Saturday, April 30, 2011

I pictured scraps of paper dropped in clusters. Torn edges made shapes resembling nothing until I understood the frayed grays, blues, and white-rimmed reds.

My life is a mosaic of fuck-ups, I said. We sat in a dark bar after 2 am laughing at our horror stories. Confessions come out best in the hours before sleep, when we will dream and soon forget.

When I was five or six I thought that the 10-cent adjustable rings made of metal soft enough for my little fingers to bend was the most desirable thing at eye-level. As a kid the world exists in one-minute segments. Life is all about what is happening now. And now. Then now. I saw something pretty that I could reach, and fell in love. And just like real life, I would soon be sorry.

I looked at it long enough that my mother warned, put that back. Mothers are always a few steps ahead. I was stuck with the unfair disadvantage of never having been there before, while mom probably knew when we left that we would soon return to the department store.

I faked it. My sticky little kid's fingers hid that ring as we left the store.

Back in the car and on the way home, I lasted less than a mile before I said, the ring is in my pocket. Something like that. I know I did not say, hey, I jammed it in deep with the lint. I hoped to sound innocent.

A few minutes later we stood in the store. I saw the ring's empty slot staring at me.

Go give it back, my mother said.

Stuffing it in place was not enough. I had to hand the ring to the clerk.

I don't remember that part.

Lily would have just swallowed the thing. I was not yet old enough to be devious, while dogs are naturally collusive and slick. Good girl Lily.

Listening to Jerry tonight I hear, what did you do? What did you do? Hmm.

Jerry, are you talking to something that can answer you?

No. Ozzy is an asshole.

Ozzy had snuck in to finish off the cat food.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A couple years ago:

The noise started on Wednesday and blared for days. Finally, I knocked on Ann's door to ask her to turn down her TV.

I thought she might have been dead in there, but I saw her on the porch a day or so after the volume spiked. With her front door open the sound of infomercials and endless programming roared.

I called next-door, which was pointless.

You have to go over there, Jerry said. I had come home from work and found him clicking through TV stations with the remote. He would listen for a few seconds, then click. Click. Click.

What are you doing?

I am trying to find the channel Ann has on, he said.

Go listen to the answering machine, he said.

When Ann had finally had enough of something, we got the call. Kendra. KENDRA! It's Ann. I am not sure … it's Sunday. Are you there? Kendra?

I heard her phone fall and hit the coffee table. Shit, she said. I imagined her heaps of pointless notes and lists and envelopes in rubber bands crashing down. The table was dragged to the center of her shabby living room beside a couch where she slept, woke, ate, slept again, and lived.

You have to go over there, Jerry said.

Since our bedroom was far enough away from Ann's booming television, we were able to sleep, but as soon as we passed a window facing Ann, we heard commercials. We listened to romances, a comedy with its sharp cracks of laughter, and pauses just long enough to make us think the small electronic pieces inside her set had blown.

I walked up her rutted drive and skipped the rotted step to her porch. I tried knocking. I banged. I tapped the windows with my ring, thinking the sharp sound would carry through to her. I finally just opened her door. She was dressed, unlike the time I caught her naked and swaddled in loose skin dangling like a faded dress.

She asked, can you hear that!

I turned to her TV and started pushing up and down arrows. When the volume was normal again, I asked her why she left it on for so long and so loud. Summer heat glued itself to my skin and I went home. My life was lighter. Ann's life was a cluttered path to the TV.

I don't remember her answer. She is in Florida now with her daughter and the house sits next-door, staring at us.

Ann wrote a letter to me weeks ago, and I have still not answered.

How's that letter to Ann going? Jerry has asked me a hundred times, but I don't know why I am avoiding it.

Ann told me she thought her mother was in the house with her. If Ann was 80-something at the time, whatever poked her and nudged her while she slept was not her mother.

It's her, I know it, Ann once said. She is with me. She was trying to wake me up. Jesus, framed and dusted, hung on her wall watching the heavens as his halo added a warm hue of gold to his embossed profile. Does a devout woman also believe her mother has crawled back from beyond to kneel in the piles of filth in this room to poke her daughter?

