The pea-soup fog lay thick between the houses as the very first light of the rising sun diluted the dark and turned shape into identifiable form. A few seconds earlier the mad scrabble of dog paws across my kitchen floor followed by the thunk of the open dog door let me know that for this Saturday morning, at least, my sleep in the warm nest of my comfortable bed was over.

I leapt up as I heard the first snorting in-breath through my bedroom window of the following deep-chested neighborhood peace-shattering woof of Mojo’s greeting of the neighbor’s dog through our common fence. “Woof, Woof,” she bellowed as I raced through the patio door in my sweatpants and bare feet, no thought for my appearance entering my head as my feet squished across the snow and icy, finally-thawing grass.

“Mojo! Mojo!” I hissed emphatically but softly, trying not to add to the din of the dogs in the watery fog colored air. Fortunately for me, she actually responded and turned my way to nonchalantly stroll back across the yard, glancing once or twice at the canine silhouette of her arch-nemesis through the slats of the wooden fence. “Get inside!” I commanded, pointing toward the patio door as she casually trotted past, not even acknowledging my existence except to quicken her pace a step or two.

Once inside I closed the dog door to wait another couple of hours to open it again, when the later hour and the electronic bark collar I attached would nip the racket before such chaos could happen again. Mojo, unperturbed, jumped on the couch and settled into a tight ball, her head resting on the fake-fur throw pillow at one end.

Several months ago I found an anonymous note in my mail box informing me of someone’s extreme dislike of the fact that my dog, Mojo, is capable of barking her lungs out ceaselessly at the provocation of seeing another dog near her territorial boundaries. Said note informed me that “your dog barks for no reason, especially on weekends. Please do something about this…signed ‘The Neighborhood.’ It took me about five minutes to figure out who the author of the note had to be, since the only neighbor within hearing distance who also had a dogly form of provocation, lived next door.

Mojo is deaf and blind to what most people might hope would evoke this territorial response, i.e. an unknown human being approaching or entering her territory, so I knew the note wasn’t from the neighbors behind me with children and multitudinous friends hanging around for barbeques and such. She will, however, stand on the back of my living room couch and huff and puff and bark through the picture window at someone walking by the front of the house, with of course, another dog.

I thought to debate the barking “for no reason” part of the note because I knew the reason for the barking was a large, mostly silent, muscular cow-dog variety of animal that charged my side yard fence in obvious joy every time she was let out by said neighbor, inciting Mojo to this verbal exchange.

It hadn’t previously occurred to me that my tendency to be gone, especially early on Sunday mornings for several hours, created a problem for anyone due to the habit of my dog to be an unfriendly and noisy neighbor. So I got the electronic bark collar, and tried to remember to keep the dog door shut when I left. I also try, when I am around, to keep the dog under control when she can freely go in and out.

It was with some joy and no little sense of vindication that I greeted the addition of a second dog to the next-door household. The second dog, after he grew up a bit, has become even more obnoxious than my dog. Sometimes I hear him voice a single questioning woof, as if to ask where Mojo might be, and the responding scrabble of dog feet through my house and out the patio door in a mad dash to attack each other through the fence. Several slats of my wooden fence are waiting for me to hammer the nails back in where the neighbor dog has lunged against it sufficiently to loosen the boards.

Every once in a while I hear the Woof, Woo-eeek… sound of Mojo, and the collar interrupting her tirade, whereupon she will be silent for a couple of days until she sneaks out again or I forget to put the collar on. I get the sense that this exchange has become the highlight of each dog’s day. I am sure that were they to meet on the street they would have no problem with each other, for the barking is heavy on the noise level, and not so much the growl of bad intentions.

Lest you wonder why I put up with this, and instead draw some satisfaction from the fact that now my neighbor often rushes out to call and silence her dog, let me say that Mojo is an old lady. She spent most of her life in the country on a large piece of property where she was free to do pretty much whatever she felt like doing with no human being complaining, except on the rare occasion that she had a run-in with a skunk.

