Monday, December 31, 2007

Closing 2007

The beans are in the soup pot soaking, the hambone is poised and waiting for the morning light to be dropped in. Time to celebrate the new year. Start the first day of the year humble is how the old southern tradition goes.

I did a little more investigation on the December 18, 1971 newspaper in my father's box of things. I knew the top story, Crane Topples; Kills Railroader, must involve my grandfather. He was a machinst out at the railroad for 30-some years. Sure enough, he was there that day. There was a train derailment in the railyard and so they brought in the cranes, along with my grandfather, whose job it was to keep the cranes running. But there was really nothing he could do. The crane operator, a man called Gordie Doncaster, was lifting up 400,000 pounds of train engine when the boom began to swing. The outriggers, for some reason, hadn't been extended. The crane toppled in seconds and trapped Doncaster beneath it. All anyone could see of him was the bottom portion of his legs, beneath the knees. The nearest crane that could free him was in Fort Wayne. The railroaders spent the next four hours, the longest four hours of my grandfather's life, staring at Doncaster's feet and knees and waiting for the train bringing the crane. When at last Doncaster was freed, the coroner said he certainly hadn't survived beyond the moment of tipping and everyone was relieved.

So that's the story of the December 18, 1971 newspaper, although it still doesn't explain why I had to read it on that particular day. Grandfather says he doesn't know why the newspaper was in the box of my father's things.

In other news, I got my first rejection from the poetry sphere, although it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Something along the lines of "close, but no cigar. Send again." I'll think about it.

And that's how 2007 is closing. Bring on the new year.

Ears and Feet

Nephew Matthew and my feet, wrapping up the Christmas cheer on Grandma Carolyn's couch.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Writers' Meeting at The Chicory

Yes, just like it says on the sidebar, we're meeting today at 4:00. I know, I know, it's vacation time, but step out of your p.j.s and come on along! It's the last meeting for 2007, for goodness' sake!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Look, Look, Look!

Naoko is getting "In the Morning" published here: Puerto del Sol! Now that's a Christmas present. Congratulations and we miss you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bowie Meets Crosby

Pond Dreams

I can't always put everything I need to know together in my waking hours, so I really look forward to nighttime and dreams. Last night's dream was odd, though. Just a name, over and over, without even a body to go with it: Henry David. Henry David. Henry David. I usually get something a little more to go on than words. It repeated itself so many times that when Gene got up in the middle of the night to let the dogs out I told him I was dreaming of a name, Henry David. Over morning coffee I asked him, does Henry David mean anything to you? No. And to me either. But we do have Google, so I typed in the name. Ah, yes, Henry David Thoreau, completely inaccessible to my waking brain, but running around haunting my dreams. Walden has been on my bookshelves for months. I bought a new copy however many months ago DDL mentioned it, but it's been buried behind other things. I read it once in high school, maybe even middle school, but haven't touched it since. I've just let it run around loose in the backyard of my mind without once calling it into the house. It must have been cold out there in the wind last night. Anyway, Walden is now unburied and top on my pile of books to read. I'm almost finished with William Gay's I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, but it seems as though my subconscious has taken over and ordered my next tome. Thank goodness. I was getting tired of making all these decisions on my own.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

About the War

We were thinking about the war, standing in the foyer of a mansion large enough to devour many middle class houses, beneath a blazing chandelier. A baby grand player piano digitally churned out Christmas tunes. Our coats hung up, we were free to wander. The place was on display. Every house-sized room reminded me of a museum piece, or else a section of an upscale department store. Marilyn Monroe's and Elton John's jewelry hung in glass cases on the wall. We filled our plates from the buffet, where each dish was titled with a calligraphied placard, then took our eats downstairs to the Africa floor.

The party was put on by friends of friends, for our mutual friends’ son, who scored a two-week Christmas leave from Iraq on account of his new baby, born a few days after he deployed. We all brought presents for the soldier and his new wife, but before the gifts were opened our hostess brought out a deployment candle for the newlywed couple to light, something about appreciation of the fine work they’re doing over there, protecting the American dream. A woman in a red sequined blouse started to drop a tear. The soldier shuffled his feet in his combat boots. I wondered a bit if I would ever see him again or if this would be the last time, standing there lighting a candle in front of the bar and Elton John's earrings on the Africa floor. Later, lying in bed, Gene said we really should send those friends of our friends a thank you card.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ziegler's Eggnog

(Good with or without the booze.)

6 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light rum
1/2 cup white wine
1 pint whipping cream
2 quarts milk

Whip the cream and set it aside.

In another bowl whip the eggs, thoroughly.

To the eggs add the sugar and the booze.

Fold the whipped cream into the egg mixture.

Pour in the milk and fold everything together a little more.

Let the holidays begin.

Happy Birthday, Talia!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fairy Tale

It’s a knife slice, darling, through
your Black Forest dreams.

Stale frosting glazing dark
your scrollwork tongue.

A trap set, life threat,
whom shall I

The wide-eyed witch of Endor screams.

Cookies and Spring

We're crawling closer to Christmas, it seems. The first batches of cookies are in the pantry (thanks for your help, Rachel!) and old friends are dropping by. The stories! The kids are busy in their private corners making secret things. Christmas has the unmistakable flavor of things past. It is probably no coincidence that the New Year celebration comes so quickly thereafter, before the world can become irretrievably steeped in old tea leaves. I'm anxious to get on with the new making, myself. Naoko has great pics on her blog that reminded me, somehow, of the cool rinsing nature of spring.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

December 18, 1971

It took me exactly three weeks, but I finally walked back across the street today to claim my father's things. The feeling that today was the day overwhelmed me and forced me out the door. I get these feelings. What can I say? Life has so many layers. Don't even ask me about my dreams. I'm still sorting out the box, but there is one item that I can't figure out at all, and it's spooky.

There was one newspaper in the box, The Elkhart Truth, and it was dated December 18, 1971, exactly 36 years ago today. It has no relationship to my father, that I know of. Its date is three years before he died. It's probably just a coincidence, but I'll write down some of the headlines, just in case they mean something to someone besides me.

