Category Archives: Ordinary

monday items

Home from dropping the kid off at preschool
(where he triumphantly announced he had learned to ride a pedal bike
and everyone cheered)

I start the laundry
request vaccination records from the doctor for kindergarten registration
let the dogs in, out, and in again
wiping muddy footprints from the battered kitchen linoleum every time but the last
at which point I decide to stop caring
for a while

I am out of coffee filters so I rip a paper towel from the roll
and fold it into the warped yellow plastic cone
that my parents used to use on camping trips
grind beans
tap the fragments into the cone
and listen to the quiet hiss of the boiling water
soaking through

Email three professor friends to ask for news
on book tour dates

Email three contacts I made last Saturday,
after speaking at a Forum on Unintended Consequences of Energy Production
Follow up, Follow up.

Email two old friends.

Hang laundry
pet the dog
clear the breakfast dishes
dry out the laundry room floor,
flooded by the rain
which has been compensating lately,
for weeks of climate change induced sunshine

"I don't like the rain, but the plants do." Callum, aged 4.

“I don’t like the rain, but the plants do.” Callum, aged 4.

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Filed under basic goodness, Ordinary

burned tortillas

I drop my son off at preschool three mornings a week at 9:00,
and after circle time I sprint for the car
get home by 9:20
and work feverishly till 11:50,
when i dash back to preschool for pickup.
at home I make his lunch while he plays or watches a show

not infrequently, i burn something while trying to multitask
sending off the last few professional emails in broken bursts
while sweeping up the mud from rubber boots and eight large dog paws
opening the mail
filing bills
talking about his day
and confirming childcare swaps via text message

the acrid smell of a too-hot skillet eddies in from the kitchen
snapping me back to the primary task at hand
and i rush in to tend to lunch two minutes too late

stand over the sink cracking crispy bubbles of burned tortilla
off his quesadilla with a wooden spoon
quietly cursing myself for doing too many things at once
while he breaks down into tears over the news
that I have to work at the restaurant tonight
(as i do every Wednesday)
and I watch myself trying to handle his separation anxiety
wondering if i’m making it worse
and if my networking emails were coherent
and if i moved the laundry into the dryer

i wonder if he associates the acrid smell of burned tortillas
with the heat of his anger
or the bitterness of his disappointment
over things not being easier
I certainly do

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Filed under motherhood, Ordinary, work

#poemsomedays … Storm and Vacuum

11 January

the branches are thrashing and swooping
on the trees
like tango dancers
battered by the same notes

the boys took the bus downtown in the storm
because they wanted to

and I spend the first 45 minutes of my precious
hours alone
fixing the vacuum.
so as to avoid
dragging it out into the rain and wind
to go to the friendly neighborhood vacuum and sewing shop
where a nice old grey haired nice lady will push her glasses
up on her head and narrow her eyes and tell me
there are 3 pens, a thomas the tank engine
and 2 cubic feet of dog hair
jammed in there and am
I really surprised it has stopped working

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Filed under basic goodness, Family, love, motherhood, Ordinary, poetry, stories

#poemsomedays … Train songs

23 January

Finish a brilliant Woody Guthrie autobiography
and start a mix of train songs
for my son
Lefty Frizzelle and Leadbelly,
Arlo Guthrie and Karen Dalton,
Gladys Knight and Elliott Smith
Hank Williams and the Stanley Brothers
Hem and Bob Marley
so we can indulge our mutual interests.

pick him up from school
he reports that he was a bird with Sadie and Gabriel
at the grocery store he picks out apples, cereal, and coconut milk for himself,
and politely buys the Real Change paper
from the woman in red
who always sells it out front.

At home he does art
and I do dishes
and soon it is time for another pubshift
and another night away from my boys.

