Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Lifespan of a Cricket

 My essay "The Lifespan of a Cricket" is published in Amethyst Review. Click here  to read. Thanks to the editor of this lovely journal.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Monday, June 15, 2020

Mourning Dove & a Ghazal

My poem "Mourning Dove" appears in this beautiful issue of the Boston Literary Magazine. You need to scroll down a bit.

Another poem of mine appears in Trouvaille Review. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Confessions of a Vulnerable

“Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”
                  Max Ehrmann

I’m one of the “at risk,” “vulnerables.” I don’t add “elderly.” It’s enough that word even exists as it evokes images of wizened, warty, bent-backed beings with white hair or no hair, and perhaps two remaining teeth. People only look like that in a Dickens novel. I’m also one of the people some want to sacrifice in order to rescue the economy. I do not comment on those individuals as that would be like trying to have a dialogue with fudge. The stereotype of women in my age group surrounded by doilies and teacups, little ‘ole ladies wearing little ‘ole lady dresses, the inevitable afghan circling their tiny shoulders doesn’t quite work for me. I’m wearing a hot pink top and tight jeans as I write this. Many in the media often refer to seniors so patronizingly, I consider getting the news by accessing a Ouija board. What is it about some young’uns that makes them relate to older folk as if we have the I.Q. of a tangerine?

In spite of the above, there are some very positive things about being older. The first and greatest advantage is that you can finally do what you always wanted to do - full time. If you are fortunate enough to have spent your life doing what you love, just be quiet (surrendering envy is one of the things I’m still working on). Whether it’s reading those forty-seven books you ordered from Amazon, gardening, learning a language, painting a room or a canvas, writing a memoir, getting involved in local politics, enjoying every play, opera, ballet, or concert in the history of the world, the choices are there.

Another remarkable gift of aging is the joy of forgiving those who were absolutely shitty to you because, you know what, it really doesn’t matter anymore. You can also, I add with a hint of caution, have wine and cookies for supper. Of course, a definite downside to seniorhood is that when you go to bed at night you can’t help wondering if you’ll wake up the following morning. When you do, the scrambled eggs taste so awfully good and your dog peeing on the brand new sofa (he’s a senior too) seems almost amusing. Almost.

My mother told me I “think too much.” A teacher I had said I was “too intellectual” – a singularly peculiar remark to make to a student. When a friend referred to me as “a giant brain,” I imagined aliens disembarking their spacecraft. They all had shockingly oversized heads. I was one of them! I assure you that I am not a giant brain. I could not define a scalene triangle if the Lord himself appeared and asked me to. My normal size brain loves reading giant souls like Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and Dickens. I'm spending my retirement rereading books I love and finding new books to love.

I confess I’ve let go of some of “the things of youth” reluctantly, without an ounce of grace, and I’m holding on to others like a toddler with a teddy bear. I miss being pretty (I haven’t surrendered vanity). I didn’t even know I was pretty till I opened a photo album and saw this attractive young woman who used to be me. I knew I’d turned a corner when people started calling me "ma’am" and asking if I’d like the senior discount. And I miss planning for the future. At my age, I am the future.

I’m going to end this blog post now as I’m rather pleased with it. Oops, apparently, I haven’t relinquished pride yet either. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. One hopes.

Image:  © Volha Kusakina/

Monday, May 18, 2020

All My Children Have Fur

Judging from the tsunami of pet photos on social media during this pandemic, a great many of us are being comforted by a feline or a canine companion. Oh, there were plenty of pet photos and videos posted before the coronavirus but the number has increased a thousand-fold, probably more.

All my children have always had fur. When I was seven years old, a tabby named Gingle, named for the warning bell on his collar, was my pal. Gingle was an outside cat which meant he lived inside the house, usually at the foot of my bed, but did his “business” outside. Unfortunately, the warning bell wasn’t always effective and, to my horror, he’d often greet me with a dead sparrow between his tiny teeth. My mother thought Gingle clever because when he wanted to come back inside after an evening of hunting or romance, he would jump onto the window box and tap the window to be let in. Our family would be watching an episode of Perry Mason and all at once Gingle would be tapping. My funniest memory of this striped cat was the night he brought a chum home. My childhood was in that long ago when people actually left their windows open at night. Whenever it was clear that the whole family had gone to bed, Gingle would hop through the open window in my bedroom and sleep beside my feet. One night, I woke to find two cats by my feet. I made a sound of surprise that startled the cat away. Perhaps, after a night of gallivanting, Gingle indicated to his friend, “Why not come home with me? The bed is comfy and the feet are always warm.”

