{#npm: 21 – mercy}

Sense and nonsense. Awkward, sitting in a meeting Tuesday night, as people gushed about “The Verdict.” No one mentioned, less than an hour later, in another state, another life. A continuation of the racism so proudly “vanquished” as politicians did a victory lap. Elsewhere, without cameras or witnesses, is anything over?

Give and take. Attack and defend. Create and destroy. The world is made up of relational opposites, which sometimes – rarely – emerge as one and the same. Like Justice and mercy, aligned.

a crumb of justice
far too small to satiate
served as a full meal

{#npm: 20 – possible}

A little PSA:Many people are involved with the children’s lit grassroots book awards, The Cybils. If you didn’t know, the name is shorthand for The Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards, and I like to think of it as the awards-before-the-awards. Many readers love the idea of reading free books, but not as many have the time or impetus for follow through. We’d love you to join us – yes, you! – and bring along a friend or two. We’re especially hoping to encourage more people from underrepresented groups. /PSA.

Like the Grecian sibyls of old, the Cybils take the pulse of the popular reading public and usually predict at least a little of what the ALA is going to announce early the following year. While nominations open each year in October, the Cybils is a labor of love well before time. Behind the scenes there are board meetings, where we chip away at inclusivity goals and transparency, publishing PR meetings, where we seek sponsors and track nominations. There’s working on digital campaigns, and basically beating the bushes for new volunteers. It’s work – but for love of books, we’re there for it.

Fremont 397
opening books is
something like sunrise: fresh, new

{#npm: 19 – silence}

Every once in a while I remember back in the early ’00’s when I asked a friend how she could bear to put her whole life on the internet. “But, it isn’t my whole life,” she explained. “It’s just the parts I’m sharing.” On MySpace, which I eventually understood could be renamed “My space for a mere echo of my actual self,” I learned that it was …tidier to keep some things back. It was… expected, and it made things neater.

It’s funny how much harder that is for me with poetry.

what we do not say
flutters up on pinioned wings
like moths seeking flame

{#npm: 18 – equilibrium}

The first words out of people’s mouths these days is, “Have you had your shot?” in lieu of greeting. I think it’s started embarrassing people to have me answer in the negative. I’ll get there. We’ll all get there (those interested, anyway). Waiting and fearing missing out is pushing so many of us into this restless state, like Seniors getting a whiff of freedom. But, are we really ready?

{#npm: 17 – verdant}

It continues to astound me that all one needs is ten days before evidence that life lives on in a seed emerges. These wee lettuces are less than a month old, and already they’re clearly and obviously recognizable as a varietal of romaine. They get big so fast! Now all I have to do is figure out how to harvest a leaf here or there without killing off the whole plant…

that first crunch calls me,
glowing fresh and verdant green,
to my salad days

{#npm: 16 – mob}

Unpopular opinion: social media is more a chore than a charm. I was pushed into it by my agent, despite his zero social media presence. It sells books he informed me, and I grumped and did what I was told. Of course, I didn’t know then about The Mob.

Much ink has been spilled about the infamous Twitter Mob that swoops daily down on the unsuspecting and cancels them. It’s a concept that’s always made me laugh; how on earth does this alleged mob meet or schedule meetings? If a group of people can’t even decide on the color of a stoplight, how can I believe some group of randoms somehow moves in coordinated lockstep to attack the unsuspecting? There is no singular mob, but there are, in fact, individuals who will question one’s statements, one’s authority, one’s abilities, and one’s position. And oh, how people of privilege do hate being called to account by those they assume are nobodies – thus the moniker of “mob.” (This of course is not to say that any social media is filled with people with whom Emily Post would be proud to converse – no. Manifold and varied are the mannerless boors. But, the mob threat is an empty boogeyman.)

What troubles me is the way that fear of the mythological mob strikes outsized terror into the hearts of otherwise intelligent people. I recently heard of an author whose book was dropped when his editor feared he wasn’t “own voices” enough for them to sell. She feared people’s reactions because she believed his identity didn’t match his character’s identity, and so pushed him into claiming publicly an identity he’d kept private his whole life. First of all, if we had ever actually listened to the originator of the phrase “own voices” we’d know it was meant to be a reader’s advisory, not a determiner of who was legitimate or allowed to write stories about whom. (Additionally, we don’t have to write solely what we know; this has been proven. There’s nuance in this, and the immediate dismissal of someone who doesn’t look/seem X writing an X character is deeply problematic.) And while I know it was his choice, regardless – it infuriates me. I wanted to be a writer so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone, is my go-to joke when I have to speak in public. It’s not a joke, though – I really did hope that I could keep my uninteresting, dull existence happily to myself, and just write books. Who knew we’d all be required to perform our humanity over and over, as public as a frog, allowing an officious public bog to pry and meddle into our private spaces?

