The Door

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An edge borders time on which thrush plagues a fallen wren,

Small fright fringed in imperceptive tremulous fever.

No one intuits the thin cry.

Where’s the door?

She coughs up her last lap.

They’ll come now. Now that it’s almost done.

Funny, you can outsource love but not death.

No more false starts.

This one’s true.

…the door?

Fear and Loathing: Ten for Today

September 11, 2016

“I’m sorry, so, so sorry!”

She apologized like this several times over the two-hour class that had begun at 7:20 a.m. that Tuesday in 2001. Her words flew automatically, frantically from her mouth—apologizing. But she might as well have wrung her hands or put her face in her hands, saying she didn’t understand—like the rest of us.

We were stunned. I made them write about it. Some could just lay their heads atop their papers on those small college desk/table units. I was teaching a comp class in the then Home Ec building on campus. It has since changed to Writer’s Row.

The kid from Texas was the first to read. I still imagine him with a cowboy hat on his head, but that could not be true, just too stereotypical. His writing was full of anger and blame. He didn’t say he hated Muslims, but he knew someone had to pay. Something had to be done about who got into the country and how. Fear.

Someone else read. And then she said it again. The young twenty-ish Syrian woman with the hijab, pretty face, stand-out from the first day of class a couple weeks before because of her dark coverings, often full body black and flowing.

She was in tears. She faced the class with pleading in her eyes, distorting her cringed face, tight and angled with panic. Pain. Fear. No, they won’t understand. Saudi Arabians the news plastered over the burning tower images.

Before I left for school that morning, so early that I sleep-walked into the spare room where from 5 to 8 my husband watched the market, I first saw but did not register. Seeing me enter his lair, he pointed to the burning towers on the t.v. and said, “Look at this.” I looked. I then turned to the shower while thinking that it was too early for disaster movies and wasn’t he supposed to be working, anyhow?

When I came back into the room, showered and dressed, he said, “No, look at this. The second tower just blew.” And I looked. My mouth fell open involuntarily though my brain barely comprehended. How could it have happened? Why? How? I had to go teach.

By the third time she said it, I spoke firmly but with a slight chuckle, “Unless you had something to do with it, you don’t have to apologize. Though I understand why you want to.” She quieted.

It wasn’t long afterward, maybe three days after the united great good will of the U.S. turned to the business of blame and retribution. The airstrikes were already in the making. And there at the college, a political science teacher was disciplined, maybe even resigned, after pointing in the direction of a Middle Eastern looking group of students in the 200-seat forum during his lecture about something other than the events of the previous days and boomed, “You, you did it.”

Angst: Poem 8

We’re leaving the Great Park.
It’s a scorcher out there.
Her team just lost six to one.
She’s quiet on the tortuous zag from the fields.
I don’t think she feels responsible.
At 17, she’s philosophical, albeit a touch cynical and weary.
She carries her angst in her pocket.
“What is nihilism?” she asks the road ahead after a while.
“Lately, I’ve been thinking about how minuscule
we are, especially in light of the cosmos and
the improbable non-existence of other life, somewhere.”
I haven’t hydrated enough.
My head hurts slightly.
“Well, it’s sort of like nothing matters,
an extreme sort of skepticism,” I immediately regret saying.
Her eyes widen and the depths of velvet brown
endlessly recede, raw terror swallowed–stored in a gap.
“But it’s not just the life’s a bitch then you die philosophy.
There’s something freeing about understanding our
insignificance in the larger scheme of things and our utter
significance at the local level, where we live.
It doesn’t have to be about uselessness.
The randomness and chaos of our births and deaths–
some take comfort in the just-is-ness of it.”
She still stares out at the road ahead of us, but I hear
her thinking it over, this great question of being and nothing,
all tied in knots to her senior year of high school,
turning 18, the possibility, potential, and unknown…
she who has always tightroped the anxiety fine line.
At 65 mph, those last 5 minutes take us no closer to home.

Acrophobia–poem 14

When FDR declared the nation had only fear to fear,

he never had a gun to his head,


never had a cobra hood opened at his bare legs


or strolled past the body of a jumper from a Manhattan 32 story high rise,


the thump of the fall nearly lifting my feet off the ground.
But it wasn’t then that acrophobia hit.

No, it was the carefree days of carnivals and Ferris wheels,

free from regulations and safety straps, not even for seats

that turned upside down with the slow-turning wheel.

