Relapse, recovery

So much change this time of year!
Grab hold if you feel adrift :)

IMG_5057.jpg

Relapse, recovery

I am afraid to write this poem
as it is about my weakness/illness/brokenness
and how it affects others
and how I exaggerate it affects others
and how I want to have both lots and no effect on others.
I get very small sometimes and very very quiet.
I am six again.

There were bedrooms,
one mine and one in which my parents fought
and made love and fought again.
Their closed door, the heaviness and darkness,
they were not a hallway, but a galaxy,
complete with asteroids and black holes, away.
I took comfort in a crocheted blanket across my bed,
it was made of mauve and dusty pink colored yarn.
I’d poke my fingers through its holes,
I’d gather its fringe into little ponytails.
There were childhood fevers and lightning storms,
there were cockroaches in that apartment.
My garage is now full of rat shit
that I am too overwhelmed to deal with.

It happened mostly recently at a retreat for addicts,
I was invited to speak on a panel about love and sex addiction.
I sat for two hours in front of people.
My face was hot, I didn’t know where to look,
didn’t know how to compose my hot face,
to convey proper presenter-ness, to be at once, calm, knowledgable, generous.
The other panelists and the audience spoke of collecting yoyos (5000!),
reducing women to body parts, 45 hours of screen time in a week,
their eating binges and purges going from daily until once a year,
until they were asked to be a sponsor
and finally disallowed even this annual indulgence.
The other presenters made the audience laugh and were self-disclosing,
they were familiar, where I felt fictional,
I offered my thoughts in the reverse order I intended.

Afterwards I could barely see as I walked to the bathroom,
my brain was the texture of cotton candy.
I told the organizers I’d stay for the day,
at least for lunch, but rather slunk off,
not wearing my glasses as I left
so I couldn’t make eye contact with the
attendees who were headed for fellowship and food,
who were working their program
with determination and grace I then lacked.

Rather than connecting, instead of honest-ing,
I went to a thrift shop, I “cruised” for clothes,
the way johns hunt for hookers,
scoring two pairs of jeans I don’t need.
At the checkout I added a diet soda,
candy bar, a bag of cheddar potato chips,
eating them quickly without tasting, without regard for health,
the way junkies inject dirty needles.

The relapse was mild in terms of the 4 C’s of addiction,
craving, compulsion, control and consequences,
but two days later my shame hangover lingers.
The retreat was Buddhist and we were reminded
until we have right thought, we are all addicted.
How about right heart? right community? right support?
which is what those lovelies were providing
and I wronged myself by not partaking.

My mother-in-law, who lives in assisted living,
wanted to be an actress,
but her bi-polar illness prevented her.
She asks me to bring her carton after carton of ice cream,
dulce de leche, discovered thanks to my enabling.
She asks me to buy baby powder, shampoo, Q-tips.
I bring these sundries, even though her small bathroom
contains multiples of such items already.
She is obese, but I purchase the ice cream anyway.

I am not sure what progress looks like.
My husband can now be out of touch for hours
and although I might douse myself with kerosene,
I don’t reach for matches.
The emptying though, and the rip tide that accompanies it,
this reclusiveness, isolating, so named in recovery circles,
has never gone completely away.
I want to offer hope.
It arrives
after asking here,
for witness. 

The Boy

IMG-7090.JPG

The Boy

A client tells me he needs to process trauma
related to war time.

For three sessions we speak of otherwise-
the pains and purposes and pleasures of adult living.

At the end of the third session, at five minutes to the hour
he says so I can’t get it out of my head

there was a boy.
Knowing I have a break after this client

and could hold space today,
I offer, do you want to go there?

No.
Not today.

I do.
Given what I know of this man’s life, I imagine this boy.

He was tortured/maimed/abused/hurt/killed.
He suffered/died alone/is/was/angry/hopeless/desperate.

I am not sure what I will do or say that can soothe my client
in the same way he was not perhaps able to help this boy.

I see my client’s name on my schedule and wonder
this week if he will be ready.

There are three of us now. The boy is already here.
I prepare a nest, a grave, a cradle.

Best Practices

I just heard a quote from Shakespeare “The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.”

William Carlos Williams, who lived from 1883-1963 said of his writing, “words offered themselves and I jumped at them! I would continue medicine, for I was determined to be a poet; only medicine, a job I enjoyed, would make it possible for me to live and write as I wanted to. I would live: that first.. and write, by God, as I wanted to if it took me all eternity to accomplish my design, for the sheer drunkenness of it.” Williams and Shakespeare lived in different times, with different demands, yet I love how they have both were driven to create and share.

IMG_0758.jpg

Best Practices

I am protesting the “violence of self-care,”
how we must do x,y,z to pamper ourselves,
to combat the livingness of a through w.
The life hackers and optimizers speak of 10,000 hours,
perspiring until we achieve enough mastery to achieve flow.
I resist that loving oneself requires
rising before dawn, a stiff back, a hard floor.
It does and it doesn’t.

