Saturday, December 23, 2006

Where is the Love?

Primordial Love

“It’s like standing on a high dive,” your mother says, “and there’s no water in the pool below, but you insist on diving, believing that there will be water when you get there, even a little water to save your fall, but it’s just concrete, it always is.”

Phone call for Mz. Wagner

You are with your family on an enchanted island. Your mother’s house, a Japanese fortress of glass and wood sits on the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea. Beyond the lanai there is a bright green lawn and purple bouganvilla spilling down the cliff. This is paradise, a chance to take a break from your worries, your anxieties. You were glad to get away and especially from certain dramas back home. The salty, sea air will be healing. The ocean waves will be baptizing. You’ll have sex with your husband, lose a few pounds, take a break from the ensuing drama of your lover’s wife. Beauty and bliss surrounds you. So why are you checking your cell phone and your email?

Where is the love?

In the supermarket in Waimea you and your husband see a young, curly haired woman who has a purse just like yours, only not hot pink like the one you have, but beige. It’s a hard purse to find because it’s only made by this woman up in Canada, and so you chat the woman up and find out that she has been flown to the island from Seattle to cook for a family who lives near your mother’s house on the beach. “Who is the family?” you ask, wondering which family is rich enough to get a catering staff for three weeks. “I can’t tell you,” she says, “I’m not allowed to say.” Rock star, movie star, politician. Could be any one of them. You’ve seen Neil Young on the beach before. Michael J. Fox too. Suddenly a trip to the beach or to the gym is filled with promise. Maybe you’ll see one of these important people and more importantly, they will see you.

Are you my mother?

You are pumping free weights and he walks in. Is it Dana Carvy? Beck? You can’t tell because he’s got his jacket covering his mouth, but the messy, sandy hair seems right. He’s so small. Beck, you think. The aerobics instructor is playing his music in the next room. Maybe she has seen him too. Your arms look so good today. Hope he looks over. Who are you? Who is that woman with the blue bandana and the lean, tan torso? Does he see how hard you’re working out? Has he noticed how you do the whole weight circuit and then run on the treadmill, and then do the whole thing again and then again? Has anybody noticed? Who is this marvelous, important creature that is you?

Soups On

Your mother has brought back chicken soup from Costco because you felt woozy all day. Everyone else is eating salad and chicken for dinner, but the glutenous, thick soup is for you, her first born. It doesn’t look very tasty; all goopy, with huge pieces of white meat and thick slices of carrot and celery bobbing in the broth, but you’ll eat it anyway because it is a gift from your mother. As you’re preparing to take the last of the dishes out to the lanai so you can all sit down to eat, you, in a very prompt and grown up way turn to her and say you, “You know, I don’t feel like the soup tonight.” And it’s not that her face falls, and it’s not that it’s turned hard either, in fact you don’t wait to see her expression at all. You simply realize, in an instant, in anticipation of her possible upset, that you can’t afford to say no to her offering. You will drink the soup.


He wants nothing for Christmas, he never does. Sometimes you bring him books on the Middle East because that’s his real interest, but even then, he’ll have already read them or he’ll say a light “thanks.” He’s a hard man to please. So you tell him, “My gift to you this year is a walk.” You sacrifice your morning workout, your chance to see Beck or Dana Carvey or whoever that sandy haired person at the gym was, just to walk around the hotel and the beach with him. He is slow. He’s older and there’s a paunch around his middle. But you love your dad, you always have, and every staggered little step he takes you take too. Screw your glutes, screw the sweat, you’ll work out later. And it’s not that he doesn’t ask about you, he does. And it’s not that he puts you down, he doesn’t, never has. But somewhere along the walk you both fall silent and you realize, this is it, this is my relationship with my father and it’s just what it is. He loves me enough, but even his love, the love that’s supposed to save me, won’t.

