Saturday, October 30, 2010

I ordered coffee today from a man with eyes that bobbed and shook. Cartoonish and leering, his Halloween mask was huge as I said, regular coffee, light and sweet, please.

Muffled, but casually, he said, two dollars?

With a normal hand he took my cash. Like most of us, the disguise is never complete.

Not a good day for me. My personality was a little drop of moisture running from sunlight.

Those around me are cautious, uncertain, and wondering what will jar me from silence into criticism. Not very happy for any of us. I should live in the camper.

Poor Jerry. He just wants to have decent time with his daughter, time minced and stolen by divorce. Then there is me, the cheerless grouch grouching.

All Hallow's Eve and the lost souls come rushing. Through weak moments and sour thoughts they slip in.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lily likes the stringy things on my feet and nibbles and tugs to undo my laces.

Today: A muddy path stamped with dog prints and bordered by pumpkin vines leads the way. Autumn reminds me of corduroy. Everything has a texture. Part of this roughness is an illusion of splotchy colors and clouds. The fall is not smooth like a key struck on the piano, the dying note a falling feather.

Autumn is a scratchy surface where plants shrivel back into the ground and darkness casts its shadows earlier at daylight's edge.

Bright orange gourds and tractors pulling bales of hay and children will distract us while morning frost glues itself to the grass.

Jerry is not home this week and the darkness hides things that frighten me.

There is nothing in the darkness that is not there in the light, he tells me.

Oh, I disagree. The moonlight plucks pockets of moisture off of random surfaces to move them across the night, rippling, what was that?

I had to run back down to the car tonight, I know.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We were 18 years old and at school and everything was new, like wet paint. We loved everything. We had a fascination with opening lines that found us shouting, that would be a great opening line!

What started us: none of us noticed the body at first. It's the first line to Robert Coover's Gerald's Party.

I still love it.

What makes a great novel, story, or any written thing at all is the first phrase. No dust cover synopsis can tout a writer's words better than the writer's words.

Does this work for poetry and music? I think so.

From Neil Young comes a provoking, forlorn line: I think I'll pack it in and buy a pick up.

I sang along. I daydreamed the way 18-year-olds do. I bought a pick up.

A 1971 Dodge Power Wagon. Two-wheel drive, three on the tree. My Toyota croaked roadside and the guy who yanked the Tercel home with a landscaper's chain stopped off at a garage to show me a truck. It was a pasty flesh color. Salmon? Pale pink? and someone spray painted its rims red and slapped an Arkansas Razorback sticker on the window.

If you start it, you can have it, he told me.

Well, he started it, and I drove it for more than a year until it was either, buy another car or buy the farm.

Another Neil Young favorite: Oh, hello Mr. Soul I dropped by to pick up a reason.

We're all looking for a reason, right? For a long time Lily was my reason, when previously each day had been a bland, limp thing. There was no satisfaction anywhere.

From Charles Bukowski: the flesh covers the bone and they put a mind in there and sometimes a soul.

Reading the comments to follow this poem someone states: Bukowski is a sad, bitter old man.


What is the point of today's blog entry? Who cares!

About tattoos. I am thinking about constellations and zodiac signs winding all around my hips, ribs, shoulders, trickling down my arms and creeping across fingers. Something like that. Folklore and myth are cool, but the stories our imaginations have ascribed to the sky linger.

Once we thought the Earth was flat. Sailors plummeted beyond the horizon -- salt shakers rolling off the table. Our minds believed our eyes. The Earth was flat.

Where are the stars? We have not yet sailed beyond that horizon to discover that we can quietly circle back to sneak up on those we left behind staring into the distance with their hands shielding their eyes.


Monday, October 25, 2010

God! What do I do with this, she asks. She is at the bar, exasperated. Apparently her ride is drunk, and now she's stranded.

Reach out and grip his neck. Squeeze a little, I tell her.

Other people push in: I want four electric currents!



From another direction I hear, Kendra?

I'll be right there, I say.

From behind me: Kendra!

Just a sec.


Give me a second…

No kidding. Thursdays are this fast, demanding, and shotgun-fired at the bar.

Saturated and thick, they have liquor stamina! They are huge!

Kendra! Four more currents!

Who is driving, I ask.

Pointing, I see who they mean.

