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Pears on Grandpa’s Painting Stool

I am so far removed from my food.
Where it grew, from which stem it was plucked
before I reached for it on the dimpled corrugated cardboard,
giving its skin a quick smell,
a once-over for bruised flesh,
and letting it roll from my fingers into a squeaking bag destined
for my metal shopping cart.
I haven’t smelled the dirt
the seed was pushed into,
and I am ignorantly unaware of the pattern
of callouses on the farmer’s hands.

Rampaging, the notion food comes from
a store, a bag, a box
defrauding my senses, robbing them of
the world ee Cummings explained.

These pears I’ve set on grandpa’s stool
grew in my backyard.
Each pulled from its stem by
my mother’s careful hands.
Rinsed in hose water.

Ripened by my kitchen’s climate,
green to gold to ruby.
Each slice closer to the core
I’m understanding this food.
I’m understanding its world.

I’m seeing the small way
in which the basil I pinch
and chiffonade
is sharing its life with me.

How very important that is.

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Good Humans

Here I sit, on the eve of our baby shower, and it dawned on me.  Tomorrow, at the shower, our baby’s gender will be revealed.

Today is the last day of my life that my child is just a human being.  Not a baby boy or girl.  Just a little person with a galaxy of wonder waiting inside of it to burst forth.

It hasn’t been difficult waiting to find out what combination of chromosomes my child possesses, to be honest.  I’ve been satisfied feeling its little thumps and rolls inside of my stomach, wondering if it likes the song I’m listening to or if it hates what I’m eating, at the moment.  I smile throughout my day doting on what its smile will be like and how much deeper I’ll love my husband the first time he holds our Squish.

My love hasn’t known a gender, up to this point.  It hasn’t been accompanied by tiny, lacy headbands or little side-parted or mohawked hair.  It’s just been our little person by whom we’ll do our best.  The reason my dogs won’t leave my side.  The reason I pee clear because of all the damned water I drink.  The reason I, for some terrible reason, enjoy bananas and drive a little slower than I did before.

I hope that, no matter its gender, it plays with Ninja Turtles and has painted toes, if it’s so inclined.  I hope that it doesn’t hear me when I ask it to not play in the black dirt and that it laughs infectiously when its face is licked clean by a velvet-lipped, aging, slobbery dog.

It just so happens that our baby shower falls on both the 15th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and grandparents’ day.  Two things that, although may seem like polar opposites, remind me of the importance of my child just being a human.

On 9/11/2001, my world was rocked.  Every person who was alive and able to remember that day does so with all the grainy details that cannot be forgotten.  My child will only know about this day through pictures, videos, written accounts, history books and our own experience.  I won’t recount the horrible details of the day here but I want my Squish to know how very important it is to be a human…a good human.

There are responsibilities that come along with just being a person.  So before we and our society impart other expectations and responsibilities onto it that may or may not be associated with gender, I want to write this down and I want Squish to understand.

The burden is on you to be kind.  It will always be your responsibility to love, not to be the decider as to whether the recipient is worthy.  It will be a conscious and continuous decision you make every day to be a positive force for yourself and someone else.  You will be accountable for nurturing a thirst for wisdom that we and your teachers will root in you.  From your desire to learn, it will be your job to develop tolerance, the ability to critically think and accept people and things the way they are while doing what you can to improve yourself and the way you interact and perceive your world.

I’m scared for you, also.  For all the light you can shine, there will always be insidious forces in our world, I’m sure of that.  That’s when I’m reminded that tomorrow is grandparents’ day.

I’m excited for you to meet the ones that are still here and I’m gathering the courage to speak without crying about the ones who are not.  Your grandparents have seen some evil things as much as they’ve seen and exhibited incredible kindness.  They’ve lived through some extreme times and there will never be enough time spent at the knee of a grandparent.  I promise.

For all the bad things that happen, we all are here to help you through it all.  Wherein your burdens lie, as do ours.  For every iota of goodness that springs from your heart, we’ll be there to guide it onward.  When the bad things happen, there will be the arms of the people you love and the memories of those who are gone.

While I wish that an event like our 9/11 is one you’ll never witness, if you do, you will see how important your kindness and love is.  You’ll find it in others and they’ll find it in you.  You’ll see why it’s so important to be a good human.