I envy the poet William Carlos Williams (Bill!)
a physician active in the early and mid 1900s
who wrote a famous poem about
eating someone else’s plums from the icebox (an icebox!)
and seemed able to reconcile the
twin sensations of pleasure and guilt.
I want him to have been my doctor,
to have written the poem Girl in the Window
after taking out my stitches.
I want him, he uses lots of exclamations and dashes.
In his portrait he has soft eyes, a focused brow.

The word Bacchanal was gifted to me recently,
follower of Bacchus, a drunken reveler,
an occasion of drunken revelry, orgy, bacchanalia.
The character Bobol was also offered,
Greek goddess of lasciviousness
who transcends the linearity of maiden, mother, crone.
In my notebook I record a quote (from someone, Jung?!)
if we don’t attend our shadows they
hang out in the basement and lift weights.


I no longer excise pieces of myself that are troublesome,
rather give them swings and a seesaw,
all with soft footing beneath.
My defects romp on a playground tucked among trees,
an ice cream truck comes tinkling by on warm afternoons.

Earlier today I misread an appointment time for acupuncture.
I hadn’t been to the clinic and didn’t know
if there was a waiting room.
I opened the office door to a darkened room
with nary a practitioner in sight,
in the center was a massage table,
on it lay someone, swaddled.
The patient was corporeal, older, resting,
they looked surrendered, dead even.
They made me feel connected to the meridian mother lode,
accessible by well-placed hairlike needles, yes,
but availed of more, some wellspring of possibility beyond just me.
They made me think when it is my time to go, it could be lovely.
What a gift my impatience, my arrogance,
my innocence gave me.

I blushed to no one,
thought, I’ll never tell it was me.
But next week,
when I actually have my appointment,
I might.


Starting With Why

I must give credit to my daughter for this photograph. She takes pictures of clouds and friends too. Her photographs are an answer to why.

IMG-1614.jpg

Starting with Why
Starting with Why


I am advised by a millenial who wrote a bestselling
book and has millieniums of followers
to ask Why when embarking on an endeavor.
In his case, why when dumping our dot.com.
excess into an angel investment start up,
in most of ours, why we are looking
at our phones for the umpteenth time.
I’m game, I’m a gamin.

This morning I scraped my tongue
and poured salt water from a neti pot into my nostril
which made me feel both like I was drowning and punched in the nose.
I did something called pranayama
which is to breathe rapidly into your stomach in
rapid succession to stimulate your prana or life force.

Why?
Because I went to an aryuvedic clinic in Seattle,
it was a teaching school and it cost $25
and I was there for three hours.
There were two interns and one instructor/doctor,
they all took my pulses.
How lovely to have caring adults,
seated close to me, taking turns holding my wrists
and listening for my internal rhythms.
I could have died right then.
I was given a sheet of paper with illustrations of poop
and asked to categorize my stool sample.

Why?
You can tell a lot from your stool sample.
Floating? Sinking? Ragged? Oily? Loose? Hard?
My life? or my stool I wanted to ask.
Both I learned.
As I suspected a stool is never just a stool.
I kept offering little symptoms,
such as “all my injuries are on my left,”
postulating each with “if that matters,”
everything matters the trio answered.
The lead teacher looked like humpty dumpty.
When he leaned over while listening for my inner workings,
I wanted to kiss his bald head.

Why?
Because despite his rotund middle,
his blue eyes sparkled, he wore a cranberry colored dress shirt
with a thin blue tie and looked like he belonged in England,
all while sprinkling his diagnosis with sanskrit.
One of the interns was Indian and kept looking at my ankles,
whose girth was suddenly symbolic,
not just an embarrassment.
He said,
“as we get older many of us don’t want to settle into being slower”
I thought “easy for you, punk, with your lustrous dreadlocks
and your perfectly pita-vatta-kapha balanced skin”.
I wanted to be granted the dosha or energetic/body
type pita, slight and airy
or vatta, medium and balanced,
not Kapha, dense and slow.

Why?
Because if you are a woman in the west
we are told to be thin and light,
to be dandelion fluff not oak root,
rose petal, not thorn.
If you are a man you may be dense and solid,
in fact you are told you must be.

Why?
I don’t think anybody knows.
My first why I do anything is often vanity,
my second why is that I want to be beautiful, chosen, special.
Why number three is because I want to be loved.
And others...
I want love for them too.
I won’t do most of what the kind
purposeful sage Aryuvedic practitioners suggest.
Because I love too many foods on their no list.
Like carbonated drinks, salt and sugar.
However, I now blend cooked kale and cilantro
that is brilliant as spring grass and makes basmati rice verdant.

Why if I won’t follow their advice,
 to scrape my tongue
and massage with sesame oil,
did I seek such counsel?
Because I needed to have my wrists held,
because I heard everything matters. 

