Thursday, January 09, 2020

Poetry Thursday, a classic

When Great Trees Fall
~Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Year of Books, part 2, THE LISTS!

Turns out that you can "like" a book for different reasons - some books on my list were notable for the impact they had on me, even though I wouldn't necessarily call all of these my favorites from the list.

Favorites are still the ones I want to own, have on my shelf and read again someday, or at least think I would read again. There are plenty of books I really enjoyed, had great impact, or just plain enjoyed for the ideas/worlds presented, but I wouldn't want to read again.

None of these lists is more important than the other, in my heart, they are just different.

Here are my lists** ... finally ...

Favorites - as in I would read *again*
Nimona - Noelle Stevenson (keeping it til it's due to listen to AGAIN and AGAIN)
The Rules of Magic -Alice Hoffman
The Cutting Season - Attica Locke (already read it twice)
With the Fire on High - Elizabeth Acevedo
Tattoos on the Heart - Fr. Greg Boyle [to be reread everytime I need inspiration/perspective]
Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson [WOW]
The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo
The Astonishing Color of After - Emily X. R. Pan
The Museum of Extraordinary Things - Alice Hoffman

Most impactful - as in I am glad I read, probably won't read again
The Muralist - B. A. Shapiro
Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens
Barking to the Choir - Fr. Greg Boyle
Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
The Line Becomes a River - Francisco Cantu
The Lightkeepers - Abby Geni

Glad I tried, I really enjoyed, but not *favorites*
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk - Kathleen Rooney
Jojo Moyes - Me Before You (series of three books)
Gennifer Choldenko - Al Capone/Alcatraz (series of four books)
The Bastard of Istanbul - Elif Shafak
The Wildlands - Abby Geni
The Beekeepers' Lament - Hannah Nordhaus
The Story Sisters - Alice Hoffman

New to Me Authors - will keep reading everything they write!
Abbi Geni
Attica Locke
Anne Hillerman [I LOVE her take on the Chee/Leaphorn/Manuelito mysteries]
Elizabeth Acevedo
Alice Hoffman (I am working through her list of books, some I love, some I didn't, but she is GREAT!)
Laura Lippman (worked through all the audio available, ready for next book Ms. Lippman!)
Elif Shafak - please more books on audio!

2018 reads I should I have written about
There There - Tommy Orange
Leaving Atlanta - Tayari Jones
An American Marriage - Tayari Jones
The Mars Room - Rachel Kushner
The Untelling - Tayari Jones
In Other Words - Jhumpa Lahiri
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me - Sherman Alexie
The House of Broken Angels - Luis Alberto Urrea
Hunger - Roxane Gay
Children of Blood and Bone - Tomi Adeyemi

**These lists are probably more in timeframe order, going backwards from the most recent I read, not in how much I liked them! :)

Monday, December 30, 2019

My Year of 144+ books.... part 1

I was writing this really long intro to my favorite books of the year, and then I realized I was doing that thing I hate ... making someone read to the end to get to what was promised.

So, instead, I am dividing up the post. I SWEAR this is not a dangling parts post. I really already wrote and POSTED part 2!


I set myself a seemingly impossible goal of 12 books per month as my goal for 2019. April was nearly my undoing as I got behind by 8 books. But I used May, June and July to get back in the game. I started choosing "lighter" books, in part, because my book clubs were killing me with long, involved family trauma books. I needed a vacation from my heavy books. But, I also needed lighter fare that I could just get through more quickly to catch up.

I learned a few things. I relax by reading serial killer books. I don't know if others have this as their beach read style. I tried romance novels. But I spent more time gagging and being horrified by the inner monologue of all the female leads than listening to the books.

Sometimes you just have to give up on a book. You don't have to slog through every last word of a book that you hate. Goodreads was not my friend on this. If I said I was "currently reading" something, which was my standard habit: start a book, mark it on Goodreads. It seemed like the easiest way to do it. Then I felt guilty about abandoning the book when I hated it.

