secrets itch and tickle, and sometimes feel like happy burps bubbling up. But, I promised and I am a brutal promise-keeper. Sorry. You’ll have to wait.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Feeling a Certain Age

That’s me in the photo. I was 19, performing in a Juilliard dance concert. My partner, Mark, was not looking at my ass; he was looking at my supporting leg, making sure that he was supporting me en pointe. I’m posting this photo of me at 19 and these poems because I don’t feel strong today, and in the tradition of Emily Dickinson’s “This is My Letter to the World” sometimes you just want to throw it out there. I have some nerve including poems of my own with one of Emily’s, but there you go.

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,-- 
The simple news that Nature told, 
With tender majesty. 
Her message is committed 
To hands I cannot see; 
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me! 

Emily Dickinson


Wanna,wanna, whoop de loop.
Hold my baby, kiss my mom,
dance the way I used to do.

Desktops, blacktops, cut and paste,
speed down hills, learn the rules,
Sister Saint Marion, married to Christ.

Sixteen, life-green, pink tights, Swan Lake,
an Italian summer, a Venetian romance,
NYC my campus, Matisse, Philip Glass,
then mountains, desert, New Mexico’s gold, 
headstrong, headlong, swayed by applause,
wandering through canyons colored by God.
A year spent in England, the Isle of Wight,
rock seafronts in Cornwall, Land’s End of the world,
a pause for the Maritimes, soft greens, booming tides.
Then my bearings got lost. I was drunk on the street--
had nothing but loathing till they lent me a hand.

Wanna,wanna, whoop de loop.
Hold my baby, kiss my mom,
dance the way I used to do.

My mind’s got some fluff but she copes well enough. 
I’ve foundered in Florida with its heat and humidity, 
glorious beaches, and churchy stupidity.
I have a sick heart so I do less and less, 
but I write at an old 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, drunk, needy lovers. 
And... lovely, lovely, lovely is my cat’s furry belly.

After Another Reading of Raymond Carver's "All of Us"

Young, strong, brave me, doing all that!
Dancing, teaching, performing, making this,
making that. I drank great draughts
of art, all kinds, you name it.
Used the fine work out there
to define, refine, defend my being,
my sincere effort to soar.
It was almost glorious.

There was, of course, a catch. For many
of those nearly triumphant years, I slogged
through a swampy mess each night.
Yes, every night. I'll stand by that.
Same old, same old. So and so loved me, but
I wanted you and you wanted her, then her.
And for all that time I couldn't get free,
couldn't toss you off, over, away, used Scotch
to dull my fury and so became more pitiful.

From here, out of all that, well-rested,
I can see that awful catch of mine
has a place at the table, in fact, near
the head, across from the almost glory.
My foolishness can be read, watched,
listened to, painted. And it has been.
Will be. Now it's time for some lunch.

Alice Turns Adam Down

"So, you see, you are simply the wrong partner
for this part of the dance. I'd thought 
someone in a blue shirt, with a side part 
in his blond hair, and your hair is red. 
So even if you changed your shirt to a blue,  
I wouldn't, simply couldn't, choose you.

Dance with someone else, why don't you?
You could dance with the woman over there 
wearing that very long string of pearls.
Or how about that woman in the long red dress. 
Do you like long dresses? Or someone else?

Oh. You often wear blue shirts, do you? 
You don't care for long dresses or pearls? 
You like my green eyes and so choose me? 
But that doesn't matter, to me, you see. 
You’re simply all wrong for this part of the dance."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Classical Radio

Claude Debussy
I am listening to Debussy and so here are two romantic pages from my book, One Day Tells its Tale to Another. We all have these moods, don't we?

All is Ready

I have bathed in patchouli oil and my heavy hair is lustrous from brushing.  I am wearing my gold ankle bracelets with the ruby charms that my love gave me when we had been married one year.  My robe is fuchsia silk and under it I wear black satin that bares so much of my olive skin. Anise and cinnamon tea is prepared and I have purchased date and nut sweets.  Our home is cool as the breeze from the Bosporus flies through our rooms with the movement of the fans.  Aimee’s husky voice drifts through the apartment.  My public garments hang out of sight.  I do not need their black modesty here.  Gold brilliants hang from the veil I wear tonight. He will remove it when I finish my dance.  Or maybe he will not wait for my dance to finish.  My husband will return soon from the dangerous West, and I am ready for him.  We will recline on tasseled pillows and I will tell him of the baby that is growing in my womb; we two will become three. I am happy to be so beautiful, so beautiful for him.

