Saturday, December 13, 2008

I Love (cinquain)

I love
how stupid I am
sometimes - eating ice cream
when I'm already too cold to
sit still

Monday, November 24, 2008

At Last (cinquain)

At last
when there's nothing
to say, you say nothing -
but isn't there always something
to say?

Friday, November 21, 2008


It's not that I was thinking of the

hopelessness of my situation or of how much I miss my life,
I don't know what I was thinking but it really didn't seem
to have anything to do with my crying, I just
suddenly started to cry. Perhaps my loneliness just then got to
the point of no return: I cannot keep this up. Anyway walking in the
gray hall with my walker I suddenly started to cry. Tears flowed and
sobs shook me as I walked and then I quieted down a bit and
soon I was telling people, "I don't know why but I just can't
stop crying," and then after a while I wasn't
crying any more. Then I ate but
eating's not the same any more, it isn't
enjoyable, it's just
a way to pass the time. I'll never
get my life back; it's gone; not that I'm dead but that I'm
unable to be in charge of myself. But the worst was when I
said to Deborah, the medicine nurse "Thank you for
being so nice to me," and she
turned away as if annoyed to hear this message. I
wonder what it is about it that she rejects. She is, though,
very nice to me and careful with my medicine and
I love her so much I could just

Thursday, November 6, 2008


"A woman who
but looks up to trouble"
says a woman's voice, then a
baritone tells me "A calm sea
has your knee." I'm walking the
late night halls hearing scraps of other people's
TVs as I pass their doors. I could collect in one night enough
titles for a lifetime of novels, should I have any desire to
write novels, which I do not. I hardly ever even
read them any more. What can I do, then, with
all these quotes, so mysterious and yet so
mundane? Collect them, that's all; if I gather
enough of them I will have more than
the storied output of all those
monkeys. Maybe that's all it is, anyway, this
jabber from screens, through doors, deep in the night:
monkeys talking. Two days ago the
jabber was of higher quality - it kept saying
Obama, Obama, Barack,
Barack Obama. I remember thinking how lucky he was in his
name, one that it's almost impossible not just to
keep on saying, but he's not the
only lucky one - we get to
have him around. And now if I could just
get someone to scratch my back I could
go to sleep.


When the sun is on the treetops afternoon
falls easy down the slope to where the wall
holds back the earth, letting me have all
the space I want for walking. Very soon
the earth having turned away, light will be gone
from yard and slope, leaving my gaze to fall
randomly on curtains or my ill
roommate, silent, stoic, all alone
abed or in her wheelchair where she dreams
perhaps of France, France whose facile tongue
falls not from her tongue - none does - but still seems
to cheer her waiting ear - Jeannot, pronounced
"Zhan-knot" by helpful aides, making us smile -
me and Jeannot - even in our dreams.


I want to go
up the west coast to
Canada by train and across Canada
by train through all those "too many" according to my
grandmother mountains and down to Portsmouth,
New Hampshire where I could take a boat
to Star Island and there fall asleep
to the sound of the waves on the rocks. I would not try
to swim there - when I was 18 I only thought it had
killed me, just for a minute as I first went down
into icy brine - but I would think about it; I would not
try either to walk the rock wall between islands as I could then, but
I would see them again and think about it. Now I don't know
exactly how I would get back here from there so perhaps the
whole trip will just consist of
thinking about it. Oh I think from there by train again but
south and west, through
Indian country finally, those
empty vistas so gratifying to one
full of homeless dreams. I remember that
Navajo woman who said to me near Albuquerque, "You
have all those people and no place to put them - we have
all this land and hardly any people." I would like to see her again
her friend told me "You
look just like her mother." And I could see again
those mountains named "Blood of Christ" and wonder still just how
that blood differed from my blood, if it did. Blood-red they sure
could be,
when the sun fell. I would come home with
some turquoise, not
blood-red at all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

So Long, Whoever You Are

Today's the day I saw you die. It's
the day Obama won, so now I'll always remember,
Oh yes, I remember when Obama won, it was the day
I saw that woman die. We were sitting in the hall
across from each other in our walkers, resting. We
made eye contact, peaceful in the sort of eventless
afternoon when it seemed the only thing happening was on
TV. Obama was winning, we were resting, our heads supported by
the backs of our chairs. Then yours wasn't, it fell forward til your
hit your chest; I gave a yelp; nurses came. Here, and then not here,
just like that. Mystery woman, I'll remember you, and honor you every
year on the day Obama won, 4th
day of November, 2008, his
victory day and your

Friday, October 31, 2008

Not That One, This One

Steven, the LVN, gave me a long explanation which I
immediately forgot of why I have the
cough I have and not some other
cough and why the cough
medicine I'm taking is the
right one for it. He knows because recently he
had the very same condition. I realize I have a
bad attitude but I really don't care why, I just want
some relief; I'm grateful though for the
attention. Today is Hallowe'en and we had
costumes up the ying-yang, some quite
attractive - my favorite is the girl from
"Rocky Horror" with her little apron. I myself
did not wear a costume, I never do, and neither did
Steven. We agreed it's hard enough just trying
to be who we are without having to pretend to be
somebody else.

Friday, October 17, 2008


It's not even Hallowe'en yet but this is a
Christmas cookie and boy, is it good! I went back and
got another, they're sitting out
on a plate at the front desk, sheltered with plastic from
flies. Anise I guess is what
gives them the Christmas flavor, though anise when I taste it
by the road tastes nothing like Christmas, separated
from the rest of the cookie as it is. First
Christmas cookies and then
jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie and
turkey and then a whole month of nothing but
buy! Buy! Buy! and you know
Christmas is, yes indeed it is, on the way. Then I want to go back to
Detroit where not so very many years ago I watched
an electric train go round and round and a sort of fairy princess in a
tutu spin on a toe in a shop window in the cold where
nobody had any
money but
I could hear real Detroit jazz all weekend and hear my
daughter sing too. And ride there and back on the bus with
another daughter and be cited for contempt for trying to
defend one of them from dope charges. It was
lovely to hear but I think it was her father, not me, she
wanted to sing to, and he was daughter-deaf. Actually
he was wife-deaf too; why do women
want to sing to the deaf? Maybe we
just want to find out
about Detroit. That
jazz went 96 hours, the
saxophonist having traveled all the way from
Jackson just to play all weekend, and we
lucky ones got to hear. Years later the
long walks on icy cold sidewalks
came back to me when I heard
the poet Dumisani pronounce
"Detroit" in French. I can
even remember the
name of the club -
The Unstabled -
where we sat
numb but all ears
and were blessed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


No sky but for that reflected in the windows
of the apartment house across the way. A wall, a
low block brick-topped wall holds back the hill with its trees and
sometimes deer. Below, macadam and a storage shed, white with
red-brown posts. Someone just tacked a notice to
one of the posts; I will never know what it says, though - this view is
the part of the yard that I can't reach on foot, not without going out
front door, which I am not supposed to do. On the wall, some
red and white crates and a blue tarp. Bright sun splashes the
shed and the posted notice. I, inside looking out, look mainly at the
windows full of reflected sky, and I think about Plato's cave. What's
going on in the world? You'd never know from looking at this view,
nor, I suppose, can I know from reading the paper, that's
the shadows. I think I'd like to go to
China where everything is
upside down, and from there think about here, where everything
seen from there would seem upside down. Find out how hard it is
just to get a little

Ramble At 5 AM

If you allow with me
those u-turns at the exit signs to be mere
bends in the road, then you can walk with me an
unending corridor; except for being indoors it's the
perfect walk, starting when you feel like moving
and ending right about when you
get tired.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Go Up (cinquain)

Go up
the hill first, then
coming back will be so
easy you'll thank and thank

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Defining After Midnight

The placebo effect is the
effectiveness of anything you
don't believe in - Einstein's
horseshoe, for instance.
Bierce's appendix
cannot be removed with
Occam's razor. Mulltiply, beyond
the mother of invention,
only non-
entities. Possession
is nine points
of even Newton's
law. I will own to being a
scofflaw, scoff even at Plato's
Republic; intellectuals and liars
rule. Poets, I guess, were the old Greeks'

