Tuesday, May 24, 2016

To Empty out my Brain

I have a drug addict living upstairs and she fights with her husband scaring my 13 year old daughter. The landlord is 85 and won't get rid of them, she said.
I have a next door neighbor who is a prostitute and the cars come in and out all day and night. I have to pull the shades because it's a trigger for me, he said. I spoke to the police and there's nothing they can do. It's squatter's laws, he said.
On my walks and at the pool people tell me stories. I am a listener but I offer advice too. When I get home I need to take another walk or swim to empty out my brain.

Zen Koan

One night, Chen Chu dreamt that he was a butterfly. In his dream, he had never been anything but a butterfly. When he woke up he didn't know if he was Chen Chu dreaming that he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming that he was Chen Chu.
— Zen koan from the poem Dream City, from the book That Said, New and Collected Poems by Jane Shore

Bookcase of Poems

I would like a wall of poems. A bookcase filled with poetry books. Ever since I saw a photo of May Sarton's house with her bookcase of poetry alongside her rocking chair I thought. "Me too, I want that!"

Our Artifacts

In the end, like the Almighty Himself, we make everything in our image, for want of a more reliable model; our artifacts tell more about ourselves than our confessions.
― Joseph Brodsky

Be Vigilant

Of all the parts of your body, be most vigilant over your index finger, for it is blame-thirsty. A pointed finger is a victim’s logo.
― Joseph Brodsky


...in the business of writing what one accumulates is not expertise but uncertainties. Which is but another name for craft.
― Joseph Brodsky, Less Than One: Selected Essays


If there is anything good about exile, it is that it teaches one humility. It accelerates one’s drift into isolation, an absolute perspective. Into the condition at which all one is left with is oneself and one’s language, with nobody or nothing in between. Exile brings you overnight where it would normally take a lifetime to go.
― Joseph Brodsky

History of Consciousness

The real history of consciousness starts with one's first lie.
― Joseph Brodsky, Less Than One: Selected Essays


The Constitution doesn't mention rain.
― Joseph Brodsky

Skeptical, Dougbtful, Intellectually Uncomfortable

[T]he longer you stay skeptical, doubtful, intellectually uncomfortable, the better it is for you.
― Joseph Brodsky


If there is any substitute for love, it is memory.
― Joseph Brodsky

Private Infinity

“An object, after all, is what makes infinity private.”
― Joseph Brodsky, Watermark


Snobbery? But it's only a form of despair.
― Joseph Brodsky

An Approach

Poetry is rather an approach to things, to life, than it is typographical production.
― Joseph Brodsky

No Referee

“Life is a game with many rules but no referee. One learns how to play it more by watching it than by consulting any book, including the holy book. Small wonder, then, that so many play dirty, that so few win, that so many lose.”
― Joseph Brodsky

Brodsky Interrogation

“Judge: And what is your occupation in general?
Brodsky: Poet, poet-translator.
Judge: And who recognized you to be a poet? Who put you in the ranks of poet?
Brodsky: No one. And who put me in the ranks of humanity?
Judge: Did you study it?...How to be a poet? Did you attempt to finish an insitute of higher learning...where they prepare...teach
Brodsky: I did not think that it is given to one by education.
Judge: By what then?
Brodsky: I think that it is from God.”
― Joseph Brodsky

An Abominable Fallacy

“It's an abominable fallacy that suffering makes for greater art. Suffering blinds, deafens, ruins, and often kills. Osip Mandelstam was a great poet before the revolution. So was Anna Akhmatova, so was Marina Tsvetaeva. They would have become what they became even if none of the historical events that befell Russia in this century had taken place: because they were gifted. Basically, talent doesn't need history.”
― Joseph Brodsky

Brodsky on Boredom

“...boredom speaks the language of time, and it is to teach you the most valuable lesson in your life--...the lesson of your utter insignificance. It is valuable to you, as well as to those you are to rub shoulders with. 'You are finite,' time tells you in a voice of boredom, 'and whatever you do is, from my point of view, futile.' As music to your ears, this, of course, may not count; yet the sense of futility, of limited significance even of your best, most ardent actions is better than the illusion of their consequence and the attendant self-satisfaction.”
― Joseph Brodsky, On Grief and Reason: Essays

Raking in a Downpour at 4 AM

When I got up it was pouring out. I fed the animals and let Lily out to pee. I grabbed my rake and made two neat piles of muddy leaves on the cement walkway. I hope nobody is awake watching this crazy old lady raking in a downpour at 4 AM.

Brodsky: Try Not to Pay Attention to ...

