Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Irish Knuckle

she only appears to be smiling,
my 90-year old mother.
So, thanks to an Alfred Hitchcock marathon, Thanksgiving with the widows was better than I would have thought. Also, having low expectations is a good way to "get through" the holiday.
Isn't that a hell of a thought? "Getting through"?
We cooked a small but tasty dinner, including a special cranberry relish and some roasted butternut squash tossed in pumpkin seed pesto.
My mom, perched on a couch in the draft from an open French window (this is Florida) complained about the cold and wouldn't move, but she didn't say no to a glass of wine.
Deborah cried but she also laughed.
Things to be thankful for:
1. the first thanksgiving since David's death is behind us.
2. No one got hurt. Not even their feelings.
3. we got to work in a drive by of the very nice retirement home we're hoping the Irish Knuckle will consider moving into.
4. Despite the fact that the IK wouldn't talk about the "home" she also didn't hurl it at me in a moment of fury.
5. I didn't gain any weight.
6. I am thankful for my mother's health, my sister-in-law's generousity of spirit and my own sense of responsibility that is NOT aligned to martyrdom but to love. who knew?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


This year we sit down with one less.
My brother.
Her husband.
Her son.
What grace do we create among us
now that our lynchpin is gone?

Raise a glass and stretch a hand
across the table, say
he was here once
he made us laugh
wasn't he infuriating
with his finger-pulling farts?

Words of Encouragement from the Midwife

That Other Middle Age

And I would like you to go
A half life back
And remember that other middle age.
When you hung from the doors
And swung below the arches.

When your hips swooned in wordless ecstasy.

Before the negotiations---
Before sight and the comparing mind---
Before the exclusive whispers, and
The rustle of gum wrappers

Before that spit ball flew into your lap
And stilled your hands.

(Somewhere in here adulthood began and never left off
but right this second the playground swing is at its highest.
See how the toe of your sneaker grazes the green oak leaf?
You have a second summer coming and I want you to jump
Right into it.)

It’s time to wake up now.
Remember the arm stretched for answering.
The uncontrollable elbow of the irritating girl next door.
If you remember what thugs children are in transition.
Their blundering affection.
You’ll know the state of your own heart now.

Wake again. Of course it hurts.
Wake anyway.

Men Between Marriages Need Midwives

To stand, hands outstretched
Cradling the squalls of our rebellion,
Letting them be.

My midwife could
Catch the eggs I’d wasted and add them
To her cooking. Mine could
Laugh at the promises I made to keep her.

My midwife peeled from me my oldest skin,
Turned my heads from the rows I’d dug
By humping twenty years in blinders.

She took my life in her hands and pulled
It from the vortex that was my cherished infancy.

My midwife kissed me, spat out the blood
And taught me how to please her.
“If I’m having a good time,” she said,
“You’re having a good time.”

She took my head and my hand and she calmed me.
She resurrected my questions and buried them again
In a plot of her own digging.

Each time I was
Born again and each time
I thought I said thank you I said
Nothing. And each time I thought
She was leaving, I said stay.

Until I knew she would stay until I left
And then I left.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Want to Live Here 2

Who's Talking About Me and What Are They Saying?

...and we were talking about me because I had found the body.

We are Judith, the velvety resident manager and Tim, the surly maintenance man without the heart of gold. And we would not actually start talking about what a brave, good little assistant manager I had been until after Christmas. I had two days to work myself into a little drama and change the course of a couple of lives just because I can't not help myself to the stuff people leave behind.

(You know what I'm talking about if you've ever moved into an apartment where the landlord hasn't quite finished clearing out the old stuff. You know what I'm talking about if the dumpsters or the curb are piled high with perfectly usable lamps, chairs, kitchen products...boxes of letters and scrapbooks.)

So here's what happened on the 23rd.
Judith, despite her suavity, is not having the best year of her life. She's 35, and perfect. Perfectly groomed, perfectly tailored, sort of beautiful and the kind of manager that has underlings wanting to do their best. She's whipped this fading Cape Canaveral-era complex into a well-kept secret and will doubtless parley that into a career, but this holiday season all she wanted was to get out of town. Without her husband.