She had a constant flow of children, their friends, and activities to keep her entertained. In a pinch she could watch and sometimes catch one of the many slower moving birds that flocked to the birdfeeders I used to keep there. Now she lives with me in a neighborhood of houses with only a little more property than your average patio home. At first I had no neighbors. Then the house occupied by her nemesis had a series of renters for a few years. If there was a problem, within a few months the problem moved away. Mojo and I were left the victors.

The young couple next door recently bought the house. The dogs are there to stay. I don’t know what I am going to do. I have become an old lady myself. I can be just as territorial and inflexible as the dog. I really don’t like flying out of bed in the still-dark hours to shut her up because I can’t train myself to make sure I close the dog door when I go to bed. I resent having to accommodate the other human beings I now live surrounded by since moving “in town” from the country.

I spent most of my life as an urbanite, after all. It surely didn’t seem having neighbors would be a problem, as long as I owned my own house. I’m in control here, right?

What was I thinking?

Jim’s Contract


“Do you think I am abandoning you?” he asked as we sat together in his room in my sister’s apartment. He thought he knew what he was talking about when he wanted to talk about my feelings around his impending death. I have to say he didn’t.

What I knew and believed then, in my opinion, would have been too much of a stretch for him. There was too much contrast I think, for me to sit there and tell him about some of the experiences that have shaped what I now believe, and even then precluded the idea of death as abandonment. The reality was, in his 3-D experience, he was being taken out by cancer; and despite his conviction that he could beat it, both of us knew that was not to be.

Long before I ever knew my brother was sick, I had read a testimonial from Kryon (a channeled being) about why one person lived and another died in a family. Kryon had this to say…the one who was asking the questions was the tougher one, and could survive the other’s death much better than the one who had died. It was part of our contract, an agreement before we ever came into this lifetime, about the timing and sequence of death in families.

Therefore, Kryon said, the one asking why from that lonely human place, was the one left behind. The one who died would have absolutely been destroyed had their roles been reversed. I can’t attest to how my brother would have dealt with my death from Melanoma, a singularly horrible and aggressive cancer, but I sure had a hard time being left behind.

However, I was lucky enough to have the belief system in place that I do, and although it was severely challenged, and still is challenged on many levels, it is there for me to fall back on. I believe we survive death, and I believe that we are eternal. I believe that I will see my brother again, and we will know each other. I believe we will sit and review our contract and pat each other on the back for how well we adhered to all the little clauses and nuances we put into it before we came.

We’ll also get to laugh and cry and be joyful about how fully we believed in this illusionary place, and how our spirits have grown. I believe the connections between all of us, everyone we meet in our lives, and everyone we know in our lives, and everyone we love in our lives, are eternal. We are One, as the saying goes, but we are all here to help each other evolve in the meantime.

Unfortunately for me, while I am still incarnate looking out, that means I have had to suffer a great deal of emotional pain around this profound loss. It’s been almost too much to handle. Thank you, God, for waiting twenty years from the time my Daddy left to the time my Jimmy left. Any closer and I would not have been able to deal with it.

If I hadn’t moved to Colorado and gotten some space in my relationship with Jim for a few years, I wouldn’t have survived it, either. If this and that and twenty other things, it would not have worked out so that I could survive. As it was, it seemed pretty touch and go, at least for a few months there. The deal I made with myself in February of that following year, just to try to make it through another year with that loss, is there to remind me how close I came to giving myself permission to break my own contract.

That’s the thing that I never would have been able to talk to Jim about in a way that the man would have been able to fully understand, maybe because I still don’t fully understand it, but it is the kind of belief that comes from a true experience. I knew I was not being abandoned.

When I was a kid having my tonsils out, I almost died from the anesthesia. I remember that experience vividly, like it happened yesterday, and that intensity is what makes me believe it is more than “imagination.”

I remember calling and calling for my mommy. I remember a nurse coming to talk to me as I struggled to live, and telling me that I would be able to see my mommy later. I remember looking up at a window with a curtain, a window that kind of looked like one of those in a basement room, way up at the top of the ceiling with a little gauzy curtain.

