Friday, August 23, 2013

The empty nest or Please let me wallow or I will throw cat poop in your face

Dear Couples who plan to and want to have children,

I need to offer you a warning. Just because you make these little people doesn’t mean they are yours. I know people who have kids and start building dreams for those children as soon as they wean them, if they were able to nurse. I only had dreams of being with my daughter. She is an incredible companion.

Here’s what I learned on Thursday when her daddy and I moved her into her dorm room at the lovely Cleveland Institute of Art:

Your daughter/son never belonged to you. The Universe tricked you into making an amazing person you loved and liked who told you the funniest stories ever, who trusted you to make her feel better when she was hurt, sick, freaked out, stressed, who told you more than you wanted to know about her friends, who excelled in school not because you nagged but because she wanted to excel, who was a good, good companion and kept you from being lonely, who was and is and always will be your heart and center, who stood up for the bullied and laughed at the bullies who were afraid of her because she was just too … different.

And then, because you really did create an incredible creature who wants to participate in the world, to make the world kinder, prettier, funnier, better, your little creature grows up and finds her/his own style, what she wants to do, girlfriends/boyfriends (or both), writes essays that are too good for colleges to ignore, makes artwork that’s too good to ignore, and she finds a place to be where she can learn what she wants to learn without you. Without you finding her narwhal T-shirt or lending her $20 for BW3s. Without you sleeping with your cell phone on nights she’s out or away from you just in case she needs you. Without you washing her towels or digging through stacks of clean clothes to find that perfect pencil skirt. Without. You.

So, see, here’s the thing. I always wanted to have at least one child. I just did. My mother had four, my father two (blended family after a first husband’s death). I liked being a kid. I liked when my siblings were kids. I liked the kids I met in my life.

What I didn’t notice was that at some point, all these parents, mine included, had to release their children. I forgot I couldn’t keep my girl. Not allowed. She’s too wild and amazing and talented for me to keep. I have to let her go because she doesn’t belong to me. She never did. I was just lucky enough to have her need me for a lot of years and need me less for a few more years and even like me for a couple after that.

And now? Well, I tried to put in place guards against being too sad: an MFA, a job, a manuscript to revise, ideas about “writing lofts” a friend wants to start together in my town. But this weekend after the day after my daughter’s father and I took her to school, I’m just sad that I can’t instantly access those stories of hers. She doesn’t want/need me to find her lost T-shirts or rouse her in the morning or make sure she has enough hair gel or to tell me the hilarious thing one of her best friends did on a late-night, illicit excursion.

We are different now, my girl and I. And I understand that I’m supposed to feel joy, and I DO feel joy, but I also need to be sad. Because I already miss her. I’ve been missing her for a while. This physical distance just cements the reality for me. You know?

I know I should be proud of the “job” her father and I did (despite our challenges as a couple, living separately, we were able to raise her together with love and kindness so take THAT culture of hate and acrimonious divorce! We simply chose not to. And because of that, he will be my forever friend). And I am. I’m proud of everything she did on her own but because she had us.

Just let me wallow. I didn’t make her to give her away, you know? I didn’t understand what I was doing.

World, you’re lucky to have her. She’s the best, the absolute best. You’d better treat her well, or I’ll hunt you down and beat the shit out of you (says the pacifist).

So, to those couples who want children, I just want to say, just because you make/adopt/borrow them doesn’t mean they are yours. Just because you like them enough to give them everything they need to succeed doesn’t mean they should or can or will always be under your jurisdiction. You made/make them, but then, dammit, you have to let them go. Because they want to go. You’ll make them into people who want to go out to be part of the world. I’m really sorry.

OK. Done now.

a happy/sad/bereft/proud/lonely/busy/ mama

Saturday, July 27, 2013


I'm hoping to leave town tomorrow (oh God. It's today) by 10 or 11 a.m. I'm heading to Ashland, Ohio, to Ashland University for my last MFA residency. This is the one where I defend my thesis, that manuscript of poems that talk to each other.

And they do, my poems, talk to each other. They talk to each other more than they talk to me these days.

I defend my thesis the afternoon of Thursday, Aug. 1, second poet. My dear friend, Sarah Freligh, defends Wednesday. She's going to set the bar high.

