“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


after i turn them around

the paperwhites have romantic souls, reaching every night for the moon.  each morning i turn them and they begin that reach once more.  i like the way they won't take no for an answer.  they strive.  they straighten throughout the day and reach for the sun, half moon pose when i go to bed, a total bow when i awaken.

the day before the day before christmas.



before the blooming

it's a rainy saturday night,
dirty dancing is on the television,
and the cat and i hold vigil against a flood that hasn't come.
knock on wood.

christmas is less than two weeks away, and we are busy until long after dark.  every night on my way home i pass a balcony that stays hidden in the summer and fall and spring, a balcony that appears like magic only in this season, strung with white lights.  it makes me think of paris - the paris in movies and books - and the feeling it makes me feel is all i want under my christmas tree.  when it's warm out, there is a door open into the room behind, golden light shimmering across a painting.  i imagine a life in that room and on the balcony, even in the hidden seasons, and it is almost enough, that imagining.  it is not a place to fear the rain.

at my house, the december wind teases, bringing with it longing and loneliness, taking away my hiding places, flinging them to the sky with the leaves.  all gone.  there is nothing left between me and the sky.  a friend tells me the winter darkness is darker than the nights of summer.

i am thinking in pictures, exhausted with words and rain.  my furniture stays stacked and piled away from small floods; i no longer care if it finds its way back.  the empty corners say my name and i light candles.


above: before the rain this week, before the paperwhites bloomed against the sunshine and warmer air.  



september's end

autumn wakes me earlier than i wish it would.

september's end is crunchy underfoot, though still warm, the summer gone without a proper goodbye. i open the house to the morning light and streaks of cardinal, sounds of sparrow.  i feed the cat, turn on the sound of cellos. there are ballerinas on the television, twirling in silence. outside, a small autumn breeze tries its wings, learning to fly, whooshing small leaves from the trees. the sun is the color of what will be.

i am writing again, in tiny sentences, baby verses, scared of the truth, but owning nothing else.
trying my own wings again.  



where the sky falls in

the roof is just a frame for the holes that keep me cold in winter
hot in summer,
wet when drunk.
i prop the doors against the spaces that keep her out
but she shows up anyway and shouts through the cracks.

MY HOUSE my solitude my drunkenness my life.

it takes two 30 packs to lay me down to sleep
chased with xanax and hatred
and she thinks i care, just because she does
but i never have
never will never will
never will.

i shout back and call her names that hurt her heart, but not hard enough,
until she goes and lays down under her own damn sky.

i lay lonely under mine, just the way i like it,
and ain't nothing but darkness up there
nothing but nothing 
and jesus god i pray for even more of the same;
it can't get dark enough.

even when it scares me.


writing in the opposite gender.

perfect timing for this bit of truth.
i've been trying to see things from his side for a long time.


how it's done

it's how you figure things out.
enough bumping into places, people, things, situations,
and you learn to fly away before you hurt yourself.  



an inside summer

the cat gets lost in the closet, or feels she's trapped, and her yowls, at first loud and indignant, go sad and sadder, quiet, quieter.  it's not a large closet, not a walk in, just a normal closet with two sliding doors, one open all the way - open all the way, mind you, because she at first yowled quite adamantly to be let in.  there is light from my bedside lamp, but never mind that; she sounds abandoned and scared, only going silent when i get up and peek in at her. she sees me and then she's safe, she's reminded i'm here.  if she'd only look out, beyond where she sits, she could see me when i return to bed, but she doesn't.  she finally convinces herself she is forever imprisoned and makes herself a soft place to sleep.  when she awakens, she'll remember her way out; in truth, she'll pretend it never happened.  i will play along with her charade.

life in one paragraph.  with cat.


this summer has been one day following the next, all running together too fast, mostly all the same, a corner painted over here one day, a corner over there the next day.  there is only one last corner to go, sitting there, mocking me, whispering i will never finish.  i need help to move the furniture that sits there, and there have been other interruptions, but soon, i whisper back.  soon.  at summer's almost end i struggle to remember the days of fun. i tell myself i can count them on one hand, but that's just me yowling at my imagined abandonment, my imagined imprisonment.  the truth is that now the morning sunlight bounces off the floor as well as through the windows, that there are moments i am grateful for the long chore of painting these floors, grateful for the meditation it became.  grateful to know my arms and aching hands could survive it all.  grateful that my back, which almost didn't, did.   that last dark corner can mock me all it wants - it will be gone by this weekend.  the bedroom walls will be next.

i don't know where the furniture lives anymore.  a chair momentarily placed in front of a window nestles next to a plant and gives the cat a place to curl, so it will stay for a while.  a white bench that once held a mirror finds itself pushed next to a white table and suddenly, accidentally, looks and feels perfect.  as a place to actually sit - who knew?  the pieces of furniture returned to their usual places feel wrong on this new floor.  stagnant.  there will be changes.  i imagine everything elsewhere, but still haven't decided where to place the bed.

i'm just getting to the fun part.



august color: heat

 last night the stars were warm and full of memories.

today the woman in the mirror has hurt a toe and feels her age.
i am so much younger than she.


the august heat is bright and hot and erases away all the colors.  the air conditioner never shuts off and i wear only flip flops, and only those when i must.  though the floor is not yet finished, it is enough finished to once again walk barefoot through the house.  the concrete is cool under my feet. this winter it will be like ice.  i will have to find some rugs.  



truth and mirrors

july has slipped away, and it is august, and i've been so silent.  at least on written pages - my heart and hands have been noisy and too busy, full of aches, falling easily into exhaustion.  the painting continues, the floor almost done, but the paint cans are empty and i am out of money, so a pause.  for some of us, that's how real life is.  you pay insurance with the last of rolled up quarters and a couple of ten dollar bills, and you don't buy cheerios because you can't afford milk.  there are days i don't write because (very small voice) sometimes i don't believe.  that things will get better, that the floors will be finished, that i will have money enough to pay the rent, that i can get through the hard times.  they seem endless.  i am sure more days than not that the road i somewhere turned down was the wrong one, that the arrow showing me the way was spun by the wind and never mind that i like the unknown roads. sometimes they are hard and the sun is hot in my face and sweat drips into the last of the paint.


