Thursday, May 31, 2012


Tonight I discovered a most unusual plant growing beside the heliotrope:
the felineus Lucifius....

I think it's nearly ripe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Every day, it seems, I leave work and think I'm going to go home and do some writing. And then I get home and clean up the kitchen and start dinner and go outside to pull some bindweed and dandelions and then one of my sisters calls and I pour a glass of wine and pull the roast from the oven and dangle a scrap of paper for the cat and check the mail and all the time laughing and listening with the phone pressed so close to my ear that I end up muting it with my ear.

No writing.

Tonight after work I picked up a prescription and then waited in the library parking lot for a parking space then waited in line to get a copy of my library card then browsed the non-fiction shelves, thinking to pick up anything anything learn something new, ending up with two CD's by Mulatu Astatque and a Mary Oliver collection and two books with titles like 101 Hikes To Somewhere thinking what I need to do is get out of this city.

Then I went to Home Depot and bought a new dishwasher spending money like I have it. For a month I thought I could get along just fine without a dishwasher but damn, I like to cook and entertain (=lots of dishes) and damn, I like to put dishes in the dishwasher and enjoy the convenience of forgetting they're there.

The salesman was 102 years old and had breath that could fell an army. And wanted to talk. I mean, I like to talk but this guy — Don — liked to talk. Yowza. I slunk away inch by inch to his receding sentence. Bye now! Bye bye!!

And then home, well past 8pm, and dinner and a bit more of the Sunday NYTimes (I ration it day by day) and then another phone call, more cat time, check facebook, check email, check checking checkity check.

How in god's name did it get to be 10:21?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ruby-Throated, Again

Unexpected, this noontime when I was out wrangling the overgrown rhododendron, my hummingbird made his/her first face-to-face appearance of the season with me. He hovered about three feet directly in front of my face, and I made my hummingbird-chirrup-sound, and then he flew to the electric lines and perched. Moments later an eagle swooped about thirty feet above my roofline, with an aggressive crow entourage. I couldn't have been more thrilled!

A little later I was standing out on my upstairs balcony, and there he was again, in the apple tree with yet another hummingbird. I chirruped, and he flew directly out of the leaves and did that hover-thing again right in front of me, then did a quick straight-upward flight for what seemed to be 50 or 60 feet. Amazing.

Last summer there existed in my garden an enchantment of hummingbirds, and yet I never expected such a familiar return visit. There seems to be some kind of magic at work.

My heart is wide open to it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I Feel Pretty

I shaved the last of my sister's hair off today, sitting in her kitchen, another sister beside us. I've never used electric hair clippers, and was quite leery of the process, and looked up some how-to videos on YouTube, which helped not at all.

So I figured out how to put the guard on, and went to it. The unit has a tiny vacuum chamber attached, so the shorn locks are sucked directly into it. Handy, that. No clumps of hair scattered underfoot. I was slow and careful, getting the feel of the thing, careful not to injure my sister in any way. Had to stop several times, and we hugged her and stroked her emerging scalp.

And damn, she looked great — blessed with good bones and strikingly blue eyes. She spent some time in front of a hand mirror, getting used to it. I asked my other sister if maybe we should shave our heads too, in solidarity. We considered it, more than for just a moment. Opted out. (Chickened out.)

What we saw, after all was tidied up, tears dried, was that L. looks surprisingly like our mother. Astonishing, really, because for 59 years she's been the spitting image of our paternal Aunt Mary. It's amazing what a dearth of hair reveals.

And then I told my sisters to listen up, because I wanted to play something for them on my iPhone, a YouTube video. Listen up:

Alice-June Catering

My mother — widowed in mid-life with children ranging from ages 4 to 21 — did a variety of jobs to bring in extra income. None was as glamorous as her wedding catering business, and she and her friend June employed their daughters for regular Saturday afternoon gigs in various Catholic church social halls and basements: Immaculate Conception, Blessed Family, Holy Sacrament.

We skirted tables in rustles of white taffeta, draped ribbons from corner to corner, set out silver-plated tea and coffee sets. I insisted, always, on being the one to fill the sugar bowl with sugar cubes, plucked from their precisely-packed rows in pink and white boxes. In Renton, in 1970, that was about exotic as it got: sugar cubes. Great for sucking-on, even better to chew, quietly, privately.

Mints dyed to match the bridesmaids' dresses were ordered from Frederick & Nelson's, and came in flat white boxes, packed in white tissue. (Okay, they were exotic also.) Always in prim pastels: pink, green, yellow, not often blue. Rarely lavender.

We fanned napkins and rows of forks, unwrapped glass punch cups, stirred a red brew of Hawaiian Punch concentrate and 7-Up. Sometimes there was a spiked punch, the paper-wrapped bottles of vodka gurgled-in at the last minute.

We were efficient, proficient; so much that our prep was usually completed well in advance of the oncoming newlyweds and the entourage of family and friends. In that space of free time, I searched out a piano to play, pushed into a corner, old and out-of-tune, hulking uprights with yellowed ivories. Each piano was so different from the previous, and so different from the shiny spinet I played at home. I escaped into Chopin or Debussy or Scott Joplin with all the surging passion of a young teen cooped in a church basement on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

For this I was paid $10 — more than the minimum wage — and which was, to me, gold.

This all came to mind just this week when I saw an old upright piano on a sidewalk with a sign: FREE. It was raining.

Electronic keyboards are of course the affordable option these days, but I would have never found one of those in the coat closet at Assumption Parish, at the age of 14.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Late Tuesday Poem!

Petition to the Muse 

 Once you dangled frittered metaphors
from the tips of silver spoons,
glazed my lips with rhyme and wit,
nogged me silly with saucy sentences.
Apricots, adjectives, angel food, adverbs.
Every day -- chiffon and streusel, allspice
and whiskey-vanilla. A dazzling consumption,
a poetry-case of divinity, carmelized and meringued.

And then,
you took the cake out of the oven,
tipped the thermometer from roiling syrup.
(We were not quite to the hard-ball stage.)
The springform sprung.
The custard slipped.
The ink blanched from my pen.
I was chilled but not quite set.

You changed diction mid-stanza
and life became boiled cabbage and potatoes.
Wilted lettuce, no salt.
Oil gone rancid. Liver
and stewed mutton. Non-fat.
A single wizened apple.

You left me
a pantry of garlic skins, corn husks.
A drawerful of dull blades
and a measure of nothing to fill the page.

O come back, garnishes and buttercreams,
puff paste and puddings —
fill me up with fondant, roll me
a cookie, bake me an Alaska —
just once more -- make me a tarte
for poetry!

© T. Clear 2012

For more Tuesday Poems click here

Sunday, May 20, 2012


How wonderful is it to have adult children who turn you on to new things? Very wonderful. Tonight Nelson introduced me to Balkan Beat Box, on Pandora. Great stuff. We had dinner listening to this. Make this one very happy mama!

I turned him on to Mulatu Estatque, an Ethiopian jazz musician. I played this for him on my iPod:

But here's the funny thing: I was in my local coffee shop — Cafe Lladro — yesterday afternoon, making great strides on my manuscript, when I heard this piece, and rushed to ask Jacob, the barista, what it was. He  told me to wait just a moment, and he'd check. Meanwhile, I got a call from a friend, and made impromptu dinner plans, and exited sans song title.

Something nagged at me, and I checked my iTunes (long overdue for a sync with my iPhone [god save me from this plethora of e-devices]), and I found it, from an album called "Ethiopiques" — great stuff.

My iPod is now synced, and I've played this piece, oh, 15 or 20 times in the past 24 hours. 

Being the survivor of two marriages with very opinionated husbands in the realm of music, there is immeasurable pleasure at having the freedom to explore, and choose, what it is I listen to. No censorship, no boundaries.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This Persistent Song

In the honeyed noon of mid-May I'm in the garden, and I hear what I think is singing very close to me, and I listen for the source. I check to see if I've left the music on my iPhone playing at a low level, it's that close.

Music abounds on the street where I live, but this feels intimate, private.

Pale petals flutter onto me from the pink climbing rose that arches above me, and I raise my eyes to it and the source of that frail song is suddenly so obvious I'm annoyed with myself for thinking that it came from my phone: bees, dozens of them, intent on every rose blossom.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Round about age twenty, I believed with absolute certainty that when I'd reached the age that I am now, all knowledge (gained from experience, of course) would be mine, and all roller-coasters of emotion would have long played themselves out. How I envied "older" people. Folly!

