Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Convoluted Poetry Politics

I've been waiting for a book contract with the press (which I won't name here) which, a year ago, requested a copy of my manuscript. Last December, I received notice that my book publication was in the 2013 budget, the 4th of four books on their production calendar. I've made announcements of sorts about this deal, mainly to friends, but lacking the contract, I was wary to make it known in the larger world.

Saturday I found out that my project had been dropped, because of the restraining order that's on file with the City of Seattle against the man who assaulted me last summer and who also destroyed $4k of inventory at my job. See, he's on the board of the press, and is very active. I don't know any other details.

And in fact, he may very well read this blog post. And if he does, he'll know that when I read the email containing this information, it felt like a punch my gut: all the air was smacked out of me. I felt betrayed, angry and nauseous. If his intent was to do the most damage to me possible while complying with the requirements of his protection order, then he was most successful. (I don't know if I'll ever know why this friend of 20 years suddenly turned enemy. It's baffling and confounding, and tests all my resolve in my effort to remain a loving and compassionate human being.)

It's a complicated situation. The Executive Director is a friend who is also a member of my writing group. She's a good person, an ethical person, and I'm guessing that she has been backed into a corner. Irony is that this press wouldn't even exist if, in 1991, I hadn't pulled together a diverse group of people to form a writing critique group — three years later, the group gave birth to the non-profit press, which has been operating in the black ever since. I was only active in the press from 1994-2002, and my only claim to it now is as a co-founder.

The man facing felony criminal charges here has been a driving force behind the press. As a grant writer and fund-raiser, his all-volunteer efforts have paid off generously. There is a lot which he can be proud of — I'm willing to give him that.

But if an organization's board member assaults a client, I believe that his resignation should be demanded. I understand that there's a lot at stake here, and it's a very complicated scenario. It's ugly, it's uncomfortable, and I really don't desire to fan these flames any more than the writing of this blog post. And I think he knows this. So, in essence, I'm backed into the corner too.

So, for the moment, no book in the works.

Bigger and better things, perhaps?
I think yes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Headline News: Poet Gets Paid to Write!

It has happened. I received actual cash $$ (well, in my Paypal account) for a piece of writing. Albeit, it's not poetry. It's a personal essay, and you can read it here.

Not quite enough money to go out on the town, but I might go out on the village, or hamlet. Or maybe I'll just go out in my back yard. Live it up right, I tell you.

Tuesday Poem: Thomas Hubbard

I highly recommend today's Tuesday Poem — a piece by a part-time-Seattle poet, Thomas Hubbard. Here's a teaser:

You eye my braid, my old car, my flute bag
in the rear window, and that expression comes
onto your pale, clean-shaven face.

You seem upset that I don't shuffle, step aside, 
show embarrassment about my dark skin, and
why must I have feathers in plain view?

I had the good fortune to hear Thomas read this at an open mic recently, and he graciously consented to let me record him reading it. Read the full text here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fungus Amungus

This morning I went out in search of the white-speckled red-capped mushrooms that I associate with fairy sightings. A friend told me where to find them, and find them I did, but they were mostly crushed and obviously kicked about. Maybe something like this happened (and I missed it!) —
"Come, Now A Roundel" by Richard Doyle

There were a few remaining, but the color had faded. Isn't this a beauty?

Apparently, a meal of 15 of these caps will drop you into the grave.

I've had this postcard in my possession since my early 20's; I think I bought it in Germany. Hadn't given it much thought over the years, and managed to resurrect it today, finally knowing the name of the wee mushroom traveler: Mr. Amanita Muscaria. And those grandfatherly morel men — sentries!

Friday, October 25, 2013


I was walking to work yesterday and there was a dad walking his two girls to school and one of them, probably about six years old, was r-r-r-r-rufffing like one of those yippety yappety miniature dog-things. She kept doing it: r-r-r-r-ruffing for a few steps, a few steps silent  (she'd twirl, or hop, in the between times) and then do the whole thing again. I don't think she had any idea how good an imitation she was doing, and that was a lot of the charm of it. She didn't expect applause, or praise. This was done for the joy of it — twirling and hopping and barking. Of course, I was enjoying it all terr-r-r-r-uff-ically. In the fog.