Now that I think about it, it could have been any room with a window high up on the wall, but at the time I thought it was the basement. I remember the light and the blue sky, and lying there going in and out of sleep, and I remember the window getting dark. I was taken from that room back up to my hospital room in the middle of the night. I remember both my mother and my father meeting me as the gurney came off the elevator.

The thing that stays with me is the sense that I met with angels while I was under anesthesia. I don’t have many visual memories, but I seem to have a whole bunch of auditory memories. I got to hang around there, somewhere not of this world, just waiting, while someone decided what the heck I was going to do.   I think after a while it was decided that I should go back.

I remember being really, really pissed that I had to return to life in that recovery room. I liked wherever it was I seemed to be. There was no way I wanted to go back to Earthly life. I thought I knew what my choices were, and I wanted to stay in this quiet, otherworldly kind of place. I was just a little kid, but in this place I think I was more. I also realized that if I went back, I would have to stay.

“It’s time for you to return,” said a voice in the seeming darkness. A strong, authoritative but gentle voice. From some person, a soft, glowing sort of person, maybe an angel.

“No, I don’t want to,” I said, but maybe not in words, just a thought.

“It’s not your time.” I was told.

“I’ll just kill myself, then,” I said defiantly.

“You can try,” the voice told me. “No matter what you do, we will just save you. It’s not an option.”

Somehow I knew the truth of what I was told. Did I hear this as actual words, or was this just a knowing? I was just a little kid again, in the body of a little kid, looking up at a nurse by my bedside. The lights in the ceiling were way too bright after that quiet place. Suddenly I wanted my mommy again, fiercely, that minute.

There would not be any escape clauses in the contract, except actual death, and it was not to be by my own hand, no matter how much I was tempted. No, that was a cop out for me, and would mean that I just have to come right back and do it again, anyway. You have to go through all the same stuff you’ve just gone through, birth and being a kid, and you tangle up other people’s contracts, too.

So this is what it would have been hard to tell my brother, while he was sitting there in his cancer ridden body, asking me if I would feel abandoned. I was a human being, yes, and of course on some level I felt I was being abandoned. But I also knew in some other place, some other part of my being, this just wasn’t so.

It’s not easy to think about, I thought of my brother, especially as he was sitting there being wiped out by a disease. A disease it may have been his own choice, now get me straight here, his own SPIRITUAL choice, to suffer. It all flashed before me again, when he asked that question. I heard his earthly voice, the voice of the concerned shrink, a psychologist, ask me that question. He wanted to help me from that place with his own passing.

For that moment I couldn’t answer him. It was almost a shock to hear him ask me about that. The human part of me couldn’t receive what he said. I was both his sister and something more. It was the “something more” that received what he said. I dropped the question. We never talked about it, death as abandonment. We never really talked about death, his death, at all. It was too big, too overwhelming, except for that certainty that came to mind as I heard his voice. We are spirits having a human experience.

What can bother us as spirits? Nothing. We are not sick, we do not suffer, we do not die, and we are always with our Creator as we sit there and contemplate coming here. It’s all illusion anyway.

In the meantime, my dear, dear, wonderful brother, know that my heart is broken to be here without you. Sometimes, in those first few months after you died, it was a struggle to even breathe. There is a gap that exists to this day in my life, though I have found some peace around it. I still struggle with every death; an animal, a friend, family members. It is not easy being human.

But then there is that other part that waits even now, so many years later, patiently tapping my foot, until the day we can be together again.



IMG_0043 (2)Last night I sat in the little discussion group and listened to a woman talk about the changes she is going through adjusting to a new stage in her life. Her youngest child has gone off to college, and she starts a new journey defining who she is without children in her house.

All of us as parents face that day and time when our greatest joy is that our children venture out in to the world as adults; joy that they made it that far, joy that for the time being the choices they make seem positive and exciting, but sometimes it comes with the pain of realizing that decades of focus on the well-being of someone else is no longer possible, or appropriate. Yet nothing will ever be the same again.

