Saturday, February 29, 2020

Coronavirus advice

The best coronavirus prevention strategy is to not touch anything, and to wash your hands early and often with soap and hot water. Be more like Dr. McDreamy, or Lady MacBeth—lather for a good minute. If you’re not sure how long a minute is, sing the entire Happy Birthday song as you scrub. Don’t cheat by singing it too fast. Lives may depend upon it. It goes without saying, don’t shake hands. Instead, sing Hand Jive, and bump elbows. Don’t touch your face—we touch our faces upward of 90 times a day. That’s how most viruses are transmitted, running that index finger across your itchy nose, or ramming said finger up it, and, no, you can’t use your pinkie instead. Also avoid rubbing your eyes, or donning that classic thinker’s chin-in-hand pose. Don’t touch strangers, strange hands, knuckle, or knee-knocking is OK, strange pens, or pencils, doorknobs, door jambs, light switches, or handrails, bannisters, etc. And, no, that hand sanitizer is not a very effective preventative. Worse, it provides a false sense of security. Purell has been chastised by WHO for false advertising. Hand sanitizer needs to be at least 60% alcohol in order to have any effect at all—not 60 proof. And, no, you can’t drink it. Try some elderberry wine, or a Corona beer with lime, instead, you’ll be happier for it. So will Corona, which is losing sales because of this virus. According to the CDC, and WHO, wearing a mask If you’re healthy, is unnecessary—unless an infected person sneezes on you—and then you’re way too close. You’ll just overheat, but it will keep your hands away from your face. Ditto that with rubber gloves. A Darth Vader mask is a plus. If all else fails, try rubbing your fingers with hot chili peppers as a reminder to not touch your face. Avoid crowds. Vigorously defend your three feet of personal space in public, but remember, using samurai swords and cattle prods are frowned upon in public. Claymores are way over the top. Social distancing is really a thing.

And no, the virus is not a Democratic plot or hoax to derail the election. And for gawd sakes, don’t kiss the cat. It’s already traumatized enough as it is. And add pangolins to that no-kiss list.

(My photo is of the El Cerrito car wash, at least my car is all scrubbed up. Scalpel!) —Maureen Hurley

Friday, February 28, 2020

Old guitar

Last night I got to play an old guitar from the 1900s, lightweight, lovely triangular neck, smooth action, brilliant tone—turns out it was from the lineage of a prototype for the famed Martin guitar. Of course, I couldn’t play worth shit, it’s been too Zana Darrow Started playing in high school. I got my Martin when I was 16. I opted for a classical, but played folk music on it. I loved the sound of that Martin, that’s why I got it. It came from a pawn shop down on Market Street. A 1964 Martin with a Brazilian rosewood bridge. A controlled substance, as it were, so I can never take it out of the country. It’s been too long since I really played the guitar. But it was interesting to see how some of the old licks came back after a lot of bad noodling around.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020


The river is a loom that weaves the threads of this city into a cloak of technology and light. Crossing the Guadalupe River, I slip in and out of time, simultaneously the small pueblo that once was, and the glittering city that now is. How technology simultaneously shapes and stretches us, robbing us while it teaches us of the past, shutting those doors firmly behind, and nailing them firmly shut.


Inside my heart is a coyote of madness
drenched the color of sunset, 
inside my heart is a vast ocean of stars
where the ancestors of the past 
come and go like the tides.
My heart remembers what was once said 
in the false secrecy of distant rooms.
It wants to forget how the wheel of the sun 
is relentless in its search for time across the sky.
My heart is unusually good at hiding in the dark.
It turns into slippery shadows of denial
where anger takes its own time coming in.
Getting dressed in the dark 
or putting on its clothes inside out, it’s always a fumble.
My heart needs to learn how to avoid the dark holes.
It misses the song of the morning birds 
when it soars across the desert of despair.

Hammer Montessori School

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Horse Kittens!

