Thursday, May 10, 2018

CPITS teaching journal

I always tell the kids I can teach you simile, but I can't teach you metaphor, it has to come from within you. That's the real poet's work. Then Josiah wrote: Our friendship is a rope that can't be cut. I about died. Today's poem. Hot off the press, as it were. If I can't get original language from them, then what am I doing teaching them?

One first grader was lost in daydream-land, I got tired of prompting him and threatened to have a tantrum like a baby kicking and screaming. And the class began to chant: do it! do it! do it! Teacher threatened to join me. I laughed so hard. Stand-up comedy for first graders. A tough crowd to please. Kids were rolling in the aisles laughing.

The daydreamer came through with flying colors & finished his poem. Wrote a second one. I guess the thought of us screaming away on the floor was way too visual. The things we do for poetry.

Beyond knackered, I am. I've read, commented upon, and typed up 3 classes' worth of poems. But can't seem to begin the 4th class. Frog brain. Ribbit.



I awoke to the clattering
of hooves on pavement,
the jingle of halter rings,
the secret whispering of horses 
as they cropped the moonlit grass 
still damp and glistening with dew, 
their coats, silken in the velvet night. 
The bright stars dazzle my eyes 
with their icy glint, and breath,
the scent of new mown hay
and that primal animal warmth
rises up to tickle the senses.



I was a wild child, raised by horses. 
I chewed on grass sweet at the knuckle 
and nibbled upon molasses oats. 
I pawed at the ground and whinnied
collecting my gait at the canter 
and hand-gallop. A pencil for snaffle bit 
a belt for surcingle, and ribbons for reins.
We believed we were circus ponies 
we pranced to invisible music 
and we bowed to an invisible crowd.



Stephanie who always met 
kindness with kindness 
and anger with kindness,
her abiding love for animals 
carried her forth
until the day of no return 
that brought a deep abiding sadness.
The mother who died too soon, 
the fire consuming more than dreams. 
I remember how we
used to sneak into the barn 
with a box of cake mix
and water it down 
and slurp it up like a frosting 
our sweet tooth
making us petty thieves. 
And the time I got a pet rat 
a spotted baby,
my grandmother said No 
so I took it to Steph's house 
and we made a pact,
we kept it in a shoebox 
but it ate its way through
the cardboard to freedom
and one night it escaped
to the sweet beyond.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018


View from my base camp for one more week. Alpenglow. The ever-changing face of the goddess. And poetry, of course.

This evening, as I ambled up the hill to the water tank, to take photos of wildflowers; sunflowers, blue-eyed grass, Ithuriel's spears, brodiaea, vetch, owl's clover, a bevy of small birds,I stumbled and  ground-nesting fledglings, perhaps wrens, tumbled clumsily about my feet, having cascaded down the bank at the base of a bay tree, from their nest.

I stood stock still, afraid to step, as the fallen angels found their way to safety, their parents uttering their one-note call of distress, like the clacker that the nuns used to cue us up as we prepared for conformation. 

The mosquitoes drilled deep to quench their bloodlust, and ate me alive. I stumbled again, thinking it was my crocks, not the earth itself. This time the earth quivered like a horse with sensitive skin.

I marveled at the perfect circle, the ground nest lined with soft grasses, like a basket. The pattern is at hand. Then, the grand finale, the carcass of a rattler, fresh kill, vivid diamond patterns, like a basket woven pattern, at my feet.

Sometime you just have to step outside the circle, if only for a few moments, and everything changes, yet remains the same. 

A holiness within.

(as I was walking back in the gloaming, I stumbled, almost lost my footing, blamed it on my crocs, but it was a series of jolts from The Geysers. A 4.0, and a 4.2 back-to-back, plus several tremors in the 2 range. The geysers are just around the corner to the left of the photo.)

Monday, May 7, 2018


Hummingbird, bumble, and honeybee
take turns sipping lemon blossom nectar.
Lizard zips in for a consultation.
Mosquito takes more blood samples.


A HOUSE MADE OF LEAVES, CPITS poem after Juan Felipe

1. Go to where the wind endures
the teething rocks on the horizon.

2. Soothe the wild grasses
and braid their dreams into stories.

3. Listen to the heartbeat of birds
conversing in foreign tongues.

4. Record the endless beauty
that shall always go unnamed.

5. Arrive all out of breath
to see a house made of leaves.

6. I said count, count the words. 
When I'm stressed, it soothes me,
this sublime numbering of days.

CPITS poem after Juan Felipe

Sunday, May 6, 2018


My tire has developed a slow leak,
it hisses like a snake in search of a snack,
will it make it through the night?
Will my aging chariot transport me
to Healdsburg in the morning
to teach poetry to little kids?
or will I be writing tire shop odes 
to the road not taken?



It all began with the tremors,
the earth shaking beneath their feet,
then the massive dancing 'quakes.
She tossed a feathered boa of pink smoke
into the sky, she was stepping out.
The fissures opened like zippers
to reveal her molten skin and her hunger
devoured the cat scratches of civilization.
Pele's stepping out for a leisurely stroll
and she wants all her treasures back,
every single rock the tourists stole.
Will they never learn, she wonders,
throws a fiery shawl over her shoulder
and tends to her garden of fire.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018


     after Neruda

She used to
braid my hair
in class
like a pony
I was
ground tied.
I couldn't move.
She brushed
and yanked
my hair so hard
it was as if I was
strung up
like a marionette.
The teacher got mad,
said, Leave her
hair alone,
but it was the only way
I could get the girl
to tell me a poem.
She said the wind
is like a rose
flying across my mind.
She said my mind
is like the earth.
She said my heart
is like the sky
playing in a garden of stars.
She said beyond the sky
is my life.
I said only the birds know
the song of the air.
And my hair took flight
across the sky
for a girl
with the name
of flowers.

Emerson ES


Carpenter bees shred
the sage blossoms trying
to swill sweet nectar.

Angrily they buzz,
squeezing their girth into size
zero red dresses.