My focus drifted away as I absorbed her pain, remembering my own challenges as my children left the nest, compounded by the end of a long marriage and divorce. The blast of the horn on the long freight train rumbling by on the nearby track separated me temporarily from the words she continued to speak, but not the touch of her emotional tone.

Outside the sky had begun to darken, the setting sun touching the tops of a few nearby clouds with magenta and orange as their underbellies deepened into gray. The blue of a few minutes before paled also, making the sky that much more striking. I was grateful I had chosen the seat I had, facing the front of the building where the plate glass windows looked out not only on the street, but a piece of that sunset, too.

The woman’s husband sat near her, nodding toward the nearby box of tissues long before any of the rest of us realized her struggle to speak. I took my cue from him and pushed the box closer to his wife so she could easily pull one out.

Once again I felt a momentary envy as I sensed his attunement to his wife still present after the mighty struggles I knew they had been through over their many years together. It is not that I regret making the decision to divorce when I feel this, but rather a sorrow that a certain dream of continuity had to fade and come to an end so that I could evolve into the person I am today.

I remember many years ago as my brother lay dying a conversation about some money he wanted to leave me. “It’s for educational purposes,” he said. “For you, or for your kids in case any of you want to go to graduate school.” I know how hard it was at times for him to pay for his doctorate at an Ivy League University without such a lump sum to draw on.

“Of course, I would consider leaving your husband a major education of sorts, too,” he said, smiling. “So do whatever you want with it.”

I have been working hard on forgiveness of my ex-husband lately. Forgiveness of the things for which I feel a very deep resentment, like the fact that he did and still does his best to drive a wedge between me and our children. Indignation that in his desire to be mean to me, it has sometimes put our kids in the uncomfortable spot of seeming to have to choose between which parent they will spend time with, or feel closer to.

He has been successful in this intent in many ways, but the blessing for me is that my kids have not cut me off, though at times I still feel ostracized. Then there is the whole list of things which I felt were unforgiveable sins in our marriage Those “sins” eventually adding up to a breaking point for me.

The passage of time and a whole lot of work on myself has changed some of my perceptions about that relationship. I heard a different definition of “sin” a few years ago that holds true for me today. “Sin” is a term from archery that means “missing the mark.” Yes, indeed, I can say the ills of my marriage certainly involved missing the mark in so many of the areas of dreams and hopes and expectations.

The news for me is that I have finally begun to look at how I might have played into the sins for which my ex-husband holds me accountable. Accountable even to the point of trying to amputate me from his existence; past or present, as wife, or friend, or even mother to our children.

This is an undeniably mighty resentment I see clearly from the height of my high horse. It is my perception that I am in the right, and his resentment is, of course, unfounded. Perhaps the time has come for me to dismount and ask myself, “What was my part in this?” If relationship is really supposed to be a two-way street then what is my 50% that still needs to be cleaned up?

In a few weeks it will be seven years since our divorce became final. I moved out, but in many ways I have not moved on. I have been judgmental, and petty. I have held on to resentments and disappointment and anger. I have inflicted punishment, where possible, perhaps the greatest of which was to give up and leave. I have derived satisfaction from his pain and limitation, both in the past and now. So who is it today, this minute, who suffers from my thoughts and actions? I do.

“Pray for your enemies,” is an injunction I have read a thousand times in spiritual literature of many forms. I understood the benefits of this, but only on an intellectual level before. I have recently begun to experience what a gift it is to do this in present time, seriously, and from the heart.

“Wish for your enemies all the good that you would bring to yourself,” it says in a recent reading I encountered.

A great frustration I have felt about my marriage is that somewhere along the way I got on my ex-husband’s “shit list.” Nothing I ever did seemed to get me off that list. I became the enemy without ever seeing how.