I know my work. I know how it came to be. I have learned so much more about poetry than I thought I could, even to know that I know nothing.

But when I stand up there in front of my committee and anyone else who chooses to witness my defense (chose an open defense despite my shy, introverted, recluse tendencies. I need my friends), how will I manage to articulate my experience? I've been writing and writing and writing toward this defense. I tend to draft things in the shower but never manage to get to paper and pen or computer soon enough to capture it. I'm a terrible public speaker.

I stutter and stumble and can't seem to get the words out around my awkwardness.

I'm going to have to perform. I'm going to have to play Elizabeth as a character or Elizabeth performing a poem. I CAN perform. I'm not wonderful, but I turn heads now and then. I surprise people because at ground level, I am mousy. Get me into a role or a poem or a persona, and I'm huge and loud.

So. That's what I'll do.

Now I just need to find time to shop for bread, cheese and produce and to finish those damned critiques that I know my classmates don't really need because they are awesome.

My lucky charm is a rap CD my daughter and two of her closest friends (well, one is her girlfriend) made for me. It's hilarious and raunchy and everything that anyone on the Ashland faculty might think is non-poetry. But these three girls invading my house at 11 p.m. or so, handing me this wonderful/terrible mix/loving me whether I'm their mama or their dear friend's mama, that's poetry. That's love. That's life. And even if I end up barfing into a bucket when I try to defend my terrible manuscript, I don't care. Because I have this CD and these beautiful girls.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

stormy weather

One of my favorite books when I was a child, a book I still read now and then, was Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. It begins with Bulwer-Lytton's famous bad line, "It was a dark and stormy night." But L'Engle's book isn't bad, and that line suits the novel's tone and the main character's mood and temperament. I've always loved it. I kind of want to start or end a poem with that line, or maybe repeat that line throughout a poem having nothing to do with a dark and stormy night, experiment, see where I go, see what narratives arise.

Today, we are experiencing (more) storms. It's a dark and stormy evening. Every summer, we get storms like these, some summers the storms are fierce and damaging (like last summer). I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll sneak out of July without major flooding or long-term power outages, but, manohman, the storms keep calling up their storm friends and shouting, in their drunken storm voices, "HEY! COME ON OVER! THERE'S A LOCAL BREWERY ON MUSKINGUM AVENUE. LET'S GET SHIT FACED AND RAISE SOME HELL FOR A FEW WEEKS!"

And, yes, storms talk in all caps, in case you were wondering.

I don't really mind as long as the power doesn't go out and I'm not stuck out someplace wearing flip flops that make me skate instead of walk (my father used to call flip flops "slides," which makes/made total sense to me since I always slip when I wear them in the rain. He also used to call them "chower choos," a not very funny joke he somehow made charming).

My daughter, her friends and I cut short the pre-college shopping we were doing because the sky turned octopus ink black, and the wind picked up. We're all safe indoors (though not in the same places).

It's a good evening to read more poetry, to work on my thesis defense, maybe to work on some new poems that are scuttling around in my brain. I found a last line in an Alicia Ostriker poem that I want to use as a first line in one of mine.

I guess I'm experiencing a perfectly poetic storm.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013



Oh, Beck, how I love you.

shot gun stain don't believe everything, maggot mace yo cut it

soy un perdedor....

weasel string pigeon write relate wax splinter kill

bring it, feel it, baby, believe, baby

sprechen Sie Deutsch?

you know what I'm sayin'?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

night sun day moon

I had a morning.
Then I had an afternoon.
My evening is here in the middle of me
waiting for me to have it, too.
My daughter is off
to another graduation party.
I was invited but can't make my-
self attend. People will be there.

My house is not on stilts.

Many questions rise in dust motes.
The answers lie in shredded cheddar cheese.

I am a master of nothing.

Once, I sang a solo for an audition.
"Moon River."
Plaintive and weak.

It's time to plant the vacuum
in the third drawer down
where I keep my stash
of letters from old friends.