Doing the Math

Somehow my daughter and I are sharing photos on our phones. It is beyond lovely to see what she finds worthy to record. This image is her’s :)

IMG-1561.jpg

Doing the Math


I am wearing jeans that feel too tight
as I have gained three pounds eating mini candy bars
that are in a candy bowl at my office.
The mini munchies are 100 calories a bite.
I am trying to substitute with radishes, a large one is 2 calories,
but fifty radishes do not give me the joy of one peanut butter cup.
Mouth orgasms = infinity!

I became a therapist at age 51.
I am too old.
I am thankful I am so old.
I am old enough to appreciate something termed the Lifespan.
Old enough to see themes in decades.
Recently there is a woman next to me at a workshop,
she has a slit in her skirt. Twenties.
There was a man with a polyester dress shirt tucked in, Sixties.

Women are paying $250 for a set of fake eyelashes
that are woven into their real ones,
precluding mascara and falsies, no more little strips of glue.
I charge $90 an hour for most clients
but for a few $80, $70, $60, on down the line,
to one I see for nothing.
I slide my scale based on privilege, oppression,
opportunity, the color of one’s skin,
the hardship of one’s story.
How do we calculate trauma? injustice?
Can one estimate bad and dumb luck?
I feel good about my earnings
when I compare flipping burgers for minimum wage,
but two sets of lashes for $500?
I am subtracting, jealous, devalued.

My children may have children.
I try and remember my grandmother in her fifties,
mourning in the Arizona sun after her husband died.
She showed me how to push back my cuticles.
It hurt but I didn’t tell her.
I want to be spry and hip and remembered,
I want to be at family weddings and hold great grandchildren.

I sat outside on a small bit of yard yesterday
after being in a city,
the smell of wet grass drying,
listening to the bass of bees sipping from wisteria,
I was plumped again,
I was a doe in a thicket.
I consider carrying capacity, biodiversity,
all creatures great and small,
how we will make it,
ensure it,
keep it,
this planet plumped again.

Drift

IMG_3477.jpg

Drift

We expect too much of ourselves.
We ask to be over it,
done with them
to move on.
Life is not only an escalator,
there are sometimes cracked sidewalks.
I bow to base camps and landings,
little ledges where we catch our breath,
they may last a moment,
a day, a season, a decade.

Ninety percent of our serotonin
is made in our bellies,
ninety percent of our communication is non-verbal.
I make my body appear open, not fooling some.
I make my body appear closed, not fooling others.
Gut feeling... going with our guts...
“Herd of horses!” I’d call as my family
mimicked my trot down hiking trails.

I am eating a salad as I write this.
Omg the discipline to reduce
raw cabbage and carrots to a sludge
so that my stomach may extrude nutrients.
A nap feels in order.
Omg, no wonder when stressed I want
to inhale a milkshake,
crave hot potatoes fried in oil and salt.

This poem doesn’t want to be called Buoy
which is what I have been talking about,
chill, nil, stillness, a moment without will.
It is asking for something more.

I always hated when the lifeguard
at the swimming pool lifted his bullhorn
and yelled  “Don’t hang on the rope.”
He had no idea the courage it took
to release the cement siding of the pool,
that I only wanted to catch my breath
while crossing what seemed like the Atlantic.

These summers, I choose lake over chlorine,
I swim through turtle green water.
There are strobe lights of lake grass,
there are flashes of fish.
There is a plastic line demarcating the swimming area,
it reminds me of necklaces strung in kindergarten.
I like to hold the strand with my big toe
while the lake inhales and exhales.
I like to close my eyes to sunsky and let go. 

Resurrection

This picture is my daughter who is now 20! She asked for matcha tea for her easter basket this year!

Version 2.jpg

Resurrection


I thought I had egg dye,
extra boxes up in the attic with the decorative bunnies,
two of which have lost an ear over the years,
two bunnies I position artfully so as not to alarm guests.
No one noticed the lack of tin cups, brimming with color.
I even baked the same pineapple cake
that received raves in the past
and yet this year remained almost whole.

There was once young ones at my countertop
who jockeyed to break open cellophane packaging,
who added vinegar, who waited for dye tablets to dissolve.

Despite my children’s independence,
I can’t can’t, I do not not
make easter baskets for them,
even my oldest, who is 26.
When pressed for desired contents, he suggested
an offering he would share at brunch,
Opal apples and raw cheese.

I thought this poem would be about loss.
I thought I needed to grieve my patch-worked tradition,
that my family has aged out of.
So much of my care has been material,
little party favors left on banquet tables.

It was a relief to not buy jelly beans and synthetic grass,
lovely instead to choose the largest yellowest apples,
cheeses from both far and local creameries.
My son has begun baking bread,
thick dark loaves he ferments before baking.
 