See all of the hopes I have for you, little one?  You haven’t even taken your first breath of air and we aspire to so many amazing things for you.  And all before we even know what your name will be.

So today I’ll just enjoy Squish’s touches and punches as my little person.  I’ll go to sleep just dreaming about it being mine and daddy’s baby.  Tomorrow, it’ll be our little boy or little girl.

We won’t love it any more or less than we do now.  The only thing that will change is we’ll know with what color to accent its room: plum or navy.

 

 

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Skill Achievement (Kind Of) 

Just a quick post to say the following:

-No, I haven’t forgotten about my domain here. Moreover, I’m anticipating the celebration of its being up and running for one year very soon. And of course I’ll renew. 

-I still haven’t pinpointed the meaning of life. I am, however, certain it has something to do with mac ‘n cheese, Crosley turn tables on Sunday mornings and the general concept of chaos. More to come as study/search/heroic quest continues. 

-In case you forgot, I’m totes knocked up and attempting to ready a room and feign preparedness for a very small human in a very small window of time. 

-Something else new in my life has caught my attention. Shinier than Chris Hemsworth and more alluring than a carnival elephant ear for which I’ve been lusting since aforementioned knocked uppery. I think it’s going to improve the quality of my life, in a small way (smaller than the previously mentioned small human) and improve the relevance of my work. What I’m really hoping it’ll do is inspire me to be a not-shitty writer and bloggist. I’ve left hints of this thing scattered across the earth in 29 different countries all of which can be traced back to a major Shakespeare work. In retrospect, not sure why I did that. Shakespeare (and all of the writers that wrote under that name)  was a pompous prick. Seriously. I knew the guy. Tunic-wearing turd…

-That’s it, friends. More on this to come. 

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A Few Things You Should Know, Squish

So, we’re going to be parents.  Most of you already knew but if you didn’t, there it is.  I’m a little more than 18 weeks pregnant with what we’re calling Squish, for now.

It’s quite an odd feeling to be so in love with someone you’ve not yet met.  Someone who, the last time you saw in black and white, looked like a paisley and not a human.  But I do so damned much.

Well, I have some things to discuss with you, Squish.

First off, we are not nor will we be perfect parents, if there is a thing (there isn’t).  And I am not sorry for this.  You see, this thing happens when your parents make mistakes, as mine and I’m sure Daddy’s did.  You learn with them, you see them for the humans they are, and you love them through it.  And we, despite our shortcomings, will love you with a ferocity you’ll never know or understand.  I promise you forever, we will.

Secondly, you have a big brother and sister here on the outside waiting for you.  Harley was Mommy’s first baby.  Daddy bought him when he had too many Grateful Dead teas at Logan’s in North Carolina to keep Mommy company while he went off to be brave and fight bad guys on the other side of the world.  Harley ate a lot of Mommy’s shoes and slobbers everywhere.  Mommy taught him manners and he taught Mommy a lot of patience.

Dyna-Mo survived some very bad people doing some very bad things to her when she was just a tiny baby (even tinier than you’ll be when you’re born!).  Neither Mommy, Daddy and especially not Harley wanted another doggie but we had to save her and she saved us.  Now, Dyna and Harley are the best two friends.  You’ll be their third.

You are not allowed to pull on their tails or their ears.  They don’t like that.  Harley loves when you rub his chest and Dyna-Mo will give you lots of kisses in exchange for belly rubs.  When you get a little bigger, you can vacuum Harley.  He’s a weirdo and loves that.  Plus, it keeps his hair out of your cereal bowl…trust me.

They’re going to protect you and play with you and love you like we do.  One day, they’re going to get old and have to go away forever.  We will all be sad but we want you to make lots of memories and love them lots while you can.  You’ll never forget them and they’ll never forget you.

You’re going to spend your first few years in a small house.  Mommy and Daddy moved way up North to be back home with all of your family that loves you so much.  We couldn’t afford to buy a big house for you and the doggies, right away.  The cool thing is, this little tiny house is where Mommy and Uncle B did a lot of growing up and spent a lot of summers.

