Thursday, July 5, 2018

You are Enough Writing Contest

     When did you decided to write and when did you give it up?  Was it from lack of confidence?  A lack of time? Why, when you loved your childhood diary and filled notebooks with quotes and poems, did you stop?  Writing is the one art form that requires the most basic of resources- paper and a pencil.  Think of the importance of a sheet of paper in a prison or a piece of birch bark scratched upon in a Gulag in Siberia. This is our heritage as writers. What we write has meaning and purpose!

      Remember that only you can tell your own story in words that reconstruct your life in a new way or in words that show why you are here on earth.  Your writing may inspire a reader to face a difficult situation or bring a smile to her face. Readers want to learn how you or your character survived a divorce or managed a happy childhood in spite of a raging father. You are able to do this with your words.

      We now participate in what the poet, Robert Bly once called the "Sibling Society".  It is a world where we are all equal and expertise is not given its great importance.  This has the negative effects  we see in the world of politics and of course,we wouldn't want our doctors to be without training and knowledge.  Yet, this equality opens doors to writers and artists who once may have been called outsiders without access to the traditional systems of education.
      We can pursue our dreams of writing.  We can learn by doing, by participating in workshops, or following a more traditional path of education.  Whichever way we choose we are writers!


Monday, April 2, 2018


     Patchouli is the fragrance that instantly brings me back to the hippie era of the late 60's and early 70's.  The other night I sat next to a friend wearing that oil at a conference and the smell came back to me in all its power.  Where do you find it these days I wondered.  There's one old head shop called Terrapin Point.  Its window cases are filled with water pipes and assorted paraphernalia.  Somewhere in that shop there must be some to be found.
     Did patchouli originally become popular to mask the smell of weed?  These days the smell of weed is so potent these days nothing could disguise it.  It hangs over parking lots and wafts up from my downstairs neighbor on occasion.  So patchouli belongs to that more innocent age.
 .   Catching the smell of patchouli the other night brought me back to my sister's visits home from college.  After years of ironing her hair and dressing in outfits she sewed herself, she was now in worn out denim jackets, and jeans, the smell of patchouli following her into our rustic country world.
 She brought home albums from Blind Faith and War while I was listening to Joni Mitchell and Harry Chapin. We'd sit in her care and smoke  cigarettes (not joints). Cigarettes were taboo enough for women in the Latvian culture back then. The first inhale left me dizzy but I rather liked the sensation.
      So patchouli ushered in a new world, far removed from cattle grazing, my mother's long illness, and my father's old country strictness. 
      Years later on a visit to a flower show at the Botanical Gardens, I found a patchouli plant for sale in the gift shop.  I had no idea such a plant even existed and I couldn't resist buying it. The salesclerk said," Thank you for buying that.  I hate the smell"
        But for me, patchouli was the unforgettable scent of freedom!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Dreams of a Water Soaked World

     As most poets know, sending out work can be a bust.  Many sites require a reading fee and if you were to send out your work to as many literary magazines as possible, you'd go broke.  What happened to the days when writers were paid?  Now, you're lucky to get a copy of the publication where your poems appeared.  There is another catch too.  If your work was previously published. even online, that can disqualify you.
     Finally, I decided, after having published enough poems for a resume, that I would do just that- publish my own work on my blog whenever I felt like it.

          Dreams of a Water Soaked World

My mother reads
cards for the gypsies
camped outside of Livani,
my legacy-
    the march of nighttime faces
    through my brain,
the dead that
nip at my heels,
Grandma is coffin garb
walks on clouds. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

On Beauty (to borrow a title from Zadie Smith)

She walks in beauty like the night, beauty is in the eye of the beautician (as an old friend used to quote), and what has brought me to this rather mundane subject?
      There is a deep insecurity in how we view ourselves or advertising would never have taken such a strong hold on our psyches.  Perhaps when we are most beautiful we are most unaware of its power or like in our adolescence, when we are at our most insecure.  How much time have we spent in our lives grooming and putting on make-up, dieting, obsessing over every detail?  How much money have we spent on the products that promise miracles?  And all of it for nought!
     I recently experienced a barrage of compliments over my hair and appearance.  What’s odd about that you may ask?  Well, I have never been so unhealthy in my life.  I have stage 3 breast cancer and wear a wig.  The wig has been complimented more than my natural hair in any of its incarnations has ever been despite the fact it never turned grey and was a source of pride for me.  
    The conclusion I reach is artifice is beautiful.  We know that from all of the touched up photoshop images that are part of  our daily lives. We’ve lost the concept of what a healthy beautiful person might look like regardless of age.  I stopped to analyze my wig- if I had to keep my hair in that condition, it would require color touch ups and monthly cuts. To the touch it feels dry as a bone.  That instead of a head of healthy hair is what triggers a positive response.  Could it be true- in this society you can be most attractive when you are wearing a wig and at your worst.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