I found Tabby (I get better with pet names later in life), foraging for food by trash cans. In my twenties and in my first marriage, I put together an elegant dinner party that, because of Tabby, didn’t quite work out. The marriage didn’t work out either. The evening I’m recalling, I’d prepared prime rib, roasted potatoes, fresh vegetables, and cheesecake for dessert. The table was set with my best tablecloth, china, crystal, and silver with a centerpiece of fresh flowers. And of course, candlelight. Everything was so elegant and perfect that my husband and I couldn’t help feeling a tad proud of ourselves. Our guests were new friends, a young doctor and his lovely wife. Enjoying our first glass of wine, the four of us were suddenly startled by Tabby jumping onto and running across the table. She had a white rectangular thing hanging from her mouth – a Kotex pad she’d somehow gotten out of its box! I don’t remember what I said in total embarrassment, probably something inelegant. The doctor laughed and said “Your kitten just got her ovaries!”

Middle-aged when I met my husband Victor, I was a pet parent to two Russian Blues, a sister and brother named Tania & Puck. These beautiful gray, green-eyed cats had been my companions for almost a decade. I remember thinking they were voice-activated because when I complimented them from across the living room, they’d purr in response as if acknowledging my appreciation. Unfortunately, Victor was allergic to cats. Eventually, I did have to give the cats away. Victor had been hospitalized several times because of his allergy so there was no kidding ourselves. A woman I knew took both Tania and Puck – and a piece of my heart. Victor was not allergic to dogs. Cue the entrance music for shelter dog Ollie!

Ollie, whose lineage baffled even our vet, was a pug mix who had a terrier’s face, a pug’s body (including the curly tail), and dachshund legs. He also looked just a teeny bit like Winston Churchill. Ollie was definitely Victor’s dog. They were inseparable. Victor said Ollie was his Mrs. Danvers. Ollie, our sweet little hodgepodge barely tolerated me but I loved him anyway.

Pip, a poodle mix known as “the napkin eater,” ate tissues, bathroom tissue, and even several pages of the Bible (the New Testament). My husband and I could not place a paper napkin on our laps. Forgetting to be vigilant about Pip's paper ploys resulted in shredded and dog-gobbled napkins or an unfinished Sermon on the Mount. What is it about dog’s and paper?

Darby, the dog of my heart is a Maltese, a breed known for excelling at snuggling. He’s snuggling beside me right now. Unlike Ollie, Darby never played favorites and loved Victor and me equally, allowing us both to spoil him daily. It’s quite possible Darby is the only dog who is served his meals on Wedgwood china. The runt of the litter when a puppy, the little chap weighed less than two pounds when he “arrived” in my home. Even a cat bowl was too large for him. The only thing small enough was a Wedgwood saucer. Darby is five now and apparently appreciates the finer things in life as he still prefers the good china.

On September 12, 2018, Victor passed away from cancer. One morning, reading an especially beautiful passage in a book on prayer, I was overcome with grief and began sobbing. I was sitting on the right side of the sofa, and Darby was on the opposite end. The second he heard me cry, he walked over to me, nestled beside me, kissed my hand several times, and rested his head on my lap. This is why we have pets.

Perhaps Socrates had a dog, one with soulful eyes. I like to think that Christ’s first follower might have been a playful puppy.

I have to end this blog now because it’s time for me to post a photo of Darby on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Strange Time

We live in a strange time when even a puppy receives death threats,[1] and corrupt leaders are shielded from justice. There are shining exceptions, but for the most part, honor and truthfulness seem quaint concepts from a long-ago era. It is easy to be swept into the current cynicism. It is easy to feel disheartened.

I will never understand trophy hunters or white supremacists. I no longer try. No matter how many photos and videos of adorable toddlers, puppies, kittens, beautiful landscapes, and seascapes appear on social media, the posts of killers and those who apparently long to kill are also there.

And yes, Secretary of State Pompeo, I do “care about Ukraine.”[2] For years, Ukrainians (and Russians) have read my blog and my poetry. Certainly, if some people in Ukraine are thoughtful enough to read the poems of an unknown poet, I can care about their safety. And would, if the only thing I ever wrote was a grocery list. There is a geography of the heart where compassion has no boundaries, and fairness is understood.

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Robert Kennedy was assassinated. But what
could not be killed is the reality of their personal courage, truthfulness, and honor.

I am disheartened but I refuse to despair.

[1] Narwhal, the “unicorn puppy” with a small tail on his forehead, received online death threats.
[2] “You think Americans care about Ukraine?” – Mike Pompeo