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The Drought

8 May

Sunset inflamed the horizon like a chafing white blanket. It was hot in January. The orchards should be sprouting mustard and the hills going green. Some prayed for rain. Prayers left unanswered, or just ignored.
I crawled into bed. It’d be dark in 20 minutes, or less. All my peace was gone, for my heart was truly broken. I still had on the clothes I’d worn to work. I wanted to brush my teeth, but I couldn’t get up. My breath was hot. My lips had cracked from all the coughing. I called Jack.
His lanky form appeared at the door frame. “Please son, find the thermometer.”
A fever had clawed its way into my head. Jack brought me tylenol and orange juice. Then he called his wife.
By the time Beverly entered through the front door one floor below, Jack had dragged me off of the daybed and out into the hallway at the top of the stairs. I was still crying silently, soaking my face and my salty lips. Bev and Jack stood there with me for a while. None of us could make a decision about what to do next. Had any of us thought in a moment without pain what to do, we would have had a consensus.

They would take me to the hospital. I wanted them to drive all the way to Santa Theresa. Clearer heads prevailed. We went 10 blocks to the nearest ER.
My temp had increased despite the tylenol, but I couldn’t convince the MD that I had pneumonia. An xray was done, which I was told revealed nothing. The irony in the phrase, “the film revealed nothing.” made me laugh, because films fail totally if they have not told the story they were directed to tell, the reveal, the climax of the narrative, no one else thought it was funny, as a nurse slapped a mask of oxygen over my face and mouth. I was so cold I began to shiver and chatter. I yelled. The same nurse brought me a blanket. It was then that I realized I was wearing the same short skirt I’d had on all day working. I slipped out of it without it being unzipped. Why was I not undressed? The nurse appeared, giving me an injection from an invisible syringe. I forgot to ask her why I was wearing just pantyhose and a blouse. I couldn’t remember what shoes I had worn.

I woke when they were bundling me off to the car. Jack was driving this time, taking me home. It was then that I remembered my bird. Her cage still hung outside on the ramada, uncovered in the dark. A pet now for half a year, she sang and sang, bathing in a stainless steel ice cream dish that rang with the most beautiful sound as she washed every feather- tip pinned to her brown little form at 50 RPMs. I’d found a nestling on a scorching sidewalk outside the cinema in June. A house sparrow I had had to feed every 20 minutes, 12 hours out of the day, for 3 weeks. I smuggled her into work, keeping her in a closet to keep her alive. Soon she was able to eat what other birds ate.
I’d call Jay from work and remind him to hang her cage outside before he went to work. He was always agreeable.Then Jay had left me. He said it was “Too hard.” Too hard to be married, suddenly, after 21 years. Too hard for him to be married to me for one more day. I knew I would die of sorrow.
“Jay, the bird!” “It’s Jack, Mom. I’ll get her.”

He placed her cage in the spare room, covering it with a rose- colored duvet. I stripped off my remaining clothing with the strength of a rag doll, lowering my form first onto the floor,then pulling my torso into the bed, dragging my legs up last. Time felt wrong. My heart was thumping against my ribs. It was quietly dark. A street lamp sent vaporous light stealing through the drapes which silhouetted the furniture in my room in an unpleasant way. I believe I slept, but I’ll never be certain of this. In a period between today and tomorrow I became aware that I was hunted. Death had become tangled in the curtains and struggled to free himself. Had I planned it this way? I stood at the bedside with my hands raised as high over my head as I could reach. He would not see me if I stood rigidly in my nakedness, as still as my hopelessness allowed me to.
Hours passed. Death rattled around the room, bumping into me on occasion. I feared his insubstantial fingers would reach into my lungs. My lungs, in such close proximity to my heart, would fail me as well. I didn’t care. It was taking too long. The pieces of my soul that Jay had taken with him left me with little enough, making me unfit to even consider a fight. I was trapped by the sourness of his silent rage. Pathology that I hadn’t considered left me blinded. There was no way out. It was raining.

