Thursday, September 20, 2018

Poetry Thursday

 ~Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

No matter how he wrested himself silent in night,
six days post-stroke he woke fluent in former languages,
backtracking this time here.

Mercy nurses, attendants, remedied in their own.
Once he registered, all he cawed out was
          if it’s too far gone, we need to talk.

     All of this, what I am, doesn’t know how to die.
     All I know how to do is survive. All I ever done.

     If it’s time, tell me, tell me, give me four days.
     I’d like to have that blanket Dustin designed.
     Damnit, I hate to leave this beauty,           life.

On the fourth, came the Pendleton, delivered
right on time. His breath slowed, eased, then quit.
That was it.

After some hours the rest of us slept.
Some of us sleep still left.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Since September 19, 2012, everything in my life is either pre-9/19 or post-9/19. The myriad of other cascading tragedies all fall underneath this day.

The sadness clouds my vision - and I never know if I should stop and cry, soldier on, tell people why it is a hard day, or stay in bed (or any combo of those actions).

Last year, the first year I was in a "real" job since Greg died, I took the day off. I could not predict what the emotions would be... being away from home and not having a ritual. I have either gone with my mother to church or gone in solidarity to church away from her. But church is not a safe or happy place for me, so it is not really an option.

This year, with a horrible deadline looming, I could not even entertain taking the day or even a few hours off.

It turns out that all the hard work I put into the project is for naught. My piece, such as it is, is done but it broke the system, so nothing works. Now those who should be fixing the problem are pointing fingers (at me, of course) instead.

At first I wanted to scream at them. But then I did my little pivot, and I thought: "At least I could scream at them if I wanted to." I am alive. I am breathing in and out and their pettiness cannot take that away from me, unless I let them.

Don't get me wrong, I am irritated. I am so irritated, angry, frustrated, exhausted (after putting in over 12 hours for the past two days and getting little to no sleep for the past three nights).

But, perspective is lending me a hand in bringing down my blood pressure.

This is the email that I want to send colleagues today:
"I will happily take the hit for [our project] not working. We can say I misunderstood or took it upon myself to implement a fix that was not appropriate, or whatever you want. But I have one condition: next time a colleague asks for your help with a project, stop and listen. Give that colleague an hour of your time. Don't say, "I don't know any more than you do." Or send the person away to someone else who will also throw up his/her hands. Answer emails. Stop long enough to figure out what the issue is before you dismiss it as not your problem.

I will take the fall. You can have my job if you like. It will not make [the project] work. It will not help in getting [the project] to work. But spending some time collaborating and assisting your colleagues just might make all of this work a little more smoothly."

Here is the part I also want to send but probably wouldn't:

"Six years ago today my brother died. He was the person I was closest to in the whole world. When he left this universe, he took parts of me with him that cannot be replaced. It was the worst day of my life. It irrevocably changed me.

Your pettiness in pointing fingers rather than helping or even accepting your part in how [the project] doesn't work today is so small compared to that loss."

Ok... out of my system, carry on, internets.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

ugh, frustration and exhaustion rant, feel free to skip on by

If I were to judge the amount of effort I should put into my work based on the amount of effort (and attention) my colleagues put into their work, then I should not have come to work today.

I should not address any issues facing my content areas until it is too late to do anything about the mistakes. I should, then, say that taking measures to rectify the mistakes would be too risky.

Finally, I should suggest that these are not truly issues, rather, whatever (and I mean whatever) is happening, is, in fact, a direct result of user error. User in this case refers exclusively to the person who has uncovered the mistake.

I am pissed. Can you tell?

In part, I am tired. I traveled all night, and came directly to work from the airport. I did not go home, I did not collect $200. I am coming off a few days reflecting the shortness of life and the choices we make to spend (or not) time with those we love.

I am exhausted, physically and emotionally. I am tired of being one of very few who cares about the outcome of our work.

And, my teacher voice dangerously near to my lips, I want to counsel my colleagues; I want to let them know in no uncertain terms that the time we spend making up excuses for why will not fix what is obviously not working would be better spent looking for a solution.

I often told my students when I was teaching that I preferred not to have the excuse. Excuses are/were completely and utterly meaningless to me.

Day two...
My first impulse is to look for another job. But then I remember that I have faced this issue before although not always in the same exact way.

I need to calibrate my reactions, I get it.

This situation is dangerously threatening to kill my post-vacation glow. I have managed to maintain it through some very trying situations, both personally and professionally, for a few weeks. I did this by straining to see the silver lining every time an obstacle appeared.