The boyfriend

You’ve been meaning to tell him that you want to spend more time talking, being together to balance out the fucking, but the first thing he tells you when you call from the enchanted island is how much he enjoyed the sight of you sucking his cock last week, the way your hair hung down around your face, your little ears, how beautiful that was. The conversation turns light, it always does. You manage to tell him toward the end of the phone call that you don’t just want to just drink and fuck, that in the New Year you should vary the dates, do other things. “But I took you to the opera!” he shouts in mock protest, referring to the date with his son and wife, the two hours of tedium in the opera house and the family dinner afterwards. You laugh, “sure you did,” you say. He agrees to more proper dates but you’re sad after the call. You wanted something and you’re not sure what it is. You wanted something and you’re pretty sure he can’t give it to you.

Glutes Away!

There’s that Beck, Dana Carvey guy again. He’s speaking to that woman by the free weights. She’s kind of pretty with wavy blond hair, nice enough body, but she’s not special, not rock star special. Maybe it’s not Beck. There’s another guy by the leg weights, he looks like somebody from t.v., Can’t remember his name. Ray something. He’s looking at you. Maybe he’s a movie star. Maybe they’re all movie stars. Maybe they think you’re a movie star too.

The family dinner

If you can just manage to keep it to two meals a day, no, a meal and a half, you’ll still look trim for the family party on Friday night. If you look fat you’re sunk. If your dress is wrinkled, forget it. Hope it’s a good hair day. You’ll wash it the day before so it’s slightly distressed for the party. No time for a pedicure, maybe mom has some clippers and polish. The idea is to look tight, together. The idea is to look perfectly beautiful wonderful. The idea is not to give anybody any reason to gossip about you, your hair, your dress, your body, any imperfection. The idea is to be adored, admired, envied. If you can manage this you will stay safe. You will get the love.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sleeping with the enemy

When we discovered the big butcher knife lying under the covers of the master bed when we turned down the sheets to get into it, we were naturally shocked. If you walk into a kitchen and see a butcher’s knife you don’t think twice. But when you pull down the covers of a big, fluffy down bed and you see a knife lying there it stops you, and it takes a moment to reconcile what you see; bed, knife, knife, bed. You generally don’t put the two together unless you’re watching a horror film. Or living in one.

We were at a meditation retreat and we were supposed to be keeping noble silence, but my friend who I was sharing the bed with, she gasped. Our eyes went wide and our jaws went slack. “Shit,” she said.

At first I thought it was a joke.

And then I remembered that the knife belonged to the woman who owned the house, who slept in the bed, who wasn’t at the retreat with us, but whose husband, our friend, was.

My friend’s wife sleeps with a butcher knife beside her in bed. I need to say that again because it’s so grave and has so many implications, not to mention the affect it might have on my friend’s love life.

My friend’s wife sleeps with a butcher knife beside her in bed.

I knew it was hers because my friend had mentioned this knife in passing once when he was trying to drum up compassion for the plight of his marriage. He wanted us to understand just how deep-rooted his wife’s paranoid fears were. “She sleeps with a butcher knife beside her in bed!” he implored.

“Sure she does,” we said, not entirely believing him. I mean, hearing about someone sleeping with a knife can sound like a metaphor, you know, knife in the bed, elephant in the room, until you actually see that knife lying in the bed you’re about to climb into. So we were sort of half listening because we couldn’t picture this knife and also, we knew his wife well; she was our friend too and we were fond of her. But here it was in living color: The butcher knife.

For hours after we’d discovered the culinary weapon I kept thinking about what it must be like to be someone who sleeps with a butcher knife. I’ve slept with the phone near the bed. I’ve occasionally slept with a heavy flashlight when my husband was out of town, but never a knife, and I wondered what it would be like to live with that degree of fear. I could feel it in my belly, how being so afraid would color everything.

It was easy to put my friend’s wife into the crazy corner, to see her fear as a sickness, a sign of how far gone she was. And it lived like that in me for a little while, but as I say, we were at a meditation retreat and so I got to sit with myself which meant sitting with this monkey-minded drama going on in my head that I was obsessed by. It involved some of my friends and it had something to do with sex and who had said what to whom and who I thought I could trust and who I couldn’t and what I was going to stop doing and what I would do more of. I sat there for the first whole day of the retreat scheming how to keep myself from being hurt by these people.

And all this scheming got very tiring and so I welcomed the knife and the diversion it presented.

