Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Milk and Honey

Shadows stretch their jaws,
but dusk becomes a toothless beast
when devouring milk with honey,
so that upon night's velvet throat
might hang a pearl of moon
with heart of opal

Monday, December 29, 2008

Letters (Part Five)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-
time relationship across the miles. Here
are Parts One , Two, Three, and Four. )

Dear Patrick,

Are you still in the infirmary?

I can't tell if you’re being straight with me, or not. Are you only a little sick, or are you trying to protect me? Now I’m the one needing details. I want to know everything. Please, darling, plug all my gaps.

There is a smudge on your envelope that looks like blood. I keep thinking TB. Or a wound. The mind will shape a devil from the slightest inkblot. Yet perhaps it’s not your blood. Perhaps it’s something from your nurse’s hand. Iodine? I'm sorry. The not knowing has me a little frantic. I dreamed all in red last night.

Yet how wonderful that you have found someone from home to nurse you! I couldn’t quite believe it when I first read your letter. And so nice that Hannah should be nearby when you both return to the States. Maybe I will meet her someday. That’s heartwrenching about her sweetheart. I cannot imagine. Is she very broken still? Two years isn’t long enough.

Darling, I’ve started volunteering for the Red Cross. Something to help out, and get me out of this house. We’re collecting pints of blood in a mobile unit downtown, and a few of us ladies are rolling bandages and knitting clothes. Little things. But with each stitch I purl, I keep thinking, Maybe this will find its way to Patrick. A cap to fit over your ears. A scarf to hug your neck.

Of course, it’s all hideously selfish of me. Like you should be the only one who matters to me in this world. But it helps to think I might be keeping you warm. You know how I love my fantasies. At least here’s the smallest chance they might also be right.

Let me know how you’re truly coping, won’t you, Patrick? Yes, I tend to look toward a rosier future. But it does not follow that I want you shielding me from the muddier present. I won't lose you in some shadow world. And I see nothing without a finger on your pulse.

Take care of yourself, darling. I wish I were Please take care.

And if I’m worrying over nothing, forgive me again. It's the nature of this beast.



p.s. Christmas was a happy day, my love. Your mother showed me photographs from your childhood. How sweet you were! Strange to think we were separated back then, too. We just didn't know it. And yet, I thought I saw something wanting in your eyes. Even then.


Part Six is here

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

If the heart is a light,
let love be the sleigh
that streaks the night
and finds its way

Unwrap dawn of its
reindeer dreams,
and seek the gifts
that glow between


Merry Christmas!!

Thank you for all of your gifts to me this year.
I hope everyone celebrating enjoys a warm,
magical day with family and loved ones.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Letters (Part Four: The Ghost of Christmas Present)

(Letters is my series exploring a
war-time relationship across the miles.
Here are Parts One , Two, and Three. )

Dear Elise,

Thank you for the kiss, my dear. I’d like to say it cured me.

Yes, I’ve been stuck in the infirmary for almost a week now. It’s frustrating to be so immobile, so useless. But don’t worry. It’s nothing awful. And don’t get too excited, either. It’s nothing awful. They won’t be sending me home for the flu.

They’re taking good care of me, although I am a nuisance when so many are in far worse shape. The nurses here are excellent. There’s even one who hails from Nelsonville—can you believe that? Fifteen miles away, in that distant universe which you have come to hate, and which I so dearly miss. I don’t know why that should be a comfort to me, to know someone who traveled the same roads as you and I, who swam in Dow Lake. But it is. Any slight connection shines a little light into the hole. Her name is Hannah. Her sweetheart was killed back in ’42. Midway, I think.

My dear, I’m sorry your Christmas season has been such a loss. Can you do me a favor? I have a record I want you to find. They’ve been playing it regularly on the radio over here. Judy Garland sang it in a film, I believe. It’s called, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Such a bittersweet number, but those last lines get to me. I want to share them with you.

Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

I know it’s not enough, Elise. Hope is a flimsy boat on which to sail such choppy waters. And fate is too damn hard to corner. But we are muddling through, dear girl. Each day brings us closer to the reunion you so clearly see, and each day takes us farther away from that morning at the train station I keep trying to forget.

