Saturday, October 10, 2009

Talk Over Pancakes

On a Sunday afternoon
My son asks if he will have to go to war
Kids at school said so
Eat your pancakes

My son asks if he will have to go to war
Things ten year-old worry about
Eat your pancakes
I bet those kids in Iraq are scared

Things ten year-olds worry about
Stockpiling food, flashlights, water
I bet those kids in Iraq are scared
Tanner stacks pancakes like sandbags

Stockpiling food, flashlights and water
Will my brothers have to go to war?
Tanner stacks pancakes like sandbags
Do mothers of sons create soldiers?

Will my brothers have to go to war?
Put your plate in the dishwasher
Do mothers of sons create soldiers?
American flags dot the neighborhood

Put your plate in the dishwasher
Do I know anyone who will die in the war, Mom?
American flags dot the neighborhood
We post a NO WAR sign

Do I know anyone who will die in the war, Mom?
Mothers hiding children
We post a NO WAR sign
Kids learn about war between commercials

Mothers hiding children
Boys bend dolls into guns
Kids learn about war between commercials
Pick teams, play army

Boys bend dolls into guns
On a Sunday afternoon
Pick teams, play army
Kids at school said so


Winter is a billboard
Loneliness, depression, frozen branches
Today, I drove seventeen miles in the snow
just to be alone
An ice storm came
knocked down power lines, put a porch swing
through a church steeple
tore the sign off a ma and pa grocery store
letters on a reader board are knocked loose
“Discount Tires” is now “Dis ires:
The beauty shop with the purple poodle mailbox
closed early because the beautician was killed
by a falling potted plant


in your closet of a room, a house
small cars gurgle past
through wet yellow leaves

Across the hall
girls dance and kick
beneath nests of cotton sheets

Above 4th Street
orange tea kettle
fog licks tall ships

New York
a liquor store runs out of rum
Boston is

Stirring drinks with
a green toothbrush
both of us trying
to kick habits


Little bed
next to the wall
thick plaster
yellow room
women wearing scarves
beating rugs in the alley
aching from beer
and gymnastics
a blanket of down
I smile
he wants breakfast
potatoes and sausage
buys me a bouquet
the waitress has whiskers
we laugh and say
I disappear
into the wall

Men in Socks

I grow herbs
feed the birds
listen to Chopin

I can only find lovers
who wear striped socks
and can’t play Scrabble

I tell them
how wonderful they are
then I cry

Coffee in a dirty mug
tastes better
than this

Jason at 27

My son just came home
from living in Ukraine
and he brought me

grey boxers,
brown socks
plaid shirts

When he was a baby
I dressed him in blue
overalls with a choo choo train
across the butt
and took his photo
11 times

Now his clothes
are from Europe
he takes them from
the white basket
and neatly folds


I don’t date married men
or envy laughing lovers
walking across red brick

Old women
are a canopy
funny trees with pom poms

Busy people are dust
unaffected by humidity

Love rolled by
or was that a skateboard?

as I ponder the effect
of the weather
on my hair


Be normal
get a real job
my full moon barks back

buy bread from the day-old bakery
a massage
and a cappuccino

An hour later
I receive flowers
happy, smile
pierce my nose
travel to Ireland
ballroom dance


Eyes hot
tears embroidered
into the lids
my mouth
an anthill
always busy
prophesying to red clay

Ears itch
means somebody’s talking
telling secrets
true lies
says Sister Rosemary
starts with a short skirt

déjà vu

I like nightshade
although it is poison
that I’ll die if I ingest

Southern Cal
A boy named Michael
long hair and acid

Turquoise blue
string bikini
better than Disneyland

Déjà vu is a smell
Hyacinth and sand

A wooden screen door
still smacks the frame
of that place

Long Beach
love going around
in a traffic circle

the smell of blue hyacinth
déjà vu
better than Disneyland

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Muse Anne Frank

I still have a copy of The Diary Of Anne Frank that I kept from the Chinook Middle School library in 1971. I never returned it. It’s a brown hardback and on the cover is a black and white photo of Anne.

I wanted to live in that attic with Peter, the boy who was a friend of the Franks. I didn’t care if the Nazi soldiers chased me. I could be quiet as a moonlit night.

Around the same time, I constructed a “fort” out behind our house. This fort. built under the Jonathan apple tree and next to the wood shed was my attic. I had a white diary that locked with a tiny metal key that I hid in one of my shoes. I wrote in the diary about boys, horses, dogs and Mount Rainier. I hung a print of a stallion on one of the plywood walls. I fashioned curtains from two old towels. Like Anne, I put pen to paper and tried to make sense of my world.