I was five and my car mates were nine and ten, measurably

larger, taller than I so that the metal bar kept them in as

the wheel spun us upside down and then right side up,

me clutching with all my strength to keep myself inside.
Thanatophobia. I had never heard the word in my five years,

but I lived my way through it many times since, perched on a ledge
peering down thirty floors into a postage stamp courtyard,
pondering the weighty sum of a life’s body at its impact against the immovable.


I’ve always been a little far sighted.

I can’t read what’s right in my face

And I can’t face intensely close faces.

It hurts my orientation, my spatiality,

Or maybe it’s intimacy I can’t face,

But I’ve the knack for planning ahead

Far into the future or two moves up.

My sight extends far into the un-here.

Though now, in the waning years, or

Maybe waxing, that is, expanding, my

Sight is delimited, far-sighted and 

Near too, somewhere between; really

Not the middle, mean, or average, how

Ever you measure space-time continu-

Um, more like focal clarity of one layer

While the rest blurs snowy opaque and

Blue in relief like sky, sadness or pearls.

I’ve trimmed off layers to the one visible,

My reality carved from seeds and history.

How the rain obscures sight I don’t know,

But I can see clearly how blindness grows.

Daddy Deep

What sound makes hollow deep?

Not quite sound at all,

It is a missing knock, 

Soft and insistent,

Knuckles weak.

A buzz of silence

Just about where the t.v. 

Lies blank and mute.

A sneer faded to black

And a joke told 10,000 times

With a missing punch line

Or vaguely remembered,

Souring the laughter.

Questions unrelenting and inane

Will one day go unanswered

Not for lack of interest, 

Raised eye brow, 

Rolled eyes, but

For want of asking.

Some day the house

Will die without you,

Emptied of its anchor

And upturned root.

That day will gut us,

No doubt, but not today.

Not this day.

Morning Start


A phone call,

the muffled tunnel voice cracks,

“Mom, I want to come home.”

A wave hits the transformer and it’s blown.

No connection.

No contact.

Stunned, mouth agape–

Forgotten exhales,  a mind cries, “no, no, no!!!”

No breath, out of an airless burn, searing lungs, stifled scream—

“This can’t be. I have to jump!”

Over the cliff, falling the eternal drop–

and the shards of rocks jut through the sea to meet gravity’s slam-tossed burden,

through the air and…

((Gasp)), “huh!!! I’m up, I’m up. [catching breath] Okay. Okay. Okay. [quickly glancing about the sliver moon-lit room left to right].

What time is it?”



Not a single paper, not a wrapper, stub, shoebox, tag, container, cookie box or article, never intending to wear, she throws nothing away.
No castaways, no delusions, cares, tidbits nor morsels, not a dream, fantasy or truth, nothing gets past the gates of her need.
All she has touched, received, and placed on a shelf or dresser top, even dropped to the floor, never leaves her.
She retains everything.
She lives knee-deep in it, until the inevitable; they come with a shovel, mask and plastic bags to remove the amassment.
The long lone bedsheet melds with the mattress, unchanged so long; once the whole mattress got tossed out.
Not even shed skin may be shaken from her. No, no loss tolerable, nothing must abandon her, nothing left, taken, discarded, out of her control–a sacred keeping.
She shudders and screams in spasmodic yips and soul-shook howls in skin-ripping pain at the disturbance, the violation.
Skull-red circles emanate from angry, forsaken roots.
“Get out!! Nooooo!!! This is MY room! You can’t just come in here and throw my stuff away. I need things you are throwing away! You have no right!! My door was closed!
Oh? Which side of the door shuts out and which closes in?

Remembering Boredom

Sometimes I forget not to be bored.
I only remember when I am wishing some horror would end, 
like when pitched to the pivotal moment just before a pronounced sentence,
a reading of my fate.
Or, little less than terror, a performance evaluation 
by a man sitting at the back of my classroom with a pen, eyes, ears and judgment,
leaning on every word, gesture and response. 
I am notated.
Anticipating the fall while peering over the precipice, 
these are the times I pray for the ordinary I eschew every other moment of every day:
the groans and dull-eyed drudgery of waking, pissing, showering, caffeinating
and driving the drive in unrelenting heat circulating about my head
blown by the broken air conditioner of a beat up car awaiting the junk yard,
or the crying mop times of late night I’m-just-too-tired-to-do-this moans of despair—
for the boredom, tedium, godawful-lobotomizing numbness of mindless repetition
like factory fingers twisting bow knots on an endless assembly line, 
the industrial rosary, sans soothing rhythmic sync.
Deimos and Phobos, moons of my memory, usher me back to boredom, 
box seat of the stadium, luxury of the lucky lottery winners of life,
born colorless, coddled and cocooned.