Sunday, December 21, 2014


Wise Men Journey, by Joyce Tremethick

They journeyed far to seek the Light,
a star their compass through the night.
Their dearest hopes and dreams, could all
be brought to pass by one so small?
The majesty of earth and skies
were kindled in the baby's eyes;
the power that ruled the heavens, crammed
into a tiny infant hand.
Wise men bow to a humble King
whose love gives life to everything.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Bond of Union, 1956, by M. C. Escher

     "So, what do you think of him?  Isn't he so hot?"
     "I thought it was a little chilly in the café.  But you're right, he didn't seem bothered by it."
     "I could stare into his eyes for hours.  I love the shape of his earlobes, and isn't his little beard so cute?"
     "His face is sort of appealing, but . . ."
     "But what?"
     "Something about him seems, well, only skin-deep, you know?"
     "What do you mean?"
     "His comments weren't very substantial.  And he seemed pretty thin-skinned."
     "He can't take a joke."
     "Um, when did you make a joke?"
     "You know, when I teased him about his clear nasal passages?"
     "You were teasing?"
     "The speed at which my words went in one of his ears and out the other indicated a certain lack of interference in between."
     "You saw your words come out of his ear?"
     "Uh, yeah.  I can see thoughts, too, you know.  And every time a thought bubble began to form over his head, it burst before anything coagulated inside."
     "Whatever.  You're weird.  But he's dreamy.  I just want to wrap myself around him and never let him go."
     "Even if he's an airhead?"
     "I think he's perfect."
     Sigh.  "I guess he is, then.  Perfect for you."

