Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Just the Contents

There’s really nothing to report, just the contents
of these little boxes, objects almost absent,
lost in a landscape of pure bric-a-brac.
They were once filled by me, who has a knack
for forgetting where things really belong, their intent.

So lift the treasure chest lid with confidence
and find paperclips in a room without documents.
Who needs closure? Office supplies just show us
there’s really nothing to report.

A wooden box with a smooth top and a bent
latch holds a few Euros, money meant
for sunnier purses and glasses of cognac.
And this one, hand-painted with the blackest
of flowers holds a few matches, their fires spent.
There’s really nothing here that’s just content.

Poet's Note: Kind of a rondeau, but not really at all. A bit more of an unraveled doily.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


All the angels in me are tired
of the chain reactions
and plutonium triggers
of my wishbones.

They pant like dogs
in their bullet-proof vests.
Go out in the world, I say,
but they’ve read the headlines.

Better to sandbag my ribcage,
count my teeth and name them
like stars, chain-smoke and laugh
about their ghost stories.

They pull on the long rope
of my brain, uncoil, re-twist,
search for the films of
so ordinary and solo.

They’ve traded in their harps
for the skirl of harmonica,
light tin can fires at night
as the General stokes
the indigo bulb
between my eyes.

At daybreak, they startle, 
Why is she up so early?
They aim for my mouth
but shoot at my feet instead.

Go out in the world, they say.

I dance with this bomb
that is my body.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Sweet Beast

The half-formed idea is the thirteen legged beast I wrestle with everywhere these days. On trips to the supermarket I see a flash of its tail curl into aisle D, in the shower it hogs all the soap, and when I'm just drifting off to sleep it scratches me with a scaly toenail to say, "Hey, still here," as if I needed the reminder. I'm thinking of you, half-formed idea, all of the time.

It has no face. It has no name. Naming it would make it real, and it is not ready to be real yet. As un-whole (and unholy) as it is, it can be anything. All thirteen of its legs are full of potential. It may walk! It may run! It may fly! Maybe the legs are set to transform into wings. Or eggplants. Who knows? Who knows? Who knows?

I am building a one woman show with no words. I have just my body, and some props, which start to take on the feel of "visual aids" sometimes as I work, like I'm just handing these object ideas to the half-formed idea beast and it is holding them up for the class to see and wonder over. Here's an onion. It represents layers. Here's a ball of twine. It represents, I don't know, something. Ugh.

This is my creative process, and on good days I cheer myself on with the notion that having this restriction is a catalyst, not a conundrum.

I think my mother may feel the same way about her aphasia. It's kind of just right, building this show this way, a this time in my life. My mother's words are eroding, but we've developed a personal sign language for communicating. When vocabulary is evasive, movement speaks. Our pantomimes almost always end in some good laughs. Aphasia has moments of serendipity, and plenty of opportunities for creative problem solving. Sometimes she's up for that, and others, not. I get it.

Today I spent two hours rolling around on the floor of the garage, exploring Barteneiff's Fundamentals of Movement -- breath support, initiation, sequencing, alignment and connections, body organization, ground, weight shifts, spatial intent. It's great to know the terms, but I don't think of them as I move, I just move. I become more aware of how my body moves, how it changes in feeling as I walk or stand after experimenting. Today I felt a little like DaVinci's Vetruvian Man.

Then I got thirsty, distracted by heat, and my head pounded. The beast returned to drag me back to the hellscape of doubt, which I'm pretty sure is made up entirely of positive internet memes.

All functional movement is expressive. Think about that the next time you bend your neck to look at your phone, or pick up a chair and walk across a room with it. Your body is always telling a story, is always revealing your inner life, whether you like it or not. What a tattletale. What a sweet beast, the idea of the body as storyteller.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


This is version three of the original poem, "To Be Eligible,"which I wrote and shared the other day. I've been following my instinct to take the poem apart in different ways. This version uses press on lettraset lettering in the center rift, the gap, the river of no that separates the body of the second version of the poem, "Don't Cry." The process of making this version was physical and angry -- pressing down the letters to see them adhere the paper, blacking out all the space around the other words, creating a void.


Friday, June 22, 2018

To be eligible

for the tarpaper dream,
the rubble of glassy mouths,
our silent, violent, majestic home:

Keep your eye
on the eye
that watches you.
Don’t cry.

To be eligible
for once upon a time
and a sky not on fire:

Here is a stone
for your throat.
Don’t cry.

To be eligible
for happily ever after,
a path free of bombs:

Here is a feather
to replace your heart.
Watch it drift.

To be eligible
for the Mother of Exiles,
the glow of welcome,
open arms:

Set forth in section 101a
we have a history
of turning away.

We’ve collected your sun,
your son, your daughters,
for those who tinker
with status best,
revel in the forlorn
perfection of files.

To be eligible
we number your guilt
for wanting better:

You get one call
to your child.
He answers
but sounds
Or the phone
on this land is your land,
this land is my land

just rings
and rings
and rings.

Monday, June 04, 2018

A friend who works in a nursing home told me how she’s noticed that with each new resident’s arrival, the environment changes. Their personalities affect the spirit of the place. It was such a great relief to hear this because I have lately not felt myself changing much of anything beyond gym clothes to daywear to costume to ratty pajamas.

We moved here three years ago. It doesn’t look like we’ll be moving anywhere else right away, so what we thought was a transition has turned into more of a holding pattern. I keep thinking about the phrase “bloom where you are planted” and feel most days like a dandelion in winter.