OK, four it is, I say.

I can handle this environment.

Noise and people normally bother me and during the day I slink toward quiet corners, but I thrive in the live music's slamming noise, the mess, and drunkenness at the bar.

I think it's because I am the stable piece in this environment, which soothes me. For once I can reach out and hang on to something sturdy when the turbulence is bad, and it's me. Screw everyone else. I can rely on myself. That's all I really want.

Tomorrow will be exactly two months away from the day I picked up muddy, shitty, scrawny Lily from around the corner. I still have work to do to keep her, Bandit, Hershey, and Ozzy happy and warm.

A friend asked me: What would you carve on a pumpkin?

Constellations. Patterns in the stars that appeared as scorpions, crabs, rams, bears, and warriors detailed in sparkling fireflies of light on a coal-black sky. How beautiful to see that same spark from inside a pumpkin.

Forever imaginations have pointed to stars like a finger against a frosted window, drawing meaning from clusters of light. Eyes turned upward and wondering. If left alone to think, the mind will give us an answer. Was it hallucination? A sign? The voice of spirits?

I realize this is part of my sprawling Tattoo That I Do Not Have Yet. It will start around my back or my waist and wind upward. A zodiac tumbling across flesh plucked and bloodied from an artist's needle.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I met another shepherd named Lily today.

Darker, and with more pliable ears, she was narrow and sleek like my Lily. She chased a stick someone threw, and others thought the idea was great. Like a spreading rash, everyone tossed the stick as she panted and ran.

She was exhausted finally, and I crouched down pouring bottled water into my cupped palm. She licked and lapped.

We kept Debbie company at her house after a service for Tim. We looked at photos and remembered him lightly, so that the weight of his death did not crush us.

I asked Debbie when she got Lily. Her answer amazed me.

She said, about a year ago. I got her for Tim.

Still pondering death I wandered through the house they had shared and gaped at so much food. Trays of chicken and pasta salad, baked zit, pies, pastries, cold cuts, potato chips, chicken in wine and butter sauce, fatty, salty, and tasty things covered every counter, table, sideboard and surface.

If we eat we are not crying. If we bring food we are not arriving amid bereavement with empty hands that are unable to comfort. We are useful and full of purpose as we unveil a useless potato au gratin dish. Quickly we make big important work of cleaning dirty forks and spoons, pouring coffee, and greeting guests and friends as they arrive. Meg leans on Addie and says, Oh, I am drunk! While Addie looks at Debbie L. and says, I wish I felt like you. Debbie tells her, I feel mellow, easy. She laughs a laugh I love like pulling on warm gloves, like incense.

She got up to make more Cosmos and smile and talk with friends. Timmy had died and we were here at his house and missing him.

We talked of vacations and jobs. Resumes and diets. New shoes and our children.

Where is Tim right now, and did consciousness follow him?

I miss my friend. I look at Mary, Meg, Nancy, Mike, Everyone…I have to be good to these people as often as I can. Their lives are woven together and wrap around my own.

We stare at death like a candle flame or the moon. We look endlessly, learning nothing and hoping a spark of understanding will nip away at the edges.

We can't imagine forever.

Everything we know has a bottom, a top, an ending.

Timmy is a wisp of flame to me. He will warm my hands and keep bright one small corner of my thoughts.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Death is always a surprise. We could stand facing the sunrise for years watching its pounding feet approach, then wake one morning gasping as death's blank face turns to us, or past us to strike a friend.

Death's face is our own. Reflected on the smooth opal eyes is sadness, fright, wonder, relief, hope, despair. An end perhaps? Or not. Death looks inward; it looks out. It is bound only by our thoughts and imagination.

Years ago a friend had lost her husband. While he was sick and slipping toward the end I listened each day as she talked, her face creased, and she waited. I listened as she told me about his bad night. Pain. Discomfort. Uncertainty.

When my grandmother died my friend had said, you'll remember her, and in dreams or memory she will get younger.

Possibly. Maybe I will flip through the mental images in a flash, remembering my grandmother all at once, rather than a time on a Monday when I was 10 and she sat rubbing her hands together. We were waiting for the school bus. Or again when she stayed at my apartment and mom left me a container of turkey soup to heat later on. I was at least 30.

