Thursday, April 30, 2020

What Lives There

The shed is home to a metal bouquet of tools,
hungry shovels, rakes of all stripes,
a carpenter bee snugged deep in a beam.
A nail holds the poultry waterer,
from another dangles a rag, red bucket,
a misanthropic hula hoop. Empty feed bags
(too good to throw away), sag in a corner
and complain with a coterie of fenceposts.
The shelf is a smattering of goat treats,
an opened bag of generic cheerios,
animal crackers, and the saltine box
where you found a field mouse
rustling around in a blissful panic.
The floor is rotted, just another task
we say “tomorrow” to, and from behind
a tub of sweet feed, the upside down
Mona Lisa smile of the scythe sneers
her editorial work — the instrument
made to cut out all we don’t want
from the living.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Sympathy Card

Here is the iris of
a solitary cardinal on a branch of
an angel weeping into her forearm of
a heart made of hearts of
a daisy losing the last petals of
the butterflies lifting in the air of
a lotus floating on a pond of
an empty bench of
one horse standing in the fog of
the rainbow behind the roses of
a dragonfly above the lilies of
a cutout heart that makes a window of
the autumn leaves of
what words do I write now of
the loss in this space of
two panels of
winter blankness

Monday, April 27, 2020

Some Thoughts on Publication

It was important to me to make a name for myself in the literary world when I was in my late 20s through early 40s. I sent work out regularly, followed each publication's guidelines, pored over contest rules, sent out work, and had a modicum of success. It felt good to be "someone." When I won a contest that landed me at a reading in New York City among some of the A-List Poets and one of them pulled me aside after the reading to say, "I look forward to seeing your name in journals," my ego soared. I know it was meant as a kindness, a pat on the back of encouragement, and I took it as such. I was young, in my late 30s. I was becoming.

But I think about that phrase now, and it makes me wince: "Your name in journals." It was the assumption that I'd joined the elite crew of the well published, and I'd continue the machinations necessary to keep that boat rowing forward.

Well, I didn't. I doubt that poet is looking for my name in any journal, either. The boat pushes through the water without Jennifer Hill in it.

In a private group on Facebook recently, someone asked, "Do you post your poems in public on social media if you haven’t published them yet?" The responses ran from "Never," to "Well, I think you can if it's in a private group," to my response, which was this:

The older I get, the less time I have to write and share poems. I came to a place several years ago as I faced the blinking cursor in a field on a spreadsheet where I kept track of where my poems were sent, where I realized I was spending way too much time (perhaps more than writing) on tracking where those poems were. The wait was long for some. Years, for a rejection, for a poem that could have found a life elsewhere. Sometimes I'd never hear back at all. Sometimes it would be published, and I'd find out later (that was weird), or I'd be notified that it would appear in an upcoming issue, and I'd forgotten what the poem even was. So I just decided it wasn't worth the effort anymore. 

I'd rather my poems be read than lingering in an inbox indefinitely. Some of it is a letting go of my desire to "be someone" in the writing community. Some of it is my hallmark impatience. Some of it is just enjoying the writing and sharing, and hoping my poems resonate with readers. Do I ever question this letting go? Yes. I've had some success with traditional publication and I've run a press that published books of poetry. There are journals I respect and enjoy reading. I still encourage people to send their poems out, too. But when I weigh the "poem that made it into a high school textbook because it was published in that fancy anthology and got noticed by an editor" against all the real human connections I've made from sharing my poems in other settings, well, the real connections win out for me. It's a decision you make for yourself, of course, and I think you can do a bit of both, but you need to be respectful of each publication and their guidelines. 

I recognize this isn't the most popular thinking, but it's mine, for now.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

As We Become More Inside

For the past forty days
or so everyone is inside
and no one knows
what to do about it
but a snail is outside
and on the edge of rain
exploring a blade of grass
riding its slow green wave
relaxed and ready
for whatever may be
at the end.

Saturday, April 25, 2020


Kneeling in the kitchen garden
in his torn plaid jacket and Irish flat cap,
broad back to me,
head bowed,
he concentrates
on a tiny, living thing
perhaps a pea start —
its thready,
vulnerable roots
and new leaves
shivering in dim light.

