Ghosts | Angel.

January 15, 2017

As a child, I never knew I would spend my life falling in love with ghosts, one after the other, who would each rise up from the earth or descend from the trees about me, ghosts with mouths that released words out into the landscape of my life like a fine, cool mist searching for a fire to go up against. Words like I love you, I have met my soul mate, you.

Now ghosts come out like night animals in a loamy wood, first not seen, then as I look, I spy sets of eyes glinting in the dark. Two there, two there, two there. I see them slowly emerge and unceremoniously reveal themselves, and each in turn places a memory in my hands: my very first wine headache (age: 24). One gave me something like soaring despair (age: 37), one gave me innocent hope in diamonds and a home (age: 30), and one left me a lingering disgust in trite platitudes that lasts to this day (age: 39).

Because of my ghosts, my life’s string of love stories, I cannot:

listen to the song, “Lady in Red.” When you are 16 and the 15 year-old boy you love dedicates it to you in a dusky gym, you learn what it is to not breathe.

be a passenger in a Volvo without feeling slightly sick. I rode in your car after you taught me to appreciate vodka martinis, then gin martinis. So many martinis.

believe that “she just doesn’t understand you” while I listen and sympathize, wearing frilly underthings you chose for me. She understands you.

I cannot go to the little diner on the 101 in San Rafael where you ate ciopino, then we went home and made a child. (age: 31)

-later-after the ’til death do us part part came true-

I can, but won’t, listen to “Diamonds and Rust.” 37 years old – old enough to know better, but I still hoped.

And I cannot forget that there were those for whom I am now their ghost. As I made my way, I left pure, valuable love sit uncollected for no reason I could name or made sense. If ever I were sorry, here I am sorry. I am (still) (ever) (always) (not a big paragraph but it’s the biggest) sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry ad infinitum.

All the ghosts of my past lock hands and come forward, a procession that ends in the present (age 40 onward), where an angel now guards my heart. In the dark, where shadows make ugly stories and shame is alive, the angel enters and delivers a lamp. In it’s light, is his face. In it’s light, is his face.


Home building, 2017.

December 29, 2016

The Resolutions begin themselves.

Again–then again–and in every year, the New Year’s exercise narrows its scope. The feline curiosities and appetites that are too far afield are discarded, in favor of those simple goalmouths that might be more readily fed. (Lose weight, lose vices. Lose reliance on paper crutches.)

What, someone asks, do you want your life to be known for now? To start: honesty, passion, romanticism, endurance, philosophical intelligence. To wit: a life occupied with meaning. Hitting the marks, meeting the resolutions.

Only, do I? Do I achieve my resolutions?  Or are the things achieved by each December surprises that were never targets to begin with?

Gain weight: bricks fashioned of compressed understanding and experience. Build a home of these bricks and let one’s cats roam there, nosy and pouncing. Shelter in place where one’s tribe resides, on the grounds that peace and the consummation of resolution most artlessly begins in that collective (safe or unsafe, steady or riotous).

Wheat and water, hay and mud

Construct a layer, add resolve and hope

Compress, compress, firmly pack, set in sun

Now, there is Block One

Make a duplicate block

(Make a duplicate block)

Stack these tablets and form slab

The foundation for 2017





Writing again.

December 9, 2016

Five years ago, her landscape had been folded over by one great and bone-rattling trembler. All the structures around her, the buildings that created a life–her heart, her whipsmart heart, her clean, clean soul–these constructs loudly broke apart and there, in the light that clinked through the floating dust, was a mirage she knew was a mirage: She knew the things she saw in the aftermath, the debris, were not real.

She turned to her old friend, the earnest and blank page, and sought to create something real. But, it was effortful, it was so effortful she worried she could no longer write. It had been a long time since she wrote anything clear or bright or smart, since she had put together something good. The quake had left the roads around her filled with matter, and she wondered if taking time to clean up rubble had made it so she could not string together words in any poetic fashion, with any dynamic motion, for any specific reason. She earned paychecks and reared young children and figured out what post-earthquake love means, but at what cost? Was the cost so high that she had lost the ability to take words in hand and break them into pieces and put them back again to create something new and beautiful? She feared for a long time this was so.

