Wednesday, September 16, 2009


"I feel like I'm here every day," says a girl at the next table at the coffeeshop. I look over, I can't help it, and her friend looks back. I don't know what they think. I am also here every day. The friend wears a gray and white striped t-shirt dress, almost too short to cover her underwear, and sunglasses to cover her eyes. The one who spoke doesn't look at me. She has brown hair and is dressed in black, with a tan and hunter green leather purse slung over her shoulder.

Her purse is something my grandmother would have given me when I was 13, along with musty, sun-faded horse books from the 70s, printed in Brittan. The books were filled with pictures of hard-jawed girls with thick, square haircuts, their flaxen bangs almost hiding eyes that peered out at me with glittering severity, gripping the reins of their polished bay and chestnut horses, their manes trimmed and perfectly braided, stitched into tight bundles marching in neat rows down their graceful necks.

I stared unhappily at these girls, and they stared unhappily back, as if they knew that twenty years after their pictures were taken, we would share that moment together, and see our discontent mirrored in the others' face.

It was always late afternoon in the photographs, even if it was probably morning or mid-day in actuality. But something in the muted golds and greens and harsh, sickly sky blues with which the books were always printed led to the impression that the girls and their horses existed in a perennial 4pm, the time of day that I invariably lost all hope for any meaning in life.

Monday, September 14, 2009

new short poem

The crickets

have been outside

my bedroom window

since childhood,

since August.

As long as they follow

me, I know

I am always home.

The Embroidered Garden

One thunder morning, Mildred's father disappeared into the sandy collapse of the well he'd been digging. She heard only the rain on the roof, no shouts, not the metal thud of shovels thrown aside, but she ran outside anyway and stood with her shoes sinking into the mud, her hands crumpled by her sides.

When her father emerged in the arms of his weeping friends, the water he’d tried to capture fell from his mouth, his head tipped gently on one shoulder, more peaceful than she had ever seen him.

Mildred’s hair grew auburn down her back and into her skirts, her shoes. The layers of prim undergarments only came off after the candle had been spit out in the room she shared with three sisters. The town outside made no noise, shimmering below the judgment of the moon. No drinking, no dancing, no card-playing, no makeup. Mildred sat before the window and combed her hair in front of her face, imagining what it would feel like to be seen.

In church they sat, four robins on a pew, each sister nested into the next, gradation of color and height, the trajectory of Mildred’s red ending in Helen’s black. The boys watched them through the sweating, stiff-ribbed hour of the pastor’s sermon, Iowa becoming slowly flatter out the window, washing itself away in the dusty light.

Mildred was confined to her room for a week once, after fixing her blue eyes squarely on Jesse Baker and winking, her mouth a saucy pucker. He must have been beautiful back then, with his golden hair in waves and secret Cherokee nose, his eyes bright in the midst of the tight-stitched Depression, thinness on everyone’s lips, fear in the tired swishing of the corn.

Jesse and Mildred bounced between each other like light from a prism, the colors of their merging so brilliant that the town covered its eyes, awed and wincing. She embroidered an English cottage garden for them to live in, towering pink hollyhocks and azure morning glories climbing the thatched roof to communicate with them as they slept.

They clung to the imaginary cottage even as her hands paled on the bedspread, her lungs weakening daily, until the flowers in thread became more real than the ones she could hear murmuring outside. The flowers whispered behind the urgent dialogue between her mother and the doctors who came one by one, then left bent and sad as scarecrows.

Maybe Mildred forgave Jesse, after she died.

In the stunning apocalypse of heartbreak, he only needed small details to re-create her. Maybe she knew that by marrying her sister Helen, he was only trying to feel her hands again, the wild morning-glory sweep of her hair.

Maybe she knew he made a bargain with God at her deathbed – to stop believing in Him if she died. And so he remained an atheist until his own death, though in later years, he began speaking of the Great Spirit his own ancestors had believed in – something buoyant and ancient enough to make sense of it all.

He wrote her poetry, the pages locked in the walnut bureau in the bedroom where my mother was conceived. The poems continued singing in their small, sweet voices, even after both their lives were only a flicker of remembered light.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A new day, a new blog!

It's been so long since I had a blog. I remember my first one, a livejournal I started when I was 15 and continued to write until about 18 or 19, when I moved from the wood and fields of Dodgeville to Madison Wisconsin, and realized that I could actually have friends that lived in the same city as me, who were not trees or flowers or raccoons.

I had a brief affair with a blog on MySpace, but it seemed so showy and superficial. I was always confused about what I wanted to post on it - creative writing? Snippets of my personal life just interesting enough to share, but not so interesting that they were too personal to post?

Older and wiser now, I've decided it's time for another blog - but this time, one created with the specific intention of sharing my creative writing with others. I have a tendency to closet my writing, and write copious amounts that I never seem to have time to type up (ie: do anything with).

I've also noticed that when I do share my writing with people, I am usually creatively nourished by the exchange. That seems to be key piece of the writing experience for me: it doesn't matter how much I write, something is not complete until I have shared it. But please be aware that the pieces I'm posting will be in all stages of growth, some just learning to walk, some going on their first dates, some well into their mature adult lives. So please handle with care, and enjoy this (hopefully) mutually beneficial exchange.

Now let's ride off together into the crisp morning of a brand new blog!


P.S. A word about the blog's name: The Embroidered Garden is a piece I wrote recently telling an old family story that has haunted me all my life. I'll post it soon.