Friday, April 30, 2010


It's a big secret, but this is what happens
when the boss is away....

Rachel loves the taste of Bombay
in the morning --

--but, alas, it puts her to sleep. Lucky for her
there's a handy cat to nap with!

Meanwhile, Leslie puts down a few shots
while jiggling and/or juggling numbers....

...and I'm always gleeful when swigging
French Cognac at 11:30 am! Whoo Hoo!!!!!!!!

Here's a shot of Rachel filling the gin bottle
up with water so Melinda won't notice
we've been tippling!

No, Rachel! That's Melinda's car! Come back!

We had to quickly rouse Leslie when we heard
Melinda on the stairs.....

But not to worry.
Within seconds, we were back at the daily task
of scratching out a living (you probably won't
recognize me in the black wig and white shoes,
but yes! It's me!) (Wait...I thought I worked with
glass. Where did all those towels come from???
Never mind. It's almost time for my diet coke
and a smoke.):

Ghost Chair


There's some bad juju afoot in my world at the moment -- I've been subpoena'd to testify at the divorce trial of someone I'd rather never encounter or ever again think about. It's some crazy messed-up shit, allegiances have shifted, there's lying and deception and manipulation involved. Yet there also exists the possibility for some final vindication, some karmic compensation, but all with an extremely high emotional price tag, alas. All I can say is ick. (And that's a significant understatement.) The photo below just begins to illustrate my current state of mind (from the Nasa daily-photo website):

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Death is a subject that's been continually raising its spectral head at work these past few weeks. My very dear friend C. is in the final stages of breast cancer. I've been trying to write about this for a long time, but keep coming up short.

What to say?
The poet in me is silent.

I recall a day perhaps seventeen years ago: it was my young son's birthday party, and C. unexpectedly arrived -- she'd just been released from a 30-day in-patient chemo treatment. Of course I was delighted -- I felt as if it were my birthday, and she was my gift. But what I remember most vividly is that she appeared to be translucent -- it was as if I could put my hand through her. She radiated a pale glow, a gauzy aura. I was stunned and moved, beyond understanding. In the days that followed, her flesh seemed to fill in, cell by cell. I felt that I was witnessing something extraordinary.

But back to the conversation at work: last week, one of my co-workers, who had been down in the studio and didn't know what we'd been talking about, came up into the house, walked over to the iPod, and put on this song (this is for you, C.):

It couldn't have been a more serendipitous choice.


Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

--Raymond Carver


C., you are beloved.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Poem

In Duvall Junk

Be ready to appear oh-so-humdrum

as you step in past the owner, the collector,

the duster, dissector & hoarder

of everything you never wanted.

It’s a dull day in Duvall

and you’re the best item to enter

all week, all year & boy-oh-boy

would that rummage-man

love to price you, set you under glass

with meat hooks and prosthetic eyeballs.

And what did you want? A snakeskin

book cover? Antique amulets?

Don’t tell him. Maybe mention plastic

dahlias. Say your poodle died

and you wanted a durable bouquet

for the headstone. Make him want to

spit you out the front door

faster than a cherry pit, just don’t

get caught between his teeth.

Light a cigarette.

Blink often.

If he could nab you, gag you —

he’d scrape the crescent birthmark

from behind your left knee.

Mark it new item $1.49, toss it

in a basket with assorted feathers.

The remaining portion of skin, bones,

hair & clothing he would bag-up and overprice.

Label you modern artifact

and begin to covet your fingernails

gleaming bluer & softer each eventless day.


copyright, T. Clear

a version of this originally appeared in Fine Madness

For more Tuesday Poems, click here.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I just finished The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson...what a disappointment! At 600 pages, one would expect to find out just what lurks in the background of the title-girl -- but no! Buy his next book, and maybe all will be revealed. No thanks.

The translation is herky-jerky and clumsy, and paragraphs go on and on in the vein of he went in the kitchen and made coffee and sandwiches, then sat on the bench and ate them. Tell us something! Propel the plot forward! And, if not, then edit edit edit!!! I suppose if you're into the details of computer hacking, there is something here for you. But I think that Larsson relies too much on an apparent shock factor of a 25-year-old pierced-and-tattooed girl with, possibly, Asperger's Syndrome. Yawn.

