Tag Archives: writing

To allow one’s own depth

How many times have I heard a fellow writer announce, “I don’t feel like writing today” or “I just don’t have anything to say,” only to then produce an astonishing couple of pages, pages that move the entire group to a stunned silence. Tears even.

Maybe feeling a little fatigued or muted allows surrender? And maybe that surrender allows us to mine our own depth in a productive way.

Similarly, how many times have I heard a fellow writer say before reading I don’t even know what this is or this is a bit of a ramble, only to then hear a knock-your-socks-off passage?

Such equivocating has been followed by an impressive piece of writing so often that I’ve come to view it as a signal. I sit up straighter.

Lately I find myself often saying I don’t know what this is. And I mean it. It’s not a rant or a lament. Its not memoir. It’s not a scene in a new novel. Or is it?

As creators, we hear over and over that one must go where the writing wants to take you. You might think that money is your topic, only to start writing and find that it’s sex. You might think you’re done talking about your mother, only to recall in excruciating detail something that happened fifty years ago. We do ourselves a real disservice if we ignore those directions.

To go where the writing wants to take you requires a willingness to plumb our own depths. It requires trust. Oddly, self-trust might not be as important as trust in your writers’ circle.

In a good group, the others hold your words with reverent care and comment with insight and enthusiasm. They may hear things we’re only half conscious of or link us to well-known writers in a way that enlarges confidence and self-awareness. We come away feeling more capable.

And if what we have shared is personally painful, we also feel heard. This is deeply therapeutic. These circles are not therapy groups and healing is not the goal, but inching toward wholeness is in fact a secondary benefit and a welcome one.

* * * *

After two grey weeks in Los Angeles the sun has emerged. I could write about that aspect of this visit alone for pages. I coined the term ironic misery to describe coming to California expecting sun and getting fourteen solid days of cloud cover. Biden is on. Weird that it’s four and not seven. I have him muted. Nothing against him but I can’t compose a sentence with someone else talking in the room.

I get to see C again tomorrow! I plan to broil swordfish and make coleslaw.

As a final note, let me say that I may not be confident about much, but I’m pretty sure my coleslaw with buttermilk dressing would get me invited to the BBQ.

Haiku round up May ‘23

I missed a day, but otherwise there’s one haiku per day. As many of you know, I post from my phone and there I can’t create single spacing. Sorry for the inconsistency with that.

Maples, then beeches.
Catalpa comes last with those
dinner-plate-sized leaves.

Talk to me please like
I talk to my dog: WHAT A


Telephone wires,
sky, yellow parking stripes, tar.
Beauty’s everywhere.


The morning’s haiku
has vanished. Meals, sewing, moods
all taking their due.


Melody across
the rooftops. Church bells or ice / cream truck? Where am I?


Present arms! Long live
Blah blah His Majesty blah.
How silly they look!

Her orange sari
flaps as she walks. Same, my new
rust-colored duster.

Sudden quiet means
I can hear the flicker call
across the gully.


CNN took a
dump on democracy with
that interview. Shame!


Bold and scrawny, she
Looks around, trots up the street.
Neighbor coyote.


Even before the
UPS guy tossed the treat
Finn knew that he would.


The colors can’t be
named and yet we try: fuschia,
Persian blue, star pink.


He texts me to say
he’s getting a tattoo and
will call later. Sons.

The rhodies deserve
a little space. We all do.
So I dig up ferns.


Striped shirt, close-set eyes,
coffee in one hand, her hat
lined with orange fur.

The wind-tossed branches
and fluttering leaves seem to
have something to say.

* * C A L I F O R N I A * *


Arms at three and twelve,
orange wands in hand. They point
the jet to its bay.

He’s not hungry. Not
now. Doesn’t want to go out- / doors. But soccer — yes!

Weeding succulents
is one thing. Weeding cacti
quite another thing.


Tim Scott announces.
Plunging in with zero chance.
Confidence envy.

We gather and write
confined to six screen boxes
but the hearts bound free.

Pruning sheers impart
royalty as blossoms rain
down on me. Purple.

5/25 : the anniversary of George Floyd’s death

Jasmine blooms smell sweet
while waves of eucalyptus
suggest vapo-rub.


FaceTimer with leash
earns a special place in hell


Secluded path, blind
curves. She wears headphones, hot pink.
Fearless or stupid?


A fence: waterfalls
of nasturtium, yucca,
jade crowding the links.


Eighties rock band tee,
cartoon planets on his shorts,
tree of life tattoo.

The squirrel looks, freezes.
Lila stares and freezes too.
Left paw lifted, held.

