Thursday, April 29, 2010

The High Before the Crash

Friday Two-fer. Poetry prompt: and suddenly. Interesting prompt. My birthday today made me consider how fast life flies past. The prose piece, excerpted from Brighter than Bright, reflects the heady feeling of youthful limerance.

and suddenly the bed shrank

along with your cleats,
your jeans,the Hard
Rock café tee
bought in Boston;
everything smaller
but the reach of your arm,
the length of your stride,
the burgeoning pile of
diaper bags, board books,
Pokemon cards, and other
childhood detritus, never
again retrievable.


The High Before the Crash

The pathos-ridden notes of Mahler flow through earphones, reverberating at the cellular level. Words zip from my brain to my fingertips and onto the computer screen. Already, two poems knocked off. I crank in my journal in the darkened living room, recounting the past few glorious days at the beach with Phoebe. All we did was eat, sleep, make love; my skin still titillates.

Seeking inspiration, I pull up my sex_p folder, my catalogued memories of all my romances. The last dozen poems recall when I lost my virginity to Gloria. So many years ago. I close my eyes, remember the tall Tuscan grass, the sky anointing us, and for the first time I don’t feel sad remembering. Gloria’s face morphs into Phoebe’s, black hair melting in the sun turning to gold, and new words rush out… Amidst silvered sheaves we lie, hidden from all but God’s eyes and bees… My groin starts to ache.

A ding. Email. Who else is up at this infernal hour? Ah… Kevin, former Andover buddy, an ass - but one with disposable income interested in buying my car.

Ran that little black Maserati of yours down Route 1 and popped 70 in six. Superb. Can’t believe you want to sell her. Thanks - check’s in the mail. K

BTW, man, your sister’s HOT – when did she grow up?

My fingers hammer back.

Excellent! Enjoy – take good care of my baby. B
And keep your diseased dick away from Izzy – you can’t afford for me to chop off the last two inches.

Yes! I swivel in the chair, pumping my arms in victory. Kev’s always coveted my 420S, ever since a bunch of us dragged her down 128 one crazy August night, hammered out of our gourds after winning lacrosse regionals. We’d crashed some RISD party, I still don’t remember how we ended up in Providence. Kev might as well enjoy the car, she’s languished lonely and neglected in that hole of a garage back home. Yes! Last Fall semester’s paid off, only Spring and Summer tuition left to figure out, then financial aid kicks in. Finally.

I return to the computer, too excited to process words. Der Abschied concludes. Enough lieder already, too heavy. I shuffle over to La Sonnambula, the elegiac notes waft through my ears. My head turns meditative, the page fills… Time slows, time stops, clouds drape the azure canvas. I’m deep into the poem when I sense someone watching me.

“Sweetie.” Phoebe stands in the bedroom door, the nightstand lamp illuminating her from behind. In her long, white cotton gown, right fist rubbing her eyes, she reminds me of a little girl at the foot of her parents’ bed after a bad dream. “It’s almost two. When are you coming to bed?”

I pull out my ear buds. “Soon, baby, soon.”

She patters over in bare feet. I swivel in my chair, blocking the screen.

“What are you writing?”

“Nothing,” I say. “Just poems. Journaling.”

“What about?” She balances on her toes, trying to peek over my shoulder.

“Uh, the past week. Our trip to the Cape. Sex. Love. God. Death.” I bounce in my chair, impatient, wishing she’d go back to bed. “My usual existential stuff.”

“Are you okay?” She peers down at me, her eyes sleepy and suspicious.

“Okay?” I jerk back against my seat. “Of course I’m okay. I’m great.”

“Why aren’t you sleeping?”

“Ideas in my head need to get out.” I fidget, pass the MP3 from my right hand to my left, then tuck it in my lap, between my thighs. “Phebes, baby, go back to bed.”

“Only if you do.” She rests her hands on her hips.

“Promise,” I say. “Just five more minutes.”

She sighs, then slowly shuffles to bed. The lamp clicks off. Back to the poem. The words look unfamiliar, aseptic, and for a second I panic – the flow’s abandoned me – but I reinsert the earphones, the music fills me again… Ah, yes… the wind sighs low…

The opera ends. Pleased, I gaze at my new masterpiece, then save the file and creep into bed. The red 3:00 of the clock glares at me, an evil eye. Phoebe sleeps with her back to me, swaddled in blankets, an almost indiscernible hump. Except for her soft purring, it is eerily quiet, the time of morning when all the world’s noises cease. I ease myself under the sheet, tug on the bunched-up blankets and cradle her from behind. When I cup her breasts with my left hand, she makes little sounds. I nuzzle the back of her neck. She turns to me, drowsy, spearmint on her breath.

