report from the cozy chapter of October

It hurt last night to see you
stroll out in your best sport jacket
a glass of whiskey in one hand, a cigar in another
as if you were Don Draper out to conquer the world
where women poured you drinks, and sat on bar stools
their thighs rubbing against yours, their lips red from
smiling at your sky jokes. There is no No Smoking sign
in this crowd. Everyone inhales everyone’s smoke.
The black moon rises in your eyes taking in the view
of the ladies drunk with purposes. My worth lies
in your ashtray. Your 3 am drunk texts.
Not okay, I screamed into my phone to no one.
You did  not get up from wherever you were.
I am not worthy of your love. My house is shaking
at 5 am from the rats scratching. You don’t know
who I am. I am the girl who paid her last dollar
to the wrong medicine man. There are no known cures.
Your skin glistens at 3 am in the morning,
my best worst gifts are lost on you.

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You say the sky is crying
with tears borrowed from the clouds
This un-natural wailing from the highest
vantage point, loud enough to stop
me in my tracks. I say it’s just the rain
the same boring rain. You say I’m crazy.
I say you’re wearing panties for brain.
Words exchanged through fingers
Mouths stay silent. The sky bleeds from
its mouth. All this rain. My eyes squint
to keep the tears from falling. Heart remains
empty. Two years or twenty years. Does it matter

when you say goodbye? I’ve studied The You-logy
long enough to know when your glance lingers
when your heart murmurs for the others.
You say tighten the tourniquet.


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Pad Sorry

One bunch of Sorries, diced coarsely

1 tsp of finely minced regrets

½ lb of fresh apologies

2 tbsp each of confusion and incomprehension, mixed together

3-4 cups of pure distilled hurt

Chopped green distress of incompatibility (as needed)


Mixed all ingredients  in a large bowl and set it aside.  Sprinkle a dash of penitence to mask the flavor of the irreconcilable differences.


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Poem for the weekend: Carl Phillips’ Wild Is the Wind

Wild Is the Wind

By Carl Phillips


About what’s past, Hold on when you can, I used to say,

And when you can’t, let go, as if memory were one of those

mechanical bulls, easily dismountable, should the ride

turn rough. I lived, in those days, at the forest’s edge —

metaphorically, so it can sometimes seem now, though

the forest was real, as my life beside it was. I spent

much of my time listening to the sounds of random, un-

knowable things dropping or being dropped from, variously,

a middling height or a great one until, by winter, it was

just the snow falling, each time like a new, unnecessary

taxonomy or syntax for how to parse what’s plain, snow

from which the occasional lost hunter would emerge

every few or so seasons, and — just once — a runaway child

whom I gave some money to and told no one about,


having promised … You must keep what you’ve promised

very close to your heart, that way you’ll never forget

is what I’ve always been told. I’ve been told quite

a lot of things. They hover — some more unbidden than

others — in that part of the mind where mistakes and torn

wishes echo as in a room that’s been newly cathedraled,

so that the echo surprises, though lately it’s less the echo

itself that can still most surprise me about memory —

it’s more the time it takes, going away: a mouth opening

to say I love sex with you too it doesn’t mean I wanna stop

my life for it, for example; or just a voice, mouthless,

asking Since when does the indifference of the body’s

stance when we’re alone, unwatched, in late light, amount


to cruelty? For the metaphysical poets, the problem

with weeping for what’s been lost is that tears

wash out memory and, by extension, what we’d hoped

to remember. If I refuse, increasingly, to explain, isn’t

explanation, at the end of the day, what the sturdier

truths most resist? It’s been my experience that

tears are useless against all the rest of it that, if I

could, I’d forget. That I keep wanting to stay should

count at least for something. I’m not done with you yet.


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Poem of the week: Barn Burning

by Michelle Taransky

Barn Burning

If I’d frown. Hide
from. The dog
wood stains. If wide
farm I’d place, hold
her dog. Would fawn
if trees. If older. Wood

rings. Like a share
cropped I’d wash
old skin. Scrape
again, do fold
down the corner. Silos
are piles raking up

the scattered dew
covered leaves. If
the shades are already drawn,
find the barn. Over
turned. Broken
into sap, bark and shake.