There is, I must admit, incest, murder and torture. But very little suspense. I advise forgoing the $16 paperback price tag and turn on the evening news: it spins a better story, and it's over in under an hour.

Perhaps if one lives chastely in the middle of a cornfield somewhere, the gimmick works. But if this hadn't been my book club selection, I'd have flung it across the room well-before 150 pages, when it finally seemed to be taking off. Don't get me wrong -- I don't begrudge a novelist writing a bestseller and actually perhaps being able to live off the earnings of his writing. But damn. Work a little harder on the art of the craft.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I've been pondering the possible meanings of the story I related previously about the lost earrings and the white rabbit. Although I prefer to relate to the world through the eyes of science, the poet/dreamer/Scorpio in me is never quick to discount an otherness, if you will, in our existence. I recall a conversation with a prominent pediatric neurologist twenty years ago who stated that we know so little of the human brain. That said, the possibilities abound for alternatives in belief, or additional beliefs. Unproven, yet when experienced, has the effect of making one proclaim I do believe.

In the hours before my first husband's unexpected death, I lay in bed and planned his funeral, with absolutely no knowledge that about the time I drifted off to sleep, he was involved in a fatal car accident. In fact, fully expecting to be awakened in the night by a knock on the door by the authorities, I laid out my bathrobe for quick access. At 2am, all was confirmed: two representatives from the police department and a minister. My physical shaking was as much from shock as from the acknowledgment to myself that I knew this was coming. How to explain this? Or, perhaps, not necessary to explain. Awareness might be sufficient.

A phrase has been repeating itself to me this week:
keep your eyes open; you never know what you will hear
And, conversely, keep your ears open so that you may see.

Lord knows what it was I uttered when I squatted down
to sidewalk level and chatted with the white rabbit.
Most likely nonsense syllables -- just how does one
entreat a rabbit to come closer? But what I know
is that I said something, the rabbit's ears pricked,
and during that few-second connection I saw
the setting sun glint the edge of my lost gem.

And a note to the universe: send a white rabbit any day, but please keep the funeral arrangements secret until a more appropriate time

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yes, This Happened.

About ten years ago I'd lost an earring that my boys had given me for Mother's Day. They were my fav's -- a blue stone called "Montana" in a sterling setting. After it had been gone for about a month, I came home from work one evening just at dusk, and as I got out of my car in the driveway, saw a white rabbit on the grassy parking strip. White rabbit! I squatted down in a lapine fashion, so as to be closer to this seeming apparition. It performed the customary nose twitches, and I attempted conversation. In the process, something glimmered in a last sunray between the stones in the aggregate driveway -- aha! A piece of earring, tarnished, stoneless, but otherwise intact, which was amazing considering that I had driven over it many times in the previous thirty days. And when I turned my head just a fraction, I saw the blue stone, also safely nestled between stones. Joy! I brought it inside, polished up the silver, tweaked the setting with my pliers, and glued the Montana gem back into place. AND NEVER SAW THE RABBIT AGAIN.

So. Recently P. and I were downtown Seattle for a Patty Griffin show, and after eating dinner at The Virginia Inn, had some time to kill before the doors opened, so we high-tailed it a few blocks down to the Borders store on 4th. While perusing books, I reached up to my ear and realized I'd once again lost an earring, a lovely golden dangler I bought from an artist at the Redmond Farmer's Market. Sadness! And we'd covered a lot of pavement that evening since I'd put them on...

As we headed back over to the concert venue, while bemoaning the loss of yet another favorite earring, I began to tell P. the tale of the white rabbit and the blue gem. I can get dramatic with the body language in the midst of story-telling, and said, as I gestured passionately down to the sidewalk -- and I looked down at the driveway and THERE IT WAS --

Well, indeed. In fact, it was there, the golden earring, exactly where I was pointing. And how many people had walked past it while we moseyed through the bookstore? Walked by and missed its glint, its glimmer? Or saw it and left it in hopes of retrieval by its owner?