Aside 16 Jan

The Cottonwoods sit in a hollow and can’t be seen from Union Rd. They are heavy with mistletoe. All of our prayers remain unanswered. It has not rained for 9 weeks. All I have to do is light one match and a conflagration would clear acres along the riverbed, exploding fist-sized rocks with its heat, making noise that couldn’t be ignored.

I made too much noise in his life. He complained all the time that he was tired and could not concentrate. He’d turn off music, even on road trips. If decorum called for it, he’d listen to classical music. What choice did he have? Just keep down the noise. It’s difficult to tread water in a shame pool; this one is so very deep. All concentration is needed to not drown.The mind can’t be bothered with incoming love or joy. It is just too hard to try.

Right now it’s so quiet I can hear the sun shine. No breeze rustles the dusty trees. He is in the shame pool, and someone is standing on his head. It isn’t me. It never was.

Aside 2 Jan

My hair is still beautiful. Soft, shiny and brilliant with highlights. Despite this, my husband choose to become an automaton. He grew a switch between his legs,like a stick from the granny smith tree. On and off, up/down. He grew to be no fun. A stick in the mud.

Dangerous? I think so. Most stickmen are as wily and as unpredictable as a human with a soul.He grew to hate my soft arms and warm belly.I experienced chest pain from his unyielding metal trunk forcing me into tachycardia every time we fucked.He killed my cat and beat my dog. Still, I have to tell him I love him.

Always wants to gossip about Jesus. Won’t pray for rain. Afraid to live his own life. As emotionally stingy as any automaton. Can’t remember his mother or father. (Neither can I; perhaps they were not really ever there.) Likes his high- octane mediocrity.

I never smelled any scent on him but the gunpowder. Cordite, right? His pink cock like an ugly little turtle.If I press on my eyes it recedes. Memories have a protective coating that once in the mouth, dissolves.I lick at the edges, but it will never taste sweet again.

Aside 19 Dec

Once, or even twice, I lay in bed next to John F., thinking, “This is someone close; this is a big part of my life. This IS my life, his respiration like any other mammals, his humanness like any other man. I never could explain intimacy; is that what this is?”

For the first 15 years of our marriage he had a retainer on his bottom teeth. It had been in place since he was a teenager. His mother explained that his orthodontist had died. She remembered him fondly. Odd for such a cold woman. I really can’t say. It looked as if he had amalgam fillings on his eye teeth. I’d mention it every 2 or 3 years. He was not inclined to deal with it, despite the fact that several run- of- the- mill dentists had told him to have it removed because it could be a harbinger of dental caries, and general decay. No run of the mill dentist was willing to remove it, though.
Eventually half of it broke off. I just happened to notice. Again he was without concern.
“preoccupied with bigger things”, I’d think.

But his head was merely empty.

Aside 8 Dec

The tube is full. I don’t recall drawing a bath. My feet stink. Must have done so.
Friday night and the sky choked a couple times but no rain.
I still put buns outside as most mornings, early. The bird is a love; pretty speckled throat and a red bronze head. As I bring her in I realize a singing bird is better than a sour man.

Friday night is motor sport night. They race all year.
I imagine I’m an invisible woman.I will have my memories of flesh is a nourishment.An empty room with a tub full of water is meaningless. Is it that we all have a bit of madness? Is it better not to ask?
The cat hears the buckle on my boots and comes to chase the bell.The man who has left,is he wishing me a scorpion in my boot?
We will call him John H. The man who leaves.

The radio plays, but not his song. He’s too weary to recognize his rage. Stomps around at night.Catches a glimpse of himself in a dark lake
in a full moon.Fearful of taking a good look he’s as baffled as a caged bird flinging seeds about in an attempt to be free.


I watch a rich woman buying a wreath of Protea, Bay Laurel,Juniper and Bottle Brush from a traveler. Isn’t this more important? The man takes the fifty dollars, and it is worth it to the woman. It is raining now.This is more important.If he was unhappy, I did not make him so.I pace around for awhile.The last of the sweet, sweet cherry tomatoes that John F. grew are still in the sink since Monday. I put one in Bun’s cage. She loves cherry tomatoes.