I knew about some of this woman’s fears; how she thought the roof of the house was going to collapse on them. How she was sure her husband was going to separate her from her wealth. How the palpitations of her heart were a sure sign of a heart attack. I knew how many times she’d been taken to the emergency room because she thought she was going to die, only to be sent home with a sedative. And although my fears were different and seemed much smaller, the thing I realized I had in common with this woman was that we both believed the things we feared were real. She to the point of sleeping with a butcher's knife, and me, who had begun shutting out the people around me who I loved because they could not be trusted. And I realized at that point it doesn’t matter if you’re sleeping with a knife or sleeping with an elephant. You’re in a horror film and it has become your life.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Leftover Stew

Leftover Stew: When you’ve run out of time to write a good piece and instead have to pull yesterdays moments from your head, scrambling like you do for a matching pair of socks when you should be out the door, hurling undies and bras and stories out of your drawer, out of your head and over your shoulder like some cartoon character

Here’s what you remember:

1. the slight lilt of guilt and pleasure you catch in your friend’s voice on the phone this morning because you know and she knows that your husband is on his way over to see her right now so they can get in their hour or two of sex because her children are at school and her husband is at work and because you saw your own boyfriend the other night and might even see this same friend’s husband next week.

2. how California that sounds.

3. how you will have to tolerate the little smiles and nudges these two give each other tonight when she comes over with her kids for dinner, and even though you love them both and are happy they are lovers, you don’t, just say it, take pleasure in witnessing their little moments of reverie. You just don’t. It’s a private thing and has nothing to do with you.

4. the pleasure, the thrill, the shock of being 46-years-old and having a husband and two lovers and how sometimes you have to say that out loud, sometimes to your friends, which might annoy them and which should embarrass you because you’re bragging, but really, you say it because you can’t believe it, because down deep you still feel like that fat, squat little girl standing with her legs together at the dining room table letting her father check to see if there’s a space between her thighs, which will dictate whether she can have dessert or not.

5. there has been so much dessert lately; the apple pie and the pumpkin pie and there’s chocolate in the freezer. You feel your tummy rolling over your jeans. Everyday is a new scheme to stop eating, to trim yourself, to reduce, especially with Hawaii coming up, and next weeks date with your friend’s husband. Trim, reduce, deny.

6. the shock and the surprise of listening to your 8-year-old in therapy yesterday talking about her own tummy rolling over her jeans, the way she sat there looking straight at Steve, her therapist, telling him what it was like to wear daddy’s shirts to school because then her tummy wouldn’t show.

7. how you told Steve that thing about your thighs and your dad at the dinner table. The way, when the session was over, Steve looked you straight in the eye and said, “there is nothing wrong with your body, your body is fine,” like he was trying to cement that in on your last session together, like if he said it real nice and slow like that you might hear him, and the way you looked back at him, appreciating what he was trying to do, but didn’t smile in agreement, didn’t shake your head wearily like a dope, just looked at him from a million miles away, from a place he could never imagine.

8. no one believes how small you feel sometimes. You compensate so beautifully.

Monday, November 27, 2006

My Father

When Measure 89, the Clean Money initiative lost a few weeks ago I called my father because he had spent the last two years putting all of himself into it, trying to get it to pass. I wanted to call him to say I was sorry, but I was afraid he would blame me for it’s failing. “Well, did YOU vote for it?” he shouted once I got him on the phone.

”Yes,” I said, a little sheepish, like a child. I wasn’t lying, but I did lie about that other thing he wanted me to do, which was to email everyone I knew about the proposition and tell them which way to vote. “Did you send it out?” he asked a bunch of times after he’d sent me the original email. “Yes,” I lied, and changed the subject. The thing is, I don’t like sending mass emails to my friends, especially if they’re political, even if they do come from my father, who is smart and on the left.