For a week following Easter,
I cut a thick wedge every morning,
 eat it with butter and the leftover goat cheese,
 infused with honey lavender.
 So much my children do,
 I have not taught them.

Magnetic Poetry That Could Be About Sex (or Not)

William Carlos Williams was a famous poet who also was a doctor, he is known for his short earthy poems, which he often wrote on his prescription pad. My favorite of his is below my offering. It speaks to the humanity in all of us, that which knows better and yet takes what we want. I channeled him this week, eeking out a poem in the moments between. I have a client who likes to draw when she feels overwhelmed. Sometimes, I write poems with magnetic poetry while she resources with pen and paper. I like the constraint of the limited words, as well as, the discipline of using the last word of a stanza as the first word of the next. This week’s offerings were such.

IMG-6766.JPG

Magnetic Poetry That Could Be About Sex (or Not)

touch beneath
between the explore
tender tunnel
inside caress

caress time
feel under eternity
passion package
explore please

please give slow
sweet stroke
want, have, always
desire adjusts the body

the body
a sacred breeze
you, a flower moment
wild petal, remember

IMG-6784 (1).JPG

Therapist

I write a lot of poems about being a therapist, I spend a lot of my time as a therapist asking my clients to simply be, to be with what is.

IMG-6730.JPG

Therapist


Sometimes I offer what any tolerant passenger
might on a puddle jumper from Seattle to Sacramento,
nods and interest, a few curious questions.
I repeat advice that could be garnered from women’s magazine
but with more grandeur and gravitas.

Sometimes I cry when my client can’t,
tears that start in the center of my brain,
nerve gas, stinging my eyes,
little springs that pool before spilling.

I try to perforate my client’s
breast plates of resistance,
I wear a haz mat suit and contain cortisol.
My decks are awash with their indecision,
I want them to leave their partners,
I want them to forgive and try harder.

The men are the most difficult
with their armored agreeability,
their hidden score cards.
No wait the women,
with their levees and lists,
their apologies, I guesses and don’t knows.
No it could be the children
who only want to hide toy figures in my play sand.

I am the Goddess of Destruction Kali
with eight arms offering eight conflicting interventions.
I am Quan Yin rolling joints with lotus leaves.
I am medic, surgeon, nurse,
before it gets better, I might make it worse.
I am hugging clients on their request,
I am allowing space as my bequest.

Lead birds take turns as they fly.
Ornithologists suggest murmuration,
the phenomenon of birds in a flock moving at once,
has more to do with physics than biology.
They call it a phase transition,
it’s what I do hour after hour.
A slight turn, a pivot.
In my seat I sink and I rise,
suggesting mostly pelvis and patience.
I am rolling my rolling chair backward,
I am rolling forward.

Ode to Small Talk

This picture is a reflection in a puddle :) I am writing this poem (mostly) again weekly after a very spotty year. Work got the better of my practice, but no longer! I hope this finds you in daffodils..

IMG_2568.jpg

Ode to Small Talk


My fourteen year old son
and I bond over the forecast on my iPhone.
We both consider weather symbols
the size of pencil erasers,
like stickers on homework in grade school.
Sometimes given our Pacific Northwest,
the week is a row of raindrops,
micro clouds shedding mini tears.
We brighten at stick figure suns.
I ask him to relay the temperature,
hour by hour as I drive him to school,
the 4.2 miles, 11 minutes otherwise
would be spent in awkward silence.
Any deeper exploration about his upcoming day
is met with fine or good, yas and nahs.
His inner world is now as foreign to me as
heat lightning in Dubai.

It’s the same reason dogs were invented,
especially puppies,
many a family reunion is endured due to floppy ears
and accounts of trips to the vet.
And babies, ambassadors who claim
no religiosity or patriotism, can’t yet offend or condemn.
Complaining chatter allows us to tolerate traffic or air travel delays.
I assume no one likes waiting an extra hour
and nod to my neighbor seated on similar black vinyl,
at the grocery can roll my eyes at a fellow human
when the line snakes down the cereal aisle.

I sometimes stretch our morning conversation
inquiring about distant locales,
occasionally asking about Ethiopia from where my son was adopted.
It enjoys the same climate as Southern California
where I spent many years.
My cells expand recalling
temperatures solidly in the seventies,
life affirming and enduring as disco on the radio.
There magenta, fuchsia and salmon bougainvillea blooms,
the papery flowers seem already dried.
I like to imagine there is a moment when the petals
first unfurl, that they are briefly soft as roses,
as my son’s cheeks were when he was young.

Ode to the Haiku Haikus

This might be my favorite seven syllable line, written by Danielle LaPorte in her book Desire Map.