And then this, played at work today:

But not to be outdone by this:

Hmm. A barking child,
a goat yelling like a man,
a kitten mewing like a goat.

Really, now, it doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not to kick a dead horse, but.....

Funny how a realization can come out-of-the-blue, at a most odd moment, with even odder prompting....

A conversation at work today somehow wandered from hydrangeas and how they change color depending on soil acidity, to piles of oak leaves in an Arkansas forest, to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and its 10,350 cacti.

We were verbally wandering, and painting. Two of us at the long table, Debussy piano from the speakers, a flicker (woodpecker) on the feeder outside the window. Fog.

In my head I followed the map from Arkansas to the Southwest, and recalled an argument my ex-husband and I engaged in periodically, which ended in unresolved conflict.

The first time it came up, we were in Texas, visiting his family. I said, "I want to drive into West Texas. I want to see it."

I'd heard about West Texas, first in the eloquent prose of Larry McMurtry in his epic novel, Lonesome Dove, where it's depicted as vast and bleak, stretching out for what seems forever. And my ex- sometimes mentioned it, said that you wouldn't want to drive across it.

I told him that I wanted to go there.
He said, "No you don't."
I said, "Yes I do."
"There's nothing there."
"That's what I want to see, the nothingness."
"No you don't. Believe me, there's nothing there."

And so the conversation went.

He loved to bring this subject up when we were with anyone from his family, and always, they all burst out laughing. It was if they knew something that I didn't, couldn't know, and damned if they were going to tell me. I felt six years old and prim in a roomful of saddle-weary cowboys. (Even if they were all graduate and post graduate-school educated intellectuals, with nary a pony in sight.)Any argument from me went nowhere. And really, what did I know? I was a newcomer to their beloved Texas. West Texas was for cattle rustlers and Commanches, Texas Rangers and bandits. It was an unforgiving landscape, a place where you didn't want to run out of gas, no place for a moss-hearted poet from the Pacific Northwest who knew only persistent moisture and ever-present ferny foliage.

And I wanted to see it, precisely because of where I was from: a landscape gloriously hemmed-in with mountain ranges in the distance, with tree upon towering tree in the foreground. I desperately wanted to experience this other landscape,  to feel that expanse of desert-earth spread out beneath the wheels of the car, mile upon mile. The sun. The dearth of greenery. I imagined it as an opening of the heart, a letting-out of the spirit, a flying-loose of everything held close for comfort.

We never went to West Texas. And during the conversation at work today, it struck me that this conflict was at the core of our rift, the irreconcilable piece of our union, a way of looking at the world that we did not and would not ever share.

I envisioned what he called "nothingness" and saw infinite possibilities for sensory experience. He saw, well, nothing.

And the more time that passes, the potential for infinite possibilities grows exponentially, West Texas or no West Texas.

Maybe it seems an over-simplification to boil down the failure of a marriage to whether or not both parties want to experience whatever it is that one really experiences in West Texas. But sometimes a moment surges to the forefront among all other possible moments and announces: pay attention, this is important.

And today I did.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Forest in a Box

A friend of mine — a man — is in the hospital, going on day nine, after a long and complicated surgery. All week I've dithered about what to bring him. We women like to bring things to people; I'm guessing it doesn't matter so much to men. Flowers didn't seem quite right. And nothing edible, because of dietary restrictions.

And then this morning I had it: I'd bring him pieces of the woods that he loves so much.

So I ventured off this morning with a paper sack, and snipped and gathered, illegal, I'm sure, as it's city property. Law breaker! Ha.

This is what filled the box:

a big-leaf maple leaf
a vine-leaf maple leaf
sprigs or Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock
a Madrona twig
a salal leaf
an Oregon grape leaf
a mossy rock
two varieties of lichen
a fungus-robed stick

Upon opening, he immediately brought it to his face, and inhaled: forest in a box.

We were both pleased!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Out Loud, In Public....

I gave a reading of my poetry this week at a coffee shop in the city where I lived in my previous marriage, a location I've not revisited since I left over two years ago. Even though it's only 19 miles away, I've had no reason, as well as zero desire, to return. In fact, the closer I got, the more unsettled my stomach became. Oy.

