11•18 gratitudinous}

It’s strange to realize that I’m old enough for an era to have passed…

When I was really little – almost five – our family moved out of the city to the suburbs, and our new minister was a very kindly, white South African man who always made a fuss over me, pulling my pigtails and demanding to know who I was and what on earth I was doing in his office – the usual weird nonsense adults say to children. Each time we met, he would say he didn’t remember me, or couldn’t possibly say my name, so he would just have to change it. To Jane.

In this year of our lord, 2023, the optics of a white South African man telling a Black child her name is too hard to say, so giving her a simpler name are… quite something. But, in nineteen seventywhat, I was just an amused child, giggling at the newest bit of nonsense an adult handed down to me.

You, Jane

I loved that girl, Jane –
She was simple. Sweet. Pretty.
When she bossed Sally
Or took up with Spot and Dick,
No one mispronounced her,
Misunderstood her, or mistook her
For just an easy read.

{11•14 gratitudinous}

Ah, group texts. I generally loathe them, but the niece, nephews, and younger sibs only communicate that way – email is What The Olds Use. Heh. Because a third of our family is in their teens and twenties, this is how we’re trying making dinner plans for Thanksgiving. To me the tangents and interruptions in group texts make it wholly inefficient for planning anything – but it is hilarious. We cannot accomplish anything without trash talking, and once the poking and teasing begins, it never ends. So, thanks for that – for technology, which makes our collective weirdness just that much more accessible.

family group text
sweet tones belie
bickering. bluster. snark.
blessed be the ties that bind us

{11•9 gratitudinous}

I was a late and uncertain bloomer in many things, and when I finally got crushes, they were… intense. Yeeeeears later, I still remember that today is the birthday of a boy whom I thought was wonderful and perfect. Looking back, he was obviously …not. College junior to my high school, patriarchal and condescending, and probably six kinds of narcissistic. But I worked with him, and was sure he was the pinnacle of personhood. I remember spending forty bucks on a classic SWATCH for him – in the nineties, so considering inflation, that’s $90 now, which is a chunk of change for a kid. I was serious in my admiration for this boy — who wasn’t at all serious about me, and who honestly shouldn’t have accepted such an expensive gift, but what do teens, even older teens, really know, until they make mistakes?

So, thanks for that – for the mistakes that are only monetarily costly. For the course corrections that don’t require stitches and scars. For big, dumb mammals, and for youth, which bumbles its way through life like a bluebottle fly, to make its ramshackle way into adulthood.

the fuel of youth

bright, the future
beckons in firelight,
illuminated by burning

{11•6 gratitudinous}

I got my first job in the sixth grade. My parents both had the bad habit of saying, “Oh, my daughters would love to help you!” to people at church – which is how I ended up with a long-standing housekeeping job for an older couple around the block from us. They were so, so nice, but oh, I hated that job. It felt impossible. They had lived in that place for at least fifty years, never moving the furniture or changing the drapes, never changing anything, using the same blackened skillet, frying things in grease that lived in coffee cans on the back of the stove… and it showed. I washed the walls in the kitchen every week, and still felt that a scrim of grease remained on every light switch and square of that old linoleum floor.

I would walk home, all of thirteen years old, with hands cramping like an old person’s from squeezing the 409 trigger so hard, from having thrown myself at something so vast it could never be encompassed. There’s nothing you can clean or tidy that will change Worn and Old.

I learned the Serenity Prayer at about that age.

You may laugh, but realizing that there WERE some things I couldn’t change was… revolutionary.

So, thanks, for that. For the strange relief when we realize that our best efforts will not fix everything, and that a hard reboot might be our best bet.


worth remembering:
not every door must open.
each fresh beginning
brings its own predestined end,
…at times, mere moments later

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It’s so weird to end a month on a Sunday – and it always feels a little sad to end the daily practice of NPM poems. I’ve had fun playing with cinquain. I don’t feel like I’m any better at them, but I do love how the five-line poem can be both so concise and full, depending on syllable count. I found I preferred the Crapsey; ten syllables for an end line feels simply too long – and too hurried, everything all at the end.

Today’s poem is a bit of a cheat; this isn’t news from the world, but from the microcosm of my garden. My alyssum sprouted and immediately burst jubilantly into teensy-tiny (I’m quite squatted down for this shot), scented flowers, so I figured that was the best news of the world I could get. Happy May, friends – fresh breezes, sunny days, more rain soon, and plenty of flowers. The best of the season to you.

{pf: poetry peeps appreciate Pablo (Neruda)}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of May! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing a ghazal. The ghazal (tripping correctly from the tongue as “guzzle” – with apologies to those of you giving it a French flair as I used to) is the oldest poetic form still in use, with roots in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, and Hebrew traditions. A ghazal is made to be sung, and is a couplet-based form with internal rhyme. (Find out more about it at Poets.org.) As always, the topic is totally up to you, but the Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on May 26th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

I feel like I need to set up a camera in the garden, so I can capture the milometers-per-hour growth of my seedlings. We have hit the 80°F mark this week in my part of the world for the first time in 2023, and the acceleration of — everything green is just gobsmacking. We’re happily stashing windbreakers and pulling out our short sleeves. …For the most part, anyway.

