Tag Archives: human condition

54 Minutes

The crisis text line
doesn’t tell you up front
that your responses
need to take less
than 5 minutes
or you’ll be bumped —
so the first time
I try to connect
I spend 8 minutes
typing out my crisis
only to have a message
pop up “failed to deliver”
so I try again
after I see the prompt
telling me to try again
and it seems my crisis
is too long
too detailed
too personal
and then the real human
texts me her name, Katrina,
and says it’s best to talk
and I tell her I’ve been trying
and she tells me to try again
and I do
and again the message appears
in all its splendid truth:
“Failed to deliver”
and I agree with that diagnosis
I give up
I put the phone down.

The Botanist, Part II

When you walked outside
to examine the growth on the magnolias
we planted in my woods last year,
I was supposed to be starting dinner—
putting the water on to boil—
but I walked to the window and watched you
hover over the new leaves—
watched you kneel down to touch them gently
like one of the children we never had.
I knew you’d be leaving soon
after we ate the green beans and the rice
and the five bluegill we caught at Griffy Lake
so I needed to study you a little while longer
to let your image burn into a memory
I could take with me to bed or to work
or to this blank page
where I’ve always taken you, caged you—
This sacred and only place you’ve ever been





Painting by Isaac Levitan, 1880. “In the vicinity of the Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery”

An Understanding

We rode down together
in the elevator,
the housekeeper and I,
from the 22nd floor.
We are careful
not to catch each others eye
as she pulls her braids into a ponytail
and I pretend to look
for something in my purse,
and I find it as the elevator stops
at the 11th floor
and at the 4th
I almost tell her why I’m here
and why I’m not supposed to be.
I want to tell her I understand
the way she feels about
changing sheets for people
who are on paid vacations
or who are here on company business
that covers room service
and valet parking.
But I don’t tell her how wonderful it was
to sleep on those sheets
with a man
who asked me to come
who asked me to exit
into the hall only after it was clear
no one could see.



“Morning Sun” by Edward Hopper, 1952


First time was in preschool
he and I were only 4 years old
after which
my heart needed to take a break
until it felt stronger
more mature
better equipped to handle rejection
and the boy who lived down the street
when I was 12 years old
was the apple of my eye
until he liked me back
and then I panicked
when he wanted to kiss me
so I told him he was fat
because I knew certain words
were cruel enough to protect me
from a kind of intimacy
that scared me to death
and it took four more years
for me to fall in love for the first time
with a disaster
who wrote in my yearbook
that I wasn’t enough of a challenge
and all of a sudden I was 19
with a boyfriend
who had another girlfriend
behind my back
and she called me on the telephone
to tell me she was going to take my place
and the baby in my belly
didn’t even exist
until later that same day
when I puked and took a test
that told me I failed again
in a strange and beautiful way
and then I spent years
passing out chances
as if they were coupons
buy one get one free, my daughter and I
and there were times
I thought it might be okay
if I couldn’t love him or him or him
it was enough
to have someone promise stability
even if the earth didn’t quake
and my knees didn’t shake
because I didn’t deserve a fairytale
after all
after the mistakes I made
and I need to be pragmatic for once
instead of romantic
so I said I do hoping I’d mean it
hoping a second marriage
would be better than the first
and it was
but it still wasn’t right
after a dozen years
so I set sail and dove in
to someone who wasn’t expecting me
to land on his shore
so I waded out as far as I could
back into the ocean of others
where love watched me and waited
for nearly two years
while I tried to convince him
he was overqualified
that I wasn’t worth the meager dividend
when he could have her or her or her
but he persisted
even when I cut my hair
to prove I wasn’t beautiful enough
he just laughed and said even a razor
couldn’t alter the way he feels
or remove his wish
to exchange the rest of his life
for my love.









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?


I know exactly
how many of them
are out there
who would come
right now
if I called them
and they would happily
undress me
fuck me
with tenderness
and maybe even love me
but I am wasted
for another
for the one that ruined me
for the one that has never
had me
felt me
been close enough
to make me come
to my senses
and he is out there somewhere
like a cowboy
sleeping on the ground
wondering why in the world
I am so far away
and wondering
who it is
who gets to hold me tonight
and even though
I know exactly
how many men
are out there
who would come
right now
if I called them
the only one I want
is the one who knows
when to pull the trigger
and when to wait.





“The Parkman Outfit” by NC Wyeth


He is out there somewhere
clinching his fists—
the man you ran away from,
the man who loves you anyway,
who brought you bleeding hearts
and lilacs and daffodils
and cayenne pepper chocolate bars—
the man who wrote your name
in the sand and on his heart
and would drive three hours
to see you for just one.
He is out there somewhere
wringing his hands
wondering where you are—
and why you still write poems
about how sad it is to live without love,
when his promise to you hangs in the air
like a thick morning fog
concealing a meadow full of sunflowers—
and all you need to do is walk toward him
and everything will become clear
and he will erase your doubts
with his trembling hands
but you are the skeptic
who believes that if you get too close
he will run away too.










“Sweets to the Sweet” by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1893