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Monday Madness

Not a lot going on this week, I say to my friend, while adding silently, a lot is going on inside my head. The thing about living through the middle age is that a lot of things are going on inside your head while in appearance, everything seems so serene.

One kid out of the house, another one on the way out, and suddenly, I am faced with “What am I going to do?” and “Who am I?” questions.

The things I know like the back of my own hands have become the things out of the outer corner of space, in a galaxy far far away. Even my face is a stranger to me these days. That sun spot on my left cheek appeared sometime when I was not looking. My career is stagnant. My joy on pause. My reading, writing and thinking ability are often second guessed by me.

The older you get you forget to laugh giddily. I read that on Facebook the other day, which by the way, is a place where I get most of everything from- news, recipes, “friendship”. Isn’t it strange how at mid life everything quickens its pace as if you’re in the vortex of a whirlpool?

My eighty three year old mother gets so angry so fast that sometimes we have no idea where all this howling energy comes from. Such determination and sheer will. I wonder why I never inherited the strength but only the anger.

I was born wicked. I actually said that out loud the other day to my husband, who listened without uttering a word. Like walking on an eggshell, he said that once, referring to the state of distress he feels while being married to me. I am a landmine waiting to be stepped on.

My eyes are blurred now. I have trouble reading sometimes. Or thinking clearly. Either way, the world is of translucent shades. A lover once told me I am a hat. Which kind? I wanted to know.

If you’ve gone this far, you might as well walk a little further. It’s so hard to focus your eyes in the dark but you get used to the vastness of the night.



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Friday Flashbacks

Be warned. This post contains a whole lot of  rambling about nothing.

I cleaned the house for the first time in a long time. This time, I delved into getting rid of all things, or attempted to. There were drawings by the kids circa 2003. Handwritten notes and cards circa 2002 on. Every piece of lego, drawing, note brings back memories. The little boy and girl who used to roam through these rooms, singing, crying, shouting with joy or pain or annoyance. The chatters, the clatters, the busy drama of childhood used to fill this house which is now quiet, having outgrown of noises.

I found a note written by what I presumed to be by my daughter, elementary age. It was a letter to her then best friend. She told her how she liked being invited to spend the time at the girl’s house, even though it wasn’t a birthday or help with homework. She told her how she imagined being asked to go play at the girl’s house whenever she sat home alone, bored. She told her how she loved being invited more than a visit to Disney World or any amusement park. She told her she would think of bringing a gift to the girl next time she saw her again.

I imagined my little girl writing this note. The girl who never complained or whined about “feelings”. I never knew she even felt for things like this. I never knew her to be lonely or longing to for sleep-overs and invitations. I knew she enjoyed playing at the girls’ house but I never knew how deep she felt to belong somewhere.

My heart broke a little for the elementary school girl. My heart longed for that little girl, who has long since grown up. I felt wrong to say this, but I grieve for that little girl, my little girl. It’s a selfish grieving, I know but nonetheless, I felt it.

When she went away to college last fall, things did not go like I had expected. I knew she had wanted to move away, to seek her own adventures, but I never imagined how well adjusted, or lack of attachment to home she would feel. This sounded ridiculous but it felt real to me at the time, that it was as if she had been biding her time to leave home and be “herself”. I felt like I did not know this new girl who lives in California, and is enjoying every minute of it. Although I am very happy for her well-adjusted life,  there is small selfish part in me that says, please need me still, please chat with me still, please let me mother you, please let me smother you as I’ve done for the last 19 years. But the minute we turned around and walked away from her in the dorm’s hallway, as she too was walking away from us, while I looked back, she never did. Her steps were bouncy, her hair swinging with each step that took her away from us. She never glanced back, just like she never did at the day care or the kindergarten.

That was my girl from Day One. Quiet but fiercely independent and adaptable, and ready for whatever comes her way. Zero anxiety. Full on anticipation of life.