Hannah tells me that the daily mail is being collected to send out. I want you to receive this letter before Christmas, and so I will sign off. But do make an effort to be happy on the big day. Please, Elise. If not for your mother, then make that your Christmas present to me. The one all these miles, and all that black water, cannot cheat us out of.

It’s what I need right now. Your happiness.




Part Five is here

Friday, December 19, 2008


And with their kiss she
flew from red lips to sing of
the songs inside them

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hunt

He tracks the trail in a silvery light,
my footprints slashing a dizzying path
across snapped twigs and crushed leaves,
his bright eyes suckling the hunter’s fever

Iron muzzle dips into angels' powder
as he pauses to inhale a glen so feral,
hungry to soak up a scent of betrayal
culled from warm blood, buried petal

I catch the eye of the lusty eagle,
stationed above this lair of cunning,
and she drops into the bush behind him,
rustling dead leaves with slickest candor

He hoists his weapon in a reckless contort,
forsaking thought for premature retort,
that cockeyed bullet tickling feathers as
I raise crescent bow, calmly drawing

The arrow halts with a comical quiver,
as he drops to knees in bleak surrender,
while still the snow so softly piling bleaches
all proof of this Prey, who once was Hunter

You mortals have honored me with a Moon,
and burdened my body with Chastity,
but for all time, I remain one Diana,
Goddess of The Hunt

Monday, December 15, 2008

Letters (Part Three)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-time relationship
across the miles. Here are Parts One and Two. )

Dearest Patrick,

I feel unworthy of Christmas this year.

Mother put up the decorations (including that hideous Santa with the crossed eyes), while I drowned myself in self-pity and eggnog. The sprig of mistletoe was the last straw. I ran crying from the room. Of course, Mother thought I was insane. And maybe I am. Or maybe it was just the liquor. I can’t tell anymore. Days are like dreams…I drift through them. Hoping to meet you somewhere in the haze.

Oh, darling, if missing you were a disease, I’d be dead by now. I’ve never known how to be halfway. It’s always all or nothing.

But you deserve more than soggy fantasies drained from uncertain rivers. Your letter brought that (and you) home. And so I will shed this dissatisfied skin, and try harder.

Yes, I finished that scarf for your mother. It was rose, like the wine we drank on our first date. Do you remember that? How clumsy I was, how much I spilled down that silk blouse. You laughed (I wanted to kill you)…until I laughed, too. I was already drunk on your eyes, which never left mine. How quickly we traveled from high laughter into that valley of knowing. Time a mountain so easy to slide down. Not even breathing.

You asked about our tree. I still take walks down there, although its naked limbs make me shiver in the noon sun. It is beautiful, though. Even without you. It seems to hold up the very sky. And that’s something to feel supported by. So thank you for making me mindful of its presence. That’s my real Christmas tree. No ornaments needed to mar its native beauty.

My bath? I’d like to say you made me blush, but you already know how shameless I am. I think it’s enough to acknowledge that the thoughts and feelings that soap my heart are always rather…dirty. But I better stop there. I can see your ears redden from here, my love. Which makes me laugh for real.

I’m not sure if I’ve given you what you wanted, Patrick. I have a hard time focusing on these small features of daily living. So let me end with that most perfect of details. A kiss on this page.

I’m standing under the mistletoe.




(Photo of mistletoe
courtesy of Hilton Pond)

Part Four is here

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Light

I return to the forest when the city releases me. I find my breath in a light that doesn’t need.

There are no vultures circling above. Those are the shadows of clouds, nodding their remembrance of me.

We both wore different shapes back then. But I was the wispy one.

I pity the leopard frogs, buried by muck at the bottom of this pond. Hiding until their spring thaw. Blind to these smoky leaves, all drizzled with sun. Deaf to the wind, threading needles of pine.

A train unleashes a mournful charge while crossing Longview Run. My mind tracks the journey. All that coal skating easterly. Black cores squeezed by pressure and time.



