The Mother

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*

She wears wings on her head,

white wings that dip when she laughs

Her face is wrinkle soft kindness

Listens to your heart, your breath

Floats out and in with sweet curing syrups

Salves for clogged memories,

A striped cloth to absorb tears

*

She wears a star-sprinkled veil of twilight blue

Her face is sun dusky desert

Eyes downcast, charcoal wells of compassion

Roses bloom and breathe at her bare brown feet

Calls for a shrine, a temple of honor

where the corn goddess dwelt

These ancient stones already sacred

*

She wears a tall dress of African red,

gray hair in knotted strings,

Speaks truth like a fire alarm

wake up, all you colors

wake up and admit who you are

Reveal your hiding minds

Cleanse your secret, smoldering hearts

Learn the new earth song

Sing it together

Ditsy Old Woman

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Photo by Athena on Pexels.com

*

It’s appalling.  I admit it.  I’ve become a ditsy old woman. 

On the Jet Blue flight back from Los Angeles to Newark, I grumbled to the cashier about paying $3.60 for twenty ounces of Dasani water.  I sat near gate 50 and waited to be called to board.

When I checked my boarding pass, I was surprised that I was in Group A.  Maybe I paid extra for this seat, but I didn’t remember doing so. 

Group A was called right after the first-class passengers.  I had checked my suitcase, so all I had was a bag of expensive food and water, and my backpack.  After finding my seat, 12 D, I unhooked the neck pillow from my pack and hung it around my neck.  I had just settled the rest of my belongings when a young woman stopped beside me and said, “Um, sorry, I think you’re in my seat.”

“Oh, let me check,” I flapped around until I found my boarding pass that I’d stowed in the kangaroo pocket of my sweatshirt.  It said 8 D, not 12 D. Maybe 12 D was my seat number on the way to L.A.?

“Sorry, sorry,” I intoned, retrieving my stuff. 

My new seat was four rows to the front.  I bumped and jostled all the passengers who were going in the right direction.  “Excuse me, sorry, sorry, excuse me.” 

The aisle seat 8 D was next to a youngish woman.  I repeated the motions of depositing all my stuff and looked around for the neck pillow. Oh, no!  I must have left it at 12 D.  I stood up and searched the rows for my former spot.  A flight attendant was there, assisting someone.  I waved my arms to get her attention.  Waved and waved. Jumped up and down for emphasis.  Finally, I caught her eye.  She held up a finger.  I should wait.

I did, sitting down once again.  There was the pillow, wrapped above my shoulders.  Minutes later, the flight attendant, a slim African American woman, leaned over.  “May I help you?”

“Uh, no thanks.  I found it,” I muttered. 

As we taxied for take-off, the same flight attendant was checking the storage compartments a few rows ahead.  I stared wide-eyed at her shoes.  Black patent leather with five-inch heels. 

I nudged the woman next to me.  “Look at those heels!” I said. “I’d break my legs if I wore those!”  She stretched a smile and pointed to her ear buds.

By this time, I really had to pee.  I’d been afraid to wander off to the toilet before boarding, so now I needed to go.

The plane finally took off.  I unclipped my seatbelt and moved toward the toilet, a few rows ahead.

The same flight attendant stopped me.  “Please go back to your seat,” she said.  “We’re still climbing.”  Did I hear impatience in her tone, or just weariness?

Meekly returning to my seat, I was a model passenger for the duration of the flight.  I think.

*

Lightwood, an e-magazine, published one of my poems in the fall issue. Go to https://lightwoodpress.com/page/2/ to read it and other writers’ work.

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Food Memories

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The Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood

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Food Memories

Everybody has them—those special foods, meals, flavors that were so significant in childhood that they evoke emotions all the rest of our lives.

One of my strongest flavor memories is connected to my father.  He did not buy ice cream for himself.  For some reason, he preferred a cardboard brick of vanilla-flavored ice milk.  This product was not smooth or creamy enough to interest my five-to-ten-year-old self.  But–when he dropped a spoonful of ice milk into his coffee—I was right there to drink it along with him.  This sharing of sweet, milky coffee surely accounts for my love of coffee ice cream.  It is my go-to flavor.  When, in an experimental mood, I diverge from it, I’m almost always wish I hadn’t. 

On my birthday, dinner was my choice.  In the early years, I chose roast beef, mashed potatoes, and green peas.  It was important to mix the peas into the mashed potatoes.  When I was older, I requested a meal at the Imperial Gardens, a Japanese restaurant on Sunset Boulevard (in Los Angeles).  The appeal was more the aesthetics of Japanese décor and presentation even more than the food itself.  I loved sitting on the floor in the tatami rooms.  I loved the lacquered bowls of clear broth with tiny cubes of tofu and seaweed floating in them.  By the time the entrees arrived, I would have filled up on jasmine tea and soup.   My father bristled with annoyance at the waste, and then proceeded to eat my meal, too.  I still love Japanese food.  The bowls of miso or broth never fail to recall the tatami mats and the atmosphere of Imperial Gardens.