At Harry’s Bar

The piano player stole souls.
They came close--to cling to the wool 
of his trousers, his foulard tie,                           
his worn jacket and blue cotton shirt. 
They nestled in the creases lining
his slight smile and hung from his arms
as they ranged across the keyboard 
with soft or scorching fingerings.

Melisande resisted, remained intact, 
in place, unbent. Her's was an anima
with defenses against bar room thieves.
Notes sailed past her pale skin--
could not pierce pores and steal in 
to capture her bruised and tender core.
As he played on through the hours
his power soared and dismayed Melisande. 
He would not have her. He would not.

Sipping gin, she glanced up from the safe, worn
mahogany where she’d fastened her gaze.
The patient mirror behind the bar
had been waiting for her dark blue look.
There the melody in his eyes, his soft brown eyes,
shot through glass to reach for her, gently.
Through the haze his invitation glowed with promise.
Slipping from her stool, conceding once again,
Melisande went to him, body and soul.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Me at the Thomasville reading. I don't know why my hands are in fists.

One-Stop Book Tour, More Kittens, A Bigot, A Nazi, Jesus, and Folk Singers.

In the middle of August I drove to Thomasville, Georgia to participate in a book event, sponsored by The Bookshelf, an independent book store, at the Thomas County Public Library. I had a fine time reading from my poetry collection, One Day Tells its Tale to Another, sitting at a table among 17 other authors, chatting, listening, networking (I think), enjoying the bookish milieu. For luck I wore both strands of pearls my mother left me, and they worked: I didn’t stumble, wobble, freeze, faint or burp. I even sold some books. After the reading I drove to Tallahassee, checked into a swankish hotel and read or watched movies on TV for two days because it poured off and on my whole weekend away. I did visit the old state Capitol, had it all to myself, and read about the political history of Florida. Most of that was as heart-wrenching as I expected it to be, but there were shining moments. Did you know that the pioneers in protecting the state’s ecosystems were  women?

Another litter of backyard kittens was born in June. Their mother has disappeared, but they have a champion in Peach, a gorgeous little guy who was born in the spring. He watches over the four toddlers and my brother and housemate Drago and I feed them twice a day. I am going to get them all fixed (somehow) when they are old enough, or our backyard will, at least in terms of cat population, will be like Venice or Rome.

Last week there was a raging bigot hanging out in our Florida room.  It was the first time I've been afraid of being alone in our house with a man, or woman, for that matter. I didn't like the way he called me "dear" and I didn't like the way he went out of his way to assure me I'd be safe with him--he wasn't going to cause no trouble. Bud the roofer finally came to fix the leaks. This has been a summer of deluges here on the Panhandle. Bud has MS and the heat is bad for him and I'm sorry about that. He came inside every now and then to cool off and drink ice water. I was watching the ceremony commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The first time Bud saw the camera pan to Pres. Obama, he said "I'd like to shoot that man." He's ruining this country." I said, in a civil voice, I'm a Democrat and I voted for him twice. Bud shook his head a few times at the speaker, King's daughter, I think, then went back to the roof. He came back in later when Obama was on screen again, and let it rip. "He has no right to be President-he's not a citizen-he should be in jail-he's a Communist, a Socialist, a Muslim, not a Christian. I said something about it was the 1% who hold the wealth in this country that are hurting it and Bud said, "If they have that much money they worked for it or inherited it," and I, raising my voice, said that they stole it or their family stole it, and he said, "Every man is entitled to the money he works to git," and I said I didn't want to talk about this anymore, that I was getting upset, and thank you for fixing the roof. Luckily, he was finished with his work and as soon as he went out the door I locked it. I was shaking. Smoked one of my brother's cigarettes. My gut told me to get out of Florida-then I thought, no. We all can't leave the state to people like him.

I went to the bank Saturday to cash a royalty check for $19.60. The guy in front of me had an Iron Cross tattooed on his neck. I wondered, hopefully, if it was a sloppily done Maltese Cross. Then I looked down and he had a big swastika on his calf and other mean looking tats. I put more space between us. What's was going on with my Karma last week? The bigot roofer Wednesday, and and then a Nazi?  Jayzus!

