Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Catching up

I've started sorting the contents of the boxes that have been in storage since July 2014 when my husband and I left Massachusetts for Arizona. There are at least 30 of them. Thirty boxes of journals, books, art supplies, framed artwork and more!

Today I opened my fourth box. Inside I found some treasures.

There was a necklace I had made with clay faces in shades of blue bought here, in Vermont, years ago, even though I was not a blue girl. I'm wearing it now with my navy tank top and shades of blue flannel. A prescient purchase?

There were many, many, many paint brushes. Some were not stored well and/or just got used up to their potential. I actually threw those away. I saved some great old favorites though: Grumbacher , Utrecht, Crayola:-) Some for me, some for the little ones I hope will visit us some day.

And in another box, in the box, there were some stones from the beach in Giardini Naxos, Sicily. Most of them were former clay tiles, dumped into the sea by contractors, tossed in the waves and returned to the beach polished smooth. Remnants of artists' designs still singing from them. Our bags, my friend Beverly's and mine, were heavy that summer. We used the tiles to try our hands at mosaic making. Me, I mortared them into the recessed top of a table from the Salvation Army store and lined a wooden serving tray for a friend.

Today I placed a few of the tiny tile stones in the flower boxes Russ and I built that hang on the porch. The rest of the stones I threw over the railing to join others from the brook and the local gravel pit that make a path to the back door.

Mixing memories and moments. Integrating. Catching up. Something we all might need to do every once in a while. For me, I feel like I'm finding myself. Where I've come from. Where I am now. Perhaps there will be some clues about where I am going. Have you saved memories and moments in things assembled that remind you where you have been? Do they give you clues about where you are now and who you have been and are becoming? I hope that if you need a little bit of catching up, you have some time, too.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


There are ducks in the pond, he says
What pond? The puddle by the brook?
Yes, see the ripples?
I turn the bolt of the still frozen winter door
Yank it open
And peer out:
Two mallards, female and male
Walk toward the shore,
consider staying through spring.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Poetry Out Loud

Heard the beautiful poem below
for the first time watching

Poetry Out Loud

presented by the Vermont Arts Council and Vermont PBS

"Poetry Out Loud is a national competition for high-schoolers created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. The program provides pathways for students to explore, memorize, and recite great works of poetry."

Young people read poems written by others
in the centuries old tradition of reading/speaking
out loud the words, stories, poems of others.


by Michelle Y. Burke

You love your friend, so you fly across the country to see her.

Your friend is grieving. When you look at her, you see that something’s missing.

You look again. She seems all there: reading glasses, sarcasm, leather pumps.

What did you expect? Ruins? Demeter without arms in the British Museum?

Your friend says she believes there’s more pain than beauty in the world.

When Persephone was taken, Demeter damned the world for half the year.

The other half remained warm and bountiful; the Greeks loved symmetry.

On the plane, the man next to you read a geometry book, the lesson on finding the circumference of a circle.

On circumference: you can calculate the way around if you know the way across.

You try across with your friend. You try around.

I don’t believe in an afterlife, she says. But after K. died, I thought I might go after her.

                In case I’m wrong. In case she’s somewhere. Waiting.

Published, in Vermont

Looks like I have had a poem accepted by

PoemTown St. Johnsbury,

which invites Vermont poets of all ages to submit original poems to be displayed on local business storefronts in celebration of National Poetry Month in April.

I submitted two poems. I wrote both during sessions of the Wednesday Poets group that I joined last July.

The one selected was my response to the prompt, What would you like to take down? The prompt arose out of our discussion of the movement to take down confederate civil war monuments throughout the nation. My poem took a more personal route.

With thanks to this band of creative hearts that has welcomed me in, and especially to Sylvia who encouraged us all to send entries, here's my poem:

What would you like to take down
for Russell

I’d like to take down
a picture – one I (really) like
so you can hang the one you (really) like
of that lone, leafless tree
stark center in the frame
of a grey winter.

I don’t like it – (so)(I) hid it in the attic.
To me it’s lifeless, barren, cold
but you – you see something else –
an open season to play in,
a field to cross in snowshoes,
a toboggan run.

So tonight when I get home
I’d like to show you a picture
I’d like to take down.

Here are the PoemTown Events:


All PoemTown St. Johnsbury events are open to the public at no charge.  

PoemTown Poems Display
Poems will be posted on downtown St. Johnsbury business windows throughout the month of April. 