The April sun is a giant he follows,
who also kneels each day
to clear room for the stars
as they kiss each sprout
in the same way my eyes
graze this man
whose rooted hands
bring me all the food
I will ever eat.

Friday, April 24, 2020

I Wanted To Sing

That morning, I wanted to sing
to my students, full of feeling
about ancient voices
that were showing us
how much we are alike.
I don’t remember the song
that had such tidal pull
I wanted to share it.

How little has changed.

We wrote poems together,
combed Sappho’s fragments
for their meaning and messages
and with only two weeks time
ourselves, ripped our own poems
apart to see what still breathed
in the pieces.

We glued our sea-drift words
to blocks, built up and tore down
poems over and over again
to see what we could lift
from the wreckage.

Their senior year voices
bubbled like the secrets
of Tu Fu or Issa:

I only wanted everything,
all you have to offer —

My soul is heavy
I’m alive

I didn’t sing that day.
How could I?
It was the end of homeroom,
drone of announcements,
the pledge of allegiance,
lunch orders —
patty melt or fish sub?

They would think it
out of place, my song.
I took a coward’s silence.
I groan for this.
But what can I do?

How much I wanted
to give them,
any handful of seashells
or polished glass, sand
passed through fingers.

How little has changed:

My soul is heavy
I’m alive.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Nature's Sweet Message For You Today

Two days in a row I’ve seen the same frog
snugged into the mud by the makeshift
bridge in the watershed.
Yesterday she didn’t move at all,
just sat there, all brown and earthy,
a testament to camouflage and
will you just keep your mouth shut
for once and listen.


I wrote to a friend recently about how I really want to create right now. Every twenty minutes or so I get a blind energy, a dustup of motivation that moves me to research, take notes, or roll around on the floor with a chair and dream. Then it seems as soon as that phase is over, the doomblob rolls in, and everything feels dire and purposeless.

There's a list of projects I am pursuing very slowly, like a cat in the underbrush, wiggling and pausing, adjusting her line of sight, and pausing some more. Is this bird worth it? Is it too big? I may get my eyes pecked out.

When I'm not having full on panic attacks, making soup out of leftovers, or avoiding Facebook by reading Boing Boing, I do yoga, keep up my hoop practice, or "follow along" with free Zumba routines available online now. There's plenty online, and I'm terrible at Zumba. I do not have the hair-flipping, sexybod moves for the choreographies, but I really enjoy the attempt, the fail, and the increase in heart rate. I laugh at myself. What else is there?

Then and only then, when I have written and exercised, do I have permission to go outside and stare at a frog.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Lady Wreck raises her glass
and drinks to the stiffness
in her neck, lostness of the day.
She veers into the sofa, her helm
of anxiety crashes into waves
of ambient light and laugh tracks.

Lady Wreck is so grateful to be here,
hello, hello, it’s lovely to be back
where no one can see her
billowed under blankets,
the words of her friend in a loop:

there are refrigerated trucks
outside on the streets
full of dead bodies

Lady Wreck sets her head down,
sweats, shivers, breathes in all
the hull of her body (a dinghy)
wouldn’t allow before,
takes the full weight
of the ocean on board.

Monday, April 20, 2020

As Easy as Herding a Duck

"How do you herd a duck?" is a Google search string I've typed recently, and of course, I found a helpful video on YouTube. What we've learned in the past two weeks as we take the ducks to and from their tractor, is that when frightened, ducks will play-doh themselves through small spaces, get stuck in concrete blocks, huddle in brambles, and veer off under stairwells then shoot out the bottom openings like "Vend-O-Duck."

We've also learned that they have personal kinespheres, just like people do, and once you learn their comfortable space bubble, you can use their flock instincts, and some cooked corn, to get them to go where you want them to (mostly). This morning we had our first real success, getting them out of the brooder in the greenhouse, and outside to the pyramid without any real snags. This is the first morning they are out there early, rather than later, and with any luck, we'll get them into their coop tonight.