Speaking of Jesus, I’m halfway through Reza Aslan’s fascinating book Zealot. I often promise myself I’ll read more nonfiction, and when Drago finished this book, and I’d finished another Donna Leon mystery, (speaking of Venice) I plunged into the first century, Common Era. I recommend Zealot to anyone who is curious about the historical life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. And who wouldn’t be? Okay. Many of us. One thing though: there is a hell of a lot of rampaging, bathing in blood, chopping off of heads, all that. Aslan reassures us that violence has been with us all along. I knew that, but damn!

Yesterday I read again, but this time close to home. My friend Katrina and I went to an open mic and music performance in Lynnhaven (so, one town away--a tiny tour.) The other performers were folk singers and storytellers. The afternoon tripped along with guitars, bass fiddles and some heart-stopping voices. Warm people, good music--the best parts of Southern. It was a fine start to September.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting Out

Holding the sleeping infant on her shoulder, a young mother sat on the bench in the Greyhound station waiting for her nine p.m. bus. She was taking her baby home, back to the Maritimes, back to Prince Edward Island. Adair Brodie had given Boston her best shot and she was finished with it. The Marathon Bombings and the chaos and fear following the explosions pushed her into a decision she had been struggling to make since her baby's birth. Adair was going to bring little Cameron up to the vast Brodie clan. She wore no wedding ring, and had no regrets about that because Matthew Barnes, the father, was a bastard. She'd gotten money for the trip and assurances from her mother that all of them, even her strict Presbyterian McKenzie grandparents, would welcome the two of them, not before some scolding to be sure, but she could weather all that. She’d grown tougher during the two years she’d been away.

Adair and the baby were startled by shouts. The old man sitting next to her jerked awake and the toddler playing with his balloon let go of the string and wailed as it floated to the ceiling. Two policemen ran into the station with their guns drawn. Within seconds the dozen or so people about were crouching with their heads down, fearful that more violence was about to happen. Cameron, tiny as she was, sensed the tension and started crying. Adair rocked her baby in her arms as best as she could in her hunkered down position and watched the cops run into the men's room. They came out again quickly, separated and searched the station. Then they talked in low voices with the ticket agents. When they turned to the still frightened travelers scattered around the station, they'd finally holstered their guns.

“Sorry, folks,” the taller of the two said in a carrying voice. “We got a call about a suspect being here in the station, but everything seems okay. Sorry for the scare. We know everyone has been through a lot of these past weeks and we're trying to keep you safe.”

Thank you very much, sir, but my Cameron and I will feel safe when we get to the Maritimes, away from this shocked and noisy city, and away from Matthew. He'll never show up there-- not after all I've told him about my brothers.

The bus to Maine was announced over the system a few minutes after the police left, and she quickly gathered her baby's bag and wheeled her single suitcase to the line of people waiting to get their baggage stored in the luggage compartment. Adair cooed to her baby, whose sweet brow still had a tiny wrinkle, and finally boarded. 

There were plenty of empty seats and the young mother and infant sat alone in their row. Adair waited until the weary-looking crowd settled down, then she wrapped a light shawl she carried for the purpose around them, turned off the overhead light and nursed her baby.

The Greyhound made a stop to pick up more passengers at the North End station and the seats quickly filled. The last empty seat was the one next to Adair and sleeping Cameron. No one wanted to sit next to a baby if they could avoid it. The last person to board put his heavy backpack on the rack above them, flopped down with an exhausted sigh, and immediately closed his eyes. 

Black hair, black eyes, brown skin and he looks like an Arab or something! Sweet Jesus, who have we got next to us? 

The newcomer opened his eyes and looked directly at Adair. Seeing her frightened expression, he smiled gently at her.

“Hello, Miss. My name is Anwar. Please be peaceful. I'm no one to worry about. I know I may look dangerous to you right now, but I am not dangerous, just an MIT student on my way to Portland, Maine. May I ask your name? And your lovely baby's?”

“I'm Adair Brodie and this is Cameron. It has been so horrible in Boston these last weeks and you look like…” She broke off, embarrassed. Anwar's eyes looked tired, but they were soft and held no threatening gleam.

