Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 52

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.

This week’s Marathon, the last of 2019, was a multi-day event. With the Christmas holiday in the middle of the week, not to mention getting a new car, having the kitchen measured for a new floor, and all the other things going on, the schedule was confusing. To say the least.

Before I start, how about some visual memories of Marathon in 2019? I will scatter them through this post.

During this week’s event, I spent some time preparing for next year’s Marathon. Each December for the past three years, I have thought about how my writing will fit among the other sections of my life. In 2020, it is my goal to participate more in the outside world.

Since my accident in 2012 in which I injured my hand, leading to an antibiotic infection, difficult treatment, and many complications, I have had to put health-related concerns first; and then, three years ago, my husband had a severe fall and the healing for that took about 2 years. Add to this various family and work upheavals and well…I found myself dropping or stepping away from a lot of things outside the home.

In 2020 I have resolved to make changes. I won’t go into all of it, but I’m hoping to spend more time in wandering around, in learning new things, meeting/observing/working with/teaching/socializing with people, traveling around my area more doing art and taking photos, and of course being outside and exercising.

The Marathon will be a big part of this year as it has been in the past. I love writing and I love making print books. I am resolved to let the writing topics fall where they may this year – poems, stories, whatever. The Marathon as writing diary, maybe?

My main goal is to leave the house to write – go different places and enjoy being out, doing some writing. I plan to stick with one day a week (not always the whole day, but several hours) and I’m thinking of having a Little Vines session once a week separate from this (we will see). Marathon time can also include setting up my books, etc., but always, always, always, some writing.

I am calling 2020’s Marathon

“Just Enjoy Yourself Marathon 2020″.

That is what I want to do.

Now, here is some work from this last session of the year.

A pirate poem. I am not sure where this one came from. But once I got started, well, it took on its own momentum.

and so now we’ll have a little talk
and then we’ll concur
and then you’ll walk the plank

said the pirate captain
his eyes hidden behind sunglasses
filched from a crate
broken in the fight.
The filthy crew stood by
sweating in the hot sun
The four captives
slouched along the rail
attempting smirks
achieving grimaces.
All was silent
except for the creak of wood
and rope. The pirate captain
picked his nose. I need answers
he said
looking up at the sky
I need answers.

The slap of the chop
against the hull
a chorus line of sunburned faces
adjusting stance in unison
I’m not a polymath, you know
the captain continued. Even the captives
looked surprised. The crew sighed as one.

The sea
ran before the bow. Time stretched on
under the cloudless sky.
Cogitation concealed
behind dark lenses
carried on at a deliberate pace
concluded. The captain decided.
Throw them in the dinghy.
It was done. The captives
made time toward a distant speck
might be an island
might be a mirage
no matter. They rowed.

You’re very cheery this morning
observed the first mate
The captain would have snarled
if he had been a snarling kind of man.
Do you want to go with them?
The mate squinted. Oh for pity’s sake.
By midday all crew
in sunglasses and

The pungent salt air
the hard blue sky
the deep green ocean
they held no judgment
no clues no answers.
Turned into the wind
the ship
returned to brawling along
the waves. The crew
the same. The captain
chewed a fingernail
and spat.

Little Vines.

a ballet
in a parking lot
empty shopping carts blown around by the wind

For every word that exists
somewhere right now there is a pencil in wretched distress
struggling to spell it correctly

She was graceful

I gaze across the junkyard
hundreds of cars
honking out a majestic chorus
that only I hear

The drill the excavation the extraction
of what is buried what is pent up.
Soon the maddening throb ceases.
A gold tooth emerges.

Let’s look over Chapter 2 Polite symptoms of boredom.
Level I: the yawn
Level II: the restless shuffling
Level II: the lie about needing to make a phone call

well for starters this guy’s been in love
for only twenty minutes.
I think there is still time to save him.

The sliver moon
barely hanging on to the sky
A bent pin working itself loose from a velvet seam

the con man
his schemes numerous
his tranquil self-confidence in humanity’s greed
even greater

your scowl
dims your words of approval
like a cloud drifting across the sun

I don’t want to worry you
said the doctor
I never saw anything wiggle like that, though

A group photo
drained of meaning.
Faces whose names have slipped from memory.

it’s none of your business
where I decide to start a new life
unless you plan to pay for it.

in another life
in another city
I would have walked down a different street.

putting the squeeze on has proved inconclusive
but if you keep pushing and pushing
eventually that balloon’s gonna bust itself.

You said she was just a dumb rookie
at hypnosis
Well, a week later I’m still clucking like a chicken.

let me sob into just one more beer
then we’ll get going

The high-priced bottle of perfume
drained dry to top up the goldfish tank
by the kids. Toss out the corpse.
Swish on a bit of fishy floral. Enjoy your night out.

You kept your eye peeled
for the panoramic distant landscape
the big-romance opportunity you’ve always craved
overlooking the modest garden right in front of you.

the shadow you cast across the sidewalk
it’s all we have left of you
since the sky fell

the fizz has gone flat
in this flamenco dance
a million or two bubbles later
our champagne bottle is empty

they have nothing but money
they want to be anywhere but here:
Cue the luxury car salesman. Get him on stage now!

My New Year’s resolution:
Less analysis
More hammering.
Let’s get this renovation going.

I didn’t know about the money when I married you
I just wanted to leave home and you were smitten
Believe me I know the value of a dollar now.

a poor sport a hard worker
a dreadful raconteur an avid theater-goer
can cook but does not clean up:
On balance, I’ll take him, I said. Deal done.

you can’t resell a stalk of celery
you’ve already chewed up and swallowed
said my grandma, nodding at my husband across the room

Thank you for reading!

Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 51

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.

This week’s Marathon took place at home and at Montco. Little Vines at home. Writing and beginning a little planning for 2020 at Montco.

School is pretty much over for the semester. Quiet. Just the campus and…shadow me.

Montco 12-19-19 (1)

I went in the back door

Montco 12-19-19 (9)

because I wanted to make sure the cafeteria was open in case I got hungry. Yes, it is.

Montco 12-19-19 (8)

Even the notice board is less populated than usual these days.

Montco 12-19-19 (7)

Up the stairs

Montco 12-19-19 (6)

and to my seat.

I have a list I made some time back of 5 syllable lines. Haiku material. I decided it might be nice to finish up this list. So I got to work. Now, I veered off the true definitions of haiku as to subject and so on a long time ago. I mostly like the idea of the syllable restrictions – I enjoy the discipline of expressing ideas within a structure.

Montco 12-19-19 (2)

These five-syllable lines were certainly not picked with classic haiku in mind. Just five syllables that make sense. So the haiku I wrote go all over the place. Very Little Vines in flavor, some of them. And some of them turned into tanka (my tanka living under the same definition as my haiku, except going on longer, of course!)

Never mind. I enjoyed myself. That is what Marathon is all about.

Here are some selections from today.

You may remember I spent much of my time at the pool when I was young. I was a competitive swimmer, yes, but I mostly just loved the water and swimming. We belonged to a pool when I was young. I can see it in memory today as clearly as I did back then. This tanka is one of those memories, from around 1964 or so. The prompt was in a swimming pool.

in a swimming pool
one summer too long ago
a woman swam laps
her chin-strapped white bathing cap
festooned with rubber daisies

The prompt for this tanka was big holes in the roof.

Big holes in the roof
of my world. To let me breathe.
To give my eyes light.
For stars to shine down on me.
For rain to water my roots.

This tanka, prompted by the line on the upper floor, is about Wanamaker’s department store (now long gone), a Philadelphia name for decades. I am envisioning shopping there around 1980 or 1981 – I went there a lot since I worked just up the block for some time. I was always intrigued by the names given to store departments and that is what gave me the inspiration for this tanka. Imagine yourself coming into the multi-floor store and asking directions.

On the upper floor,
Ladies Better Sportswear. And?
Foundations? Yes, yes.
You’ll need the basement level.
What? Of course it’s not a joke.

(as a note, Foundations was not in the basement of this store, the Bargain Shop was, as I remember it, but…this is how the tanka wanted to do things…)

Little Vines.

the future where everyone knows everything
showed up at my door this morning
Eek! There I stand stark naked for all the neighbors to see

Miss Muffet my name for eighty-eight years and these days
enthroned on the wobbly tuffet of old age
I’m no longer terrified by the spider who sat down beside me

last night’s dinner for example:
a lesson in supply and demand economics
the undervalued meatloaf casserole surprise cake
the excess of leftovers in the refrigerator today

chattering daffodils on a windy afternoon
crowd up to the sidewalk
in the mood for some attention

the humiliations fell on me
settled in layers
entombed me.
I live on in the fossil record but as a failure.

no doubt you think he left an hour ago
hate to tell you
he’s lurking on the sidewalk right now
two houses down the street.

bought a lazy-afternoon
speedboat-and-skinny-dipping kind of lifestyle
when he moved out to the lake

over time the fish learned to recognize
the squeaking of your rowboat’s oars
no matter what bait you put out

who ever heard of buying worms
who ever thought of feeding them to fish
who ever thought the fish would go for it?

I’m in a big hurry this morning
you long tangly strands of hair hanging from my head
so get into your braids and shut up. Right now.

my lilac eyes
and their carelessly-told story:
whether it’s true or not is up to you

I think we both understand
you’ll just have to rely on your charm
and let the devil take the hindmost, as they say

clear-headed and resourceful
he wins all the games
but this time my money is on the poison ivy.

where did she go? where could she go?
I wondered
looking into this kaleidoscope of a city

the missed phone call
the ticking of the clock
the dim light of a midwinter afternoon

Fly, in this cobweb,
I am your only friend
said the spider.

I’ve been making a few changes
said the portly man
cavorting across the dance floor

my signature
written in saffron yellow
emitting a soft steady glow at the end of the letter

Spotted that body part as fake right away.
In a very cool bit of thinking
I did not point it out. Let him have his fun.

Angry and jealous
the cabbage
did absolutely nothing.
It’s just a cabbage, after all.

I just love an irradiated-blue spicy pair of spike heels.
Enhancing my Bewitching. Emphasizing my Lethal.
That’s all I need to say.

The wind crooked its finger
Come here, it said to me,
Come here. I began to walk through the snow.

now what would you expect from
ultra-hot inferno salsa and Thai noodles
besides another argument inside your stomach?

We booked the amphitheater for the reenactment
commemorating fifty years of marriage between two gladiators
still struggling in the dust. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Thank you for reading!


Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 50

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.

On December 12 I did the Marathon at home. It was a session of short poems – all shadormas, in fact. I have had a very busy two weeks and I’m giving myself credit just for sitting down today and writing. My head feels a little blurry. Like this photo of the Pennypack Creek I took a couple of days ago (how is that for a segue?)

PO 12-12-19 (2)

On that same walk, I came across this bench with a sodden book lying on it. There is a lot to think about in this little scene – who was here, and why were they reading a book here, and why was it left behind?

PO 12-12-19 (1)

Anyway, here goes. As I said, I did shadorma poems and I did Little Vines. I’ll get right to the poetry!

