Not Even a Flower

i would like to write something
so beautiful
it tears your heart out

but what is that thing?

i would like to write something
to make you fall in love with me
but i haven’t yet learned
the right language

i would like to
climb a tree and
cry until morning
between the stars

to explode open
into a red and purple bloom
all the colibris would kiss me

but i am not even a flower

this pen in my hand is
so small and thin


Ni Siquiera Una Flor

me gustaría escribir algo
tan hermoso
te arranque el corazón

pero cuál sería esa cosa

me gustaría escribir algo
que te haga enamorarte de mi
pero todavía no he aprendido
el idioma justo

me gustaría
subir un árbol y
llorar hasta la mañana
entre las estrellas

explotar como
un brote que abre en
una flor roja y morada
todos los colibrís me besarían

pero no soy ni siquiera una flor

esta pluma en mi mano es
tan diminuto y delgado

Swashbuckling Through the Daisies

I’ve decided that I’m done with “The Open Book Test.”  For anyone who was enjoying it:  (graceful bow).  If you don’t know what I’m talking about–don’t worry about it.  I was going to continue it for the whole of 2015, but I changed my mind.  That’s the great thing about having a blog.  It’s yours.  You can change your mind if you want to.

In place of that project exploring the past, I’m going to try come up with occasional posts about what’s going on in my mind in the present, and hope that they are reasonably interesting.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about a particular kind of annoying person and how I fear I might be turning into one.  The ones I’ve met are usually ex-missionaries of some sort–people who once did something awesome and unusual, but then proceeded to live totally normal boring lives but continue to define themselves by the one interesting unusual thing they did 20 years ago.  I hate that.  It drives me crazy.  The other day I realized that I think I might be turning into one.  I felt like kicking a hole in the wall.



Well it seems like there are only two possible ways to avoid this or change it.

1.  Do something interesting and unusual now (take it out of the past and put it in the present)

2.  Redefine yourself (as in: use the mirror and not old photo albums)

I wish I could think of another option, but I can’t.

I’d like to do the first one.  I am dying to do the first one.  Honestly.  And I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell is stopping me.  It’s not like I have kids in school or anything.  I am married, though, to a wonderful man who is about as different from me as a person can be.  He’s unusual and exciting by nature.  If you know him, you know what I mean.  He’s also older than I am–not a lot, but enough–he’s had a significant number of health problems in the last several years, and he’s an Aries.  All of these things add up to: he’s not in the mood to do exciting, unusual things that don’t involve full health insurance and regular paychecks.  All things considered, I don’t blame him.  And then there’s this:  he IS doing something exciting and unusual.  He’s an Italian living in America.  This, for him, is as awesome as it would be for me if he took me to live in Italy.  So, there you go.  You get it.  We were all amped to join the Peace Corp a few months ago, and for about three precious hours I felt like I came to life again.  Then I discovered that he can never join the Peace Corp because he’s not an American citizen.  So I let that go, too.

The second one is not as fun.  It’s sad–or it makes me sad.  How do you do that?  I mean, how do I do that?  I don’t want to be a middle-aged community health worker living in a redneck town in a cold desert when the world is full of places with oceans and languages and sunshine and open windows.  In my mind, I am ready to take my surfboard and paddle out, but instead I take my scissors and walk around the house snipping off the heads of the roses that have bloomed.  Again and again.  Instead of packing suitcases I switch purses a lot.

It’s not easy.  That’s all I’m saying.  It would be a lot easier to do something hard, than to keep doing easy things over and over.  I’m standing here with my machete, ready to swashbuckle through the jungle, and then I realize I’m in a field of daisies.  It’s disappointing.  Tennessee Williams said something about that.

I can’t tell you how I’ve resolved this, because I haven’t.  I’m just posing the question.  That’s the difference between me posting from the past or posting from the present.  I can’t tell you how it turned out.


