Saturday, December 31, 2005


This is the family photo for our holiday card. Craig is in the back: the perpetual student, scientist, chef, who loves to read editorials and political blogs. Then there's me. You probably know more than necessary about me. Oh well. Here's more: I teach third grade at a progressive, project-based school. I love red wine and chocolate. I read and write poetry, duh. I have a bachelors in English and a masters in education. Mary Helen is in first grade, is very social/talkative, loves her brother and doing yoga with mom. Liam is The Little Prince: otherworldly, shy at first, loves trucks and bugs. I love this photo not only because everyone in my family is in it, facing the same way, and smiling, but we're all laughing. Priceless. Wishing everyone a new year filled with laughter.

Tonight, Craig and I are going out for New Year's Eve! Unbelievable. We haven't made it out for this night since the pre-kid era. We even have free babysitting services. Craig cat-sat for a colleague, so she and her fiance are babysitting for us. We bought them a bottle of champagne, and we're cleaning the house - that's payment enough! We are going to a co-teacher's house for a party. It will be "fabulous." The dress is "smart." I'm suddenly feeling grown-upish, even civilized. Usually, it's us and Dick Clark and falling asleep before midnight. This is an improvement.

So, I'm thinking about resolutions. I usually bite off more than I can chew. But this year, I have a plan behind my promises to myself. They are mundane and stereotypical, but necessary:

Getting Fit - I need to get in shape, I need more energy. Also, my cardiologist says I need to keep my heart stronger, being that it limps along with a hole and floppy valves. No more excuses. I can't ignore Dr's orders, now can I? So I usually try to do yoga once a week, but now that I am creeping up in my thirties, that's not enough. My sister-in-law suggested Curves, in fact, she sang its praises. Two to three times a week for thirty minutes. It's "do-able" and it works. Plus, its six minutes away. I sign up on Monday.

Budgeting & Saving - Also an area where we have no more excuses. Seven-and-a-half years of grad school are behind us. We both have jobs, we are living in our first house, it's time to get real about the finances. I've been reading Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover Workbook. It's very practical and stern with advice that you may already know, but it's nice to have it put all together for you with a step-by-step plan. Do this, then this, then this. This is my kind of budgeting.

So there you have it, Julia's totally self-centered, empowering goals for 2006. I have writing goals as well, and will save those for another time. How much me, me, me can I put in one post?

Friday, December 30, 2005


“Bring Them Home”
J.B. Rowell

for Liam

rub stones
to find friction,
strike spark,
white pappus bursts
into orange flame,
blue smoke hum
numb of simple labor,
to light a fire
takes time
there is an easier way
to heat
the space between,

* * *

crush smaller
porous rocks
with gripped,
useful ones,
add water,
make a paste
seal your face,
travel as a stranger,
see overlooked
select for no use-
ful purpose:
colors, patterns,

* * *

toddler collection,

Poetry defined is the indefinable for me. I'm sure there are many who disagree. People get their MFA, Ph.D., and have careers around writing poetry. I respect that, and it may even be in my not-so-distant-future to start on that path. Do you need an advanced education to write poetry? Maybe. Or maybe just to categorize and recognize various schools of poetry. Maybe to publish widely. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. What is definite is that there are no absolutes about poetry, what it is, where it's going. Nobody has a stronghold on it, it is slippery and strong, like water carving stone. So for now, I am a toddler who collects stones and arranges them for no particular reason. When I questioned my three-year-old son about why he likes to collect stones in his pockets he said, "I like to bring them home." He attributes feelings to them, he clicks them together. He listens. There are many types of stones with many uses. But they are all stones. Poetry has a multitude of schools and fierce opinions thrown about, but in the end, it is all poetry. There is an easier way to be than being a poet. We labor anyway. And sometimes we light a small fire and warm our hands. Sometimes we hide in poetry, sometimes expose. Always we notice something commonly overlooked, and bring it home.


"Poetry is when your bones dream and you take a number and make it dance with other numbers. Poetry is a spot about halfway between where you listen and where you wonder what it was you heard. Poetry is a handkerchief trick with a kite and a balloon—and the neighbors wonder how you got that way."

Carl Sandburg sure had a way with words. He proclaimed to have at least 100 definitions of poetry. My challenge to myself is to write my own definitions of poetry, and see what happens. Maybe it will become a poem, maybe just a list, or become too frustrating to even venture. We'll see. You are invited to try with me, to let your "bones dream."

I wish I could write like that!

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Rae suggested on her blog to read a short story titled "Wheat", by Tracey Slaughter. I was glad I did. "Wheat" was the winner of the 2004 Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Award, judged by Vincent O'Sullivan. My favorite part:

"Forever is never as long as you think it will be. It is only a clipping of wheat. It is a frond of light, & it falls. It falls.