Last week at my Sunday gig (choir #2), a friend stepped behind the pulpit and slipped off her cardigan to put on her robe. She saw me watching her and winced. “I don’t usually wear sleeveless dresses,” she explained hurriedly. “My arms just look so bad…so crepey.”

Of course, I fussed at her about it, as we do with friends. She looked gorgeous in her spiffy dress, which I’d complimented the moment I’d seen it and I reiterated. I told her it was a gorgeous day and she had a gorgeous set of arms that needed to feel the sun on them. And then we settled down to warm up and rehearse.

But, I kept thinking about it.

Poets, my friend is eighty years old. She is a size six, maybe a seven. She swims one hundred laps in an Olympic pool three times a week, and walks two miles the other two days. She sings in the choir with me, and she’s louder and has a longer range. She sports a perfect layered cinnamon-brown bob with nary a silver strand twinkling, as well as perfect manicure at all times. More, she’s kind and funny. And she’s still worried that her upper arms look bad.

As I said to the Poetry Sisters when I mentioned this, good Lord, at some point we HAVE to be enough.

I mean, I get it. I don’t display my upper arms. Having been various sizes of fat my whole life, even when I was really lifting weights and playing sports, they were still… squishy in a way that was socially unacceptable. Bigger than other girls. I never wear sleeveless things outside of the house. But, I will not be eighty years old and still worrying about this crud. I. Will. NOT.

And so I wrote a lovely sonnet to my upper arms. The style of Pablo Neruda to me is layered and rich, loquacious and bountiful — just like my arms. He writes a lot of love poems, heady and redolent with beautiful language with which he woos the reader. I choose to attribute that to his Argentine heritage, a beautiful country filled with beautiful people speaking a lilting and glorious (and gloriously complicated, I say from the perspective of sixteen hundred days on Duolingo) language. Using the mentor poem “One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII (I don’t love you as if you were a rose)” I speak of my arms – and your arms. And all of our arms. May we embrace ourselves, and our flaws, not like something about which poets sing – some romanticized, perfect thing. Rather, may we embrace ourselves as if we’re children who may or may not be sweaty, muddy, covered in pet hair, widdle, puke, snot, or tears and still – cherished, and worthy of love.

I Do Not Love You ‘As If’

I don’t love you as if you were a summer fruit, warm,
Firm, perfumed and toothsome:
I love you as an auntie loves a defiant toddler,
Exasperation woven from skeins of amusement and resignation.

I love you as the corner of the yard the cats favor,
Dense blooming bush beneath which they lie concealed, tails twitching,
Keen to pounce and leap and rend, replacing peace with panic,
Forcing conflict and change, challenge and confrontation.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or for what,
I love you austerely, without expectation or prediction,
I love you like this because I know no way but this, to embrace
The flawed and the fleshy, the crepey, creased, amd changed,
Complete in this moment as the sweet-fleshed perfection of a ripened peach,
Complete in this broad-shouldered, wide-bellied work of cradling a wailing world.

There’s always more poetry. You should see what Liz wrote. And here’s Mary Lee’s. Tricia’s poem is here. Michelle K’s poem is here. Heidi is “Neruda-ing” (yes, that IS a word) here. More Poetry Peeps will be checking in throughout the weekend, so don’t forget to come back and read the whole roundup. Meanwhile, Poetry Friday today is hosted by Ruth at There Is Not Such Thing As A Godforsaken Town. Thanks, Ruth, and Happy Seventeenth Blog Birthday!

Well, back to the garden, poets. I’m sending you out with a hug, from my arms to yours. Happy Weekend, you are loved. ♥

{npm23 – headline cinquain 27}

Years ago political conservatives complained that California offered too cushy of an experience for the unhoused. Giving people money to live on just encouraged more indigence, they argued. And so, parties changed, and funds dropped, and… still people came. Temperate weather, cuts in social services for the mentally ill, and higher and higher costs of living have created a perfect storm. And yet – housing set aside or the unhoused in SF, the cushiest of all cities, according to some remains empty. 990 units – or 10% of the total housing – isn’t being used. Why? Because some of it is little better than a cardboard box. In a tent you at least have your choice of neighbors, in a manner of speaking. Violence and drug use and theft run rampant, and for those trying to get better, or house children – it must be terrifyingly unsafe feeling. The housing situation – the unhoused situation – is a shame and a rebuke to right-thinking people. How are we going to get out of this mess? And more importantly, get our fellow humans out of this mess?

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This past winter my little brother’s girlfriend was riding her bike to the store in Brooklyn and was hit by a car. Three weeks ago in a city closer to home another cyclist was struck, and this time didn’t make it. As the sunny days continue, cyclists are taking advantage, but those touched by tragedy are being more mindful, thinking more about safety – I know I am. I hope drivers are, too.

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It was the most eventful winter in this state for the past seventy years. There are still houses collapsing under the weight of the snow in the northern edges of our state, but despite the persistence of the snow, the season has changed, and runoff has begun. The rivers are historically high – to many state officials, catastrophically high. One of the pictures on the front page of the paper showed spare life jackets just hung on a sign – the desperate Parks and Rec officials hoping the public will do something to at least try and stay safe. They’re also bracing themselves – because human beings traditionally aren’t good listeners, and there will be fatalities. Meanwhile, the rivers are icy cold, and gorgeous.