“Please, Miss Adair. Relax. I understand. I know who I look like, but you can rest yourself about me. I only want to visit my cousins and be away from stares like the one you just gave me. Boston is not a good place for young men from Chechnya these days.”

They continued talking quietly as they traveled north. Anwar told Adair that he was a mathematician, and that his relatives had lived in various parts of New England for many years, but that he had only been in the United States for two. As they shared stories, Adair liked Anwar more with each mile. She told him about the home she was going back to where the spring lupines stretched almost to the very edge of the sea and where it was quiet; a good place to live and bring up a child.

Anwar said he was not homesick for Chechnya. He hated the struggles with Russia, the violence on both sides, and the poverty of the people. His family back home were Muslim, but they prayed for peace. Anwar loved America.

Adair fell asleep. She and Cameron slept for an hour and woke when the motion of the bus stopped in Portland. Anwar had stood and was pulling down his backpack. He had his hood pulled over his head, because rain pounded on the roof of the bus. Seeing Adair was awake, he wished her luck, shook her hand, and made his way off the bus. A few minutes later she cried out at the sound of gunfire and people shouting. Within minutes sirens blared. The driver's voice came over his speaker.

“Stay on the bus, folks. One of the passengers, the Arab kid, has been shot and they tell me he's dead.”

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A New Notion about an Old Story

A dark girl, quite poor, who might have been four,
leaned on a statue of a horse and his man.
(The rider rode him in place, but as if in a race.)
Her dress needed patching, her heart needed smoothing.
She’d tried to sell matches all the cold night,
but none noted her plight ‘til up to her came
a blond boy who was lame.

"Can you sell those, you think, for some food and
warm drink?" asked the boy who was bigger, and
dressed slightly better, but dirty as well. He’d
apples to sell.

"No, not a one. I want to be done."
Tears plopped from her eyes,
left streaks on her cheeks.

"Have an apple, why don't you? I've still these two.”
The boy gave the waif his well-polished
fruit and a back-pat to boot.

"Do you two like that horse? He's my favorite of
course," said a girl, almost grown, also out on her
own. Her eye was blacked but she'd a warm coat and
hat. "I come here at night, when my Dad's fists
fight. Whiskey's his curse and he's home getting
worse." She pulled the tot to her lap with a plop,
and claimed the lad's hand. One's smile warmed
another's, till all three loved each other.

The horse, soot-streaked marble, was truly a marvel.
His coat livened to touch. His head tossed
with his snort. The rider, a soldier, stretched,
laughed, and fetched the big girl and little.
He soothed them to settle in front of his saddle.
Then he scooped up the boy
(who whooped high with joy) and put him
behind him and they all fit just fine.
The horse stamped his feet, whinnied,
and leaped as far as the stars.

By and by they arrived at the dawn of a day
in a place deep in memory, where, so happily,
they stayed on with others who’d been all
woozy from poverty, and frozen from frost.
Now gone was the hurt, hunger, and dirt,
for grown-ups who cared and children who shared.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

“10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and the remaining 80 percent can be moved in either direction.” 

I was trying to write a poem. Write a poem? No. That’s too lofty a description to give to what I was doing. I was scribbling, then crossing out my scribbles. Drago was sleeping in his hospital bed. We were in a familiar (to many of us) situation. A rumor of possible discharge that day circulates and so waiting ensues. Neither my brother or I are the kind of patients who require, or enjoy, the constant presence of another, however much we might like them, in our hospital room while we lie there being sick, at least if there isn’t a crisis going on with us. But since I was there, and there was a rumor, it seemed best to stay so that I could get him home. Six and a half hours later I did get him home, which was a wonderful relief, but I would have been happy to go home and come back to the hospital. Well, you know what I’m nattering about. 

At one point during the afternoon, two LPN’s were hanging out with the man in the next bed. Yes, hanging out.  Michelle, the nurse who my brother had told me was very nice and had been on the day shift with him for three days was sitting on the floor with her back against the wall, and the other was in a chair. Was the guy in the bed a pal, I wondered?

Our neighbor, down in Southport? My brother’s girlfriend, well, she fed my dog antifreeze, Michelle said.

I stopped trying to write and listened.  My brother and I have a dog and three cats who share a house with us. We adore them and they adore us right back.