Here's how I solved that problem: 1) I created a shelf called "tried-and-hated", and 2) try books for the first forty pages before marking it "currently reading".

I didn't want to lose credit for a book who I had read passed its usefulness, but had already wasted significant hours trying to get into it. And then I wouldn't have to leave a book in the currently reading limbo forever.

Trying books was a hard concept for me because I needed to get through so many books in a month, but necessary, and, in the end, useful. I would go through a library's online available list and download three or four. Then I would try one. And if I didn't immediately love it, go on to the next one. At first, I would send it back to the library if it wasn't love at first listen. Then I realized the issue.

After just finishing a book I had come to love in the listening, any book I tried was never good enough. But I didn't have the luxury of time to savor the book before starting a new one. So, sampling was great. I would listen to a chapter on one, then another and another until the one that would ultimately be my next book was clear. That didn't mean that I abandoned all the others. Since I had already listened to the first chapter, I would go back and give each another try. Sometimes in the second listen, a book would hit. Others never hit, and I sent them back to the library for others to peruse.

If you need to get through a lot books really quickly, trying new things and giving up on them if they are not your cup of tea is the ticket. At the end of the year, you also have a really diverse set of books.

I am trying to figure out which books I liked the best. As I look through my list, I am pleased by the diverse sample of books. It also makes me want to set my sights on new challenges for myself.

This year, I tried to read more Black women writing mysteries. Since I am listening, it turns out to be harder than you think because so many books I want are not available in audio, or not available through the library on audio.

I like some romance books, but there are also lots of romance novels that are not for me.

I really, really like serial killer books. I still don't know what about them makes me feel unencumbered and relaxed. That introspection is for another post.

Lists tomorrow...

Friday, December 27, 2019


I am not dead.

I am not writing.

I am just over here living life and feeling overwhelmed.

I might hate everyone and everything less if I unloaded over here more often. But that doesn't seem like a friendly way to use this space.

So, just dropping in to say that I have drafts in the folder, and they will be out next week.


Happy New YEAR, almost.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Poetry Thursday, thinking about governing, sort of

Letting the Emptiness Become My Government
 ~Marcus Jackson

Within me, the sipped, iced bourbon enacts
the sense of a slow, April rain
blurring and nurturing a landscape.
Decades I’ve been pipe-dreaming of finding
a life as concise as a wartime telegram.
Ultimately, I’ve ended up compiling
an archive of miscommunication
and the faded receipts of secondary disgraces.
In third grade, a friend’s uncle stole the two dollars
from my pocket as I slept on their couch,
and later he must’ve hurried into the night
toward a flat in the nearby building
where a newly minted narcotic promised
to evict the misgivings from all riled souls.
I told no one of the theft, letting the emptiness
become my government, my friend’s
mother counting her food stamps while we walked
the late-morning blocks to a bustling grocery,
within which she eventually smacked
the hopeful face of my friend as he reached
again for too costly a thing.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

quote Thursday

We delight in the beauty
of the butterfly but
rarely admit the changes
it has gone through
to achieve that beauty.
~Maya Angelou

Poetry Thursday, Fall in Vermont...

Thinking of Frost
 ~Major Jackson

I thought by now my reverence would have waned,
matured to the tempered silence of the bookish or revealed
how blasé I’ve grown with age, but the unrestrained
joy I feel when a black skein of geese voyages like a dropped
string from God, slowly shifting and soaring, when the decayed
apples of an orchard amass beneath its trees like Eve’s
first party, when driving and the road Vanna-Whites its crops
of corn whose stalks will soon give way to a harvester’s blade
and turn the land to a man’s unruly face, makes me believe
I will never soothe the pagan in me, nor exhibit the propriety
of the polite. After a few moons, I’m loud this time of year,
unseemly as a chevron of honking. I’m fire in the leaves,
obstreperous as a New England farmer. I see fear
in the eyes of his children. They walk home from school,
as evening falls like an advancing trickle of bats, the sky
pungent as bounty in chimney smoke. I read the scowl
below the smiles of parents at my son’s soccer game, their agitation,
the figure of wind yellow leaves make of quaking aspens.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Poetry Thursday, for Greg