Since then, books have affected me deeply. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. Isak Dinesen’s Letters from Africa - Roots, Ragtime, Refuge. It’s hard to stop.

Interestingly, it was a book that initiated my divorce from my ex-husband 14 years ago. After reading Bridges of Madison County, I vowed to get out of a loveless marriage. Robert James Waller’s words opened a world to me that said I could someday love like his protagonist, Francesca.

Monday, September 28, 2009


The margarine moon
leaning on her side

Tonight, the earth wears
a skirt of wet dirt

Remember that day
I bought expensive soaps
Watched as you wrapped your hand
around the fork

At that cafe where
we drank coffee in the
thick white mugs
While I told you to
sprinkle me over
the mountain

You filled a blue bottle
with dandelion fluff
and said

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sequim Sweet Home

We have landed in Sequim, Washington, "The Sunniest Place in the Pacific Northwest", "The Banana Belt", "The Rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains" . . . like me, it is a place with a lot of names.

We've been here a little over a month. After living in the homeless shelter for three weeks, we have found a little cottage to rent. I call it a cottage because I am a writer and I nearly always see the glass as half full. Some might call it a hovel. It is a cozy place, the smallest house I've ever lived in - about 900 square feet, but it is home. We are number seven of eight tiny cabins. Lucky seven, the lady who studies numerology told me at my writing group. There is a horseshoe turned the "right" way over our front door. There is lavender growing out front and I can play my music as loud as I want.

Yesterday, I cried and sang several verses of "Take Me Home Country Road" on my way up here to Sequim, after retrieving my household goods from storage in Olympia. This morning, it is 5 a.m. and the French roast is brewing but where are the mugs? Cardboard boxes are stacked like building blocks in my tiny living room. Mostly boxes of books. My books are my fortress, filling four floor to ceiling bookcases as well as donating some and putting some in storage.

A big part of my security in life comes from the things I surround myself by. There's the old wooden washboard that Grandma Finnegan used to clean my Dad's clothes, the old moonshine jug that Dad dug up on a job, my yellow clay ashtray made in the first grade. Why did they let kids make ashtrays? These things are my touchstones - the security blanket wrapped around my life.

The coffee tastes especially good this morning in Nana's bone china cup embossed with daffodils. I can hear Tate's easy breathing in the next room. I feel secure like a locked room.


We are living in a homeless shelter
It’s called the Serenity House
I’ve told my son we are sort of
on vacation

There is a teal recliner,
a radiator under
the window

A patchwork quilt
on the double bed
could have belonged to
your grandmother

We leave during the day
act like tourists
at night, Tate creates tin toys
from left over aluminum foil

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I Could Have Been A Happy Hooker

Note: I removed this post a couple of weeks ago because someone was offended by it. I have now decided that I cannot be censored in this way.

I could have been a Happy Hooker. Some kids want candy. Some kids raid their parent’s liquor cabinets. I snuck dirty books. My mother had a copy of Love Story. It was in the book case in our living room but up on top of a row of books and turned sideways so you couldn’t see what it was. I wanted to read it badly. I snuck a flash light into my room off the wooden workbench in the garage. That was when I started shutting my bedroom door at night. My door also had a lock on it, but I knew that would be pushing it.
I remember in the third grade we had a club that met out in the ditch next to the road that our school sat on. It was a cussing club. We said Fuck and shit and whore. Okay, maybe we didn’t say whore. But we said fuck a lot. And bitch. Andy Kernoodle (his name was really Theodore, but he couldn’t spell it) said Mother Fucker one day and I was in love.
When I babysat for the people up the road I read True Romance magazine and True Crime. Their names were Don and Val. Their kids were Angie and Baby Johnnie. I used to go there about 5 p.m. They stayed out late. Usually past 2 a.m. Don would walk me home down the road about four houses. He used to put his hand on my back. I hoped he wasn’t a murderer like the guys in the magazine. When I got home from babysitting I lay in my bed kissing the back of my hand pretending it was Don.
At one of my babysitting jobs they had all of the "Happy Hooker" books. On the first page of The Happy Hooker in the second paragraph it says, “Hey bigshit madam bitch, bet you ain’t got no black cunt turnin’ tricks in your high-class fuckin’ house!”
The only time I ever head anyone cuss was when my dad would say damn or my mom would say shit or hell when she couldn’t get her sewing machine to work properly.
Now, at age 49, I just found a copy of Valley of the Dolls in my mom’s bookcase. How could I have missed it? Big Black letters and pills on the cover. The inside jacket says:

“From Broadway to Hollywood, this is the fastest-selling most whispered about novel of the year. And no wonder! It reveals more about the secret, drug-filled, love-starved, sex-satiated, nightmare world of show business than any other book ever published.”