Crane Topples: Kills Railroader
Area Police Get $88,221
Landfill Suit Filed
Icy Roads Cause Many Accidents
Humphrey Candidicay Expected
Lundquist Views Legislature Busiest 30 Days of His Life
Next June: First Global Conference on Environment
Illegal Immigration Problem
South Vietnamese Troops Press Cambodia Offensive
Henderson Acquitted of My Lai Cover-Up
End of War Beginning of New Chapter In Orient Politics
Environmental Groups May Have To Post Bond

Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Empty Threat

(While trying to convince all the books to jump back on the shelves, clean a little, get ready for Christmas, the Robert Frost book I ordered but haven't yet begun fell open onto this page.)

I stay;
But it isn't as if
There wasn't always Hudson's Bay
And the fur trade,

A small skiff
And a paddle blade.

I can just see my tent pegged,
And me on the floor,
And a trapper looking in at the door
With furs to sell.

His name's Joe,
Alias John,
And between what he doesn't know
And won't tell
About where Henry Hudson's gone,
I can't say he's much help;
But we get on.

The seal yelp
On an ice cake.
It's not men by some mistake?

There's not a soul
For a windbreak
Between me and the North Pole--

Except always John-Joe,
My French Indian Esquimaux,
And he's off setting traps--
In one himself perhaps.

Give a headshake
Over so much bay
Thrown away
In snow and mist
That doesn't exist,

I was going to say,
For God, man, or beast's sake,
Yet does perhaps for all three.

Don't ask Joe
What it is to him.
It's sometimes dim
Whatever it is to me,
Unless it be
It's the old Captain's dark fate
Who failed to find or force a strait
In its two-thousand mile coast;
And his crew left him where he failed,
And nothing came of all he sailed.

It's to say "You and I--"
To such a ghost--
"You and I
Off here
With the dead race of the Great Auk!"
And, "Better defeat almost,
If seen clear,
Than life's victories of doubt
That need endless talk-talk
To make them out."

My Old Man Winter

Writers' Meeting News

The Chicory was a nice end to finals week. Just Talia, Mike, and me made it out, with my kids tagging along, but still fun. Tom brought some poems that Mike and Talia looked over and marked up, and everyone helped me decide what to submit for Wolfson/Analecta. We all got powdered sugar on our lips from the beignets, except Talia, who was abstaining. Mmmm.

We're moving The Chicory meetings to 4:00 p.m., in the hopes that it will suit everyone's schedule a little better.

Talia wins the inspiration award. If you're feeling a little down about rejection notices, consider this: She figures her success rate is 1 in 30 submissions. So quit whining and start sending.

We are meeting again on Wednesday at Chris O'Brien's. And yes, I did say in the last set of directions to turn right on Angela when I should have said turn left. Sorry I sent some of you to Notre Dame. It was an honest brain freeze. Turn left on Angela this time. This is why I always take a GPS when I go hiking. But anyway, Rachel and I are baking Christmas cookies to share with you all, so send some stuff out and let's get moving here. Finals are over, and yes, Christmas is coming, but you won't even get the joy of a rejection letter if you don't write anything down. See you there.

The last bit of news is for fiction writers, essay writers, playwrites, whatnot. I know we've been heavy on poetry, okay, perhaps exclusive on poetry, but 2008 is a new year. If you've got some fiction, an essay, a play, some whatnot, send it on. Don't make me name names... I'm thinking of setting aside my poetry pen for awhile anyway and delving back into fiction, so some good company would be nice.

Meeting adjourned.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Palmer House renovations

So, this is where Gene will be next week. The chandeliers have to pass the UL field tests before they can go back up. He's a little nervous about touching these babies. I was going to tag along, but I think it's better if I stay out of the way.


Father Nicholas's study window.

Holy Transfiguration Skete

Father Basil, 2006.

The link: Skete

Closer detail, although the pic isn't great.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

FMLA Claim

(Of course there are a few small jobs I have to finish before I can really get into the mail order bride thing.)

Q. Just describe the medical condition that you had that you developed I guess sometime in 2002.

A. I had a tumor in my left nostril here, and actually it really didn't bother me, but it got to the point where it was growing and I couldn't breathe through my nose and it was like a black booger that was on my nose and it wouldn't go away, and it stunk pretty bad, it smelled like dead flesh. So I went and had an autopsy done.

Good Morning Starshine

An almost sunny day and I've shut the door on finals and strolled away. It feels very good. My work is looking interesting again, my first mail order bride case. The guy's first mail order bride from China mysteriously drowned on their honeymoon. I don't think she came with a warranty. See what happens when you shop abroad? First it was the tooth paste, then the dog food and the baby toys, and now this. Buy American this Christmas. Stayed tuned for more updates...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007


My friend is a big Gene Stratton Porter fan, and while I'm not (maybe I could be, I've never read the books) I was fascinated by her house, that she designed herself. She did all her writing up there on the second story, where all those windows are. This is a fantasy of mine, to have my own place out in the woods to write amongst the trees, which is just to say I'm feeling very nostalgic for summer today. Winter hasn't officially arrived and already I feel it has lasted too long. I want the leaves to reattach themselves to the trees, or else spring to come quickly. Perhaps I need to move south where I can play in creeks all year long.


So many things. Finals, decorate for Christmas, bake, and clean. Walk my legs across the street and take home my father's things. I'm dreaming of the January seed catalogs . Give me the colors of a brand new year.

Rachel has been asking for a poetry assignment, which of course is something way beyond me, so I'll have to copy (poorly) from DDL. I keep a notepad to write words that I like down while I'm proofing, in hopes of someday doing something with them. My desk is currently cluttered with yellow scraps of paper documenting what I've seen. So, Rachel, or whoever else wants to play, here's one day's gleaning for you. The assignment is: Use five to seven of the following words or phrases in a poem. Set the timer before you begin. You have 12 minutes. Ready, Set, Go.

Docket sounding
standard of care
due diligence
challenge for cause
reasonable doubt
strike him for cause
lithium toxicity

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Writers' Party!