~Wendy Xu

The diagnosis was god, twice a day until the spirit
untangles itself. I took a trip into unscripted
days past, teenagers submit to the window an open
facing yawn. A walnut fell into the grave
of my loved one and stayed there beating patient
like a word. I was still unmoved by disbelief watching
my father mumble the pledge and hot white stars
he can’t remember. Nobody got hurt, some un-
fulfilled potential exits the room. Enter, knowledge.
Men came to dispel ambiguity and raced
my intention to a hard boiling over. Each new decade
we stayed was a misinterpretation
of genre. We showed our teeth over the years to those
who would listen. In the face of the absent subject
I felt my desire go flaccid. The leaves fell dutifully one
by one from their limbs. But I wrote to you against
all odds. Money. Paperwork. Love’s heavy
open door. Critique. Indignity. Vision and often
enough time.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Poetry Thursday

From Fifth Avenue Up
~Djuna Barnes

Someday beneath some hard
Capricious star—
Spreading its light a little
Over far,
We'll know you for the woman
That you are.

For though one took you, hurled you
Out of space,
With your legs half strangled
In your lace,
You'd lip the world to madness
On your face.

We'd see your body in the grass
With cool pale eyes.
We'd strain to touch those lang'rous
Length of thighs,
And hear your short sharp modern
Babylonic cries.

It wouldn't go. We'd feel you
Coil in fear
Leaning across the fertile
Fields to leer
As you urged some bitter secret
Through the ear.

We see your arms grow humid
In the heat;
We see your damp chemise lie
Pulsing in the beat
Of the over-hearts left oozing
At your feet.

See you sagging down with bulging
Hair to sip,
The dappled damp from some vague
Under lip,
Your soft saliva, loosed
With orgy, drip.

Once we'd not have called this
Woman you—
When leaning above your mother's
Spleen you drew
Your mouth across her breast as
Trick musicians do.

Plunging grandly out to fall
Upon your face.
In grimace,
With your belly bulging stately
Into space.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Poetry Thursday, back to school edition

Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)
 ~Dante Di Stefano

Write about walking into the building
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful.
Write a row of empty desks. Write the face
of a student you’ve almost forgotten;
he’s worn a Derek Jeter jersey all year.
Do not conjecture about the adults
he goes home to, or the place he calls home.
Write about how he came to you for help
each October morning his sophomore year.
Write about teaching Othello to him;
write Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven.
Write about reading his obituary
five years after he graduated. Write
a poem containing the words “common”
“core,” “differentiate,” and “overdose.”
Write the names of the ones you will never
forget: “Jenna,” “Tiberious,” “Heaven,”
“Megan,” “Tanya,” “Kingsley,” “Ashley,” “David.”
Write Mari with “Nobody’s Baby” tattooed
in cursive on her neck, spitting sixteen bars
in the backrow, as little white Mike beatboxed
“Candy Shop” and the whole class exploded.
Write about Zuly and Nely, sisters
from Guatemala, upon whom a thousand
strange new English words rained down on like hail
each period, and who wrote the story
of their long journey on la bestia
through Mexico, for you, in handwriting
made heavy by the aquís and ayers
ached in their knuckles, hidden by their smiles.
Write an ode to loose-leaf. Write elegies
on the nub nose of a pink eraser.
Carve your devotion from a no. 2
pencil. Write the uncounted hours you spent
fretting about the ones who cursed you out
for keeping order, who slammed classroom doors,
who screamed “you are not my father,” whose pain
unraveled and broke you, whose pain you knew.
Write how all this added up to a life.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Poetry Thursday, rescued from DRAFTS

in lieu of a poem, i’d like to say
 ~Danez Smith

apricots & brown teeth in browner mouths nashing dates & a clementine’s underflesh under yellow nail & dates like auntie heads & the first time someone dried mango there was god & grandma’s Sunday only song & how the plums are better as plums dammit & i was wrong & a June’s worth of moons & the kiss stain of the berries & lord the prunes & the miracle of other people’s lives & none of my business & our hands sticky and a good empty & please please pass the bowl around again & the question of dried or ripe & the sex of grapes & too many dates & us us us us & varied are the feast but so same the sound of love gorged & the women in the Y hijab a lily in the water & all of us who come from people who signed with x’s & yesterday made delicacy in the wrinkle of the fruit & at the end of my name begins the lot of us