But, something new has begun, she has stumbled onto an open road that leads to a surprise clearance before her. 2017 crooks its finger to beckon and she wades into the vast, empty space ahead. The words are coming.

The words are falling out of her hands, fully formed.





November 5, 2016

She goes to meet Thanksgiving once again, where the full blossom of love happens. Another year gone by, but she never really changes: Still living with the most tender heart, and the keenest, sweetest nostalgia. Nostalgia is her evergoing mood.

Nostalgia is her Thanksgetting.

Writ permanently in her heart is this time, the yearly November, the time where the flowering of this life means fields of roses, iris, lilies, stargazers, the lowly carnation, peonies, tulips–fields and fields of these blooms between her world and the lands apiece of the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, oh Centennial State! Where the Thanksgivings are amber grass and full, leafy, unrestrained thankfulness, where the music and chants of gratitude grow so loud into crescendo’d bliss that they fly o’er the rivers of California, o’er the barren miles of dust in Nevada, o’er the Indian Reservations of Utah, above Great Basin, o’er all the species of cacti in low areas and the wild, ochre blooms in the foothills…the music of the fall heart passes through all of this.

Etched forever in her history is a purposeful Harvest of Gratitude, expecially when life is hard. Know she understands her blessings aren’t universal or common and that the goodness has been gifted to her outside of her own power. She could never create this perfection alone, but she recognizes the sweetness of Thanksgiving when it comes, and through some secret intuitiveness, she understands that it is set upon her through the mercy and love of God.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Fall again.

October 26, 2016

Brackish water seeps in every fall. There’s a dreadful quality, a dreadful worry, in the air.

What happens in October? What have the winds and crying clouds to say? The whispers begin in October, the “seasonal affective disorder” comes alive and insists on fading out the sun’s warmth and placing this sadness at the foot of the day. October is the time of whole moons and a cascade of trouble.

I watch gray air force itself to emerge over the light. I stand with my cup of coffee, noticing more the coolness of the porcelain than the heat I want to drink; I watch the leaves tumble in stop time out the window and shiver. Here comes winter. Here comes the broad hand with its sting and slap, and I duck my head to evade it. There is no match for nature, the murmuring grows louder: Winter.


Not Burst Open.

October 25, 2016

At the mirror, watching herself. A shimmy shake, a quick twitch of the hip. Grab the thick cut glass, the aromatizer, and feel it’s heavy weight. It is weighty, the glass is square and thick, belying the sweet, round light within.

Her perfume is mainly floral in its nature. It’s roses and ivy. And it is shadows and violins, a watercolor of a sandy beach, and beautiful old gospels and darkness and fading dreams and sometimes it’s tired but grateful motherhood and hopeful woman–it is a perfume of so many things. Her scent is a flower left in its early days, not burst open. It is captured, bottled sun, distilled hope and happiness, fragrant appreciation of the sweetness in her everyday life. It is the smile that covers over her heart. Her perfume lies in a bottle, it’s pretty messages waiting to be told.

The thousands of times she has held the bottle to the nape of her neck…the ritual of perfume, it has a voice. It says: come into view, be alive, be real, attract, act, be conscious of self, help, notice, show up, give, stay awake. Don’t give up. Be lovely. She watches in the mirror as she lifts the bright glass again to her throat.


On concert night.

August 18, 2016

I lie on my stomach. Dread, as real as air, fills my body and I squeeze my eyes shut.On the floor, the heavy odor of our old carpet is dank, musty. I turn my mouth and nose away, ignoring the feel of the carpet’s rough bristles.

Beside me, my 14 year old brother kneels and I crane my neck around to see him, his face set with worry, perspiration forming at the forehead, dark bangs slicked back with gel against his head. He leans over my body, the silk cloth at my back gripped in his hands. His dark eyes meet mine but he looks away quickly, concentrating on the task before him.

He says, “Okay, suck it in.”

I inhale as hard as I can, body rigid—a plank on the floor. His hands work, quickly, they feel like small birds prancing upon my back, and I wonder if Brother can fix this and I wonder if she is gone, if she has left the house. Or is she somewhere still inside, still angry?

