Thursday, June 30, 2011

Holiday Hijinks

Flags rippled in the faint evening breeze. In the dim light of the just-set sun, the plot gleamed with a newly-buffed sheen. People moved with reverence among the flags. Except for the children, who ran with yelps of laughter. Eugene Kosinksi looked down from his bunting-draped platform and grimaced, worried about the kids ruining the refined ambience he had worked so hard to create. He worried whether too many people would visit, worried not enough would come. Most of all, he worried he had given away too much. No, no… tonight was the least he could do. The dark deepened. He reached for his cell phone. Now.

The three spotlights flicked on. The huge flag hoisted up the pole, America the Beautiful thrummed the night. A large ooh wafted into the air. The crowd stood reverent, even the kids, hands held hearts, and gazed at the red and blue filling the field of night. The song ended with raucous applause. Eugene’s chest swelled with pride as he observed his seven-acre empire of F-150s, Explorers, and Fiestas glittering under the light beams criss-crossing the sky. Just wait until the free hotdogs, he thought and rubbed his hands together. Just wait until the balloon launch.


I'm going green this week -- Patriot Ford is an encore, a recycle. I originally wrote this last year, but it fits the upcoming 4th of July holiday. If you wish to read a review of the story, Susan Tepper discusses this wee fiction here: HERE. I found her review googling myself looking for a paper I'd written for the day job. Sorta scary what's out there and you don't even know it...

Writing-wise: One grad school application in the admissions queue, another in process. A couple of chapbooks subbed to contests. The gazillionith draft of my first novel 80 pages from the end, the third one percolating merrily in my head. I've suffered pins-and-needles in my right shoulder, an old injury exacerbated by my writing habit, but will start physical therapy soon.

Reading-wise: Inhaling Jenna Blum's THE STORMCHASERS. Magnifico! And it even has a bipolar character! Also, the 2011 Pushcart Prize Winners (I laugh, I cry, I feel like hanging up my pen, these stories and poems are sooooooooo excellent).

Lot's to celebrate this weekend: living in the land of the free, my children celebrating another year, good weather, a colorful garden, a day off with a pedicure for my tootsies. Peace...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thunderclaps and Tornados

THUNDERCLAP! 6 makes it's boisterous entrance this week. Editor Amanda Deo has assembled a fine entourage of writers -- Jules Archer, Stephen Hastings-King, Chelsea Biodolillo, Foster Trecost, Kat Dixon, Amber Sparks, Michael Dickes, Martha Williams -- and a host of others, including my short THE GOLDEN MOMENT.

A special thanks to Amanda and Robert Vaughan for featuring my work.

A truly special thanks to Amanda for offering all proceeds to Tornado Relief efforts to help areas in the United States hard hit by the recent spate of storms. As someone whose former homes of Raleigh, NC and Sturbridge, MA were hit, I am particularly grateful. Thunderclap! 6 is available in print and e-formats. Read, enjoy, and help a worthy cause all in one click. Peace...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Another Serving of JMWW

The summer edition of JMWW up for your reading pleasure. Featuring Danny Goodman, Rebecca Kanner, Lam Pham, Andrew Borgstrom, Cooper Renner, and a slew of other talent. Take a look-see. Peace...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unwritten Language / Unnamed Places >> Language > Place Carnival Blog

Julia Davies hosts Edition #7 of the Language - Place Carnival Blog at Practice Makes Perfect. You will recognize the names of many contributors, including founder Dorothee Lang, Marcus Speh, Susan Gibb, Walter Bjorkman, Martin Porter, Michael Solender, Rose Hunter, and yours truly, among others. Take a gander and wallow in words and art.

A tremendous thank you to Julia who put together an amazing carnival and a gorgeous reception desk. Peace...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Youth (Gemma's Story)

They had to move the memorial service to Saint Joe’s because so many people wanted to come – the kids from school, everyone from church, the soccer league, the musicians he hung out with. The whole town came. Even here, the pews are packed. Good for Nikko - he loved a party, maybe too much.