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Poetry Thursday, rescued from DRAFTS

I Don’t Know What Will Kill Us First: The Race War or What We’ve Done to the Earth
 ~Fatimah Asghar

so I count my hopes: the bumblebees
are making a comeback, one snug tight
in a purple flower I passed to get to you;

your favorite color is purple but Prince’s
was orange & we both find this hard to believe;
today the park is green, we take grass for granted

the leaves chuckle around us; behind
your head a butterfly rests on a tree; it’s been
there our whole conversation; by my old apartment

was a butterfly sanctuary where I would read
& two little girls would sit next to me; you caught
a butterfly once but didn’t know what to feed it

so you trapped it in a jar & gave it to a girl
you liked. I asked if it died. you say you like
to think it lived a long life. yes, it lived a long life.

it lived a long life.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Poetry Thursday, rescued from DRAFTS

Magpies Recognize Themselves in the Mirror
 ~Kelli Russell Agodon

The night sounds like a murder
of magpies and we’re replacing our cabinet knobs
because we can’t change the world, but we can
change our hardware. America breaks my heart
some days, and some days it breaks itself in two.
I watched a woman have a breakdown in the mall
today and when the security guard tried to help her
what I could see was all of us
peeking from her purse as she threw it
across the floor into Forever 21. And yes,
the walls felt like another way to hold us in
and when she finally stopped crying,
I heard her say to the fluorescent lighting, Some days
the sky is too bright. And like that we were her
flock in our black coats and white sweaters,
some of us reaching our wings to her
and some of us flying away.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Poetry Thursday, rescued from DRAFTS

The Rules
 ~Leila Chatti

There will be no stars—the poem has had enough of them. I think we
       can agree
we no longer believe there is anyone in any poem who is just now

they are dead, so let’s stop talking about it. The skies of this poem
are teeming with winged things, and not a single innominate bird.

You’re welcome. Here, no monarchs, no moths, no cicadas doing
they do in the trees. If this poem is in summer, punctuating the blue—
       forgive me,

I forgot, there is no blue in this poem—you’ll find the occasional
pelecinid wasp, proposals vaporized and exorbitant, angels looking

as they should. If winter, unsentimental sleet. This poem does not take
at dawn or dusk or noon or the witching hour or the crescendoing

of our own remarkable birth, it is 2:53 in this poem, a Tuesday, and
       everyone in it is still
at work. This poem has no children; it is trying

to be taken seriously. This poem has no shards, no kittens, no myths or
       fairy tales,
no pomegranates or rainbows, no ex-boyfriends or manifest lovers,
       no mothers—God,

no mothers—no God, about which the poem must admit
it’s relieved, there is no heart in this poem, no bodily secretions, no

referred to as the body, no one
dies or is dead in this poem, everyone in this poem is alive and pretty

okay with it. This poem will not use the word beautiful for it resists
calling a thing what it is. So what

if I’d like to tell you how I walked last night, glad, truly glad, for the
       first time
in a year, to be breathing, in the cold dark, to see them. The stars, I
       mean. Oh hell, before

something stops me—I nearly wept on the sidewalk at the sight of them

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Poetry Thursday, rescued from DRAFTS

 ~LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs
            Child with continuing cling issue his No in final fire
                                                                             -Gwendolyn Brooks

sapphires are lovely as the Star of Bombay revered by Child.
she embodies its six rays replacing spoiled limbs. with
heat she hopes to change her lack luster, halt the continuing
spectrum a cousin sapped from her. a vampire’s cling,
she remembers his as cornflower blue. a distracting issue
a lover is not guilty of. how does he know it’s a turn off? he
cannot enter her that way nor retire to any position. No
moment to gaze without recall. shadows cannot swing in
the amber light. she admires little if at all. a final
twinge when lover pinch upon entering Crayola blush fire.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Poetry Thursday

Before Quiet
~Hazel Hall

I will think of water-lilies
Growing in a darkened pool,
And my breath shall move like water,
And my hands be limp and cool.

