Archives for May 2013

Flash Fiction

HI 70 / LO 46

This piece of flash fiction is inspired by one of my friends who is a grandma. One morning,  her granddaughter was still up at 1:30 a.m. because she said there were snakes in her bed. The books listed are the real ones from this incident. Everything else, well, let’s hope it’s ficiton.


The snakes were in her bed again. At first they only came some nights, but as winter settled in, they settled at the bottom, near Caitlin’s feet.

Caitlin knew they were cold, but that was no excuse. She did not want to share her bed with a bunch of cold-blooded snakes.

“Grammy! Make the snakes go away!”

“Caitlin, for the last time, there are no snakes in your bed.”

“Yes there are to! They’re cold.”

“I’m sure the snakes are cold, but they’re not in your bed. I promise.”

“But, Grammy!”

“Now, go to sleep.”

Caitlin did not go to sleep. She felt the slithering at her feet as the snakes readjusted themselves. All would be quiet for a while, then Caitlin would accidentally kick the pile of snakes when she turned over, and then the coils would have to rearrange themselves again.

“Grammy?” she called.

No answer.

“Grammy?” she called a little louder.

Still, no answer.

“Grammy!” Caitlin screamed.

Grammy ran in. “For heavens sakes, it’s 1:30 in the morning! What do you want?”

“I want the snakes to go to sleep so I can go to sleep.”

“For the last time, there are no snakes.”

“Yes, there are so!”

Grammy looked around the room, but she’d forgotten to grab her glasses when she heard Caitlin scream. She thought of what her mom had done for her when she couldn’t go to sleep.

“Caitlin. I’m tired. I have to work tomorrow. Have you tried reading the snakes a story?”

Caitlin sat up a little straighter. “No.”

“Reading always helps people go to sleep. I guess it probably works for snakes, too. I’ve never tried it.”

“I’ll try it, Grammy. You’ll see!”

“OK.” Grammy bent over to kiss Caitlin goodnight.

“Grammy, can I borrow some of your books? Because they’re longer than my books.”

“Sure, honey.”

Grammy went back to bed. Caitlin first picked one of her own books: “A Moose for Jessica.” And two of Grammy’s: “The Parables of Peanuts” (because it looked like it was about Snoopy). And “Mornings Like This: Found Poems” by Annie Dillard. Because she liked the picture on the front. And when she opened the long book, it was full of short things. She guessed those were the “found poems.”

Caitlin went back to her room and turned on the light.

Grammy did not object. She was already snoring in her room with Granddaddy.

Caitlin arranged her pillows behind her back and sat cross-legged on the floor, the way her teacher did when she read a story.

“Hey, snakes,” Caitlin said. “It’s time to go to sleep. So I’m gonna read you a story.”

The snakes settled down.

Caitlin opened the Annie Dillard book to just wherever it fell open, and she started reading in the middle of a poem called “Mornings Like This”:

Mornings like this: I look

About the earth and the heavens:

There is not enough to believe —

The snakes were happy. They stayed still the rest of the night.

Caitlin fell asleep with her book over her chest.

The snakes slept at the foot of the bed, and when morning came, they left with the sunrise.

While Caitlin was still sleeping, Grammy quietly stole back her Annie Dillard book.


Upside Down

HI 60/ LO 36, severe flood warning

Last Thursday night, May 16, the final episode of The Office aired. I’ve written about The Office here before. My favorite, favorite Michael Scott line of all time is from the “Secret Santa” episode of season 6, written by Mindy Kaling, in which he dresses up as Jesus (because Phyllis beat him to dressing up as Santa). Michael—not so up on his Bible—says about Jesus, “His last name is Christ. He has the power of flight. He can heal leopards.”

Of course, Michael should have said “lepers,” but “leopards” is much funnier. Is is possible there might be leopards that need healing?

And the power of flight. I once read that there are two essential superpowers: the power to make yourself invisible and the power to fly. Why didn’t Jesus ever fly? Seems like a bit of an oversight.

Which brings me to this photo.

These God is Love mugs belong to a friend of mine. As you can see, they’re upside down. It’s not meant to be a statement; it’s just to keep the dust out.

But I love this photo because sometimes the whole God is Love thing feels upside down. Sometimes it feels like Jesus should have the power of flight and put it to good use. Sometimes I think that maybe Jesus should be out there healing leopards.

Michael Scott is not Jesus or even Santa. The Office is just a TV show that we’ve watched on and off for eight years (and no one in our family is more of an authority on the subject than my daughter.) But sometimes, I wish Michael was right about the leopards and the power of flight. Sometimes I look at those mugs and wish they were put away right-side up.

Fawn Poem



Whatever it is

that makes this fawn wait

so very still



in the lawn beside the curb,

it is the hoof


of childhood.

The fawn’s eyes follow

me. Its ears do not flick


nor does it breathe

too heavily. My dogs—

usually vigilant—


miss this gift in the grass.

My dad says a fawn will wait

all day for its mother


even if she leaves it exposed.

I just have to hope she

makes it back okay.


One of the best things about being in a poetry group is learning all sorts of odd, useless information. Like the official rules to Rock-Paper-Scissors (thanks, Lianne!).

Did you know there is a World Rock-Paper-Scissors Society? Did you know they take this game very, very seriously? Did you know there are world championships? Did you know there’s merch?

These six items come from the Player’s Reponsibility Code, found at They are in bold. My thoughts, which are not backed up by any official organization, are not highlighted.