“It’s late,” she murmurs.

My hand trails to her waist and under the gown, between her legs. Her thighs part, warm and soft, and I lose myself between them as she moves under me, half-asleep.

I come quickly. I roll onto my back, breathing hard. Phoebe curls onto her side and returns to nirvanic slumber. I stare at the ceiling, body throbbing, and watch the fringes of the walls begin to glow grey. Still wired. Still hard. I want to make love again. But Phoebe dreams, motionless. She’ll be pissed if I wake her again.

I shimmy off the blanket. Too hot. Strings of words dance before my open eyes, phrases of poems written or yet to be, strobing in stark black and white, the light fluttering with my pulse and melting from one image into the next, an infinite slide show.


Wonderful birthday -- thank you for reading and dropping notes on fb, gmail, everywhere. I am so blessed. Peace, Linda
Peace, Linda

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

End of a Line

The grandfather clock’s
ponderous ticking trails me past
the photograph-lined hall,
memorial to mother and father,
their mothers and fathers
and theirs before them,
and so on.

And so on, sepia-stained and
scalloped-edged tangibilities.

Zoom to present tense:
mom up to her elbows
in flour, picking gardenias from
her verdant bed, clad
in wedding white, holding
an infant, squalling pink-cheeked.

Me, ten years past her passing,
crying unseen tears, draped
in baby-blue satin,
carnation corsage tickling
my virginal neck, mortarboards
and sheepskins portending
my future more
than the hand held,
my once-love.

Through the wood-stove’s
crackle and hiss, daddy snores
under his gold-spun afghan,
reliable as time, and so on,
the hallway wall, austere eyes frozen,
snapshots of a history, all
funnel down to a single entity,
an end product.
A deliverable.

Yet here am I,
no more or less
than myself.


Prompt: end of the line

The inspiration for this poem came from the introspections of Phoebe, one of my characters in my novels.

Two more days of poetry.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Blunt, heated purple
cleaving frigid earth; like you,
mounting my winter.


Prompt: hope

Walking my garden after the last hard frost, seeing the earth crack in the asparagus bed, knowing the spears will poke up soon, harbingers Spring. Harbingers hope.

Of course, that's the only veggie we're eating now -- up to our eyeballs in roasted lusciousness.

Three more days, three more poems. Peace, Linda

Monday, April 26, 2010

Five Times, With Feeling

Your sweaty-socked feet dangle over the lazy-Boy,
the tv a constant blare of video and comics,
notebooks and popcorn bowl scattered about,
so much tween-age detritus.

Please, take out the garbage.

Bart Simpson mocks Homer, then whizzes off
on a cartoon bicycle. A low grunt erupts from
behind the armchair, your foot swings back and forth.

The garbage. Now, please.

You reach for the phone, half ring; your voice
sounds an octave lower even as you crank back
the armchair, prostate to afternoon sun seeping
through the neglected jade and philodendron.

Son. Take out the garbage. Now.

A disgruntled sigh, the phone clatters on the endtable
beside the glass sweating cola rings on veneer.


The volume ratchets up, closing credits reel by,
arms and legs disappear behind the safety of corduroy.
A microsecond of silence.

Please, son, would you take out the garbage?

Sure, mom.


Prompt: 5 times

Peace, Linda

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I dream in emails

I dream in emails,
sputters of forgotten
phone calls and worn out
phrases, letters wending
through miles and miles
of empty pages, and
from this morass of images,
ideas, histories, deadlines,
sometimes emerges a pearl,
fleeting, intangible,
hoping to be clutched
and readied for polish.


Prompt: music

I love the refrain in Perfect Symmetry (Keane); it makes me think of life as a series of short-cuts and sound bites. I think the rushed-ness of daily busy-ness cramps our creativity.