Three itty-bitty kitties are sleeping in the dark cubbyhole next to my bed at my host house in San Jose. My host family’s feral cat moved in a while back, and decided that it was a very good place to have her babies in the oldest boy’s bed. OMG Baby kittens! Tiny, tiny kittens with eyes open wide. Welcome to the world.

They are in a dark cave, and I don’t want to use a flash on them. I’ve made friends with the mom, with smoked salmon. So maybe tomorrow I’ll take them out of their cave and do a family photo. Mama kitty loves me. It means I have to sleep with all the doors open so that she can come and go. But the babies are fast asleep. Two gray tabbys, and one orange boy. God help me, and give me the strength to say no.

A friend said, “The eyebrow arches a bit at my use of baby kittens,” but it reminded him of a story of a woman who saw some mares and foals in a field. She had a brain freeze, couldn't remember the word "colts," & blurted out "O Look! Horse kittens!"

Snacking on Goldfish and chardonnay

I’m on the road with limited choices, so I’m snacking on Goldfish crackers and swilling a bottle of ordinary Forestville Chardonnay. So totally me. Someone said to choose your bottles wisely. Because I’m on the road, my options are limited. However, I killed off the last of the Forestville Chardonnay. Since I live in Wine country, it’s not hard to choose just one favorite wine. I do love all of the northern Sonoma County Chardonnays. Way better than the Napa Chardonnays, which are way overrated, not to mention overpriced. Forestville, a place where I once lived, is fine. But it was bought out, and the new owners have traded marketability for swillability. 

Actually, my back is killing me from being on the road, all that driving from Sebastopol to San Jose and the aspirin didn’t even make a dent. I took four baby aspirin this afternoon, and it helped minimally. I cannot take Tylenol. And I try to avoid Advil at all costs, I seem to gag on it more often than not, so my drug pool is limited. I’m pretty sure my body is trying to tell me something important about Advil right now. I had to take so much of it when I tore my knee I think I ODd on it. 

I’m living in a strange little basement apartment where I’m staying for the next couple of days while I teach poetry to kids in San Jose, but I like it. The bathroom is only 6 feet tall. Hobbitish.  But a long hot shower on my aching back was beyond divine. 

So, will I go to hell in a handbasket for eating lemon curd straight out of the jar? If only I had some here. However, the Chardonnay ain’t bad with my killer pancakes. Just had one slathered with lemon curd. Yes, the saltiness of the Goldfish and the vague cheesiness sets off the Chardonnay nicely. And the fact that there are baby kitty sleeping next to me, I can barely contain my joy. I could be miserable, but I choose not to go there. I treat it all like a big adventure wondering what will come next. I am a miner of joy, reveling in the ordinary and the profound.

from Facebook posts

Friday, February 21, 2020


If I were a dream of fire,
I would blaze during the darkest of times.
I would carry the embers of hope
to those lost in the obscurity of time,
and those who know longer
carry the candle of hope,
extinguished by circumstance
beyond their control.
The downtrodden, the homeless,
and those who have lost their way
among the stars of the misbegotten
who can no longer dream of a time
where hope was possible
or maybe even alive.


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Scanning marathon old family photos

While scanning old family photos I learned a lot of family history—how my cousin Patricia D’Arcy sang for De Valera in SF, who in turn called his friend in Tacoma, which turned out to be her Ward uncle, and de Valera never knowing they were related. New photos emerge of my great-grandmother Jane Rose Sullivan Walsh in Bantry. What was amazing was that we had another photo clearly taken the same day, so she must’ve sent different photos to all her children in America. One of her with an Irish setter, another of her with a pitchfork. Some copies of old photos I took where mine were destroyed years ago... different angles of photos at family parties where I had some photos. A news clipping that corroborates the story of my grandfather’s and coworker Henley’s unfair demotion at the SF Sheriff’s dept., so Sheriff McGinty could hire a crony as undersheriff, which became a landmark case, where my grandfather fought city hall and won. See Bernard Reilly va. the City and County of San Francisco. A photo of former fireman Pat Ward leading the SF pipe band on stage and performing /opening for the Chieftains in SF. Lots of clippings of both Jerry D’Arcys, Jr.  singing for the SF Giants, and other police events. An article on Mike Collins, Gregorian singer, loads of photos of him and his brother Frank, who was killed in a car accident at 22. Many photos of my grand-aunts Kitty and Peg. I had no idea Peg lived on State Island, I knew she lived in Bantry for a while, she went back and forth. When The Big Fellah, Michael Collins was shot by the British, they left Ireland for good. I think he was a distant cousin of Peg’s husband, also named Mike Collins. She moved to SF during the Depression. A photo of Peg singing family parodies of Captain Jerry D’Arcy’s  stolen bagpipes to the tune of Danny Boy at parties. Oh Jerry boy, your pipes were stolen from the bus...

