Category Archives: Musings

She Won’t Go

The body of my mother
walks toward me.
She smiles.
Hugs me.
Knows my name.
Knows I’ve come to take her to the doctor,
but she changed her mind.
Won’t go.
“I cancelled the appointment” she says.
“You cancelled your appointment?” I ask.
She nods.
Tells me she doesn’t need to go.
Won’t go.
Said she’s a big girl and won’t go,
even though I remind her about the list—
her list that says headaches and neck pain.
I don’t bring up my list,
which is longer:
misplaces her purse, panics
misplaces her purse, panics
misplaces her purse, panics
calls the bank three times a day to make sure her credit card wasn’t stolen
cuts off unruly pieces of her hair
stashes used paper coffee cups in the pantry
forgets to use soap in the shower
forgets to turn off the sink
forgets to turn off the stove
forgets the way home
forgets where she is
forgets everything
except why I showed up today—
suspects I want to take her to the doctor and tell him
this is the body of my mother—
is there anything inside we can save?






“Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1” also known as “Whistler’s Mother”
by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1871



Enemy of the Dog

I heard myself whisper
I hate that dog
out loud in the empty kitchen—
just me washing the dishes
looking out the window
watching my neighbor
yank on the leash
to keep the bloodhound near—
the bloodhound I am certain
will get loose one day
and attack me or my son
or kill one of the welcome deer
that crosses between our yards
each day—
and my next thought
stayed silent in my head
but it was criticism
directed at my brain
and the way it likes
to make judgements
without thinking things through—
and I reminded myself
the dog was just a puppy,
already huge and probably trying
to get away from the neighbor,
who is really the one I can’t stand—
whose loud voice slaps the dog
as hard as her open hand
on his hind—
and as I rinse the skillet
I imagine the dog orbiting twice
around her legs
pulling her over
dragging her
across the concrete driveway
tearing up her knees
before she lets go—
and the dog will flee
and become the wild thing
she was grooming it to be.




“Sleeping Bloodhound” by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, 1835

Out of Reach

He said it was years after the fact—
years after he walked away
before he realized it was the right thing to do.

He spent years waiting for her to leave him—
her husband.
He waited years for her to become his.

She went so far as to make promises on paper.
Promises he thought would be proof, one day,
that she loved him back—

that she wanted the rest of her life
synchronized with his.

But always—
always there was something blistering
between them.

Birthdays, anniversary’s,
graduations, first loves, a driver’s license,
a new car, a job hunt, motherly responsibilities—

all these events that accumulated
into an ongoing delay.

Even her beauty became tiresome.
He found himself not-quite-in-love-as-he-once-was.

And he began to breakdown, he said,
comparing it to the way one sip of tequila
leads to another.

And all of a sudden
he was incapable of moving—

and he said he realized it had been a while
since he felt drunk on her.
He’d been so long in the hangover—

and all he wanted to do
was get clean and put that bottle out-of-reach
on the highest shelf.




How Does it Look?

With tons of help from my family, I built a lovely home in the woods. It’s my dream come true and I’m so fortunate in so many ways. My family is healthy, I have a job, I have food, and I can pay my bills. But I can barely pay my bills. Barely.

I was in Goodwill yesterday and again today. I made a small purchase each visit. If you’ve ever been to Goodwill, you know that they ask if you’d like to round your purchase up to the nearest dollar and your change will go toward education.

In theory, I think this is a great idea. It allows people to do something small that adds up to something big. Even if you’ve never been to Goodwill, I’m sure you’ve been to the grocery store or any number of other retail establishments that ask if you’d like to donate a dollar to a children’s hospital or the Children’s Miracle Network, or the Humane Society, ad infinitum.

While it’s a great thing that these places can raise money almost effortlessly, there is often pressure to donate, which I really really don’t like. Especially when there are people behind you. It’s like advertising you’re a heartless wretch if you say no.

Yesterday I said yes and donated almost 60 cents. I will choose products at the grocery store based on a 10 cent price difference. I bet you do too.

Today I said no. I kept my 20 cents. 20 cents is kind of a big deal. It’s a big difference when you’re talking about the price of a gallon of gas, or a gallon of milk. 20 cents is how much it costs me to list an item for sale on Etsy for 4 months. I pick up pennies on the sidewalk or the street or the parking lot. They go into a jar that accumulates, and when I cash it in it’s always about $100. The small stuff adds up.

There was no one behind me in line today, which is why I said no. It was only the cashier who I had to look in the eye with shame. And I felt shamed over 20 cents. Twenty effing cents. The whole drive home I felt terrible inside. I felt judged. I felt like I should have explained why I didn’t round up. I am trying to justify why I didn’t just donate the 20 effing cents.

I was so shaken by the experience that it makes me not want to shop in Goodwill again. But I’ve had that feeling before, and I always go back. Because, well, I can find good deals on things I need.

I know what poor looks like. I also know what poor doesn’t look like. Sometimes poor wears a disguise. Sometimes it looks miserly and stingy.

Dropping the two dimes into my change jar sounds like I got away with something selfish. But mostly, it sounds like music.

So what about you? How do you feel about being asked to donate? Are you happy to, or does it ever make you feel uncomfortable? If you decline, do you give a reason?


Watching him
I imagine he is serious, intellectual—
too good-looking and well-dressed
to be a failure at anything.
And the laptop holding his focus
must contain a secret or two about his life
or maybe all of them are being corralled
into a memoir I’d pay a lot to read.
And the pensive brow
behind his thin rimmed glasses
makes me wonder if maybe
he’s typing a resignation letter
to his boss or to his lover or his wife
in which he’s apologizing
for the wasted time, for the years it took
to discover exactly what he didn’t want—
which might explain why he’s been here
in the lodge for days, alone,
speaking and looking at no one
except for me
when he asks if I can recommend a trail—
and because the woods are where I answer
all my own questions
I tell him any of them
will take him where he needs to go.





DeMaris Gaunt

“April Wind” by Andrew Wyeth, 1952


Street Corner

It’s 10:50 a.m.
and no calls are coming in
from employers
needing my un-degreed skills
to wash dishes or make beds
or sell shoes
or dispatch emergency vehicles
or cash paychecks—
and I haven’t had a payday in a while
but there’s still food
in the fridge and in the pantry
and the electricity hasn’t
been disconnected
and even though
I was only half-joking
with my ten-year-old when I said
I hope I can pay the bills this month
his decade on this planet
has been sufficient
for him to understand poverty
and to cause in him enough anxiety
to suggest we find some cardboard
and make a sign for me to hold
on the street corner
and he didn’t understand
why I said I would never do that
and I told him about pride
and he told me he’d rather me lose it
than the house we just moved into
and I told him that would be a last resort
and now it’s 11:00 a.m.
and I’m thinking about
that cardboard box in my closet
full of my childhood dreams
that could be emptied out
and repurposed with the irony
of a black permanent marker.





“Migrant Mother” by Dorthea Lange, 1936

Introducing Gut Punch Poetry

Hey Friends!

I started a YouTube channel for my poetry! It’s called Gut Punch Poetry.

I’ll still be posting here, but if you want to hear me read my work, please subscribe!

You can like, share, comment, and ask questions! It will feel more engaging and personal.

I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t feel I had the right setup (the right camera and audio equipment, the right space, the right lighting, etc…) BUT I just needed to BEGIN.

I figure I can make improvements over time, and I’m sure I’ll look back on my early videos with shame and embarrassment, but I had to start somewhere!