Tuesday, March 31, 2020

AT THE LAGUNA 3 haiku (photo)


Though the park is closed
father & son cast off their lines
while fish ignore the bait.

They will remember
this day stolen from the book
of time—if they live long enough.

Egrets patrol the floodplain
lost angels stitching the sky
to remnants of the shore.



The clerk made me a cuppa tea
We nattered on about Ireland.
Her red nails bled on the counter.

Violet said she was from the north.
I ate a shortbread. Looked for horns.
Her husband sucked on an unlit pipe.

She said, that’s my son.
GLORIA blared on the radio
He’ll give you a ride home.

Van was taciturn
It was a long ride home
a hostile wall of silence.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The difference between herons and egrets

Someone posted a photo of an egret, and a war on avian semantics erupted. Rule of thumb. Egrets have black legs. Great egrets have black legs. Snowy egrets have black legs and yellow feet. They look like they’re wearing Nikes. Apparently fish can’t resist yellow feet. The other four North American species I don’t know. I can’t vouch for. Great herons are never white. But herons come in all colors and sizes. Mostly big. Bigger than egrets. North American egrets, all six species, are always white—except for the very rare Little egrets of Florida. They do things differently down there and come in six colors and they do pastels rather nicely. Pink beak and lavender eyeshadow, a fluffy champagne neck ruff, and pearlgrey coat, they’re the trocaderos of the Egret clade. They have to be, herons and egrets have no real tail feathers, so it’s harder to get laid. Here the fancy ruffs and headgear. The rest of the world, all bets are off. No regrets. And just to confuse things, sometimes the Florida heron has a white phase. Don’t ask. If California is the Left Coast, what is Florida? You have to look at other things to ID them. Like size. Headgear, beak. Think big. I know. I had a California heron size me up in Amsterdam. A zoo escapee. He was taller than me. And a bully. We didn’t see eye to eye. I’m not talking about the itty-bitty unripe green herons along Lake Merritt, or the croaky night herons here. Just to confuse things, Heron is a name applied to the entire bird family Ardeidae. Scientists are still arguing about the distance of relationships between herons and egrets. For now, all six species of egrets are a type of heron. I don’t like that, but there it is. But herons are real assholes, they indulge in siblicide, they shove the weaker ones out of the nest, while egrets just love their nest mates. Cuddle bugs, all. Definitely true Californians at heart.

Buying art supplies during a quarantine

While my compatriots madly storm the stores like paratroopers to corner the market on toilet paper, I ordered art supplies—a full set of pastel pencils nestled in a sleek cherrywood box with brass hinges. We each have our priorities. It was a rare bucket-list kind of moment. No AmazonPrime to defray the cost. Despite the quarantine, the package arrived from Britain, outer wrap shredded, but the inner sanctum, a bubblewrapped cardboard coffin, kept it safe from harm. The pencil box delights me when it opens like a double harpsichord with a full keyboard. The pencils on the upper tier scream a rainbow arpeggio to the palate of the modern age, while the somber earth tones beneath strike a darker chord of the past. Both sets are necessary to render the face of art. The dilemma I face is whether or not I should use my last half-bottle of alcohol as a blending agent, or to sterilize my hands from the virus? And I have only the one pad of paper. It seems we are a nation of assholes, grasping the wrong end of the shitstick. Who will be left witness the subtle arias of those pencils, or any art, for that matter, if the curve doesn’t flatten soon?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Quarantine haiku with Chad Sweeney


Truck screeches to a halt, honks,
but the chickens are unflappable, they know
they own the middle of the road.


AMARYLLIS (home haiku)

Each day I turn the pot
so the forced bulb will straighten up.
But the bud prays toward the light.



Ex-lovers, the kind
I once wished dead, forward emails
on how to beat the plague.



Alpha rooster proclaims dominion over his flock
The hens ignore him, go about their business
Young cock discovers he too is part of the ritual.



Amaryllis stem
grew another foot last night—
but still can’t leave the pot.



Old beveled hand mirror
reflects a patch of grizzled sky
a soft Irish day, said my gran.



The best thing she said:
something like 50-plus years later
I still have her back.



Knees and stairs creaking
together, life’s ups and downs—
one step at a time.


Tuesday Haiku (Basho style)

( setting)             Drinking tea in bed
( subject)            Waiting for it to kick in
( sudden             Why? Still on lockdown.



My Gran never said
our freckles were kisses stolen
from the Otherworld.



I don’t mind waiting
but it’s stiff competition
from the politicians.



