Indiana Sunset, November 10

sunset and graveyard
Ovid, Indiana


Ovid, Indiana, another view








the start of a poem:

driving home from Indiana
sunset blazing an orange goodbye
contrails crisscrossing the deepening sky

speeding through billows of dust
from the seed corn being processed
by harvesters crawling the darkening fields

Pendleton, Eden, Maxwell, tiny towns
brick houses, bonfires blazing in backyards,
November leaves burning, summer burning

up ahead, a great pyramid of golden kernels,
oh, how they glow, under sodium vapor lamps
such a harvest, this year, such a farewell



telephone wires


I read today that
four hundred forty beats per second
equals the note called “A”

I thought of you, of resonance,
of tiny ear bones trembling with words
of the resounding delight of being heard

How the word ‘vibrant’
rings like a bell of poured molten
bronze, cast

cast like a spell, pure magic
syllables sometimes sing like plucked strings
music of minds in tune


red riding hoodMy poor feet cannot stop
bewitched, like in a fairytale, cursed:
they cannot stop, so I walk and walk and walk

as if my head is no longer in charge
as if my heart might burst from
beating and beating and beating

This golden hour: cresting the hill
breathing molten light and
air electric between twin storms

air so clear it crackles in my lungs
Was I sleeping too long?
Where am I?

A wolf’s dogging my footsteps,
I hear him, throaty and relentless
breathing and breathing and breathing

maybe I’ve wandered into another realm?
Even my shadow, once so faithful, has turned away
nothing is the same anymore.

Tell me a story

floating leaf

Tell me a story

You say, and I begin again.
The beginning, always my favorite part
sweet on my tongue, fleeting

But I am ever hopeful
digging now for middles and ends
that are deeper and darker

And boiling with life, like the depths
of a sea where lampreys
sway like seaweed, and dance

In the current and swallow
the silvery trout who swims too deep—
you might say the trout dies

Or you might say they become one?
There is no ending, is there?
It’s all a loop, this story—

It’s as endless as the sea evaporating
graying blue skies, falling again, rain, rain
pocking the choppy waves

Feel the spray on your face, wet as
the spit in your mouth, the blood in your veins
salty as the tears brimming

Below the surface, unshed, underneath
Tell me please, what really separates above from below?
If I dive in, will you swallow me whole?

Writing at Rohs Street

September 23, 2014 / Haiku exercise

Haiku #1

River curves away
Blue sky sweeps above, cloudless
iphone memory

I am trying not to feel like I have to pin beauty down, like a butterfly to a board. But I can’t seem to stop.

Another haiku?

Haiku #2

Captured river, caught
Pinned down, like a butterfly
iphone memory

I’m thinking so much lately about what is precious, and how scraps of precious things live in my phone, collected there like when Hermione Granger charmed her beaded bottomless bag in the last Harry Potter book, so it could hold everything that was essential to battle Lord Voldemort: a tent the size of a house, books, food, clothes to take the chill off, life-saving medical supplies, anything she needed to move the story ahead—what magic, that story.

Magic like iphones are magic, in their way. My iphone: I resisted getting one for so long, after reading in horror about the Chinese workers who made them—probably still make them, who am I and Apple’s PR machine kidding? The workers housed in gray dormitories in smoggy cities where poison air stings throats and eyes, workers—flesh and blood people—harnessed like plow horses to relentless time clocks.

Down another time-ladder, I slip to another century, another magical book, Little Women—the March sisters and Marmee refusing to wear silk dresses because of the child labor that went into making them. No, the March women wore plain Poplin, unfashionable, virtuous. Except for Amy. Selfish, vain Amy — and guess what? I’ve become Amy, haven’t I?

To assuage my guilt, I use my iphone to collect tiny bits of the world, to fashion a beautiful mosaic of songs I love, of my two daughter’s text messages, of hundreds of photos snapped when the light! THE LIGHT! Stuns me, as if maybe I might someday be trapped in a windowless dormitory, a joyless world where my pictures of nature and cryptic messages from the past will be the only things that sustain me?

Maybe that’s the fear. That if I don’t somehow bottle it, it will all vanish? Is that why I’ve recorded the songs of crickets and cicadas? So in some deep cold winter moment, I can hear summer again? All those notes I make, poem fragments and angry rants and ideas and books I should read, want to read, all the flotsam and jetsam of life flowing past like the mighty Ohio did this morning, when I captured it in my iphone. Snap!

Pinning it all down, like a butterfly, pinned. A picture Lydia texted me, of her, smiling, hugging that pretty Border Collie in her college apartment, if I save it there, and look at her smile, will that keep her smiling, always?

I pour over my collection sometimes, find beauty, pain, insights and treasure: those notes I when I wake and can’t find my journal, tip-tip-typing instead of scrawling, frantically recording those recurring dreams of ice and glaciers and endless winters, mixed in with sunshiny sunflowers in a vacant lot.