Yellow shawl thorax,
taut abdomen shines like jet
beads caked with pollen.

Pollen pantaloons,
fishnet stockings, tiny heels
they're decked out, on the town.

Nectar wasp dangles
delicate honeysuckle
sips frilly blossoms.

The bombadier bee
prefers the tight red trumpet—
it's all about color.

It chases the bees off
No honeybees, no matter
how sweet, will dine here.

No bumblebees either.
Flower market is crowded
with desperate shoppers.

Surreptitious bee-
flies sneak in to steal the show
make off with the goods.

Swallowtail swoops down
to find the pantry empty,
flits off in a huff.

Cabbage moth could care
less, she has other errands
to run, like laying some eggs,

While the skipper flits,
it careens from leaf to flower
just because it can.

Hungry hummingbird
misses out, and lets me know
that it's all my fault,

Squawking and flitting
her tail in indignation,
with ruby throat aflame.



Towhees are like little chickens,
they like to pecks and scratch.
They think our kitchen floor
is the happy hunting ground.
I remember my grandmother
sitting by the stove, coffee mug in hand
while the towhees pecked at her feet.
Lately our drab towhee has taken a shine
to the Afghani rug in the living room
that matches her orange ass.
Perhaps she looking for a place
to nest, or she's the nestling
I once raised in the lemon bush.
Today she examined the floorboards,
dragging her wing along the molding
as if making a statement
about my housekeeping habits,
then exits, singing an aria of disapproval
with her one-note song.



My biology teacher Dr. Fat 
from Finland used to say:
Rrrrushes are rrround,
and sedges have hedges.
Tight, compact.
Easy to remember.

Someone says, 

I thought sedges 
had wedges!
That too works.

It's an open field 
when it comes to 
remembering the grasses.
We could add:
grasses have sheathes  
all the way to the ground
and knobby knees.
grasses are jointed, 
all the way
down to the ground
Grasses, like asses,
have holes and grow
right down to the ground.

With all these variations,
no wonder I couldn't remember
the mnemonic memory aid for grasses.
Where is Mnemosyne when you need her?
I can't remember.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Last time

While doing CPITS paperwork for John's CAC grants, I found two poems scrawled on foolscap. Then I realized it was the last poem I will ever write with John. It was the last time I ever saw John alive. It was the last time I hugged and held him and said I loved him. It was also a hellish class at Emerson, I was supposed to take over in January. I dreaded it. The kids were all over the place. John was very patient. We wrote to music from Chiapas, the kids were crazy with the thought of freedom and Christmas vacation looming on the horizon. Little did I know that the new year would also bring such loss and sorrow. I am sad beyond despair. I still cannot believe he is gone. Gone. Just like that.



Deep in a slot canyon, where the Trümmelbach creek 
drains the meltwaters of three mountain glaciers,
you can hear the primal orchestra of the falls
but you can't see the ten waterfalls 
because they're hidden deep inside the mountain.
You have to enter the darkness to see the molten light 
of the subterranean falls, gilded with pale rainbows.
One's mind wanders to the idea of orcs 

and goblins hiding out in the limestone folds.

The Trümmelbach drains the Lauterbrunnen Valley,
once called in claro fonte, or the Liuterbrunnon,
or the place of bright or clear springs.
or perhaps the place of many loud springs,
people still argue over the origin of the name—
the Helvetii Celtic name is as lost
as the single Roman coin found in the Blumental—
The creeks drain to Zweilütschinen, the place of two rivers,
where the Weisse Lütschine joins the Schwarze Lütschine
and the mixing waters turns an aqua tint
a color like you've never before seen,
it's as if that blueness from inside glaciers
was painting the river with the memory of the sky.

When JRR Tolkien first hiked into this deep valley,
he modeled Rivendell, the Middle Earth dwelling place
of Elrond and the half-elves, after it.
But it is said that the villagers on the Schwarze Lütschine
were so dirty that they stained the river black,
but the villagers on the Schwarze Lütschine
claimed the Weisse Lütschine never bathed at all,
so the other river remained perfectly clean.

It all boils down to magic in the end.


Monday, April 30, 2018

Poem a Day challenge wrap

Well, for April's Poem a Day challenge, I managed to knock out 30 pieces of writing, 25 of which are poems. Which is amazing in that I really didn't begin writing in earnest until April 20. It was the devil trying to play catch-up. Some pieces began as prose and were later shaped into poems. Many of the poems were spontaneous combustion of words, not at all related to Robert Lee Brewer's PAD challenge. Not that he'd mind, in that his prompts are merely a jumping off point. So I have several more assignments to work on during the month ahead, filling in the gaps. A stockpile. I'll post the correct date beneath each late addition. Just because.  Check out Robert Lee Brewer's Facebook page, he's made hand-written cards for each of his prompts. Wish I had known earlier, as they're inspiring.

PAD challenge (35)
Poem a Day (34)
writing prompts (7)

B/G Sandwich Shops plate, or the tale of Ralph Moody who wrote Come On Seabiscuit!

To coin, or resurrect a word, I'm a nostalgist, I prefer old, used things to the shiny and new. Chipped crockery lives out its last days on my shelves, and when it finally breaks, it lives a second life mounted on my wooden fence outside the kitchen window—not a wall of shame, but an honored spot for venerable service rendered.

I have an old B/G Sandwich Shop plate from San Francisco. I knew it was old but I had no idea that it dated back to the Depression era, or that B/G Sandwich Shop ushered in the era of counter lunch sandwiches. My plate is from the ancestor of the lunch counter sandwich and apple pie with a mug of java joe era. Move over Subway. And fast food.

B/Gs motto was "A meal a minute" "A National Institution," "Purely American," and "A place for nice food."And they served it up in 40 cities across the nation. Nobody knows how many B/Gs there were, LA had six, Chicago had at least ten, and Milwaukee had two shops. What began as a toasted sandwich joint in 1926, expanded into hundreds of railroad car styled diners in 40 cities. By the end of the 1960s early 1970s, most had disappeared. Enter the era of McDonald's.