broken limbs fall and settle into trees, reaching out, pushing the side mirrors of my jeep closed; his isolation now also mine.  plywood is the only bridge across the washed out waterway that crosses the trail to his house, dry for now, but not forever.  alcohol and medicine and the rent he pays for a shack he only sleeps in swallow his money; electricity is a here again gone again luxury.  his broke down car is his daytime home; the sunshine is free and he can read if he can find his glasses, but it is also hot and there are mosquitoes in the chin high grass. he does laundry by hand with water from the well, drapes his clothes across the car to dry, and leaves them there for days.  he says to me how can i live like this? and he worries about just making it to next week, and i have no way to help, though i try.  i drive him to other places he can afford, places where the landlords stick to their promises to mow the lawn, where the roof isn't falling in, where there are no holes in the floors, but i know he won't move, that the only help he wants is money i don't have, a mother i cannot be.

he sleeps through the mornings until the heat in his house wakes him and pushes him outside, pushes him to the store to buy beer and an overpriced newspaper that only tells half the story.

no phone, no pool, no pets, unless you count the last of the cats that still sometimes shows up, but who now lives mostly at his landlord's house where it has a different name - even that has been taken from him, though he still uses the name he chose for her.  every trip to see him, surprising him out of his car, is harder.  i am sharp with him, angry he has let this happen, sharp with myself later, crying as i crawl the jeep back through the trees.

i wonder how much of this story, his story, i should tell, how much i can tell, and i come back home and when i had paint, i continued to paint the floor.  my meditation.  but now?  this pause.  


the sun hits the newly painted part of the floor and the house is lighter.  it seems to float.  when the floor is finally finished, next come the bedroom walls.  paint samples are taped to the spot where the light changes the most and i watch those changes from morning to evening.  the original choice has been tossed, and the color i like the least during the early part of day is the one i like the most by late afternoon.  it goes soft and i like that.  i need that.  i need a cocoon, a womb, hands to hold me.  i need the light on my skin.

i need a nest high in the treetops.

in the meantime, during this pause, i am using up the small cans of white paint i always have.  mirror frames, baseboards, an antique arched door i've had forever.  i'm letting the original green paint go.  i will start with white and see where it takes me.  i will make mistakes.  maybe.  i know what i need in that treetop nest - it's not much, it's less than i used to think - and i know how to get there.



water, night, planets and stars

my feet.  fast water.  delicious darkness.  

they sent me pictures.  they said the corner is wonderful, the water is clean.  they sent more pictures. they said there was a story out there.  because that's the kind of neighborhood in which i live.  that's the kind of friends i have.

there'd been hydrants open all day, all up and down the street.  i'd watched kids playing in the water, listened to the sound as it fell into the creek and rushed onward to wherever it goes.  i'd come home, a long day behind me, and i'd fallen headfirst into an open book full of words and silence.  exhaled, and exhaled again.  and yet again. and then came the messages.  then and only then did i realize the water was still flowing.  and so never mind the darkness, the lateness, the fact that i was in pajama pants.  i just rolled them up and stepped outside.

i never found my friends, but i walked the brick streets barefoot.  they were right - it was wonderful. i felt weight lift from my shoulders, felt like a child, felt like an adult appreciating that childlike happiness.  felt like i didn't care what anyone thought.  felt like summer and magic and nighttime all rolled into one.  venus and jupiter hung bright in the clear sky, moving apart but still close.

i'd taken my old iphone, the one with the crappy camera, not expecting to take pictures, but i couldn't resist. when the ever-wonderful michael called and asked what i was up to, i told him.  put your flipflops on, he said, you'll hurt yourself.  

i love him, but no.



grrrrrrrr . . . and then there was light

welcoming july.  she's taken a long time to get here, and yet wasn't yesterday just christmas?  weren't we just fireworking in the new year?  and now here we are, summer's fireworks just a couple of days away.  i'm growing old - time flies past me and around me and all i feel is my hair, daily streaked with more white and gray, blowing in its wake.

i am up late each night, unable to sleep, and was there to say hello when july sashayed in under the stars and clouds, the shy moon stealing a glance for just a second.  we'd looked for the moon earlier last evening, sitting on the back porch, slapping away mosquitoes, talking away the darkness, but the clouds kept it hidden until later, when i was back in the house.  i caught a glimpse from the kitchen window, and then it was gone.  

i expect more tonight.  i expect its light to stream through my bedroom windows and give me an excuse for my wakefulness.  i expect to barely notice the exchange of sunlight for moonlight.  i expect the sound of cicadas and more mosquitoes and a bit of summer wind.  i expect the cat to yowl and the dog to growl and when i finally fall to sleep, i expect my dreams to be sweet ones.


title courtesy of a friend of a friend.  i wish i'd said it.



the cat's chair

i dreamed about draperies, sheer against a nighttime sky.
i could see the stars through them.

it's because the house is still a mess.  it's because i keep changing my mind about the new floor color. it's because because because.  


yesterday i was sure this new color, the one you see above, was too light, too gray, too everything.  i decided it needed to be darker, needed to be the color of a pair of old navy shoes i own, still taupe, but browny taupe, darker.  i was sure.  and then this morning i moved the furniture again, more of the floor needing to at least be primed, the couch now in the middle of the living room, just a bit of walking room around it.  i moved this chair onto a part of the floor already painted, this chair that i was so in love with back when it was new and perfect, this chair that the cat destroyed back when she was new to this place and there seemed no way to stop her, this chair that i eventually handed over to her - it's yours, i thought, and maybe even said out loud.  even though when i'd catch her scratching it i would stop her, i knew it was useless.  and anyway, the chair was less important, and i just covered it and i still cover it.  eventually there may be a slipcover because it's a comfy chair, and it holds all those memories of the months after my mother's death, when her cat became my cat. memories in the form of those scratches.  she was making her mark.  i've talked about this before, about how she mostly now uses the pear tree by the staircase, scratching right where maggie used to scratch.