After some sleep, I am going to rededicate myself to see shining through these clouds. Wish me luck.

Poetry Thursday

A Tempest in a Teacup
 ~A. Van Jordan

Assume, just for a moment,
I am denied a job
in the factory of my dreams
under the fluorescent lights
of a porcelain white foreman.

It’s orderly and neat.
I feed my family.
No one questions my face.
I raised my son in my likeness,
so he would never go unseen,

bobbing on a wave of expectation,
I set in motion with my back
put into my work, praying
for my country, blessed
with more of me, never worrying

about those who might die,
or those who did, trying
to stir a storm, trying
to stand where I’m standing.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Poetry Thursday, transformations

~Carl Sandburg

If I had a million lives to live
   and a million deaths to die
   in a million humdrum worlds,

I’d like to change my name
   and have a new house number to go by
   each and every time I died
   and started life all over again.

I wouldn’t want the same name every time
   and the same old house number always,
   dying a million deaths,
   dying one by one a million times:
   —would you?
                        or you?
                                or you?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Poetry Thursday

The Average Mother
 ~Camille T. Dungy
The average mother loses 700 hours of sleep in the first year of her child’s life; or, what that first year taught me about America.

Most of us favor one side when we walk. As we tire,
we lean into that side and stop moving in a straight line—
                      so it takes longer to get anywhere,
let alone home.

                      In wilderness conditions,
           where people don’t know the terrain,
a tired person might end up leaning so far into one side
           they’ll walk in a circle rather than straight ahead.

It can kill you, such leaning
                      —and it can get you killed.

                                           Rest helps.

                                                                 I told my husband,

I walked in a circle in my mind but you came out okay.

                      Initially, he asked me to clarify,
           but then he let it go.

Who wrote that first If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now sign?

                      It seems I’m going to have to move.

           I am tired and also sick
of helping other people in lieu of helping myself.

                      Rest now.

It's really not that bad: we’re in the home stretch.

           That’s the mind of a parent.
Relentless optimism in the face of sheer panic
                                                                 and exhaustion.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Poetry Thursday, actually a quote

accumulating in 
one's heart, 
may one fine day 
burst into flames 
like a haystack, 
and everything will burn away 
in the fire of extraordinary joy. 

~Mikhail Prishvin.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Poetry Thursday

I looked up and realized -- It's Thursday! And, I had not yet posted a poem ... so here's one, with no photo. Thanks to Poem-A-Day for introducing me...

 ~William Archila

At daylight, he surrendered to the gutters’
thick cirrhosis, his trajectory

half awake, half anvil from the glass to the killing floor
I was raised in, each thin thread tethered

from the root of a nicotined tooth
to the rusted bars of the slammer.  I couldn't tell you why

Felix the Cat came to mind, totally inebriated,
two Xs, bubbles popping, his gait

a saint carried in a procession—Cherry Pink
& Apple Blossom White, 1955—

except that my grandfather died
with a bottle in his pocket, his Robert Mitchum

chin & pompadour distilled
from a banana republic in fire, a slow, steady

drinker, perfect fulfillment to drown out
his manhood. There's a certain kind of fix

that falters precariously,
a benediction when they allege

one more drunk for the hood. He didn't matter
to the dispenser nor the riffraff crowd.

Nothing about him capsized, except his compound
of cologne & corrosion.  All those rotguts.

All those bums. They didn't matter
to the nation, though they were the nation.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Come at me bro

I live near a lot of woodland creatures.

On the nights when I walk the dog, I generally see deer, fox and rabbits. All of these creatures excite the dog. I should, perhaps, write incite the dog.  For several nights in a row, said dog has either tried to add resistance training to my walk or just doesn't care if he pulls my arm out of its socket.

So far, I still have an arm, actually two. I am sore, but not broken.

The interesting part of the encounters is how the parent woodland creatures behave with the dog.

At first, I noticed one deer stationed in full view. Standing stock still and eyeballing both me and the dog, the deer seemed to say, "Chase me!" but not is a playful way.  It took me a few minutes to really be present enough in my surroundings to see that she was trying to pull all of our attention her way.  On the other side of the street were the juvenile deer and fawns, probably with a mother standing guard.

Once we were safely past, with me holding the dog back and the mom finally running off in the opposite direction of the deer family, the rest of the family leaped across the street.

