Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mother H.

I was married to her oldest daughter.
H. was the kind of woman that
would correct your pronunciation
over a dinner of Coq-au-Vin .

She snapped her fingers at
Chinese waiters.
I feared that Mr. Fong would
blow his nose on my spring rolls.

She set the table with two or three forks
and two spoons.
She slept on pillows stuffed
with down from chins
of English Sparrows.

She had a large bosom
and was always
bumping into me -
given the extra space
I gave her to navigate
the rooms and halls
in her spacious home.

I was married to her daughter
for sixteen years. The last eight,
a business relationship.
Her daughter tried
to shrink my head.

Why Do I Write Poetry?

I like the way words can be mixed
to make sound soup
or a puzzle -
that sings.

Writing is cheap.
It costs nothing.
You can borrow a pencil from
the cashier at the counter,
or the guy at the next table.
Write on napkins,
Write on the edge of magazine pages,
the newspaper that someone left on the table.

Writing doesn't require you to buy paint
and brushes
and turpentine
and an easel
and canvas
and have a room
with good North light.

Too Many G-D Poets-Revised in late 2011, again.

Too many poets. Dreadful.
I am Peeved. Nettled.
Yet I too, am a guilty poet.
While I sit and wait for my soup to arrive,
I read a few pages of Simic, Collins, and the Seattle papers.
The noodles cook and drain.
Mrs. Green slices the smoked pork.

I fight to tune out the background signals, the laughter, static,
while I scribble arthritic sentences in my composition book.

The bowl of Pho came, hot and spilling over the side.
I watch a skinny teen with bad skin,
scribble in her binder,
and I wonder what she is saying.


The Exquisite Thumb

The persnickety thumb,
most snobbish of all digits.

Thumbs up. It's all OK.
Thumbs down, and the decision has been made,
the die cast.

Without the thumb, I could not have pinched her fine bottom,
nor could I have fended off the assailant
by poking my thumb in his eye. I couldn't have grown
such rare roses and vegetables, and
without the thumb, specific rules
could no longer be applied.

No longer would I be set apart
from so many of my animal cousins.
I could not measure and gauge, one eye closed, arm extended. Nor could I, with index finger and thumb,
form two sides of a square
to frame a scene for a painting
or to compose a photo.

I couldn't thumb my nose at the quarrelsome geezer next door, nor could I have hitchhiked half-way across Europe,
no longer under my parent's thumb.

Without the exquisite thumb, I would not be able to hold my pen to write these words in its praise.

Camping Out

Three vehicles
parked in a circle.

Inside the sanctuary,
no children played as they did
in the days of the covered wagon.
Empty bottles, gas stove,
bags of dog food, wrinkled clothes, wet towels,
folding chairs, food wrappers.
Everything varnished
with a blue, wet cold.

Mom, Dad and two, teenage boys spend a lot of time
inside the vehicles
with four dogs.

They read,
listen to the radio,
play with a deck of damp cards,
tell stories,
and dream of the time when they can have hot water
tumbling over them in their new home.

They are up at four to start the cars
to warm up a bit.
Then, a few hours of sleep
before the little car pulls out in the dark,
on its first mission of the day
to take the boys to school, a few miles away.

The boys, wash their long hair from
water warmed by the rare winter sun on the hood of dad's car.
Sometimes mom or dad dry the boy's hair
with orange towels.

All poems of the poet: Charles Simic - works

All poems of the poet: Charles Simic - works

Wednesday, October 28, 2009



Psychopathology and the Creative Arts

Sorry. That's how it is. The intensity of the drive to go to the heart and sing its truth comes most easily from pain. At least for starters. Going inside and penetrating the mire of lies and illusions we call our identities is the most difficult thing a human being can do. Only saints manage it really well. It is hard and it is painful, calling for great courage. Only the most courageous warriors succeed. Alan Watts, the Zen philosopher, wrote a book entitled, The Book : On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. He says that our minds, families, societies, nations, and the whole human world conspire to create an illusion which we buy into. We collude with our world to avoid knowing who we really are. Why? Because who we are is so wonderful the world as it is couldn't exist if the secret was out. Instead of being the exalted beings we are, we play mental games and watch talk shows until it is time to die. When we're not doing that, we obliterate ourselves with drugs and alcohol. Most people call that life.

