Category Archives: Once upon…

Saying Sorry Old School

Saying Sorry Old School

Your mom in rollers answers the back door and I ask are you home and she says sure darling and then calls your name long and loud up the stairs

I wait

It’s going to be a hot one she says to me and scratches under a roller why don’t you come in and have a glass of ice tea while you wait

No thank you I say

I kick the dirt I pick a scab I lick my finger to press on it and then you’re there

“kiss and make up” by David Cohen



I told my mom we had a fight and she asked do I want to kiss and make up and I said yes and she said that was good and then she asked what was I bringing you and I said I don’t know and she said it’s traditional to offer something like an olive branch for example but I don’t like olives plus I think olive trees only grow like in Jerusalem or something so I brought you this maple branch from when the tree fell in the hurricane last year remember?

Yes. When it crashed up Bobby Brown’s big brother’s motorcycle.

Yes. They haven’t taken the whole tree away yet and I thought that it’d be a good one to get a big branch from and it was. I thought maybe we could add an extension to the tree house wanna?

~ * ~

P.S. A special thanks to David Cohen, Brand Therapist and Doodler-in-Chief over at Equation Arts. He read my wee story on Facebook and was inspired to doodle me the doodle you see in this post. Also, David does a podcast every Monday morning called, Be a Beacon. (Ahem. I will be a guest on his show this coming Monday, July 16!)

P.P.S. My wee story is a prose poem, which I like to imagine is what happens when prose and poetry make love. I have that from a poet-English teacher at Boston Latin. Well, not the bit about the poem and the prose making love, but rather the bit about what I wrote being a prose poem. In one way, I really don’t care what something I write is called, but— Wait! Why am I telling you this? Well, maybe you, like me, find yourself confused about all the different kinds of poetry. Maybe you don’t give a whit. Regardless, when she called my wee story a prose poem I sighed a big ahhhhh! Finally I knew what to call a bunch of things I’ve written which aren’t quite or only prose or poetry. (In case you’re curious, here’s what she said about it: “…it seems to reside in the world of prose poetry: narrative, told directly, prominent dialogue.” There you have it. Now I need to go talk to her about punctuations. They, except just a smattering of them, didn’t seem to want to be in this prose poem story. But now I wonder… What do you think?)

P.P.P.S. Yes, my prose poem was inspired by a fight, which is what can happen when a misunderstanding is met with defensiveness, which is what I did. I felt so sad the morning after all my reactivity with this dear person, and this story is what came from that.

Do I believe in God?

Once upon a time I tried to die. But it wasn’t my time. Too much was unlived, untapped, unknown. So much not yet done, if it had even begun, so busy had I been stuffing and hiding and numbing so as not to feel the ever present sense of far away from love, from home, from myself… frantically trying to fit into a box I thought I was supposed to fit in, not for not having tried, and finally, despairing of mending the gash I felt had been rent in the fabric of me, I gave up.

It ain’t pretty to try and not succeed. You wake up not to oblivion but to shit, which I wish I only meant metaphorically. But no. I’m talking violent shit: your body screaming NO from every orifice and pore, every which way out, with no consideration of letting you make it —in your dizzy semi-consciousness— to basin or bowl in one’s one-room studio apartment.

One. So young. So 26. So sad. So homesick and greedy, above all, for connection. For a lap. For cool hands on a forehead. For arms around. For laughter. The smell of home. A kiss. One.

It ain’t graceful, either, how you grope on hands and knees, the world swirling about madly, and manage not to fall to your death —suddenly now, for some unfathomable reason, you care about not dying —managing somehow to make it down the ladder from your sleeping loft where you’d closed your lids the night before but not until after swallowing the pills and falling asleep oh-so-un-Snow White-ly.


If you were to ask me if I believe in God I would now be honest like I wasn’t then, and tell you that no, not as such. Certainly not in a man with a beard in a heaven, ordaining for things to be such and such, calling this bad and that good, this one right and that one wrong. And not a God narrow and circumscribed enough for us to really grasp. And certainly not a God who’d send people who don’t fancy him to his arch nemesis’ lake of fire.

“But I do believe in Morning Glories,” I might add. “Does that count?”


When the Morning Glories learned that one of them had tried and failed, they came to visit the state-run facility where she was. And they sat with her. Quiet. Then crying. Then laughing. Then holding hands in a circle saying the Serenity Prayer. But all the while there, with her, keeping company. And when they learned that she was to return home alone in a few days to the one-room shit hole she’d been carried out of in the wake of 44 pills that had not wanted to stay down, they asked her for her keys. And then they went to clean.