In our regular phone chats he asks me about the girls, about my husband, the house plans. Sometimes he throws a curve ball and out of the blue he’ll ask whether I ever bought that computerized bridge program for the kids that he was obsessed by a few years ago, thinking they needed to learn bridge OR ELSE. Or out of nowhere he’ll ask me whether my kids are learning Spanish or if I’ve been following MY TEAM. But since I don’t follow sports and have no idea what season it is EVER, or who MY TEAM is, I am left speechless for a moment and then I lie in no particular order, “yes, no, yes, no.” Bridge, yes, Spanish, no, MY TEAM, yes, and he laughs because he knows I’m lying and I laugh because this is how we bond; me in my half morning daze, my cowboy boots and coffee, my list of plans; the phone calls and emails, and he in his cluttered office in Los Angeles, reminding me of either a lost planet or space debris, I don’t know, but he’s up there orbiting, trying to make sense of his world, pulling all the little pieces together, just as I try to do in mine.

This morning when I called he said he was overwhelmed with so much to do and I said maybe he ought to take a break after two years of hard work on Measure 89, and he tells me that he usually naps for 30 minutes. I said “Good, rest yourself, it’s a long walk toward death,” and he laughs and I laugh. We don’t know what it means but it bonds us.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fair Trade

“I made you come,” he said, joining me in the kitchen as I made the girls toast. “But did you make me coffee?”

“Over there, babe.”

Friday, November 03, 2006

Big Love

“It’s easy,” he said in his email, “to love our lovers. Much harder for me to love you, to lean into our love. But that,” he wrote, “is the Big Love.”

We’d been calling this creation Big Love from its inception, two years ago when we first met the ballerina and her husband, and at it’s best it is just that; big love, more love, an opportunity to express yourself past the four square walls of marriage, though we've mostly applied that to loving other people.

“Much harder,” he wrote, “for me to love you, to lean into our love.”

After 18 years together, this email from my husband who is working down the hall from me at home and who I haven’t made love to in two months, reminding me that he and I are the love you need to get naked for, more naked than you get with your lover, naked in the midst of your life.

Ours is the love that isn’t about the sexy underwear, the white lacy ones I bought for my new lover, or the garters or the short kilt I bought to wear on our next date. Ours is the love that lives in the chaos of picking up carpools and dog doo. Ours is the love that has to remind the other to get toilet paper and pay the bill. Ours is the love that sleeps night after night in a bed that needs its sheets washed.

Ours is not the phone call my husband makes to the ballerina on his way to visit her, requesting she meet him at the door wearing only heels and stockings. Or the message her husband leaves me to “just be naked when I get there.”

Not that kind of love.

It was once, sort of, a long time ago.

And while I'm tempted to start listing all the small things I’m grateful for; the way our feet find each other at the end of the bed, at the end of the day, our hands clasped, quietly breathing. While I could try to convince you that my husband and I really do love each other, a sentiment that would make you and me both feel a lot better, I won't.

Because as the man said, this is Big Love and so we’re shelving the fairy tale ending for now, we’re going off road, a path we don’t actually have a map for, but which feels more real and more appropriate for us. Destination unknown, but destination true.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

twisted and free

I finally blogged after months of silence. I’d been waiting for some bud to break. Some lighter moment, maybe some wisdom. Let’s face it, I wanted to write something good.

And even though I think the best of my writing has been the darkest material, like the time I went to 12 liquor stores in 20 minutes looking for my cigarette brand when I should have been at the Brownie Court of Awards Ceremony, that time when I was feeling exactly like one of those oily haired, cigarette reeking, broken toothed, white trash mothers who can’t get it together to get to their child’s recital. After so many pieces like that I became self-conscious, less free. I kept thinking that I needed to heal for the reader, that the reader wanted me to get better, make smarter choices. I was afraid I would disappoint you, not with my writing, but with me, who was an absolute failure.

And then things did lighten up and I wanted to write, but I was so happy and I didn’t know how to write about happy without it sounding stupid and gleeful. I’ve told you, I see better in the dark, can find a billion words for weirdo, manage to see past the rainbows and straight into the coming storm. It’s not that I’m a downer, but things are more interesting when they’re twisted, you know?