Shoes thick with mud, I stretch my arms to the sky. And slip free.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fire and Ice

The face is something rigid
as the cold masks its fissures

The neck is something hidden
as the scarf wraps its present

The heart is something bird-like
as the ribs preserve its cage

The gut is something chemical
as the ice smooths out its flames

Alas! when passion is both meek and wild!
the poet Keats once penned

In the ashes
of snow

Monday, December 8, 2008

Letters (Part Two)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-time
relationship across the miles. Part One is here)


It rained today, and I thought of your letter. That flood of words you were so good to pour my way.

And yet, it was a cold rain. You know the kind. Spitting mad that it wasn’t soft snow. I didn’t feel cleansed, or renewed. That kind of cold is only good for carving the void.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want fantasies, Elise. As lovely as they, and your sweet intention, are. I don’t want to think about what could be. I want to think about you, in this moment...and this one, too. That’s how I’ll feel closest to you (and I need to feel close to you). Tell me what you do with all your hours. Fill up my head with your easy chatter. Because this moon of ours isn’t talking. Even as I keep asking.

Did you finish that scarf you were knitting for my mother? How does our tree look now that it's winter? What feelings soap your heart when you’re lying in that bath? In these precious revelations, I can hold you.

So forget this dream Elise. The one I see every night, when I close my eyes and enter a kinder, more merciful world, without the cracking fear, and chronic boredom, and wet, oozing sores on my feet. Because she always leaves me when I wake up. When it’s time, again, to march.

All I want in this world is you.



p.s. Could you send another photo, my dear? This one is getting a little worn.


Part Three is here

Friday, December 5, 2008


Brittle goblins
of thoughts
gone rot
shall pull and wrest
until they lumber
a hollow silence


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Dance of the Snowflakes

“You know what I love about the ballet?” she said.

Snow sank through the lamplight.

“The tight tights?” he said, shoulders hitched near his ears. “The bulging . . . bulges?”

She puffed on her hands, and eyed the auditorium doors.

“Close, but no.”

“I mean, it is called The Nutcracker.”

She jerked her knee towards his groin.

“Christ!” He laughed and shook his head. “You're no Sugarplum Fairy, my dear.”

Her smile spread beneath the scarf. He brushed some snow from her hair.

“No, it’s the passion I love,” she said. “But passion harnessed. And balanced on the tip of a toe.”

His brow knitted.

“But passion isn’t that plotted. Or that surgical.” He threw his chin toward the chattering crowd, some sucking on their nicotine fix. “This is why I don't like ballet. It seems like someone’s idea of passion. Some agreed upon plan that we’re all just going along with. And I’m supposed to engage with it like it’s the real thing?”

The outside lights flickered. Intermission was over.

“Yeah, but if it weren’t so tightly choreographed, there would just be a mess,” she said, taking his arm as they filed toward the door. “And people might get hurt.”

“I can see the honesty in that, at least. It would be a beautiful mess.”

She dragged him away from the line of people trekking inside. Pressed him against the cold stone of the auditorium’s wall. A fused breath melted the snowflakes dropping between their lips.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” he said.

Her hand found someplace warm.

“I like it when you argue with me,” she said.

His arms discovered a waist buried beneath the layers.

“But you’re proving my point,” he said. “Right now. With your very impulsive hand. And my very impulsive. . . you know.”

She stood on her tiptoes, her mouth finding his ear.

“Nope. I've been staging this since the start of Act One.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Rose-Colored Vision

There is a rose inside
our irises which blooms
within these visions,
casting branches
as nerves
stretching their arms,
and clouds
as soft muscle
spreading for fingers

These are not
the false blinders
of old song,
bent illusions,
but time’s recognition
that thorns may scratch,
but skins will heal,
leaving knots so defined
that one can grab

And both might climb

Friday, November 28, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

“God, I’m stuffed,” he said. “I think I just broke a commandment or something.”

“A deadly sin, you mean,” she said, smiling. “Gluttony, right?”

He glanced at her legs folded on his couch. Her skirt rode higher when she sat like that.

Black stockings.

“Yeah, right.”

“I didn’t know a table could hold that much food,” she said. “I think I heard wood groaning.”

He bit the flesh of his cheek. Hard.

“Nah, that was my dad’s chair. Begging for mercy.”