Yes, I'm falling behind on my duties. It's the end of the semester, life is going astray...


Wednesday night we're having a carry-in get together at Chris O'Brien's.

It's at 7:00. Chris is making soup and bread. Bring something, anything. No, not your dog, unless you can cook him up to be tasty and tender. Otherwise, bring food, drink and/or a piece of writing to share. It will be a nice break and we all need it.

If you need directions, e-mail me. I'll dig them up from wherever I typed them from and send them to you.

Closing Arguments

(Why I love my job, although I was tempted to leave it this way.)

Plaintiff's Attorney: And things that get said that don't get immediately corrected often take the error of truth.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Light Most Favorable

(just riffing while I work through the mess. Trying to find that stream of consciousness place.)

Someone shouts, “Look, there’s
Elvis,” and while your back
is turned the shades go
down. But it’s all of a piece, isn’t
it? Otherwise you wouldn’t be
standing there with that
damn music, those platform shoes.
Play it backwards, perhaps you’ll
be able to claim that sound. Two,
three, twenty. Does it matter?
Night is coming. There’s no one


I'm snowed under with work and the promise (threat?) of more work and the end of the semester. I know, everyone can relate. My laptop has a virus, Gene's car was towed back to the shop three hours after we handed over $600 to the mechanics for a new timing belt and water pump. I got home from The Chicory just in time to take his rescue-me-from-the-toll-road call (I should not be complaining about work. I'm going to need as much as I can take.) From the toll road we catapulted to Kalamazoo to have dinner with Tom and see his orchestra concert. Tomorrow, we catapult back to see his holiday jazz concert. There seems to be no room for my soul to wander toward anything else, but nevertheless, at 11:30 last night we passed this church sign:

Above All
Else Thank

And of course now I'm thinking, who would enjamb God that way?

Keweenaw Weather

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Writers' Meetings Friday & Wednesday

We've had our Thanksgiving break, now it's time to get back at it. Send your work out asap and meet us tomorrow at 1:00 at The Chicory.


Next week, Wednesday night, 7:00 p.m., we're having an end-of-the-season party at Chris O'Brien's. Chris is making soup and bread. We're bringing everything else. We might workshop a bit, too, so send, send, send, and we will try and figure out if we're going to meet again before January. December is upon us. Time to chase the darkness away. Goodness.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Positive Effects of Walking

Every once in a while, when I'm not completely pissed off at them, a pastor tells me something I need to know. As often as not, it's not something spiritual, but something practical, something like "walk in the direction that you intend to go." And so...

I walked down the hallway to the advising room and filled out the form to apply to graduate today. I found out last week that I should have filled it out in September if I wanted to graduate in May. Such is life. I should have maybe walked a little more quickly, but nonetheless, August graduation, here I come! I hadn't planned on walking through the ceremony anyway (different direction), so August instead of May isn't too big of a deal.

Then, this evening, I walked across the street and asked my grandfather to unlock the cedar box that contains my father's effects. It's been closed and off limits, but ever present, all these 33 years. It occurred to me last week that I was old enough to ask. I only took a quick peek, saw an old sneaker, a watch, some blue jeans, but Saturday I'm going back to collect the complete contents.

Walk in the direction you intend to go.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


And he came back again today, right after the recycling people came by.

Friday, November 23, 2007

November Air

We celebrated Gene's 48th birthday Friday. He figures he's probably more than halfway through the maze. His beard, reddish-blonde, is beginning to display tufts of dignified gray. He still asked for the Superman VS The Silver Surfer comic book for his present, though for his Christmas stocking stuffer this year he's asked for a small book of poetry, nothing too modern, something by someone well respected, established. I'm thinking about that. He and Jojo baked his favorite Texas cake together. They found the recipe in his mom's old recipe boxes. Jojo and I both volunteered to make it, but he wanted to partake in the creation, bring his mom's presence into our kitchen with his own hands. It's probably best that way. And it turned out very good. Hopefully his mom didn't look at the mess while she was there.

November is always a little weird around here. Maybe it's the change of the seasons. I don't know. We've buried a lot of friends and relatives in November. One year on Gene's birthday he was picking out his mom's casket. We both agreed it was definitely better to be making cake than picking out coffins on your birthday. This year we lost no one, but still we had to buy a ten-pack of sympathy cards at Barnes & Noble for all our friends who have lost relatives, and there was a memorial service to sit through. There's just something about November. I get worn out with the dying. I'll be glad when it's through.

On a happier note, I'm all but finished with my reading for this semester. I finished Anil's Ghost last night and was glad I chose it. I took copious notes and I think I'll write the 10-page paper on identity theory, which I'm going to have to do some research on. I loved Anil's character and her insistence on choosing her own identity, even going so far as to reject the names she was given by her parents and bartering with her brother to buy his middle name, Anil. At 12 years old, "She gave her brother one hundred saved rupees, a pen set he had been eyeing for some time, a tin of fifty Gold Leaf cigarettes she had found, and a sexual favor he had demanded..." The author is very diligent about supporting the character's choice. We never learn her previous given names. The book is, of course, about much more than that. It's also about erasing people or destroying them so completely they might as well be erased. It's about seeing and grappling with truth, "truth is just an opinion." I could go on and on, but I should probably focus my energies on the paper. Certainly December will be coming and we'll be moving on to better things.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

It was the usual crowd for Thanksgiving, except for this guy who showed up on the bird feeders after lunch. I was so pleased. He's never been to my house before! He didn't stay long, but maybe he'll come back. Look at that gorgeous head. Good thing I didn't bother to put away the binoculars or the bird books in my cleaning binge. Okay, yes, there were a lot of things I neglected to put away and/or clean. But see, it all worked out. What a nice day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mad World- Gary Jules

In celebration (or however you'd like to categorize it) of whatever angst you're feeling today. But mostly the people on the street are fascinating.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Moving Clay

I've been trying to write something for several days now and it's coming out slow and jerky, which makes me want to abandon it and try again in another couple of years. It's an essay, which is easier for me than poetry, but not this time. Not this time. I'm going to keep working on it a couple more days, then file it away if it doesn't come. What to do with the lumpy clay that absolutely swears it is a pot? Clay is just earth, isn't it? Can't it go back where it came from, rattle someone else's bones?