A couple of weeks before lockdowns and social distancing began, eight ducklings arrived at our local post office and I got a call from the postmaster, Fran, to come "pick up your box full of chirps." We've been fortunate for the past two months to be preoccupied with ducklings. We were not prepared for the constant stream of care required, or the endless questioning over brooder light wattage, how to build a secure coop, or what kind of grit is needed for their digestion. But I am glad we've had the vast opportunities for creative problem solving while we've been sheltering in place. It's kept our minds and bodies busy.

I've annoyed countless friends with texts of duck pics (for the record, you really need to proofread your text messages when mentioning ducks). I've hounded my friend Howard, the Animal Whisperer, for advice and guidance.

Ducks grow fast. They are messy. They outgrew everything within a few weeks, and we lost two of them (Moonlight and The Undertoad). They've spent the past few weeks growing in a brooder made out of a livestock waterer, in a corner of the warm greenhouse.

We began to build a coop with supplies picked up, and later had delivered, the chicken wire and two by fours piling up outside our house. We researched, and planned, and neither of us has carpentry skills or any particular spatial genius. We ended up with what I call "Patchy Milatchy," or "The Duck Bunker," or "The Quack Shack."

The whole build was a "it's a learning experience!" of problems overcome with ah-ha solutions. One I applied yesterday. A couple of screws were poking out of the walk-up side of the ramp, so at Dan's suggestion, I grabbed a couple of wine corks and screwed them on. Ingenious.

The coop has to be weasel proof, and it is, we hope. It is so tightly built, that when the wood swells during rainy weather, the door is difficult to shut. It's do-able, and then locked down with two sliding hasps.

We also built a "duck tractor," a moveable safe haven for them to be in while we're not out on the property with them. It's a pyramid, because that was the easiest to build with the materials we had, and also Dan's idea.

I'm not sure what would be out there for them if I was left to my own devices to build something. I found myself outside this week on a sunny day, snagged in a curl of poultry netting, with a handful of those jabby fenceposts at my feet, trying to envision a duck run with the materials we had left over. I gave up. So for now, the ducks will move from their coop to the tractor, or out onto the pond.

My next search string for Google is, "How do you get ducks to come in from swimming on the pond?"

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sunday Funnies (or not so)

A Short List of Things I No Longer Lick

Envelopes, to seal
A finger, to coax a page turn
The nib of a drying pen (rare, but still)
Any frayed end of yarn or string
A finger, to pick up a small piece of paper
A finger, to twiddle a plastic bag open

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Throwing Confetti Into a Vacuum Cleaner

Lists are just a way to feel in control of your life, and to put a sense of order to your day. I go through phases of making them and abandoning them. Not making a list means "anything can happen," but making a list sort of means the same thing. You are not in control.

The daybook I put together for 2020/21 is dormant right now, sitting on the edge of my desk. I'm not sure when I opened it last. If we were not in the midst of a pandemic, and all was well in the world, I'd be in full swing with a residency at an elementary school where I'd be teaching writing for the stage. Last night would have been the April edition of the Only an Hour Variety Hour, and today there would be a workshop in the Wunderbarn. We'd have overnight guests here, too. The coffee would be percolating, and breakfast plans would be underway.

Instead, I'm here with my cold cup of coffee, considering making a list so I don't lose my mind, or be the cause of my husband losing his, or spend too much time texting friends terrible YouTube videos or duck photos.

There's a lot of "would have been," that wants to be "is," and with a series of present moments that shift from doom to dim, I'm finding it difficult to make any plans. Everything feels like throwing confetti into a vacuum cleaner.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Wise Woman

By our pond the river birch resists a borer,
grows without applause for shows,
releases catkins, curls her bark, gets older —

knows when it's time to let things go.

There are so many beautiful and unique trees on our property, but I think my favorite so far is the river birch. It has a quality of quiet the other trees don't. This quiet is much needed right now, and was last year as well when we moved here and my mother was dying. Last spring when I was panic researching the types of trees I was seeing with the Audubon Guide to Trees, I gave up on the wych elm, which beguiled me with its strange, early leaves that looked like alien hairdos. Even a visiting arborist shrugged over it. I identified it later by downloading an app, and felt like I'd cheated. But that day, in my disappointment, the river birch beckoned for me to sit and and just be. It had let go of a lot of the little branches in a recent windstorm, and I got a sense of calm from being under it, looking up at the clouds and a twinkle of glossy leaves. It is somehow both shaggy and stately, like a wise woman. I find her branches after storms, little reminders that it is good to let go, to allow for new growth.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Have You Sanitized the Cat Yet?

