Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wolves and Butterflies

Yang to my yin, you attack my defenses, hard-wired to protect against hepatitis, Clostridium difficile and any number of God's afflictions. Vigilant even in your latency, your troops spread from bone and lymph to destroy my soldiers of antibodies and white blood cells. You gnaw on epidermis, feast on capillaries and nerves feeding into larger organs — tendon, kidney, liver, brain. Soon, I am sure, you will swallow my soul.

Every morning brings a new battlefield. Puffed up on prednisone, I drowse, immune to most skirmishes. But now you gather at the border of my heart, Capulets to my Montagues, no mere guerilla tactic -- I know, the x-rays confirm. So I shore up my armamentarium of corticosteroids, ibuprofen, Plaquenil, acupuncture to beat back the cells you've suborned and inflamed.

When you claimed the sun as your friend, you almost won. I admit, I mourn the day warming my face while I sat with my morning coffee, the slant of sun through dappled leaves, the buzz of birds and insects. (I do not miss butterflies.)

Then I found my anger and allied with the night. In dark safety, I shovel my holes and children make fun of me. “Werewolf,” they whisper. But I do not dig graves, only cradles, for wolfsbane and moonflower, evening primrose and columbine. When the plants are sunk, I sit on moon-licked grass, swaddled in the earth's loamy must and the flutter of moths, the night noises louder than my howl.


Inspired by the 52/250 Flash a Year Challenge theme 'rivals'. Also inspired by my Nana, dead now for some time from complications of lupus, an autoimmune disease famously noted for the butterfly rash that adorns sufferers during a flare. Like wolves, tdhose with lupus do not tolerate light. Peace, Linda

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's All In Your Head Blah-Blah-Blah...

Been quiet lately, hiding behind work and life. Wish I was writing -- that's come hard of late, my head's morphed to mush. Maybe it's the low pushed ahead by the tropical storm wending itself up the eastern seaboard. Maybe it's thoughts of grant proposals I'll need to develop over the next few months, a tremendous endeavor that taxes my creative juices. Maybe it's ennui or the change of seasons which always tinges me with melancholy. Maybe I'm just tired...

Or maybe I'm sad. Three of my friends lost parents this past week, and a lot of friends are out of work. My family has it's own pressure and anxieties as well...

Or maybe I need to see the doctor. But my doctor never calls me back. I worry about health care reform -- do we have enough doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care providers? I mean, if someone like myself with better-than-adequate insurance and insider savvy on working the system can't get her doctor to pay attention to a radiology report, then how the hell will the system deal with the rapid expansion of twenty percent MORE patients in the pool? This keeps me up at night. Think of it -- the queues of Canada meld with the over-priced bloated US health care 'system'...

Just back from a two day conference in DC sponsored by the National Institute on Mental Health that looked at the psychiatric aspects of health care reform. No answers, not yet, but at least I came back re-energized and with ideas for grant proposals. I stayed north of Dupont Circle and south of the zoo, old stomping grounds when I was a college intern. Drank too much coffee, probably the culprit behind the nagging ache in my brain...

Speaking of brains, Charlie Rose recently hosted a series on The Brain. Lots of talking heads talking about the insides of our heads -- addictions, anxciety, schizophrenia, memory loss. Fascinating stuff. You can buy the DVD series from amazon, or just view them for free here...

And speaking of free, one of the absolute best things I've read this week, ANYTHING AGAIN by Claire King, a gorgeous story of loss and food. And the other absolutely best thing I've read is Lou Freshwater's LOVE. Check them out, along with 35 other 250 word stories about 'the last time' up at 52-250.

I suppose I should go write a poem or something, stuff's due, but maybe I'll just eat mango ice cream. Peace, Linda

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Should Not Have Rushed You Through The Rain

At the hospital, we know the routine. I haul out my laptop, emailing students, writing papers no one reads. You stare at the same first page of the John Grisham you’ve carted here for weeks. An hour passes. A nurse finally walks you to the bathroom to pee in a cup. Another hour. The phlebotomist ambles in and pricks your arm. Blood fills the tubes, purple and thick. Three hours. No doctor, no saline drip, no reassurances of ‘soon, soon’. On the way out for coffee, I blast the woman behind reception. I should realize when she says pharmacy hasn’t received orders to prep your erlotinib. But I don’t. I fume through the hospital lobby, paging the clinical trial coordinator, rescheduling lectures and exams, scowling at my watch.

When I return, the doc stands over you scrunched in the arm chair. He taps an x-ray and shakes his head. You push yourself up, using the armrests for leverage. It takes three tries, but at last you waver on your feet, hand extended. You thank him. The doctor leaves, not recognizing me when he passes, and you collapse. What looks like tears on your cheeks is sweat.

