sidewalk memories


let her molt begin

baby birds in a nest
she never knew
such greedy mouths
could feed her will to thrive!

her heart pierced by shafts
of pinfeathers fledged
and chirping calls soon to fade~

when will her molt begin?

The first line of this piggyback poem comes from The Horses, the Sorrow, the Umbilicus by Maureen Hays and her poetry prompt at Real Toads. I’ve been blessed with the chance to watch a Mama Bird build her nest, incubate eggs and valiantly defend them from such predators as myself who just wants to keep the flowerpot green and blossoming, but can’t resist snapping a picture or two as her babies grow. and apparently, anthropomorphizing-the-heck out of her along the way. Long live all Mama Birds!

my mother cannot leave me be

Man and woman standing arm in arm.
My mother cannot leave me be —
she points and clicks repeatedly!
No stage in life is left uncaught,
no quest complete without one pic,
no outing done without one print.
My mother cannot leave me be –
she points and clicks repeatedly!
Each exploit is an o’er-turned stone
of purple shore crab memories
untainted by reality.
My mother cannot leave me be —
She points and clicks repeatedly!
There are no mysteries of time,
each snapshot proof of days gone by
in Kodachrome reality.
My mother cannot leave me be!

Story A Day in May: 30-Minute Miracles

With the successful completion of National Poetry Writing Month, it’s now time to embark on writing a Short-Story-A-Day in May adventures! You can learn more about this fabulous journey and follow along by writing your own story each day here:  In the meantime, here’s my day one offering. Enjoy!
     “I told you No!”
     One solid thwack on the diapered toddler’s butt after a solid hour of the so-called preferred methods of nurturing parenting ended the battle.
     Without so much as a blink, tear, wail or other evidence of distress, the stubborn fellow veered away from the sliding glass door he had insistently been throwing himself against, weaving his unsteady way to plastic blocks scattered around the toy box. Blinking back her tears of frustration and shame, she reflected on her ignominious failure. To spank a helpless child!
     How could she?
     All through the long months of her high-risk pregnancy, and the even longer months of her baby’s medically fragile entrance into the world, she had sworn that her parenting methods would be radically different from what she experienced.
     No formula for her offspring. No Gerbers, either. Not when there were yams to be baked and mashed by hand, bananas to peel and offer to curious fingers.
     Push toys to encourage crawling — for better right-left brain connections. Long walks in the baby pack in all weathers. Fresh air was essential.
     Dim indoor lighting when natural light faded, and soft guitar, harp and piano music. All hard rock and heavy metal cassettes had been put aside. Gentle, calm environments were a must.
     Face-time, belly-time, and continual talking and singing, preferably using her bits and pieces of remembered French and Spanish languages. And certainly, no television. But, books. All sorts of books. Books, blocks, and toys offering a profusion of textures and colors.
     She was no fool.
     To achieve her venerable goal, she attended every parenting class she could find, dove into therapy. She did everything the midwives said she must for a healthy, viable full-term pregnancy.
     To prepare for the grand experiment of child-rearing, she read every book and article she found regaling the benefits of contemplative pregnancy, natural childbirth, and the incredible first year of baby-led nursing and baby-led weaning, leading eventually to baby-led toilet-training.
     The key here was baby-led. If it was baby-led, it was diametrically opposed to how she was raised, and therefore, to her fevered and anxious mind, correct. It was her only guidepost, her ruler, her measuring stick. The only one she trusted.
     She knew the results of her upbringing. How could she not? She lived them every day. Her child would not have the same memories she carried. Memories that still haunted her fragmented, uneasy sleep. Memories that tripped her into caverns of empty despair. Memories that mocked her dreams and goals, undercut her hopes and fed her fears.
     Fear that, in the end the patterns were set. Generational patterns, fixed in time, no matter her futile attempts to disrupt them. Slowly, she wiped a hand across her wet cheek and turned to stare out the window.

