Friday, December 6, 2013

Happy Birthday to One of My Dads

Sometimes your parents are divorced, when you are young, like two – you think – but you were so young that you never actually ask how old you were because it doesn’t matter.

And I’m not sure how old I was in the photos, either – the photos of my mom’s second wedding, where her own father almost doesn’t walk her down the “aisle” in the function hall but does at the last moment. 

I don’t really remember being there, but I know I was, not just because of the pictures, though I don’t think it’s because of my own memory either. It’s weird how memories work like that.

Anyhow, the point is that sometimes you find yourself at age 37, trying to explain what you’ve never felt the need to explain before, because you now have a four year old.  The you here is me and therefore the four year old is my son. We have a large family, to say the least. 

Not that long ago a friend pointed out that when we were growing up, it wasn’t that common for kids to have different last names than their moms. My mom answered to Mrs. Fowler when the teachers called and she never corrected them, like it was part of her job not to.

My brother was born when I was five. He’s a half brother that doesn’t feel half way my brother at all. He had the same last name as my mom and step dad but we fought like any set of siblings would – and now we are as close as any sibling could hope for.

I’m starting to figure out how to explain to my kids that they have a lot of grandparents because both of their parents have more than two parents.  I’m not good at math but like I said, it’s a large family. I guess the best way to explain it to a four year old is a lot of love. 

I am grateful for the relationship I have with my father, whom I also call Dad, who my kids call Grampie. And I’ve never written much about this at all so I’m not going to go further now, though I imagine writing will be how I work my way through the explanations.

Today though I’m just kind of thinking about the man that married my mom so long ago I don’t remember the photos. He’s the man that I started calling Dad when my brother was born. The more than six foot tall man with light skin and blonde hair that people would look at funny when he answered to Dad in our little suburban town, where he picked me up from ballet on Thursdays. My mom worked late some nights and I got sick of his chicken cutlets, but they were actually pretty great now that I think of that.

He was Bob before all of that and he’s Papa now. He is always joking that he better watch out or I’ll write about him. So for now, I am.

Happy birthday, Dad. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Oh hey, it's Fall.

September has come and basically gone. Three of the four of us in this house had birthdays in the month. B started "kindergarten prep." I turned 37, which B says is "a lot of pounds."

The Red Sox are going to the playoffs. Expectations could not have been lower for a team, so, yay, Sox. We're sorry about all that not buying tickets stuff.

Other things happened and didn't happen. I'm not going to dwell on it all because you should see the number of posts/poems/essays I might have written if I didn't dwell on things.

Anyhow, onward.

First, things about other people, in no particular   alphabetical order:

Penelope Cray. We met twice. She was a date at my wedding. I was a date at her wedding. Before those events, I lived with her husband for a while, when he was my husband's roommate. At some point I paid rent, so I guess that made him my roommate too. It was never weird. (Hi, Steve.) Thank goodness for Facebook, I now know Penny's poetry. She has a poem in the most recent issue of The Harvard Review, Death Devours More Than Nadine. It kind of knocked my socks off. You can download the poem or get the whole issue because she is there with peeps like Jim Daniels and Sharon Olds.

Jim Daniels. An amazing mentor. Looking forward to his new book, currently in my shopping cart.

Wendy Fontaine. Superhero. Her latest on What Not to Say to a Single Mom.

Kristen Forbes. Doing what she needs to do. I can't wait for her Book Beast. And Kristen, is there any chance your new writing spot will be closer to Boston?

Gina Loring. Poet extraordinaire. Singer. Songwriter. Lovely human. Please watch this.

Edwin Lyngar saw me cry the first night I met him. He probably doesn't remember it and it doesn't matter. But he was super kind, and he told me he was a dad and he had tears in his eyes too. Edwin's an awesome dude and an awesome writer. He's also a feminist. I've never called myself a feminist, for lots of reasons, but I think I am one. Ed's talks about feminism here.  If you're a dude, consider joining him.

Kate Maruyama. I just ordered her book, Harrowgate. I'm so very excited to read it. This should make you excited to order her book too.

Heather Mingus. I don't know her well. But I just read this and holy shit. Beautiful, brave writing. Sending you lots of love and strength, Heather.

Wendy Ortiz. This woman is a serious inspiration to me. She's a mom of a young child and she works her ass off as a writer. She also takes time to read and reply to long dribbly emails that I send her late at night. I'm really proud of her and I'm also in love with this column she is writing at McSweeney's. Can't wait for the next one.

Carla Panciera. My high school English teacher. I wasn't a writer in high school. Or maybe I was but I was focused on making myself into a physical therapist. Ms. Panciera says I have to call her Carla now that we've reconnected but I think that is insane. Anyhow, I'm so glad to have found her. I just this morning listened to this little podcast. If you have some time, she reads a couple of beautiful poems and talks about writing process as well as the fact that she just won the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. No small deal. Yahooo, Ms. Panciera!!

Ashley Perez. This essay has stuck with me. I'm guilty of allowing burnout to take over. Guilty of abandoning a project too soon, guilty of feeling incredibly doubtful. Thanks for the reminders here, Ashley.

I'm forgetting other amazing things that have stuck with me.

And so I'll just go to the topic of me for a moment.

Thanks for the sweet words about my chapbook. It's true that you can actually still order it. It's true I will be reading locally and it's true I'm planning a book party. True, true and true. I'll update you.

I can't stay stuck on myself too long and this is a symptom - or a sign - of something going on here. I'm about to cancel my appointment with my therapist because I literally don't have time for it. This may or may not be a wise move. Truthfully, the only thing we are going to talk about is self care.

And how much I suck at that.

I think the people mentioned above would say to make more time for writing. They know me. I mean they may not actually know me well at all, but they are writers. So they know it's part of self care for someone like me.

My writer mind is swirling all the time. In the 15 minutes I might find to write, I can't figure out which project to give the time to. My writing projects appear in lists, like the other lists I keep: things we need, things to do, calls to make, work project A, work project B, things to read when I have time, places to submit my work to, recipes to try when there is not a toddler attached to my leg. Lists that feel ridiculous. Lists that will never be completed.

My therapist is going to remind me to take my medication when I feed my kids dinner. This is what she always says when I tell her I have a hard time remembering to find the time.

Symptoms and signs. Did I tell you I had jury duty? I was empaneled, on a trial, for two weeks. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. It was a good experience and my writing list has a new item at the top. The problem started with a headache. The inmate was prescribed 2 Vicodin. A mother is now without a son, perhaps not physically but mentally. It was terribly sad and extremely scary.

My littlest is called a "she" on a regular basis but I'm refusing to cut his hair.  He's walking, like at least 5 steps at a time, and likes oatmeal, mainly rubbed into his cheeks. Apple cinnamon. He still nurses, which some people might say is a sign of a problem with the mother.


This is a weird spot to end but if I dwell here I'll never get to the next entry on my list. And you know you have a million other things to do too. So, onward.

(Please feel free to correct my comma usage. I give up.)


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Do you have a favorite flower?


Kind of an extravagance?

I mean not always.

I do stop to smell the roses.

Or take the pictures.

Sort of.

I am not a photographer but I do love to take photos of flowers along the way. And so what this really means is I've used my iphone to take like 5 photos of flowers in the past 5 years, probably over 2 or 3 walks, with some combination of husband, one child, two children.

Sunflowers. When I was (ahem, much) younger, I went through a small obsession with sunflowers in the way little girls go through obsessions with things. For a while, my step-dad and I took pictures of sunflowers almost everywhere we went. I recall his pulling over on the side of the road more than once when I shouted from the back seat that I needed that one.

I just came across one of these photos recently and hung it on the fridge.

We walk a lot but it's sometimes hard to smell the roses. I prefer the smell of the ocean anyway and my boys love the beach, so we're all good there. In fact, we're off to Maine today - our first vacation as a foursome!

I often wish I could stop fretting about the photos. We don't have many with the combination. One child. Two children.

But this isn't about that.

Flowers are kind of an extravagance for me. I do love to order them, when I can, for dear people like my grandmother, for example, and I do splurge at the grocery store on occasion. I'd love to hear my grandmother's voice - that moment when the person gets the flowers. And the moods of the flowers. And the smells of them. The way their leaves dangle.

When you order the flowers you want to get them there quickly.

If you've ordered my chapbook from Finishing Line Press, thank you -- for making room for a flowers kind of purchase. For making my poetry that thing on its way.

I'm sorry it's been on it's way for so long. I hope that when this small bouquet of flowers arrives, you will enjoy them for some time!

What's your favorite flower?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

One Year

My baby is one. Three hundred and sixty five days have passed. The earth has made one rotation around the sun. Birds have flown south and north. We've planted and eaten tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. We've had a few weather related events. All kinds of other things have happened.

I don't want to start getting sentimental. And I think I might be getting my period. I've been feeling that way for about four months.

There are a couple of dreams that I keep having. One is almost too sad to write about but I have been trying. The other is a dream is telling me there's something I'm not writing about.

I am in a room where I used to have a poetry workshop. There are six rectangular tables pushed together making a big square and my therapist is at the head where the person facilitating the workshop would be. She is telling me I should never plan to get anywhere in Boston by 6pm. She is telling me that if I never get to the place where I need to be by 6pm, then I won't be able to write. She is telling me that we can't talk further about this one thing I keep wanting to talk about unless I can write these poems I want to write.


I mentioned in a post last summer that I needed to write about W's birth.

I have not written one poem in one year.

It had been sort of a complicated pregnancy and on Friday July 27, 2012 I had been in my bed, mainly on the left side, for a little over a week. If you know me, you know I was unhappy. You might also know I've had migraines since I was 12. Or you might know that B was born 3 weeks early after I was induced when my water broke in the middle of the night. You might know that during my pregnancy with B I had debilitating carpal tunnel. My husband was cutting my food toward the end and we were moving. The carpal tunnel was not quite this bad with W but laying on my left side was particularly painful.

When a baby is born it is an amazing thing, let's face it.

Almost 40 weeks preggers with W I was more pregnant than I had ever been. On my left side. Migraine. High blood pressure.

I'd done anything possible to get this baby moving out.

On Friday July 27 after my husband left take B to my mom's for the day, and then go to work, I left my left side to do something like pee or eat. Whether peeing or eating, I was seeing triple. I wanted the baby to come on his own but I knew I was going to be induced. Our regular appointment was scheduled for later that day but I called and we went in early.

I rode in a wheelchair out of my midwife's office as she phoned the hospital to let them know we were coming. She delivered B but wouldn't be there for this. My blood pressure was 160/100. The baby was just fine. Cozy, if you will. It doesn't really matter what all happened between then and 5:22am on July 28, when W was finally and fully born, but I think it might in the poems.

B was almost 3. For several days before and after W's birth, I felt like I could not be his mom. A couple of hours after W was born, I talked to B, who was with my mom and stepdad. He was telling me about a dream. "Mommy, I put my headache in the hole." These statements do not seem related but I think they might be in my poem.

When a baby is born it is an amazing thing. But it is a thing that changes everything again.

And here's why I won't get sentimental. I don't have the words to describe how I am in love with this little boy and I'm sad to let his babyhood go. I do cry almost any time I think about this. I think I mentioned my hormones.

But on the morning of his birthday, W fell asleep while riding on my back for the first time and I realized that his babyhood is not slipping away. It is moving naturally on, making room for more of him. And while it's sad to fold up and pack away the little green "Little Monstah" onesie, I am ready, to move forward, to see what he and his brother are passionate about. I want to see what they fall in love with in life.

As for me, I've got to write these poems, but there is much to be done before I can...

Friday, May 3, 2013


Wacky Wednesday is what B's preschool teacher calls it. I call it pizza day and relish in the not packing a lunch. I don't typically cook dinner on Wednesdays either but that is beside the point. I dropped B off at preschool and his teacher greeted him with a hug as usual. He sprayed her with his fire hose and we talked about how it might be getting too warm for our fire chief jacket and helmet. 

It's easier to get out of the house in the morning if we pretend there is a fire at preschool. When we get out of the car, B grabs the fire hose, located by my gas tank. Before that though he has to shut the door by himself. Has to or there is a tantrum. I'm nervous in this every instant and please be careful of fingers and head and mommy just has to help you. Once we get into preschool we need to get to pretend the fire is in the classroom and we have to get down the hall quickly. 

I hate all of this rushing towards danger. 

I hate leaving him at preschool. But it's what I do because on Monday Wednesday and Friday I then take the baby home and try to work write clean cook fold laundry wash laundry get groceries step on cheerios and feed the baby until we pick B up. But this Wednesday, W had his 9 month appointment yesterday and after the fire was out at preschool, there was time to kill.  

I hate phrases like this is killing me and shoot me an email.  

I never have extra time like that.

I quickly grabbed some random stuff that I did or didn't need and realized we had to boogy. I got in line and was behind a woman with a cart full of junk, slowly placing each item on that black thing that transports the stuff to the register. Is that a conveyer belt? It's crazy how much stuff I feel like I don't know. 

I can't answer all of the why questions very well. 

There were a few people in back of me and the woman behind the register told us that the woman at the service desk could also help. I started to back up as the people behind me headed to the service desk. My father always used to tell me not to let people cut me in line just because I am short. I asked if I could pay first because I was next in line and the baby has a doctors appointment. The people stayed in line and I walked to the desk. We were all nice about it. The woman behind the desk was someone that also is a cashier at Stop and Shop. She was reading a receipt to the right of her register and I was shifting side to side. The register was in a corner desk sort of spot. It took about a minute before she turned left but didn't look at me. 

Left and right have been easier to explain than time. 

It was a few moments after that I said, "Hi. How are you?" and waited what seemed like an eternity before she looked at me and said, "Good." And in that time my eyes started to fill up with tears and I didn't really know why. She turned back to the register and began typing numbers from the receipt. I hoped she'd give me a sense of when she would be able to help me pay and I glanced at the clock and got nervous about parking at the hospital. The parking garage is always under construction and I hat being late. "I'm just going to have to go," I said and allowed the tears to stream as I walked out into the sun and got baby and me into the car. 

The doctor's appointment was great. When I wake up in the morning with the baby to my left our eyes meet and he makes sounds and I say, "I love you." I once wrote a poem about B's eyes. They are one of my favorite parts about him. 

When we picked the fire chief at preschool Miss Liz said "He might have an early bedtime. He just rested at nap time." She also took the small blue plastic hammer out of his cubby and then kneeled down to where B was basically trying to climb into the carseat with his brother. "Do we use the hammer on our friends?" she asked. 

"No" he said.  

Treating each other nicely is harder to explain than time. 


I knew it was a bad idea but then we drove by the spot where we had discussed the broken down ice cream truck the day before. On Tuesday, the policeman was there with his lights on and the traffic was terrible and the baby was screaming. "The policeman came to help the ice cream truck?"   

"Yup. Police Officers are helpers."  

But now it wasn't good that the policeman had helped the ice cream truck and that as we had discussed, the truck probably got towed away. B was sad the ice cream truck wasn't there and fixed. I knew it was a bad idea but I told him we'd get an ice cream. And we went to the Dairy Queen because it is on our way. The line was more than the length of one parking spot. Baby was asleep in his carseat and I was nervous he'd be overheating (rational or irrational?). The boy in front of us heard Ben refer to a truck as a train and not even just a train but something he called by some specific subset of train that I had not heard. 

"It was a truck. Not a train," the boy said.  

I asked the kid if he was excited about his ice cream and if he used to like to pretend when he was young. As we moved a bit closer he grew more friendly. David. His mom was in the consignment store nearby. He is 12. Lives in the next town over. Asked where we live. Asked when B will be 4. Asked how high B could count. 

Asked "how old is the small one?" 

At one point he put the tip of his finger on my preschooler's cheek and my hand didn't reach his in time. As we got to be about five people away B said, "Watch this," and jumped kind of crazy, landing on the ground. David asked if B knew how to do a split. "You take this part of you," he said, cupping his penis, "and put it down with your legs like this." 

I held my boy's hand. I have nothing against him learning to do a split. 

"The parking lot has tons of tinies on it." I gripped B's hand a little and pulled him up. His armpit stretched a little. 

"Tinies." David said. "You mean, like, germs?" 

He put his finger on B's cheek. 
"Isn't that cute, you have little nicknames for things." 

Finally. "Can I help the next person?" 

I was thinking about the 12 year old's mother, nearby in the consignment store.

"David, please take your finger off his cheek and get your ice cream." 


It had been a bad idea. Not even because it was the first time I had to pick up the cup of vanilla and scoop a small amount of earth off the top. Not even because I forgot B needs to open the door by himself. Not even because of the weird encounter.

Later, there were timeouts. There was kicking. There was the small object taunting me near the baby's eye. There were tears and more timeouts. There were hugs and two minute warnings. There was me. I just want you to be my nice boy. And that night after the ice cream and the fire chief costume and the sweet potato fries there was a naked toddler. Exhausted, overstimulated. Not nice in a way that is hard for me to write about. 

I almost cried like I had earlier, when I left the store rushing to the doctor's appointment. I was nice to that woman but my own anxiety had the best of me. 

And so, the day ended and what I have been thinking about since then is this: I think that what is really so scary about parenthood, for me, is that it seems like everything I hate about myself and about the world is looking up at me through my own eyes. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mama does AWP.

It's taken me a long time to get this written, but I feel like I want to document some moments.

It was my first time and I can't wait until  I can do it again.  This.  The AWP Conference.  If you could help me, we need to convince my husband (and our bank account, somewhere along the way) that it would be a great idea to go to Seattle next year.  I. Can't. Wait.

So the conference didn't get started until Thursday but baby and I were fired up so we went in on Wednesday to get my registration.  The Back Bay parking gods were with us.  We also saw Antiochians right away.  I'd been waiting for the Antiochians.  I'd been waiting for the writers in general, waking up every day during these cold, snowy winter weeks, thinking: The writers are coming.  The writers are coming.  

And so after we got my registration we tried to visit a friend in her hotel room.  Fail.  Nursed baby in lobby and headed up to 25th floor.  Had decided not to put baby back into bjorn since we were going straight to room.  Also, had my winter coat and huge back pack stuffed with baby goods and now conference bible as well as the bag they give everyone that says AWP Conference.  I was looking up and down this hall for a room that didn't exist?  I asked someone as I had finally flopped me and baby and stuff on floor by elevator.  The Boston Sheraton apparently has two sets of elevators -- North and South -- and I was basically in the wrong building.  So much for hometown advantage in the not getting lost department.  With only about ten minutes left on my meter and a determination to not get a ticket, I had my first I cannot see that friend at this moment moment.  We left, got the preschooler and the rest of that day was just a Wednesday.  But between that Wednesday and Thursday morning, the writers came.   

Thursday I dropped two kiddos off.  My husband planning to do the pick up meant I had a completely kid free day at the conference.  I did not go to one single panel and I'm not sure if I should feel good about that.  Basically, after I dropped the kids off, I still had to bathe and buy snacks and get to the train station.  When I got in, I went straight to the Antioch booth where I was late for my shift as an alumni volunteer but was welcomed with a hug by my favorite Texan, Alan Stewart Carl.  The Antioch booth was awesome fun and we got free t-shirts (see Lunch Ticket).  There was a raffle so winners were happy with their conference snack bar gift cards, and we tried to talk to perspective students, but mainly I was ridiculously excited and enjoying spending my first moments at the conference sort of watching it whizz by.  My favorite moment, I think, was when Katie F-S walked by without even seeing us - or tried to walk by.  I would not miss her adorable hair cut anywhere.  She turned around when I shouted.  Alan saw me through the realization that I had sent the wrong amount of cereal for my infant and would be riddled with guilt the entire day. 

And I saw lovely Lisa Cheby! And Laura Gardner! Whose hotel room I was seeking the day before.  And Erica Moody and LeVan Hawkins and Heather Luby! And Tisha Reichle, who I met when she showed me how to pay for my sandwich at my first Antioch residency. 

I felt like I needed to be conference-y.  I had not brought my conference bible though I did bring the schedule.  I had attempted to look at the panel descriptions the night before - like I had also planned to bathe the night before.  Thing is, I had picked out several panels that seemed interesting and had fabulous speakers.  They were all at the same time.  Even if I was at one great panel, I was missing 50 other great panels, so why try?  I met up with friends.  And friends and friends.  I used my breast pump in the hotel room of a poet who shall remain nameless.  I think some of what happens at AWP stays at AWP.   I won't mention my breast pump again. 

I later met Kate Maruyama in the hotel lobby.  Kate, who is like a sister I have only known online and via email.  Kate, who is like an angel or who is an angel.  

A bunch of us went to Whiskeys, and I headed home by about 10, like a pumpkin. Or however that saying goes. 

That's right, it was quite snowy by then. 

And snowier Friday when I jumped out of bed, cheerful and excited to get in for the 7:45 AM Antioch Breakfast.  Fucking New England.  It was like I had forgotten it was snowing when I went to bed, or just expected that it was over.  My sweet husband dug me out.  There was no toddler because he went to my sweet mom's the night before.  Grateful I learned to drive in the winter, baby and I were getting to this breakfast.  No question.  We did, and we were only about an hour late.  It was all worth it and I saw some lovelies I hadn't yet seen like Telaina Eriksen and Kristen Forbes and Stephanie Glazier and Danielle Stanard and Jenny Factor and Bernadette Murphy.  And I got to meet Bernadette's lovely daughter, Hope.  I also got to meet Ashaki Jackson.  It was a lot of that feeling you get when you are among great people.  I was sad to be just crossing paths with Gayle Brandeis but grateful to feel her presence. I ate some eggs and fed Will oatmeal with bananas.  Telaina helped me change him on a very narrow counter.      

Then I took baby to a panel!  More like a reading - Page Meets Stage.  I'd seen one of these before and had fun and I was scared of going into a quiet lecture-y kind of space.  Martin Espada has been a friend since moons ago when he was first my professor and I was excited and then there I was in the second row.  The baby was asleep in the ergo when I entered and I hoped if I rocked back and forth he'd stay asleep.  I'm good at rocking back and forth.  At some point it became clear to me that the second row was not the best place for me with a baby.  The speakers were not that far away which was ok.  When things got loud or when people were clapping, I covered his ears.  It was all ok, but we were so far from the exit.  Babies are babies and mine woke up.  And then, Taylor Mali, the host, in his I am not an academic poet bit, says I am not going to call out that baby in the audience.  Um, me?  I looked around.  Yes, me.  Only girl with a baby.  Having been in the second row I wasn't seeing the so many other people who did not have babies.  I guess everyone knew he was there??

I felt ok about it though; he did shriek a bit but only in a kind of conversational way.  Aimee Nezhukumatathil read a beautiful poem, "The Latch" and said it was good that I was there.  I could say more about all of this but it would be a different post.  I'd seen her before, but couldn't remember where and so appreciated her for that moment.  Also I got to hug Regie Gibson after the reading.  We were in a workshop together ages ago and he's a great poet.  All of these poets are great poets.  AWP is just about being among among among.  I'm not sure how to describe this. 

Friday continues with an Antioch reading, seeing the amazing Elaina Ellis, Seth Fischer, Peter Nichols and Daniel Jose Older.  Poems, Stories.  Got to see Carol Potter and Eloise Klein Healy, the first Poet Laureate of Los Angeles.  More feelings I can't really describe.  Will and I ate some banana with Elaina after that.  I think I forgot to tell her how beautiful her Copernicus poems were.  

And then a visit to The Mom Egg booth, where  "lucky" eggs were being given out.  Some had copies of one of my poems so that was kind of cool.  Baby was fussy so I tried to dance around book fair.  Soon after this I was in pursuit of baby's daddy.  He left work a bit early and we met up and I gave the baby back.  I was then child free and ready to tackle that massive book fair, make connections, get free journals -- all of it.  But suddenly I was child free, a little overwhelmed and I think I took some sort of break.  I might have cried a little here.  And then I saw LeVan Hawkins read Chris Allsop's award winning story and things were good again.  Among. 

Oh my gosh, I have to fast forward for you.  More food, revelry.  That moment when I looked over to see my Robert Egan reading a book at the bar.  Meeting people like Stephanie Lindberg.  Meeting some current MFA students.  Paying too much for parking because of a ridiculous mistake and dropping off a friend who confirmed my car has a serious funk.  

Saturday I headed in kid free again.  Because my husband is that sweet and because my mom is that sweet.  I took the train.  It was a great great day minus the god talk that came via the woman that sat next to me on the way in.  She first said she liked the colors of my fleece.  Bright blue and green.  My toddler calls it sand and ocean. The god talk is another story. 

I got in and saw the amazing Jenny Factor at the Antioch booth.  I asked her which panel she would go to that afternoon if she were me and she sold me on one on literary friendships and correspondence.  She asked me if I would use her IPad to record it for her so I thought that would be fun.  I also got to meet the amazing Melissa Chadburn! 

I wondered around in the book fair for a while and met a few small goals I had set for myself.  But when I stopped at The Rumpus, they were out of write like a motherfucker mugs and that was sad.  I want one deeply.   

BUT then I had lunch with Kate and this was an amazing experience within an amazing experience.   

I picked up Jenny's iPad and set off to that lecture. 

Which was amazing and inspiring and Lisa Cheby's beautiful face walked in.  Hearing Frank Bidart talk about Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop's friendship and his friendships with them both was just amazing.  Another panelist whose name I should know spoke about Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and how she was in class with them both and how they hung out before workshop in Harvard Square, drinking martinis and talking about their therapists.  (I was inspired enough to drink some martinis later that day and I must say I did write poetry the other day for the first time in seven months. I'm going to cancel my next therapy appointment since all I really needed was AWP.) 

Big thanks for Jenny (always) and gave her IPad back - with a disclaimer that I wasn't sure about the audio.  She was talking to Annie Finch whose poetry I love and who I saw on a panel at the Mass Poetry Festival last year. So I said HI.  She has a book that just came out, Spells, which she took me to visit and so yes, I bought it and asked her to sign it then.  I've been sort of drinking it in over the last seven days. 

Fast forwarding, there were drinks (aforementioned martinis) at a place I'd never been and dinner at Scoozi where I texted across the table about house rules because we were getting too talky about the bad date beside us.  House rules means don't talk about someone if they can hear you.  My husband and step dad created this term to keep me and my mom in line; that's another story.  When the date left, girl put on headphones before even leaving the table.  We ended up going back to the hotel bar at the hotel where there are two buildings and actually we weren't in the bar but in that random Starbucks spot off the lobby.  We pulled 3 small round tables together and brought down free wine from the AWP reception on the second floor.  Where I met Alyss Dixson!

I had missed key notes by writers I admire and adore in huge amounts --  Cheryl Strayed and Ann Carson.  But how could I have chosen one over the other?  I pondered this while basking in the faces of friends I never get to see and eating chocolate covered espresso beans.. 

I gotta tell you that I'm typing with a right hand, holding baby on left leg and just git spit up all down my left side.  It's gross.  And now I remember why I had given up dry cleaning. 

Anyhow, we were there and somehow next, Alan introduced me and Kate to Roxane Gay, who was hanging out in the barslashlobby.  That was great fun and we chatted about Yo Gabba Gabba and I might have pretended to be DJ Lance Rock in the intro song.  It was getting late.  Roxane, Kate and Alan are all very sweet people.  Like all of the people I saw or met or already knew but got to spend more time with.  I'm sure - quite sure - that I have forgotten to list someone I saw or met who is incredibly sweet.  And I am sorry for that!  I'm not sure why I love writers so much.  There are so many people I love deeply that are not writers, obviously.  Anyhow, I'm glad for this tribe and actually quite sure I know why I love them so much.  

AWP ended with some of us saying so long to some others in the Starbucks spot, four of us walking down the street and two of us heading down the steps to the green line at Hynes, each of us headed in the other direction.  It was weird, waiting for my train on the outbound side, knowing she was waiting on the inbound side, each of us not knowing when we'll be together again.  I know I am not sure of which direction my writing is going but I'm excited to get back to the work of it and do so with a renewed resolve and inspiration.  I am realizing AWP was sort of all about hugs, less about panels, though I'm sure that one year I'd like to do that too.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention something.  I talked to women about abortion and loss.  Some talked to me about their experiences.  Some just hugged me.  Some talked about how important it is to write about.  Some told me they couldn't write about it.  Many of us talked about how blessed we are to have the creatures we have.  Some of us cried. 

It's taken me a long time to write this but the whole thing just made me feel so grateful.  


Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Next Big Thing.

The lovely Wendy Ortiz tagged me in this interview chain.  I am excited to read Wendy's book, Hollywood Notebook when it comes out next year.   Wendy created a tumblr which I can't get into just yet, but it does look fun.