Only those who have the extreme need to heal, the extreme drive to get clear of what's encrusted that inner essence, are likely to have the drive to do the inner work that will set them free. That need/drive will also make them good writers. Nothing like being beat up, raped, tortured or abused to motivate you to get well. (Well, major diseases do the same thing.) Motivate you to transcend. Grow. Enough pain, and a human being will do anything. Even go inside and clean up the mess. Suffering provides the impetus to enter the inner world in its splendor and confusion, its turbulence and obscurity. However hard it is to heal, its easier than living with the psychological detritus of mental or physical rape.

Very developed people don't need to suffer to write. People who have clean inner acts according to Freud, Jung, their choice of analyst, guru or just themselves, can be motivated by the joy they get in putting out their thoughts. The joy they get in singing in praise or gratitude. The joy of being joyful. Read the saints. Yogis. Rumi. Now there was an ecstatic being! [Ecstasy: Your Birthright, Shield and Reward gives great examples of ecstatic writing.] These ecstatic beings suffer plenty. I've heard from a genuine Hindu monk who has studied lots of saints of all denominations that most great beings lead/led rotten personal lives. Think torture. Martyrdom. Poverty. Disease. Burning at the stake. Flaying. They paid for their bliss. But bliss isn't dependent upon the outer world. And bliss wins in the end.

Until we reach sainthood, the rest of us have to grunt. But don't worry. If you're meant to be a writer, your life will present you with exactly the amount and kind of pain needed for your individual growth and writing style. Isn't that neat? You may not need really big pain, preferring to extract meaning from smaller events. For instance, you can get plenty of pain just by consciously attending PTA meetings. Or going to City Council meetings. Life will give you all the suffering you need. You just have to be awake when it comes. Then you can turn it into great writing. Writers get paid for skilled observation and articulation of pain, among other things.

A great Buddhist saying that I don't really agree with: 'Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.' Pain comes is an unavoidable part of life. Suffering depends upon what you do with it. Do you hang on to pain? Grovel in it? Relish it? Make it a country western song? [A great way to make money out of agony! Feeds and entire industry.] The Buddhist notion is that pain comes on its own. We create suffering.

I have some problems with this. The Buddhist idea is, if you're totally in the moment, like a Zen master, pain is clean like a razor cut. It hurts when it hurts and that's the end of it. If you're worrying about tomorrow, and remembering yesterday's traumas, then the razor feels like a sedge hammer. You get knocked around, batted around by your feelings. Memories. Cuts from the 'razor' become from cuts 'the knife' and then from the 'butter knife'. And then 'chain saw' and so on. Hurting more as we struggle. We prolong pain by fighting with it. All well and good and very hip.

But my experience with pain-- including razor cuts-- is that pain lasts. Healing takes time. There's pain during healing. Is this pure pain, or is it self-created and prolonged suffering? When does pain become suffering? What if I'm not the Zen master and get lost in my mind and banged around, even though I'm doing my best? Am I wrong? Deficient? Is it wrong to suffer in the Country Western sense if that's the best I can do? Tricky topics. Next time you're suffering, think about them.

Even so, its not what happens to you, it's how you hold and use it that counts. Everything that comes to you bears a lesson. Some of it-- death, failure, illness, loss-- is real growth producing!!"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Old Cougar

Old Cougar

It was the fiftieth reunion, and
G., S., C., L. and K., were there, in a circle of seventy-year old women, all displaying a little flesh, jewelry, sensible pumps, chic outfits, glasses on silver chains, dyed hair, expensive scents and cameras the size of cigarette packs..

She was at the edge of the pack of other women
in a shiny, blue wrap,
holding an enormous handbag,
a double gin and tonic in the other.

Lips pursed, deep lines etched around them from smoking;
her voice hoarse from booze and Virginia Slims.
I could see a little blue of her silk bra.
She had dialed in her d├ęcolletage with care.
Her teeth, porcelain veneers, gleaming white.

She's hunting for an adventurous, energetic lad as
she waits, watches, calculates,to sink her claws
into a strapping buck.

Don't EVER call her ma'am.


Boy's Lunch

Boy's Lunch

Mom always made his lunch before she was off to work.
Sometimes dad.
Mom knew exactly how to fold the paper bag.
She put his name on it.
Not too big
so the other kids would notice.

The bag was folded down once,
twice, three times
to make a perfect seal,
a perfect handle.