You ask why I write
haiku in a time of plague
Baby steps. Baby steps.



Each time I have to shop
my virus exposure meter resets to zero.
Still, the nightmares continue.



Wine barrel cooperage behind a facade
a giant game of ring-toss gone wrong.
The warthog’s rusted kingdom.



Born in late November, at the edge of autumn,
the diminishing light & encroaching darkness motivates me
call it fear, call it death—but I am driven by it.



She said, Silent & listen
are anagrams. I must be bored.
I said, Careful, poetry is a gateway drug
to the road to perdition.



According to yesterday’s headlines.
Drinking is up by 41% in the Bay Area.
I’ll drink to that.



Driving down backroads
the odor of meadowfoam
vernal pools flood the eye.



Another passage
around the sun, still breathing.
How we count the days.



I give to the self
this day, a gift wrapped in light
the breath of laughter.



Sat in the front seat
watched the sun cross the driveway,
Hey, I’m still alive!



The chickens circle,
they know I’m inside the car.
At least they’re not vultures.



I sit in the car
sipping coffee and writing.
Window to the world.



I was made at sunset
in the back seat of a Ford.
Now I wait for the night.



West county was late
Getting their howl on—the dogs
too joined the chorus.



They see me coming
When I step out of the car
Chickens gather round.


Quarantine, Day 10

QT.Day 10: I’m now eating some strange food combos—delving into a questionable food hoard I should’ve tossed last year—if not the year before. PS: the chocolate seems fine. Bread, crackers, pasta, and even flour is sold out in most stores. We hereby declare the gluten-free era to be officially over. Stolen from Angela Morrison’s wall. I won’t mention the TP shortage. You know shit’s getting real when the TP and booze flies off the shelves. This is like shopping in pre-Glasnost USSR. 

QT Day—whatever. Eating increasingly strange food combos. Lunch has extended into dinner hour. Drinking is up by 41% across the board. Who knows what lurks in the dark recesses of the pantry. The Preppers must be having a field day, drinking up their liquor stash, and you know what comes next, the ammo... 

Today I decided to dress up and wear a sweater I was saving for good, and put on a bra in order to go shopping for food. Out of milk, and low on hot cereal, I ventured forth into the world today. No Red Mill cereal to be hard in the stores, no Goldfish or decent tea. But I found two 6-packs of Pellegrino grapefruit soda And some milk. Score! Shopping is a socially distanced contact sport. Cattle prods on my shopping list.

My shopping routine. I wear gloves and mask. I maintain at least 6 feet between myself and other shoppers. I use a credit card. I put my groceries back in the cart and wheel it to the car where I bag it. No bag, or bagger necessary. I wipe down my keys, credit card, gloves, turn them inside out, and I wipe my hands, and the inside of my car—especially the door handles, steering wheel, and seat belts—with an alcohol wipe. 

I rotate my masks as the virus cannot live long on porous surfaces. Also, the virus cannot live for long on porous surfaces—like masks. The dashboard is a good place to cook your masks and gloves as it easily reaches 130º on a sunny day. Even if its not sunny, the dashboard gets pretty warm. You can also give cloth masks a zap in the microwave. And I do wipe down my gloves. Q-tips are useful for touching keypads when you forget you gloves.Since I only have a few pair of gloves, I use a rotation system.

For the COVID-19 victory garden, focus on the brassica vegetable family first, and lettuces, so you’ll have food sooner. All leaves are edible. Then the solanaceae—tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant; and the cucurbit family—squashes (you can eat the flowers too). The root vegetables are long term, but you can eat the greens of beets, turnips, kohlrabi, and carrots (but not potatoes!)

Global critter takeover

Global critter takeover: truck screeches to a stop—brakes squealing & hissing—to let the chickens cross. Honks at them, too, but they’re unflappable. They know they own the middle of the road. 

The wild turkeys are now so cheeky with all this social distancing and lockdown stuff that when I was driving back from Forest Knolls (where I am a care provider), a turkey refused to give up right of way in the middle of Nicasio Valley Road. Hilarious.

Meanwhile in North Wales marauding Kashmiri goats gadding about have taken over the town. In our absence, animals everywhere have taken to the streets. There is no more “down on the farm” shit a spokescritter reported from the Animal Liberation League, or ALL ours again movement.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Welcome to this first ever countdown to the April PAD Challenge!

Wow, I even got credit for the suggestion. Guess I’m going to have to play catch up as the usual epic Facebook fail, culling you friends posts, was in operation and I never saw the entry. I will post all the March  prompts here. And start a separate page for the combine April entries. I’ve made the date with a hyperlink so you can see Robert’s poem prompts and examples on his page.