The revelation is in realizing I had such a list myself. He was the one at the very top. This simple act of prayer, of wishing my ex-husband well, even for a minute, is miraculous. He has not only moved down in the ranking on my list, but seems to have disappeared entirely. There is room now to let go. I can “put down the rope in this game of tug-of-war” as they say.

One definition of forgive is to “give up all claim” on the one forgiven. Yes, I think I have finally done so.

“It’s all God,” a certain guru is quoted as saying. That means that you and I, and my ex-husband, too, are all God. In ceasing to attack the man to whom I was married with “justified” thought and action, I have ceased to attack myself.

Thank you, God. What a relief.


When I Was Five

I listened to the meeting leader read a page from one of our daily readers on perfection, and the ills that trying to be perfect can bring to your life. As we went around the room and people shared their thoughts on the subject, most people spoke about the effort it took to try to live up to impossible standards. Perfectionism leads to disappointment in yourself and wears you out.

One person talked about the fact that she has a job where there isn’t enough funding to hire a second person to take on some of the casework at her social services job, so sometimes she doesn’t get done what is expected of her. She often takes work home on the weekend and uses her own time to try to catch up. She thought maybe doing her best was good enough. She didn’t have to be perfect.

Perfectionism is different than having high standards. Perfectionism means that when you have ten things to do in a day on your “to do” list, you have to get all ten things done whether it is humanly possible to do so or not. You put in extra hours just to get that list crossed off no matter what. The likely result is that you don’t get any of those things done well, but you get them done. Then you get to resent other people who don’t have your work ethic. You often don’t get any recognition for trying hard, either.

I could relate. In my family of origin, I was expected to be a top student. I had a high IQ, after all, so I should get straight A’s in everything. It didn’t matter whether a subject was tedious, or boring to me, I was expected to perform according to someone else’s idea of what a good job looked like. If I had four A’s and one B, I heard about the B, not my success in other areas.

I listened to other people’s ruminations and suddenly a little lightbulb went off. Perfectionism, for me, meant that I had a lot of secrets. The farther away from a particular expectation I felt, the deeper and darker that secret became. The more I heard about how imperfect I was, the deeper the shame I felt about myself.

Life, in the normal course of events, hands you a lot of trying situations to deal with. Sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are big. Failure wasn’t even on the radar, never mind that it might be a helpful stepping off place to a new way of being in the world.

Once, when I was a senior in high school, I painted a picture I liked of mountains by the ocean. I had had no formal art training since “art” was considered a waste of time by my mother, but I painted anyway. Both my parents inspected this painting.

“That sucks,” my mother announced, and walked away.

My father looked at it in silence for a couple of minutes. “The mountains are really very good,” he said. “I like the depth and light you’ve captured. The ocean doesn’t work quite as well, however. It’s a little too flat. Maybe you could try again and give it more life.”

My father was the artist. He was an award-winning landscape architect. I appreciated his honesty, but most of the time he kept his opinion about things to himself. My inner critic is my mother’s voice. Nothing was remotely good enough, no matter how much effort I put into anything.

They say we marry someone most like our problematic parent, in an effort on some level to heal the wounded inner child. If that’s true, I certainly married my mother.

For a while I was really into writing poetry. I wrote a poem I thought was particularly good one day and showed it to my husband. I interrupted his TV watching of a movie I knew he’d seen several times.

“Please read this and tell me what you think of it,” I said. I put the poem in his outstretched hand from behind the couch he was sitting on and stood, waiting for his opinion.

“That’s nice,” he said after reading it, laying the paper on the couch beside him and returning to the TV without ever glancing at me. “Now what are you going to do with it?”

It took me a long time to realize that maybe I should show my creative work to people who might actually like it, and avoid the ones I knew never would. It also took me a long time to realize maybe rejection had more to do with the critic than with my work, or especially with me.

I still haven’t taken any formal art training, but I have learned a method of painting called “process painting.” I’ve learned some good stuff through doing this. It specifically helps you deal with the places in your painting where you get derailed by the inner critic. The majority of the time that wasn’t too difficult to get around, even though I often stood in a class with wonderful artists and tried to paint.

