Sunday, December 23, 2012

a short story: A Willow or Two.

this story was written during my desert years and eventually published in issue number two of the excellent literary magazine " Up The Staircase Quarterly" when i first dare venture into the submission mode.

A Willow or Two
by Nadine Sellers

The willow is trembling outside the window like a nervous peeping tom. An opaque pink haze has settled upon the night in town. Head resting on pillows, I hold a book open in my palm and count what would be my blessings - dinner dishes done ' no broken bones and more squash in the fridge. Then why do I feel so, so unsettled?

Sirens screech by on main street every hour and I keep thinking it' s Joe. I know these phone calls are from him; no one talks, but I stare at the phone with doubt every time this happens. I look at the phone now, it is about to ring, I will it. The noise reverberates through the apartment, so very loud that I cringe. I extend my arm slowly, I pick it up resolutely. Hello? Hello? No one answers; The breath is that of a woman, that woman. I sense her presence, in cell phone void from satellite space, where she feels safe to reach out and bother someone.

Air swells through the veils, playing shadow games upon twilight. The telephone is a dead animal, limp in my hand. An automated voice urges me to make a call or set the thing back on its base. I hang up obediently, absently. It is only a cheap outdated model. After Joe smashed the last three, I saved myself some expense and bought bottom of the line items; no fuss, no frills. You learn to live with bare minimum when possessions come to a premature ending. Most items are of disposable consequence; detach, detach!

Twenty six saucers ago I would have winced at the perennial losses, now I count the individual breakage as material recycling. Object-d'art accumulate faster than space to keep them in. Cumulus becomes burden. I can find yard sale tables and chairs faster than they were originally manufactured. I can drag home my friends' discarded rugs and curtains faster than Joe can stain them with dark wines, stale beers or greasy leftovers. Blessings or commination? At any other time I would reason this axiology; now, I breathe a shallow intake and expel dire thoughts in puny breaths. Too much has happened for too long, I have no resource but to lay there and save myself for the day I am free of fear, free of self.

Freedom is but a word, it used to be an ideology, an honorable illusion of youth. At first I had fancied myself free of parental bondage. Then I had jumped into premature marriage; many a woman can attest to the erroneous expectation of that theory. Of course, I liked many aspects of a concrete relationship, where can a girl get steady love and someone to lavish excess tenderness on? The dog pound would be a good place to start, but? Men don't shed so much hair, and the bond is of a different dimension.

Indoctrinated in the fine art of matrimony by a stern society, I love to love. I believe in deep binding, the ties that squeeze till they hurt. I derive joy from the lesser pain after the rain of tears. Need for closeness has brought severe hardship, and yet, I look at the phone, hoping Joe is there, contained in the safety of the object, close to my ear as I call the image of his sensitive face within my closed eyelids.

He will tell me he has learned so much. So much to suffer, so much to coerce through cluttered viscera. I should rescue a cat or cruise the anonymous mall in search of societal oblivion. I would frighten the meek, scare the weak who need me to entertain them, to perform a sad social dance for them. I am in mourning for a chunk of life spoiled, my life, my loss.

There are bookshelves full of how to for the enabler, the co-dependent and the forlorn. I am free to choose among prime debaucheries to prompt an avalanche of ill feelings. Boredom and sagging minds present fair excuses. Too easy to circulate in the halls of doubt. Too unfair to assign culpability for the decay of sweet and sour co-existence. Yes, yes, love was and still is a marvel of parapsychology, a revelatory animal chemistry. The forgotten novel weights upon my hand as I reach for the covers. A tear insists on teasing me all the way to my chin, damn it, I am solid and I refuse to cry!

By now, birds nestle quietly. From the darkness of the bedroom, I scan the shape of the tree swaying to the town pulse. It must be midnight on this sundry weekday. I should sleep. Work comes early to the dutiful. Leaves brush against one another rustling lightly. The scent of artemesia streams in the tender breeze . Cold punishes my bones with denial; dry pleasure, the ascetic response. My jaw aches with stoicism. I am a native in the plain, nature, my maternal foster spirit, I faint within.

Gravel crunch, obscene lights, a car door slams and I sit up. Not again, you fool! I sneer lazily at rushing anticipation. If I am free and I am well, why do I insist on hoping ? solace of same, same sadness, same anguish? Familiarity elicits replication at the cost of disgust. Stuck in a morose leitmotiv, I wallow in the pathos of melancholy. My body knows the sheets and the blanket settles, heavy as his hand, upon my hip on a rare night. I whine and whisper my way to sleep again.