Monday, November 19, 2007

And Why?

cash advance

Thanks, Talia, for the link. And I suppose this means that this blog is totally incomprehensible. I've suspected as much for a very long time.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Season of Food

Another fine workshop at The Chicory (sorry, no pics), but Rachel, Mike, Naoko, Ryan and I chewed up everyone's work and digested food in our poetry. Say, is cherry pie on a sidewalk better than an apple, or do ants have teeth? Are they sharp? What is the best food representation of blah? I voted against Cream of Wheat in the blah category, because Cream of Wheat is very warm and yummy and it would be a shame to connect it to, say, apathy and homeless shelters. I also couldn't vote for oatmeal, because I like oatmeal too. Expecially with brown sugar and raisins and walnuts and a little cream. No, oatmeal is much too happy to be blah. And it's good for you. No consensus was reached. An impasse. We also spent a great deal of time discussing hair, and some small amount of time on sex. Our discussions perplexed us so greatly that we stayed three hours and I returned to my car just in time for the kind parking ticket man to hand me a $10 ticket, which I couldn't talk him out of, although I didn't try very hard. Everyone has a job to do, after all, and some people's job is to hand me tickets. What can you do?

In other news, it seems as though this Wednesday, the evening before Thanksgiving, might not be the best time to have workshop. So we're taking that off the schedule. We're on for the next Chicory date, however. And we're trying to make plans for a little holiday celebration to end the semester on Wednesday, Dec. 5th. Naoko will be leaving us for at least a month, finals and other commitments are coming up, and in short December is going to be wild. So, let me know what you all think about a party to end the 2007 workshop season. Maybe a carry-in meal? Snacks? Let me know.

Also, Mike is in the final push to get his MFA apps in. Visit his blog, comment on his work...

And that's it for the workshop world.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where, Oh, Where

Thanks so much, everyone, for the outpouring of love. I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning, completely overwhelmed.

But now it's time to get back to work. I found this link, New Pages, that might be useful for all of us in submitting stuff to online lit mags. I think I somehow stumbled across it from the David Hernandez list, but I can't quite be sure. But anyway, check these two out. I'll start putting these links up on the sidebar when I get some spare time, am feeling more organized...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Clueless - As Usual

Slow Trains has taken "Train Language." Now I have to come up with some sort of bio. I haven't a clue what to say.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lost Religion

It wells up inside you.

The silver kaleidoscope
(mistaken for a telescope)
on the grass beneath the tree.

Where have you left your sacred?

Galileo pulling
a chain of endless rings.

Donations offered
at the oddest moments.

The random turtle,
chiropractic, rearticulating
your limbs.

Even the canopy bleeds.

Shafts of feathers (cardinal),
Near the body,
an unexpected shade of gray.


Elsewhere, the mica fireplace
(perfect cleavage),
the for-construction bid.

The issue is the ceiling height.

The clouded area

often alluded to.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Congrats, Talia!

It's out. Catch Talia's latest published piece of work on Wicked Alice! Woo-hoo!

In the Beginning...

(So Tom is getting his feet wet, stepping into the poetry world. I told him I'd post a couple of his things here. Maybe I'm just a mom, but I think it's a good start.)


Outside the window
Peace falls from the sky
Some enjoy
Some despise
Either way we all acknowledge
Children are called to it
They play games and smile
The world around them disappears into the void of oblivion
Blissful content is their salvation
Parents watch with envious souls
Feeling joy and desire at once
Wishing for one last empiricism
The last of the dancing rays go down
Children are beckoned to their beds
Parents say their blessings
All is well

The Dance

(for Tori the double bass, after the orchestra concert)

Warm and smooth while in my embrace
The casual pressure of the eyes watching us
We go through the well rehearsed dance neither feeling nor ignoring
When we are alone later our experience will be much more improvisation than plan
For now though you stay still, and let me do the work
I can’t wait till the time when we forget the world and its bolshie view
For now though you stay still, and let me do the work

The Outside

Cool, collected, she inhales her last drag
She envisions an apocalypse and its make her smile
Why does it always end this way?
The wind bites at her ears and nose
She’s just glad to feel something
The foreign sounds with the familiar tone take away any joy that the wind brought
Detachment once again engulfs her
Why do they make it end this way?
A small boy runs by screaming with what she can only guess is joy
Stay that way she thinks
Finally abandonment has joined her
He brings with him a cold snow
The kind that seems to have hope and despair in an ever expanding dance
That is what she has wanted
That is what she has needed
This is her prison

Not to touch

So close
So far away
Ever teasing the strings of my soul
Intoxication of the mind
Is your alms to mankind
It seems so artless
Yet so complicated
You neither notice
Nor care
This plucks the strings louder
Close to the breaking point they scream
The tone is insatiable
No one hears the progression
Finally the tonic is reached
Forte turns to piano
Piano turns to an abyss
Here is the requiem of the heart
Sad and beautiful


(This was formerly Ordeal, is found text, ruthlessly scissored up yet again, but it still doesn't have a feel that I'm happy with. I like Punch List much better, it feels done. This just feels like it doesn't quite capture the picture.)

You are taking a random walk
through our online cemetery.


Was she able to make a living?


Did she have a theme?

A lot of naked women.

She could shoot.


Bondage issues.

She didn't dislike it.

She was aware.

Is this a good place to stop?


How she felt
going through this ordeal.

I gathered it from her
bit‑by‑bit, piece‑by‑piece.

She had two red dots
on each hip bone.

Something was trying to tear its way
out of her abdomen.

No water after midnight.

She was awake
during the entire procedure.

decimated her skin.

She was left
with jangled nerves.

Opiates had no effect.

What was puddling up
under her was probably
a cold sweat.

She was aware.

Is this a good place to stop?


She had a high tolerance to drugs
like morphine.

Regardless, she stole it

At various times Dilaudid,
OxyContin, I believe.