She swatted him on the arm. They caught the glow of the TV in one another’s eyes. Quiet laughter died.

Staring at the muted football game, each grew painfully aware. The silence dragged into the fourth quarter. Game tied.

“Well, thanks for inviting me, Steve. It was a really nice gesture.”

Her feet struck the ground. Slipping those heels on.

“Oh. No problem. I know it sucks to be away from family on Thanksgiving.”

“And thanks for the record player! Yeah . . . wow.”

She was nodding really fast. Wine glass now consigned to coaster.

“Sure. I never really use it anymore.”

“Speaking of which,” she said, jabbing her thumb toward the door. “I should go ahead and load it in my car.”

“Really?” He cleared the whine from his voice. “I mean, it’s pretty cold out there.”

He shivered to prove it.

“Yeah, I should get on the road. ”

“It’s supposed to snow . . . ”

Her lips curved. A bit.

“Probably all the more reason I should go. Otherwise, I might be trapped here. Overnight.”

“Oh. Right.” His cheeks felt like two chestnuts, roasting. “Sorry.”

“Unless . . . ”

He pounced.


“Unless you have some good records here?”

On the television, some guy kicked a field goal.

“I think I can find something.” He stood, passing into the hallway. His pace struggled to match his smoking blood, but it was a losing ballgame.


He turned.

Her ankles crossed on his coffee table. No heels. Wine glass cradled in her lap.

She grinned.

“Make it something warm, okay?”


[Ray Charles and Betty Carter singing the holiday classic]

Monday, November 24, 2008

My News

Me in Paris, 2001

Now that I've signed the contract, I can finally share the news I've been busting to spill for a couple of weeks.

My novel, Plum Blossoms in Paris, is going to be published by Medallion Press.

I was a bit stunned to hear this from my agent, Jeffery McGraw of The August Agency, because the book has been on submission for almost a year and a half with no takers. Yes, there were near misses, but I had about lost hope. 20 rejections (maybe more--I can't bear to tabulate them all) will do that to you. But to Jeffery's enormous credit, he believed in the book, and kept submitting. And eventually, he found an editor who loves it. Persistence pays! It's been a two-year journey from the completion of the novel to an offer, but sometimes it just takes that long. So to all of you who are wilting on a path of endless waiting, keep the hope alive!

Anyway, I'm thrilled that the book will be published. It's very exciting. I will say this, though: as big of a jolt as I received from this wonderful news, it still does not compare to the sustained high I enjoyed from inventing that story, and loving those characters. Recognition and validation are important, but the act of creation trumps all. I better keep writing.

That said, I really do look forward to sharing the novel with all of you! In 2010. So stick around...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Waves (Letters: Part One)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-time
relationship across the miles.)

Dearest Patrick,

Remember our summer day by the lake?

You wore khaki shorts, I wore a lavender dress. You walked, I skipped. You brought a picnic basket. I brought a hunger. You wanted that bench. I coveted wildflowers.

We settled for leaning my lobster back against your white legs. I laughed as you fed me grapes off the vine. Neck tilted back, hair sweeping your thighs.

Do you remember crushed grapes? Our lips' sweeter wine?

After eating, you tried to talk me into swimming. But I convinced you to settle for the high tide of these arms. There, we shivered and clung. To the deepest end. Happy enough to want to drown. So happy I sobbed from the heat of seven suns. Bodies shimmering like strings, strung.

Do you remember our vibrations? The water I cried?


We haven’t known this day, have we, my sweetest. My love. And with you over there for another tour of duty, it must seem that I’m clawing ghost castles from a drought desert sand.

But . . .

Winter is a nap, spring is a yawn. Our love will stretch its arms again. And until it does, let these words dive between your ears, and fill you with Leo’s lullaby.

An ocean does not freeze. The ripples from my shore will swell into waves, all crashing into you.

My darling. This flood.


Part Two is here

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Art Talk

The lovers

The other man

"I get it."

"That would be a first."

“You have a thing for the nerd.”



“He never looks at me, though.”

“He sits like he’s got something
to hide. Know what I'm sayin'?”

“He’s inscrutable . . . an enigma . . . a-a-a genius!
But why do I bother. You'd never understand.”