Our daily rituals are now opportunities for infection. I find myself in a constant internal dialogue about cleanliness. Have you sanitized the doorknobs since receiving that package? You left it outside for 24 hours in the sunshine, then brought it into the kitchen where you took out the contents. You wiped the contents down, broke down the box, put the box in the recycling outside, and then you washed your hands, but did you sanitize the doorknob? The light switch? What else did you touch? Should you sanitize the cat? And what about your shoes? Have you cleaned your shoes? On the news last night they were saying that steps you take could be steps toward infection. The virus might be on your soles now.

Yesterday morning we discussed what dinner ingredients we had and I darkly joked that we wouldn't have anything to talk about at 3 p.m. since we now had a plan. We are fortunate to be food secure here, for the moment. Plenty of tuna and chickpeas, leafy greens growing, and Dan bakes bread. I look forward to the day when what we are growing we are able to share.

Our lives are so routine I can tell you where I'll be in an hour and a half, or in three hours, or at 6 p.m. In a normal world, routine is comforting, but this kind of routine is different. It's an attempt to control time, similar to how life in a nursing home operates. I'm hyper-aware of the hour. I have about another 30 minutes before I'll be sitting at the kitchen table with my husband, discussing our plans for the day.

I took a break from Facebook to avoid the endless scrolling, and everyone else's anxieties, tips and advice, and the constant stream of videos, free entertainment, and good ideas.

Am I being more productive? Not really. I feel frozen, unable to fire up the engines of energy required to pursue any purposeful project, be it paying work, or non-paying pursuits that I have begun and have stalled, collaborations, writing groups, attempts at juggling, and piano practice.

Laundry gets done. I clean the floors on my hands and knees. Animal care predicates a lot of my daily schedule, as does meal planning. I am capable of daily movement (circus training, yoga, walking) and writing, and that is about all. It feels useless at this time, but it is what I can do, and what makes me feel normal and sane.

Yesterday, after propping up a sagging maple branch, treating the goats to some pear scraps from breakfast, and collecting kindling for a fire, I walked out and looked into the surface of the pond. What I saw was a slice of the world upside down, and I knew I could stand and stare at it for as long as I wanted without having to wash my hands.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


There were plenty of peaches last August —
a hundred thousand suns drowsed on branches,
some fallen already, bites out of them.
The rule was no eating as you filled the basket,
but there were bites out of the ones on the ground,
people were cheating. How could you not
in the face of all that plumpness, sweetness
that buzzed with luscious fruit magnetism?
Everyone darted through the trees like insects,
drunk on the togetherness of strangers devoted
to a common cause,  and the children
of the family who tended the trees
gave everyone a little cart to wheel
through the rows, to make the hoarding
easier, a lighter load.

You went for another basket and then we had way
too many peaches for our household of six,
so I peeled and froze a bunch after we gorged
on all we could, and now, months later, with
all of us a safe distance apart, I bake a pie:

and drain
the extra juices
so the crust
isn’t soggy,
use a binder
like cornstarch
and surprise,
it turns out
to be artificial,
like holding
a conversation
with a peach
through a bad
phone line,
its voice
through the crust
and crumble,
a squeak,

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Other: A Prayer for Comfort

The comfort I need now
is in the sawblade of anger
bearing down
instead of saddling up
my merry-go-round
of horses again.
With some relaxation,
the teeth of the saw
will do the work, break
a clean line,
a boundary.

The comfort I need now
is to let the long story
of apathy and depression
inside my home, and fire up
the kettle of complaint
to feel its hiss and piss
and oh, what is that,
more anger, rising?
How it changes the air,
clings to walls, tears up
on the windows,
slides down
every surface,
pools to reflect
my grubby face.