I’ve got some reading to do.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I was given up for adoption the day I was born. My birth mother says she looked at me but didn’t touch me. She worked at Frederick and Nelson, a department store. She went into labor in cosmetics. Nobody knew she was pregnant. It was a secret.
The nuns took care of me at the Catholic Childrens Home until I went to a foster home. There’s a note in my baby book that they wrote stating they gave me dark Karo syrup for my constipation. They said I was fussy and wanted to be held.
My parents adopted me when I was three months old. I came to Olympia from Seattle in the back seat of their red and white Mercury Montclair.
Fifty years later, I am still fussy and wanting to be held.

Sunny Side Up

Provocative is a nap
between lunch and dinner
it is not my neighbor
in my bed
just the cat

tangerine shades pull against the light
smiling at a string of paper lanterns
our audience
laundry mimics
the sound of sex
spin cycle shudders

But that lover wouldn’t stare,
caress my cheek and say
I will love you forever
or point out that
if we were eggs
I’d be sunny side up


I was the girl
who could tie
a maraschino cherry stem
in a knot
with her tongue
all baby oil and iodine
flying over railroad tracks
with Dirty Larry
one foot in a platform shoe
two sizes too small
Bacardi out of the bottle
in the backseat
three Our Fathers
six Hail Marys
I was the friend
who sat up and talked
stole your boyfriend
while you slept it off
few regrets
ticket stubs
the one who’s
read like a mystery novel
that Guinness Book
The Enquirer
I was that girl
who would climb
over a gearshift
for love

Morning 2003

My hands stay on my dress
clinging to the flash
of orange and red

You lower your face
thinking of another

Our lives play out
between the lifting sheets
two nestled question marks

You flip my pages
like an expensive

But I’m just
a yellowed envelope
waiting to be sent

The Patio, 2001

I just got out of rehab
not much is left
in my small
container garden

Some things
are rigorous
and genuine
like lemon balm,

I nearly drove into
a telephone pole
this morning
a stranger’s red
in a second story window box

I used to raise nasturtiums
their generous mane climbing up
the old wooden fence

Suppose I hadn’t been gone -
would the wisteria
have made it?

Kitchen Table

My 83 year-old mom sits at the kitchen table in the spot where my dad used to sit and plays solitaire next to her plastic caskets full of pills, counted out for each day of the week. In front of her is a battery operated card shuffler her diabetes testing equipment, a pen holder, a tissue box, a tin full of old fashioned hard candy the color of jewels.

The table she sits at itself is oak. It’s round but has three leaves that can expand it to fit our family at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. There are 11 of us now because one of my ex husbands keeps showing up for holidays and nobody tells him to stay away. He’s my second ex, not the most recent.

I ask my mom whatever happened to the old kitchen table, the one with the chrome legs and grey Formica top? The one we ate every meal at until I joined the army. I don’t remember. The nogahyde on the chairs was torn. I guess we gave it away. She does recall that her current table is only the fourth she’s had since 1945 when they built the house.

I sat on the side of the table between my parents. My dad came to the table in a white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt after washing up from his work as a heavy equipment operator. He always smelled like Palmolive or Jergens soap when he came to the table. I could partially see the tattoo of a ship peaking from beneath his short shirt sleeve. Mom put the food on the table and was the last to sit down. We never had a tablecloth. Dad read The Daily Olympian while he ate. In those days, the paper was delivered in the afternoon just before dinner. My mom read it before my dad got home so she was one up on him on the news they might discuss over dinner.

We didn’t say grace every night like a lot of Catholic families. We did say it when my Grandma Finnegan came on Sundays and on holidays when the rest of the extended family came to eat.

Once we were finished with dinner it was time to do the dishes. That job fell to my mom and I. She washed, I dried. We fought while we did dishes - about nothing, about everything. Most nights I stood over the dishes, staring at my reflection in the window above the sink. At 17, I imagined that steamy portal was my way to escape.

I gladly wash the my mom’s dishes now. She sits in the next room watching television. Over thirty years later, I still stare out that same window wanting to be transported away.