Aside 4 Dec

You won’t get far in life if you wolf your food down like a vagabond.If you grew up in the woods, had your long- bones green fractured, you were bound to be a worker. No soft hands and dutched cocoa for breakfast. Every one looks the other way when you get on the bus. But it’s not so bad.
No fires have been set, We prayed for rain on Friday night. No rain on Fri. It rained on Weds and Thurs, though, and Grunt got his truck stuck under an oak tree in the mud. I sit , or stand, or pace. My heart pounds, my knees quake, but I refuse to stumble. Decades of cursed men problems,I once again have been betrayed. Need to pray for more than rain.

Putting up with Sacramento

11 Nov

It’s quiet even for a Sunday. Pete’s loading compost or garbage onto his pickup.
“They’re all in church.”
I just look at him. He must have meant the Baptists.
I go to church on Fri nights.Pray to the holy mother and burn candles.
Round in the middle like all my friends. Saturday morning we call for rain.
Sunday nights are for sweeping up. I’ll kill some spiders. Dust away their cowed webs.
Hot now. Never dew, no fog,
not even a California spit -and- polish sun shower.
This heat and the stink of Sacramento politics gives me a headache.
The stink of my close neighbors garbage on the other side of this fence,
a composite sketch of this postage stamp yard on this side of the fence.
I think, “Can’t they see I’m sick?” But it’s really happening for me now.

I’ll call a lawyer. I have one in mind. I will quit my job.
I won’t need to run this time. The nightmares are bearable.
The kid from the newspaper will come around with his camera.I’ll tell him,
“Lookit,don’t get too close with that thing.”
But I really don’t think there’ll be any press.
I’ll show them old clippings, press the paper into their hands,
I’ll show them my hands; I’ve been working since I was 12 years old.
That smile won’t escape me. Sighs maybe. Everyone wants the old nurse
to draw blood, give the shots. With practice it hurts less. Rub in some Vaseline.

Jack Kerouac’s Blue Buddha Face

20 Sep

He is Indio. He fed on thistle, pine and

blue milk; the fore milk, the thirst milk.

Saffron milk, the hind milk. Rich.

He is the sun.

He is scar-faced and nicotine stained,

with tigers above and tigers below.

Superior to the night I feed his image

saffron cakes and lotus.

Tight in his hands, the valleys, the peaks,

the caverns below. The grasp of the now,

the pull of the late.I am constant.

His tiger mother.

War Paint

8 Sep

My life unfolded
very badly. Instead
of smooth paths,
the fabric of it
became so wrinkled,
I stumbled many,
many times in the rents,
making outright holes.

Devotion to the senses
made me a limbless mess.
Nothing fixable, not even a
tin dixie cup of forgiveness
can sooth the friable skin
stretched over my eyes.
I’d push small measures of joy
where they might belong

but to whom? Justice evades
the thinkers, I think.
Worry about the consequences
of doves, or Joshua trees
in a simpleton town,
gray tide pools and too
many ruminants licking the grass
in a riddle- driven landscape.

All that I have is the here,
now. I’m a stumble queen
fighting with crows. So my
new affirmation is the past
is harmless, nothing hidden
in the dusty pleats, no black
arachnids aching to pounce.
Learning to avoid the

joy-sucking void has meant
more than all the natural world
has to offer; I’m only alone
when crushed and voiceless
by my internal landscape’s
avalanche and snow pack,
a weak breath to repent.
Should I pay a penance to

a God that is not mine
just to save myself from
the all alone? Is there
a choice and how to know
how to choose it? Who
is there, to ask? I see only
a tilted sky of wrecked stars.
I hear only my own

unctuous jibes.
The darkness finds me frowzy
and aged, touching my way,
applying layers of chalky lies
across my lips and cheeks,
slapping my way awake.
The light never illuminates
enough to dazzle.


6 Sep

I’m wondering if
You’ll take a fine photo.
I’m just wondering, because if
I took a black and white
Picture of you
You’re eyes would be blue.
Suicide blue eyes
Never focused on me.
Someone would say, “Isn’t that romantic?”
After the development,
All the prints had that elegant sheen,
Not matte; glossy.
“That’s my prince.” I’d say.
“You wish!” They’d say.
“Is he wearing contacts?” They’d ask.