Sunday, March 31, 2013

Holy Week

Days of frantic sewing —
of dotted Swiss and seersucker and sometimes
pink wool, for a coat cinched with a chain.
Of dresses passed down, pared to size;
of rick-rack and hand-sewn hems. Of buttons
plucked from the button-tin, lucky if matched.

All was new or new to me:
gloves soft as a rabbit's ear, a pearl at each wrist.
Shoes to grow-into, and a hat that snapped
an elastic welt under the chin.
I tripped off to mass with my five sisters,
fussy in last-minutes stitches.

Impatient with The Strife is O'er — the dirge of it!
Wanting only to shed this membrane of prettiness,
escape to the topmost branches of a maple
where I could bellow my hymns —
my solo Alleluia's —
swaying on thin limbs.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Human Condition

He told me once that he would drink less
if I baked every day. Seemed an easy solution!
So it was oatmeal cookies and apple pie
and cake and zucchini bread and baguettes
and puffed-up honey whole wheat loaves
and tapioca pudding and lemon-blueberry muffins
and buttermilk biscuits I could make with my eyes closed.
Sometimes I baked twice a day, at breakfast and dinner:
waffles and cornmeal pancakes and poppy seed breadsticks
and chocolate cream pie and 2-egg yellow cake,
or Black Midnight Cake from my mom's Betty Crocker
3-ring cookbook (the page stained and ripped) .
Or chicken pot pie or stuffed crepes or popovers or shortcake.
Not enough, apparently, so I opened a bakery
and damn if he didn't die drunk a November night
after I'd spent the afternoon spooning fruitcake
into a row of tins - the one and only time I've made fruitcake.
Never knew how/if it turned out, or if anyone bought it.
(If it suffered its way into the garbage.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Yesterday, I carried home from work a long tendril of clematis armandii, and today, though they've wilted, the room is afloat in their scent — a kind of powdery gardenia scent, with barely a suggestion of spice. It's glorious.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Warning: May Cause Weeping

A friend forwarded this to me tonight, from the website Zen Garage:

Marina Abramovic and Ulay started an intense love story in the 70s, performing art out of the van they lived in. When they felt the relationship had run its course, they decided to walk the Great Wall of China, each from one end, meeting for one last big hug in the middle and never seeing each other again.

At her 2010 MoMa retrospective Marina performed ‘The Artist Is Present’ as part of the show, where she shared a minute of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her. Ulay arrived without her knowing and this is what happened. (Written by Justin Fox)

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Wintered-over in a corner of the bathroom
since October, watered only once
these five months, and so little heat
even the tiles shiver, on the first day
of spring my geranium bursts forth
twin blossoms in a pulse of scarlet—

Is this what hope is?

Saturday, March 23, 2013


In response to yesterday's neighborhood shooting and the subject of the previous blog post, here are two vastly differing accounts of the events that led to a suspect's death (apologies for the weird formatting in the first part, due to blogger issues when I copy and past [and just gets worse if I try to correct]):

From The Seattle Times:
The man who was fatally shot by Bellevue SWAT officers in South Seattle on Friday morning was a suspected robber who was attempting to run down officers with his car, according to Seattle police.

The suspect, who has not been publicly identified, was in his car at his brother’s house near South Hudson Street and 42nd Avenue South around 5 a.m. when Bellevue SWAT officers arrived to serve a warrant, Seattle police said.

Seattle police, who are investigating the officer-involved shooting, said that as SWAT officers approached the residence they noticed one of the men they were looking for was in the driver’s seat of a Mercedes-Benz parked in the driveway.

“The suspect noticed the SWAT officers, too,” according to a news statement released by Seattle police. “He put the car in reverse and backed up with such velocity and disregard that he struck a parked Ford F-250 pickup truck and pushed it several yards into the street.”

Bellevue officers gave numerous commands for the suspect to stop, but the man switched the car into drive and stepped on the gas, police said.

Three Bellevue officers who fired their weapons were afraid the suspect would “drive them over rather than surrender,” Seattle police said.

The three officers, who have not been named, have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure after a police shooting.

Seattle police said one of the Bellevue officers fired a handgun and the two others fired rifles.

The wounded man was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he died, police said.

Police said there was no one inside the house, but the suspect’s brother was questioned. Once it was determined the brother was not a suspect and was legally carrying a firearm, he was allowed to leave with the gun, according to Seattle police spokeswoman Renee Witt.

According to Bellevue police spokeswoman Carla Iafrate, SWAT officers were attempting to serve warrants on the suspect’s residence and vehicle in connection with a series of robberies in Bellevue and other jurisdictions.

She said it’s common for officers to work in other areas and that while Bellevue SWAT was leading the operation, Seattle police detectives were standing by to question the suspects.