Vertile soil.

bye now.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

experimental typing the morning after a bad night's sleep

Can I tell you a secret? If I ask you if I can tell you a secret, will you find time to listen to my secret? If my secret bores you, will you pretend it matters? If I cry while I tell you my secret, will you hand me a tissue? If I decide after I ask you if I can tell you my secret that I’d rather not tell you because my neighbor is playing bad ‘80s music again, will you hold it against me for withholding, or will you be relieved because my secrets are so dull? Do you love me for my secrets? Do you love that I have no secrets? My secret is multi-layered. The top layer involves weight, my billowing, burgeoning body. And we'll stop at this top layer, this layer where my body becomes a houseboat. 

My body is a houseboat.

My body is a heavy burgundy drape.

My body left its ball cap in the mall.

My body is a sub-zero, stainless steel freezer.

My body is duck down.

My body is Stevie Nicks’ voice.

My body is a ladle.

My body requires sifting.

My body isn’t a kettle.

My body is the Impressionist room of an art gallery.

My body is a jar of Mediterranean basil.

My body has bird shit on its back window.

My body isn’t a fallen bird’s nest.

My body’s ring tone is the sound of a key in a deadbolt.

My body is not a mechanical pencil.

The wood of my body splinters.

The plastic of my body melts to the car cushions because this body's heat smells of aging funnel cakes.

This body is not my body. This body is a paint-chipped garage.

This body is not a push reel mower

though it could be

it should be

it will be.

Monday, June 3, 2013

transitional phase

My daughter graduated from high school Saturday evening. Because she is a 4.0 scholar, she was up on the special podium with all the speakers, class officers, valedictorian, salutatorian, principal, superintendent, etc. People keep saying, "You did a great job raising her!" I keep saying to these people, "She did this all herself. She chose to work this hard. We just fed and watered her and kept her clean."

OK. I haven't really thought to say that until just now as I write this post (directly into the window as usual).

I'm struggling today. I truly woke up Saturday a different woman. My role is shifting, and though I know my Girl still needs me, will return home often, actually enjoys my company, my day-to-day, hands-on, "Mom do you know where my blue shirt with the narwhal on it is?" days are nearly over.

I can hardly stand it, so I'm trying to think about other things including a performance I'm giving Saturday at the Columbus Arts Festival. First of the poets on the Word is Art stage (that I'm first indicates I came in last of all those accepted after auditions, though I'm not sure about that. That I'm on the stage at all is a great privilege. The other spoken word poets are incredible. I'm in awe and feel honored to be there). I need to select and time the poems I'll read. I'm also trying to go through the mounds of clean but never folded or hung up laundry in my bedroom, some mine, some my Girl's. I'm throwing away ratty clothes not worth donating, making piles of clothes that I'll never wear again to donate (because I've, er, grown). I'm trying to remember to apply for jobs, pay bills, move my body, read.

I hear my daughter sneeze. She stayed the night with a friend whose family has several dogs, and she's allergic. She's also raising dust in her room, decided it's time, finally, to clear out broken old toys and junk she no longer needs. This is something we should have begun doing months ago, but this last year of her high school was my last year of grad school, so, well, the house suffered.

This past weekend was filled with graduation party preparations, the graduation itself, more parties to attend. I'm not a very social person, so this all wore me out. Yesterday evening, I went to an outdoor band concert (you know, marching music, local musicians). The area high school honors band played, so the crowd was large and full of proud parents. My daughter was not in honors band (her choice), but I love some of the kids who played, felt the need to leave my house, and wasn't disappointed since the kids played beautifully.

I managed to sneak away at the end without talking to too many people.

Really, I think all the socializing is what wore me out.

This is an interesting time of year for me, always desperately busy because of end of school things. Added to that is the fact that my father's absence looms large. He would have turned 82 last Thursday, and tomorrow is the 14th anniversary of his death. Just before he died, my husband, daughter and I accompanied him on a cruise to the Mediterranean (he nearly didn't make it home). Our final docking point before we flew home was Istanbul. I'm heart sick about what's happening there. Istanbul was lovely to us, to my father. I want all the bad stuff to stop.

The thesis I will defend Aug. 1 is full of poems about my father's dying, death and my missing him (and my mother). There are other themes, too, but the father/motherloss theme is what I think of as the spine of the manuscript. That I've been spending so much time returning to 14 and 15 years ago makes these dates more prominent, I think.

