Thursday, April 24, 2014

wallace stevens and martha's vineyard

"Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
They never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weaving of our afternoons." - sunday morning, wallace stevens

On Martha’s Vineyard, there is a great thrift store that is unique and not ubiquitous to those I frequent when I’m home in Portland, ME. For those like me, who enjoy picking through second-hand and consigned merchandise, you know the smell of worn clothing and loved furniture. It’s a musty scent, like the inside of a tent after a camping trip.

However, on the island, my favorite little thrift store is a converted garage just outside Vineyard Haven, tucked away near a dead end road that leads to the salt marshes. On nice weather days, the air circulates from the street where the doors have been pulled up and open, through the building of racks and boxes and shelves, and out to sea.

And the finds that can be dug up! Abandoned paintings and drawings of visiting artists, enough cookware to fill your kitchen, clothing for those who care about labels (and not the price tag), tennis rackets and golf clubs and roller blades, tools of antiquity, and books, books, and more books. I now know to leave extra room in my suitcase, because it is likely I will be returning home with new reading material.

During my latest trip, I lucked out and visited the store when all books were ½ off. This was a real score for me, since my literary budget has been overextended in recent years. I have to say, if I have a sickness for anything, its spending money on books. I just can’t help myself, especially when I come across excellent writing. It’s the equivalent of finding a piece of art hidden or forgotten in a bin, then discovering the $5 sticker. For a moment, I’m saddened by how under-appreciated the work is, but my faith is quickly restored when I know I will find value in absorbing and savoring what the opportunity has afforded me. Acquiring knowledge and being grateful for the beautiful things brought into this world holds a different weight than material gains. This is a truth I know.

All and all, I spent $3 and got three wonderful works for my collection:

Monday, April 14, 2014

When he stopped recognizing his wife,
he conjoled her behind the wood shed,
wearing a blue bird dress and a string of cowries.
And him: the suit he'd be buried in. 

With his finger on the trigger, she asked 
"Did you happen to set the kitchen timer?" 
And he didn't have the heart to tell her
it's been 10 years of extracting things from the oven--
and shoes,
and the manuscript she believed
was plagiarized by another,
in her own hand. 

It occurred to him in a flash of clarity,
that his wife could be like an octopus;
able to detach a part of herself at will--
exhausted of her faculties,
reasoned in their age. 

Then over them, flew an osprey
and she looked up,
and she looked up.

And he followed her eyes,
and he followed her gaze.
 he followed her. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My veins have pitchforks in 'em—
hard, blue blood work ethic,


I could prune an orchard with a look.
Identify carving wood with my teeth.
Erect a wall
by finding permanence of mind.

I can’t think of mulch, without
remembering the squeal of a rabbit.
In a shoe box, is where I kept the bunnies safe inside a storm drain,
with a nest of newspaper.

It was a milk snake or fox
that got to them, eventually.
My mother called this, LIFE.

When I pray I stand in fields
and estuaries,
or rejoice in mountain springs
among the fecund ferns.
And when I mourn, I look
to the icy bath of the Atlantic,
reminding me that I have

with pitchforks in ‘em.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

And the strap slips off her shoulder...

Did you know that I contribute to another blog?

The Red Dress Conversations is more than just a bunch of random thoughts on a page.
It is an ongoing dialogue between mothers and daughters and sisters.

Want to know what women truly contemplate when they consider the roles they live each day?

The Red Dress Conversations is a meditation on the preservation of memory.

It is the interwoven threads that make up the fabric of our many stories.

Want to read more?

Click here  >>>>>

the nature of having expectations.

Sometimes I blurt things out without thinking about what I’m saying. Then when the moment has passed and I’m alone, I think, “Oh, hell.”

Yesterday, I had a bout of Turrets in response to this guy: “So, have you published anything? And where can I find you?”

“I don’t give my information out.”
“Come’n, Amazon? Do you have anything on Amazon?”

“God! I hope not.”

“What?”  **blink, blink ** with blank look of confusion on his face.

“I mean, I hope I never do.”

“Wait, why?”

“Because I don’t believe in what they do, or that they benefit authors. Their sales and distribution, not to mention the copyright issues…***mumble, mumble***”

The guy walks away, unimpressed. And I feel like I’ve won, for there was no personal information forfeited. The guy also probably thinks I’m an asshole without any tact, but that’s okay considering I’d rather remain true to who I am, than paint an inaccurate picture of what they want to see.

Ever since I ordered a copy of Jack London’s Martin Eden online, and received a digital reprint riddled with grammatical errors, I have not given Amazon anymore of my business. Instead, I go downtown to my local bookstores, Longfellow and YES!, and see what they have in stock. If they don’t happen to carry what I’m looking for, I then order it through their distributor. It is quick, easy and I know the product I’m getting is what I want. Also, by doing this, I maintain relationships with the staff who work at these establishments and gain recommendations in the process.

The metaphor that can be used here, is this: I need a hammer to hang a picture. I don’t own a hammer, so I decide to seek one out. Instead of buying a brand new one at a Sears or Lowes that I’ll use for that one job, I borrow one from the neighbors. And in turn, a level of trust is established. They know I will return the tool and will be considerate of their things in the future.

Loyalty is a wonderful achievement. But it takes multiple parties to be on board with the exchange. It is not a one-sided agreement, built on convenience. It is having your expectations met time and time again, and being satisfied with the results.