Daylight brings me to shower, brush, comb, in blind robotic automation. Then on to eat with ritualistic Zen attention; the toast feels light and scabrous to the hand, elbows bend, butter melts. A sense of otherliness overcomes the spare conscience to find comfort in minutiae, consolation in detachment. Alone with spoon in hand, apple crunching loudly under tooth. No one to hear the mechanical tempo, no one to see the spoon drop on the tablecloth. I could sing if I wanted to, I could dance around the room to some innate cadence.

Amid myriad choices, my hand refuses to push the button, to turn the knob, to play the song. Silence is mine. I am stillness. I am silence'?

©Nadine Sellers

Sunday, May 6, 2012


: Review: crudely mistaken for life: by Wolfgang Carstens.

A first book of poetry by this Canadian author, demonstrates the many ways we deny death in a world obsessed by our very fears. At just under a hundred pages of sparse wording, this well crafted tome offers a frontal view of existence in a medium of cyclical death. It is a primal teaching of appreciation for those who would care to fully live, rather than end living at the front door of the store.

Beds are staging grounds for graves/slumber is dress rehearsal for death”

Two 'D' words dominate, nay, permeate the cascading columns of dire thoughts, page after page. Dead and dreaming, and yet the point becomes sharper as the dirge of despair settles around the reader's ears; oh yes! Despite the exposure to unvarnished realism of end of life scenario..each emotional sequence and its natural consequence rests full weight on moral ground aiming for the light of conscience. Ultimately the book remains a testament to personal responsibility..

If at first I fell into an overwhelming sense of heaviness, it was for the very weight of the unadorned biographic context. Once I sank into Wolfgang' s extended message of larger effect, raising the drapes of preconception, to allow myself to drift into a state of gratitude. Truth may best be served cool; though one hundred pages are lightly peppered with bullets of “bullshit”and “wrecking balls to swing in our direction”..respect for language and integrity underline Carstens' poetry.

For art' s sake brings to mind the purity of selection disturbed only by the gun which tears the natural order. Man, the link which breaks the whole chain.

A palpable northern climes mentality permeates the casually woven threads of stories of the wilds of Alberta or British Columbia. Be it Scandinavia or Siberia, that clean cut nihilism seems to cool the texts of writers who have known the long winters of life wherever they have parked their keyboards.. like Lapp, Mongolian or Inuit tales which carry an undisguised truth about the more brutal elements facing birth onward, each unpainted face stares out of this body of writing to remind the reader of the value of the moment. And this is the hard won strength of the book, wherever scribed.

When I say that this book must be felt aloud, I fully mean voiced, not as a craft, but as declarations of love for a life so oft denied to self or other between punishing silence and emotional pollution.

Evocative pictures paint the contrasts in parenting styles. Love makes its appearance at bedsides and graveside. Regret must find its uneasy place between tenderness and failure, it's all there. Humor sneaks in “drama of flesh” 6 snow balls play out the lives of predictable marital imperfection. This book is a microcosm of a finite species marching through infertile fields on its way to self annhilation.

Notes on Seed depicts the ghosts at the reins of this ride we call family life, giving way to a slovenly grip on responsibility. Every social issue laid flat in short stanzas, not a word wasted..several decades of dying culture examined in the parameters of one snuff film. The author drives the blade upon habits and addicts sold by the zealous media, by greedy industry, by lazy conscience.

as time wages war upon my flesh/ and my organs threaten mutiny” shake up the flat-lining perception of well being. The author throws a few bricks at religious constructs and familiar expectations in the quotidian theater we call living in the living rooms where we cajole, placate or hide from certain death. Where we reinvent joy temporarily to perpetuate the hormonal cycle of acceptable , response to surroundings. In death and chocolate true love is revealed above all notions; the boy, the woman, the bugs, all defy fleshy limitations. this is a story of intense awareness that sticks to the plexus.

The personal reveals the universal condition, Carstens seriously makes use of the literary right to uncover ignorant disturb the endemic monotony of a replicated global market of spent response. In that, he mocks the very poet within “ we were happy without word/ without poems/without you.”