Brother’s hands push my ribs, touch my spine. From the hallway, our grandfather clock chimes loudly and I count—five chimes. The concert rehearsals begin at 5:30 but I am too worried about the dress to care if we will be late. Exhaling slowly, as slowly as possible, I mumble into the carpet, “Is it working?”

“I think I got it. Don’t move. Take a breath again.” I do. I feel Brother grip the fabric and tug, hear the slow, mechanical sound of the zipper as my dress is closed over my back. I sob, once. I sob again—so relieved. I open my eyes, light-headed with gratitude because the dress has been zipped, because it was possible.

Brother stands up, says, “Be careful, it’s really tight. Breathe shallow.” He reaches down and takes my hand to pull me up, my body awkward with tension—the dress is very tight, the fabric so tensely pulled against my ribs, I think, “this is what a corset feels like.” Pale blue silk falls around my body as the skirt reaches my ankles, and he hands me the sash, then takes it back to tie it around my waist himself. “It looks good,” he says.

“Thank you. Thank you so much for helping me.” I want to hug him, but he is very tall and I know reaching up will the tear open the dress he just zipped up. I want to tell him how he has saved me, how everything is okay now. But he is turned away and digging through a drawer, already moving on to the next task.

“Where’s mom?” I ask.

“I dunno. I got to get my concert stuff on.” He turns, walking out, and yells, “Mom! Where’s my jacket? Hey, Mary’s dress fit. She fits.”

I swallow my relief and push aside the dizziness caused by shallow breaths and the sweet reprieve from disaster. Mom had been so angry, clearly weary: “It’s not my fault you keep gaining weight and don’t fit. If you keep it up, you won’t fit into any of your clothes. I’ve been telling you.” It was true—she had been telling me.  At 16, I am large. Not chubby, but solid somehow, heavy limbs, big thighs. Humiliating breasts.

I brush my hair, rub lip gloss over my mouth. Should I wear eyeshadow? It looks like I have been crying. My brother appears in the doorway, dressed in his concert clothes, silently mouths, “Let’s go.” I ask if mom is angry and he shrugs, saying, “Who cares?”

In the car, we are quiet. Mom does not ask how I got the dress on, she says nothing about the dress. We all three look out the windows. It is raining out, and the wheels of the car make a beautiful wooshing sound as we pull into the school lot. Pausing at the curb, mom says go inside, she will be in soon. Brother jumps out of the car, and the motion, the movement, breaks my reverie, my worry. I too prepare to get out. I open the car door and pause, but mom does not turn. I lean forward carefully, still afraid to move, and too-brightly say, “Thanks, mom!”

“Okay,” she says, putting the car into drive.


From every aspect.

August 16, 2016

You, a mountain! So many hours spent facing you, traversing swamped dark fields and flourished Edens to reach you, this mountain, with its stony face and harsh edges, with its unforgiving lines and grandvaliant dimensions. You, a beacon making its claim. From every aspect from where she stands, from every perspective, this vital peak looms before her, to the side of her, somehow unmoving and moving, somehow treacherous and safe, somehow this—you—her private rock to move toward and touch, the coarse mineral that defines you and the silken polish that life has worn onto your surface.

Alas. For months, she wandered and slept-walked and hurried off the trail that leads to you, and turned when she could from you, but the face of your summit was too beloved to abandon for long. Alack: January, when you request to see her. January, when the path looms up to meet her footfalls, and what the mountain will be when she reaches it—a gem, or agate, or quarried fulfillment or release or frustration or satisfaction—she does not know.

(The rock was warm when she lay upon it, so unexpectedly warm that her skin prickled and gooseflesh strutted over her forearms, her thighs: the quiet shock and shiver of the first moments when the chill air settles.)


June 1, 2016

From the rocks, the lady trailed her fingertips into the water, then over her keyboard, her instrument, eager to tell of what she has seen reflected in the depths of the ocean. Dependency. Compulsion.