Our somewhat affordable rental allows for our cat, Steve. There is little that appeals to us about the house — the doors are so close together the doorknobs clack together and pinch a finger or hand (the worst geometry is that of greed), windows stick, everything is beige. There is a mysterious stain on the carpeting in the living room that disappears when I tend to it, and reappears after a month or so.

I fell in love with the tree in the backyard though, and the kids in the neighborhood play inventive and imaginative games outside a lot. We've made friends of the neighbors. It is much quieter than our city apartment was.

Over the course of the past three years, my husband’s trees are filling up the backyard with their green and sudden fruiting, the front garden waves a slow hello in daisies, cosmos, and perennials, and the children ring our doorbell to ask if I can play too, or at least loan them a hula hoop. I’ve nicknamed the pony across the street “Lone Pone.” Last fall I turned our garage into a black box theatre so I’d have a space to create in, and also to share.

Last night we held the inaugural event in the garage space we call “The Little Theatre of the House of the Car.” Steve anticipated the arrival of guests by sitting himself arrowed toward the front door. Friends, neighbors, and family arrived in ones and twos. We ate in the living room, scrunched onto the sofa and what seating was left after I plundered all the chairs for the garage theatre. A few of us stretched out onto the floor.

During performances, which included comedy, dance, poetry, music, and personal narrative, Steve changed the environment with his sassy stride, sliding into the theatre to drink from unmonitored glasses, and rub against legs. Witnessing everyone’s sharing, whether it was movement or song, or spoken word, hearing the space filled with laughter and the exhaled ahs after some poems, I felt wealthy.

I realized that what has felt like inaction has really just been very slow progress, just doing things “one step at a time,” rather than taking gigantic, bold leaps. To make the garage a theatre I sewed curtains (there was first some experimentation with rope and binder clips), organized props and hoops and found space for tools and the lawnmower, and found area rugs to delineate seating and stage areas. It took time. It was worth it.

Setting: A mild summer night in a cul-de-sac dropped into a patchwork of farmland. An audience sits on a driveway and lawn facing a garage. Music begins, and the garage door rises to reveal an empty theatre, a place where anything can happen. A work in progress. Two characters enter. The change is quiet, but obvious.

Friday, February 09, 2018

No Answers, Only Questions

It’s ok to not know where you’re going. Say yes. Action is greater than laughter. You are playing. Believe that you have something to say that is worthwhile.

These are all words of encouragement and reminders that I wrote for myself, and taped them to the window above my desk where I see them daily. The post-its are starting to block out the tree and the squirrels that entertain me with their acrobatics. Any more personal pep talks and I'll completely block out the backyard. I’m in the process of rebuilding a show, Alonely, for a performance at the Ware Center in early March. It is tempting to say what the show is all about, to sum it up neatly in a pithy paragraph, but since it is shape-shifting like a Berserker, I really can’t. If pressured, I would say say it is about the creative process.

Yesterday a friend and I discussed the complexities of describing our art forms. She and her husband are puppeteers and filmmakers, builders of magical worlds that entertain kids and adult alike. See, even those words miss the mark of the vast landscape of all that she and her husband create.

When people ask what I do, I say I am a performer and a poet, and I tend to avoid the word clowning because it conjures Pennywise (thanks, Hollywood, for all the coulrophobia), and there is no way to describe how the things I create converge. If I do bring up clowning, and follow it with “not the birthday party kind of clown,” I am passively (and rudely) suggesting that all the birthday party clowns out there aren’t doing worthwhile work, and still leaving a giant blank in the inquirer’s head as to what sort of clowning I do. What do I say? European clowning? Mime? Not really. Each time I try to give someone an answer about what I do for a living, I feel like I’ve been given opportunity for a free line throw to the basket, and each time I try to make the shot, the ball morphs into gelatin in my hands. Cue the trombone's iconic wah-wah.

What I want most is to be an honest person, and I create from that. It’s a messy place, not knowing where you’re headed. It’s scary, even. Yesterday I spent several hours in my living room with my set and props, words and movement, and I woke up from my trance under the watchful gaze of a plastic Viking helmet. Berserker, indeed.

I am playing, and I don’t know where I’m headed, and that is uncomfortable. I am in a constant state of discomfit, trying, really trying, to get at a message that is worthwhile, that makes a connection.

I seek to build connections and relationships, to add some beauty to the world. Let's leave it at that. Maybe that's enough.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

You Can't Learn Anything Without Failing

Yesterday I was sitting on the floor next to my mother after reading a letter to her, and I was struck with the urge to rest my head on her lap. I really wanted to. It was a super instinct flash that I considered, and ignored. I didn't do it because I didn't want to make her cry. I didn't want to cry.

Instead of listening to my instinct, I listened to the bullshit narrator in my head who wears a top hat and carries a cane, and pokes at my ribcage on a regular basis to tell me to sit up straighter. That narrator tells me I have to be strong. He likes to remind me that I'm doing most everything wrong, in the wrong order, most of the time, but I can be better if I just try harder to be the best. I can't be a child anymore. I need to have answers instead of questions. I have to respond with intellectual insight rather than emotion. Fuck that narrator. He's a total jerk. I'd like to kick his top hat in the swamp. Why did I listen to him yesterday, at that moment, that perfectly clear opening for a beautiful mother/daughter connection?

Ugh, did I ever fail yesterday. I'm tired. At least I get today. I hope.