“I’m not a trained artist,” I could say to myself. “So what if my painting is not as gorgeous as the person’s next to me?”

One day I was standing in a class painting and came to a spot where I got stuck. “That painting looks like a five-year old did it,” my inner critic sneered. I stepped back and looked at it.

“Yeah, it kinda does look like that,” I responded.

I remembered being a little kid and how much I had liked playing with paint. I remembered the sunlight as it came through the big windows. It was definitely a happy place.

“Wow! My inner five-year old is alive and well,” I thought. “How cool is that?”

I finished the painting easily.

My mother is dead and I divorced my husband. I like myself ever so much more now than I have at times in the past. When the voice of that inner critic rears her ugly head, I can usually say, “Thank you for your opinion,” and move on.

I still struggle with some of my “secrets;” things I am afraid of sharing for the judgment I might receive. I’ve learned, however, that most of the time, when I find the courage to talk about what I perceive as my own failings, I end up feeling much closer to the person with whom I’ve shared. Most of the time other people have struggled with very similar issues, no matter how dark.

It’s such a relief not to have to be perfect.

Progress, not perfection, is the way for me.



I hesitate to call my mother an alcoholic, still. She definitely had a love affair with the stuff. Her two closest friends drank like fish. My mother spent an awful lot of time drinking with them. She also smoked three packs a day. Billboards at the time showed doctors smoking, too.

My mother used to bitch that Friend #1 would come over and drink all her Seagram’s. When I was a kid, and later in our other house when I was a teenager, I would come home from school and often find my mother and her friend sitting on the couch talking and drinking for the couple of hours between my arrival and my father’s return from work.

“Hi sweetie,” my mother would say, waving the hand with the cigarette. “How was school today?” They would tolerate my presence a few minutes, and then it was time for me to get lost.

My father would come home, greet my mother’s friend, wait for her to finish her drink, and walk the friend out to her car. My father did that because he thought he was being a gentleman to do so, not because said friend ever had any problem walking or driving after an afternoon sucking down her Seagram’s. This was in the day when you could drive with very little worry that the police would bother you about your blood alcohol level.

My mother drank Bacardi Light on ice. Sometimes she added water. The ice crunched as she shoveled it out of the ice bucket and dropped it in the glass. “Clinkety clink,” it went, hitting the bottom of the glass.

She bought both the Bacardi and the Seagram’s in half gallon bottles. I assume she matched her friend drink for drink. I never saw Friend #1 with a full glass when my mother’s was empty. I never saw my mother drink a soda, either, while her friend was drinking the booze. So who was my mother to point the finger at her friend?

My mother complained one day when, after the friend had gone home for the evening, she opened the wall bar we used to have in the living room. She noticed she would need to make a run for some more Seagram’s.

“Friend #1 costs me a fortune,” she muttered. “She’s an alcoholic.”

Friend #2 and my mother had been friends since childhood. They were like two peas in a pod. I loved Friend #2, and often wished she had been my mother, especially when as a teenager I came to detest my own mother. My mother worshipped the ground this friend walked on. She lived in the city, in a big old pre-war rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side close to Columbia University. Her husband was an economics professor there. We lived in suburbia.

“Look what I got for my birthday,” my mother said as she walked in the door one day and opened the wall bar. “It even has my initials on it,” She waved it toward me so I could see. “Friend #2 gave it to me so I can go places and not have to worry whether they have Bacardi available at parties we go to.”

It was a silver pint-sized flask with a screw-on top held in place by a little chain. She proceeded to fill it up with a bottle from the bar. “It fits in my purse,” she said, smiling.

I’d already heard the story about why she drank Bacardi. “Gin makes me sick,” told me once. “Bacardi is the only liquor that doesn’t do that.” That was the 1960’s, if my memory serves me correctly. Long before rum, Bacardi Light in particular, was a common-place liquor stocked in home bars.