For Magpie Tales

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fall Fashion Report

Autumn in Madeira by Jacek Yerka 

   "Almost there, Miss!"
   "It is so kind for you to bring me out here, Mr. Purnell,"  Miss Lyon said, trying to fan away the August heat.
   "Aw, Miss, Mr. Purnell is my Pa.  Call me Jake, everyone does."
   "Um, thank you.  I'm sure the Conscientious Ladies' Journal readers will be quite interested in your business."
   "Of course they will.  Purnell Plantation isn't called the 'Foremost Purveyors of Fashion Foliage' for nothin', you know."
   "Why have you taken that epithet upon yourselves?"
   Jake shrugged, taking a corner at speed.  "Superior products.  We have the best silk leaves on the market."
   Miss Lyon held onto her unadorned fedora.  "To whom do you sell them?"
   "Milliners in the city, mostly.  Some go to the dry-goods stores for the ladies what like to trim their own bonnets.  There it is, home sweet home.  What do you think?"
   "It's rather small, for a plantation, isn't it?"
   Jake sighed.  "Well, it used to be bigger, but times weren't so good a few years back, and my Great-Grandpa had to sell off a lot of the land."
   Miss Lyon attempted to take notes as the sedan bounced toward what looked like an autumnal island in a field.  "Who owns it now?"
   "Dunno.  No one's seen them since they carted it away."
   "Carted . . . what?"
   "The land."  Jake squinted as he accelerated.  "Sorry, Miss.  I have to take this slope at a bit of a run."
   Miss Lyon grasped the edge of her seat as Jake drove the sedan up and part of the way into a ramshackle shed. 
   "Here, Miss," he said, opening her door.  "As you can see, we have a bumper crop this year."
   "How do you define that?"
   "The garage is so full of leaves that I can't fit both bumpers inside."
   Miss Lyon looked around, shaking her head.  "I--this is nothing like I imagined."
   "What did you expect?" 
   "Acres of mulberry trees, in straight lines--"
   "Mulberry trees?  I think we have a couple, in the back.  But there's much more demand for oak and maple leaves."
   "Mulberry trees for the silkworms."
   "Silkworms?  Can't abide the pests.  Last time they invaded, we lost half the orchard."
   "And overworked, underpaid women picking the cocoons apart with ragged fingernails, painstakingly spinning, weaving, painting, for the vanity of those who value appearance over conscience."
   A brilliant orange leaf fluttered down from above.  Jake picked it up, his brows knit together.  "Why would we need any of that, Miss?  The leaves grow, and we pick them."
   "Silk leaves grow on trees?"
   Jake handed her the leaf.  "Sure."
   Miss Lyon turned away, putting on her spectacles.  She peered at the leaf, stroked it with her fingers, crushed it in her fist.  When she opened her hand again, the leaf lay whole, undamaged.  "This--this feels like silk.  And doesn't crunch like a dry leaf should.  But it can't be natural.  Leaves on trees certainly should not have turned colors yet.  It's summertime."
   "I'm no expert, Miss, but if I know anything about fashion, it's that one must look forward.  We harvest green leaves in February, for the spring hats, and colored in August."
   "How, um, convenient.  Will you please show me the rest of your facilities?"
   "Right this way.  You're going to like this, Miss.  The latest technical advancement."  He led her to another shed.  A tree was growing out through its leaf-covered roof.  Jake opened the door. 
   "Stand back, Miss, and watch this."  He pulled a rope next to the door, and the roof panels swung inward, depositing the leaves on the floor.  "Clever, don't you think?  My Pa's applied for a patent on it.  Purnell's Patent Leaf Collector, he's calling it."
   "What happens next?"
   "Why, then we sort them by color, size, and quality, pile 'em into the auto-mobile, and deliver them to our customers."
   "So, you expect my readers to believe that silk leaves just grow on trees, and turn colors in the summer so the milliners will be ready for the autumn styles?"
   Jake shrugged again.  "It's true."
   Miss Lyon threw her hands in the air.  "My readers are no fools.  What else will you claim?  Does wax fruit grow on trees, too?"
   "Certainly.  My cousin Alfred grows the best wax fruit in his orchard.  Would you like an introduction?  Apples, grapes, he grows it all.  Looks good enough to eat, but mind you don't, Miss."
   "I suppose the bonnets themselves grow on trees, too?"
   Jake folded his arms.  "You don't need to jest, Miss."
   "Oh, are you going to tell me the truth now?"
   "Bonnets grow on vines, not trees.  And not in this climate, either.  My uncle Larkin has a vineyard down south, and it's a sight to see, Miss, when the bonnets blossom out in the spring, all bright colors and different shapes.  Uncle Larkin has been around the world, collectin' seeds, he has.  The cloches bloom bright red, and the boaters are yellow.  Those little fanchons were orange, but they only grew one year, and Uncle figures they were just a fluke.  They all ripen to that nice straw color, and then we pick them."
   Jake looked upward, a small smile on his face.  "I went to help out a couple years ago, and I could have stayed there forever."  He looked at Miss Lyon again.  "But Ma and Pa need me here.  I'm the only one that can drive the auto-mobile."
   Miss Lyon kept looking around at the trees, the sheds, the summer meadow surrounding the autumnal island, disbelief etched in her face.  Jake considered.
   "Here, Miss, what you need is a free sample.  That hat of yours could use a little perking up, don't you think?  I'll just shimmy up here and pick you some fresh leaves, and my sister will fix them right up.  She apprentices with a milliner when we're not harvesting."  Jake climbed a ladder to the roof of one shed, and soon disappeared into the brilliant branches of a maple tree. 
   Miss Lyon took some deep breaths, and looked around again, this time to find out if anyone was watching her.  Whether she believed the young man or not, there was only one thing to do when confronted with a pile of autumn leaves.  She gathered her skirts, took a few running steps, and jumped.

For Magpie Tales

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Guest Soloist: Dandelionslayer

My man done called in sick yesterday, 
an' this is what he said:

Well, I woke up this mornin',
sinuses full to the brim.
Yeah, I woke up this mornin',
sinuses full to the brim.
I gots to call in to work now,
'cause you don't want my phlegm.

I got the blues,
I got the stuffy head blues.

Gonna drink lots of liquids
whether or not I'm feelin' thirsty.
Gonna drown those blues away now,
at least Wednesday and Thursday,

Cause I got the blues,
I got the stuffy head blues.

Take it away, Jim . . .

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Words beginning with "rh" occupy six pages in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.  There are more than I expected, and some of them are rather fascinating.  They mostly come from Greek words, of course.  The Greek rhopalos was a club or tapered cudgel.  This primitive weapon has lent its name to the "marginal sensory structures in various jellyfish," and an Indian aphid.  Not to mention a literary device.