And so she did. Our bank manager introduced her to some rich guy or seemingly rich guy and they're off to Big Canoe, yet another concept in weekend living. (big houses, private grounds, gates, lake, leaves). So she's out by mid-morning.

I know this because I was showing a woman named Patty her third townhouse and was standing on the sidewalk wondering if the bitch was shopping me for another complex or was just picky picky picky when Judith drove by in her little red MG (top down), waved and made a "better you than me" face.

Tim's whereabouts were just as easy to explain but I couldn't prove them. He was doing a disappearance. After checking in in the morning in his special way: make coffee, leave grounds, etc., for me to clean up and scatter handful of work orders on dining room table of model/office (so i know he's been there), he evaporates. I did notice his car was not in its usual spot and figured he was off to Buckhead Hardware to nickel and dime the company.

Simple day. Didn't hurt myself steam opening bank report that Judith had left for bank manager to pick up later in day. Collected some rents. Wrote up some work orders. Accepted friendly invite from Nancy and Stephen Baker in 120-C to join them for dinner and collect whatever they didn't want to move or take to Salvation Army.

They live right next door to Abigail, who, evidentally, had been drinking vodka at some point in the day.

Dinner with the Bakers consisted of grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches made on a cast-iron pan Nancy said I could take home with me; she didn't want to move it to Seattle. And a big fat one. And some wine. And another big fat one.

Stephen helped me carry the pan, which he said he wished he could bring with him and offered me money to mail him (I said yes); a box of curtains still attached to their rods; an egg beater, and an ironing board, out their back door and along a poorly lit walkway that runs between two rows of back-to-back townhouses. My own townhouse is further along the complex. I was heading back with him for more stuff when, just passing Abigail's unit, I noticed the back gate (ramshackle wooden affair) to her patio was unlatched. I peeked in to see what she'd done to the patio and saw that her sliding glass door, which at midnight should have been closed, latched and secured with a broom handle, was open.

Stephen and I, still mildly buzzed, looked at each other.
"If that was your place, would you want your assistant manager closing that door?"
"I'd want her to check it out," he said.
So we did.
Abigail was stretched out on the sofa, one foot dangling, one arm behind her head, the other clutching a princess phone that lay across her chest.
I used it to call the operator.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Friday, November 16, 2007



I think I have weeded
and turned
every inch.

But year after year
new memories flower and fruit

Seed and re-seed
without warning
or permission.

Left behind, they miss
the spade and the worm.

I don’t know how it is,
but somehow
it's as if we get to keep
the source
of one betrayal.

Until that one Spring morning
when the shifts and filterings,
the half-turned yearning and
the rain conspire for a place.

As if from nowhere
I find your face.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Walking Through the Dawn

Here's one reason I don't mind getting out at 6:15 a.m. Who wouldn't want to see these colors?

We need rain VERY badly. But the leaves this year are beautiful.

I took this shot of the midtown skyline when I realized there do exist examples of natural pastels. This is about 7:15 a.m. EST.

I live in downtown Atlanta.

Beginning in June, my neighbor, Faye and I began meeting in the lobby of our condo at 6:15 a.m. and walking. For several months we took a different direction, ending up in Midtown, about a mile and a half north, or over in Centenial Park (where the Olympic Rings fountain and bomb site is now a park). We watched the new World of Coca-Cola open its doors. We walked further west and south around Philips Arena, one day through a gathering crowd of American Idol wannabes. We walked through the construction of yet another W Hotel and up to Georgia Tech, which is an interesting and even attractive campus, though best seen on foot.

We often walked east along the Freedom Path that took us to the Carter Center and into Inman Park sometimes turning into the Sweet Auburn neighbhorhood and so passing the MLK, Jr. birthhome. A great street.

We called this the Lotta Fruita loop because we passed a great little cafe that sells only fresh fruit and salad and home made fruit popcycles.

But when we realized that our favorite walk actually yielded the most "steps" (I wear a pedometer), we decided to just walk that with only ocassional variations. It's a combo of neighborhood and Freedom Park trail and includes a bakery (Highland Bakery).