The comfort I need now
is the needle of sadness
its eye threaded with flame,
the point darting tiny holes
in the perfect linen
of my childhood.

The comfort I need now
is the agility of fear
and its whisper of secrets
I already heard but ignored,
the ones I learned from dreams.

The comfort I need now
is a spotlight, a flashlight,
a candle will do,
so I can stand in the light
of my shame
for this instant of forever.
You have come to understand
that I don’t know anything
and I look jowly
with a light on me like this,
saggy with age, tired.

The comfort I need now
is for you to see
who I really am,
my shadow,
oddly shaped
from the happiness
of the sun, twin
goofs, spoofs
of each other.
See how when one exits
the other
isn’t far

Monday, April 13, 2020

It's Not Easy Being Green

When you can say, "I made this over 30 years ago," you are no longer young. You might not be ancient old yet, but if you were capable of making something out of material other than play-doh in the late 80's or early 90s, you're not young anymore. You were young then. You were ready for everything, and full of the world.

The one thing I did yesterday that was satisfying and met with some success (I burnt our dinner, and had quite a flap of a time getting ducks back inside, and I'm generally itchy and miserable right now but I'm alive), was repainting and refreshing a garden sign I made for my parents over 30 years ago.

The sign reads "It's not easy being green - Kermit the Frog." I can hear the enthusiasm in my mother's voice as she tells me she and dad discussed possible garden quotes and this one was the winner. I remember my choice of Celtic letterform, and the embellishment with a thistle.

I was smitten with the meaning of thistles, which is bravery, courage, and loyalty in the face of treachery. I had to add something symbolic and high falutin' because I was 20 and reading Wuthering Heights and the poetry of William Blake. I wore a lot of black then, and had a bad heart rhythm, and was anemic with poetry. I never thought about how a thistle is a garden weed. If my parents eye rolled at the thistle, I never saw it. They loved the sign, and placed it on the gate that led into their little kitchen garden patch where it remained for several years. This was the garden where Mom grew tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and oregano, and the contents inspired her perfection of eggplant parmesan, which she made often.

When they took down the fence, the sign disappeared, until a couple of years ago when I found it in the basement of their house, just as it was about to be sold. There it was, screwed into the bottom of one of dad's stained glass work tables where he'd used it to create a side for a glass filing system. It was still in service. When I saw it, the question that governed that time in our lives loomed: Did I want it? My sister and I had spent almost a year clearing out our parent's house -- selling, giving away, or sheepishly acquiring the objects of mom's life. I decided I wanted the sign, found a screwdriver, and worked out the screws. I took the sign home where I put it on the back porch of our rental, where it didn't make much sense.

When we moved to our new home, the garden sign ended up out by the kitchen garden, where it sat on a green plastic chair. It caught my eye recently. It was stained with mold, and looking faded. I had plenty of time to refresh it in the middle of an isolating afternoon, so yesterday I sat out on the grass by the duck tractor and spent an hour or so painting. I traced over my old letterforms, the ascenders and descenders of my youth, letters robust with feeling and intent. I replaced only one thing. The thistle. In its place is a cotyledon -- the first leaves of a plant. A simple sprout that can be anything. Ready for the world.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Assignment for Self-Isolation

Turn on the oven for no reason at all.
Regard every object in your room with a hello, including the nail file.
Listen to that noise you can’t identify without trying to name it.
Describe your shoe, in detail. Now you’ve said something about death.
Forget a relative’s name, then sort through old photos as if you’ll remember.
Try to describe the sky without using the words blue, cloud, or paperweight.
Tell us what you’re really feeling right now.
Sing a song about three lies you’ve told.
Pick at that scab. Poke at the wound.
Write about how lists are just attempts at control.
Wonder why you are writing at all.
Be enthusiastic and smiley for no reason, and live with how rotten it feels.
Cheat on the personality quiz.
Make a list of ten things that are impossible.
Make a list of six things that bring you joy.
Make a list of three things that are wrong with the world.
Now title your list poem: “The Narrator Is Not Me”
Build a relationship with someone in your mind, cheat on them,
and write about it in one sentence.
What was the aftermath?
What was the why?
Now write about all of it using only one word.
Tell about your life without using any pronouns or the letter s.
Use a semicolon, then apologize for it.
Use a lot of exclamation marks, and don’t apologize.
Make a list of three lies you have told.
What was the best lie you ever told?