IMG_7518.jpg

Ode to the Haiku Haikus

Five, seven and five
syllables, my fingers count
tap in the shower

hoped for conclusion-
everyone sighs at the end
rather ahhhhs, and smiles

some people hate them
silly or too pretentious
not all like lilacs

attention disorder balm
only three lines to attend
swift meaning making

you could tattoo one
brevity sometimes welcome
like a single kiss

mystery matter
embrace subtly revealed
the moon when darkened

like gathered beach glass
not every line is worthy
a few shine with time

haiku means first verse
we size one another up
in seconds, much missed

nature is subject
and present tenses preferred
today there is sun

mistakes in haikus
one syllable too many
excess allowed here

metaphors teach us
we are much more similar
rain and steam and snow

my favorite poem
is one I haven’t yet read
it waits like green spring

written or spoken
life can change with even one word
ancient or today

My Down Coat Has 59 Seams

To all my readers who sew, hear here! And to my mother who does still :)

IMG_6775.jpg

My Down Coat has 59 seams


This poem began being about industrialization,
me bemoaning that workers
spend all day sewing single seams.
Perhaps there is meditation
in the lift of the little metal foot,
in positioning two pieces of cloth,
satisfaction graduating to zippers and pockets,
threading the tie that encloses the hood.

Even so, it seems a shame
someone who labors all day doesn’t have completion,
from the bolt of fabric, to being warmed in the cold.
It is a loss that few of us sew anymore,
there are so many lessons on how to be.
Hand stitching is the steady accumulation of security.
A seam ripper helps us recognize
that with patience we can rectify mistakes.
You work from the inside of a garment,
not immediately able to see the results,
true of most accomplishments in life.

Basting holds things together before you commit,
allowance we all can use.
Serge and selvage, two terms
that refer to the edges of fabric.
Surge and salvage, two words
that refer to the edges in life.
And I must mention
patterns and pinking shears and
mending, joining, binding, lining, tacking, staying.

The sewing machine is among greatest hits,
beside the cotton gin, printing press, motorcar and computer.
A gadget that weaves two threads from top and bottom!
Invented in 1790 by a man whose last name was Saint!
A man’s shirt took 14 hours by hand,
with a Singer, a Bernina, an Elna, a Brother
toiling was reduced to an hour and a half.
With needle and thimble, most people had only two outfits-
a work outfit and a Sunday outfit.
Can you imagine?

Such lexicon of leisure, vocabulary of vaudeville-
bobbin case, noodle bar, foot and foot dog,
upper arm shaft, connecting rods,
loop taker, machine bed, feed dog,
overlock and chainstitch.
Such fabrics! In colors and patterns
both tropical and temperate!
So many l’s, a landscape of alliteration!
voile, velvet, satin and silk,
denim and damask, chintz and chenille.
Houndstooth and corduroy, seersucker.
Coral reefs of texture!
Textiles of confection!
And the accoutrements, the swag...
the sewing box is both dopp kit and magician’s suitcase,
leagues of mystery and efficiency.
The pincushion alone is haiku worthy
     
      Pincushion
such noble restraint
to be able to poke it
my disdain channelled


I never tire of turning open
a blouse and looking at the seams,
French or straight, zig zagged or bound?
I never take for granted mortal men and women
transformed into gods and goddesses
with each tuck on a waistcoat, each sequin looped on a ball gown.
I never stop imagining before clothes were ready made.
Rushing down a dusty road,
a new pattern of calico just arrived at the mercantile!

If Creativity Was a Living Creature

I do best when working on a book, as I have been, various books, various subjects, for over twenty years. A hobby as of yet, for I don’t try and sell them. This was my first volume, about mothering. My writing practice is nearing middle age!

IMG_3760.jpg

If Creativity Was a Living Creature


Innovation is cactus and orchid,
venus fly trap and opiate poppy.
As animal, ruminant and carnivore,
four digesting stomachs with stomach acid.

If artistry is a human,
it was fed on demand,
breastfed until nipples toughened,
then like most children with
exhausted mothers put on a schedule,
trained to sleep through the night.

Cultivating creativity is like caring for your teeth.
A celebration of tiny buds as
the baby gums the toothbrush,
then for a toddler,
you must beg, bribe and threaten,
be a bucking bronco on the way to the bathroom.
Adolescence is a similar tryst,
beer dates with computer at the tavern.

Finally, the practice becomes
like two sweethearts,
married for many years.
They must make dates for lovemaking.
Yet every now and then,
one flicks a dish towel suggestively,
the other gives chase to the bedroom.

On My Son Turning Eighteen

I recently had two people, very dear to me, subscribe to my poetry blog. Thank you M. and B.!
So many February birthdays! Happy day to several clients of mine and dear Emily and wonderful Emma! And my son Ivan, to whom this poem is about. Blessings to you all <3.

IMG-6522.JPG

On My Son Turning Eighteen

There is a blizzard the day my son turns eighteen
and so our plans to dine with family are postponed.
I can’t get to the store for the frosting’s powdered sugar,
yet he tells me he doesn’t care for cake anymore
and doesn’t need anything.

