Family, Relationships

Close Quarters

crowded-house-pau-casals

My university made the announcement that all buildings will be closed starting tomorrow. Some students still live on campus, some international students have not been able to get home. “Essential services,” as we call them now, will remain functional. Grab-and-go meals in a few dining halls. Campus security. A couple of residence halls. The rest of campus shuttered. All of us that can telework are doing so.

In the span of a week, an entire faculty has figured out, more or less, how to teach online — a skill some sizable percentage has been resisting for a decade.

Today I went into my building for the first time since March 10. With a gloved left hand and a “clean” right, I navigated to my office to collect my ergonomic keyboard and a standing desk floor mat. My partner and son have assembled a plywood contraption on casters that will work for me to stand at home. This small condo is quickly shrinking, and it’s good to have a place to work that isn’t the dining table. Especially now that we’re eating three meals a day there.

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body, Choices, Love, Poetry, Relationships

How to Write a Love Poem

dance-couple-john-moeses-bauan

1. Here is your blank page.
A crease deepening in the fold of their neck.
A spiderweb alongside the eyes.
Knuckles nicked and gnarled
from every saw blade that has ever gone sideways.
Their hull with its jagged seams lashed back together
more times than even they can count,
Yet strength enough still to flip you like an egg
over easy, your wet yolk intact (but not for long).
Their silhouette against the moonlaced slats,
looming, flesh-wrapped,
lifting the crenulation of your ribs
smoothing the oil they somehow coax
from pockets
you forgot you’d sewn into the edges of your whispers.

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Art, community, Relationships, spirit, Take Action

Creative Sanctuary

Woodruff Girl Skipping Rope
Hale Woodruff (1900-1980), “Untitled (Girl Skipping Rope)” (c. 1959-60)
Photo: Joyner/Giuffrida Collection

When you open the news, do you find yourself tensing up? Or feel a pull to retreat to some warm, gentle space to catch your breath? Maybe it all would be more manageable if you could just get a hug. Or give one. Or a thousand of them.

This hunger for warmth has to be something more than a simple need for comfort. Yes, we need that too, especially when we carry real trauma. But it seems this urge to connect and catch breath has to do with knowing what’s at stake. We feel something turning. We sense what is roiling under there, the fury and sorrow and maybe even some kind of power that’s awakening under the surface. Something terrible, something very big.

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Family, Growing Up, Poetry, Relationships

Backstitch

thread fleur

The magnifying lamp on its swiveling neck,
bent glass thick as thumbs
guide her fingers to find the warp
and weft.
Putting off the inevitable.
Pretty much the whole story
from the moment we begin.
Don’t tell the kids this.
Let them lose their grip on immortality
the old fashioned way.

To outlive the sharp focus of adolescence.
We should all be so lucky.

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Love, Relationships

Water Creature

perdido key

After 35 years in California, my amphibious companion carries a constant coastal hunger. He’s made a valiant effort to downplay the oceanic pull during this first year in his newly adopted Virginia. He’s not fooling anyone. When we traveled to the Bay Area and south to Big Sur in June, proximity to the water awakened something primal in him. In near total solitude along a stretch of beach by Garrapata State Park on the Monterey coast, he frolicked like an adolescent sea otter.

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Adventure, Art, Music, Relationships, spirit

Bowlful of Cajun

NOLA Tuba

The food in New Orleans, they say, is reason enough to go. Try telling a person you’re heading that way. “Oh my God, Cajun cooking.” They’ll put their hands to their face. They’ll touch their belly. You’ll hear a little moan.

Nine states in eleven days, and somehow we managed to have the worst food of our trip in New Orleans.

Not just mediocre bad. Not Applebee’s bad or hotel happy hour bad. But epically, comically, stupendously bad.

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community, Friends, Letting Go, memory, Music, Relationships

Eric Panegyric: No Outer Limits

Page Heart

In the story we tell of our family, the Fall 2019 chapter will be entitled “Haunted by Tragedy.” Three people close to us died unexpectedly in the span of four weeks. The past few months have been consumed with sorting belongings, planning memorials, and dealing with the aftermath of loss.

This weekend, we held a joyous and moving celebration for my friend Eric Dixon at one of the pubs where he played many winning games of trivia. This marks the last of the tangible tasks left to the living. The heart carries on with the intangibles. Here is what I shared at Eric’s service.


It is the music that finally does it. Sylvan Esso, “Funeral Singers.” It’s not the song’s particular connection that splits me open. It’s the fact of the music. That I can hear so much better, that I have learned to taste, appreciate and eventually love music that would have never existed for me if not for Eric. I’m guessing this is true for many of us here. How many of us can say — show of hands — that it’s because of Eric that we know King Crimson? I bet we all have lists of things we call our own now because Eric’s enthusiasm infected us. For me? It’s Galactic. Janelle Monáe. The author Katherine Dunn. The mathematician Martin Gardner… and that’s just the start of my list.

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Friends, Letting Go, Love, Relationships

Fragmentary

rocky shore onolan

In 2017, my workplace started offering us bereavement leave. Two days per year. I’ve barely noticed it in my benefit package, let alone taken it. With an active tween and a couple of fit and overscheduled parents, it didn’t cross my mind that I would need to use those two days.

Or that those two days wouldn’t come close to covering the need.

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