It shall be as though I waited
In a wooden place alone;
I will learn the peace of lilies
And will take it for my own.

If a twinge of thought, if yearning
Come like wind into this place,
I will bear it like the shadow
Of a leaf across my face.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Poetry Thursday

Untitled [Executions have always been public spectacles]
 ~mónica teresa ortiz

Executions have always been public spectacles. It is New Year’s 2009 in Austin and we are listening to Jaguares on the speakers. Alexa doesn’t exist yet so we cannot ask her any questions. It is nearly 3 AM, and we run out of champagne. At Fruitvale Station, a man on his way home on a train falls onto the platform, hands cuffed. Witnesses capture the assassination with a grainy video on a cell phone. I am too drunk, too in love, to react when I hear the news. I do not have Twitter to search for the truth. Rancière said looking is not the same as knowing. I watch protests on the television while I sit motionless in the apartment, long after she left me. Are we what he calls the emancipated spectator, in which spectatorship is “not passivity that’s turned into activity” but, instead, “our normal situation”? Police see their god in their batons, map stains and welts on the continents of bodies. To beat a body attempts to own it. And when the body cannot be owned, it must be extinguished.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Poetry Thursday

Brief Interval
 ~Cheryl Clarke

I knew what I was about
stroking your lovely
neck in the perilously
interval at the intersection of
desire, the real, and feminist
And if the intersection is three
or four points of variance,
divergence, diversion,
aversion, and hapless brief
larger than the grid,
in dread of a walled corner,
a piano stool, a
contraband .38,
and that flip of an
eye eros,
oh, throat

I don’t do well with
expectation. Come up
here if it’s too cool a
story below with your
windows cracked.
Higher is warmer
in this last,

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Poetry Thursday, Food for Thought

They Don’t Love You Like I Love You
 ~Natalie Diaz

My mother said this to me
long before Beyoncé lifted the lyrics
from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs,

and what my mother meant by
Don’t stray was that she knew
all about it—the way it feels to need

someone to love you, someone
not your kind, someone white,
some one some many who live

because so many of mine
have not, and further, live on top of
those of ours who don’t.

I’ll say, say, say,
I’ll say, say, say,
What is the United States if not a clot

of clouds? If not spilled milk? Or blood?
If not the place we once were
in the millions? America is Maps

Maps are ghosts: white and
layered with people and places I see through.
My mother has always known best,

knew that I’d been begging for them,
to lay my face against their white
laps, to be held in something more

than the loud light of their projectors
of themselves they flicker—sepia
or blue—all over my body.

All this time,
I thought my mother said, Wait,
as in, Give them a little more time

to know your worth,
when really, she said, Weight,
meaning heft, preparing me

for the yoke of myself,
the beast of my country’s burdens,
which is less worse than

my country’s plow. Yes,
when my mother said,
They don’t love you like I love you,

she meant,
Natalie, that doesn’t mean
you aren’t good.

                                                     *The italicized words, with the exception of the final stanza, come from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song "Maps."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Poetry Thursday

We, Made of Bone
~Mahtem Shiferraw

These days, I refuse to let you see me
the way I see myself.

I wake up in the morning not knowing
whether I will make it through the day;

reminding myself of the small, small things
I’ve forgotten to marvel in;

these trees, blood-free and bone-dry
have come to rescue me more than once,

but my saving often requires hiding
yet they stand so tall, so slim and gluttonous

refusing to contain me; even baobab trees
will split open at my command, and

carve out fleshless wombs to welcome me.
I must fall out of love of the world

without me in it, but my loves have
long gone, and left me in a foreign land

where once I was made of bone,
now water, now nothing.