Instead of sleeping

She moves late at night, when I ought to be asleep because the alarm will go off before I’ve had a chance to sleep enough. She moves as if she has been reading a book and then suddenly breaks out into peals of bodily laughter. I wonder if she will always move like this–long periods of silence followed by bursts of energy–or if this is just the testing of new neural circuits. How much of her is her yet and how much is only the scaffolding of who she will be.

We sit alone together in the dark wondering what the other one of us is like, knowing each other through touch like two blind women seeking each other out with their fingers. Already we build our sense of each other, limited and skewed, but we fill in holes with what we know and fear about ourselves.

It begins early–that belief that I might know her any more than I do now, when I am the closest to her. So far, I know she likes to move at night, that some times she sleeps and sometimes she must simply be listening. Or perhaps that’s me, listening for her, waiting until she moves again so I will know for certain that she’s still there.

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So much spring

been busy

settling in to this new season

unfurling leaves after dark and rain

too much winter

these small things, these beginnings

take massive amounts of work

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750 Words

If additional proof were ever needed of my utter nerdhood–beyond my taking Latin and Organic Chem for kicks in college, beyond my getting excited about a book of essays about scientific studies, beyond my choice to wear T-shirts with numbers on them, special, important, magical numbers, but still numbers–I have the final clinching bit of evidence.

Right here.

These are statistics.  My statistics.  To be more specific, my words–brain effluvia much less fascinating in its original content than it is converted to pie charts and tag clouds.  And yes, I am aware that this is simply a variety of algorithms run over the 750 odd words I put down in sixteen minutes of self-conscious whining and wandering.  It actually just makes it more fascinating to see all those ideas quantified and summarized so that– though it was gibberish to begin–now looks as though it means something.

I love statistics.  Charts and graphs can make the obscure clear, the excessive succinct, the scattered and meaningless a shining beacon of direction.  It’s algorithmic fortune-telling using my words as its tea leaves.  I could pick those pie charts apart.  (Who am I kidding, I’ll do that later, maybe at 2 am, focusing especially on that “self-important” wedge.) But for the time being I’m just fascinated that someone took the time to code all that into a website.  Beyond that, I’m delighted that the same someone felt the need to dangle a carrot in front of all us writers needing one more push over the “Sit down and freaking write! Anything! Gibberish! A grocery list!  Just write something damn it!” hump.

And if it’s the carrot of a little statistical fortune at the end of 750 words every day, maybe I’ll get back to writing my “3 pages”.

Regardless, 750words is a brilliant idea.  And look, Buster, not only did I write my 750, I wrote this, too.  From one nerd to another, thanks.

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Nothing wakes one up in the morning like white smoke and squealing belts. Or a shuddering wheel and that stomach-dropping slow motion failing of a car that was chugging along happily at twenty miles an hour up the the first turn onto a major street but now suddenly isn’t. A car that is suddenly not so much a car but a rolling hunk of metal that, only by the power of curse punctuated prayer, made it back up the hill to the first available parking spot.

Wakes you up like an quintuple short expresso on intravenous drip.

(and yes, Dad, I know you are reading this. I am fine. The car is fine…that is, it’s getting a new ignition coil in the shop, plus maybe a few other odds and ends that will continue to make it the safest and most reliable ten year old Subaru in town.)

This was, in fact, my first experience with utter vehicular failure. I’ve always been able to coax what ever I am driving back on to the road to at least limp to the shop. But this time, there was no way on this green earth that I was going to even consider restarting the engine once I’d gotten it parked. It was going to explode in firework style color if I did. I swear. Or maybe dinosaurs were going to leap out of it and attack me. Probably both.

All of this necessitated two things I’ve decided a girl should never be without: the number of a tow truck and a trustworthy mechanic. As of now, I have found both and both men–the tow truck driver and the mechanic (who has yet to return my car to me, and I risk some sort of karmic jinx by saying this, but I have faith nonetheless)–are heroes. They are men who do their job well, beautifully well. Which, in a world where the news is a circus of well educated, well paid people doing things badly, is a relief. It’s a worldly manifestation of those damn Allstate commercials.

