“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


jazz cat baby

real life hot magic red brick road.
trees of dreams,
dreams of rain,
and the cat's in the cradle of a summer house,
wanting out, away, gone, shelter,
and back home safety.

speckled lizards, swooping cardinals,
snakeskins slithered out of,
the sound of dogs and drive-by hiphop loud against the heat.
monkey grass, magnolia blossoms,
and it is jazz under her skin;
she knows this, knows this,
but it is new, baby -
this shade is bigger
and there is a different dapple of sunlight upon the grass,
and the trees touch the summertime sky,
but she knows this, she knows this.

white couch lazy with blue pillows,
daytime clothes slithered out of,
the sound of jeans hitting the floor and bottletops popping.
ice in glasses, limes on the counter,
and it is silence or salsa, baby.
she knows the corners and the swishing of skirts,
but this is new -
she speaks saxophone, not spanish,
and jitterbugs in the nighttime.
sleep is for squares,
and the moon is a companion on this street.

shimmer, sun, shadows, open door.
she knows this, she knows this. 



this morning.
sleep interrupted by cat,
heart through half opened eyes.
heat banging on the windows, begging to come inside and cool off.
a slow coca-cola,
a late shower,
and the songs of mockingbirds with breakfast.



i spell that c-o-m-f-o-r-t-i-n-g

i like the way the blossoms fall into the broken places & cracks.
i spell that h-o-p-e.
i spell it r-e-a-s-s-u-r-a-n-c-e.
i spell it t-h-a-n-k-y-o-u and e-x-h-a-l-e.



evening morning stillness flight

we take it in and it becomes a part of us.
it's how we get to who we are.

it was a cold lake yesterday
and i must have said oh god a thousand times
while easing myself into the water.
this morning a wounded butterfly in the house
leaves traces of flight stumbled across the bedroom floor,
and its wings are the color of this lake at daylight's end.
did i bring this color home last night,
moments of the evening caught in my hair?

without a doubt, without a doubt.

the color of a summer evening
is a butterfly's last dance.

we take it in and it becomes a part of us.




i am standing still on this thursday june night.
it is 2011 and it is halfway gone
and i am standing still.
i am gathering this long weekend into my arms and.
and nothing.

my mother's calendar ends in july.  
a punctuation mark. 
it was as far into the future as she'd gotten. 
i see less far than she did,
plan less, save less,
and i feel my way less cautiously
but i know the general direction,
can sense my way by the smell of fresh air;
i leave some windows open.



a stopped clock, a hot texas sky

and i see my childhood,
the black & white part,
those photos i don't remember posing for.
but there i am,
next to a shotgun house long gone of color,
water drawn from the well out back.

getting there
the dirt roads were all shadows from overhanging trees;
for years i dreamed constantly of those roads,
the hills impossibly steep,
almost straight into the sky,
and even now those roads wind their way into my sleep.
i tell myself it is okay, it is only a dream,
but the waking still takes too long.

this is my father's mother's world.
she died when i was 9
and that shotgun house was not hers,
but the wood that built her home was just as silvered
and the winters were just as cold.
i remember holes in the wooden floor, the wind and dirt below.

i remember her funeral in pale colors,
but the years before are all black & white,
and the years after are gone.
my mother said she made the best biscuits ever,
but i don't remember.
i remember her kitchen,
and i remember her yard,
my father teaching me to shoot on the treeless side;
i remember walking through the fields to the woods;
i see the feet of my girlhood moving through overgrown weeds,
watching for snakes, cousins beside me.
i remember being shy.
but i remember her just barely,
just barely.

she married to not be an old maid, to please her family,
swept off her feet just a little by my grandfather,
at least i hope so,
and she moved to his house and had 8 babies
and lost one child and had tons of grandchildren and then died.
i was her first granddaughter.
and that is almost all i know of her.

she was smart.  i know that.
she wrote.  i know that.
and i look just like her.
i see that in pictures.
the black & white side of my childhood.

i don't have her trunk - did she even have one?
and i don't have her stories - i know she had those,
but i have a platter that once belonged to her,
left to me by my mother,
who treasured it and remembered the biscuits it once held.
told stories of those biscuits.
it is white-gone-ivory.
a pale green stripe running the edges,
flowers sprinkled here and there.

she left her colors to my mother.
perhaps the only ones she owned.

