It’s something of a wake-up call when you think in the morning: today I’m going to shower and brush my hair. How deep I’ve settled into that familiar groove. The familiar always brings with it a kind of comfort. No matter how dark.

No run this morning because of the strained achilles. So the blue sky I see from the porch while the dog is peeing this morning, doesn’t quite do the trick it usually can. The plants in my yoga room are all dead, so I can’t bring myself to roll out my mat there.

I’d like something to grab me by two corners and snap me like a sheet. I want to hear that sound of straightening things out. And then I want to get on a plane and go somewhere where I sweat just sitting on the beach doing nothing.

And that is not going to happen. The school year limps to a close and then summer lies there like a damp cloth. There is a joy in hiking in soft rain, in hazy mornings. But something in me needs heat this year. Heat to burn off this restlessness. To get me to kick off this weighted blanket.

Every morning I write a single poem – quick and dirty – as part of my writing practice. The idea is to let go of the idea that my writing is too precious, and my ideas too few to squander on an online blog. I suppose it has something to do with the pop psychology model of the scarcity vs abundance mindset. At any rate, this morning I wrote about a late childhood summer memory. The twitter-sized poem touched off a cascade of memories. And I’ve been trying to suss out why they came up now and how I feel about them.

Ambivalence is the first word that came to mind, but that isn’t true. I don’t have good memories of the Kentucky river with its stigmatizing impetigo (white trash rash), the drunken men in their flipping dune buggies with their near-misses, recklessly chewing up the riverbanks. My mother too stoned to care that my 6-year-old brother was on a minibike and split his skull open on the tailpipe of a parked car, while I fussed in a kind of vertical rut, like a hopping, cartoon drama queen. Making “too big a deal of it.”

But I swam across the river once. And back. Despite my fear of snapping turtles, water moccasins, fish in general, and step-fathers in the specific. Death. Despite my fear of drowning like my cousin had been drowned in a bathtub.

I swam over the dark cushion of fear that was almost like a buoy, like a propelling presence.

I’ve been wondering if this is really facing one’s fear at all. I suppose it is – but then, I don’t feel like I conquered it. It was more like a battle and a retreat. All these years of battle and retreat.

And if I were to conquer my fears, to puncture the cushion? What then? What’s going to buoy me and propel me through the world?

these dark shapes that stack
one on one like bones to hold
a body upright

Rarely is my day so turned on its head. I should be in bed now, not typing. And technically, I shouldn’t be having a glass of wine. But here I am. And the day has been… tolerable-to-good. And lately, that means very good.

I didn’t write this weekend because I was working on the manuscript. Finishing, proofreading, formatting. It is incredibly satisfying. I still have moments of insecurity – of full-on panic – and then moments of resting in a kind of contentment.

“I made this.”

How do we hold on to that feeling and resist showing the work to someone for that (for me anyway) inevitable disappointment when someone says, “it’s good”. Like it’s a fallen souffle. Or at least it leaves me feeling very much like a fallen souffle. I always ask myself: What do you expect? Fireworks? I don’t know.

You would think at my age, I could just relish the helium-my-chest feeling and not need verification.

Memories flood back to me. My family of origin expected very little of me. Didn’t hide their surprise when I did something well. When the school asked to put me in the gifted class, my mother said I was too lazy.

Okay. So now I have slipped from personal to private in this diary. And from relatable to – well, not. That is why I should write in the morning with a cup of coffee on the desk, not a glass of whine.

Confidence is a slippery fish, isn’t it? Good to have. But if you carry it around too long, you stink.

Promising, they said.
I have caught up with myself –
middle of the road –
where I can walk fearlessly
into an unknown future

(Not much this Monday, but it is a commitment met.)

Leonard has something in his mouth after his trip around the edges of the garden. I don’t notice until he’s in the dining room, his nails clicking on the floor as he walks in circles – clearly unsure of what he’s supposed to do/wants to do.

I press the sides of his mouth gently, just in front of where his jaws hinge, “Slipp“. (My youngest son has always been annoyed with my code-switching, but my dog doesn’t mind.)

It’s a rat. A very dead rat. I wish I could write mouse because that seems less disgusting. But it’s a rat.

I think about living in Kentucky as a teenager. In a little house at the bottom of a hill, surrounded by farmland. An anachronous 4 years of shovelling coal into a furnace every morning before a quick shower in the corner of the unfinished, unheated basement. A quick shower because the cistern was low in the winter. I’d try to remember to look in the mirror before leaving for school every morning: to check my nostrils for coal dust.