No Pink, No Battlegrounds

     I've delayed writing about the theme of breast cancer for a couple of reasons.  First of all, there are so many people writing about their experiences and a I'm not an expert on the topic in any way.  Secondly, the other question is how long will I be here to write.  That' I have no way of knowing.  But here goes anyway.
      On my last visit to physical therapy (to try to mitigate the effects of a mastectomy that leaves nerve damage among other dilemmas) there was a trampoline set up in a corner.  I mentioned to the PT that it was good for lymphatic drainage.  Her response was, "really?"  Every cancer patient I've encountered has heard about it and some have a mini trampoline installed in their homes. 
     Therein lies the disconnect.  Through treatments I've spoken to many women who are trying alternatives to the standard chemo, radiation, and pills.  Almost none of them discuss this with their doctors unless they're lucky enough to be in an integrative medical center. 
        When I mentioned to a nurse that I was trying fasting before chemo to lessen the severity of the effects, she didn't think it was a good idea.  No wonder there is no discussion here. It helped me a great deal and it's written about in alternative and traditional articles.  Instead, she described a patient who loaded up on chicken wings before treatment. 
        Conventional treatment has turned the physical body into a battleground which is precisely the metaphor that is not working for us.  Cancer cells are in everyone's body.  The key is to keep them in check, from growing and invading  healthy tissues.  Another point is to keep them from returning.  Conventional medicine gives their cure rates of 5 years with some luck and a lot of suffering.  How many patients have a recurrence?  A cure in my definition means it does not come back. There are no guarantees on this journey.
        So keep the faith.  Try whatever works for you.  Don't blame yourself for not being cheerful enough or whatever else you may be told.  Give yourself a break!  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

This was a fun story about cars I've been meaning to post.

The Car is Ready to Blow

Calvin was always complaining about progress and how the US was falling behind. Now he was back on the same jag.  ¨It´s true, Doug.  Look at China.  Cars show how far a society has come.  Progress. Now they´ve got more than us.  That´s an indicator; everything is Chinese; it´s because they´ve got cars now.¨
¨Come on Calvin, what are you nuts?  What´s this poison soup we´re breathing? Carbon m-o-n.-o-x-i-d-e.  Take a deep breath of that shit.  Fill up those lungs.¨
The two men were standing on the overpass of Route 20 A next to the mall waiting for the AAA to pick up Calvin´s car.  Smoke was billowing out from under the hood and the engine looked like it was ready to blow.  Even with his car practically on fire, Calvin wouldn´t stop defending cars. 
¨The Chinese are now ahead of us in pollution too.  They got big black clouds there.  You can´t see the light of day in some of those cities.  That´s progress?¨  Doug continued.
¨Think of it; the smell of a new car. Picture it a Jag or, let´s say a Porsche.  Soft leather, heated seats in the winter when you get into that baby.  Cream color interior, GPS, a sound system better than you got at home.¨
¨Get out of here, it´s not sex we´re talking about.  Dude, dream on. Where do you see a Jaguar?  What do you call that smoking up a storm?¨  Doug pointed to the 20 year old Chevy ten feet away.   ¨You think it could explode?¨  He stepped farther away.
¨Nah, only on TV.  It takes a lot to get one to blow.  You got to cover it in gasoline.  My car is fine.¨
¨What´d you do, forget to put oil in there?  You with your cars.¨
Calvin ignored Doug and continued his reverie.  ¨Power’s what you want under you.  You can take on the world.¨
¨How long did they say?¨ Doug was getting impatient.  ¨They´re usually pretty good.¨
¨An hour about.¨
¨That Chevy has seen better days.  Maybe you should get that dream car.¨
¨The Chevy was Dad´s.  Still got some life in it.¨
¨Yeah, if you keep pumping your paycheck into it.¨
¨At least I´m not on some corner waiting for a goddam bus.¨
¨Well, at least, I´m not poisoning anybody.¨
¨You kidding. With those buses.¨
¨They´re ecological now.  They burn natural gas.¨
¨Next you´ll tell me they burn chicken shit.  You luddites are going to set us back a few centuries.  Then you´ll be happy.  You won´t have any cars, no lights, no TV, now that´s ecological.  Get your garden going.  Make your own clothes.  What kind of future is that?¨
Doug laughed, ¨I´ll keep my way.  You stay in that pile of shit.  I´m going to walk to the mall.  I got to get my daughter´s birthday present.¨
¨See how you get home.¨
¨Hey, I´ll take a bus.¨
¨Remember that´s why we´re in this mess.  There is no bus.¨

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Autumn- Streets of Gold

It's here- my favorite short-lived season.  Here's a poem I wrote when I first returned to Western New York after years of living in Spain.

Another Look at Happiness



Not the shock of orange leaves,

autum so bright it hurts,

Not your eyes tight on mine,

the stomach fall of your kiss.


Nor my country, Spain, distant

steeped in red wine and salt,

nor your Burma,

smell of woodsmoke and green,

when you close your eyes.


But this small space within

where solitude cushions

each fearless act.