“I understand. I understand that a dude doesn’t sit
like that unless his creator short-changed him.”


“You’re the one with all her marble hanging
out and about. Heh. Not that I mind, baby . . . ”


“That’s it. He’s so dead. I’m gonna—”


“Seriously, just watch me—”

"Uh huh. You do that, Samson. Meanwhile, I'll just
lie here and dream what he could be thinking of . . ."

"I bet I know."

“You don't have the slightest inkling! Not the
first clue. Oh, but it's no use! No use at all.
I'll never know. My white matter will never be able
to penetrate his grey matter . . . the dark depths
of such humanity . . . that fine, tormented soul . . ."


(My apologies to Rodin and
The Cleveland Museum of Art.)

Monday, November 17, 2008


A halo hangs above my head, where sunlight streams and bends.

Find it there. Feel its balm.

A warm hand to choke the chill seeping through autumn’s cracked skins. It's held aloft by all these good deeds:

Leaves break and unwind, in lieu of summer’s butterflies. Cradled by a briny stream. Floating bridges upon which unwinged creatures dash and lean. Above the terrible drown.

Footsteps like raindrops.
The heartbeat of a forest.
A river of psalms.

I hear it all.

The voices in my head fall silent.

But for how long.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Meme...and A Tease

Okay, I stole this "Have you ever...?" meme from my good friend, Vesper. I have bolded the things I've done so far:

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (started, anyway)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (um...)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

I also thought this was an excellent opportunity to tease some news I will hopefully be able to share soon. For those of you who have known me awhile, the clues are in the photo, a couple of the bolded points, and one that isn't bolded...but really wants to be. ;)

Thank you, Vesper! I enjoyed this one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Though it swells and contracts
to the rhythm of our
geometric captivity,
the moon is not inconstant, no,
but guards the night
with sweet severity

Monday, November 10, 2008

Full Circle: One Year Anniversary

Yes, Murmurs is one today.

It is difficult for me to express what this blog has meant to me over the past year. It began as a bit of an escape--a place to grow my writing and indulge my creative impulses--but it has evolved into another home. One that I share with all of you.

So thank you for visiting, and connecting, with me! I love our little corner of the neighborhood. Your support and good will have repeatedly recharged me, whenever my doubts ignited, and my discipline flickered.

I now trust that this candle will burn deep into the night.

Friday, November 7, 2008


“What’s taking so long?” she said. “This is ridiculous.”

“Welcome to the American health care system,” he said, looking everywhere but at the lung films on the illuminated screen. “If they can fuck you over, they will.”

She glanced at the photograph of the surgeon’s kids on his desk. “Insurers, maybe. Not the doctors.”

He shrugged.

“If it makes you feel better to think that.”

She tried to take his hand, but he lifted his wrist to check the time. Then he remembered that he wasn’t wearing a watch. Nothing metal in the MRI.

She reached for his knee instead. “Hey.”

His eyes scanned her hand. She could sense him tensing like a wary dog, before he finally sagged in submission.

“Hey,” he said.

“What’s wrong?”

“Besides the stage II tumor in my lung, you mean?”

He laughed.

“You’ve been pushing me away for days now," she said. "Ever since we got the first X-rays."

“No, I haven’t.”

“Will, please.”

Her voice scraped a raw sore.

He seized her hand, pressing the cold, pinched fingers to his face.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his breath warming her palm. "So sorry."

“But why? Why won’t you let me help you?” she said, touching his cheek.

“I don’t know,” he said, resting his neck on the back of the chair. “Too ashamed, I guess.”

She bristled.

“You didn’t ask for this!”

He glanced sideways at her. “That’s not entirely true.”

“No. You couldn’t help it,” she said.

He gently cleared his throat.

“But that’s not the point, really. I can handle that burden.”

She watched the small vein in his temple bulge past its skin.

“What, then?”

He stood and walked to the X-ray screen. Stared at the cobwebs in his chest, and the small, angry spider in the left lung’s lobe.

He shook his head.

“I just hate what I'm doing to you.”

She rose and went to him. Peeled him away from the black and white reflection. Placed her hand on his chest.

Warmth flooded her body.