Literarily, rhophalic describes a passage "in which each word contains one syllable more than the word immediately preceding it." 

I recently attempted a poem based on the Fibonacci sequence, where the number of syllables per line increase quickly.  (Interestingly, the number sequence itself has poetic origins.)  Five-syllable lines are easy for me, but eight and thirteen were tough.  Increasing syllables in each word, though, that's pretty challenging. 

  • I'm writing sentences multiplying syllabically.
  • Walk softly, carrying knuckle-dusters empoweringly.
  • Peach apple banana chirimoya marionberry macadamia-nut
Three or four syllables are plenty for most words in English, even the interesting ones.  Sure, " supercalifragilisticexpialidocious*" would be a wonderful climax, but what thirteen-syllable word could precede it?  I find myself relying on hyphenated terms and tenuous adverbs.  (Good thing I'm not a member of Writers Against Adding Any Adverbs.)  Perhaps rhophalicism is easier in agglutinative tongues like German.  And prosody does not always require complete sentences.

Can you wax rhophalic?  Give me your best shot.

*In the OED since 1986!  Look here for origin and meaning.

Monday, September 22, 2014


in the wind
clinging to your branch
majestic evergreens look on,
unshaken by the season's change, wait to see you fall

My son's third-grade teacher introduced us to Fibonacci poems on a field trip.  My son was more interested in the numbers, and in drawing pictures of his subject.  I hope he'll find some words, too.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Sculptor Poses

Be still, Bastet.
Our friends have gone
to some expense
to acquire "something
to remember us by,"
though how a thing so flat,
so smooth, could aid
their memories a whit,
I cannot say.

I could sculpt their souls,
you know, build up each virtue,
gouge out each vice,
carve forgiveness in deep relief,
smooth some with their kindness,
scar others with mistakes.
I could put nobility 
and baseness on display,
covered with a filigree 
of laughter or tears,
the feelings of years.

But if they came to see
with only their eyes,
they would not know themselves.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Flip Flop

Take notice of me, referee,
writhing in my agony!
Call down a grievous penalty!
The other team deserve it.

Behold, the game continues on.
Don't they realize I'm gone?
    Guess I ought to move along,
play football, not observe it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Photo by Terri Windling

For Sale > Collars
     Shiny yellow collar with human commercial logo all over it.  Worn once.  Not my style.  Must go soon--puppies will be teething in no time.
Housing > Swap
    Need a change of scene?  Cozy one-room doghouse with a great view.  Fenced yard for privacy; good soil for digging your own entrance.  Neighbors keep garbage bins well-stocked.  Available for rent, or will consider a swap with your house.

Jobs > Salons > Stylist Wanted
    Cushion available for experienced stylist.  Skills in pedicure, shampoo, male and female grooming a must.  Experience with styles for poodle and wire hair fox terrier a plus.  Trot around with portfolio to apply.

Lost & Found > Lost Ball
    Lost favorite fuzzy, jingly ball.  Last seen on golf course.  Reward: golf ball I picked up instead.

Musicians > Auditions
    A capella group seeks bass woofer for frequent moonlight gigs.  Our pack performs popular covers and original tunes.  Bring prepared piece, and be ready to improvise. 

Personals > Female Seeking Male
    Slender blonde likes chasing pine cones, getting caught in the rain.  Seeks blue-eyed Husky stud.  I want to have your puppies!
Lessons & Tutoring > Etiquette
    Afraid to go out?  Tired of being embarrassed in public?  Learn confidence from our experienced teachers.  In our Basic course, we will help you teach your human to:
  • shake your paw
  • throw a stick properly
  • behave well at the park 
  • respond quickly to commands such as "open the door" and "go for a walk"
    We also offer Advanced courses (dogs only, please) such as
  • The Language of Tails
  • Vocal Training--get the most out of your growls, barks, and howls
  • Appropriate Gift Selection--for canine and human friends
Services > Limousine
    Cruise in style with a dozen of your closest friends!  Durable leather seats, cozy carpet, and five pairs of fully-opening windows for your panting pleasure!  All rides include complimentary spring water and gourmet biscuits.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April Shower