Here's hoping for some clean, clear, mental and emotional space, to make some room for beauty. Peace, Linda

Saturday, April 24, 2010


I’ve walked these hospital halls
and reaped enough frequent flier miles
to travel the world at least once over,
bagged groceries for two households
three hundred miles apart,
worked with the good nurses
and doctors, and still made every
little league game, every gym meet,
every Sunday sermon, deliver every lecture,
even bake brownies for staff meeting,
yet why is it now, as dark descends,
every cell in me surrenders
except for those lodged beneath my skull?


Two different prompts for two different days rolled into one -- 'exhaustion' and 'evening'. It usually is when night falls that I feel the weight of all most acutely.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Today's poetry prompt -- earth. Haiku is a form that celebrates nature, and what is more natural than earth herself? Cemeteries also celebrate earth, the plantings sprung beautiful from decay. I present my Friday Two-Fer -- enjoy!


Algae-blue marble
spinning through time – mere dust mote
in the eye of god.


In the Cemetery On the Tenth Year of Her Death

The hum of Memorial Drive traffic filters down the side streets. We walk for a long time, but instead of feeling tired my legs seem to strengthen and feel energized.

Brattle Street branches into another, busier avenue. A sea of traffic idles at the stop light. Ben grabs my hand and we race across the street, giggling as the light changes and cars honk. We find ourselves facing the entrance to Mount Auburn cemetery. I stop laughing; I have no desire to go to a graveyard. Not today.

“Hey, it’s beautiful here,” he says. “Trust me.”

He guides me past the wrought iron gates buttressed by granite pediments. Several paved lanes converge off the semi-circular paved entrance. Ben chooses the middle path.

The outside world peels away. Dazzling pink and white crabapples and magnolias cover the hilly terrain. Headstones and monuments pucker the grounds, large marble affairs that swell with importance next to more humble limestone markers. Birds warble, and something sweet, maybe viburnum or lilac, scents the air. We walk the road in silence. Several cars pass us in slow procession, black and shiny. After they disappear around a corner, Ben takes my hand and skirts to the right down a pea gravel path. The air cools as we descend through a dark grove of rhododendrons, their waxy leaves highlighting fuchsia flowers. The floral smell thickens.

We emerge in a clearing. A marble bench faces a small hill dotted with dogwood. Ben walks to the largest grave. Golden lichen flecks the pearly white of the rounded headstone, pitted from a century in the elements. Etched doves, carrying leaves, flank the epitaph: Johanna Nilsson. Mother, Wife, Beloved Angel. 1856 – 1897.

My mother's name.

A reverent lilac stands behind the headstone. Beside her, in matching alabaster, rests the husband. Smaller grave markers scatter at their footstones, children and grandchildren and their progeny. But my gaze stays with her headstone.


I sink to the bench. Ben settles beside me.

“If there was a single present I could give you, it would be to peel back time so you could be with your mother,” he says. “Do you ever talk to her?”

Tears well in my eyes. I shake my head. He reaches for my hand.

“You should. You keep her memory alive in your mind,” he says. “Keep her in your heart - talk to her.”

But she’s dead, I want to say. I edge back; his eyes gleam with a strange intensity. I must look as skeptical as I feel because he squeezes my hand.

“Here, I’ll do it with you.” He closes his eyes.

I close mine, too. Something rustles in the underbrush, a squirrel or bird, then silences. The wind passes through the tree tops, a low howl, and limbs scrape against each other. Ben breathes in a slow quiet rhythm. I feel his body soften into the hard bench but mine stays rigid. Talk to her. I try to envision my mother, her face, her eyes, but only can see the mound of dirt that covered her, the blackness of it keeping the light from her, the muffled voice of the priest intoning May Johanna Miller forever rest in peace.

Peace. This is all I want. I squirm, frustrated, my legs crossing and uncrossing. I try to see my mother, remember her. Ben’s arm snakes around my back and he pulls me close so my head rests on his shoulder. I squeeze back tears and silver lines tangle the back of my eyelids, like her hair streaming in the breeze rushing through the car’s rolled-down windows and then I hear her laugh and she turns to me in the back seat and asks, “Is this too much air?” I giggle back at our shared glee and reach toward her and she takes my hand and we laugh and laugh as daddy drives us down the mountain, the cool air pummeling us with joy. There is something I want to tell her, but the car slows, her hair collapses around the back of her head and she turns to my father.

The silver streaks fade. A mockingbird chortles over my head. A small sob loosens in my chest but I swallow it down.

“Hey,” he whispers. “Did you talk to her?”