I want to say goodbye to Timmy Eye. He was a quiet guy. He would rather hear what you were saying than talk over you. He would rather watch and listen than jump in. His few words were always the right ones.

Rarely do I bristle, but one day the first shift bartender clocked out as I took over for the night shift, and rather than join her friends, she hopped back behind the bar several times to serve them shots. The bar would not make money this way. Barking, I said, Sherri, you really need to stop that. Let me work…

Lots of sour energy coursing around inside after that.

Watching from beneath the brim of his hat, Timmy told me, sometimes things need saying.


His energy, breath, warmth, and thought will disperse for nature to reclaim. Is he still here, but without voice or substance? Probably. The ground soaks in water that the sun draws back out and the sky returns as rain.

What freezes will thaw. What burns becomes ash. None of it disappears.

Monday, October 18, 2010

His obituary's indifferent capital letters tell me he is dead. My friend Tim with cancer inside his head prompting surgeries and fear, tears, hope, crushed hope. We visited, then we stayed away.

The obituaries and I often have coffee together since Ed died. When your friends are sick, you check.

Carefully I read the names every day.

We knew and did not want to know. Each day passed and we learned: Tim is in the hospital, or Tim is back home...

Today I found his name.


Do I tell him right away? Do I warn him that I am about to tell him?

I call and say, Jerry? Timmy Eye died Saturday.

On the couch later I snuggle under his ridiculous pink blanket and he says, can you believe Timmy is dead.

I look at the gray and red stubble sprouting, I look at dog hair stuck in the blanket's weave. I look out the back door at cats on our patio.

No, I tell him.

Brain cancer.

A friend, a soft laugh. Fingers worn with work. Strong hands. Timmy was a quiet man.

A couple summers ago we drove through town and I called them up. Visiting was tough. He was not Timmy the guy ready for a beer and happy to see his friends. He wasn't feeling well, and I sensed he was angry that his words would not come, that his thoughts were slow from treatments and medication.

But we spent time with him, just a little.

There is such a looming abyss of nothing between you and someone with his hands on the bottom rung of death.

I will miss my friend. I will see him in the spaces he once occupied next to his wife when we get together for Christmas, when we plan our camping trip, whenever we are together and he is not there.

Suddenly, we are one less.

The day after Timmy died I wrapped gloved hands around Jerry and held on. Wind plucked at my sunglasses and I would not know my friend had died for another day. Through falling red and orange leaves, I watched sunlight filter through an autumn tree canopy, tossing pastel shadows across the stream of motorcycles. At a Litchfield county winery gravel crunched beneath kickstands.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Here we go: I do not want a Borders reward, spy camera, workout pass, to claim my cash, to see foreclosures, shoes on sale, my horoscope, or anything via national satellite.

I have no interest in job alerts, Las Vegas media, insurance finders, your horoscope, or the president's daily astrological forecast.

No thank you eHarmony, and invites to meet singles in my area, or even see them for free. As if we choose our dates by flipping through glossy mags and saying, oh, I like this one. Won't he go nicely with my new shoes?

Rotten e-mail advertising.

Upon my doorstep even the most diligent salesman will die. May he stand there until his fu@!ng finger cramps on the doorbell. May his knuckles bleed from knocka knocka knocking. May he wither while I slip out the back.

Jerry says I am cheap. I say he has one opinion too many. I just don't spend money unless I really want something.

After all, I shook out my wallet and money fell like snow in the veterinary establishments where employees peeked at my arrival with Lily and cheered. Here comes Money Bags!!!!!

Tonight with Lily's face peering up from between my palms and her ears tickling my fingertips, I appreciate the beauty of symmetry. One side is not always mostly like the other.

Standing in the grocery store isle perusing new releases, best sellers and favorite authors blah blah blah I saw a dog's little lopsided face with something more wrong than an odd asymmetry. The dog on the cover stared at the camera after recovering from what could have been a burn, a skull crushing accident, a lawnmower injury, and a stroke. His lips were loose as if the muscles and nerves were either too damaged or severed to keep his smile up. His eyes were right, but the flesh, missing ear, and creases of scar tissue twisted him.

Flipping to an image inside, there is the dog seated in the center of a family portrait. Mom and dad and kids surround him, smiling.

