Saturday, October 30, 2010

Five copies of my manuscript are in the mail.
Now the waiting begins. Fingers crossed.
A request sent out to the universe.

It's a pricey proposition these days, the submission of book-length poetry manuscripts. Pretty much the only way to go about it is to enter manuscript contests, which charge a reading fee of, on average, $25. Non-contest publishers are rare, and many this past year have stopped accepting new work because of economic concerns. With the entry/reading fee, the copy-fee, and postage, the average single submission costs $34. Not so bad if one is so lucky to have one's manuscript picked up early, but a friend submitted his ms. eighty-something times before it was accepted, and now he's published three books.

This collection feels really good -- not the first one I've put together but I've not felt this way previously. And I'm long overdue for a book, honestly. But I'm a bad secretary and the rustling of papers sets my nerves afrazzle, so I've avoided this task for most of my adult life. Excuses? Maybe. Sometimes I'd rather clean out a dozen litter boxes than prep my manuscript. (I need more cats.)


Duck and white beans and thyme and onions and celery are simmering, steaming up the kitchen. A hint of cinnamon and allspice in the air. This is my favorite time of year to cook: soups, stews, pumpkin bread, gingerbread, roasted vegetables. Stuffed chickens and boeuf bourguignon and butternut squash and mashed potatoes: all things to sustain the soul as summer slips out amidst an autumn storm.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boo, Part 2

But really, the most frightening thing of all is, according
to some (not me), a cat in human clothing. I actually believe
that Monsieur Chat looks quite chic:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I was all ready to post a Tuesday Poem this morning but this scenario presented itself to me instead....

On my way back into the house after getting the morning newspaper, I was greeted by the surprise of a lit Jack-o-lantern and our cat Sally all dressed up in her black-fur Halloween-cat costume.

One of the four boys has moved back in with us, post-college, in search of a job, and this was his doing. Isn't it great when kids can still act like kids?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

P. Patch

Pumpkin road....

Pumpkins with orange umbrella....


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cucurbita Viridis

My pumpkin vine limped along all summer -- despite my tending and fussing -- until we headed off to Ireland for three weeks in September. I assigned the watering task to my step-son, who apparently took it so seriously that the vine went rampant with growth. I left with a four-foot-long vine and returned to twenty-five feet, and it now measures at least forty-five feet. Alas, up until this week, only one flower went on to fruition, and it's a pumpkin that refuses to turn orange.

I think that maybe I live in some odd weather micro-climate. I've grown pumpkins, squashes and gourds all my life (but it's the first time in this location) and there's never been the problem of too little vine growth.

And now there are half a dozen pumpkin sprouts frantic to swell before the first frost, or before the mildew completely deals its withering blow. Check out these conjoined twins!

Unfortunately, it's too late in the season for them to truly show off their genetic anomaly, but nonetheless they please me to no end.

Friday, October 22, 2010

McCoy's Fire House

After work last night I met my sister at the bar where my son cooks. We sat at the bar, fully in view of the kitchen, so we could stare at him annoyingly while we sipped our martinis. It wasn't terribly busy; there were perhaps eight of us at the bar, a few customers at tables. A bar menu of steaks (they smoke their own meats) and burgers (including a bacon/peanut-butter burger) and a lot of fried stuff. Affordable. Old (for Seattle) Pioneer Square building with high ceilings and comfortably-worn bar stools and creaky wood floor. Very comfortable -- reminiscent of many an Irish pub. In fact, the bartender was from Belfast. Well-made martini, three olives, a surface of ice crystals, a splash of olive juice ("dirty"). It was my sister's first foray into the world of Serious Cocktails minus the pleasure of fruity spritzes. She didn't like it. It's back to the Lemon Drop for her, I think.

In an effort to avoid the deep-fat fryer, I asked R. how the nachos were, and he said, "like you make at home." And indeed they were: lots of cheese but not gloppy, shredded beef, black olives, green onions, jalapenos, sides of salsa, guacamole, sour cream. Good basic food -- I was proud of my son! He's in a good position, as the only cook in the kitchen most nights, to move on to bigger and better pastures, as it were. The move up the culinary ladder is a long slow slog at low pay, but like anything, he has to pay his dues.

It was great to sit there last night, the doors behind us flung wide open to the mild October evening, the typical cast of characters bellied up to the bar. There are few things I enjoy more than a conversation with a stranger beside me, or a bartender. In a matter of minutes, I learned that the man beside me had three sisters, was raised in the military, didn't own a cell phone, didn't have an email address (not that I was asking for it, mind you), was on-suspension from his job at Boeing, was divorced and had endured more racial discrimination in Seattle than in Tennessee, where he spent many years. Phew!