It took him three days to die. Good Lord it was one horrible death. He started with throwing up and acting sick, and then on the third day he had seizures. That’s when we had took him to the Vet. Our Vet told us he would of had crystals formed in his kidneys and spreading all over until he shut down. We didn’t know what was wrong or we would have had put him down sooner.

I’ve seen suicides come in here who have taken antifreeze. It’s an awful way to kill yourself, I think, Rita, the LPN in the chair, said.

Okay, now I was just taking dictation.

He was one of those tall, long-legged Pit Bulls? And we had a chain link fence and an underground shocker thing if he ever was to have got near enough to the fence. He did when we first put it in and that taught him good. Should have seen how it got to him! I laughed all day. We wanted to be careful with him because, you know, his being a Pit Bull and all and the way people are about them. But Tebow was as sweet to me and my husband as anything. Now, he did like to play “Toss the Kitty.” But they shouldn’ta have let their cat get in our yard. By the time I found out it was her who done it? She’d moved to friggin Arizona!  And so now I'll never get my hands on her

Rita said, I’m thinking about getting a dog. A small one. Maybe a Chihuahua.

Oh, don’t do that if you want a smart dog! They are so stupid. My own house dog is a Chihuahua and it took me two years to train it not to pee in the house! "Lord," I said to it “How many times do I have to beat you?” My son, Austin? He has a Jack Russell and that dog's e-ver-y bit as hyper as my child. I was about to give him some of my son’s ADHD medication, but I might have had run out of pills. They just try to wear each other out all day long, the two of them. But they never do settle. It don't matter what all I do to them.

My brother’s cell phone rang then and I listened to his end of the conversation. When he got off the phone he told me that the gym had gotten people to cover the yoga classes he teaches. I didn’t notice when the nurses left the room. Eventually Michelle came over to our side of the curtain with discharge papers for my brother to sign. She was pleasant, polite, and helpful, but I’d had an image of a Pit Bull playing “Toss the Kitty,” in my head for several hours and I wasn’t fooled.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The West Wing and Rose Garden

The West Wing and Secret Poems

My brother and I have been watching episodes of the late, great, The West Wing with our Roku. We have gone from 1999 to mid-way through 2001. Drago and I try not to repeat our comments about life too often to each other, so I only say, “It’s all the same!” every other night. Not the personal dramas that the writers wove into the episodes, but the politics, are all the same. Foreign affairs, economics, healthcare, violence against women and equal pay for women, race, immigration, national security versus the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, crime and punishment, poverty, education, education, education. It’s not just that we were talking about these things enough to make them viable topics for a TV show 14 years ago, it’s that, in an almost unbearable way, people, depending on their party affiliation, were saying the same things. We haven’t seen an episode revolving around LGBT issues yet, but I’m sure that will come up soon. President Jed Bartlett is a hugely erudite man, with a background that includes a Nobel Prize for Economics. And guess what? He is accused of being an elitist and out of touch with average citizens. He makes determined efforts to be seen as “folksy” until his staff brings it home to him that he has a big league brain and that’s what the country needs. With the “scandals” of the past week in mind, if you can, watch some of The West Wing again. It will make you laugh, and it will make you cry.

I haven’t been posting on my blog as much as I used to and I realized I missed it. I’ve been writing more than ever, though. Poetry, mostly, but I’ve been keeping the poems fairly secret. Once you post a poem or piece of fiction on a blog, it is considered published and you can’t submit it to publications like The Dog-Eared Review, The Slapping Thigh Journal, The Poet’s Cornfield,  or The New Yorker. I’ve been the poetry editor for The Linnet’s Wings since 2007 (with two issues off; one because I had open-heart surgery that summer, ACK!, and this summer’s, because the wonderful poet Elizabeth Glixman is guest editing for me) and at TLWs we don’t object to previously published work. We want good work, and if it’s shown up elsewhere, too, the chances are VERY SMALL that the same readers will see it again and think, “Oh, how boring, I’ve read this already.” So, anyways, having had a collection of my poems turned into a book, One Day Tells its Tale to Another, (rude product placement there, but this is, after all, my blog) and sent it out into the world, I’ve decided to send new poems out into the world of literary journals and see if anything comes of it. That’s what I used to do with poems, before I started Augustine’s Confessions, then I decided it was much more likely that people would read my blog than The Palm Tree and the Clay Pot Journal. And I was right. As Bill Maher would say, “I kid.” There are stunning literary journals to be read, filled with remarkable writers who are not yet famous, but may become so one day. We keep it all afloat, don’t we? “It” being the marvelous, maddening, inborn drive to  put things we think down in writing.