I shake my head, my face rubbing against his sweater. The wool smells good, like him. “Almost, though.” I look up and try to smile. “We laughed.”

“Laughing’s even better.” He traces my eyebrows with his finger. “You know I can’t bring your mother back, but I can always be here to help you remember her.”

We rise and stand by the grave for a few silent moments. I don’t want to leave and tell him this, and he assures me he’ll come back here with me whenever I want. I wonder about this Johanna, wonder if maybe there is a heaven after all, and that maybe all the Johanna’s of the world watch over their children still left on earth. I want to believe this, just as, for the first time, I want to believe Ben could be my home.

(Excerpted from BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, a love story)

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

according to the doctor

you should not be here
after all the good physician
a medical prodigy of sorts
what with his Hah-vuhd degrees
and sub subspecialty certificates
in fields I cannot spell
much less pronounce

is expert


after all who am I
to doubt his veracity
his years of experience
cleaving ova studying the tea
leaves of temperature charts
concocting cocktails of chemicals
to inject into tender skin

who am i?

but a dried up old fruit
of a woman too young to die
or retire too old to eke out
an embryo viable past sixteen
cells a pinhead a lima bean an ounce.

but here you are my quarter
million dollar miracle
smiling at me & thumbing your nose
at god and all


Prompt: According ______

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

This past weekend two things crashed: my computer and my mother. Both now are on the mend, mom with a brand new hip and the computer sans Blue Screen of Death. I am enjoying both in the Wake Medical Center in Raleigh (yay for hospital wifi).

So. Yay!

I have been writing my daily poems, just in pen and paper form. I'll continue tomorrow posting my daily poetic responses to the prompts. For now, enjoy Hon, Have a Dime?, up at Every Day Poets.

Peace, Linda

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Science of Art

A poem is mathematics:
the meter, the measure.

But to read a poem
you must find
the words between
let metric
shape meaning.

Prompt: science.

And how opportune for my laptop to flash me the blue screen of death. Perfect timing.

Other than a writing class assignment, I believe everything's backed up. Pray for me.

Peace, Linda

Friday, April 16, 2010

On Little Feet

Death doesn't come
in an instant; rather,
it creeps in, a series
of smaller moments.

Some believe we
start to die when
we crown, before we've
inhaled more than
meconium, but I think
we start to rot when
we no longer want.

Prompt: death

I've already written several poems on death. Enough already. Let's hope tomorrow's prompt is about daffodils or some such bit of sunshine.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, April 15, 2010


The poetry prompt for today - deadline. Which spawned both a poem and the memory of a scene from BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT on the aftermath of the most dreadful of deadlines - final exams -- and all the crap that goes along with that particular insanity.

If I look up
from the page or
walk to the kitchen
for another half-cup
of cold coffee
or stop to stare
at the wren weaving
her nest under the eaves
I might just miss
the deadline yet
get a chance
to breathe.



My body floats outside of itself, a step ahead of the rest of me. I hurry to keep up, running the stairs three at a time; the adrenalin rush of finishing papers and racing to meet deadlines makes me impervious to slowing down. On the landing, I stop short – I forgot to set up for Biology 110 lab this morning.

Damn. Not prepared for Tien’s lambasting, I ponder whether to go in, but I only have eleven minutes to hand in my paper to Doctor L. I wedge open the door. Empty. The smooth, black benches gleam in the afternoon light. I quickly pass through the room. Muffled laughter, then applause from the seminar room echoes down the hall. Someone’s dissertation defense.

Doctor L’s office is across from the small library cum lunch room. I peer out the library window, watch other students pass the fountain, heading to a residence hall or cafeteria or bar. They have somewhere to go. Someone to see.

Too many memories dance around that fountain, so I turn away, settle at the round table to peruse the latest Neuroscience, but can’t focus; I’m too wired. I pull out my outline, feet tapping music on the floor. Not bad - fifteen detailed pages of background, rationale, and hypotheses, research protocol, and expected conclusions.

The door opens. Dr. L beckons me into his office and settles behind his desk. I hand him my paper and sit in the chair across from him. He reaches for his glasses. Leaning forward, hands thrumming on the seat, I wait for his reaction.

“Quite good, Ben,” he says after several silent minutes. “Innovative.”

I lean back, a smile tugging at my mouth.