April 1987

I am in Vilseck, Germany,
the town where I live.
I am at the American Steakhouse or Saloon
I am on the bathroom floor, dressed in my favorite outfit
- black denim skirt, red sweater, red purse and red shoes.
I see that one of my shoes is missing.
The floor is cold like a wet towel but it feels good on my face.
I spot my other shoe behind the toilet.
My purse is open.
Why was I carrying so much cash?
The floor is cold.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Writing with bipolar disorder
is like
swimming in cocoa
When I see the showers outside
soaking in to the grass
I want to stop
drink rainwater
from leaves
let my hair get wet
dress myself with it
dance barefoot
instead I take the green pill
and the orange one
to quiet
the storm
I love

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Single Person's Shopping List

A small bottle of dandruff shampoo
Two plastic razors
One organic tomato
One pint of half and half
Six brown eggs
One free range chicken breast
Coffee beans
Chamomile tea
A half gallon of GOO GOO Cluster ice cream

Shame Licks At Me

I saunter up to healing
with my praying body
trampling romantic weeds
releasing destructive hormones
Shame licks at me
I shudder
clinging to risk
concealing my regret

Rural Desire

I have a rural desire
peace dissolving like sugar
in a cup of coffee
My breath is tame
I grow socks
on my feet
The frog’s cry
under the front porch
is a simple balm


Spring rain applauds
outside my window
sharing its sorrow
sticking to trees
like honey
twisting the garden
into a green ocean
revealing a dance
of words
falling like

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Beauty School

I remember the smell of my mother - Breck shampoo and loose pink face powder. Her hair was thin, brown and silver. After I worked for a while, brushing it with the blue plastic brush, it became oily. I then filled her head with pink rollers, clamping their teeth together on the thin strands of hair. I used little brown Bobbie pins, cold to the touch. With these I made pin curls. After removing the curlers and pins from her head, I brushed this pile into a style on top of her head and let her look in the silver handheld mirror.
Sometimes, my cousin, Laurie Jo, and I had my mom soak her fingertips in emerald green Palmolive dish soap like Madge on the TV commercial.
When I was in high school I attended Beauty College with my friends Deveri and Dana. I lasted two weeks. Yes, I am a beauty school drop out.

Monday, March 23, 2009


For my mother who cavorts with crows

If Dad had not brought home that injured bird
from the construction site in the summer of
If the blue black guy, we named Charlie, did
not have a broken wing
If Mr. Miller, the next door neighbor, would
not have held our bird so far from his body
at the labor day picnic
If Charlie had given us and sign that he could
Would my mother be standing at the side of
the road
cawing over 40 years later, waiting
for the crow’s return?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Word Jar

I collect words
In a jar


I dig them out
With my fingers


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tumwater Falls

I walk by trees
leaves stick out
their tongues

That wooden bench
to rest these hips

The man with grey halo
whistling Amazing Grace

A sweetness in
his swagger

This choir boy

Sunday, March 8, 2009

God Is In The French Roast

He is in my coffee
this morning
which makes me wonder
why people go to church
when they could just
stay home
admiring the frame
of an old iron bed
no room full of people
who I would not invite
to dinner
Why break bread
with disappointment
when God is right here
in the French roast

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Poet's Life

The neighbor pays me
To plunge her toilet
It scares her
Touching food stamps
Standing in line
For refried beans
In a plain white labeled
Tin can
Son says
Please mom
Get a real job
One-quarter star
Three-quarters panhandler
Dorothy in Oz
Trying to get home

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Self Help

I am twiddling
my thumbs
Naming things
as if I own them
Ears listening
Words coming out
like dazed bees
My brain infested
with the knowledge
That I have left my body
My belly hangs
My back is stiff
I know more about
other people
Than I know
about myself

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Baby Needs Shoes

Therapist wore Birkenstocks
I bought brown ones
The next one wore Army boots
I already had some
Another wore pumps
I didn’t like them

In Powell’s bookstore
A woman wears red clogs
I have to look away

Little girl
Long curls swimming on her head
Riding in Dad’s dirty Suburban
Wants to visit the bookstore
But they drive past
On their way to buy shoes

