When our daughter was new we slept apart,
he on the couch and I on the bed
with her, bouncing her to sleep on a spring and I
awake again with every chirp and squeak and cry.
Then, god, honestly I don’t want to
remember. But his Meniere’s Disease was progressing
and he had 3 hours of vertigo and vomiting
and loud moaning with his head perfectly still
over the toilet, retching after moaning,
moaning after retching, small times of quiet groaning
but then I could hear the waves ratcheting up again and here
is the retching again and I was pacing the house
with my 2 month old baby. I couldn’t believe
that I, who had driven myself to morning
every day with cozy dreams of helping those I loved,
couldn’t help any of us and the waves broke
over us all over and over. I left him in the bathroom
to breastfeed my daughter and I did not believe
that even milk was coming out of me.
I wished, dry-mouthed, for her
not to starve at my breast.



What have I learned about love.
The following. It is a coat hook
to hang your skinsuit on;
look how thin that skin is, and
how pale. It is not
enough. It fails.
It is a light-sensitive night light
that flickers ghoulishly
at dusk and dawn.


Jessica got photos of Eila Lucia, born on the farm a few weeks ago. Jessica is our super fab intern who is also a great photographer.

And of me tossing some bean pods onto the compost pile.


I wait for signs,
as I have always waited for signs, leaning
out of windows
or walking.

As the mystics said, as they did,
waiting for the present moment
to reveal itself, for
the ever-present God.

And so,
I am walking a field of grass,
ironweed, and goldenrod,
a cloud of signs wrapping my head—

great bees and dragonflies,
barn and tree swallows, martins,
the sound of weight
moving through lightness,

my baby heavy in my long body.
She waits for signs, or not;
I wake her one night
with my crying.

She turns in me one morning
like someone drying a glass,
dishtowel stuffed inside
and twisting.


Last night a feely music came on,
husband wanted me to listen with him
with lights off. (Stillness and listening
can only happen with toddler in deep sleep.)
And it was the only thing
to which I’d given undivided attention
all day, and as luck would have it
it was poetry and suddenly
grief battered the great wood doors
till I sat up, apologized,
cried hard for 4 minutes.

But I started this story to say
that I had started to get the feels
just 1 minute into the dark
and the music
and I decided it was ok to imagine
how angry I was at God
and I imagined punching him with my strong
hard fists a-blur, adrenaline fury,
not hate, just anger.
I felt the release of being honest
and of burning up and of knowing
that my anger couldn’t hurt
the light at the center of the cosmos.

And husband held me as I cried
and I thought, How is it that I want to hurt
God for all the grief and the terror and lost years
but here I am in the arms
of my friend? I’m not fine.

I know what opening myself to beauty
and paradox can do—it is a balm—
but I need to know why
every human ever born
can be so helpless,
can be strangled during birth
can be abused as a toddler
or beaten while pregnant
or controlled and gaslighted into psychosis
or tortured and killed in any armed conflict, you pick,
and be healed,
after. I have this feeling
that trauma should just end us.
Exposure to the amoral knives of the dark
destroys goodness, warps us,
mutates us, and I have not seen
Jesus risen from the dead.
I won’t believe in his risenness
till I can touch the holes in his wrists
and feet.

It’s going to be some real shit for a while, maybe I’ll get good again…we’ll see. I was going to make a comment about “baby steps,” but it just struck me that babies and young kids are the ones taking really huge developmental leaps. We adults tend to regress or barely hold our ground or make progress against headwinds at a rate of two-steps-forward-one-step-back. Small steps, small victories, belong to adults. Kids are whizzing forward. In a sense I can cling to my daughter’s coattails.

After discovering that my sister in Iowa HAS BEEN BLOGGING WITHOUT ME (i.e., resurrecting her blog and posting frequently all of a sudden without telling me—or at least without reminding me often enough), I have decided to quit with all the angst that blogging has become fraught with, for me, over the past year. During which I have received several intense and negative messages about individual posts. It put me off blogging, partly because I barely had time to do it in the first place, but mostly—if I’m honest—and I am—because I’m a people-pleaser and want people to like me and find it difficult when they don’t. But growing up includes finding one’s way and learning not to worry much about other people’s opinions about one’s way. So: I’m beginning. I will blog, like I did in the beginning (my first blog was created while away from friends & fam at college, in 2004): I will blog to relate personal thoughts and events to faraway friends & fam.

Social media makes things feel so complicated—so being off facebook but still blogging feels like a return to a more natural way of communicating. I am still on instagram, because I couldn’t quit social media cold-turkey, but the day may come when I quit it, too. If I do you will certainly read about it here.