Try not to pay attention to those who will try to make life miserable for you. There will be a lot of those--in the official capacity as well as the self-appointed. Suffer them if you can’t escape them, but once you have steered clear of them, give them the shortest shrift possible. Above all, try to avoid telling stories about the unjust treatment you received at their hands; avoid it no matter how receptive your audience may be. Tales of this sort extend the existence of your antagonists....
― Joseph Brodsky

Joseph Brodsky: The Eye

The eye identifies itself not with the body it belongs to but with the object of its attention.
― Joseph Brodsky, Watermark

Reverts to Action

What concerns me is that man, unable to articulate, to express himself adequately, reverts to action. Since the vocabulary of action is limited, as it were, to his body, he is bound to act violently, extending his vocabulary with a weapon where there should have been an adjective.
― Joseph Brodsky

Joseph Brodsky: Darkness Restores

For a writer only one form of patriotism exists: his attitude toward language.

After all, it is hard to master both life and work equally well. So if you are bound to fake one of them, it had better be life.

There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.

The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even—if you will—eccentricity.

For darkness restores what light cannot repair.

The fact that we are living does not mean we are not sick.

Man is what he reads.

― Joseph Brodsky


I dreamed that a woman had made a bunch of colorful claymation circus-themed dioramas for her portfolio, hoping to illustrate for a children's book. I loved them. I introduced her to my editor. He liked them a lot. This was a conference and many editors and authors were there. I didn't know anyone. People were asking a handsome man in blue shirt for his autograph. Must be an author, I thought. I wanted to make a book of poems like the Japanese poet who I like Nano Sakaki. He just wrote and shared them with his friends and eventually it became a book.

Then I was running in Grand Central Station to catch a train to Larchmont and when I got to the ticket booth everything had changed. They didn't use tickets anymore. They laughed at me. "It's been a while," I said. They asked for my driver's license to overlay some black and white form with oval holes in it for my ticket. There were young women using a Xerox machine to take glammy photos of themselves face down on the glass for their ticket.

My editor had found a place for me to stay while I was in town. He found 'Africa House' on the East Side in Providence. The house was jammed with beds everywhere. One child had a pillowcase printed with a black dog from a Disney movie. The house was crowded with African adults in traditional long robes and caps walking around. I was suddenly claustrophobic and asthmatic. I had trouble finding my way to the front door. I thought the housing inspector of Woonsocket wouldn't like this either. I said to DJ. "I am wide awake and I don't want to keep everyone up. Thank you, but I can drive home. I live only 17 miles away. My old blue Volkswagon-bug awaited me.

My friend Francine was offering me a colorful Indian print dress "for only three dollars" she said. I wasn't sure I'd wear it. I was feeling that three dollars was a lot for something I may never wear. I ought to buy it and give it to someone else, I thought. I woke up. It was 3:50 AM.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Introversion: Sensitivity

Extroverts report the most energy when they’re being talkative and assertive—but so do introverts. This is true when people rate their energy during 45 different hours over two weeks or weekly for ten weeks: the energizing hours and weeks for all of us are those that involve more active social interaction, regardless of whether we’re working, reading, eating, or partying.

This shouldn’t be a surprise: social interaction is the spice of life, in part because it satisfies the fundamental human need to belong. So if it’s not in where you get your energy, what’s the difference between introverts and extroverts?

It’s your sensitivity to stimulation. If you’re an introvert, you’re more prone to being overstimulated by intense or prolonged social interaction—and at that point, reflecting on your thoughts and feelings can help you recharge. But introversion-extroversion is about more than just social interaction. Extroverts crave stimulating activities like skydiving and stimulating beverages sold at Starbucks. Introverts are more likely to retreat to a quiet place, but they’re very happy to bring someone else with them.


I LOVE Nano Sakaki's POETRY

I think you would love this book of poems by Nano Sakaki called Break the Mirror. AMAZING!!!!! I want to follow you around reading them! They are this good. I might have to have a Nano Sakaki poetry reading at my picnic table.

Tribal Culture

In this neighborhood the poor are disconnected from tribes, customs and networks. They worship Disney and Burger King.

Keeping an Eye

I look across the parking lot and the three year old boy Jake and his five year old sister Shantal are lighting firecrackers and sparklers this Monday morning at eleven AM. There are no adults anywhere so I am keeping an eye out. Home schooling? The kids are being orbited by a skittish tan Chihuahua named Max who loves to cross the lot to stick his nose through my chain link fence and cry to my dog Lily. Lily completely ignores him. Something I should learn.


Swimming this morning at the pool I pretended that I was swimming to Cuba. The water was warm. I was even keeping an eye out for sharks. I dried off and put on my gown and walked two blocks home to my backyard and sat with my notebook. I imagined that I was in Hemingway's Havana house sitting in his garden with birds and cats and my lioness Labrador who is always beside me.

Alexi Pappas: Terrific Tuber

“I’ve always thought of myself as a potato, where you start out as this thing,” she said. “You can’t eat a raw potato, but you are a bundle of potential. You can become any number of things — breakfast, lunch, dinner. Potatoes can be fancy next to a prime rib or mashed, or you could be fries next to a humble hamburger. I feel excited now because the running and filmmaking are what my potato self is becoming.”

Teicher laughed. “Your potato self?” he said.

“Yeah,” she said. “The other thing about potatoes: They don’t rot the way other food does. They don’t decompose. They grow eyes and ask you to make them into something. I’ve wanted to become something, and it’s always with bright eyes and not fear.”


