they’re filming a tv show in my tiny town [poem]

I’m not the only one who gawks at the scene
Handful of heads and cell phones below
Local photographer in charcoal appears
There will be others

My office, the room where I do all the things
the crying, the writing, the yoga, working, planning, painting
top floor of the old state bank. 1911 was it?
The center of this tiny town — Coleman
in the center of the pretty palm — Michigan
‘bloom where you are planted’
a sign reads in my window

Restaurant Impossible — a television show with goals
$10,000, a Hollywood crew in black, catering van out back
save the kafe on the korner
where friends & family gather
across the intersection from my space

36 people, the chosen, line up aside sun-scorched gray
vinyl siding. everyone is white, makes sense —
the crew is not, Hollywood — F-350 cab with box
truck, California plates, California people
in this tiny town, waiting to put dinner on the screen

Slate Suburban cruises by, hand in princess wave
a parade, past the dozens smiling
woman in lime flaps a hand
Is she happy to be seen?

Facebook event alerted of the news
I knew what I would do — watching, my son playing. Writing with a carbonated Michelob
noise-cancelling earbuds — good friends

Handsome state trooper pulls up
wait, a local cop. Cough, well done, tiny town
smiles at the just-arrived body guard in an Equinox
tinted windows. Two dozen people left standing.
Someone should bring these people water, chairs.

Did you know the Dollar General was closed today?
It’s the only place to go.
Woah. Two minutes later, did you know what arrived?
Chairs — enough for the ladies — and water bottles
Thank you thank thank you thank you

My best friend drives by, white Silverado
‘In God We Trust’ on the windshield
god — I love this tiny town. Did you know
last weekend, the annual ‘Night of Thunder’
our first in three years, my first in decades
it feels good to be back

The final extras now inside. Traffic cones are gone.
A crew member in skinny jeans pours leftover liquid down our drain
crushes bottles — love the California style — wonder
when will we all do the same

Perhaps this is travel enough —a perch
for people watching

Last time I watched a film crew, the desert
western Rajasthan, a Chinese team and Jackie Chan
dark-skinned extras, terrorists with dummy machine guns
on the steps of my renovated hippie style yellow home
a corner bastion in an 800-year-old fort
below me were the sleeping quarters
for elephants. My kitchen window over three feet thick.

India was incredible.
In its own super sweet way
so is this tiny town.
I’m grateful to be here

Good luck, Leah’s Korner Kafe
Looking forward to pancakes soon
You, too? Check them out.

is this the eye [poem?]

dog died
father lied
you’ve been asked to walk alone

guruji
yellow home
charras in the window

forest trees
come with me
banyan draped so heavenly

scooter ride
want to die
went so fast around the curves

feet in window
butt on seat
fingers barely find the keys

breath

wonder when
I’ll find my feet
again

Many times I’ve sat to write. The journal is better these days —
pen flows without promise
of a reader
or two.

It’s amazing what it’s like to not want to be seen.

I remember what it was like ‘wanting’ to be seen. The loudest, the proudest, the best at this and that… It felt good to be seen.

And then, it did not feel good to be seen.

Right now, it does not feel good to be seen, perhaps because it feels people have expectations from me. To be wise. To be helpful. Or at least, to be cheerful.

I don’t want to be cheerful.

I want to paint smears of ochre yellow, purple, black, white across large canvasses. I want to paint foreheads, and cheeks, and chins. I want to paint people not smiling.

I want to paint the people, not smiling.

I am not smiling. If I am, I am likely not sober. It’s shitty. But it’s true, these days.

I’m often not smiling.

I am crying.

I am painting reflections on canvas.

They are often missing eyes, and nearly always missing
the likeness.

I am nearly always missing
the likeness
of what was
when I used to be what was it that I used to be?

Nevermind because right now, I don’t want to smile
because that would not be fair. There are so many people
not smiling.

I am one of them now.

And now, I have no words to offer you.

But I can paint you some ochre lips.

Would you like that?
I would
like that.



I felt taller than you [poem]

When I faced you
daughter to father, in the kitchen
I felt taller than you
just like I did as a teen
when I lept for you down the stairwell
and when I threw my hands
around your neck, near the pear tree.

I never meant to hurt you
Even though, I did.

As the years have passed
and the strength within us both
has diminished, my anger has turned
to sorrow, not so much for my actions
but for the giant pain in this life
that seems to have left
no other way, but to anger, and defend.

Bing Crosby plays in my ears
as your low voice resounds against the walls
at Christmas, and on Sunday afternoons
trying their best
to absorb whatever joy they could.

Your hair is so much lighter now,
your large body more round, less firm.
I watched you slice tiny shrimp into pieces
at the third birthday luncheon for my son.

I know you’re afraid, and I wish you weren’t
so fearful of the death we all know is coming.

Your own father dying as he choked
on some trivial piece of food from a recliner
in his living room, his wife and son bearing witness
fighting against the truth of that moment.