but back to the chair, back to the floor that this morning i suddenly liked.  i keep leaning over from my spot here on the couch so i can see the chair sitting there.  it scratched a bit of the new paint when i settled it into place and that seemed kind of perfect.



late morning early summer

light and air.

i have paint on my fingers that won't come off.

i am painting the floor, changing my mind daily about the color, about the paint, about why don't i just move?, and then i look out the windows and i remember.  i open the doors and windows and junebugs make themselves at home, and also mosquitoes, and i am sticky and sweaty and dirt is under my fingernails and my hair gets in the way and in the paint and the color is different over here in the corner where no sunlight reaches, and i am grateful i can see beyond it all.  a table from the living room has been pushed to the bedroom, and i think it will stay.  i like the emptiness left behind when we move things and i want to throw everything out, and then i don't, and then i do. it's a seesaw summer.



katie's gardenias and the rest of the week

this morning, on the back porch.  katie leaves them for me to find, though she doesn't know that. most every night she sits in the darkness with candlelight and the smell of summertime coming and going, and in the mornings i spy her evenings and smile.


yesterday, the lake. a boat.  the ever-wonderful and i.  we forgot our hats and the sky was blue and the day was hot and the clouds all looked like animals on their backs, having their bellies scratched.  less than an hour on the water and we had to be in it, floating, floating, watching a storm move in from the southeast, the sky going gray and grayer, and suddenly he knew it was time to go.  back into the boat and the heat, not a breeze anywhere you looked, not even with the boat moving faster across the water.  and then, there it was.  a fast breeze, a storm breeze, the temperature dropping, the sky going black.  no lightning, no thunder, just air and joy.

we made it back with a minute to spare.

you'll just have to believe me on this - lately i forget my camera a lot, and i'm not sure it's an accident.


last sunday i wrote:

the lampshade is crooked.  earlier this morning the sun hung just so in the sky, rising behind the window, and the fan cast its shadow through that crooked shade.  the sun is higher in the sky now, the shadows gone, the bedroom cooler, less bright.   the air smells like dust.

i’ve had a cold.  or allergies or something, cough included.   summer seems to at last be here, and the sun, now even higher, fills the front yard with light.  russell crowe is on the television, dressed as robin hood, near the movie’s end where sherwood forest glows a lovely blue here in the corner of my house.  my house of still-in-transition.  the cough has made me lazy and tired, and though almost gone, i let it rest me a bit more, let it linger me on the couch for a while longer this sunday morning.  the front door is open, the cat sleeping somewhere in sunshine or shade, or perhaps on the bed, a small circle of contentment.  i have hopes she'll leave some of that contentment behind when she awakes, a bit for me to lay my head on, a bit to sink into my soul. 

the house is still on crutches, relearning its way of walking, and the past few days i have been feeling its aches and exhaustion, have understood its secret plea to just stop, to just let it end, to hand it an old fashioned and let it drink its pains away.  in truth, i want to sit next to it and share that drink, and stop thinking for a while, ignore the bumping into obstacles no matter where we turn.

slow living right now.


this morning aragorn is on the television and gandalf the white is about to appear.  my front door is once again open and it is humid.  you can see the grass growing, tree limbs hanging heavy.  today the cat is asleep on a chair, a good place to hear the birds in her dreams, a good place to feel the fan as it moves past.  the church bells chime the hours.



Summer - Chapter 1. Lessons.

The humidity hangs heavy in the house, heavy enough that even the mosquitoes struggle their way through it.  It lays on my skin and the walls and I complain about the rain, about its seeming neverendingness, about the towels and bathroom rugs that never all-the-way dry after I've showered; hours later the bathroom still feels damp, despite the open window and the fans blowing from different directions. Never mind that the sun has appeared for a bit - I don't think it rained yesterday and it hasn't yet today, but it lurks in the forecast and comes and goes, and goes some more, and is coming again, and soon.

I can't seem to get the words right.  They struggle past me like the mosquitoes, swirling slowly beyond reach when I try to catch them, my movement pushing them away.  I think I will write them down on paper, but the paper is damp and depresses me.

It feels like a story, one that needs chapters, and a heroine.  It starts with the smallest of floods, the very smallest, ankle deep at most, just an inch or two of water, but an inch or two of water rushing through your house front to back side to side carries its own story, and it moves faster than you can pick things up and out of the the way, and it is still a flood.  I am embarrassed to say that, to write it down like that, when The Blanco River is taking people's lives and homes, when I can turn on the tv and watch the water rise down the road in Dallas and Athens, and I say my gratefuls for the smallness of my flood, but nonetheless it is where this story begins.  I am typing to the sound of quiet birds under a gray sky.


I'd woken in the darkness to the sound of something outside and walked to the kitchen, to look out the window onto the back porch, and I stepped in moving water.  The rain against the street light a block over showed the storm, but it was too late, and this water lives in Mombasa anyway, it would go where it would go, but that knowing didn't make it easier.  I found myself shouting at it all to stop, but water and rain only listen when they choose.  They silenced the cat, but not me.

Two weeks and 4 days ago.  


the furniture is in all the wrong places, and the lesson in that is that it doesn't matter.  somewhere in the midst of all this, of pulling up carpet and working on floors, we went out for chinese food.  my fortune cookie read "If the table moves, move with it".


