Wednesday, November 14, 2012


This morning I was driving along, watching the town slide by. Since it's autumn and my allergies hate me, I've been a little diminished, vision-wise. And there wasn't a lot of traffic--so, like someone looking at a stage set for a play and there's no action going on, I was studying the scenery.

I'm not in a settled place right now. I have a lot up in the air. Haven't made every decision about my future. And there was a time, not long ago, that I would have been in a perpetual terror state over that, panicked, demanding answers, worrying over all kinds of situations I can't control. Not so, anymore. I am content with where I am, knowing the answers will present themselves in time. I think I learned something.



Anyway, I was thinking about the research I've been doing, looking at graduate programs in other states, publishing programs, presses. This is mostly for school but also for fun--possibilities exist and I'm delighted by this fact. And I noticed two particular places kept cropping up. Either their publicity departments are most excellent, or they just happen to be where I am, these days.

And as I was driving along today, my usual business taking me along back roads--and I drove across one whose sign, which I misread at first, was the same as one of these programs I keep seeing. I blinked and saw it for what it was, remembering that street fondly from when I used to accept lots of food orders for delivery--and wondering just what I was thinking about, that I saw a sign in a street I've passed a hundred times.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ostensibly Bad Poet, More Like

This is what happens when I'm given a character voice to write from--one that's outside my normal comfort zone--by a guy who edits Trailer Park Quarterly, the sort of literary mag your mother would pin to the fridge if you were in it. For real.

I was assigned "Really Bad Poet."

I'm not even going to try to read anything into that. I am all ego, you guys.

The Greenest Blade

The blade of grass most long and green
Was greener on than e'er had been
The greenest blade I'd ever seen
'Twas greener than a French green bean!
I write this for my dude, Springsteen--
Who wore them really tight blue jeans.


That was a real creative stretch, let me tell you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's a Poem, All Right

Here's a poem I wrote several months ago, when I lived in a different place and followed a prompt given by one of my fellow poets at The Journal of Asinine Poetry (new issue just went up yesterday!).

"North Missouri"

North Missouri is nowhere near
Any Missouri close to here,
And distant is what they will call me.

Mysticism ruled and then incarnated
My skin is the only thing keeping me from flying into a million pieces

I don't remember
More than the shape of your chin
But that is enough

And distant is what they will call me.


Now, the prompt:

Asinine Hacks, assemble! It's time for an Asinine Poetry writing exercise. The prompt is very, very simple. All you have to do is:

1) Use your street name as the poem's title (the "St." or "Dr." isn't necessary).
2) The poem should be 10 lines long.

a) Lines 1 and 2 must rhyme, and mention your street again.
b) Lines 3 and 10 are the same. Use this sentence, filling in the blank: "And _____ is what they will call me."
c) In line 4, summarize the entire Bible.
d) Line 5 must be a movie quote (not in quotes).
e) Use the least foul swear word you can think of for line 6, put it in quotes.
f) This leaves lines 7, 8 and 9, which work together as a haiku. In it, tie together relational aesthetics to the Children's Crusade without making any reference to either, in the form of a 'thank you' note to a fictional ex.
*f) *Optional: Or, instead of the haiku, you can just write your favorite pickup line.

Good luck!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Filling Up

The more water I pour in the fish tank, the more agitated the fish get, even though they're less crowded this way. More room to live, to explore, to think their fishy thoughts and dream their fishy dreams. Exercise, play, relax, whatever they want is theirs, and yet their little faces register annoyance at me for daring to expand their field.

Sometimes I'm a real jerk.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Emo-broidery: n. The realization that the embroidery project you're working on will never actually be completed. Probably related to purchasing craft supplies at a yard sale, so is likely the originator of the project had passed away. See also: Six quilt blocks do not a complete quilt make; All the time and expense going into quilt-making makes for a finished product too awesome to give away but not really to my taste; Bad idea in the first place.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Note to Self

Marybeth, next time you clean your floors, remember to also clean your feet.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Monkey Do

I started making sock monkeys right after college. Newly married, extremely broke, and working part-time, I had a lot of time on my hands and was fighting ennui. Not just boredom, but the dragging despair that comes along with not having enough occupation.