Welcome to this first ever countdown to the April PAD Challenge! This was an idea suggested to me on Facebook by Mo Hurley, and well, it’s just a good idea with so many people locked indoors with little to do but read and write poems. So let’s get at it!
For today’s prompt, write a time poem. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt in a time warp the past couple weeks—with a day feeling like a week (or even a month) and a week feeling much longer. So your poem can about that, or it can deal with time travel. Or write about being late, being early, or right on time. Heck, do a countdown. There’s no time like the present.
Remember: These prompts are just springboards; you have the freedom to jump in any direction you want.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pumping gas in a time of coronavirus

The gas pump handle was something I didn’t even think about when I topped up at Costco on Wednesday evening. I was trying to be responsible by keeping my tank full in case of emergencies—something I had learned during the October wildfire evacuations. I was so careful not to touch the card reader, or the buttons or the gas grade selection button. I can’t remember if I used my alcohol gel before I recorded my mileage. Social distancing is hard enough. All this constant monitoring of unconscious gestures takes some getting used to. And as if to make up for lost time, I’ve been thinking about that gas pump handle a lot these past few days. Imagining all kinds of symptoms. The only thing I can hope for was that the Costco gas pump attendant was wiping down the pump handles periodically—but I doubt it even crossed his mind. Faced with the unforgiving math of epidemics, we are living in such extraordinary times. The entire world is having a time out at the same time. We will not emerge unscathed, nor will we re-emerge as who we were. The past has irrevocably shut its doors behind us. O brave new world, indeed.

Friday, March 20, 2020

2020 April PAD Challenge Countdown, a little early

From Robert Lee Brewer: So for people who loathe change, the 2020 April PAD Challenge is still happening, and it’s still starting on April 1. However, someone (ahem, that was me) on Facebook suggested I start the daily prompting and poeming earlier this year, since so many people are self-quarantining and social distancing at the moment in the United States and elsewhere around the world.
So it took me all of a split second to think, “Yeah! Let’s get poeming!”
We’re going to call it the 2020 April PAD Challenge Countdown. It’ll be a fun warm-up for the actual poem-a-day challenge that starts on April 1 and continues on through the end of the month.

2020 April PAD Challenge Countdown

Since this is all spur-of-the-moment and never-been-done-before territory, here’s how we’ll roll:
  • Beginning on the morning (Atlanta, GA) of March 22, I’ll post a poetry prompt and my own attempt at a poem each morning for the rest of March. That’s 10 days of daily poeming!
  • Poets around the country and the world can swoop in, grab the poetry prompt, and write a poem. If they wish, they can share their poems in the comments on each day’s prompt. If they wish to keep it for themselves, that’s cool too. It’s all about the poeming.
And honestly, that’s all there is to this thing. It’s a chance to poem and connect with other poets, and it’s totally free and something people can do from the safety of their homes. So get ready to break some lines, y’all!


Blue-eyed grass superbloom 2010 (photo)

First day of spring. Blue-eyed-grass superbloom 2010, Alexander Valley, Highway 128 at Soda Rock Lane. Some of the blue-eyed-grass (really a diminutive type of simple iris) were not only indigo, but violet, pink, and a few were white. Every year I’ve been stopping at that meadow across from the campground, and it's never bloomed like that again since. I wonder if it'll put on a spectacular show this year? And who will be there to witness it? I have been teaching poetry to kids at Alexander Valley School every spring for nearly 30 years. But maybe not this year. Visiting the valley, as the poet in residence for two weeks—an integral part of my annual ritual, is interrupted by the arrival of the coronavirus. And I wonder if the wildflowers of Pine Flat Ridge have recovered from the Kincade Fire. Are they out in force? Masses of superblooms, and  no one to witness the lupines and blue-eyed-grass talking to pieces of the fallen sky. And bybthe way things are going, as we all shelter in place, we may be lucky enough to escape with our lives.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Emily Carr, Canadian painter & writer, Group of Seven

Autumn, 1922-23, oil, Arts & Crafts style (1913-27) Glenbow Museum, Calgary.
One of my favorite artists of the Pacific Northwest, Emily Carr,  (Dec. 13, 1871 – Mar. 2, 1945) was also a writer who chronicled the stories of the First Peoples of British Columbia. Carr’s memoir, Klee Wyck, inspired me to travel making a pilgrimage of sorts to the then remote Nootka villages of Tofino and Ucluelet on western Vancouver Island, and later, to the village of K’san on the Skeena River, in the late 1970s, where I promptly got sick and spent a few days camping in the bushes outside of town—to the consternation of my boyfriend, the villagers, and jeweler-woodcarver Vernon Stephens, who had once driven us from the middle of nowhere to another middle of nowhere. Another story...