Matchbook from Los Angeles (ebay photo) sold.

Three generations of my family have used that old plate, it's seen some serious wear. It's been dropped, the edges are chipped. But it's a sturdy plate, I remember how it sounded as it dropped to the floor and spun, sounding like the hubbub of a train leaving the station. But it never broke.

When I was young, I made up a story that the plate logo stood for the initials of my brother and I. Baba & Guy. So of course we fought over the who got to use the plate. I usually won because I was the eldest. We had no idea what it stood for and it never dawned on me to turn the plate over.

After a time in our house in San Francisco, having been liberated from the B/G Sandwich Shop on Market Street by an aunt or uncle, or even my grandfather, the plate resided another 50 to 70 years in our then summer home in Forest Knolls. The plate's in bad shape, the glaze is worn off, it's chipped and stained. At one point, I nabbed it, and used it as a watercolor palette for many years. Then it resided beneath various potted plants for decades.

Yesterday, I washed the plate off and noticed the logo at the bottom, so I Googled it, and found a blog mentioning the sandwich joint. Thanks to a blogpost by dannwoellertthefoodetymologist, I have a newfound appreciation for that old plate.
B/G Sandwich Shops were a nationwide chain with first references found in 1920, as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce welcomed its new members, including B/G Sandwich Shops, with the description, "Located at 1022 Market St. – ‘A meal a minute.’ This concern operates attractive sandwich shops in forty cities, the chain extending from California to New York.” B/G Sandwich Shops operated at least into the 1950s, and although it is unknown how many shops were part of the chain at its peak, branches did seem to stretch across the country, keeping up with the business’s advertising that called itself “A National Institution.” dannwoellertthefoodetymologist
Cincinnati B/G from dannwoellertthefoodetymologist blog

A little sleuthing uncovered other memorabilia from B/G Sandwich Shops. compact mirrors for the ladies, and matchbooks for the men. The distinctive orange and green logo was also festooned on egg cups. We had many mugs from the San Francisco Jail,  I wonder if some of the white ones were also from B/G. When we cleaned out my grandmother's house, the mugs went to the dump. But the sole remaining plate is now back in the house under my teapot to catch the drips.

More sleuthing uncovered another tangental story. Our family has a motivational saying when things get tough, they yell: Come on Seabiscuit! Now Seabiscuit, a racehorse sired by Hard Tack, was a rebellious underdog who won races by great lengths but only when he put his mind to it.

Seabiscuit working out —Wiki

Ralph Moody, the bookeeper and manager of that B/G Sandwich Shop on the 1000 block of Market Street, corner of Golden Gate, and 6th Street, was another scrapper, half-orphaned at 11, after working the family ranch in Colorado, running a bakery, and scrapes with the law back east, he came out west due to his poor health.

B/G Sandwich Shop, 1022 Market St., corner of 6th Street, SF, 1949

After a series of odd-jobs in the Southwest, a farmhand, and stint as a movie stuntman who took fall from running horses, his health issues disappeared. Moody landed a job at Procter & Gamble. But in 1925, Ralph Moody was restless, he become partners with a former client, B/G Foods, Inc., and eventually moved his family to Burlingame, California, just down the road from Tanforan Racetrack, and Bay Meadows, to manage the B/G Sandwich Shop in the city.

Ralph, who could spin a yarn at the diner, was encourage to take a night class in creative writing (at City College?) and became a writer. Ralph, who had no formal education, published an astonishing 17 books on horses, and heroic figures of the Old West. Little Britches, or Father and I Were Ranchers, published in 1950, chronicles the adventures of his family. His straight-shooting prose captures the vernacular of an era.

Ralph became manager of all the west coast B/G stores. After Ralph's wife died in the early 1970s, he packed up and moved back east to care for his mother. By then, he had a string of mostly autobiographical books under his belt. His final book, Horse of a Different Color  was published in 1968. He also penned the book, Come on Seabiscuit! in 1963. Small world.

Ralph died on June 20, 1982, never knowing that Seabiscuit would become a major motion picture. Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001, owes something to Ralph Moody, as he was the first author to write about the horse in 1963 (it was reissued in 2003). I read Laura's book but I don't remember her mentioning Ralph. Guess I'll have to reread it. Moody's papers are in the Bancroft Library.

All this story arose from a logo on an old plate from a San Francisco sandwich shop. Who knew?

1022 & 1020 Market St.  ca 2009, is now Showdog, a cafe.
Google street view


In the garden, I found an old plate
encrusted with dirt, from my family home,
chipped, and stained, it had seen better days.
But I couldn't bring myself to toss it out.
It's an old school cafeteria-style plate
with a plain boring logo on it: B/G
and two blue lines like railroad tracks.
I thought the initials stood for my brother and I,
so we fought over who got to use the plate,
and it fell to the floor with that ringing sound
and hubub of a train leaving the station,
but it never broke. I never once thought
to turn the plate over to find the logo,
of an Indian hunkered down making pots
for B/G Sandwich Shops, in PA.
Who says plates can't talk?
So I Googled it and found a story
of a man who came out west, Ralph Moody
to manage a sandwich shop on Market St.
When things got tough, my family would yell:
Come on Seabiscuit! He was a rebellious horse
who won races but only when he put his mind to it.
Ralph lived between Tanforan and Bay Meadows,
and because he'd tell tales of his storied life
as a ranch hand, a hobo, a stunt rider for the movies,
someone suggested a night class in creative writing.
It became a book, followed by another,  17 in all.
He penned a story, Come On Sea Biscuit!
Guess that old plate had a story to tell after all.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

write a response poem

For today’s prompt, write a response poem. Respond to whatever helps you get your poem written, but my thought is that you should respond to one of your poems from earlier in this challenge. For instance, my example below responds to my Day 1 poem.

2018 April PAD Challenge: Day 29

Saturday, April 28, 2018

take the phrase “(blank) Wave

For today’s prompt, take the phrase “(blank) Wave,” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “Tidal Wave,” “Next Wave,” “Friendly Wave,” “Heat Wave,” and/or “Sound Wave.