To remedy that, I began my 20-minutes at the mic with this, um, shall I say, excoriation:

My Deterrent Example 


 "...and following the wrong god home we may miss our star." 
                                   —William Stafford 

I followed the wrong god home. 
Or was it the wrong dog? 
I panted after his wagging tail, 
dog or god — didn’t matter. 
Dumbstruck, smitten, 
led on by his trickster charms — 
All it got me was trouble 
and highbrow kibble, pricey vodka 
at the bar, vacations 
that verged on paradise, doubled 
for a time as real life. 

But it wasn’t in my nature, 
after all, to worship
either canine or divine. 
His altars and icons belonged 
to no heaven I could trust 
beyond our abbreviated marriage — 
its disillusion, its dissolution. 

O my fraudulent idol, my expired deity — 
all your coffers rattle empty now. 
Your gold is a crumpled scrap 
dumped-out at love’s dead-end — 
not home, not sweet, 
no god — you — and undeniably wrong. 


I'll say, that blew all the bad wind from my sails in a jiffy.

The rest of the reading was most uneventful.
The (small) audience was unreactive, silent, serious.

I've given many readings over the years, and when I encounter an audience like this,  I usually shorten the whole thing, skip past poems, get the damn thing done.

But Thursday night, I thought, fuck it. I'm going to ignore the silence coming from the "crowd" and just lean into my work. Pretend no one's there.

And it was actually kind of fun, leaning into the microphone, feeling the weight of my words fill the spaces in the room.

All week I've been thinking about the young woman in the video in my previous post, thinking about her confidence and self-possession — a gift to own at such a young age. And the message of her poem, the notion of women "making space" for the men in their lives, has nagged at me all week, tapped me on the back, made me pay attention and listen to the video again for its bold truth.

Somewhere, in some pile (probably in my basement) is a poem I wrote when I was in my early 30's, titled "Becoming Invisible", about this same subject. Tomorrow I might hunt for it, bring it out to the light and let it celebrate a 25th birthday.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


I can barely follow the path that led me to this video....

To explain: I saw this on facebook last night, posted by the daughter of a man I met in an online widows/widowers discussion group ten years ago, when I was deep in the dark ditches of grief. He was also newly widowed, and for the first six months of that journey we kept each other standing when it seemed all too easy to sink into the muck. He lived in Texas — I met him only once in person, when I was traveling with my then-boyfriend (and now ex-husband) P., in a hotel lounge in Fort Worth. Met his daughter that night too — lovely people, and we've kept in touch throughout these changing years.

The young woman in this video is the daughter of a man to whom I've been very close in the past year (but with a strong measure of turbulence), a deeply entangled friendship that has drawn me into a no-going-back full-blown love affair with quantum physics, among other things. (And none of them inconsequential.)

So: posted by daughter of Texas-friend who played a big part in keeping my head above water that first year of widowhood, and the video is of the daughter of another friend whose come-and-go presence in my life has been profoundly life-altering.

Got it? Yes?! (Not even sure if I do. Head is in a bit of a spin.)
Damn. Are you all as amazed & blown away by these times we live in as I am?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I zipped out the door this morning to work (on foot) looking, I fear, like one of those elderly when-I-am-an-old-woman-I-shall-wear-purple women: black shoes, purple/grey/black-striped socks, black tights, purple corduroy skirt, black t-shirt, black corduroy jacket, purple striped scarf (the best thing about the outfit, and knitted by one of my sisters) and a black beret. Black leather over-the-shoulder handbag and a red floral-patterened vinyl lunch bag. I was certain that people were pointing at me (I should be so lucky!) and guffawing.

What have I become? It was a moment of weakness, insight into a possible future to which I shall approach only if I am drugged dragged.

Tomorrow it's back to my Seattle de rigueur grey or black. With black. And perhaps a little more black, just to be sure.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A strange accounting of unordinary events, and a spell.

