Sunset fairies

January 17, 2015

My last (or maybe second-to-the-last) first cousin on my mom’s side passed away today. My mind is all over the map trying to take that in.

For the first 25 years of my life there was always a cousin Linda. She was the first person besides hospital staff and me to hold my son. She probably held me when I was a newborn.

My sister and I thought Linda was as beautiful as a fairy princess back in the 60s with her tiny waist and full skirts, her sunset hair and paler-than-possible skin. She babysat us and her boyfriend (later husband) used to help me color the hard parts in my coloring book. She shared her bottle of Pepsi with me and my sister, which was a huge treat since soft drinks weren’t on the menu around our house growing up.

Linda and I briefly became running buddies once I turned 21. I don’t mean “running” like in yoga pants and sneakers, I mean we ran the bars together, drinking cheap white zin and dancing to Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle” (which is impossible to dance to sober, have you noticed?) with random California cowboys. Harmless fun, good times.

I haven’t laid eyes on my cousin for 33 years. How is that possible? And now she’s moved on. The princess of a girl who loved her ragamuffin cousin. The fiery redhead who hated another older girl cousin of ours for the later’s shoddy treatment of me – Linda hated Dorothy on my behalf and you just can’t buy that kind of friendship, I don’t care what color your credit card is.

I cried for a long time today. I still cry on and off as I write this. It’s obviously not because I “miss” Linda; she and I haven’t been besties for 33 years. It’s because I feel the biggest drawbridge imaginable just slammed shut between the first quarter-century of my life and where I stand today. Even more than losing our grandparents, aunts, uncles, this loss cuts close. I assume that’s because Linda and I are relatively close in age, and there’s that whole “if she went then I must be next” thing. Or something like that. Or maybe it’s because this is the first time in my entire life that I’m standing in a world where my cousin isn’t also standing.

But since I’m among friends I’ll say this in a whisper: I think Linda’s passing has shaken me up so much because I just found out that fairy princesses are mortal. That can’t be right. That just can’t be right.

Slevin Starlight

September 2, 2014

You fade to starlight
And the years get lost in the ribble and rabble of every day and
I wonder,
When did you grow old?
Was I working, distracted, oblivious?
Was I caught up in the nothing when you started to fail?

Years so short to me,
So long to you,
And perhaps it’s best that I haven’t noticed,
That you kept your fatal secret,
That time crept silently upon us
Or my heart would have been years in the breaking.

You fade to starlight
As other, younger ones come along to grab at my heart
But never like you.
Never like you.

You are my starlight, fading.

This is in response to, “A Letter to Liberals” by author Michael Charney. His blog can be found here:

Hello, Mr. Charney –

Let me take a moment of your time to introduce myself. I’m a West Coast transplant currently living in Oklahoma, in a smallish town about 30 miles east of Oklahoma City. I live in a single-family home with my boyfriend and two dogs. Being older than you, we have no children left in the nest. Our sons are married with sons of their own and are living on opposite coasts.

Our house is very simple. It’s a good 75 years old, perhaps older. The plaster interior walls can’t completely hide the round vents that give evidence to the fact that this house was once heated by woodstoves. It’s a small place, less than 700 square feet with two bedrooms and one bathroom. The plumbing gives us problems sometimes, but in the six years I’ve lived here the landlord has always been quick to repair any issues that arise. I believe so firmly in living within my means that the rent is always easy to pay – on time, every single month. My landlord deserves his money no less than I deserve what I work for. We have a small HDTV on which we stream movies via Roku and Netflix because I refuse to pay for cable television – just another example of making sure we always live within our means.

Do you hate me? No? Then I feel safe in asking you to continue reading.