What do you wish you had done differently?
Walk around the bottom of a lake and tell us what you see.
Get angry, lava level angrysad, and then bake a loaf of bread.
Everyone is baking, it's better than thinking too much.
Your oven is warm enough now.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Turncoat of Hope

We’ll get through this
perhaps, it’s feasible,
within our reach,
there’s a likelihood,
eventually, some
it’s within the realm,
Deo volente,
well, it's contingent upon,
achievable, actionable,
probably, sure,
it is likely,
it’s a tossup
of imaginable

Thursday, April 09, 2020

This Poem Can't Live Up To The Epigraph

“The Sun is thousands of times bigger than Earth; I block it out with my hand.”
            - William Stafford

Well now I’ve done it,
started a poem with an epigraph
by none other than William Stafford
and now every syllable of this piece
better live up to the giant, the Sun.
And that means, if you follow the logic
of the metaphor? analogy? aphorism?
(she’s unsure, ha, ha!), I block his words
out with my hand, like that redactive
poetry scheme to reveal a fresher
universe of language:

Nope, that’s not me,
not my hand, anymore,

I won’t try to sell you this poem.

My pen across the page
makes a sound that tells
me nothing about where it is headed,
(also a thought of Stafford’s,
a beam directly into my brain).

I never know what to expect,
or when everything is finished,
what I've said or omitted,
if anything has taken root
at all, or even if it matters.

The ideal life for words:
under the Earth (not a star!)
instead of above it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020


Wow. Just wow.
It’s time to clean up your mess.
Do a number on this ghost room,
clear out the salmagundi.

The piles are irreverent —
jumbles of photographs,
gum wrappers, spent matches.
Lift the fragile heft of reminders,
that half a fence post, bent pewter steins,
your father’s commemorative lighter,
and the closet filled with your scribbles.

If you can’t let go, just catalogue
the imbroglios of your life
in ten year increments, write out
the tabs, file all those olla podridas
of humiliations.

What are you going to do about this:

the coffee can full of keys
to unlock doors that no longer
exist, from all your family addresses
that are now outlines
in the air.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Self Portrait As Bitten By Mosquitoes

Nightfall, sundown,
dusk, the gloaming,
(as my husband calls it),
twilight, the time you most
want to be outside, perhaps
waiting for the song
of the ice cream truck,
playing a hijinx of hopscotch,
or enjoying a drink on the patio,
you hear their high whine.

Oh the grey clouds that hover
over the pond, or malinger
in damp grasses, or damnedest of all
they slip into the house through
torn screens. Blood bandits.
I’ve fought them all my life.
They love my 98.6 degrees
of Type A positive.

“All mosquitoes that bite you
have your name,” said
my grandfather one summer
when I was poxed with bites
so badly I got a fever.

Last night I caught one
poised by my face, eye-to-eye,
taking my temperature
as I brewed tea,
and I brought my hands
together in a smack so loud
and sharp my palms rang
out like church bells,
a holy palmers' kiss.

When I opened
the book of my hands
there was this text
you read now
written sanguine,
the poem of me.

Monday, April 06, 2020

A Grocery Story

Pretty soon, you’ll hear the drums
that make up the stark accompaniment
for this fragile bulk of emotion
at our grocery stores,
a theatre of masks
under the thrummy-chummy
fluorescent lights.

A man with a plaid scarf
wrapped around the lower half
of his head sets the stage
for a snowstorm drama.

The young woman with tranquil calico
spread across her mouth and nose
is a prairie romance.

A skulk of bandits in the bakery
aisle eye donuts from under
triangles of bandanas:
a western.

The most vulnerable
character is the elder
in an N-95, a turtle
with a walker pocket
full of cat treats
and a cart piled
with TV dinners.
A bewitching
who has something
important to show
us all if we aren’t
too fearful to see it:

That blue gaff tape
reminds us players
where we must stand
to find our light
at the check-out.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Not a Poem/Letting Go

While everyone else is making masks, or delivering groceries, I've been writing poems. I'm not proud of this. I feel frozen. I'm terrible in a crisis. Introspective, or worse, panicky. When there was a fire here on Thanksgiving, I ran out to the pond, screaming and crying. Very useful. At least I know myself?