In a quiet moment, R. offered us a tour of the back side of the place, and we got to go down a long, long stairway into the bowels of Seattle. I was a little hesitant, being leery of anything underground, but it was cheerful, well-lit and sparkling clean. There was a door, however, which I'm nearly certain led to old Underground Seattle. Yikes.

And even better, it wasn't a game night (two mega-stadiums down the street) so I was able to park right in front, on the street, no big-lot parking fee.

I could go there every night after work.
It could become a habit.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Sara Teasdale


When I went to look at what had long been hidden,
A jewel laid long ago in a secret place,
I trembled, for I thought to see its dark deep fire --
But only a pinch of dust blew up in my face.

I almost gave my life long ago for a thing
That has gone to dust now, stinging my eyes --
It is strange how often a heart must be broken
Before the years can make it wise.

--Sara Teasdale, 1884-1933

Thanks to Tara at Out of the Lotus
for posting this recently. A copy of it
is taped to my refrigerator, and I read it
every day.

My step-son read this Sara Teasdale poem
when his father and I got married:

I Would Live in Your Love

I would live in your love
as the sea-grasses live in the sea,
Borne up by each wave as it passes,
drawn down by each wave that recedes;
I would empty my soul of the dreams
that have gathered in me,
I would beat with your heart as it beats,
I would follow your soul as it leads.

(Apologies to Sara Teasdale, as I had to
break her long lines in order for the poem
to fit into this format.)

For more Tuesday Poems, click here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lost & Found, and Letting Go

Ten years ago my younger sister K. won the raffle at my sons' school: a $2k travel certificate, good for anywhere on the planet. Lovely person that she is, she said to me "Let's go to Paris!" Guess what: I didn't turn her down.

I humbly admit being somewhat well-versed in Many Things Parisian, having spent numerous extended periods of time in that city way back in my more youthful days. But this was a K.'s first foray into Europe, and I stepped up to the invitation with unabashed glee. (I'll mention here that she left her husband and two sons at home.)

I'm not going to turn this post into a Paris travelogue -- Hazel's posts over at The Clever Pup are accomplishing that in fine fashion at the moment -- but I do want to tell a story that K. and I have repeated numerous times these past ten years....

Arriving at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport on a sunny late-March morning, I insisted that we board Le Metro for our trip into the city. I guess that I thought I was still traveling on a student budget, and eschewed any notion of a taxi. Silly me! I hadn't considered the hefting and heaving of suitcases over turnstiles and into subway compartments and negotiating around the other million-or-so Parisians using public transportation. Aaahhhhh.....

We were suffering the usual jetlag/foreign-city haze, and when we finally arrived, sweaty and dazed, at our metro stop -- St. Michel -- bumped our luggage up the seemingly endless stairs, and emerged into the sunny midday Latin Quarter, with the Seine and Notre Dame at our backs, cafes on our left, a glorious fountain on our right, and Boulevard St. Michel stretching out in front of us, my only thought was to hightail-it the two-or-so blocks to Hotel St. Jacques, shed the luggage, take a shower and head out, refreshed, into the city. So I leaned forward into the bustling crowd and headed off at a brisk clip. Determined.

About ten paces down the sidewalk, I turned to say something to K., and she wasn't there. I turned around and saw her still at the stop of the metro steps, luggage at her feet, slowly turning wide-eyed (a kind of Mary-Tyler-Moore That Girl moment) to take in that glorious first Paris moment. I called out for her to catch up, and she shouted back "WILL YOU JUST STOP!"


What was I thinking?

She started a smile which I don't think let up the entire ten days of our visit.

There was one more lesson to me, later that day, where I was once again reminded to stop herding my little sister. We were shopping in Au Printemps department store on Rue de Rivoli, and I turned around and she was nowhere to be seen. I walked around the linen department, where we'd been perusing tablecloths, expecting to find her at every turn, but no luck. I then systematically looked for her on all (eight, I think) floors of the store, but still nothing. I began to panic. Did she have a city map? Did she know the name of the hotel? Could she figure out the metro on her own? (I can't believe that I really had these thoughts -- yikes!) I thought: Mom will never forgive me for losing K. in Paris. (I'll mention here that she was 39: a grown-up.)

Doom and gloom began to set in. Several hours later, we met up in a shoe store a few blocks away. She was contentedly checking our something fabulous in black leather and straps, and was unconcerned about my obvious panic. She has this way of peering at me -- a brief fixed stare -- which means, "sister, you're nuts." I realized at that moment that it was high time to let go of that big-sister/little-sister relationship, that she was no longer a year-old toddler set out in the backyard for her older (five-year-old) sister to watch.