The Air Is Almost Still

The air is almost still
and whispers of rain. Not a single cigarette butt on the
leaf-spangled tarmac tonight where I
walk in the near dark, happy at one with the air and with the
hill that falls to our brick-topped block wall, bringing
leaves and sometimes deer who consume our
impatiens. I want the gardener to spray them (the flowers, not
the deer) with maybe pepper sauce or something deer are
known to abhor. Meanwhile my breath is deepening, my
chest healing in the cool and there is a sense that this is
the same October I have dwelt in now for 86 autumns, the
same October that will always return and remind
someone of me, as it
reminds me of Skye and makes me thankful that the
wheelchair-bound clown who used to call everyone Ruth
has gone, whether to a hospital or to something closer to
home I do not know. I hope he has gone somewhere where he
will not be able to bother people with his ruthless trys at
joking, unknowing as he is of course of my Ruth but
keen to notice that his repetition of the name
bothered me. Still in this October cool, thinking of
my Ruth Skye, that joker seems no more
than another leaf, blown here by some wind
that now has blown again, taking him off
probably to visit Peter and Wendy; I think Tinkerbell
could carry him to seasonless
slumber far, far away, leaving us without
ribbons or wish for ribbons, palms open to catch the
cool October breeze.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I'm sorry I was rude to Jeanne.
I wish I hadn't been so mean.
I want to try to make it up;
I'd like to try with chicken soup
But I am just as sick as she.
Soup it isn't gonna be.
I cooked this up, though, long ago -
A book - all full of joy and woe
And now it's done, it's stirred, it's hot.
I'm the chicken in this pot.
No matzoh ball, no lima bean.
I'm sorry I was rude to Jeanne.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sit Still (cinquain)

Sit still
Let them ask their
questions. Do not reply.
Suck the air in, let it help you
sit still.


I am close to the
redwood forest, but then
to the gulfstream waters rolling up along the
coast of Maine. I was in a cabin sitting on a
low stool not too far from the fire, waiting, as I
am now, for sleep. Then, strong arms would lift me into bed. I want
those arms now. Instead, I will fall on my side and
that will let me know it is time
to pull my legs up.

Gilbert #1 (cinquain)

true to his word,
cannot carry a tune
but sings, teaches us to

Remembering The Raven

And I just remembered that I forgot
that I want to memorize
The Raven. I started wanting to about seventy years ago
when rote memory was in disfavor and so my
wishes were at war with my beliefs and I
forsook my wishes. Now, having heard the glorious
late Jack Schafer recite it I realize what an
egregious error that was and I want
to make my wish come true before I
die. And now no one will roll their eyes in disgust
if I try to recite it, either, the way people used to
in my teens. I am getting better - I may get well enough
to read my poetry aloud again. If I do, I want to be able
to recite The Raven once in a while. I would like too to be able
to recite Marianne Moores Spensers Ireland but one thing at a
time. I believe when I first read Moore I had already been
longing to be able to recite The Raven. Meanwhile, what
can I recite? I think that Yesenin, The Back Streets of
Moscow, is about it, and for that one I need to memorize too the
name, for some reason resisting my attempts to
know it, of the translator. That and maybe a Sara Teasdale but
I have forgotten the title of that one. Actually two Teasdales and
not the titles of either. Reading biographies of Teasdale finally gave
some glimpse of why I found her so hard to memorize - her poetry and
her person did not coincide as in those days no one
expected them to, it was as if art shows who you
want to be - for who you are you need
a mirror or to wait until after your
death for a lucid biographer. Of
course I suppose one always likes
ones own times best - anyway I
sure prefer mine. It is good to
have lived this long.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

These Birds

These budgies
here in the bird room
have memories only
two minutes long, so I have been told, but it is kind of neat
how one or the other will chirp suddenly under the cover that
darkens their cage, chirp just at the moment when the
right word comes to me. Reminds me that there are things
we know and also things
we do not know.

I Look Out With Surprise


at the familiar hillside; I guess I was dreaming of being
somewhere else. Where, though? I'd like to go
back there, I was
happy there and here I am coughing and short of
breath and despite the sunshine and the
friendly greeting of people going by am not exactly
happy. Happy is evidently not happy either; when
I pass her in the hall she`s the exception: once she
told me ''You`re just an old woman with
white hair.¨ True enough and she could say
the same of herself but Hey, Happy¡ Rejoice in it. Look
where you might be instead. Besides, despite being sick I`m having
a lot more fun right now than I was for a lot of years when I was
quite otherwise - busy busy housewife driving around all day in a
car, everybody´s ferry, and smoking up a storm which is what
put me here, in a nursing home but waiting
for a shipment that's on the way of my own
new book, a collection of my own
poetry. I wish my mom
could have lived to see it, and my
sister. Happier than Happy, that's for sure.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Days Of The Predicted 21 Of Recovery

1. It's been
cough, cough syrup,
cough, all day. Sandwiches,
soup too, go down anyway. Still
bad day.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Last Night

I wasn't able to eat dinner with Penny and Helen in the
dining room because I had to unhook the oxygen in order
to get into the dining room and when I got to my seat I was
too short of breath to move, let alone to eat dinner, so back in my
room with the tank I awaited my tray, bearing when it came a
discouraging sight (that s why I prefer eating with friends - at least
the company s good). Okay a mound of mashed potatoes with
gravy, that would be edible, in fact I like mashed potatoes with
gravy in spite of meeting it twice a day and often cold. Green beans,
too and
tasteless. A mound of chopped chicken, somewhat salty, and a spoonful
of cranberry jelly. A cold bun with margarine and some multi-colored
jello for dessert. I looked at it all for a while and then called my
daughter. When you come, I said, please bring soup - there is nothing
for me to eat here. The matzoh-ball soup when it arrived was a mitzvah
that thrilled my bones and I was well fed on the evening of the first
day of my predicted 21 days of recovery from this last bout of
pneumonia. And it was the first
day of
fall. Winter
is coming. Matzoh-ball soup is good magic for
turning the seasons.

Brown Bread

Oh but it was good on
Sunday mornings with baked beans and fish balls;
hot and slathered with butter, not baked but steamed:
Boston brown bread. I'm thinking of it now because I just had
probably my last bite of white sliced bread - one peanut-
butter-and-jelly sandwich too many, alas. I do like a
midnight snack but I will have to find another kind, this
polished bread won't do. We had brown bread with
raisins and brown bread without raisins, both
heaven-sent, fresh out of the oven where they'd been
steaming overnight. As a child in my
grandfather's house I never thought about the
laboring housekeeper, up before we were just to
feed us, up and then down two flights of stairs, the
back stairs too, dim and narrow. Deaf Elizabeth Cronk, who got
a weekly newspaper from her home in Canada that had
amazing funny papers we were allowed to read when she
was through with her paper - Maggie and Jiggs, Mutt and Jeff, -
and the best, The Toonerville Trolley. Up on the third floor where
Elizabeth lived when she had a chance to live (her
afternoon break and Thursdays off) was the room that had been
my father's and uncle's playroom, with
Gibson Girls on the walls and The Hardy Boys in the
book case. Other books too - there was The Sun
Also Rises. And the Guest Room, where the
treadle sewing machine was kept on which I made -
what did I make? A blouse, and a dotted-swiss evening gown,
and I think a dirndl skirt. Elizabeth would put the
brown bread in the oven to steam on Saturday night, and
she knew how to bank the fire in the wood-burning
oven. Later we got another stove, an
electric one, but still the brown bread was steamed in the
old one. Oh if I ever get a kitchen again I'll bake Boston
Baked Beans and steam Boston Brown Bread but I won't
try to deep-fry cod-fish balls - too scary. Maybe I can buy
ready-made fish balls and heat them up. Or make fish-and-
potato patties and fry them in a spider. But of course, I'll
never have a kitchen again, not one of my own, cooking
is dangerous to me. I'll just have to

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dessert Disappointment

"There's none so rare/ as can compare"
with a good slice of pumpkin pie. So say I, though I would have thought
the adjective unnecessary until today when I learned, to my
sorrow, that there is such a thing
as stale pumpkin pie. Of course too there's
sweet potato pie, a delicacy I have relished
a time or two. But (good) pumpkin pie, that's
the best; always a disappointment to hear at the counter, "Oh,
we only have that in November." Once in my younger days I
baked a pumpkin chiffon pie because I did not want to be
boring; it was all right but though not boring did not
come up to the mark; pumpkin pie is it. Mince pie you can keep;
at Thanksgiving Uncle Tom Robinson always brought mince
pie and people put ice cream on it and raved but for me
it was a mystery why they liked it. I ate
pumpkin, all I could eat. But today, alas, I learned
that though all pumpkin pie is created equal, some
is left standing too long. Next time, don't hide it,
bring it to me! It's
what I'm waiting for.