When he was still a boy,
he’d come lie next to me in the evening,
I’d put my book down.
It took fortitude to not break his gaze first,
he became my teacher.

This is not a poem about a rebellious teen,
not about abandon.
My son will stir from the computer
when he hears me arrive,
offers grocery unloading and helping with cooking.
And yet, he heads to his bedroom soon after dinner,
usually prefers a run with earbuds
to walking with me on our wooded trails.

The rare snowstorm has invigorated our outdoor time together
and I follow in his footsteps as he is faster and stronger.
He notices animal tracks beside us
and surmises a deer before I guess.
The imprints are little tucks, evenly spaced,
the way you poke a hole for seedlings.

Recently while I was at work,
my son texted asking if he could wash his tuxedo shirt
that he needed later for a concert
in which he was performing.
Yes! I answered, banking on a polyester blend,
the high school concert hall darkly lit,
remembering kids with too short pants, green dyed hair, acne.

An hour before curtain time, he called, looking for safety pins
“The collar won’t stay down, and the ruffles are too ruffly,”
yet declined my offer to meet him early
in the parking lot to help.
Feeling guilty I was not home, I suggested,
“You could try getting them wet again and shape them...”

I spent years telling him to stand up straight,
showed him exercises on a yoga ball,
threatened a chiropractor.
I blame his burdens - a laden backpack,
him craning to stare at his phone,
bending forward as he concentrates on saxophone scales,
honors classes and college admissions, 
divorce, the social complexities of high school.
A masseuse once shared he himself
slouched for years to protect his heart.
One day my son stands taller
and then the next day, taller still.

When I receive the text
“hot water worked, my shirt looks fine,”
I see a little paper boat.
His life is becoming these moments,
little crafts set free amid the current.
I am not sure anymore who folds them,
only that they are, so surely, released.

When My Guitar Teacher Signed Up For My Weekly Poem

IMG-6398.JPG

When My Guitar Teacher Signed Up For My Weekly Poem

Yesterday, my guitar teacher signed up for my poem,
posted weekly on my website.
I hadn’t written in a few months,
which seemed like a few forevers,
because I started working as a therapist.
Poetry requires cornfields of time
and pitchers of patience,
can’t be tucked into
a stolen hour between clients.
The combine must be topped off with gas,
the mugs should be frosty.

I do therapy the way I pen prose
lavishly, excessively, abundantly,
I do not keep to the 55 minute hour,
holding my clients hostage when I know
confessions are cresting.
Senior clinicians warn I will have to learn boundaries,
but for now my practice is like a new love affair,
the way I once wrote books until late in the night,
the way I waited until my babies were firmly
asleep until I placed them carefully in the bassinet.

At one o’clock on Thursdays,
my guitar teacher and I have an hour plus lesson,
we talk for half of it.
Music talk, life talk, getting older talk,
we muse, we are muses for one another.

Until he asks me to play
and then I am small again,
I am not the competent woman sharing a favorite artist
or comparing time management strategies,
I am clumsy, dull, unprepared.
I curse him as he says, try again, that note again,
I curse my fingers as they fumble with strings.

He guides me the way I hold clients,
small wins are celebrated,
like a metronome he demands precision.
Notice there. Pay attention here.
It is what I do with those who sit
on the couch in my office,
sometimes holding a ruffled pillow.
The third session, they are mad,
in the fifth, fantasies are revealed,
finally the deepest treasure is unearthed,
how they feel unlovely, unloveable.

I am a boxing manager at ringside toweling,
I am the prostitute who never blushes,
I am the mother whose lap is large enough.
I do what my guitar teacher must,
consecrating the music of the other,
in the way they gesture, strum, offer voice,
in their silences,
living for the moment
when the cloak of becoming is unfurled,
its clasp fastened securely at the throat,
when borrowed belief becomes marrow.
Sometimes years of nourishment is necessary.

I give my guitar teacher books of my poetry
and he asks about certain lines.
His studio walls are plastered with
portraits of fellow and famed musicians,
newspaper clippings depict him
as a rock star with black, not white hair.
On a music stand, sheets of compositions
pause for his return.

His handwriting in indigo ink is lyrical,
the note patterns still too complicated for my novice eye.
The page was once blank,
as was this computer screen,
now with arcs and straight lines.
The most honest hope of our toiling-
that another might also feel
the Hallelujah
and the Amen.

Slouch

I look pensive, stoic in this picture. Getting photographed is hard for me. Here I asked a dear friend to take author pictures, this was one I would normally trash. However, I so love when others are real and not smiling, and this fit the poem.

D3.2.jpg

Slouch

What if we gave into this
burden,
old as boulders,
down down
meathooks
stretching to our toes
shoulders brick/boot
stomped and sore.

