Category Archives: New and Unpublished work

Death, fire and fate

The flashing red lights whipped through a crack in the curtains at half-second intervals.  I huddled under a thin, thermal blanket on the hardwood floor of my brothers’ room.  My bedroom was to be given for the night to our next-door neighbors who were called back home from an evening out by their stunned and repentant teenaged children.

The fire was not their fault.

The din of voices crept up our stairs from the kitchen like a fog of malevolent spirits.  “Where is Schatzie?”  Mrs.  Sullivan kept asking over the sobs of her son, Jimmy.  The little schnauzer had been my friend and partner before the house fire that claimed his life.  “I’m so sorry Mom!”  mingled with the fog and slithered under the door of the room, echoing in my ears.

My brothers and I talked for a while in the thickness of the dark in an attempt to dispel the shock that rode the invading red strobe of the firetrucks lights.  Knowing it was futile, we fell into uneasy silence, not approaching sleep, but trying to discern the events that led to our pajama-clad neighbor bursting through our back door earlier that evening.

While we were blessed that it had not been our house that burned, the fire came on the heels of some difficult times for us kids.  We had moved from New York to North Carolina away from friends and relatives,  we had changed schools once since the move, and had suffered the unexpected death of our mother.  Although our dad was a steady presence in our lives, he was consumed with grief and the weight of a new job.  The fire was the last in a line of shocks that shook loose the fragile roots of predictability in our lives.

I slept with lights ablaze for years hence, trying to ward off the notion that I would not be preserved from death or fire or fate.


Thrum and Buzz

Since my father’s passing several years ago
There began to grow in my
inner, spiritual ear,
a persistent buzzing.

It was faint at first
but as I have excelled to those years
When he, at my age, was sole parent,
the thrum yet increased.

Rizzz! I heard when we got a dog
My father thought dogs to be
Antichrist incarnate

Ruzzz sounded the alarm
more firmly still
when my teenage daughter
casually flaunted the word
“butthole” at the family dinner table.

Shaking my finger within my ear
to clear the gnat-like noise,
I could not clear
that growing disturbance
which somehow also
brought familiar comfort.

It was when my husband
announced the impending
ponytail intended for his crown
that the low hum began
and would not cease

Riiiiiiizzzzzzz screamed the noise
the morning I fixed my beloved’s hair
into a beguiling golden cascade
and my daughter wore blue jeans to church
My head sought to split from the
whine so like a dentists drill.

Oh MY – when the full impact
washed over me
What sweet relief to know the source
was merely the sound
of dear Papa Bear
spinning in his grave.

Winter evening repast

the moon is waning and wet weather this way comes
Pork chops fresh from the brine glisten invitingly;
No notion brews for the poor little cutlets
That they are to meet a fiery
And delicious end

apple crisp gurgles and wafts cinnamon
from the oven
and asparagus spears snuggled in prosciutto
stoically bides  time in the fridge
their blanching now complete

Balsamic vinegar stands at attention
and ground pepper lightly dusts
the spear headed vegetables
like an early winter flurry

My glass of wine calls to be refilled
while the waning moon hides among mist covered stars
As dinner is served, I think to myself
Winter does not suck.

Fashion Ballet

I watched the slow, disjointed dance

Three sets of bare feet
Pas de basque
in separate stalls
As shoppers try on various items
at the consignment store

A pointed toe in the center stall,
disappears briefly into a plaid short leg
then touches down
twists against a grimy carpet
Heel flows lightly to the floor

To the left, a frilly skirt
sways briefly into view
and rises blithely
above caramel colored knees
plump calves and flat feet

Whooshing poly-cotton provides percussion
As a chipped pedicure
Turns wallward and back
Wallward and back

Denim rustles on center stage
the snick of a snap
the creak of a cheap plywood door
Signals the end of the dance

Exit stage left.

Ode to the summer ‘do

At 9 years of age
He is spunky and bright
His hazel-gray eyes

dance beneath

a wiry ash blond fringe
and frame a freckled pug nose

How best to honor
the spirit of a boy

on the verge of summer
and on the brink

of incomprehensible changes?

With a new ‘do, of course

With a manly new ‘do.

Hotel Hornet

One of the unintended consequences of the home renovation this far has been an influx of unwanted bugs and critters on the inside of my home.  These are creatures that I try my best to avoid in the great outdoors, so imagine my horror to find them in my kitchen and den on a regular basis.  Now, before your skin gets the creepy crawlies, don’t be too alarmed.  We suffer no roaches here and our ant condo association days are on hiatus for the time being.  However, we’ve recently been host to a spate of hornets.

Many years ago, when we moved to Charlotte, there was a team by the name of the Hornets here and their mascot was the cutest thing!  It had unreasonably large dark eyes and a sort of pointy-down bottom covered in furry black and yellow stripes.  How quaint!  Maybe not-so-much in real life.  Besides, I never forgave them for the “bundling” incident when they tried to package funding for their (wholly unnecessary) new arena within the bond referendum for arts and science.  After that, the city of Charlotte held the door open for them and invited them to be brats elsewhere, hoping the screen door did hit them where the Good Lord split them on their way out.

But I digress.  Real, actual hornets have not so much invaded 714 Union, but they’ve been showing up like unwanted tourists in Washington DC during the spring bloom of the dogwoods.  One day as my daughter stretched out on the floor to watch iCarly or Wizards of Waverly Place or some such drivel, one of the nasty creatures (the hornets, not iCarly) stung her bony little hand.  How rude!  And this morning, when I arrived in my kitchen and turned on the light to give my beloved spouse the gift of freshly brewed coffee, there lay one brazenly napping on the white tile behind the sink.  It was so inert, I delighted myself to think it dead.  Before reaching out to sweep it away, though, I decided I’d better be sure.  “You alive, little sucker?” I cooed at it.  The hornet played possum.  I blew on it ever so gently then, held my breath and stepped back a bit and waited.


I woke it, apparently and it was not the least bit gracious about my intrusion.  It began to flutter its translucent wings and try to rouse itself to no avail.  Perhaps it had been drinking my vodka and was slow to move.  Well, that thought was more than I cared to entertain, so I reached for…ant spray.  Snap!  It was all I had, so I made do.  Blasting it with three long bursts, I declared, “DIE, you ugly thing – DIE!”  To my surprise, it obliged, but in a most horrific way.

I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen anything or anyone “curl up and die” but I’ll be darned if it didn’t do just that in slow and dramatic fashion.  Its body curled into a tight C as its multitudinous flailing legs kicked in a furious attempt to fight it.  It’s wings moved so fast as to appear to be in a strobe light with vague flashes reflecting off them.  And as the fight to remain alive and most likely rise up and put a welt on my nose continued, the stench of the spray attacked my eyes with such ferocity that I almost regarded the insect with pity.  “Man that’s gotta burn!” I thought as I watched its final spasms.

I reached for a napkin and swiped the corpse from the counter top.  “You’ll hurt no one in my family today, sir,” I chided and tossed the lifeless form into the trash.

Middle age

Last weekend, during “the blizzard” of Charlotte 2010, I attended a poetry reading which featured my friends and fellow writers Anne Hicks and Richard Alan Taylor.  At the close of the performance time for the featured readers there was an open mic session.  Anne made me aware of this before hand, but I had been poetically dry for a while and didn’t feel like I had anything new to offer.  That afternoon, before I left, the snow began to fall and I began to fantasize about quiet, snowy mornings and hunkering down with something good to read.  There is a fireplace in my kitchen and when the home renovations are finished, there will be a sitting area in front of that fireplace with cozy chairs, a floor lamp and coffee table.  At that time, my roof was still leaking and the possibility of snow melt finding its way into my kitchen cupboards, made the fantasy all the richer.

As of today, the new roof is complete:  the house is water tight and I am excited enough about that fact to re-live that warm, wonderful feeling that growing older and more comfortable is within easy reach.  Knowing how blessed I am to live in America where I can vividly picture this blissful possibility, I share the following poem that I wrote last week for open mic at Green Rice Galleries

Middle Age

Hot buttered toast
Crisp fried maple bacon
And a bowl of cheese grits

Taken with tea,
The morning medications,
And the paper

The joy of quiet simplicity
The click of the heater turning on
To squeeze out the damp winter morning

Elicits a sigh over the kitchen table
The crinkled newsprint pages turning…
It is peaceful

This is middle age.