Golden, I would write: golden. They don't let you write golden these days. Look, just look at the shape of it on the page, the teacher tells me: soft, overblown.

He writes it on the blackboard, golden. I want you to look at this word, he tells the class, I want you to study it. This word represents every cliché that I want you to cut from your language. This word is poeticism.

It is a demon in cherubic form. You must cast it out.

My son's hair was golden. Let me write golden. Let me write golden."

This reminded me of a poem of mine that includes my own son's wheat hair getting cut. Unfortunately, I wasn't brave enough to use the word golden.

Here's the poem, though I'll warn you ahead of time, you probably won't enjoy or even get much of it unless you are a fan of the book The Little Prince.

Draw Me a Sheep
J.B. Rowell

“By the light of the moon, I gazed at the pale forehead, those closed eyes, those locks of hair trembling in the wind, and I said to myself, What I’m looking at is only a shell. What’s most important is invisible . . .”
The Little Prince

Her favorite color is brown,
announces it in class at church,
and furthermore,
her favorite animal is a
poisonous snake.

I am not there to explain
that her favorite color really is brown
because she “loves all colors,”
and that we were reading
a story with snakes
just the night before:
boa wrapping around a beast,
yellow flash then a fall
soundless on the sand.

* * *

Head down, eyes up,
like he does when he acts shy.
He looks in the mirror,
at the shell, with wheat locks
falling in a circle
on his black cape.

Waking like he left
his carefully tended planet,
mourns it each morning.
The flock has dropped him
onto this desert place
lonely with and
without people.

I protect what I can see
but what can be done about
the invisible unfolding inside?
Beyond the air holes
where the sheep breathe and grow,
to just the right age, size,
and temperament for taming.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Recipe for a Family Holiday
J.B. Rowell

                     Families converge
on a house with no guest rooms.
Sleeping arrangements:
twin bed, trundle, travel crib
blow-up mattress in dining room,
two sleeping bags, and one night
even the couch.

                     Oh, the family
togetherness, in the name of
Christmas/Hanukkah/Winter Solstice
and two-year-old birthday party.
Emptying bottles of wine,
cases of beer, raucous laughter:
heads back, mouths wide flashing
teeth, passing razor sharp sarcasm,
loving barbs as three brothers
cook the feast, banter, oldest
an entrepreneur/philosopher
decision maker, man of action;
the youngest idealist/builder
uncle for play; and the middle
a scientist/thinker “golden child”
go between, host of the stay.

                     Cousins fall
in love, plan nuptials, play
like they have never been apart,
breathlessly chase and race.
Most sentences begin with “pretend.”
Youngest design the arc of days,
outings planned around naps,
feedings, snacks, the next nap,
moods, and the surge of waking.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


So I was just wondering... why Father Christmas? Because he drops the gifts and promptly scoots off to the next house? :) Also wondering... where is Julia?? Not like her to leave MAAP empty, so I will fill in today. I give you one of my favorite poems, and it just happens to be about a father.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

- Robert Hayden (1913-1980)

Sunday, December 25, 2005


"Blessed be the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love."

~Hamilton Wright Mabi

Saturday, December 24, 2005


I believe one of our most important jobs as parents is to help our children find the thing they feel passionate about. Of course the "thing" may change over time, but the point is to help them experience that feeling, that kind of intense love. Here is a poem inspired by my oldest son:

Boy with Cello

Rescued from a pawn shop
where it stood for years
with its neck broken, body nicked
and stripped of strings

it arrives in a box
restrung, refurbished
and the boy cradles it in his arms
the way one holds a sleeping child,
fingers caressing ever so slightly,
breath the only sound.

Then the boy takes the bow,
pulls it across the strings,
and the cello begins to tell its story,
each deliberate stroke a query
the cello answers in its clear, resolute voice.

When does love begin? The first note,
or the second, in the lonely corner,
the unopened box, the Beethoven the boy
absorbed while still in the womb?

Perhaps in the merging of one’s half-
formed dream and the other’s awakening,
when one speaks without speaking
and the other begins to sing.

-Irene Latham

Friday, December 23, 2005


I really dig getting rejections for poetry submissions with a hint of humanity, just a clue that someone actually read your work and is responding to some aspect of it. It doesn't take much to give that glimmer of hope. Here is a freshly rejected poem with "potential." Whatever that means. As if the poem is a pimply-faced teenager, will soon go to college, then off into the world to become a real poem.