Most evenings in the summer we spent at the beach club my family belonged to. My father would arrive on the six-o’clock launch from shore, and we would have dinner on the beach of the little island in Long Island Sound that was part of the club. My mother would whip her flask out of the cooler and pour herself a drink or two.

My father drank gin and pink lemonade. He made it with mostly melted frozen pink lemonade concentrate from a can in the cooler, and ice. “Can I have a taste?” I would ask, after I got older. It was delicious.

My mother was not a convivial drinker. By the time I came along and reached my teen years, my older siblings were out of the house. I learned to watch it around my mother when she drank. She often went from a relaxed, friendly drinker, to a witch-on-wheels in what seemed like a sip or two. Good luck guessing which sip or two of which drink would transform her.

“Friend #2 drinks herself to sleep at night,” my mother informed me once. “Something bad happened to her when she was young, and she’s afraid of the dark.” I had less daily exposure to Friend #2, but I never thought twice about her drinking. She was always a sweetheart.

“She’s an alcoholic,” my mother pronounced of this friend, also.

I took counseling training in addictions therapy after I was married. My mother came over to my house one afternoon to visit. I was sitting at my dining room table with books around me while I wrote a paper for my training. My mother stood over my shoulder, a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other, reading what I was working on. She stood in silence for a few minutes. “This is all fine and dandy,” she said as she read. “But there are no alcoholics in our family.”

My mother has been dead a few years now. I am no longer young. To this day if I hear ice thrown in a glass in a particular way, or if someone swirls half melted ice against the side of a glass in the dregs of a drink, I think of her. I see her standing there, a particular look in her eyes, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other.

Who am I to say she drank too much?



I fill my soul with the scent
Of the sun-filled Spring day,
And the hours we spent on the little dam
At the end of the pond, watching
The water rush over the wall.

Black with depth and algae,
On the pond side, silver
Sparkling as a thousand coins
On the other,
Its joyful splashing mirrored words
Flowing from our hearts with such ease
Even the silences
Rang with their song.

I used to look at the handfuls of pictures
Your camera clicked off that day,
Searching for a tangible beginning
To a love that burned for years.

But black and white made it flat,
Like the pond, colorless, even in the sun,
And at the end, as we grew apart,
Finally faded, like a mist that meets the day.

Now, after years, and in the absence
Of such tactile souvenirs,
My mind leaps, dancing in the sunlight
Of the time recalled.

I hear again the music of your voice
Mingle with the rush of water,
A smell of dampness and wet leaves,
Carrying the sound into distance.



Fairy spirits flutter like Miller moths tonight,
Dancing through the house, twenty deep in the kitchen,
I suck them up with the vacuum wand,
But the magical beings only seem to multiply
For each I send to the oblivion of the vacuum dust bag.

They rest, hanging from the ceiling above me,
Climb the wall next to my overstuffed chair,
Bang the sound of water dripping against
The plastic ceiling light, tap, tap, tap,
Migrating early because of drought.

I know what they really are, despite the soft dust
Falling in the air under the lampshade,
Miller moths, indeed, little masters of acrobatics,
Shapeshifting, interdimensional visitors, who,
Wearing brown and tan tree bark designs,
Disappear behind pictures, and plates, and
Along the edges of cabinets.

Even under the mud boots by the front door
I find piles of ten or 15 hiding in safety and
A little bit of damp, they fly out and startle me
When I want to sweep.

My fear of flying bugs darts out, joins them,
A tiny thread of their mad, oscillating spiral upward,
Around, around, at last one good thought comes,
Moths don’t bite, even if they are little spirits
Searching for the mountains, in disguise.

Around, around, I back to my body,
They, up into the afternoon light,
In a few short days they are gone,
The predator vacuum idle again,
Except for the wary path around it,
Taken by the dog.


