Saturday, May 30, 2009

No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men

"The question is: Where would it get you if something that's a little bit ambiguous in the movie is made clear? It doesn't get you anywhere." Joel Coen

Because I don’t think there’s such a thing as denouement, that twisted plots can be tidily wrapped and character flaws showered with last rites. Because all things have a trailing fragrance, the loosed strands meet again in new configurations and each undoing leads to the next holy thing.

I am a believer in this: that it is what we bring to each moment that makes meaning. Do you fight, do you run, do you try to appease, do you bargain, do you refuse to play?

the crazy lady

she’s out there

screaming obscenities

shedding sweaters


and aphorisms




in the

daily yeast

Everyone plays the fool

Week 65 of Raven’s wordzzle

The words for this week's ten word challenge were: parasite, meals on wheels, crows, it's my fault, everything but the kitchen sink, on sale, patriotism, the love of my life, library card, common sense And for the mini: blackmail, California, stethoscope, postage, crank

Here’s my mega offering:

No exceptions to the rule. Everyone plays the fool.

Elisa delivered meals on wheels in the Tenderloin on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Whenever she arrived at Cecelia’s apt, all bets were off. The cats would scatter, making way for a seemingly reasonable woman in a Greenpeace sweat shirt and faded jeans. Invariably it would come down to accusing Elisa of spying for the city, stealing her canes and malevolently displacing the russet heirloom curtains in her living room. Elisa would catch a flash of feral tabby tale and set the hot meal on the welcome mat.

Elisa’s family disparaged her for the “bleeding heart” tendencies which they claimed exposed her to every brand of unfettered abuse from parasites that sucked the system dry. Why afford charity to every crank in the white pages? they argued.

Elisa knew from hard scrabble experience who the true parasites were. In fact she had assembled a most wanted list. Wanted for deception. Wanted for willful cruelty. Wanted for grand larceny. Wanted for extortion. Wanted for false pretense. Wanted for spreading rumors. Wanted for blackmail. They wore masks that barely covered their identities.. Brother. FiancĂ© . Mama. They proposed marriage. They offered to fix your plumbing when there was nothing wrong with it. They borrowed books on your library card. They advanced at your expense. The overdue notices accrued on your account. “It’s my fault” for not remembering, you surmised.

Parasites on every corner who use everything but the kitchen sink: patriotism, self help and god to deceive and betray. They had the best intentions. “It’s my fault.” Mea culpa. It takes a while to catch on.

He was the love of my life you insist. He was a vulnerable child abused in a California cult. “It’s my fault” for not loving him fiercely enough. It only takes an entry level stethoscope to diagnose the pathology. Ultimately common sense prevails.

Tuesday rolls around. Elisa sees Cecilia again. This time she advances a little further. Catches a glimpse of the crowded entryway, visibly piled with expired library books. Pearl Buck. Profiles in Courage. Crates of 78’s, and a fortress of pocketbooks. Keys to long lost locks, RKO tickets, lipstick.

Crows gather in prayer. Penance is on sale postage paid.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


This week, I did not have one single impression, but rather a splintering of images and emotions, which is, I guess suitable for the word dropped. I chose my favorites.
I thought about the word dropped and there were a thousand humming things.

I dropped my guard
and birds
flew out of my heart

I dropped everything
and came right over
as soon as you called
let’s open a bottle of wine
whatever you like
we’ll celebrate

Drop it
he said
but she couldn’t

The moon
in its socket
behind the sloped rooftops
was silent

The moon
like a penny
he leaned in
I felt moist
it was familiar
as rain.

I am a high wire walker
in slippers
the hum of the hive
surrounds me

I am a high wire walker
with nothing on my mind
time is a thief
and meadows rise

I am a high wire walker
without a balancing stick
latitudes shift
treetops brim with song

I am a high wire walker
who has forgotten her name
You invite me to your summer home
time returns what it took.

I remember
the air heavy
it had been saving
all its arguments
the sky groaned
and words dropped
like hail

To be fair
I don’t know who
dropped who.
I only remember
the times you
went away

Friday, May 22, 2009


"I love cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul."
- Jean Cocteau

"There is, incidentally, no way of talking about cats that enables one to come off as a sane person."
- Dan Greenberg

"You can't help that. We're all mad here."

- The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland

This Week's Ten Word Challenge: albino, trench, marble, assistant, Indian, What's that supposed to mean?, sound first principles, the key thing, moat, curtain

The mini challenge: under the surface, doomed, grand design, temple, aspirin


It started out innocently enough. We received the photos as a jpeg email attachment from a reliable source. We opened it and inside, found: a white cat in a basket with orchids.

We suspected it from the start, but didn’t want to admit… that we were lost. In point of fact, doomed to reneg on our grand design of living free from care and responsibility. She was three years old and intolerant of other cats. The key thing was that this pretty much ruled out the klatch of gaga over kittens first timers and also the hopeless pool of fanatics– with their rife colonies of eccentrics. Sauvi came with stringent prenups (which it turns out became the only bulwark between us and our natural propensities). You know, one cat just leads to another… One cat is too few… It must be genetic, a dominant gene for crazy for cats fever which runs rampant on both sides of the family.

Natalie first noticed her wandering around the apartment complex. Sauvi looked nothing like she does in the fetching CV photo. Apparently, her pristine coat was sooty and pocked with blisters. The presumptive diagnosis was scabies.

Poor thing. All porcelain. Turns out she was sunburned.

Who could have done this? Set her loose in the noon flare of scorching Florida sun?