I Climb
J.B. Rowell

down into the crumpled spine
along Lake Michigan
leaving behind
the bleached bone rocks
to sit in the dark shine
of the lower rocks
where I can hear waves
and smell the wonderful rot

rock-anchored moss
leaps with water
long green strands
fall smooth again
over the curved neck
of wet stone

I came here once before
after a bike ride
in a white blur of fog mixing
lake and sky
but I could not see
did not watch
the absent-minded tangle
of plant and water
did not follow
the path the birds follow
a curve
one or two
quick wing beats

now I listen to watered rocks
taste coldness

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Father's Song
by Gregory Orr

Yesterday, against admonishment,
my daughter balanced on the couch back,
fell and cut her mouth.
Because I saw it happen I knew
she was not hurt, and yet
a child's blood's so red
it stops a father's heart.
My daughter cried her tears;
I held some ice
against her lip.
That was the end of it.
Round and round; bow and kiss
I try to teach her caution;
she tries to teach me risk.

My two responses to this poem. First, there are plenty of poems in the mainstream skirting sentimentality on the subject of fathers about their children. But not so much from the mother's P.O.V. Am I wrong? How is it okay for a father's heart to stop by the sight of a child's blood in a poem, but not a mother's? I'll go ahead and venture to guess that a mother's heart is supposed to stop, of course it does, old news. A dad who is supervising his own children and caring for them is worthy of a poem? Mother's need to take back their importance. Mother's should make their experiences newsworthy, shout it out, make them worthy of poems, or even a blog. :)

My second response is that I like this poem. How the cautioning and mending go "round and round," the father is trying to teach, and is being taught something back in the process. Nice. Also, it relates directly to me now as I try to caution my children, niece, and nephew not to jump on and off the couch. And they just look a me with a twinkle in their eyes. What else are couches for?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


"creative hush"

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Her unborn baby lies between us as we talk, listening to its mother's plans next year and waiting to hear its name, which it doesn't yet know.

posted by Fiona Robyn at A SMALL STONE

I always come away from this blog with a vivid image or a kernel to think about.

Monday, December 19, 2005


When we finally get what we've been longing for, it's never quite what was expected. I tend to have grandiose ideas about what the future holds, and reality can never live up to such idealism. It's taken me 6 months to appreciate living in my own home, and we're still unpacking!

We Haven’t Closed on the House Yet
J.B. Rowell

Bright roses out front
bloom then burst leaving

Japanese Beetles
stunned in the Southern heat.

So much to do
that nothing gets done

boxes shuffled, stacked,
moved to other rooms

but not unpacked as
the children settle in

this new world of cable
on couch and out of way.

    I wish I had an exam
    or a certain number of words

    to write about a poetic style
    or theory, spending hours

    in the commons room
    where scenes were filmed

    for a boarding school movie.
    I acted the part

    talking about the paper
    I should be writing,

    then taking green trays
    to go sledding.

Here is the first house
I’ve always wanted.

Here are the children
I want to spend time with.

Here is the yard we should
be running barefoot in.

Instead we get in the car
to explore this new area

I’m always turned around in,
with a map in my lap

and a guide book
at my side and my two

unplugged children
navigating away

from the house of boxes,
the festering roses.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


This morning, as a stay in bed sick with the virus my son passed to me, I am grateful to be in my first home. During our graduate school years, we lived in an array of bad rentals. One of our last rentals was an actual house, very quaint, but had many faults. And just before we moved to North Carolina, they kicked us out so they could sell it. So we lived in another rental house for eight months. We didn't think we were quite ready to buy a house when we were moving to NC, so we were renting a house yet again. TWO WEEKS before the move, the landlord called to inform us that he sold the house (with our lease and uncashed check in hand). We jumped in the car, drove the 9 hours, and bought the house we are living in now. The other night I had a dream that we were being kicked out of this house, people with video cameras were looking in the windows. When I woke up, I realized that for the first time, that is not possible.

Here is a poem I wrote about that "quaint" house in Alabama . . .

Blue House in Summer: Irondale, Alabama
J.B. Rowell

Languid porch stretches
across the front with jasmine
growing and twisting
up columns, and into the roof
that was one of the first
to landscape this railroad town.
The mayor lived here,
they say, and his daughter
who became the town’s only
piano teacher. She lived here
unmarried until ninety.

Stepping into the life
of a house, passing ghosts
of years, shoulders brush
in the halls with crooked lines.
The weight of history
sloping floors, windows
blackened by a fire, or simply
the darkening of age.

Shock of Southern heat
bleaches shingles, drives bugs
into the cool, slaps you across the face
when you walk out the door,
keeps you off the porch,
out of the vast yard
and into the house
whose windows
won’t open.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Idle Hands
J.B. Rowell

An empty classroom is the loudest
kind of quiet. Chairs hold their legs
up on tables, waiting for the floors
to be swept. Walls with layers
of fabric and paper framed
by scalloped borders.