“Can you feel it in there?” he said. "Sometimes, I think I can."

She smiled at him.

"No," she said. "No, I can't."

For all she felt was their heartbeat.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The land is wide weary,
It's been cold for?

Time to fly that new song,


The hope of millions carries—

That these feathers of time will hold us aloft
That fractured continents still might touch

Monday, November 3, 2008


The waltz of the clouds
rolls high above our thorns,
yet we will arise
from Plato’s dark cave,
and watch our shadows
dance with their forms

Friday, October 31, 2008


There was something to the dark that made her want to run faster.


Her mind recycled old favorites, like a metronome searching for its rhythm. Ignoring the sharp stitch under her ribs, Kelly ramped up her speed.


Sweat lifted into the sharp, dry air. Her boyfriend thought she was nuts for running in fifty-degree weather, clad only in t-shirt and shorts. But it exhilarated her to have the black cold rush her skin, even while her lungs burned.


Steps. Other steps. Behind her.

She hugged the right side of the path, so the runner could pass. But he sustained the same, even pace for a quarter of a mile:


It had to be a man, his slower, more deliberate steps mocking her shorter stride.

She glanced over her shoulder. Saw nothing but shadows. The ponytail lashed her neck as she turned back around. She licked her lips. Her eyes jigsawed. A mind skidded over facts like oily puddles:

She passed the last 9-1-1 panic button a half mile ago.
There was not much of a moon tonight.
Everyone else was at Halloween parties.
Her boyfriend didn’t know she was out.
Her boyfriend didn’t know she was out.
Her boyfriend didn’t know—

The stitch in her side chewed deeper, and phlegm plugged her throat. Her elbows dropped a little. Kelly weaved and lost the path. The softness of the turf bent her right ankle at a crude angle.

She chomped down on her tongue.


Her lungs whistled like a teapot over her limp. Sweat poured and stung her eyes. The jagged needles in her ankle threaded the muscle in her calf. Her knee spasmed.

The wall, the wall. I’ve hit the wall.

Kelly whimpered, tasting blood.


The steps behind were lazier now. Almost gloating.

As she turned to snatch another look, she stumbled.

But as her hands scuffed the ground, the real pain descended. It glommed onto her like she was a soft cicada, being squeezed from a crusty exoskeleton. She gasped, her torso twisting, arms flung wide. Her throat tipped back, mouth rounding, while her eyes milked the stars.

Run. Run.

The word was a cold hook, reeling her to feet. She hadn’t thought it. It had just come. But she knew--she knew--it was the only cure.

Sobbing as the torment instantly subsided, Kelly struggled to find her stride.


The thing approved. Her ankle numbed.

Tears flying with the sweat, Kelly trudged past another distance marker. This is how it would be. No stopping now. She tried not to remember how much longer there was until she ran out of path. Until there was only woods, and unbroken night.

There was something in the dark that needed her to run.

And so she would.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Salem Community Church

Salem cemetery

Religious figurine--reading, "Blessed are the
pure in heart, for they shall know
God"--leaning against a gra--

Salem outhouse

Oh, well.

How did they test for purity/witchery
at the real Salem again?

If I remember right, it had something to
do with sinkers and floaters . . .

(Oh, God, I'm going to burn
for this, aren't I?)

Monday, October 27, 2008


A root clings blind to earth,
cutting its tooth on decay

Air may be sweet on memory,
but wind pushes change

Fire torches everything,
but a phoenix rises anyway

Between solitude and loneliness
lies a choice as slippery as water

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Page Turner

“Which one?” he asks.

“The nocturne,” Lily says. “I’m still fumbling it. And the concert is on Saturday.”

He tries not to smell her hair as the bench's legs squeak under his added pressure.

“Sounded fine to me, earlier.”

She knocks her shoulder into his and smiles. “You should stick to the trombone, Brian.”

Yet his hands hover over smoke and ivory, not chilled brass. A buzz builds beneath his fingertips. A silent swinging of electrons. A warmth, waiting.

His wrists drop into his lap as Lily smooths the sheet music. Releasing a breath, she relaxes her shoulders. And strikes the first timbre.

He closes his eyes as a piano surrenders its secrets.

