Wednesday, April 30, 2014

To be honest

To be honest,
my Happiness Jar
isn’t filling as fast
as it used to,
not for lack of
happiness, per se,
but perhaps a lack
of attentiveness.
To be honest,
it feels like each
crossed off day on
my calendar is
another reminder
that I’m not where
I thought I’d be at
twenty five and ¾.
To be honest, this
poem feels a little
too genuine and it
could be the wine talking,
or the guilt at purposely
avoiding poetry, but
I’d rather not post
this poem or any poem
I’ve written lately,
because some
things are best
not shared.


It's over, folks. National Poetry Month comes to a close tonight. I leave you with this for now: an apologetic offering for the last third of the month, when my (published) poems were sparse. If you think this is bad, you should see the ones I kept to myself! Only kidding. April isn't about good or bad, it's about creatingcreatingcreating. And some creating happened behind the might see the fruits of those labors in upcoming, non-poetry-focused months. ;)

Followers of this blog know what's next: photography. Set in May, National Photography Month (NaPhoMo perhaps?) is a convenient, well-placed break from the emotions and headiness that poetry revels in. Some photography inspires poetry, or stories, and some just begs to be gazed at. Some pictures aren't worth the "photograph" label, while others transcend mere photography and demand to be called art. I'm exploring all of it. Starting tomorrow. Right now, I drink wine and read romance poems.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Decision

I have decided
not to let the neighbor at
work creep me out when he
says, at near a whisper,
“Hello Beautiful,”
as he stands on his stoop
while I rake leaves,
park the car,
or unlock my bike to go home.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


I tried to stop the clocks,
thinking, maybe if I stay quiet,
time will quiet down, too.
Maybe if I don’t move,
time will stand still with me.
Stillness seems so appealing
until you realize you’re only
a breath away from stagnation.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lunar Park

Lunar ParkLunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I tried some of Bret Easton Ellis's earlier works; they're not for me. Lunar Park, though, I got into. It reminded me of The Shining, especially with the drug use, and there were times I was thoroughly creeped out. Not knowing what kind of book this was before I started (I rarely read book summaries, I just jump in), I initially skipped the first chapter, thinking it was just chronological background information/an introduction to the author (which it kind of is), and nothing more. When I finally realized what was going on (Bret Easton Ellis, the author, isn't the same as Bret Easton Ellis, the character), I went back and read from the beginning.

Recommended for: horror story lovers, Bret Easton Ellis fans (interesting to see where the character matched up with reality), and voracious readers.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

He is Risen, We are Here

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” --Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry
In my brother’s car
on the way to the airport
for Easter Sunday mass,
and then in the chapel
on the Mezzanine level
at O’Hare. No, before that,
on the row of hard leather chairs
behind the Starbucks kiosk--
four of them--welded together
and pushed up against a wall,
facing the kiss ‘n’ fly lanes outside.
That’s where we ate pastries and drank our
morning beverages (coffee, chocolate milk)
before the service.
Sometimes we turned to each other
to make conversation,
other times we spoke towards
our reflections in the windows,
telling our stories and remembering
what it’s like to be together.


This poem was meant for Easter, but it had to tumble around my brain for a bit before I could get it out. I might need to put it back in for another spin, but here it is for now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Life

At this point in my life,
Earth Day feels like
pretty much any other day:
biking and recycling,
turning off the lights,
keeping showers short--
I’m no more celebrating
than merely living on
the planet where I was born.

Monday, April 21, 2014


AtonementAtonement by Ian McEwan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm glad I finally got around to reading this book, which I've had on my (physical) bookshelf for a while. I watched the movie about four years ago, and enjoyed it. The original didn't disappoint. Much like the movie, the middle war section was my least favorite/most forgettable, and the opening, while only lasting several days, took some time to get in to, but by the end I was sold.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter by Jill Alexander Essbaum : Poetry Magazine

A (sad) Easter poem. Because that's where I'm at right now.

Easter by Jill Alexander Essbaum : Poetry Magazine


is my season
of defeat.

Though all
is green

and death
is done,  

I feel alone.
As if the stone

rolled off
from the head

of the tomb
is lodged

in the doorframe
of my room,

and everyone
I’ve ever loved

lives happily
just past

my able reach.
And each time

Jesus rises
I’m reminded

of this marble

they are not
coming back.