I hope that you eat the sour apples from the trees, go get sand in your shoes in the lot out back, learn how to make blades of grass whistle and stand beneath the big, very old Oak in the backyard that we used to swing from.

We know the linoleum is pink and the siding is bright blue but there’s a lot of love in this house grown in some very old dirt by your great grandpa and grandma.  We plan on continuing in that fashion.

We have high hopes for you, Squish.  Most parents do.  Whatever you do, wherever you go and whomever you love, do it with your whole being.  We’ll always encourage you to follow your heart and be the happiest individual you can be.

That being said, Daddy and I aren’t always going to seem like we’re being nice to you.  Loving people, things and yourself comes from practicing respect and discipline.  We will tell you when you’re being naughty, when you’re hurting someone or something and we might get upset with you if you scare us.

We’re going to be here to help you navigate the world and the way you feel toward it.  It’s big and confusing and sometimes it’s very scary.  We don’t want you to fear or withdraw from the things you don’t understand.  We’re always going to push you to expand your knowledge of things and pursue the things that catch your interest.  We’ll always try to facilitate ways for you to grow even if that means letting you do it alone.

Daddy and I will always do our best to explain things to you honestly and in ways you can understand.  When you ask tough questions, sometimes we may not have an answer right away.  Sometimes we might not answer you at all because we want you to find the answer yourself.  Most importantly, we don’t ever want you to be scared to ask us anything.  You’re going to make your own friends and be influenced by a lot of things in your life.  We’ll always keep your best interests in mind and do our best to guide you the right way.

Here’s the last thing I’ll say for now, my love.  Mommy’s a writer.  That means a few things.  Mommy talks and thinks a lot.  Mommy will read to you and herself and sometimes Daddy, too.  You will receive many poems, haikus and love letters that you’ll likely grow sick of.  She started writing when she was six and hasn’t been able to stop since then.  Starting mostly for fun and to get her feelings out of her brain, it’s growing into something bigger and better.

Now Mommy writes for other people who can’t find the time or the right words.  And I’ll tell you a secret: when Mommy first got published and received her first tiny paycheck for an article she wrote, she held it to her heart and cried.  Not because she was sad, but because she never thought it would ever become what it has.  She finally became, in a small way, what she had been wanting to be since she was six.

Mommy wants you to find that for yourself.  That one thing that makes you feel special, lights a fire in your belly and creates a quiet in your soul.  She hopes you find enough of whatever will feed your soul and explode into the night, brilliant and soft.

And while there’s a bajillion writers in the world writing things just like this in the eternity of time, we are unique, you and I.  I’m the only one writing this to you, my dear.  This is a brand new chapter in our story but it’s the preface of your whole life.  We can’t wait for it to begin.

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Nightmares in Formaldehyde

I’m sitting in the middle of my biology classroom,
but not my biology classroom.

The green chalkboard stretches from wall to wall and
the lighting is dim.

Although the class is full, it is silent.
Like a muted film.

The rows of desks roll like the sea
the zenith of which is mine
and where the brightest of the phosphate glow falls.

I am ill-prepared and my professor is staring,
waiting for my inevitable admission of
my forgetfulness and ignorance.

The next day at my school,
but not my school
I have forgotten my locker combination.

I know I am nightmaring and whatever numbers
are familiar will work…even half numbers…
even when the notched line is nowhere near
the intended stop.  It opens.  It is not my locker.

I cannot remember what class I have next
or if I have attended anytime in the last two weeks.
There is an exam in my biology class but
I have not attended in so long.
I cannot cope with a paper stack, stapled in the corner,
querying in a language foreign.
Designed to destroy me.

Tonight, in my mom’s car,
but not my mom’s car,
my brother and I are riding with her somewhere.
It is night and the trees are dead but upright.

There is a fire burning beneath the ground
that no one knows about except me.
Ashes seep from the the branches’ tips
like buds in the spring.

On this two lane country road,
there is a curve to the right,
bright yellow cautioning in the whites of my eyes.

My mom turns to look at our eyes
sees only the blue
and misses the turn.
The undercarriage of the car
slams onto the forest floor
with roars of a cold freight train.

The car cannot be stopped and our headlights bounce
into the middle of the woods and stop.

It looks like our backyard
but not our backyard.