Click, clicking in the hush,
wood on wood, I am 33 and learning
how to knit for the first time,
taught by another teacher, taught
by the students I teach.
Learning with them.

Bamboo needles taming thick
rust yarn looping, soothed in therapy
of busy hands, shimmying up
the shaft of the needle toward the point
to drop off.

Too tight in my tense, new efforts,
I loosen to the rhythm of thinking fingers,
it will find you, this meditation,
this practical use for hands.

Friday, December 16, 2005


I just received a greeting card that says "All I want for Christmas is a nap." Boy can I relate to that! But I remember a Christmas when all I wanted was to pee on a stick and see two blue lines. Here is a poem (a sestina!) about what followed.

For My Firstborn

You were conceived under an orange moon,
my skirt hiked up, his hair in my fingers.
When I told him I’d soon be a mother,
he just chuckled, said that wasn’t so hard.
I dreamed of you nights, swimming in water,
eyes just like your father’s, electric blue.

Soon veins streaked my belly, a map of blue,
my breasts hung heavier than two full moons.
Your father would fill the tub with water,
play you like a cello with his fingers.
My skin stretched tight, became a drum beat hard
soft soft hard. Your toes and elbows. Mother-

love flowed through songs I learned from my mother,
who said to fight labor with thoughts of blue
waves, to howl and breathe through it, the hardest
work you’ll ever do. I‘d lasso that moon,
I glowed with the challenge, swollen fingers
and stretch marks at home as boats on water.

Past due, still no sign of breaking water,
doctor said, come, I’ll make you a mother.
I said thirteen prayers and crossed my fingers,
couldn’t wait to meet our Little Boy Blue.
Nursery waiting with painted stars and moon,
we never knew waiting would be so hard.

In the hospital contractions got hard,
then out you rushed in a gush of water.
We cried and whispered our thanks to the moon,
I felt I’d been born to be your mother.
Your father gave out cigars wrapped in blue,
I watched you sleep, fist gripping my finger,

stroked your cheek with the tip of my finger.
Lovely, but still, saying goodbye is hard;
empty womb cramped – hello, post-partum blues.
Now for the message penned in blood, not water:
from the start I’ve loved being your mother,
I shine with your light like a hungry moon.

Your fingers quench thirsts unknown to water,
hard journey is done, now rest with your mother--
I’ll give you blue milk and show you the moon.

-Irene Latham

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Rae uncovered a poem in one of my previous posts . . . thanks!

How to Teach Poetry

for Rae

I prompt them: pretend you are
this gingko leaf on a trip
to the ground.
I can ask them
what it looks like - their answer
a fan of course.

Or I can tell them poetry
is hiding all over this garden,
and they are invited to seek.
Look closely until a door opens.

Look closely at not just the gingko,
but the way the pine needle twins
straddle branches, patterns of light
and shadow, the waxy shine
of the magnolia leaf.

A boy, who just can't stop talking
in our quiet space, talks to the gingkoes,
clusters them, fans his face,
declares one the king,
writes about ducks not seen.
He is poetry.


Poetry submission rejections come in storms, my response has always been to recklessly send more work out again. I think this time I will let my submissions run their cycle and fall silent. I'm looking forward to having the "mute spirits home" for a time just to think. It's been noisy in my life.

American Life in Poetry: Column 037


Painful separations, through divorce, through death, through alienation, sometimes cause us to focus on the objects around us, often invested with sentiment. Here's Shirley Buettner, having packed up what's left of a relationship.

The Wind Chimes

Two wind chimes,
one brass and prone to anger,
one with the throat of an angel,
swing from my porch eave,
sing with the storm.
Last year I lived five months
under that shrill choir,
boxing your house, crowding books
into crates, from some pages
your own voice crying.
Some days the chimes raged.
Some days they hung still.
They fretted when I dug up
the lily I gave you in April,
blooming, strangely, in fall.
Together, they scolded me
when I counted pennies you left
in each can, cup, and drawer,
when I rechecked the closets
for remnants of you.
The last day, the house empty,
resonant with space, the two chimes
had nothing to toll for.
I walked out, took them down,
carried our mute spirits home.

From "Thorns," published by Juniper Press, 1995. Copyright © 1995 by Shirley Buettner, and reprinted with permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I'm glad I'm not the only mom who has had this experience:

The Fight

By Una Winterman ©2002

There is a thread,

very thin but filled with light,

that runs between

you and me.

It grew coiled in my

womb with you

and unraveled,

soft as your own downy hair

when I pushed you out.