Little did I know that, with the onset of spring in the year 2012 (and 2011, and 2010, etc.) the burgeoning season would awaken not only the landscape with its velvet-tipped fronds and pistilled blossoms, but also an elemental essence deep within the human psyche, within my every cell.

How marvelous a thing it is to be wholly alive and breathing-in yet another spring season, where the scents change from hour to hour, one minute the cool wash of rain, and then the crushed greeny scent of sweet woodruff underfoot in the garden. Or the irises, some skunky, some sugar-cane sweet, others with the distinct zip of root beer.

I desire more, and more, and yet more again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Drop the "E"

I thought the sign at the hardware store said,

"One year guarantee on all planets."

I thought, it's either one of two things:

 1) Great! I can buy Venus and if anything happens to it, I can return it.

2) I can purchase anything in the store, and return it on a Lowe's location ON ANY PLANET.

(A third thing: Pluto can be had for a bargain. Fully returnable!!)

I left planet-free, but did bring home one fully-refundable plant. Much rather would have exited with a big bag full of Mars.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


We've had a run of warm days, lucky this early when it could easily drizzle until July 5th. Walking home from work I stopped and inhaled every iris blooming alongside my path. And the lake tonight was ruckled-up, foretelling a shift into slightly cooler days. It's difficult in times like this to imagine the world as anything other than benign.

Still, two blocks away yesterday there was an armed robbery at a children's-clothing consignment shop. I'm obviously missing something here — is that where all the big money is? The cash? Some damn stupid punks, I'd guess.

It's hard to settle down in the evening when everything is so flung-open. The desire is to stay outside until the last possible moment, but not, it seems, recumbent in my hammock, which gave way tonight, dumping me into pineapple mint. I sheared off two fingernails in the spill, limped inside to ice and band-aids.

And then: heliotrope, a single plant plucked from the rows and rows of screaming petunias at Lowe's.

Monday, May 14, 2012


The high point of my Mother's Day was my boys, together in the kitchen, laughing.


(In response to the question I posed at the close of the previous entry):

I want my sister Lorraine to stand up and go to Ireland with me and the rest of my sisters — the trip long-planned and then abandoned last May in the wake of my disintegrated marriage. I want the  tumor-fractured discs in her back to fuse so we can wrestle for the front seat of the rental car, and then collapse into laughter. I want to walk the beach at Keem on a blustery sunny Irish afternoon. I want to share a pint at the Minaun Heights pub, where the jar on the counter for political contributions is never quite filled enough. I want her competing with me to scale Croagh Patrick, the summit of which I've never reached. I want every shop owner to look at the five of us and ask, "sisters?"

Roy's Hauling can't deliver this.

I want my friend Connie back at work. I want her stomach back, where it belongs. I want a bite of her scone, or posole, or whatever homemade marvel she brings for lunch. (Just one bite.) I want to hear about her travels to the Czech Republic when it was Czechoslovakia. I want to hear about her Whidbey Island property, about her daughter's Brooklyn apartment. I want to hear about all three of her cats.

Again: no Roy's Hauling.

I want my friend Carol back, right now, so I can share this Piesporter Michelsberg wine with her and tell her about all these things I want but seem so completely impossible. I want her advice on so many things....

I want someone to talk to — every night — when I get home from work.

Oh Roy, you are a wonder, but there are things that, no matter how much I ask the universe, there is no chance that I'll encounter any of them on the sidewalk in front of your house.

Twenty Bucks, Pine, Rap

I've wanted this table for god knows how long — at least twenty years. And about this same time last year, I had the notion to tell my neighbor Roy to look for one for me. Roy is, among many things, a hauler. ("No job too odd.") You pay, he takes. A lot goes to the dump; the remaining treasures he sells at one of his summer garage sales. So much of what I own came via Roy, and some of what I no longer own departed in his pickup. I'm luckier for it — all of it, both the coming and going.

But I neglected to tell Roy I wanted this table: solid wood,  sturdy, able to withstand some abuse, as I own not a stick of furniture that is precious. It needed to be big enough to take a stack of books, a bouquet of flowers, a teapot —

Just last week I was cursing (again) the rickety, ugly "thing" that stood between my sofa and love seat and ended up a dumping ground for mail, wine glasses, old New Yorkers. I entertained a fantasy of burning it out back in the fire pit.