Though relatively unknown and unrecognized in her lifetime, Carr was one of the first North American Modernist painters to use the Post-Impressionist painting style. She bucked the prim Victorian society and studied art for three years at the California School of Design/San Francisco Art Institute, and later, Carr spent a year in France, 1910-11, where she met the Cubists and Fauvists. Their use of bold color and broad shapes greatly influenced her work.

But upon Carr’s return to Vancouver, no one was interested in her work. She toiled in domestic obscurity for 15 years, managing an apartment complex in Victoria, until 1927, when a piece was accepted to a National Gallery of Canada exhibition where she first met the Group of Seven. She was the only woman painter to be included in the Group of Seven, modernist painters who changed the face of Canadian art

After being told that Canadian totem poles and trees were unsuitable, and simply unpaintable, Carr defiantly went out and painted them anyway—for the rest of her life. She finally gained some recognition for her work when she was nearly 60. After a series of heart attacks in 1937, Carr gave up the rigors of plain air painting, and wrote seven books, winning the Governor General’s Award for Literature in 1942.

I have seen many of her paintings in museum collections, but not this one. A reverse image search referred me to the dubious ArtPoster and Pinterest sites, several titles suggests it’s called,  Lone Cedar, or (Cypress) Tree in Autumn, or simply Autumn, ca 1920, painted variously in Brittany, or in British Columbia.

I have a lino block that I carved in high school that is similar in style. I wonder if I saw her work back then? Where? At the De Young? SF Art institute? I got to see her work later, in Victoria and Vancouver. There was an article on Emily Carr in the Sunday section of the Chronicle, California Living, circa 1972, which contained a retrospective of her work. I saved that article and read it again and again and again. She was uniquely a one of a kind artist.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Earth reboot

The upside of this pandemic global lockdown is that the air quality is improving—it’s as if we were finally taking climate change seriously & actually doing something about it. It demonstrates that if we stop polluting right now, we could potentially reverse the 11th hour effects of global warming—and reboot. Maybe a econd chance to get it right, for once.

Friday, March 13, 2020

CORONA acrostix, MX ES

Clouds drifting in the wind
outside the window, houses keeping us safe,
rogue virus finds a new audience
on the wings of planes it travels
near and far, within days we are immobilized
and there is nowhere safe enough to hide.

3/13/20 Friday the 13th
Malcolm X ES
Interesting, I never finished the poem, I found it in the last lesson plan folder I used, it was the last in class class I taught before SIP, then the world changed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Love during a time of coronavirus

Love in a time of coronavirus. Today is the first day on your inner bucket list & it’s called now. How will you spend it? Do what makes you happy. Be the love during this time of cashing in on all those bucket list IOUs.


           —after Neruda

You were painted with exotic flowers
from the Garden Isle
where the fog drooped 
on the back of the volcano
like an old gray cat 
while the sun struggled to shine
through the thick drizzle at Kalalau Point 
where fogbows ringed the rainforest 
and the ocean whispered secret stories
of the people who once lived on that beach below.
Scrunchie, you tamed my hair
during a time when nothing else would do.
But you’ve slipped back into the wilderness 
on your own, lost in a strange concrete jungle, 
a weary traveler so far from home,
to find something else to tame.

Hammer Montessori School

Monday, March 9, 2020

Facebook cremation ads

Now this is creepy. Facebook ad algorithms assume I might be dead while Facebooking because I’m getting a plethora of burial / cremation ads. Not good timing. Thanks. I thought death was the ultimate social distancing act. How does that aspect of social media work again? Really good WiFi? I must’ve hovered overlong over an article on green burials. James Lee Jobe said: Cremation, your last chance for a smokin' hot body!  Ah, ghoulish humor.

  • NOTE: THIS POST ALONG WITH 12 OTHER POSTS WAS ERRONEOUSLY REMOVED BY BLOGGER FOR VIOLATING COMMUNITY STANDARDS ON 5/14/21. It was reinstated as a draft the next day. I am still pissed off.