Like you, I work in Human Resources. I’m the payroll manager for a minority-owned security company that boasts a sterling reputation among our industry peers, employees, and customers. I’m also the published author of short fiction and non-, one young adult novel, one novella, and more ghastly poetry than you can shake a stick at. Seriously. I’m the worst poet since Rod McKuen. (At least no one can blame me for “MacArthur Park”.) I’ve always worked, often more than one job at a time. Staying home to raise my son was never an option and I’m not sure I would have done so even if given the chance, but I certainly don’t revile women who choose a career as homemaker and mom. That’s the lovely thing about the little movement called “Women’s Liberation” that came out of the 70s. Women are free to pursue professional careers or raise children. Typically we do both.

Are you hating me yet?

We are a spiritual family. My boyfriend is a Vietnam-era veteran who still embraces much of his Southern Baptist upbringing. Although I was raised Lutheran, for almost 20 years I’ve practiced a little religious philosophy you may have heard of called “witchcraft”. Surprisingly to some, not surprisingly to others, my boyfriend and I have no problem reconciling our beliefs. You see, we both believe in cherishing the earth and loving every single creature that walks, crawls, flies, swims or slithers across its surface. (Well, maybe the b/f isn’t so fond of things that slither. That’s okay. His heebie-jeebies didn’t stop him from helping me safely remove the snake we found in our bathroom last year. That’s the grand thing about love: It overcomes the heebie-jeebies every time. I adore him for that.) I don’t need weekly sermons to remind me that the Creator expects me to obey a certain moral code because that code is simple: Love one another. Help one another. Be good to one another. If you listen closely, I think you’ll hear the words of the wise and wonderful man you call your savior, Jesus of Nazareth, in those rules.

The other week when a little girl crashed her bike in the street outside of my house, I ran over to her. I helped her to her feet, examined her boo-boos, and walked her home to her mother. Contrary to what some might believe about “my kind”, I did not whisk her off to become the weekly sacrifice at a local witches’ coven. Witches don’t practice human sacrifice, nor do we worship satan. In fact, we don’t even believe such an entity exists.

Are you hating me now? Silently or overtly?

I don’t recognize any church dogma which tells me how I should feel about gay marriage or abortion. Among a multitude of other blessings, the Creator gave me a wonderful combination of intelligence and compassion that allows me to come to my own conclusion about such things. When it comes to gay marriage, I don’t care who is marrying whom as long as only consenting adults are involved. Any loving couple (or sextet or octet, I don’t care) who choose to commit their lives to each other are welcome to do so as far as I’m concerned. In fact, I rarely give the matter any thought at all. When it comes to abortion, I have stronger opinions, but when it comes down to where the rubber meets the asphalt, it’s not my place to make a decision for any other woman or to cast judgment on her for her choices no matter how far removed they might be from choices I’d make for myself.

How about now? Do you wish I didn’t exist?

To sum it all up, I’m a single mom and grandmother who lives her life with a quiet determination to abide by the Pagan Rede: Do no harm. And more than that, I try to do small, good things when I have the chance, although I confess that I don’t go out of my way looking for opportunities for demonstrating compassion. The opportunities seem to find me as often as necessary to remind me that we’re all in this together, and if we don’t start acting like it, we’re in big trouble as a country and as a species.

No, I don’t hate you Mr. Charney, and I never did. I hope the goodwill is mutual. The only complaint is that your “A Letter to Liberals” was admittedly not autobiographical, and I question why not. This piece, “A Letter to Conservatives” is entirely my story. My life is open to scrutiny and I can tell you right off the bat that anyone looking will find both good there and bad. I’ve done wrong, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life and some of them were fairly egregious. I guess that’s what being human is all about.

I guess we’re not so different after all, are we?

VA Stories

March 30, 2013

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the VA Hospital since Mickey moved in. “A lot” translates to maybe eight day-long trips while Mickey had various ailments looked into including a broken shoulder (mea culpa) and cataract surgery. So it’s not like it’s become my second home, but eight visits is a lot to someone who eschews hospitals and had never been to a VA hospital even once prior to 2010.

