My chest sags low

                        Line from: I Don’t Think for a Second That We Won’t Survive This — Abdul Ali


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on


how did I do this

fifty years ago?

siblings battling in the back seat

put your shoes on

I can smell your feet

you take the dog out

I already picked up the poop

finish one meal, clean up, start another

how did I manage as a single mother

working full days

rushing home to drive to rehearsals, shows

crashing into bed, dazed, glazed

fevers, stomach flu, stitches, broken nose


Summer brings it all again

only I’m the grandma now

slow, deaf, a used-up cow

ask your mother, would she allow?

forgot the car seat, the gluten-free turkey,

the towels, the laundry, the car key

It’s much more fun

than it used to be.

Mother’s Gold

Lately, my husband and I have been listening to Alexa’s soothing classical harp music.  In the collection is Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess) by Maurice Ravel. It is a sweet, mournful piece of music that, for me, evokes memories of my mother.  When I was in tenth grade, she bought me a record album of Ravel’s music.  On one side was Bolero, and on the other side, the Pavane. Bolero was too intense for me, much like a musical headache, but I listened to the B side often enough to know the music well.

Bolero was one of the pieces of music I needed to recognize for my history class.  Tenth grade social studies at my high school included a two-week series of lessons called “Culture Vulture.”  In this short time period were crammed all the works of art and music deemed significant by our teacher, Mr. Occhipinti, in the era we were studying in Modern History.  At the end of the two weeks, we took a test with slides and recordings.

Those fourteen days of Culture Vulture created a thrilling panic among Mr. Occhipinti’s students.  We met in study groups, quizzing each other, and inventing mnemonic devices for remembering the titles of the works.

My mother may have enjoyed Culture Vulture as much as we did, possibly more.  At last, I was being exposed to the music she loved.  In addition to the Ravel recording, she gave me a compilation of Baroque music, and another from the Romantic era. 

That was my mother.  She constantly supplemented my learning.  If I was studying ancient Greece, she went to the library and brought back books of mythology and architecture (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian—burned in my memory).  She went into the local record store and asked the clerk what was new and popular with teens.  That’s how I got a recording of the musical Hair before my friends had ever heard of it.

I owe my mother infinite gratitude for the parenting model she provided, a model that I hope, to some extent, I carried on with my own children and grandchildren.  My mother encouraged and  enhanced anything academic or artistic in which I expressed interest.  I’d be willing to bet that it was my mother who introduced me to Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet.  It’s because of her that I know and love the opera La Boheme and that I can hum along to Ravel’s Pavane.  

The Karakesh Chronicles

Available from




car side mirror

Photo by Shukhrat Umarov on


Hurry them out of the car,

one grumpy, the other sleepy,

both smelling of toothpaste.

Try to ignore the wistful eyes

of the little one.

She hates being stuck

at the sitter’s house

with three boys.


The prickling guilt

lasts until the ignition turns.

Already other children

sweep onstage.

Twenty-four shoving,

claiming the spotlight.

Who needs more phonics?

Whose parent called?

How to fit in fire safety

when we’re behind in math?

Mark workbooks at lunch.

A meeting takes up prep time.


Rush to collect the kids.


He doesn’t like eggs.

She hates tomatoes.

Nobody wants pasta.



Wait for the neighbor girl.

Should have left ten minutes ago.

The grad class prof takes attendance.

In the rearview mirror

see the three standing on the lawn.

He looks mournful.

She flips the finger.


Parenting at the speed of light.

Did we ever just rest in each other?



Now I hold a photograph.

Two young children,

long grown.

Wishing I could step inside.