They Call Them Rock Doves

We got out the bus schedule to find out what time to leave
to get to the party in Venice. Venice, California, not Venice,
Italy, someone explained, and someone else said "Don't forget crumbs
for the pigeons." "Hey, there are pigeons in Italy too - let's go
to Italy" but I disagreed. Next year, I said; I have enough
shoes right now. Besides, this party is to honor the
workers. "What, there are no
workers in Italy?" Oh, who knows? Of course there are but
Italy has Communists to take care of them. Here we have only
parties. Of course the Communists are a party but it's always
BYOB. So here I am looking at a picture of Mary on the beach. Who
a party or a bottle either when there's
all that sand?

Saturday, September 20, 2008


At first I wanted a suppository. Then I wanted
an enema. Then I
had a bowel movement and didn't need
anything any more that I thought I wanted, except for the
use of two hands to type with in order to
capitalize. This I gained by holding the breathing-treatment
mouthpiece between my teeth. I'm feeling very sorry for myself but
I realize that there are people who type using a stick held between
their teeth the very way I'm holding this mouthpiece; not only that but
there are people who talk with their eyes, looking up for yes and
down for no. I never thought I could do all that but after I saw
Steven Hawking go by in his wheelchair talking to his aide I realized
I probably could; I'm glad I don't have to though. Seeing them
was funny too because they were walking right by the long line of
mostly students at Santa Monica College waiting to hear him; none of
looked at him. They were in line to see someone but they didn't know
what he looked like, just as I am now mostly waiting for death without
the faintest idea what it will feel like, and desperately searching for
kleenex when it is right in front of me, just behind the open laptop
lid -
and remembering when Kleenex tried so hard to prevent us from
saying kleenex. "The people, united, will never be defeated," I used to
chant when I could still walk and shout, not thinking about kleenex at
at the time, but it's all one: language won't ever come from Madison
Avenue though at times it will incorporate it. And now I'll have a
cabinet please (a Boston milkshake).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Four-Thirty In The

Four-Thirty In The
a of the m, as
Bonelli used to say; I know what he
meant too but I won't
tell you. These are the hours I love, between
midnight or so and six, the sun is coming round again but
still gives no sign - you just have to
know it. I guess I enjoy having
secrets and something
bigger than myself
to believe in.



a of the m, as
Bonelli used to say; I know what he
meant too but I won't
tell you. These are the hours I love, between
midnight or so and six, the sun is coming round again but
still gives no sign - you just have to
know it. I guess I enjoy having
secrets and something
bigger than myself
to believe in.

2008 September 16 poem: WHY SHOULD IT BE


that I think of Chicha as soon as I start to
try to figure out what day it is that I'm
writing this, whatever it is. Must be
that her garden is her
poetry. I wish my
poems were as rich and
healing as is her
garden. And
- think of it - Tim
promised me an

2008 September 15 POEM: ART & THE CALENDAR


By the time I figured out
what the date is today I had
forgotten what it was I wanted
to write about. I think I need a new
system for introducing poems: write it first, then
give it the caption that tells when
it is I'm writing it.

2008 September 16 poem: FUNNY PECULIAR


not funny ha-ha, we used to say. I'm thinking it's
funny that I have not seen a bluebird in so long, and then
realize it's not funny at all, no one has - or few have. They're
rare indeed, live
I hope this doesn't mean
happiness itself is getting rare, though that
sometimes seems true. What is also
funny peculiar is that my most vivid
memory of seeing a bluebird is of seeing the stuffed one
under a bell jar on the mantel in my mother's bedroom (formerly
my grandmother's) all those years ago. Gone the way of
the Delft tiles around Mom's fireplace and the
firedogs she never got to keep, that she wanted so badly after
Grandpa died. The tiles anyway, maybe the firedogs too, are
still in that long-empty house, and
Mom's long gone to where
(or so I believe) things like
firedogs won't matter. But who knows? Maybe things like
tiles do matter in the afterlife and we continue
to care about their whereabouts after we've lost all
ability to control them. Well, no, actually I don't think, at least
I don't think that. Still, it's interesting sometimes to observe
how objects still extant seem to be tied to thoughts of the
dead or the sensation of being talked to by the
dead. Say a plant that never bloomed suddenly
has two blossoms - or a hod used as a magazine-holder
falls over, though empty. Blind coincidence is really just as
hard to believe in. I'm walking all my life through the past, and
the past talks to me. It's just that I'm
mostly deaf. But sometimes -
it's funny -
word gets through.

2008 September 15 poem: WHAT A VIVID


imagination you have, said someone once. Can it be
that? Or does this stuff really act so fast? I took some
antibiotics for pneumonia in the left lower lobe less than an
hour ago and already feel better - feel perfectly well, as a
matter of fact, well except for a bit of
what I used to type on
Treatment Authorization Requests as
S.O.B. (Shortness of Breath). Me and
Dalton Trumbo, I always think, because he was one of our
oxygen customers back then. Now he's gone and I'm
getting it. Couple of reds getting MediCare and
blessing socialized
medicine, yes indeed. Too bad Trumbo
didn't live to see Obama - how he would have
loved him. But never mind, I'm seeing him and so is
my buddy the peripatetic Marvin. Isn't it great sometimes to be
living in interesting

Monday, September 15, 2008

2008 September 15 poem: LOTS


"Drink lots of fluid," she said, so I asked her
if one cup of water was lots (it seemed so as I tried
to get it down). "Oh no," she said, but could not tell me
exactly how many cups of water would
constitute lots. I'm going to go for drinking
one cup every hour (while I'm awake) and
hope for the best. How that helps get rid of
pneumonia in the left lower lobe is beyond
my ken; maybe nobody knows, it's just that
experience has shown it to be true. Anyway
now I'm downing my second cup this hour
so am exceeding my quota, aha. Lots
and lots. And lookee here - the remains of the
Thai iced tea she brought me earlier, hooray. The next
time someone asks me "What can I bring," I'll say
lots of Thai iced tea. I won't have a problem at all with
lots of that.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2008 September 14, 2008, POEM: WINDOWFUL


No sky in sight; instead
three brown storeys of stuccoed apartment building, behind
sunlit trash trees on a hillside held back by blocks and
bricks, and a macadam courtyard with sheds,
trash cans, milk crates, and, right against the
window, some spear-leaved plant maybe half as tall
as I am. On the tip of one of the spears is something
that may be a scrap of blown Kleenx or may be
a wilting white blossom. I'll never find out because
when I go outside I can't get to this side of the
building. Rarely a deer appears on the hill, squirrels and
crows abound and there is the occasional
thrush. I know they're thrushes because one of my
daughters is a birder. I don't know what it
calls me and of course it doesn't know I
call it a thrush. That's all there is. Imagine!
No sky!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2008 September 13 poem: COUGH


and cough and cough and cough. Take some
cough syrup, stop coughing for a while, eat supper, then
cough, and cough and cough and cough. Wasn't this the way
pneumonia started last time - shortness of breath and
coughing? Well there was fever
too; I don't have a fever. Cough cough cough. Anyway I have
asked for some more
cough syrup and am remembering
calm. Between coughs I can just about
recall what it was like.

2008 September 13 poem: HUNDREDS


- thousands, maybe,
in the ten years I've worked here, says
the LVN to a visitor looking for a way to keep her
patient friend here alive forever. We're
all going to die, he says; most of these
patients are just going to die sooner than
we are who work here or who
come to visit them. She is not
satisfied; her desire is that nobody
die, certainly nobody that
she knows. And I've been
feeling so lucky since watching the news of
impending "certain death" for those in the path of
the latest huge storm in the Gulf of Mexico. Lucky because
are going to die and I'm not, but hah! We're all
doing it - not just falling in love but
dying too. That's the way of this
beautiful round world. I say, Thanks
for the ride.

2008 September 13 poem: THREE FORTY-TWO AM


"Do you have anything to eat?" I
asked the night nurse, forgetting all my
Baby Bel cheeses in the bag in the drawer. She
poked around and came up with
some kind of splendid banana nut bar; meanwhile
I found the cheeses so it's hog heaven right now here in
Room 28. It's sort of like
tip-toeing down the back stairs to the kitchen in
Grandpa's house to find
leftover turkey in the ice box (yes, a real
ice box, back by the back door). Stolen riches,
unearned and all mine. Tonight I have to
chew slowly, on the left side - no molars on the
right any more - and I relish it all - still having teeth,
found feast I'd forgotten about, being sated in the
middle of the night. Persistence rewarded - imagine,
she first offered me
unsalted saltines! But the salt
has not lost its savor yet.

Friday, September 12, 2008

2008 September 12 poem: MEDICAL EXPERTISE


The night nurse was a big help when my
glasses broke. "Oh, they're broken," he said. "The
lens came out, see? This is the lens. Someone will have to
put it back in again. Do you want me to take them?" After that
explanation I really didn't so this morning they're sitting here
waiting for Gilbert, the Activities Director, who
fixed them before (it was the other lens). Gilbert
who has been around the world at least
once, taught me that July 4 is not just Independence
Day but Philippine Independence Day too. He not only
knows how to fix glasses but
how to make me laugh so I look forward
to his visit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

2008 September 10 poem: NAME


Sometimes now when I wake up I have to ask myself not only
"What day is it?" or "Where am I?" but
"Who am I?" or "What is my name?" I know
I'm not Franny Dean any more, haven't been for a
long time but still I feel more like her than like
"Mrs. Smith," which is what everyone here
calls me; Mr. Smith is long gone but of course I'm still the
mother of some of his daughters, so
I guess that's not really wrong. The thing is, though, I'm
the mother of someone else's daughter too, whose name
I never took but who changed me for life. francEyE, that's
who I am but in this institutional setting being constantly called by
name on my paper records I tend after a while to respond to it as if
it were me. When I just need my pajamas or to be hooked up to the
oxygen tank who cares what my name is? I guess having some
complications to keep in mind regarding what I am called might be
helping me to keep my mind alert, as they say these games of
"Trivia" and "Bingo" do; it would be good to
think so anyhow. Anyway tomorrow I am going away for a while
with a few others; I think I will teach all my companions my
real name, francEyE. Who knows - maybe I will learn some of
their real names too.

2008 September poem: ROSS'S FINAL CURE


Sometimes dreams can be really grisly
jokes. Ross's final hemorrhoid cure in this one was
like a lipstick tube with a sawblade along the side
and the person in whose effects it was found had
died from loss of blood. The rest of the dream was
my pointless explanation to the dead man
of remedies I had used that had
worked as well without killing me. One was a
homeopathic one -
combination # 30 I think -
but the best and last was taught me by
my yoga teacher: you put the tip of your tongue
to the roof of your mouth and hold it there for
five minutes. This produces a lot of saliva but
through some body magic causes the anal area
to be lubricated too. Each time you do it the time
before the next episode of
itching or pain increases until finally
there is no more next episode.
I don't think the dead man in my dream
benefited from my account though. Why did I
dream it? I don't have any anal
itching or pain but I do have a slightly
sore throat caused from sleeping all night with the
oxygen on, maybe that was it. And how I miss
that yoga teacher. The last time I saw him was
on a train - he had just come back from Nepal
and was working as The Amtrak Clown in the
children's car. Who knew there was an
Amtrak Clown? And why
don't they have
yoga classes in
nursing homes?

Monday, September 8, 2008

2008 September 8 Poem: YUP


I replied at last. My neighbor in the next bed
asks questions when I come in, when I leave, and when
my light goes on when she's going to sleep:
"Did you feed the cats?" "Where did you
come from?" "Is it time to eat?" I seldom answer, but
tonight when she inquired "Are you breaking down our house?"
I replied in the affirmative. Since then I haven't
heard a word from her.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


come to me sometimes through the ether
that say things like "Call it Jhoubai" or
"Go to Inglewood." Since I don't have anything to
give a name to right now and I'm not sure how to get
to Inglewood I ignore them. They're not for me, they're
meant for someone else. If I just let them go, I hope
those supposed to go to Inglewood will
get their instructions. But if I ever
have a need for a destination or
a name all I'll have to do is
wait; it'll
come to me.

2008 September 7 poem: AMAZING VEGGIE DREAMING


I received a typewritten letter in my dream,
concerning an erratum in the article I was reading at the time
in The New Yorker about a
cubic cucumber, which the otherwise inventive authors failed to name
a cubumber. The illustration showed a cute cube
about 2 inches on a side
with dark skin only on the eight corners. I'll call research
in the morning and tell them
to get right on it. Don't you think
square lettuce leaves and pre-sliced
tomatoes would also go over well?


Saturday, September 6, 2008

2008 September 6 poem: REGINA


Usually the nurses
send me across the hall for a cup
of cold water after I swallow the Tylenol crushed in its
applesauce, but she
walks over there herself while I'm chewing
and brings me a drink. Now that's
nursing care.

2008 August 30 poem: I WENT OUT


to enjoy the cool dark and to
exercise my night vision, but there are those
who think they know better than you what's good
for you and who never even heard of
night vision and can't understand that maybe someone who has
lived more than twice as long as they have might
know something they don't. These hideous conformity police
come running after you if you exercise your
powers; you are not supposed to have powers; they
have power and you must need their help, that's
all there is to it. It was
beautiful while it lasted, though - maybe two or three
minutes - moving slowly in the cool, just
beginning to see. No
starlight, only
reflected earthlight from the cloudy air. Maybe I can
figure out how to
get out without warning of my absence; after all
I'll be in this place for many, many months, time
to figure out a lot of things. I'll be the
maverick patient, the
bane of their existence, and they'll
love it, they love eccentricity as
long as it's
somebody else's.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

2008 September 3: HE GETS IT


The ombudswoman says
she doesn't think he gets it,
but he's smarter in his stupid way than
she has found out yet, able to appear
not to know what people are talking about. The
minute he saw me write down the phone number
he was headed out of the women's
hallway back to his own
territory. Mr. Hands, I call him, always
reaching to grope. Like the turtle that
lived in a box, he finally
grabbed at me and "he
didn't catch me," I called
the number on the poster and
here she came, ready to take
charge and she did
take charge and it turns out
I'm not the only one who's
complained of him, so the end of that
nonsense is here. I wonder
how he will amuse himself
having to stay in the men's
corridor and
forbidden to grope. Maybe he has a good

2008 September 3 poem: LET'S SEE NOW


Why is it again that we have church,
some protestant melange,
on Thursdays? Thursday is nobody's
sabbath that I've ever been told. I guess it must be
the afternoon the wandering preacher
has set aside for us. I remember a wandering preacher I knew
back in the fifties - by the time I met him that was no longer his
calling; he'd become a philosophy student instead
but he had kept body and soul together for a number of years
before I met him, going hither and yon preaching though I know
he was not a believer. Sometimes he'd preach to two
congregations on the same day, one
in the morning and one in the afternoon. Anyway Thursday is
our Protestant Sabbath here and there is a mass too but not
on Sunday; I forget just when it is. Maybe it was today before the
protestant service. What I would like is temple, but I don't believe
there are any Jews here; probably if you're Jewish and get
old and sick you go to a Jewish place for the
old and sick, not one like this. I wonder if you
have to be Jewish to get in? I would like it
better, I think, though certainly every place has its
bureaucratic annoyances. But kosher
food every day -
and lots of chicken soup -
that would be nice.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

2008 September 3 poem: REMEDY


I went to the medicine nurse for my
Calming remedy. Does it work? he asked. Oh yes,
it puts me to sleep. Sometimes, usually. Of course there's always
those five minutes first when it doesn't. Each minute about an
hour long, and for every one of those hour-long minutes you're thinking
what am I going to do now? It's seven hours until breakfast and I
can't sleep? This is unacceptable, yet somehow I do
accept it and the next thing I know it's breakfast time but
until then, still, every minute is
an hour long. So how long does it take to write a poem?
someone always asks. And now I know the answer -
about five
hours, more or

2008 September 3 poem: PUTTING MY PAJAMAS ON


It's Wednesday,
I think to myself
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then
the big day. Oh that will be fun.
I liked it better when there was
something special happening every day. When exactly
was that, anyhow? I wish had
paid more attention when it was

2008 September 3 poem: OLE


You are a night
says the LVN -
ole to rhyme with hole -
and I do not correct him. I have given up
on the idea that the world cannot get along without my
tutelage. Perhaps I am, after all, a
night ole, swooping down from the rafters upon
unsuspecting mice who were looking out for
owls but not for
me. And maybe Allan Ginsberg really wrote
Hole. I will take a copy with me on my next
night ramble and when we meet, commend it
to his care; maybe he too will become
an ole. After Ginsberg there's always
Bukowski and then maybe Sharon
Olds - and after Olds, of course
Young. Oh this guy is going to be
one happy LVN when I get
through with him.

Monday, September 1, 2008

2008 September 1 poem: THAT WHEEZE


What shall I do about that
wheeze in my nose? I remember what I used to do years ago -
what helped to make matters worse though it made them
better for a hot minute - I had a benzedrine inhaler, and
later a menthol one. In those days I smoked all day long
and never gave any thought to what I would be doing now,
half a century later. Now I remember that I have a little
squirt bottle of saline inhalant but damficn remember
where it is but I go searching through drawers and
containers and sure enough: squirt, sniff, wheeze gone.
On my walks I pass LVNs on break, smoking away; I say
that's what put me here and they nod sagely but
one thing I have learned: most young people don't
expect to get old. They expect to be bombed or
otherwise done away with by their own kind before
they'll have the chance. Funny though that none of them
seem to be planning to do in their peers. Rome
perished from lead, so it's surmised; Western
Civ. may succumb to

2008 September 1 poem: NO MNEMON


I'm trying to think of a way to make plain
when to apostrophize it's and when it's
wrong to: i.e. when its apostrophe doesn't
belong there. I can't think of a way: you
just have to know. That's what comes of
trying to reify everything. Let's just say
"his" or "hers" instead, unless of course it's

2008 September 1 poem: FIVE HOURS LATER


I was just glancing through
Rick Lupert's books before going to sleep. Now it's
time for breakfast but I just have to
check this out one more

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Poem for Marina's 44th birthday

M is for Marvel, and M is for Mom and for long lazy sleepy Mornings too.
A is for the Apple of my eye.
R is for Righteous, Rigorous, also Refreshing and usually Right.
I is for If, If only, If we could all be like her
N that case, then we would Never have to wonder what's going on.
A is for All that make life so Agreeable and also for Applesauce, which
we know rain makes and she is not full of.
And all that spells is a safe harbor:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2008 August 27 poem: I DOUBLED UP


on flannel pajamas,
turned on the oxygen, and not being able to
find a peanut-butter-and-jelly
sandwich ate part of a cheese one. Now maybe
I'll be able to sleep. As it's
three now and I won't need to wake until
seven I should be able to get four good hours
of sleep and they will be welcome. No more of
these dreams though of riding around naked in an
open car, fighting with someone for the last
scrap of clothing, a
MacDonald plaid wool scarf far too
flimsy to fight over. No, you can have the
scarf, I've got
two pairs of pjs now and
warm socks too. Good night.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


That's the way
pneumonia started last time. Still, I'm not sure
that's what's going on now. I think it's just
my lung disease on a smoggy day. I sit here in a
wicker chair and think about making chairs by hand. Doesn't it
hurt your hands? I suppose you must
get calluses where the wear takes place. I have made
wicker baskets although I do not
remember any more how it felt, nor do I know
what happened to the baskets. When is a
skill not a skill? When you lose it. I no longer
want the skill of making wicker baskets but I would like to have
some yarn and a pair of
knitting needles; I would knit squares for a coverlet for
Babykins, the granddaughter soon to appear on the scene. Maybe
by the time she is two or three I could
knit her a sweater. Not a snow suit as my mom did for
my oldest two; that was when we lived in the
snow but we
don't now, nor
will we, and wool
is so scratchy too, but a
patchwork blanket. I would like that. I don't know if
Babykins would or not but maybe I could edge it with wide
satin ribbon. The sad thing though is that
the more I think about knitting the more my
arthritic fingers hurt. If just thinking about it hurts them,
it would take a lot of Tylenol to get a blanket knit.


"I'm so scared"
says Irene, as I pass her in her
wheelchair in the hall. I'm walking to
get some exercise and pause to listen to her
for a bit. "Stay with me," she pleads, so I
do. She's scared because she doesn't know where to go
to go shopping for her husband and her aunts. I tell her
she does not have to worry about that now, that we are
both well taken care of here and her husband and her
aunts are being taken care of elsewhere. Not knowing
anything about them I don't presume to tell her
anything else, and I listen to her
worries. How can she get downstairs? I
could tell her how to do that but I don't because
when she got down there she would still have no way
to get to a grocery store, those
days are over for her. Instead
I tell her she lives here now, and she wants to find her
bed. I'm happy that one of the workers came by and
took her there though I know she will not
stay, no, she will wheel herself back to the
crossroad of halls by the desk and try again to find out
how to get home. Oh, Irene, "home is where the
heart is," and yours I suspect is
with the dead. I do not want to help you
find it there.

Monday, August 25, 2008


You're just an old woman with
gray hair, an old woman with
white hair said to me inaccurately
(my hair is white too) as I
passed her in her wheelchair.
My hair was once a rich
dishwater blonde as we
used to say, I don't know what they say now,
and I washed it once a week with
Packer's Pine Tar Soap, rinsed it with
vinegar and dried it
in the sun. It started turning white at
30 so that my daughters would be asked
"going for a walk with Grandma?" as we
passed people in the park. Now it stands up in
startled peaks but it's no use trying to let it grow; it
won't grow long, stops at about my shoulders where it
is just a nuisance, not long enough
to play with. I wanted to be able
to sit on my hair but it would not
cooperate so now I wear it short, content to appear
constantly astonished, as I actually am. Look at that! The
greens Tim gave me have blossoms; they look like
elfin pine cones. what can this plant be? And
it's four o'clock in the
morning and I'm still not asleep. What
have I been doing all this time? Just lying here
thinking about nothing or maybe about
Barack Obama. Well now that I know about
those blossoms maybe I can take them into my
dreams with me. In just three hours it will be
time for my brekk-fahs as I will be told by
my favorite LVN. She like
lots of the employees here is
proud to be from the
Philippines, fine with me but what's not
so fine is realizing after hearing the
director's comments about the Olympics
why there are no blacks working here, not
one. This woman I thought
when I used to see her but not converse with her
was so original with her turned-up pants and
sockless shoes is really a brainless wonder; she
told me about one soap opera she watches that an
episode ended well; "it turned out all right, the
unwed mother died." She keeps telling me that I will
soon meet her sister, whose
name is Frances, which as far as she knows is
my name too, though why I should want to meet
her sister is beyond me. She certainly would not want to
meet mine if she knew I was a proudly unwed
mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Perhaps she thinks
as I once proposed
there should be a club of
Franceses. Frances was the name of
one of my father's ex-
girlfriends, though it's true there were a lot of
Francises in his family. My middle name,
Elizabeth, was the name of an eccentric
(because she never married)
great-aunt of my father's and my favorite
relative. And
that's enough about my hair.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Lei lines
converge here, on the side of this hill
where Bambi and Ena forage and the sun spills down
onto our patio under the flourishing silk tree.
That's why there's a nursing home
here; I'm glad it's a nursing home instead of a
church and that's why I love to walk outside around the triangular
courtyard, study the thistle that grows by the wall and
changes each day, find
gifts from the wind and look for feathers. Someone has set up a
little birdhouse for bluebirds but I think it's too close to where all the
people are; anyway so far the bluebirds have not come around. Of course
maybe it's not the house but the crows, there are plenty of those with their
cries and warnings. I was reading a review of a book of warnings about
alternative medicines, not that all medicines are alternative to other medicines
but I guess the AMA wants us to think what they think - and we would, if we all
thought alike, but actually the way you think affects your conclusions
sometimes. My friend John, whose
doctor brother died, leaving John to uphold the rule of double-blind studies,
considers everything not out of the MDs holy book to be
wishful thinking. I myself consider anything that doesn't
fulfill its claims to, well, not fulfill its claims and I
reject it. Occam's razor for me: does it work?
Well, then. But I do
remember a time when I thought
a couple of aspirin would
fix anything. And maybe, I don't know,
if I still believed it, it would still
work, for me, but I did learn
that it doesn't work for
everybody. That was when my
suicidal sister was
released to my care and I'd have to stand between her and the edge
of the subway platform always, edging her gently back. No,
aspirin didn't do a thing for that; what did it for her was
finally taking the jump. She told me that was the first
independent decision she'd ever made. Luckily she
landed on mud so after a few years of recovery she
went ahead and had a life before she left us last year.
I think I stopped thinking I wanted to
kill myself when I
stopped killing myself and began
steadily writing poetry as well as
reading it. Or maybe it was just when I came here to live
at the convergence of all these
lei lines.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Faint voices from the far end
of another hall, calling or crying. Perhaps it is only one
voice, with the murmured second voice just now and then. This
is my life now, but in my dreams I'm in a flock
of friends & we're all getting stuff done. Meals
are ready for those coming back from delivering pre-election
mailers to doors and gates, and thinking about the dream I
suddenly remember my husband coming home from a trip
to a big church picnic and eating my best-ever potato salad while
complaining that I never cooked such wonderful food for the
family, only for crowds. It was true, of course; I did not like
cooking for the family, day after day. I did like cooking up
one huge dish for a crowd. Now of course I don't cook so I
don't know what I would like but I think it would be
about the same. Institutional food is often awful but I
still prefer it to messing around in the kitchen day
after day. Potato salad, split pea soup, lentil stew, those
were my best kitchen works though I do remember
baking a pumpkin chiffon pie once; Thanksgiving was upon us and I
didn't want to do the tried and true, though I will say
the tried and true where
pumpkin pie is concerned
is the best.