Ages & Stages



Day 20 NaPoWriMo: The prompt instructed folks to write a kenning poem, described in ForwardPoetry as a “two word phrase describing an object often using a metaphor” and by NPWM as a “riddle made up of several lines of kennings to describe something or someone.” What’s that, you say? Weeeellll . . . Wikipedia has a bit more for your edification: “A kenning (Old Norse kenning [cʰɛnːiŋɡ], Modern Icelandic [cʰɛnːiŋk]) is a circumlocution (an ambiguous or roundabout figure of speech) used instead of an ordinary noun in Old Norse, Old English and later Icelandic poetry. I was totally enchanted by the idea, and totally clueless how to begin. So, I started with something from an earlier prompt and continue on from there . . . I think it worked okay.

The Red Letter "P"

I never wanted to be a mom. There. I said it.

Condemn me, if you dare.

It wasn’t for lack of love, or vision, or care.

It was from overwhelming fear.

Fear of failing, fear of being less than I needed to be,

of not having what a precious new life

needed most from the inner depths of me.

Depths I feared to explore.

Grim, frightening caves filled with nightmare spiders,

Un-scaleable rocks and plummeting drops.

I wanted only the best for you . . .

the brightest shining star,

my miracle, my sunshine.

Once I took the trembling plunge

Into reluctant motherhood,

I pulled out all the stops,

driving full steam ahead,

wearing my “red letter P” brand, becoming one

of those parents others dread:

     You know those others, the ones who take so seriously

     a supposed civic duty to instruct, to criticize, and twist compliance

     to their internal vision of how it should be between a mom and her child?

Lesson learned:

Advocacy is just another name 

for the physics of pushing back

and standing firm


Week Two on Review

April National Poetry Writing Month Challenge
A poem a day for 30 days — Week Two
Day 11: An attempt at Shadorma poetry
So still as
cotton fluff descends.
Snowflakes chill
sun burnt ills.
Peace out of time never ends.
Peace will come again.

Day 10: Woolie Socks

 Woolie socks are really tops
For keeping toes toasty and warm.
The brand doesn’t matter
So, don’t stand there and natter!
Just dig in your sock drawer
And grab the first pair.


Day 9: A Nod to Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book X

Was my soul not naked to you?
Good, simple, and content just to be?
Eyes drift down golden head to painted toe,
liquid fires in your lingering caress . . .
fingers trailing ‘cross trembling breast.
False visions, hopeful teasing, painted in vain
moments of clarity, quickly buried,
replaced with impressionistic studies dulled
by jeweled wine and stolen time.
Was my soul not naked to you?
Good, simple, and content just to be?


Day 8: First Thing This Morning


You called first thing this morning,

No greeting beyond, “God, mom, you sound like shit!”

Your head wrapped up where 20-somethings’s sit.

I pondered the apple, and its distance from the tree —

Set aside the measuring tape, considering

The long years and paths that lay ahead.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we could walk together again?


I suppose I should answer for this odd division

Of concern for your friends, for yourself, but no other.

On the one hand, I admire your careless compassion.

On the other, I find your heedlessness quite tiring.

A curious mixture you bring to life’s field,

Of independence and boldness, of an uncertain child.

You called first thing this morning.


It’s a long-standing habit, this idea of yours

That parents’ hand over scant money, scant time.

I could point my finger at other devotee’s

Of giving in to the whim, to the moment, to the plea . . .

How many fingers would then point back at me?

So, no wonderment is allowed — that when you called there was

No greeting beyond, “God, mom, you sound like shit.”


“No money, no time” deepened the pause

You struggled and mastered the terrible frustration:

“I need to get home,” you said, “my friend is having a

hard time, I can help him, I should, he needs me . . .”

I bit my tongue on the burble of harsh judgment.

Tasting metallic coppery fluid, breathing deeply, knowing that

Your head’s wrapped up where 20-something’s sit.


Just a phase, a space, a piece of time

That reflects honestly your own curious mix

Of life’s lessons learned and choices long made.

Small lumps of clay held in cupped hands long ago

Patted, petted, cuddled and loved

Paddled, scolded, molded – now gone. Silently,

I pondered the apple, and its distance from the tree.


So much hope, so much grace, the promise you bring

To a world in need, to a world that laughs, a world that cries

To a world more often known for its wars, its battlements

Stark and forlorn.

You reject that vision, and like the babe of old

Keep reaching up and out, to have and to hold.

I set aside the measuring tape, considering

That in two long decades

You survived and thrived where many would not.

Vulnerability and strength go hand in hand

Not usually an even mix

But there nonetheless

As you forge your own trails into

Long years and paths that lay ahead.


And they are long, and sometimes weary

The years and paths ahead

When a mother’s mind is stuck in perpetual rewind.

“Do-over, do-over!” wee gremlins shriek

“No good, no good!” they poke and prod . . .

The unkind voices give substance to a dream —

Perhaps, just perhaps, we could walk together again?









It’s Mine. I Can Break It If I Want!

The sun found its perfect spot on the back of my neck, proceeding to wrap its brilliant rays in a choking fashion with no hope of ever being dislodged. My irritation mounted in nanoseconds as I regarded the keys hanging still and silent in the ignition behind locked doors.

A single bead of salted sweat rolled down between my shoulder blades . . . of course, right in the exact spot no hand of my own could reach.

I stomped my foot and looked at my watch. Fifteen minutes. I had exactly fifteen minutes to make a ten-minute drive across town to pick up the burbling, happy, rambunctious toddler I had left with the sitter. 


There was a locksmith two blocks away . . . who would cost $50 just to make the trip over to determine if he could even open the door for me. $50 which I did not have, being down to my last $20 until payday – and that $20 needed to purchase diapers and milk.

The police would not help, since I had not locked my child in the car with the keys.

Silly me!  Apparently, trying to get back to a sitter who needed to go to her paying job on time and would leave the child on the front porch of her house did not constitute an emergency. 

A bee flew too close to my head and with an inarticulate cry of fear, I swung my purse at it, batting it away. “And stay away,” I muttered.

A bumblebee . . . that was okay. Even a honeybee, sated with pollen . . . okay, too.

Hornets, wasps, yellowjackets . . . no go. There were too many moments firmly encased in crystalline memory of minding my own business only to have a flying menace buzz near, land, and sting.

I didn’t care what anyone said – bees liked to sting me. 

Thirteen minutes left. I wondered if I could jimmy the back window open of my late 1970s  Mercury Bobcat. The little flap window was of course closed tight, but maybe I could get it open just enough to slip my hand through and reach the door handle.

Worth a try, I decided glumly. At least the car had only cost me $150 cash plus $80 for a mechanic to jiggle one or two wires, reconnecting some important junction, change the oil and make sure the brakes were okay.

A broken window could be replaced – junkyards were crammed full of parts for salvage. A child left sitting in his car seat on a porch because I didn’t show up in a timely manner so the sitter could go to her paying job – well . . . that couldn’t be fixed so easily after being broken . . . 

A few vain attempts to slide a Bic pen in between the window gaskets so I could pry the window open did not work. I needed something slimmer.

Hastily scavenging in my purse, I found a slim dime and a quarter. The dime created enough of an opening to get the quarter in next, which then allowed my pinky to get in on the action.

Carefully, I managed to get all four fingertips lodged securely and began to gently pull. If I could do this without breaking the window, that would be best. 

Fingers slick with sweat slid abruptly and the thin opening sucked shut, pinching the skin on my pinky finger in the process. 

“Damn it!” I hollered at the top of my lungs, and slammed my fist on the top of the car. “I don’t need this right now!” 

I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes, trying to marshal my fading resources — never mind my non-existent patience. If this didn’t work, I supposed I could call my mom who lived close to the sitter and beg for help.