In other words, the transition from full-time mother to mother of college kid along with the memory of my father's dying makes me


a part of one of my thesis poems:

I dream my father dies again

but this time
when he dies,
he's not alone; I'm in Texas

with him
next to his hospice bed, my hand
light on his chest,

a sparrow,
rising as he inhales, sinking
as he exhales, my fingers fluttering.

The air 
smells of fresh-mowed grass,
cigar smoke and feathers.

and it goes on and on or maybe not so on and on since the lines are short. It doesn't matter. This post doesn't matter. It's something I needed to write and put out into the world to help me shake off the sad that seems to be preventing me from being as productive as I need to be to survive into and through the fall.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, May 17, 2013


A fresh sleeve of saltines
The last cup of coffee from the pot
A stack of poetry books on the living room floor that need shelving
Laundry unfolded
The word "fold" appeared about 1,187 times in my thesis manuscript
OK, that's an exaggeration
But it turned up a lot
and not in a good way,
sort of in an "I've run out of words that are kind of like 'fold' so I'm just going to keep folding myself over railings into plastic bubbles around trees, into drawers....."
I submitted my thesis and supporting materials to the Ashland MFA administrator last night
It's out of my hands now
I hope my committee chair and the third reader don't hate it
Neither has read any of the work I've done in the past almost two years
What have I done with my periods?
The punctuation mark, not the cycle
The cycle vanished three years ago or so


I have promised a friend that I will visit today or tomorrow
I want to help her with moving things
It's approaching noon
and I am still in my pajamas
Submitting the thesis and supporting materials
seems to have exhausted me
I don't know if I can get there today
I have to fold (!!)
and launder
and pick up the house
and buy cat food
and pay that bill
and exercise (I have to exercise)

This post has no purpose
and no conclusion

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

window writing

Girl at a friend's
I made a grocery run
tomorrow, I bake meatballs
Thursday I make sauce
tomorrow, I finish thesis introduction
whether I'm ready
or not
tomorrow evening, we attend
an awards ceremony
for seniors

(I am too fat for nice clothes
and too cheap to buy anything bigger)

Girl is receiving an art scholarship
also, 4.0 Club
something else
who knows?

This evening
my Girl and two friends
stood on my patio
talking before going off
to shop for a shirt

My yard guys were mowing
and edging and trimming
it sounded and smelled like

The kids told me
about the bad behavior
of a dear friend's father

I cringed

I have not
been an easy companion
for the past two weeks
stressed over introductions
and money
and pulling out of parties
and joining others

but I listen
to these not-quite-adults
talk about their families
and I understand
that my Girl
is one of the lucky ones
despite my clutter and messes
and tendency not to cook
when I'm studying

I love her friends
I want to adopt
all of them
but there's no way
I could afford
to put them through college


Sunday, May 12, 2013

on Mother's Day ...

... I woke up at 5 a.m. drenched in sweat following a dream about a car crash. No one died, but my daughter, her dad and I were injured, daughter the worst. Blood in her mouth.

I couldn't go back to sleep. Worry about graduation party fiascos, money, my thesis introduction that won't write itself and that I can't seem to write, though I must by Friday.

My daughter and her dad are taking me to dinner, and her papa baked me a Devil's food cake just because, you know, I like chocolate cake. No frosting. We never do frosting.

I'm not always sad on Mother's Day, but this year, and I think last, I've been blue and contrary and grumpy. In December of this year, just before Christmas, I'll make note of the 20th anniversary of my mother's death. Can she really have been gone that long?


I am glad that I had her for 35 years. She saw me through some difficult times when I was young. She triggered some difficult times when I was less young, but we got through them. I loved her. Memories of her still make me laugh, cringe, cry. She was funny and eccentric, smart but denied it, loved my father more than she loved breath.

I miss her, and that's a simple enough reason not to like the incessant barrage of Mother's Day messages that are everywhere, everywhere.

While I do love, love, love being my own child's mother, love being extra-mom to several other teens, I don't need a special day to celebrate this role. I'm one of those disgusting mothers who has loved every second of my daughter's childhood. I should be taking HER out to dinner, not the other way 'round.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

the one where I think about endings as I type directly into the window

is my daughter's last high school

For four years,
she's played percussion
in marching band,
percussion and piano
in wind ensemble,
this year and her first year
piano in jazz band.

For four years,
band has owned us,
not just her,

and after school rehearsals.
Wednesday evening rehearsals
on the field
away games and contests.