A Life of Practice

Baking bread since 1976
'soon I will be a beginner' I say

if there is a summit I might ignore it
this is a life of practice.

The perfect loaf is eaten
the next day
I begin again with flour salt water and yeast

occasionally I bake a door stop, cinder block,
or an exhausted molten pond of sourdough

'There is no bad bread when its home made,' my husband reminds me
and slices the loaf neatly on his jig-saw.

and I begin again

Our ancestors knew bread was sacred
The crumbs, born again
bread pudding, French toast, meatloaf.

and favorite shirts worn out
became patches in a quilt

be sentimental about this life
it is all about practice

It doesn't take much but it does take some

Having grown up in a circus family
with sword-swallowing sister

Fire-eating Father

trapeze brother
Somersaulting Mother

I ran away from the spotlight

alone in my room
I am content with a cup of tea and a book
of poems

after spending the day walking
with my dog

Jane Kenyon Poem: Otherwise

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

― Jane Kenyon, Otherwise: New and Selected Poems

Jane Kenyon Poem: Happiness

There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
― Jane Kenyon

Jane Kenyon

Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.

Tell the whole truth. Don’t be lazy, don’t be afraid. Close the critic out when you are drafting something new. Take chances in the clarity of emotion.

The poet's job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way, that people cannot live without it.

― Jane Kenyon

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Interfaith and Poverty Agenda


Surprising Inspiration

Joe Berube a former Entrypoint caseworker at Connections for the Homeless and currently employed by Northwestern University’s Athletic Department was asked to provide some inspirational quotes for a recent staff meeting. Here is what he said:

“Instead of giving you famous quotes from well known people like Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over til it’s over” or Mike Ditka: “You’re never a loser until you quit trying” I thought I would give you inspirational quotes from people you may not normally look to for inspiration.”

Andrew has been homeless forever says, “Fatigue makes cowards out of all of us.”

Ben, who was an architect but is now in and out of homelessness, says, “Onward if not forward.”

Catherine, who hasn’t worked in 20 years, says, “The world takes care of itself…and me.”

Don who abuses alcohol says, “Surviving adversities makes me stronger.”

Eric lost his job, but is now working. He says, “I’m thankful for help with employment and housing, but I’m most grateful for a kind smile.”

Frank stays with friends. When he called his parents, they hung up on him. He says, “Focusing on others keeps my mind from focusing on me.”

Geo has poor English and can’t get a job. He says “People who care about me – that’s what keeps me going.”
Hank is 50ish and in and out of homelessness. He says, “Tomorrow will be here. It doesn’t end today.”

Joe left them with a quote of his own: “You can find inspiration if you are willing to be inspired.” He brought down the house.

Inspiring Quotes from our Hospitality Center Guests


Respond to every call that excites your spirit.

Soul-Sustaining Commencement


Hypnotized by a Voice

Yesterday after my swim, a class started in the pool. I wanted to be in the water for a few more minutes. The teacher had a soothing rich voice. As she counted up to ten and back down I thought of the number spies. I was hypnotized and stayed for the whole class.

Outdoor Living Room

I have discovered a new addiction. I can't stop trimming back the overgrown bittersweet and maple and quaking aspen saplings in my yard. These clippers are so sharp that they cut through small trees like butter. I am creating an outdoor living room in the green shade. The birds are chattering like mad. It's like a bird sanctuary in the middle of the city.

WAIT by Galway Kinnell

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Don't go too early.
You're tired. But everyone's tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

Galway Kinnell

Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?

- Galway Kinnell Wait


“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Mystery

Conductor of Light

“It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but that you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle


“There are always some lunatics about. It would be a dull world without them.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Red Headed League

Rebels at Stagnation

“My mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four

Infinitely Stranger

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A Little Empty Attic

“I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet

Love of Books

“The love of books is among the choicest gifts of the gods.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle

“It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle

“There is no scent so pleasant to my nostrils as that faint, subtle reek which comes from an ancient book.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes

“You have a grand gift for silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes

“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Valley of Fear

“Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons, with the greatest for the last.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, His Last Bow: 8 Stories

The Truth

The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

-Emily Dickinson, Tell all the truth but tell it slant -


I woke at 3:30AM from this dream.

I dreamed of my grandmother Sophie. Her face was up close to mine. One eye was missing but her eye socket was filled with butter. She looked beautiful just like in her wedding photo from 1930. You look just like A*, I said.
She replied, Sonia* says 'I'm sick of comparisons, I'm going to say I am Emily's aunt.'

*my sister A
*her daughter S

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Little Boy Asks

Does she bite?
What's her name?
Lily. She loves everybody.
Does she love me?

The Benefits of Routines

Routines become comforting habits that help me transcend mood.