The other night, I had a similar encounter with the fox. I have always called the fox, Mr. Fox or Fox in Socks. [Yes, I speak to the creatures when I see them. No, they do not speak back, at least not in words.]

The dog had been trying to pull me all over the place that night. When we were approaching the corner to cross the street, the fox streaked by. Usually, the fox would dip into the trees, but this time, it (he/she?) stopped. Staring down the dog, who standing at attention but not pulling at me, with an expression that really read, "Come at me, BRO!"

It wasn't until the fox dropped its gaze and slipped into the trees that the dog remembered he wanted to chase a fox.

I wasn't sure what to make of the encounter except maybe the fox was tired of being chased.

The very next night, in the same spot, we saw TWO small foxes run across the road. Neither of these two stopped to stare us down. I decided that they were babies, or juveniles. And so not Mr. Fox but Mrs. Fox who had dared us to chase her.

Guessing that like her deer counterparts, she was standing her ground to give her babies a chance to get home safely.

Motherhood... apparently not easy for any species.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Poetry Thursday

Always we hope
someone else has the answer,
some other place will be better,
some other time,
it will turn out.

This is it.
No one else has the answer,
no other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.

At the center of your being,
you have the answer:
you know who you are and
you know what you want.

There is no need to run outside
for better seeing,
nor to peer from a window.

Rather abide at the center of your being:
for the more you leave it,
the less you learn.

Search your heart and see
the way to do is to be.
Abide at the center of your being.
— Lao Tzu

borrowed from a friend...

Tuesday, August 07, 2018


Since December, I have been trying to decaffeinate.

That is to say, I was traveling for much of December, and coffee the way I like it might not always be available. So, since I detest being beholden to the god of caffeine, I thought, this is the perfect time to step down, step away from coffee.

I have this long term goal of having energy and being awake without stimulants. That implies being rested and healthy and, to some extent, happy.  These are all goals I have out there in the ether, the first of which I have the most control over, the other two, perhaps only tangentially. [Though those chose to be happy believers would disagree.]

It should also be noted that at the time, I was also up to more than two cups a day almost every day.

For some, that would not be much.

In fact, I drink dark roast coffee which has the least amount of caffeine of coffee.

However, I also have an incredible predilection to addictive behavior - from both the emotional and physical perspective. My body easily slides into need of coffee, sugar, carbs, chocolate. It never decides to *love* protein, though I do enjoy good tasting food. I rarely crave anything healthy in that way of needing caffeine.

And, I don't care for the taste of coffee. I never have.

But I am addicted to the awake feeling that surges through my body when I drink it -- and worse, I love to drink it when it is full of cream and sugar. That was the other *secret* reason for wanting to give it up. 

In a vain attempt to give up sugar, I keep trying to move towards tea with and without caffeine. I am able to drink most of my teas with only milk and no sugar.

Tea, it turns out for me, is not the answer. Rather the teas I like all have way more caffeine than the coffee I drink.

I remain, therefore, semi-caffeinated. I take days off on the weekend to test my resistance. So far, I am not winning, but still in the game.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Poetry Thursday, LONG, but so worth it

Fannie Lou Hamer
 ~Kamilah Aisha Moon
                        “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

She sat across the desk from me, squirming.
It was stifling. My suite runs hot
but most days it is bearable.

This student has turned in nothing,
rarely comes to class. When she does,
her eyes bore into me with a disdain
born long before either of us.

She doesn’t trust anything I say.
She can’t respect my station,
the words coming out of these lips,
this face. My breathing
is an affront. It’s me, she says.

I never was this student’s professor—
her immediate reaction
seeing me at the smart board.
But I have a calling to complete
& she has to finish college,
return to a town where
she doesn’t have to look at,
listen to or respect anyone
like me—forever tall, large
& brown in her dagger eyes,
though it’s clear she looks down
on me. She can return—
if not to her hometown, another
enclave, so many others, where
she can brush a dog’s golden coat,
be vegan & call herself
a good person.

Are you having difficulty with your other classes?


Go, I say, tenderly.
Loaded as a cop’s gun,
she blurts point-blank
that she’s afraid of me. Twice.
My soft syllables rattle something
planted deep,
so I tell her to go where
she’d feel more comfortable
as if she were my niece or
godchild, even wish her
a good day.

If she stays, the ways
this could backfire!
Where is my Kevlar shield
from her shame?

There’s no way to tell
when these breasts will evoke
solace or terror. I hate
that she surprises me, that I lull
myself to think her ilk
is gone despite knowing
so much more, and better.