We did an art show this past weekend. As we were setting up (indoors) and running in and out of the building, a wonderful smell wafted down the street from one of the businesses near by, in contrast to the frosty air. Several of us looked at each other and said…Hmmm, I’m hungry.

in the air
floats a hot fried smell
lead-me-to-it delicious
Could it be French fries?

Yesterday I went out the door and made a sad discovery.

The hollow
sound I heard
The window
right on through the last second
unseen by the bird

I like to do crossword puzzles. Sometimes they like me and sometimes they don’t.

Crumple up
the crossword puzzle.
clues bargain
with your pen. Lose your temper
for you. Laugh at you.

Little Vines.

did you talk to this man
whirling you as he did into his orbit
and did you make any kind of sense?

on this night it is the purpose of the moon
to delineate the outline of the house
to illuminate the dreams of those who sleep within its walls

hand in his pocket
his palm incurved
squeezing tight his wallet

comedy club and groan after groan after groan
I was ready to give up
when you told a joke that made me laugh instead

My saccharin smile more like a grimace but
it’s not easy
to shape my face into anything but utter despair
here at your wedding. I should be the one saying I do!

my kindly uncle
now viewing me with a detached expression
as if I were an insect crawling out of a drain
he meant to wash back down it

One phone call
I am incurious
Fourteen phone calls
I want to know what is going on

I took my memories
left them in a pitch-black forest
hoped they wouldn’t find their way home again

intentionally yes
I threw all of you out of the nest
quite enjoying the scattering of my selfish brood

can you unpick the lie from the truth and survive?
answer that if you can
you impostor

Two books in the library shelved side by side
separated now by a newcomer.
One fumes. The other considers the possibilities.

Once you are in you are never out again:
the definition of inevitable
is what keeps you playing, isn’t it?

two sets of
fought for dominance in her smile

smooth-spoken winners vied for the camera
seamlessly refashioning themselves
as the likes steer them
all inside a two-minute interview

even those fancy electronic credit card records
can’t keep up with me
as fleet as I am in running this con.
Hold your purse open. Let’s get this Porsche out of sight.

not again
not that dandyish fellow
and his lisp and his zip ties.

thoughts benumbed
by the blurry lady’s venom
and how tight she seems to be pulling my necktie

Thank you for reading!


Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 49

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.



This week’s Marathon really got squeezed in this week – a little each day December 3, 4, and 5. I appreciate its flexibility and cooperation! My schedule is full: getting ready for two shows this week, teaching my art class, and starting to work on a long-term art project that I know from experience takes time and planning. Still, I got some writing work done, and that is what counts – spending time with my thoughts and getting them on to paper is part of my routine that I do not want to leave out, no matter how I have to fit it around other things.

I’m including a few photos from this morning, December 5, that illustrate what the daily life looks like right this minute.

At the high school across the street, the day is starting. I know two times of day just from the sounds outside – just before 7:30 AM and at 2:35 PM, I hear and see the sounds of the buses rolling and see the kids rushing into school.

PO 12-5-19 (2)

Here is the inventory I am taking to the show tonight – I will add more for Saturday’s show.

PO 12-5-19 (3)

And here is my work area set up for the art project, plus a few other side projects going on that I will need to move aside when later this morning I set to work.

PO 12-5-19 (1)

All right, here is some poetry!

I was thinking about my first days of work at a bank 40 years ago, and how my new shoes were so unfamiliar to my feet. A shadorma.

Blistered heel
new job first day and
brand new shoes
slide up and
down each step
just like my heart in my chest
up down with each breath.

At the YMCA a couple of days ago I was walking on the indoor track. On each circuit I passed a classroom where a group of tiny girls were taking a dance lesson. A tanka.

Uncertain but game
a small fat ballerina
raises chubby arms.
Three years old. Sagging pink tights.
Wobbly twirls. Success! A smile.

Little Vines. I’ve decided to include all the Vines I write each week rather than picking and choosing. I don’t publish them on the blog otherwise, though as you know, there are three Little Vines print books and I keep adding, so…there will be a fourth. Fifth? Sixth? Who knows? Anyway, here is this week’s output.

I decided to forgive
I opened a door
then the roof fell in

the heartless odometer speaks
there is no kidding ourselves
about how long we’ve been on this road to nowhere

such a small person
to be such a loud-mouthed hooligan
and so successfully

Do not toy with me
said the heavy pink bird
peering in my window.
At least that’s what I think he said.

Now cowardly is just the thing
what with us facing the pincers of a giant space gnaw-creature.
You’ll get no argument from me. Run!

in the infirmary
I’m sure I hear a harp playing. Oh no.

What if I told you
I like the chemistry we have
in every possible combination

the piano
eats up the composer’s stodgy sonata fest
belching all the way

After the exorcism
no one was sorry I wouldn’t be around anymore
It hurt but
looking back I guess maybe I over-haunted a little

And you my dear
are unworthy
my cat said to me. Ouch.

At the lunch table I began to feel
the day could be saved after all.
A fruit cake does wonders.