Luck? Coincidence? Magic? (ie, white rabbit.)
All of the above?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bright Star

Ahhhh.....we experienced a few hours of heaven last night when we watched Bright Star, a 2009 film about the poet John Keats and his muse Fanny Brawne. Although rated PG, it literally drips with sensuality -- this is possibly as much sex you can experience in a movie with only some hand-holding and a few fairly chaste kisses. Directed by Jane Campion, every scene is a feast, from the costumes to the sets and, of course, the poetry. I've been in a swoon all day, a Keatsian hangover, if you will, a Jane Campion hangover. It's available on Netflix. Get it.


I received this from Paul for Christmas -- it's a first edition. He ran across it in a small bookstore in Camden, Maine last summer while visiting his father. And to make a great gift even better, it contained a card dated August 15th, 1960. I love these details of a book's history. If you're a poetry buff, be sure to read the card. If you're a Roethke fan (like me), all the better. A new blogger friend Claire in NZ posted a Roethke poem today, so Claire, this is for you:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's a small small small small world....

Next week P. and I are meeting for the first time a blogger from Ohio, Kimy, of Lakewood Daily Snap, and yesterday P. received this e'mail from her:

hey paul! looking forward to meeting you and premium t next week..... i realize that another blogging bud lives in the area and you guys may even be friends and was wondering if it would be cool to extend an invite to her (and partner if she desires) to dinner with us.... the more the merrier peut etre???? the blogger I'm talking about is 'robin b' of red apple elegy. don't know how she feels about meeting 'stranger' friends....but it does seem like we all are kindred spirits.

P. forwarded this e'mail to me, and upon reading it, burst out laughing -- this 'stranger' friend is in fact one of my closest friends. I've known 'robinb', her husband and their family for many years. In fact, my son Nelson is named after her late father-in-law. I spent time in Italy with them a few winters back, and last summer, they joined us for a week at the Ireland house. I don't know how Kimy and Robin hooked up, but a few years ago Kimy found Paul through a friend of one of Paul's brothers.....convoluted, roundabout, and yet we end up at the same place: home.

This is perhaps one of my favorite things about blogging: the community, which sends tentacles out all over the planet. Soon these growing tendrils of interest and curiosity begin to overlap each other, hook on to one another, resulting in a rich and ever-expanding human community.
Makes me darn happy!

Tuesday Poem

Last Rescued Bird

Enough. Take your feathers

dead or alive and flutter into oblivion.

I’m done with the fractured wing,

the punctured lung, severed spine.

I will not weigh your soul

and account for all its cherished works.

Though your nest lies ruptured

and broken at my feet, all my remedies

are used up, finished, expired.

Mud no more, dear downy love.

Burn the twigs, the riffraff rags.

Let the cats loose.

Fetch the axe.

I’m cutting down the tree.


copyright, T. Clear
originally appeared in Crab Creek Review

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Goofy, Part II

After much wine, the feathered wig emerges:

(Admittedly, blogging is not without its dangers.)


I received a tiny packet in the mail yesterday
from my mother-in-law...all because I put on
a New Orleans Rock-n-Bowl bowling shirt
a few weeks back when she was over for dinner.
Lucky me! She picked these up at garage sales --
the dangling numbers denote high bowling scores,
which I'll never claim. I think my highest score to date
is 67. (Yes, that high. And my first job was
as a bowling-alley waitress. Egads.)

(Thank-you, Julie!)

Friday, April 16, 2010

In case you're interested....

Some of today's on-the-job discussion topics:
1. rats in the kitchen
2. dead rats in the ceiling
3. rats caught in traps, refusing to succumb
4. surprise spiders
5. The Odd Case of the Disappearing Potatoes (see item #1)
6. fetid odors (see item #2)
7. "So I got my BB gun...." (see item #3)


I heard a coyote last night in the wee hours -- a definitive yelping unlike any other -- and then what sounded like distress cries from another animal, and then silence. I quickly accounted for my two cats (who rarely go out), and they were safely and obliviously sacked out at the foot of the bed. These feral canines have begun to reestablish their presence in the urban Seattle area, where greenbelts abound and there's no competition at meal-time. I saw one, once, up my street at midday: lean, with a ragged coat, and a glare which seemed to be sizing me up. It was simultaneously thrilling and eerie. It's good to be reminded of our vulnerability.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ephemeral Orange

First there was a mango, sliced fresh after lunch: how could something akin to edible velvet and so amazing on the tongue also have nutritional value?