“Keep up the good work and you’ll do well in this field.” He looks at the paper and back to me. “This was a tough semester. How did you do?”

“Okay, I think. Didn’t sleep for two weeks, but what the heck. Study design was rough,” I say. “All those stats.”

“But what you’ve learned shows,” he says, shaking my paper. The phone rings. He reaches for the receiver. “Go home, get some rest, then get back in lab on Monday.”

Happy, high, I bound down the hall, the stairs, out the building, and through the bustling, twilit Square. None of my writing buddies are holding court at Au Bon Pain or Café Pamplona, so I hang out in the Pit to listen to the Peruvian band. There’s quite a crowd, clapping and dancing, chucking bills into the open guitar case, but no one I know, so I punch in Sam’s number, contemplate going there for dinner, but hang up in the middle of the first ring, sure he’s sick of me; I’ve crashed there three times the past week. There, or in the lab, escaping my apartment of ghosts. My cold bed.

The band takes a break. Bystanders trail away. I wend my way down now-darkened Harvard Street, to my messy home, my empty fridge. I finally feel relaxed enough to eat, so I decide to splurge at the neighborhood whole foods store: organic strawberries, steamed wild-caught shrimp, asiago cheese, mesclun greens. It sets me back thirty bucks and I don’t give a damn, just pull out my new credit card. But as I cart the makings of my feast home, the bag grows heavier, my pace slows; by the time I open the door, I barely have energy to shove the bag in the fridge. I kick off shoes, put on some Schubert, and collapse on the futon for a quick nap.

When I wake, the room is dark as pitch and oddly quiet. Sleeping bent up on the futon cricked my neck, so I massage it and stumble into the shadowy kitchen. My watch blinks 2:23.

I pour the dregs from a carton of orange juice into a cup sticky from last night’s coffee. Leaning against the counter, I pull cold shrimp from the bag, cramming them into my mouth one after the other without tasting. After a pound, I’m still ravenous, so I rummage in the cupboard for something more substantial. My hand bangs up against the mug where I hid my meds. I pull it down, motivated to be a more compliant patient, to be normal; the noise and weird dreams barraging my brain these past days are really starting to annoy me, they’re so relentless.

The bottle is empty.

I make a mental note to get a refill tomorrow, then settle at the table with crackers and peanut butter. A rogue cricket chirrups its melancholy ballad. Despondency licks at the edges of my heart, but now fueled, my head cycles again, remembering her sleepy morning smile, the way water streams in a slow ‘s’ down her back in the shower, how her brow furrows when she studies. How we reconnect at night, in bed, waking in tangles.

The saltines are stale, but I inhale them anyway, stuffing myself until I feel fuller. Too full. My stomach lurches and I stagger to the bathroom, half-laughing as I vomit, I’m so crazy, I’m a frigging bulimic, but what gushes up freaks me out, it’s flesh, little chunks of my heart all pink in the stream of brown, and I sink to my knees and, for the first time since she left, I cry, these huge, heaving sobs that rend holes in my chest.

Oh God. Oh Jesus. What have I done? What have we done?

The Little Press that Could

Bellevue Literary Press, run out of New York University School of Medicine, produced TINKERS (Paul Harding), an exquisite little book that managed to snag this year's Pulitzer Prize. Yeah, that's old news. What isn't is the novel's journey from abandoned manuscript to its current exalted status.

I ordered TINKERS last week, totally unaware it was a contender, just doing my share to keep DEBUT authors publishing with SMALL PRESSES in the limelight.

Check out the Bellevue Literary Review as well. A fabulous literary magazine dealing with health, in the literal and metaphorical senses.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


My life with you
a sprinkling of moments:
pristine islands offering safe
inlets to anchor.

But now, floating
on this vast mattress
without you, I am bereft;
a soul unmoored.


Prompt: island

And on another unrelated note --> This is just SO wrong.

Boycott Hello Kitty. Please. Makes my blood boil.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Transfixed, I watch
your hands - strong, quiet, efficient -
transform this humble offering

from the soil into something pure,
lyrical, a shape so perfect
it seems a miracle.

Later, when the yielding clay
ossifies to a leathered urn,
I cradle this treasure with care

between two palms and peer inside,
looking for… what? I do not know.
My eyes meet black eternity,

empty hollow smelling of earth
primordial, essence of you.
Your heart, a vessel.