She did not release additional information on Friday about the robberies or any other suspects, except to say there had been at least three robberies.

Juli and John Russell, who live across the street from the suspect’s brother’s home, said they were startled by gunfire, police yelling commands on a loudspeaker and the sight of a man’s body on their street.

“Early this morning, we heard gunshots outside of our house. A lot of voices, yelling, at like 5 in the morning,” said Juli Russell, a graphic designer.

“I was up already, and when I looked out the window, my husband and I saw a car crash into another car, a Bellevue SWAT vehicle
and a body that was shot.”

Neighbor David Keyes said, “We hunkered down on the floor in the bedroom and tried to stay safe. We knew this was not kids messing around with fireworks at 5 in the morning.”

He said police evacuated them from their home about a half-hour later. 

From an account that was posted on facebook by a neighbor who lives across the street from the shooting:
"this morning, at 4:57 am, Bellevue SWAT assassinated an unarmed man directly in front of my house by firing 23 rounds into his body with automatic assault weapons. My three sleeping children and my wife were less than five degress from the line of fire. The Bellevue and Seattle Police claim that while attempting to deliver a warrant, the victim backed up and hit our neighbors' truck and then put the car into drive and lurched forward and that that is the reason that the eight person strong, fully armored and armed SWAT team opened fire. This is not true, and my neighbors and I have pictures to prove it. The car hit the truck with such force in reverse that later the tow truck had to pry the vehicles apart. Furthermore, we live on a dead-end street and the SWAT tank was behind the truck that the victim backed into and blocked the only exit from this block. ( I could clearly see this through my window) There was no where for this dude to go in his car and the SWAT would have clearly known that. The victim was on his way to work, had violated his parole and panicked when approached by SWAT and hit the gas in reverse, (granted a very stupid, and in this case, a fatal mistake) at which point the SWAT team opened fire. Following the explosion of gun fire, the SPD gave us no information, only yelling "stay in your homes" which of course I ignored and evacuated my family with no assistance from our "protectors". Immediately after the killing, my children were screaming, "I don't want to die" as the SWAT continued their assault with percussion grenades on the vacant house while the victim bled to death on the street. This is outrageously blatant misconduct and this block of supportive neighbors has pictures and we have a voice. I don't contest that the police have to sometimes use deadly force, however, this man was unarmed and this operation was conducted on a densely populated residential street where over ten children and their families live. The Bellevue police and the SPD put my family in the line of fire.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Under the Same Moon

I awoke this morning (having overslept!) to this text message:

"Big police action. My street is taped off and blocked, no one allowed in or out. I checked and SWAT killed someone down the street who was a robber. If you want to come in you can park [down the street] and give your name to the officer on the corner and he'll escort you up. How 'bout that snow?"

What? Hello?? Police??? SNOW?!!!

Honestly, I felt as if I'd overslept by 30 hours, not 30 minutes. Looking out my window, there was no snow whatsoever at my house (a mile away), and I vaguely recalled being awakened at 5am to the sound of helicopters circling overhead. What else was going on in the world, anyway, while I enjoyed my half-hour bonus snooze? Such a disconcerting feeling — that of life going on without you, a passing-by of the parade, not even having heard the clanging cymbals of the marching band.

I high-tailed it over to work, and, sure enough, the blocks surrounding Melinda's were cordoned off with police tape, and dozens of tank-like vehicles and police vans were parked askew, blocking the streets in every direction. I didn't know whether to feel more safe in their presence or more in danger!

The three officers positioned at the corner asked my name, looked at my ID, then held up the tape so I could pass under and walk up the steps to my last-day-of-the-workweek. All the action was at the other end of the block, where a suspect in a string of robberies had been shot and killed a few hours earlier; and just moments before my arrival, a second suspect had been apprehended in a house.

Not long after that, Melinda and I decided to take a stroll down the sidewalk, curious to get a closer look at the hubbub. There were mostly men, in various war-like "costumes", coming and going from the tank-like vehicles, weapons slung across their chests, flak jackets bulking-up even the slimmest of them. One cop did a face-plant on the sidewalk — gear and all — when he tripped on an uneven slab of concrete. He came up with his helmet cock-eyed and, I'm sure, embarrassed as hell, limping.

What I was interested in was in finding the human in all these cartoon-like characters parading back and forth. There was lots of important running (a` la Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible). At one point every person that passed us was stuffing a Costco muffin into his or her mouth. (Had someone sent out a Muffin Alert?)

It was eerie, surreal, not unlike something viewed on TV, which seems to be my only source of this kind of footage. But was this drama or documentary? The news or a movie? I had to repeatedly remind myself that every last one of the police personnel was a live human, in the flesh, who would return at day's end to some version of home, family, pets, lawn-mowing, vodka, meatloaf, arguments, love, sex, loneliness — every bit of every life as ordinary and wonderful and challenging and mundane as the next, and then some. Give or take a semi-automatic weapon or two.