Noontime Poetry Readings
Wednesdays, April 4, 11, 18, 25, noon-1:00pm
St. Johnsbury Athenaeum
Bring your favorite poem to share, or simply listen.

Poetry Slam
Tuesday, Apr. 10, 7:00pm
Kingdom Taproom
Slam Master Bill Biddle will lead this raucous and fun competition. If you'd like to compete, bring two original poems to perform (you may read from a paper). If you would rather listen (and cheer and boo), come on down to support our local poets! Judges will be selected from the audience.

Teen Poetry Slam
Friday, Apr. 20, 7:00pm  
Catamount Outback Artspace
Middle and high school students are encouraged to bring two original poems to perform at Open Mic St. Jay. Hosted by St. Johnsbury Athenaeum's Teen Advisory Board.

Junior Jam
Friday, Apr. 27, 6:00pm
St. Johnsbury Athenaeum 
Students will read their favorite poems at this event hosted by the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum's Teen Advisory Board.

PoemTown Poets' Reading
Sunday, Apr. 29, 3:00-5:00pm
Catamount Arts Gallery
Poets whose poems are displayed in downtown St. Johnsbury will read their poems, and refreshments will be available. 

PoemTown St. Johnsbury is a collaborative effort of Catamount Arts, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, and St. Johnsbury Chamber of Commerce, and is a satellite site of PoemCity in Montpelier.
Image: St. Johnsbury Athenaeum staircase

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Make it stop

He has that sober addict-wounded animal-fighting for his life-look.

He has that addict-on the wagon-sliced open by a predator-mammal-clawing for his life back-look.

He has that addict-reptile brain engaged constantly-cold turkey-white knuckling-I shouldn't have to need help-detoxing-fight-flight-freeze-help me or kill me, please-look.


The Mom

and God


our son(s) and daughter(s)

try to get off




She's an IV drug user

She did Heroin throughout her pregnancy

The baby was born in withdrawal

The grandmother.

My sister




to a stranger


our child(ren)

to their own child(ren)

so that they



pick up

try it out

go down the path

to family heartbreak

Me, my sister





with hearts ablaze with empathy



you won't know it's coming friend

you won't feel it coming dear one

you won't see it begin my love


you will


the roar


your own head

a voice

that wails

No and why and how and ... 

when you finally

and irrevocably know

you will

feel the tears

burn like a hand on the stove

that you will leave there

so you know 

this is not a nightmare

you are awake

and you will feel this pain

until it stops.

Make it stop

Make it stop

Make it stop


I don't turn 55 until next month

I'm at my mother's
she lives at
in East Bridgewater
where she and a hundred other
over 55-ers
- one level living
except for the flight of stairs to the basement
(who missed that?)
- adequate, sometimes, snow and lawn care
- a club house
where my aunt,
my mother's roommate,
plays cards with the Ladies
on Monday nights
(the guys, she tells me,
play poker
at the other end of the
vast round table filled space)
- and
through the grapevine
a long list
of handymen
(yes, they are all men)
who are husbands
sons and cousins, maybe,
of the others
who will shovel the short walkway
from driveway (already plowed, like I told you)
to front door
for $20
or fix a leaky faucet
or put up a shelf in the laundry nook

My mother has been in Florida
for two weeks
visiting her best friend
met in Brockton, 1969
when we moved there
from Dorchester
While she's been away
her mail has piled up
I steal a glance:
Roseanne Bar and John Goodman
on the cover of
AARP - the magazine!
an exclusive
They are over 50?
the subtitle promises
"tougher again - wiser, happier and more
outrageous than ever"
Of course
Why am I surprised?
Next up
Lifestyle - inside Hingham's premier senior living community
Linden Ponds
the competition arrives
in hard copy old style mail
dueling senior living options
they have a pool,
and yoga,
and communal breakfasting
if you want!
grown up dorm living
but better!
Why didn't she pick this place?
Well, cost, I'm sure
and you know
blatant God's Waiting Room warning signs!
I turn the pages...
the georgetown,
one bedroom, bath with den
nice layout
the kewick, larger
with family room and bay window,
I'm sold!
the fairmont, large two bedroom
for couples that sleep apart and rendezvous?
the paxton, two bed, two bath
somehow not as exciting
as that bay window...
If I was looking...

I'm not.

I don't turn 55

until next month.

So shut up.

I'm not looking.



(I didn't even look at my mother's mail.
No, I didn't.
That would be illegal.
And I am a rule following woman of 54!)

