Thursday, January 19, 2017

6 haiku, by Sue Norvell

waking in the night —
the moon has moved
to the bathroom window

up at six
K.C. the cat yowls
"you're late!"

the doctor's office
serious conversations
in one's underwear

by the trumpet vine
a burst of white feathers
our hawk's had lunch

the desktop — six pens and a button
January clean-up

old 45s
decades slip-slide out
of the record case

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

4:10 a.m., by Stacey Murphy

Looking out from the kitchen
At the arthritic crabapple branch
Quivering in the latest of late night light

You think how cold it must be,
How hard to be an animal
Or a person
Outside in this wind
As you cross the floor barefoot
Back to your dark soft cave

You recall that nature show –
The arctic groundhogs who shiver
As they hibernate
To warm up just enough to
Neither perish nor fully wake

How many nights could your
Whole body shake and manage to sleep
Through it? Could you?

“What kind of raspy-shuffle
Spectre would I become on that sleep?
How long would it take”?
You wonder as you
Slide under the blanket
And the cat comes to find the space

You make by your belly
Where he purrs and purrs, drawing
The shiver and gnaw
From your very core,
Absorbing it all until
Your eyes close just as they notice

In the earliest of early morning light
The silver outline of willow branches
Appearing outside the window.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Coloring in Between the Lines, by Liz Burns

Sometime last year I decided to try out the adult coloring book trend. "It's really relaxing," someone said to me. "I just color at night while my husband watches TV."

So I went to the store and looked at coloring books. There were so many to choose from. I picked one with a garden theme, and then my friend gave me one (from the stack she had next to the TV.) So I had two. I bought some markers, and a set of colored pencils, and I was off. 

I packed everything up and went to one of my favorite spots by the lake, sat down at a picnic table, and took out markers and a book. I was ready to color and be relaxed. I started with a floral design.

I love color, I love how mixing colors gives a result completely different than the original, and I love creating endless designs and patterns from color. I've always loved that.

What I had forgotten, though, is how much I don't love coloring in between the lines. I never, ever managed this.  From the time I was able to pick up a crayon, I scribbled in almost every coloring book I ever had. In kindergarten and first grade I was almost never one of the students whose coloring book sheets got tacked up on the bulletin board, because I could never keep my coloring in between the lines of the drawing. Invariably there would be a crayon slash outside the boundaries of a skirt or a tree or someone's hair.  The result was not a neat, tidy, colored-in drawing, but an uneven crayon coloring that far surpassed the boundaries drawn on the page.

This trait didn't confine itself just to crayons. It also happened with things I glued together — more glue showed on the outside of the construction paper than on the back.  When I used scissors I couldn't cut in a straight line no matter how it was marked or how short of a cut I had to make. And my drawing was non-existent, although I got pretty good at stick figures at some point. I was  one of only two students to get a "D" in my seventh grade art class.

Some of this was running through my mind last summer as I sat at the picnic table by the lake. I had a lot of time, a lot of markers. I was ready, or so I thought.

I colored in the petals of the first flower. It felt good. I started on the petals of the second flower. They were a little smaller, it was a little harder. Not so relaxing. I turned my attention to the stem. It was hard getting that marker to stay completely in between the lines all the way down. Wait, I forgot to color in the center of the flowers.

"How is this relaxing?" I thought. "This isn't relaxing. It's stressful. Why is this a trend?"

I looked at the page. The design had impossibly little areas to color in. I knew right then and there, getting more stressed by the minute, that I wasn't going to last. 

Two flowers, and I was done.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Chromesthesia: What if our Voices Came out in Color? by Stacey Murphy

Would my murmured first “good morning” be a mud of flinty brown and moss green, giving way to greyish mist after the first mile of a run? And then, at the end of three miles, would those same words, “good morning,” now show against the sunlit trees as a gold-flecked chartreuse as I call out to the man and his dogs passing the spot where I stretch by the side of the path?

Would we see the avocado in the stories of the cab driver?  Hear the neon orange and banana in the shouts of kids tossing a football at the bus stop?