Though one look at the repetitive cover design of arty skulls may precipitate cultish prejudice, the old adage avers true here as well. Peek past the emptiness of the brown graphics and discover a shaky sanity rendered in less than strange realism. Epic Rites has delivered yet another grounded, solid and ethical piece in Wolfgang Carstens' book of poetry.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


A desert short story ...

    Katie sits on her rock, west of town, watching a long gray dust trail winding its way to the bottom of the valley. She picks at a hangnail on her dirty little finger, I'm gonna be ten years old today, she tells the sand beneath her feet. Her chest swells under the tight yellow dress. A dusty trail rises out of the desert floor: it's payday and miners are racing to cash their checks and wet their tongues at the Water Hole.

    At the two-room school, today, the teacher brought pink punch and cookies and the kids wished Katie a "happy birthday", she liked that, just as she liked the other kids' special days. Now she is looking for her daddy. She has waited for two whole weeks. She taps her almost new shoes against the rock, wrings a lock of clean blond hair, confused. Happy thoughts collide with waves of fear.

    "It's payday and Mama said that she'd make a special dinner as soon as she had some money for groceries," Katie tells the wind. " I'll bet she'll make me a cake too, it's supposed to be a surprise!" she frowns "But what if Daddy doesn't come down from the mine, and what if he disappears again?" She tilts her head to shake away her anxiety, as if to convince herself. "No. I guess not: I heard Mama tell him it would be my birthday! I just can't wait!" her jaw set hard against the sun, she nods.

    The little girl suddenly realizes that she is squealing with anticipated delight, she looks around furtively and blushes. There is no one on the paved road yet: during the heat of the afternoon the miner's wives nap groggily or play cards in the trailers and old shacks of the small town. Cheap wine and dry whiskey make life more bearable for most of them.

    Katie had watched her mom struggle with headaches, time after time. On school-day mornings, the familiar throaty voice would groan from the backroom, with a few curses added and a clang for good effect. Katie would know it was time to get dressed and look for food in the cluttered cupboards (cold leftovers or dry cereal, if anything) her mother's snores would become loud again. That's about the only time she could feel safe.

    At three o'clock Katie would return from school. The trailer' d usually be empty and reek of a mix of stale beer and sour wine, beds not made, cigarette butts, bottles and cans strewn about carelessly as in a purposeful movie set.

    Katie had never liked that. Before she could sit at the foldout table to finish her homework, she'd clean the mess quickly and ever so efficiently. Soon, laughter would rise out of one or another of the trailers. Sometimes, cursing and yelling would resonate in the crowded park and she'd resign herself to another party and another lonely evening.

    But today was different! Today was her day. Ten years old, she was a big girl now. The trailer would be tidied up, Mama was supposed to have had her hair curled by a neighbor; she'd be all pretty and clean - yep! Today was pretty special!

    The voices of men could be heard over engine roars, and a few jeeps and old pickup trucks appeared at the Death Valley junction in a cloud of alkali dust. A couple of old diggers saw the little girl in her yellow dress and waved as they passed by the entrance to the trailer park. When she spotted her father among the can-holding bunch in the second jeep, she began to run after it.

    By the time she breathlessly arrived at the general store, she saw him, arm-in-arm with his buddies, heading for the bar across the street; so she slowed down and hid behind a mesquite bush to catch her breath. "It's no use..." she thought, " use, he forgot!" (big tears slowly streaked the dust on her cheeks. She angrily wiped them with her arm, smudging a muddy mess around her red eyes. She kicked a rock with her good shoes, half hoping to ruin them. Chin set hard and jaw clenched she muttered to herself "Everything's rotten anyway . . . so?"

    Darkness had come and it was a little cooler by then. Katie sneaked across the road and to the back window of the bar; she'd spent many a night there, watching the men get drunk and play pool. Too wise for her years, she had quietly observed life in the small towns and mining camps of the southwestern desert. Here in Death Valley the aggression was more concentrated than in many mining areas.

    Every other Friday the shopkeeper and the bartender got ready for the five o'clock invasion: the miners were coming down from the talc mines in the arid mountains. After two weeks underground the rowdy, thirsty horde was ripe for diversion, but what they called relaxation was strictly a matter of opinion.