I wheel you down to valet parking. It’s late afternoon, the ride home will be hell. You reach back for my hand, squeeze it. A fine cool mist falls from the opaque sky and splatters crystals in your hair. You smile and try to say something, but the car arrives.


Inspired by this week's 52-250 theme 'The Last Time', chosen by YT. Inspired by a host of other things as well, including the last line of a short poem forthcoming soon in Camroc Press Review. The last year of my father's life was full of many lasts, for him and for me. Looking back, I realize that waiting in the rain was when he told me goodbye.

Between work and getting into school routines (2 kids, 2 schools), life's been rather chaotic; I apologize for not blog-hopping as much as I'd like. Soon, soon...

Live well, love better. Peace, Linda

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Escape Into Life

I am honored to have three of my pieces featured today in ESCAPE INTO LIFE, a literary salon celebrating art, poetry, fiction, and philosophy. The legacy of the late brilliant and generous Chris Al-Aswad, EIL is the ultimate cyber coffee table book -- glossy, gorgeous, and not at all fluffy or stuffy. Escape Into Life is a festival of words, art, and song.

A huge thanks to Simon Kartar (read his brilliant Everything is Changing) and the rest of the editors at EIL.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Three Minutes, Please...

That is how long it should take you to devour this sweet yet terrifying chap from Right Hand Pointing: WORD COUNT

10 poems < 30 words.

No fat, zippo calories.

Including one by YT (and Howie Good and Doug Mathewson and...). Thank you Dale Wisely, editor-in-chief!

Peace, Linda

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Third Time's The Charm


Gimme lucky three.


Third wife, a trio of kiddos, three-bedroom rancher. Once, in Reno, I rolled threesies, won 30k. Still owe that much on the trawler.


Clickety-click. Click.

Now, damn boat’s on blocks -- three years ‘til the shrimp come clean. No jobs except drinking. Plum outta luck, one bullet left.



Inspired by so many things: the 52-250 Flash Challenge theme 'lucky number'; another 55-word story challenge; and theme challenge 'oil'.

But mostly inspired by a quiet report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that finds the BP catastrophe has wrought human troubles as well, including including depression and suicide among those who rely on healthy Gulf water to eke out a living.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We're Building Stories Here - With Words!

The most excellent Deanna Schrayer believes in the power of the word. And the right of all to be able to use and understand words. Last Wednesday was International Literacy Day. To celebrate Deanna created this gorgeous award.

Being the generous soul she is, Deanna passed the award to several folks, including Yours Truly, as well as the talented and eclectic Jai Joshi. In turn, Jai also passed this wonderful award to me.


So I'm supposed to share five of my favorite words. I like words with good mouth feel, ones that resonate when said aloud. Good poetry words:

Sully -- This words sounds dirty, just what it means.
Effervesce -- Makes me smile -- Asti anyone?
Seraphim -- Angelic.
Detritus -- I love the gutteralness of this word, so hard and final.
Melancholy -- The Chinese character for this word means 'after the harvest', that bittersweet time before winter sets in and the fields go fallow.

Since I received the award twice, I suppose I should offer up five more words. I like verbs with strength, so here's five more unusual ones:

Veneer -- A thin skin used as a noun or verb.
Loiter -- A better word for lazy or hanging.
Bypass -- Use it next time instead of walk around or walk past.
Surge -- Waves, power, energy.
Polarize -- To mute or mutate, or to amplify tension. Not just for RayBans any more!

My favorite words, no explanation needed:


My turn to pass the karma forward. The three writers below each exploit language to its fullest. Please visit their blogs and revel in their words:

Lou Freshwater @ Baby's Black Balloon: Master weaver of words that evoke emotion.

Mark Kerstetter @ The Bricoleur: Brick and word-builder extraordinaire.

Marc Nash @ The Sulci Collective: The man's a veritable walking, talking dictionary.

Peace, Linda

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In Memoriam

Perfect day dawned in brilliant blue,
shocking canvas of contrast: planes
fly black against far-flung heaven.
Even unbelieving prayer
muttered with quiet resigned breaths
can not foretell or forestall stains

gouging ground, splintering sky, staining
steel, scuttled lives, exhaling blue,
imploding in hydraulic breaths
screaming through city, hill, and plain.
Common words, sweet sacred prayers
lip-synched by believers heaven

sent from hell to transform heaven
marked by the golden crescent, stain
of a singular god and prayer,
cloaked in cheap polyester blue,
costume of the West, boarding planes
inhaling, exhaling, one breath

holy comingling with all breaths,
lifting as one to make heaven
on earth, to be done, in the plane.
It is foretold, on pages stained
sepia older than time, blue
ink and red seeping in prayer.