I've chaperoned
the kids to every contest,
most away games.

I've pinned up hair,
bandaged cuts,
hemmed pants,
taped up flags with electrical tape,
safety pinned jackets,
sold white gloves,
hauled percussion equipment,
baked cookies, served cookies,
fed judges,
handed out tissues,
hugged, comforted, shushed,
accompanied girls to the restroom

My tiny girl has played
marimba and bells, cymbals,
a ratchett, bass drum
tenor quads,

She's marched and marched,
stood in icy rain
in uniforms that could never
keep her warm enough.

The band has been
her family, dysfunctional
at times, but family.

Tonight, I will cry,
probably harder than I'll cry
at graduation June 1.

I'll cry because it's not just my girl
who is leaving me, it's all
the seniors,
and I know she/they
leaving me,
they are growing away,
evolving, maturing,

Endings are always beginnings.
Is that right?

Sure, sure.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

the one where I breathe

My daughter
went with her father
to the eyeglass shop
clinging to my old
the ones I wore
when she was seven months
old, huge, sturdy.

She wants to put
her prescription
in them, will call
them her "art
glasses," wants
them because
they are mine.
Her father
never liked these glasses

on my once narrow
now fat and saggy
but he approved
the purchase
for our girl,
and now
when I see her
in my old glasses,

I'll wonder where her mother
has gone.

Friday, May 3, 2013

It's complicated

My daughter is off for the night, staying over at a friend's with a bunch of other friends. She left her wallet here, hidden under something on the sofa, so she stopped by a little while ago to grab it, left her friend in the car ("She wanted to declare her undying love for you, but I wouldn't let her in."), hugged me and - poof - gone again.

Lately, it feels like we're closer than ever, but I don't see how that's possible. Maybe our relationship is shifting, and what feels like more closeness is more like ... recognition or something. I see the adult in her; she sees the interesting person who is more than mom in me.

I'm starting to have little meltdowns when I think about her leaving us for college, but I'm also so happy for her, so excited to watch her grow out there on her own, though most of what she's accomplished, she's accomplished because of who she is, not because of who raised her. (I was never a helicopter mom, though I was involved.)

I will be bereft when she leaves.

She is my heart, my center, my purpose.

It's good no one reads here because this kind of post is likely to get the kinds of comments that mostly make me feel ridiculous. "Look on the positive! She's a beautiful, talented person! You did a great job raising her. Now you're free to become anything you want to become."

"Read books. Go to school."

ahahahaha (graduating in August)

"Find work you love."

Of course, of course, of course.

But this life I've been leading for more than 18 years is the best life. Really. It's been a magical journey and she's the magic.  ("Her magic will stay with you even when she's at school. And she'll come home to visit and you'll be even closer! It will be AWESOME!")

(Bite me.)


Change of subject.

I was thinking about my Lily novel today, the one I started a decade ago about the woman who discovers that...well, no, no spoilers. Lily is not Elizabeth. She's sassier (that's a word we've been tossing around a lot lately). She's braver. She doesn't know the meaning of passive-aggressive. I want to go back and start working on her story again, but when I dive back in, I'm going to make her more of a bad ass,  more willing to confront, less freaked, at first she needs to be freaked out.

Oh dear. I'm doing that boring thing where I write about process in public.

Well, whatever. This is what I wanted to write today, right now, in the moment before I leave the house to run some errands.

Bye now.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

a moment

I used to have a Wordpress blog called "Ordinary Moments." I still have it, but it's private now. Sometimes I miss it. I wrote there so easily, like I was sitting with a friend in my messy house sipping coffee, just talking. Here, I sometimes feel like I have to cover myself in a blanket in summer to hide my terrible flaws or amazing gifts.

I hope I get over this soon. Being skittish is exhausting even if I have my reasons.

A few minutes ago, I had an extraordinary ordinary moment. My daughter was using a newish website called vine (not linking) to create a video loop of herself playing a certain piano piece she's been working on for weeks. She plays it beautifully when she's live and not recording, but recording herself makes her nervous and she kept screwing up. At one point, a hilarious pseudo-expletive exploded from her mouth as her fingers screwed up, and the voice was like some kind of cartoon demon or something.

It was hilarious.

