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another birthday

Last night, and dreaming –
My brother, in a stairwell,
Paused, smiled, and hugged me,
Resumed his downstairs sprinting.
He’s out of reach, just like time.

(I don’t know why I dreamed of my brother when it was my nephew’s birthday yesterday, but my brain doesn’t make sense; ymmv. Also, I have worry dreams often; my brother works in a store, and I think about him, stocking shelves in a mask and gloves, and sigh.)

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We have tried to take fewer risks with my health, as the one with both the previous history of undiagnosed pneumonia, and the one with the autoimmune disorder, but I started cleaning this morning and …weeding and cleaning some more, and doing laundry… and probably would have started pulling out my hair next, strand-by-strand. Sometimes, one must consider one’s mental health… and take a breather.

I intended to only sit in the car, but finding the farmer’s market up and running was an unexpected joy. Finding the growers from four hours away was sheer bliss. Brought from warmer counties, they had blueberries! and strawberries! and early cherries! I had to get out. Mask, hat, sunglasses, bag, and socially distant – and I didn’t even think to touch my face. Who cared that the band and the bubble machines were absent? Who cared that there was no chalk art and that the children were swathed in cloth masks and carefully kept at their parents’ side? It was still community, and connection. And, most importantly, strawberries.

Irvington Market

forty days desperate
seeking fresh tastes and faces
we, tangled in masks
find a sweet slice of heaven.
farmer’s hearts are paved with gold.

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My mother – and my sister – are stalwart women, calmly accepting the presence of myriad translucent new friends, climbing the curtains. My father, brother, and other sister are somewhat less sanguine about the whole thing. Oh, to see the world as an adventure, and every rock and weird seed pod looking thing as something which should be picked up and brought inside… There’s nothing like being ten and twelve, under global house arrest.

indoor adventures

“some kind of egg case”
was the conclusion they reached
two boys on lockdown
bored until the emergence
tiny mantises, climbing

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As long as March seemed to last, I find it astounding indeed that the end of April seems to just abruptly have been thrust upon us. How is it the end of the month already!? What a long, strange trip it’s…being. Maybe it has something to do with it being a leap year… time is flinging us into a future we cannot imagine, and it keeps catching us off guard…

Meanwhile, Laura reminded us of our poetry meet-up this month a little earlier, and I’m grateful – most of us right now are having a hard time keeping track of what time of day it is, and whether or not we’ve bathed and eaten, much less trivial things like calendars and plans. My Poetry Peeps joining us this month are Andi, Laura, Tricia, Liz, Sara, and Rebecca. We wave hello to Kelly and John, who are elsewhere, deep in the quarantine outback, the requisite six states apart. (Or, something like that. Whatever works, you guys.)

Now more than ever, it seems we were prescient with this year’s poetry forays – seeing as our goal was EASY and “more refuge than challenge.” Oh, how we all need a refuge just now. We’re back this month with The Skinny – the eleven line form first invented in 2005 by poet Truth Thomas. You’ll recall the first and eleventh lines can be any length, and use the same words, in the same order or rearranged. The second, sixth, and tenth lines are identical. (Skinnys have a linked form, which would be amazing to play with if any of us had spare brain cells – this year, we do not.) And all other lines but the first and last are a single word – thus the name of “skinny,” as they appear rather narrow. (Fiddling with the font helps this appearance as well.)

…if we define essential, what is it? Is it what drags us upright in the morning? What brings us to our feet, instead of slumped in our seats, staring out at the rain (or snow – that was a shock for some this week)? Is it what extends our arms with care – or with coffee – for another? What defines essential? What underpins our routine, our neighborhoods, our society?

What it is that gets us up in the morning?


…how quickly might we learn to live without it?

To hit pause on those deep (or disquieting) questions, amble over to Wondering & Wandering, where Poetry Friday today is hosted by Christie Wyman. This weekend, friends, gather what is essential to you… and share it.

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In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
to let it go.

– Mary Oliver

Greenock 18


above, peaceful, still:
here bright, chaos, constant,
Earth spins us. Tethered
we dance between rivals. Called,
we fly – relearn letting go

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My aunt passed away this morning, so I’m floundering. I didn’t know her well, though she was my youngest aunt – we were always in two different phases of life. When I was two or three and she was finishing junior high. When I was in junior high, she was a young mother on the other side of the country. We missed each other like that for most of our lives; regardless, she was still a part of my family, and my history, and it is confusing to on one hand have the familiar loss, and on the other hand, this present reality…


the known rituals –
family gathered, casseroles
caskets and singing –
disrupted by pandemic
a life passes, and… now what?