An amazing thing about the VA hospital is the cross section of society you meet there. I expected to see veterans, yes, but the word “veteran” conjured a very definite mental image in my mind that I’ve discovered was nowhere near the truth. Yes, you meet the almost stereotypical dignified, white-haired veteran with the carefully coiffed wife sitting quietly by his side, but you also meet the crazy Nam vet with the greasy hair who’s cussing everyone, the pockets of black veterans speaking in slang that I can only understand a fraction of, young men with empty eyes, dying men with eyes full of pain, young women vets who carry an incredible amount of pride on their tiny frames, and lesbian vets who think a tall woman like me is the cat’s meow for some reason. And the most amazing thing of all is how many of them (white-haired vets with coiffed wives excluded) seek me out to tell me their stories. Amazing stories. Wonderful stories.

Yesterday it was Henry. An elderly black man that I had a hard time understanding at first, until he whitened-up his vocabulary enough for a pasty person like me to follow, which I thought was very sweet of him, considering that I was just another middle-aged white woman in the human sea that is the ER waiting room. He started out telling me that he’d taken almost no game this year. His eyes filled with regret. Not one single deer. I didn’t tell him that I’m a vegetarian, I just let him talk. He talked about going out hunting with his brother-in-law and bagging about a dozen rabbits, then discovering that dialysis had made him too weak to carry them out. There he was, he explained, in the “woods” with a dozen freshly killed and gutted rabbits and him too weak to take them home. But thankfully his brother-in-law hiked out for help and someone brought a truck and he got those rabbits home; he wasn’t sure why he bothered since his wife couldn’t cook a decent rabbit stew even after all these years of him bringing them home.

He told me about how in his time he wasn’t allowed further east than 8th street. “Your mama wouldn’t let you?” I asked. My own naivete astounds me sometimes.

No, it wasn’t his mama. It was the whites. Unless a black man was hauling garbage or mowing lawns, he wasn’t allowed past 8th Street.

Then he told me how he missed beans. Lord, how he missed beans. Something about the potassium in beans being deadly when you’re on dialysis, so he couldn’t have them any more. He remembered coming home from school and his mama would have a big pot of beans on the stove and a huge pan of cornbread, and you didn’t want to be late getting home or you wouldn’t get seconds.

And he told me about how he listened to the staff at the VA talking to people and how he was convinced the world had no sense left at all any more.

He asked me if I wanted to go outside for a cigarette. I didn’t want a cigarette, but I wanted to go with him, so we did. And we stood on a veranda under multiple “No Smoking – $75 Fine for Violators” signs while he smoked an unfiltered cigarette with hands misshapen by age.

He told me that being married to a military man was a special responsibility (I didn’t bother to tell him that Mickey and I aren’t married – I don’t think that was the point) and that he hoped I understood. I told him that I wasn’t sure if I did or not, but that I would try to understand better than I had before.

Then we went back inside and we watched the news and Henry got me laughing so hard about Obama flying B-52s over Korea that I’m sure I disturbed the people around us.

And then Mickey came out of the back and I said good-bye to Henry. We won’t meet again in this world, I’m sure and I’m sure he was sure of the same thing. It was in his eyes.

Coolest thing ever written

December 10, 2012

Shakespeare, Richard II, Scene III, Act ii

Of comfort no man speak!
Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs,
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth.
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills.
And yet not so — for what can we bequeath,
Save our deposèd bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke’s,
And nothing can we call our own but death
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings!
How some have been deposed, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,
Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping killed —
All murdered; for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp;
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be feared, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life
Were brass impregnable; and humored thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence. Throw away respect,
Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty;
For you have but mistook me all this while.
I live with bread like you, feel want, taste grief,
Need friends. Subjected thus,
How can you say to me I am a king?


October 23, 2012

(Originally published by Everyday Weirdness)

Nicole realized she was dying when she saw the person approaching on the ice.

At first she thought help had finally arrived, that someone on the snowy hiking trail one hundred yards to the east heard her cries. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been immersed in the frigid water, but she reasoned that it had surely been long enough for a rescue team to find her.