Father, mother, children all - pray
the ancient songs with soft breaths,
for God cannot hear in this blue
twilight; sing who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name, thy love stained
by unseen portents, for the plane

is a steel-bound casket, the plane
pulses with souls insistent, prey
trembling, mortal flesh and smoke-stained,
metal-wrapped in a dragon’s breath.
For the meek, the blessed, to heaven
will float ashen to brilliant blue.

Blue sky trailed by white plane flumes
marking a heaven all pray exists;
God’s breath stained by metal and fire.



Peace, Linda

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Statistics (or: Walking Through Lexington Market on the Way to Work)

At the metro, I don’t take the escalator – too many pick-pockets. My feet crunch on the abandoned peanut shells, cigarette butts, and gnawed chicken bones littering the granite steps. A covey of young men loiter by the exit, voices excited, muscle tees framing black-inked tats. Absorbed in their furtive closed palm exchanges of rolled-up bills for baggies, they ignore me.

Outside, summer’s swelter carries the usual market smells of over-ripe fruit, worn-out peanut oil, and stale urine. I walk quickly, breathing though my mouth. Around the corner I bypass a puddle of vomit and almost trip over the legs of a woman propped against the Market’s brick wall. Sweat pours down her face; I fight the strong urge to yank off her puffy purple parka so she can cool off. She stares at me, eyes filmy from glaucoma or some other affliction, but I walk past, averting my gaze to the crab grass pushing through broken concrete, the spent condoms, the empty vodka nips rolling at her stockinged feet.

Campus security patrols the intersection. We smile at each other, as we do every day, small reassuring grimaces. The ham and Swiss hangs heavy in my lunch bag like a bad conscience. The light changes. I hurry across to the air-conditioned safety of the hospital, to the day of running yesterday’s numbers: admissions, discharges, dollars, death. But first, I stop for a latte, hoping to usher energy enough to feel the morning’s sting.


This story inspired by this week's 52-250 theme theme: we are not responsible. Peace, Linda

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Thirteen (or, if it's Tuesday it must be new lit day)

There's a new litzine in town -- THIRTEEN. Edited by the Michelle Elvy, Walter Bjorkman, and John Wentworth Chapin, Thirteen is dedicated to the 52 best flashes under 250 words generated in the weekly themed 52/250 Flash a Year challenge.

And what gorgeous, eclectic stuff. Stories (and poems) about strange worlds, terror, red meat, smoke in cars, and space camp. Indulge yourself in these petite treats. I'm honored to see my poem Partly Revealed (theme = cartography) in the company of such fine stories. Scroll down and read my Biography when you have a chance -- it's different, I promise.

Thank you to Michelle, John, and Walter -- you three have created marvelous community and an elegant new journal.


For an entirely different experience, grab some popcorn and head over to At The Bijou for tonight's feature presentation WELCOME TO INTERIM. Truly a collaborative work, Welcome to Interim is told in four voices, played by Salvatore Buttaci, Laurita Miller, Anthony Venutolo, and Yours Truly (I'm Mimosa, in case you can't figure it out). Thanks Kate for hosting us -- hope we don't wreck the place!


Tickled pink that Camroc Press Review will run A ∩ B (an original 52/250 flash) and Last Time in October. Whew! The dry spell is over. Thanks Barry!

And that wraps it up for today. Live well, write well, love better. Peace, Linda

Saturday, September 04, 2010

A Month's Worth of Gratitude

A month ago, I was feeling low. Most everything sucked -- work, writing, petty colleagues and acquaintances, whiny, needy others. I wallowed in an existential pity-party, well-deserved I thought; I'd had a rotten two years. Then, I felt guilty because my life was pretty damn good. But I couldn't see the goodness, and that bothered me.

I read once in some self-help book or another that if you want to feel better, laugh. Happy people laugh a lot (though I'm not sure what comes first -- the laughter or the happiness). I figured -- maybe if I one thing to be grateful for every day, maybe my glass would feel less empty.

What a hard exercise! But, in the end, practicing gratitude on a daily basis has made me thankful for the richness of my life. I hope all of you who played along found benefit as well -- I profited from your honest, generous expressions of thanks.

But enough mushiness already -- on to the important stuff -- the WINNERS!

We're all winners, and my two charities -- hospice and the local crisis center -- raked up good. Between new followers and expressed gratitudes, we raised $133, which I'll round to make an even $150. THANK YOU everyone for taking time to drop a comment.