A significant thought: being at the brink of the grave, as I am, at 31.75, and with the amount of “free time” that being a working mother has robbed me of, I have been recently reminded that I should make a list of things I want. A friend told me she had written such a list, and proceeded to read me the best and most inspiring list; it had things she wanted out of her career, concrete things she wanted to do, larger-scale things she wanted to own/create, and some desires about her creative life. I was amazed that she could make such a thoughtful list after just giving birth to her first baby only a few weeks before—but of course, it’s not that strange. Becoming a mother, and realizing how stapled-down your actual body is to the ground of the world, is sobering. I wasn’t that emotionally healthy at 2 months out, postpartum: I was reading facebook comments sections.

So she said I should write one for myself. And after thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I finally wrote one. I’ll combine it in some way with this blog’s “short-term goals” and long-term goals” pages, but it’s already 2 minutes past my bedtime, and I haven’t even finished the ice cream that’s melting in a bowl beside me. Here is my list:

  • Publish more poems in litmags (original said “publish poems in litmags” but I had to insert “more” so you will know I’m already famous published writer-type person
  • Write a postpartum essay collection
  • Find a writing group
  • Make my house beautiful
    • Renovate dismal kitchen
    • Figure out confusing curtain situation
    • Area rug for living-room
    • Finish painting house
  • Get/rent a writing studio
  • Establish incredible herb/flower gardens (well on my way tbh)
  • Get comfortable with high-pressure canning
  • Create small seed library for self
  • Create tiny improv quilts that are beautiful
  • Establish home yoga practice and/or take regular classes
  • Get nice croquet set
  • Get nice badminton set (fill in holes in lawn concurrently)
  • Turn out low-key book comments (too lazy to write “reviews” at moment) on the regular
  • Write a kids’ book for Carla to illustrate
  • Build pergola
  • Build tiny greenhouse
  • Get a woodstove
  • Trip to Vienna and/or Scotland
  • Host annual friendsgiving or other fall/winter feast
  • Become independent Mary-Poppins-type woman who don’t need no man, but with heart of gold and committed (unlike Poppins who left family in a cloud)
  • Fix up the shed as a chicken coop
  • Butcher or trade roosters

So that’s what I came up with a while back—would really like to expand on this list and make some additions about spiritual life and marriage and daughter and reading. Will soon.

Mary is singing and talking to herself in her crib, but she’s  in her crib, and I showered and made myself tea and am deciding—of all the top-priority things on my to-do list—to write a blergh. What if this is the road less traveled by, and it will have made all the difference?

So it’s Friday, and despite a terrible night of sleep, during which the husband’s bad cold roused him constantly till about 2a.m. with phlegmy throat-obstructions (sudden spluttering coughs like gunshots), and consequently roused me, I am feeling light and buoyant. Let me count the ways.

  1. It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and we’ve agreed that my present will be a solitary date all by myself—to the mountains or some other piece of wilderness—where I will have fancy cheese and crackers and a beer, and write/edit, and read in a hammock (or similar). I might decide at the last minute to take myself out for lunch and then see a movie instead—obviously I should go to the mountains. But MAN I love movie theaters, and I hardly ever get to go.
  2. Making pizza tonight.
  3. The president of my country continues down the path of horrid nightmareness and it’s becoming less and less easy for his supporters to support him. TO MY GREAT RELIEF. One tweet in particular came out today and was fucking insane. Madhouse. But our independent paper has just reported that no fewer than six (6) women from Knoxville or Maryville are preparing to run for office as Democrats. A pertinent quote: “In Tennessee’s 220 years of statehood, only two Democratic women have held office in the U.S. House of Representatives, and no woman in Tennessee has ever served as a governor or been elected to the U.S. Senate. Just two Democratic women serve in Tennessee’s 33-member state Senate, and seven Democratic women in the 99-member Legislature” (17). Makes me curious about Republican women, but I’m sure it’s safe to assume their numbers are comparable or fewer. Hope for the future!
  4. Garden is getting along, and only one plant has been eaten by rabbits. A garden fence is on next spring’s agenda, so I’m just planting tons of the things I really want, and hope that the neighborhood warren spares me enough to freeze and can. For instance, as of today I have 25 tomato plants in the ground. Ridiculous, but like I say, some of them will get eaten by rabbits. I have gorgeous rows of Whippoorwill peas, Tiger Eye beans, and a cranberry bean called Lena Sisco’s Bird Egg bean. I have about 20 winter squash plants in the ground as well: Tan Cheese pumpkins, San Jose Mountain Club squash, Pennsylvania Dutch Crooknecks, and one random red Japanese squash plant I saved from the compost at the farm. One long row of Tennessee Red Cob corn. Also four pepper plants and five rows of zinnia & tithonia, also brought home from the farm. The herb garden is looking good, too, but the vegetable/flower garden is exciting because my hopes/expectations for it have risen sky-high and plummeted several times this spring, and I think it’s gonna turn out to produce ok. Yay.
  5. The “long-term forecast” for East Tennessee was so worrying, earlier in the year, as they were predicting a year like last one—hot, extreme drought—but despite (portentous) roller-coaster high and low temperatures, we continue to get rain. I’m grateful for every drop, even though we’re garbage neighbors and let mosquitoes breed in collected rainwater that we keep finding around the yard.
  6. We got a new couch to replace the old one, and we are delighted by it EVERY DAY. The old one was vintage velvet (?), striped with dark gold and pale yellow and blue—a very cool old couch—but it was passed down by someone who had bought it secondhand, and it was on its absolute last leg. I had grown to despise it. Its cushions needed daily re-shaping, the upholstery was stained and faded, it made bad noises when you sat down, and occasionally harbored mysterious odors. The day it left was the day I rejoiced. The new one is a gray sectional with nothing frilly or fancy—you might even call it Brutalist—but it is like heaven. It makes the room nice to be in. It has room for two people to stretch out, which is a heretofore unheard-of luxury, in our house. It makes me feel a little more at home.
  7. We’ve only killed one of the five chickens my boss gave me. Technically the other chickens pecked it to death (one of the several reasons I have no fuzzy feelings AT ALL toward chickens), but I think it was because we had them in an enclosure that was too small. We’re working on a larger pen and hope everybody will be somewhat at peace till it’s ready.
  8. I have so many things on my to-do list that I rarely write them anymore. It’s too frustrating. There are emails I should have replied to months and months ago, rooms to clean, weeds to pull, and just numerous other things. I don’t even have time to write them out. So instead of scrolling instagram, as is my wont, I’m writing. It’s little, it’s shitty, but I’m writing. And it makes me glad.