To be honest, I was more than hurt when we couldn’t talk to her for weeks, or when she did not text or call or chat after we left her in California. She is an adult now, who does not need her mommy for advice. She found her people there, the friends who love and accept her as one of their own. The acceptance she was looking for in friends came to her over there. She’s involved in activities with her dorm as well as with two of her dance teams. When I visited her on campus, we would run into people who greet her warmly.  This is no girl who sits in a corner alone and lonely.

It’s shameful to admit that I was needy and selfish to want to be needed. I raised a little girl who poured her heart into a letter, who asked for a friend to invite her to play in such a sweet grateful way. I raised a girl who now lives across the country, who (I hope) is finding happiness in her own way, who is making friends, gaining invaluable experiences, while being very independent with her life choices.

It’s a new territory for me: this new adult child with her newly gained independence and assertion of it. Sometimes, I don’t know what to do or what to say. Sometimes she’s a stranger with strange ideas. I look at her, the way my mother sometimes look at me. A look of sadness (for the past that is long gone) and puzzlement and pride.  I don’t know what holds in the future but I hope we can grow to be friends, as well as parent and child. I don’t have a model to look up to. I never became “friends”  with my mother. But I sure hope I will find a way. It’s the saddest thing when your adult child does not like you as another adult.


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It’s the hole, stupid.
The black hole of
something, the dark show of
nothing. The place where
nothing grows, but something
slithers, simmers, fizzes in the corner.
It’s the middle, stupid.
The beginning was spectacular,
who else came into this world,
and not wail their eyes out, set lungs on fire?
The end was quiet, all sounds silenced.
Maybe a cry or two, from the edge of the pew,
if no one really knew the dark sins you’ve brewed.

It’s the empty, stupid, the long tunnel
where no sun peers at the end.
It’s the pain, stupid,
if you don’t bear it, who else should?
The self-imposed outside-looking-in-
Listen to the echoes inside your body when
there’s only you residing.

It’s the chaos, stupid,
as all change is. Nothing could
stop it, all the atoms loosening.
Ride along, stupid. Get on that
bucking horse, flying through the town –

Inhale the air, stale like an old cigar,
stale like this body, stale like this life.

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It’s Mother’s Day here in the U.S, and I am wishing myself, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

That is probably because no one in the house said anything to me about being a mother, or how wonderful and essential I am to their lives. It’s too early in the day. Husband grabbed coffee and went away to sit in front of the computer. My eldest is in California, probably sleeping at this moment. My youngest is sick. Just a while ago, he woke up to take a shower because he had fallen asleep in the middle of studying. (He usually takes showers before going to bed under the normal circumstances).  In the early hours of today, I tiptoed to his room to see if he was still up studying. He was sleeping in his bed, glasses on his face, his room smelling like menthol cough drops. I took his glasses off, set them on the drawer next to his bed, turned off the light, feeling relieved to see him asleep.

These past few months, I’ve managed to wake myself up in the middle of the nights  to look for the faint light that creeps under my bedroom door, a telltale sign that my son is up doing his homework. Junior year has been hell. He hasn’t had a full night sleep for months now. Many mornings I would wake up at 6 am to find him buried in the midst of papers and books. I worry about his lack of sleep. I worry about his lack of exercise. I worry about his brain cells functioning without enough rest. I worry about his lack of good nutrition. I worry that I am not doing what I am supposed to do, to safeguard  his health, promote his growth, his potential.

Being a mother is the most vulnerable, most heartbreaking, most stress-filled thing I have done in my life. Me as an independent person with no one to think about except myself, died the day my first born was thrust into my arms, wailing with her little red face. I remember losing my breath as the blood pressure fell from having lost tons of blood during delivery. Her birth was brutal as the labor did not progress as it should have. Finally after 24 hour of labor, my daughter arrived, but not before being forcepped and vaccumed to pull her out of the birth canal.  I remembered falling back onto the labor room pillow, and telling my husband to follow her because I had watched too many switch-at-birth episodes on TV. Leave me, and follow her! I told him as I gasped for air, feeling as if my heart was about to explode with joy and fear.  (I do have a dramatic flare in my bones). Anyway, that was how motherhood started for me. An explosion of fear, uncertainty, worries (necessary and unnecessary), and then happiness that finally, I had brought a life, a thing of half-me, into this world. Something of my very own. Something I was supposed to raise to adulthood and see to her making it on her own. My family. My kin. My love.

The very act of seeing my children’s faces does something to my heart, to the center of my being. A burst of joy, followed by anxiety and fear. Always, that foreboding joy, as Brene Brown puts it, lurks in the shadow. All can be gone, and taken away, the voice whispers to me.  Then the voice changes its tone, something meaner. “Who do you think you are, raising these perfectly flawed and perfectly perfect small people?” “You’re not good enough to raise a goldfish let alone these precious beings.”

Being a mother raises everything I’ve ever feared and felt insecure about myself, out of me, often times overwhelmingly. Whenever I examine how I have raised my kids, or how I am setting an example as a mother, all I could see is the things I should have done or should not have done. Yet I also know sometimes my mistakes could show them how “not to be” as opposed to how to be a parent or a human being. How many children of chain-smokers never pick up a cigarette in their lives?  I rest my case.

Right now, I am feeling sorry for myself, unnecessarily. I don’t need anyone – husband, daughter, son – to tell me, “Happy Mother’s Day, mommy,” in order for me to know that I am, and will always be unmistakably, undeniably, a mother first and foremost, and some other role second. Some days, I will do the right things and be the right kind of mother. Most of the days, I will struggle to do even the most basic things to be qualified as a mother. I will yell at their mistakes or my version of their mistakes while I make my own mistakes. I will miss deadlines while I expect them to meet their deadlines. I will demand their respect while disrespecting their space. I will whimper while I scold them to dust off and get up again. I will guilt trip while I don’t give without expectation of returns. I will feel sorry for myself while I tell them to stop feeling sorry for themselves.

I will feel like a failure after all that. That stern voice will return to me telling me what a disappointment I am.

When that happens, I will go to my corner, which most of the times happens to be in the small bathroom in the house that desperately needs cleaning. And I will listen to Brene Brown, Oprah, and all the “You are enough” podcasts I could find on my phone, reassuring to myself that yes, I could get up again, and face the world and most of all face my most critical voice inside of me. Then, I will try again, to be a good mother, to be a good human, to be something better than this small scared selfish thing inside of me.  I will think of my own mother and her failings and accomplishments. Her strength and determination will inspire me to rise up again. Her stern expectations of who and how I should be will remind me how not to project my own aspirations onto my kids.

I will say to myself then that I am here, doing the best I can for now, at this very moment. I will try my best to forgive myself, and to start over again.

Happy Mother’s Day, to me, from me because motherhood, even though I did not purposely set out to choose it, and even with its terrifying moments, is the best thing that has ever happened to me.


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Dear April

Dear April
you are getting on  my nerves.
you dare bring the wisteria to my garden,

how they have sprung scaling the fence
like they had never seen the sun, these wanton plants.

Dear April
I told love, please please come back. I put out a retraction,
announced to the world that I did not mean when I meant I am leaving,
no, no, that was printed in error –from my mind to mouth spoken in haste
even if truth rushes out like a torrential spring rain.

Dear April
he left me again. But not before I left him first.

Dear April
I am supposed to embrace this loneliness, bred from my visceral organs,
blood, bones, arteries, veins, cartilages, interstitial lining between my
childhood and today. Something must have happened, the therapist said.
Did you hear that April? It wasn’t my fault. Something terrible must have
happened when I was a child, a baby, a toddler, tween, teen — all of the above,

Even if I don’t know what that terrible thing was, is, done damage
Dear April
It isn’t my fault that I am pathologically
lonely. You, cruellest month April. It isn’t my fault
that I begged him to stay when he never, ever, loved me
in the first place.


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