Getting back to The West Wing, somewhat neatly, I think: My brother and I watched an episode the other night titled “The U.S. Poet Laureate.” Toward the end of the hour (which is only 43 minutes long when you don’t have to watch commercials) she, Tabitha Fortes, has just given a lecture at Georgetown University, and Toby Ziegler, President Bartlett’s Communications Director, asks a professor if there was any press at the lecture. The professor says, (I may not have the exact words, but here’s the gist) “Well, no. It was poetry.”

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Everything Happens in April.

I am skipping right to events in my small, important, life. We all know about the horrors of this month in Boston and West, Texas. We know about the shameful failure of the gun background check in a cowardly Senate, but it is also National Poetry month, and it's been gorgeous on the Florida panhandle. We got a new cat--a tortoise shell with a cauliflower ear, who was lost on the streets until my brother Drago took her home. My brother Robert visited for a week and I was out and about in an unhermitty (sp?) way. My niece got married on a day bursting with love, and I read some poetry to people who looked sad or laughed when I hoped they would. I wrote some new poems, too. Here's one of them:

The Song of Jerome
Jerome, a young cricket, 
grown strong over summer, chirps 
his loudest and longest to lure Lilah,
his chosen, to him, only him. 

His wings, up and open, send his calls 
sailing to the shy siren’s shrub. She hears them,
comes closer, and he courts her with a new song
in a voice low and private. Jerome's chirping 
persuades her to choose him, only him.

Later, in the meadow, all the Gryllidae 
cousins hear “My love is with eggs!” 
Jerome’s song of copulation joins 
thousands of others as couples commingle 
all through the night, the hot August night.

This is a photo of Robert by Nonnie. He visited in the beginning of April.

This is a photo of Nonnie by Robert. I'm 63. Have I mentioned that ever? 

This is Tula, the cat that mesmerized my brother Drago into bringing her home

This is Tullie (her name's evolved) being mesmerizing.

This is my one and only niece, Lia, at her wedding  party with my one and only nephew, Nick.
This is Blossom with her 3 cats on my messy bed.

This is Gracy licking my brother Drago's head. We think she is trying to turn him into a cat. She does this trick most nights.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Drago, Book Promotion, a Poem about Waitressing and a Video of Gabriel Orgrease Reading "Lavender, a Liberal"

My brother Drago is a Catholic Buddhist. He has been lighting many candles in hopes of influencing the choice of new Pope. I hope this works and Drago has a say, because he knows what he's about, whether it's teaching yoga, explaining the basic concepts of Singularity to me or to someone with a chance in hell of understanding what he's talking about, or 16th century English literature--which brings me, in a clunky segue, to me.

As you may or may not know, I have written a collection of poems and it has been published by The Linnet’s Wings and is available on Amazon and through Create Space. For some reason, if you buy it on Amazon, I, the actual author, only get $1.47 out of the $16.00 price. If however, if you buy it from I get $4.67. It is called One Day Tells its Tale to Another, and I’ve put my reviews, which are also on Amazon where the book has a 5 star rating, (but don’t buy it there!) on my website, So, that’s about that. I do not like having to promote my book this way, but there you go. I’ve never been businesslike and I’m not just saying that to sound artistic. When I was four I decided I wanted to be a ballerina, and decisions like that one have kept on coming throughout my life--dancer, special ed teacher, obscure poet. I did pretend to be a secretary at one point, but I wasn’t very good at it, and I had only a vague idea about what my boss did. My secretary days were after I stopped dancing and before I started teaching. There were also a few stints at waitressing that taught me many things about myself and life that I hadn't learned in dance class and, happily for me, I got a poem out of them. It’s in my book. Oh, hell. I’ll post it here because you may not buy my book just to read my poem about waitressing.


On my two-top young lovers gaze at each other and share
her linguini, his prime rib. He butters her bread and she purrs. 
Three salesmen drink and eat and stare at my body. 
I try not to mind; they'll tip me 20%.

