Thursday, March 23, 2017

Poetry Thursday

At the Fair

Edith Sitwell
                   I. Springing Jack
Green wooden leaves clap light away,
Severely practical, as they
Shelter the children candy-pale,
The chestnut-candles flicker, fail . . .
The showman’s face is cubed clear as
The shapes reflected in a glass
Of water—(glog, glut, a ghost’s speech
Fumbling for space from each to each).
The fusty showman fumbles, must
Fit in a particle of dust
The universe, for fear it gain
Its freedom from my cube of brain.
Yet dust bears seeds that grow to grace
Behind my crude-striped wooden face
As I, a puppet tinsel-pink
Leap on my springs, learn how to think—
Till like the trembling golden stalk
Of some long-petalled star, I walk
Through the dark heavens, and the dew
Falls on my eyes and sense thrills through.

Friday, March 17, 2017

St Patrick's Day...

On St. Patrick's Day, I remember my grandmother, pictured above with my older brother, because it was her birthday.

When I knew her, she would spend her birthday with us and then leave for Mexico to visit her sisters and brother.  She would stay there for six months and be back for the holidays. 

Not quite a snow bird, but something in that vein.

She died when I was only 5, so my memories of her are cloaked in the fog of a small child's mind.

She stayed with me a fair amount when she was in the US.  It is said we could not talk to each other as she didn't speak English and I didn't speak Spanish.  Actually, she chose not to speak English and I was still in the language acquisition phase, so there is no way to know what was going on in my brain.

But, when I started to speak Spanish, all those language acquisition memories were triggered.  Now, I believe that we probably communicated just fine.  She spoke, I understood and answered in whatever language seemed appropriate. 

Besides that early imprint of language skills, I inherited from her the finger.  It comes out unbidden whenever I need to slow someone's roll.  Not the middle finger, that would be vulgar.  The pointer finger that windshield wipes slowly or quickly depending on the need.

There may be other traits I inherited, I am just not aware.

What I know for sure is that the bond we had was real and ours alone.  After she was gone in the physical form, she would sometimes visit me.  I would wake in the middle of the night and see her seated at the foot of my bed, just watching.  Though we had a short amount of time, I carry our relationship with me wherever I go.

Happy birthday, grandma... hope you are celebrating with family in heaven.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Poetry Thursday


Amy Lowell

I cut myself upon the thought of you
And yet I come back to it again and again,
A kind of fury makes me want to draw you out
From the dimness of the present
And set you sharply above me in a wheel of roses.
Then, going obviously to inhale their fragrance,
I touch the blade of you and cling upon it,
And only when the blood runs out across my fingers
Am I at all satisfied.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Poetry Thursday

What Is It You Feel I Asked Kurt

What is it you feel I asked Kurt when you listen to
Ravel’s String Quartet in F-major, his face was so lit up
and I wondered, “the music is unlike the world I live
or think in, it’s from somewhere else, unfamiliar and unknown,
not because it is relevant to the familiar and comfortable,
but because it brings me to that place that I didn’t/couldn’t
imagine existed. And sometimes that unfamiliar place is closer
to my world than I realize, and sometimes it’s endlessly distant,”
that’s what he wrote in an email when I asked him
to remind me what he’d said earlier, off the cuff, “I don’t
recall exactly what I said,” he began, a sentence written
in iambic pentameter, and then the rest, later he spoke of two
of his brothers who died as children, leukemia and fire,
his face, soft, I’m listening to Ravel now, its irrelevancy.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

ugh, um, oh yeah?!

I am literally running on caffeine (and adrenaline) right now.  I write that by way of excusing myself for anything crazy I may write.

Or perhaps to warn you that beyond this line there is only crazy...

I have been up all night working on a document to send in as yet another test for a job.

Plusses --
I wasn't sure I really had it in me to do all nighters anymore, but I do think I pulled it off.

***Fingers crossed ***

I started reading an awesome book about compassion and love and where to start -- and it all makes sense, no resistence.

Minuses --
I could have been done a long time ago, but I let some of the drama in and it was not good.

Ok, so not so crazy, but I stopped drinking coffee, finished the project and ate something...
now I am going to nap for two hours and hope it helps.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Quote Tuesday

Trying to write a little bit each day, but the post for today is not quite ready. Late nights teaching does not lend itself to a lot of writing, yet.  Hoping to rectify soon.

For now, this was the tea bag wisdom gifted to me today by Good Earth tea:

Success is to be measured 
not so much by the position 
that one has reached in life 
as by the obstacles 
which he has overcome.
~Booker T. Washington

May we all be well and consider ourselves successful in all we do.