Eleven years ago, upon my leaping forth into a new venture (Two Tartes Bakery), a Wiccan friend gave me this completely lovely and thoughtful piece of glass art:
The caveat?
It came with a spell, and in order to ensure the good wishes put forth in the text, I was encouraged, or, actually — required — to destroy the piece.

(Let the records show that the same former-friend precipitated the following legal action:)

Well. Skeptical-me decided, instead, to hang it up in a prominent place in my home, to honor both the text and its artistic integrity.

Longtime readers will know that from that point on, my world shifted into a miasma of broken glass, death,  lawsuits, betrayal, divorce — just add etc. after that list and you'll be hitting a home run.

Many incidents of glass shattering — from the windshield in my late husband's van (a collision of skull and glass) to a pre-divorce falling-down of an entire shelf of glass into my face to the thousands of dollars of glass that were shattered at my feet this past summer.

Which brings me to a conversation last week with an old friend, and a rekindled memory of the piece pictured above, which has resided for the past two years bubble-wrapped and boxed in my basement. Unbroken. Spell intact.

The slightly-less skeptical me started thinking about things like spells and run of bad luck and thought, well, it wouldn't hurt.....

So tonight after work, I carted it up from the basement, removed the protective wrap, deposited it in my garbage can in the alley, and whacked it good with a hammer. Whacked it seven or eight times, certain it caused a moment of alarm to more than one neighbor, that siren-inciting sound of glass breaking.

And then I was done.
Spell broken.

And now, to get on with the rest of my life....

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Minor Proclamation

I don't like mussels, or oysters, or clams, all of which should be of no interest to anyone except that I've endured a lifetime of having to justify to others why I don't like them. At a party the other night, this came up yet again, and I stated that if I'd said that I was a vegan, or a vegetarian, I wouldn't have needed any further justification. My questioner agreed. And then asked if I liked scallops!

Maybe I need to make up a name for my food likes/dislikes. I'm thinking along the lines of whatever-the-fuck-I-want-to-eat-atarian, or, in a shorter form, wtfiwtetarian.

Pronunciation may be an issue, but it's sure to shut up the nosy Nellies.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Slow Crickets, Day Two

If you haven't yet listened to the slowed-down crickets video, I encourage you to do so. To explain, it's two tracks laid one atop the other, the first of crickets in real-time, the second of the same cricket songs slowed waaaaay down. A kind of cricket collage, if you will.

When I played this at work today, E. (our opera singer) was so moved she had to leave the room. There was no shortage of tears; it's tremendously powerful. For balance, I played it for G., the seven-foot resident abstract painter, who promptly labeled it "satanic". Hrmph. He's a guy.

But not to be outdone, I quickly slapped my own label on it.
"Satantric," I said.
Put that in your own personal hell and condemn it.

All in good nature, of course.
We laugh a lot.

The musical continued to flow, with this virtual choir (suggested by E.) of 2,052 voices, conducted by Eric Whitacre:

(And yes, we were working.)

To round things out at the end of the workday, I played this with the volume at full-crank:

Isn't there a rule prohibiting Mondays from being this good?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Circket Song — Slowed Down

Further evidence of infinite possibilities for astonishment:
And then Loreen McKennit — did she know when she wrote this that she was playing cricket music?
 (Many thanks to my friend Cz. for turning me on to the crickets!)

Just now while I was listening to the McKennit piece, I opened the cricket piece at the same time (to copy the URL to email to a friend), and they played simultaneously. Curious — all day yesterday I was ruminating on the notion of "audio collages", that is, producing a single piece of music that layers  tracks from different musical eras one on top of the other, fading in and out to create an entirely new sound.  Of course I completely lack — at the most basic level — the know-how and technology to even begin to tinker with something like this. But then, there it was, a fortuitous accident, and it wasn't a pairing that I could have even conceived of yesterday.

O glorious glorious!

This morning I'm singing praise for what is, and for the windows (ha! I first typed widows) and doors that have slid open to allow these cracks of light to shine through.