Once, during a fight,

you screamed

and would not stop.

I held on until

I could do nothing but scream myself.

I pulled out my


and severed our thread.

Unwavering, I told your father,

“I’m leaving,”

and I crashed down the

sidewalk in my socks

truly believing

I would never come back.

I was amazed

at the freedom,

illicit and thrilling.

But what I did not see

when I cut our thread

was you,

brow worked into a furrow,

hurriedly tying on a new thread.

When I looked down

and saw the thread,

my anger and vengeance melted.

Suddenly I was just a

mother on a walk,

walking back home to you.

Appeared in Literary Mama in December '05

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


The reader ends up knowing nothing about or why they are there at the beginning . . . I'm lost . . . but where the heck have we been while getting there and what sort of syntactic clues or mis-clues have we been given? I'm at a loss . . . laying it on too thick . . . "danger: poet at work." Overdone metaphors . . . lacking a clear subject this sentence is confusing and what is "among" hooked up to as a preposition? Line breaks are confusing here. I find these descriptive passages really hard to follow and as well as being awkward. I think the last two stanzas are ok. This poem seems like a very rough draft of one that could be quite interesting. It begins unemphatically (you rely on weak linkages too often) Have you earned the risk of sentimentality yet? I don't think you have... maybe later in th epoem. The second section leaves me muddled, trying to figure out what all of this looks like. Again this is one long muddle Again, re-think some of your syntax instead of just linking, linking with commas. And your verbal phrases get a little out of hand sometimes. We make a big jump there . . . I don't have anything against these details at all, but they seem as yet not quite woven together. So, there you have it.
Happy holidaying!


This week we are wrapping up a unit on poetry in my third grade class. This has been one of the best teaching experiences for me because I stopped trying to teach them about poetry. Instead, we read lots of poems, discover techniqiues together, and just write every day. For each lesson they are invited to try something new. Yesterday we were Spinning Similes and talked about avoiding cliche. Today we are talking about the ordinary versus poetic. At the end of the week we will have our poetry reading, but before it's over, does anyone have any other suggestions for poems, poets, techniques, or ideas to share with the class? Ideas are welcome!

Here are some of my notes from our poetry field trip to the Duke Gardens:

I can prompt them: pretend you are this gingko leaf on a trip to the ground. I can ask them what it looks like - their answer of course - a fan. Or I can tell them poetry is hiding all over this garden, and they are invited to seek. Look closely until a door opens. Look closely at not just the gingko, but the way the pine needle twins stradle branches, patterns of light and shadow, the waxy shine of the magnolia leaf. A boy, who just can't stop talking in our quiet space, talks to the gingkos, clusters them, fans his face, declares one the king, writes about ducks not seen. He is poetry.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Sometimes, people at work call my husband Saint, because he does things they think I ought to do: laundry, cooking, staying home with the kids when they get sick. Eight years of breadwinning is hard to undo. Many times, I have nothing left for home.

Sometimes, people say my children have such long days. And the other listeners nod, then they all look at me. Their waiting for my defense, even though I’m already presumed guilty. Yes, their days are long. They have gone to childcare where I teach since they were only weeks old. I pumped my milk in storage closets, I visited during breaks, I taught them how to see me and not care when I left again. For them I’m always around, but not always there.

Saint is out of town, so of course the littlest gets sick. I high fever, moaning in his sleep. I am at a loss. The nurse on call asks how much he weighs and I have no idea, cannot even guess. Daddy took them to their last check up, I explain. Silence. His face is burning, cheeks flame. I feel like I’m in a movie as I wring cool compresses. When will the medicine kick in?

At 3 o’clock he climbs into my bed, his sister is already there. I am sandwiched between what I most love. Her feet kick, he’s burning up again – love hurts. He takes another dose, washes it down with juicy, then throws it all up. His look: amazement. Like he never knew his body could do that. When we’re all cleaned up, he wants to watch Dora, then again, whatever he says goes.

Saint was at a dinner along the River Walk, his job forges ahead. I should be grateful, we are in the white light that shown at the end of eight years of grad school. Less and less he will earn the title of sainthood, become the dad he is supposed to be, and I the mom.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Here is a poem by the next featured poet, Christopher R. Vierck, from the new writing group that meets in Greensboro. He is the lone male of the group, the lone wolf, and has several other pseudonyms as well.