By the end of the first day, the carpet was gone and the furniture stood helter skeltered about the house, piled with boxes and bags and clothing, and it was only by the time my friends and helpers were gone, by the time I'd showered and caught my breath, that I realized my bed had been pushed sideways against a wall, surrounded by, sheltered by (as it turned out) taller furniture and the one plant I keep in the room.  It was a womb to hold me.  It was the stuff of childhood dreams.  A private space to shut away the world.  For a week, at the end of work days and exhaustion, I would climb into that shelter and read by the light of my kindle and sleep would quickly find me. I told myself when this is all over, when the floor is fixed and everything returns to normal, I will leave the bed here.  I will move a table into the middle of the room, and I'll replace the overhead light with something pretty.  I'll leave that one mirror propped where it is.

And then we moved it all to the other side of the room, making room to begin work on the floor where the bed once stood.  We piled benches and rain boots on other benches, pushed my grandmother's trunk and a table against those, and then the bed.  It was suddenly an island unto itself, floating in the room. Sometimes it stopped raining and the sun came out.  Sometimes we had shadows.  I opened the windows and breezes blew through the bedroom and on through the house.  The cat sat on the windowsill.  I told myself I'd been wrong, that when this was all over, this is where I will leave the bed.  I will let the benches be a headboard, let the sun fall on my face and wake me in the mornings.  I don't need a table in the middle of the room, I told myself, but I'll leave the mirror and yes, still replace the overhead light with something pretty.

And then the rain got bigger once again, and water once again found its way into my house - not much, but enough for the bed to be shoved quickly away from the center of the room, too close to two walls.  It's where I've slept for the past 4 nights.  It will not stay there.  The furniture in the living room is still in the wrong places - the couch is turned to the east instead of the north, piled with quilts and pillows, and I refuse to put on the slipcover until the floor is finished.  Chairs are stacked on other chairs and there are still boxes and bags piled on everything, but I have organized them and can now find what I need.  I have thrown things out. Shoes, baskets, pillows, shirts. Pieces of a past life.


We are baby stepping through the weather, doing it all ourselves in spare moments, praying for sunshine and summer.  I tell myself I am too old for this, but obviously I am not.  I am moving with the table, wherever it goes.



the aftermath

my neighborhood.  last night.

image by katie wintters langham.

after midnight.  the middle of the road around the corner. 
there and back was just a few steps through the trees,
the perfect ending to a long hard busy week.
i like the way we scooched all the chairs closer as the evening wore on.

all this after an earlier party a few blocks away.  it was a day full of cakes and strawberries.

stories were told.  we tried our best to understand the ones spoken with a french accent and laughed loudly at the secrets too funny not to share.  there was wine and water and food served under skies that threatened to rain.  there was lightning.  jingle bell cat is sprawled in a spot off to the right where you cannot see him. there were dogs playing and children and music.

this morning i struggled my way awake to find katie on the back porch in rain boots and gown, wrapped in the sheerest of soft teal shawls, writing her morning pages in a notebook of the same color, the day hanging gray and misty around her. she looked like a fairy tale.



he was thinking 3 dimensionally

we were grocery shopping,
or really he was,
before i drove him home to his piece-of-shit shack,
and he was standing in front of all the cheeses,
standing befuddled, lost in space,
looking for the one he likes the best,
and i'll be honest, i wanted him gone,
(let's get this done and you home,
i love you but you're driving me crazy, crazy)
 so i asked what he was looking for,
there in the confusion of his eyes,
and he said a half moon cheese,
and he said i can't find it.

so i looked
and i saw crescent moons
and i saw full moons,
and then finally, there,
just where the display turned an oval corner,
a half moon.
this? i said, holding it up,
colby?, i said,
cause you know, what do i know?
and no, he said, a half moon,
like a ball, cut in half.

he could see the dark side of that moon when i could not,
and i understood for a moment the tower of babel.


poem #3, for napowrimo
and for my brother
and for our inability to communicate.


where we all fall off

we go cautious near the place where the fence stops and life begins;
one foot into the nothingness, followed by the other, followed by a gasp of breath
surprised hands scrabbling i changed my mind into the dirt grasping at leaves
too late.
the fat lady sings her own song at the end.


we go three times across the street,
one for the sun, one for the moon, and once for good luck;
fallen petals spilled across the wet road,
to be circused away by bicycle tires,
flattened beneath the footsteps of tourists,
tasted by raindrunk birds flying from the edge of here and now to there and away.

we go two times against the night, one for you and once for me,
the sound of honey suckling,
the secret whisper swoosh of evening moonrise and breath of darkness falling,

we go one time, together, into the empty places, onto burnt ground,
where my hands speak a language known only to them and wait for answers,
where your birthday candles are all afire, still, unfilled wishes wisps of smoke.

the air smells of a sparrow's fear and leftover lightning no jar can contain.


for napowrimo.  30 days of poetry.
this is my second.


the boat will fall apart, no ifs, ands, or buts

all the wisteria is gone with the rain.  last week my view from the couch was lavender, this week it's green and fog, with the pink of azaleas peeping around the corners.  9 a.m. and silence.


i dreamed in layers, awoke in my dream to find myself still dreaming, dreaming of death and the colors of mourning and flowers pressed into caskets, tight against the dearly beloved, bright moments of red and heartbreak, soft focus.  i wore pale gray silk the color of this morning's sky, almost white, and was late to the funeral.

i pull yesterday's page from my calendar, and today's quote is by shunryu suzuki:
"life is like getting into a boat that's just about to sail out to sea and sink."

my first reaction is stillness.  i stand and stare at the words.  
and then i begin to laugh.
of course.  of course.
why would we think otherwise?

this blog is my boat, these words are my oars, and there's a storm in the distance that will take them all apart.  i will be fine.  if i can't find a piece of a word to hold me up, and in truth that's asking a lot of some vowels and consonants - not their job, after all - i will float on my back, face against the rain.  it won't last forever.  the boat may sink, but that has nothing to do with me.  i am free.  gone with the rain.