    Tension was ever high in the subterranean tunnels and chambers. There was danger from explosions caused by careless powdermen, cave-ins from weak timbers, hard rocks loosened by the vibrations of the huge Wagners that carry the ore out of the mines. There were no women or children to absorb or release tense days and nights of work underground: they were considered distractions. Some said that women bring bad luck and weaken men; kids are a nuisance, fall in shafts and rile a good man.

    Katie knew the code of the mines; she lived by the miner's ethics and stayed out of the way. She didn't judge or question her father's way of life (those who were too curious or unhappy always ended up in a bad way.) She'd seen the wives leave their men, the children being sent to a grandmother or, worse yet, to foster homes in bigger towns.

    Katie just could not bear being away from Mama, and who would watch after Daddy when he was sick? Who would make the coffee to sober up her Mama? Her half-brothers were grown and long gone to the city. One was in jail. Someone had said the other had gone to Alaska to make big money and would never come back. They didn't write - they didn't care!

    The slender girl climbed on crates behind the bar and took up her secret position: from there she could observe all without being seen. Hands cupped like blinders she peeked in through the partially obscured glass and saw her father downing his usual shot of cheap rum at the rail. A pain cinched her stomach as she remembered his last promise: she had unwittingly witnessed the scene in the tiny hall; he had knelt before Mama and had tenderly vowed that, after that last ulcer attack, he wouldn't drink ever again.

    "Baby, honey bunch, I promise you I'll never touch a drop of hard liquor in this life"

    He had cooked a whole meal that weekend, Katie had found them giggling behind the open refrigerator door, she'd seen his hand slide under mama's dress too. For awhile Daddy had followed the doctor's orders. Mama's face had been sweet, almost pretty and the whole trailer had been filled with lightness for a time.

    Now Katie could hear men brag about the events of the week. There were stories to startle the meek and curses to shock the pure, but she'd heard them all; her favorites were the rattlesnake myths. She'd miss a few words while the jukebox blared its cry-in-your-beer country tunes, but she already knew them all by heart through constant repetition, the songs and the tall tales.

    One of the diggers famous for his snake stories was named after the reptile; old Rattlesnake Pete. He always told the scariest tales, which even the youngest of children didn't always believe when they heard them. Pete lurched clumsily out of the back door of the bar, hand to his fly. Katie ducked beneath some cardboard. Suddenly the wiry little miner stumbled against the corner of a wooden beer-case, and before Katie had time to climb down from her perch he had toppled the whole stack, cursing heaven and hell for it and kicking bits of splintered wood right and left.

    Katie flapped her thin arms to scramble out of the boxes but could not regain her balance. Pete fussed with his pants where a long wet stain worked its way to his cowboy boots. Big Swede and Katie's father had come out to see what all the racket was about. The girl sat there amid the debris, eyes wide and mouth open, fearful and perplexed.

    "What in th' hell'r you doin' in there? That ol' bitch sent you to spy on me, din't she? You no good for nothing brat!" Her father was yelling as he awkwardly lunged after her, flinging trash out of his way. Katie's head swung from side to side as he hit her, hard.

    "No Daddy! No!" her elbow up above her forehead, she cowered.

    "You're no good, just like your mother - never been any damn good! Always wants money - is that what you here for, my money?"

    Katie sobbed miserably, "Nooo . . ." blond curls clung to tears.

    Her Daddy reached out to shake her, but Swede had regained his composure, and he and Pete yanked him up, Pete held him against the back door of the bar and danced around to avoid his pointy boots.

    "Go on, go on home." Swede turned his big head and softly urged the girl. "We'll bring him back soon as he's sobered up a bit - go on! Quick!" He, at least, was never mean. She suspected he was the father of some little girl, somewhere and that he missed that child very much. She'd heard many a gyppo tramp talk about an ex wife and a batch of kids who didn't take to the desolate life on the desert floor. By the third drink the photos came out of shredded wallets and bad wives became worse in the memories of the lonely.

    Katie climbed out of the wreckage and backed away into the darkness. She hesitated awhile and then dashed for the trailer park, fearing to look back.

    When she reached the gravel driveway Katie immediately sensed that something was wrong; there was more light than usual in the seedy rows of trailers. The tamarisks cast long shadows and the breeze brought clear bursts of loud voices speaking in urgent tones. The sheriff's car was parked in her family's row. All the women from the park were there and a couple of old miners stood around under the light from the pole lamp at the end of the dirt road. As she approached the crowd she realized they were all in front of her trailer. Yea, the green one, that's my home... "what are they doing?" she murmured to herself

    Katie slowed down. An ambulance drove by slowly and she closed her eyes when its headlights unkindly hit her face. Suddenly, she froze. Knees locked in rigid stance, she couldn't go on.