A few hours later the investigation was finished, and the hullabaloo cleared out.

There's something oddly empowering about living in this neighborhood and not experiencing fear. I often walk to work, in any season, light or dark. I walk to the store, the coffee shop, sometimes to a bar or restaurant in the Columbia City business district. I know people who've been mugged. My car has been rummaged-through, neighbor's cars have been stolen. I could go on and on, but why?

I tried to find the name of today's robbery-suspect-victim, his age. Wondered if either of my sons went to school with him. Couldn't find it in any of the stories. Who is his mother? Where does she grieve, tonight?

Trying to see the human in both sides of this, wanting to understand the motivation to commit armed robbery and the motivation to be a cop. Both sides equally complex, and after this morning's weapons-and-costume parade, I understand even less than before.

We are infinitely complicated creatures, at once a wonder of evolution and often, seemingly, barely a step out of the primordial ooze.

All that I carry inside my skull — every memory and image, every song and snippet of verse — no more important than those the dead robber carried with him until this morning. No more important than what each of the city-gunmen, on administrative leave, holds inside his head this early spring night, under a waxing gibbous moon, 82% of full.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


How did it get to be Thursday and I lost track of the week, of days?

On Tuesday I heard the poet Stanley Plumly give a lecture on John Keats, a talk which emphasized the human in Keats, the fragile drowning-lungs which put an end to his days, despite his 5'1/2" size which, incidentally, was broad and built like a boxer.  Who dies at 25? Keats did. In Rome, in an apartment on the Spanish Steps, in a room no larger than a closet.


I am undone by the swells and tempests of these days, everything sifting into a kind of place. That exquisite, necessary sorrow that has engendered all that I name to be beautiful.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Thank you all for your kind comments on the post below.

The robbery took place four years ago, the death even longer. I've run bits and pieces of that poem through my consciousness for quite a while now, and yesterday morning it made itself known, at 8am, and by 8:16am, I had most of it on the page.

Cathartic, healing. Now that I've immortalized it, in a fashion, I'm able to let go of it.

Poetry saves us — saves me — again and again.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Where is it now, the wallet

he wore in his back pocket,

sent to me from the coroner

in an envelope, all that was returned

from his broken body?

Not t-shirt (cut free

from his still-warm chest.)

Not sock or shoe.

Coveted, my last remnant

of him, the animal skin

I held to my cheek

and inhaled, eyes closed.

Stolen by strangers, every room

of the house tipped askew,

drawers upended, a jumble of despair

through which I raked

in search of anything left behind.

Small solace in knowing everything

we once treasured still exists

in some form — ash, particle,

entombed at the dump.

Did the robbers toss aside

the expired credit cards,

the note to meet a friend

for dinner one day too late?

The fifth-grade school photo of me

he carried for twenty years?

Photos of our sons, still children?

No cash, no checks, value only 

in what thieves never want. 

In what I want back, knowing

there is no coming back from the dead.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

In the dark —

I put on my beret and coat, grabbed the clippers
and ventured out into the back yard
in search of branches.
Rain: a mist illuminated in porchlight,
each droplet holding its own tiny lamp.
(The cat crazy with excitement, fully aware
that this was so completely odd.)
Not much but apple branches,
but perfect with moss and lichen.
I snipped a small bunch: wet!
Dragged my muddy feet in the back door,
cat on my tails, fluffed up and carrying
her own rain in the tips of her furcoat.
Branches to stuff in the bodice
of my vintage red dress, like antlers,
starkly out of place, pinned to a bare wall.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pieces, Bits

Nights and more nights and late nights, and I must remind myself of my chronological age and for god's sake stay home once in a while.

It's 8:22pm and I'm home and it's no small miracle.

But who can say no to poets and musicians and more poets, and yet poets again? Certainly not me.

Stepping the wrong way down north-facing concrete steps tonight, I slipped on wet moss, lush green and a runway for the unexpected. Sat plop-down, thanking and aware of my chronological age (just this once, though!) and the small padding it provides.

My job has suddenly shifted into unsettling territory, not threatened but lacking the accustomed fun. I plug myself in to my music, arm myself with paint brushes and squeezed-up tubes of oils and get to the business of it all, turned inward. In survival mode. Dying for a feck-all laugh-fest.

On a brighter note, I'm at work on a new project with possible promise, itching to move it forward. Note to self: patience.

Meanwhile, some of those in my closest circle struggle with issues of health — currently the land of the unknown and the yet-to-be-discovered. Nothing to do but love them even more.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

One and a Half Shoe

I wish I'd taken a photo of the claim ticket from the shoe repair where I had some sole-work (soul-work!) done on some ancient boots.