Beautiful Carvings

She’s a lily white, suburban New York City raised
Born, bred, socially, politically, educationally correct girl
With a small town, Midwestern-minded bigot mother
Who told her not to play with the Italian girls
Even the ones with doctor/lawyer fathers
Or Democrats, or Episcopalians, either,
And later, she was supposed to stay away from
Bronx boyfriends, Catholics, though her father was one,
Anyone from the north side of the tracks, and on and on,
This day’s whim not tomorrow’s or yesterday’s,
She might have died right there, dried up, ceased, but…

Into that tapestry was woven one hot-tempered Jamaican
Rum-drinking, big-hearted, baby-loving caretaker
Who wasn’t afraid of anything.

The baby and the Jamaican, they formed a bond like concrete,
Like superglue, like Canada geese, and neither spoke Wonder Bread,
Pepperidge Farm White sliced sandwich bread very well,
Refined white table sugar in a silver bowl
The baby climbed up to eat and spill on the mahogany table,
So sweet it burned going down, sat there gurgling in her stomach,
No, instead they spoke a savory stew of grunts and chopped sounds,
Midnight breathy whispers, long-legged night biting language,
Voodoo, incense, bloody things sacrificed and burned,
Love so deep your heart goes out, turns outside in, dancing
Drooling, moonlit darkness, body bugs chewing, pure baby woman love.

That tiny-town, narrow minded woman mother sniffed out that love,
No way jealous, threw out that rum-drinker, said she was a booze thief,
Bigot bottle-marking rum drinker herself, threw out that midnight love,
The dark warm ground the seeds sleep in, damp mud-skin embrace,
So tight it hurts, fills that empty place, out like so much trash, unbagged,
Back to plain saltines and grape jelly, broke that baby’s heart,
Smashed it, sledge-hammer-road-kill-smear broke it, baby
Thinking maybe it was dream-time woman love, all child-sided,
But twenty years later, out of the blue, the darkness, and this is true,
The mother broke down and told her true, a call came in, moonlit,

“HOW’S MY BABY NOW?” the caller asked.



In my son’s room
All is quiet except
For the whirr of the ceiling fan.
The breeze creates
A perfect sleeping temperature,
Two teenagers lie still,
His friend on the pull out chair
Topped with curly red hair
Exactly like a sheep’s
Before shearing.
It’s noon and time to get up
But there is something
So quiet and gentle
About the air and their sleep
I can’t quite wake them,
My eyes catch suddenly
Perfect, the fingers and nails
Exactly the length and shape
Of his hand, my brother’s,
My son’s hand lying
On the black sheet
Reaching out
From under the white comforter
Even the knuckles and bones
Exactly the same
As his uncle’s, my brother’s,
Relaxed, a soft stance,
I feel my brother sharply
His presence palpable
Eerie sometimes,
How genetics magically
For a whole timeless moment
Call back the people
Who are dead.

CCG 8/13/06

This is yet another poem I thought I would share with you. I hope you like it!


Nice Mom Picture

Tonight the smell of Russian Olive Trees
Scents the soft night air
Heavy, heady, like a strong perfume
It hangs its sweet aroma
For a week or two every June,
Crickets chirp loudly all around
Flowing in on the gentle breeze,
I find myself missing her more this night,
Though nothing tells me why,
Except that summer was a time
I associate more with her,
With her mothering and presence,
Summer evenings at the beach,
When the sun went down
And the moon came up,
When I was a little girl
She’d walk with me by the water,
Or let me swim with her,
We’d sit on the warm rocks
And dry off, waiting for the tide to change,
The sand, so hot in the noonday sun
In the evening was just warm
As we ate our dinner
On a towel tablecloth and paper dishes,
I still see the moonlight
Glittering its silver path
Across the black water,
I hear the splash of little waves
And though I still hear her happy voice,
I fear my memory of it might fade,
So I clutch my summer mother
Young, wearing her straw hat
Fiercely to my heart tonight,
Imprinting all I can of then,
As if reaching back in time,
Stalking the memory of every sense,
Might soften the loss in now.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. My mother died in April of 2006. I wrote a series of poems around her death, and this is one of my favorites. Though our relationship was often adversarial, there are times when I truly miss her presence. Feel free to let me know what you think. Thanks.