    There were kids out there, running in and out of the crowd; some hiding behind their mother's legs, there were women talking fast and the sheriff looked like a giant as he tried to quiet the curious. His big arms raised above heads, he silenced the odd group. People looked around as if searching for someone.

    Katie couldn't face all these people: they had always been strangers! They misunderstood her; to them she'd just been a weird kid. How could she look at them, now? How could she listen to them? They didn't like her looks or her ways. She peered down at her soiled yellow dress, she slapped dust from the pinafore and wiped the blood that congealed in angry stripes on her legs.

    She whispered "what a mess."

    It is early morning when she arises from the sheltering tamarisk. No one is around. The sky shines silent pink; a thrush makes a gargling sound nearby, nature is awakening as usual.

    Katie stumbles onto the dirt road toward the faded, decrepit trailer she calls home. In an involuntary gesture, she smooths her matted hair and removes the crinkled bow she had so proudly tied for the occasion. She takes the key out of an ore sample crucible by the steps, slowly turns it to open the battered door. Her face betrays no emotion as she gazes over the rumpled pillows on the saggy couch. She slowly passes her little hand over the still wet stains on the blue shag rug.

    Sadness a pale mask on her face, the girl strokes the wrinkles on her yellow dress. She automatically grabs a sponge and begins to clean the floor, the walls, the bits of dried matter in the fake fur throw; it isn't the first time she's had to do it, but now it is different somehow. She isn't angry or tired this time.

    She speaks softly, "Mama . . .oh, Mama . . ." and slumps on the one kitchen chair, elbows propped on the counter, she stares out of the window for a long time until the sun is aglow and scorching the lone olive tree out back.

    A strange car pulls in quietly, and Katie's father steps out of it, solemn. His eyes are puffy and moist.

    "Katie ..." he blurts out abruptly, "mama died last night." He swallows hard and smiles weakly. "Look, you know how it is, baby - she couldn't drink like that no more and besides she smoked way too much. She just went and choked herself to death, that's just what she done!"

    "I know, Daddy" says the ten year old. "I know."
They hold each other tightly for awhile, then pulling away she asks, her voice flat,

    "Daddy? You're not going to do that too, are you?"

    Her father kneels in front of her and announces tearfully, "Baby, honey bunch, I promise I'll never touch a drop of hard liquor as long as I live."

    Katie strokes her father's dusty hair and flattens her cheek against it to hide the stubborn wetness invading her eyes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Review of Zack Wilson's book Stumbles and Half Slips

Zack Wilson's book “ Stumbles and Half Slips”could be described by many flattering adjectives, however the writing in these twenty four short pieces is exemplary in its negatives; its very lack of pretense, lack of mimicry. Words come alive, seemingly bypassing the thought process as if poured straight from life itself, expressed in un-sanitized language of common streets. Open brain stream of consciousness relates the meanders of daily tedium in full view.

The sense of place reads as a travelogue to Work Town UK. As the reader rides shotgun in the van with the main character, a whole countryside unrolls, a whole retinue of mates unfolds; it is a situational series at its best portraiture. No need for prompts and adverts, no mandatory formula; a film develops steadily in mind toward satisfaction. Nope, no flashy ending or painful suspense, just a sense of having been an intimate witness to the process and essential revelation.

No sensational descriptions to tease the reader, visions come in ground level realism...sparse and short as a clean phrase. Each segment a complete tableau of work day complexities. Each story apart and yet a part of the whole of daily drudge for a Brit, for a man, in that place, in this time. Anywhere between short skirts and tattoos, youth and geriatrics, people bob in and out of pure text as experienced by the main character.

Modern in tone and tense, yet a classic struggle of coping and maintaining personal integrity amid a cash hungry society which equates work with identity. Moral meanderings of workplace ethics visible in the mandatory safety vests and hygiene gloves. Out of construction rubble surfaces respect and patience, the hard way. Out of white coats and blue hair nets, emerge a whole range of perceptions.