Too bad that guy didn’t give me a fair chance to state my case. I bet I could’ve turned him on his head, seeing the jungle as well as the trees. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

always choosing.

There seems to be so much advice lately in magazines and journals, in craft books and on blogs, about how to discipline oneself to write. Even the target web ads that pop up in the sidebar seem to find me: WE KNOW YOU HAVE A STORY IN YOU! APPLY TODAY

How to approach the page, the head space/mental state one needs to be in, the point when inspiration hits, whether or not an individual is a “real writer”--àTAKE THIS TEST & FIND OUT--- it's all covered. 

I asked a friend who also writes, “So, how do you do it?”

Edward Hopper, New York Movie
“Well, say it’s a cold, snowy walk back to my apartment one day. I go home and write a scene about that. But instead, set in a different time period, with different characters, and there is some sort of conflict related to the miserable weather. Then later, I have a bowl of steaming pea soup to warm up from that long walk. And what do you know, so does Character X, Y, or Z, because that soup is fresh in my mind and it’s what I can write most accurately about in that moment.”

Of course, my friend has to pick-and-choose what she can borrow from her life and make relevant to the story she’s working on. And that’s a discipline in itself; knowing when to zero in on a detail or array of details to make one’s writing believable for an audience. What I like about her approach is how natural she makes it sound, organic and unforced. I know it’s not a seamless process, and that she gets frustrated every now and again. But the fact that her mind is trained (or maybe this is a born gift--- still a matter of debate in certain circles, of course) to distinguish elements and experiences in her everyday as applicable or pertinent to her art, tells me that creativity is essential, if not central to her life. 

Why do we keep spending time analyzing and insisting that a right way exists when it comes to art? Because while we are wasting time “trying to get it”---the formula, the routine, the label, the what-have-you--- there are people like my friend, who’s art is so integrated with her life, that she will never have a shortage of material to draw from. It boils down to choice: she can choose to write, or choose not to write. But if she chooses in favor of, often enough, eventually she’ll have a solid body of work and a well-savored life to look back on. 

this guy gets it too:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

skin and freckles, hair and teeth.

When I consider the nature of aging, looking in the mirror, or when I see a photograph of myself, there is a delay that happens: "This is me. This is me? Is this me, and all that I am?

Skin and freckles, hair and teeth. These are the parts I see changing with every day that I age. However, my soul maintains as it always has; youthful, curious, challenging, and occasionally wise. I wonder if it's aging that makes one more or less aware of their soul. 

It's like coming across one's own footprint in the snow and not recognizing it right off, "Oh! That's me?" I am bigger/smaller/wider than I thought. 

A few nights ago, I had a dream that was as close as I've ever come to an outer-body experience. It was a dream inside a dream, and I was watching myself sleep, fully aware that I belonged to the woman resting peacefully beside her lover. This filled me with so much fear, because I've never felt that sort of space or freedom before. And I panicked, as though the infinite was drowning me. 

What if this is what dying is? Being released from the tangible, finite world. And how do we learn to embrace the changes we experience between body and soul, when the known reality is that none of us are immune to this inevitability. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Losing someone close to you is a sobering experience. It snaps us awake, shakes us, and reminds us how fleeting time is and how quickly it all passes before the eyes. Poof! And it’s gone—their gone. No time for goodbyes, or closure, and never enough answers to explain ‘Why?’ Too soon, too young—we want more of that time, “to have been ‘there’,” or to have been a better lover, friend, father, brother or sister, niece or nephew.

One day they are emailing you, telling you how proud they are of you. That they've read everything you have written. How beautiful you have become. “Just like your mother,” they say.  The next day, the words: “He’s dead.”

“What?” you say.

“Last night.”

“What?” you say, again and again. Because the words don’t feel real. They can’t be. He just got a puppy. He just started a business. He seemed to be on the upswing—healthier, happier.

And as much as I try to hold it together for my family, as each of us falls into our roles of support for one and another. Cleaning up and clearing out someone’s life is surreal. You think you know who a person is, but their world keeps unfolding and unfolding—paper and photos and collections and odds & ends that mean nothing to us, but had to have meant something to them.

Hands are held, tears are shed. We are like fallen and tattered trees holding each other up, when everything around us feels eerie and bleak. This time is for silence. To have quiet for our thoughts and the ways we want to remember him.

What I do know, is that he knew how to love fully with his whole heart. His relationship with his lifelong partner of 30 plus years, speaks volumes. High school friends, sweethearts.

If I could tell him anything, I would say: “No, Uncle Jim. You’re the beautiful one.” 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Voices Project has anthologized my poem, "committed." Here's a blurb about the publication:

"Front line experts on combating global poverty agree
that when you empower a woman
you empower a family,
a community,
a nation...

The Voices Project is a non-judgmental venue for women to express their personal stories and observations through poetry to promote social change. Our goal is to publish the work of women and girls in the United States and international community who might not otherwise have opportunities to share their stories, no matter what their age or background. The hope is to bring the voices of these individuals forward, providing a creative pathway leading to growth and empowerment, and in turn affecting everything within their lives."

LINK: "committed." by Sarah E. Caouette

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

an advent poem

What a fantastic way to close out the year! This is my first piece of poetry to be published, and I'm absolutely ecstatic. I am eager for 2014, with hopes that it will be a copious time filled with
happy tears.
Vol. 2 No. 5