Mom sits beside me, worrying a hanky in her lap. She twists it tight and releases. The cotton whirls open like a ballerina’s tutu, stark against the black of her dress. She hasn’t cried since she found Nik, not that I have seen anyway. Then again, I haven’t really cried either. Just once, when I talked to Grams. I turn around. People stream in. Daddy shakes hands with everyone, even hugs some. He borrowed my make-up this morning, to cover the brown circles under his eyes.

Miss Miriam sits alone in the third row, very straight and still, hands folded in her lap. She’s wearing purple, the color of blueberries. Looking at her, I kind of want to sit next to her because I’m alone, too. Josh didn’t come back, he’s still somewhere in Seattle. She must be worried sick, like we were with Nik. Mom refuses to be in the same church with Reverend Martin, so he’s staying away to give her space. Which makes me sad, because Nik liked him, respected him, and would have wanted him at the memorial service. So stupid the disagreement. Both Nik and I voted for Rev Martin. The vote caused the split, it’s why Nik and Josh left. Sometimes I wish I’d gone with them, but I’m not as strong as them.

I feel bad for Miss Miriam. She taught the Coming of Age program and after all those sleepovers and retreats, she knows me better than mom for sure, and probably dad, too. But she’s not crying, she doesn’t even have her notebook out. She keeps looking at the huge Jesus bolted to the cross hanging behind the casket. Right over Nik. Which makes me want to laugh because none of us, even Miss Miriam, believe in God or Jesus or even miracles.

Miss Miriam always was kind to me, and to mom, and mom needed all the kindness she could get. I mean, I respect mom, she survived cancer and all while she was pregnant with me, but something about getting through all that crap made her heart tough, like an over-cooked piece of beef, and no one likes meat you have to chew forever. Sure, daddy holds her hand in church, they hold hands everywhere, but she’s cold. Glacier. I blame her coldness on the chemo and radiation. Back then, doctors tended to overshoot doses and the methotrexate and all the rads turned mom into a bitch. The treatment is what made me a peanut. Strangers think I’m in the fourth grade. My friends call me T-cubed – tiny tough tiger – and I guess I am, though I am dreading driver’s ed because I can’t reach the gas pedal without sitting on my biology book. Dad always says what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We’ll see.

In the end I blame everything on the chemo. Because she’s the one who made Nikky crazy enough to look for rope, find the pills. I just wish he hadn’t given in.

The organ sighs. I stare at the notes crumpled in my hand, my poem to Nik, my twin, my best friend. The ink has bled on my hand, purple streaks, and it hits me: I am alone.

I wonder if Jesus cried at the end.

Another character sketch from The Minister's Wife, a novel-in-progress. Working on this story, or series of stories, I feel exhilaration as I map out the relationships, the events, the aftermath.

It feels good to ponder new stuff. Peace...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why I Write

Why did I write? Because I found life unsatisfactory. (Tennessee Williams)

I write because life hands us more disappointment than joy, more hardship than ease, and getting past the hurdles – or not – is what makes one’s character. Years ago, when I moved to Boston from the then tiny hamlet of Chapel Hill, I came to know two older women who had survived the holocaust, tattoos intact on their inner arms. One, my neighbor, gave to others in our apartment building with grace even though she herself scraped by with only her social security benefits and no family to help her. The other, who with her American husband built a family empire based on a string of seafood restaurants and real estate holdings, bickered with her tenants over fixing 30-year old refrigerators, cockroach infestations, and broken windows. I write because I find so many people, or facets of people, unsatisfactory. I write to understand their motivations.

Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy. (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

No one leads a gilded life. No one lives on a perpetual cloud of bliss. The grass never is greener. Those people who appear to live on easy street are the ones who have the most to hide, the most to mourn. A hero is someone who conquers insurmountable obstacles and arrives on the other side. The obstacle may be infertility, an abusive parent, a stint in Afghanistan, mental illness, a childhood spent in luxury. I am curious about how obstacles shape people, especially those who make passage through them. I write about how people become when they reach the other side.

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. (Anais Nin)

I do not write fluff. I write to get at the hard stuff of life, to make sense of it. I write to understand actions, or lack of actions. I write to make sense of my life.