She glanced at Sebastian. He sat patiently on the surface of the frozen lake, staring at her with wise canine eyes. “Gonna be alright, Bass,” she whispered. A whisper was all she could manage; her ability to shout froze almost immediately after she plunged through the ice. “Help’s coming. Gonna be okay.”

The dog looked over his shoulder at the approaching figure. His tail thumped softly.

“Careful,” Nicole tried to warn the person. “The ice…” It was too much effort, so she laid her head on the outcropping between her senseless hands and watched.

It was a woman coming across the ice, a woman in a full-skirted sundress with a sweetheart neckline. The dress was white with a gay pattern of small red parasols scattered across it. The woman wore red sandals and as she drew near Nicole could see that her toenails were painted crimson.

Nicole’s shoulders hitched. “No,” she moaned, “no, no, no.”

The woman stopped. Her red sandals were just inches from Nicole’s head. “Hi, Nicky.”

“Not like this,” Nicole gasped. “Nana, not like this.”

Nana Beth sat on the ice between Nicole’s outstretched arms, gracefully sweeping her skirt under her. She patted Sebastian’s head and smiled at the dying woman. “There are worse ways, darlin’. And, well, you really were asking for this.” She added as an afterthought, “Or something like it.”

She reached into the pocket of her dress for a pack of cigarettes. She lit one and blew out a thin line of smoke. “You came out walking alone, at dusk, on a frozen lake, and you’re thirty pounds overweight. What did you think was going to happen?”

“It was a shortcut.” The cold wrapped Nicole tightly, squeezing.

“Some shortcut,” Nana observed. She took another puff of her cigarette. “You’ve been taking a lot of shortcuts since you lost your little man. I’ve got news for you, girly-girl: There are damned few shortcuts in life and none at all in grief.” She listened to the younger woman’s weak, airless weeping for a moment. “Other women have lost children too.”

Nicole’s teeth began to chatter violently. She’d clamped down on her tongue sometime earlier and now she swallowed a mouthful of blood as memories exploded like starbursts: The sweet smell of Micah’s hair, the Michelin-Man rolls of his arms, the swimming pool, the unguarded moment. She remembered the sound of her own screams; she remembered screaming into his face, she remembered trying to scream him awake.

Nicole laid her head back down on the ice. Blood from her mouth painted the white surface with a gay pattern that matched Nana’s dress.

Nana Beth flicked the cigarette butt into a nearby snowdrift. She got up and began to dance slowly back and forth in front of Nicole. “It’s almost over,” she promised. She moved lightly on the ice, twirling slowly. Sebastian got up and moved with her, his eyes locked on Nana’s face. His tail wagged slowly.

“Don’t leave,” Nicole said, or thought she said, or tried to say.

“I’ll wait right here,” Nana Beth promised. She skipped back and forth on the ice in her red sandals.

Suddenly Nana was kneeling with her face just inches away. Nicole could feel the warmth of her whisper. “It’s easy, Nicky. It’s as easy as letting go.”

At first she thought the water was rising, then Nicole realized she was sinking. She stared at Nana’s bright smile as her grandmother’s face retreated and the water crept inexorably over her shoulders, neck, face.

Nana Beth whispered, “Good-bye, Nicky.”

Nicole turned and looked into the lake, her hair floating above and around her. In the inky darkness, she saw another figure. Skin bright like sunlight flashing on a fish, Micah paddled toward her. His dimpled hands – she loved those small hands more than life – touched his mother’s face, and he giggled happily in a burst of fragile bubbles.

Nicole reached for her son and held the vibrant heat of his child’s body against her. She put her face in his hair and breathed deeply, and smiled as the scent of him rushed into her on a stream of baptismal water.

Unclaimed Animals

October 23, 2012

(Originally published by Everyday Weirdness)

I remember how my mom cried over the dogs.

I remember, waiting here near the shelf where a box of what used to be me collects dust. I’m not the only one on the shelf. There are a couple dozen boxes here. We used to have names. I don’t know where the others went with their thoughts and memories. I’m alone with the boxes.