I've been outside a lot, as weather will allow it, to help dig an extension to our kitchen garden. Images of this work have come up in a couple of recent poems -- roots, digging, worms. I shared a few photos on Facebook of my gleeful ride on the broadfork. There's circus showmanship in it, but overall, it's work with a capital W. Rocks haven't made it into my recent poems yet, but they have been plentiful.

Yesterday the blades of the broadfork tinged off several rocks as I made attempts to gain ground. I had a hard time gaining any kind of ground. I fought with a long root, got rained on, windblown, heard my shoulder pop, and finally moved the stake that marks the end of the garden because I was too tired to finish the last little wedge.

Yeah, that's right, I cheated. I gave up. My whole body yelped. The space might have held  another cabbage or two. The garden is huge. We'll have plenty of cabbages to share, was my justification.

I have my husband's practicality to thank for this garden. For all the greening here. It was his vision to grow our own food, and his ingenuity and determination have gotten us to a point where we can. We had a shared vision to live in a place like this (years ago we wrote letters to each other describing the details of this house), and the nature is nurturing, especially now, but it was his good sense that brought us to growing lots of vegetables. The greenhouses are filled with growth. The gardens are chilly, but starting to show promise.

My husband is practical. I am not.

While he's been doing the research and work necessary to bring food to tables, I've been perfecting my eight hoop split, writing poetry, and dreaming of being followed by a parade of ducks.


Oh, here's a rock.

A memory of my mother on the floor, with a broken shoulder, the moment that led to her losing everything in her life that brought her joy and purpose -- theatre work, keeping a house, writing letters, snuggling her cat. All of that, gone. Now she's gone.


I feel a little more of what she might have felt. I'm glad she's not here for this pandemic, and I miss her presence in my life. I hear her message of "You have to let go of what you once were," while I'm outside, digging. Even though there's the hope that I may return to the work that gives me purpose and a lift in my step, right now there's no point in pursuing it. No, I do not want to do Zoom classes, or put on a costume to perform to an audience of screens.

I have no sense of purpose now, other than to disturb worms, and I need to be ok with that. I need to be quiet, and listen.

It might be ok to feel frozen right now. To not know what to do. It might be what's best for me.

But today I need to pull out my mother's sewing machine and make masks, because we have to go out and get groceries.


Oh look who it is! Miss Whatever-Her-Name-Was, our home economics teacher in the 8th grade. There she is admonishing me for not paying attention while she showed us how to wind the bobbin. I was daydreaming, of course. Look at that cloud.

Friday, April 03, 2020

For You

Here’s a potato.
That’s it, yes, a potato,
something for you to eat
dug out of the ground
with my hands
which I washed
before digging
and washed again
after (I like dirt under nails)
and then I scrubbed
both the potato and my hands
and now it’s been
out on our porch
for 24 hours
in the sunlight,
so when you’re out
for your walk
you can come
pick it up —
the one potato
that somehow
this winter.

Thursday, April 02, 2020


I wish I could say what I am
or am not going to write about
with some air of authority,
but the days offer up what they will —

Canyons of resistance,
the open beak of a dying bird,
a root taken hold in the garden
like an umbilical cord.

I don’t know what any of it means,
the terrible burble of images
I reach down into my throat for
past ribcage,
and stomach,
into the glistening dark
of sweet, warm blood
that is the me, you, me, you tide
to pull up a handful of what
rich men fear and mock —

Common shells of silence
or moaning weeds of the real,
all the sudden,
spontaneous operas
sung after we hear
the swarming,
wounded pulses
in our own ears.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020


Time has stripped the letters
from all the tabs in my dictionary,
gagged the alphabetical order.
Your guess is as good as mine
where the word “prank” hides.
What a gambol definition is now.
Olly olly oxen free!
Ah, there you are, you hotfooter,
just thirteen entries fooling
over “pray.”