I do have this random blog - who knew? And so here are my answers to the Next Big Thing thing... 
What is your working title of your book or work in progress?
Turning Cozy Dark
Where did the idea come from for the book?
My uterus?  No, really - I started working on my MFA around the time we were “trying” to start a family.  I was writing a lot and then motherhood seeped in to all aspects of my life. 
I didn't set out to write a book about it all.  The poems come from a longer manuscript which is taking me some time to finish.  I decided to compile this chapbook since “some time” could mean a long, long time.  And it was kind of fun. 
What genre does your book fall under?
I’m not a fan of labels.  But it’s poetry. 
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
OK, I am so out of touch with anything Hollywood or entertainment related that I cannot answer this!  When I flipped on the Oscars to see Anne Hathaway speaking I was all oh, I wonder what she was in?  
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Woman meets body beets motherhood meets joy meets exhaustion meets isolation meets loss meets isolation meets love love love. 
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be published by Finishing Line Press in June of this year.  
Pre-publication sales are set to begin March 18 (wink).  Self promotion actually makes me quite nauseous, just like publishing some of these poems.  You could help me out with this.  I think it goes into May.  The book is $12 so you could even save up like $1.50 a week and procrastinate a bit.   There's a discount on shipping if you buy it in the pre sale.  Thanks so much. 
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
These poems were written over a couple of years -  from when I figured out how to tell I was ovulating to just after the saddest day of my life so far. 
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There are many amazing poets who write directly or indirectly about these subjects.  I think our journeys are unique and it is hard to compare. 
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Undoubtedly, the creatures that have quite literally delivered me into motherhood -- my husband, my first baby, and the baby girl that lives in my soul. 
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I did sink my car once.  There’s a pantoum about that.  I stopped at that lake last week.  The car sunk right where these guys were ice fishing.  It sunk fast.  That’s why we can’t have nice things. 

Thanks for reading.  I’m going to tag Gayle Brandeis, Edwin Lyngar and fellow blogspotter Alan Stewart Carl, so I can hear more about their next big things.  

Monday, February 25, 2013


There's a heavy longing in the house when it's quiet, when the boys are not here, or when they are sleeping, or any combination of these things (one at preschool, one sleeping). It's a silence I would have been longing for - a moment - that suddenly turns intolerable.

For what am I to think about when it becomes silent?

I'm in this silence now and thinking about Emily Rapp and the silence she is in. The longing that wants to suffocate after the death of a child. The longing that has suffocated parents in Newtown, Connecticut since just before Christmas. I think of their longing most after my kids go to bed.

After they go to sleep I spend time looking at photos of them. I place things like Valentines into memory boxes where I'll plan to put their first report cards.

This morning, Will and I dropped Ben off and his teacher told us she was sore. She went skiing and her daughter, my son's classmate, skied for the first time. "What did you do?" she asked us. Ben kind of looked around like he wanted to go play. "We did a lot of painting," I said. "And cooking."

Ben asked yesterday if it was brownie day. "Yes," I said and we mixed.

I think of Emily Rapp in this silence today. The longing. I thought of her when I woke up next to my baby this morning like I have every morning since I learned her baby died the morning after Valentines Day. I think of how Emily isn't waking up with her baby.

We often say, "Life isn't fair." And I think that's our way of trying to make oneself feel better about another's sadness. The longing that Emily is feeling is not fair or unfair. It is terrible.

It's not that I don't want my kids to learn how to ski. Or that I don't want to see their faces shriek with excitement. It's not even that I don't think it's fair that my kids will get to do things that Ronan won't. It's that I want to shout at my son's preschool teacher, "I don't know how I can ever let my child go down a mountain. I don't know how I can even leave him here with you today." I want to look at the other preschool teacher - the one with the melon colored maternity shirt who is expecting a boy - and say to her, "Dear God, you have no idea how joy can be swiped from you at any moment -- do you?"

I don't tell them about the longing I feel after my son walks off to play. Or that I'm afraid that something could happen to him while he is in their care; something that would not be their fault but the kind of something that might make him not come home one day.

Emily Rapp doesn't know me from any other mother writer reader on whom she has had a profound impact. There are many of us. And I don't know Emily. She was a faculty member in the program where I got my MFA, when I started. I remember seeing her during my first residency. She wore killer boots and I found her brilliance a little intimidating. I don't think I spoke to her.

At some point I took time off while pregnant and by the time I started back, she had had Ronan and moved to Santa Fe to teach. Some months later, I learned that she learned that her baby was diagnosed with Tay Sachs disease. Emily knew that her son would never go to kindergarten. She would never place a report card into a box of memories. My son is about six months older than Ronan and I have thought about Emily every day since I learned her baby was dying. At every "first," I have choked on my sadness for her.

If I were to talk to Emily now I wouldn't say it's not fair. I wouldn't say I can't imagine or oh you poor thing. She is clearly a woman who will move forward and doesn't need me as a cheerleader.

After I learned that Emily Rapp's baby was dying, I did what I often do when I can't find words for how I feel. I wrote poetry. I wrote bad, sentimental, gushy poems like I did when I was in high school. I was writing my first poems as a new mother and the poems I wrote for Emily were no worse than the poems I was writing about my own experience. Being a new mother, I was learning a new language and being a new mother knowing another new mother's baby was dying made that language all the more unlearnable. I started writing poems about children or mothers I did not know who had terrible things happen to them. At some point, I had to stop writing those poems. I had to focus on the language of being a mother.

I had to make sure my toddler had chapstick at preschool for cold mornings on the playground. I had to figure out how to tell him it was time to learn how to use the potty.