Pair #1 is a duo of black-buckly boots I've had since 1999, a gift from a friend/glass-artist/poet who at one time was my employer. Curious story here: at work I'd mentioned to him that I'd seen the best boots ever at Macy's, and gave him an inch-by-inch description of them, and that they were out of my price range, so my covetousness would not be not be appeased. A week or so later, on my birthday, he gave them to me — perfect size! He told me that he'd taken a measurement of my foot by taking note of how much space my feet took up (on his patterned kitchen floor!) as I stood at the sink one afternoon attending to work stuff.

Of course I was delighted beyond belief; it was such a thoughtful gesture and, honestly, they were most likely beyond his budget too, being that we artists claim the lower percentage points of the 99%-ers, generally.

I've had them re-heeled, had seams resewn, really beat the hell out of them for 14 years, so it wasn't a surprise that I wore through the sole in one of them. Thinking ahead, I brought both of them in for resoling.

Pair #2 was purchased during honeymoon #1 in the village of Le Puy, high in the mountains in central France, in 1983. The right boot had come unglued, sole-to-body, so I brought that one in for repair also.

Three boots, one and a half pairs, and the cobbler — a lovely gentle-natured man named Seung — wrote on the ticket: 1 1/2 shoe.

Well, of course, this pleased me to no end, the notion of bringing one half of a shoe to be repaired! When I picked them up yesterday, I handed him the ticket, and said I was there to pick up my three shoes. After considerable confusion, he corrected me: 1 1/2 shoes.

Too difficult to explain my amusement, when he meant none, and there were language barriers.

The end of the story goes like this:

This morning I put on the "half" shoe, along with the other half, delightfully walking to the coffee shop in my 30-year-old French boots.

And, lo and behold, the sole on the other half was soon flapping along the sidewalk, disassembled, unglued, its sole wrenched loose of its bearings.


Next Saturday, it's another trip to Seung, this time with my other 1/2 shoe.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"great art was born of great terrors...."

"You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them."
     —Anais Nin

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Truth

Taking some liberties here posting a facebook post from a friend (actually, a friend of a friend, someone I've never met in the flesh!)

"I just heard Gretel Ehrlich quote an old friend: 'A poem is an emergency of the spirit.' She was discussing her new new book about the Tsunami in Japan. On hearing those words, I could barely breathe."  --John Swinburn

Splendid stuff!
Lots of emergencies of the spirit this week 'round here, lots of poetry too.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Light Switch, Red Dress, Pussy Willows

Knife Edges

Winter seems to have doubled back on itself, dark and pelting rain tonight. We're in the limbo-land of teasing, turbulent March weather, as untrustworthy as a bad husband.

I've spent many hours with 3 different people in hospitals the past seven days, an up/down elevator of emotions and stomach-flipping uncertainties. When we love our friends/family intensely, these fears are magnified, set up before us keen and raw, knife edges flashing. And I believe in keeping my knives sharp.

In the midst of this chaos, I found out that a poetry zine took five of my poems. Five! I'll say that's a record haul for me.

And for the first time in all my years, winter has proved a fertile time for poem-making. It's an unexperienced and heady surprise — most of my writing, historically, has followed the growing season. But something is afoot at the moment, and I'm riding a wave that doesn't seem to want to break, barely balancing I am but balancing nonetheless, the water just ahead churning up a blue froth that keeps advancing into the distance.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"It should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which, if you consider them well, you may find really marvelous ideas."

—Leonardo da Vinci

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tuesday Poem: William Stafford

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

William Stafford
January 17, 1914 – August 28, 1993

The American poet William Stafford, the 1963 recipient of the National Book Award for Poetry, published 57 volumes of poetry. A man of gentle nature, Stafford was a conscientious objector during WWII.

I was fortunate to take a workshop with him in 1992, at the Olympic College Writer's Conference, In the keynote address, he said, "It's not what life hands you, but what you do with what life hands you". Those words have been a guiding light for me in the 23 years since I heard him speak.

Stafford wrote 22,000 poems in his 79 years — an astonishing output of writing. I heard him say that he got up every morning and wrote 40 lines — no more, no less.

And although I have many favorites, the poem above is new to me. I read it for the first time last week when a co-worker brought in a program to a memorial held to honor the Seattle artist Susan Balshor, who recently passed away. This poem was on the back page of the program.

The line "following the wrong god home we may miss our star" undid me, pure and simple.

 May we all follow the right god, and find our star.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Listening to....

Igor Presnyakov, a Moscow-born guitarist, appeared, as things do, from somewhere out of the technosphere, and he's amazing. His shtick, if you will, is covering contemporary tunes in his unique guitar style. This one knocks my socks off. Enjoy!