I’ve made mistakes
in every possible combination
but revenge is a promise a girl should keep, don’t you think?

clean or dirty
the window
admits light in tranquil silence

For example, that suitcase full of money in my closet?
It doesn’t belong to me.
Yes, it’s one of the kinks in my life I’m still working out.

hullabaloo in the brown bag lunch
carrot sticks slapping down nacho chips
both of them smashing the ham sandwich

Take it from me
I would die for a grapefruit
is not a very successful pick-up line.

the window
smeared by raindrops:
uncomplicated, unproblematic, simple.

squeezed into a tight emotional space
by his over-the-top too-much-of-a-handsome-hunkness
let me out I can’t breathe
said the ornamental boyfriend

the man sitting in chair number eleven
scornful of the defendant wary of the plaintiff
picked at a seed caught between his front teeth with a paperclip
while the witness sobbed

A dozen eggs
devoid of any group loyalty up to now
suddenly learned they’d have to cooperate.

you took your eye off the ball
you let the bat decide
but it’s you who has to do the running no matter what.

I grew up medium-struggle
vagabond hard-working office guy that I am now
every three years a new job
hoping to point myself into a no-struggle retirement

from that moment when
I scraped up an acquaintance with you
I knew that someday I’d be running for my life

two people in love and
wherever they went whatever they did
things got seriously soap opera sappy silly

the plot is
but thirty years we’ve been playing our roles
and having a lot of fun with it

stand back please
the invisible man
and his potbelly need room to pass.
Don’t ask me how I know.

Kicking out a plate glass window
takes a certain kind of bravado
that I do not have.

Thank you for reading!


Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 48

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.

This week I did the Marathon at home, on November 27 and 29, because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Little Vines were finished up on the 27th, and I wrote a couple of poems – then on the 29th I did some snippets. Here are some photos.

I got my table set up for snippets. If you want more detail on how I do these, look here, and if you want to read about the first outing in Snippet Land back in 2014, which is funny and interesting for its perspective, try this post)

but here I show you my table (with a lot of other things on it – I’m getting clay work together for some shows next week).

PO 11-29-19 #87

Here are my cut-out phrases and words:

PO 11-29-19 #54

Here are some ATC-sized cards to glue the snippets on to – this time I was using cut-up remnants from old paintings on Bristol board.

PO 11-29-19 #76

Here are a few books from my supply collection – I use these at this stage of the process to look for words or phrases in particular (let’s say I want the word “and” – I just grab one at random from these books). I try to let the snippets evolve from the words on my table, but sometimes there is one missing word that will make it perfect, and that is what these books are for. By the way, they are all books that were destined for the trash before I gave them one last assignment in life…

PO 11-29-19 #43

And here is what my work area looks like after I have arranged the words/phrases and started to get things going.

PO 11-29-19 #65

So I got to work. Every so often, though, I need a break Here is what I did today.

It’s cold, and I decided to break up my exercise into short segments. School is closed, so that means a handy half-mile circuit is open and available for me without having to dodge school traffic and doings. I am talking about the playing fields for the high school across the street from my house – if you walk the perimeter on the sidewalk, it’s a half-mile.

PO 11-29-19 #211

Every hour or so I went out and did a mile. Three or four, I don’t know where I will stop, but it makes a good stretch for me, and that is enough for me for today. I cross the street and set off down the sidewalk:

PO 11-29-19 #109

I go around in front of the school and continue back toward my house (the arrow points it out).

PO 11-29-19 #98

I’ll show you a spot I frequent during softball season – the fields are right in front of my house and in bad weather I can watch games from my bedroom window. But in nice weather, I come out and hang on the fence behind the home dugout. Right here.

PO 11-29-19 #310

OK, on to poetry!

A haiku prompted by something I saw this morning. Under this red sky, three deer slipped across the back yard just at dawn.

three deer in shadow
blurred ghosts going home at dawn
footsteps burn the frost

PO 11-29-19 #112

How about a couple of snippets. I’ll show you the whole array and write out two or three favorites.

flamboyant girl
grinned at lively boy
Yes, there were possibilities
strangers now, friends always
After a good journey shared
A long way from home

But I think It was the moment
I was married
that I turned my plans to murder

guilty. But after all,
it was Only a toothpick.

Little Vines.

ironic and non-platonic
our relationship
thrived on snark and skimpy nightwear

much like me
the money is gone
to pot

all these pirouettes
I feel so dizzy
it could get messy

was their marriage
always a picnic
under attack by ants?

I point my camera at you
the direct method of capturing your soul
and right in front of your nose too

Faced by the trio of extreme real bad people
I undertook a therapeutic reclamation of my own agency
Interesting what a nail gun can do at the high setting

I might be planning
a brooding session
in my cognitive playhouse. Leave me to it.

go ahead invoice me but
doing some basic relationship arithmetic
I see I still have a giant credit balance

the opera cake
upstages the store-brand cup of tea
with an aria of cherries and chocolate

when accuracy counts
and good ventilation among the numbers really matters:
a decimal point is a treasure

reach out your hand
for the pen
that you will use to sign your marriage license

The first thought of
every overworked guardian angel woken at three in the morning:
Couldn’t you have figured this out for yourself?

dinner will be ready soon
details to follow
I’m busy right now cutting the paste into slices

The Raven loves a good joke but
what difference does it make to a Mermaid?
They are not part of the same story.

The supermarket spins
on the axis of bread milk eggs.

the sermon staggers into the afternoon
the uneasy congregation
begins to understand the idea of eternity

the invalid
preoccupied with industrious fretting
never notices she is making a recovery

the heavy wool boot sock under the washer
baffles capture
I revisit thoughts of walking the beach in bare feet

now! now! now!
too late.
The shed collapses.

over the years
the invisible men grew fat and soft
behind their closed office doors

I never got the chance
out here on the street.
Do not toy with me now.

editing the continuum
the black hole
swallows the compressed star

imperfect lifetimes
made easier
because we are sisters

the sterilized lives in this apartment building
intersect nowhere
that has not been thoroughly scrubbed

Thank you for reading!


Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 47

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.


This week’s Marathon had to fit in among my classes and a dentist appointment and my birthday and lots of errands. I worked on November 21 and 22 at home.

Here are a couple of photos. This tree in my front yard is bare now. November rushes toward winter.

PO 11-22-191

I took this photo this morning as I was walking on the Pennypack rail trail. My eye was caught by the bright green plastic caught in the tree, but the real sight was the large hawk in a tree to the left (you can see its bright breast feathers).

Pennypack 11-22-19 #24

I watched him for a while, until he flew away into the wetland area.


Pennypack 11-22-19 #13

I have the kiln firing today as well. Here it is in my garage. Working its way to 1800+F degrees.


All right. I have some selections for you now, an assortment of poems and Little Vines.

I’ve been thinking about sewing lately. I learned to sew clothing as a child and have made many garments, quilts, toys, you name it, not to mention all the years creating appliqued fabric wall hangings.

I ran the seam
the machine racketing out pink stitches
straight down the stretch of pink slub cotton
the motor whirring out locked-together thread loops
that will hold the front of the dress to the back
for a long time decades even
maybe for more than one wearer
going lots of places and seeing lots of things
or maybe
discarded after one excursion
and a spilled glass of red wine. No one knows.
The needle punk punk punks
into the taut fabric. The pink dress and
the end of this seam
Whatever happens
it is a good seam. Cut the threads.

This haiku represents my dental appointment yesterday.

dental hygienist
chatters at her silenced prey
picking at its teeth

I am not sure where this one came from.

Ornate desk. Roasting hot overheated office.
Accountant. Pencil.
Plus him.
Desk and accountant and office – his.
Pencil – belongs to his accountant.

He said to me:
You’ve gotten what you wanted
so we’re square right now
His accountant chews the pencil and nods.
I’ll collect the final payment at a future date
His accountant sets down the pencil.

Little Vines.

it took only a few words sprinkled over fertile ground
unforeseen connections bloomed

No one really knows me
she liked to say
There is no such person by my name.

the red pepper
quiet now and charred
after a hot time in the old town tonight

your face
overcast by disrespect
admiring previous storm damage

No one really knows me
she liked to say
There is no such person by my name.

unwritten history
a long story no one hears
doesn’t mean it didn’t happen

a lot of interference and arguing
we’ve got repercussion number sixteen
in progress right now

next spring I hope to
visit his grave
and not be afraid

you offer a mere bargain
when what I need is
an outright steal

at the buffet line
view the contestants clamoring to top your plate
the mayonnaise food group in the lead
fried and sugary right behind

I’ve made sure you’ve got plenty of legal troubles
and on such short notice too
Nice work, huh?

the color of the days is pale and irregular
there is no snap and yet there is too much brittle
can such a marriage endure?

Stubborn and curious
I skulk around the library
I seek the plagiarized
in order to make their situations original again

I don’t believe in whistling for it
but if it comes along I usually like what happens next

what an interesting color
your face turned
when I congratulated you

the quiet man with the absent smile
not sitting in the empty seat
at the dinner table

The whole scene slides downhill
The calculations of its demise
contained in her sharp-edged smile

The older one
The younger, raw and green.
They stand before you. Choose.


Thank you for reading!

Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 46

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.

On November 14 I did the Marathon at home – I was waiting for a repairman to fix our back door.

Fall is here. Remember our flowers in pots near the front door? Take a look.

It’s been a very busy week with my two classes; I’m still creating classes for the mixed media class I am teaching and also finishing up my clay work for my studio clay class. Writing is coming in second this week.

So, I did just a little poetry writing and a full complement of Little Vines, and that will be it for today. I have a random assortment of photos to illustrate my random week, as well! Plus a few from earlier in the fall from the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust preserve – I just thought they were nice shots of autumn…

All right, here is a sample of today’s work.


I have been thinking about my working past recently. In my early working days some of these things happened to me. The others, well, they certainly would have fit right in.

Another after-work reception and dinner
Network and schmooze and
whatever you want to call it
everyone has to do it.
Just before she left the office
she caught the hem of her dress
on the heel of her shoe
tore out a big line of stitches
Quick grab the stapler.
First thing the staples did
snag her pantyhose
big run all the way down the leg
should have stapled flat side in but
oops didn’t think of it and now it’s
too late and too late
for a nail polish fix
and besides she didn’t have any
though someone once told her
try hair spray but
she didn’t have any hair spray
either. Never mind. To the reception.
Stepped on a street grate
kept going but oops again
that cursed heel of her shoe again
stayed behind and is
probably five miles out to sea by now
and no loss really because
look at how much trouble it’s caused but
enduring a hobble to the ladies’ room
bought a pair of flip-flops off a teenager
threw her pantyhose in the trash
because the staples scratched her bare leg. Ouch.
Get rid of them. Borrowed a pair of scissors
from the catering manager
cut off the bottom of her dress
frayed it. Combed her hair. That should help
get back into the right attitude to
step into a hotel ballroom full of
businesspeople in business attire
intact hems and regulation shoes but who
is paying attention when business cards
are changing hands? Mingle you bet.
Stashed the loot in her purse
which thank goodness unscathed so far
although that changed after dinner
waitress poured the coffee
and served her purse
Substantial slug of dark hot sludge
shorting out her phone
sent loose change swimming
among the business cards
cursing their bad luck to be in this place
at this time. Dinner speaker made his tedious way
toward a conclusion but bad luck
truncated it with a fire alarm.

She left the building with the crowd
her dripping purse on her arm
and this thought:
what if today
it had been Friday 13
Thursday 12?