If I were to talk to Emily, I would ask her about the things I can not know from her Facebook photos. When she was pregnant, did he kick most at night? Was he born before or after his due date? When she un-swaddled Ronan's baby body, did he stretch the right arm first or the left? Did he stretch them both at once? What about his legs? How far did his belly rise while he slept? What did his laugh sound like?

Does she still feel his hand on her chest?

As much as I would like to take Emily's longing and flush it like the shit I wipe from my three year old's bum, I cannot. But if I were to talk to Emily now, I would thank her for sharing Ronan's remarkable life with us.

And I would tell her how much she has taught me about motherhood.  And I would thank her for that.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Talking about it.

I finally decided I'm not going to hide the fact that I had an abortion.  It's now part of who I am and as I writer it's hard not to write about things. I care deeply about women's rights. And women's health.

The sonogram laws in some states are ridiculously cruel.  And the fact that 5 states only have one abortion clinic is ridiculous.  Forty years after Roe v Wade, abortion is not a safe and accessible choice for every woman, and that makes me angry.

I also have a small book of poems coming out.  Anyone that reads it will be able to infer what happened.  So why hide?  Why keep this blog and not share it?  If my story can help one woman feel less alone, I'm happy for that.

Plus, once you've written and shared a story about abortion, it feels so OK to write about so many other things that make people uncomfortable.  I feel like we are a broken people.  I feel like the only way to start the healing is to get uncomfortable.

I'm not going to complain about not having time to write.  I'm just going to write like a motherfucker every chance I can.  I guess you might say I'm going balls to the wall.

Here's my abortion story.


Oh yeah, and for my non-lent this year, I'm giving up feeling guilty about everything.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


It strikes me that the month of January has much significance in my life.  My mother was born in January.  I love Capricorns.  Much later, I started dating my husband during a cold and snowy January in Amherst.  He's a Libra.

B was conceived in the January in which Obama was inaugurated for the first time.  Once we had decided we were ready to start a family, it took us a while.  If I think hard enough I could probably tell you the day he was conceived.

Last week I realized that last year, in January, I was three months pregnant with W.  At Christmas, he had been just a secret in my belly.  You could probably smell anxiety as I walked... We were having the same tests - the quad screening - that we had had with baby girl.  I forget the date of the first ultrasound but I know the room it was in was where I had an ultrasound of B once.  I also had the blood test. I tried not to tell many of the health professionals about what had happened because, well, I didn't want to talk about it.  But I told the ultrasound technician who of course brought in a doctor who saw some alarming things.

It's kind of a long story but we got a call from the midwife and I cried for who knows how long and thought it was going to be the same.  We ended up going back to the hospital, to see J and Dr. Amazing and we had to have the CVS done again.

It was on Martin Luther King Day last January that J called to tell us that the baby was chromosomally perfect.  And this January, that baby is perfect in every way.

He cut his first tooth on New Year's Day and is working on the second as I type.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Solid food welcome here.

Someone here will be six months old tomorrow.


We don't go out to eat often because of the same reason - I think - that it is difficult to write about motherhood. Fear.

I over share when I'm too tired.

Sentences that start with "when I was a whale..."

Ginger snaps.

More on these things, soon.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What works.

I have to confess I like time away from my children. And as soon as I've separated from them - even if it's that they've just gone to sleep - I long for them.

My job requires I talk for periods of time on the phone. I need to take precise notes and need silence. So while I work at home, my kids aren't always here with me. I feel really guilty about this. I hate being at home without them.

And sometimes, I love it. I mean, there are only two kid free days a week and most of the time I'm on the phone every moment of those days. Then there are the three days I'm here with just a baby. We do a lot of work together on those days and even when Ben is home later in the day, I'm sometimes typing away. On the weekends, we are all home and I'm catching up with work. So when I get to just work, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I sometimes love it.

I feel like I am never doing enough of any one thing. This seems like an age old problem for most moms. So it seems like we should be nicer to one another.

I was talking to a friend of mine who is a mom who has a very full time job. She misses her kids like crazy and she wishes she could be with them more.

I was telling her about a conversation I recently had where someone made me feel badly about my own situation where I work at home but am not a stay at home mom, per se. My friend and I proceeded to talk about the ridiculousness of moms being down on each other at every opportunity... birthing....nursing....sleeping. It's endless. Even when it comes to work. We all say "life is hard enough" but do we really live that?

Do we really realize that we are all just doing what works for our family? My new new years resolution (aside from updating this blog) is to never make an assumption about another mother. Never. We have some idea how hard it is so it seems like a silly thing to do, to assume someone else isn't dealing with the same challenge, plus whateverelsewedon'tsee, times lifeasitis, divided by itsjusthard.


Monday, January 14, 2013

When I'm done with laundry.

When I'm done with the laundry, this will magically turn into a blog that gets updated. 

I'm ready for a cliche, so I've created a new beginning. 

Stick around, this could be cyclical. 

All puns matter deeply to me.