I lost touch with the Morning Glories over the years. They were an Alcoholics Anonymous women’s group I attended in Harvard Square 16 years ago, and, as much as I could relate to what it was that made them or anyone pick up a drink or a drug or a whatever, my whatever had never been Jack Daniels. My pints had not been beer but sweet fill-me-ups like ice cream, nice cream, smooth cream, comfort cream, love cream. And people. But not alcohol.

Truth be told, I also felt shame. Even after they cleaned, upon my return, the smell of the wreckage of my past, lingered. The thought of them there cleaning what I had left, was more than I could bear.

Today, the thought of Morning Glories invariably makes me cry. Words barely touch what is there. This here is a try: it’s something like gratitude. And humility. And love, oh my, love. They were kind enough to clean my shit so I could have a fresh start. They knew, I am certain of it, that it’d take everything I had to pull forward, and that I’d have to do it —the real middle of the night and ’round the clock work of it— on my own. Not without help, but yes, on my own.

So do I believe in God? Maybe. But only if I can call her Morning Glories.

[I love comments!
Love notes? Your own stories? What this makes you think of? Bring it on. But I kindly ask that you refrain from advice or preaching or Jesus-saves kind of talk.

Oh and too? Just so no one worries, what I write of happened 16 years ago. Much has changed since. Life can still feel hard sometimes, but I love it far too much to abandon it before my time.]

Mona Lisa Eyes

In longing you close your eyes,
but in wonder you open them…

-Myra Shapiro (full poem here)

I started writing—really writing, like my life depended on it—when I was 11 and went off to boarding school for the first time to a country a 10-hour drive plus a 5-hour flight from where my parents and little brother and sister remained.

It was the height of Summer in Chile and in my mind’s eye they were at the lake everyday. Or picking raspberries, which surely they were plopping straight in their mouths rather than saving for dessert. Or roller skating down our street, the cracks and bumps of which I knew by heart. Or playing hide-n-seek well into the evening of late-coming darkness in the Southernmost part of the Southern hemisphere. Pretty much anything I had ever loved, they were doing. Without me.

It was more than jealousy. It was about belonging and wanting to stay a part of it, of them, of what had been us. Writing became connection.

On my first morning not at home, I woke up early. The smells were odd. The sounds were odd. The equatorial light coming through the window was odd. Even I, myself, felt odd. I spoke English with a Spanish accent, and Spanish with a Chilean accent and my clogs and knee-highs looked dorky.

Quietly —so as not to wake my odd roommate— I found a pencil and notebook and began the first of what would become, over the years, hundreds of letters home. I have no doubt that letter was filled with all sorts of details: an obsessive and agonizingly accurate accounting of my brother Karl’s and my first trip alone by airplane.

What I left out, in my desire to prove myself the trustworthy oldest daughter and responsible big sister, the one any parent would be proud of, is that I’d gotten on that jungle-painted airplane and cried and cried and cried. And for all the trying in the world, those tears had not ended until long after my madly-waving parents were the merest fraction of dots in the distance where they stood with white handkerchiefs on the rooftop of the Aeropuerto General Arturo Merino Benitez and I had to close my eyes to make the waving handkerchiefs continue materializing in my mind’s eye.

And so began my closing of the eyes to remember and to make gone things linger a bit longer.

At boarding school I was assigned a light blue metal bed, like a big tin can, with a shelf on the headrest. That’s where I put the picture. My dad developed all his film as slides, and so, snapshots were hard to ever come by. The family portrait at the head of my bed, taken in the States 3-and-a-half years earlier, was the only actual picture my mom had been able to find for me to take.

But I would come to find out it was oddly special: not because we were all posing in our Sunday best; not because a formal family portrait like that only happened every four years; not because my little sister Judy and I were in our very special matching red and white dresses Mom had stayed up sewing for us into the wee hours so we’d have them to wear to church on Christmas; not for any obvious reason, really.

Its specialness was only something a girl that stared at it from every angle could have discovered: my brother Danny’s eyes followed me magically around. I experimented. If I moved to the left, he was there. If I moved to the right, same. Up. Down. All over. Anywhere I went, there he was, looking me right back in the eyes with his silly little half smile.

Years later, at the Louvre in Paris, I would discover that Danny shared those superpower kind of eyes with the Mona Lisa.

Maybe I have Danny to thank. Maybe Leonardo Da Vinci. Maybe my preacher dad with photographer’s eye. Maybe boarding school. Maybe every single thing that ever happened in my odd life, but at some point I started opening my eyes, curious to see what might be looking back at me.

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