Threat of elders
bent at ninety degree angles
and mostly sheer will.
Sit up!
Up straight,
tree tall,
blades back,
chest forward.

Everything but
cavingcurling    allowingfollowing
falling/flailing.
Dear shouting shoulders
what?  what if?
They wrapped around us
until they knit together,
holding like we long to be held.
Would they release at last
sternum cracked?
An orchestra is tuning
for a symphony titled
Effervescence.
There will be backup dancers
with wings, turquoise water
and hum. 




Applesauce

I have been so lame about my weekly poem, my creative energy going into building my counseling business. I have a few clients! I am figuring out how to do online paperwork! If you are interested, check out my website at www.deborahgracecounseling.com or my Psychology Today profile under Deborah Grace Counseling. I love how poetry is akin to therapy. I am scared to begin this new endeavor and knew a poem would help me know it’s ok.

IMG_5996.jpg

Applesauce

It is time for me to go out in the world
and I don’t know how
despite getting a degree
and having a stack
of business cards at the ready.

They have rounded corners
and slide smoothly in my palm.
I couldn’t decide on one design,
so I chose five.
Images of lily pads, mountain,
river water, flower, cloud.
I want to offer each to the world,
a safe place to buoy, perspective,
flow, a space to blossom,
an allowing that things come and go.

The therapists I call for networking
don’t often call back, they are busy.
I will be such, soon enough,
but this bridge from not busy to too busy
is in shadow. It is like the morning fog
these October mornings,
I don’t know when it will lift.

I have been creative again
in the kitchen, it is safe there,
I am taking small risks.
This week a white rice dish made of leftovers,
appreciated when I doubled the soy sauce,
and last night homemade applesauce.

I’d never made applesauce before,
hadn’t eaten it in years.
I thought I added too much cinnamon,
but it was lovely
served with sausage and corn cakes,
to which I added cheese.
The cakes took a long time to cook,
sizzling in melted butter.

On Changing My Computer’s Screen Saver

IMG_0807.jpg

On Changing My Computer’s Screen Saver

It had been with me
through two computer changes,
before I dated my now husband,
children were adopted, a few moved out.
I’d written several books against its pink petals.
They were tulip magnolias,
the blue sky was royal,
the blossoms back and sunlit.
It was rowdy and galvanizing,
spring on steroids.
Virtual bees were buzzing.

My living room furniture is static
as lion statues guarding the gates of museums,
I’ve had the same hairstyle for four presidents.
I sleep only on ivory sheets.
But then dark gray 800 count Egyptian cotton
was given for a wedding present.
With my coffee, I tried almond instead of cow milk.
My son asked to play Scrabble on a school night
and I say yes instead of no.

I now begin my poems
upon an image of lily pads,
the blank page is a wee sail
eager for wee wind and weather.
The colors are soft as sheep,
calming as sleep,
the leaves are frilled on the edges,
sage green against cloudy water.
Not even a lily beckons,
but there is the possibility of frogs,
little croaks and splashes. 

Wedding Poems

This is a very long post, three wedding poems! to make up for my not being here for three weeks. My wedding day was the best day of my life. My children's births and adoptions rank equally, but all were there AND my beloved. It was smoky, but the clouds parted, it was overwhelming to plan an execute a DIY wedding, but the results felt like ours. We had soooo much help, it was so much fun to create and share with dear friends and family. There might be a few more wedding poems and soon out will be a book dedicated to my now husband, Adam. 

IMG_5752.JPG

Second Marriage Registry

We are not able to suggest Pelvic floor repair, 
or mention my car has two dents,
that my groom’s brakes are squeaking,
he needs a tooth crowned,
so we cruise through the websites of REI,
Crate and Barrel, Amazon.
We are a Cyber god and goddess
creating a world with a click of the computer mouse,
cheeseboards and serving ware
fly into a virtual shopping cart.
We request cutlery as spoons and forks,
little tridents and anvils
have been absconded by our teenagers.

There are so many more wedding traditions now
as in It's a THING...
Escort cards
Anniversary cakes
and First Looks.
Weddings are brands complete with
fonts and picture filters,
tutorials suggest focusing
on the guest experience.
I remember excuses to drink,
tacky tents with plastic windows,
rushing for the bouquet toss
which I read is now considered single shaming.

We create a wedding profile
on a hosting site called the Knot
On its homepage, newlyweds scroll in a slide show,
men marrying men, 
women, one in a suit, one in a dress,
couples in every permutation of body size and skin hue.
It's a whole new world, it's glorious.
Pizza is offered instead of prime rib,
cake is traded for tiers of doughnuts,
everything is presented on oak barrels
and explained on chalkboards,
weddings are held in empty warehouses.
Suddenly I am on trend, my bare feet are bohemian.