Saturday, I saw Roy's YARD SALE sign at the end of the street, and walked the half-block to his house. As I turned the corner, I saw it: pine, 30x60", a bit banged up, with two small drawers.

"How much for the table?"

"Thirty-five, but for you T., I'll take twenty."


His son and I lugged it back to my house (slowly, heavily) and on the way he filled me in on the latest developments in his rap group, comprised of him, my son Nelson, and Roy: two skinny white guys and the old dude who does background vocals. Their name: South Brandon.

I took a steel wool pad and some dishwashing liquid to it and scraped off a layer of gunk to reveal an honest, solid table top. All it needs now it a light oil rubdown and I'm in business.

What should I ask for next?

Sunday, May 13, 2012


A bit under the water, missing an oar,
and stuck in the reeds.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mostly Tripe, with Poetry

One of the menu items at Canton Wonton House is Beef Bibles Tripe with Vegetable. Does one order that with a side of Deuteronomy? [Thanks to TP for Deuteronomy.]


I ordered wonton soup (which I keep wanting to type as "wanton" soup) with crispy noodles but there was nothing crisp about anything. The tea tasted like bleach.

The bok choi, however, was lovely and fresh, as were the wontons, with shrimp nestled inside each one.

I wonder: can one order the Beef Bibles Tripe and hold the bibles? And when the word "vegetable" is singular as it was tonight, my worry is that they've already sold the one vegetable. Or does it mean that it comes with generic "vegetable", an undistingiushable fibrous mass? These things are cause for concern.


Manuscript preparation is a chore I detest, so much in fact that tonight, in lieu of getting to work on it, I sat down and paid bills. If I don't watch out I'll soon have a sparkling oven and tidy closets. God help me if I start on the garage — it'll be taps for my future in poetry.

Many decisions to be made re: poem choice. Toss the ex-husband. Revive the dead husband. How much history to include? Keep it mostly au courant? There are a lot of pieces that aren't particularly pretty, pieces that might cause a ruckus. (Of course, that's assuming that 1) the collection gets published, and 2) someone reads it.) Include humor? (That's an easy one: yes.)

Oh dither dither dither.

As Kafka says at the top right of this blog, "Writing means revealing oneself to excess." Can't be avoided.

(The good news is that there's a press interested in reading my manuscript.)

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Instead of writing a poem, I paddled a kayak across the chilly waters of Lake Washington on a perfect Sunday sunny afternoon. Two otters, two eagles, one blue heron, one red-winged blackbird, three yachts, one speedboat and everywhere people onshore: angling, setting out picnic dinners, bicycling, jogging, skate-boarding, tossing stones into the water, tossing sticks for dogs.

I was particularly struck by the collision of nature and the urban world. Overhead, crows harassed the omnipresent eagles, and on the surface of the lake, my companion and I plucked empty plastic bottles — apparently flung by wealthy weekend boaters — from the water.

Drifting in shallows, last year's lily pads hunkered like ghost flowers below the surface, brown and mucky. A single fish leapt and skittered across the water in front of me. Salmon? Trout? Bass? All is mystery beneath my boat.

The way back was heads-down into a breeze, my bow pulling to the right, onto deep and open water. I pulled and pulled on the right to turn to the left, again and again. Thought of the pork slow-cooking in the oven at home, rubbed with salt and cumin and cinnamon and chili powder. Thought of the corn bread, half-prepped, ready for eggs, milk, butter.

Nearing shore, we manoeuvered our slim crafts to beach side-by-side, hoping to avoid last summer's dousing arrival, the spilling-out of each of us into the lake. And success! Legs unfurled, stretched to regain a flow of blood, we stepped onto land with not a drop of water where it didn't belong. Heaved the kayaks to the roof of the car, strapped and buckled-down each one, and paddles & skirts & life-vests tossed in the back.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


 ~~Today the moss-strung woods of the park were trilling with birdsong, and everywhere ferns were unfurling into the warming afternoon. On a secluded interior trail I found it absolutely necessary to stop and linger every few steps, to take note of lichen on tree trunks, or the heart-breaking translucent green of May leaves, the utter fragility of new growth.