I've lost 15 pounds since starting and have grown, if not noticably thinner, certainly smoother and have a lot more energy. I also can't sleep later than 5:30 any more!

Sanity Way

Sanity Way

And this is the way you carve a path
to sanity.
Take a night for the old places,
the white rooms spattered with paint,
the short naps in the studio
smelling of turpentine
and the illegal whiff of tobacco.

Get up and walk – listening
not for the carping fears
of the witch but for the rustle
of leaves dropping
their spent summer underfoot.

You take sanity back
because it has been stolen.
You take sanity back
with both hands. The same hands
used to offer up your soul.

You take sanity back
by firing the martyr who goes nowhere,
does nothing but guard the fires
of her keepers.

You get up and recreate the places
that pleased you –
the scents of salt and fish,
the slapping slash of flat horizons.
And then, you say, I’m sorry
I left you so long ago.
Is there still a place for me here?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Love Letter

Love Letter

I left an earring and my heart at your house last night. If you find my earring, please return it promptly.

But if you find my heart, tuck it into your shirt pocket where you can pat it several times a day. For example, while walking or talking,
while stepping onto escalators and
subway trains, or while foot-tapping
at the bank, the ATM, the grocery.

At home, when you have put away all the bottles and all the oranges, when the plastic bags have curled themselves inside each other, like tongues into ears, unbutton your pocket and remove my heart. Your fingers will know the way.

Having found my heart let me know you care that the distance between us may be two miles or two seconds.

Please don’t lose my heart; you have a bargain now. Don't lend it or pass it on forgotten between the pages of a borrowed book. Keep it with your other lucky finds.

And when you return my heart,
return it full and fed, well-oiled
and lightly massaged.
When you return my heart,
Return it wiser.
Return it with accurate aim.

Self Portrait

35 random facts about my weekend

1. I missed the poet’s memorial service.
2. It was Friday night at Eyedrum.
3. Don’t count on a single person returning your email. Reach out to others.
4. I’d only met her twice.
5. Kroger sells ‘fryers.’ These are tomatoes that, while not green, can be fried.
6. Buying a new copy of The Complete Printmaker for $40 is a good investment. Buying a used copy is better.
7. S. thinks this book is so important to have that everyone should have a new one. I feel better.
8. The leaves peaked this weekend: orange, red, burgundy, yellow---against a blue blue sky. Evergreens and some still emerald lawns reminding us of where we were. But worrying about the drought makes this dry beauty almost ominous.
9. Never go to Ikea on the weekend.
10. Belong to brunch group that meets monthly. We select a different theme. Last month, apples. This month: food from the movies.
11. The menu today: Duck Soup, Fried Green Tomatoes, Ratatouille, a Hummingbird Cake shaped like the mountain in Close Encounters of the Third Kind; and potato rolls in honor of the potatoes Johnny Depp danced on forks in Benny and Joon and the rolls Charlie Chaplin danced in The Gold Rush.
12. Watched “What’s Up Tiger Lily?” for the first time. How had I missed this? It’s not that funny.
13. When frying green tomatoes, dip in beaten egg, dredge lightly in cornmeal.
14. Fry in either hot bacon grease or lard. There is no point to frying in canola oil.
15. Spilled coffee on the beige carpet. On your knees, big girl. Berber holds up well to hard scrubbing, but not to stains.
16. Used tracing paper to plan out an etching. I use too many lines.
17. I was afraid to weigh myself today.
18. “The Loving Spoonful” sing throughout “What’s Up Tiger Lily?” None of those songs were released as singles.
19. Washed two loads of laundry.
20. Watched “The House of Mirth” for the second time.
21. Called 90-year old mother. She is running out of friends who can still drive.
22. “Two Wongs don’t make a White” ???
23. Hummingbird cake delicious, classic recipe spangled with persimmons and fresh raspberries. Took piece home. Threw it away.
24. The duck soup was quite strongly flavored with apple vinegar.
25. Facial twitch is back. Like an old friend you broke up with when times started getting good. Does its return signal the return of anxious days?
26. I know how much Xanex will send me to sleep, but not how much money will calm my nerves.
27. I still read novels by Georgette Heyer.
28. Laid out all the mongo I’ve picked up on my daily (M-F) morning walks: many washers, no two alike; several lovely rusted shapes; two springs; one shell; a feather; a key; wisteria seed. The collection has almost covered an 18” x 24” canvas. No, it's entirely covered it.
29. Everyone is getting at least one pair of cashmere socks for Christmas.
30. Am 1/3 of the way toward new flooring.
31. It will not be carpeting.
32. Forgot to feed the fish again.
33. He never seems to eat anyway. Other betas have gulped at the food, but not this one. It seems to live solely on the roots of the bamboo shoot.
34. He’s watching me now.
35. Today, while taking pictures of the half-eaten hummingbird cake, I scrolled through the pictures on my camera phone. There were three of my brother in the hospital, about a month before he died. I had forgotten all about them.
36. But I could not delete them.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