I was looking for things to do.

I remembered being a kid and having a sock monkey. It was soft, warm, just the right size to deliver a hug, and in its silent, half-smiling face was the understanding of a true friend who would never judge, never laugh, never gossip. Also, pairs of red-heeled socks were like two dollars each. That, I could handle.

I am in the process of cleaning out my craft supplies. I have a room devoted to them, a small room, but a whole room nonetheless, and it's gotten to the point where choked-up inspiration and half-realized ideas have clogged the entire floor space, shelf space, table space, drawer space. Attempts at organization have been woefully ineffective. I decided finally that the biggest problem in there was too MUCH in there, so I've been paring down. Down. Down. Pulling supplies out and making them into THINGS, and sending those things to people I love.

And one night, in the process of digging through a drawer where I'd found, among other things, a tiny pair of glasses and a sequined top hat, I found my last pair of red-heeled socks. I stopped, touched them, started to push them to the back of the drawer when I sighed and pulled them out. It was time, I decided, to make the last sock monkey. Until I buy more socks, anyway.

I've made dolls for years and years. As a kid, I used to hand-sew rag dolls and then make tiny dresses for them (pants were too complicated). I remember thinking it was funny, stabbing and stabbing and stabbing my needle through cloth that was becoming limbs, torso, extremities, a face. I still feel a little twitchy when I'm sewing up a sock monkey. Holding his legs apart so I can sew between them, cringing and saying, "This'll only hurt for a minute, I promise," lifting his arms so I can sew them onto what would be his rotator cuffs, sewing a line onto his lips with black embroidery floss so he'll have a mouth, but it feels like I'm sewing his mouth shut instead of on. Until I'm done, and then it looks proper.

More proper, anyway.

Something about a sock monkey, or any toy for a child, really. I might have read "The Veleveteen Rabbit" a few too many times, but I think the principle's there. A sock monkey is soft to catch tears, warm to hold hugs, and durable to pop out of a box years from now, so an adult can look at it, sigh, smile, and say, "Yeah, I remember this."

I hope so, anyway.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cool Beans

Coffee is more than a beverage for me. It's joy, peace, quiet bliss that brings enough energy to handle whatever might crop up. It soothes my jagged nerves, revs up my tired eyes, and in the right amounts, keeps me from going over the edge where I normally dance. On one side is the ability to seem mostly normal. On the other side is giggling refusal to do anything but run around giggling. Very mature of me, I know.

Anyway, so I start every morning with a cup. A mugful, more like a cup and a half, liquidly speaking. I used to drink a lot more coffee than I do now. Like, mug after mug after mug, then fill a travel mug and take that along too. Then get another in the afternoon. Size of my head. Just drink it until I could feel the comatose setting in. I quit that years ago, as it was causing, uh, complications, but I keep my daily mug. And here in the Midwest where I live, we've been having a heat wave for the last week or so. A terrible heat wave. The kind of heat wave that vaporizes moisture in the lawn and crackles every living thing outside until it's a wizened, skeletal version of its formerly lush self. So yesterday, instead of having hot coffee, I decided to try something different.

I made up way too much coffee this time, more than double my normal amount, and poured it into a pitcher instead of a giant mug. Added milk and sugar, dropped it in the refrigerator, filled a sugar-rimmed glass with ice, poured, and enjoyed. Then I enjoyed it again today.

Not to brag or anything, but this might be the most impressive invention of all time, speaking mostly in terms of mankind. Mostly.

Mmm, coffee.

Friday, June 29, 2012


I love cartoons. And I love art. I love cartoons AND art. The two together? Almost as good as a chocolate cake baked with crushed cookies inside.

And now I have a plan for tomorrow.

Anyway, when I was younger, watching cartoons one afternoon, I watched Yakko Warner hold up a sunflower and mention something about "that van Gogh grouch."

I was intrigued.