Yesterday I was down on the ground with the rose bush and saw its misshapen growth. Road salt, winter boots, and a neighbor's plow had torn its limbs away. Looking at Ann's empty house on the hill next-door I pictured time like a string sewing the days together.

Lily would have been more practical and efficient. Lily would have bitten her.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reaching down with burning fingers mother nature set fire to knotted buds. By noon pastel hues traced tree limbs where petals stretched under the first warm day of spring.

The season has been waiting, and already Lily and I have seen much of its early hints. Along stream banks and pooling shadows I see bloodroot and red trillium open. They are an early beauty, but brief. They are ephemeral, and die back to just their underground parts after a short bloom. Native oaks and tulip trees will never see the spotted reds and whites on the forest floor -- within their branches winter's dormant spell still lingers.

While the gods and goddesses write stories in the stars, warmth and light wipe away winter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I prayed for rain.

Dropping to hot earth beside a wilting flower I begged the sky, while old trees snickered in the shade.

Looking at petals quivering in arid breezes, I could not decide if I should cut this little strained life short, or wait.

Sometimes the gods and goddesses are gone, the mystical constellations are asleep, and reality dances around me with a pitchfork, jabbing. Bastard, my illusions are gone.

So sorry Lily, I am no fun to play with today.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Waiting with limp fingers against the keys I realize the strain of a quiet mind.

Someone asked me, how do you think of things to write about?

I don't think of things to write about, I pray for them. Something in my brain spits images or pieces of a phrase at me and I start knitting…

I keep stray thoughts on paper hoping that the words will do more than keep track of where I plunk my wine glass.

I think I have somehow chopped the line tethering me to interest. It's all the same flavor, unless it's a dog.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rain fell before sunrise to mirror a cold sky.

In African mythology the goddess of rain, the rainbow, and the harvest searched for a husband.

I imagined a carefree being with the power of life and death tangled in her imagination as she peeked behind mountains and beneath oceans. I saw dark, flowing hair slide against her arm as she reached to tip back a plateau of dormant winter fields waiting for spring. She found just shadows and a cool pocket of hard earth with nothing to offer. Seasons earlier a handsome farmer had walked the fields and stared at his stretching shadow scarring the ground. Like many of us, his dreams and hopes would reach out and die many times. When the goddess finally touched the earth where he had stood, he was gone.

I imagine her as invisible outside of imagination, and unaware that no husband hides waiting.

Across a dark bar J. asks, will you ever get married Kendra?

I don't think so.


Don't know. I just don't ever picture it or think about it.

Doesn't Jerry want to marry you?

I don't think so.

Jerry took his heart out once and put it on a satin pillow, then walked down the isle with a woman whose inner beauty faded more quickly than cut flowers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I am still stuck on the gods and goddesses...

The goddess asked, why do you suffer?

I am not eternal, he said.

Mortal, would you like to live forever in the sky?


Would you place your soul in my hands and close your eyes?


Close your eyes.

For a moment he felt emotion ripple through him. Life surged.

As his rapid heart slowed, he waited for his goddess to give new orders.

He waited, and soon chilly air pushed the sun away and he was just another shadow.

He opened his eyes and saw solitude. His goddess and his soul were gone.

Placing his hands together as the goddess had, he bent his head to hide his face.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A banged-up haiku for spring:

Petals spread wider

awash in secret hollows

where blown-glass life blooms

Monday, April 11, 2011

We'll buy anything if we're standing in front of it. Really. When crap is crowding us out of our homes we'll have tag sales. As much as I love tag sales, I have enough junk of my own, unless you have something that I don't…

My April 11 horoscope reads, You're energetic enough to tackle almost anything right now, so get down to business with that one big project you have been putting off for far too long. You surprise everyone, including yourself!

So hopeful and vague and perfect for a nation filled with Wal*Mart shoppers…Just go in those doors. You can have almost anything right now, so get down to business. Surprise everyone, including yourself!

Only the imagination makes horoscopes come true. Read all of the horoscopes and pick the one you like best, then cast the spell by digging around in your treasure of hopes and ambition. What's in your heart? Success? Or LoveMoneyHappinessHealth?

Horoscopes are juggling with flaming blades, because often we bleed or burn when we see our wishes come true.