Discontent exposed in riffs of ill spent energies in the pursuit of some happiness or drunkenness. Relationships on the rungs of job hierarchy weave and wobble along definitions and expectations.
rouge patches of distress cloud his dirty cheeks”
Scuttling feet and giggling grimaces boil up toward explosion or fade in flattening depression.
but the unguarded rage in his eyes was terrifying—our foreheads locked together at the focal point”

No clever titles to hype the chapters, no substitutes or clichés; colloquialism is served raw, the picture is clean.
I'd been spending another night down the local, the Green Man, trapped in the kind of immediate after work session that's becoming a bit of a worry”
Sex and loneliness ooze out of text between pubs and trips. Age and gender evident in subtleties.
one of those girls that's so gorgeous it's physically painful to look at her”
The pace is present, personal and proud, each scene a dramatic capsule of life on the pavement.

Dialogue exposes the immediacy of blue collar England.
What’s going on with this Barbados thing and that lad there?” ---“Oh, ‘im,” a swarthy young fella with bad acne scars smirked. “’Ave you sin the paper today?” ---I know he probably means The Sun, so I say, “No. Don’t read one mate. Which one?”---“It’s bin on telly too, mate,” he responds.
Between spliffs and pints, cider and coke, painless details smoothly drive the discourse to full spectrum of interrelated actions and reactions. No artifice, no hide and seek, and best of all, no psychological games to lure the would be reader to unnecessary emotional expense.

You listen to the sounds, the accents, the punches and trenches of muddy yards and pub atmosphere.
I decided to head down to the snap wagon for a sausage sandwich and a cup of foul grey tea, the bloke asks me...”
You revisit the faces, the twists of emotions and deliberations, knowing the dance and avoidance of voices escalating, observing body language toward aggressive stance, no gore needed, no special effects wanted. The scenery in place, a panoramic setting for the next plot.
No one ever told him to face how much they hated him, though they whinged plenty when they thought he couldn’t hear. It seemed to scare them that he was blind. They tended to be very fond of his guide dog though, a big golden retriever called Morph.

Stumbles and Half Slips is the sort of book which demands to be read again, not the kind which leaves you hanging or longing. More like a movie running in different parts of the city on the mind.

Zack Wilson.
Author, sports writer, poet, reviewer and word collector, he stacks stories straight out of mind in Sheffield England. Able to dive under philosophical layers without a breath, he surfaces with concise prose and manifests his observations in multiple publications.

Lescar: volume 1, Blackheath Books.
The Mirror: prose collection, Erbacce press.
Poetry reviews of Rob Plath' s and John Yamrus books, Epic Rites.
Film reviews: Seraphim Falls, The Great Silence...
and an impressive et coetera on both side of the pond.
Stumbles and Half Slips: is available through Epic Rites press.
(Wolfgang Carstens editor)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hunting Camp at Yucca Valley

French writer lost in buffalo dreams, where grass grows tall and oceans never meet.
The words keep coming, the readers expecting, and soon we should all be satiated.
From the trail of tears, i translate thoughts to poetry, life to fiction and love to text.
This poem is an excerpt from the upcoming book of desert scratchings, etchings and sketches. It was published in Hobo Camp Review.

Hunting Camp at Yucca Valley

A thrush sharpens its beak on an Atriplex,
and suddenly, it is morning;
I push the sand with naked toes,
I am alive with need, waters beckon.
The thrush is in full song,
the mountain in full rose.
Children stir.

Hunger makes its usual rounds.
First the men grunt, then they sway toward the rocks,
shivering quietly in their long-johns and woolen socks,
they put their boots on in haste; no time to waste at dawn.

The grain ground up and boiled,
I prepare the gruel for the children
who groggily slither out of their bed-sacks,
one by soft one,
Coffee begins to sing on the makeshift grill.
I blow on my fingers in silent anticipation.
Gun propped up against the tent,
I watch for any movement, alert.

The men walk out of camp,
whispering position and angle of their prospective prey.
Now sun is ready to return to hell in its quotidian chore,
to suffocate life down here by noon.

A last coyote silently lopes away
not far from the fading embers of our last fire.
A game quail marches by, in full breast and cocky plume,
to lead me away from its young.
At that moment,
I decide to let the carbine rest on its wooden pedestal,
a harsh token of my weakness.
Eye full of grits and fat;
Hunger subsides to conscience.

Let men rip the air with their power in the mid-morning hush -
let them drag a heavy carcass home to the mining camp,
for me to butcher, for the children to grow.