Our king, the Chef, rules his steamy realm 
with steely eyes, paces his rum. Before closing
he’ll be maudlin, desperate. The sous chef flirts, 
quips, chops and slices. We like him for his cheer. 
The old Greek grunts as we pick up his exquisite meringues,
tarts and layer cakes. Dishwashers talk trash in broken English--
not the paper-pale junkie. His silence is frantic.

I hoist my tray with six covered dishes. My back and feet
scream “Quit!” At my six-top a tired toddler's flung 
mashed potatoes at his sister, the floor, their table.
 If I clean up the mess now, I’ll fall behind; drinks wait
at the bar for the three-top, I need to take a dessert order
from the lovers, clear the four-top because the fucking 
busboy is hopeless. Two more years and I'll be a teacher.
Will I make it? Will I still be kind?

Lest you think this collection, which you may or may not be thinking about buying is full of swear words (it’s not--just a few) or dour, here’s a wonderful thing that a poet friend did to my great delight and surprise. He made a video of himself reading one of my poems. Gabriel grappled with a line or two and he kept that in his reading, but I love it all the more for that. (I am writing in a peculiar voice today. This is something that happens from time to time. It may be because I am embarrassed about promoting my book. Dunno.) Here’s the link to the video: 


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Verse

A gentle man,
and a fierce woman,
charmed one another
in a shaded gazebo.

Rupert’s castle showed crumbles.
Irene’s prized roses had bugs. 
Each soothed the other
sipping Zinfandel in Bath.

Tommy’s boots flapped.
Polly’s hem dragged.
She invited him over
for a rabbit stew supper.

Arthur’s corners were round.
Sophie’s darts were dull.
They rolled in the clover
down a slope past some goats.

Robert’s inkwell dried up.
Elizabeth’s verse wouldn’t rhyme.
They thanked God they were lovers,
and got naked in Sienna.

A young girl
and a younger boy
blushed and bussed
on the Ferris Wheel in Vienna.

On Whitecap Island

Terrence pulled his Mercedes into the dirt driveway of Kathleen’s bungalow.  He opened his door, closed it, lit a cigarette, took a couple of drags, crushed it in the ashtray, opened his door again and got out of his car.

With renewed determination, he rang the doorbell. 

“Just a minute; I’m coming.” 

“She sounds cheerful”, Terrence thought. “Good sign.” He caught a flicker of moving curtain.  The door knob turned, he heard a grunt, and the door flew open.  Kathleen, adorably, regained her balance and blushed.

“I’m sorry Mr. Coyle. This old door sticks and then BAM it opens. Gets me like that every time I open it.  Uh, how can I help you, Mr. Coyle?”

“Would you ask me in, I wonder?” He saw her glance around her front room before she opened the door wider.

“Yes, of course, come in.”  She stepped aside and he entered the small room.  Terrence had been there once before, at her husband’s funeral, and was impressed then with the charm of the house.  The hand-hooked rug was certainly made locally and the fine drawings on the wall of the town and harbor were by an artist he knew who sold his work when he could, but made his living as a fisherman.  Books were on the shelves- -not china dogs, dancing ladies, or souvenir plates.

Kathleen had regained her usual composure. She was an Islander whose family had been on Whitecap for generations and whenever he’d seen her around the harbor, at company parties, or in town he’d admired her dignity.  Now she stood staring at him with her head slightly cocked and her brows drawn together.  Her small, sunburned hands were still at her side. Kathleen was one of the least fidgety women he’d ever known.  She must be wondering what her dead husband’s boss was doing in her tidy front room. Well, he wasn’t there to worry her, so he’d better say something.

“Kathleen?  May I sit down?”

“Of course! Yes, please have a seat. Would you like something? Coffee or tea? Or, would you like a proper drink? I have whiskey.”

“I’ll take a whiskey if you’ll have a glass with me.”

Terrence sat on the sofa and Kathleen went to the kitchen.  She came back with two generous drinks in crystal glasses. 

Kathleen sat on the edge of an armchair across from him and raised her glass. She took too much, too fast, coughed and turned pink. Before he could do more than put his own glass down, she’d stood from her chair.  She stumbled toward the kitchen, choking out “water” as she went.  Terrence hurried to the kitchen ahead of her.  He found her a glass, filled it from the tap, gently eased her into a chair by the wooden table, and hovered over her until she stopped spluttering.  When she did, he took her hand in his.