The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart. (Maya Angelou)

I strive to write in hopes that my sense of my life helps you make sense of yours. If any of my words makes you pause and say: this moves me, this provokes me, this makes me see this situation with more compassion, then I have succeeded.

One of the pleasant things those of us who write or paint do is to have the daily miracle. It does come. (Gertrude Stein)

Every day I write with purpose results in at least one small epiphany. Sometimes, the epiphany extends and becomes what I call the flow. When I enter the flow, I become one with my craft, myself, my universe and higher being. It is sheer energy, one which reenergizes when the body and mind and spirit flag. I reach for this miracle, daily.


The amazing Cathy Webster tagged me with this “Why I Write” meme. Please, read her essay which is funny and sassy and sad and has all the characteristics which qualifies Cathy as one of the finest people who write about LIFE. And now, I pass along the baton to these word-spinners who writes what is real and from the best places of their hearts:

Mark Kerkstetter

Alison Wells

Michael J. Solender

Why do you write? Peace...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Metro to the City

They wear hoodies
and pants slung low,
tattoos down necks
like Chinese
their girls swagger
hard consonants
needling thin air
the train goes quiet
I hide behind my book


My small contribution to the ever-enduring Language > Place carnival Blog. Julia Davies hosts Edition #7 with the theme Unwritten Language - Unnamed Places. This poem inspired by my daily metro ride. On the last day of school the kids on the metro talked louder, at higher pitch, their excitability turning aggressive.

A HUGE thank you to Julia Davies for putting this puzzle together. Peace...

Sunday, June 19, 2011


It has been two Fathers’ Days since my father died, and this year waves of grief do not crash through me. As time erodes the mountains into softer, less jagged hills, so does time turn seas of sadness into softer swells. Now, I find I miss my father in the small spaces of living, when his memory comes creeping in unexpected during everyday moments: washing the dishes, the way the clouds layer in the sky before dark, the crimson of my currants. These small pricks of memory, of sensing him, sometimes make me tear up but more often, they make me smile, feel gratitude for having him in my life at all. I take each memory as it comes and stack it carefully on top of the last, a cairn, my monument.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Nikko pulled the grey wool blanket closer, but it was too thin, too threadbare, to keep the damp from seeping through. His arm throbbed, a hotness that pulsed in waves. He knew he would see the red welts, swollen tracks to his heart, if he rolled up his sleeve, so he didn’t. On the stoop above him, Josh moaned, one of his dreams taking hold. He dreamed a lot on the street, but not Nikko. When Nikko did collapse into sleep, he crashed hard; dreams were for the day time, for when buildings and people emerged from shadow, easily seen.

Nikko shivered. Damn, better not have a fever. If he did, Josh would make him go to the clinic, and then they’d ask questions. Josh, always practical, but no good at lying. Truly a minister's son. Nikko talked for them both, got them out of and into crazy situations, got them their dope, their beds, their money. It was Nikko's idea to leave.

He hoped today was May. April sucked, they’d headed up to Seattle because everyone said April had the best weather, but all they faced was a thin grey wall of drizzle. Sometime this past week he turned seventeen, along with Sam, his sister. He didn’t feel seventeen, he felt thirty, old and worn. Back home, his mother would have fixed him a special meal, usually ribs, baby backs charred from grilling, and the next night Sam would pick, some girly meal like shrimp salad or crab cakes. But he was far from Maryland, as far as he could go without falling into the Pacific. He thought often of the rollicking waves, of being pulled under, of being weightless and senseless, and as he imagined the swells caressing him, he remembered early mornings at the kitchen table, he and Sam gnawing on toast in pre-dawn dark, not talking, just taking in the quiet before their mother woke but after their father left for the day, the stillness between them, the peace, and then without speaking they would load up their backpacks and head for school.

Josh slept, oblivious to traffic thrumming on the Viaduct above them, to the shuffling of the other kids waking from under boxes and blankets, to the sun edging orange over the skyline. Exhaustion swept over Nikko, a wave, and all he wanted was an instant at that kitchen table, with his sister in the safe dark, but it was morning, time to move, again.