2018 April PAD Challenge: Day 28

Friday, April 27, 2018

write a story poem

I guess my anti bucket list could be a story poem but I wrote it before the prompt. Or maybe I could use TRÜMMELBACH FALLS or just write another poem.

For today’s prompt, write a story poem. Think of a story, could be a long, complicated, winding story, but for a poem, it may make more sense to make it a short, direct story.
2018 April PAD Challenge: Day 27


Climbing Half Dome a 3rd time is on my anti-bucket list.
Never again. What was I thinking the 2nd time around?
On the way back down, I developed a fear of heights.
I sat on the ledge at Glacier Point, beyond the guardrail. 
I also sat on the lip of Half Dome. What was I thinking?

When I climbed Yosemite Falls, I had a high fever,
the view from above was to die for, but not worth dying for.
Coming down the slot canyon was a total bitch.

I probably won't climb Mt. Whitney again.
I  crawled on hands and knees, across the summit,
a knifeback ridge with a straight drop off on either side.
I practically kissed the rocks at the top.
Then I had to descend. What was I thinking?

I will never again climb the crevice at Sonora Pass,
the view from the ridgetop was stunning,
but then I had to back down the chimney,
I was fatigued, with overtaxed muscles.
My boyfriend guided me down, step by step,
but to fall, sans ropes, would be certain death.

I have literally scaled the heights of Machu Picchu.
Another climb I will not do again, is Huayna Picchu,
with that loose steel cable barely anchored to the cliff,
I probably won't hike the Machu Picchu trail again either.
My knees simply wouldn't make it.
Ah, impetuous youth, well-spent.



The power of art: 81 years ago, Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, the most political and polemic artwork of its time, was painted for the Spanish Pavilion at the International Exhibition in Paris in the summer of 1937.

Picasso refused to set foot in Spain as long as Franco was in power. By the time the exhibition took place, the Spanish Civil War had been raging for a year, Madrid was under siege by Franco.

The Republican Government commissioned Picasso in Paris to make a mural, tentatively called, Dreams and Lies of Franco. But during the spring of 1937, Hitler carpet-bombed the small Basque town of Guernica into rubble on Franco’s orders, ushering in a new kind of warfare, terror from the sky, indiscriminately killing 300 civilians on market day.

This war crime became a symbol of fascist barbarity.

When Franco’s propaganda machine tried to blame on the Basques, Picasso set to work to tell the truth of Guernica. The painting became a world-famous icon against fascist barbarity and the horrors of war.

Following Picasso’s wishes, Guernica was eventually housed in the Prado, Spain, behind a bullet-proof glass screen, once Franco had died and democracy had been restored.

Picasso said, “a painting isn’t made to decorate rooms. It’s an offensive and defensive instrument in the war against the enemy…”

Like Goya's Los Disastros de la Guerra, reduced to the stark reportage of black and white, Picasso's painting Guernica denounces the bloodshed without using a drop of red, it's painted in monochromes, to resemble newsprint.

It is difficult getting the news....

I have seen Guernica twice, and I have wept, more than twice. The first time I did not know the full backstory, the second time was during the second Gulf War, when carpet-bombing had become the norm.

And now, Syria.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Notty Bumbo handed me 
a word to poemize: nictitating.
as in nictitating membrane, 

the translucent inner eyelids of cats
(from Latin nictare, to blink). 
I knew the word since childhood,
when my cat lost his eye in a catfight, 
love gone all wrong in the night.
I learned how to clean the hideous wound,
and was plagued with recurring nightmares.
But I always thought it was spelled
nicotating membrane, which also means 
I've been saying it wrong for decades,
and I wondered what nicotine 
had to do with caterwauling,
or the inner eyelids of cats, 
other than they were smoky 
as ghost topaz and burnt quartz.
The smoking after sex part

would escape my attention 
for several years to come.



Ken said: How about using respectable, 
unmade-up terms that sound archaic & obscure, 
like escutcheon? It's short, to the point
& still polysyllabic! I love the sound 
of escutcheons, flanges, and finials—
But such odd words for a poem to make.
Take, for instance, Gül Baba's tomb
on the banks of the Danube, 
on Turkish soil in the middle of Budapest,
with its finial, a spire & crescent moon
against a breathless summer sky.
And the roses. Oh, the roses!
As Ken held the camera steady,
I nearly swooned in the midday sun.



In Law & Order, the characters discuss pathology, 
how a perp has to escalates the gruesomeness 
of his crime because the thrill is gone. 
He has to keep upping the ante to get the rush. 
If all the crimes attributed to this perp are indeed his, 
it follows a pattern from peeping into windows, to burglary 
to rape, to murder, to kinky murder/rape (with dishes on top), 
but then it all stops, dead. The trail went cold. Why? 
What made him quit? Time? Or did he reform? 
What else don't we know? How did this Nightstalker 
go clean 30 years on the straight and narrow?
This despicable man with an angelic pseudonym,
who dispatched his victims with cudgels and ropes,
who balanced stacks of dinner plates on the naked backs 
of husbands, to keep them quiet under threat of death,
while he raped their wives, but murdered them anyway.
DeAngelo told them if he heard one plate drop—or even rattle
he’d kill them both, then he tucked in, raping the wife.
One victim said he left her ravaged in the living room,
stomped into the kitchen chanting, I’ll kill ‘em, I’ll kill ‘em.
One couple’s Christmas turkey leftovers were taken
from the fridge. The killer stayed for a snack.
During one rape, he paused for a slice of apple pie.
Another victim said he mentioned his mother,
sobbing, mummy, mummy, over and over again.
Sometimes he called his victims to chat. A former cop,
and perhaps a thwarted poet, he's said to have penned,
“Excitement’s Crave."
Sacramento should make an offer.
To make a movie of my life
That will pay for my planned exile... 
See you in the press or on T.V....
Your East Area Rapist.
Well, he finally got his day in the sun. 
Surely there will be a movie yet to come.
What will it be called?
The Golden State Killer,
The Original Nightstalker was a play
on serial killer Richard Ramirez’s nickname.
Did his friends call him Jim? If he had any, that is.
His downfall, he collected memento morii: ID cards,
engraved wedding bands, and monogrammed cufflinks. 
He was caught up by his own DNA, on national DNA Day,
from a partial match of a relative's DNA profile,
and now his surviving victims may finally sleep at night.
So many friends of friends terrorized by deAngelo.