Do the words of the barista, as he places a mug on the coffee bar, Americano Grande, come out as sable brown, or as a fluttering-but-dirty red, white and blue? 

Meanwhile, in the booth in the corner, would we see the peach glitter haze that surrounds a mother and toddler as she reads him a tale about a bear and a piglet who are best-best friends in the forest of a little boy’s stuffed menagerie? A collection much like his own pile of familiars at home, where he will prattle in a language nonsensical to all but his mother and father and to:

The penguins who answer in the color of morning ice
The dinosaurs who answer in swamp
The ape who chortles back in vine green
The cats who purr back in mischief purple
The doggies who pant agreeably in joyful red
The bears who grumble in the brightest burnt sienna
And the narwhal who responds in rhyming, shimmering turquoise

Monday, December 19, 2016

3 Poems, by Barbara Cartwright, Stacey Murphy, Rob Sullivan

These poems were written in the Thursday Morning Writing Circle on December 15, 2016. Inspiration came from snippets of poetry by Billy Collins, from his collection "The Rain in Portugal." The title of each poem here is a phrase by Mr. Collins.

"On the 17th Floor," by Barbara Cartwright

On the 17th floor of my life, three primroses bloom inside a hat I haven’t seen for years.

On the 17th floor of my heart, a piece breaks off but right away begins to grow right back again, without telling me.

On the 17th floor of a personal essay I am reading, the author makes a confession that causes me to toss his book into the fireplace to smoke out his words.

On the 17th floor of a blade of grass, a grasshopper is swaying back and forth, forth and back, waiting for peace on earth and other crap like that.

On the 17th floor of the sun outside my house, men in asbestos suits fire asteroids in a gigantic purple kiln and throw them over their shoulders and out the window when they’re ready and done.

On the 17th floor of the carpet in my living room is a little tiny sign that points with an arrow to the right to Flatterland.

On the 17th floor of a certain gateau de poire I am making lie nestled three gold orbs with magical powers.

On the 17th floor of a wish I once had sits an anxious fidgety genie waiting for three magic words…

   watching me make a complicated cake,

   hoping he’ll get the chance to go to Flatterland,

   wondering why the sun spews random bits of pottery all day long,

   laughing at the empty ideals of the grasshopper,

   agreeing that the author of the essay is an inflated ass,

   vowing to break off bigger and bigger pieces of my heart, and

   smug with the knowledge that with just one snap of his long and bony fingers he can will a primrose into flower, even in a hat.


"The Story Remains to be Told," by Stacey Murphy

If you go to the sea
Go in pieces.
Scatter your bits
Into the foam
Let them fall and roll away
As dawn breaks orange and quiet.

If you go to the sea
Go in trust.
Stand waist deep
Facing the shore
As the shifting sand buries your feet
And the waves at your back surprise you.

If you go to the sea
Go with a child.
Fall in the dunes
To make sand-angels
And hold seaweed hands as you jump
Wave after wave after wave.

If you go to the sea
Go with your story.
Watch the horizon,
Endless and comforting,
And know more remains to be told

As the sun sets orange and peaceful.



Out of Nowhere, by Rob Sullivan

long distance call
broke heavy silence
sharp upstart to ennui
little time or space
to take it all in
to focus on the big picture
to hear melody underlying

call to return
cease and desist
stop, drop and roll
from burning desire
to come back
serene once more
simply simple

breathe deep, exhale deeper
pause and examine
observe with intention
love now crowds fear
moonset to sunrise
awaken from the dream
step out of the picture show

when presented with a gift
say thank you
if a wish fulfilling gem appears
say yes
no discussion or hesitation
only cherish and honor
path will become clear

engender surrender
celebrate what it takes
perchance your dance
never stopped, ever bopped
beat goes on, greet the song
do the stroll of your soul
answer: Yes Sir!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Uncle Bill, by Sara Robbins

Uncle Bill Rubin was not a blood relative. He was an old Russian Jew my father sort of adopted. He was the closest thing to a grandfather that I had. He was married to Aunt Anne — a New England Wasp related to the Phyfe's, as in Duncan Phyfe. They were an odd couple in the '50s — like my parents were — a Jew and a shiksa.