Another character sketch for The Minister's Wife, my novel very much in progress. And inspired by the conundrum called Seattle, a city of abundance and poverty. Peace...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Change of Venue

Sometimes all you need to right a crooked life is a change of view. In Seattle, out of my hotel room window:

It doesn't hurt this town is loaded with writing-conducive cafes and friendly barristas who serve up such yummies as elegant Orange Blossom lattes. Or that baby artichokes, Ranier cherries, and asparagas are in season. That meals eaten with your students, colleagues, and friends make sea-kissed crab and salmon even sweeter.

The change in scenery clears my head, heals my heart, reminds me what is important: living with integrity, following my heart, loving my family, my friends.

Here, the sky soars, limitless. Peace...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Cougar

I notice the salad before I see Alan. A tumble of baby greens, the drizzle of vinaigrette glistens like dew drops on grass. One of those small salads that barely feeds a child much less a man. His face looks leaner now, a wolf’s not a bear’s. He looks hungry.

I pull out my compact – lips on, makeup not melted, no raccoon circles under my eyes. No lunch leftovers hanging from my teeth. I click the mirror shut with satisfaction. Thank goddess he can’t see me, the column wrapped in plastic ivy blocks his view but not mine. He tucks in close to the table, his stomach not drooping between his thighs, his chest no longer sagging over his plate. A cold sweat breaks out between my breasts.

The waiter deposits another basket of warm rolls, the little balls of butter in the white dish melting. I tear apart a roll and steam rises, the dough soft and yeasty in my mouth. Carrie is late, but when she struts through the restaurant, bright as a peacock, my ex will follow her to me. He never liked her, thought her a hussy, though he couldn’t keep his eyes off of her at our tree trimming party.

Beyond a few necessary email exchanges – who gets the Dodge, the silver, the cat - Alan and I haven’t spoken since last April, not since we passed papers. I had stared at his girth, the damp stain spreading under his armpits. Even across the table, he smelled sour, fetid, like cabbage rotting. Our marriage decomposing. Then, he had only lost 30 pounds, the gastric bypass slow to take. Twenty-six years, he said, his eyes puppy-dog sad. How can you throw that away? The children? The house? Our marriage?

We had a marriage? The children grown and moved away, the house a dust-filled monstrosity, a weekly roll with me on top, always on top, so he would not crush me. For twenty five of those years I had counted until our youngest finished college. The day after she graduated I handed him my intent to divorce.

After the lawyers shook hands, I bolted to Julian’s, Carrie already tipsy on two-buck highballs and the Led Zeppelin streaming through the speakers. My partner in crime had prowled the singles scene for over a year, ever since she left Dan. Julian’s was our watering hole of choice, cheap drinks, music we can sing to, a plentiful stable of men. We stumbled off our stools and played pool with a group of IBMers passing through town. They slung back microbrews while we drank sloe gin fizzes so sweet they made my teeth ache. We slow danced in the hazy smoke, kissed pressed against the wall.

Later, the slow undressing in my new apartment. Carrie demonstrated her pole dance classes on her pick-up. I lap-danced mine on the single chair, a Lazy-boy recliner from Salvation Army. My first legal, non-adulterous fuck. How freeing to writhe under someone with more muscles than fat, who could keep it up longer than minute, who afterwards stroked my hair and if he noticed the fine silver strands by my ears didn’t mention them. I forget his name, only remember he was a good Jewish boy and how we talked how difficult it was to maintain faith in a secular world. He caressed the silver chalice hanging below my neck and then he did me again, his mouth burrowed in my breasts, murmuring what sounded like mama-mama-mama as he went limp in me.

I lean over the table for a better view. Alan picks at a radish. There is no bread basket at his table. No wine. He sips from a glass, a lemon round floating atop a raft of ice cubes. He shifts in his seat and I marvel at newly-defined deltoids. A small ache slides under my breast bone. Someone told me, maybe Carrie, that she’d seen him at Gold’s lifting weights. Wrong! I’d said. You are so wrong! He never lifted a can of peas much less broke a sweat over a biceps curl. Her lips arranged into that all-knowing Mona Lisa smile of hers, but I knew she was mistaken.