Is there any such thing as a reformed serial killer? 
Of course, it's harder to imagine a fat 72-year-old 
crawling through windows at night, let alone, 
getting it up. But that's probably how it all began,
stalking single women living alone, for the thrill.
How did he live with himself all these years,
knowing what he had done? 
And what of his daughters? 


Wednesday, April 25, 2018


—with thanks to Stephen King

The literary road to hell
is paved with weak verbs,
flaccid nouns, excessive adverbs,
anemic adjectives, Latinate words,
and gratuitous exclamation marks!


OBSCURE WORDS, takes one, 2, and so on....

Overfond that I am of obsolete, 
chiasmic subjunctive-sentence constructions, 
like Would it were true! I have been known to gambol
among the the dulcet chimeric inversions of speech,
and I have lost entire days perusing the OED 
for Anglo-Saxon onomatopoetic imagery,
and the desuetude of obscure Latinate words.
Call these vagaries of speech antediluvian if you must,
but these defenestrations of language 
are sometimes more pellucid
than the vainglorious riposte tongues
of our so-called modern argot.



Escutcheons, flanges, sconces, and finials
such odd words for a poem to make.
Take, for instance, Gül Baba's tomb
on the banks of the Danube, 
in the very heart of Budapest,
with its finial, a spire and crescent moon
against a breathless summer sky.
And the roses. Oh, the roses!
As you held the camera steady,
I nearly swooned in the midday sun.



Notty Bumbo handed me 
a word to poemize: nictitating.
as in nictitating membrane, 

the translucent inner eyelids of cats
(from Latin nictare, to blink). 
I knew the word since childhood,
when my cat lost his eye in a catfight, 
love gone all wrong in the night.
I learned how to clean the hideous wound,
and was plagued by nightmares from it,
but I always thought it was spelled
nicotating membrane, 
and I wondered what nicotine 
had to do with the inner eyelids of cats, 
other than both were smoky 
as burnt quartz.


OBSCURE WORDS, TAKE ONE, or what passes for word-wanking

Unable to pull a suitable obscure word out of my hat, I Googled Google for Googlisciously weird words. I found a list of 30 weird words, but I've already used some of them like crepuscular, and petrichor already in poems. The rest are boring palimpsests, not that I can pronounce palimpsest, repurposed skin burdened with multiple stories, each obscuring the other, it's a bit chcthonic, so much of this is underground, where is Cthulhu when you need him?

I too dislike that Eliza Doolittle schwa-sound that drove 'Enry 'Iggins to drink, oenopihile, that he was. Dipsomaniac, more like. Any cook worth her salt knows what umami is without knowing the word for that bitter yet savory mouthy feel. The four sacred sensations of the tongue, plus one.

That leaves tmesis, which I ab-so-fucking-lutely do not want to use, or say, ever. Is the t silent or not? I'm too much of a nebbish to use that word. How about skeuomorph, that plastic Adirondack chair, a form of mimesis, or lucubration? Pedantic writing created in the wee hours while burning the midnight oil. Writing that sheds little light for all its efforts. But who works by lamplight these days, er, nights? Gaslight, maybe.

We all know far too many ultra-crepidarians on social media opining away, over their heads, offering free advice. The Greek painter Apelles overheard a cobbler criticizing the way he had rendered a foot, so he chapped the cobbler's hide for presuming to judge beyond the sole. A bit like how all this piece is cobbled together.

The idea of zeugma intrigues me, I like the economy of two-for-ones. She stole his heart, and his wallet. Poetry banks on that one. That's right up there with synecdoche, that simultaneous understanding where one thing stands for another.  That's poetry's bread and butter, a form of metonymy, a subclass of metaphor. Hoover it up, boys. Which brings me to flahoolick, from flaithulach, Irish, that is throwing your money about. Not that I have any money to squander.

As to chiasmus, like being dyslexic, it's a story of my life, but Kennedy said it best, "Ask not what your country can do for you," or to Byron's "Pleasure is a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure." The sin is all mine, I'm sure.

This frivolous persiflage is right up there with the aeolist, or the dark, secret cultist, who meets up with the panglossian singing "Always look on the bright side of life." Brian, is that yew? Chalk it up to the rhetorical pretensions of paralipsis—did I fucking say that out loud? Again?

Hiraeth, a notion I am intimately familiar with —the nostalgia of the past, a home that one cannot return to, hiraeth informs my writing, while I yearn for another undiscovered country, wanting the couthy comfort of hygge. The warmth of a fire, a cat, a book mid-winter, with the storm lashing at all the windows and doors. Nesh means being unusually susceptible to the cold, it has no synonym, but the freezing sensation that my days are numbered, is not. This is no time for cold feet.

Zugzwang is a a no-win chess move. It all comes down to loss in the end. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. Just don't indulge in schadenfreude, that malicious joy. Whatever happened to non-zero-sum?

And who can even pronounce Eisenbahnscheinbewegung, it makes my eyes spin. It's that false sensation of movement when you're sitting in a parked train, and see another train depart. And the train hasn't even left the station. Is leaving the station. Will never leave the station. Sort of like Pogo's statement: I have met the enemy and he is us.

TG Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft wasn't on the list. Hint: Danube steamboats and electricity are involved. That's the second-longest word in German, BTW. 

German dropped its longest word in 2013, rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz, a beef label, after an EU law change.

The longest word in English has 189,819 letters, and takes 3.5 hours to pronounce, which is a chemical name for the titin protein found in humans. Is that really necessary?