Every spring those four years my mother’s cat would wake me in the middle of the night. She’d bring a mouse into my bed, then let it go – chasing it into the hallway and living room, before bringing back and repeating the game until the mouse died of exhaustion. Then I’d get up and dig an empty can from the trash to scoop up the furry corpse and put it in the trash. And go back to bed. It was “just” a mouse.

Maybe Leonard wouldn’t be overweight if I let him chase mice around the house. Or rats.

What is it about rats?

Last spring a cat raised her litter under our deck. So the whole thing could be much more macabre than it is.

A few months ago I ranted a little about someone claiming in their TED talk that a poet would choose “hare” over “rabbit” for the associative value of hare/hair. I pointed out that a poet might well know the difference between a hare and a rabbit. I wrote that I expect hare here, but if I were to see a rabbit, I would know a pet got loose.

When I walk Leonard through the fields around here, I know to be aware he could catch the scent of a hare and his hunting training kick in. But yesterday, rounding the corner near the house, he suddenly shot into a hedge and then nearly dragged me off my feet – a rabbit ran across the street back to its hutch no doubt.

Apparently, Leonard isn’t concerned with the hare/rabbit distinction at all.

when I write about
coal dust, it is coal dust and
not the wet topsoil
of the kitchen garden, not
the dry shit-dirt of the coop

Apparently, we’re all – or at least most of us – still opening bananas from the difficult end. Despite the fact that we’ve been shown how to do it otherwise. But we’re creatures of habit. Literally. Social organisms that move through the world according to patterns of behavior we’ve incorporated into the very physical patterns of our cells.

The hand pulls back before the brain registers heat.

When my kids were small I took them to the science museum in London. There were holes in one of the walls and visitors were supposed to put their hand in the darkness to touch something. And to guess what it was.

I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And knew I was supposed to teach my kids to do it: Be curious. Be brave. Be trusting.

Ready, get set, said my brain. But my body said no. What does it really mean to be brave? Is it a matter of handing over the reins to the intellect and obeying a painful kick to the rib?

The body’s wisdom is illogical.
This is is a perfect fact.

This fall I tried virtual reality for the first time. We were supposed to walk out onto a beam extending from a high rise hundreds of meters over a busy street. I bent from the waist and peered out of the window. Put my foot on the narrow beam.

No.

I don’t want to teach my brain to override my body. I am inefficient. I will continue to open bananas from the wrong end. Because I am perfectly human. And I come from perfectly human specimens. Who do we think we are?

I’m from holidays
of blond, wood-veneered bureaus
weekend nightgowns and
tuck-ins, hospital corners
in the guest room that was my room

I’m from decorative
cinder block and roach clips
pools that have been drained
for years a parade of uncles
shaking the etch-a-sketch clear

with hands whose ridges
catch motor oil and resin
and hold the world tight
like desert heat in your lungs
when you run and keep running




This morning I lay in bed for a while. Saturdays are slow. When I looked at the far wall of the bedroom, it was as if I were seeing it for the first time. The texture of the paint over the texture of the plaster. The neatly-fitting edges of the fireplace insert. The eggshell white wall meeting the forest green wall in a deep corner, a shadowed seam.

I’ve slept in the room most nights for just over 5 years. I woke this morning as though I were staying in a new place. Or a hotel room. I don’t know what triggered the sense of unfamiliarity. There is always a tiny fear that the problem is actually that this experience is more the result of the sense of familiarity not triggering. But not in the moment. In the moment: wonder.

I thought about lying flung over a twin bed with my head grazing the green shag carpet of a rented apartment. A room with popcorn ceilings that made lulling shadows in the light of the pink nightlight plugged into the wall socket. Music coming from the other room, where there were sandalwood and paisleys, love beads and bongs. Soft laughter.

I imagined the world flipped on its head. Climbing over thresholds to move from room to room. Looking up at the furniture as if from underwater. Light fixtures rising like seaweed from the ocean’s bed.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that other people did this as children. Saw this world.

At the time, I sure felt alone.

I knew solitude
before I knew loneliness
I heard the world’s whispers
its shape-shifting points of view
unleashed, tucked-in at bedtime


My yoga practice this month has been limited to sun salutations and warriors. A single bridge in an attempt to return to my morning flows. What I thought was shoulder trouble, is really a problem with deep, small muscles in my back. I miss headstands. But this morning I was thinking that maybe time off from them has been good. Time to appreciate perspectives and purpose a bit more. A practice so rooted in routine can be something of a paradox.

Sometimes it’s important to embrace the unknown – to not know what is over the next hill, what is taking shape in the fading light…