Bubble-gum-flavored Xanax,

A history of depressive
Disorder. Anxiety. Panic attacks.

Issues with anger.

Prozac, Paxil, Ativan.

She was aware.

Is this a good place to stop?


We didn't think she was going to die.

Thursday, November 08, 2007



An abnormal pulse characterized by two beats in rapid succession
followed by
a pause.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Workshop - Chris O'Brien's

I'm sending out the e-mail with directions to Chris's house, where we are meeting Wednesday night for WORKSHOP! If you went to the Rybicki benefit reading you have no excuse for not feeling like writing. None. If you didn't go to the reading, I'm still not cutting you any slack. Yes, Ryan, you have a one-week reprieve. Chad, yes, okay, you're playing in a band. Just this once. I know this is a mom-sounding post, but folks, I've gotta work with what I have. I'm doing my best to transition. Et cetera, et cetera.

Monday, November 05, 2007


And...the wrapup for the weekend was quite fun. Naoko, Chris, Neil, Kristin, David K., my son Tom and I all made it up to the Rybicki benefit. No, I don't have pictures, but head over to Naoko's blog. I'm sure she'll post them. She took tons. I brought my camera, but the crush of people was a little too much for me to think about shooting anything. Talia, if you were there you would have searched out every last person and talked to them, I'm sure, and had a wonderful time of it. I pretty much stuck tight in my comfort zone, didn't talk much to people I didn't know, and watched the movement swirling around. It was fascinating and of course I take in so much more without the burden of talking. Not to show favoritism, but David was the best poet there, although there were a couple of others I enjoyed, particularly both Rybickis, and Bonnie Jo told her donkey dragging story, which made me laugh and feel comfortable and at home. David didn't read any of the new stuff, but some old favorites. Chad, you missed it. He read your favorite poem "fucked up and fine" along with a couple of other very good pieces. I was surprised at how the atmostphere in the room changed while he was reading. Everyone suddenly shut up and leaned in. Only a couple other people got that kind of reception. I think all of us students had a chance to chat with him for a bit and that was very fine. My son Tom caught the atmosphere too and went back to his dorm room and wrote his first poem, "The Dance," which summed up the evening dead on and was darn intuitive, not to mention a pretty sharp first poem. The only drawback to the whole event was despite my exhausted state on arriving home I never really slept last night, it felt really more like just lying down in the twilight for a very long time.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Humming Along

The update from the writers' workshop is everyone is improving. There is a humming atmosphere, which is good, because I can't sing. Everyone agreed Naoko's poem was wow, and if you get a chance, check out Mike's blog. He has added quite a few poems, is getting ready to submit MFA apps, and I'm sure would appreciate feedback. I submitted a revision of a found text poem I gleaned from one of my court transcriptions, and Naoko said it was her favorite poem of mine so far. I laughed long and hard. Apparently I do a lot better finding poems than making them up on my own. While David is having fun erasing, I'm digging stuff out of transcript bins. I've printed this piece before on my blog, but this time I worked on the line breaks. It has an interesting story behind it, which I'll print later so it doesn't ruin the poem for you.

Punch List

They were moving
to different states.
Uprooting things.
No job, no plan.
Your job is
your livelihood.
That’s how you live.
The house was cold.
I remember it
being very, very cold.
Like you could see
your breath cold.
It struck me as odd.
Maybe he kept it cold
so the smells didn’t
permeate the house.
He assured me
he did maintain the rugs.
I was in all the livable
rooms of the house.
The rugs were clean
and it’s cold in there.
There were dogs
and a rabbit.
I was never in the attic.
There were stains
on the ceiling
of the master bedroom.
There were comments
about the noises
and the smells.
There was a screen
My kids were like,
this house is strange.
I heard scratching.
It was loudest
at the upstairs window.
We heard some things,
like light, light noises,
but I didn’t put a name
to it until the scratching
episode became loud.
There was a string
and I pulled it,
but no light came on.
It’s the kind of smell
that goes from your nose
to your stomach.
Did you ever smell
something like that?
I was in nose reach
of this smell.

We cut down the tree.
It was a hot summer.
We stayed
in that vacated state
a long time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Depending On Your POV


Q. Did you have a problem with smoking crack?
A. No.
Q. Were you addicted?
A. More than likely, yeah.

Sandhill Cranes

So you're dying for one more thing to do this weekend, right? Well, maybe not. But maybe you should go here anyway. This will be the first year for me and I'm hoping to get some pics.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Benefit Reading - Sunday

This is a great opportunity for you to get out someplace close to home (Kalamazoo) and hear some great writers reading - all in one place. My goodness, it will be better than going on an African safari, much better than going to the zoo. In-between the writers reading there are going to be bands and a silent auction. And of course there is the microbrewery beverages. And a partridge in a pear tree. I have room in my vehicle for 1-2 more. Send me an e-mail. We'll leave early afternoon, approximately.

Check out the schedule. These are folks you really should see.

The Schedule:

All-Star Reading Part I (4 p.m to 5 p.m.)

1. John Rybicki

2. Rodney Torreson

3. Jackie Bartley

4. Jack Ridl

5. Susan Ramsey

6. Greg Rappleye

7?? Liesel Litzenberger

8. Gail Martin

9. Elizabeth Kerlikowske

10. Con Hilberry

All-Star Reading Part II (6 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.)

1. Bonnie Jo Campbell

2. Nancy Eimers

3. Nina Feirer

4. David Dodd Lee

5. Diane Seuss

6. Bill Olsen

7. Andy Mozina

8. Danna Ephland

9. David Marlatt

10 Julie Moulds Rybicki

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tramping Through

We've tramped through another weekend, shredded leaves are scattered throughout the lawn, beneath the bird feeders, on everyone's shoes, across every floor, and this morning, a frost christening the roofs. Fall is talking to us.

Rebecca and Ken moved to their new place on Friday, and Saturday I helped do a little cleanup, sweeping, wiping down a few walls. Their new place is beautiful, with lots of room, just what they wanted. There is something about the structure of a house where the occupants haven't quite unboxed yet. It is so full of possibility. One can imagine a whole world blossoming there.