And of course, Leonard Cohen had it right —
there is a crack in everything
that's how the light gets in.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Angels, Clouds & Opera

One of the new luminous employees at the glass factory is studying opera, and I went to her recital tonight (in a brightly lit Lutheran church with a plethora of bibles and hymnals in every row). There was a little bit of everything, from a twelve (or so) year old boy singing his rendition of Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit (he was astonishing, and it was his very first time singing at a recital) to several very exuberant but very bad and off key young women singing angsty contemporary show tunes (I blushed privately for them) to our very own Estrella, who knocked my socks off when she sang this tune from Verdi's Rigoletto (this is not Estrella!):

At age 30, already she has acted and directed onstage, performed stand-up comedy, and is now singing opera. Which begs the question: what in the hell is she doing at our rustic little glass factory?! And although I can't answer that, she is but one of several beings who, after this summer's catastrophic glass-smashing incident, was delivered down to us from a benevolent cloud.

I don't want to believe that things happen for a reason, but the fact that she (as well as two others) landed on our doorstep with a generous measure of grace, intelligence, wit and good humor seems, by far, more intentional than coincidental. But intent doesn't exist in a vacuum, and by its nature must start out with purpose, or design.

But by whom? From whom? This non-theist hasn't an answer.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

As I'm walking home from work, two kids
pass me on the sidewalk, siblings, I think,
because they show so little interest in each other,
walk one in front of the other, backpacks sagging
with books and I don’t know what else.

I look up to smile, to say hi, but as soon
as they see me, they turn their eyes down,
and because I’m shy too, I say nothing.
The brother chews some after-school treat,
clutches the rest in tissue in his hand.
The sister trudges silently onward.

And then they’re gone, behind me
and I see in my mind still
the gentle face of the brother, his soft eyes,
and feel a sudden surge of tenderness
towards these two children, these strangers
who are barely teenagers, and who don’t consider
for more than a passing glance
the white woman looking up at them
who says nothing, and walks on. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr #2

The current government brouhaha/hullabaloo exhausts me. I'm considering slipping back into NewsBlackoutLand where I stood, firmly, for two years, eyes shut, ears muffled, mouth gagged. It's much more pleasant there! And, amazingly enough, my lack of attention to The News for two years had zero impact on anything, except my blood pressure.

Negotiating the Washington Health Exchange site — where a self-insured bozo like meself goes to kneel at the altar of The Affordable Care Act to plead my case — is proving to be confounding. I was repeatedly given the message that my application could not be processed because, according to "their" records, I could not be validated as an actual person. Which begs the question: if I'm applying for the first time here, what records would they have? But then I remember: it's the internet, and the internet knows all. (Which begs this further question: if the internet knows all, then just what are these records that they claim to have in their possession that give evidence to my invalidity and lack of actualness?!)

("*&$*%&($@_# ", she screamed — she the invalidated, the unactualized.)

(According to Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs, to achieve a state of self-actualization, one must first satisfy ones basic needs, safety needs, social needs and esteem needs. Isn't access to affordable health care a basic need, a safety need? This all seems to be a circular argument designed to shuttle me off to the Bin of Loonies.

And furthermore, if I lack proper health insurance and fall victim to maiming and disfigurement, then I may very well become an invalid, thus reinforcing their claim of my non-validness.

And if, according to Maslow, achieving a state of self-actualization means "acceptance of facts", then in this case it means acceptance of my state of non-actualness, as per the Washington Health Exchange.

In other words, self-actualization = non-actualness.

Well, damn. Maybe it's all true.)

At one point I was told to contact Technical Support, but there was no way to contact anyone/thing.  I don't seem to be able to help myself from thinking that this is a conspiracy perpetrated by my current insurance company to get me to abandon the process of seeking a different insurer (and a subsidized premium) and thereby buckle down and pay their exorbitant rates.

I hereby register grrr #2 for the week of September 29th.

And while barely treading water in the sea of rejection notices (from poetry mags), I awoke yesterday to landfall in the form of an acceptance from this Irish journal:
The editors took a very short 9-line poem, from a group of five poems in a narrative theme. Interesting in that they apparently think it stands on its own. The only constant in these many years of publishing poetry is that I'm consistently surprised by the responses of editors — it's a crapshoot. Go figure.

In the meantime, I'm going to work on becoming validated and actual. Tips and suggestions heartily welcomed.