One of the most beautiful moments was the night I lowered my naked self down onto that cold, dirty cement floor. I remember how he let me tumble slowly to the ground, onto the filth of the floor, and how positively focused I was on the eyes of this man who had completely unleashed me, how I grasped his hand to follow me down to the floor. I tried to write this, but I wasn’t sure how to convey the beauty in such a cold and dirty place, and since I’m not a liar writer I couldn’t substitute furry shag for cold, dirty and cold dirty felt slutty, shameful. People might not understand, and I was only beginning to.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


When I was a kid there was a chain barbeque place on Pico by the country club, the one my entire family belonged to; cousins, grandparents, friends from the temple. Everyone except my mother’s parents, who felt that the place was too snobby, too Beverly Hills. They lived a few miles away, in Brentwood, which was closer to the beach; more laid back, less fancy. But it was more than that, it was my Napoleon-sized grandfather Harold and his whisky and his leg brace, his limp and his fuckem’, his laugh and his loneliness. I know there was loneliness.

But there was also Loves, the barbeque place, whose radio script sang, “When you’re at Loves, the whole world is in love.” And for some reason that line lodged inside of me for all these years, like even if I didn’t understand it back then I was meant to remember it…“The whole world is in love.”

I don’t think I ever got to go to Loves, with it’s thick slabs of beef and pork, it’s rich red, spicy sauce, it’s million dollar napkins and bibs. Maybe it was the bibs that turned us off, but more probably it was that we didn’t have the money to eat out except only sometimes on a Sunday night after my brother’s baseball games, when we’d meet other baseball family’s at Original Johns, a pizza parlor in Brentwood with sawdust on the floor and a TV stationed high in a corner.

It was probably a relief for my mother not to cook for the 6 of us that night and it was certainly a relief for us kids to go out because it was such a diversion from the routine of home and our green and yellow lazy susan that spun mom’s dinner round and round the dinner table, offering us an array of heavy, over cooked foods; stewed tomatoes and mashed potatoes, turkey, lasagna and a whole lot more. It was a break from my mother’s exhaustion and her anger, my father’s failure and our failure, clearly, to make them happy.

But at Original Johns we could spread out more; have less of each other and more pizza. And my parents could drink beer, which everyone knows increases your love, at least for a little while, and you end up saying yes to things you might say no to, like, ”yes , here’s four quarters for the pinball,” and “yes, you can get another soda,” and “yes, you and your friends can play outside of the restaurant until we finish eating.”

And yes, isn’t it wonderful to be a child outside on a spring night in Brentwood under the twinkling sky, before we ruin the Santa Monica Bay, before we’ve clogged the roads with our traffic and garbage and exhaust and before we know dingily about real love and the failure to love too.

1969, under the stars, I’m a tomboy with hiking boots and jeans, and my sadness has only begun to creep in; I’m beginning to understand what kind of love a pizza and a beer can buy. Their sweet plans of love gone awry, my parent’s hearts are failing, this whole town in failing and the family too; my brother will divorce and marry again, a sister will become bi-polar, another will marry the wrong man, and me, a student of failure, courageous and broken-hearted, will spend the next 35 years pushing boulders into the path of love.

When you’re at Loves, the whole world is in love, though there are only so many scripts, some I suspect I haven’t even read yet.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


In conversation with my new lover about my previous lover…

“He called you ‘Truth’, that was his code word for you," he said, "‘Truth.’”

“That’s so sad,” I said. “I stopped telling him the truth a long time ago.”

Sunday, June 18, 2006

My Dance Teacher # 2

“I want you to take the pose of the divine,” she told us at the beginning of class. “Show me the posture that connects you to the divine.”

I closed my eyes and instinctively threw one hand straight up toward the heavens, then put my other hand behind me, thrusting it down past my butt like a tough little rooster tail, grounding me to the earth. This was the divine.

“Now I want you to take the opposite pose,” she said, “the anti-divine, if you will. Show me that.” I concaved my chest and curled in, my hands at spastic angles in front of me like arthritic branches grown wrong, my face contorted and twisted in pain.

“How do you know that’s not the divine?” she asked, as we stood there in our contorted postures. “How do you know that’s not the entrance to the divine?” she asked again.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Day five at Esalen, the famous meditation and awareness center in Big Sur. I’m on a personal retreat; alone, doing nothing every day except reading and napping, making art, taking baths in the sulfur tubs, meditating and writing.