Prompt: love

Cuore is Italian for heart. And what is a heart but a vessel? Back in my clay days, I once spent two years focusing my craft on the metaphorical aspects of the heart.

Peace, Linda

Monday, April 12, 2010


The morning after the polls
closed, it drizzled, a cold pervasive
grey over the city of dessicated
chicken bones and smack junkies.

But even the ancient black man
who owned the corner, his perpetual
yard sale of boosted goods, boomed
Hallaluahs and parsed out peace
signs to passing cars for free.

My president, too; but I could
not lay the same claim.


Prompt - City

The day after the 2008 elections, Baltimore beamed. This is a hard-scrabble place, at least where I work, and for the people of a predominantly black inner city, the joy of finding a black man in the presidential office was palpable.

Peace, Linda

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Last Trip

If I had known
the trip to the hospital
was the last time
you would ever be outside
I would not have rushed
you through the rain.

Prompt: Last _____

There are many firsts, and many lasts. The lasts are the most poignant of moments, because they creep upon you with the least expectation and, often, the lasts come after a long period of wishing they would end. I think of the times woken by my hungry infant and wishing this breast feeding to be over, the diapers changed, the long drive finished, the dissertation done, then, it is done. It is over. And once it is over, yu wish to be back with it.

The slow death of my father felt like a climb through a cairn-marked mountain trail. But on this journey, the stone markers were lasts: the last time to mow the lawn, drive to the store, eat solid food, sleep through the night, drink coffee, drink Scotch, sleep beside my mother, read a book, speak, stand in your garden, feel the rain.

I drove my father the hour to Chapel Hill for his cancer treatment many, many times. It seemed it would never end. And then, it did, and I would give anything to drive him there again.

Remember the lasts; treat every moment as if it were.

Peace, Linda

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Orange smudges
your distant horizon
the end of your world:
waves collide with sky,
churn orange into
some kind of molten lava
or a Creamsicle savored
later when the sand
burns our undersoles.

Today's prompt: horror

I tried. Really, I did. My horror-writing friends know I've wanted to stretch in this direction. But... I couldn't get it up, despite blasting Bodysnatchers (Radiohead, In Rainbows) at full volume all afternoon between errands. I tried to get myself into a dark place, a gory place, but... the sun was shining too brightly, the vast amount of coffee drunk all morning, the late breakfast of feta omelette and more coffee, the fabulous yard sales (including this gorgeous Native American terracotta and black slip vase by Armanda Rodriguez for two bucks but might be worth --> THIS and books, of course, including oodles of YA stuff), and the long walk, the roasted asparagus and hamburgers on the grill, and the glass (or two) of homemade traminer-reisling, I mean... I just thought of summer all day. Horror-ible. I know. Whatever.

At least I'm happy.

Peace, Linda

Friday, April 09, 2010


The cartography
of me – glimmerings buried
between words conjured.

Prompt: autobiography

Peace, Linda

Thursday, April 08, 2010


Silver spoon
feed me

Silver moon
spoon me

Peace, Linda

Free Treat - Colum McCann

Hear this master of arguably the best book on 911 strut his stuff. Let the Great World Spin is the best novel I've read in months. Thanks to THE MILLIONS for the heads up.

Enjoy, and read this book if you haven't already. Peace, Linda

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Until I Had to Sing

Seems you hugged this corner
for years, bedraggled head dipped
over your guitar, a beat-up job you hugged,
a child. Your sweet soulful song filled

my ears, made my fingers thump
frets on my thigh, a beat contrary to
your tapping feet. Your eyes twitched to
the slung open case, nervous-like,
to slim bills tumbled in coffee-stained velvet.

Every few songs you scooped the coins
into jean pockets, a swift, measured stroke.

I perched on the stone wall nursing
my smoke, watching other passersby
toss a quarter, or not. Later, at home,

I pulled out my Fender, unplugged and
strummed, thinking of you, notes spinning,
where you slept after your gig.

Never threw a buck your way.
Not once all those years.

Didn’t know the sweet sound of coins
thudding in a can, not until
I had to sing for my bed.


Prompt: Until _____

Not sure where this idea came from.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

One City Block

Bundles of plastic blue, paper brown,
huddle at their feet,
so many children;
three women share hats, sweaters, cigs.

Spittle flumes from a man
astride a moped, four inches from her toe;
nice Italian leather.