now they are mine.



i brake for pretty

and i brake for homegrown okra.
i brake for old blue buildings
and turtles in the road
and incoming text messages.

i brake for funeral processions
and indecisive squirrels
and icees and snow cones,
and today i almost braked for a speckled longhorn,
but he was too close to the fence and it was too hot
and the grass on the side of the road was way too high
and my boots were at home,
and well, like i said, i almost braked.

i've braked for trees i swore were bears,
and tyler roses, $2.50 a dozen,
christmas lawns lit by fairy lights
and houses for sale i could in no way afford.

i brake for lakes,
and little league baseball games where i know not a soul,
and for trick-or-treaters
and just missed exits,
for hills covered in bluebonnets
and for full moons blocking the road i am driving.

i brake for used bookstores
and mamas with strollers
and mcdonald's drive-thrus when i need a coke.

but sometimes i brake just for moments of silence;
 i brake to savor the shade,
to sit and not think or to read and not write,
or to wait out the rain, watch the clouds fly by,
watch the sun fall behind the trees,
or watch nothing at all and just breathe.

sometimes i don't and i always wish i did.



some days nothing is prettier than shade

the 5 o'clock news says 102 degrees.
by 6 o'clock it says 103.
at 9 pm the stars hang high in a hot, hot sky
and we have dropped to 99.

on the road today,
the heat was not a mirage;
we drove straight into it.



for dearest char - too soon gone

she is gone too soon.

i knew her less well than others,
but we visited each other's blogs
we had conversations
and now she is gone.

i keep saying it seems impossible,
i keep telling everyone that.

i have few words today.
beth & christina have said it best.

dearest char.
rest in peace.



if i open a door, a bird will fly in

i could show you pictures of the feathers she leaves me
but i am afraid they will lose their magic.
i can't catch the birds who listen to her whispers,
but they zoom in front of my car,
flying ahead of me, showing the way.
they swoop across my path to say good morning,
checking in, smiling.
you will just have to believe me.
they are there.

you will think me mad or silly or in need of reassurance,
and indeed all those things are true,
but explain the feather
left by my car door when i gave her clothes away.
not there when i stepped out
but waiting for a tearful me when i returned.

explain the feathers always at my front door,
the one at the restaurant,
the black one at the lake.
explain them all.
where once i found feathers here & there,
they now find me.

explain the feather from her house,
 waiting for me at my car door as i left one night.

when skye the cat came to live with me
she found it her first night,
stroked it with her cheek.

they are comforts,
these signs from those gone ahead, gone before,
gone away, but not forgotten.

we look for them.

my mother looked when my father died,
when her brother died,
when her mother died.
she looked in dreams
and in everyday events
and sometimes they were there but mostly not.
 she was always disappointed,
brokenhearted, saddened.
she couldn't understand, she'd say.
why not? 
i always thought the looking hid them;
she looked so hard and in all the wrong places.
i always thought they were really there.

when she was in the hospital i bought a painting from miz katie.
a bird on a hand.
i had just enough extra money for it,
just enough.
a sign in itself.
it spoke to me in the language of paintings;
the bird felt right and i felt comforted.

after my mother's death, the birds came.
and being birds, they flew.
they were always flying the air
down the middle of the road i was driving.
always leading me.

then the feathers began.
a comfort.

yes, i am mad, i am silly,
i am in need of reassurance.
but this i know to be true.
if she could, she would.



some days i can't see past the heat

but some days i see into it.
some days i embrace it.
walk across its coals in bare feet,
feel the hot pinpricks of healing
and throw my arms open wide in welcome.

trial by heat.



day is done

almost there.
the sun will drop even lower in a matter of minutes
and it will be golden.

the day draws to a close;
(thou art everywhere, but i worship thee here)
quiet reigns in this hour.
(thou art everywhere, but i worship thee here)



from this angle my house looks fairly clean

but there are 4 pairs of flipflops under the chair
and a pair next to the couch,
blue shoes, gray sweaters, a black umbrella,
empty vases,
unopened mail,
floors unswept and unvacuumed.
borrowed gloves,
stacks of books,
vitamins and bottled water.
big ikea tealights, a 24 pack sealed in plastic,
a 12 pack of cokes still kitchen bound.
paper towels ditto - an 8 pack of those.