Black Coffee

most of the students drink
more than just a little bit
to stay up late, 5 or 6
no sugar
no cream
bitter straight black coffee
i don't need the fix
not from that curious liquid
i have you to keep me up
all night dreaming black coffee
i don't take you in with my eyes,
i eat you with my eyes
can you see the appetite?
look close.... closer..... closer still
feel my breath on your face
look into the black black coffee
is not as dark as your eyes
or as hot as your steaming skin
or as bright as your dark hair
or as fluid as the curves
of your soft physique,
all carved out
perfect black coffee
crease on crease
each move i make
seems an error in tactics
now, move, go, touch—
not now! what are you doing fool?
retreat! black coffee
being with you sounds like a dream
and i need to wake up black coffee
i steam black coffee
you make my blood hold black coffee
your image is trapped
in my blood starved brain
everywhere i look
i see you
in shadows
in snatches of stone
in drying leafs
in ice dropped
in too bitter, too hot black coffee.

Christopher R. Vierck is one of those lone wolf poets who has spent most of his career writing poetry and then never submitting anything to be published. He has a BA Degree from Pitzer College in English Lit and has studied with poets Mitsue Yamada and Ari Sherman, among others. He is currently a stay at home dad of four kids "with sixteen legs."

Friday, December 09, 2005


After just returning from another trip to Disney, I offer two takes on the place. I have lots of happy memories there, and for whatever reason, I have felt obligated to take my children. That Mouse is one powerful creature....

My Life in Trips to Disney World

The first time, I was six.
I wore a Cinderella-blue dress,
and I believed life was all
sparkly wands and glass slippers.

The second, I was fourteen
and I brought my very best friend Michelle.
We wore short-shorts
and blue eye-shadow
and finally understood why
Snow White couldn’t resist the apple.

When I was eighteen, I moved out,
put on a silver polyester space suit
to work the Epcot ticket counter.
I fell in love a few times,
but never with Prince Charming.

Eventually I grew up,
moved on,
invested in happily ever after.
And after five years of marriage,
my husband put us on a plane
bound for the castle where we
spooned in a hammock by a lagoon,
our bodies warm and familiar as Florida air.

Just like a fairy tale,
babies soon followed,
and when each child turned four
we again made the pilgrimage,
their Tinkerbell-smiles
our wish upon a star.

And finally, the last time,
in a pumpkin disguised as a van,
chasing the clock
that will soon strike midnight,
turn our boys into men.

- Irene Latham

Things I’ve Learned at Walt Disney World (in no particular order)

There is no such thing as “comfortable walking shoes” after you’ve been in the park for nine hours.

Just because a child meets the height requirement for a ride does not mean that he should ride it.

It’s not a park, it’s a kingdom. It’s not a ride, it’s an experience.

Sometimes it’s not the Character Breakfast that makes the impression, but the light-up toy in someone else’s stroller. Sometimes it’s not the $40 plush toy but the broken plastic bracelet he picks up off the pavement in the parking lot.

“Priority seating” is not the same thing as a reservation; you still have to wait like everyone else, but presumably not for as long.

Shakespeare was right: Life is a stage. And at Disney these days dressing up seems to be a requirement. I counted dozens and dozens of Cinderellas and Snow Whites and even a few Incredibles.

The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom may be (obviously) artificial, but there’s a genuine tomato tree at The Land exhibit at Epcot that has produced a record setting 17,000+ pounds of fruit.

A forty minute wait can seem like just a moment when your child emerges at the end smiling like the Cheshire Cat or flying high as Dumbo. Or it can feel like an eternity when your child is whiny and begging you to hold him while the perfect one boy/one girl family of four in front of you is playing a agreeable game of I-Spy.

My sons may love to hear the story of how when I was six I cried when the ghost sat in my lap during the Haunted Mansion ride, but my husband could live without the retelling (and retelling) of the Christmas Day I spent in the Magic Kingdom with another man, when we rode just three rides the entire day but it remains one of my favorite Christmas memories.

Truly, it is a great place to try out being someone else. In one day my son was a swashbuckling pirate, a Mexican musician in a sombrero, a Chinese farmer, a field guide, and finally, the one that seemed to fit best: an artist in a genuine French beret.

It’s a fortunate thing I’m a writer because I would have made a lousy astronaut. (They put “space sickness” bags in the Mission: Space ride for a reason.)

People get proposed to in the line to Jungle Cruise (she said “yes, of course!" then promptly called her mother), married at the Polynesian (you want gorgeous photos? Get married at Disney.), and pregnant at the Haunted Mansion. (It IS really dark in there.) No wonder they call it the Happiest Place on Earth. :)

-Irene Latham

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Pieces of Poems
J.B. Rowell

When I tear one up
it’s like
smashing a fist
through window or
of legs and wings off.

Limb from limb
I destroy copy with
unsatisfactory font size,
errant spacing,
an unsightly typo.

