“Why don’t you write an essay?” I ask the husband I found at the University of Iowa’s Playwrights Workshop over 35 years ago. We had just floated on the updraft for a few months of a congratulatory email from the literary office of the O’Neill Theater: his play, Birdsong, a semifinalist for its 2019 National Playwrights Conference. But given that there were 200 semifinalists out of 1400 submissions, we were back in the existential drift of thirty some years of teaching writing to the inner city community college students the husband wanted to teach and our shared raising of “Frick and Frack,” twins beloved since their first smudges on that ghostly sonogram so many years ago. “You’re a shoe-in.”
Unearthing the Frail Children, Juxtaprose Literary Magazine
Mother says, “Absolutely nothing here. “
She is my traveling companion beneath this broken volcano named Guffy along an ancient lakebed once rife with petrified sequoia stumps and post-dinosaur insects. The stumps, except for one, “Big Stump,” that even the local Florissant officials of 1890 attempted to hack up and send to the Chicago World Fair, have long been pilfered by visitors prior to the designation of the site as the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. And the seventeen hundred fossil species of leaf, bird, and insect once roiling the air above this vanished lake have long turned to stone. read more
Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 2016, Honorable Mention for Breviaries of the Ghost.
This was supposed to be about the dying Western aspen and the long litany of their probable ailments: drought, SAD, leaf rollers, heart rot. And I was going to stand here, the whole time, with a bundle of cut saplings in my forlorn arms in this little forty acre mountain microcosm alongside Phantom Canyon, a winding road where once the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad carried gold the color of frost out of Victor and Cripple Creek mines. read more
Warned of, craved, the blizzard finally barrels across the ice dark street. The known world whittles down to black elm, chiseled hoar frost, and my breath against the slim windowpane, periodic circles of clarity against a gathering snow, a white space.
“I am not a poet,” my student informs me, not by text message or email, but by phone, landline phone. My enthusiasm over the metaphoric possibilities of this student’s obsession with bricks in her narrative on building a new house with her second husband has aroused a knee-jerk reaction—and it’s not a good one. . . .read more
I am thinking mushrooms because my sister, head tilted at her godless sister, has asked me if I always write of death. And because my new neighbors, in the draw just below our broken fence line, have scraped what I thought was Eight Mile Creek into a dam, a fishing hole they always “dreamed of.”
The end of summer here and I want to write of summer, how flowers remind us of what has risen: the delicate breath of those we loved gone under, a tendril of green we want to touch⎯ a bent petal, a circlet of seed.
But here is the mushroom. read more
The Winter Garden, Mother Earth Living
I wanted to write of dark earth singing, of spring’s ease and soft mouth flower, of birds in light step. But sometimes it is not spring we need, but winter, how it calls us from the walnut dark of our rooms to kneel in the unplowed gardens, carrying our stick leaf, musk thistle, hound’s-tongue. When my father died, it was not yet winter’s solstice, the sun trembling at the brink of the southern sky. “What do you believe in?” my husband asked me. And I thought of the white river of the Milky Way and read more
Talisman of the Whirlpool, essay published in Literary Mama:Readings for the maternally inclined
Their father floats his six-foot telescope between binary stars — talismans of the Whirlpool Galaxy. Twenty-four years, the whole of our marriage, longer than our daughters’ eighteen years, he has searched the darkest skies, searched for that smudge of spiral arm and star cluster, of dust cloud, and the black hole at this galaxy’s heart.
We are alone. Again.
This morning, the woman who owns Splendid Treasures, the antique shop in the ruins of an old mining town three miles up Phantom Canyon from here, calls us “Empty Nesters” and raises her arms in triumph.
“You did it,” she says, amidst the detritus of fallen households. read more
Afterward: a Draft, r.kv.r.y. quarterly literary review, essay and interview
In the early 1970s, ’71 or ’72, I think, (see how already the narrative breaks down), I was raped by a man I did not know.
I was 13 or I was 12. I was in the 8th grade or in the 7th, both years lost, only an image left, an English teacher, who had dyed black hair, who was kindly, who asked me in the middle of class one day if I were okay, if I needed to leave the room, to go home. She touched me on the shoulder, I want to say. (What is the right narrative?) I don’t know what I was doing or what I looked like to cause her such alarm; I only remember sitting on the end of the row nearest the door and her asking me if I were okay, and my mother telling me later (so even this is wrong; where is the silence I only remember?) that this teacher had had a daughter raped too and so she was concerned for me, she understood. I don’t know if a year had passed by then or if it were in the same year; I don’t know if I left the class or if I stayed. read more