The second longest word in English, at a svelte 45 letters long, is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, or silicosis from inhaling too much volcanic smoke, or vog, for short. The citizens of Pompeii never stood a chance. What's with this scientific oneupmanship on naming lengthy diseases? Nanner-nanner-nanner, my disease name is longer than yours.

Here on the Big Island today,
cough, cough, gone to Maui.

It bumped the previous lengthy contender, electrophotomicrographically for a loop. At least you can grasp the meaning of this word. Squirrel it away for Scrabble.

And all this time I thought that antidisestablishmentarianism was the longest word in English. I got it right in a third grade spelling bee.

I won't mention Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, (that's llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-queern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch), or Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave, an-18 syllable word longer than the trainstop itself. I've been to Llanfair-pwll, for short, but I've never successfully pronounced it. Talk about Eisenbahnscheinbewegung!

Steatopygous should never be used to describe a woman's bottom, no matter how callipygous it is, unless it's Queen singing Fat Bottom Girls. And who the hell describes a sliced papaya as yonic anyway? I'll take mine with lime.

But I digress, this piece has become tediously prolixian and persiflageous, I'm in danger of becoming dunandunateous. This is going nowhere fast. All this work, and I still did not get a suitably obscure word for a poem. There's a reason why most of these words are obscure, and perhaps they should stay that way. Begin again.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

ANYTHING FOR BEAUTY, and Retinol as a night creme?

An advert for Retinol Night Cream.
I wondered, what's the point?
Bald men's shiny pates aside,
who wants to extra hair on their face?
An anti-aging cream erases deep wrinkles
while you sleep. But the skin elixir backfired.
One woman said her temple hairline
was dangerously close to her eyebrows.
Another woman thought she had developed
a rare disease, policyst ovarian syndrome.
Yet another was convinced she was channeling
Frida Kahlo's famous unibrow.
A single man, intent on tightening up his pores,
sprouted velus hairs on his nose and cheeks.
He must've slathered the elixer on,
even his eyebrows were thicker,
he was well-pleased with the results.
No mention of downunder, TG,
The hirsute women, however,
were experiencing mid-life crises,
sprouting downy hair on their faces,
with their wrinkles still intact. 
These dewy-cheeked matrons,
seeking the elusive Fountain of Youth,
have taken up shaving.
Anything for beauty.


Retinol as a night creme?

An advert for Retinol Night Cream for women took me aback. I wondered, what's the point? Bald men's pates aside, who wants to grow hair on their face? So I Googled it and found this: This anti-aging cream visibly reduces the look of lines and deep wrinkles on your face while you sleep. OK. I get that. But then I found this: How I Accidentally Grew Hair on My Left Temple with Retinol. It looks like the skin plumping elixir sometimes backfires. One woman said her temple hairline was creeping dangerously close to her eyebrows. Another thought she had policyst ovarian syndrome. Another thought she was channeling Frida Kahlo's unibrow. A man, intent on tightening up his pores, sprouted velus hairs on his nose, cheeks, and bonus eyebrow hairs. I guess he was overgenerous with his application because he had a systemic reaction. He became hairier all over, and was well-pleased with the results. The hirsute women, however, were experiencing mid-life crises! Sprouting downy hair on their faces, and no sign of wrinkles going away. The dewy-cheeked matron, seeking the elusive Fountain of Youth, has taken up shaving. So very Neanderthal. Talk about a close shave. Anything for beauty.

Write a roundelay, or write an anti-form poem

Closing in on the finish line of another April Poem-A-Day Challenge, so today I’m upping the stakes for anyone who wants an extra challenge! For today’s Two-for-Tuesday prompt: Write a roundelay. (See also rondel, a variation of the rondeau—not to be confused with a roundel.)

Or… Write an anti-form poem.

Monday, April 23, 2018


I should get up, do something useful,
other than lounging beneath an umbrella
reading a stack of books from a dead ex-lover,
their covers curling in the heat like nuns' wimples.
I'm looking for traces of myself in his old poems,
but there's so little of me there,
there's nothing left to do, other than to crow,
But I was there! I was there! So what
if I am reduced to a her or a you,
those impersonal substitutes that sting and maim 
the memory of a relationship long after it's over.
A namelessness, a negation. A particle of speech.
Then I realized my path leading to uncharted territories
was never about being la mujer de John,
included as a footnote to the future.
I took a camino of my own choosing.
Perils and risks, part of the baggage
we always carry with us.
Making us who we are.


Sunday, April 22, 2018


This time, last year
I was standing on the Carrizo Plain
a week too late for the superbloom,
another bucketlist item checked off,
like Antelope Valley, but the long drought
had thwarted the poppies for another year.
I resolutely admired how Soda Lake mirrored
the sky and the Temblor Mountains.
You could still see vague yellow swaths
painting the crevices. I sat down in the tall grass,
annoyed by our late start, the plants whipping me
in the strong winds, wanting a riot of color,
angry to have missed the bloom of a lifetime
by a mere week. I swatted the plants aside,
they were oddly shaped, then I noticed
they had pale pink throats, and snowy petticoats.
They reminded me of a flower I had seen before,
but what? Then it hit me, I was sitting in the midst
of a superbloom, they were a kind of delphinium,
like nothing I'd ever seen before, alkali larkspur,
thousands of them facing east toward the Temblors.
The hillside was covered in snowy splendor
like a vast frothy cotillion ballgown.
Sometimes you just have to look aslant
to see what's right in front of your face,
and then you can hear the music of the wind.



In the Galapagos, I met a blue footed booby 
who liked the cut of my jeans 
and he danced for me with his blue feet 
waving like little racing flags, 
singing Ayeh, ayeh aheh, are you my mate?
He bowed to the sky, then gazed at me 
with his mad blue eyes, so like John's.