See, my car has been the most consistent thing in my life over the past ten years. I’ve had it longer than my job, longer than any relationship. That red, scrapped up and dented, reliable station wagon has driven from this coast of the country and back again. It’s an excellent spot for dinner, always has a great band and had provided many a shoulder to cry on. And it exploded.

But here’s what the mechanic said: You did the right thing. We’ll take a look at it and if we can fix it we will. That’s what we do.

I could have cried on the phone. Maybe I did.

Then he gave me the number of a tow company, who when called literally said, “Your wish is my command”. And it was. He showed up within a minute of when he said he would and performed some kind of miracle rolling my failed car in neutral down the hill and onto the truck with trained stunt driver precision.

These guys are good. The world…that is the world that included a working car…had ended and yet these two men had me convinced that it would be okay. Things were out of my control and I WASN’T WORRIED. This is a kind of magic.

Then it hit me. These men are good at their jobs and they make if clear with every move. And this is why I struggle to do what I do the way I do. I want to be good at my job. I want that sense of confidence to leak through like syrup, until it sticks to even the most panicked child or parent and they’ll trust that things’ll be okay. If we can fix it, we will. If not, well then, we’ll deal with that. We’re professionals here.

And if you ever need the number of tow truck or the name of good mechanic, I’ve got one.

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Pomegranate season

It’s been a few days since I’ve been to the store, partially because I’ve been working, but mostly because I might have misplaced the next edition of my credit card. Turns out plastic works less well when expired. But, new card located in stacks of other, less important paperwork that really ought to be recycled and trip to buy more cat litter accomplished.

At the store, I found that the ever busy merchandizers have replaced the halloween cookies that greeted me the last time I walked into the produce section, with a cardboard dishwasher box of pomegranates. Huge, mutant soft ball sized pomegranates. The box even provided a handy website and set of manuals for opening your pomegranate. Yes, we have no problem opening and consuming all the multiple layers of packaging on the halloween candy but the fruit has a freaking manual.

I noticed that recently on the squashes, too. Someone has been putting little stickers on the outside of all the gnarly gray and green gourds that say “great in the microwave!”. As if someone who was intimidated by a vegetable that resembles a zucchini with a lethal case of warts will suddenly say, “oh, I can just microwave it! Because not knowing how to cook it was the only think keeping me for wanting it for dinner.”. And I like squash, but that thing? Yeah, I don’t think so.

But pomegranates, they are magical. Despite what the little manual says, there is no way to open them cleanly or easily. That’s part of the greatness of pomegranates. You get your fingers in them, you stain everything within a six foot radius of you with magenta blood each time one of those stinking little arils explodes, you have to crack each one out like pop it beads so that you eat them only a few at a time and they break open in your mouth with an enthusiasm pop rocks only dream of. They are the anti-gnarly squash. They are gorgeous, inside and out.

And the best part is that they take so long to eat that just one can keep me entertained for hours. But then, it’s been said that I’m easily entertained.

I’ve been trying to press pomegranates into a poem since the last time pomegranate season rolled around but I seem to be stuck somewhere between not doing justice and butchering cliche. Or maybe it just needs more time and few more fruits. Or, maybe I should leave pomegranates to all the poets who have written about them for millennia and give some love the that poor gnarly squash, because really, I’m sure it is good in the microwave.

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Making Change

A few years ago, I switched the mouse at work from the right side to the left of my computer to give sore tendons a bit of a break. For a few days, it felt like writing in the mirror. Everything was backward, there were even moments in which I couldn’t get my hand to do the things I imagined it could. That is, my left hand was stymied by what my right hand could do with sheer muscle memory. It felt unnatural.

Within a week, though, I started to forget which hand reached for the mouse. Now, I find myself moving the mouse on other computers to the left side. The left has become the right side, for a mouse anyway.