Photo by Takkk

Unpack your colored chalks;
draw them in an arc across
the gray slate sky, washed clean.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Upon Her Hyperopia

Photo by Kelsey Hannah 

When I consider how my sight is spent,
full half the day searching the web world-wide,
t' inspire hands with new skills, which, if applied
might cheer eyes, warm the cold, or save a cent,
or seeking books, wholesome entertainment,
or learning tunes, for which my spirit sighed;
how, with corrective lenses now denied,
shall time to serve and improve self be spent?
Methinks I need to look beyond my nose,
beyond my needles, pages with type set,
recall the feel of earth beneath my toes,
prepare the ground for seeds, though it's so wet.
I pray the lenses soon will be restored,
but I will dig the dirt (dust be ignored).

Hooray!  My new glasses came!  I can post this without zooming in  500 times, and still getting a headache.  And my peas are already sprouting.  Apologies to John Milton, whose gift and trial were so much greater.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


gauze must be crazy
trying to fill wisdom's seat
soften the impact

At 15, my son seems rather young to be so full of wisdom, and to have it forcibly removed.  But, alas, that is how we spent this morning.  He seems to be taking it well, but if there were any gems of knowledge in his babbling on the way home, I didn't catch them.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Feast in the House of Simon, 1610, El Greco 

You run a certain risk
when you invite the Master to dine--

You may run out of wine,
or water,
for His dozen dusty friends;
unsavory gate-crashers
may entreat Him with more unction
than thou.

You make a show of listening
when He answers your
unspoken sneers.

What if you opened wide
your narrowed eyes,
unstopped your pride-corked ears?
You just might recognize His truth.
And if you dare
lay bare your heart,
He'll heal your hidden scars.

Forgiveness can't be bought.
It must be begged--

and then He freely gives.

Find out more at

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Look

Room 1504, Lee Plaza Hotel

Why, Granny,
you've redecorated!
What sharp eyes it takes
to achieve a chic so shabby--
such sharp claws to simulate
so much distress
in so short a time.
And what sharp teeth
could really sink
into this vintage chair?

It doesn't suit me,
I'm afraid.
I prefer the sleek look
of the hunter's lodge.
What big guns he has!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Leo and the Nightmares

The Sleeping Gypsy, 1897, by Henri Rousseau

Pippa finished the jig with a flourish and raised her bow in the air.  Its tip tapped the dingy rafter above her, and she hastily lowered it.  But she smiled and bowed, along with Rosalind and Leo, as the audience clapped and whistled.  "Thank you!  Thank you!" Pippa called out, flushed with the thrill of a well-played set.  She caught a meaningful glance from Leo.  "And good night!"

"What, already?"  The landlord stepped forward as the performers filed off the stage.  "'Taint even midnight.  They was just gettin' warmed up."

Leo brushed past the man, latching his lute case.  Rosalind stopped, smoothing a stray lock of blond hair behind her ear.  "Sorry, sir.  Band policy."

"But . . ."

Rosalind shrugged, taking her flute apart.  The landlord stepped back on the stage, facing the already grumbling crowd.  "One more round of applause for Leo and the Nightmares!  And anyone for one more round?"  A stale bun bounced off the wall behind him, and he quickly stepped down.

"It's all for the best, sir."  Pippa settled her fiddle and stood up.  "You really want this rabble here all night?  Turn 'em out and get yourself some sleep."

The landlord sighed.  "Very well.  Meg'll show you to your room."

"Thank you kindly, but we can't take one of your fine rooms.  Save them for your paying guests," Rosalind said.

"But that's what's done!  I give you room and board, you play your tunes and attract custom."

"It's all right, we'll take coin instead," said Rosalind.

"And breakfast," added Pippa.

The landlord buried his face in his hands, his business model overturned by some upstart young minstrels.  Thinking of a loophole, he looked up, but they were gone.

Pippa and Rosalind scurried to the stable and ducked into an empty stall.

"Whew," said Rosalind, pulling off her boots.  "I thought he'd never let us go."

Pippa buried her fiddle case in the manger, and sneezed.  "Unlike old Count Droopy-Jowls, who couldn't wait for us to leave."

"I think we've improved a lot since then."  Rosalind folded her dress and placed it in a clean corner.  "If we played for the Count again, he wouldn't even recognize us."