the fog has lifted and birds are singing.  the wind is up and today's rain promises to come.  i write about zen in a non-zen way.  in the distance, a train siren.  on the couch, the cat watches the day through the open door, and on the table, stolen azaleas.  breakfast, an english muffin with butter.  i will be late to work.



another conversation

we don't speak the same language, people tell me.

i beg to differ.
i know exactly what she's saying.



everyday sunday april

this week's flower is a dogwood blossom, six petaled instead of four, and it hangs a step outside my neighbor's front door. not unheard of, but rare, and a gift.  a miracle, he says.  cool, i say back.  i take a million pictures and photoshop just a bit. miracles don't need my help.


we had sunshine for days and conversations with neighbors, sitting under the spring skies, and once again i was reminded of why i stay where i stay.  we are caretakers, all of us.  a lawn mower breaks and one of the neighbors mows our lawn. the 4 year old next door chirps like a bird and insists we school him on the flowers and blooming trees and chooses which wisteria dangle he cannot live without, which tiny pink clover blossom.  we give him the last daffodil.  the woman who once lived across the street is in a plane crash, she and her boyfriend, his daughter and her boyfriend, and the news comes to us as we sit outside, from yet another neighbor.  the pilot's parents live across the street and katie's husband hurries home to stay with them until, and after, the news comes that, though injured, all are well.  we are caretakers, all of us.

today is rain and a sunday without tourists on the streets.  yesterday they posed in front of the wisteria and took pictures and oohed and ahhhed, and if the rain stops, they will do so today.  i watch the water tumble downhill into the creek and say my gratefuls for the day.



a bit of a poem and a bit of conversation

she say and then i say back
and then she again and then a pause
and then she again
and she again
and i answer and question
and then we wait
and begin again at the same time
this conversation that never sleeps.
the opening sentence years old, celebrating birthdays
minutes long
hours long
into the night the dark the hardness of life
into the day the rain the sun the heat the blooming flowers.

the seasons swirl around us.

she stay silent and so do i
and i stay more and hide inside
and hide inside some more;
this conversation that ain't about words
but about me in the doorway in bare feet and pink pajamas
and her in heels
and the minutes we stop smile sigh smirk.

you can see it, can't you?
a true conversation meandering through nights and days
and phone calls and moonlight and walking toward jupiter
and texts full of tears and hugs full of same
it ain't never gonna stop
never ever.
i promise cross my heart and all that stuff.


today's mixture of napowrimo and me.


this week's tulip at the end of the week

she buys a bouquet every week.
last week the blossoms caught on fire but how that happened we will keep shushed.

on the calendar and outside the door, spring has arrived.  even if you wake too early, the birds will be a step ahead, already singing the day over the horizon; come early evening and the crickets announce the night.  i'd thought it would be winter forever.


photo: texture by kim klassen, mixed with a lot of me and photoshop.
inspired by the broken camera.


the stuff stories are made of

he's been saying sure for years when i ask to take my camera into his yard, sometimes just nodding his head when he sees me coming, so when another neighbor asked to take his portrait, he nodded to that, not expecting a big camera, not expecting art in the making.  he has no idea that i've written stories about him for years, made up of stuff i see in his eyes and his posture and the smoke from his cigarettes.  if you live in my neighborhood you are fair game.

i should probably warn whoever buys the house he is leaving behind.



the trying too hard of rule number two

everything is math and the price of tea in china and we count breaths steps heartbeats howlongwestandinline, years calories howmanyfacebookfriends thepriceofgas milespergallon and rainfallamounts, and we make grocerylists and listsofrulestomakeusfamouscreativecoolhipwild, at least some of us do, as if we needed to be told how to do that, and rule number two is be weird and rule number ten is see rainbows, neverminding that theremaynotberainbows because sometimes there aren't and neverminding that maybe we're notweird and that's okay for god's sake, conveniently forgetting we say all the time justbeyou.


it feels like the rain will never stop, though i know that to be untrue - even the ocean eventually crashes into unyielding shores.  it is lately this way, these first moments of spring, full of not knowing the days, full of blossoms falling out of rhythm.  i want to use the word cacophony, but it's not, not really; they fall silently, pushed by rain and wind and the songs of bewildered birds.  the hole in the tree that once housed screech owls is this year a nest for baby squirrels, a dry spot, warm against the night calls of bigger owls.  i walk wet sidewalks, sidestepping puddles and piles of leaves, and light candles against the gray days, and count hiddenstars and hoursofdarkness and daysuntilbaseballseason.  i remember the years when the trees bloomed in harmony with flowers and i remember the last time he said he loved me and how he said it without words, and also the time we begged the skies for rain and how it finally came, and how i sat on my mother's back porch with my uncle and we smiled at the sound of hard rain against the metal roof, and because it was summer, we also smiled at the taste of warm tomatoes fresh from the ground, and sprinkled them all over with salt.

the calendar counts those daysuntilsummer and shows me the full moons and new moons and holidays and last friday's equinox, but i am lost and on my own counting thedaysuntiltomatoes okra peaches fireworks warmlakes hotnights and the blooming of crepe myrtles, though yesterday i saw redbuds purple against the wetness and dogwoods beginning to sprout.  cacophony, i tell you.  maybe the right word after all.



spring, moon, eclipse, and pear tree blossoms

spring arrives to the sound of falling pear tree blossoms and rain.  skye cat tiptoes up the stairs, following me, wanting me back down to the wet earth.  i took a million pictures with my broken camera and the one lens i trust, drawn this morning back to these curves and katie's red lights.  

the bridge-that-really-isn't is covered with bokeh blossoms if you squint your eyes just right, and i do.

i can't see the solar eclipse, spring creeps in on invisible toes,
and tonight's supermoon is new and dark.
i have instead these blossoms and a cat's meows to show me the way forward, to bring me home.  