Once thought vulgar, now confirmed.
(Yes, we Googled it.)


Poetry Friday is graciously hosted by the one and only Jama-j @ Alphabet Soup, who is always in a much less cranky frame of mind than I am. Pop on over!

{#npm: 15 – tender}

I stupidly gave myself a blister.

I’m even more annoyed because I got it while doing something I knew was going to hurt after a while – smearing pastels on charcoal paper. I should have used a tiny piece of paper to protect my finger, but my sister is mocking up ideas for a logo for her company and charcoal paper with its bit of texture is what I grabbed – and we talked on the phone while I spent unplanned minutes drawing and shading endless trees in various mediums.

Occasionally being supportive is not for the faint of heart – nor the tender of skin.

2012 Benicia 029
seen on fresh faces
greenly shining living flame
a lovely leaf-light

{#npm: 14 – witness}

Prior to now, I haven’t made an antiracist statement on any of my social media, nor did I put anything here on the blog. Candidly, it felt disingenuous from me, a little “hop on the zeitgeist bandwagon,” in a sense. I mean, did I really need to make an official statement? I would hope my life would speak in such a way that you’d be able to tell whether or not I’d spit on someone for their ethnicity of all things! But you know what? Maybe. Not. You don’t know me, nor do we truly know anyone through their social persona. Staying silent is easily misinterpreted, ergo: Both the historical and the recently reported spate of violence – physical or psychological – against people of AAPI ancestry is deeply wrong, and intolerable, and will never come to pass without criticism or response anywhere I take notice and have the ability to deflect, push back, or speak against it. NEVER.

People catch us off guard; people whose lives we thought were …”normal,” or at least whom we believed held “normal” views on equality and egalitarianism. Hearing them engage in offhand, casual xenophobia will always be like licking a battery; an unpleasant jolt. In aggrieved shock, our impulse is to open our hands and fling the offending thing away. I’ve wanted to fling away friendships, but, fearing that I’m being intolerant, I’ve found myself outlining why that statement or this action is a microaggression, bigoted, intolerant, ignorant, unjust… But, just how much does one explain? How much ignorance, innocence do we ascribe to grown adults? Bias is implicit, baked in. It’s America’s busiest industry; our largest export. But there’s this… idealism that persists, that people should know that we’re all just… human, and not make nasty assumptions or sly inferences. My child-heart just keeps on hoping that the “average” person is really me, that most of us are like people I know, that is, good people. But…no. No. Such shock, these xenophobic interactions bring me, they leave me asking, Do I really know any of you at all?

Did you hear Kwame Alexander’s beautiful community-sourced poem against hate the other day on Morning Edition? In honor of that poem, and in honor of my Asian family, colleagues, friends and even strangers who share my neighborhood and this world, my heart is a sanctuary on offer. Come in. Share this house.

come to the table
here is a sanctuary
come name yourself kin.

come, bringing pickle
milk bread, stuffed dumplings, sharing
communal plenty

come bearing heartbreak:
break bread. bear witness. wrap wounds.
cry out. be consoled

come, sate your senses
brim with such bounty – feasting,
too full for sadness

come – you belong here
succor and sanctuary
wait. come, take your place

{#npm: 13 – preparatory}

This is the month of repetition. Cousin Mary Lee observed it in her haiku diary. Fellow Poetry Peep Michelle suggested teasingly that she thought perhaps, based on the poetic themes one can see here these days, that someone might be the tiniest, mildest bit obsessed with her garden. (…I do wonder who that might be.) In all candor, of course it’s hard – especially in these days of near-sameness – not to keep pouring out the same paean, but a funny thing about seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night – they tend to endure, as it were. And thus my obsession with the waking Springtime world continues unabated. I’ll try at least to focus it a bit… and kvell today about my strawberries, which are awful just now, no matter their hue. But soooooon…

tastes tart with pre-season sour
presages sweetness