(Poetry, January 2011)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bucktown/Wicker Park Public Library, Friday, April 18, 2014, 2:25 pm.

Bucktown/Wicker Park Public Library,
Friday, April 18, 2014, 2:25 pm.
First Floor:
The tables are nearly full, so I
camp out at the edge of the
one nearest the meeting rooms
and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Outside, the fresh grass peeks
through last fall’s dead leaves.
My nose starts to run and I
turn back to the quiet bookshelves
in this corner of the library:
Test Prep and Careers.
Their shelves are filled with titles
like The Princeton Review guide to the
Job Search Letters, Resumes, or
Interviews for Dummies
Postal Exam Preparation
How to be a State Trooper
Get Your Captain’s License!
No one else here is concerned
with any of that, just
How do I print this?
What’s the wifi?
Where’s the nearest 7-11?
or my favorite overheard conversation,
between a mother and a son:
“Can I go up there?”
“No, not now.”
“But I asked!”
“Yes, and thank you so much
for asking respectfully, but my
answer is no.”
Followed by the stubborn
stomps of a child who’s asked and expects
the answer to be yes.
Because what’s the point in
asking otherwise? Aren’t we
all just asking to go “up there,”
wherever that may be,
not for actual permission, but
just to be polite?
And when the universe answers
no, we stomp around anyway,
like children in a public library
on a Friday afternoon.


I wrote this (mostly) at the library in honor of National Library Week. Visit your library! You never know how it might inspire you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Contradiction

This is not a poem, but a contradiction.
It’s how it can snow on Tuesday
and I can sunbathe on Friday.
It’s the cultural ignorance I seek
to separate myself from, all
the while knowing it’s in my skin.
It’s ice cream trucks and late
night sandwiches. Hovering
parents and absent bosses.
Going to bed when it’s light out;
waking up in the dark.
Stomach pain, noisy neighbors,
spiderwebs, dirty piles of laundry
stacked next to the bed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold.
Chicago, pregnant with spring,
still clung to her Siberian chill,
blowing through April’s sunny days and
windows-open, grilling-on-the-patio weather,
like the woman in labor, scared
of what the new season might bring.
Spring seemed hesitant to emerge.
It hid in the last bank of snow,
now mostly dirt and icy rocks,
like the baby being born, not ready
for the traumatic change.
We held our breath, like family members
in the waiting room, praying for a
speedy delivery, a healthy baby.
We let it go and watched it
condense in the frozen air around us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Love & Taxes

“Income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today." –Herman Wouk

I’m not certain about much,
but what I can be sure about
is how taxes aren’t so bad
when you do them with someone
you love.

It’s things like taxes
and washing dishes
and sharing headlines
over coffee before work--
the mundane repetitions of life
--that carry you from
each adrenaline-fueled peak
(first kiss, meeting the family,
“I love you,”...)
to the next.

If I spend the rest
of my life doing taxes
with the same person
--with, as in next to,
or with, as in filing jointly--
I’ll be okay with the
monotony, the frustration,
and the reminder of my
lackluster tax bracket status.
Whether the IRS takes my
money or gives it back,
I’ll still have my date night.

Is It Work?

Is poetry work? Do poets produce? Can a poet retire? All questions answered in this witty post.

Is It Work? : Patricia Lockwood : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

Monday, April 14, 2014

15 Questions

Are you going to pick me up today?
Do you have your phone?
How did you do?
Can you wash these?
Are you ready to go?
What color is it?
Am I?
Do you see her much?
Can we go in here?
Will the snow kill my plants?
Rice or noodles?
What’s this for?
What else?
Do you want this last one?
No, that’s yours, you take it.

(napowrimo prompt)

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Who? The girl from
this winter? She comes
blowing in and out,
as she’s wont to do.
I’ve seen her when
there’s a chill in the air,
or when it gets dark
before she expects it to.
I see her. Don’t you?

This week the gargleblaster asks, "Do you see her much?"

Be Kind.

Happy Palm Sunday! There's one week left of Lent, and one more simple living challenge before Easter. Last week's "unplug" challenge became much easier when the temps increased, making bike rides, walks, reading on the porch, and cook outs more attractive than TV binges. This week, Steph and Brit challenged us to find God in others.

This doesn't mean worshiping others.
This means seeing the divine in humanity.
This means recognizing that we are all made from the same stuff.
This means treating others with the respect that we all deserve.