PO 11-19 (1)

Yes, it is me. I. Me. Eye.

Little Vines.

the assassin
left the unsolicited gift of a jade necklace
knotted tightly around her neck

the wedding is next week
eleven last-minute pages of instructions
please let’s just get to the finish line

she was neat and fragile
too thin in the skin
her composure
lost in a tearful drizzle

PO 11-19 (2)

a once-potent temptation
gone stale

the insects of the night and their tendency
to vibrate
in a dangerous harmony

a bee
on an ill-favored pink flower
matchmaking gone sour

a pink rosette
sewed to a plain gray dress
that is what you are to our family

an uneven
coming from the closet

steam rising
coiling noodles in a cheerful pot of boiling water
celebrate spaghetti

say hello + hello all right
but don’t do higher math:
the indifferent barter of casual acquaintanceship

that chilling glance
from a wide-open eye
framed in the keyhole

PO 11-19 (3)

you want me to
do everything twice and triple often:
marital jargon for nag nag nag

a short strand of pearls
humming a quiet tune
around the neck of the demure gray dress

convalescent in bed
Vicks Salve smeared under my nose
a stewed prune and toast tone to the day

this full-bodied tomato sauce
robust and thick-armed
bright red in the face and sweating

A floral upstart in our garden
speaking a foreign language
By the next spring everyone had picked it up

the yawn
signed a long-term lease
on the entire Fundamentals of Accounting class

Thank you for reading!

Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 45

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.

Today I returned to Montco’s Brendlinger Library after a long absence. Nice to be back here.

PO 11-7-19 (2)

The campus looks the same, except for now…it’s fall.

And, they have fixed the clock in the tower. It now tells the correct time. I remind you, do not sit on the benches that surround the little paved area. The clock chimes on the quarter-hour and it is LOUD.

PO 11-7-19 (5)

I went into the library, located in College Hall, but I am sure you remember that… and if not, here is a photo. Yes, that is the same student in all the pictures – he was walking very slowly and I kept catching up to him after each photo.

PO 11-7-19 (6)

Before I sat down I checked on tiles I had left in the video section months ago. One is still here. I think it might be a record for slowest to leave a location. That’s all right. It’s comfortable here and so I left it in place.

I set up my work on the main floor.

PO 11-7-19 (9)

All right.

I did a variety of poems and Little Vines. I had done a few Vines yesterday, but most of the writing was done today.

All in all, a productive time and enjoyable for me to be back at the library, too.

Here is some of my work.


Where did this one come from? From a crossword puzzle I recently did in which the answers “magician” and “bored” were juxtaposed. I started off and just let my mind go.

the bored magician
brought down the checkered flag
this race has gone on long enough
he pointed
are the winner
the rest of you
he pointed
the crowd in the stands
wondering what they were
scenery? sideshow? how dare he?
but the magician gave no indications
other than to drop the flag in the dust
disappear in a puff of smoke
mingled with the smell of racing fuel
and hot dogs from the concession stand
the owner of which considered himself the winner
with a considerable day’s takings
and besides
he had nothing to do with the race at all
It started to rain
everyone went home
crowded in their small underpowered cars
waiting in a mile-long line to get on the highway
The magician sat in a comfortable chair
after the quick commute to his own living room
feet up on a cushiony ottoman
reading a book
with a bowl of potato chips by his side
the rain falling on the roof
the gutters full and a quiet gurgling
mischievous laugh
impossible to tell
whether it came from
the drainpipe
the magician

This one came from the same puzzle, the answer words being “iota” and “unfitness”

Not one iota
of unfitness
anywhere on that body
every muscle toned up and posing
quite a crowd of them competing for attention
the very apex of good-looking in-shape
arms legs abs even the muscles of his hands
are something else. What an impressive sight
well worth spending plenty of time taking it in
I only wish I had double vision.

This tanka came from thinking about the quick clean-up of my kitchen this morning before I left the house, with some imagination added…

an inch of water
forks soak in the kitchen sink
almost unconscious
the celebration dinner
an epic of impaling

Little Vines. Today I could not choose favorites so I give you the whole list.

the window’s open
letting a lot of dust blow in
oh, this untidy planet!

Striped patterns make me uneasy
there is always too much of one thing
or not enough of the other

You asked for one pivotal moment
I’ve found you two hours’ worth of them
Why aren’t you thrilled? What do you mean it’s no longer special?

the stars in the planetarium
a poor copy of the Milky Way
tamed constellations performing under duress

a scientist a juggler a magician:
a doctor and his signature medical procedure
lie down on the table please, and don’t forget to clap

I need to know for sure.
The drowned terror:
has its body really washed ashore?

maybe it was an error but
the extra sweetness
meant so much to me

neon green
wearing sequins
the fish flashed through the ray of sun and was gone

very sweet jelly
seeping a satin tunic
over the yellow cake

it’s so dry here
in the center on the side over the edge
a girl crying in the back of the room
the only irrigation for miles around

it was the utmost, this irregular line of teeth,
that the orthodontist had ever seen
It lit his creative fire

the minister spoke
with a petrifying holiness
his words building up a stalagmite he hoped would reach heaven

First bake a hollow anxiety
Fill it with what you fear.
Eat it and it turns to butterflies in your stomach.

On the menu
matchmaking salt and sweet
And I made it all happen
Result: wedding cake.