She works the instrument like she plays upon my being—

fingers on keys a scalpel dissecting night terrors
foot on soft pedal the teethmarks on a pillow
ripples in a bench the moonlight earthquake of a soul

Brian's eyes open twenty measures in. He’s been counting. And composing.

Leaning in, he waits to turn her page.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Finding Spring in Fall

In passing through the arch,
they did not become new.

Bodies did not shed old scars.
Minds did not know better color.
Love did not bewitch the fact of gravity.

But their passage still marked a beginning.
Because they believed it would.

Because they knew better,
on a day such as this,
than to fear any winter.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Painting by Numbers

Eight octupus arms draped
with cranberry pearls

Four wheels on two bikes
shredding saffron foil

One nucleus slathered
from proton-gray ashes

A half-clothed lady unveiling
flamenco rhythms

All lulled to sleep by a
wind's whispered carols

Friday, October 17, 2008


“Field of blood,” he said.

She wrinkled her nose. “Too ghoulish, even for the season.”

“Field of Kool-Aid?”

“Mm. Cherry Kool-Aid.”

“What were you thinking of?” he said.

“Nothing, really. I’m not very quick on my feet.”

“Come on. Try.”

She shrugged his arm off her shoulder. “Nope.”

A confetti of grasshoppers exploded from the wet earth as he sat down.

“Pen me a poem, Liz.”

“Oh, God. Are you drunk?”

He leaned back on his elbows.

“Intoxicate me with your words.”

She corked her laughter with her knuckles, while he waggled a blade of grass between his teeth.

“Or maybe something the kids might like?” he said.

“Well, crap. There goes my initial inspiration.”

He spat out the grass, and smiled.

“Something just for me, then.”

She frowned.

“Can I do a haiku, since they’re short and all?”

“Absolutely. Haiku porn is a dying art form. Outside Japan, that is.”

She started to pace, counting syllables on her fingers as she eyed a gaggle of geese arrow past the treetops. His foot bounced on his knee while he watched her strain.

Finally, she stopped, took a deep breath, and said,

"A field of fire
Inflaming my allergies
Can we go home now?"

He squinted, though the sun sulked inside its grey vault. Sitting up, he gingerly cleared his throat.

“Very nice, but is it kosher to end a haiku on a question?”

She sneezed.

“I don’t really care. All I know—”

She shrieked as her legs were ripped from the ground.

“What are you doing?!”

“You were right. You’re not very quick on your feet.”

Her laughter died in his lips. He was distracted from the dampness on his back by the slightest suggestion in her hips.

“What was wrong with that poem?” she said.

Her breath warmed his ear, and flooded his body. Like the sweetest fever.

“I just wanted to go home.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Beneath the Boughs

The leaves have forgotten their beginnings
and the plunge they took to mark the days,
while the crickets cannot find dawn’s light
in their catacombs of pulsing decay

But Puck’s small daughter whittles these losses
on her wanderer’s throne ‘neath the boughs,
where a lake of fire singes her legs
and Black Knight cheats Dragon’s fury of jaws

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Between the Leaves

Coming, going
falling, soaring

Sometimes you just want to bend
to the curve of the seasons,
and watch the color drain
from summer’s long fingers

Monday, October 6, 2008

Infinite Quest

I've only read a smattering of David Foster Wallace's short stories and essays, but he is one of my husband's favorite authors. So when he killed himself a few weeks ago, we took notice.

In the days after his death, I was moved to read this piece, adapted from a 2006 commencement speech he gave at Kenyon College. In it, Foster Wallace ruminated on the curse of self-centeredness, of seeing everything through the lens of me, me, me. Here is a section of the speech:

As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head. Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal-arts cliché about "teaching you how to think" is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: "Learning how to think" really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

There is a beautiful section of the speech in which Foster Wallace transforms a soul-draining shopping experience at the grocery store into a rare opportunity for human empathy and understanding. He does this simply by stepping outside of himself, and giving people the benefit of the doubt. Just as we would want people to do for us.

You should read the whole thing if you have the time. I don't think you'll regret it.