I flip again and find an explanation. The ripped apart and badly healed animal was a dog fight victim. Police found him.

I really have considered seeking employment with an animal rescue agency or some type of municipal animal control. But how could I do either of these jobs without killing abusive, negligent, and stupid people who intentionally or through measures of dimwittedness bring harm, starvation, pain, and bloody suffering to their pets? I would kill them, resurrect their bodies, and kill them again.

I have often sat aghast at the extravagant, thorough methods of pain that people concoct for one another. More than hatred, it's giddy and rewarding for the man who holds another's head by the hair to rip flesh apart like he's trimming hedges.

I saw this dog's damaged little face and I understand.

Within each of us is a little piece of killer that most of us never nudge.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lily's hereafter is here with me. She follows and we pass through time like an accordion.

Nobody likes to think of the end. A door slamming. Shoes clicking clicking and growing distant.

Where do we go? Where was I the other morning as I looked inside my head, half asleep and hundreds of thoughts rose rapidly like steam like a train a plague a thousand bees.

Tattoos. Not the stuff of fresh Sunday comic strip vibrance and with meanings as short lived, but indelible thoughts feelings words images. Permanence.

I have a tattoo. At 18 I could not wait. Drawing and erasing and scratching down an outline again, I finally created something of my own imagination. A tattoo artist traced my design with a thick ink and slapped the paper against my skin, then lifted, then punctured. He dragged a jack-hammering needle across pores and follicles and flesh and drew blood that he wiped away with a gloved hand. I counted ceiling tiles window panes and cabinet doors. I stared at artwork on his walls the top of his head bent over a buzzing vibration against sore skin. Rip off a particularly sticky bandage from the same spot a few times until the skin is really raw and so so so sore. That's a tattoo.

Before he began the man asked me, are you sure?


Want to see the eraser?


He lifted an old fashioned straight razor, then flipped it open.

I love tattoos. They can be shocking, but I want them for beauty. To me beautiful is our own little individual truths like thoughts like lives like fingerprints. Like Tattoos.

Swirling like wisps of smoke or tendrils of hair, I want to rearrange shapes and wind them around my body. I want celestial I want Mother Nature. I want tattoos. I don't want people to look at me with shock and surprise like I am a child's toy of sparkling stark colors. Maybe I can yank into the light tiny thoughts festering for years in quiet parts of my mind. They stand with foreheads pressed against the window, but never leave the house. There behind the glass is the long ago desire for lots of tattoos. Every year at Christmas I promise myself a tattoo. Or my birthday or New Year's Day.

I see a clearer picture now as I swipe a finger across glass fogged by eager breath. I will have to start drawing and erasing and scratching down.

Hot cold and inky

Deep colors stab me again

Permanently stained.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This morning before sunrise as gaps of light turned charcoal pewter and deep gray, I wiggled my fingers against sheets cooling as Jerry's warmth disappeared.

He was having coffee somewhere and I was left with a cold lump in the mattress.

He was up early and half way to Manhattan. I was half way nuts.

The closet gaped from across the room, drenched in shadows where a growing silvery dust bruhed the edges of Things That Made Me Afraid. A wild toothed child infested with daemons from the Scary Movie I Should Have Never Watched was there.

I got up and got Lily.

One minute later after I had a mouthful of her nose tail ear and paws, she was back out in the living room.

I tried Ozzy next. Shuffling him and his snoring back out the door a few minutes later I decided to turn on the closet light and try to sleep another hour.

Looming and invisible was Father Dream with nimble fingers twirling and tugging gently, wrapping my fading consciousness into a skein winding winding and winding. My thread slipped between his fingers.

Dreams. Jerry's daughter does not talk with me much in real life. She says hi if I say hi. She says bye if Jerry tells her, say bye. But as morning quietly nudged against darker remnants of night hiding in corners, Erica sat on my bed where the dogs had been. Propped up on one hand, she talked and jabbed with the other. Her hair was combed out soft and shiny as her lips blurred and eyes swelled with excitement

I woke without hearing anything. What did she say?

Out again, Father Dream was not through. And he was not nice.

I walk into a country home. A tired but cozy cape with lots of natural wood and light. This is my friend Erin's house. Through a large front window I see a yard quelled by autumn. She is upstairs and I arrive in her home unannounced. Her husband turns to me, glasses and a baseball cap, he just looks at me then away.