Monday, March 06, 2017


It's not new, many folks have been kvetching about adulting.

I guess I am no exception.

I hold it together.

I really do.

If you see me, you would never know the pressure I feel. I don't usually claim it in waking hours.

This really is an anomaly.

But, I am breaking inside.  I can't tell if it is into tiny pieces or just the corners breaking from the pressure.

What it feels like is an earthquake.  Fissures, cracks, movement, slippage.


I can barely get the words out, but there it is.

And, tomorrow is another day, and I will soldier on.

Maybe now that I have declared the difficulty, it will ease, just a little bit.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Poetry Thursday

Hospital Writing Workshop 

Rafael Campo, 1964

Arriving late, my clinic having run
past 6 again, I realize I don’t
have cancer, don’t have HIV, like them,
these students who are patients, who I lead
in writing exercises, reading poems.
For them, this isn’t academic, it’s
reality:  I ask that they describe
an object right in front of them, to make
it come alive, and one writes about death,
her death, as if by just imagining
the softness of its skin, its panting rush
into her lap, that she might tame it; one
observes instead the love he lost, he’s there,
beside him in his gown and wheelchair,
together finally again.  I take
a good, long breath; we’re quiet as newborns.
The little conference room grows warm, and right
before my eyes, I see that what I thought
unspeakable was more than this, was hope.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Street Art, Chinatown edition

Taking a friend on a walking tour of Oakland, we ended up in Chinatown. 
It was full of street art that was too good to be true... yet somewhat difficult to capture with the phone camera.
The dragons were really amazing.
But this was my favorite.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

late February

The skies have been incredible of late. This one was above city hall in San Francisco in the second week of February. I have been more than a little obsessed with the buds and the trees.
Spring really starts in February in California, sometimes as early as January if there isn't a lot of rain. It seems counter intuitive like you need rain for spring to come, but not in California. The air gets warmer and this happens:
Even though there are many buds, there are still trees that look like this:
Then there was this tree that looked like an unfinished sculpture.  It was irresistible with its roots pretending to be molten lava.

Of course, rain makes everything more interesting. Just ask the folks who had to evacuate San Jose last week. San Jose! Rain is a strange and powerful thing.

It brings out all the mushrooms and gathers the pretty leaves everywhere.
It creates sculptures on the leaves of the succulents.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Poetry Thursday

I knew life began 
where I stood in the dark,
looking out into the light. 
~Yusef Komunyakaa

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


 Today my grandmother would have been 112.  I have been thinking about her a lot lately, as I contemplate how to tell her story -- whether I should or not -- what I know and don't know -- what is her story...

There are lots of questions and very few answers.

Questions like ... who did she cut out of this picture? It is just like my grandmother to have this picture with someone cut out.  She was the kind of person who could cut people out of her life.  It surprises me to admit this while at the same time I know it to be true.  I remember her as harsh, judgemental, not wishy washy at all.

But in this picture, sometime in the 1920s, I think, sometime before she married my grandfather or had my father, she is young and her face tells very little.  Inscrutable, that is another way to understand her stoicism which I often read as harsh.  Maybe she was feeling super vulnerable all the time.

I just can't always reckon how someone who had lost two parents by the time she was 9, or two siblings by the time she was 30 could have then turned around and cut out her only living sister.

But, of course, I don't know her story, not really.

I know bits and pieces.

Snapshots, like these photos that reveal so little and so much at the same time.
 What to make of the starch and the serious face ... everyone else here seems to be having a good time.  [click on pic to see the whole thing... maybe it is only the men who are yucking it up.] Did she not smile because the person behind the camera tried to get her to smile?  Who was behind the camera??

In another from the same day, she has that half smile that I remember from real life.  It was bemused and amused and slightly annoyed and maybe holding something back all at the same time.

But she looked smart in that hat.  Maybe that is why she needed to give the serious pose.

What about this one with my aunts.  She is almost smiling here -- at least her eyes are smiling.  Was my grandfather behind the camera this time? Was she about to break out in the big smile or was this as big as it got, emotions slipping out of the eyes even though the mouth holds the smile back.

And the hand gently holding her oldest daughter's hand ... not her youngest daughter's hand.

Maybe that says more about my aunts than it does about my grandmother, but is says something.

Happy birthday, Grandma. 

Hope you don't mind me teasing out some meaning from these photos and your life.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Seen on my walk

Dad in a wheelchair.

My eyes are drawn to his slippers. I see the son, well past middle age, pushing the wheelchair.