Another special treat for me was lunch with my mother at the Brown Derby restaurant. This was a famous fixture of Hollywood in Los Angeles, where celebrities used to dine.  The inside of the Brown Derby was hushed and dark.  Tables were laid with heavy silverware and white cloth napkins.  My two favorite meals there were a Monte Cristo sandwich or the vegetable plate (yes, I was the odd kid who loved vegetables).

A Monte Cristo sandwich is filled with a combination of sliced turkey, chicken, or ham, and cheese plus mustard or mayonnaise.  Once assembled, the sandwich is dipped in an egg batter, browned on both sides, and finally topped with powdered sugar.

 The vegetable plate was a stainless silver platter with different sections.  Each section held a cooked vegetable: carrots, peas, string beans, corn, spinach.  All were probably drenched in butter.  Each portion was kid-sized.

My mother never bought Wonder Bread, which was probably a good thing.  But my aunt did buy the nutrition-less bread, and I loved it.  I’d peel off the soft crust and eat that part first.  Then I’d smash the rest into a ball and suck on the doughy glob until it was gone. 

*

Photo by Sydney Troxell on Pexels.com

What food memories from your childhood do you recall?  Send me a comment.

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The Sacred House

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Photo by Chelsea Cook on Pexels.com

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            I knock on the door of the sacred house.

            A saint peeks out.

            “Let me in, please.”

            “Not until you are rid of your possessions.”

            I sell the furniture, even the cradle

and the cobbler’s bench. 

I give away the couch and the brocade chairs.

*

            I knock on the door of the sacred house.

            “Not enough,” says the saint.  “Come back later.”

            I empty the kitchen, sell the Fiesta ware.

I  give away knives, wooden spoons, whisks, and spatulas. 

Out go books and journals, my life-long friends and life stories.

            Knock, knock!

            “Try harder!” Slam.

*

            I give all my clothes to the women’s shelter. 

I throw lotions, salves, and pills into the dustbin. 

Should I keep my toothbrush?

            Knock, knock, knock!

            “You’re getting there,” she says kindly. “Keep on.”

*

            I sit in my underwear, my empty house echoing. 

Closets, shelves, walls are bare.

            What else remains?

            I throw away my sorrow a hundred times,

  like emptying a sandbox with a tweezer.

            I throw away my anger, but it keeps bouncing back

as if I’m playing wall ball.

            I throw away guilt and finally, fear. 

Such sticky stuff takes hours of scraping.

*

            At last, naked outside and in, I knock again.

            “Ah,” she says, reaching out her holy hand, “Yes.  Here you are. 

Welcome home.”

A Woman Fell in Love

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Photo by Thgusstavo Santana on Pexels.com

(Inspired by “Love” by Lydia Davis)

            A woman fell in love with a man who had been dead a number of years.  Several hundred years, in fact.  She saw his face through the glass.  Even though his nose and cheekbones protruded like the features of an Egyptian mummy, even though he was shorter than she—his head having been replaced after he was killed and then canonized–, even though the clothes he wore were frayed and impossibly outdated. Despite all that, she fell in love with his beatific expression.

            She came to the church every day of her husband’s conference.  While he sat with other business people in the leather and smoke of the room at the hotel, she sat with her love.  She sat as close as she could, in the first pew, unless there was a mass.  She sat and told her rosary through her fingers and gazed at his sweet face.

            His glass case was edged in gold.  He wore a gold miter on his head.  Even his fingers were encased in little gold caps.  She stared at his face so long, with such yearning, that he seemed to breathe.  She saw his eyelids ripple as if he were dreaming and would wake up at any moment.  When he did awaken, she was sure he would be smiling, smiling at her, of course.  And he would push open the lid, gather up his robes, and step out onto the stone floor.

            He would hold out his hand to her, a hand miraculously restored to firm, warm flesh (minus the gold finger caps) and he would say her name, “Kathleen,” and then…

            This was where it ended.  Then what?  He was a saint, a performer of miracles, a martyr, and she was the plump wife of the owner of a chain of dollar stores.

            Could she throw herself at his booted feet?  Could she plead, “Take me with you, wherever you go?  Please, please, just let me be with you!”

            One day when the church was empty of people, she knelt at the side of his glass case.  She leaned her head against the cool glass, clutching her rosary of onyx beads in her hand.

            That is where the priest found her.  Her husband accompanied the body back to Atlanta.  Several weeks passed before the priest noticed that there was a rosary of onyx beads wrapped around the saint’s wrist.

*

NEW!

Taking Shape

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Photo by Jackson Jorvan on Pexels.com

I am the incomprehensible silence,*

*

early morning mist whispers over the meadow

spider silk glistens from branch to mailbox

dew-dropped webs cloud the grass

goldenrod sparks yellow in first light

*

I am cast forth on the face of the Earth.

*

In my old slippers and last year’s trench coat

I walk the long gravel drive

and talk to God

*

and…the voice of many sounds,

*

Oh, Great Invisible, Mother Spirit,

(I don’t know to whom I speak)

who speaks in bird calls,

whistles, chirps, the swish of tires

a rustle of oak leaves

the sigh of the pines

*

who will translate?