Poetic sendoff for John Oliver Simon at Jered's pottery shed

We attended John Oliver Simon's literary memorial at Jered's Pottery, a warehouse in Emeryville next to the railroad tracks. Sarah Kobrinsky arranged the event, which was fairly well attended. Tobey Kaplan was emcee: Jack Foley, Rafael Jesus Gonzalez, Clive Matson. Lots of poets from his Poetry Inside Out program, Sophie Dahlin, Lilian Autler, Temina, I took photos. Somehow I expected more people.

The day before was John's birthday, and judging by the amount of people who wished him a happy birthday on Facebook, I'd say that some of them aren't aware that he is gone. I was going to say, gone from this planet, but even when one is cremated, one is still of this planet, even in the form of ash. But having a poetic send-off on Earth Day was fitting. No stardust need apply.

I read a poem I found among my Emerson papers, I'm not even sure when I wrote it, as I can't find the original, nor is it on my blog—and two short poems, RACING DARKNESS, and Camping in Baja a prose poem I wrote in 2017. I closed with the long version of HORSEFLESH, something I hadn't sung aloud in public since John and I broke up so many decades ago. My entire reading was under 5 minutes.

I hadn't practiced singing Horseflesh other than muttering it to myself under my breath a few times before John's memorial, trying to reestablish the musical links. Funny, how music is hardwired. I remembered it without much trouble, and sang fairly well. It is a poem, after all. I am forever grateful for Jorge Luján for setting it to music so long ago. I never dreamed that I would be singing it as a tribute to John on his death.

I am still grappling with the idea of John's passing. Part of me still can't believe it's true. Anyway, I got on, got off early, with little preamble. Something John taught me. I didn't say much about my relationship with John as his fianceé Susie, more than adequately covered that fertile ground. Other than Alta, and Susie, I think I was the only other ex- at the reading.

After the reading, a stranger, an older woman came up to warn me, she told me to watch my back, that Susie, John's fianceé, whom she was sitting next to, and whom she also didn't know, was very angry when I was reading. She said, She means you harm. Watch your back. Apparently Susie left while I was singing.

I was circumspect, and said that my time with John dated back to the 1980s, it was a very long time ago, no worries there. But, apparently my reading upset her. Augh! Jealousy over a dead man? It made me fell a bit ill. Ironically, I never did write my own eulogy to John for the anthology, partially in deference to John's fianceé's feelings. My time with John was in the past. A good thing I never mentioned all the times he asked me to marry him.

John's fianceé gave a long tribute, reading several of John's 40 sonnets to her, and her replies. They are good. And I feel for her. She fell for him hard, as we all did. But that kind of intensity never lasts. That's why there were so many women. I was number 16 on the list. At least Susie was spared that aspect of a relationship with John. The falling off. I can't even guess what her JOS ranking is.

John kept a running score of all his women, sort of like Bill James' baseball ranking bible. And it was fitting that yesterday was Opening Day too. Play ball!

Then there was the alternating relationship status. Olivia, in Mexico, was my alternate long-distance relationship, or, rather I was his transition out of that relationship, and before that, Olivia was his transition from Karin Faulkner, who was his transition from Sharon Rose Cheadle. And so on. At least he was monogamous with me, TG. Something he was very proud of. A first.

Alas, my transition woman was Katherine Graves, a former student, who left him for another woman. Another first. I'm sure there were many other women before he hooked up with Becky Parfitt, a Swarthmore connection, and his longest long-distance relationship. I'm guessing that happened in 1989, at his 25th Swarthmore reunion. He made a chapbook for it, Oldest Living Inhabitant. By then, I was thoroughly expunged, my name erased. But the poems of that journey are what survive my relationship with John. Even if I'm reduced to a single pronoun.

I drop things in the night
and you get mad
knowing that tendencies are close to final.
we explore the architonics of Machu Picchu
on a recurring map of dreams.

      John Oliver Simon, 8/13-14/1988
      Cusco, Peru
I walk around the mountain
arguing in my mind
with the little boy
who's afraid to love
because he might get lost....

He argues with me.
What if she leaves, he says,
what if she clings.
Then what. I'm scared.
I'm all alone in the dark.

     John Oliver Simon, 1985
     Confronting the Empire
In his poems Caminante (1995) he revisited many of our old haunts in Chiapas, Mexico and Arequipa, Peru, I am thoroughly expunged, a ghost of the past. Other than the fact that I witnessed his watercolor painting that is the cover of the book, it was as if I never existed. But I know he thought about me, sending me postcards which I refused to even read. I was still too raw, too wounded. Interesting that he avoided going back to the darkness that was Guatemala. He later apologized to me for what he had done wrong. Or not done right.

I did not stay for the rest of the tribute reading to John as we had a party of our own to host. Chetana Karel was very surprised to learn that John was my ex. Someone she once knew from the poetry readings at Cody's Bookstore on Telegraph a long time ago. It's a small world, after all.

After I gave John a blue lapis heart, which he always wore on his vest, he used to say to me: if I love you am I trapped forever? Yes, John. Love is forever. Even when I left. I had to. And still you loved me. All this time. No matter what. Such endurance. There was no prison. I never left you, even when I left. Not really. At least at the end, we were able to say unreservedly, I love you once more to each other, and mean it, no holds barred.

Goodnight, Sweetheart. I give you back your blue lapis heart, lost so many years ago in the wash. You are not alone in the dark. You were never alone, and unloved. Safe journey. and may your ashes enrich those secret desert oases you loved so deeply. Right up to they very end. Poetry was your alternate mistress. The desert was your real lover. Perhaps that blue lapis heart is somewhere on the trail whispering deep secret words of love to that  pale desert sky.

Earth Day 4/22/18

Saturday, April 21, 2018


There is an inherent danger in the way
bedclothes mingle with rampant abandonment,
or the way that dirty laundry begets
more dirty laundry, and the cat ecstatically
rubbed its jowls along the inside of your shoe,
the one that was lost under the bed.
Remember the time you reached under
to grab his lost collar and came up
with an irate alligator lizard latched to your hand,
the cat's sudden interest in things abandoned,
a flight of fancy, somewhat like the day you left
and never looked back, leaving me wondering
whether you were dead or alive, I never saw
that danger sparking in your eyes,
nor how the open road beckoned.
I never saw the signs warning me to yield,
for soft shoulders, dangerous curves ahead.



I may not know the Latinate names,
or sometimes even the common ones,
I cannot key a plant for the life of me,
so I remember native blooms by sight.
Except for all the little yellow ones.
They're a seething sea of mystery,
Except buttercups and butter & eggs.
And the cream cups, of course.
If a buttercup reflected light under your chin,
it meant you loved butter,
but the cows avoided them,
their cool, peppery odor
staining the milk
with the taste of sunlight.


Friday, April 20, 2018


      —para John

After I gave you a blue lapis heart,
which you always wore on your vest,
you said: if I love you am I trapped forever?
We didn't know the answer was an infinitive Yes.
Even when I left. I had to. And yet you still loved me
the way I loved you all this time. No matter what.
At least at the end, we were able to say, 
I love you once more to each other,
and really mean it, no holds barred.

Goodnight, Sweetheart.
I give you back your blue lapis heart,
lost so many years ago in the wash.
You were never alone in the dark, nor unloved.
Safe journey, mi amor, and may your ashes
enrich those desert oases you loved so deeply.

Right up to the very end,
poetry was your other woman,
but the desert was your real lover.
Perhaps that blue lapis heart
is waiting somewhere on the trailhead
whispering secret words of love
to the pale desert sky, waiting
for the next star-crossed lovers
to cross its path.



Someone wanted an identification of a wild lily,
once called Zigadine, now Toxicoscordion fremontii.
My eyeballs weren't yet awake. Batting 50/50,
I mis-ID the bearmat as gold-back fern.
Then realized no self-respecting gold-back fern
would ever grow out in the open like that.
And the location, pine foothills...
But I know a death camas when I see it.

I loved saying the old name, Zigadine!
One of the few Latin plant names I know by heart.
The way it explodes off the tongue
and becomes something like shooting stars.
I never once called it a Fremont lily,
for John C. Frémont was a toxic mass-murderer
of the California Indians. And he fomented a revolt
for personal gain, choosing a bear as his bandolier.

I never knew the other moniker, and was horrified
to discover that I had transplanted death camas
to our lower field where we grazed horses in spring.
No wonder the gophers always left it alone.
And luckily, the horses did too.

As for the bearmat, aka kit-kit-dizze, 
which is also a placename where
poet Gary Snyder lives, on North San Juan Ridge.
My old boyfriend from Grass Valley,
who admired Gary Snyder from afar,
and accidentally introduced me to poetry,
said that the bears liked to roll on it.

I loved the tarry odor of the leaves, but they're clingy.
Some folks call it mountain misery, or bear clover.
Despite its lovely white rose petal blossoms,
bearmat is the bane of careless hikers and dogs,
because it's so stickery, and its seeds are hitchhikers.
It has some redeeming qualities as well,
you can make rheumatism tea from the leaves.
Maybe the bears had rheumatism too.
We were always on the lookout for it.
And the bears. But when the words found me,
much to my old boyfriend's chagrin,
he ambled off into the mountain misery,
never to be seen again.



Santa Rosa—The nearly naked thief
clearly didn't have good taste in beer
stealing a Coors' beer truck like that
in broad daylight, before noon,
dressed only in boxers and sneakers.
Someone commented: It's the water—
and a lot more. Well, maybe not so much more...
If only it had been Duff beer, she said.
Man in the Buff heists Duff.

Now, if it was Pliny the Elder...
But then, he'd have to rethink the wardrobe,
American flag boxer shorts just won't do.
A toga, maybe. And sandals, not sneakers.

But you know how it goes—
Coors beer always comes out
the same way it goes in. Unadulterated.
The police apprehended the thief
cowering in the bushes.

Ya ever notice how no one
ever steals a Miller High Life truck?
Ya can't make this stuff up.



OCD-minded that I am,
I spent the morning re-formatting
blog pages from April of 2009,
because someone had asked me
who was the most famous person I'd ever met.
I couldn't choose just one, I chose many,
so I looked up an old blogpost of mine,
and noted that it needed a little tweaking.
I fixed a typo here, an extra space there,
an unfinished thought with the verbs gone missing.
It was a good a place as any to begin, scrubbing text,
and whipping those old pages into shape,
but one bad post invariably led to another.
What was Google thinking,
changing formatting mid-stream like that?
It makes me look like an idiot
in retrospect. How many more pages?
Wrestling with bad HTML code
is like grappling faulty memory banks
with gaff hooks, reliving the past
viewed in errant type and odd spacing
is a stubborn clown's holiday.
The broken code just won't let go
of that sudden blossom of words
in extra large type, or in a different font,
midstream. You have to strip it clean
of all commands, and begin again.
Or you can't see the bleedin' forest,
or even the trees, for that matter,
on the cyber page. This mayhem
a frog's breakfast of electronic ink
gone awry.


Thursday, April 19, 2018


I inherited my grandmother's thread basket
filled with wooden spools labeled Coates & Clark,
bone buttons from longjohns laced together like necklaces,
the heavyweight linen thread, waxed and aged,
a dented thimble, rusted needles, an awl,
a long hatpin, a woman's first line of defense
as she traversed the city streets enroute
to the Rixford mansion where she was a tailor and nanny
to the wealthy scions. The daughter threw it all off,
became a pein air painter, leaving my grandmother
tiny postcard-sized canvases of marshy landscapes
that would disappear beneath the weight of prosperity.
But the stock market crash took care of that wealth
just as she was making a name for herself. Claire,
a name for light. My grandmother married,
had eight children, moved to the country
but she never painted. Instead, she waited for her daughters
to imagine landscapes stitched with fine brush strokes,
but she couldn't nurture that fey spirit in herself,
there was always the garden, the next meal,
or a mountain of laundry that needed washing and mending,
her grey hair, a halo, as she bent over her children's clothes.
That click of her teeth as she severed the thread
from the needle, as she surveyed her handiwork,
the knot and heft of time well tied.