Upon exiting the coffee shop, the son opens sunglasses, the father turns his face expectantly as the son slides them on a look of love and appreciation passes between them.

Son pats father's head ostensibly to ensure cap is secure.

More love.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quote Thursday, on hope

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism.
It is not the conviction that something will turn out well,
but the certainty that something makes sense,
regardless of how it turns out.
~Vaclav Havel

Monday, February 13, 2017

Poetry for a Troubled Monday

you can listen to it here.  It is long but so worth it.

What Would Gwendolyn Brooks Do
~Parneshia Jones, 2017

Dawn oversees percolating coffee
and the new wreckage of the world.
I stand before my routine reflection,
button up my sanity,
brush weary strands of hair with pomade
and seal cracked lips of distrust
with cocoa butter and matte rouge.
I ready myself once again
for morning and mortify.
Stacking poetry and bills in a knapsack;
I bundle up hope (it’s brutal out there).
For a moment, I stand with ghosts
and the framed ancestors surrounding me.
I call out, hoping she can hear me
over the day-breaking sirens—
hoping she’s not far away,
or right down the street,
praying over another dead black boy.
How will we make it through this, Ms. Brooks?
                     Hold On.
When she held a body,
she saw much worse than this.
I know she was earshot and fingertip close to oppression.
She saw how hateful hate could be.
She raised babies, taught Stone Rangers,
grew a natural and wrote around critics.
She won a Pulitzer in the dark.
She justified our kitchenette dreams,
and held on.
She held on to all of us.
                    Hold On, she whispers. 
Another day, when I have to tip-toe
around the police and passive-aggressive emails
from people who sit only a few feet away from me.
Another day of fractured humans
who decide how I will live and die,
and I have to act like I like it
so I can keep a job;
be a team player, pay taxes on it;
I have to act like I’m happy to be
slammed, severed, and swindled.
Otherwise, I’m just part of the problem—
a rebel rouser and rude.

They want me to like it, or at least pretend,
so the pretty veils that blanket who we really are—
this complicated history, can stay pretty and veiled
like some desert belly dancer
who must be seen but not heard.
                     Hold On.
We are a world of lesions.
Human has become hindrance.
We must be stamped and have papers,
and still, it’s not enough.
Ignorance has become powerful.
The dice that rolls our futures is platinum
but hollow inside.
Did you see that, Ms. Brooks?
Do you see what we’ve become?
They are skinning our histories,
deporting our roots,
detonating our very right to tell the truth.
We are one step closer to annihilation.
                    Hold On, she says, two million light years away.
She’s right.
Hold On everybody.
Hold On because the poets are still alive—and writing.
Hold On to the last of the disappearing bees
and that Great Barrier Reef.
Hold On to the one sitting next to you,
not masked behind some keyboard.
The one right next to you.
The ones who live and love right next to you.
Hold On to them.
And when we bury another grandmother,
or another black boy;
when we stand in front of a pipeline,
pour another glass of dirty drinking water
and put it on the dining room table,
next to the kreplach, bratwurst, tamales, collards, and dumplings
that our foremothers and fathers—immigrants,
brought with them so we all knew that we came from somewhere;
somewhere that mattered.
When we kneel on the rubbled mosques,
sit in massacred prayer circles,
Holding On is what gets us through.
We must remember who we are.
We are worth fighting for.
We’ve seen beauty.
We’ve birthed babies who’ve only known a black President.
We’ve tasted empathy and paid it forward.
We’ve Go-Funded from wrong to right.
We’ve marched and made love.
We haven’t forgotten—even if they have—Karma is keeping watch. 
Hold On.
Hold On everybody.
Even if all you have left
is that middle finger around your God-given right
to be free, to be heard, to be loved,
and remembered…Hold On,
and keep

Friday, February 10, 2017

trying...[this all over the place - you've been warned]

We yearn for connection.

But we treat each other like hostile strangers ... on the internet, and too often in real life.

So, we post and prod ... we weave and bob, we do whatever it takes to not actually connect.

Then, at times we meet our lost tribe members and connection, sometimes brief, brings us back to reality.

Life is hard, but it is not without its beauty.

Find beauty.
So, in the weeks that have passed since I started this post, I have had a rollercoaster of events ... and I mean that quite seriously.
I had a lovely birthday - truly amazing day with friends that included dancing - an amazing meeting about the foundation to honor Sergio's memory.  I was reminded of the blessings I have in my life, especially my wonderful, supportive community.