The flag inches over the square,
glass glints between concrete pavers
in front of the post-office.
A tuft of dandelions bursts
past used works.

Wallet waving, a man chortles
a lithium-deprived laugh,
begs coins from the suited
dude proselytizing pamphlets;
no takers.

A short block.

The prompt of two photos did not inspire, but the short walk from the metro to my office did: all along the west Lex Market folks hustle their drugs, their bodies, their boosted goods. Homeless congregate, hoping for spare change. Patients from the methadone clinic down the street stumble along the sidewalk with glazed eyes. Lots of sadness along this derelict stretch.

Treat yourself to this witty flash COMPUTER EDUCATION by fellow Harbinger, fictionaut, blogger, friend John Wiswell over at Every Day Fiction. Good stuff.

Boston cream pie. Wasy. Corned beef and hash. Glenfiddich, two fingers, neat. Coffee dark with sweet-n-low. Sunrise on Ocracoke Sound. Watching Survivor with mom. Mowing the lawn. Playing with grandkids.

Just a few of your very favorite things. Happy Birthday, Daddy... we miss you...

Peace, Linda

Monday, April 05, 2010

Rumi's Lament

Night thrums, cicada
song, your breath sweet luxury;
once, its ruby-throated
presence rattled my swaddled
life; now I slumber once more.


Today's prompt (TMI) did not inspire, but a reference to Rumi, the great Sufi prophet and seer, did. Rumi believed that we go through figurative cycles of sleep and awakening, and then return to sleep. That is, we become inurred to what once tantalized and intrigued, what drew us to another. The taking for granted. Here, I play with the tanka form, a 31-syllable five line poem. In the East, tanka is written as a single line; in the west, the form follows a 5-7-5-7-7 structure.

Peace, Linda

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Apron Strings

Cutting rhubarb in the rain,
the mottled leaves thick with mud
and slugs, I wonder if these plants,
robust now, will stand another
season in this shaded corner.

If not, next spring my husband
will surprise me bearing rhizomes,
and plant them so my garden
will be as my mother’s, and
her mother’s and, perhaps, all
our mothers’ before.

I’ll slice the stalks into chunks
for pie, mine has strawberries,
though she says berries ruins
the rhubarb; she makes sauce
and eats from the pot, still warm,
spoon clanking against the sides,
a smile trespassing her face.

Tendering these stalks, making the pie,
heralds me a holder of apron
strings, honoring our history
unmarked with words or trophies, and
thus, all the more important.

I wonder how my daughter
will grow her rhubarb.


Prompt: history

Peace, Linda

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Partly Revealed

If I look close enough
in the mirror
I see softly trampled lines
leading from my eyes,
so many tired circuits
relaying books read,
poems written,
tears shed.

Closer still, lines
surround my lips,
carved canyons of past belly
laughs, false and true,
of smiles held for you,
child’s play, day lilies
before they spend themselves
in sweltering summer sun.

If I dropped my robe,
I could touch the crescent
scar under the clavicle,
left from dog’s teeth;
the roughened skin
that failed to take
after the burn ran us
from the farm; the
indent, too small to see
by the aureole but
certain to touch, souvenir
of the biopsy; or the cleft
beneath where once
I linked to my own mother,
where son, then daughter
bellowed forth.

The mirror tells all;
these things I witness,
map of my life, meager, full.

I wonder - do you see my same history?


Prompt: Partly ________

Peace, Linda

Friday, April 02, 2010


The sun burns a hole
through blue sky,
waves churn grey-cold, a wintry coffin.

By the time we gather one mile
past the ramp, the sky mirrors
sky. Mother sighs.


We clutch handfuls of you
not fine as dust but
chunks, stubborn bone
like you, refusing to burn to essence.

The wind lifts you,
sifts you fine between our fingers;
you want to leave.

With hands lent-like
we walk our paths,
children and grandchildren,
protecting our hearts,
full of you.

The wind shifts, you
loosen between fingers,
waft to the dunes,
contrary as always.

The grey sea swallows you.

Salt spray on our cheeks,
hearts to burst, we scatter
you, a final wish.
But you sneak behind
a rogue gentle wave,
covering shoes and pant hems.

You always hated when we cried.

We leave milepost 33.
The sun burns holes again.
The light pains us.