She sent that version of the video to her lovely friend who was on her way here with another lovely friend, a friend I love already for how much my kid likes him but hadn't yet met.

When the two friends knocked on the door of my cesspool of a house, I was laughing when I let them in because the girl was still playing this gorgeous piece and snarling in her demon voice. So her friend who hadn't yet met me got Mama Christy laughing so hard she(I) was bent double.

They are beautiful people, and even 10 minutes in their presence makes me feel as if I've learned something new, grown wings, gotten smarter.

I love moments like this and will miss them so much when my Girl is off at college. I know we'll have similar moments in the future, different ages, but still that wonderful energy that my child's friends always bring into my house whatever their ages.

But this age, older teens. God. I love them so much. I must figure out a way to work with them on my own terms. I will. I just hope I can make enough to pay my mortgage with whatever I end up doing.

And, hey, maybe I'll take in an exchange student or something. Of course with my luck, she'd decide for a year to join the marching band and I'd be a Band Booster mama all over again.

There. Done for now. I have a kitty to visit, and we are nearly out of red grapes.

random things and silence

- Just as I turned from Bell onto Taylor, I saw that two-headed street lamp in front of the old beauty shop, one bulb missing. The bald, white bulb looked like a man's bald, white head, the lamp stem like a skinny body. I thought I was watching some poor, old guy trying to cross the busy street.

- I sat on the floor in my friend's condo so his kitty had easier access to me. The kitty is too polite or skittish to join me on the sofa. He misses his human.

- I'm reading and rereading Galway Kinnell's "Farewell" from When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone. Earlier, I listened to the Haydn piece he wrote the poem after, "Symphony in F-sharp Minor, "Farewell."

"Now all the players have gone but two violinists,/who sit half facing each other, friends who have figured out what/they have figured out by sounding it upon the other,/and scathe the final phases."

He dedicated the poem to his friend, Paul Zweig. I want to write this poem. I want to dedicate it to Karen or Kevin. Or maybe Bill or Cat or Laura or Siva or Carol. The first two are gone from me. The others? I have time to write different poems to them.

I have time.

- My street is quiet. Normally, cars, cars, cars, roaring. And at this time of year, power tools. All I hear is the hum of electricity, my fingers on the keyboard.

- The top of my left hand itches. I am allergic to something in my friend's house, and it's taken root in my skin and lungs.

- Today, I'm changing myself back into what I never was.

- To do: pay that bill and that one, work on book list, fold clothes, vacuum (I won't), listen to daughter when she speaks.

- Confession: I am timid. And cowardly. And bitchy.

- Confession: I am brave. And kind. And open.

- Sudden surging of mother missing. Ah. Yes. Mother's Day approaches.

- Yesterday evening when I returned at twilight to my house from watching kitty and other errands, I saw a burgundy  sedan parked where my daughter parks her blue Avalon when she is home. Engine was running. Two young women sat inside. The driver glared at me as I turned toward my garage. I wanted to go up to them and ask them if they were waiting for someone, but their anger shook the car, so I went into my house, locked my deadbolt and scooped up my own kitty, who has been lonely for me.

- There is nothing to see here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Time to stop muzzling myself

Or it will be when I'm finished with some projects and remember how to blog publicly on my own terms. In the meantime, I am so proud of my daughter. She's a great role model for me. I'm going to miss her when she heads for college in the fall. But her absence will force me to find my next purpose. I know I have one. Whatever that purpose is, I'm not going to keep it hidden. Not any more.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

on the last day of this terrible week...

... I continue to revise. I'm going to have to turn ruthless now, start removing from my thesis poems that need months of work. I need to let them sit and simmer or molt or evaporate or decompose.

(The thesis is not the book.)

I'm going to give myself a break from revision but not from poetry. I've been reading other people's poems in the past half hour or so. Lucia Perillo is a favorite. I'm excited about allowing myself to imitate her after I graduate. My program faculty and directors are fond of compression, and Perillo seems to let herself expand as each poem opens up from one stanza to the next. Or maybe I'm just full of shit and have no idea what I'm reading when I read her.

Does it matter? Nah. I feel something when I read her work.