I've been thinking a lot about this speech in the last few weeks. Returning to it often. Trying to put it into practice. One small example : my family was at Donato's the other evening, and I was impatient because the cashier was taking too long to wait on me. Me, me, me. But I switched off that petty, inner outrage, and saw myself for what I was : one person in a crowded roomful of fellow people, all of whom were either working hard, or wanting pizza, too. It was so easy. All it took was awareness, and the tiniest adjustment in attitude. And I felt the better for it.

Of course, it isn't always so easy. It wasn't for Foster Wallace. He could not, at some point, escape the huge, cold clutch of his own mind. But I have no doubt that he tried. That he believed in these words. And that he wanted those kids at Kenyon to try, too.

I'll leave you with a few more of his words from that day:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race" -- the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

[Photo courtesy of Keith Bedford/Getty Images]

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

All Apologies

“Miranda, I’m sorry,” she said.

The rub of onion and spiced meat recalled their childhood vacations to the beach. Skipping down the boardwalk with an ocean shelled in her ears. Snapping Miranda’s swimsuit straps against her pink shoulders. Running for her life.

Karen tried to swallow.

“So sorry,” she repeated.

“Yeah, you keep saying that,” her sister said, eyes fixed to the counter. The grill cook was flirting with the cashier.


Miranda didn’t smile. Karen continued breaking off the burnt tips of french fries with her greasy fingers.

“You lied to me,” Miranda said. “Over and over again.”

“I know,” Karen said, pushing her plate away and taking her sister’s hand across the table. “I feel sick about it.”

Miranda looked at her. Usually, her eyes were as warm as evergreens.

“No, you don’t.”

But today, they were as wet, and sharp, as emeralds.

“I really—”

“I mean, yes. You feel bad,” Miranda said, sliding her hand away. “But it’s not really the point. It doesn’t excuse anything.”

Karen nodded once. “No.”

Miranda wiped her hands on a napkin and tossed it aside.

“And now you want me to tell you that everything is going to be all right.”

“You always have,” Karen murmured, staring at the mosaic of tiles on the table. They blurred into a red and black tantrum. The room began to spin away, even as she clawed for the edges.


She looked up. Miranda smiled.

“Everything is going to be all right.”

Karen closed her eyes. Breathed deeply.

Her sister rose, dropped some cash on the table, and tugged on a yellow sweater. Placing a hand on Karen’s shoulder, Miranda looked down at her.

“You’ve just got to find a way to get there.”

Karen watched her sister walk into autumn's arms, and disappear. Turning back to the empty table, she acknowledged the open, thrown back mouths of the cook and cashier, whose arm he was touching. They looked to be laughing. But all Karen could hear was a low, rhythmic roar in her ears.

Like waves being dragged from their summer shore.

“I’m sorry,” she mouthed, for no one.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Raven

In falling on my sword,
the world drank dark,
but not before I heard
a flap of wings,
and one last,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008



Monday, September 22, 2008

The Eden on Congress St.

She liked to curl up in the lap of their crossfire.

It didn’t matter what was said. Those three guys knew how to talk, and she knew how to listen.

Sitting on the fringes, yes, but that was all right. She didn’t trust herself to keep up with them. It was a gift of sorts to observe. Besides, they wanted to make her laugh, and she was happy enough to oblige. For these poets and friends were a little smarter, and far funnier, than any trinity she had ever known. And in that dank hole of a living room, with its stuffed ashtrays and sooty carpet, they invented new, more absurd maths.

New…all so new. And not so always comfortable. She loved the man in the center of the room, but everything around him was so different from what came before. He was different, too. And so her time in this house triggered a meltdown of false expectations, a Picasso breach of perspective, a spinning dance. Sometimes, her eyes hurt from the whiplash.

(And weeks later, it would indeed become the car crash on Congress Street. All of the friends limping away, hugging bruised egos and hearts.)

But right then—right at this green-go convergence of crossroads—there was Chet Baker wetting the stereo, Carl Jung to consult on the coffee table, and a whole bible of words to smoke and burn before the happy warriors scattered into the night.

She listened. Night after night.

And even though she wouldn’t pick up her own pen until much later, she sometimes thinks that these were the weeks in which she became a writer.