Late Summer

Here’s the thing: I’m not much of a writer these days. I’m just a journal-keeper. A Morning Page scribbler of handwritten notes about bills in need of paying and cat boxes in need of tending.

It’s not writing.

I’m not even sure if this is writing.

Typing, maybe. I’ve always been a good typist.

Late summer, and the yard is utterly overgrown. I wave to my neighbor through the tangle of grapevine overtaking the north side of my little lot. Things grow so fast here. I mow a path alongside the explosion of honeysuckle. Volunteer mulberry trees appear out of nowhere, three feet tall before I even notice them. How can that be?

Out back, behind the house, I keep a far corner of the lot untouched. It’s shaded and wooded. More grapevine attaches to the side of my garage, climbs across the shingled roof. My insurance company tells me it all must go, that the vines and young trees are a threat to the integrity of the structure. But this is Indiana, and the abundant flora will have its way. I’m shopping for a new insurance company.

The Oval One was in town last week. It was billed as a rally, which is to say, a campaign event. It never ends, the campaigning. I’m sure they called it that so they could toss out the nonbelievers, of which there were a few. Two of my friends were there, dressed as Handmaids, in red cloaks and white bonnets. One of them even made it into the venue, before being escorted back out to the sidewalk by two men who weren’t interested in parsing her First Amendment rights.

I listened to a livestream of his remarks. I won’t do that again.

You couldn’t call it a speech. There was lot of chanting by the audience. “Lock her up, lock her up.” “Build the wall, build the wall.” So many things were so very great, the greatest, the biggest, the strongest, the most amazingly amazing.

He’s a midway huckster, and we Americans do love a circus.

It will not surprise me if he’s re-elected in 2020. Such are the times.

So my writing practice is giving me grief, perhaps in part because the huckster is sucking all the oxygen out of the room. I am light-headed, in need of something I know not what.  I go outside and breathe in the last of the fragrant honeysuckle, and tell myself I’ll cut it back to a manageable size next spring.


The Breakup Poems

I don’t know how other writers proceed, but my own process is a circuitous one that winds along rivers and wanders through woodland and ends up in back yards, usually my own. I seldom know where I’m going until I get there, and even then it takes time to realize this is the place.

My new collection of poems is available now. Wander with me, if you like.

Breakup Poems


What do you do when the thing you’ve been doing doesn’t work for you anymore? If it ever worked at all. This is what I’m wondering.

I like the word “scratch.” It’s a noun: what the cat will give you when you annoy her. It’s a verb: what you do to get relief from an itch. It’s a slang term for money. It connotes beginnings and basics, as in starting from scratch, and baking from scratch.

I was making up a little recipe book the other day, a gift for a friend. A couple of the recipes I included require a food processor, and it occurred to me to wonder, does she have one of those? Another one calls for an immersion blender. Hello?

Even in recipes there is privilege, there are assumptions.

I have a food processor, an immersion blender. So I’m not starting from scratch, per sé. But I am leaving a work situation that has pulled me for the past two years down a path of depletion. The predictable end is less a bang than a whimper. My finances are exhausted, my energy is spent.

That’s another word that resonates: spent.

I wrestle with the fallacy of sunk costs. Also called throwing good money after bad, and, in gambling circles, chasing your losses. It refers to the often-inexplicable human tendency to keep on keeping on, even when every indicator says you really need to not do this anymore.

(cf. climate change; also, bad romance.)

So I’m not going to do it anymore, that job that doesn’t work, that never really worked except in my Palace of Magical Thinking.

Now I’m in the other part of the castle, the less lovely part, where it’s a bit damp and full of shadow and uncomfortably close to starting from scratch, and I’m not liking it so much.

Still, I have two books that are approaching completion. One is a new poetry collection, tentatively titled The Breakup Poems and Other Attempts to Address This Ridiculously Dysfunctional Life (jk, sort of). The other is a book about my coffeehouse, the one I started when I first moved to the Midwest. I’m calling that one Mud River, which is the name of my publishing company, which was itself named after the little newsletter I used to print (on paper! c’est vrai!) when I ran that coffeehouse.

All my life’s a circle. Harry Chapin said that.

If you’d like to help me get these books across the finish line, you can make a donation to the Fund to Keep the Poet Fed, for which I will be most grateful. You can also leave a comment on this post, which is nourishing in its own right.

Thank you.

It’s Very You

I sent a copy of Beautiful Terrible World to my mother. Today she called to tell me what she thought of it.

“It sounds like you. You always did care about the environment, and you never liked war. The one about the school shooter was sad. I laughed at the line about not liking ballroom dancing because you didn’t want some boy to push you around. It’s very you.”

Best. Review. Ever.

This is My Radio Voice

I hung out on the radio for a bit last month with my buddy and local npr-affiliate show host John Gibson, talking about Beautiful Terrible World and reading a couple poems from it. You’ll find me in the last 10 or 12 minutes or so of the hour.

The big celeb of the show that day was author Brian Kimberling, whose book Snapper was just released in paperback. He gets more time than I do, which is only right, but I do think I have the better radio voice.

Beautiful Terrible World is available in print and ebook. (No audiobook yet. But I’m thinking about it…)