*

 the word in many forms;

*

Dig is the word

I hear

a garden.

Literal?

Metaphor?

Plant new seeds: delphiniums or determination?  Coreopsis or confidence?

Pull out weeds: purslane or self-pity? Nettles or negativity?

*

Am I too old to do this alone?

*

*excerpts from Thunder, Complete Mind, from the Nag Hammadi gnostic gospels, Why Religion? by Elaine Pagels

A Bengal Cat Comes to Stay

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*

Years ago, my dear friend had a Bengal cat who stayed with us for a short while.  He was a beautiful animal with a big personality.   A couple of months ago, a friend mentioned she had a new litter of Bengal kittens.  She showed them on Zoom.  My friend had to have one.

When they were old enough, we went to visit the kittens.  Two were gray with black markings. My friend chose a brown female. I was enraptured by the little gray male.

And so Zephyr came to live with us when he was twelve weeks old.

My breeder friend mentioned that the Bengal breed was only 60 years old.  When I researched Bengals, I learned that they originated with one woman, Jean Mill, who had acquired a female Asian leopard cat in 1965. 

Asian leopard cata

At the time, it was not illegal to own such exotic pets.  Mill decided that her leopard cat was lonely, so she got a domestic tom cat to keep the leopard cat company.  And the rest is Bengal cat history. 

You can read more about Bengals here: 

https://www.petfinder.com/cat-breeds/bengal/

Meanwhile, we are enjoying Zephyr.  He’s smart and affectionate.  He climbs everything he can.  He likes to play with the faucet drips in the tub.  And just looking at his beautiful coat gives me tremendous pleasure. 

Stories

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Photo by Rodrigo Souza on Pexels.com

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Stories

What story do you tell yourself?

Your mother abandoned you?

Your twin died so you are forever fragmented?

What do you deserve?

You worked hard today

So you deserve a hot fudge sundae?

A car for your sixteenth birthday,

Your father to pay the maintenance?

Do you deserve happiness?

A grateful child?

Your father’s life insurance policy

That he unfairly willed to PETA?

*

Do we all deserve to be happy?

Are there people who deserve to die?

Who decides?

Are we the builders of our circumstances?

*

This morning, the air was wet and heavy.

A grasshopper clung to the screen door,

While the cicadas commenced to drill.

My story begins there.

*

The Tufa Series by Alex Bledsoe, correction

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*

I stand confirmed and corrected:

I’m 2/3 through the third book of the series, Long Black Curl. Bo-Kate, the evil challenger to the Tufa leadership, tells her companion that they are members of the Tuatha de Danaan. I’m excited to continue reading and see where Bledsoe takes the story.

P.S. Long Black Curl is not as mysterious and exciting as The Hum and the Shiver. And it’s a lot more violent.

The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

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First book in the Tufa series

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What can I say about this book?  I’ve read it at least three times.  I love the world Bledsoe creates, full of mystery and magic but set in the present.  I suspect that Bledsoe drew on the legend of the Tuatha de Danaan, the magical reace of Irish lore, in creating the Tufa people of his books.(*see the review below)

 I’ve scanned Bledsoe’s website and I’ve seen nothing that references the Tuatha de Danaan. 

Some sources say that the Tuatha de Danaan, “people of the gods,” or “people of the goddess Danu,” arrived in Ireland on dark clouds.  Some say they came as a fog or mist; still other sources say they came to shore in ships. The Tuatha ruled Ireland from 1897 B.C to 1700 B.C., according to the manuscript, “The Annals of the Four Masters.”

Most sources seem to agree that the Tuatha had supernatural powers. They were skilled in art and science, poetry and magic.  Bledsoe chooses music as the Tufa’s magical and mysterious power. 

When the Milesians invaded Ireland, they drove the Tuatha into the mounds and forests.  According to some, they are still there.

There are now six Tufa novels.  I’ve only read the first two so far.

To read more about the Tuatha, check out:

https://www.connollycove.com/tuatha-de-danann


https://www.britannica.com/topic/Tuatha-De-Danann

To meet Alex Bledsoe, go to:

https://alexbledsoe.com/the-tufa/

From Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10942400-the-hum-and-the-shiver):

*No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, yet when the first Europeans arrived, they were already there. Dark-haired, enigmatic, and suspicious of outsiders, the Tufa live quiet lives in the hills and valleys of Cloud County. While their origins may be lost to history, there are clues in their music, hints of their true nature buried in the songs they have passed down for generations.

Private Bronwyn Hyatt returns from Iraq wounded in body and in spirit, only to face the very things that drove her away in the first place: her family, her obligations to the Tufa, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend. But more trouble lurks in the mountains and hollows of her childhood home. Cryptic omens warn of impending tragedy, and a restless “haint” lurks nearby, waiting to reveal Bronwyn’s darkest secrets. Worst of all, Bronwyn has lost touch with the music that was once a vital part of her identity.

With death stalking her family, Bronwyn will need to summon the strength to take her place among the true Tufa and once again fly on the night winds…

The Hum and the Shiver is a Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011: Science Fiction & Fantasy title.

Here’s a video to watch: