Bus ride

The  girl with the blue hair

the color of the rhododendrons in my old Oregon

neighborhood gets off at the stop

right before the corner lot where the guy

parked his truck when he didn’t want to pay

for closer parking

The squat building that I barely noticed then

I now recognize as a windowed dumpster

filled with sagging poster ads and

haphazard haystacks of PVC pipes

skirted by concrete and asphalt 

the bed for parking spaces marked by phantom lines

price tags for opportunity

A slim steel box stands sentry near the street

to be fed by folded dollar bills crammed

into its multi-slotted mouth

I recall the guy’s chagrin and our 

skinflint’s hike down the scorched but shaded

sidewalks to the ballpark 

where even the cheap seats cost too much

My bus glides by here every day now and I

am thankful that I wasn’t worth the price

of tickets or convenient parking

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“Are you a writer?”

“Are you a writer?” the author asked as I handed her my books to sign. They were “my books” because the young(er) man with the barely discernible grey streaking back to his slightly sloppy man bun, had given a “Buy first!” directive at the conclusion of his author introduction. His words, having received a flittering of insider-ish laughter, fluttered down upon front-row me. I already held the author’s works in my lap, because I had nabbed them from the nearby display table to peruse while waiting for the reading to commence. I knew I would purchase them. These days I don’t need permission to go to book readings or to buy books. 

Now I was handing my guilt-free purchases to the woman who had made the words come to life with her friendly, slightly drawling voice.

I’m sure her question was prompted by the fact we had been introduced by her college friend and fellow-author, Jennifer. Jennifer and I are new friends and members of the same book club. She is a published author and the reason I came to this reading (instead of road-tripping to Tombstone, another of my guilt-free choices for the day.) Jennifer can answer that question affirmatively. Most affirmatively. I’ve read her books, too. But me?

No. Not the way these bonafide authors’ experiences define this question. Still, I fumble at the pleasantly proffered query.  As I am sometimes prone to do, I fall back on my hallowed status of Mother. “My daughter is,” I say, surprising myself with the confidence of my assertion.  I know my daughter’s grad school Creative Writing pursuits, while likely appreciated, are of little significance to this author. But, to me, there is a voluminous intricately woven world in those pursuits. I know how I influenced those pursuits. This is no prideful, self-congratulatory knowledge. My daughter’s writing comes from the wounded life I passed on to her. Her own keen sensitivities perceived the word-nursing I applied to my own pain.  They nudged her towards the academic realm shared by the hand that slides my signed purchase towards me.

This morning I wondered if I could find my password. I almost felt like a traitor, returning here. I couldn’t even remember my last entry. The one I wrote after my last visit to the same bookstore. image

 

 

Something complete and great

“At any rate, that is happiness;

to be dissolved into something complete and great.”

 – Jim in “My Antonia” – Willa Cather

Yesterday I agreed to take my daughter and her friend to a book signing promoting the work of a TV heart-throb who is also something of a decent photographer.  This is not usually my kind of gig, but it was being held at a bookstore which also houses the First Draft Pub. I am a sucker for anything which utilizes a clever play on words. But bottom line: the event was at a bookstore. Few things rouse my sacrificial inclinations like proximity to a bookstore.  I also had some romantic notions of spending Valentine’s Day huddled in a dimly lit corner with a book and a strong cup of tea. (I was driving. With children.)

Reminder: You can buy calendars for 50% off if you wait long enough.  (I am often a week late turning the monthly pages anyway.) So, one 2015 calendar, one book, two gifts, and a birthday card later, I discovered that this was not the store location with the pub. Darn! I settled for the adjoining sandwich shop, and at a small table in a long row of small tables, in front of a long row of windows, took out my just-purchased copy of “My Antonia.”  Ultimately, it would be five hours before the girls’ books were signed.  That is plenty of time to read, and as it turns out, reminisce.

My son will soon be reading “My Antonia” in school, and I invited myself to read along. Just in case he wanted to discuss it. Maybe. I, too, was in high school when I first read “My Antonia” – a high school in Nebraska, no less. I don’t remember Willa Cather being presented with sentiment beyond appropriate reverence and appreciation. She was not God; she was not worshiped. She had moved to Nebraska at age nine and left the state in early adulthood. This was my exact journey. I do not know if Miss Cather made any promises before she left Nebraska, but I promised my high school Music/English teacher that I would one day read Cather’s “Song of the Lark.” More than anything I ever studied about Cather, it was this request that hinted at her significance and perhaps that of all young women setting off into the world – even mine. I was, after all, a girl with a song in her heart.

Cather was nearly a century ahead of me in discovering both the harsh realities and secret treasures of rural Nebraska life. Her writing is evidence that my memories are not mistaken. The forces of earth and sky she describes were still breathing life into persevering inhabitants when I lived there, and by Chapter V, the words on the pages had been replaced with my own recollections.

I felt the silty bottom of the Niobrara River washing from beneath my  bare feet as I trudged waist deep against its murky current. I felt sticky sap against the rough bark of  fragrant ponderosa pine branches. (Climbing those pines was something like an act of human Velcro antics.) I smelled the sweetness of haystack straw, its nimble shafts gentle in their pricks to sliding backsides. I felt the lung-biting coldness of a dazzling day-after-a-blizzard.

Despite the aspirations of movie plots, I cannot transfer these memories to my son. He will experience Antonia’s world with only Cather’s interpretation. That will, I am sure, more than suffice.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove, your sad call
Carries me to my long-ago
Cool spring days, caliche roads
Lavender crocuses around tall pines
Long front porches and tricycle races
Stick horse stallions standing
Ready for the charge
Butane tanks and large corrals
Barns and sheds and cattle troughs
Fragrant dirt in tractor tires
Sharp and shiny blades on plows
Cat poop in the sandbox
Marching on the playhouse roof
Silver silos
Azure skies
Skunks and mice and Bassett hounds
Cows in the garden and
Bell peppers stolen
Life and death and legacy

No ordinary night

Between the covers

Tom Petty lies beside me

Rolling Stone issue

It was a wretchedly extraordinary night. I wonder if I wounded Quotidian when I said I couldn’t see her in her name. Did she slink off like an animal? Did Extraordinary smell blood? She seems to be circling.

In the early morning moment when I was jolted awake by my screeching security alarm, it was no ordinary thing. Even in my son’s voice, which I have known from newborn cry to maturing man. His absent-minded distraction is not unusual these day – a girl is in the picture – but that sacred ray escaped my notice under the circumstances. The screeching was picking up speed, even as my fingers froze.

Then the phone. The calm voice wanted my Password. I’ve never used this password. My brain is packed with passwords.

Before long an urgent rapping on my front door brought me face-to-face with a badge on a blue uniform. Extraordinary is unabashedly mocking me.

 But then Quotidian appeared. At my feet. A tender tan-ish blade-shaped leaf unswept from my porch. She is a fragile and dusty wind-blown traveler. Her ancient heirs are innumerable, but the maiden voyage which landed her beneath my distraught gaze, ended with no fanfare.  She lay there. I spied her.

When the badge was gone, I swept her up with the friends who followed her, and with that simple rite, I obtained my bearings. My faith was restored. We are friends again.

Emptiness

I ate it before breakfast – one square square, intense and dark. The cherry did tango with the chocolate. Then they disappeared from the darkened dance floor, gliding under the palatine uvula disco ball. No glimmers or sparkles or flashy flashes traced their exit. Only the crinkly, castrated foily sheath lies beside me on the sheet.

An empty brown bottle stands under the lamp on my bedside table, sentry of the solitude. In the dark that was not chocolate, it offered me hard cider from an angry orchard. Personification. Just a stupid knocked-up word, but I am filled with its pregnancy. Angry orchards and castrated sheaths, puffed up pillows and barren blankets. The fertile fog of futility fills the frigid room. Life spirals down the tubes, but only the proverbial ones.

I eat and drink alone in bed and find amusing ways to uncover this naked truth. That is all I am revealing. There is not more.

Addiction

A basket of unfolded laundry is perched slanted between the arms of the chair in my bedroom. Not an ordinary way for a laundry basket to sit – even in its disregarded state. It should be in the corner by the armoire – or in the closet under the empty plastic hangers. But there it sits. There.  All caddy-wampus and obvious – begging me to remember the solace I once took in its existence. I inhale, imagining. Fresh and faintly lavender. Soft, worn cotton – smoothing, folding, creasing, patting. Smoothing, folding, creasing, patting. Smoothing, folding, creasing, patting.  Bottle to drunk, needle to junkie, word to writer.

My taste for the ordinary and this oxymoronic word which describes it has fled. You, Quotidian, are no ordinary word. How dare you presume to climb into my jumbled, intoxicating basket?