Gardening with a machete:  Outside my house in Costa Rica, 2010

Gardening with a machete: Outside my house in Costa Rica, 2010

Fear of Poems

i am afraid of the poems
the fingerprints
they may leave on
my body
the little tiny bruises
red marks
on my neck

they knock on my door
in the night

they call me on the phone

i am sleeping with my
husband and pretend i
do not hear them

i am afraid
of the poems

i know their ways

if i let them in
the guilt will be
read on my face

Glass Windows

trapped inside
i stare through glass windows
at the sky
from the sun and rain

i would give my life
to be a leaf
making sugar from sunshine
even only for a season

i would be a bee, my
face buried in flowers and
let winter kill me
once and for all
when it comes,
dissolve my little wings
in its rain that
taps chilly fingers against
glass windows

The Queen of Banshees

One day I will free
this wild whoop
boiling in my belly
scream out my laughter
ride my wild elephants
to wherever they go.
Lost, laughing
I will never look back.
Painted face and
tangled hair
I will become
the Queen of Banshees.
I will be as loud as I am
and as bright.

(from Tell Me About The Telaraña, 2012)

From the Journals: Two entries about Tia Flor

January 31, 1998
(Guanacaste, Costa Rica)

We went, on Friday night, to visit Tia Flor in El Silencio. It made my heart ache inside its cage because the blessed silence was there that once lay over the world before everybody had televisions. All was silent and crisply cool in the moonlight. Through the open-air window a star hung over the mountain and ranas and solococos sang their hymns. Tia Flor gave us coffee and fresh hot bread.

I love my pretty house with its windows and floors and I know I am living a relatively simple life compared to some people in the world, but when I stood in El Silencio I felt the same hunger for simplicity that I felt in the USA, ironically, living here.

November 15, 1999
(Washington State, USA)

I am haunted by Tia Flor. She is what stands between me and any ability to become contented with a “normal” life. She has what I do not.

I thought about her on Saturday night as we were driving out of the Tri Cities on 395 North. It was dark and the cars driving with us and toward us made up a great high-speed pulse. The night was lit up by giant bulbs surrounding shopping malls, over gas stations and on road signs. The earth in all directions: asphalt, concrete.

And here comes the unreasonably agonizing understanding that all of this is artificial. Superficial. Fake. Unnatural. Contrived. Illusory. Night isn’t yellow. Night is black. People can’t travel at 70 miles per hour. People walk. The ground isn’t hard and black. The ground is soft and has many colors. Everything that is the common agreed-upon reality of the moment is bullshit.

I cannot stand it.

Tia Flor appears to me. She is everything a “beautiful”, “successful” person is not. She is old. She is fat. She is poor. Her clothes are out of fashion and her hair smells of smoke. She wears big glasses, cheap flip-flops and her shins are full of lumps. In Tia Flor’s house, there are mice. She has a cat to catch them, to keep them out of the tortilla corn. There are spiders and spider webs connecting the rafters of the house with one bare bulb in each room.

She gave me the most delicious scandalously sweet coffee I have ever tasted that she made on her woodstove and warm bread she just baked over the coals. I sat on a sunken chair too sorry, even, to throw away and looked out her window open to the sky. The moon lit up every leaf on the mango tree and outlined their movements, like dancers, when the breeze ruffled. The rooster crowed from his perch. Frogs giggled and hooted in the quebrada. An owl said it name.

It will drive me mad. These are not pictures of affluence and poverty. They are pictures of illusion and truth. Dementia and sanity. Quebrantamientos and wholeness. It causes me pain to look out the window, to look in the window, and not see black sky, a moonlit mango, a wood stove, a pile of corn. Even now that I know of the hardships suffered by a person like Tia Flor. Even so, she has what I do not.

El Arcoiris / Para mi Ahijada

Ama como si te estuvieras ahogando
y siempre primero
a ti misma. Piérdete, y no
tengas miedo; cada día
hay un nuevo sol.
Saborea todo.
No esperes nada.
Mírate al espejo para no
Camina con la cabeza en alto.
Baila con el pelo suelto.
Canta a todo pulmón.
Cuenta las estrellas.
Bebe del rio.
Tírate al mar.

Porque la vida
es una
las noches
son largas
el corazón es de carne
el alma es de nubes
y tú eres
el arcoiris