In Fresno

Sitting outside, in a walled, gated community where I can’t see the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, but I can feel their presence, their siren call, and the sting of snow in the air.

Thursday, February 13, 2020


Once I was the eagle of the night
I dreamed of dragons in the clouds
sleeping in the secret hearts of volcanoes
where embers where the jewels of the stars
where the rain fell in secret supplication on the sand
embedding its secrets on all the beaches of the world.

Hammer M ES

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


Fill the sink with shadows
& watch the moonlight disappear.
This is how it begins, in shadow
& circumstantial evidence
trades places with the night.


Seeking help from no one
I was stuck in the darkness
like a broken dream
held together by a vase of hope
that shattered and fell to the floor,
lost pieces of an old puzzle.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Feeling discombobulated

I’m feeling a little discombobulated today, feeling out of sorts. Displaced. Bereft. Sort of gritting my teeth through the day. Trying not to take it personally. I arrived at my San Jose home away from home, and unpacked my gear, almost ready to teach for tomorrow. Going to Savers to see what I can see. Sometimes you just have to hit bottom in order to go back up like I said, trying not to take it personally. Of course a mocha freeze helps. Better today, after tea. Time to jump into the foray.


On the Almaden Expressway
old cholos in lowrider cars
cruise with ancient chihuahuas
riding shotgun.

Along the Guadalupe River,
willows test the air for signs of spring,
while wild plums erupt into cumulus clouds.

San Jose

Old cholos lowriding
on the Almaden Expressway
With toothless chihuahuas
riding shotgun.

On Willow Street

Willow Street was aptly named as it follows the Guadalupe River, so lovely to see the water flowing. And the willows. Perhaps they’re hesitant after so many years of drought, but they’re turning green and orange around the edges anticipating that first moment of spring. I never realized that Almaden  Parkway follows the Guadalupe River, and this is why Willow Street is called Willow Street. The family that is putting me up lives on Willow Street, across from the old church, Sacred Heart Church? where I went to as a child, the neighborhood is still strongly Latino but gentrification is nibbling away at the edges. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


First signs of true spring:
buckeye buds opening the green prayer
of their small leaf hands.



A poem so extensively revised, from a few fragments, I think I should move the creation date to now. Well, revision does it mean to see it again

After the deluge, an unseasonable snow
left a carapace of black ice on the roof of the car
and on the translucent petals of the impatient jonquils—
their papery white petals translucent as glass.
You could almost hear them ringing like small bells.
Yesterday, it was barely cold enough for the snow to stick
but it whispered in a strange, silent tongue on the ridges,
unlike the droves of rain that broke the drought.
During the night, the temperature plummeted,
archiving traces of fallen snow—scattered clumps
of snowflakes frozen on the windshield left calling cards—
delicate patterns etched in ice that refracted the morning light
into prisms of iridescent hues.
This cold snap, a reprise in the death knell
ringing in the toll of mass extinctions.
As I drove north on country backroads,
the grizzled pates of the coastal mountain ranges
transformed by St. Brigid’s pure cloak,
fair stole my breath away.
Welcome spring.

rev. 2/4/2020