sometimes we need a fairy tale

i told her not to run with poetry in her hand but she never listens and, well, you can see the end, can't you?  the trip, the fall, the words going everywhere, up into the air and down, sliding under furniture and falling falling, their sharp edges slicing . . . but perhaps not.  perhaps they are curvy words and they roll under the couch and chairs, resting nestling against the warmest legs, the ones closest to the fire.  or perhaps they land on windowsills warmed at last by the late winter sun, sprawling like cats, purring their poetry back in her direction, slowing her down as she gathers them together again, their warmth falling back into her.

it's a lesson for me, and for her, to learn that spilling the words is sometimes the thing to do.  they know where they go.

the commas are the hardest to find, small enough to wrap around the small secrets every room holds.


my across the street neighbor is beginning her move to another town.  the once-upon-a-time mary's house will belong to someone new.  again.  we've saved six glass blocks that sat on the back porch back in mary's day, and i admit i hope the new owners will paint the house a new color.  a soft color, a backdrop for the spring flowers, and for the green the yard becomes by mid summer.  i watch my neighbor tossing and packing; she thinks she will empty the house of the years she spent there, but i know the truth.  she won't. she will leave behind an invisible glass slipper or two. fingerprints of joy and anger, the memory of cigarettes smoked on the darkened front porch late into hot summer nights, her thoughts whirling and tumbling until she could trust herself to sleep.  she doesn't smoke anymore, but he does, and he sits through the winter afternoons, sideways on that porch, an ashtray on the ledge.  i wonder what secrets he will leave.  i wonder who will rake the leaves when he is gone, or if they will use a leaf blower, not knowing the quiet he left behind.



monday morning after sunday night

the white tulip fell apart somewhere in the night; somewhere it was dancing with raindrops and faint moonlight, dancing until it lost its shoes, waking to look like a hungover pinwheel with a smile on its face.  from overhead it looks like a hastily tied bow or the softest of lamb's ears.  it feels like silk.


lately we are all about flowers and compassion.  we walked in the rain last night and tell me two good things about someone who drives you crazy, she said.  i was embarrassed to find only one, but one is a beginning; i will search for one more.  she'd brought me the flower the day before, another broken white tulip for my little table, and the neighbor on the corner said we could break off branches of his hawthorn tree, all abloom with pink, to happy up our homes.  good medicine in many ways.   the rain keeps the world gray, but the daffodils light it up, the white dots of paperwhites, the spots on the hackberry tree.  we walked in the light of almost night, alone on the streets, everyone else snug in their houses or smoking cigarettes on porches, turning up a street we seldom visit.  her raincoat was the color of raspberries; she wore a black hat and looked like a character from dickens, her face glowing in the last of the day. there was the calling of owls and the sound of water running in the creek.

time feels soft, easily broken.  we set our clocks forward and it began to rain.  this week looms large and long but will move faster than i right now think.  it is another path i didn't see from the road, one i must draw on my map; i will use a pink crayon when i mark this new spot and toss fallen petals on its movement.  i think i will stop and plant seeds as i walk.  next year when she and i walk, there will be surprises of blossoms.



march spring winter ice

yesterday's rain.
today's ice.
snow sprinkled across the top.
the tulip tree blooms are pink from far away,
the color of cold when you step close.

i know people like that.



writing the years away. 7 down, number 8 begins.

the friday sky through camellia bushes-almost-trees. 

despite the snow and cold and the icicles that hung from their branches, the trees are budding, though perhaps those buds and baby flowers are frozen in place.  perhaps i'm wrong about it all, but i daily pass pear trees that seem to be standing still, just waiting to usher in the spring, and i have hope they will.  there is snow still on the ground in places, and a cold wind still blows, and there is a threat of more last minute winter, but i refuse to pay attention.  instead i say my gratefuls - the tree that was cut down (last year? the year before?), whose leaving broke my heart, opened my view to the tulip tree, which seems grateful for the space and extra sunlight, and stands dotted with pink blossoms, a good morning moment at the beginning of a gray day.


sunday morning: my hurry up walk, rain due at noon, found me passing a boxwood hedge towering overhead, a thick hedge squared off on all its edges with a door connecting two sections, a wooden door closing off the magic yard beyond.  it is, nonetheless, a yard i can see a bit of, the top of the door about face high to me and no hedge overhead.  it is a door you can't see until you pass the edge of the boxwood, nestled back as it is.  i cannot overstate its magic and seclusion, but when i walk i usually pass by quickly and think later.  but this past sunday, when i rounded the edge of the hedge, i found myself eye to eye with a red tailed hawk, he sitting atop that door, then gone in half a second, so fast and so close i am surprised his feathers didn't brush my cheek as he leapt into the air.   . . . and exhale.

did the hawk mean anything more than the lizard i'd awakened to the previous sunday?  i think not - i take them both as gifts.  i wonder what this next sunday will bring and wish i had a box in which to keep these gifts, and then remember i do.  it's called emma tree, and i drop them in oh-so-carefully with words and a soft pat on the head.

i'd not thought of this place here on the internet as a keepsake spot, but of course it is.  it's what keeps me coming back.  when i think i'm done, i open the lid and look around, and know i'm not.


monday was my 7th blogiversary, and i forgot.  i have been filling this space for 7 years and now into 8, and it feels like a part of who i am - there have been times i wouldn't have thought or said that, but only this morning it occurs to me that it is a treasure box, full of secrets and losses and bare toes and flowers.  it calls for a celebration and a give away, i think, that sudden awakening, but i am running late and rambling, and will have to give it some thought.

but first a thank you.  to the people who have been visiting from the get-go, to the people who drop in now and again.  to the people who have stopped visiting - you've taught me more than you'll ever know.  to the people who believed in me and published my words.  to the people who've bought paintings and photographs and magazines just because i'm in them.  to the people who comment and the people who don't.  to the people who hold my hand through the hard times and laugh with me when a laugh is needed.  to the ever-wonderful michael, who has believed in me before i ever hit the publish button.  to my family and friends who have always been supportive - always.  y'all have been on these pages with me every day.