It’s all in there.

Ohio River photo
Ohio River, September 23, 2014



Their maracas shake in dark trees: even indoors, windows closed, fans on:
they thrum, thrum, a constant presence, insect-induced tinnitus
I like their cascading drone, insistent announcement—we live!
Humans, greedier than any insect, haven’t killed them off, not yet,
unlike the passenger pigeons, once so plentiful
flocks of them darkened the daytime skies for hours
went from most populous bird on the planet
to extinct in a century, a blink of time.
Martha, last survivor, died alone in captivity
a hundred years ago last Monday
just  a stroll from my house,
in a cage at the
Cincinnati Zoo—
it’s still there
on display


-September 3, 2014

Nowhere to go

deer in yard


Yesterday morning at seven-thirty, I went for a walk. The sun was streaming down Evanswood, turning the street into a golden river of light. Across that river, in the neighbor’s front yard, a trio of deer placidly munched hostas, unbothered by the dog walkers and the pack of school children milling at the bus stop at the corner.

I snapped an iPhone shot of the deer, a slender chesnut doe, and her twin fawns, still wearing their star-speckled coats. I felt sad and happy all at once.

I love deer. As a child, I obsessively drew pictures of deer. Bambi was my favorite book. Deer were shy and quiet, like I was, yet they were also swift and mysterious and tapered. I still think they are the most elegant creatures, with their long legs and big dark eyes—the Audrey Hepburns of the animal kingdom.

Yet standing there, watching them devour what was left of the Shapiro’s lilies, I felt sad, too. Because seeing deer in the neighborhood is no longer a novelty. They are everywhere. Their numbers are growing and there’s nowhere for them to go.

My gardening friends mourn the loss of their hostas, and I get that. But: the deer. They have nowhere to go, and whose fault is that, exactly?

A couple hours later, I drove off on an errand.

At the intersection of Martin Luther King and Central Parkway, a young woman stood, holding a sign that read “hungry & homeless.” She was tall, thin, sun-browned, her face already a little leathery though she couldn’t have been much past thirty. I thought of that famous photo, you know the one I mean? That one of the sad-eyed depression-era migrant mother, her face a map of her worries?

I’m famous for never having cash on me, but earlier I’d found a ten dollar bill while loading the washer, and I’d shoved it in my pocket, feeling pleased.

I looked at her, motioned, rolled the passenger window down.

“Thank you,” she said, taking the crumpled bill. And then, as she realized it was a ten and not just a dollar, her whole face lit up. “Bless you,” she said, joy transforming her face, stripping away years, until I could imagine her in high school, dreaming of her future.

Maybe she’ll drink it or shoot it up or something. Or maybe she’ll get to eat a good meal. Not my call. One thing I know for sure, she didn’t grow up dreaming she’d be standing in the hot September sun next to an interstate and a White Castle, begging.

There are so many in this world, with nowhere to go.

I drove away, wishing I’d found a twenty, or maybe two twenties, folded carelessly together and left in the pocket of my walking shorts. That happens sometimes, when you have as much as I do. I wondered if I’d have handed it over, had it been twenty dollars, or forty, and I hoped that I would have.

Ghost Ranch Notes/July 31, 2014

ghost-ranch-pedernalIf you’re from the Midwest, it’s hard to imagine the colors at Ghost Ranch. Even if you’ve seen Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings and dozens of beautiful photographs.

My Ohio home, lush as it is, looks faded in comparison, dully monochromatic. I feel like I’ve been colorblind until now, and am suddenly cured. New Mexico is red-orange and bright sienna and a million greens— dark pine, gray sage, springy alfalfa and the soft green cottonwood clouds seaming the arroyo behind Staff House and the dining hall.

And blues: robin’s egg morning skies that burst into turquoise afternoons that deepen to cobalt above far-off mountains that range from wet denim to teal to slate. Blues so deep you want to dive in and float. Blues that make me forget for a moment my love of oceans.

Perched on the Welcome Center porch, I have a clear view of Pedernal, the mountain Georgia O’Keefe claimed from God for her very own.

Cerro Pedernal is his full name —I’ve decided this mountain must be male— which in Spanish means Flint Hill. Like everything here, Pedernal changes by the hour, but right now he is crowned with clouds and scrimmed by rain, a looming, watery, flat-topped shadow in the near distance.

Closer in, the sandstone and gypsum cliffs form a backdrop to kids on bikes and the changing kaleidoscope of residents and workers that zigzag between the buildings. The cliffs are a multi-toned tapestry of gold, peach and terracotta red dotted with dark juniper knots and etched with shadows forming a thousand faces.

There are spirits here, in the shadowy mountains and cliffs. I feel them, silently watching those of us who come and go, seducing people like me from flatter, grayer places.