In general, gallstones are not a marketable souvenir
said the hospital administrator
but then, has anyone really tried?
We’ve got shelf space in our gift shop, don’t we?

what a gelatinous individual he is
and it’s taking so long
for his ideas to gel. Yawn.

curse words
in the exclusive stationery shop
no pen would write them, no paper would accept them

Now the gas stove
let out a howl
This particular cake was just not up to standards, I guess

a closet full of tutus
does not make her
a ballerina

hyacinth blowing out a stink
cloying and heavy
in her hospital room

a tropical theme to the conversation
beach towels on the living room floor
the best vacation our family ever took

I’ve already arranged for these statistics
to whisper
they sound very plausible
when you say them with delicacy and soft words

the nurse
diagnosed me with a case of blocked ears
overfilled with gossip

this cake
tastes like a salty coffee drink mixed with soap
I do like the blue color, though

he was just one more heartbroken hairdresser
crying and rinsing the soap from my hair
I worried there would be nothing left of my head when he was done

A mile of string
wrapped around a cardboard tube?
No, I do not want to buy it.

antiseptic drops
working out their issues
on my cut hand. Ouch.

Thank you for reading!

Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 44

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.





This week’s Marathon split itself between October 30 and 31. I’m still taking my studio clay class and teaching my mixed media class, so this schedule helps me keep up. Here’s how it worked out this week.

On October 30, I took a walk along the Pennypack rail trail before I got started on working – I planned to write in the morning and teach my class in the afternoon. I started off before the sun rose (not hard these days, with Daylight Savings Time still with us – I left about 7 AM down the trail). Here’s the apartment building next to the parking lot – you see the lights in the windows of the early risers.

PO10-31-19 (2)

The pink glow in the sky is not the sunrise but instead the city lights of Philadelphia, about 15 miles away. It’s a misty morning and the clouds reflect back the light.

PO10-31-19 (3)

On my way back, at the end of my four+ mile walk, I waited for a city-bound train to pass.

I noticed the MARC logo on the cars – they are leased from the Baltimore area because our local authority has put on more capacity to compensate for extra commuters riding the train due to I-95 construction. First time I’ve seen MARC cars in action.

PO10-31-19 (6)

I passed through the crossing and the gates started to come down again. An outbound train this time. I waited and took its photo. No MARC this time, just SEPTA.

PO10-31-19 (7)

On October 31, I worked at home. It was a rainy warm day in front of some colder weather coming.

Autumn is in full swing here.

Remember my lush flower pot arrangements this summer? Now they are finishing their lives. I will need to put in something for winter very soon.

All right, let’s get to the writing. I did an array of different things on October 30, and on Halloween I worked mostly on Little Vines. I think some of the latter were influenced by the ghoulish ghostly nature of the holiday and the very appropriate weather…

Here’s a tanka. Who is the victim, that is what I want to know.

In the green butter
I saw the fresh smile of ruin.
I made use of it.
The joke of a poisoned cake.
A mother-in-law’s last laugh.

Here is a tanka. I used the word “isopod” from a recent crossword puzzle I did. You’ll have to look it up to see what I mean here – a picture will make it clear.

Act now, isopods:
this could be your time to shine.
Segmented attire
is ripe for fashion fission!
Yes! Smile for the camera.

Short poem written about my cat. Which cat? Really, it could be any one of them from the last 40 years.

The feline
accosting me in the hall:
I know his name
once again
I realize I do not know his opinion of me

Little Vines. This is where some Halloween comes in, mixed with random word cues and my own written notes. I’ve been watching some cooking shows recently so you might note that topic in some of these Vines. My goodness, what a mix I’ve got here today. I’ve posted the whole list today – I’ll let them all have their say.

Plus a lot of use of the colon punctuation mark today, too. Every day has its fad, right?

the icy glaze on the front steps
matching the stare she gave me
it’s no wonder I fell and broke my ankle

candy stripe
late for metamorphosis

The phantasm
devours the candy
The paramecium is ready for bed. Halloween.

Flash in the pan.
Watching the atoms collide.
The cake burns black.

A large insect curled and black
it certainly explains the texture
of this crunchy piece of cake
but not the sound I’m hearing

The child
squeezed into the shape of a tomato with legs
by his puffy red coat

a lot of mail
the guileful postman
took home and evaluated for blackmail purposes

Mother Nature
inspects the competition
I’m feeling some pressure, she said

Your doughy thank you
I was looking for something with more snap
I’ll accept your half-baked effort
Let’s wash the dishes and move on.

half a finger forgotten on the counter
a dozen in the frying pan
oops, let me throw that one in, too
and could you wash the knife for me?

ribbon trim
string or wire
I don’t care just get your nose back in place on your face

in the back of my mind
I knew
following the traditional style would result in a neater corpse

she had arranged
layer upon layer
of tidy facts
identical in size

the possessive daughter
put the cake in the oven
climbed in after it

The scientist adjusts the motionless ray gun
Chill factor 120 she calls out
The ray sulks as she prods it.
Emits 97. On purpose.

a bland face
shouldn’t have been

One knitting needle to the other:
You’re trouble
I’m not. I stay calm
You don’t. It’s like we’re knitting two different sweaters.

put the lid on your brain
I don’t have the time today
to clean up your ongoing splatter of bad ideas

The tart sour retort
The sugary crust it broke through
The scorch marks it left in my mouth

the indexed
catalog of destruction
you dropped off at my door

red jelly in a crystal dish
it’s something else to watch it shimmy
during an earthquake

a good pink color
with polka dots
that’s how I envision your happy soul

the laid-off accounting department members
obtain stereotyped support
from (thank goodness it wasn’t us this time) Human Resources

I am stuck talking to the office windbag:
when does the doubt of rescue convert
the sliding scale of boredom
into an absolute knowledge of eternity

Others will be coming
in less than thirty minutes –
Look! One is struggling through the boundary right now.

the fragile mass
in the silver pan:
the nervous cook copes.

the curvy value of
spaghetti strands:
the fork glitters in anticipation.

this industry hires the typical talent:
no spoons in my drawer
meet the casting call

the stomach stumbles
is rescued by this wayfarer cook
goes on its way replete and faith renewed
in happenstance friendships and meatloaf

curls of colored glass look on
the church congregation
bends its best prayers to heaven

How the color does boil
and overflow the edges
of the repaired photograph

should slogans be allowed
in our sisterly quibbling
or does every complaint have to be original in phrasing?