Mom worked full-time, and tended to resist being the go-to grandparent for these sorts of things.

She firmly believed – or at least emphatically encouraged – her children to be self-sufficient in every was possible, including dealing with life’s little emergencies.

Bless her soul, I snarled to myself as I wiped my hands dry on my jeans and then repeated the dime, quarter, pinky process. This time, I clenched tightly and gave a vigorous pull. Pop, pop. The little flap window was open. 

And my arm simply wasn’t long enough to reach the door handle. I strained and twisted and panted in defeat. I needed just a few more inches. 

I felt like weeping with despair and instead kicked the car viciously.

The kick made me feel better, although my foot protested the abuse.

The newer cars were fiberglass, but this beast was old enough to have been made with heavy honest-to-god steel . . . and merely shrugged off my kick with barely a ripple, reminding me of stolid cows chewing their cuds, tails flicking annoying flies away. 

I looked at my watch. Five minutes left and a ten minute drive. Now what? 

In frustration, I grabbed the window and yanked with all my might. A cracking sound accompanied the shards of glass flying around me in a sparkling haze, landing on the ground and in the back seat.

I heard a gasp and looked up to see a woman with tightly curled graying hair clutching her purse firmly in one hand and holding her other hand over her mouth. Her eyes were flicking anxiously back and forth between me, the car, and the nearby store, and she looked as though she were frozen in fear.

Of course, I though sarcastically to myself — I am such a fearful woman. 

“What?” I snarled impatiently, and she recoiled from me. Reaching in to the car, avoiding the glass shards as best I could, I got the door open at last. “It’s my car – I can break it if I want to!”  

I hastily brushed the few shards on the driver’s seat out the door and slid behind the wheel. Turning the engine on, I peeled out of the parking lot and made amazing time getting to the sitter, who was standing on her porch, tapping her foot, my son strapped in his car seat and yowling like a scalded cat. He disliked his car seat, always had. But, at least he was safe and there. 

The woman shook her head at me as she dashed down to her car. 

“Sorry,” I yelled after her. “Hold tight to your keys. You don’t want to break a window to get into your car.” 

She made no response, heading down the gravel driveway at top speeds, leaving behind clouds of dust and grit. 

“Hey, bud!” I reached down to scoop up my fretful child. “Mama’s here. Let’s go find a vacuum to clean up the mess I made, hmmm?” 

He stopped squirming and poked grubby fingers into his mouth, lisping, “Mess?” at me, blinking solemnly up before grinning. “Mommy mess?” 

“Mommy’s a mess,” I agreed, hoisting him and his car seat over to the car and settling him. 

“A big one,” I muttered under my breath, hoping I had enough quarters to use the drive-through car wash vacuum cleaner. What a day. 

To Break Oneself Again . . .

Taylor watched his mom and dad come toward him with trepidation. They had made it explicitly clear that if he hurt himself skateboarding again, he would pay for the medical expenses. His dad he figured he could work around to his point of view, but his mom was a dead-wringer for what she called “follow through” and “logical consequences.”

It really wasn’t his fault. The park was not kept up to standard and the edge of his board had caught on the ragged lip of the incline when he tried to jump.

“Hey,” he called weakly, torn between relief and anxiety.

He searched his mom’s face for any indication of anger and decided that if she was angry, she was hiding it well. She sighed as she sat down beside him and observed, “You’re bleeding. Did the  . . . “

“No, mom,” he hastily interjected. “The bone is not poking through.”

Taylor had had enough broken bones to know, and then he gasped as his mom gently cupped his hand under hers and raised it closer to look. Her face remained still, as she searched his, giving no indication of what she was thinking or feeling.

“Stop!” he said. “That hurts.”

“I imagine it does,” she responded. “Can you walk to the car?”

“Well, duh,” Taylor carefully stood up, grimacing as pain shot up his arm. His dad hovered, finally turning to walk beside Taylor as they carefully picked their way across the wet lawn.

