Many thanks to editor Corey Cook for publishing “What Is Wild” in Red Eft Review. Several of my poems have been featured in previous issues of Red Eft Review, and I am grateful and honored to be part of his fine journal once again.
Many thanks to Renata Louwers, founder and editor of Months To Years, a publication dedicated to opening the conversation around death in an effort to overcome our fears and widen our understanding. My essay “Last Words” appears in the new summer issue, page 46. Please enable your flash player to read this beautiful collection.
When it comes to rescue—
finding ways in or out—
who would argue
the value of drones?
But what of the beasts
who survive on mystery,
whose only defense
Like the snow leopard
snaking down a mountain,
his supple spotted back
captured by the drone above,
foretelling his destination,
betraying his habits and stealth.
I wonder if he hears
this camera he cannot elude,
and if knowing he’s been found
will change him, the way a horse,
once broken, loses a part of himself,
and alters the world.
I wish to thank D. Ellis Phelps, editor of the new anthology Purifying Wind, “an anthology of poetry to honor the vulture, many species of which are declining or in danger. Book represents the work of forty-three poets from six countries, many of whom are prize winning and Pushcart nominees. Poems enter the realm of many subjects including wonder, desire, love, aging, memoir, death and birth, and the natural world, to name a few. ”
I am delighted to have my poem “The Natural Order” included in this inspiring collection. Here is a video of me reading the poem. You may watch others authors reading their work on the Purifying Wind page on Amazon.
My deep appreciation to the editors of Crack The Spine literary magazine for publishing my personal essay “The Year Before I Loved You.”
In this piece I reflect on the year immediately following my college graduation, when I was poor and hopeful, new to the city, and looking for my way into the world. Accompanying me during these tender months was a boy I will never forget.
“Crack the Spine loves the written word. Some might say we’re in love with the written word. But that’s just a silly rumor. We publish diverse and sharp literary works, including flash fiction, micro-fiction, poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. We don’t care if it’s four words or four thousand words, if it’s charged with artistry, we want to publish it. Given the choice, we will always select madness over method.”
I’ve been working on a few pet portraits as well as mammals from Africa. The elephants are shadow pieces, scrolled out by my partner. Paintings these animals, I was struck anew by their grace and majesty. Please visit our Etsy storefront, 4 Hands Art Shop, to see more nature art. We also feature Welcome signs, many with coastal themes. Each week we add more!
My top three blessings, in order of appearance, are my sisters, my spouse, and retirement. I can’t imagine the hollowness of a life without loved ones; as for retirement, I am still marveling over the perks.
Who knew that a clear calendar could have such salubrious effects? Free to be no one but yourself, you become intrigued: Who are you? What do you want? What do you shun, and why? You glimpse your infinite layers and begin to peer inside. What will you reach for? What might be out there, beckoning?
At first you flounder. You have never been in open water and it does not feel natural. What if you’re doing it wrong? What if, god forbid, you are wasting your hard-earned time?
Months will pass before you learn how to float, before you understand that you will have all the time you need when you stop looking at the clock. There are, of course, some reasonable conditions. There are bills to be paid, clothes to wash, groceries to buy. These are the actions that keep back chaos, the last thing you need in your golden years.
Having written short stories and essays throughout my life, I assumed that retirement would find me sitting before my computer dreaming up new characters or researching the nesting habits of the scarlet ibis. How glorious it would be! No more leaping up from my desk and rushing off to work, my head clogged with abandoned words. I would be, at long last, an unbridled, full-fledged writer.
Imagine my bewilderment when I found myself with nothing to say. It wasn’t a case of the dreaded writer’s block. I had simply, unknowingly, wandered down a path to a place where words didn’t matter. Odder still, I did not feel bad about it. So what if I couldn’t write—I had written plenty in life, to scant notice, and who cared if I closed my laptop? Maybe I had written myself out, said all I needed to say. Honestly, it felt pretty good, not having to pry meaning from everything I encountered.
I put out a few passive feelers, tested my interests. Maybe I could do something with my hands, something of substance. I had always liked miniatures, and one day in a seaside restaurant I spied a delightful shadow box: a beach scene with a dock, a couple perching pelicans, a wee surfboard, a glowing metal sun. I could do that, I thought. I could be a maker of tiny perfect worlds.
My first attempt was a dinosaur diorama for which I used a thumb-size Tyrannosaurus, stones for boulders, sticks for trees; the background was a photo of a sunset I pulled from a magazine. One day I tried painting my own sunset, just for fun. I had no expectation of success and predictably the results were childish. But the difficulty intrigued me and I persisted. Now, 18 months later, I am painting animal portraits, a few of which have actually sold. Who knew?
A comparison of the art forms—painting and writing—is inevitable. What strikes me most is the disparity of delivery. Unlike a picture, which can be absorbed all at once, a story unfolds across pages. The smallest slip in the first couple sentences and the reader might not bother to continue. Right out of the gate, the author is at a disadvantage, and more so these days as millions of new books pile up on the internet.
Another hindrance to writing is the process itself. There you sit, closed off from friends and family, hunched over a keyboard, shuffling words. Often you cannot produce a single satisfactory sentence, and for this agonizing bout of literary constipation you have given up a day of boating. With canvas, the brush at least is moving. You may not be producing anything of value, but you are painting.
I could never listen to music when I wrote, and any sort of interruption unhinged me. Painting is more permissive. Working with acrylics, I can enjoy my Amazon music playlists or the latest New Yorker podcast; sometimes I hum or sing. Assembling my brushes and tubes of paint, I am reminded of art time in elementary school, when the books were put away and the blunt-tipped scissors, construction paper and Elmer’s glue came out, unleashing a collective imagination.
When I finish a painting I am satisfied with, I send its image to Facebook or my blog. This instant, easy sharing feels friendly: no strings attached, no ego involved. I am just one of many offering the world a bit more tenderness—take or leave it.
In contrast, a short story manuscript has a rough journey to its audience. As most publishers will not consider work that has already appeared online, even on a personal blog, writers must forego their social media followers, assuming they have them, and seek the approval of editors who can take several months to respond. Owing to a multitude of submissions and the caprice of editorial staffs, a manuscript, however worthy, is typically rejected. Because writing exposes our most private selves, rejections can feel like brutalities, while acceptances come as validation. A story lucky enough to be published in a literary journal will have a few weeks of modest visibility before it is buried in the archives. Money is almost never involved.
But it seems I’ve painted myself into a corner. In citing the advantages of painting, I have proven the utility of writing, falling back on the thankless task of sending words into a void. Clumsy, imprecise, maddening words.
The best thing about retirement? Never knowing what happens next.