Article: The Emotional Benefits of Exercise

Comedy of Errors

I was invited to get together and meet an artist I had never met after admiring her work. We threw out some possibilities of meeting and taking a walk. My phone normally stays turned off unless I am expecting a call, and I don't have long distance so I can't return your message by phone, I alerted her by email. We settled on a day and time. I've got a late afternoon errand to run, I don't know how long it will take but I'll call you when I get back, she wrote that morning.

When my husband got home I told him, "I can't leave the phone, it might ring." He offered to monitor the phone while I practiced my saxophone. I had already vacuumed upstairs and downstairs and even spent a few hours trimming saplings in my yard, all because I might have company. I can be a real worry wart about having a visitor but it felt good to do these things even though I was completely motivated by anxiety.

At 7:30 PM there was still no call and no message. My husband said maybe you ought to check your e-mail. Sure enough there was an e-mail message from her that came in at three PM: Having a bad day would you like to go eat Thai food? "It's a comedy of errors! I'm okay letting it all go," I said to my husband. "You should call, use my cell phone," my husband offered. "Perhaps we can salvage this." I hate phones but I knew he was right and so I braved it.

"Hi," I said. "I just got your message. I've been guarding the phone instead of my email! This has been a comedy of errors." I laughed. "Oh I just ate," she said. "Would you like to come here? Do you drink wine?" I'm allergic to wine, but I didn't want to say no and spoil the invitation so I said, "Sure." I grabbed a fresh little loaf of my bread as a house gift and took an antihistamine and we headed over.

When we parked she came outside and we sat at a picnic table on the river and chatted for a few hours under the full moon. I had a huge stomachache by the end of the night which seems to happen whenever I socialize. "You just have social anxiety," my husband said. "True. I do!" I replied.

Chantal Marie Gagnon

As crazy as it sounds, problems, like depression, also provide possibilities for living our lives differently, for reaching new conclusions.
- Chantal Marie Gagnon Article

Friday, May 20, 2016


I dreamed that I was talking to my biological father.
"When is your trip?" he asked.
"Monday," I replied.
"When will you be back?" he asked.
"Wednesday," I said.
"See you Wednesday," he replied.
I was disappointed in his dry matter-of-fact way of speaking.
When I got up I said to my husband, "I was frustrated by my dead father in a dream."


I dreamed I was wearing a white wedding dress. I was at Wright's Dairy Farm admiring the wedding cakes in the bakery when I remembered that my dress was edible. It was decorated with whipped cream so I reached down and had a bite.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Jill E. Thomas

As a student teacher, my mentor Paula told me that the best teachers were lifelong learners. Following her own wisdom, she took fiddle lessons every week. She practiced daily. Be a student—of anything—she said. That way you'll always empathize with those you are trying to teach.
- Jill E. Thomas, Often a Teacher, Always a Student

Paul Simon’s Ambition, and Inspiration, Never Gets Old

“He trusts himself and he pushes himself. That’s a very good combination,” said the composer Philip Glass, a longtime friend and occasional collaborator. “If one part of that equation isn’t there, then you’re in trouble.”


Mr. Simon still prizes the vinyl-era ideal of an album as two connected 20-minute sides, which he considers a “natural form.” Yet he recognizes the ways streaming and randomly shuffled playlists can provide instant gratification. “The whole listening process changed,” he said. “What’s harder is to say to somebody, I know you’ve got it, but if you give it a little while longer you might actually find a pleasure that exists in music that you haven’t experienced, because they keep cutting it shorter and shorter before you get to the pleasure. They just keep giving you shots of adrenaline, not serotonin.”

He explained: “Serotonin is the drug that puts you in the situation where you feel safe and comfortable. The drug that gives you the awe is the dopamine. And the adrenaline is the thing that keeps you going.”

When they arrive together, he said, “I think it’s so incredible, it’s an addiction, and that’s why artists keep doing it.”


Just Dandy

I was feeling awful. I ran into Joe at the meeting. Joe is permanently bent over and severely bowlegged. I asked him how he was doing, Pete said.
I'm dandy, Pete, just dandy, said Pete, imitating Joe bent over, jolly, and smiling. It blew my mind. What did I have to complain about, Pete said.

Ears Taking Notes

Some people speak in poems. I try to keep my ears wide awake. Ears taking notes.

Somewhere in Between

I am wearing my gentle reminder pants because I am vain and isn't everyone? Anyway, I can't tell whether I am Anna Pavlova or Jackie Gleason, I said to my husband.
I think you're somewhere in between, he said and we both laughed.

Hungry Husbands

I like these two words together.

Eavesdropping at the Pool

I turned off the TV in the locker room so I could hear the conversation.
After Don died we ran into each other at a dinner. I hadn't seen him since high school. His wife had just died too. He said to me, Esther, you and I have a lot of catching up to do. We started dating and we really hit it off. Here we were both widowed and old friends. Then he wanted to get married. He said to me, I don't want your children to think I don't love you enough to get married. We were married five years and he passed away. We were very lucky, we had five glorious years.

Man on Porch

Urban nature.