It's a challenge, for sure, but one that should last longer than a week. I'm keeping these words in mind:


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Volatile or Non-Volatile

Loneliness is any neutral substance
that is both hydrophobic ("water fearing") and
lipophilic ("fat loving").
Some loneliness burns in liquid or aerosol form, generating light and heat,
which can be used directly or converted into other forms of energy.
Loneliness is usually slippery,
may be animal, vegetable, or petrochemical in origin,
and may be volatile or non-volatile.
Specially prepared loneliness is used in some religious ceremonies as a purifying agent.
Loneliness is used for food, fuel, and lubrication.
As no suitable substitute is available, loneliness is still used in space (in small quantities).


Today's "poem" is another napowrimo prompt, substituting a tangible noun (oil, if you haven't guessed) with an intangible noun (loneliness). My oil information comes from Wikipedia's "Oil" page. I chose loneliness based on my two book reviews from today, both about books (by the same author) that dealt with loneliness.

Player One: What Is to Become of Us

Player One: What Is to Become of Us (CBC Massey Lecture)Player One: What Is to Become of Us by Douglas Coupland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading this book right after another of Coupland's novels, Eleanor Rigby, was very strange. Enlightening, also, but strange. Especially after writing a review on Jhumpa Lahiri and how I don't care that all of her stories are the same, to see another writer write essentially the same story was affirmation that all writers do is tell one story, over and over again.

Yes, that's a brute simplification of a novelist and their work, but it's what we all do as humans: tell the same tale over and over, never quite getting it perfect. Where Eleanor Rigby starts off promising, with its character development and reflection on loneliness (before derailing a bit), Player One picks up the torch and goes even deeper with it. These are the same stories--told by different characters under different circumstances, yes--but they have same message: we all have a loneliness unique to us, but we have that loneliness in common with everyone.

Not that I searched very hard, but I haven't seen a lot (or any) comparisons between these novels, which strikes me as strange because I counted no less than 10 instances where Coupland reuses phrases, sometimes even entire sentences, or several sentences, from Eleanor Rigby in Player One. I'm sure as I continue reading Coupland I'll see that he does this across a lot of his works. He's writing the same story here--and I'm glad for that, because it's a better story. It's more nuanced, less weird, and it trusts what it has to say. While it's still a little weird, the structure of the novel (told over the course of five hours, from the perspective of five people) lends itself to the strangeness of the tale.

View all my reviews

Eleanor Rigby

Eleanor RigbyEleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. The beginning started off with promise--I even copied several lines into my journal I liked them so much:

"Like anybody, I wanted to find out if my life was ever going to make sense, or maybe even feel like a story..."

"I decided that instead of demanding certainty from life, I now wanted peace. No more trying to control everything--it was now time to go with the flow."

Coupland sets up what I thought was going to be an introspective character study on our protagonist, Liz, and beyond that, a study on lonely people. What does it mean to be lonely versus just alone? Why is loneliness viewed negatively?

Then things just got weird. The long lost adult son I could handle--Jeremy was another interesting character, another perspective on loneliness and connection, what makes a family and how to enjoy a rough life. But instead of writing an honest story, and focusing on funny and slightly strange characters, Coupland went the route of bizarre plot devices. A trip to Vienna, a German prison, a serendipitous reunion--why do we need these things? I liked Liz and her thoughts. I liked Liz's conversations with Jeremy (until those got weird as well). I liked reading about all the lonely people.

All in all, I'm glad I read Eleanor Rigby, because I can appreciate it within the scope of Coupland's works, but I don't recommend it for the casual reader--try Player One instead, a very different novel in terms of what happens, but similar in its themes.

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11:56 on a Friday night

Sometimes it’s 11:56 on
a Friday night when you
realize you haven’t
written a poem yet that day.
But--you think to yourself--
I raked all the leaves,
surely that counts
for something poetic.
Leaves, leftover from fall,
long dead and decaying,
enough to fill a trash bag
--and then some--
raked to uncover fresh dirt--
now that’s poetry.
And what about the pizza
I made? The one with
four eggs cracked on top,
baked right into the cheese.
It looked good, until I
tried to cut and serve it.
Then the egg ran all gooey,
the crust stuck to the pan,
and I was left with scrambled,
not sunny side up.
Scrambled, raked,
and only a few minutes late
writing this poem.