Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Happiness is now
framed by golden light
an ebony cat sits still
in front of
spring rain
splattered windows
Silver clouds leave
leisurely over
the Pinion Range
Mother Nature
come outside
baby blue skies
moss brown hills
young sprouts
cautiously peeking
checking the chilled,
clean air
My cat lightly pads to the door
Looks expectantly at me
yellow eyes gleaming
how can you ignore
these summons
so out we step
into the Happiness
of Now

Christmas Eve Expectations

Christmas Eve Expectations

I watched my children pass out Christmas Eve gifts to the children in the terminally ill ward. We had bought them the day before. We wrapped them in colorful paper this morning, complete with ribbons and bows. Both my kids were excited to help the community in someway. It had been their idea planted by the pastor at church last Sunday and unintentionally by a story I had told them of my childhood. So they reminded me of a promise I had once made with my brother. I had been more than happy to help fulfill their giving spirits and placate my past ghosts. Now listening to the excited voices that reflected joy and no pain from their illnesses, I was very glad again and fell into reminiscing. . .

It took Johnny and me longer than usual to arrive at the train station. The snow had fallen silently, but fast last night. There was only a thin hard crust on top and it couldn’t hold us up. I had sunk knee-deep and struggled to get out. It left me with souvenirs of clingy, balls of ice on my boot laces, dark grey wool skirt and the edges of my matching jacket. I’d semi-grumpily decided that it was pointless to pick them off. If the ice remained the same consistency, then I’d only collect more on the way home. Plus my gloves were too thin to handle getting any wetter. Sighing forcefully enough to see my breath, I focused on the fact that Johnny and I were in the same spot as last year. I could tell because of the weirdly bent nail. It reminded me of a hunched over old gnome. Glancing around, I wondered if everyone was in the same spot as last year. I could see that the Murray twins were across from us, just like previous time. They were staring hard down the tracks. I followed their gaze down the endless black line. The frosted rails seem to shiver in cold excitement with me. Soon the train would rush toward us, spraying ice and snow into a thick mist. We would scream in delight knowing when it settled, the most important car, the one in last place, would appear. The Red Caboose that contained the rich man and his overwhelming generosity.

My brother, Johnny, causally chatted with his friend, Ryan. They were both older by five years. This would be their last year to receive the gift. I checked to see if they were sad. But their faces were a study of feigned indifference. The only thing giving them away was when their eyes darted furtively down the line. Then they would mask it with a look of contempt if anyone intercepted their glance.

Ignoring them, I decided to imagine how the big the shiny silver boxes would be this year. Would they be small enough to fit one hand? Two? Would it be too big to hold like last year? I had trouble walking home because I couldn’t see over the top. I contemplated if I wanted, when the package was shaken, for it to jingle or sound muffled? This year I was hoping for muffled!

Oh, how the air bit at my nose and snuck into the openings of my old clothes. However, sensing the time was at hand, I refused to let it dampen my spirits. Yanking my coat down, and rubbing my hands up and down my arms I smiled joyfully at the noon day sun. It made the glittering, white snow twinkle and tease, “Soon, soon!”

My ears perked up, I turned my head and strained my neck to look down the thousand miles of steel. I could see it, the black-gray smoke signaling the engine’s efforts in its rhythmic approach! I yelled ecstatically with all the others, “I see it, I see it!”

Eagerly pressing forward with the crowd, my arms outstretched. We all were reaching for the carousel ring. Some of our arms were longer, some shorter, but all were the same length in desire. I wondered if he thought we looked like a horizontal forest reaching for a tilted sky. Our limbs waiting in catch positions, for the silver rain to fall!

There was organization to the chaos. For we all knew the routine. Grab it and move out of the way! I could hear paper ripping behind me already! My body tingled as my turn came, “Don’t miss!” I prayed silently through my frosty breath.

The man in the navy wool coat looked directly at me. My dancing eyes followed his lift and strong toss. He grinned widely as I barely caught the package and then pulled it in tight. I shouted my thanks and hurriedly moved out of the way. The other noisy, scrambling children surged forward to replace us. I searched for my brother behind the throng. He was holding his package, gently turning it this way and that, savoring every minute of his last one. I walked slowly and thoughtfully toward him. I was not in a hurry to invade his moment. Lifting my box to my ear, I shook it carefully and then harder, when I decided it wasn’t fragile. There was a satisfying sound of muffl-i-ness.

I reached Johnny and his eyes met mine and we answered the age old question, “Yes, we will wait until Christmas morning to open them!” We walked back home in silence. So I took the time to study my box thoroughly. The silver wrapping paper was crumpled from where I caught it. The blue velvet bow was crushed from my hug. But I didn’t care that it wasn’t in perfect condition. I was content with the knowledge that I got two gifts, today the receiving and tomorrow the opening.