Day five and I’m standing naked in the open air shower on the cliffs above the sea after my third or fourth sulfur bath of the day. These daily baths have softened and quieted me. I find I have very little to say to people, which is unusual for my big mouth. But now, standing naked at 46, tan and lean after a week of clean food and silence, I find myself standing across from a handsome young man I’d seen in passing all week, each of us too shy to muster anything past “hello.” Now we’re naked and showering alone above the cliffs. He is tall and tan, dark, curly hair, in his 20’s. I think to say something about the large, round mandala tattoo on his back, but this week of stillness has left me incapable of small talk. I mean to look up at him and gesture our connection, but I look down instead, pretending it doesn’t matter; this nakedness, this attraction, this moment. I pretend this sort of thing happens all the time. Pretend I don’t live three hours away with a husband and two daughters who I will return to tomorrow just in time to drive the gymnastics carpool and spend the rest of the week figuring out summer camps for them.

Through the water I see him looking at me, staring at my body. All I need to do is lift my head and meet his eye. But I don’t. I pretend I don’t see him. And then the moment passes and I dry off and I am back in my clothes and walking up the hill to something else, anything, doesn’t matter, something different that takes me away from the simple surrender of eyes meeting in a shower, naked. Two weeks later and all I can think about is how for one moment I might have looked up and simply met his eye.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Life of Smoke

This because it's so passionate and because I've been swallowed whole by life and can't manage to post...this, written a few nights ago

By my 8-year-old daughter, Zoe

In the years 2005-2006 I’ve been noticing the pressure life gives you. The questions it asks. The things you do that tears the life apart. I’ve been noticing the fear in people’s eyes. I’ve seen tobacco in places that people don’t think you’re going to look because they’re hiding it from you. I’ve seen how people act when they’re caught smoking. I’m going to tell you a story of the way I’m thinking of it, but I’m not just going to tell you about tobacco and stuff like that. I’m going to tell you about the smoke that factories make because this is all about smoke. At the ending of the story I want you to think about how this is to your life. I want you to know that the smoke that factories make kill the fresh air, and the smoke that you inhale makes you get cancer and you get addicted to it. I want you to know how hard this is to let go of. Think about it and let’s let our story begin.

(we can only hope that the rest of the story is soon to follow. Maybe she's just watching me waiting to find out what happens.)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Fresh Grass

It was simply the smell of freshly cut grass that hit me today as I crossed the lawn to the library. The smell of freshly cut grass that transported me back to Boulder, Colorado 1979 when I was a 19-year-old gardener on campus for the summer. The fresh, perfect smell of cut grass that I inhaled day after day that dry, hot summer as I pushed the lawn mower across miles of green lawn under the tower of the Rockies. A job that had me watering, mowing, cutting back bushes, picking up litter, and trimming trees with my friend Greg, whose love for Neil Young rivaled mine, becoming competitive in a game we played where we’d recite a single line from a certain song challenging the other to name both song and album.

It was simply the smell of freshly cut grass that transported me today, out of my life; the decision whether to let my husband continue his dance with the ballerina even though her husband and I have ended ours; the brewing drama with my 11-year-old on whether to let her quit the gymnastics team because it leaves her little time to play with other kids; the decision of which book idea I could actually follow through with; the anxiety of whether the new and expensive dress my mother bought me for my birthday is too small and whether it’s too late to return it; the image of my friend who is very sick and possibly dying repeatedly slapping his young son on the back yesterday because the boy wouldn’t listen to him and how the moment stood still for me as I watched him strike his son with hands gone weak because of an illness that is robbing him of all of his strength, his ability to speak and to parent the way he might have imagined.

Grass that transported me past the business of money and whether I am doing my artist husband a favor by bailing him out of being broke each month; whether I’m doing the ballerina a favor by sharing my husband so she doesn’t feel nearly as lonely with hers; the scheme to stop answering my office phone in case it’s her husband, a man I am trying to rinse from my psyche because his departure leaves me confronting my own loneliness and pain.