Morning of Surprise Hearing

“I wonder if it’s possible to will myself into spontaneous combustion.”
Aleyna Rentz, from Cincinnati Review

That was the prompt for this piece of writing

Charred bones hold a certain
appeal. A ravaging by fire
before crumbling into the dirt of

Malva up the street bloom
in the palest of pinks. And now
hosta send up the sturdy
stalks of their flowers. July,
this July coming, is still familiar
to them in a way to me
it is not.

Hair shooting out of my scalp
transformed into poison darts
would more clearly show
the neighbors who I am
than the little waves, nods,
the purse across the chest,
holding phone and dog treats
as if the old rules of communication and reward still apply.

The house remains standing. The grass
grows in the fits and starts
indicative of shade. This morning
the dog sat on the deck planks
still wet from last night’s rain. He
was listening. Dogs are always

Would it help to shave my
head? To craft an embroidered
badge saying I’M DONE or WAKE UP?
To make visible the roiling
disappointment, so roiling,
so disappointed as to render the
words useless.

Old styles of rebellion will not
hold. Saving democracy is
not a style decision, as much as
we might like it to be.

Revelation after damning revelation
and STILL we wonder: will it matter?

We’re talking a femoral bleed.
Grasping around to find
a tourniquet, placing the life-
saving band around the body
but forgetting how to tie a knot.

“No July 4 for me this year,” say
some, while many others have
never had much to celebrate about
our so-called independence, our
so-called freedoms.

A flawed past does not
condemn us to tyranny. Please, someone,
make magnets saying that so I can put
them eye-level on the fridge, linking
hunger and hope and reason.

We don’t forget to eat, so
why should we forget to dream big?
To believe in possibility?

The squirrels chip at the air
with their throats. I used to think
it was the cardinals.

Somewhere, someone mows a
lawn. Somewhere, someone gets
water off a truck because lead
contaminates their water. Local
jack hammers signify home
improvement. Federal jack
hammering comes in the form
of 6-3 opinions. They
are blasting away at basic assumptions,
at long-held rights, at
the beliefs and needs of the majority — at

their own jurisprudence.

Who do you talk to in the
still of the night? Some nights
it is the ghost of my mother.
Other nights it is my own
nervous system. Sometimes
my children show up as absence
and silence and that keeps me
awake longer.

Not all loss is national and

I have my snacks ready
for the next set of revelations.
A friend is coming to sit by and
watch with me.

How we connect now matters more than ever.

Last night the sky blazed
orange. Chips of light between
maple and beech trees like mosaics.
It’s hard to remember the world
when you are perpetually walking
between kitchen and living room,
bathroom and bed. COVID, anyone? Or should I say: COVID for EVERYONE!

The world as defiled. The
world as holy. I don’t need
to shave my head to show
how my heart is trembling.

*. *. *.

This was written to a prompt in my Tuesday Amherst Writers and Artists workshop — the last until mid-August. The prompt was the Rentz quote above which appeared in a piece titled The Land of Uz. Cincinnati Review, Fall ’21.

The photo of Hutchinson was taken from a PBS website, but it is everywhere. I ran it through a filter in the Prisma app.

P.S. if you look carefully at the fairy-lights-photo, you will see Finn behind the glass door.



Color Me Grey — A Lament

This lament was written to the prompt of a black and white photo depicting a waterfall with rowboat suspended as if weightless at its base.

Color me grey. Remove gravity. Add rushing water, but make it still. Strip the leaves off spring trees and tell them to rustle. Pick the ants off fists of peony-buds so that the flush of pink stays tightly balled inside. Put one paddle in my row boat instead of two. Hide all partners. Put sky in the water. Remove sky from above the horizon. Dangle untruths like earrings on beauty queens. That old saying, “If you piss on my foot and tell me it’s raining, it ain’t raining,” comes to mind. Gravity might have governed once. Now we float above institutions and look down and wonder how they ever worked.

We ready ourselves to row and row hard, really put our backs into it, only to discover that there is only one oar. The old push to get out the vote is so cute anymore. The sticker on your lapel not a badge of much if your vote can so readily be thrown out. Men on the national stage are pledging to do just that and they’re not laughed at or removed with a cane.

One Texan speaks up and makes good trouble. He’s not even shouting. The armed men on stage point and holler with a Klan-like vicious unity. Get out! Get out! Get out! A Texan in a blue oxford shirt surrounded by arms raised, cameras filming the moment of infamy. Theirs, not his. Get out! Get out! Get out!

The water of time keeps falling over the ledge. So there is gravity — just not in America — where up is down and down is up and nothing rushes anywhere except violence. DNA of grieving parents required to ID some of the ten-year-old bodies. What does that tell you?

It almost sounds like armed officers escorted the shooter inside. You’re not “containing” anything if the perpetrator is locked in a room with an entire classroom of kids.

Why won’t shadows behave anymore, as in calling evil evil and not publishing a nuanced view of evil’s view of good. The Fourth Estate. Give me a break. Get in your boat and row. With one oar, you’ll go in circles, illuminate nothing, perpetuate everything.