She had her addictions and they played and called and were relentless: they pleaded to be seen and felt. Heard. It was as if, just as was done decades and decades ago when whale watchers spied from atop their lookouts mermen playing the same looping song for their lovers, the melody haunted the landscape of everyday life. Her addictions were more than ghosts because they were active: grinning skeletons dancing a jig on the rocks. She saw the bones but pretended not to.

It was this constant desire for romance and it was family history–genetics–and it was a great wish for more…these were the reasons for her addictions.

For a long time, a sea creature called dependency led forth her fate. The creature: red, foreign and dark now; familiar, white, and cool now. She is typing out all she has seen and drank and felt. She is remembering a childhood spent watching the creature and she is remembering an early womanhood spent dancing it, too. She is looking closely at it, slipping in beside it to touch it and understand its chemical appeal. Peering in close, reading its words, watching it flip around in the great waters and shimmy through all her life, vegetation, barricades, obstacles, details. She understands what she is when she couples with it: confident and courageous in the water, refreshed, invigorated by an easy swimming and the freedom to lift up and breathe. In middle age, she startles to feel a difference, to feel a menace and a dread emerge. Night after night, she has devotedly loved the creature and he has replied by plunging back into the saltwater–fulfilled and strong, ready for another night of this same dance, the synchrony of their swimming becoming a betraying chokehold that means she will—she will–drown.

She is writing outside of time, outside the lines of water and sky, keystrokes that become a tune, which become a ballad, that culminate in a thunderous and sick, great symphony here in the waters in the middle of the Year 2016. Somehow, in ordinary time, near the ruined sandcastles of dashed hopes and elusive happiness, up here against these rocks worn smooth by the incessant battering of life’s waves, here is truth: She must swim away.



May 30, 2016

I have a waking dream.

I have an obsessive fantasy. I dream of sleep, I wish for it compulsively. I find my thoughts turning toward the idea of sleep over and over again, before I can catch them and stop them from crowding out anything else. In the commute, at work, at the market, at my children’s sport functions, while writing and talking: I am secretly plotting how I may get some sleep. I am addicted to the notion of it—to the concept that there are some who get their fill of it, can have it whenever they want or need, who are satiated with it or who somehow have, almost unbelievably, too much of it.

I have never before been a jealous person, but I find I am suddenly overtaken with envy when imagining those who have sufficient sleep. I blink, not understanding, at social media posts declaring that one is “bored.” Bored? Is someone stating that they have nothing to do? That, in fact, they are not even considering sleep as an option in such a phenomenal circumstance?
I do not remember what it is to be bored, and I do not remember what it is to be rested. I do not recall having adequate sleep, not once, in nearly 15 years. I do not know what it is to sleep “soundly” or bound out of bed, reinvigorated.

I am an insomniac, and I am a mother. These two facts have placed me squarely into a box marked with the term “perpetual exhaustion.” The experience of sleeping, in itself, is a fascinating topic to me. Some people lie down and fall—without pills or alcohol or mantras or deep breathing or rituals—asleep! Some people do not take hours of thinking about sleep to go ahead and experience it. I am painfully aware that, at any given time, all around me are people who slept the night before without the angst and turmoil that comes with overwhelming fatigue accompanied by an inability to fall asleep.
I want to fall asleep easily. And then, I want to sleep until I wake up naturally—no alarm clock, no phone call, no child standing at my bed stage-whispering “mom? mom!”

I want to have nothing planned for the day—except, perhaps, more sleep.
Things I hear: “You look tired.” Yes. Because, you see, I am so tired. I look the way I feel.

“Do you ever nap?” Yes, I try to. It’s rarely a successful enterprise, and I hoard my rare opportunities to lie down during the daytime and rest. But it is invariably “rest” and not “sleep,” and I will attest that these are different things.

“Have you talked to a doctor?” I don’t want to answer this question ever again. I never want to talk to another doctor about this issue. The pills, the well-meaning yet condescending advice (take a warm bath, drink warm milk, try Yoga)—I have tried your remedies and tonics and infusions and I am too tired to finish this conversation.

I have a recurring dream. It is to sleep. To sleep and sleep and sleep and fill my cup with it, to recline in it, to wear it over me. To sleep a deep and curative sleep. To sleep so well that this dream is finally, finally put to rest.