Second: a tangerine no bigger than a pool ball, and all intensely, deeply, well, tangerine-hued, even the interior skin. And sweet! Shouts of glee!

Lastly, a filet of wild Alaskan King Salmon. Glazed with a blend of mayo-Dijon-lemon-salt-pepper and simply baked. Sublime, and worth every $$$.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Poem

Bad Thumb

This is the finger crushed

between doors, age six

before mass, offered up

to the god of no ice: thankless, squat, bruised.

The stub scrumbling in loam,

awkward flinger of carrot seeds,

a thousand to the ounce.

This is the pit end of the shovel,

digit no one claims

from the bin of lost appendages,

stump with the spatulate nail, ugly in polish,

begging for a blunt clip.

Never the soft lamb, the silky tip.

Sandpapered, abraded of tissue.

Whorl of a tornado, spiral

of no-good, a print-on-record.

This is the thumb that wouldn’t get a job.

The thumb that finally lowered the shade,

pulled the pin, cocked the hammer.

The thumb that raised itself

roadside, no apologies. Hopped

into a vagabond truck, vanished.


copyright 2007, T. Clear

originally appeared in Bayou

Monday, April 12, 2010

water water water/money money money --(Ted Roethke)

I really saw this at Whole Foods: Organic Water.
No shit. And I gotta say, it's about time.
I'm fed up to here with the usual sewage
they try to pass off as water.

Apparently this water comes from an Organic
Water Farm. I've decided to turn my backyard
into my very own Organic Water Farm. I've
ordered the seeds. I'm ready.

I'm particularly interested in how water looks
when it sprouts. And I'm not certain at what
point water is ready for harvest, but I'm confident
that all the instructions will be on the seed packet.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In my woods walk this afternoon I think I found, in an old mill pond, some frogs' eggs, which will most likely be eaten by ducks but nonetheless, it made me profoundly happy. I used to gather a slithery coffee-can-full of them every spring as a child, and would hatch them in large jars on my bedroom windowsill. I fed them boiled romaine lettuce. (Don't know where I got this information, but they ate it and thrived.) When they grew legs and their translucent fins faded, I built them a home in an old wheelbarrow: mosses and rocks and mud and water. And when they became springy enough, they leapt free and inhabited the woods, their songs entuning the dusk.

I also saw, today, an impossibly tiny rabbit, palm-of-my-hand size.

The woods are glowing with a nearly-neon chartreuse green. The thimbleberries are in bloom,

as are the trilliums --

and the brazen skunk cabbages:

I love this stuff....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Husband!

It's work. Real work.

There is often the assumption, by people I know, that because I work for an artist, all I do is sit around and, oh, color in coloring books all day. Ho hum. That and eat bonbons. We started talking about this yesterday while on the job, and apparently it's something we've all experienced. I've heard it referred to as "my little art job." Granted, I'm not the CEO of Boeing, nor do I slug it out all day on a mechanical production line. I don't inhabit a cubicle amongst an ocean of cubicles. Neither do I sit in front of a computer screen every day for eight hours. I am actually quite fond of my job. I have the privilege of working with paint & colors most days, the daily banter is nearly always hilarious, rarely dull. I like most of the music to which we listen. My co-workers are all artists in their own rights, and educated, liberal, bohemian. We're all foodies. It's a great scene, but it's still work. For me, full-time work, with a 40-mile round-trip commute at rush hour.

It's exacting, and it requires a critical eye and steady hand, hour after hour. Some of the techniques take months to perfect, and they're ever-evolving. There are long hours with the hands in hot water, leaving fingertips and nails abraded and tender. Additional hours wearing a respirator, which leads often leads to intense claustrophobia, especially in very hot weather.
Lots of heavy lifting and maneuvering large boxes through and around crowded spaces. It takes balance, strength, endurance and patience. I leave the job most days feeling pretty much spent.