Friday, August 22, 2008


big as my outstretched hand,
this sturdy chocolate-brown leaf
brings news, could I but de-code it, from
high and far-away places. A sail like this could soar,
given the right updraft, around the world. I
found it in the yard and put it in the glass with my
comb and pens and pencils, where it
adorns my little bedside table and will not
crumble before I do. I am so
grateful to it and to the winds and to the earth who
bore both of us. Some day, maybe, I will find its
picture in a book and learn
where it came from - but maybe not, maybe it's
still undocumented. It does not need
pressing between sheets of waxed paper like the
saved leaves of my childhood, just
not to be stepped on. I
show it to the budgies in their copious cage in the
bird room; with their two-minute memories they
are unimpressed but they deserved to witness
our visitor. Now I'll hold its delicate but sturdy stem
and carry it back to my bedside to
grace my pencil-holder and remind us all of

Thursday, August 21, 2008


"Did you feed the cats?" she demanded
over and over again
when she first arrived in the bed next to mine
late one night last week. She finally
went to sleep and so did I and I haven't heard any more
about the cats until tonight, when she pled with us
to save her from them until one of the nurses
had the wit to explain, "this is the people
hospital. The cat
hospital is down the street." So now
the cats have been fed and we are safe from them
and I am left wondering if her initial concern sprang from
a desire for their
comfort or from
fear for her life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


she says, of my
Ugh Boots, as if
stating an inexplicable fact. I guess she does not
remember me as a person with a life, a person
who went to Santa Fe on the train in the winter and
needed Ugh Boots. They sure came in handy, kept my
feet warm and toasty while I figured out how to deal with
the freezing dry air up my sinuses. I
remember a room with a fireplace, too, in an
old adobe house that was a bed-and-breakfast, and
walking, walking, walking in those boots, exploring
the city, always coming back to the plaza with its
jewelry-and-pottery-covered blankets everywhere. Resenting my
poverty as I looked and looked and looked at things
I wanted to buy, not that I needed them but that
they cried out to me: Buy me! But I
couldn't. A
good thing too as what would I have done with all those
things? I never wore jewelry, had no place to put
pottery; still if I'd had
more cash I guess I would have gone home laden
with gifts. As it was, I just
admired. Oh, Santa Fe, the holy faith
of St. Francis of Assisi, the end
of the Santa Fe Trail, city that I love to this day and
always will, I'm glad I had my
Ugh Boots to walk around you in, and glad I can remember

Monday, August 18, 2008


so says the cover of the brochure for this odd little
nursing home; it has to say that because you could never tell
by looking. Actually life doesn't go on here; waiting
does. We're waiting to get better so we can leave for a
more pleasant home, or we're waiting to die, but we're not
living. I walk and walk, my roommate sleeps and sleeps, I meet other patients
in the hall who talk and talk or grind their teeth - and then of course
I meet people who work here, friendly and cheerful though one of them
must be the one who took the cord to my phone. Outside,
deer come down the hill sometimes to nibble what lower leaves they can
find or to taste the impatiens (apparently
it is not tasty). The occupational
therapist is trying to teach me a little
tai chi, though I could better teach her - she showed me the opening
movements (arouse the chi, sink the chi) but without knowing their
names so had me repeat them six times each - or was it 10? I told her
what we were doing and that it needed doing only once so she said
she would get a book. That's not
what I call life; I suppose though as I haven't died yet I must be still
living so perhaps that's what they mean - "Cheer up, we're not dead yet."

Whatever it is it does seem to go on and on and on. Once
in a while my friend Sandie comes by with her husband and her
miraculous son and they take me out for lunch and we
talk and talk. That's life & worth
waiting for.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


of the day or night I knock, there she is
saying "Yes" to my knock, so I have taken to expect
though I do always knock first
to use the bathroom down the hall, the one
supposed to be reserved for
visitors. As for me, I prefer
to wear diapers rather than
trying to live in the bathroom - good thing too;
there's no room for a
roommate in there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Watching "Jeopardy" last night I learned
to my astonishment that "Hawaii"
is correctly spelled with a
diacritical mark over one of the
i's. Which I or what mark I
have not discovered; this will bear
looking into. Meanwhile I recall learning to
pronounce it with a glottal
stop between the
A and the two Is, unlike my
geography teacher who pronounced it
ha-WYE. It wasn't a state yet then, and
was reachable from the mainland only by
ship. It is still my dearest wish (well, one of the
dearest) to travel there afloat upon the
Pacific, which was the way I traveled
to the mainland in my
mother's womb; mainland woman found pregnant
were returned for their delivery because
the islands were not considered civilized or
sanitary, being so foreign and all. There my mother
taught English at night to Japanese and Hawaiian
workers and would come out onto the lanai before
class to instruct the Japanese and Filipino men who
approached at opposite ends, "Put your
guns and knives here in a pile by the steps. You
can pick them up again when
you leave." I grew up far away from all that in
Brooklyn with a photograph on the wall of
torchlight fishing from a boat at night, and my
dad's ukelele tucked away in the closet. Once
in a while my mom would suggest I might want to
learn to play the
ukelele but I didn't - didn't want to and didn't
learn. I was jealous of Hawaii; it knew
my mom before she had me - it knew her
when she was happy.

Friday, August 1, 2008


I want to start a shopping list but I
never do because the first
item on the list will be
Blue Emu, which is a blue ointment in a
white jar and why anyone would name a blue
ointment in a white jar for a giant
flightless bird is more than I can
understand and instead of
writing the list I start
wondering about that. Blue Emu is
a wonderful ointment; it does
exactly what you want it to - makes pain go
away - but not if the jar is empty. Okay then, here's the
list: Blue Emu, Blue Emu, Blue Emu, oh and
maybe a bird book too so I can look it up and see
if there is one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Lupert to Rubert
Brooke, the rain
falls alike on the almost
there and on the just
barely. Said Rupert Brooke to
Rick, It
rains a lot in England.

5:19 In The Ante

Meridian and I am waiting for light or for
more sleep, either one would be good; I consider
taking another walk around these gray-carpeted
long halls but it's really kind of cold out there and I'd have to
take my oxygen off and would get
short of breath again. Look around here: Is there
nothing to look at? Nothing to do? Well there's the
greenery Maw brought me, starting two
blooms; I wonder what they
will look like. I could
bring it over here and take my sketch pad and
crayons out and render it as it is - as well as I can - today,
then wait and do the same again tomorrow when
five a.m. rolls around; I'd have a nice
record of all its bloom and decay to
remind me
when it's gone. But wouldn't I
remember? I remember
my father; I
remember my mother too and I
remember my sister and I remember
Skye and
want to see her so much it hurts; i think though
that she does not want me
to join her yet; there must be some advantage
to living that I am not noticing right now. Perhaps when the
Tylenol kicks in that I took for my arthritic left
pinkie, then maybe I'll notice the
pleasure of breathing again. Meanwhile if I take another
walk in the hall I'll go
clockwise this time. Variety is the spice, the
pepper perhaps and I am supposed to be the
salt so better try and
keep my savor. Here's what
pleases me: I drew a picture of a thistle and it
actually reminds me of the thistle when I
look at it. Thistles abloom are prettier than
roses but though roses have thorns thistles are
harder to hold so that's why we cultivate
roses and not

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I was going to sleep hoping
not to wake up. Now a few days ago I began
instead to drop off thinking of a banana with my
three bowls of oatmeal in the morning, or
hoping instead for Cream of Wheat, but now in
addition I look forward to a walk around the
facility with my brand-new classy Costco
walker with its big wheels and two
handles. I like my
cane, I won't
discard it but won't be
using it much any more, just
now and then for forays into the garden or
to bring along if riding in a car. Wasn't
long ago I spurned
walkers, even
gave one away just like the new one I have now
but now after weeks of the cane this is like
a dream come true: risk-free mobility. So
tomorrow even before the oatmeal I'll be
cruising the gray-carpeted halls with my
walker, lording it now over my former
peers the poor
cane-travelers. Then after breakfast maybe I'll go
out around the building to check on the big
thistle I want to sketch. When you want to draw
(or photograph) something alive it is well to do so
now, not tomorrow: tomorrow came and the
bloom had curled up to cuddle its
seed so now I'm waiting for the
next one. And I will be able to
sketch it sitting down - in the new
walker - not standing up as I
would have had to before. Life is so
full of riches when you're
getting enough oatmeal.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Here it is 10:30 at night and I haven't done anything all
day except stay alive, you might say. I guess I have
stayed alive, or at least refrained from dying; I've
got the nasal cannula stuck in my nose giving me
oxygen to breathe, or that is air to breathe that is
richer in oxygen than what is around me. I breathe it.
Also I eat, though not
with the gusto Rowena's yams and greens
prompted earlier this week. Bring me more
yams and greens, world, and I will stop
complaining about the weather. Somehow
cottage cheese and canned pineapple just doesn't
do it for me. It was fun though this morning to watch
high-school students plant flowers for us all around the
acacia tree and in the border beside the building. Another patient
predicted Bambi and Ena would eat them all in short order but
it is my hope that impatiens will prove not to their
liking, even though I know their hill is too small to
support them and there are no wildcats up there (or down here
either). Hard to imagine where
Bambi will go when the time comes; still I don't
know where they came from, either; I do see
hills from my window some of which are not
covered with subdivisions yet. I suppose that the
hills are draped in highways with those "deer crossing"
signs here and there. Funny to think that when I was born here
88 years ago now, there were cats in the woods to take care of
population control for the deer; now it's cars. Cars are
definitely less effective and they don't
eat their kill either. Anyway I will be watching the
impatiens with eager interest. Even when
no longer in the raw, nature's
not mild.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


There is no one walking around outside but something has alarmed us,
three of us - me, a patient, and
two night workers, a
nurse and an aide. We are all
jumpy and listening
intently to the silence, but the
birds aren't, the two little budgies dead to the
world in their cage. I have decided to
trust the birds and am
going to go back to sleep. I think what put us
on edge is a change in the wind; it's no longer
filled with smoke - either the fires have died down or
more likely the air is moving the smoke in a
different direction. Other people now will reach for their
tubes of oxygen and I will catch my naked breath for a bit.
There is something very pleasing about fire, even as it
scares and harms us - I guess because it's another form of
what keeps us alive. I want to
toast a marshmallow, burn the outside black and
eat it and repeat until it's gone - eat it between two bits of
milk chocolate between graham crackers, that's the way,
constantly moving around to get out
of the smoke. And maybe sing
"Tell me why."

Friday, June 27, 2008


oxygen going up my nose now and
tylenol is starting to knock out the pain in my
arthritic left pinkie. No one is calling out tonight for
water or for Martha. This walking around the halls
nodding "yes" to busy sleepy people asking "getting
some exercise?" or "can't sleep?" is over for
tonight I think and I'm not hungry so Morpheus,
are you ready? Let's

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Even though I'm way too feeble to
make the trip now, I envy them
that long ride down the 5 from
San Francisco to
L.A., that endless Bakersfield stretch and up over
the grapevine, how I used to love it. They've gone
to empty my apartment and I envy them that too. It
would be such fun to look at everything and say
"keep it" or "throw it away" (or probably "give it
away"). What will be left, I wonder: maybe my
barwa (that greatest of loungers with its
black sheepskin cover), probably Mom's
table though I don't know where it will go. They
will decide, not
me. Not me. Not me -hooray! My framed
posters, some of them (poetry, the
IWW). I don't care about the little movie-house or
the Picasso one so much), and I kind of hope my
futon on a frame that Ev bought me so long ago, my
favorite bed. Those I
might decide to keep but if they
decide to discard them I will not
be sad. It is nice not to have to
make decisions, very nice and to enjoy
that ride down the 5 and back again in
memory without having to try to
endure it. I'll sit here and look out the window at
a brick-topped block wall holding back the steep weedy hill where
deer come down to nibble our
impatiens and I walk out to sketch
my favorite thistle and
the silk tree. Too muggy today to
do that; a good time now for one last
gaze out the window and a nice


It's quarter to nine and I thought I ate
a big supper but I'm already dreaming of
three bowls of

Monday, June 23, 2008


definitely seems the wrong
word for it now; I know guys adore this sort of thing
just as much as I do and wear them clipped to their
shirt pockets. This little red flashlight puts out light,
I mean emits light, it doesn't put it out, just the
reverse, plenty of light with its tiny battery, plenty
for reading whatever needs to be read. And it's
so handy. Of course, I haven't tried to change
the battery yet; I may find some trouble there but
if I do I'll just hand it to the nurse, the one who said
"If you can't work it, give it to a five-year-old," or I'll
give it not to a five-year-old as there are none handy here
but to my 11-year-old grandson; he'll take care of it all right.
My life is so rich - beautiful children and grandchildren and
genius friends who give me
amaryllis and chocolate and rides to the
farmer's market and write poetry and books
for children that explain everything, daughters and friends who give me
all that I need in this world. And at last the woman in the wheelchair
who was yelling at the help and keeping everyone awake has
been put to bed and I won't even have to use my ear plugs; I'm going to
knit up some ravell'd sleeves here. Good night.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Art and Life

I wrote a poem about losing my green plaid pajamas, a
true account as far as it went but it wasn't
intended as a plea for new pajamas. Eventually
the lost came back and even better, another older pair
of bright red plaid ones showed up, a little loose in the
waist now but extremely comfortable and so
cheering to encase myself in, but in the meantime
here came all sorts of queries from other
poets about what size I wore and promises
of help with my pajama problem. Never a thought that I might have
made the whole thing up, or
written about something that happened twenty years ago. It's true that
following the Bukowski model (and the Archilochus model too) I do
usually write about things that actually happen to me, but
it's also true that if I want help with my problems I ask for that in
e-mail or by telephone (or even in person if I ever get to see a
real person) but when I'm just experiencing my life I'm
not really asking for help. Sometimes I guess an
offer of help can be an attempt to
erase the unwanted experience; anyway I am going to
curl up with Rick Lupert's honeymoon book for a while and
revel in the wealth of everything real in my life. Today I've
been thinking all day that I'll never leave here but
feet first but now after all this conversation I'm
ready to believe I'll
live forever. My friend Sandy Berlin after he expired breathed life into
two long-bloomless violets to alert his wife Joanne to his
continued existence. After I go I will try to
send you poems, as I believe sometimes the late
Bukowski tries to do for me. Some ego I have to
think that; yes, true. Still sometimes I
believe it anyhow.

Red PJs

Red PJs

It's so wonderful to walk around the halls in these
red plaid pajamas my daughter bought for me
ages ago and that I long thought lost, but that
now are found, found by the self-same beautiful
daughter. God be thank'd not only
for dappled things but for
plaid things too, green and red, and now that I think of it
some green and red things that are
not plaid. I had a red velveteen dirndl
skirt once that I wore with a black velvet
top and a bright green wide, wide sash at
Christmas parties. I wasn't skinny, I was
sort of saftig but I looked like not the
mother but maybe the sister of
Christmas in it and was a
guy magnet so I had to remember not to
drink. Not not to drink too much, but
not to drink. Any drink at all was
too much for me - as Sally Ehmke told me,
"Face it, Frances, you were a
cheap date." Would we could
understand what we are and what doing while we are
doing it. Now I just understand better what
not to do, but of course as far as
drinking is concerned I can't
anyway even if I didn't
understand. Still, as I've said somewhere else recently I think,
I'd give anything to go bar hopping again and jump into the
Charles River naked at midnight with Bonelli or some other
naked friend. Thank you, my life, for
all the fun you've given me, as well as for all the
beautiful, gifted children you've
blessed me with. And the friends too, Oh,
the friends! Thank you for the care too that I
receive now all undeserved; I remember singing every day one year at school
"For health and strength and daily food we praise thy name oh Lord," and
now that I have neither health nor strength and sometimes don't
appreciate my food any more, still I am thankful as anything for
all these good times. Imagine, 86 years of it and still going. So
what if I don't sleep? I can lie awake remembering. What
gifts I have to remember! All while wearing my
red plaid pajamas.

Saturday, June 21, 2008



What is it anyway,
mind? Is it brain or brain plus
something else? Or something else entirely?
What is hard is looking in; I can contemplate
for instance my heart, that pumps away sometimes quite
raggedly and sometimes steady as a steam engine,
or my ribs that ache just now for some reason
unknown to me, but it's hard to know my mind. It has
a mind of its own. Someone stole my pajamas, it says, or
someone stole my money. I have been robbed, that's what it
repeatedly asserts, but if I have it's never of what I'm telling myself
was stolen. The "stolen" always turns up. My daughter says
I told her someone broke into my apartment and stole
- what was it? I think she might have said I said a knife. What-
ever it was it always came back later and I seldom took the trouble
to acknowledge that I had not been robbed, not at least of
the knife or whatever it was. And I was not robbed of my
blue plaid pajamas. But I may have somehow managed to
rob myself of my mind. In that case I'll sleep mindless -
that should be peaceful enough. But is it the mind that
dreams? In that case how can I have sweet dreams - which I
know I will have because Marry wished them for me? Mystery
abounds, that's all. Mystery and mindless dreams, and
blue plaid pajamas, my nighttime companions. One
deep breath; my ribs no longer hurt. Out goes the light.
Good night!

Someone Took

Someone Took
my pajamas -
the blue plaid flannel flannel pajamas I liked so much -
and now they're gone. My daughter says you know, Mom,
things disappear, but things actually don't just
up and disappear. The last time I was here
someone stole money - I don't remember how much but it
wasn't even mine, it was
my daughter's so in a way I was the
one who stole it first, although
it was my intention to return it to her. And now
the gorgeous pajamas. If I get some more I know exactly
where I will hide them where they won't be stolen again but
probably I will never get any more, not while I'm here anyway. I
have to sleep in this stupid sort of gown that gaps in the back
and twists every which way. Hard enough to sleep
anyway but worse in this thing. Maybe I'll take it off and see if I
can sleep in my birthday suit, as we used to say. Or maybe I
just won't sleep, that
seems probable. Good thing I have
Rick Lupert's honeymoon poems to
read over and over. That's
better than sleep anyway.

Friday, June 20, 2008



She thinks a thistle
is some kind of cactus, I guess because
they are both prickly - or at least some
cactuses are, and all
thistles. I'd like to take her
through Joshua Tree National Park and
out the other side to where the ocotillo bloom
for miles in every direction and we could
look for thistles. Saguaro, yes; thistles,
no. Not there. Here on the edge of trash woods, that's
where they like to grow, and on untended
dry ground among the rye and
chickoree. I'd guess
thistles too are probably
railroad plants. Unlike most weeds, they
I believe are
always weeds; I never heard of their
being cultivated, but they are beautiful just
the same. If by chance I should
get well - or perhaps in my next life, assuming
I'll have one - I'll grow thistles, cultivate them, find out
how many kinds there are and who are their
relatives. Meanwhile,
I'm happy to draw thistles with oil pastels; this one
is about as tall as a three-year-old boy, and bears two
superbly purple blooms, one
just opening and one still a bud. There's a name for every kind of
leaf I know so I ought to be able to describe their leaves but alas,
I don't know the name for the kind a thistle-leaf is; it's long and
jagged and perky and the purple
bloom is about three times as bright as the leaf and
about a third its size. And doesn't it
rhyme with whistle? Before
I left the dining room to come in here and write this, I was
listening to some guy singing reggae on the radio and
whistling reggae; that
is the song
of the thistle.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008



would have been the word for the sky just
moments ago. Now it is jet
black and the lights of the houses on the
steep hills so near make it seem there are
space ships looming close. I go out into the yard,
the patio behind the building, smiling that it feels
just the same as it did when I was a kid and would
walk out the kitchen door at night when
everyone else was asleep. It feels not
dangerous but daring, and as I did then I wonder
if I could make a nest out here and bundle up and sleep
under the stars. Of course there are no stars to be seen but
after all I do know they're up there. And of course I
come back in and head straight for bed. And little as I
liked that lonely life I wish sometimes to be
back there in that brass bed. I did not like it but I
knew I was home. Now I don't know where home is and
everything smells strange - we patients shit and fart and
the workers spray stuff to kill the odor. They don't know
I guess that lighting a match and blowing it out would
do it better. The stuff they spray merely turns the
unpleasant into the
unnatural. But never mind, the
sky is the same sky and the stars I can't see now are
the same ones I actually could see then. I remember
standing on the porch in my
Dr. Dentons learning
the big and little dippers and how to find the
North Star. Well, maybe I can't find home but on clear nights
I can still find the North Star. So part of my address remains
what it was when I was first memorizing it in 1930: North America,
Planet Earth, The Solar System, The Milky Way Galaxy, The
Universe! That should
take care of it.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I cough from somewhere deep down, making
a noise, not a
joyful one. "Are you okay?"
inquires a passing nurse, but emulates
Pilate and goes on by while I
go on coughing. After a while I
stop coughing so I guess you could say her treatment

Thursday, February 28, 2008

(Being Grownup): So Fuckin Hard

So Fuckin Hard
to ignore my own postponed adolescence, blooming
like crazy in Los Angeles when i was 40.  Vermont Avenue
from Griffith Park down to  8th Street was my exercise track,
avoiding eyes and looking all the time at legs, wearing
hand-me-downs that labeled me with the wrong
label but that was an advantage as was later another
costume altogether, my thrift shop uniform:  Black
pajamas and a cone hat, what fun
that was and when my daughter, still
a baby really, asked me "Why do you always wear
black  (others would ask her, and she would hear them
tell me, Honey, black is not your color)?" I would say what I
believed, that I was mourning
Vietnam dead, but there was more to it than that, I was
mourning a lot i didn't even really know about, including
my own delayed teens, my permissible horniness.  Happiest
when accidentally in tune with the musics flowing through us
as the times were changing and we were too, walking up
Western above Franklin through Griffith Park to the
Observatory with toddler in stroller, sometimes through the woods
and sometimes on the path, once in a while face to face with
wandering deer, but stopping along the way for the
Diggers's soup line, sometimes with another child, Amy,
in tow too, Amy who screamed at the word "Police" which to her
meant someone was coming to take
her mom away, but
with me she didn't have to hear it except when an older boy
in the building would say it to hear her scream.  I had not
read On the Road yet so couldn't follow her mom very well when
she described herself in the book, her daughter called me
Mortissue because of my black pajamas and skinniness, I
tried to grow up.

Monday, February 25, 2008


How he whined and complained about the
cop who gave him a ticket for a safe but
illegal left turn, saying that
California law allowed safe moves whether
strictly legal or not, as it did, I believe, at that
time, so finally I said well, do you like
getting these tickets and having to pay them?  Of
course he snarled at that and I said all you have to do
not to get them is not to make moves a watching cop can
find illegal.  That's not so hard.  What did I mean?  Just
drive to the satisfaction of that imaginary cop in the
back seat.  You might have the right to make an
illegal left turn but he has the right to give you a
ticket too.  Just drive so that he doesn't
have a chance.  If you do that, after a while he will
leave you alone.  Not too long after that he ended up in
jail again for a traffic infraction; I forget how that worked, maybe
if you couldn't pay the fine they jailed you.  Anyway I think he
asked himself, "Do you like
going to jail and having to call people and beg?" and when he
answered no he quit getting
arrested.  For good.  And kept on writing and going to work
and practicing his schemes while I wondered almost without
hope how he could keep on writing the way he did.  No matter
what else that typer was always going, recording his
days and his vision.  When his doctor and his publisher
convinced him he could no longer keep on at the
Annex he got drunk a lot and ran scared for a
long time but he made it through and now when I
laugh at people who ask me if I make my living by
writing I realize at the same time that if I had to
it was obvious that I could; he did.  I took note
then of his example and also of the work of
Diane Wakoski who made a study of it
and passed her results on to her
fellows.  Still,
I never
made money at it until now, with this
little book; that's
going to pay for itself and then for
the next one, already visible in the river
of words flowing by my window.  Even so, not my
doing but that of Ste. Anne Marie, who knows how to

Friday, January 18, 2008


to leave dishes in the sink you're going to have to
wash a lot more dishes than you would if you'd
leave the dirty ones on the counter so I can
use the sink to wash my own. It irritates me that I can't
have an empty sink but maybe I should be
grateful - I'll just let you
go ahead and wash my dishes. Thanks
a lot.