And what great gratitudes you left for me to ponder -- flip-out footrests in new love seats, tea in the morning, breathing, kids who let you write, colleagues, friends, and family, decent shower pressure, the wonderful cyber community of writers, and woodpeckers with attitude. It was difficult to choose only three winners, but here they are...

The Most Heartfelt Gratitude: Written by a writer with a romantic and compassionate soul ==> LAURITA MILLER

Day 1: I am grateful for those people who take just one quick moment to point out the good in someone else. That one moment can make a world of difference.
--A random act of kindness can make a broken day better.

Day 9:

This morning I'm grateful for coffee
It's all that keeps me awake
I drink cup after cup
as soon as I'm up
It's all for my sanity's sake
---Without coffee, I'm an unhinged woman with a throbbing head.

The Quirkiest Gratitude: Should come to no surprise to those who know her ==> CATHY OLLIFFE

Day 9: I am grateful that it's Sunday morning and I don't even have to have a bath today if I don't want to.
---Yes ma'am, love those mornings when PJs rule. This made me grin.

Lady Luck winner: Also no surprise, as this woman left more gratitudes than any other individual ==> UMBRELLALADY

Day 17: I am grateful for technology as well, except when it rings in the middle of the store.
---Or when it chirps in the middle of my husband's sermon!

On Day 23: I am grateful for all the wonderful crabapples that make such great juice.
---I asked for the 'how-to' and you delivered on your blog -- thank you!

CONGRATULATIONS to all three winners!!!! Please, shoot me an email with your snail mail addie and your favorite color, number, and word, I'll gather up your goodies and ship them to you.

And it occurs to me now as I consider shipping those goodie baskets -- every single one of you lives in Canada! How cool is that?

Peace, Linda

Gratitude #30

Today I am grateful for cooler weather, for three days to slow down and recharge from an over-busy week, for friends and family. But most of all I am thankful for all of you who expressed thanks this past month.

Look for details later tonight or tomorrow on dollars raised and winners -- I'm still reading through and quantifying the many wonderful responses. Amazing words that keep me grounded in the here and now.

Thank you.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, September 02, 2010

COCHINOS - #fridayflash

The garbage bag bumps behind you through the glass-strewn median. You startle when the 18-wheeler barrels past. A cigarette spatters orange on the pavement.

Cochinos.” You stab a soggy diaper. “Pigs. All Americanos.”

The watch you found last week shines Indy-Glo green. Two more hours, no more breaks. Rats stare at you, their eyes fearless pinpricks, but you reach around them for the Corona empties, the crumpled McDonald’s bags, and wait for dawn to spill, a broken yolk across the desert.

You scrape crushed rabbit from the asphalt, gagging at the smell. Dead animals still get to you, haunting your dreams. Those nights Simona soothes you, reminds you of Spring, when you can quit and pick berries in the valley, then asparagus, almond, and, when the baby comes, grapes. Sometimes you curse yourself for listening to her, for leaving La Paz, but she wanted a better life for the child. It’s not her fault construction dried up.

Orange flecks the clouds. The cool breeze reminds you of the Coromuel winds, and you try to thank God for this job, but you can’t. You can only pray for this shift to end.

You hear the thrum of blowflies before you see the white-swaddled object, larger than the rabbit; a dog, perhaps, or small coyote. At one end, a thatch of black. Your heart races even as your walk slows and somehow, you know, even before you reach down to unwrap the sheet, expose the face, you will never again pick trash on a highway.


Inspired by a recent long drive when I wondered: who cleans the highway? And by the theme 'busy at work' from the good folks at 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge.

Gratitude #29

Today I am grateful for getting to work. At all.

I take public transportation, and for reasons involving a deer, a faulty brake system, and rather ineffective metro management, the system stalled in a major way.

Thanks to the kind woman who gave me and another a lift to a functioning metro station.

And isn't the heat getting to you? Peace, Linda

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Gratitude #28

TODAY I am thankful for social media. Without virtual salons such as FICTIONAUT and the twitter-enabled #fridayflash, I'd be one lonely -- and likely unread -- writer.

BTW, fictionaut is invite only, but MASHABLE is giving away 100 free FICTIONAUT invites. So sign up now -- you'll see many familiar nom de plumes.

And to celebrate hump day -- and the end of summer -- here's a fabulous chapbook of more than eighty 101 word stories. Revolving around the theme DOG DAYS OF SUMMER, Michael Solender, congenial host of NOT FROM HERE, ARE YOU, held a hot contest that netted some amazing small stories. So come, set a spell, pour yourself a lemonade or something stiffer, and enjoy the read. I'm pleased and honored as heck to have my shortie DRIP included. Enjoy!

Peace, Linda