“What are you doing here?” she whispered.

“I’m here to do whatever you want—whenever you want, every day for the rest of our lives.”

“What?  What do you mean?  Please don’t tease me Mr. Coyle.”

“When we were in high school, you called me Terrence.  Our senior year, you called me Romeo.  When I kissed you during the play, dear Juliette, dear Kathleen, it had nothing to do with Shakespeare. But you were always Davy’s girl, weren’t you?”

“I was Davy’s girl, then Davy’s wife, and I bore Davy’s children, but I never forgot you, dear Terrence, dear Romeo.” And with a young girl’s radiant smile, she wrapped her arms around him, and kissed him like she’d been wanting to do for fifty years.

Friday, January 11, 2013

In the Desert
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,                 
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,                       
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”

My stomach has been churning off and on for weeks now. I’ve been uneasy. I’ve read more, heard more, thought more about guns, the gun culture, the 2nd amendment, and statistics about gun deaths since December 14th, not yet a month ago, than I ever had before in my life. I’ve watched videos, listened to interviews, even sought out gun shop websites to try and educate myself, because I haven’t been able to understand the “other” side. The NRA side--those government-hating, tax-hating, ATF-hating, American citizens who are so loud, so powerful, so paranoid. They are ready for revolution and no one is going to take their guns away from them. Not now, not ever. They are a militia. Militant. Sure of their stand, and ready to stand when the time comes.

And yesterday the name that had never left my store of names, or, I daresay yours, came right up front in my brain. Timothy McVeigh. He used a bomb to kill 168 people, including 19 children, and injure over 800 in Oklahoma City on April 19th, 1995. So...not an assault rifle. But he’d owned guns, worked gun shows, hated government, wanted to start a revolution. So he blew up a federal building. If you don’t remember much about him, or don’t know about the Oklahoma City bombing, all the information about Timothy McVeigh is on the Internet, easy to find. He talked to a lot to reporters before he was executed in 2001. Apparently he wanted us to know all his ideas about the evils of the United States government. McVeigh claimed he didn’t know there was a daycare center in the building he blew up; he would have chosen a different target if he’d known that. Strange that he didn’t research what he was blowing up, who he would be killing, before he lit the fuse to that bomb in that truck, but he didn’t. It was a federal building and that was all he needed to know I guess. He thought the government was tyrannical, and used Ruby Ridge and Waco to fuel his anger against his enemy, our government. But why did he blow up all those people? Why did he have to kill children in a daycare, sleeping or playing while their parent worked? The adults he killed weren’t on Ruby Ridge or in Waco, Texas. Why did he pick them? And by the way, we had a white President then.

Enough. As Gabby Giffords said the other day, “Enough.” There are too many Americans who are dangerous to other Americans and they are allowed to own, collect, amass horrible weapons. I lived in Maryland when the D.C. Snipers were killing people; I was a mile away from one of the first shootings. She was a young woman sitting on a bench at a bus stop, reading a book. None of the victims who were killed or wounded were carrying weapons, or posing any kind of threat to anyone. One man was mowing his lawn. People in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. didn’t know who was shooting at them, where they would strike next, or how to deal with the insanity of it all for weeks. 

Timothy McVeigh and the D.C. Snipers (I don’t want to look up their names and have those names right behind my forehead again) were extremely angry and extremely sick, one could say. So was Adam Lanza and all the rest of them. But, aren’t all of these gun owners, who need battle ready weapons in case our government decides to attack its own citizens, pretty much the same? Or at least heading in that direction?

Hell, what do I know? I’m a poet and a fiction writer. A literary blogger, if you will. But I do know a few things. I used to teach emotionally disturbed children and for awhile taught in a wonderful psychiatric hospital that had lasted 100 years, but lost the funding battle and closed down. I’ve lived in England and traveled in Europe and had conversations with Europeans who would never come to the U.S. because of the violence. Violence is bad for our tourist industry, you know. I’m pretty sure no one is going to eat game that is shot full of lead from an automatic rifle. I know that in our country, we are more likely to be shot than in other countries, because so many people have guns. And I think a lot of those people, the ones who have the most powerful guns, are pretty damn nuts.