What am I doing here?

Erin comes down and I apologize.

I'll be leaving, I tell her. I don't mean to barge into your home, I say.

It's OK, Kendra.

Relief. Erin, Your neighbor's dog…then we hear barking and angry young women cross the yard like toy sail boats, hair flying as they pass by the large window and bang on Erin's door.

Erin seems fine, I think. She is fine. Fine and nothing is wrong. But everyone is too quiet and watchful. The sunlight outside somehow stays out there, never making squares and crosses and rectangles of light on her living room floor.

I am late, I say. I have to call the editor.

I skip on a swath of grass separating back stoops from weathered wooden sheds. Searching for Erin's I find it, flanked by a little deck. Calling and ringing and garbled voices: I hear the editor say, You sound like you're calling from the hereafter!

I know, I yell into the phone.

Erin's home and family and daughters and outdoor shed and deck are just specks in a broad, tall grass field in Pennsylvania.

With my bright red new cell phone jammed on my ear I ask the editor if I can be late. I do not know how long it will take to get home. But the phone echoes. He is here. This barn board etched and weathered by rain cold sun and wind is his desk.

I have to tell you my dream, I say. I drive a convertible along a narrow path between hedges. A fox bites me and I can't shake him loose. Are you in the hereafter, he asks again. I am in a cemetery and wildlife is everywhere, swarming the open-topped car.

The hereafter? In dreams I think we see it sometimes.

I was afraid this morning and turned on my closet light. I am a baby.

Returning from work I pass the old farm house on my right near a forgotten field of goldenrod, spiked grasses and ragged asters. A fox hops out. He sees me and darts back toward the field, then changes his mind. He saunters ahead of me, then dips down along shallow ground.

Monday, October 11, 2010

With a napkin and a felt-tip pen she wrote:

ice crystals form on

Lily's loins ready to pounce

as winter clamps down

Daydreaming as neon glowed behind her, my friend handed me her poem.

I borrow these words and voice to talk about Lily tonight because my own thoughts are strolling somewhere in wet cement.

I might just squeeze things down to syllables, paring chatter into meaning.

Like lyrics or poems or highway signs, the terse words puncture.

A soft rain outside

Mumbles farewell to summer

Each day's light fading

Lily sleeps. A thicker skin wraps her ribs since last winter.

I did not imagine her dead until she was beyond danger. Then I let the What Ifs settle around me with their shiny daemon eyes. Lately I worry at the tufts of hair spilling, ticks crawling and slipping disease into her blood.

Words sleep, the mind floats, and I uncurl my fingers waiting for dreams.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lily post one hundred fifty.

Lately my thoughts are tumbleweeds.

Wisps of string in the wind a spider on the windshield a boulder learning to swim. My thoughts. They're fighting like tiny misshapen little grunts without weapons and crappy aim. I can at least throw a fit, but Aim seems to be in the lounge lounging well with a martini and cigar.

My thoughts solve life with bold dashes of intricate calculation in the low tide's smooth sand.

I sit here shuffling through words and ideas like a junkie with just one more pill somewhere.

What I am trying to say is that the Carousel spun too fast and until I stop seeing garish horse heads with jewel-trashed manes, and rubies and emeralds and diamonds and gold amid a spiral of colored lights, my little narrative voice will continue screaming.

We brushed Lily and out came tufts of puffy tan undercoat. Suddenly she is slim and dark. Strange.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

At the bar:

Demons grow in the dark like mildew. I close my eyes and they're larger. Clusters soon creep into the light where their inky surfaces solidify.

Scary Movie Syndrome rouses them, and they pop under pressure to bloom on the edge of sight. I know I am seeing reflections or shadows shifting as I step behind the bar and squat down to lower a case of Corona.

Two weeks ago I watched through my fingers as a young boy's face shimmered and distorted. The mouth snarled and cracked with teeth jutting and threatening. Now I think I see his silhouette, innocent like any child waiting for the school bus, but frightening when I repaint him with the ragged smears of imagination.