It was simply the smell of that grass that took me, let me breath in and forget, for a moment as I crossed the lawn today and entered the library.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Not Like You Knew

It’s not as if you knew your life needed changing
What was it you used to bitch about?
What got you down?
That he didn’t make enough money?
That the house was always a wreck?
It’s not as if you knew your life needed changing
That one kiss under the awning of a Chinese restaurant
in the rain
could unleash
a whole new you
Change your life

Janice and her family moved to the country last year to change their life
They wanted a slower, natural, earthy, small town life
Her strong, smart husband built them a home overlooking a valley
where they could watch hawks and eagles
Janice and the boys learned to ride
They learned to ride horses
But then little Sam, his head started leaking
And 66 nights later
66 nights at children’s hospital
that’s how many nights her husband has slept
sprawled out on a chair next to Sam’s bed
funny, sweet, sassy Sam who razzes the nurses
Now Janice and the two other boys live that other life
the one they made the changes for

And even if you know what’s coming
The man in the walker coming out of the medical building today
How the walker got caught in the door
How I didn’t help him
But thought instead of my father
Able bodied but not forever
Because it’s not like you knew your life needed changing
But it must have
Because a kiss under an awning of a Chinese restaurant
in the rain
can set the whole thing off

**Inspired by Joan Logghe’s new book of poems called Rice

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ethics, order and timing

And so, because I am not a romantic
When I got together with my husband and the ballerina last weekend
limbs colliding, on our backs, in her bed
The candles, the wine
Her unauthorized breathing
The way her eyes closed and face clenched when she came
What it feels like to let go like that in front of another person
her lover’s wife, your husband’s lover
How three became one
how it was she who held me as I came
His mouth on me, her hands clutching my arm
How they both went quiet afterwards
Resting with me as if we’d all made that train wreck of a journey together

And we had

Because I am not a romantic
What occurred to me afterwards was this:

what are the ethics and the obligation as to where the husband finally lays his seed? Does he leave it in the wife to show her where his real love lies? Where does that seed need to come to rest?

Ethics, order and timing

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Following sadness to its true home

Bear with me because I’m going to talk about allergy medicine for a second and then I’m going to talk about sadness.

Because I got this cold last week; sore throat, sniffles, and it just depleted me. Bad timing too because I was set to start teaching two new classes and the last thing I wanted to do was drag my sorry, exhausted ass into the room and launch a class like that.

That’s when I remembered this allergy medicine that I took a couple of years ago when I had this bad cold, and how as soon as I took the medicine, I mean, within minutes, I went from limpy, sad, sniffly woman to supersonic, fantastic, let’s take over the world, and run a marathon after that and get laundry done and edit 20 pages and make a four course meal for my family, which was fantastic, but which is why they tell you on the package not to take more than one of these little white pills every 12 hours.

But the thing is, the funny thing is, when you get to about hour 10 in your day and the medicine begins to wear down, you start to feel your sore throat again, and the sniffles come back too, which makes me wonder if that allergy medicine is tackling that cold at all or whether it’s just masking it, shooting me out into the world in total spastic denial, and then what have I really accomplished?

And this gets me thinking about sadness and all the ways I’ve masked it, tried to get away from it. I realize that I could spend the rest of my life fixing and changing things that I don’t like, that made me sad, but it would be like putting out little fires that once extinguished would just light up again in new places.

And so what I’m wondering is what would it be like to follow sadness back to its true home?

Because the things that make me sad, and I know reading this might trouble you because these things might make you sad too, like if your husband really did love the ballerina very much and if he didn’t know how to answer you when you asked him whether he’d leave her if you asked him to. Or if the ballerina’s husband, someone you love, wasn’t able to return this love in the way you wanted him to, and what a heartbreak that could be. And even though those things can feel horribly sad, I’m starting to believe that they’re just triggers for a much deeper sadness that isn’t just distinct to me, but maybe to you too. A birthright we all share in some way.

Because you can live a life of preference; this over that. You can try to eliminate the things that hurt, that crack you open and you can stay away from the edge too. You can tell lies if you like. Especially to the people you love. You can even make people say what you want them to say and get them to change, FOR YOU, so you won’t feel sad anymore. You can run from sadness for a very long time. And of course they have lots of sadness medicine too, like Prozak, which many people I love swear by.