Gloria and Jesus invited us to a Dia de Los Muertos party Saturday night. Great food, great drinks, great company, great games! And a red velvet skeleton cake for Jesus' 31st birthday on Sunday. My diet is not going too well, not too well at all. And I'm blaming it all on the Moyas.

I devoted Sunday to catching up on required reading. There are some interesting short stories in the post colonial anthology I have. "War Crimes" by Peter Carey was pretty good, and "One Whale, Singing" by Keri Hulme intrigued me enough about the author that I'm going to see what else she has out there. Has anyone else read anything by her? A few weeks ago we read an excerpt from Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson that was great. I have to add that to my to-read list. Someone made the valid point in class that these stories seemed to have little to do with post-colonialism, but I'm just grateful to have something current to read.

While I spent my day reading, Gene discovered that perhaps the reason the Trooper kept leaving me stranded was because the alternator belt was absent. We do a hay run every other week, after fully charging the battery. Someone stays home near a phone just in case the hay hauling person needs to be rescued with jumper cables. So he replaced the alternator belt and everything now seems to be charging. He says there still might be a short somewhere, but that's a job for another weekend.

Now Monday again. What do you know.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Naoko says it's time. The writers group has survived long enough that we should give the baby a name. So think about it. Send some suggestions. We'll gather them all together and maybe by December we'll be able to choose. Maybe sooner.

Due to popular demand, and the terror of impending MFA application deadlines, we've added one more Friday in November to the workshopping schedule. Yes, I'll send out e-mail reminders and the lineup, as usual. And, of course, remind me of what I've forgotten to say.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Writers' Workshop

It's time again! We're workshopping Friday at The Chicory at 1:00. You know you want to come...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Work Detail

Most of my court work involves civil litigation, so money defines every last detail. Today I'm working on a case where two doctors are battling an attorney over compensation. This is the deal. Percipient (fact) witnesses can be subpoenaed and receive $35/day for their testimony. There are no time limits. The attorney can keep them there all day. This is the California rate, by the way. Expert witnesses, however, can set their own hourly fees. Often, with doctors, this can hum along to the tune of $750/hour. So today I have two doctors who are being paid the percipient $35/day rate and refusing to answer any questions except for reading from their medical records. Anything that involves using any of their medical expertise is a no-go. They won't even interpret their abbreviations.

Now, I certainly wouldn't want to be paid $35/day to talk to an attorney, as much as I do like to talk. $750/hour, however, seems to me to be a little excessive. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Harmony of Angels

My daughter Jojo is in the living room, practicing on the piano, a simple piece by Burgmuller, Opus 100, No. 21, called Harmony of Angels, and I'm dead jealous. No, not of Jojo. She plays extremely well, but I can play the piece, too. It's quite simple, the version she has. Nah, I'm jealous of Burgmuller, and the music writers in general, how well they do what they do. I can tell you all about the piece, the time signature, the key, the triplets, but it's the actual sound in your ears that conveys the amazing feel, the wings. Two measures in and you're feeling something! The sound reaches the inside parts. I think poetry and fiction can do that, but it is hard! So hard. And so few do it. I should have been diligent and practiced the piano more! I know, I know, words can take you farther, if you choose them well, but I want the meaning and the feeling! What's that line from the song we both like, Jesus? "Is it too much to demand, I want a full house and a rock and roll band." Then I want everyone to go home so I can clean up the mess and write about it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Write Right Write

If you're the sort who keeps up with this kind of thing, the turnout at The Bucket last night for workshopping was wonderful. Ten people came and we workshopped seven poems! We endured the juke box. We ate and drank and smoked and laughed and talked about many things... And we even ended by 10:00! I'll post the new schedule shortly. While you're waiting with great anticipation, write something new!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No Till Gardening

Jojo is holding this awesome snake that Tom disturbed while mowing today. Jojo is giving him a pep talk about finding someplace to lie low for the winter, preferably not in the middle of the yard. And to think, whenever my grandma saw one of these babies she'd start screaming, get the hoe! Then she'd get the hoe.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Always a Sucker for Another Quiz

Thanks to Greg Rappleye's site for another fun quiz to confirm what we already know about ourselves. We are the ones answering these questions, right?

You Are 60% Left Brained, 40% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Workshop Friday at Chicory Cafe

Don't forget! The weather is perfect for cafe'ing it. So drag yourself over there, or whatever it takes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

At Two

(Thanks for the help, everyone!)

Because you fall awake
at two with the dogs,
the stars, the absence
of the moon, the other, you

------------------------brood over

the lack of gravity,
the turning from,
the cavernous want
of turning to.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Consumption Blues

Check out What if Everyone Consumed Like You. Unfortunately, if everyone consumed like I do it would take 5.3 earths to support us all, and I consider myself a fairly conservative consumer (good thing they didn't ask how many books I buy.) Play the game and let me know how many earths your clones would consume.

I've already made a change, though. The dumping of over five million pounds (I'm behind times times, the figure today is 21.7 million pounds) of E. Coli-tainted beef last week by Wal-Mart (and others) sickened me so much I can't think of eating cow, or pig, for that matter. All those animals slaughtered and then thrown away. (In case there was some lingering doubt which way my political winds blow...) Now I'm looking at chicken and fish (okay, yes, and yogurt. I'm working on it.) Of course, not everyone in the world has the choices I do. The fish seem to be gone in Nigeria. Thanks to Dr. Scanlan for this link.

Speeding Through the Fog

Friday and I've been descending for a few days into the fog of a fall cold. I'm somewhere deep inside a cave in the middle of a mountain. Hibernation is setting in. Where's that box of Kleenex I saw last spring? Last night I dreamed a home repair man was trying to remove a bear from my backyard, but I chastised him, saying, Are you crazy, that bear belongs there. If you would have looked harder you might have noticed the lion, too. I'm not sure what that's all about, but animals are frequently prominent features in my dreams.