We returned home, chilled from the setting sun, but warm with gratitude. Johnny and I place our presents in front of the fireplace. We rushed to bed, but we made sure we thanked God that there was someone out there who cared enough to make our lives a little bit better simply because they had so much. We also vowed out loud that someday, we would do the same.

Startled out of my memories by the loud chorus of, “Thank you, Dr. Jenny Upton, Johnny and Mary! Merry Christmas!” I responded with, “You’re welcome and may we all have many more!” Now misty eyed, I tried not to remember too hard that Johnny joined the army and died in the war. He never got to fulfill his promise and I almost forgot to fulfill mine. I whispered to him, “I swear I will do this every year from the both of us.”


(a writing assignment for a class that was inspired by Cynthia Rylant's, Silver Packages)

Let the Past Go

I'm supposed to
let the past go
It's so hard
It tempers every decision
every knee-jerk reaction
All become suspect
because of one

So my now, my future
 though innocent
'til proven
gets blamed
for shades of meaning
I attach to words
are simply
what you say
nothing more
nothing less
But I fear
imaginary hurts
and condemn you
my soul-mate
to be hanged
and me to
live in pain
for I cannot
let the past go


I will 

trust you 

until you hurt me 

and then 

 you will wonder 

what happened 

to my innocence 

as I pull 

your shallow knife 

from my back, 

hand it back to you clean.

For I will not turn the other cheek, 

but I will not sink to your level. 

Be wary of me 

for when I strike, 

it will be justfied 

and it will have been you 

who have sunk the knife 

into yourself

by your own actions.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Shot in the Dark

The abyss is
so very dark 
and deceptive
hiding death
beneath its
liquid surface
an accumulation of
all negative emotions
Reflectively alive and
waiting expectantly,
for the ones
who think
they are above
such things

the ones
who lived
using others' pain
as their 
for their houses 
of evil

even in the face
of the Reaper's
impartial grin
and beckoning
skeletal finger
hovering above
midnight stillness
of the infamous
lake of time
they deny it
bloody flesh,
ground up bones, 
broken dreams
embedded in their feet
dripping from 
outstretched hands
pleading their guilt, 
their sociopathic 
behavior away

Its hollow voice
through their souls
indifferently asking

To Heaven
or to Hell?
Pray mortal
for what 
made you think
could walk on water
on the way to eternity

frozen eyes reflect
the cool blue sky
a contrast to
their terror
rising as
they are
mercury-like tar
oozes around
naked ankles
pulling them down
no time to drown

realization hits
too late
the first shot
the one that
damned them
to be one
with the shadows
was when
they took their
the first victim -

The metallic tones
of the Reaper
vibrates with their body's
violent shivers

It laughs

So, do you still think 
you're above all these
Especially now
you're alone
with the karmic bullet
traveling toward you
in the dark?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Don't Block the Sun

"It was colder than. . ." I stop my complaining and stare at my companion.  Realizing sadly, I have had nothing but complaints since arriving in San Fransisco two days ago.  Perhaps I should compare the weather to my heart.  Dead heavy like Alcatraz.

She looks at me questioningly from under the straw hat I got her from Chile. I shrug and point to a pelican effortlessly skimming the cat paws.  She's temporarily distracted.  We lean over the pier railing and watch its progress towards the beach.  Both of us smile as it lands, stretches it wings in a blanket of white, neatly bringing them into settle.

The buzzer in my pocket tells me the table is ready.  We head into the restaurant and the tiny waitress bobs her head in welcome.  She reminds me of a sand piper as she skirts between the tables, her bare legs moving to the rhythm of the search.  I acknowledge her triumph for seating us at a prime spot. She beams at me and flourishes the menus. Her voice high as she quickly rattles off the specials.  Thanking her, I scan the choices.  Nothing appeals to me, hunger seems to belong to the past.  I impatiently shove the sticky plastic to the side while listening to my friend moan and groan in delight over the numerous seafood dishes.  Normally, I feel amusement and pleasure in treating her to a lifestyle I take for granted.

Sitting by the window is a huge relief.  I can feel  panic rise at being indoors with so many around.  These walls slant too much.  I feel like they could fall any second.  Looking out to the sea, the far horizon has my complete attention.  I attempt to slow my breath.  Sunset takes over, happening in its typical Hollywood cliche.  That thought does nothing to calm me.  I scoot my chair back involuntarily, rising abruptly until my ice blue eyes meet two chocolate brown ones with ridiculously long lashes.  Why don't I feel relief that these are alive and well, and telling me that reprieve from the inquisition is now over.  I reluctantly sit.

"Miri,"  her voice concerned and firm.  "I order you, as your best friend, to tell me what happened last week."

My voice catches.  "Cassie!" Shake my head in denial.  Images flash insistently across my mind.  I can't stop the ticker tape alerts that want their information known.  I want to be able to have her reach in and tear the lifeless, joyless weight from my chest.  Expose it to the world and maybe there would be someone who could fix it. Or at least bury it. The words are not forthcoming.