Practice being the fulcrum, I told Sylvia.
We are cut from the same cloth, from the same planet, I reminded her.
My husband says, 'Sylvia is your fairy Godmother,' and he's right.
We have to practice being the fulcrum of the see-saw, not dropping down to the worms or launching to Jupiter, I said.
Yes, she said holding out her hand rocking it gently. Throughout the day there's always a little bit of 'oh how nice, oh how sad.'
Exactly, and it helps if we eat and sleep and get out each day, I said.
Our dogs make us do that. Thank God for the dogs, we agreed.

Saxophone Romance

"Just play," I remind myself and I put on my favorite CD and play along. It's that simple.

Rekindling the saxophone romance.

The Accidental Poet

Woon news- the guy across the street from me died- Marie my neighbor told me. It's the 4th guy to die in that house in like 15 years. Marie said her husband loves the house and wants to buy it but she says 'NO WAY.'
- The Accidental Poet, T.S.

Starting the Day

Happiness is starting the day with a poem.


When people ask "Hello, how are you?"
I spare them my version.
I feel like I am being sucked into a dark and roaring vortex while being devoured by worms.
I say "Glad to see you,"
and I mean it.

Hug the Cardinals

I am surprised that each day is completely different even when I do the same things.

Husband and wife cardinals live in my yard. I wish they were five feet tall so I could hug them.

I woke up and heard my neighbors alarm clock. Spring in the city. I wanted to shout out the window. Wake up Arthur, I know you're in there! But of course I didn't. Six families live there. It might not be Arthur's alarm clock.

I love the titles of small books of poetry. How about Hug the Cardinals or Wake up Arthur!

All Around Us

It is all around us, free, this wonderful life: clear jingle of tire chains, the laughter of ice that breaks under our boots. Each hour’s a gift to those who take it up.
― Ted Kooser, The Wheeling Year: A Poet's Field Book

Waving Hello to Himself

His hands fluttered like birds,
each with a fancy silk ribbon
to weave into their nest,
as he stood at the mirror
dressing for work, waving hello
to himself with both hands.
― Ted Kooser, Delights and Shadows

Trying to Reach Them

“Don’t talk to me about the stars, about how cold and indifferent they are, about the unimaginable distances. There are millions of stars within us that are just as far, and people like me sometimes burn up a whole life trying to reach them.”
― Ted Kooser


“I like the idea of there being times when even words cost so much you used them sparingly. I have known a lot of old men and women who talked as if they were paying Western Union by the word.”
― Ted Kooser, The Wheeling Year: A Poet's Field Book

With No One to Tell

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer’s retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.
― Ted Kooser


“When she left me
I stood out in the thunderstorm,
hoping to be destroyed by lightning.
It missed, first left, then right.”
― Ted Kooser, Braided Creek

You Taught Me

Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have to be lonely forever.
― Ted Kooser, from "MOTHER" Delights and Shadows

Kooser Poem

A Happy Birthday

this evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride the day down into night,
to sit alone, and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand
― Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser Advice

Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world. And I’d like a world, wouldn’t you, in which people actually took time to think about what they were saying? It would be, I’m certain, a more peaceful, more reasonable place. I don’t think there could ever be too many poets. By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say 'We loved the earth but could not stay.'
― Ted Kooser, The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

Oscar Wilde

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
- Oscar Wilde

Ted Kooser Poem

Visiting Mountains

by Ted Kooser

The plains ignore us,
but these mountains listen,
an audience of thousands
holding its breath
in each rock. Climbing,
we pick our way
over the skulls of small talk.
On the prairies below us,
the grass leans this way and that
in discussion;
words fly away like corn shucks
over the fields.
Here, lost in a mountain’s
attention, there’s nothing to say.

- Ted Kooser from Flying at Night
© University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985.

Thomas Hart Benton

"Look at those clouds" I said as we were walking by Precious Blood Cemetery. "Someone paints clouds like that. Thomas Hart Benton. They look like Thomas Hart Benton clouds," said Bill.
"You're right, they do!"

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Peopled Out

It is glorious outside and everywhere I went I ran into people wanting my advice or maybe I couldn't help offering my advice. Now I am 'peopled out' and discombobulated.

Korean Funerary Portraits

There’s who you are, who you think you are and how you want to be remembered. For Koreans, funerary portraits, which honor the dead at funerals, symbolize all three.

A Few Changes

After swimming today, one of the swimmers asked me if I had any tips on losing weight. I asked him a few questions about foods he likes and what he did at his job. Then I suggested he write down everything he eats in a day and take a look at this 'food diary' after a week. "You might be surprised" I said. "There might be one food that is causing the trouble." There's a gal I know who lost weight giving up those sweet and creamy coffee drinks. There's a guy who comes to the pool who told me he lost 40 pounds just giving up refined foods and replacing them with whole grains. Another friend lost weight giving up his nightly beers. Then I said sometimes just a few changes can make a huge difference.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I decided to swim as early as possible and I was happy to run into my pal B in the pool. It had been months since I'd seen her and she had been granted a request for a promotion at her job. When I walked Lily downtown a few of the parking lots were still empty. It was like a Sunday.