Why must we always push back at
reality that is before us? Me, you, all of us
in struggle against the harsh reality

we see.

please let there be blue paint there, too? choosing to career again. [poem]

I stayed in bed all of today, save
four walks to the kitchen, the same
number of front door openings
so my yellow dog with a hard chest
could pee on sparkling snow, light blue
reflecting the Saturday sky of January.
I felt a fever, which made me scared not
in fear of this virus I’m told to be afraid
of, but of passing on a job interview, a
role I know I’ll get, and will accept, and for which
I will adjust my life accordingly.
I didn’t want to fuck it up, from
sickness, no I’d rather make that happen
by choice. I practiced pitches, the sales funnel steps and learned about aluminum trailers. Hours spent understanding trailers. Done, and still will there be
time for writing, for spreading blue
on white canvas, the feel of wonder
on my fingertips as they glide in
wet paint, creating something from
nothing. The not knowing feels the best, and yet
here I am, with wrinkles
a hairline moving back, an inch past
where Snapchat filters place
the hairline on my head. My scalp
hurts. Years of indecision hidden
under play, curious in deserts, dawdles
on Fridays in the forest and tuesdays
on airplanes. Who but I to set
my schedule, and still, a child played
with gray blue sand and flimsy clear
volcano molds on the table next to
me, behind the computer as I decided
not to let me be so unsure any longer.
From this bed today I practiced
elevator pitches, the fire in my pelvis
cooling with the minutes that pass. I
questioned to the doctor if his drugs
could be to blame. I wished never
to decide my steps from head and not
from heart, and yet I saw him sitting
there, tiny rocks falling from chubby
little hands, water falling on my face
“Don’t cry like that mommy” as my chin
dimpled in. “Mama’s trying to make it better,
little man” amongst the papers and
the mess I created ‘round myself, to
shield us from monotony that is
surely just ahead, when I clear
the mess I created ‘round myself, in
spreading blue on white canvas,
the feel of wonder on my fingertips
as they glide in wet paint,
creating something from nothing.

time to butter bread this morning [poem]

Her speckled tan banana bread
is dense, losing moisture, and tastes
of saran just a tad within my mouthful of
home. My mother always made two tins
of the simple cozy cake from a bunch of
rotting yellow fruit our family did not
eat. She still does. Two weeks ago she
wrapped a loaf within layers of plastic and
left it on my counter next to mail from
DHS needing my attention and bottles of
coriander, turmeric, cumin and black pepper,
a clay pot of pink salt which I use
to add flavor to my food. She knows not to
mention them or ask or stay much longer in
my house these days. She must protect
herself and the way she wants to be. So do
I, now seeing bitterness in a jar and a
warm slice of her on a plate with its gold
flowers and golden brown cracked crust.
I took the time to butter bread this morning. 

the rise of you again [poem]

a new old light in my smile
why
was it the kiss of the man I was meant to
be with
who I kissed almost first, and who I’d love to 
kiss last
the strangeness in our mouths, a welcome home to
our bodies
perhaps it’s when we stop performing proving and decide 
on settling
into the sweetness of a human life, without pushing back at who
we were
all along he was him leaning into life his way, and still there is so much
I don’t know
and there was I was, over there, and there, and there, and here, and there, never 
stopping long 
and maybe now I hear a gentle letting go in knowing not all this life can or should be lived in
this moment
it’s perfect to accept what is, what isn’t, what comes, and what must go because not every little thing
can be
what would I sacrifice, asked the wanderer to me, for the chance to let love be sewn onto my soul for a long while
everything
I know as I let it rest, which isn’t really rest at all because in this mind and life of no casual affair at all, I cannot let it rest when
it must be
I know that my heart my body and my spirit longs for a long adventure into quiet expectations giving and receiving for once without demand
lay with me
a while upon this frozen earth under those red oaks and beech holding onto leaves beside a small hemlock poking through the pines near the flowing river
and let us see
what comes in this life wherein we’ve circled round each other time and time and time again never ever saying goodbye with fire in our eyes and anger in our bones
because love is
and kindness comes and comes, continues to come and ravage my soul as it always does yours and fingernails on flesh and mouths on necks and breasts in your hands and mine
being held by you
is the most
exciting 
thing
I
know

crabmeat chuckles, finally [poem]

as the sticks of crabmeat
slippery from themselves and the water
I rinsed them with in a swirl
slipped across the plate, one landed
all by itself on the center metal ridge of
the steel two-basin sink.
there it was, a shaft off pollock and
egg whites, dressed as king crab
wet and floppy near a spongey yellow towel
I chuckled, the joy in this moment profound
all of life being so silly
and just fine exactly as it is
clarity dressed in leg-style meat
that i will heat in a small pan on an
inexpensive gas stove in a house i do not own
a better choice than the microwave, but if 
I’m being honest, I don’t really care much 
how my food is heated at the moment. 
I’m just so glad
I laughed, and that I will eat it
with a toddler son at my side, who won’t
and we will laugh 
about slippery meat and
slippery spaghetti and
slippery white mushrooms and
how damn slippery our lives together thus far
have been
and I am so happy to hear my chuckle
and his

terrified of the other mothering [poem]

i hurry rushing flushing bluster of nerves
i pause from stacking the tank tops on the shelf
behind the door of knotty pine, that slides, a bit rough on its track

stop
what am i doing? for whom and i changing what just was? who am i trying to be?