Her voice soft, "I know I wasn't there, but reading an article on you . . . the lousy explanation they gave!"  The tears coming down her face, leaving trails, pushing the powder to the edge of her chin, reminds me of. . .

The mud and debris doesn't hide everything.  The slide shoved everything together.  Jumbling living and non-living together.  Giant bulldozer run by Mother Nature's' indifference.  Everyone's dirty grim faces try not to imagine what pieces of cloth showing through might still be attached to.  

I stand on top of what I think is the crumpled remains of one of the many touristy shops I was in yesterday.  My news crew and I carefully pick our way across the devastation.  No one wants to add to the noise. Sounds of workers, wailing, dogs barking, boats, and various vehicles all blend to the background.  

Uneasy, I turn to face the ocean.  Intuition leads me to a spot in the middle of the street.  Something catches my ear.   I think I hear a small voice, muffled under two walls.  A rescuer is walking lightly across the top of the leaning one. I could see the one caving under his weight.  Plaster raining down.  The voice in my soul urges haste.  Hurrying over, I yell in Spanish, "no se muevan la pared va a caerse!"  The worker stops and inches his way back down.  In my limited Spanish, I frantically point under the wall.  He gets that I heard a voice.  Yelling for more help.  We all begin to move what we could.  Sounds of pain reaches us.  We cheer and begin shouting reassurances.  

I find the body of an adult male first.  Rolling him out of the way, I find her.  Maybe six years old?  I recognize her.  She was in the same shop, yesterday, with her dad.  They were buying her big brother a gorra azul.  His old baseball cap was too dirty.  I happened to be buying my best friend a Chupallas to use as a beach hat.  We talked briefly.  Both her and father teasing me for being country.

"Me llamo Miri.  Me recuerdas? Como te llamas?"  She grins and winces.  Her front teeth are missing.  I wonder if she'll get them for Christmas.  I try to smile, realizing that's an American thing.  Then my tears threaten to come.  Her legs are wrong.  She's broken, barely alive.  I doubt she'll see tomorrow.  I want to move her, but I'm afraid until she whispers, "Por favor, queiro ver el sol." 

A rescuer taps me on the shoulder.  Our faces show our agreement of the situation.  I lift her, she whimpers a little in pain, her legs dangle useless over my arms.  Her chest doesn't rise much with breath.  She raises her hand, in it is her brother's blue baseball cap.  I remember, they were to give it to him when they returned home. . .today!  My tears fall freely now, I have my gift safe in the van.  

I walk her to the place in the road where I first heard her.  The afternoon sun is brillant.  My crew has been filming the whole time.  I feel rage at the intrusive cameras.  Turning my back to them.  I sit with her in my arms. Eyes flutter open, hazel, fringed with black.  Eyes that will soon see God.  I tenderly stroke her face, moving her hair off her face.  Her parched lips move, I lean forward, she presses her brother's cap into my hand.  At her last whisper, I lean back and let the sunlight touch her face.  She sighs.  Happiness, relief and stillness become her death mask.

"She never gave me her name."  Cassie grabs my hands across the table.  We're both weeping, my heart melting into emotion.  "She said, as she handed me the hat, 'Gracias, Senora, no quiero morir en la oscuridad.  Thank you, I didn't want to die in the dark.'"

Your Band

Music takes you away from me
the louder it plays, the further you go
When it ends. . .what then?
You return, content
reeking of smoke, stale sweat
other girl's scent
And I'm at home alone
babies asleep
tears unshed
sleepless in a huge bed
The times you return 
are never the same
But you return
to me
my eager embrace
inspite of an accusatory face
I welcome you
love, relief and now
I can sleep
feel safe
until the next time
you go
and then once again

Saturday, March 6, 2010

All the Same

It all sounds the same 
in the end
serious reflection
the stylized retell
the vocabulary
may differ
the stories are mine 
and they are yours
how you know me so well
I am you or are you me
time will show 
as we end 
our lives
in the same way
taking our last breath
of Earth's

Thursday, March 4, 2010

No Corruption of Evidence

I wait
a bullfrog
in pond muck
clear golden eyes

I know
he's the fly
drawn to death's
to prove life
he buzzes close
tempting fates

air currents
alert the prosecuter
the defendant 
is guilty

The stillness
of stagnant waters
bubble gum pink
lashes out
lightening quick
delivers the sentence

life for a life

and no
of evidence

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Your rage 
injures me
my pain
poisons you
We shouldn't
be together

I cry constantly
you leave
The knife 
is buried

My rage
injures you
Your pain
poisons me
We shouldn't
be together

You snarl
I weep
The arrows
straight through

We killed
so slowly
Love died
so ugly
and yet,
we stayed