I went upstairs to our encyclopedia, where I found several black-and-white images lithographed onto the glossy white pages. Images that transfixed me. I mean, I'd seen reproductions of artworks before. Sure. Typical grade-school fare. Religious iconography. Reproductions of "Pinkie" and "Blue Boy" that my parents had in their room. But art? Real art? Independent of the dry recitation of fact, art as a life force all its own, art for art's sake? Art, I might add, that had an element of grittiness to it, art that was terrifyingly real. Art that had been suffered over, hadn't been sold during the author's lifetime, and had, most importantly, endured.

It was on that dusty Midwestern afternoon that I sat, cross-legged and transfixed on the floor of my parents' house, and first discovered something far outside my normal realm of existence.

Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers."

Fast-forward almost a decade, and I'm living in London for a summer of study. I am painfully lonely, broke, and yet desperate to soak up what I can of the culture before returning to the States. So most of my afternoons find me finishing homework, then wandering down to the National Gallery (free admission!) and strolling through the elegant structure. I loved it. It was cool in there, quiet, and smelled of antiquity, of culture, of understated sophistication. The guards got to where they'd nod to me in an absent, British sort of way--"There goes the scruffy American kid again," they seemed to say. And I'd wave back, every time. Friendly-like.

Without fail, every time, I'd wind up in the Impressionist room. It housed several paintings, masterpieces each, among them Monet's "Bridge at Giverny" and ...

van Gogh's "Sunflowers."

It was my favorite of the six different versions he painted. Yellow background, mellow oranges and browns, flowers tangled and rioted, each fighting for prominence, for recognition. And the paint was so thick. Valleys between the ridges, oily swirls cut into and over each other--I'd stare at them, fascinated, angling my head, imagining how he must have felt as he scratched his palette knife through heaps of paint thicker than any I'd ever attempted. I had painted, sure, but with acrylics, not oils--as a student, with no pretensions toward becoming a master. I wondered what drove him, what kept him from madness as he saw such staggering visions with clarity enough to realize them in paint. Did he see his subjects, or did he see into them? How much of himself was he projecting into their forms? Was his every painting a self-portrait?

I wondered.

I studied.

I dreamed of that painting. Nearly every day for almost three months, I visited it. I sat on the bench immediately facing it, felt its enormous presence. The canvas itself is huge, by the way. Big enough that I felt dwarfed by it. (I don't often feel dwarfed, being as how I'm six feet tall.) And the mental presence of a man who'd died hundreds of years ago--I could still feel it.

I later painted a reproduction of it, years later, one square at a time, gridded out to ease transfer from the printed image I'd gotten from the internet to the giant canvas I'd stretched myself. Every night I'd sit at it, quietly stroking acrylic onto the gessoed linen, until what I had was a passable ghost of the power of van Gogh's original.

So I like this painting, is what I'm saying.

A couple of months ago, my mother went to the Netherlands. She'd never been to Europe and I was delighted to see her travel to her family's original homeland. I'd skipped over to Holland for a weekend while I was living in England, and had loved it, so was glad when Mom had a great time, too. I asked her if she'd made it over to the Rijksmuseum, as when I had been there, at the bus stop in front, there was a young impatiently-waiting woman holding--wait for it--a bouquet of sunflowers. And Mom had. Cool, right?

Well, she'd brought back lots of presents for everyone, and gave them in a big flurry of gifting that lasted the two months she's been back. And I noticed, the first time I went to see her after she returned, that she had a refrigerator magnet with a tiny picture OF VAN GOGH'S SUNFLOWERS.

"Yay!" I thought to myself. "Mom's enjoying 'Sunflowers' too!" Because I'm super-enthusiastic about that which I enjoy, and Mom had picked up on my obsession with this painting. She listens, see. She can't hardly help but.

And then tonight, I was getting ready to leave my parents' house after supper, and Mom gasped while looking at the fridge. "Oh! I almost forgot! I got this for you--" And she pulled that very magnet from the fridge! I might have squealed, a little. And hugged her. And ... and called her my favorite mom. Of, you know, all of them.

So now I can see "Sunflowers" every single day. Again. It's like the National Gallery, but this time, it's in my home. Ahh.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

Where I Am, Today

Happiness is a warm cookie on a sunny afternoon.
Also car parts picked up off the lawn.