“Which hospital?” his dad inquired mildly.

This was going to be bad, Taylor groaned inwardly. Usually, he could count on some sort of reaction from his parents, but so far they were staying more collected than he could ever recall.

“Let’s just go see my regular doctor,” Taylor suggested. “It’ll cost less,” he continued, hoping that his thinking ahead to cost would score at least one or two points with his parents.

“They aren’t open on Saturdays, I don’t think,” his mom replied, sliding he van door open and carefully latching the seat belt around Taylor. He gasped when his hand was slightly jostled, and she climbed in next to him.

“Call and find out,” he said.

His mom shrugged and dialed the number on her cell phone. After a pause, she said, “Nope,” and leaned forward to his dad. “Let’s just go to the closest one.”

“All right,” his dad agreed and started backed out of the parking spot.

As far as Taylor could tell on the drive over, his dad was deliberately hitting every bump he could and taking corners sharply. Taylor opened his mouth to complain and hastily shut it again when he caught the expression on his dad’s face.

“Slow down, dear,” Taylor’s mom said sharply. “You’re not an ambulance and every bump and corner is causing pain.”

Taylor’s dad grunted, and tapped on the brakes.

Taylor felt tears spring to his eyes. His dad was really upset. Taylor couldn’t imagine why else the man would drive so chaotically when his son was hurt.

“I hope the hospital is back on the preferred provider list,” he heard his mom remark to his dad. “The last time Taylor broke something, it cost several thousand after the insurance paid their portion. Don’t worry, Taylor,” she added. Taylor hoped he heard a note of kindness in her voice  . . . and then slumped in defeat as she went on, “Your dad and I will allow you to make payments to us until the bill is paid off.”

His dad harrumphed up front. “Seems logical to me.”

“A perfectly natural consequence,” Taylor’s mom added, “especially when Taylor was clearly told unwise decisions about his activities resulting in hospital visits would mean he paid.”

Taylor could feel a sinking sensation inside. His parents meant it, and with his dad agreeing with his mom, he could foresee months and years of slowly repaying a hospital and doctor bill that looked insurmountable before the costs had already rolled in. He wasn’t sure if he imagined it or not, but he thought he could hear a chuckle in his parents conversation.

They were happy about this! “Hey!” he said, indignantly. “Don’t make fun of me!”

“We’re not, dear,” his mother replied. “We’re just rejoicing that you can learn a valuable lesson at such relatively low cost. Your accident could have been much worse since you were not wearing any safety gear.”

Taylor gaped at her. She was happy, he realized. But why, he couldn’t understand.

You’ll understand someday when you have your own children,” she smiled sweetly at him, and rummaged in her purse for the insurance card.