I can’t proselytize my worth
all semester, exhaust us
for the greater good.
I can’t let her make me
a monster to myself—
I’m running out of time & pity
the extent of her impoverished
heart. She’s from New
England, I’m from the Mid-South.
Far from elderly, someone
just raised her like this
with love.

I have essays to grade
but words warp
on the white page, dart
just out of reach. I blink
two hours away, find it hard
to lift my legs, my voice,
my head precious to my parents
now being held
in my own hands.

How did they survive
so much worse, the millions
with all of their scars!
What would these rivers be
without their weeping,
these streets without
their faith & sweat?

Fannie Lou Hamer
thundered what they felt,
we feel, into DNC microphones
on black and white TV
years before
I was a notion.

She doesn’t know who
Fannie Lou Hamer is,
and never has to.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Poetry Thursday

~Javier Zamora

it was clear they were hungry
with their carts empty the clothes inside their empty hands

they were hungry because their hands
were empty their hands in trashcans

the trashcans on the street
the asphalt street on the red dirt the dirt taxpayers pay for

up to that invisible line visible thick white paint
visible booths visible with the fence starting from the booths

booth road booth road booth road office building then the fence
fence fence fence

it started from a corner with an iron pole
always an iron pole at the beginning

those men those women could walk between booths
say hi to white or brown officers no problem

the problem I think were carts belts jackets
we didn’t have any

or maybe not the problem
our skin sunburned all of us spoke Spanish

we didn’t know how they had ended up that way
on that side

we didn’t know how we had ended up here
we didn’t know but we understood why they walk

the opposite direction to buy food on this side
this side we all know is hunger

Monday, July 23, 2018

rainy days and Mondays

There are days when everything makes me want to cry.

I wonder if it is left over grief that got pushed down over the past five years. When it finds a fissure, it just pops out before I can even contemplate its origin. Like a puff of gas from a geyser, not a big eruption, just a sigh, it releases with just the tickle of a tear.

I have learned to stop and allow. I sometimes vaguely wonder where the deep emotions were hidden. But then I remind myself that it is perfectly acceptable to feel whatever I am feeling. I try not to resist even if tears need to flow.

Sadness is far better than searing red hot anger in the long run.

Friday, July 20, 2018


Scene 1:

Three cop cars, one is a K9 unit, on a lovely summer afternoon in downtown Princeton. I was thankful when I looked over and it was four young white women talking with police. None of them were smiling, the police were doing most of the talking.

I interviewed several people who were watching the scene. No one had noticed how or when the encounter began. We all watched as more and more police seemed to arrive. Turns out there were already four cars there when I noticed the situation. One was all black with the writing in black as though it were incognito.

From another angle, you could see a white car with Pennsylvania plates left in a space that wasn't a parking space. I think the car had been there all along, since I had arrived for happy hour. I wondered at it when we walked by because it wasn't a parking space, the car was pulled in diagonally and it was blocking egress from the parking lot. Entitled people, I thought, even though there were plenty of spaces available, someone had left this car essentially in the middle of the parking lot. I imagined there was someone inside of the car the whole time.

I watched for a while, went in to the library, came back out and the cops were still talking to the women (girls? hard to tell).

I don't know what was more interesting, watching the scene unfold or interviewing the spectators to try to figure out what had happened.

Scene 2:

Training. I lost a week and a half of training first because of the humidity (and my fear of the humidity) and then because I was so swamped at work and exhausted. 

The first day back running I felt like the wild horse who has been penned up for the first time. My body was so happy to be running.

Day three back to training, not so much. I have decided to run a bit each day for the next few days to see if I can regain the stamina I had been building. Ugh.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Poetry Thursday

Facing US
 ~Amanda Johnston
            after Yusef Komunyakaa

My black face fades,
hiding inside black smoke.
I knew they'd use it,
dammit: tear gas.
I'm grown. I'm fresh.
Their clouded assumption eyes me
like a runaway, guilty as night,
chasing morning. I run
this way—the street lets me go.
I turn that way—I'm inside
the back of a police van
again, depending on my attitude
to be the difference.
I run down the signs
half-expecting to find
my name protesting in ink.
I touch the name Freddie Gray;
I see the beat cop's worn eyes.
Names stretch across the people’s banner
but when they walk away
the names fall from our lips.
Paparazzi flash. Call it riot.
The ground. A body on the ground.
A white cop’s image hovers
over us, then his blank gaze
looks through mine. I’m a broken window.
He’s raised his right arm
a gun in his hand. In the black smoke
a drone tracking targets:
No, a crow gasping for air.