Inside, a sandwich
on dark rye or wheat bread.
Sometimes left-over meatloaf
from Sunday dinner,
lots of ketchup
and a slice of lettuce.

Other times, liverwurst on rye
with spicy mustard
a slice of lettuce.

Fruit and carrot sticks,
a little green box of raisins, a little note.
Hi, honey. Have a good day,
There's a surprise in the cupboard
for you when you get home
Remember --
feed the Poochie.

accepted by National Gallery of Writing Contribution, Nov., 2009.


“Pure Gravy. And don't forget it."
-Raymond Carver (1938-1988)


Sipping a fresh cup of dark roast,
16 ounces, paper cup,
no sugar, no cream,
listening to Bocelli
eating veggie burgers
and a potato
fried in light
virgin oil,
reading a great poem.

He didn't explode from
or die
from the tightness
in his throat.

His dog gave him joy when
she jumped up and put her big, red feet
on his lap.
Dribbled water on him from her soft
mouth after she drank
from the bucket under the faucet
lop, lop, lop.

Earlier, I may have written a poem about
this old man,
sitting alone in his house, with
one light burning next to his used arm chair,
his eyes cloudy from
the beauty of the music.

Anyone looking in
would wonder if
if he felt alone or sad.
He was full of joy
and looked forward to the
time he could do it all
exactly as before.

yWriter5 - Free novel writing software to help you write a book

yWriter5 - Free novel writing software to help you write a book

Friday, October 16, 2009

Latest revision; Laughing Dog Farm (12/14)

Dad's ashes are out there - a few steps from the front door, mixed with the roots of a new, red Hawthorne tree. On quiet mornings, his ghost, cut from soft, gray silk, floats above the trees near the biggest pond.

On summer nights I left my blood in the bellies of mosquitoes that found me inside the RV. I made runs to Taco Bell for tortillas and burritos, my chest marinating in the juices as I ate them, while watchingCanadian television with feeble rabbit ears on the seven-inch screen.

RoseMary The Wonder Dog was with me during that summer, sleeping quietly on the concrete apron of the driveway. Her wide, black lips still, and stuck to the cool cement. Once in a while, her head lifted when she heard a sound in the tall grass or when a hawk or deer passed near.

That was a solitary summer. No one around, no visitors.
I explored the hand-dug ponds, and played with the water that followed the land from the top to the bottom of the hill. I made dams, diversions, catch boxes, and directed the water through wire and rock filters to the bank of the pond and the ditch below.

Trails and paths were made from old wood palettes. They lay over the mud and around the ponds. I cut low branches, planted and moved pines, hacked the weeds, mowed the meadows, made more paths and lanes and hideaways while RoseMary sniffed out, and dispatched the voles in the pear orchard.

When I mowed, I drove once through the tall grass with the blade still, then again with the blade moving to avoid killing gopher snakes. I made boxes for wrens and swallows from weathered cedar, saved from fences and old buildings the spare shakes from my shed. I made a house, tall, with two compartments and a narrow slot at the bottom, for the bats. I hung it from the roof peak.

The day I brought home a steel barrel to use to burn paper, I had to make holes in the bottom for air flow. I used my long-barreled, .22 revolver. My cowboy gun. It made me laugh at what I was doing, and the neighbors yelled, wondering what battle was on, as I shot six, neat holes in the oil drum.

Prompts for writers

[Just cut and paste links. It's a chore to convert all the links to LIVE links using the tools on BLOGGER.]

If you want to use some of the on line resources for prompts, OR if you ever have the opportunity to lead a group and you don't have your own, personal resources:

List compiled today, so all links have been vetted.

Twitter search: - you need an account, I belive. Use this random number generator to pick your prompt from the numerical list: - Prompt generator - Another prompt generator - another generator, but with some bells and whistles...pick adjectives, nouns, verb/phrase, etc. - Click the button to generate random prompt - photo prompts - Random image generator. Careful. Not censored

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yesterday's Paper

John Tabutt, 62, of Winter Springs, Florida, shot Nancy Dinsmore.

John was going to marry Nancy
the next day. They were lovers.

A noise in the house, &
John got up & fired at a shadow in the hall.
John thought that Nancy was still in bed next to him.

There was no intruder,
nothing dangerous in the house, except John's .38.

Nancy was dead at the scene.
A brutal and fierce wound, grew,
exactly where John was going to pin his mother's brooch.