I tease apart another roll. Liberatore’s is dangerous for South Beachers. This used to be our restaurant, our Friday night date. The music’s too loud now and, other than the bread basket, the portions skimpier. Alan raises a baby green to his mouth. He chews and chews, forever it seems. His hair shines, longer down the neck, the ears, the grey gone. A small hand with nails the color of my lipstick reaches across the linen table and pats his forearm. He lowers his fork beside the salad and the pink moons disappear in his massive hand.

Jealousy slithers through me. I crane my neck to see who is attached to the end of those long fine fingers but a stupid waiter in his stupid black jacket stands between us, unloading plates of pasta. The hand withdraws. The roll drops from my fingers and bounces off my lap and onto the floor.


Carrie looks down at me, lips glossy, blond hair pulled off her high forehead. Turquoise silk wafts over her boobs, slides over her hips. She pulls me into her hug, a haze of Tabu. Her pink, pink nails splay around my shoulder.


Another character sketch for my new novel-in-progress, one to complement The Poet. And you have 'met' this character before, mentioned here. Just playing.

Stay cool, write hot. Peace...

Sunday, June 05, 2011


I have been reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, bits and pieces of his essays, and found this little gem:

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.

In the end, no one can cure your past, fix your future, eradicate the bitterness growing inside you like algae on a stagnant pond. Not your parents, your children, your therapist, your minister. We are so quick to blame others for our misfortunes, fears, and failures, when perhaps the truth for our sadness rests within ourselves.

Rather than sign-off most of my correspondances with a 'sincerely' or 'best' or 'cheerio', I sign off with 'peace'. I do so because I truly do wish every person with whom I interact to manifest peace, to revel in it, to find a small corner of quiet in which to be one with oneself and the world. I also sign peace because it is my reminder to myself to practice peace.

The past few months have seen little peace. I have struggled to find my inner reserve, and this difficulty has affected my sleep, my health, my writing. I alluded to this almost spiritual exhaustion last week, the tenuous balance between fear and love.

My husband is a minister. For reasons which have less to do with him and his ministry and more to do with the individual fears of a minority of his congregants, his pulpit has been under attack. As the wife of the minister, it has been difficult to keep sharp words behind my teeth, because when my family is threatened, I go into lioness mode. Mothering is instinctual.

Losing his ministry is more than losing a job -- it is losing a community in which we have been invested for a decade. It is this sadness which has left me sleepless these weeks, which has blocked my heart and my words. Today, though, the church voted -- and we prevailed. The work to bridge the chasm left behind will be great, but at least it is work. For all of you who have sent kind words and prayers, thank you -- you are so appreciated and so loved.


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Ant Farm

My daughter gnawed on her honeyed toast, dropping bits into the top of the ant farm. The workers scurried to gather the crumbs. I sipped my coffee slowly, to avoid the cup’s bottom, to prolong the moment when I left for work. Sarah and I watched the insects crawl through tunnels and burrows, hauling beige globs bigger than themselves to the queen. The sun warmed the kitchen. A sort of hypnotic peace settled over us.

A bargain, my husband had declared, holding the farm in his arms. He smiled, sweaty from a summer morning spent yard-saling. Sarah will learn about community, he had said. She’ll learn about hard work. What about you? I had thought.

But I let him assemble the structure after he promised to release the insects when Sarah entered kindergarten. A year later and the ants still thrived, unlike the goldfish that went belly-up when Sarah sprinkled in too much Tetra. The farm occupied an entire counter. Somehow the ants escaped and found their way into the sugar bowl and the plastic-sheathed bread. Every time I squished an ant with my finger, I felt a piece of me loosen and chisel off.

My husband bounded down the stairs, his happy noisiness preceding him. Sarah ran to him and they hugged, chattering, behind me. Pressure welled from my gut to my chest. The room clouded. Outside daffodils poked through snow and the air shimmered blue. I drained my cup, picked up my keys, the morning unbearable.

Inspired by the tenuous balance of work and the rest of life, of what's lost in between. Peace...