How to Breathe

I Want to Live Here

I like to move. Not my body necessarily, but where I live. By the time I was 23, two years out of home and college, and just starting a job as Asst. Resident Manager at Arborgate Apts., south of Jesus Junction in Atlanta, I had changed apartments six times. I'd lived in a two-bedroom in Flushing with my sister; a basement in College Point with a cat who ran away; a flat on 168th Street and Horace Harding Blvd.; a two-family in Atlantic Beach; a studio on 14th St. in Manhatten; and a room in Marietta, Ga., with the sister of a friend from high school.

What I thought I liked was change, the shift in point of view, a taste of new neighborhors and a gathering of experiences. I liked the way each place showed me a different way the sun could shine through dust motes or etch shadows on a high or low ceiling.

But what I really liked was the sense of urgency, the checklists of boxes to find and fill; belongings to keep or toss; how quickly I could pack my books (and I have a lot of books); the clothes I must keep and would always keep...in ordering my possessions, i ordered my sentimentality.

By 1976, I had created a rule: Be able to move yourself if you have to. Because you know, after a while, you run out of friends to help. And my parents and sensible sister were right: Moving is expensive. The new start-up utility bills, the trips to Woolworths for curtain hooks, cleaning supplies. a change in bedspreads. It didn't stop me though.

I liked the sense of really living that constant movement seemed to offer. To be still was to wait and I did not know how to wait. I did not want to wait. I did not know what I could be waiting for: my life, as it turned out. But I did not know that. So I moved and never caught up with myself until I moved here---to Arborgate.

At Arborgate, I chose a two-bedroom flat with two bathrooms. Sears delivered a mattress and boxspring. After unpacking my moving boxes, I draped them in the old (someday vintage) table linens and single draperies my mom sent up from Florida. Then I packed it all up again and moved into a townhouse across the drive. I set it up again and added a light-weight hollow door from the storage shed, laying it across two saw horses also picked up at Sears, the one in Buckhead that sold fancy cashews in pink bags.

By Christmas of 1976, the governor had packed up his place on West Paces Ferry Road and was heading for a brief stay at the White House. Everyone in Atlanta was talking about the Peanut Train. Everyone except the three of us in the Arborgate model and office. We were talking about a renter named Abigail Snowe who had left her sliding glass door open the night of the 23rd.

And we were talking about me because I had found her body just inside.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Feathers Are Ideas Falling

Here's an image from a series I'm working on. The idea is simple. Those things we find while walking: feathers; bits of rusted metal, especially slugs; bottle caps that when assembled for just the right piece of advice we've been looking for; the words that keep appearing; the combinations of initials on liscence plates...all those things are ideas, symbols, answers.

My thinking is that the feathers are ideas and that in collecting them, and acting on them, they form the roof of my house, my protection, my abode.

Welcome to "Sending Pages Out to Dry"

Hello and welcome to my world. The door is a tight squeeze, but once in, I think you'll find the rooms are ample and the windows open. Don't mind the dust bunnies.

I've named my blog after the first story I ever published, "Sending Pages Out to Dry" about a diarist who, rather than suffocate under the weight of all that paper, took her finished books back to the places where she wrote them. From there, the books are found by an assortment of people and most of them are changed in some way by what they read.

When I figure out how the attachments work, I'll attached the whole story.