-Found poem, Oct. 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fish and Open Mic Night

[Revised copy was posted on March 29, 2011.  This poem was accepted, and I was invited to participate in a writer's workshop by writer in residence, Nancy Rawles, in late April.]
Fish and Open Mic Night
It's fish and open mic at Der Schnitzel.
Poached, steamed, broiled, boiled,
dried, fried, in soups and sauces,
piled high, eyes still bright
silver bodies shimmering
in the harsh lights of the hall.

Tonight, ten fish dishes - ten acts.
Comics, poets, a demure cello player,
a dwarf on A# harmonica,
and a shy, teen,
seams stretched,
singing a familiar “Oh, Baby...Oh, Baby” tune,
a Capella, memorized note by note, listening to a CD.

Blazing, stilted taste and organized fun,
glorious in attempt to dazzle and entertain,
certain the crowd was buzzed and fuzzy on the beer
and polite, white wine.

Glorious - in the way we squirmed and fidgeted,
embarrassed for the people on stage –
a few feet above our heads
and too close to our small table.

We see the holes in the older woman's hose
when she sits on the stool to read her poem.
We feel sad for her -
uneasy when she looses her place.
Her poem is about lost loves.

When she finishes, she puts her head down and sobs a bit.
The stagehand moves to her quickly,
touches her shoulder
and says something in her ear.


I, Bear

I Bear

Light brown,
my nose half missing,
one eye plucked away, accidentally,
my arm torn and my coat
dirty and worn.

My mother, my guardian, my caretaker,
carries me in her soft, wet mouth
in rain and snow and sun.

I am silent, and when I'm put
down to rest, I hug the edge of
the wood deck and
a neat piece of wood, one
leg askew behind me.
The coarse stitches on my paws
evidence my care.

I'm brandished, admired and
a part of morning's
ceremony when my caretaker
is fed and petted and cooed over
by her master.

And so it goes. My caretaker holds
dominion over me, Master holds
dominion over my caretaker.
And so it goes. And so it goes.

Friday, October 2, 2009


When they dropped the bomb, the spent, young lovers were sprawled naked, on the futon. They crawled and pulled each other the few feet through the soot and ash of the bamboo mats to the Koi pond in the garden.

Even in death, the bright red Koi glowed brilliantly on the surface of the water, now the temperature of the tea, still boiling in the pot nearby.

The couple slid into the water to escape the flames and to soothe their blackened skin. They tumbled together into the water, their flesh bright and fluorescent, as it cracked and split like the fish they baked the night before.

Her Mother Won't Listen

I've told her. I've warned her more than once. I could see the signs, Her daughter running with the wrong crowd, and I've seen her smoking in the alley after school. Her mother won't listen.

The chubby girl is in her dad's shop behind the garage, getting plowed by a older boy in a ski hat with silly ear flaps and a heavy-metal t-shirt. He's smoking a cigarette she rolled for him. While they're entangled, he admires her dad's antique wood plane on the pegboard by the bench.

The boy listens for her mother coming down the back stairs. If she's coming, they will hide behind the empty boxes near the back wall, still out of breath. Giggling.

My Muse Anne Frank

I still have a copy of The Diary Of Anne Frank that I kept from the Chinook Middle School library in 1971. I never returned it. It’s a brown hardback and on the cover is a black and white photo of Anne.

I wanted to live in that attic with Peter, the boy who was a friend of the Franks. I didn’t care if the Nazi soldiers chased me. I could be quiet as a moonlit night.

Around the same time, I constructed a “fort” out behind our house. This fort. built under the Jonathan apple tree and next to the wood shed was my attic. I had a white diary that locked with a tiny metal key that I hid in one of my shoes. I wrote in the diary about boys, horses, dogs and Mount Rainier. I hung a print of a stallion on one of the plywood walls. I fashioned curtains from two old towels. Like Anne, I put pen to paper and tried to make sense of my world.

Since then, books have affected me deeply. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. Isak Dinesen’s Letters from Africa - Roots, Ragtime, Refuge. It’s hard to stop.

Interestingly, it was a book that initiated my divorce from my ex-husband 14 years ago. After reading Bridges of Madison County, I vowed to get out of a loveless marriage. Robert James Waller’s words opened a world to me that said I could someday love like his protagonist, Francesca.

-Patty Kinney
29 September, 2009