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rocks In My Pocket

I put up my Christmas tree three days before Halloween but, I still don’t think I have bi-polar disorder. I believe the things I do are pretty normal. Except that day a few weeks ago when I subscribed to 32 new online newsletters.
Now, I get up each morning to check my email and there are at least 35 new messages overflowing my inbox - green living, writing websites, gardening tips and feng shui.
That was the same week I agreed to become a board member of the regional arts association. It’s when I tried to learn to knit then changed my mind to crochet. I wrote seven poems and an essay about my short-lived career as a synchronized swimmer. I bought a cookie press.
I obtained two books on soap making from the author and set about to make chamomile/olive oil soap in the shape of the sun for holiday presents.
I wrote the lines: I am a chair facing the wall; I am a snorkeler, words are my fish; and; I am a wedding reception with a drunken bride on pastel colored 3”x5” cards.
I created 30 homemade holiday cards (each unique) and mailed them. I attended “Business Readiness Training” with a local job coach and signed up for a two-month long intensive workshop to start my own business.
I hosted one dinner of eleven, attended another with the same amount. I painted my nails and went to the podiatrist and the psychiatrist. I woke up four times each night and got up to drink Huckleberry tea at 2 am with my 22 year-old son one such time.
I checked out 67 library books and read 43. I drove to the store nine times in the snow. I checked Facebook five times a day. Then, I forgot to take my meds for three days.
I slept until noon. I could barely drag myself to my feet to go to the bathroom. I drank coffee black as tar. I stayed in my pajamas for three days and didn’t shower. I didn’t wear earrings, line my eyelids or apply triple thick mascara to my lower lashes. I used the same Kleenex over and over, wore the same dirty socks, didn’t put a brush through my teeth or hair.
The garbage piled up - newspapers went unread. I ate sugar from the bowl. I never checked my email or answered the phone. The rain poured and the river flooded and I wished I was Virginia Wolff with a pocket full of rocks.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Boughs, too, drooped low above him, big with fruit,
Pear trees, pomegranates, brilliant apples,
Luscious figs, and olives, ripe and dark;
But if he stretched his hand for one, the wind
Under the dark sky tossed the bough beyond him.

Homer, from The Odyssey

Give me just one word
And I will devour it whole
Then step away
Place my hands on
My belly

Dance with it
Dip it and twirl it
Nurse it
Teach it to read

When it’s like a blackberry
Nearly ripe
I will drink its wine
Until I fall

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hip Rant

I used to use them like shiny fish lures.

Sweet hips swaying singing rock a bye baby. Hips ride horses in dry autumn pastures next to hazelnut trees. Hips have sex in a yellow rental house at seventeen. Summer hips bodysurf Hermosa, Redondo and Huntington. Hips sing Hey Ho Hidee Ho, I wish all the men were pies on the shelf and I was a baker I'd eat em all myself. Hips at the 440 Disco in Killeen, Texas - belle of the ball. Hips making love to best friends during the month of May while tornado warnings cross the TV screen. Beer hips at the Oktoberfest in Munich. Tight jeans on hips, laying down to button them up. Twin bed mattress hips, feet hooked over the side, sinking into ticking, sheets shifting. Hallelujah hips harnessed to a table, ten centimeters gone. Lace hips hawking husbands. Hips fearing tight panties - control top tango. Hips knocking over coffee cups half full, making whoosh here I come sounds. Double-wide hips backing into a compact parking space. Seventy year-old hips at 49, closed for repair.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


There are M&M wrappers in my purse and under the seat of my car. I am the fattest mom at the park. I am the only mom who has brought food with me. I brought my own chair too. Those wooden benches are way too hard on a fat butt.
I am 5’6” and I weigh 265 pounds. I have been every size from a 10 to a 22. Right now, I’m a fat salmon swimming upstream from a size 20 to a 22.
I am sweating. The other moms at the park wear halter tops and shorts. It is 85 degrees outside and I am wearing jeans and two shirts. The longer outside shirt serves as something I refer to as my fat uniform. Long sweaters can be part of the uniform. So can black stretchy leggings.
When I take my clothes off at night, I have marks around my waist where my jeans hang on for their tight ride all day.
The roots of my fat are strong. They dangle and twist together so tightly there is no prying them loose. I water them daily with mean words, looks in the mirror.
It’s time to leave the playground. I can hardly get out of my canvas chair. A thin mom watches me strain. I leave with my plump pale breasts, my full moon butt, my thick thighs.
In my obit I’m sure it will say, We couldn’t fit her ass into a casket. She will be rolled into the ground at 3 p.m. Friday.
I walk by windows downtown on my way to get coffee. I see my head bobbing on top of a fat roll, a wide flat butt and hear thighs whooshing together trying to not be heard as the warm wind blows.