((I'll tell you about R&J later;
I can't wait to watch the show!)

Mary Cassatt, of course

from the MMA: "The American painter and printmaker Mary Cassatt spent her professional life in Paris, where she was a member of the Impressionist group. Woman Bathing belongs to a group of ten color prints that Cassatt showed at her first independent exhibition (at the Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris) in 1891. The abstract, linear quality of the nude's back drew the attention of Cassatt's colleague and sometime collaborator, Edgar Degas (1834–1917), who exclaimed, "I do not admit that a woman can draw like that.""

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I am a writer

Italian writer Oriana Fallaci
always wrote with her leg on her desk!
I have been a writer
almost my entire life
although I have not owned
this identity
until recently...

today's quote from the website,
Advice to Writers,
is perfect:

There Are No Rules

There are no rules. It’s amazing how willing people are to tell you that you aren’t a real writer unless you conform to their clich├ęs and their rules. My advice? Reject rules and critics out of hand. Define yourself. Do it your way. Make yourself the writer of your dreams.

And so, this morning

My 12 year old self is smiling
She writes poetry

My 17 year old self is smiling
She writes songs
and plays guitar
so writes music

My 21 year old self is smiling
She writes poetry
despite her art school Dean Lord's

My 22 year old self is smiling
She writes
everywhere and on everything
napkins at the diner where she waitresses
scraps of paper while she
breastfeeds the baby

My 23 year old self is smiling
She writes feature articles
for a local weekly newspaper
because one professor in art school
believed she could write
and said deadline work
for ten years
would matter!

My 24 year old self is smiling
She writes news stories
and edits three weekly newspapers
She is a writer with gut and curiosity
She knows the power of print
(it was 1987!)
to make town, city and state
officials bleed information
they'd rather not tell

Kyle and me, circa 1992,
just before the floor fell out from beneath our feet.
My 30 year old self is smiling
and crying
this is the year I turned 30, 
I know I said that already,
but listen,
I turned 30
had my second baby
and my father died
all in the span of four months
and I received a grant from
to publish the chapbook,
am I writer yet?

Cover art by Meg Harrison Young

My 32 year old self is smiling
I received another grant 
this one from
to write the curriculum
I know, 
small audience, Dean Lord,
but fuck,
am I writer yet?

And now like a storytelling pro
I must stop to tell you
that I forgot
to mention something
in that room 
we passed through
a little too quickly
my 23 year old self
wants to remind you
and me of 
(Author and title list, here.)

and now that we've paused
for a moment
my 42 year old self is beaming
about that piece published
in the anthology,
It was a long, long, long poem
entitled, with aspirations of regality
and possible inclusion in the next
version of the Christian Scriptures,
with parenthesis for Unitarians:
A Psalm (to God) in Six Stages.

My 43 year old self is smiling
breathing in and out
She writes sermons
and delivers them
in front of people
on a weekly basis
in sanctuaries
(eventually from Boston to Flagstaff
from Bridgewater to Urbana)
and that year won
yep that guy!
Andrew, Kyle and me; Christmas 2015
And now,
right now,
My 54 year old self is laughing
just a little
for that girl
who wrote poems 
in her journal
and imagined
never having to speak in front of anyone
except a gentle crowd
at a book signing
at which she would read
just a few poems

for that girl who
read poems
at a poetry slam
at her old high school
in her twenties
her body betraying
her fear
in shivers she could not shake
but she read,
she read
to that room of teenagers
and their teachers
and showed them all
especially herself
that yes, a Brockton girl
can do any thing
even if her guidance counselors
dissuade her from college
and suggest she has gone
way, way
beyond her raising!

Am I a writer yet?
My almost 55 year old self

(This is the 50s baby! My midwife told me I'd be different once I moved through menopause...and right on schedule, I am reflecting on the past and contemplating the future - what I'll leave behind, what I've done. How about you?)

(A man, who eventually became a dear congregant, asked me last year after the first time he heard me preach: What do you call your preaching style? I said I didn't have a name for it. I asked what he would call my style. He said he didn't want to tell me. He said it might hurt my feelings. I said, go ahead. I can take it. He said, strident. I sat with that for a while. Eventually, he added, and I mean eventually, like months later, he said, you know I think now I'd say your sermons are provocative but I'm still stumped on the style. Thanks, I said. I would say, now that my style, of writing and delivery, is poetic. He smiled.)