Monday, July 16, 2018

views from the run

As I did a turn around the field next to the lake, I spooked a great blue heron. I hadn't noticed the bird in the brush near the lake. But it noticed me and flew off across the lake. I watched the huge bird and its long wings glide along the surface of the lake, choosing its next landing spot.

It was a welcome pause to my long run on a humid but overcast morning.

The spot it chose, finally, was directly across from where it had been, in a little area that appeared to be an inlet to a creek or just an area protected by some logs and trees. As it landed, another great blue heron swooped over. It had been hidden alongside that lake shore. Obviously, this spot was already taken.

The second heron vocalized, rushed the first one, furiously flapping its wings while in mid air. I have never seen more than one great blue heron in the same spot, perhaps this is the reason.

The interloper did not really fight back, it just picked up and swooped away gracefully.

Afterwards, the one that had claimed the spot, swam around its area proudly.

And I had to get back to my run.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Not Really Poetry Thursday, I may have repaid my debt...

[A Crumb in the Cobblestone—Tell Me This Landscape Darkened Without You]
 ~Jerika Marchan
Say despite all the churches with their unlocked doors
and outstretched strangers’ palmskin, I hungered still

—squandered when, fell through like a crumb, I sat waiting
for discovery or disintegration—something marvelous
teething at the surface—a crumb, devotional, religious ecstatic
closer to being worthy

Desire me ruthless and naked but still in my Sunday dress
you opened the window—we humid and slept open
into dreaming, yes, conduit. Conduit or nothing. Conduit
or bust. Nothing or busted. Hug the breakwater’s edge

more the grit, my fingers—whorl, the inches of all
concrete make miles of this low, walled city. 

Pretend expansive with me like ocean.

River.   Lake.   Bodies. 

Friday, July 13, 2018


Yesterday was my parents' 60th wedding anniversary.

If you know my parents, or their story, this should not surprise you. My parents have been in each other's lives at least since they were 7 and 8 years old. It shouldn't surprise me.

It doesn't. But it startled me.

When I started to try to wrap my head around 60 as I scrambled to find them a gift I could put into an envelope, I realized I had never stopped to think about it.

My parents renewed their vows in the church for their 25th wedding anniversary... and my sister got married that year as well. That was the first recognition I ever made of their anniversary.

I never thought about how young my mom was when she got married. Or, maybe I didn't think it was young at the time... I was 14, and if at 22, my sister seemed old, my mother at 49 was ancient.  It didn't occur to me to do the math until yesterday.

My parents were 24 and 25 when they got hitched. My aunt was 15. And probably every one I knew growing up had gotten married *young* or at an age that seemed appropriate to them. And longevity in marriage was also not an issue. I only knew one person who had gotten divorced when I was growing up.

I should have put it together then ... I was 25 when I got married, just one year older than my mother was at her wedding. And three years older than my sister was at her wedding.

It never mattered to me at all except when I got divorced because I knew instinctively that one outcome of the divorce was that I would never be married to someone as long as my parents would be married (at the time, I think they were well over the 40 year mark).

It is a remarkable accomplishment to have weathered 60 years of storms. My parents bicker and that is super irritating. I keep wanting to scream at them to stop because they have no idea the blessing that is their marriage.

Happy 60th to my mom and pops... however irritating they can be, they are an inspiration and a blessing.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Poetry Thursday

Field Notes on Beginning
~Tyree Daye
I wear my grandmother’s bones like a housedress through the city.
Some nights the block tells me all its problems.
I’ll meet you at the top of the biggest rock in Rolesville
or on train headed to a reading in Queens, just tell me where. I promise
to gather your bones only for good.
I was not swallowed by the darkness between two buildings.
I don’t want to die in the south like so many of mine. I want to be
      carried back.

I dreamed we were digging in a field in Rolesville
looking for an earth we knew the name of.
You stepped into the hole, looked behind you and gestured me in.
I saw every lover who held you while your children slept
in rooms of small heaters, you wrap the blankets so tight,
afraid of any cold that might get in.

I said my goodbyes, my dead will not come. I will not see a cardinal in
      the city
so I drew one on my chest. A coop inside a coop inside of me.
Leaving is necessary some say. There is a whole ocean between you and
      a home
you can’t fix your tongue to speak. Others do not want me
no further than a length of a small yard, they ask where are you going
Your mama here, you’ve got stars in your eyes. A ship in your