One shot is all I hear:
Winter will be kinder
with a burro in the freezer this year.

With sincere apology to the animal kingdom for the humble distribution of protein for healthful childhood development.

you may meet me at:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snow Day Now.

Snowy day on the plains. Ensconced in winter-fat,
i wallow in the warmth of the fire.
A cup of chicory coffee fits snugly in my hands,
cupped for comfort after suffering the insult of a north wind
assaulting the woodpile on the porch.

First snow brings a sense of nostalgia to the buds of memory,
rare white stacked inches deep
on hometown ramparts in southern France.
My cape open to the elements.

and me,
sliding and running on the crunchy sidewalks,
mute and numb from bitter biting breeze stirring the fluff.
I have pictures of snows past.

I have cave-woman moments about the wonder of skies
and the event that flies.
Ephemeral moods of uncertain weather,
turned headline news on the local paper.

In my here and now, conditions taint the precarious situation.
Cold aggravates ills and pains, finances bleak on the plains.
So, transient worries ride the magnificent snow flurries.

This is not a poem about global warming or finance washing.
This is the tactile connection with the changing of season.
The taste of sweetness against a melancholy bitterness.

This is just me, enjoying an everyday, a today,
a wonderful cold day of contrast.

Monday, January 23, 2012


To the caregivers of this newest generation, to people who nurse the planet with more ideas than deeds, here is just a little encouragement which appeared on the Green Mom's Carnival, too long ago for me to track..It's slightly altered for the continuing crisis which may become force of habit. And for the climate which is sure to continue changing along with the hapless inhabitants gravitating upon the surface.

Yes, yes, i know that this is the beginning of the next season! I know that many will struggle to catch up with bills, these little pieces of paper, printed on the backs of trees and the rear section of your brain. No, i refuse to feel sorry, the season will come, the season will pass, and all will resume at the best possible pace. So let's make it an ecological feast to begin the new era.

To be a mother in times of financial uncertainty is a challenge to be met with joy. Oh yes, pleasure comes in small packages. Now is the door to a whole new behavior for many, what an opportunity to sneak in the change that so many have wanted to implement. First you must arm yourself with facts.

Headline news foretelling or demonstrating the economic downturn must be saved as wrapping paper for the smaller gifts. Sunday cartoons can put some cheer in the mix. Free advertisement media make excellent rolled up logs for the fireplace, (caveat) don't light them if yours is one of those fake ones. Clippings of ecological disasters make an easy diary of my planet for school projects, engage, engage.

The larger photos of starving children can be left upon the coffee table for open discussion -- “Mom, who's that on the table? -- No one we know, just another life in another place -- Why don't they have enough food for them? -- because it costs too much to transport the grain to their country-- so why don't they grow it there? -- climate change has created havoc everywhere -- so what are we supposed to do about it? -- well, drive less, eat more foods from local sources and save on utilities? -- oh, Mom!”

When all the depressing news have reached their intended audience, quickly introduce the good news, and there are many in magazines like Ode, Yes or Mother Earth, as well as ENN and green sites online. Softly steer the subject of conversation to renewables, “hey look at that sun! it shines everyday -- exactly, so would it be smart to save for solar panels for our house? “save? -- yes altogether, we can contribute.” “does that mean i don't get my game set?...

I have witnessed parents agonizing over the effects of advanced advertising on their children. My only advice is to turn the television off, or select documentary and nature shows, current events may add to the reasoning skills if watched along with ( reasonable) adults. Each one of us can help in our own way -- but what can we do? I hear the stress hormone levels rise like a disturbing tide-- Buy less -- walk wherever we can -- take lunch in a bag -- clean up the riversides. “But Mom, the other kids are gonna get things and play -- so are you, really healthy lunch and a beautiful healthy river to swim in without fear of 'floating foreign matter'...

So, you're not convinced yet? The work is too intense, the argument too intimate, it challenges your values, your habits, your spending traditions? Worry not, Mothers are well placed in the care system, they are idea changers, cooks and engineers, they can do wonders from the ground to the sky. Watch the effect of each action for one single week, preferably wordlessly. Then quietly introduce simpler foods along with the usual fare, like greens on the pizza, broccoli in the pasta, onions everywhere. Simpler cleaning methods are an easy area to implement on, replace toxic cleaners with green products, and next go hard core with vinegar and baking soda to shine everything from windows to baths. As the doors close against the cold in your hemisphere, warn the family against indoor pollution, add a sweater and lower the thermostat by 2 degrees as a game plan to save for that renewable energy of the future.

