Monday, November 8, 2010

In case of KITTENS

The Litter

Where is the truth in the day,

this hot one, that suddenly

arrives from the past?

What does it mean that I was

a skinny, golden being then, with

light-filled bones?

My body was so pale and happy

to be lying in a litter

of new kittens.

Their shallow mewing breath.

Their tiny teeth,


What house, the crumbling

sun porch?

What year?

I knew the smallness

of myself in the world, then –

Is that it?

Or the neighbor girls in lace

and gingham,

the obvious simplicity of life,

the wreath of time,

the neatly-tied bow of


Or is it just that I hadn’t met you yet,

and now yours is the life I stand

all my other lives beside?

Or that after bleeding for them in

the years since,

I’ve lost my compassion for cats,

and that’s what kittens grow into?

The mystery.

I am still lying here.

Their softness is still with me,

even now.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In case of TIME

We filled the house, its caverns

With breath and light and noise.

Its stony silence crumbled

Under the cheerful battering rams

Of our bodies.

Empty floors grew tables,

Books sprouted on shelves,

Beds and bedsprings creaked and bounced

Into being.

We loved that house into life.

And it will remember you,

Remember us,

As our only child,

Standing at our graveside in the rain,

Wind at its windows,

Lights on,

Fans spinning.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In case of VIOLENCE


I asked for pain

In the form of a swung fist, begged

For swelling plum and deep peach to crowd around my eye.

I wanted Sunday school, myself

To be eleven, hand shot up and smugly hyper-right

In all I knew. I wanted to throw a baseball

And devil take it, let it land, hit, or smash what it may.

And so, soul and bodily, I hurled it all away.

My cheekbone opened like a rose.

And yes, the years fell back, and stood to watch

But I cracked wide and broke

Against a truth of consequence and cost.

I read: even a plague of frogs is an act of loving grace.

(I will be something better for these bruises on my face.)

Monday, May 31, 2010

In case of A RED DOOR

It is all true

It is all true --

that thousands of fish have never been named,
that compasses point north,

that pi just goes on and on and on and on and on.

it is true
that somewhere a man
is buying flowers,
and a girl rides the subway, chewing a thumbnail over a book,
sparrows breed to make more sparrows,
and that cries give way to sleep.

It is all --
sea in its vastness
time in its fastness
heart in its fullness

It is all true.

And it is true
that when you stand against my kitchen wall,
eyes fixed on a speck or some refracted light,
that you can see
a shimmering
of another room,
another house, with
clean windows
a storm cellar,

and a red door,
that you will leave unlocked.

And the sun
is a star,
our closest star,
that will not burn out in our lifetimes.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


the city that built the bomb

I remember the fight to keep you --
over gristled grilled cheese, blistered and black,
as thought it had been cooked on the griddle of the street.

You were a man from a mechanized city churning
in the desert --
like the city that built the bomb.

You toiled at a task you didn't understand, snapping and pulling
away from me
between bites of melted gold.

And I
wanted to wrap you in clean white sheets and
wanted to cover your hard metal eyes and
wanted to drown the day in ice, but

hesitated, suspended --
like the city that built the bomb -- by nightmares
of keeping a rattlesnake for a pet,
of waking up in fallout.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In case of ANANDA

I’m happy.

In fact, my new catchphrase is, “I’m so happy!” Ask anyone. I say it so often; it’s almost embarrassing.

But what I mean is, I’m joyful. Even on bad days, even on the totally shit ones when my head won’t stop pounding and my kids won’t stop screaming and someone’s eating pizza and drinking beer right in front of me (!), I’m still joyful. I feel like I know myself better than I have in years. I feel more alive, more aware, more at peace, and more at home in my own skin than I ever really have.

Because the world is opening up for me. Because I have nothing really, no money or fame, no power or influence, no stakes to claim in the present. I have nothing on the line, nothing to lose, yet I have everything to gain.

I plant my flags in the future. I aim for the horizon. And even as I do this, I know that failure can’t touch me, can’t stain me. Failure is life, it’s a part of life. Fine, so be it.

I am loved. What else do I need?

Bring on the failure! Come, storms! I’m alive; you can’t kill me. I’m alive and the universe cares. I’m loved; I’m invincible.

In her wonderful children’s novel A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeline L’Engle writes of a dog called Ananda. The dog comes in a dark hour into the lives of the characters, wagging her tail, resting her head on their knees. One character asks, “What does ‘Ananda’ mean?”

And someone else answers, “It means, ‘that joy in existence without which the universe would be lost.’ ”

Anyway. That may not be an accurate translation of the name Ananda. But that is an accurate description of what I have.

That joy in existence without which the universe would be lost.

And I know, of course I know, that dark hours lie ahead. But this is the joy I want to keep, the joy I want to remember. The joy of being this age, in this time and place, of waking to life and love, teaching and learning. Cooking and reading and serving coffee and grading papers and holding hands and playing music and writing writing writing.

Meeting people I can smile genuinely at, knowing that they are as important in their existence as I am. That they, too, have gold and purple flags planted on future hills, flashing in the sun. Future glory.

I want to give everyone my Ananda. Be Ananda. Look for it. Hunt for it. Grope around in your darkness. Hold your breath and dive for it as for a great pearl.

Let her come to you when you need her, wagging her tail. Let her rest her head on your knee.

Let yourself be loved. So far as I can see, that is happiness.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

In case of FADE OUT

Something I’ve been coming to grips with lately –

Death is unnatural.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you that it is normal, that it is just a part of life. Death is not a part of life. Death does not belong here. Death of any kind – any kind – is wrong. That’s why it feels wrong.

If death was always going to be the end, if we were meant for death, we would not fight it so. We would not hate it as we do, would not thrash and cry out when we lose someone, would not spin in the deep whirlpools of grief. Human beings have a soul, some kind of eternal soul. We were not born to die. We were born to live.

I say this because I have seen so much death – not much physical death; I’ve been fortunate enough to lose only one member of my family and one friend – but I’ve seen a great deal of emotional death over the years. And I’m still fighting it.

I could tell here countless stories.

The end of my relationship with Michael.

The horrible loss that I see in some of my current friends.

The splendor of all of our childhoods, now past.

Everybody has these stories.

And maybe some people, perhaps healthy people, accept deaths like this and they move on. Certainly, I live day-to-day without much active grief. But for whatever reason, lately, I’m not okay with these things. I know they happen, I can’t fix them, they just are. Death just is.

And that's what I've been writing about.

In the last scene of my most recent screenplay, the one I'm working on with Sam, a man is writing a book review. He has just been visited by someone from his former life. This person tells him that the woman he loved, for all intents and puposes, is dead. She's not physcially dead, but she might as well be.

So here's what we wrote.

"Sam crosses to his window. The sun is almost completely gone. He watches it and begins to cry steady, constant tears.

After a moment, another low knock at the door. Faye sticks her head into the office.

With some effort, Sam pulls himself together.


I’m sorry -- did you want to --


Yes. Come in. Let’s finish this.

She comes in and sits at the desk, snapping on the desk lamp.


Where was I?


The graphic fumbling of the heart --


-- of the book. Right, right. Of his own book. New paragraph. But the real loss here is ours, as Louden squanders his talent, the promise of his youth, and the delicate brilliance of his entire premise. This book should have been gorgeous. I wanted it to be. But it seems that all the richness of his first novel, all the glow and poignancy which so characterized his writing, is now gone.

Sam pauses. Faye looks up. Sam looks at her, then:


New paragraph.


And that's how it ends.

But the real loss here is ours. The real loss here is ours.

So go ahead and thrash, world. I will for as long as I can.