"Except for the name he gave us."  Pippa sneezed again.  She selected a comb from the tack wall and blew out the lantern before dashing back to the stall and undressing herself.  "Do you think he'd remove the curse?"

Rosalind untied her braid and shook out her hair.  She shrugged, stretched, and whinnied.  Pippa had seen her sister's body transform into a beautiful palomino every night for months, but she still wondered:  Why does she go first?

After another sneeze, Pippa had completed her own transformation.  She was able to understand Rosalind again.

"--not so bad, really," Rosalind was saying.

"There are advantages," Pippa agreed, and took a deep breath through her enlarged nostrils.  "It cures my hay fever, every night."  She kicked the comb toward Rosalind's head.  "And I can grow my own bow-hair.  Would you mind combing the loose hairs from my tail?"

"I think I have some, too," Rosalind nickered before grasping the comb with her teeth.

"I think we could use this more to our advantage, though."  Pippa pawed at the floor as Rosalind combed her.  "We could travel so much faster if we went at night, as horses.  Then we could play in more towns, get paid more often.  Why won't Leo let us?"

Rosalind dropped the comb.  "It's hard on him, being the big brother and the only one who doesn't change."

"We're strong enough to carry the bags and Leo.  He hardly touches his food anymore.  He can't be that heavy."

"Leo needs his beauty sleep."  Rosalind snorted.  "And so do I."

Pippa combed Rosalind's tail next, and could tell her sister was dropping off to sleep.  But when she set the comb aside, full of useful hairs, Pippa felt wide awake.  And curious.  Where did Leo spend the nights, anyway?  He wouldn't take a room in any inn, and he never came to the stables with the girls.  She decided to take a trot around the village.

Pippa searched high and low, but didn't see any sign of her brother in the village.  She checked the surrounding fields, stopping for the occasional mouthful of clover, then decided to venture into the wilds.  The full moon cast plenty of light, enough to show that her brother was nowhere to be found.

The moon was sinking, and Pippa's eyes were growing bleary, when she finally spotted a figure on the ground.  The moonlight threw the man's face into shadow, but glinted off the strings of a lute.  It had to be Leo.  She studied him for a moment.  It might be nice, sleeping out here under the stars.  He certainly looked peaceful enough.  Did he just need some alone time, away from greedy landlords and drunken villagers and nightmarish sisters?

Pippa was about to wake Leo and ask, then remembered that he wouldn't understand a word she said.  Dawn was coming soon, and with it, her re-transformation; she should return to the stable.  But something caught her eye as she turned away, and she froze, one hoof in the air.

An enormous lion padded out from behind a boulder.  His sleek mane shone in the moonlight, but blood stained his chin.  The lion strode silently, straight to Leo's sleeping form.


Pippa couldn't help it.  She screamed, her horse-voice full of terror.  The lion lifted his head, looking at her with sorrowful eyes.  Pippa wheeled about and galloped back to the inn.

The lion sighed.  He had tried so hard not to frighten anyone. 

He reached across the still body and strummed the lute strings with one great claw.  He couldn't really play it, though, not like this.  Which was probably the worst part of the Count's curse.  Leo stretched his four legs and settled down, hoping for a catnap before the dawn came, when he would reinhabit his human body.

Then, it seemed, he'd have to do some explaining to his sisters.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Writers' Block

Poet's Sleep, 1989, by Chang Hong Ahn

New writer on the block
looked for rooms to let
the inspiration percolate.

Blank wall, blank page
hand cramped around dry pen.
The only view:
the empty hopes and bones
of tenants past.

Lay down your head
to sleep, perchance to dream up
a gripping tale
full of wit and pathos
and signifying everything
to hordes of eager readers.

