Saturday, November 17, 2007


Sometimes in the morning
I lie awake
to the dawn
rustling the covers
arousing the birds.
I smell the night air
Still rich with our scent
Feel the warmth
of your breath
on my cheek and the
of your limbs
entwined with mine
I employ the
newness of my
senses before
their exposure to the sun
tarnishes them
and renders me
worn and jaded
to the dark
of the night

Train Ride

The last thing she wanted to do was get on that train, but she had no choice-it was the only way to get back home, and she DID want to go home. Still, she hesitated. Bookie and Wolf started yelling at her as the train jerked to life
"C'mon! If yer comin!!"
"Here we go!!"
She came to life with the sound of their voices and she realized they were slipping away down the track.
"COMING!!" she yelled suddenly wanting with all her might to be on that train.

The train was gaining speed and she ran along beside to catch up to the open door.

Bookie stuck his big black hand out and she grabbed it after slinging her kit into the darkness behind him.

"On 3" he called "1 - 2 - 3 - JUMP!" and she complied flying into the boxcar like a fish reeled in by an exuberant boy.

"Queenie," he said " I didn't think you would make it girl. Good 'un." He flashed a smile at her as Wolf struck a match and lit his hand rolled cigarette. The match eliminated his face - the darkness of his beard over shot with his oddly yellow eyes. It was his eyes that gave him his name - that and his silence.

Wolf and Bookie had been riding the rails for close to 30 years. They'd taken her under their protection when she'd been brought to the hobo camp by a dealer. Queenie they called her because her years as a scoliosis survivor had given her a ram-rod straight back. That was the only regal thing about her. Still, they had noticed and the accepted and protected her. A single woman on her own in their world was either an addict or a camp whore and she was neither. She was a college kid who had slipped out of her life - abducted by the lure of anonymity and perceived independence of life outside of the box.

Queenie settled back against her burlap bag of belongings. She curled her hand around the bottle Bookie passed her, took a swallow and began to sing. Wolf closed his eyes and Bookie smiled as she sang them through the darkness and into the dawns light.

By noon the next day they were in Iowa. She could feel the fall cold sneaking in underneath her as they pushed northward.

She nudged Bookie with her foot and he opened one eye. "Soon" she said. He sat up stretching a bit and looked at her "You sure, girl?"

Queenie nodded and then smiled - lighting her eyes with her certainty.

"Good, you're sure." he said catching her excitement "Okay, just remember to roll."

The train slowed as it entered Ames and when she saw the campus rail sign she crouched by the door. Then she was flying through the air. She hit the ground hard and her wind left her as she fell and rolled as Bookie had told her. As her breath came back it took a minute for her to realize that she'd stopped - that it was the train that carried the motion forward while she laid still. She lifted her head and waved at Bookie watching her from his perch in the boxcar now picking up speed on its way out of Ames.

Queenie stood and picked up her burlap bag. She shook out her hair and brushed the grass off of her soiled jeans. She turned toward campus and Queenie became Jera as she stepped back into her college student life.


The card had been mailed 12 years ago and had I received it then, things would have been so different. I opened it. The paper - air mail paper thin as onion skin - was brown with age and crackled beneath my finger tips.

Dear Jen,
I got your card yesterday. My darling, I miss you, too. Call the embassy when you get this and we'll work out the distance issue. We can be together always.
All my love,

Tears tracked slowly down my face. I'd written him telling him I loved him--that I couldn't go back to just friends, that I would give up my teaching job if he'd have me in Gambia. But, if that wasn't what he wanted, to let me go - to let me continue my life with out him in peace.

I'd waited a month after I thought he'd have gotten my card. Then another month. I don't remember eating during that time, but I do remember not breathing every time I opened the mail box. Day-after-day. Nothing.

So I'd gone on being single. Being me. Living with mom, taking over the house when she died. Teaching at the elementary school I'd attended as a child. Solitary life. Not a wife.

At 42 I no longer held my breath when I checked the mail. I'd long since stopped expecting a reply - just as I'd long since stopped living - just existing.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pocket findings....

I found the strangest thing in my pocket Well, maybe it wouldn't be strange for some people, but for a confirmed city dweller like me a fresh blade of green grass is not what I'd expected to find. I'd been looking for a kleenex to wipe the city grime from my face and found instead this interloper - this reminder of a life I'd chosen not to live.

I examined it. Vibrant green. An in-your-face kind of green that even the limes in the green grocers have the good sense to cover up with city dust. There were lighter veins of color, too. And when I squinted at the blade I could see an entire rainbow of color trapped in the slender stalk.

It was crisp like lettuce served on ice and, when I snapped it between my fingers it released a fragrance that was indescribable. Fresh, clean. It brought to mind a cotton sheet hung taut on a line, snapping in the bleaching sun.

How did it find its way into the pocket of my coat? How did it come survive the city and in its broken-ness -- its loss of roots -- seem to thrive? Where had I been that it could have inserted itself into my pocket like a parasite catching a ride on an unsuspecting host?

I looked at the blade of grass - now in two pieces - resting in the palm of my hand. I lifted it up so I could see it, the window and the city outside of the train car. Perhaps it was a commuter like me.

My stop. My two pieced new friend and I stepped onto the platform. I opened my hand and like the single sheet of newspaper or the plastic bag held aloft by unseen forces, the grass continued its commute on the wind.

It's over

She comes across as an extrovert but isn't really. Silence is what really feeds her - well silence and the sound of her own voice. She can spend hours on the phone driveling on about the most inane things. I can only listen with have an ear most of the time. I like it when she calls, but it does go on and on.

One day she was rambling about something and I put down the phone. I didn't hang up. I just set it down and went about my business. I picked up the receiver about 3 minutes later and said "Uh huh" and set it down again. I didn't know what she was on about and, when it came down to it, I didn't much care. We'd been together so long that I didn't think it would matter. I know it sounds callous now, but that was how I felt.

I guess that was where our ending starts for her. Me walking out on her when she was pouring out what she calls soul...what I call drivel.

For me the ending probably started with the first call.

Maybe it wasn't her, though. My self doubts never flag. Maybe it was the fact that our relationship was all about the phone. I don't have much patience with the phone. The spoken word is so ethereal that without the body language, it is fairly useless......

Sea Monkeys

"To get the most out of your relationship with your Sea Monkeys you will want to keep them out of the sun. For external use only."

What the heck? Like I would ingest or otherwise insert the tablets into my body so I could grow sea monkeys where I couldn't 'see' them.

"When they're inside me, where it's dark. I walk around like Noah's Ark..." The old song came back to me and I laughed out loud. My son looked up at me, his eyes serious "What does it say, Mommy?"

"It says not to eat the sea monkeys."

"Is that funny?"

"No, not really. It just reminded me of an old song about animal crackers."

"Can we make the sea monkeys?"


I picked up the fish bowl now devoid of fish since Freddy died 5 days ago. Colin, 5 was still saddened by his pal's demise. I'd bought the sea monkeys and a book at a toy store in town while Colin was at school hoping that they would take his mind off of Freddy. I continued reading the instructions. "Warm tap water. Remove the chlorine..." we had well water so that was unnecessary. I gave the open packet to Colin. He very carefully took the tablet out and said to it "I don't know why they put you guys in medicine, but I hope you like your new home."

He dropped the tablet into the fish bowl and together we watched the Sea Monkeys come to life.