Love this poem, for instance:

Found Object

By Lucia Perillo
Somebody left this white T-shirt
like a hangman’s hood on the new parking meter—
the magic marks upon its back say: I QUIT METH 4-EVER.
A declaration to the sky, whose angels all wear seagull wings
swooping over this street with its torn scratch tickets
and Big Gulp cups dropped by the curb.

Extra large, it has been customized
with a pocketknife or a canine tooth
to rough the armholes where my boobs wobble out
as I roam these rooms lit by twilight’s bulb,
feeling half like Bette Davis in a wheelchair
and half like that Hell’s Angels kingpin with the tracheotomy.

Dear reader, do you know that guy?
I didn’t think so. If only we could all watch the same TV.
But no doubt you have seen the gulls flying,
and also the sinister bulked-up crows
carrying white clouds of hotdog buns in their beaks:
you can promise them you’ll straighten up, but they are such big cynics.

I should have told you My lotto #’s 2-11-19-23-36
is what’s written in front, beside the silk screen
for Listerine Cool Mint PocketPaks™—
which means you can’t hijack my name;
no, you have to go find your own, like a Hopi brave.
You might have to sit in a sweat lodge until you pass out

or eat a weird vine and it will not be pleasant. Your pulse
goes staccato like a Teletype machine— then blam
you’ll be transformed into your post-larval being.
Maybe swallowtail, maybe moth: trust me, I know
because once I was a baby blue convertible
but now I’m this black hot rod painted with flames.

Love her. I was especially tickled when I read, "baby blue convertible" because I'm rather close to someone who owns a baby blue convertible.

OK. Bye now.

Friday, April 19, 2013

word list

astral projection

11:49 p.m. on a Thursday in mid-April

An old friend turned 55 today. I'm right behind her in age. I turn 55 in August, a week after I defend my thesis.

My thesis
a manuscript
of poems
book length
but the thesis
is not (yet)
the book

It has a theme, this thesis. Or several connecting themes. Classmates have helped me discover them. My professor, too. She's dear. All the professors at Ashland are dear.

MFAs are odd, though, and I'm not really ... well, I won't say that because it's not true. No, I'll say it and then contradict it. Sometimes I feel as if I'm not exactly what the program wanted. But I'm a really good student and a halfway decent poet.

When I attempted to get a master's in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia (early '80s), some of the professors actively attempted to prevent me from graduating.

Well, they didn't attempt; they succeeded. But only because I was so unsure of how smart and good I was and could be. It was my own damned fault.

This MFA program? They want us to graduate. It's good marketing.  I've been working hard and have 57 pages of poetry (maybe more if I add a poem and a section to another poem). It's not good poetry, but someday it might be. It's not so much the quality as the process that counts.

When I'm done, I won't have the hoped for (because I'm ridiculously optimistic though I pretend to be a defensive pessimist) and much needed position as an adjunct English instructor at the branch campus of Ohio University. I wrote a good letter, have a decent resume, but don't have experience teaching comp and don't yet have my degree.

There's no doubt I'll graduate. But the "job-getting" hoops are on fire, and right now, I don't have the skills to jump through them without being burned.

So, maybe by Winter term. A friend who has been in the department for at least 20 years is trying to champion my cause because he wants people like me teaching his students.

In the meantime, I'll check other places, finish the thesis, be here for my child, try not to go broke, love my family, my daughter, her father, my dear friends.

Since I didn't leave my house today, except for a solitary walk in the wonderful 80-degree weather, I didn't get to share the poem I carried in my pocket for Poem in Your Pocket Day. So, tomorrow, I WILL leave my house, and I'll bring a stack of lovely poems by other poets, and I'll scatter them around town. At Walmart and Kroger. At the library. At the wine store. In my daughter's car, at the bank....

Poetry has saved my life.

Oh, lordy this is random.

I'm keeping Boston in my heart. I'm keeping West, Texas, in my heart (worked with a lovely man from West in the '80s). Keeping a young woman I know in my heart (too young!), my siblings, my friend, my child...

Oh, this is a silly post.

But, here, just let me love you, OK? Love. LOVE.


Monday, March 25, 2013


It's a Monday in late March, and outside it snows or sleets lightly. A light snow, light sleet, dark street. Too much unfolded laundry piles up. No place in this little house to store the linens. My nose has been running for two weeks (well, why don't you run after it? get yourself in shape?).