On the off chance,
neighbors with glass hearts
jostle for position,
prepare to cast their stones.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


New York at Night, Vivienne Gucwa 

Shimmering Northern Lights
should have been visible,
south to Seattle, be-
cause of a flare--
but for a closer storm,
drenching my lashes, ob-
scuring my stare.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

In Memoriam

self-portrait, Francis Bacon

"Can I help you, son?"
"Uh, yes, sir.  I missed my grandmother's funeral--"
The undertaker raised a disapproving eyebrow.
"I was deployed, sir," Nick explained.  "And now I want to pay my respects."
The undertaker whipped out his phone, and started scrolling through a list.  "Well, then, what was her name?"
"Ruby Poole."
"Poole, Poole . . . Oh, yes!  Come this way."
They walked along the path between plots of close-clipped grass.
"She's the first in a new section we've opened.  Your grandmother was a very progressive woman."
Nick chuckled.  "That she was.  Always excited about new things.  We used to call her Grandma Gadget."
"I think you'll like this, then.  Right over here."
A shiny black headstone stood apart from the mottled granite memorials.  Nick thought back to his geology merit badge training.  "Is that obsidian?"
"Even better.  It's interactive."  The undertaker brushed the blank stone with a long finger, and words appeared on it.
"It's a screen?"
"It's a beauty, isn't it?  Solar powered, with very efficient storage batteries.  Sealed tight against rain, extreme temperatures, impact, and hacking.  Go on, touch the menu."
Nick crouched before the screen and chose the slideshow.  Black-and-white images of solemn faces crossed the screen.  He sat, entranced, watching his grandmother grow from a long-gowned infant to a smiling bride, to a colorful grandmother.  "Hey, that's me!  What a family reunion.  Grandma was so excited about her new GPS that she forgot the hot dogs . . . "
When the slideshow ended, Nick chose the genealogy button.  He watched a pedigree tree grow from his grandmother's name, in both directions.  "Cool."
"Some of my colleagues are offering similar information through a QR code etched on a regular headstone, but how long is that technology going to be in use?  I prefer this self-contained unit.  And here's the best part."  The undertaker pointed to a menu entry.  "Personal messages from the deceased."
"Really?"  Nick chose his name from the list of grandchildren.  His grandmother's face appeared.  She looked older than he remembered, but still had a gleam in her eye.
"Oh, Nicholas, I am so proud of you.  You've always been brave and true in your service.  I'm just glad you're listening to this message before you meet me on the other side.  Now that you're back, I hope you'll find a nice girl and settle down, stop worrying your poor mother.  You're a good boy, Nick.  I love you."
The undertaker looked back at the cemetery's flagpole as the Nick blotted his face with his sleeve.  Nick cleared his throat and stood up.
"Did you, uh, record this?"
"Yes, right there in my office.  When the iStones catch on more, I hope to build a proper recording studio.  But, except for your impressive grandmother, such things mostly appeal to the young.  And the young tend not to plan this far ahead."
"That's for sure.  I joined the Marines, did all the training, went to Afghanistan.  I never thought I could actually die.  Until my buddy was gone.  None of us did."  
The undertaker handed Nick a tissue.  Nick blew his nose loudly.
"Do you have a card or something, sir?  I know a few guys who might be more interested in planning ahead now."
"Of course.  I'll go fetch you some flyers."  The undertaker strode back to his office.
Nick settled down in front of the stone again.  He scrolled through the menu.  There were messages for his Grandpa, his mother and her siblings, all his cousins.  And more.  He picked the "Minister" entry.
"Thanks for all your support, Randall.  You've been a good shepherd.  But don't forget, I wrote the best church newsletters this congregation has ever read.  They'd better give me a big vote of thanks.  And I'll be rolling in my grave, right here, if you let Doris Howard get her hands on the newsletter.  She'll make everything rhyme, and she can't even spell 'Deuteronomy.'  You listen to me, Randall . . ."
Nick snorted.  That was the way he remembered his grandmother.  He scrolled past messages for the doctor and the paperboy, the piano tuner and even a favorite librarian.  Then Nick's eyes widened.  He knew it wasn't his business, but he couldn't ignore the category "Old Boyfriends."  He picked the name Willie Gottlieb.
"Oh, Willie, you came!  You always were a sweet one.  All my best to Janice and the kids."
Well, that was nice, Nick thought.  He tried Lee Rutter.
"How dare you darken my grave, Lee Rutter!  You still can't leave a girl alone!  Get thee hence, you--"
Nick hastily stopped the message and sat back.  Leave it to Grandma, he thought.  Who else would cast the first iStone?