Feel weary of it,
but proud of what we are accomplishing
buoyed up by our long day trip to the Coast and the rainforest on MLK day
another cup of coffee
and back into the car.

in the middle of the night he wakes up
screaming
I not want to go to bed
and I bring him out to the couch
and hold him till he settles
never really waking up
muscles in his face going sleep slack again
small mouth pursed
hands soft
and unclenched
and I cannot remember the last time he fell to sleep in my arms
and I smile here like a fool
watching him breathe

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Filed under basic goodness, motherhood, Ordinary

foreclosed upon

photo(6)

The neighbors have been
foreclosed upon
which is to say their house was paid off years ago
and then Gloria took out a second mortgage to help a family member in trouble
and then she died of pneumonia
and her survivors fell behind
while the bank crept ahead
and there was drug addiction and fighting
and now they are throwing in the towel
and scattering
and so the possessions they will not take
are being dumped
daily
in piles around the run down
brown house
built a few decades after our Great Depression grey one.

This morning I sat on our bed
staring at the piles through the cedar boughs
people made trips from the house,
dragging items across the grass.

Each of these houses had a matriarch;
Gloria across the lot,
Annie in this house,
they raised their kids in these houses
sent them off to various wars,
some foreign,
others domestic.
and both women went about the business of dying
in these houses.
I know little about them otherwise,
except that Annie was white and Gloria was black,
and the names of some of their children.

I call up their thirty-two year old selves,
and make them sit beside me on the bed
in the dresses they would have worn in 1939, and 1969, respectively
and I sit here in my jeans and sip coffee in the middle,
and we stare out the window together
contemplating the mortality of
All Things

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Filed under Americana, basic goodness, Change, memory, Mothers, Ordinary, watching it all go by

15 august

They do not stop, the stories.
Just when you’ve had time to return to your ordinary life, finish the dishes, get caught up on the laundry, have a glass of wine with a friend, feel selfish,
they come cascading down on your shoulders,
rending your heart,
teaching your lungs and your pumping muscles
things they may have always known
loss is coming
death is imminent
the ones you love will perish too.
And you bend over the sink,
sobbing into the dish water,
tasting the truth of love
you cannot keep bad things from happening
even if you
curl around your core
keep the world from your heart,
or smother the ones you love under your wings,
you cannot hold pain at bay.
and your heart becomes a weaker organ
your skin loses its thickness
becomes brittle
and so you open
again
and again
and again
making yourself stronger through surviving
bearing witness doesn’t have to break you down.

it feels that way at first, sure.
and you think about your Jewish ancestors
who tore their clothes in grief,
and you lean in to the power of ritual.
learn that if you allow the grief to tear you open
it will teach you things

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Filed under basic goodness, cancer, death, fathoming, love, Nevada Test Site, Nuclear weapons, Ordinary, stories, unrepentantly unedited

mending a pair of pants we bought because we could afford them

This morning, while my son watched children’s television in the other room,
I sat by the open window on the bed and mended a pair of corduroy work pants
sipping my coffee and letting spring wash over my skin through the screen.
As I worked to knit the button hole back together,
I noticed how few stitches had been used to assemble the belt loops,
how there were loose threads
and poor workmanship here and there
and then I pricked my finger with the needle.
while swearing and applying pressure,
i glanced at the label,
and realized that the fabric I held in my hands
had been been held by a woman, or man, or child,
in China

i read “made in china” a hundred times a day
but i don’t realize much.
i think:
“ugh.”
then: “we can’t afford to buy things made fairly,
and “after all, i do try to buy second hand, so that helps, right?”

and there’s not much realizing after that, just an unspooling narrative of rationalization

like so much tangled thread
sure we bought the pants because we could afford them
and we could afford them because that person in China
made a few dimes
for these seams
and went home to a crowded room in a toxic city
hundreds of miles from their families
who they might see once a year.

I think about who made these pants,
and think about my seamstress great grandmother
an immigrant Eastern European woman
who fled the land of pogroms with (most of) her children
to Philadelphia
just a few years
after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
where, after her husband’s death from tuberculosis,
she made a living sewing theater curtains and
beaded bags
for wealthy women

and holding my mending by the window i think that these are not trivial connections
but literal ones
we can feel
as we bleed tiny drops of blood
into the same fabric

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Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, consumerism, crafty, Family, History, Labor, meditation, memory, migration, Ordinary, poetry