Tribulation Trio

     To Chase or Not to Chase
     Coco twitched impatiently. She had been crouched beneath the rose bush for what seemed the longest time, eyes intently focused on the bird feeder across the yard. She could feel the pressure mounting, calling her back to the well-hidden nest of squirming new-born kittens. But, the rumble in her belly kept her glued to her post.
     A slight flutter in the periphery of her vision alerted her. The time was fast approaching. She hoped she would be able to spring across the lawn with the grace and speed she had known before her belly swelled. The changes that came with being a mother perplexed her from time to time, and she was still struggling to find her balance and stamina. She wasn’t sure it would actually return to what she had known, in which case she hoped to find just enough in reserve to ensure a good meal for her and consequently, a reasonable flow of milk for the babies.
     The sparrow fluttered anxiously above the feeder before gently lighting on the raised lip. With a happy cheep, sunshine burnishing the browns and grays into a brighter mixture the sparrow began to peck at the variety of seeds, tossing the less interesting seeds to the side.
     Coco carefully kept the sparrow in her side vision, not looking too fixedly at the sparrow. Eyes could be felt – a wise huntress deflected the weight of attention by keeping the prey slightly out of focus. She cautiously moved forward, paw by stealthy pay, and paused. The sparrow had fluttered slightly up in the air, and then settled back down, but this time into the bird bath below the feeder.
     “Silly humans,” Coco thought. The squirrels loved that bird bath. It made their pillaging of the bird feeder much easier. And sighed as the objects of her thoughts came darting around the corner, playing catch-as-catch can, leaping onto the bird bath and feeder startling the sparrow high into the air. The sparrow landed on an electric line strung far above and scolded the squirrels vigorously.
     Coco eased down flat into the grass and contemplated her chanced of catching a squirrel. She was so hungry and the human had not set out food in the last two days. Faintly, the breeze brought the soft sound of a kitten mewling and with a sigh, Coco headed back towards the crying baby. The chase would wait until another time. But, the wait could not be too much longer. With a leap and a snap, Coco caught a fly and swallowed it wriggling. She had babies to tend to.
The Cookie Quest
     Timmy needed that cookie. And his mother had told him no, not until after lunch. She then added insult to injury by taking the cookie jar and placing it on top of the fridge before walking out of the kitchen and going downstairs to iron and fold laundry.
     Timmy glared at his mother’s retreating back, and then scowled at the Mickey Mouse cookie jar gazing benignly down at him from the top of the fridge. If he didn’t get the cookies, his best friend in the world would never come play in the front yard with him again. Timmy had promised. And in his isolated home, Jem was the only playmate for miles around.
     He and Jem were building a fort under the low-hanging limbs of the old fir tree out by the dirt road. Timmy had never built a fort before. But, Jem had built one with his papa, and had smuggled a saw, hammer and few rusty nails scrounged from the garage. Timmy was supposed to bring the cookies. Jem was waiting – but he wouldn’t wait for long.
     For long was part of the problem. Jem’s family was moving at the end of summer to a far away place and Timmy would never see his friend again. Timmy and Jem wanted to build a hideaway for Jem, so when that day came, Jem could hide and his family would go without him. Then it would be up to Timmy to smuggle food out to his friend – if Timmy couldn’t manage to smuggle a few cookies, Jem wouldn’t be able to stay in the fort they were building.
     Decision firmed. Timmy tip-toed across the kitchen floor and down the hall. He listened intently at the top of the stairs and heard his mother singing at the top of her lungs to Patsy Cline while she ironed and folded.
     “Good,” he thought. “She won’t be able to hear me.”
     Carefully, Timmy moved a chair over to the counter next to the fridge and climbed up, precariously balancing on the edge of the counter to reach the cookie jar. He would not disappoint his friend. He would being Jem the cookies.
A Daughter’s Revenge
    “You always said you hoped I didn’t get to choose your nursing home,” Benita whispered sweetly in her father’s ear, as she pushed the wheelchair up the rickety ramp leading to the private – and affordable – group home.
     “I always said your fear of me choosing your nursing home was the only acknowledgement I’d get from you that perhaps you treated me most unfairly for many, many years, Pappa.”
     There was a thin line of spittle trickling its lonely way down from the corner of the old man’s mouth, which drooped ever so slightly at the corner. His eyes were very alert and darting suspiciously around the porch, as Benita leaned over him to push the doorbell.
     “For every time you told me I was no good, that I was a failure, that I was fat, and ugly or stupid . . . for all the times I cried in despair at ever being able to please you . . . for all the times you mocked me . . . well, let’s just say that this – new home – is still too good for you.”
     Benita fixed a broad smile on her face as the door swung open and a powerful whiff of stale urine and the lonely sound of scrambled voices greeted them.
     “Mrs. Charpentier,” Benita said, “such a pleasure to meet you. My father is so looking forward to being here. He only has one small bag of belongings.” Benita gestured to the duffle bag on her father’s lap.
     Benita leaned down and looked her father directly in his eyes, her eyes glacial and glinting with years of repressed anger and hurt. “I do hope you’ll enjoy your stay.”