Workshopping is off to a good start. Our group managed to eat and drink (with some smoke) our way through five poem in three hours. Faster than a speeding bullet we have begun. A good time was had by all. The most serious discussion involved future location/time. Some of us want a little more quiet, some of us don't want to give up the beer and snacks. Chris O'Brien has offered a compromise for Bucket nights, come to her house, close to downtown, enjoy the quiet, drink/eat whatever you want to bring, sit around her large kitchen table. It sounds great to me, but let me know what you think. It's also a good deal cheaper, which most of us don't mind. Time is still up in the air. There seems to be no night that suits everyone, so we'll stick with Wednesday for the time being, perhaps move it to every other Wednesday or something like that. Maybe next semester we will have some relief.

If you didn't make it Wednesday, come next Friday and we'll workshop at The Chicory. In case you hadn't noticed, we're making this up as we go. Isn't that what writers do?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Workshop at The Bucket

Yes, the day has finally arrived! We're going to workshop tonight. 7:00. I'm going to get there early and try to reserve a large table inside downstairs. Send away all the butterflies, it's going to be fun.

So you didn't send out a poem or any small piece of writing of any sort (like me). Come . So you didn't write on anyone else's writings because you weren't sure how, or you got busy, or something, never mind. Come. So you're broke. (I'll share my onion rings with you.) Come. So you have to wash your hair tonight. It's not going to help your looks. Come.

Warning. This post has a subtle underlying message. Come.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Snail Vision

I slid down to southern Indiana for a few days. The mosquitoes are still rampant in Michiana (don’t even think of rolling down the window while you’re waiting for the train), but down by McCormick’s Creek they’ve vanished. Everything is dry, dry, dry. No matter where I travel this year, the signs say “fire danger high,” sometimes “very high.”

The water in McCormick’s Creek is still flowing, but it’s shallow. The bigger fish are holed up in scattered deep-ish pools. I wish I knew their names. Next book purchase, a fish field guide. I’ve been reading Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek for a while now. Like Dillard, I’m in no rush. I want to travel slowly enough to appreciate the fossils embedded in the creek bed, or all those black dots in the water that turn into snails in my hands, or the hawk (which one?) above the glade circling, circling, circling, until whoosh, a plummet, a meal, or the gray antennaed caterpillar crawling up the handrail (who in the heck is he/she going to be?). This must be the middle age craving for second childhood. I want to touch things, but this time with eyes patient enough to see.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

E-Mail Angst

Okay, so today AOL hates me and returns every piece of mail I send to an aol recipient:

"I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out."

How comforting. My relationship with AOL has its ups and downs. This is not a new occurrence. It usually relents after a day or two and begins delivering my e-mails again.

In the meantime, would someone in the workshopping group please hit the "reply all" button and let everyone know that the workshopping is starting next Wednesday at The Bucket and not tomorrow at The Chicory? I might be out of touch for a few days. I'm not sure.

As a side note, the poems are pouring in! E-mail difficulties aside, we're off to a good start.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Workshop Update - The Chicory & Whatnot

Good news! There's a lot of interest in workshopping. Poems are being circulated, et cetera. It looks like we're going to have a great time, maybe get some real work done. Thanks to everyone who has already sent something out. If you want to join this group and didn't get an e-mail, drop me a line. I'll fold you in. If you know someone who would like to join us, same deal.

Bad news! The meeting at The Chicory is cancelled for this week. Well, go if you want to, but there probably won't be anyone there. But there might be. Scheduling nightmares. Just do whatever. I'm not your mother.

Good news! Everyone (yes, everyone - well, not Talia, something about a teaching degree) says they will be at The Bucket next Wednesday night. You'll have more time to work on a poem to circulate. No excuses. Yes, I know, I need excuses more than anyone. So The Bucket will be our workshopping launch place.

Uncategorized news! I'm trying to figure out, with everyone's input, the best times and locations for the workshopping. Talia suggested we might try and get a room at IUSB. Jesus suggested the downtown library as a possible location. Help me out here. Let me know what times/days/places work for you.

Okay? I'm sure I've forgotten some important things. Someone will tell me, surely. Or not and we'll all just go around bumping into walls.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Ninety-one degrees and no one is sleeping. September has lost its cool. We’re in the middle of our stories.

Last week Tom’s trajectory took a hit and turned. He wrote his letters and met with his advisor. So far he’s ignored angry cell phone calls from his prof, but sometime this week he’s got to meet with the guy again. The battery for my cell phone finally came, (Ebay! Two weeks!) so now I’m in electronic reach again. But mainly Gene and I are background support, which is the way it should be.

The good news is Tom’s already achieved a minor in music and the prof can’t drum him out of any bands this year. He’s a section leader for the jazz group he made it into. The advisor agreed the prof stepped over the line and assured Tom she’ll help him out. We’ll see. The biggest fallout is Tom is looking for a new major so he never has to work with the guy again. He’ll just work around him, take private lessons from a grad student he likes, do his music, work with who he wants to work with, do it his own way. The parents’ patterns haunt the children, but perhaps this time it won’t be a bad thing.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tell Me Again

The story
The rocks acquired words
The wind shed its burden
Fish means hunger
Strike that rock
The water will come

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Gorilla Versus Bear

I keep meaning to post this: Gorilla versus Bear. Music, et cetera. Now I've gone beyond meaning...

Friday, September 21, 2007


A short mother’s rant. One of Tom’s profs at WMU, his main prof, infamous for his arrogance, told him this week, at the end of a discussion, “Tom, I’ve never hit a student before, but you’re pushing me.” In a few hours I’ll feel better, I’ll have some good plan about how to handle the jerk, but right now I’m a little hot. Conflict is not a Keranen strong suit. Tom thinks he’d be better off switching schools. Me, I want to torch the guy, burn his famous little pants off his ass. But certainly a kinder, gentler plan will come to mind. Suggestions?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Plan

The writers had a great time last night. You should have been there. Six of us showed up, Rachel, Chris, Naoko, Neil, Mark (new link to the left) and myself. You could even say we made a little progress. That is, we decided to evolve a tad from trading books, telling stories, and mourning the loss of our professor to, yes, making a workshopping plan. Writing. Making little scribbly marks on others' writing. The plan is this: Write something. Circulate it around to the e-mail list I'm going to send out. It's easy. Just paste it into the message portion and hit "reply all." Don't post your masterpiece to your blog quite yet. Don't send old stuff. When you get stuff from others, scribble your comments on it. Bring it to the next gathering. We'll talk about the piece, return it to its owner, then the owner can post it to their blog. How does that sound? A little more intriguing than just sitting around and drinking beer/coffee? Of course we'll still drink and eat and be merry...