The hair on my neck prickles and I know
that from the fire under our tires
something shadowed and shapeless
has evil intentions.

I feel my fingers press into my eyes
as I’m forcing them to open.
Wake up, wake up.  There’s something…
bad.

I’m left sitting up in my bed,
with the nightmare clinging to me
like smoke in my hair and clothes.

I’m left wondering from miles away
some days
if I needed to stay and fight that fire,
reattach that shadow,
and turn that test in blank.

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Sta(i)r Stutter

 

I’m the oddest thing
holding myself up
naked in the woods.

Cast from an
arterial hollow
that’s never beaten.

The leaves dead
deaden
dead
at my bottom step
crunch to squeak
eek.

No echo,
a deafening  and shallow creak
if you should step
you should step.

Empty levels
a rhythmic climb
to grayscale stillness.

Board out of wonderment,
step to your horror
like a catamaran bound for Styx.

I wriggle my splinters deep
beneath your skin
I peel your shadow from your soles
with a thick and sinewy rip.

You feel a lightness as you fall,
fading as you climb, mewling on
each stair – a layer sloughed.

A skinless, nude
suitcase of bones
fingernails peeling for the top step.

Pausing at my top,
your body flattens
and fills the world.

Your dusty exhale.
Three days later, I close your eyes.
But I smile.

Shut as they may be,
grains of starlight have been sewn
to your lids.

An afterlife
eyes closed and yet so
open.

A huge shout to my friend John Beach for bringing this wonderful strangeness into my life by sharing the Reddit user searchandrescuewoods‘ posts, copied and pasted below, with me, inspiring this poem:

This is the last one I’ll tell, and it’s probably the weirdest story I have. Now, I don’t know if this is true in every SAR unit, but in mine, it’s sort of an unspoken, regular thing we run into. You can try asking about it with other SAR officers, but even if they know what you’re talking about, they probably won’t say anything about it. We’ve been told not to talk about it by our superiors, and at this point we’ve all gotten so used to it that it doesn’t even seem weird anymore. On just about every case where we’re really far into the wilderness, I’m talking 30 or 40 miles, at some point we’ll find a staircase in the middle of the woods. It’s almost like if you took the stairs in your house, cut them out, and put them in the forest. I asked about it the first time I saw some, and the other officer just told me not to worry about it, that it was normal. Everyone I asked said the same thing. I wanted to go check them out, but I was told, very emphatically, that I should never go near any of them. I just sort of ignore them now when I run into them because it happens so frequently.

He said they were about ten miles from the path where a teenage girl had vanished, and the dogs were following a scent. He was on his own, lagging behind the main group, when he saw a set of stairs off to his left. They looked like they were from a new house, because the carpeting was pristine and white. He said that as he got closer, he didn’t feel any different, or hear any weird noises. He was expecting something to happen, like bleeding from his ears or collapsing, but he got right up next to them and didn’t feel anything. The only thing, he said, that was odd was that there was absolutely no debris on the steps. No dirt, leaves, dust, anything. And there didn’t appear to be any signs of animal or insect activity in the immediate area, which he found strange. It was less like things were avoiding them, and more like they just happened to be in a relatively barren part of the forest. He touched the stairs, and didn’t feel anything except that sort of sticky feeling you get from new carpet. Making sure his radio was on, he slowly climbed the stairs; he said it was terrifying, because the way they’d been stigmatized, he wasn’t really sure what was going to happen to him. He joked that half of him expected to be teleported to some other dimension and the other half was watching for a UFO to come swooping down. But he got to the top with little event, and he stood there looking around. But, he said, the longer he stood on the top step, the more he felt like he was doing something very, very wrong. He described it as the feeling you’d get if you were in a part of a government building you have no business being in. As if someone was going to come and arrest you, or shoot you in the back of the head, at any second. He tried to brush it off, but the feeling got stronger and stronger, and that’s when he realized that he couldn’t hear anything anymore. The sounds of the forest were gone, and he couldn’t hear his own breathing. It was like some kind of weird, awful tinnitus, but more oppressive. He climbed back down and rejoined the search, and didn’t mention what he’d done.
But, he said, the weirdest part came after. His trainer was waiting back at the welcome center after the search ended for the day, and he cornered my buddy before he could leave. He said his trainer had this look of intense anger, and he asked what was wrong.
‘You went up them, didn’t you.’ My buddy said it wasn’t phrased as a question. He asked how his trainer knew. The trainer just shook his head.
‘Because we didn’t find her. The dogs lost her scent.’
My buddy asked what that had to do with anything. The trainer asked how long he’d been on the stairs, and my buddy said no more than a minute. The trainer gave him this really awful, almost dead-eyed look, and told him that if he ever went up another set of stairs again, he’d be fired. Immediately.