They never had children but they had Lassie, an elderly, smelly Collie who had her own room and bed (which smelled). My sister wouldn't go into that room or even pet Lassie, but I loved her. They lived in a sweet older house in a section of Po'town which was in decline. They kept their home clean and orderly. Uncle Bill owned an ancient, huge brown car, which he kept in his garage, covered with blankets. Inside it smelled of mothballs. He drove slowly up Main Street, cars honking; he'd curse in Yiddish. The back seat where I sat was huge and Aunt Anne would let me chew orange Aspergum from her purse.

Uncle Bill was the cook. He made wonderful meatballs and chicken soup. Sometimes dog hair would find its way into the food, which was served on colorful Fiesta plates —orange and cobalt blue. They had a complete set, which years later would be declared hazardous due to lead in the glaze. Everything about their house was old, the furniture, the antique rugs, the fake glowing logs in the unused fireplace in a spare room. I used to love to turn the switch on and watch the red/orange glow. Uncle Bill always told me to turn it off.

Uncle Bill spoke Yiddish with my father when they didn't want us kids to know what they were talking about. He also spoke Russian, Polish, German, and wonderfully accented English. Aunt Anne, who had a long, thin Waspy nose, was quiet and demure, always very sweet and a little dim.

He was a tailor. He made beautiful handmade suits for my father. They would go together to pick out the fabric in New York City. When my brother was Bar Mitzvahed, Uncle Bill made Daddy a gorgeous suit. It was December, and cold out. We had a gathering at our home afterwards and for some reason Daddy went out to check the swimming pool cover. Maybe a strap had come loose. At any rate, somehow he fell into the pool. He yelled and we all came to help him out. Uncle Bill just stood by the pool screaming, "Da Suit, Da Suit!! You are ruining Da Suit!" Later we all laughed.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Maybe the Leaves, by Susanna Drbal

Maybe the leaves that have fallen will feel crisp under your feet, or maybe they will feel spongy.
Maybe you will kick and skip or maybe you will slip and fall.
Maybe the leaves will be chewed up and composted or maybe they will be left to rot in place.
Maybe one will stick to your shoe and it will remind you of your walk outside in the cold and damp.

Maybe one leaf will stick to your windshield, and maybe one leaf will cling to the wiper as you drive, streaking its way across the remains of bugs and bird shit.
Maybe it will wave as it passes, maybe it will try desperately to escape.

Maybe it will escape, a refugee in a forest of evergreens you now drive through.
Maybe you will open the window to invite the scent of pine to enter your car, the box that sometimes feels like a prison, other times a nest.
Maybe many animals have trodden on the pine needles or nosed at them or nudged them into a bed.
Maybe they like the smell as much as you do.

Maybe, as you drive in the forest of pine, you turn down the radio, even though the music has been a comfort to you.
Maybe now you want to hear the wind, the birds, and the creaking limbs.
Maybe you want to hear the scented air, smell the decay of flesh and greenery, and feel the outdoors, whether warm and gentle or cold and bracing, and maybe you will settle into it.
Maybe your hair will tangle in the breeze.
Maybe your eyes will tear up.
Maybe you’ll hear a coyote.
Maybe you’ll catch eyes with a deer.

Maybe you’ll pull over, find an opening in the trees, and follow a path as far as it goes.
Maybe the path ends at a creek.
Maybe the water is cold and clear and maybe there are tiny fish in large schools gathered near a fallen branch.
Maybe the mossy rock feels cool to the touch.
Maybe you see a pretty rock, streaked with color, and maybe you pick it up and feel the earth stop spinning.
Maybe you look up, into the sun where it peeks between clouds, and
Maybe you drop the rock, with a plop, back into the creek to be washed clean, and
Maybe drops fall off your fingers and ripples grow at your feet, bumping at the muddy banks, and

Maybe across the creek stands an animal, you don’t know what it is, and it’s looking at its reflection in the water, making ripples with its nose as it drinks.