Look at this: In college all I wanted was for T. to stay with me. Sadly, I realized weeks later after T. had moved out, that reality is not waiting around for your dreams and prayers to come true. Reality is a new face for every occasion. Reality was me, and I was drunk and standing in a strange neighborhood tapping lightly at T's bedroom window after 2 am. No answer. I saw my sad, milky face reflecting back from a dark raised ranch window, and went home. Had he stayed with me I would have continued my daily pout, wondering why he would go off with friends or forget to tell me he would be out late. During a heavy snowstorm he was more than an hour late getting home. Even accounting for snowy Long Island roads, I didn't think a five-mile drive would have kept him so long. I called work. He is gone, they told me.

His small red sports car was in a ditch, I decided, so I went out looking. I eventually found his red car parked at a bar. He was just having a good time and didn't think of me. I understand now that this is the way things go when someone doesn't love you anymore. Did I really want him to stay with me?

At the bar J. unzipped his leather jacket and reached inside saying, I have something for you.

I said, It's not a small dog, is it?

The last time J. had something in his jacket, a small long-haired head and snout quivered and turned, looking at all the strange smiling faces staring back.

Yesterday he had a daffodil.

So, in summary, horoscopes are crap. Take the daffodils when you can get them.

Lily just flew through the doggy door and is growling at the night.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dreams linger like chocolate. Staining my thoughts momentarily, their secrets come apart like cotton candy.

Today before I woke: a jackrabbit with tall white ears appears in Ann's backyard as I step out of her rundown cottage. I argued with her sons and their families crowding the living room with jutting elbows and knees. They are greedy. Through gossamer strands of sugar-scented pink, I wake.

In reality you need a gas mask to enter the squalor at Ann's. At 80-something years old last year, she finally left in an ambulance at 4 am after falling outside. She had rolled onto her back, arms and legs wriggling in the air. She didn't like Nig-ras, and swore wild dogs stampeded through the yard. She hated the neighbors, those $unsabitches.

She left messages. Kendra. Kendra. You there! Call me. Can you call me? Kendra? Listening to the recording I heard the phone clatter down. Shit! Ann said.

On her front stoop less than a minute later I knocked. Her TV was loud enough to feel with my feet out on the porch. I went in.

Can you hear that! she said.

4 am waiting for the ambulance: She had used an apron to tie a straw gardening hat over her head. She covered her cold hands in socks. She looked like Mother Hubbard, The Turtle. I crouched behind her and waited for police to make the walk up her drive, their flashlights washing rutted stone left to right.

In a few hours I would be going to my grandmother's funeral. I shivered as my hair twisted in a chilly breeze and got stuck in Ann's gnarled grip.

My son is stuck in the car, she insisted.

Ann, your son is safe and fine. He is not stuck here. Her son(s) are nearly 50 and living who knew where.

No! Check my bedroom, it's warm where he was sleeping. I can feel it on the bed. Then he was out in the car...

Are you cold Ann? Can I sit you up a little more?

I squeezed behind her on the ground and propped her sitting up. I stuck my legs behind her and she fell back. Her straw brim hit my knees and knocked the strange apron/ turban off her head.

Policemen stood by with flashlights.

We called for an ambulance.

OK. I asked them, should we do anything?

Nope. You're doing fine.

Soon, paramedics pulled on latex gloves and turned to Ann.

How are you?

Skin hanging off her bones and folds catching shadows, Ann asked, what are you doing here?

We're going to help you.

Get out, she said. I felt muscles tighten somewhere in her back.

I said, Ann, it's OK to go with them. They can help.

Minutes later I watched red strobe lights slip through bare trees as the ambulance moved away. The police came closer. What was my name? Where did I live? Thank you so much ma'am.

I crawled back to bed next-door and shoved cold feet beside Jerry. I smelled like an 80-year-old woman, and would say goodbye to my grandmother as soon as the sun was up.

Ann writes me letters I can't really read. Both her sight and her ability to swing a pen around are gone. She lives with a daughter in Florida now, and I live here beside an empty cottage full of a strange past.

I'll write back. She is just a poor old woman waiting for a letter and her eyesight to return.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

If I wanted normal life, I wouldn't be watching TV...

Around age 19 I really needed a heavy dose of some other reality, but I still refused TV.