I get a 'ghost' when a few days go by without playing my saxophone. I had missed four days of playing so I really needed the "just play one song" trick. Luckily it worked!

a Pool, a Sea, an Ocean

“Stream of consciousness is a muddle-headed phrase. It is not a stream, it’s a pool, a sea, an ocean.”
― Dorothy M. Richardson


I was in a city and a pan handler asked me if I had a safety pin. I didn't but a woman standing next to me did and gave it to the man. He fastened the little gold pin on his black turtleneck near his collarbone. "I get more donations when I wear the pin," he said.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Walking 200 Miles

I wore out my sneakers walking 200 miles in six weeks.

Pressure Cooker Romance

I have rekindled my pressure cooker romance. Last night I made kale and potato chopped and steamed for 3 minutes in the pressure cooker then tossed in frying pan with olive oil fresh garlic, ginger root, rooster hot sauce and soy sauce. I call it 'Asian meets Southern' style greens.

Right now I am pressure cooking chick peas in my leftover kale stock. The pressure cooker stock is GOLD and must be saved for making soups rice or beans.

Next I must try pasta under pressure.

UPDATE: I tried pressure cooking wholegrain pasta and it was great. It took 6 minutes. This will be my new go to method.

Swimming to Cuba

I like to imagine that I am swimming to Cuba. Each day I swim a little bit more and then I walk my dog and go to work.

Diana Nyad

"One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team."
-Diana Nyad

On the Watery Moon

When I am swimming I am George Ballanchine's principal dancer
I am gymnast Olga Korbut and skater Peggy Flemming
I am an astronaut walking on the watery moon
I am tai chi, yoga, and massage
I am turtle, frog, and hippo
I am just a lady who loves the water

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley

Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley

Awaken[ing] and enlarg[ing] the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought. Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley


Martin Luther King Jr.

If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Nanao Sakaki

Just Enough

Soil for legs
Axe for hands
Flower for eyes
Bird for ears
Mushrooms for nose
Smile for mouth
Songs for lungs
Sweat for skin
Wind for mind
― Nanao Sakaki

Nanao Sakaki, Break the Mirror

“In the morning
After taking cold shower
—-what a mistake—-
I look at the mirror.

There, a funny guy,
Grey hair, white beard, wrinkled skin,
—-what a pity—-
Poor, dirty, old man,
He is not me, absolutely not.

Land and life
Fishing in the ocean
Sleeping in the desert with stars
Building a shelter in the mountains
Farming the ancient way
Singing with coyotes
Singing against nuclear war—
I’ll never be tired of life.
Now I’m seventeen years old,
Very charming young man.

I sit quietly in lotus position,
Meditating, meditating for nothing.
Suddenly a voice comes to me:
“To stay young,
To save the world,
Break the mirror.”
― Nanao Sakaki, Break the Mirror

Nanao Sakaki

“If you have time to chatter,
Read books.

If you have time to read,
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean.

If you have time to walk,
Sing songs and dance.

If you have time to dance,
Sit quietly, you happy, lucky idiot.”
― Nanao Sakaki


I dreamed that I was swimming in the neighborhood pool. An elderly man and his wife were in the water with me. The man was floating on his back with his eyes closed and he wasn't breathing. I panicked and called 911. The ambulance came and took them both and I went along too. At the hospital the doctors requested that I be the couple's medical guardian. Their daughter was working in the hospital building and I spoke to her about her parents but she was not coming to see them. I was worried about taking on this responsibility.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


I had a brown paper bag with cabbage rolls and chocolate chip cookies in it. There was a paper bookmark inside with my biological father's name on it. I ate the bookmark. It tasted like cookies.

You Were not Born with a Rock on Your Head

“The Hmong people have a saying that says, ‘You can do what you want, because you were not born with a rock on your head.' That speaks even truer in America, because it really says that Hmong people can be whatever they want in America," said Kue.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

I Trick Myself

I trick myself, Just swim one lap. Just play one song. It has to be a simple request. This is my trick. Otherwise I will run for the hills.

4 Poems by The Amazing Josie McKee


Freya Manfred

My New, Funny Old Mother

by Freya Manfred

Will I ever be as funny as my mother at ninety?
I hope so, for everyone’s sake, especially mine.
This woman, who swims, learns Spanish, cooks for herself,
and works Thursdays at the library — this very Mother —
burps after every bite, wets her pants, washes them,
sports a hearing aid that screeches carols,
and says, “Whatever!” to whatever happens,
when in the past she didn’t trust much good
would come of anything, or anyone,
and often pointed to what wasn’t working
to preserve her worried soul from what could soon go wrong.
When we said, “See you in the morning, Mom!”
she said, “We’ll see about that!”
But now she says, “That would be nice.”
Relieved of my dreams of perfection, I can’t stop laughing,
gently, softly, when her hearing aid syncopates her burps,
and she asks, “What? What’s so funny?” — giggling —
because she knows I love her as she is.
No changes needed. Nothing to fix.
“See,” she says, “I told you. Everything’s fine.”