(But I'll have you know I took my responsibilities very seriously, at the age of five!)

We are hoping to visit that glorious city again next May, and I promise -- PROMISE -- to leave my apron strings at home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dollars and Poems

I'm getting ready to dig into a box of poetry manuscripts into which I haven't dug for at least three years. Yesterday I texted Son #1 and asked him to rummage through a certain stack of boxes at the Brandon Street house to try and locate said box. There ensued a back-and-forth texting marathon as follows: 1) did you find box? 2) can you deliver it to my work? 3) can you leave it on the porch? 4) etc. (Rumor has it that the iPhone 4 can be used to make actual telephone calls, but DON'T BELIEVE IT FOR A SECOND.)

Son #2 delivered box to my workplace as I was sitting on the porch, shivering, in what I thought, mistakenly, would be warm late-afternoon sun. (A long conversation -- off the clock -- with a re-fi banker. Altogether too much information to learn that I Do Not Qualify even though I Already Make The Monthly Payments.) (When I was seventeen I would have qualified because I was the star sprinter on my high-school track team and I qualified for everything and then some.) (And while in the midst of this banking conversation, Son #2 not only delivered The Box but showed me the paint color he picked out for the new bedroom he's framing up in the basement. I disapproved! Pale blue: too dead. I told him to go back and get something warm and creamy, but he told me he'd already purchased (on my dime) the paint. All the while Mr. Banker is rattling on and on about underwriting and lender fees and points. And inside, at work, the paint is drying on a large-fishbowl-black-branches.)

How can I not qualify when I make the damned payments every single month and my credit score places me in a place above where the archangels of the credit-universe live?

My fear here is that the contents of the above-mentioned-box will be fuel for a fire, any fire, the bigger the better. I knew a poet in grad school who said that she regularly stoked the burn pile in her parents' back yard with poetry manuscripts.

Poetry. Mortgages. They want MORE of my money and I have less to give them.

Poetry always wants, demands, more and more again.
And I give it.
How could I do anything else?

This is certain: it's never dull.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I am guilty of playing solitaire on my iPhone
in bed before going to sleep. Every night.
It's an addiction.

Last night I made myself pick up the novel
I'd tossed down two weeks ago
(Let the Great World Spin)
and I feel asleep mid-chapter.
(This was, of course, post-solitaire.)

When my son asked if I'd downloaded
any iPhone games, I gleefully told him
that I'd downloaded solitaire, and he rolled
his eyes and groaned. I know he was thinking:
So lame! But he didn't say it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


In the house in which I live, which is too big for me, I've spread papers over too many surfaces and in too many rooms: poems and pieces of poems and title pages and rough drafts and section titles and then, just blank pages. Some of the blank pages are turquoise, and I have no idea where they came from. It's far too easy to do this -- spread everything out -- when open spaces beckon. In the bedroom this morning I attempted to consolidate and tidy. I moved the many piles into fewer and larger piles. I threw out. I boxed-up. (Better than throwing-up and boxing-out.) Arranged and rearranged. Folded. Put in storage. Put inside of. Into the kitchen I carried more bags of food and put things in cupboards and the refrigerator and then began to take other things out because there was stew to be made. It's constant, isn't it, this shuffling of the implements of our lives. In my camping days one of the things I found so enchanting was the fact of so few possessions for a week or two, just enough to fit in the car along with fellow humans. How little we needed & how much we thrived with the little we had. A friend once told me to get rid of half of my possessions. I've pondered this. I am not a hoarder. But still the detritus accumulates and fluffs itself.

There are more boxes of more things in the other house and I've successfully pretty much ignored all of them for nearly three years now. Today I needed a poem for this manuscript I'm working on, something I wrote in 1998, and realized that it's in a box 19 miles away, or possibly on the hard drive of a computer in pieces in the basement, also 19 miles away. It was published in a now-defunct magazine called Heliotrope, the paper copy of which I thought I had in a box in this house but I was wrong.

I am going to scream now.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Anecdotal Science

There's painting I do on my job which requires meticulous attention with a tiny brush and it makes my hands go numb and throb. Usually I switch it out with other tasks, do my carpal tunnel exercises, hand it off to someone else. But yesterday an entire herd of glass vessels stood staring me down on the work table, and the only way to avoid their charge was to leave work early which results in 1) a smaller paycheck and 2) a back-up of unfinished orders. So with two and a half hours still to go, I reluctantly dragged out the box of acrylics, the brushes, the little plastic palette, and set to painting. It reminds me a bit of the old paint-by-number sets, where you had to paint all the dull and neutral colors first before adding the brights splashes of really great colors: I first immerse myself in lamp black (protective coating on my hands!) and then move on to sap green, perylene maroon, iridescent Aztec gold. A half hour into it and my hands were screaming at me.