Buster dug out from under the fence once and ran away. I ran away, too, but it was years later and I went out the front door. It took us three days to find Buster. He was at the pound. My mom took my hand and we walked between two rows of kennels. There were a lot of dogs and their barks rattled off the block building like gunshots. I didn’t know what real guns sounded like then. My mom squeezed my hand so tight it hurt and her face was pinched like she had a toothache.

She paid to get Buster out with sixty one-dollar bills, her tip money for the week. I got in the car and she handed him to me, then went around to the driver’s door. That’s when I saw her cry.

I asked her why she was crying. We had Buster back and he was fine. She said it was the other animals. They broke her heart, she said. The sunlight was pouring in through the dirty windshield and I saw lines on her face. That was the first time she looked old to me.

They never found my head. It’s in a wash near Palm Springs and I used to go look at it before two Hispanic guys covered it up. Even though they didn’t speak English I could tell they were afraid. I think they were scared someone would blame them, so they covered my head with rocks and no one – not even me – could see it.

The other dogs broke my mom’s heart, the ones left behind. They were homeless, she said. They didn’t have anyone to love them. They were unclaimed.

It’s strange how I can remember Buster’s name. My mom’s name started with a “B”, too, I think – Brenda, Brianne, Belinda. I’m 08-0116, written in black marker on the outside of a box.

I wonder if my mom looks for me. I told her I was never coming back. She said I wouldn’t last a day on my own. Sometimes it was cold even out in L.A. and sometimes I was hungry, but I lasted longer than she thought I would.

I almost called her once. There was a payphone outside a store and I stared at it for a long time. The guy I was with yelled at me to come on. I didn’t like him much after the first week. I went over to the phone booth but there was no receiver. There was just a broken metal cord and a square hole where the coins used to drop. So I went with the guy and found out that real guns don’t sound anything like guns on TV.

I remember how my mom cried over the dogs.

Faith Stands Guard

October 23, 2012

(Originally published at Everyday Weirdness)

“Holy shit, Faith,” Todd cried, hopping awkwardly to avoid the small terrier. “Do you have to lay there?” He continued toward the kitchen, shouting over his shoulder, “I’m gonna end up stepping on your dog!”

“Our dog,” Emma corrected. She came out of the bedroom and stood in the living room, toweling her wet hair. She smiled down at Faith. “She’s your dog, too, you know.”

“Yeah, well, she likes you better.” Todd emerged from the kitchen with a cup of coffee. He and Emma regarded each other across the small dining room.

Faith was on the floor between them. She looked from one to the other before turning her dark amber eyes back to the mirror.

“She loves that old thing,” Emma said.

“Why did you put it on the ground?” Todd asked. “I liked it better on the wall.”

Waving her hand at the antique mirror, Emma answered, “I like it propped against the lower wall. It’s very on-trend.”

“It’s very on-comfortable and on-noying. Mirrors should hang where people can look in them. You know, actually use them.”

Emma laughed as she went over to kiss her husband. “Faith is using it.”

Todd carefully held his coffee mug out as Emma snuggled against him. He put his other arm around her and kissed her wet hair.

“I wonder what’s so fascinating about her own reflection,” Emma mused.

“She’s a woman,” Todd snorted. A little of his coffee sloshed onto the floor when Emma poked him. “Give a woman a mirror and she’s fascinated. Human, canine – it doesn’t make any difference.”

Emma giggled and twisted in her husband’s embrace to look at the little dog. “Seriously, though, what do you suppose she sees? Do you think she knows it’s her own reflection?”

“Honey, she’s a dog. I doubt if there’s any real deep thought processes going on inside Faith’s pointy little head.”

Faith listened to the drone of her humans’ voices. One ear flicked toward them briefly when she heard her name, but otherwise she was intent on the mirror. She had a rudimentary sense that the other dog was herself. She had no interest in that image, knowing that it would do whatever she did on this side of the mirror. Her keen eyes were locked on the other image staring back at her.