We celebrated Sergio's 25th birthday without him -- in the lead up, I was sure it would crush me, the energy expended just getting through the last two days made me feel like I was coming down with a cold (thankfully, I am not or it was nipped in the bud).  After rain and threats of rain and cold and people dropping out and having to reassure them that participation should only be part of your own way of dealing with this tragedy ... it was a gorgeous day.  GORGEOUS.  Ominous clouds gathered at the edges but were beat back by the sea breeze, and once again, I could feel Sergio's participation in making sure that our gathering wasn't rained on.  Friends from many parts of his life gathered, drank and ate and built a fire and an altar and laughed and cried.  While my heart was breaking again into a million pieces, it was so beautiful to see in real flesh and bone the love this person wrought with so few years.  Amazing.

I got an email offering me an interview for a job I really want.  So important on so many levels -- one, I applied for two jobs, one better paying and more in line with my skills, and one I can do with my eyes closed and enough money to live off of ... I got the interview for the better job ... amazing

My car started the steep decline which I cannot afford right now ... the sound coming from the car is a mixture of the swooped up crazy muffler sound and crazy about to fall apart -- I am generally not so moved by what others might think of me, but I want to hide every time I start my car. And for the first time in 15 years, it needs to be smog checked?! Ugh... I am torn between trying to get it sort of fixed so that I can keep it for a bit longer and donating it now to someone who will take it away... and did I mention that I love my car, I really do. It is the best car in the whole world that has been beyond a trooper for all these years ... ugh ugh ugh.

I killed it in the interview... really, killed it.  Waiting to hear back if I make it to the second round sometime in the next two weeks.

The bad thing is though that every time I have a win, I fall into the largest cavern of self doubt which is where I woke up this morning.

These are the quotes I am trying to use to get me out of my funk today:
"You are full of unshaped dreams... You are laden with beginnings ... there is hope in you." ~L. Ridge

"There is alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmuted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness." ~Pearl S. Buck

Ok... it's all out there now, no more monsters under the bed. Got a stack of work to do, so I am off to be productive and wallow in self doubt no more ...

My hands are up and the wind is in my hair ... riding the rollercoaster of life.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Poetry Thursday

Seven Years

These cold days when the insane sky’s clear, heat poofs away 
beyond its net of edible blue. My cat folds, flops across the 
laundry steps. Flags the size of jeans pockets flip-flap affixed 
to rowhouse fronts. The nicest, cleanest hands reach to switch out lights in stores: futons, ring trays, eyeglasses, dresses, go dark. “The bed is not very big.” Cold or no there are fathers calling mothers and children walking home or out; also those of us who are neither father nor mother and have forgotten the complicated unchosen knits and methods of being somebody’s child. Hires Root Beer signboard creaking, then not creaking. This year Thanksgiving dinner begins in the afternoon: a moist bird, venison stuffing. Window glass goes blue-indigo. “Is this the right crockery?” Cold little birds, like knots of twine, jam the Japanese Zelkova just outside, gabble in the light-loss hysteria. The Dow Jones dropping. Friends’ kids leer from photos I stuck on the refrigerator. Last night I slammed a door so hard the
mirror hung on it shattered over my back. I was not hurt; moreover he stopped shouting back, ran in his socks onto the crackling glass, put his arms around me?


Friday, February 03, 2017

extra Poem for a crazy world

Why Poetry Can Be Hard for Most People

Because speaking to the dead is not something you want to do
When you have other things to do in your day
Like take out the trash or use the vacuum
In the edge between the stove and cupboard
Because the rat is everywhere
Crawling around
Or more so walking
And it doesn’t even notice you
It has its own intentions
And is searching for that perfect bag of potato chips like you once were
Because life is no more important than eating
Or fucking
Or talking someone into fucking
Or talking someone into something
Or sleeping calmly and soundly
And all you can hope for are the people who put that calm in you
Or let you go into it with dignity
Because poetry reminds you
That there is no dignity
In living
You just muddle through and for what
Jack Jack you wrote to him
You wrote to all of us
I wasn’t even born
You wrote to me
A ball of red and green shifting sparks
In my parents’ eye
You wrote to me and I just listened
I listened I listened I tell you
And I came back
Poetry is hard for most people
Because of sound

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Poetry Thursday


Jean Valentine, 1934

You came in a dream, yesterday
—The first day we met
you showed me your dark workroom
off the kitchen, your books, your notebooks.

Reading our last, knowing-last letters
—the years of our friendship
reading our poems to each other,
I would start breathing again.

Yesterday, in the afternoon,
more than a year since you died,
some words came into the air.
I looked away a second,
and they were gone,
six lines, just passing through.

                                          for Adrienne Rich