Today Mary threw up five times between 6:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Since she’s been incredibly congested from leftover cold gunk and allergies for the past week, we’re guessing it’s drainage build-up in the stomach, not a stomach bug. After her last barf she seemed especially bright and cheery and kept down a cup of yogurt (I know I know), two pieces of toast, and a handful of banana and apple bites. The nurse I talked to on the phone said “just watch her,” so I’m staying home and watching her.

I did like four loads of barf-laundry, moved the chicken house to a new spot of grass, planted a row of winter squash in the garden, and got climbed on while Mary watched Clifford and The Magic Schoolbus. Mary is not a snuggler, but simply MUST have me close by, so I let her climb and sit on me till it drives me crazy, at which point I jump up with a roar and run into the next room and shake the sharp little elbows and knees off like a dog after a bath. Definitely find her amazing, etc., but my god she jabs me with every hard little bodypart in the boobs, neck, —ugh!

I’m having Reese’s cups for lunch/tea while she takes a nap. Wishing I could take super glam selfies and work in a tall glass building, wearing clicking heels. I’m feeling pretty again, for the first sustained amount of time post-pregnancy, but have poison ivy rashes on my face and neck, and a farmer’s tan.

To which the better half of my brain replies, “sure love my job” and “things are pretty good right now,” both of which are true. The garden is growing, and I think I’m going to be able to grow most of the things I wanted; I have a few chickens and only one has died; I’m getting back into shape and feel strong; I’m reading White Teeth and am delighted to report that I’m underwhelmed by it at the mo; and I’ve been thinking about sending some poems out to litmags this summer. And I’m still finding profound meaning in my work at the farm (and I got a raise, binch).

But we’ve been watching Ken Burns’ new series The Roosevelts and the person of Eleanor Roosevelt feels a little too kindred for comfort. Hearing about her life, reading her letters, reminds me of my immersion in the character of Mrs. Ramsay from Woolf’s To the Lighthouse; I have the feeling of sisterhood, of her soul having been made of a similar material to mine. And when a guest historian declared, after a brief segment on her early life as a mother, that “Eleanor Roosevelt never really hit her stride, as a mother,” I felt the invisible cymbals clash. That does it.

I also feel out-of-stride as a mother. I realize that doesn’t make me a bad mother, but it makes life strange and out-of-joint. I hardly seem to catch my breath when I’m underwater again—I finally re-work my daily schedule so I can re-incorporate something life-giving like writing or reading poetry when the porch is blown off the house in a gale, and I with it. All that exultant fuss about me getting up early in the morning, a few posts back? Daylight Savings, a.k.a. parent-sanity-ruining-time, and creeping sunrise had Mary awakening at 7:00 instead of 7:45. And 45 minutes may seem like a tiny amount of time, but it had already been a delicate balance. I haven’t gotten up early to write in at least a month.

The next episodes are going to be about how ER fledges, how she manages to “run a family” and also enter into a new time of her life’s work. Already I can see little glints of hope coming from this woman’s life and words. She’ll likely become a new muse and mentor for me.



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