This is not a Scintilla post.


I really do love my MFA program. I've been lucky with professors who, even when they don't quite love my style, encourage me and show me ways to get my poems where I want them to be (or where the poems want to be, sneaky, sentient buggers). I've learned a lot. I'm a better writer and reader.

I also like my schoolmates.

But sometimes, the dynamic is strained, and because I am constantly tired, I get a bit overwhelmed. I'm mostly an introvert, though it's easier for me to pretend to be outgoing and charming when I write.

ah well. It's all right. We're nearly done with the posting part of the semester. For us "thesis students," we only have a couple of weeks to go before we can quit posting and focus on revising our manuscripts, writing our introductions, making our list of 50 books that have "informed our poems." We're discussing our final common text. I, unfortunately, am the bad discussion leader. I'm better at answering questions than asking them. I'd never make it on Jeopardy. Two of my classmates are professors or former professors. The third is an outgoing and delightful media expert who has her finger in poetry journals as an editor and often offers prompts, etc., online.

I am none of the these things. I'm an ex-journalist, editor, mother, not-quite-ex-wife, band booster, novelist wannabe. And, yes, I've taught creative writing workshops, but that doesn't make me a teacher. Maybe I'll say, "I've led creative writing workshops." And when it's high school and younger participants, it's utterly different.

Adults ... I don't know. I find them a tougher audience, always have.

When I was a teenager living in an American Army housing area in Germany, I had a reputation among the Army brat teens for "playing with little kids" instead of hanging out with my peers. Truth was, I was an unpaid babysitter and loved it. I was not comfortable with my peers.

It's still true in some ways, though I have many wonderful adult friends, some writers, some other things. Now I find that I love teenagers and don't mind spending gobs of time with them.

I've drifted, but that's what this post is, a drifting, thinking through, relaxing, letting go.

Too many professors in one classroom spoil the class. A discussion leader is not "Professor for a day." She's just a student who is supposed to keep the discussion going.

And I am and will continue tomorrow.

But no more tonight. I'm done being a student.

I'm going to turn back into mother, not-quite-ex-wife (permanently separated but dear friends), poet who writes poems because she loves to write poems, cat slave, reader, slacker, novelist wannabe.

My cat wants his late-night snack, and I have sheets to fold.

good night.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Start fresh

Tomorrow begins the second annual The Scintilla Project: a fortnight of storytelling. I'll let you (whoever you are) read about the project on your own. My friend Kim is one of the "founders," and I have a huge amount of respect for her as a writer and as a human being, so when she mentioned it was time for Scintilla again, I got all warm and happy.

I don't know how much time I'll be able to put in to writing and reading, since I'm deep in the throes of thesis ordering and revision (next draft due March 25, final draft due April 29. I have months of work to accomplish in the seven weeks before that final draft is due). Plus critiques of classmates' manuscripts. Plus book responses and discussions on those book responses. Plus other life stuff that must be done because, yeah, life (and love).

This last non-residential semester of my MFA has been challenging in different ways from the other three. I find that the deeper I go into studying the art of poem making (and the art of making a book of poems), the more I question the quality of my work. My work improves. I think. Or maybe the more I think about it, the worse it gets. I don't really know. I am at the point where trying not to think, trying to revise, trying to write new, trying to be kind to myself is ... silly. I'm going to stop trying. I am going to stop thinking about the quality of the work and simply do the work.

We are on Spring Break, but it doesn't feel like a break.

Today, I've been giving most of my time to my work, my poems. I even started drafting one called "Undivorced" while I showered. Amazing that I remembered the lines after I rinsed my hair, dried off, got dressed, responded to my daughter's texts, hunted through the house for a folder of important things related to the college she will attend in the fall, chugged part of a bottle of water, blessed the cat when he sneezed....

That I remembered the lines after all those things and all that time gives me hope that I can make a poem of this, though I'm already questioning whether it's a poem, something I need to stop doing. Whatever it is, it wants me to write it.

So that's what I'll do.

All this blathering on is to say that I'm going to participate in Scintilla for as long as I have the time, for as long as I feel I can do the prompts justice. I hope to meet some new bloggers and reconnect with "old" friends.

I hear a siren. I'm grateful that it's cry grows fainter instead of louder.