I had never smoked in my life. Well, other than that one half pack of menthols in junior year of high school. Then I ended up giving the other half to my friend, Shania, who had encouraged me to buy the damn things to begin with . Go figure that thirty year later she would have her own lounge act in New York City, belting out retro tunes accompanied by a sole piano player. You just never know.

And here I was. Two years cancer free, managing to get myself to the gym almost daily, eating well (if not a bit decadently) and usually so much smarter than this, or, at least, I had hoped so, standing in a dark corner of the car park. Smoking a cigarette. Watching miniature clouds sweep around my head, the light from a quarter moon lighting it up like the fog in an old detective film.

The smoke was pretty, I’ll give you that, even as I imagined my alveoli going up in flame with each inhalation. The filter was almost warm between my fingers in soft contrast with the damp night air. The taste bitter and quite nasty to be honest, but I was pissed off, depressed and confused. My life was wonderful by most people’s accounts. A few days prior and I would have agreed with them. But something had shifted.

Nothing major had happened. No one had died, my grown kids were fine, my finances solvent . I’ve always found it funny but isn’t it true that often the most disconcerting changes are those small, subtle turnings under the surface? The ones that you barely feel until in a moment you blink and find that the angle of the world you thought you lived in has been moved just enough to throw you off balance. Much like taking a sip from your coffee mug only to discover someone served you mint tea instead.

And maybe that was it. Since the snow globe of my life had been shaken and all of the pieces seemed airborne, perhaps some part of me wanted to take the opportunity before the dust settled to do something I’d never done, to dabble in this minor self destructive rebelion and shake my fist at the universe.

Standing deep in the spidery shadows cast by the moon, I watched the last tendrils of pale blue dissipate before my eyes as my final exhale floated up to the stars. I dropped the glowing cherry onto the cold pavement, strangely compelling as the only warm in a sea of cool blue. And with one grinding of my shoe’s sole, the rebellion was vanquished.

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The Taste of Clay

I was born

with a Southern drawl

flowing from my lips

like rich red clay

during a summer downpour,

thick and shifting

with each emotion,

an open window to my heart’s hue,

with no mistaking the color of it’s source,

at once velvet liquid slip

flowing with a languid ease

in welcoming rivulets


the cracked ground

of a scorching summer afternoon

where you’d best watch your step

or risk tripping yourself up,

But the man on the t.v.,

he told me in no uncertain terms,

that the soil in my voice

coated me in ignorance and shame,

that I should wash myself clean.

He taught me

with his strict diction

and firm suggestions

of which of his products

could save me from myself

And good and diligent pupil that I was,

I learned.

Pulling my bare feet from the fertile mud

and rinsing away my ancestors,

I walked away.

Decades have passed

and my tongue grows thirsty so far from home,

yearning for the taste of red clay

during a summer rainstorm.

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We Are Not Made of Paper

I am not made of paper.

That’s what they want now.

Simple sheets, thin, manageable, slick to the touch.

Printed only on one side, shiny and bold.

The image can become reality, they say,

Such a strange flip from the days when art imitated life,

But we are not made of paper.

It takes work.

This cutting and pressing

-or is that suppressing?-

to render ourselves flat,

to strip away the flaws that make us ourselves,

They called it character once,


Yet sun and wind conspire to undo me,

reminding me that I am flesh,


caressing the roundness of solid form,

enticing perspiration and deep breaths with each stroke.

There will be no holding the pose,

I will leave none of my pieces on the editing room floor,

Life is only lived in three dimensions

or more,

through sweat and fumbles and the kind of laughter that makes tears spill

and faces crinkle,

with communion between our glances and the sky and the dirt between our toes.

For we will never be made of paper.

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White Roses

Solace is the onset of silence

in a world the can’t shut up,

The unexpected resonance of a breeze

making chaos of fresh, clustered leaves,

Eyes feasting on freshness,

drinking in primal yearnings

for growth, for life.

Breathing in satin flavors,

smooth, languid, sensual,

slow breaths and caressing eyes,

Hungry to not allow one wrinkle or blemish

to escape my notice,

worshiping all that I find.

Wondering at every perfection,

each new and different.


to those who move quickly

each may seem alike.