Natalie could not keep her because of conflicts of interest with her own burgeoning feline family. So it came to pass that Sauvi was carefully dispatched to a temporary shelter in the suburbs. Mike and Rita’s safe haven for displaced and misplaced kitties. Upon arrival, she had apparently tacked her nonnegotiable conditions onto the door in the fine tradition of rebels and renegades.

There were a dozen or so boarders poised on tables, crunching science diet, ears twitching with excitement at our arrival. Loquacious and happy to regal us with their rambling narratives. In the mean time, our girl had set up an impenetrable trench behind the water heater in the commodious garage. No cat’s land.

We waited. And waited. And waited. Enfin, the curtain rose and Sauvi made her debut. A baroque masterpiece. Disheveled but with a hint of faded elegance. We crossed the moat, gave her an aspirin for good measure, and lured her gently into her soft carrier.

It was all so understated. A cat needed a home. We happened to be passing through. Under the surface, and in retrospect, we recognize it for what it was, a finely crafted plot.

Sauvi. She is all white and pink, the dear one, An intrepid explorer, interloper of roofs, terrorist of chipmunks, ruffian, diva. Don’t be fooled by her albino persona. She is fierce. Curiosity trumps trauma every time. Daily, she crosses the moat of fear with her great Indian patas. We cannot imagine life without her.

Sound first principles. What’s that supposed to mean? Family is family.

Every good magic trick needs an assistant in the wings. Natalie. Who had the good sense to make marble crack.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


This week’s prompt was tolerance. This is a topic that I have spent a lifetime pondering but have never expressed in the form of a poem.
Thank you, Gina for this very thought provoking opportunity.

Living Close

living close
as we do
my neighbor coughs
and it wakes me
at 7 PM
Thomas tap dances
on my head
I practice
with the twins
Learn to make
talk to fingers
caked in our hair

Why is it the
quarrel is between
sister and sister
thorn and rose
others we must learn to hate?

Saturday, May 9, 2009


This week's prompt is "what is it like?"

Please visit one single impression to find some wonderfully inventive interpretations.


a thousand tongues
weave summer
in silent verdigris
in the river bottom
where the soft animal sleeps
in the solitude
of ruins
you spin
the early songs
and when
you are done
with all of your
you will lift her
off the wheel
lay her sweetly
to bake
in the high sun
waiting to be found.

this is what it feels like
when you stroke my hair
blind fingers
go to work
the line of cleavage
find softness
in her purpose
this is what it feels like
when you stroke my hair
trace the groove
of memory
til it is smooth
with constant strumming
beads click
the rosary advances
and time is lost
in air
sometimes you
achieve it with
just a glance.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sam's Plates

This is week 62 of Raven’s wonderful word challenge. Please visit her here and read all the creative offerings!!

This Week's Ten Word Challenge is: gentle spring rain, mammoth, soap opera, worry, bubble gum, garden gate, seizure, of Biblical proportions, paralysis, wrinkles

Mini Challenge: operatic, stuffed animals, anger management, biographical, paint splatters

Samantha did not exhibit any of the classic signs of aging: wrinkles, sudden onset fascination with golf, wanton proliferation of elastic waist bands, creeping short term memory loss. No, our heroine was hobbled in infinitely less visible ways. Which made her all the more estranged from the mainstream, most of whom were just beginning their perennial thaw from a deep winter freeze.

As with many things in this life, Samantha had a contrarian response to the seasons. The advent of the first gentle spring rain would initiate an abrupt retreat from life. It was almost as if she was trading places with Persephone. She was plagued with vague worries and mammoth regrets which virtually paralyzed her. She had learned to bundle all of her vacation and sick days into an aggregate and submit a request for 3 weeks off during the month of April. Most everyone else was gunning for June, so she didn’t have much competition.

For the duration of her leave, Samantha would resign herself to protracted and fitful naps, mindless soap operas and a ritualistic survey of a musty collection of Bazooka bubble gum wrappers. This year, Samantha was determined to spin dross into gold.

She fashioned an atelier in the attic. The pitched sheet rock walls would be her canvas. She assembled all of the surviving stuffed animals: panda, Tigger, Piglet, Bert, Ernie, even her beloved Pooh bear. She then loaded the spray paint cans and set them around her like an arsenal. Once she passed through the proverbial garden gate, there was no turning back. Piglet swooned in anticipation of the frightful scene. Bert leaned in to Ernie as if to issue a salutary warning, “ I have a feeling we’re not on Sesame Street anymore, pal.” What ensued could only be described as an apoplectic seizure of biblical proportions. Samantha sucked in her breath, took aim and splattered her childhood friends with layers of pigment. This was an act of such unprecedented violence in her biographical schema that Samantha was convinced she was a prime candidate for anger management. Nevertheless, she persisted. This would give Eeyore something to mope about, she gloated.

Not long after her initial operatic outburst, Samantha began to apply her talents in a more focused manner. She engaged a longtime potter colleague in an unholy alliance. Will would forge the plates and she would paint them. Before long, legend spread of the dynamic and lively beauty of Sam’s paint splattered dinnerware. Featured in Martha Stewart’s Living magazine, they inevitably landed on Oprah’s table. The crowning moment occurred when a specially commissioned set of plates framed a hearty homegrown meal sourced from the White House lawn with Sasha and Malia beaming at the glistening romaine.

Friday, May 1, 2009



my eyes sink
behind a row of hedges
flocking with birds

falling into
a baffle of loft
how can it be?

with hair ablaze

a box of matches
must have slipped out
of my pocket
while I was dreaming.

This piece was inspired by Diane’s post yesterday about the alarmist coverage of swine flu. It made me think about how rumors are spread, how panic can become pandemic. and on a macular scale, how a thought if repeated enough can take your mind hostage. Turn off your tv and go outside!