The sidewalk rolls up in protest. A press conference of lies. Parents demonized instead of the supposed good guys with guns called out for their cowardice.

Beer bellies hemmed by holsters. Angry men raise their arms and point. Get out! Get out! Get out! as if demanding answers was the problem and not a room full of dead fourth graders and their teachers.

Enough. Enough.

I hear the children playing at the near elementary school the day after and wonder, Have they been told, and if so, how, in what words, with what omissions, and with what false assurances of safety.

How the mind splits. It happened to them. It having happened to them means it can’t happen to me. Nice try. The Boulder shoppers gunned down at one son’s regular grocery store. A man shot in front of my brother’s Glendale pharmacy, the flowers lining the sidewalk in ineffectual witness.

What did their parent tell their elementary-school-aged children when I can’t even tell the story to myself?

The Gilded Age with Hangers

Can I eat this? Will I survive eating this?

Rihanna in her pregnant glory, aglitter. Hillary Rodham Clinton in a toned-down red satin gown with famous women embroidered along the hem. Say their names: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt. Blake Lively makes a satiny ascent, waterfalls of silk trailing behind her.

And the men! My favorite was the one who looked like a pirate — tall black boots, a string holding up his pants. I can’t think of his name. The young man with lavender hair and ruffled collar was yummy too — setting off discussions about male manicures.

At the very moment Glenn Close exploded onto the red carpet in day-glo pink, someone in the hallowed halls of justice leaked a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.

Can I eat dissonance? Will I survive this? Will our daughters?

Repeat after me: a Christo-fascist state. Learn to say it. We now have a court that isn’t even political, it’s fucking religious.

Instead of calling right-wing stunts “performative nonsense,” how about calling them acts of terrorism? Wiping out two districts of Black voters in Florida, letting billions of dollars of food rot at the border just to make his opponent look bad, creating criminal penalties for doctors performing abortions.

I want to go back to an era when watching guests at the Met Gala is an exercise in petty judgment. Who looks fabulous, who looks ridiculous, where do we find the best cleavage and the ritziest jewels?

There wasn’t time for anyone to design a gown out of wire hangers. There wasn’t time for women to attach bloody ribbons to their lace.

If justice exists in the sky, can we coach her to come lower, to re-establish domains in Appalachia, in Houston, Miami, and the Ozarks? The fact that they surrounded the pillared halls of justice with fencing this morning tells you something.

But maybe we should skip the pink hats this time and work the phones instead. Waltham, the next town over, is sponsoring a protest tonight and I feel tired just thinking about it. I’ve been to two there already — one in support of releasing the Mueller Report and I can’t remember the other.

She can’t remember all the protests she went to under trump’s reign.

Can our hunger for justice outweigh every roadblock? Can it blow like Hurricane Andrew, taking out entire neighborhoods of anti-women strategies and policies, moods and feelings? I hope maintaining majorities in the House and Senate isn’t too much to ask for.

I turned twenty in Dublin. At the time, contraception was illegal there, abortion was outlawed, of course, and homophobia institutionalized. How Catholic, I thought. How medieval. Never in a million years did I think the day would come when Ireland was more progressive than America.

And what about the now-fully-ensconced Justices’ lies before Congress — and yes, that’s Justices’ with an “s apostrophe” because three of them lied to get their seats. Oh yes, Roe is established precedent. Oh yes, we follow precedent.

Riz Ahmed — that’s the actor’s name. One booted foot on the step above, crotch to the camera — pure, natural swagger. Unlike that other pirate, bloated and lacking his eyeliner. I can’t even absorb the story about the latter, but it infiltrates everywhere. The formerly gorgeous Johnny Depp looking like a bad batch of muffins in a suit. That dumb pony tail.

We all get old, but did we have to witness a time when our daughters have fewer rights than we did? I was in high school in 1973, on the verge of so much bed-hopping — maniacal about birth control as I was careless about everything else. I was spared the need for a procedure, but almost everyone I knew in college — or let’s say 2/3’s of everyone I knew — had a pregnancy terminated. Safely. Not without trauma, mind, but none of what was difficult arose from infection or fear of dying.

The Gilded Age was the Met Gala’s theme this year. The idea of robber barons is particularly hard to take at this moment in history. Five white American men possess more wealth than the bottom 60%. Or is it 80%? I don’t know — ask Robert Reich. Whatever it is, it’s obscene.

But we want our celebrities. Sparkling stilettos and borrowed diamonds on bodies lovely and distant, unattainable and yet, due to the nature of film, also somehow ours. Belonging to us.

Is God punishing us? If so, for what crime? What sin?

*. *. *.

PS I cannot figure out how to turn off comments for a single post so let’s just act as though I have? The topic has already taken enough out of me for now.