there is an igloo cooler waiting for the weekend,
and calendar pages saved for their quotes,
a turquoise legal pad scrawled with black ink,
wind-up toys.
bluebirds flying across unwritten thank you notes.

all that's without turning around to see what's behind me.
i could show you
but then it would be here too.


small painting of pigtailed girl by miz katie;
larger painting of bird on the hand also miz katie.


i walk less carefully than i once did

i welcomed the new year in bare feet
not knowing the path that lay ahead.
i hated the thorns and pebbles and broken pieces of glass.
i hated the cold on my toes.
i hated the aloneness of that path.

i think now those bare feet saved me.
i learned pebbles only hurt, not kill.
broken glass only cuts;
the bleeding eventually stops.
i learned that cold toes welcome the sun with all their hearts.
i learned that all paths are walked alone even if someone is holding your hand.

i am not the same woman i was then.
i walk less carefully than i once did.
i've learned it doesn't matter.
i care more and i care less.
i love more.

my feet today are still bare;
one foot has toenails painted blue,
the other the same old pink.
the big decisions are behind me now
and i have learned to slow down.
i will choose the color later.



in the summer i get long weekends

but that's cause we never take vacations,
never ever.
such is the life of being self employed
and not rich.

this is what i will be doing tomorrow.

of course,
i say that
and then i will be wide awake early
and ready to do something,
so maybe not.

maybe this is what i will be doing sunday.



she had pictures of jesus on the walls

it's my grandmother's trunk and i've had it for ages, since i first moved away from home, and even before that it sat in my teenage bedroom under a poster of steve winwood; it's been black - back when i was younger and liked that kind of thing, all shiny & black like a cadillac convertible waiting for me on the corner, all shiny & black like the harley this guy i once dated drove - but it's mostly been white, partly because i've been older longer than i was young, but also because i moved through that shiny-black-vehicle-long-green-fingernails phase on into who i really am and who i really am likes things a little cluttered and likes to go barefoot, which my grandmother also liked to do, and which my mother liked to do, so i get it honest, which is for sure the best way to get anything.  my grandmother would putter around her house with no shoes on and she would let me drink coffee from a saucer and she would let me gather eggs from her many chicken coops, and her catalogs were fair game for paper dolls, and she would send my brothers and me to the store, to buy rc colas and payday candy bars - the store had a wooden floor and a butcher counter in the back and i was mesmerized by the jar of pickled pigs' feet that sat there, stunned that anyone could and would eat such a thing. 

her house had screened in porches and no air conditioning, though there was a window unit water cooler fan and hand fans and floor fans and screen doors and open windows, and i mostly remember it in the summer, i seldom remember it in winter, when it must have been cold, no fireplace, just gas heat, though i do recall a fabulously soft down comforter, all peachy in color, on the bed in the front bedroom, the one that looked out onto the front porch - all my other memories there are summer ones, maybe because we spent more time with her then, school being out and time unending spread before us.

she had pictures of jesus on the walls and no tv, and she listened to radio evangelists and preachers, and walked to church every sunday; she kept her collection plate money tied in a handkerchief, and if we were with her, we'd always get a few cents to drop in the plate.  the church has changed hands and denominations many times since i was a child and she was alive, but inside is still the pew with her name on it. 

she was not a fancy cook and my love for fresh fruits and naked vegetables is her doing - homegrown tomatoes, butter beans, fried okra, boiled new potatoes, green beans, corn on the cob, fried squash, cream peas, watermelon, blackberries.  fresh eggs from the chickens and fresh chicken from the same - i didn't know what a pizza was until i was 10 years old or so.  she had dogs and cats and an attic full of books and a yard full of 4 o'clocks and she made quilts by hand and sewed all her dresses.  she would let dishes pile up in the sink, saying they would be there to wash when she was ready, and i admit she passed that gift to me.  she took in ironing to help pay her bills and would stand over her ironing board, whistling an almost whistle - she gave me that also.  i can't whistle a note and family traits being what they are, neither can my niece, who also likes her feet bare.

my grandmother's trunk is now full of old drawings
and rolled up paintings
and exercise dvds i should throw away,
and that empty spot on the left is where skye the cat now lays each morning,
soaking up the sun's warmth. 
the latch won't stay up and hasn't for years. 
mi casa imperfecta. 
muchas gracias y love.