Our quixotic sister
drew within the lines.
She is messing with our heads again.

a nutmeg dust storm whirling in the kitchen
a lot of eggs wedged in the refrigerator
Somebody has ordered the most expensive thing on the menu.

The stranger broadcasts an interrogatory signal.
Millions of miles and a circuitous itinerary and he ends up here –
A hum emerges from the crowd in the silver-shell diner.

Bad news and the heart collapses
like a poorly-built haystack
in a windstorm

Thank you for reading!

Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 43

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.

This week the Marathon took place on October 23 and 24. It’s been another busy week made even more complicated by my husband’s dental surgery (all went well). I get confused when I get out of my routine and I haven’t gotten used to my class schedule yet (it only started in September, it ends in December, I wonder when I think I will get used to it!).

So the split days idea is still working well for me, let’s leave it at that.

On October 23, before the Marathon, I wanted to get outside for a walk. We are having a nice spell of weather. I went to the Pennypack rail trail just as the sun was coming up. See, the moon was still in the sky…

PO Moon 10-23-1910

and on the ground!

PO Moon reflection 10-23-199

A train line crosses the trail. The gates came down

PO gates 10-23-197

I looked to see where the train was (do not worry, I don’t make a move until those gates come up). It was at the Bethayres station just up the line, loading passengers. You can see its headlight.

PO train 10-23-198

Then it passed on the way to Center City Philadelphia.

I continued on my way, finished my exercise, and stopped at the grocery on the way home. I got there just as they opened. Look at Cara Mia McGill all by herself in the parking lot.

What poetry did I do this day? Little Vines, until it was time to go and teach my art class.

On October 24, another beautiful day. I followed the same routine in the morning. Here are some shots of my front yard. What a nice color the trees are all getting.

On this day, I finished up Little Vines. Then I turned my attention to other poetry writing. I could not settle down. Then I thought of something I wanted to try – a poetry generator site or two. I have not done this before in the Marathon context and only a couple of times before that, just playing around.

Here’s how it works for me. I put in words, I see what comes up, I make note of phrases or whatever hits me. I don’t use the suggestions much, though – it seems for me the real value is in the associations the random words bring up. I find myself opening boxes in my mental attic and finding ideas that are a surprise. I like that.

Anyway, that is how it works for me. I ended up writing a lot of very short poems – mostly haiku. Let’s get to some of them.

This haiku came from the word “subway” and my memories of homeward commutes.

subway and the smell
of too many tired people
impatient for home

This haiku was prompted by the word “green” and it came about as I was thinking about my art class students.

In the pale green paint
broken brushstrokes skid and skip
on quiet paper

This haiku was inspired by “ravenous”. In the example it was actually “ravenous lunch” which made me think of “ravenous for lunch” and then for some reason I thought about lunch time at work. I was always hungry for lunch when I worked, never missed it, no matter how I managed it.

Ravenous work hours
their appetite for chaos
swallowing daylight

This is a shadorma. I was thinking about the full moon walks I have been on recently. No prompt, the topic just came to me.

The lone tree
dead in a dry field.
The full moon
Does the owl make you shiver?
Have the shadows moved?

Little Vines.

Whose purse is that?
three red hands reached for it
I gave it to the green one who did not.

unripened evening sky
the crescent moon
just beginning to fill in its outlines

crowded night sidewalk
the anywhere anytime city
shimmering in a neon cape

eyes weary
I cry.

this spicy egg salad
the cookies so odoriferous
such delightfully nose-tickling cheese
achoo! what a great picnic you said

there is something seriously
marzipan and mixed messages
about this cake

suspicious fingers
search the depths of the purse
for the promised compensation

The purse is empty
Expensive and deep
but nonetheless empty.

she gives her purse a shake
two pennies gaze out at her
with coppery eyes

Scrap metal
tormentor of my dreams.
Next door the saw takes apart a minivan.

Gently it goes –
the fleeceable
can sometimes be surprisingly stubborn.

Bleary evening
A flailing drunken dinnertime
Grit behind the eyelids

Chewing gum
stuck on this sidewalk
in an array of malignant freckles

A rare dark variant
of geranium
reeking in the corner of the garden

I awoke and flung the covers off
I know the meows
of my hungry cat

Dreary kitchenette.
Tired bedroom slippers scuffing on the floor.
She doesn’t like living here.

a hot snail
panting in the sun
trapped in the wheelbarrow

Vines twist in the trees
Leaves hang like cluttered laundry
Tropic drapery out to dry

Sweet dreams that come to her cheap
A chromatic scale of bargain-basement colors
slapped on jerry-built castles in the air

I say hello.
I watch her laugh.
On that day my soul turned to lonely.

the greenish-gray wrap-around
winter foliage set against the house
a sparse beard on a broad open face

zinnias grown for bouquets
they will not be casting shadows in the sunshine

finally a lucid daybreak
the barren desert catches
at the lens of my camera

Thank you for reading!