But all the while, I’m telling you, your sadness is there, waiting, like a perfectly patient friend, waiting for you to get tired of fixing things and manipulating people or drinking too much or watching TV. or whatever it is we do to numb the pain. What I’m saying is the things that make us sad, they’re just distractions, even the ballerina and her husband, people I deeply love. Their job as problems is to merely trigger sadness so that I might finally find my way home to where sadness really lives. So that I might stop putting out the little fires that trouble me, so that I might finally sit down with the big daddy of pain and let him do his thing to me. Call me crazy, but I believe in my heart that that’s where the healing happens.

But walking headfirst into sadness isn’t for the faint of heart. And it’s not very American either. We don’t like sadness: it’s not very productive and it troubles people. They might not want to be around you.

But what if that journey to sadness’ true home, what if it wasn’t crazy, what if it saved your life?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My Dance Teacher

“Stop trying to be above it all,” my dance teacher said as she dug her thumbs into my hip joints. “Stop trying to be all up here,” she said, throwing her arms over her head and gesturing something sexy and exotic, her chin jutting out in pure pose. “I want you down here, down in your hips,” she hissed. “ I want you to be like Katarina Witt. I want you to glide. I don’t want to see your feet leave the ground. So just stop, stop trying to be above it all.”

Monday, January 23, 2006



Today, out of the blue, the slightest hint of freedom like some exotic, warm wind blowing in off the coast of nowhere. Freedom like the sudden surprise of night blossoms; heady and sweet and impossible to locate in the darkness of the yard. Freedom and sweetness that says soon, spring, survivor, you.

In bed the night before I’d told my husband that I felt trapped. The kind of trapped that inspires insane escape routes like getting yourself sick. The kind of plan you have to immediately apologize to god for.

But now this sweet rogue wind, a window where there had been a wall.


The black woman in the post office line today who warmly gestured for me to go ahead
of her because I’d been taping boxes in the corner and she believed that technically made me first. This beautiful, sweet smelling cocoa woman in her 50’s dressed in leather; skirt and jacket and high pointy boots, coordinated in colors of pumpkin, persimmon and rust. When she pulled out her checkbook it was orange. I meant to tell her how great she looked, but mostly I just wanted our eyes to meet because I wanted us to see each other, but I didn’t say anything. I was strangely shy. On the way out she looked at me and I only caught the tail of her glance, but she smiled and I meant to smile back, but she turned and was gone.


When we were deciding whether to have kids our biggest fear was that we’d split up. So we took a 20-hour drive to New Mexico with the intention to make our decision on the road. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere we realized that while we could say words like Forever and Never and Always, they wouldn’t mean anything. We realized if we wanted to stay together it wouldn’t be because we promised we would, but because of how we treated each other each day. That this good day would get us to tomorrow and a good tomorrow would get us to the next day. Of course it hasn’t been all good days, but somehow we have been able to cobble together enough goodness to make it here, 16 years later, in this old house at the end of the road, with palm trees, and possums and people, our children.

French kiss

I did kiss her. More importantly I let myself go. We’d tried it once before and after the initial tongue and a little exploration I felt the line, the place where I could really fall into her, but I was afraid, so I pulled back. But this time I let myself go. Her lips were soft and her tongue moved slowly. I felt the tiny sprouting of hairs around her upper lip and I wondered if she waxed hers like I did mine. Men are both rough and soft. They push and I like that. But she was all soft and that’s how I fell into her.


The ones who are still listening to me a year later and who have never told me what to do. The ones who kept their fears to themselves because they trust me and they love me and because they don’t really know what I should do, even when I have asked them. The friend who I hadn’t seen in years who grabbed my hand the other day at the ferry and said, “You’re very vulnerable, aren’t you?” And left it at that. Friends like that.


My eight-year-old told me yesterday that she wants to go on a diet because she is fat. She is a little chubby in that way that small children can be; their stomachs distended, bellies popping over. And it doesn’t help that her older sister is such a stick. We were standing in the kitchen and I got down on my knees. I put my arms on her shoulders and looked her in the eye. I said I thought she was beautiful, that she looked just like mama.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I told her, "I think I'm trying to write about beauty, though it's not always pretty."

And she said, "no, it rarely is, beauty is rarely pretty."