        my healing vacation of quasi-awakening in traumatic shifts of the self
        coming to a close. they’re already in the car. my mother driving him
        home to me, his mother
        an artist when he is away

i slide empty canvases and masterpieces just the same
inside a brown paper box awaiting life, when she comes again

since becoming a mother, i have been trying to find my other mother way
but no. i have to make my own way of mothering, because
i am terrified of the other mothering
the one without unconditional love offering freedom to be creative

        somehow there has to be space
        for art in momming
        it now is who-i-aming, so expand i must in my mothering
        i choose to make space for the artist, the child in a home
        without freedom to create, to be seen in her brightness and her glory

to the sweetness within my mothering
        i offer kindness to you, who will not be understood
        some of us cannot hold space for
        no art in our hearts, lest not in our eyes
        of the children artisting in our homes

        is that what you’re wearing? (she asks)
        yes, mom

edited:

i hurry rushing flushing bluster of nerves
pause from stacking painted tank top, black sweatshirt on a shelf
that sits behind a heavy splintered door made of knotty pine
which doesn’t slide any longer, broken now and laying rough within its metal creaking track

stop
what am i doing? for whom am i putting all this away? who am i trying to be?

my healing vacation of quasi-awakening, traumatic shifts of the self
coming to a close. they’re already in the car. my mother driving him 

        home, to his mothering
        artist when he is away

i slide empty canvases and dried lumpy creations from core
inside a brown paper box awaiting life, when she comes again

since becoming a mother, i have been trying to find another mother way
which, it doesn’t work it hurts more than helps,  i know it cannot be true, because
i am terrified of the other mothering
she doesn’t have unconditional love, or give freedom to be creating

        somehow there has to be space for me, the artst in me, within all of my mothering
        it is who-i-aming, so i must be expanding
        i choose to make space hold space offer grace for the child in this home
        full of life in her space in all she creates her brightness and her glory

and to sweet attempts and perfect failings within all of our untrue mothering
        i offer kindness to you, who won’t be understood
        some cannot hold space for
        art in our hearts, lest not in the eyes
        of children within our homes

stop, is that what you’re wearing?
        yes, mom

chobani enlightenment [poem]

your feet pound the faux-wood floor
pace, pick up, forget as right foot steps
chobani, strawberry pieces, red
animal rage so strong, little man

your anger, your fire, you
that you found along the path of love
now as it casts stones at your son
does it feel good to burn, mama?

        you gulp sour spit at the sight of what you said
        in spite and sorry not fit to be a mom, not meant to be a mom, why did i decide to mom
        like this
        before the buddha on the couch
        you remember your plan to enlighten
        who the fuck has time for that
        creative mom with self-scarring wounds is surviving, self-medicating
        making space to make it better
        chuckle
        exhale smoke

your son was ready, wanted to be gone
didn’t flinch in seeing you stay there, behind
but does she have the bubble wand, mama?

        she does, my sweet son, she does

Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA // November 2020

Worth, part 1 [poem]

what is my worth?
        she asks me, a good idea from the shower, she says.
        she struggles too, with depth, an eagerness to know
        both of us

pulling clothes from the line, sandy feet
shuffle on the marble rooftop

        nothing, I smirk
        the easy answer, my attitude, my honesty, my pride
        there is no value, no real worth, inside my moments
        it’s all just now, anyhow

no different am I from the tree just beside
she has no leaves, no blossoms, no bark, yet is
holding tight to the ground, yet gives
shade for the man in gray, offers
view for the bush-tailed chipmunk, a
perch for the pigeon pair I saw mating once, a lustful quickie on a pillar, silent
picture for the neighbor servant
girl wearing red

        who am I but the dust that flies
        into my child’s eyes, my own
        belonging neither to me, nor life itself
        able to die more quickly than
        one takes, chooses, a life

        it’s all a dream, I fear, I feel
        jaded as the years drag on

Is awareness always so solemn?
        I’ll ask her that, I think

My world, my life, these days…

Poetry is happening in my world, my life, these days…
My mind has much to process, but it comes in much too open, much too raw, vulnerable, frightening ways…
I don’t write as I used to, feverishly penning words from in my head.
Now stories come out on my mat, alone, with students, with tears, with breath…
Now they come out in songs, sung in a voice I’ve never known.
They come out in melodies from ancient times, in rhymes, in imagery, in visions, in the building of a home.
Beauty is being channeled, from above and to the now,
and I’m watching from afar, mesmerized, in awe, at how.
Gifts are given for a time, never knowing when they’ll go.
But I am surely one to take each chance, each step, sharing what I know.
It’s scary yes, I’ll stumble and I’ll fall.
But if I don’t listen, act, then I’m ignoring your clear call.
I am just a vessel here on earth, in this time.
And all I ask is to live your truth, and give it, always, every time.
Judge me if you want, ignore me if you must.
But this life is much too short, too frail, to live without trust.
Poetry is happening in my world, my life, these days.
And I am ever grateful, healed and whole,
for my world, my life, these days.

— robin

“What you think your vulnerability, is really your magic!”