It’s funny how difficult—and how forgettable—change can be.

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It was gray and quiet today.  I made butternut squash soup laced with curry and cinnamon and thought about how much time gets wasted on things like television and worry and how both are their own sorts of addiction.  I thought about how much I am looking forward to visiting this tree again near the end of October, around which there is neither television or worry.  The tree that is, not the end of October.  But it is true that, like cinnamon in soup, the comfort of something can spread so that maybe, over time, it won’t be just the tree with the tiny cabin on an island that is so warm and delightful but all the weeks around it, as well.


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Early Harvest and Garden Pests

It’s already begun to feel a touch like fall.  The air isn’t as warm when the sun goes behind a cloud.  The breeze is cooler.  Nights are cooler.  I’m getting ready to rip out my sugar snap peas because they’ve gone bleached blonde and become one massive roost for garden spider webs, which is convenient for them because the aphids have also taken to the flagging peas. Aphids have also fallen in love with just one violet pole bean.  Just one.  The entire bean has gone black with aged aphid bodies–I don’t why they do that, start green then go black– and the rest of the vine is perfectly bug free.

Also, there are cucumbers–both ghostly white and regular green–enough green tomatoes to instill faith that there might be a few red ones by the end of the season, a steadily swelling pumpkin, zucchini in growing profusion, some struggling carrots and enough kale to make me the healthiest person on earth (providing I don’t simmer it all with butter and curry sauce which was pretty freaking good last night).  The raspberries are also threatening a good crop for September.

That will be good.  September days will need some sweet endings.  (September will also need patience, coffee, inspiration, and a nice hard vodka chaser.  Teacher.  September.  Ten-year-olds coming down off summer.  You get it.)

I had also wanted to have a finished novel draft by the first of September.  Something to edit over warm soup during the cold short days, but I don’t think that one will be ripe yet.  I’m currently about 20,000 words short.  Part of the trouble is that I’m long-winded and I seem to be locked in this sort of “first they did this and then they did this and they did that” kind of story telling, fifty percent of which will need to be thrown out to compost but, damn it, that’s what’s growing.  I know.  It sounds terrible.  Trust me, I’m the first the judge it that way, even before the words are on paper.

The other problem is that I can’t get the hell out of my own way, which is part of the first problem.  Flat out, I’m afraid of what I’m writing.  Not because the text is scary but because it’s a novel.  Because it’s part me and what if I can’t finish it?  Or what if I can and it’s horrible?  It’s certainly horrible now.  Disorganized and tedious and…weird.  Yeah, it’s really weird.  Right now, anyway.

But I guess that’s like looking at the first bean sprouts and thinking, “Why on earth would I eat that?”.  Of course you don’t eat the sprouts.  And you don’t like the crappy drafts.  And come on, NO ONE likes kale before at least a little doctoring.

But you do.

Because eventually the peas grow up and the kale gets curry sauce and the tomatoes are warm and sweet off the vine.  Summer has put good work in on the garden.  It’s all plant and get out-of-the-way, which is why I love gardening.

But the writing, I’m the sun on that one.  And the rain and the soil nutrients…and the aphids and the freaking gophers that keep nipping the tops off my onions.

So even if fall is hinting, I need to keep summering on until the weird, crappy and long-winded draft is done.  Maybe I’ll have a late harvest in November.

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Precious Metal

I put on lipstick and perfume to sell my wedding ring.

I tried to sell it once before, several years ago now.  The jeweler had offered me two hundred dollars for an engagement ring, a wedding ring, an anniversary necklace and a pair of earrings.  The wedding ring alone had cost us over $1,500.  My divorce lawyer had cost me over $3,000.  At the time, it had all seemed connected and utterly unfair.

Plus, all the jewelry had matched.  Kind of.  Wouldn’t someone want a used and almost matching set of someone else’s marriage jewelry?  And they’d have to be willing to pay more than a measly two hundred dollars, right?  I simply couldn’t sell it.