There is sickly satisfaction
to obliterate
the fruits
of what I must do,
launch it from a high place
like a roof
watch it splatter below
accidental art
flesh and seed meet pavement.

Placing the rent pieces
on top of the trash:
loaded and ripened diapers
scraps of food
junk mail

I smile.

Like anyone
would pull them out
of this stink if whole
like anyone
would read or take them
as their own.

But still,
I must honor a secret fear
to guard against
identity theft.


J.B. Rowell

I can pretend the world is listening, cares,
what I am doing over the weekend,
what I worry about, my small successes,
my auto-poetry, confessional, maybe,
my ex could be listening in, my professor,
husband, friend, mom, step-mother-in-law
or nobody at all, or an editor who lives
in another day, could chance to pop in
read my poems, like one, and publish it,
how unlikely. The flickering screen,
a changing window landscape,
and best of all, when you get to look
directly into someone else’s window
read their soul, or what they’d like you to think
is their soul, "choose an identity," choose
to connect with another chosen identity
what we could be building is a faux
collective of body parts, careful now,
we’re playing with electricity and fire.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Michael Parker's Journal blog pointed the way to the writer Grace Paley and when I read an interview with her in Salon Magazine by A.M. Homes I was struck by a few parts that address a topic that keeps coming up - why do we write, to what purpose?

"Grace Paley is the sagacious elf of American letters; her spirit, both in person and in her work, is a magically contagious amalgam of compassion and incredible honesty." There's that word again - honesty - our job is to shine a light with "truth." Maybe. But what is truth?

Here are three questions and answers from the interview to think about:

"What do you think a writer's job is?

I don't think every writer has the same job. It depends where you are in history. If you're Charles Dickens, your job is to really tell people, give 'em the news about parts of their society that they don't know about or see. In general, I think -- it's what a writer does naturally -- you write.

Do writers have a moral obligation?

Oh, I think all human beings do. So if all human beings have it, then writers have some, too. I mean, why should they get off the hook? Whatever your calling is, whether it's as a plumber or an artist, you have to make sure there's a little more justice in the world when you leave it than when you found it. Most writers do that naturally, see that more lives are illuminated, try to understand what is not understood and see what hasn't been seen.

Do women write different kinds of stories than men?

There's a lot more domestic conversation, if you want to call it that -- or personal. Women are -- most women are easier about being personal with one another than most men. They tell each other more, and they have a lot of common problems. One of the things is -- I've never really said this -- but one of the things that has interested me is that women have bought books by men since forever, and they began to realize that it was not about them, right? But they continue, with great interest, because it's like reading about another country. Now, men have never returned the courtesy."

To read poems by Grace Paley, visit Michael's blog (see LINKS) . . .

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I am excited to feature poets from a newly formed writing group. We met at the North Carolina Writers' Network fall conference in a poetry workshop led by NC Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer. Last Sunday we met in Greensboro, a central location to all. This poem is by Malaika King Albrecht and previously appeared in Pebble Lake Review.

Selling Two Acres on the Rappahannock

You tie the machete around your waist
and climb an oak to chop wild briar down.
With gloves, I tug poison ivy off trunks;
the small white blossoms on the vines
surprise me. As we clear a path
from cabin to river, the rush of water
seems closer, and distance, relative.
At day's end, what was impassable
is a short walk.

At morning, when a breeze blew
our wind chimes, we rose before light
and brewed coffee. Watching steam
rise from my cup towards the dawn star,
I wondered how to divide what was never
enough between us. You yawned, stretched
a hand to rest on my shoulder, unconscious
of touch, as if habits of movement leave last.

Sitting beside each other on the river bank,
we watch the sun descend. We are silent,
meaning every word we do not say.

Malaika King Albrecht has been published in a few literary magazines, including Quarterly West, Exquisite Corpse, and New Orleans Review. Most recently two poems were accepted in the soon to be published book titled Fire in the Womb: Mothers and Creativity. She graduated with a Master's from Old Dominion University. She currently is a stay at home mom with two daughters.

For more poetry by the guest poet go to

Monday, December 05, 2005


Waving From the Shore
J.B. Rowell

I’m not sure how
I got on this boat,
waves lift and lower,
with no view ahead
where sky stitches into
sea—just the wake
and what is left behind:
silhouetted figure, hand open,

Like the repeating dream
I had as a child, only now
I’m driving away
while you flicker in red
and yellow lights
of the ferris wheel
wondering why they left—
also knowing
they always would.

Choices we make aren’t
choices, they happen,
are meant to be
because they happened,
and we can say, I always
wanted a girl and then a boy,
spaced just so—with curls,
blue eyes, ten perfect toes,
but really, they choose you.