I’m not sure why I favor
forgotten detritus from
God’s great tumbler: the cracked
scallop, the lusterless
oyster, the conch which
sounds a half-sea.

Perhaps because without you
I am broken upon a foreign shore.


Prompt: water

I imagined scattering my father's ashes in The Blues Are Running. This is how it really happened...

Peace, Linda

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ferry Crossings

April heralds daffodils, asparagus, soft rains, and daily poems. Yup. It IS National Poetry Month. I'll pen a poem every day, and post it here. Today I took the ferry to Ocracoke. The sun warmed my face, the birds followed in our wake, and a poem, one of loneliness, took root, reminding me as well of a scene in my first novel. My #fridayflash and NaPoWriMo offerings...

Into the Fire

I escape to my room, lost without my laptop. A new wooden chair, legs intact, sits under the desk. The feet scrape against the floor. I pull forward an empty notebook, uncap the red felt tip, try to focus.

Why won’t I take this goddamn pill?

I stare at the blank page. Thin blue lines blend with the white expanse, transmogrify to a clear, solid blue that reminds me of summer, the day Phoebe and I escaped the hellish Cambridge heat and drove to the ocean. I’d never been to the Cape, which surprised Phoebe; she thought everyone went to Cape Cod when they wanted to go the beach.

“New Englanders are so funny, so provincial about things like Cape Cod,” I remember telling her, laughing. “We New Yorkers go to Long Island, the Hamptons.”

We drove two hours south to Falmouth, U2 blaring from the metallic-sounding tape deck, wind blasting through rolled-down windows. Phoebe chattered with excitement. We cleared the bridge easily; it was Tuesday, the weekend trippers had already come and gone. Our intent was to cool off, eat steamers and lobsters, drive home that night to get to work the next day, but on a whim we boarded the mid-afternoon ferry to Nantucket.

I remember a singular instant: Phoebe standing at the front of the boat, face turned toward the sun, hair swirling in the wind. Seagulls squawked, dive-bombing for fish churned up by the boat’s engine. The perfect cerulean sky framed her golden splendor, her happiness, and in that second which seemed to last so long at the time but now is lost forever, I was overcome with love. She didn’t see me, but I went to her, wrapped my arms around her, kissed the back of her neck. Whispered my love to her. She smiled and said she loved me, too. It was the first time we said it: we loved each other.

The page pales, the memory slithers away. Why won’t I take this pill? I try to remember discussions with Bruce, in group, but my mind scatters, a million thoughts flying swirly-whirly like maple seedlings in a spring breeze, ephemeral and elusive.

It occurs to me being crazy is kind of like being high. In both, I’m out of control, unable to make decisions. To fully function. I use when I’m in pain, when denial doesn’t work, when I want to relinquish responsibility. Which makes me wonder: am I wallowing in this particular bout of insanity to avoid the crap I need to address in my current reality?

My problems feel insurmountable, but what are they? Exactly? When I try to itemize them in my head, they overwhelm me with their number and their magnitude. I scratch them out: the man I’ve called Dad all my life tried to kill me; I don’t know who my real father is; my mother had a stroke and might never talk again, she might even die; Phoebe left, but I still love her, though I don’t know why. Oh, and I want to kill myself. These are the biggies, but others add to my growing manifest: my body and mind are shot to hell; I’m unlikely to graduate this spring, most assuredly not summa cum laude; I’m in tremendous debt; I fantasize about getting high; how do I live with this insanity lurking like the boogey man, waiting to jump me without warning?

A long, daunting list. Makes my head pound. Where do I even begin? Oh Jesus. Panic blooms from the constant speck festering in my heart. My hands tremble, the words not legible. I drop the pen. The frying pan or the fire: this is my choice.

(Excerpted from Brighter than Bright, a scene where a suicidal Ben agonizes whether to take medication that robs him of feeling but which might save him from himself.)


Crossing Ocracoke Sound

Cormorants dive-bomb,
skimming up blues and other
chum churned in the ferry’s wake.

Ahead, the island where
we slept amidst sea oats
singing at higher pitch

than the gulls’ keen,
were we licked butter
and more from the others’

fingers, sweet crab claws.
One hunger sated we
walked into sky coral

colored, sure of night
and the next... now,
though, the engine thrums

deep through my soles,
constant with the sea,
your pulse, a memory.

Peace, Linda