Nonetheless, I like my job. It often engages my brain in new ways, challenges me to find solutions to dilemmas I would never have imagined the previous day. Working with color, although sometimes confounding & vexing, is generally a glorious experience. We joke about "color therapy" -- but the intense pleasure to be had from a pleasing palette of colors at my fingertips is not a joke. It's real, and it makes the heart sing. (Except for the color Lamp Black, which makes me scream.)

So "my little art job" is indeed a real job, with its share of challenges and frustrations. I've spent a lot of hours this past week training a new person, and whenever I do this, it's apparent to me just how exacting the work is, and how difficult it can be to learn. But still, after 3+ years, I still, every day, pick up a piece and say, "My god, this is SO beautiful." My artist-employer seems to have successfully weathered the economic gloom, with an overfull production calendar for the remainder of 2010.

I'm lucky. People close to me have been job hunting for months, when I've had to add hours to my work schedule. My commute has become an hour+ out of every day that belongs to me only. It's my meditation time, when I can listen to whatever music I want to at however loudly I want it. Or I can listen to nothing, and the muffled drone of traffic becomes a kind of om.

Yes, I work for an artist. Yes, it's groovy. And yes, it is indeed real work.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Turbulent April

Driving home from work
across water: the torn silk
clouds, black rag-edges.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When Work = Fun

There's someone new at work who can do James Cagney imitations. Check out her website here. I spent a lot of my day today laughing.
I'm not very good at weekly blog assignments, but I'll try to keep up with the Tuesday Poem, because one thing I do love is community, and connecting with writers across the planet is an invigorating prospect. (Click here for a list of more participating poets.) So, here is this week's Tuesday Poem, on Wednesday:

Morning Obituary
--in memory of Margaret Hodge

And I walked outside into May blossoms
to a pair of nuthatches who for weeks
carried twigs to the red birdhouse.
A gust had shifted it, and without
thought I reached up to right it
and out startled a frantic flurry,
new wings barely aloft.

I found one under the back steps,
crawled belly-down through spider-spawn
only for it to scamper further into darkness.
Two more rested in a clay-pot,
a spent tulip grown through the drainage hole.
I tendered each feather-bundle
back to the nest.

Rummaged into brambles,
desperate to discover the last
beside the rusted bucket
and its remnants of apples.
It vanished in a weedy tangle.
I returned to my house, closed the cats inside,
sat down to write you this poem.

copyright 2010 T. Clear
originally appeared in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Musical London Finches


For a time during my childhood, my closest friend was a next-door neighbor who was continually abused by her parents. Her mother was astonishingly ignorant and shrill, and her father was a vice-principal at a Seattle middle school. My friend -- who I'll call D. -- had suffered a damaging fever as an infant and was rendered partially deaf and brain damaged, with recurring seizures. And she wasn't a particularly attractive child, which, I think, only made life more difficult for her as she approached her teens.

I recall, during biting winter rain, seeing her pushed screaming out the front door shoeless, coatless. She pounded the door and wailed. For hours. These were the days when we didn't "interfere" -- child abuse, at least in my child's vocabulary, didn't even have a name. No one called Protective Services or the police. No one knocked on these neighbors' door and called them on their inhuman treatment of their daughter. But we took her in, often at dinner, one more always welcome at our crowded table of eight or nine.

An instinct in me sent out a protective wing against other children who sought to bully D. She contained an innocent sweetness, a gentleness, a desire to learn when the dangers of her daily dangers were held at bay. We roamed the woods behind our houses for hours, searching for salamanders under mossy logs. We climbed all the Big Leaf Maples, ventured into The Deep Woods where salal ruckled at our ankles, found robins' nests with clutches of tender blue. There was a light-headed magic in our summer days which we believed would go on safely forever.