The only choice now is leaving
the third behind
on the shore.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Maybe it's because a big blockbuster is coming out which is a C.S. Lewis adaptation, and also that someone keeps telling me how they hate that author for being so overrated and for writing such long sentences, but I have been inclined to write poetry/prose in one long sentence as of late. Here are two and in each I try to tell a whole story in one breath. These stories are, of course, not true so if my mother or father happen upon this blog they can rest assured that I did not reveal anything sensitive about either of them. Purely fiction, of course.

my god
i go to my parents’ church, that’s with a capital C, to make my father happy, help him to save my soul, which I know is humming along just fine, to a different tune, without the stamp of approval of the pope, who wore a nazi uniform, and I see you there, on the cross, and I follow you, but not into these trappings, not here, not where I am only welcome as a nun, covering up the sins of the fathers, or a mother, or a virgin, or a virgin mother, but that’s it, and the old man sitting next to us mutters, the motor of dementia making audible his thoughts, that women should not be up there giving communion, it’s not their place, everyone has a place, a role, and I know, I’m being judged for wearing jeans, for not dressing up for God, but my god does not see denim, stained glass, gilded dogma, and my children blink in this light, eyes shine guiltless, without fear, know god doesn’t have a name, or can have whatever name she wants.

Black Bra
To my gay male friend from college I invited to go shopping with my mother and I when I needed to buy a black bra for a dance because I was wearing a black dress, and you had a chance to endear an Irish Catholic mother to you, and instead you decided to shock her, pretending you too were shopping for a bra, only yours needed to be leopard, and maybe it was a defense mechanism, and you were being funny, and I laughed and wanted you to shock her too, only now I’m 33 and I’m going to movie with my male gay friend and a female straight friend too, and my mother says on the cell as I try to find a parking spot, “Good thing you’re going with another person, you don’t want people to think you’re a fag hag,” and I’m running late, and I know she’s kidding, and I know she’s not, and I blame her, and I blame you, and I blame me too as I try not to laugh and say, “Mom, that’s not nice.”


Friday, December 02, 2005


J.B. Rowell


This poem has been around for ages busting at the walls of the formatting I inflicted upon it so it could run straight. Years later, I think I finally got it - comments welcome (as always). I'm posting tonight so I can sleep in tomorrow morning - ha. Tonight is low key, red wine and a chick flick, poor hub (it's okay, he'll sleep). Actually, the movie is geared more to teenagers (my deep dark secret exposed). Tomorrow I am seeing the movie Pride and Prejudice with my co-teachers, and Sunday I am headed to Greensboro for a writing workshop. Also, need to decorate for the holidays and go to 2 first-grade-girl birthday parties - one an un-sleepover where they arrive in their pjs and stay until 9:00 p.m. Heaven preserve us!


Amber Waves
J.B. Rowell

I come from the people
who are wound a little tighter
strung a little higher
super-sensitive to the subtleties
of facial expressions
nuisances of visible thought
I can read people
call it intuition or ESP
but I believe
I just pay closer attention than most
like my grandmother
“Bobbie the Witch”
we flick on the brights and slow
seconds before a deer darts
we see the UFO hovering just over our house
we’re pointing
while everyone else is going about
to the rhythm
of the day.

You need one of me in a pack.
I hear the rustle in the brush,
I feel the underpinnings of mutiny
on the rise in my hackles,
I know the alphas will lock horns soon
and we will be the ones who pay the price.

All of this vigilance has taken its toll.

Bobbie was subjected to the best practices
of mental health in her time,
shock therapy and Absolution,
but I, being of an enlightened time,
have simply succumbed to the amber bottle.
It’s easy you see.
All you have to do is,
say you have a “full plate”
or tell your gyno you cry for no reason,
to receive a first-class ticket
to Numbville:
What hovering?
What rustling?

Thursday, December 01, 2005


How horrible it must be for parents whose children are lost, whose stories remain unfinished. Natalee Holloway lived just miles from my house, and in the following poem I imagine what it's like to be her mother.

Six Months Later
for Beth Holloway Twitty

I would have flown out, too,
I would have stayed for seven weeks,
I would have tacked up posters
and crawled into crack houses
with two thousand in my front pocket
and a knife in my back,

I would have searched every inch of sand,
slept and not slept,
learned a new language,

and I would have prayed to a god I don’t even believe in
hoping, hoping she’d only been kidnapped,
even raped would be okay,
tied to a post, her eyes swollen shut,
just please god
let us find her

and now, six months later,
I would let them call me “fascinating”
and I would get dressed and put on makeup
and I would not
cry in public
and I would not say
there’s no giving up.

I would say what you said,
that she was no different from anyone else,
and it would be a lie.

- Irene Latham