Hand washing song

 My hand washing song changes throughout the day. I’ve moved on from singing Happy Birthday to If I were a rich man—with a Flinstone finale: yabba daba do! I’ve washed my hands more times in the past week than I have in the past month. Or year. I wash them so much, they are dry and sore, and they ache. Hand lotion is no longer working. I’ve resorted to using Vaseline under my hand lotion. The upshot is my hands always smell of roses.

Dan Rather said: As I wash my hands for the umpteenth time and hum the opening verse of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, twice (I prefer it to happy birthday) my mind turns to the potent  triumvirate of fear, anxiety, and risk.  He’s peering into his 10th decade, so death is on his plate. And now we’re all in the same boat. Leveled by a virus.

Van Morrison’s hand washing song is Humpty Dumpty. Allegra Broughton said that she sings It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. She goes all Christmas while another friend stumbles through a bar song, 99 bottles of beer on the wall. He says that once through is usually enough. You could get lost in the bathroom vortex and never come out again singing that song. Too bad there’s no chardonnay song. I fear we’re becoming a nation of fish.  

Zana Darrow, who complains of dry skin and hangnails from overwashing, said: I discovered you could also just count to 20. When that gets old, 20-40. Or 20 odd numbers. Speaking of odd, I suggested that she try prime numbers next. She said, That would just make me mad. We’re all going a little bit mad these days. 97 bottles of beer on the wall... Is it 5pm yet? 

added, revised 3/21

  • NOTE: THIS POST ALONG WITH 12 OTHER POSTS WAS ERRONEOUSLY REMOVED BY BLOGGER FOR VIOLATING COMMUNITY STANDARDS ON 5/14/21. It was reinstated as a draft the next day. I am still pissed off.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Pax moon over San Mateo bridge (photos)

Purim moon over San Mateo bridge, ©Maureen Hurley 2012

Passing over that same bridge eight years later, returning from another teaching gig in San Jose, remembering that first residency, also in Willow Glen, never dreaming I’d find myself back here again, not like this, wondering how I pulled it off way back then, considering the distance, the time, making the best of the arduous journey, taking the scenic long way home for beauty’s sake, the fog licking the coastal hills where Portolá once camped, was it also under the Purim moon? Telescoping time, that moment when a memory from the past collides with time-present. This time, it was earlier in the day, so the full moon was higher in the sky, a standard issue white, but I was remembering that old orange moon hovering over the Coyote Hills, pondering how much my life has changed, never sleeping in the same place more than a few days at a time, yet the same moon still rises, like Lazarus, over the bay. The next generation of blue-eyed cormorants preening themselves on the pylons. They say your cells replace themselves every seven years, The next generation of cells have replaced my old self. Who I am. Today, we wrote color poems, a young  boy wrote a poem about picking tangerines in Israel, the tangible scent and sweetness of the globes against a blue sky, in his remembered country. He writes blue is the color of peace. He sits across the desk from an Arab boy who can only write about action figures. He writes that red is the color of peace. Poetry is a fine line, a peace fire. We are all so far from home. The whole world is a very narrow bridge. Shalom. Salaamit. Pax out.

Purim Moon, Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. ©2012

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Cross-culture clash

School parking lot guard spots me dithering outside my car, thinks I’m a soccer mom waiting to pick up a student. She yells, Yo, mama, you wanna move, So the other mamas can unload too? I looked around to see who she’s talking to, was I blocking someone’s way? No car door open. Like DeNiro, I point to myself and say, Are you talk into to me? She says, Yea, Mama, I’m talking to you. I say, I’m nobody’s mama, I teach here. She goes defensive, says, I don’t mean no disrespect. When I say Mama, it’s a sign of respect. I said, But I’m not ready to leave, I’m still organizing my stuff. She’s angry because I’m upset. I’m being hustled and I can’t find my fucking car keys. It’s as if we’re taking different languages, not English to English. I mentally translate the conversation into Spanish, which doesn’t help. It’s still out there. No common ground. I’m thinking maybe orange is the new black. Do I need a shiv? I  retrace my steps a third time. She thinks I’m stalling. It doesn’t dawn on me to tell her about the missing keys. I couldn’t hit the road—even if I wanted to. It’s quickly escalated into a lose-lose situation. Everything lost in translation. I find my car keys in the back seat beneath a heap of poetry folders. Weird poetic justice. I jump in the car and take off up 280, still steaming at the 92 exit, wondering how it all so quickly went south. I pass a pylon of cormorants sunning themselves on the San Mateo Bridge, and say hello to the blue-eyed boys preening themselves against the concrete. The color of their eyes proves that blue is better for seeing in reflected water, you’d think their feathers too would be as blue as the ocean’s dreams.