No rush, there. Nothing but the present.

I spotted a blue heron in flight, a pair of flickers pecking at insects in bark, and an eagle circling its massive nest woven high in a Douglas fir. I found a branch curved into a perfect "C", the complicated and upended root system of a toppled fir, as well as an altar in a hollow at the base of yet another evergreen.

Some of the trees are 200-250 years old, scarcely babies when one considers that before white settlers arrived and began their systematic deforestation, there were entire forests of conifers in what is now Seattle, ranging in age from 1,000-2,000 years. A character in Annie Dillard's novel The Living, set in early Bellingham, Washington, lives in a "cabin" fashioned from a stump (very Wind in the Willows). I often ponder the fact that I exist on land that was once old-growth forest.

Walking these trails with my friend T., our conversation — which began 20+ years ago and has included in its ongoing narrative possibly every subject worth speaking of — turned to the notion of "going home" and all contained therein. He's just back from a sojourn to his midwest hometown, so it was fresh material from which to draw. He's come to the conclusion that he needn't go back again — of course, only time will tell. But at what point, if any, does someone decide this? I almost don't qualify to even state my views on this, as my hometown, ten miles to the southeast of my current home, is visible from my bedroom window. I believe, though, that it's calming to arrive at a place where one can comfortably say, "That was a life unto itself, and complete. I don't need to revisit it."

I no longer yearn for the woods I roamed as a child, nor for the maples in whose windy branches I swayed. Both my parents are buried in my hometown (just footsteps from Jimi Hendrix), and any sting of loss has long since faded. And while the details of that life in the late 20th century are rich and nuanced, I'm able to recall their all of their complexities — both in shadow and in light — while continuing to move with a surprising ease in these early years of the 21st century.

As a passenger in the car riding back from the park (the long way home, looping up into the switchback roads of Frink Park [many thanks to the Olmstead brothers]),  I kept my face turned to the passing scenery (while the conversation, of course, missed not a single beat) because there was so much to see, so many scents to breathe in, all of the wide, bursting world presenting itself with all the new life that this change of season allows.

And I thought: it's grand to be alive, in this city, with my friend T., at this single perfect moment~~

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I was in-and-out, in-and-out and up-and-down stairs in the rain today at work, head-down, getting the job done, with no regard for anything but project completion. When I got home I glanced in the mirror and — GOOD GOD — who was that frizzled crazy woman peering back at me?!

It's been a day without any frantic text messages. I'm mighty grateful. The only frantic today was our attempt to get orders shipped to arrive pre-Mother's Day, and we were moderately successful.

Off to dinner.
No kitchen duty pour moi.
She was beautiful.
I brought her blackberries every morning
but never knew her name.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day: toot toot

Tonight I brought my sister, who is ensconced in the hospital, a green glass vase filled with Spanish blue bells. She said, "I don't know if I can keep them when they move me to the oncology ward later tonight."

She's very weak, can't walk. Is on a heart monitor and enough big-guns pain meds to sedate a much larger mammal. Decided not to shave her head just yet — I put away the barber's clippers I'd carried in under my arm.

We talked about heads: heads shaved, heads with odd tufted hair, heads in prim crocheted caps and heads wigged in pink spikes. She's going to opt for the odd and funky: Yay sister! I'm taking on the task of searching out compelling head "treatments".  Nothing conservative or reserved for this one!

Chemo begins tomorrow, incidentally our father's birthday, he who left the land of the upright 46 years ago, half the age he'd be tomorrow.

Each day is another wave of the unexpected, another surge of new information. It baffles, it confounds. I go to bed each night cursing my inability to fix everything.

A fragment of the hilarious: the "stolen" dirt was taken by my younger son. I suspected him, but my older son, who was home all day, said that N. hadn't been by. I guess he did a drive-by. Grabbed the dirt and ran! Ha. He's already planted carrots, and has plans for a white peach tree in a big barrel.

And amidst some incredibly frustrating painting (at work) on a cylindrical piece of glass, I ended up with some perfectly stunning — if I may toot my own horn here — leaves and berries. I've mentioned before that painting has never been my forte, and I'm stunned with the completely unexpected joy that arises when I manage to do it right — and beautiful to boot. So: toot.