And then.

Melinda and I were into one of our long-afternoon chats about anything and everything and the subject of heart-disease/clogged-arteries came up and, in reference to one of my relatives, asked if she'd considered The Cauliflower Treatment. Huh? Never heard of it, but there's something about the word cauliflower popping up amidst medical talk that is very comical, and I began to laugh. M., in an attempt to salvage her very serious question, went off to google "cauliflower/clogged-arteries" (which proved futile).

Still, the subject of The Cauliflower Treatment as a solution to the clogged-artery problem began to grow in hilarity, and we began one of our uncontrollable laughing fits, tears streaking our cheeks, bent-over & collapsed, surrendered to the moment. (Someone walking by the house at that moment would've heard a succession of shrill-pitched shrieks and might've been inclined to Alert The Authorities.)

When the laughs finally petered themselves out, as they do, I settled back into the task, literally, at hand, and my hands no longer ached. I finished the day's painting in good cheer, feeling finger-nimble and fit.

My prescription for you, therefore, is silliness, hijinx, mirth, tomfoolery & a healthy dose of hoopla.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Months ago, Paul and a friend scheduled a night at The Triple Door to see Hot Tuna. Last night when we checked in, we discovered that the friend thought Paul was ordering tickets for all four of us, when Paul thought each couple was ordering their own. And all the seats were sold out, so we stood in the lobby and dithered for a bit. Paul and I could sit, eat dinner, enjoy the show, while our friends could eat in the bar and then stand for the show. Not a very friendly option! Somewhere amidst our dithering, the young woman at the desk mentioned that a private suite was available. Of course, our first question was For How Much More $$$?? No extra charge, she said. She showed us the room, which was above the stage on one side, room enough for seven people, two tables, comfy chairs, and essentially a picture window onto the stage. She said we could arrange the furniture however we wanted, and a waitress would attend to us. Yes! We could adjust the lighting, and the sound. I was in heaven. The only drawback was that we felt not quite a part of the show, because we were separated from the rest of the audience by the glass, but to be able to listen to live music in a very comfy chair, with my feet up and very efficient table service was lovely. It felt odd to clap, though. I'd never been more acutely aware of how important that audience dynamic is.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Not a lot of blog action lately.
(Too much blah action.)
Got home from Ireland, jet-lagged, and started coughing.
Haven't stopped.
It's too early for a cold.


I spent the evening with four of my favorite men:
sons, husband, step-son. I LOVE cooking up a mess of food
for a bunch of guys. Even better when one of them cleans up.
Sat on the couch with my boys and laughedlaughedlaughed.

Nelson, who works in a pizza restaurant, said that a man
came in last week, and said, in a Spanish accent,
"I would like a small cock."
The girl working the counter beside Nelson
ran back into the kitchen and laughed herself silly.
Nelson said "WHAT????"
(The customer wanted a small coke.)

When my boys (ages 22 and 24) get going with their
grade-school potty humor they forget that

When I mentioned to Reilly that it feels like autumn outside
he reminded me that it's because it is autumn.

And that about sums it up.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


In order to avoid starting a big project, I instead delved
into another project I've been avoiding like the plague
for most of my adult life: putting together a book-length
manuscript. Oh, I've done it now and again, but I've always
been less than pleased with the results -- it just never felt
like it was right -- and then I'm lukewarm when it comes
to submitting it. Two years ago the Beloved Husband
(who truly is just that!) came up with a killer idea.
I've been kicking it around, procrastinating, avoiding,
doing things like cleaning out closets and scrubbing
the refrigerator instead of working on it. I'd rather
clean the litter box. I would fail utterly as a secretary.
I need a secretary of my own.

But avoidance is a powerful motivational tool,
and I now have in my hands what I think is my best
book-length manuscript to date, and after a few tweaks
and tunings, it shall be sent out. (Hopefully while
books are still being produced on paper. That part
could be tricky. I'd better get right on it.)

But now it's time to make a toast to the promise
of success: clink clink! (White wine, splash
of raspberry liqueur, lemon twist.)

Friday, October 1, 2010


Flervimple hogsneelze ke zokley. Shfrool? Qamble-dwoodly sho fa fa. Mimp glorg pag habimble-bop. Yurd bwix hulojink-jink: keego, sfoganju, plihcapi xoy, skiw & woomph. HEJOJINPY BOZIGNY YOGODDY!!!!!! SQUENZLE! (Yoob grimploggle snurg triq.)
(Plethcaj.) (Oid.)