- Freya Manfred from Speak, Mother
© Red Dragonfly Press, 2015

Kim Dower

This poem reminds me of my grandmother.

Sleep Over

by Kim Dower

The sound of water screeching to a boil
reminds me of my grandmother’s
trembling hand pouring her steam-hissing

kettle over the Lipton’s teabag settled
in her white porcelain cup.
Those would be the mornings I’d have slept over

on the pull out in the living room, bundled in flannel,
watching lights from traffic below make angels on the ceiling.
My grandfather would already be out for the day,

picking up a nice brisket, a few carrots, nodding
to shopkeepers on his walk down Broadway, picking
the wrong horses at the corner OTB. He’d only bet ponies

with the same name as one of his daughters, or grandchildren,
a horse with a name that started with “K” or “J,” “S” or “N.”
In the evening I’d watch grownups as if studying another species:

Gretel with her bargains, “I got this sweater for 99 cents!”
Catherine the milliner, hat pins sticking out of the sides of her mouth.
Why did my grandmother hide money in a drawer

under the kitchen table? How was she able
to put her red lipstick on without a mirror, never going
out of the lines? Who was Uncle Joe? Why’d she shriek

at my grandfather when he returned from the store
without the dill after dark because he’d forgotten his way home?
Why did he never say anything back, but just look at me

sitting at the fold out card table where I’d been waiting all day to watch him
rip the cellophane off a new Bicycle deck, break it open, shuffle, “let’s play,”
I’ve got a hand like a foot,” he’d always say.

- Kim Dower, Last Train to the Missing Planet
© Red Hen Press, 2016.


I dreamed Doug James the baritone saxophonist was showing me things on my saxophone.


I dreamed I was in my childhood house and a guest was visiting. There was a stranger with a camera trying to get in the big front door. "Lock the door," I shouted from the stairs. It was too late. Three trouble makers had already entered. "Call 911, call the sheriff," I shouted to my guest who wore a phone as a necklace. The sheriff arrived in seconds and said "I suspected it was these culprits." I woke in a sweat.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

New Family

There were six little kids bouncing on the trampoline surrounded by a net.
"Can we pet your dog?" One of them shouted.
"Sure," I said.
The kids all squealed with delight and ran over to meet us on the sidewalk.
"What's her name?" One kid asked, petting her.
"Lily," I replied.
They all screamed with joy.
"That's my name," the tallest girl said.
And they ran back to their trampoline.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


I dreamed I was trying to write a poem about ammonia and bleach.

My mother heard about a woman who mixed ammonia and bleach thinking that their cleaning powers would be improved. She didn't know that this chemical combination produced a toxic gas. I can't recall if she said the woman had died but I do remember my mother was terrified. It makes a deadly gas, she told me.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Elizabeth Dalziel

Here is the drama, beauty and humor of my backyard.

The Agonies

I am afraid to write about the agonies but part of me thinks, for this exact reason, I ought to try. "The agonies" is the debilitating anxiety-provoking head-noise chatter of receive-mode. I am blindsided even though I expect it. I am beaten down even though I know what it is. I try to convince myself I am a little better at handling it than I used to be. I don't want to whine and complain or sound ungrateful, after all life is hard for many people. Receive-mode is like an inevitable and unwelcome visitor who arrives twice a year and stays for two to three months so I HAVE TO befriend it, it is my life's challenge. The hardest part is not giving in to the barrage of self-hate and the temptation to check out on life. The voice that says "Just end it, end the pain, end your life," has to be laughed at. "Are you really going to kill yourself over cat pee?" a saner voice says. I am now at the very bottom of my Ferris wheel. But the dark gray days will begin to brighten ever so slightly as I remember that my daily tools are also my life rafts. I race to the pool after my morning coffee to swim myself up to a lighter gray. Receive-mode is good for SINKING IN. The first week is sheer hell but then I get adjusted to my new "home". When my head wakes up with noise it is best to swim away the chatter. "Hang on, things will get better," I tell myself.

Paul Krugman

I love this article.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Poem by Nin Andrews

Confession 1

I hate confessions.
I hate tattling on anyone,
especially myself.
Secrets are meant to stay secret,

I say. That’s why I keep mine
in a black box in the basement.
If I put my eye up close
I can peek through the slats

at the girl inside.
She stares back at me unseeing
through pink-rimmed glasses.
Sometimes she cries and wipes snot
on the sleeve of her blouse.
Then she pees in her little bed.

Yes, there’s a bed in there.
I’m not so mean as to leave her
without a place to sleep.

I’m sick, she calls out,
I want to throw up.
She’s sick all the time—
it’s so disgusting.
All that liver and bacon
her father made her eat,

all that sausage and eggs
and grits . . .
Just three more bites! he says.
Open wide. And she does.
She opens and opens.
She doesn’t know he’s dead.