Start circulating anytime (or as soon as I get the e-mail out.) I can't make the next meeting at The Chicory, but we might as well start the process now.

We're also looking at the logistics of going to David's next poetry reading in Michigan, which we'll talk about next time. It's a bit far, on a Monday night, but perhaps we can swing it. It always fun to go driving around in a car.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I gave a neighbor kid a wire coat hangar last week. From there the story goes downhill. It was early morning coffee time. He said he was locked out, cold, mosquito-bitten, wanted to slip into the neighbor’s car until they came home. I applied my powers of intuition, looked him over thoroughly (I didn’t recognize his face, but his demeanor was true), and handed over the coat hangar.

Not everyone follows the same belief system that I do. Others have a belief system that involves calling the cops first and asking questions later. Perhaps they believe it is neater, it might save time. For whatever reason, the cops were called, two cars full of them, flashing lights, et cetera, and the kid hauled out of the safety of the neighbor’s car and handcuffed until his complete identity could be ascertained.

Turns out he was telling the truth. And Gene has asked me to stop handing out coat hangars to anyone I see, regardless of the genuine need.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Building Materials

I planted a man outside my living room window, a seven-foot tall stick figure with wavy, wiry hair. I found him at Mathy’s Garden Center and conscripted him to hold my new bird feeders. It wasn’t what he was designed for, but he doesn’t seem to mind. I still fill the old bird feeders, but they’re too far away from my window to get the best view. All my bird books are out on the coffee table, along with a pair of binoculars. Although the neighbors across the street probably think I’m perverted, I’m just trying to learn all the visitors’ names. So far I’m still very generic, warbler (very yellow on the belly, but kind of mottled about the head), hummingbird (green back), flycatcher, chickadee, finch, woodpecker (downy or hairy, I’m not sure). The juvenile cardinals look hilarious, with their half-mohawk style. Maybe by next year I’ll get this bird thing down. Or the neighbors will call the cops on me. Either way, it will be something learned.

Book news:

The Liam Rector book finally came today. I’m ready. Simic is technically perfect, I think, but not pulling me hard enough to dive in. Ferlinghetti is growing on me. Tom has borrowed all my Denis Johnson, fiction and poetry, along with the Anchor Book of Short Stories, and taken the lot to Kalamazoo. I’m happy with what he’s reading and at the same time hoping he finishes them up soon. I’ve grown attached to those books and hate to have them travel so. Children are the great appropriators of the trappings of their parents’ lives. So it goes.

Time for the Bucket Again

Yes, Wednesday night at the Bucket, although I will admit it's a little soon. But we'll try it. I hope to see you there.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Aging Passion

The world ages.

Talia loaned me Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. This is my first taste of Ferlinghetti. The copy she loaned me is 50 years old, and I can feel it. Back then it cost $1.00. The Beat flavor is unmistakable. There’s a photo on the back of the book, Ferlinghetti at 38. So he must be around 88 now. I found a recent photo of him. He is rounder. He has white hair. I want to read something recent that he has written, to see how his insides have changed. The heavy alliteration from the fifties drives me crazy, as do the rhythms, but still, I like what he has to say. I’m reminded of what Tom’s jazz improvisation prof told him last week after his first solo, “That was just amazing, for the thirties.” No, no, I’m not dissing on Ferlinghetti, just remarking on the passing of time. I want that passion, but not that old style.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Morning Alone

I've been neglecting the blog. There is no lack of desire, simply a lack of time.

I have to pass my fourth semester of French in the spring, so I'm sitting in on the third-semester French class to review something I haven't thought about in 25 years. The memory of how to speak that language is buried under so many layers of life. Pulling it up from the bottom of that well is taking a bit of effort. Reading French is going well, but trying to compose a sentence... It's a lot like my poetry writing, painfully slow.

Creekside, everything is as it's always been: in a constant state of change. The August floods rewrote the banks. Giant tree snags unanchored briefly to sail downstream. The duckweed is regenerating. My thoughts are turning towards fire, socks, and burning leaves.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Weather Permitting

Astride a jagged black gash,
a gerrymandered line, women vice
in wielding eraser thighs.

Screw the context. The weather bites
fine. Flay pumpkinseed. Dust
cornmeal. Cast your net
on the other side.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Facility of Mind

Haystack Dinner

My family and I are heading out to Middlebury tonight for an Amish haystack dinner and auction, an annual fundraising event I can't bear to miss. A couple of years ago I bought a rain barrel out there for $5! In my eyes, it's a writer's dream (including a very cheap meal - donation only.) If anyone is interested in going with us, send me an e-mail today. We'd love to have you come.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Stamping of Hooves

Talia is stamping her foot, waiting for a report. What went on out in the field? Wait, wait. That's another story. Where was I? Did someone say something? What went on inside the Bucket? Or outside the Bucket? Really, there is not much to say. We are continuing our quest to take over the world. From the outside. It will either be an insurrection or a resurrection. There were eight of us. We are all sworn to secrecy. A few books were exchanged. The pedigree of the white stallion has been established. We have an outpost on the moon. Margie lives there, with her bastard son who doesn't wear shoes. We all wore black, either for obscurity of mourning. No one was sure. There was some talk of late payments, some talk of dreams. Prostitution on the railroad tracks is not a pretty thing. I would have taken pictures, but that would be absurd.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Dr. Juma

Jesus and Gloria sent me this pick in July. I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. Click on the pic and all will become larger than life... If you haven't run off post haste to Dr. Juma, I expect to see you at the writers' thing.