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For Betty Jane

“The magic’s gone, I think,” I croaked, writhing in my seat.
“The fairies sank, the bean stalk died, castles crumbling at my feet.”
My eyes dropped to the floor on which stringless puppets used to dance,
marionettes enchanted, tiny shadows hearts enhanced.
A horizon once aflame, flicking from a wondrous spark,
to ignite the hearts of all who dwelt, having succumbed now to the dark.

“How is love to conquer when far and wide there’s hate?!
People causing harm to harm, falling easily to this fate.
An eye for an eye, they say, taking all they see,
when with their own two eyes unaware of how blind they may be.
A world without a rhythm, no longer iambic, hearty nor aloft,
no more notes by which to soar the day, no sonnets loud or soft.”

“A wondrous thing has died here, neglected, starved and sick,
to give up trying to revive it or fall in line, which one do I pick?
Neither path will yield easily, the uphill struggle of my soul,
to chase a thing so hopelessly dashed or exist in a world so droll.”

I began to weep to think of the lights from eyes gone dim,
the rabbits not pulled from hats, dust collecting on the brim.
Dead trolls cannot guard the way, no breath within a dragon’s chest,
no true love’s kiss to wake the lass, her heart stops beating in her breast.
No magic beans, no fairy dust, the singing flowers drooping down,
pirate ships a-sinking, the silence of a clown.

She sits quietly at my side, a tear welling in her eye,
she hoists her arms around me and lets out a long, tired sigh.
“Child, you can’t sit about and wring your hands surrendered,
crying over things long gone, forlorn for things remembered.
It’s not too late for us, and I know how it may hide,
you have to dig in quite deep, the magic’s still inside.”

She raised my chin and wiped my tears, and winked her twinkled eye,
“The magic will only leave the world when souls like you let it die.
You have to believe it’s there when it becomes so hard to see,
you’ll have to keep it alive even when you don’t have me.
Squint and hunt and burrow and search, I promise it’s not gone,
it’s in the woods, a child’s hands, and in every rising dawn.
I kept it alive and cared for it the long while I was here,
I need you to not give up now, even though things seem so drear.”

Before my very eyes she faded, like the blue fairy into air,
even though I could still feel her hands like she was always there.
I felt inside my heart, something like a mountain being born,
and I turned east and there I saw the orangest, brightest morn.

And so spread a smile across my face, and my soul echoed this resolve,
to usher magic into my days around which my world will revolve.
Resurrect the fairies, hear the Cheshire cat’s velvet purr,
we have to with all of our hearts, for you, for me and always for her.

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The Thin, White Duke

 

 

the guitar ambles
and sighs
chest heaving
body writhing
rising again
under this serious moonlight
a hurried hum to catch the drum
crescendo and fall
always
there’s always a nagging
necessity to
turn and face the strange

 

RIP Ziggy Stardust

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All My Oms

My plane playing in the

ground-effects,

sliding above the runway like repelling magnets,

flaring for a greasy-good landing.

Om.

Ripping a ceiling out,

charred and soggy, biceps burning,

after fire devoured it

like a kerosene-covered match.

Om.

Wrapping my arms around my Marine after

nine months, void and ache replaced with

anxious kisses.

Om.

Toes and fingertips hugging

leathery, raspy skin

of a balance beam,

sticking the last routine

senior year,

chalk clouds stain my streaked face.

Om.

My guitar ringing out

a harp in the halls of my aorta,

hands finally strong enough

fingers finally calloused enough

to hold an F chord.

Om.

Under the oak tree,

wincing through light at

the longest branch

sans tire swing, now

blackbirds drown out the roaring wind.

Om.