  1. Safety First! Always ensure that all players have removed sharp jewellery and watches. (I like a group that emphasizes safety in hand gestures.)
  2. Ensure agreement, before the first round, on priming conventions (we recommend the standard 3 prime shoot). (I don’t know what the “standard 3 prime shoot” is, but I think rules are generally most helpful when decided before the game begins.)
  3. Always establish what is to be decided or whether the match is to be played for honour. (Really? Rock Paper Scissors for honor alone? Now that’s a duel!)
  4. Pre-determine the number of rounds required to win the match (remember odd numbers only). (Because even numbers suck.)
  5. Encourage novice development by explaining blunders in judgement with a mind towards being helpful. Don’t berate. (Novices grow up to become masters, so be nice.)
  6. Think twice before using RPS for life-threatening decisions. (I don’t know. I wonder if using RPS for life-threatening decisions might actually help people think more clearly.)

Under the section of the website titled Rule Governance, it reads:

All temporary amendments are considered ephemeral unless otherwise agreed upon, but must not include any variant throws beyond the basic trinity such as, but not limited to, dynamite, bird, well, spock, god, water, lightning, bomb, matchstick, water, and/or Texas longhorn. (I might have won once or twice if I’d known I could use spock or God or a Texas Longhorn. No word, Baylor fans, on Man-Gun-Bear.)

The RPS Society and other groups that study such things as games of chance point out that Rock-Paper-Scissors is not truly random. The game is played by people, and people have tendencies. Those tendencies can be studied and predicted. A computer can be taught to play Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Therefore, I’m on the lookout, for a nice, not-too-fancy, not-too-big humanoid robot (these do exist). I will play Rock-Paper-Scissors with it and use the game to make all my major decisions: Where should I eat lunch? What should be the topic of my next column? And how can I turn back the hands of time?

I’m already developing my very own strategy. Game on.


Red Poppy Ride

The poetry assignment was to take a poem you like, notice why you like it, and try to copy it. I chose e. e. cummings’ “i carry your heart with me” because I was supposed to read it a few weeks ago and got sick at the last minute. 

red poppy ride


the day after you left we rose early to ride bikes

(41 miles)

you were with me all the way


did you see the last weary bluebonnets

verbena and black-eyed Susans and white poppies. No red.

when the good folks of Walburg and Weir woke up

watched one thousand cyclists wind around fields of what will be corn

past horses with hearts held close inside skin finally

(at mile 37)

yellow butterflies beside mailbox 2543

and red poppies.

Small Stones

We never knew

that Clover ate Polo’s food when our backs were turned

that she growled at her sister until she backed down

that she grew fat because she was a thief

that her supposed submission—rolling over on her back and looking pathetic—

was an act.

Until the pet sitter told us, we never knew.


The Curative Power of Tea

HI 55/ LO 26, rain showers

“Men drink, women get depressed.”

I read this quote recently in a book. And although I’ve known women who drink and men who get depressed, I get the point.

Friends, if you don’t mind me asking, have you tried tea?

The curative power of tea is astounding. Especially when you buy loose tea that must be put into a strainer (mine is a Mickey Mouse one from a dear friend), must be brewed with water at just the right temperature. And then you must wait.

Once the tea is ready, it’s hot, so you can’t chug it. You must sip.

Because my local H-E-B carries some nice tea, I have not bought a lot of the good stuff in recent years, although I do have two varieties of loose greens from Der Kuchen Laden, a local retailer. My dad gives me occasional packages from The Tea Embassy in Austin, Texas. But lately, my friend Carolyn has been keeping me supplied with tea from an online retailer. At the moment, here are the varieties in my tea cabinet from her: white pear, white blueberry, white peach, white tropics, jasmine chun hao, white monkey, gunpowder, green pekoe, pomegranate green, apricot green, mango green and citron green.

On days when “depressed” seemed like too mild a word, when alcohol seemed like a dangerous element to insert into an unstable environment, I had tea. All I wanted. If I had tea, I could write, and if I could write, I knew I’d be OK.

I brought tea along with me in the car, to the store, to difficult meetings. I bought more when I found it on sale: Ultimate Green, peach-ginger, cherry rose green, labyrinth blend with serene herbs. That last one’s label reads, “The labyrinth is not a maze. There are no tricks to it and no dead ends. It has a single circuitous path that winds its way into the center. The path is in full view, which allows a person to be quiet and focus internally.” 

That is what tea does, even if it’s the strong, black kind. No mazes. No tricks. No dead ends. There and Back Again.

Internet Sharing: How Much is Too Much?

All of us who write online debate this question. When is sharing good for the soul and when does it destroy the lives of people you love? Here’s a helpful guideline.

Imagine you live in a small town.

Like me. My town has 10,000 people (which is larger than some of yours), but it functions as if there were only 10 families. Everyone you meet is related to someone or works for someone or used to be married to someone. Not one person you meet—whether it’s the guy at the oil change place or the woman behind the counter at the fitness club—is unbiased.

This is helpful, actually. It’s useful. It means you must always, always be nice.

If you have a situation that people want to know about, you must say exactly the same thing to everyone because everyone will repeat it. Decide on your story and do not veer.

What does this have to do with the internet? Everything. Because the internet is basically one big small town. Everybody can know everything instantly. Everyone is biased. Everyone can and will share.

As I said, this is beneficial information to have before you write, before you speak. It forces you to behave.

We all need people and places where we can be absolutely honest. Of course we do. But not here.

This is a place where I play with words. These posts are not journals. My poems are not always autobiographical. This is a place where I point a camera, as it were, at one thing. Maybe the room is a mess, with a pile of dirty clothes four feet high. Maybe all the furniture has been moved out. Maybe there are holes in the wall. I will show you, say, this:


This is absolutely true. It is in the same room as the other stuff that I am not pointing out. It is what I can say and show and what you can repeat endlessly. This can be passed from phone to phone, from Facebook to Twitter to blog to Instagram to Pinterest. This has been approved by me, personally. Share away.

The rest? Take me out for a mojito in a big city. Maybe then I’ll tell.