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Like silks saturated in gasoline,

My heart burns slow, dank yet ready to burst.

The poisonous glances of contempt thrown my way,

the low flying words,

rewriting a past

which to me seemed sun filled and light,

Woven into passages dripping with my failures

and weaknesses,

Wiping away all that I am.

Each word,

singeing rivulets of butane

work their way through the weave,

microscopic rivers

lifting the colors

from my silken marrow,

until my skin, blistered,

feels even caresses like flames.

So drowned,

I hold my breath,

fearful that one move to swim

and I will explode.


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I’m Sorry, I’m Not for Sale

Long ago, when this album (cassette!) made a regular appearance in my Walkman (like I said, long ago), my boyfriend at the time, perhaps in a need to impress, who can know, proudly told me he could get me a VCR for a good deal. Since all I could afford at the time was a pantry near the gourmet ghetto, I was excited. How fun it would be (if I could find a tv, lol) to actually be able watch movies during my hours off from school and work! How fancy. But when he brought it round, I was appalled.
“I’m sorry but I want it gone and back where it came from.”
It had the letters BUSD painted all over it in that official way school systems do…..
I was raised with the belief that the things of most value in your life are your integrity and personal moral compass, love and knowledge. Without a firm footing in the latter, or when present in excess, money, material possessions, and status, etc are more often distracting, enabling and corrupting than they are helpful.
While some may try, no one can take away your integrity, your knowledge or love and the only person who can shift your personal moral compass is you.


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Centering the Ballast and Leaving the Dock

Growth is a type of change. No change, by definition, means no growth. There can be a disconcerting instability to it at times, especially when, often, we human beings attempt to hold onto external sources of stability… money, a certain look, prestige within a group, material possessions, even (especially?) the labels we have allowed or taken on to define us. We cling to these superfluous external markers and by doing so get banged about, wounded and lost. Letting go (very different from actively “getting rid of” or negating) and finding our own internal guideposts to focus on, frees us from the friction of our own personal growth and experience rubbing up against the expectation, definition and experience of an often loud, busy and demanding external world.

“Who am I?”, “What is important to me?”

In our highly “connected”* society, I find that questions of this nature are increasingly answered with answers both complex and trendy, as though many are answering this question based not on inner observation and knowledge as much as responding to who their peers, latest self-help theory* or trend dictates they are (or should be). We add complexity that somehow makes us feel as though our findings are valid, when actually our desires and needs are fairly simple. And, once answered, there seems to be a desire for the answers to have a permanence or finality that then restricts further questioning or expansion.

But what if we challenged ourselves to actively break our answers down to their prime? Curiously questioning each phrase, each emotion triggered by our response, until we have chipped away all but it’s core? Doing this work privately, internally to stem the possibility of our answers being influenced by outer forces? Then starting the entire process over, much like our breathing… repetitive and life giving.

Think of it this way, your body is separate from your clothing in the same way that “you” are separate from your external attachments be it work, interests, friends, reputation, etc. Each day you choose what to put on. Sometimes with great care; other times without thought. While your clothing preferences can convey something about you to others, go through trends or favorites and differ depending on weather, mood or occasion, they can be removed, washed or gotten rid of when they no longer fit, are threadbare or when you change your preferences. Your body, on the other hand, is something you always “wear”, regardless of how it changes, grows or feels. Your body is the basic component of “you”, embodying (literally) defining physical features as well as the commonalities you share with every other life form on the planet.

The Self, is a purely subjective matter. Depending on whom you ask the Self can be described as a soul, energy, a core set of values, passions and connections or numerous other interpretations. While growth and change happen, you, your “self”, exists whether you have many friends or few; whether you have steady work or not; regardless of if your body is whole or broken, young or old, etc. Someone’s outer circumstances, just like clothing, can often reflect the inner self, and sometimes stimulate growth, but like clothing the inner self continues regardless of the external aspects of life. Through introspection and sussing out the core answers to questions like “Who am I?” or “What brings me joy?” then asking of those answers “Is that true?” or “Why?” and being in honest communication with ourselves can we shift the foundation from the unstable place of a self definition dictated to us by and dependent on outer sources to a simpler inner stability of self awareness, observation and acceptance.

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