Sometimes she prays on her knees.
Her god listens to her sobs.
Yes, there’s a god for the girl
in the box. She feeds him
under the bed,
his tongue as rough as a cat’s
as it licks her in the dark.

- Nin Andrews

Nin Andrews is the author of six chapbooks and six full-length collections of poetry including The Book of Orgasms, Sleeping with Houdini, and her latest book, Why God Is a Woman. The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, her poems have appeared in many literary reviews and anthologies including Ploughshares, The Paris Review, The Best of the Prose Poem, and four volumes of Best American Poetry. This poem was originally published in Agni.

Posted with permission from the author.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Bicycle

The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets.
— Christopher Morley

Christopher Morley

“It's a good thing to turn your mind upside down now and then, like an hour-glass, to let the particles run the other way.”
― Christopher Morley

“There is only one success - to be able to spend life in your own way.”
― Christopher Morley

“There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.”
― Christopher Morley, Pipefuls

“The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking. ”
― Christopher Morley


I dreamed I was climbing through an old farmhouse. I was wearing pale yellow shirt and pale yellow pants. I had loose blob of blackberry jam in my hand and I was trying not to spill it on my clothes.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


I dreamed I was serving a soup with a tangle of muddy roots as a garnish.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Receive Mode

I'm deep in receive-mode. My head is noisy which is sheer hell. I feel like I am moving through molasses with cinder-block shoes. I have been swimming which is good and I've reached for May Sarton's JOURNAL of a SOLITUDE to console me. For over 25 years this book has and still provides me with surprise and treasure. The weather has been gray and rainy and the forecast is more of the same. My task is to make a nest in this part of my wheel. It is scary and part of me just wants to out-run my chattering mind. A certain amount of running is good but nest building is also essential because the mood usually lasts about three months. "Get comfortable as best as you can in your new emotional home," I tell myself.

May Sarton

It is never a waste of time to be outdoors, and never a waste of time to lie down and rest even for a couple of hours. It is then that images float up and then that I plan my work.
- May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude (pg 26)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Annie Dillard

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. [...] Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you."
- Annie Dillard

Friday, April 29, 2016


You seize time and you make it yours. You counter the narrative of diminishment and loss with one of progress and bettering.

Two Dreams

I dreamed I was in a barn and there were many full-grown black labradors presumably for adoption. I spotted a male one that looked just like my long-legged yellow lab, Lily. This dog wore a round metal tag with the number 546. I was thinking that I wasn't ready to have two dogs. In the dream my parents had come to the barn on their own and they had spotted the same dog. What a coincidence, I thought.

I dreamed a bunch of us were in a movie with Yoko Ono and we were re-filming scenes. I was bored and wanted to escape.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

May Sarton

It is only when we can believe that we are creating the soul that life has any meaning, but when we can believe it - and I do and always have - then there is nothing we do that is without meaning and nothing that we suffer that does not hold the seed of creation in it.
- May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude, (pg 67)


“Why are we making a distinction between a substance you consume and one that consumes you?”

Carolyn Forché

No one is a great poet because she is a miserable drunk. No one is a great poet because he has had a nervous breakdown. Suffering, however, can be experienced as a curse or a blessing; the luckiest is the one who can experience it as a blessing.
- Carolyn Forché

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

August Wilson

Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.
-August Wilson


I dreamed I was walking on a wide path in the woods with my friend Al. We came upon a tree made of long strips of metal the width of fettuccine. Al said "Watch this," and he hopped up holding one strand like a rope-swing and he spun around in a huge circle a bunch of times. He asked me if I wanted to try it. I declined. Off in the distance I saw a figurative statue. "Is it my imagination, or is that statue moving?" I asked him.
"It's moving," he said.
I woke up and then fell back to sleep and dreamed I was telling Al this dream.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Barry Hannah

Writers maybe just stare, like cows - just staring. Most people don't stare. A writer is unembarrassed to just keep looking.
- Barry Hannah, Writer's Almanac

Friday, April 22, 2016


I dreamed I was in a bookstore and there was a book way up on a high shelf that I was interested in. I noticed the woman who worked at the store was extremely tall. I asked her if she could help me retrieve the book.

Louise Glück

I think the poem is a communication between a mouth and an ear.
- Louise Glück, Writer's Almanac

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Iceland's Water Cure

“I think the swimming pools are what make it possible to live here,” the young artist Ragnheidur Harpa Leifsdottir said. “You have storms, you have darkness, but the swimming pool is a place for you to find yourself again.”

“It’s wonderful,” an actress named Salome Gunnarsdottir told me in the pool one evening. “Growing up here, we see all kinds of real women’s bodies. Sixty-­five-­year-­olds, middle-­aged, pregnant women. Not just people in magazines or on TV.”


Monday, April 18, 2016


In my dream last night I was dreaming about sleeping.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Where do you get your ideas?
Arthur Miller: I wish I knew; I'd go there more often.


“One does not travel by plane. One is merely sent, like a parcel.”
― Isak Dinesen