xoxo to you all.

let's see what this eighth year holds.



a glimpse of yesterday

we had snow, a few hours worth anyway, on top of monday morning's almost gone ice.  this was as close as i could convince myself to step to the edge of the bridge-that-really-isn't, water running cold beneath, the ice still slippery, the snow still wet, not yet piling into the few inches it would eventually be, the creek threatening to fall in right about there, and i was chicken.

i was early to work and had the whole morning to myself.  i kept the radios off.

everywhere i look i see horizon lines and i wonder what's beyond.  the world seems painted in stories to draw me closer, or farther, depending on where i'm standing and in what direction i head.  this week i desperately want to stand still, but i move anyway.  unwillingly, slowly, trudging.  snow and ice lately bring hard news, not my news to share, but hard news nonetheless, news that pushes me when i don't want to be pushed.  katie says that life is a school, and she is right, but this week i want to play hooky and sneak off somewhere to smoke cigarettes and drink beer.  



everything and more. spring always returns.

i was home early yesterday, angry at just stuff, needing to get away, home early enough to catch the 4 year old next door, his hands full of wildflowers and red camellias, home early enough to have a conversation with him.  to hear him explain to me the importance of daffodils, to watch him defy his mother and climb onto the rackety bridge-that-really-isn't, to tell him i had no idea where the water comes from or why the ladder was standing where it was. he finally gave in to his mother and turned to go home, but then turned back to me to tell me to replant my flowers when they died, and next year i would have more.  i couldn't believe how tall he'd grown.

when my niece was that age, she and my mother stopped by, and we all walked to the arts and crafts fair, up the road a ways, through fallen dogwood blossoms and scattered springtime everythings, my niece picking up everything, enchanted by it all.  this year she leaves for college, time gone that quickly.

this morning that was supposed to be rainy is only gray, the rain maybe not here until tomorrow.  a friend messaged to say say a prayer for me, she on her way to the hospital to check on the illness she has been battling. the tears i'd been holding back, the ones because my niece is all grown up, finally fell. my prayer contained a lot of pleases and i don't knows, but please.  today i am the rain.


the yesterday 4 year old's mother wants a camellia tree or bush, and i'd said a pale pink one, and yes!, she'd replied. just minutes ago i watched her sneak across the street to the tulip tree and steal a bulb or two or three, scurrying back home through the chill.  she'd promised me stealing rights to the camellia tree in her future, and i like to think i gave her ideas.



seasons change, and so do i

it's winterspring and behind these valentine tulips, outside across the street, baby pink buds hang almost awake on a tulip tree.  forsythia has opened yellow bright and paperwhites nod lazy hellos at me as i pass them by, boots on the ground.  i keep moving through the parade of early spring, past pink camellias and daffodils.  they say, as they do every year at this time, to expect a wintry mix of sleet and snow next week, but they said that last week also - i have learned that what comes, comes.


i opened my eyes to a lizard sunday morning.  he was a pale spring green against the wood of the chair i keep next to my bed, and he didn't struggle when i picked him up and dropped him into the monkey grass in the back yard. the cat, sleeping soundly in the way that only cats can sleep, never knew.  never batted an eye or twitched a tail. saturday was a morning walk through awakening birds, the day warming step by step, and it was an afternoon spent in the sunshine, feet bare, a moment of early spring.  blue sky.  we needed sweaters before darkness fell, but only then.  sunday began warmer, the sky gray, and cooled as it moved through the hours toward evening.  by monday night it was cold, and i walked through the wind and the night, my gloves not warm enough.

my calendar last week told me nothing important comes with instructions.  i tore off that quote and taped it to the wall, lest i forget.  i am lately teaching myself the art of just-doing-it-ness, which turns out to mostly be just start. baby steps.  one foot in front of the other and all that jazz.  there's no real instruction book for it, and it's how i found myself in cold wind and darkness 2 miles down the road - one foot through the door and go.  it seems to be the way to do it.  just move and you will take yourself with you.

it's that first uncomfortable moment that stops me.  stops us?  this summer it will be the heat, it will be the humidity, it will be fears founded and not.  but right now?  today?  i understand that most of my couldn'ts are really wouldn'ts.  i am tougher with myself, and kinder.  i allow myself stillness within all the movement.

where i live, there is a slight hill across the street from a church, and my only goal is to make it up that hill when i near the end of my walk.  a small thing.  a small hill, as most hills are.  a small goal.  the hill is strewn with the fruit from a sweetgum tree - dangerous little devils - and i have to pay attention.



i know she holds my hand

here's a thing i do.
when i walk at night.

i walk and i don't think and then somewhere there on the sidewalk i begin to count, i don't know where, it just shows up out of silence and i find myself at 39, 40, 41, and then the counting falls into prayer, and sometimes in my prayers i ask to hold my mother's hand, me and god and her, a circle of clasped hands, and i don't know if it happens or not, but i tell myself it does and i bounce my gratitudes and sorrows and wants off them both, tell them things i figure they already know.

and i walk.
and i count.

one inhale, two exhale, step step inhale. exhale, and i watch the christmas lights going going almost gone in perfect rhythm to the lengthening of days, one light traded for the other, and i know, i know,
that when i at last step out into late daylight the christmas lights will all be dark.

when i walk at night.



the way the week moved

fog: thursday.


last sunday.  the beginning of february.  the warm weather woke me at 5.  warmhumidwarm.  enough to make me suppose the heater had overheated, but a window opened to let in cool air showed me the truth - i was surrounded. the morning was in the 60s early, though with promises to grow cooler.  it rained - gray sky gray - and felt like tornado weather.  not a nearby breeze anywhere.

until i stepped all the way outside.

and then the air began to move.  the cat followed me from our yard to the neighbor's and around the corner.  there were crows in the magnolia tree, loud, and camellias bloomed and blooming and already dropping, red circles against the dreary morning.  by ten, sunlight shuffled in, not much, but suddenly there were shadows next to the trees, pale, then less so, then pale again, then gone.