Let no one deter you from having a successful season, make it known that no matter the dire economy, you are going to put forth the best dinners and parties possible. Squirrel away some nuts and goodies to cheer the hungry hordes. Save all the shiny paper you can to impress the natives with impromptu decor--and use all that spare imagination to make a personalized fest of your very own. Emphasis on personalized this year. What a great opportunity to come home to values which have been buried under escalating commercialism.

Happy selves to you, empowered with the comfort and intimacy of simpler days. Yes, yes, i know, it's the beginning of that year, wrap it up in elegant resolve to make it with -- just love and lots of it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review of a play by Rob Plath: We' re No Butchers.


If a review is a dissective process of a literary work, the play “We' re No Butchers” by Rob Plath needs a radical vivisection. The critical eye can peer straight into the guts of the antagonist and into the mind of the hapless protagonist as they struggle through typical family dilemma. The use of plain language pulls the blinds of social intimacy. Plath becomes master of chaos.

Though the cover of the book spells dark and foreboding scenes, it is not the connotation of the skull artworks on smooth black background which influences the reader's perception. Neither does the sketch of a human skull atop of a canine one on the back page essential to the plot. But; the underdog does come out from the couch cushions to point at the ills of interactions.. Is it the title which draws the reader to the desperate context of this piece? No, it is the poignancy of the dialogue throughout the ten scenes.

While the subjects move from movies to Papal death, the temperature of conversation only cools down between bites of ribs and wings. The palpable details of table hierarchy demonstrate placement within family ethics... “let him grate his own cheese—he may be a faggot but he's not a boy” . No phrase stands out above the din of discord. No thread unravels the strangling fabric of family life in this tightly written text.

The play begins on a Sunday morning; older man smokes, younger one engages in argumentative insults which set the scene for an accurate portraiture of a stratum of America many are aware of but may not wish to visit live...This could be Poland or Greenland, human relations vary little across the socio-economic spectrum. The cultural specifics act as a mat of understated sarcasm under the feet of the players.

Few who have lived through the constrictions of crowded life can honestly describe the active participation of all individuals involved. Narrow walls bounce emotions and reverberate inadequacies in painful distortion; the psychology of idleness exacerbates perceived gender ranking. Enter Butch who becomes irate the instant he believes anything challenges his intellectual standing and privilege table to cable.

Then Dante must adjust his honesty to adapt to new surroundings, he dances around inane issues without losing balance, unless chemistry plays a trick on truth; best not to drink and talk, not healthy!Ah but Mia: dutiful Mama plays her role to perfection. She could explain the rise of obesity to any cardiologist, and pull rank on a social case-worker if need be. She knows her place and maintains it. Mia hangs dearly onto small romantic icons and larger religious ideals as she brews the daily stew..

It is easy to picture Otto in a white T-shirt stretched over excess. His skewed paranoia mimics concern over health and wealth in disproportionate examples. Salt and butter logic overcome rigid conservatism. He and the rest of the world may never budge from the sixties plateau..a veritable sitcom tableau in a single act. Most disconcerting is the collusion to block off care for the living, in word and deed.

These four characters smell ordinary yet breathe universal..Blame makes the rounds to land upon the designated scapegoat. Values arrange themselves about a broken Norman Rockwell knick-knack or the evening news. Moods swing unpredictably predictable in a bar scene. Good times dilute effect long enough to drive the play into its downward spiral. And the last act is achieved at a cost to re-establish status Quo. Welding joints to cement their common strength, feeding each other' s myths and hang ups as relief.

Pack mentality revealed, the kennel behavior of the Alpha group shows the dominant male and the intricacies of the balancing act of the coddling female determined to nurse their illusions to the inevitable conclusion. The caring party once more a renegade always outside the tribe, outnumbered.

Man, the animal will often forgo liberty to protect gain. Solidly entrenched in static holdings, the inflexible party will create chaos rather than lose whatever he identifies it a ceramic angel or a certain song. Vying for position in the family nucleus is a dangerous sport with frigid rules. No matter the face or name on the T-shirt, the strength of the unit is what matters the most afterall, OR is it?.

Rob Plath has been widely published , he now lives in New York..with a cat named Daisy.