There was no word in her limited vocabulary that Faith could associate with the creature. It wasn’t “cat”. It certainly wasn’t “dog”. It gibbered and capered behind the reflective surface, without sound and without scent. Its wide mouth was full of teeth – multiple rows of long fangs from which long strings of dark saliva depended. It tried to scare Faith with those teeth the first time she saw it, after the mirror had been moved down to her level, but the little dog was undaunted. She’d jumped up and barked furiously at the mirror, causing her humans to laugh and stroke her short, wiry coat.

Since that time, Faith stood guard. The mirror creature would disappear from time to time, but when it returned and pressed its twisted blue face against the glass, Faith was always there to meet it. She sensed the mirror creature hated her.

The creature put its flat fingertips against the mirror. Its purple tongue came out and left a long smear across the reflection cast by the humans. It chuckled silently.

The hair on Faith’s ruff came up. Her little lips peeled back from her own impressively sharp teeth as a growl escaped from deep in her chest. She half-rose, ears pinned back, and stared the creature down until it moved away from its side of the glass.

“What is wrong with that dog?” Todd laughed.

“She’s just being silly,” Emma responded. “Aren’t you, Faith? Aren’t you just a silly-willy girl?”

“Argh, baby talk!”

“Oh, you’re just jealous. You want me to talk baby talk to you, don’t you? Don’t you, Toddy-Woddy?”

The humans giggled their way into the kitchen, arms locked tightly around each other. As their reflections disappeared from the mirror, Faith settled back into a sitting position. Her ruff slowly fell smooth again, but she continued to growl softly.

The mirror creature gnashed its teeth, disappointed. It gave the little dog a look of pure hatred.

Faith didn’t care. She watched the creature as it slowly backed away, then disappeared for the time being. The terrier held her ground. In a moment she would go eat and drink, and perhaps one of her humans would take her out for a walk. But she’d be back at her post in front of the mirror before long.

Faith is on guard.


August 6, 2012


That’s what you called my thighs as we tangled in each other, and as I lie here with the wetness we made together drying under me, that’s what I call this relationship: Perfect.

If you opened your eyes, I’d see they’re the same robin’s egg shade of blue as the sheets. But you don’t open them; they are shut and shaded with a dark fringe of lash.

Perfect, the stubble of two days on your cheeks and chin, the casual shock of black hair falling over your forehead. Perfect, the musculature of your naked frame in a semi-fetal position amongst the bedding. Perfect, the scent of our sweat.

We have the same expectations of each other, the same desires. Neither one of us wants more than the other can give. There will be no heartache or longing. We understand each other.


I rise earlier than you and shower alone, and then hurry back to the bedroom where I can stare at you while I pull on my clothes. Your beauty is breathtaking and for just a moment I wonder how I can leave you here like this.

If I live to be one hundred, I will never experience a love as perfect as ours.

Careful not to wake you completely, I lean over and caress your hair with my cheek.

“I have to go,” I whisper.

You half-turn, half-reach for me, half-asleep. “Already?”

I kiss your lips, which are dry with the morning. “Good-bye.”

Rolling my bag to the door, I take one more look at you and I realize that I have never and will ever know a love as complete as ours. That realization is so profound that I could cry, but I’m too happy for tears.

I step out into the hallway and shut the door behind me, thankful that you never asked me, “What’s your name?”


When Love was Easy

August 6, 2012

Love was easy in the days
When adolescence barely crested the hill
Into adult.
The sunrise was giddy
The sunset was fire
And all we knew and all we cared to know
Was the landscape of each other.

Shuttles and war exploded
And bills and obligations
Obscured our view and
Love wasn’t so easy to find
When wallets were empty.

But now I look back and
Oh, the love wasted in worry
Unseen for all the bulk rate mail
And unopened letters!
Where was I?
Where were you?

You were there
As was I, although I didn’t always know it
And love was always
Just as easy as your warm embrace
Your julipped drawl
And the brilliance of your crystal eyes.