Actually, the only TV in the rental cottage I shared belonged to Pam and Vinny. -- Class A assholes. I would rather be reading about what the vultures did to their carcasses, but I will have to settle for memories.

While I sat in my room at night watching shadows move on the walls, missing the guy that left me for someone with long red hair and proper New York accent, I often wondered if my slow-leaking tire would be flat in the morning. Every week I found myself rolling the stupid thing to the corner station for air. Generally I remembered to fill it while I got gas, but on occasions when a friend is puking streaks of colorful vomit along the side of the dented up Tercel, I just wanted to get home.

Pam and Vinny and I shared a wall between our bedrooms. On their side of the wall was the beloved color television. On the other side was me. Across their room, they slept with heads propped toward the beautiful television with its volume jacked to reach over a whining air conditioner. Loud infomercials blared about the wonders of things, just inches from my head.

I prayed for their death or an act of God. Making my rounds for something new that would be the cure for sadness, I regularly hunted through thrift shops. They were also the only stores I could afford. Something in the back of my head must have been whittling away at solutions for Pam and Vinny. On a shelf disturbing the dust was a wind-up alarm clock that had not been there the week before. That's the answer. I wound it and set it. A few hours later I adjusted its speed so it kept perfect time.

I plunked my little Big Ben on the floor by my bed and waited. As the Pam and Vinny TV ran into infomercial crap, I knew they were out.

Creeping to the circuit panel in the hall, I started flipping breakers until I heard the damn TV shut off.

They awoke in a frenzy. They were, hot, sticky, and late for work. Poor bastards.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I am a sour bitch with a pen like a knife like a wound and I want to feel and hurt and learn.

Words burst and fade and I chase them, cutting and killing. It was an accident. I sliced some vital thing into little ribbons that soaked into a greedy earth.

Daydreams are so clear, but when I look for timid things that crept through my head on the way to work, they are already dead.

Walking across the cracked pavement with a fat lip and low hopes Friday, I went to work repeating the stuff in my head. Waiting for the page were words like kids with scissors. I had just a few seconds before everything was wrecked by time and the glum routine of following my feet upstairs.

Writing is not the right words in the right order. Anyone can shuffle magnetic letters on the refrigerator, or swallow a P, like a friend had said his baby did. They were taking x-rays and things, looking for it. Writing is a lump of clay with a few of my fingerprints already beginning to shape it. Just one poke into the soft stuff and I am obligated. If I don't shape this thing right it's gonna sag and fall apart. It's gonna be confusing. I need a precise thought. I need symmetry, beauty, and a reader.

Waking full of shortcomings, I looked down as my feet dangled. Everything felt impossibly huge. I was a little kid again and I could not see over the steering wheel toward life, running naked and stupid, but never getting out of the way. Until my feet touched the floor I had no idea that not everything was possible, and not everyday was happy.

Somewhere between little kid and middle school kid, when I realized while trapped on the bus that I had forgotten to do the math homework, the little spurts of emotion that made up my carefree mood had rotted. Ants crawling over green fuzz. It was dead. Next to it was happy. Happy had a hole in its head, and fun was also skewered by age. At 14 it just had no place in a world where homework, or not, meant the difference between falling asleep and staring at shadows all night as stress whispered to me.

I started falling asleep in school. No one poked me or cleared their throat or wrote a note to my mother. Either no one cared or no one found it interesting, but I doubt they were not looking.

Before I reached middle school I was already crying that I did not want to go to school. I couldn't sleep and I would be tired and I would stress, cry, fling the covers aside and burst across the hall in my bubble-gum pink nightgown and wake my parents. I CAN'T SLEEP…

I stay up much too late now chasing thought across the keyboard, trying to pick the weight of words off my shoulders. As I drive to work, the words start. Often at night, they're burned and gone and I stare inward, waiting.

Today's crocuses wrapped their arms over their heads as an overcast sky pressed down. Just days ago they flung their petals wide beneath sunshine.

Lily and I have been on the street, alternately lunging and not lunging at cars. We run through the woods with Hershey and dwindling time and stress chasing us. Where the hell is Bandit? I leave Ozzy home if I go far. He's got that Short Leg Syndrome.