At adolescence, I turned away from D., in my own bewildered confrontation with a changing body. Friendships often shift and turn at this age; I think it's a common part of the transformation from child to the child-bearing state of possibilities. There is a consciousness that the former child is lost forever at this point, and that was when I lost the child's-bond with D. I felt as if I didn't know how to be her friend anymore, so I walked away. And if I thought my adolescence was painful, I can't even begin, when I think back on it, how painful I know it was for her. Acne took over her face, she bathed infrequently, she gained weight and managed to grow vertically very little. She endured, I am certain, unspeakable cruelties, from her family and from the larger world.

I will be forever grateful to my mother, who continued to welcome her. Each December my mom went into gift-mode for our ever-expanding family, and with great glee, she and D. spent much of the week before Christmas closed-up in our spare bedroom, in a wrapping frenzy. And I pranced by, I know it, with my fashionable friends, my straight-A report card. I hang my head in shame.

As an adult, I know that D. cut off all contact with her family. We reconnected about 15 years ago, by mail, and her letter to me was written on handmade paper flecked with whispery bits of leaves and flower petals. She completed some college, she embraced religion, a radical surgery easy the seizures -- she has a life of her own. I saw a photo of her on facebook -- multi-colored hair and a toughened expression which says to me that she won't take any more shit, from anyone.

There is guilt, and regret, on my part, that I turned away from her. I hold myself accountable for this fact of my childhood. I bless my mother for her generous spirit.

I wonder if D. ever thinks of those afternoons we wandered the fern glens and sheltered woods of rural Renton, pockets filled with cookies, in search of a particular happiness, which we often found.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Today was an egg-free Easter.

I cooked for two days straight and now I'm roux-tired. Stirred and stirred. And again. This Easter Gumbo thing might just become a tradition, but damn. Hot damn. I could eat it for every meal for a week and then some. And the remains of that glorious cake are now traveling across the windy lake to the big city in a sleek little red car navigated by my ancient son. And I've a cat on either side, and they're glaring at each other, sending little death stares to each other. O happy resurrection! O sneeze! Sneeze! (And now the cats have fled.) And sneeze again!
I have a friend named Chris, and some years ago, she called and left a message for my (late) husband M., and when I wrote the message on the notepad, I accidentally wrote "Christ" instead of "Chris". And didn't notice it until M. pointed it out. Naturally, we didn't let this one go. And fortunately, Chris, er, "Christ", has a fantastic sense of humor, and went along gleefully with all the subsequent ribbing. ("Christ! It's you again!")

So, one Easter morning, M. got out of bed early -- not quite 7am -- and went directly to the phone and began to dial. I though, what the hell? It's WAY too early to be calling anyone, and it's Easter, for god's sake. (Well, I suppose it was Easter for god's sake.)

Then I heard him say,
"Christ? Is that you? Just wondered if you'd risen yet!"

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Gumbo

Cooking saves me, every time. There's a stock simmering for tomorrow's gumbo, and it smells like heaven on a cloud in this house. I am using this Gumbo du Monde recipe; the author is articulate and passionate and seems to know what he's talking about. Plus, he can spell, for which he gets major bonus points. I have even been measuring things -- I rarely do that anymore, unless I'm baking, which is a science that requires an exacting measuring spoon. I found some Alaskan snow crab legs for less than the price of gold, and some lovely andouille sausage. (I had to go to four stores to find some andouille!) And some shremphs. I do loves me some shremphs. (Sorry -- that's a bit odd -- but it goes way back and I just can't help myself.) Ahem.

This is going to be an okra-free gumbo, which then requires the use of gumbo file (pronounced fee-lay), which is ground sassafras leaves, and acts as a thickener. And, I'm confident, imparts a most unique flavor. This is the requested birthday dinner for the aforementioned birthday boy, who, for the past year, has generously labored over my kitchen stove countless times and produced the most amazing dishes. Also on the wish list is German chocolate cake, whose remains will travel out of this house post-dinner, thank-you very much!

I'll whip up some baguettes tomorrow afternoon, and throw together a Creole green salad. It's gonna be a feast!

(My birthday wish for my son is a job....he's been looking since January. Enough with the cooking for Mom!)
Happy birthday Riles!
24! Woo hoo!
(Damn, but I feel old.)