Our registry reflects our wedding preparation,
we feel a little crazy, we are a lot lazy.
Instead of standing in heels,
I want to lay down on a blanket,
recite my vows with my nose
nestled in my love’s armpit.
We don’t have time to take salsa lessons,
but according to brides with YouTube channels
our slow dance nuzzling won’t be a wedding fail

We choose nubby place mats
and earthen bowls, we venture a backpacking tent.
Gifts begin to arrive
in boxes big and small,
it feels so abundant,
we’ve got so much already, 
our children grown and growing.
I let the presents sanctify
what this union feels like.
Naked Cake, 
Hen and Buck Party,
Top Shelf. 

IMG_5774.jpg

Shopping for your Wedding Suit


It seems superfluous
that we will claim one another
so formally
you in a new suit,
me in a dress,
I insisted on lace.

When you tried on your jacket,
blue and slender fitted,
so different from the boxy
brown in your closet,
you did these cool Rocky boxing moves.

We misplaced your phone.

The alteration employee was sexy
and had an Eastern European accent.
She knelt to adjust your hem,
her face at crotch level.
I added being Tatyana the Tailor
to my roster of fantasies. 

Yesterday
at Macy’s of all places
I felt again, 
I do, I have, I will.
As I did this morning
in the shower
when you
conditioned my hair.

IMG_2935.jpeg

Wedding Vows Not Spoken


I vow to keep apologizing after
my default is to initially interrupt
you and say no.
To keep trying to figure out
what to do with your balls
during certain sex acts
and to be patient when you
go too fast even when though
I’ve asked you to be slow.
I vow to stack the dishwasher better
and to stop joking about other men,
to say I love your penis,
not I love penises.
I vow to not wear only gray
or cargo shorts and polo shirts
so we don’t look like golfing buddies.
I vow to stop using the bread knife
to cut things other than bread,
or at least to admit it.
I vow to not tell you how to parent,
and to not take it personally
when you tell me how to.
I vow to not always read before bed,
to sometimes turn off the light and roll toward you,
to not always wear a shirt to bed,
or at least to keep pulling it up
when I spoon you,
to keep pressing my breasts against you.
I vow to be pearl, sometimes effervescent,
to keep cultivating my singular joy
but making it plural with you,
to keep discovering myself
and bringing my discoveries
to you first,
to fight back and stop retreating,
to stop leaving you when I am hurt,
I vow to allow you your attractions,
your factions, your afflictions.
I vow to talk louder and stop mumbling,
to think a little more before I speak,
but to also speak before overthinking.
I vow to look at you more,
especially when we make love
and move my mouth more when we kiss
and to remember to use my hands
during all of the above especially when you are on top.
I vow to be your wings, nest and mettle.
I vow to be less judgmental,
a little less mental,
to not let my introversion
be a crutch or stop me from
watching football with you at the neighbor’s.
I vow to sing.
I vow to appreciate your attachment to
your possessions and passions.
I vow to keep being enraptured by you,
captured by you,
that you will always be my favorite way to spend
Wednesday work night, Friday date,
Sunday morning.
I vow to take my shoes off in the house,
to let you be equal in our temple.
To resist temptation.
I vow to not sit in the car
when you run into Costco,
to be a barnacle if you are stone.
I vow to never give up or
give in if I won’t respect you by doing so,
to learn when I have pushed you too far.
I vow to remember you are a man
and do things and feels things differently,
but more than your manliness
you are tender and human.
I vow to repair.
I vow forgiveness and to ask for forgiveness.
I vow to tend your wounds,
those I inflict and those that came before me,
to be interested in your stories,
especially those I have already heard.
I vow to be a co-creator of our story.
I vow to encourage you to be
wholeheartedly you.
I vow to always be me.
I vow to be first and forever Us.
Meteor shower, garden flower.

After Wedding Research on Pinterest

I am getting married in two weeks! I am so excited and thankful for the internet especially Pinterest, where I have captured beautiful images for months. This statue is very Olympia, Washington, my town. 

IMG_7134.jpg

After Wedding Research on Pinterest


Suddenly we are not fifty
getting married for the second time,
fitting in wedding dress shopping between colonoscopies.

We are tulle in Telluride, boho in a botanical garden,
there are wildflowers in my golden not gray hair.
You are waiting for me in a waistcoat,
my waist is nipped, my dress easily zipped.
The aisle is a forest glen, I am on a strong steed.

I will change into a cocktail dress,
your groom’s men will roast us,
our parents are still all alive and will toast us.
First dances with fresh knees,
flat bellies with pregnant dreams.

We are in a tasseled tent,
in a boutique hotel in Paris,
in our bathroom sink, craft beers on ice,
in the ice, there are frozen violets.
The light in our bedroom
becomes little lanterns,
LED lights simulate fireflies.
Our sheets are silk, with the scroll of my fingers
it has taken no work.

Tonight, darling,
the cake didn’t settle, it didn’t rain.
There has never been an argument
we didn’t both win.

My handwritten vows are whispered into your skin.