movement.  this year's word.  i have the blisters to prove it.


monday night.  february continued:  2 miles under the full moon, a stroll through the neighborhood, an easy talk and walk with a friend.  accompanied by dog.  tuesday night: the comet lovejoy visible through the thinnest of clouds. patience required.  i'd walked earlier, watching shadows on the ground, treading carefully around and over sidewalks pushed helterskelter by tree roots who refuse to be stopped.  wednesday: a morning walk to wake me.  it was a day full of tired and sweat.  a bit-more-than-a-drizzle of rain in the evening, hauling groceries into the house, tracking mud and leaves behind me.  katie met me downstairs and waited with me until i caught my breath, talked me into calmness when the computer misbehaved, and then we walked.  in the slight rain, in a different direction, headed north under the streetlights.  we decided that anyone who leaves their christmas lights up should have the courtesy to turn them on. the stairs at our house are lit with red, winding to the third floor. when i turn the corner to home, i always smile.  thursday night.  february fog:  i sat still, with a book and leftover mexican food.   friday. new fairy lights at work, using my thumbs as hammers.  another exhausting day, my brother to the hospital, my arms aching.  i was grateful for the night, the clear sky.  michael was out of town, away from civilization, and messaged me for comet information, where to look, and when, and all my words were useless.  you need a star map, i messaged back, and then stepped outside to walk under the sky.

today.  sunday again:   skye cat is killing lizards and offering them as gifts.  there are buds on the tulip trees.  i walked a morning walk to work to feed lily cat, my mind empty on the way, full of thoughts on the way back.  i passed a man singing aloud, whirling to his music, and truther bumper stickers plastered to utility poles.  i questioned the color of houses, stepped over hearts and true love drawn in the sidewalk, exhaled with each breath words i could be writing. lately the feel of a camera around my neck, all the time, just in case, feels like a burden. it will pass.



how the morning moves

it starts slowly,
with achy knees and a yowling cat, and, if lucky, with sunshine.
it needs a hug, dragging last night's dreams into the daylight.
it moves at the sunday speed of life.

this tree.  last weekend in the rain, this weekend in the sun, hips curving a welcome to the tulip tree bursting with early buds.  a texas january, each weekend new.  from freezing to warm and then back again.  swaying this way and that.

this day starts with unseen crows, a sound against the sky.  i open the door and there is a singing bird i can't name, its song drifting past me, its last notes dropping into the house.  feng shui, east texas style.


what do you really want?, she'd asked me.  i had to think.  a house in the woods, i eventually said, or no, a house in the country, near the woods.  she didn't laugh, but when we finished talking, i walked through the early evening, the last of the christmas lights almost gone, and i thought maybe not.  my favorite lights were still up, white lights teeter tottering along the sidewalks and the path to a front porch.  where in the country near the woods would i find such lights?  would it matter?  it would, i think, but maybe not.  would wild flowers be a replacement, could i wait for spring?

i passed the lights, a drizzle of rain dotting the sidewalk, streetlights casting shadows of trees before me, moving with me, with each step, and i fell into not thinking.


last night i dreamed of death and a bridal cake, plain with white frosting.  the crows that woke me flew into my dream and out, black wings against my face.  i remember nothing else but the sunshine against the window when i opened my eyes.


photo textures by kim klassen.  i used a ton.  


he told stories

i was reminded of my grandmother, of the story told to me, of the time they came to repossess her cow, and she met them at the gate with a shotgun and said no.  said she would catch up on the bill, but there were children to be fed, so no.  and they walked away, because the secret about the time of no rules is that there were rules, but there was also compassion and common sense.  (it was like the law of maycomb, alabama, in the book to kill a mockingbird, looking the other way when bob ewell hunted out of season, because they knew he drank away what money he got, because they knew his kids would starve if they enforced the laws.)  now, i'm not comparing my grandmother to bob ewell, not in any way whatsoever, but the family had fallen on hard times; my grandfather was working, and she was growing food and tending the chickens and livestock, but there were 16 kids, more or less, and no way was she letting that cow go without a fight, and eventually, just as she said, she paid it off and it was hers.


he also told a story about a deer with a bell around its neck,
but i will save that for another time.
it's a good one.



the lost light of stars

the lights in my neighbor's window hang like planets across the sky.  one has gone out, flickered into nothingness, star instead of planet, its light shattered into pieces and darkness, scattered everywhere and nowhere.  i like to think it is hidden across her house, between the floorboards, fingerprinted on the doorknobs and windowpanes, that it will show up when she needs it most. tiny night lights in the darkest of times, guides marking her map, starlight waiting to be wished upon.

new year's day, rainy, late afternoon.  a fat mockingbird perched in the empty winter dogwood; on the other side of the house, a neighbor's cat sat silent on the sill of an open window. the cat who lives here crouched low in the hallway, watching, about to pounce.  they don't have calendars; life just goes on. 

after the pounce, a nap by the fire.


today the rain is at last gone.  sunday.  the colors are soft, faded from the days of wet and wind. fat bunches of paperwhites have appeared, stalks only, blooms a promise yet to come, and there is still one last leaf atop a small wild tree growing from the side of the creek.  the wind is hard today, and colder, and the leaf only now shows brown around its edges, brown fading into yellow and then into the green it once was/still is.  i think every morning that today will be its last, but it has a strong heart, and stays.  today, though, surely. surely it cannot fight the wind another day.  were i a philosopher, i would find a lesson in that leaf not letting go, but i'm not, so i just sit on the couch and watch.  meditation with leaf in the wind. 



and just like that, gone. and just like that, here.

i blew out the old year and made a wish or two for the new.

do i want to talk about the old year?  no and yes.  do i feel i must?  i mustn't do anything but pay my bills and taxes. will i?  yes.  maybe.  i think so.  just a bit.  hmmmm . . .