Fighting a panic stitched from ugly thoughts in my head I change the trash, sweep the floors, drag a mop across sticky tiles. If it's empty I fill it, if it's dirty I clean it…that's a bar, continually draining and replenishing. Get 'em drunk and send 'em home…

Last night in the early evening a woman sat crocheting a fine silver weave, placing beads throughout until she had a beautiful mesh necklace strung together. The Designated Driver. With her was a man drunk and breaking $50s on every round. He bought for himself his friend the boys in the corner the stranger beside him the couple at the table the cluster of friends rounding the opposite corner and more and more. Three rounds and the stranger beside him asked, hey, it's nice of you, but you don't have to keep buying.

What, you won't drink a shot with me?

His friend crocheted, chuckled, and adjusted her glasses.

Well, sure, the stranger said. I was just wondering.

Wondering? I am drunk. And, I am rich!

Laughter from us all as glasses rose.

From the corner: too bad you're not good looking, too.

We all laughed again.

Last week the open mic night's harsh chords and skipping melodies faded. One musician remained. I liked him. A voice like water. He did not have the sound of a coached man. With a deep breath and song in his head that had already traveled across his guitar strings, sound left his lips and expended. A natural voice an eager piercing beautiful voice like frosted crystal. I loved it. He sat and talked with another patron as I swept. His voice strode across the scales with sure-footedness and ease.

Beside him as they had performed was another, gentler voice that rose with a silky feminine lilt, like thick dark hair where a brush has passed hundreds of times, blending a thousand nuances into a sheen. She was a mouthful of honey a salve a sound that soaked the room, like snow or perfume.

They would leave soon, a jumble of lyrics and notes.

I wish I had Lily trained to sit in the shadows and lunge if I needed her.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fall moved in today, gently packing summer's last wisps of warmth and waving goodbye.

Had I mentioned a poem about Lily? A friend wrote:

Autumn shows its grace

as golden leaves fall upon
Lily's pointed ears

A chilly morning with sunlight bright in the air.

Today random chance spits up triple cherries again and I find something that is hard for me to see. A baby chipmunk writhes in the leaves. I am ready to bring down heavy crushing stones on lawn mower blades, but I realize this animal's suffering is not from an injury on the outside.

Did he fall from a tree? Is his pebble of a mind bruised after slamming into his skull?

His fur is smooth and perfect. His eyes are wide black polished beads glistening, unblinking.

Fright? He does not seem to react to me, even as I brush his back and trace a stripe in his fur.

Blind? But how would he have lived long enough to be semi-grown?

He pushes his head against the ground as if rubbing his ear, then his shoulder side back follow and a quick ribbon of white belly flashes as he twists, then straightens.

Had he been stung or bitten by something? His motion was rhythmic and brief. A few turns and he would sit and do something familiar to him: with his front paws he swiped mini fingers down across a blank face and twitching nose. Blink. He shivered while motionless, then twisted again.

Running up the walk I grab a wire bird cage that I keep for the things my pets harm, and I save. Harm save harm save. Lousy cats.

With cupped and gloved hands I nudge his wriggling body into the little cell and try feeding him drops of water with a syringe -- not needle, just a way to get medicine down the cats' throats, and now to feed this reluctant thing.

I make a phone call and leave a message for Joe, my animal rehab contact.

Heading back outside I hear Jerry: Kendra? He stares at the cage.

I look. The chipmunk is spinning, twisting, stopping, shivering.

You have to let it go, Jerry said.


Kendra, you have to.

I called the animal rescue for help, I said.

Let nature handle this. Something is wrong.


It's neurological or something, Jerry guesses.

I told him: I know…no injuries, he is off…

Let him go, Jerry said.

I did. I tipped the cage and shook gently until he slipped into the brush, twisting.

Friday night into Saturday morning, and I am home from the bar and pour a glass of beautiful ruby red wine for myself. Finally. A book and a sip and I ponder the new means of self-adoration that has cast its spell. Digital and hand-held, we have left the mirrors behind for photos and internet postings and a generation of people sitting home in their bedrooms with arms extended as camera flashes bring bright highlights to their lives. Look at me! Look at me!

I gave it a shot.

With my cell phone turned on me, I propped an elbow on the bar and sighed. Got a nice shot of my worn out face and smudgy make-up after two nights in a row closing the bar. Must be about 4:30 a.m. in this photo.

Lily lifts her head to watch the weird thing I do.