This time, I put all the pieces plus a few other odds and ends into a miniature zip-lock bag and shoved the whole thing in the pocket of my shorts.  I didn’t even on try the ring one last time.  I tried to make my hair look nice—which in summer amounts to brushing it before I pull it back—and brushed my teeth, as if what I looked like would in some way influence the price of gold.  Of course, it was my gold with a little platinum thrown in as a romantic nod to permanence.

I visited a different jeweler this time, too, one that had been advertising on the radio that they bought gold.  They sounded like they actually wanted my scrap jewelry, as opposed to the last guy, from whom I’d gotten the impression that I should have been grateful that he was even willing to take the ring off my hands.  This store was brightly lit, large and quiet thought there were several people sitting in chairs by the window.  A woman offered me coffee while I waited.

The little bag dug into me when I sat down.

When we first looked at wedding rings, I’d been adamant that I didn’t want anything more than a gold band.  I’m not really a jewelry kind of girl and diamonds seemed so expensive for what they were—heavily compressed lumps of coal.  I don’t remember who it was—my ex, the jewelry store, my mother—but someone convinced me that a wedding ring was a once in a lifetime sort of thing, something worth extravagance and beauty.  Because, wasn’t I worth it?  And the ring we settled on was beautiful and not too excessive, with a sapphire center stone and an incredible sparkle in the light.  And I will say, the day I got married, I felt absolutely worth it.

When my number came up—I had to pull a number just like waiting at the DMV—the man behind the glass counter was young and efficient.  He sorted the pieces into piles—platinum, 12K, 18K, 24K, crap—using a loop.  I resorted mentally.  Ex-husband, grandmother, unmatched earrings.  It was unsettling to see him mixing up my associations on the black velvet pad, as if they were all just metal and not things that had been precious.  Once.

He weight out each pile and did a few quick calculations.  Weight x going metal value, that’s it, like calculating the force of two cars in a traffic accident. Doesn’t matter who’s in the cars, where they were going, or whether the crash happened on a city street or in a cornfield.  The force is still mass times acceleration.

He was a nice man, the guy who this time offered me four times what I’d been previously offered for the whole lot.  He counted out eight crisp hundred dollar bills onto the counter for me and I felt reckless folding up that much recognizable currency and shoving it into my wallet.  What he didn’t know, though, was I would have taken two hundred.  Sitting there with all the other suburbanites waiting to tell their bits of gold for a little cash, I realized that it was time. There was nothing left in it but metal.

Ten years, almost to the day, is a nice run for a relationship with a piece of marriage jewelry.  Maybe someday the marriage can stay attached.  Or maybe not.  I’ve never been much of a ring wearer, anyway.

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Postcard to July

Dear Sun,

Look what we’ve done with the few days you’ve managed to make an appearance this month:

Borage, a favorite with the bees

Roses, a favorite with the aphids

A California Poppy with heirloom flair

Violet pole bean flowers that will someday achieve their dream of being Violet Pole Beans

A profusion of brilliant red Yarrow

Something whose name I really ought to learn but currently answers to "Pretty"

And this:

July 2011 • Volume 4 • Issue 7

The latest issue of Four and Twenty is available for download at

This issue of the journal features poetry by Rachel Adams, Henry Arroyo, Damian Balassone, Lake Boggan, Darren Crawford, Gabriel Gadfly, Carrie Vestal Gilman, John Grey, Sharayah C. Hooper, Christie Isler, Dallas Jones, John McKernan, Nina E. Larsen, Justin Antonia Martinez, Mary Jane Nordgren, Kushal Poddar, Bonnie Quan Symons, David Rosenthal, Nancy Scott, and Herb Shallcross.

And we did all that with only “78 minutes” of summer thus far.  Just imagine what we could accomplish with a little more.  I’m promise, the rest of the country won’t mind if you leave them alone a while.  We’ve even made up a bed for you.

Hope to see you soon,


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