The Mixture is Out of Balance

The Mixture is Out of Balance

This poem was written by combining 5 random verbs (balance, fate, moan, peck, peep) with baking nouns (cupcake, flour, mixture, pan, sugar)


The mixture is all out of balance.

Don’t moan, don’t make a peep.

Because putting this all together isn’t an exact science;

you won’t end up with a pan of cupcakes.


Pecking at me won’t help either.

You get more flies with sugar, but ask yourself,

Who really wants flies?


You can screw up your face,

but it won’t turn flour into toast–

That sort of alchemy doesn’t work

and it won’t convince me, either.


It’s all nonsense, it’s all just chance;

throw it in the pan like a stir-fry

and see what we can get.


That mixture, even if it is out of balance,

could feed us for tonight, maybe

sate some of our hunger.

We’re left with the thirst, but we can sleep

tonight with full bellies

and aching limbs and longing hearts.


Out of balance doesn’t mean ruined.

A fallen souffle

a crumbling cake with runny frosting

bacon with just the edges burnt

Eat it. Don’t let it go to waste.

On Fear and Dreams

On Fear and Dreams

The fear provides a way out, right? A way to avoid everything. “I can’t.” What a fucking crock of shit. Of course you can. Tell it like it is: you’re afraid. You’re afraid to move forward, afraid to open yourself up. Match your fear with stubbornness, if not courage. You don’t have to be courageous. The brave are just as fearful as the rest of us, but they know how to handle it: they ignore it. At least for the time being.

You think all of those knights and dragons tales are interesting because the characters aren’t afraid? No, the knight that has to face down the dragon is shitting his pants right along with us, but he’s too stubborn to let it stop him. The real hero milks that fear–turns that overwhelming need to fucking curl up and cry into a sack of balls. Then he whips that goddamn dragon in the face with his balls

The asshole is the one who isn’t afraid. If you’re not afraid of change, you’re stupid, or you’re just not looking. Fear provides clarity. It’s good for you. It tells you–hey, maybe you step back a little bit from the ledge, huh? It keeps most people from jumping off buildings, which is good, right?

But when that same feeling presents itself when you’re at home, sitting in front of the TV? The only falling you’re doing tonight is maybe falling asleep. Why do you need all that fear? The one that sneaks up and sees you thinking about finishing that novel, or writing that song, or knitting that blanket, and says “nah. Don’t jump. Don’t do it.”

What the hell do you think is going to happen if you turn off the TV and just fucking tap on your computer keys for a few minutes? Is anyone going to die? No. No one is going to get hurt. But why are you afraid? Are you afraid of succeeding? So you sit there, on your stupid couch, your ass growing wider and the upholstery groaning under your weight (it wasn’t supposed to stand up to 8 hours straight of your fat ass sitting on it, you know that, right?), and all your dreams fucking prodding at you like demons. No fucking way. Get your ass in gear and start making something, or fucking give up the dream.

That’s the thing. Langston Hughes asked what would happen to the dream deferred, but it won’t dry up like a raisin. It grows thorns, and then falls into the toe of your shoe where you can’t get it out, it sits just beyond the reach of your fingers. You can touch the bristles, feel their sharp tips, but you can’t grasp it.

So every time you put on your shoes to go out and do something, to make something, to be something, it prods at you. That dream turns into a fear thorn that you can feel every time you move. The only way to get it out is to fucking realize your dream by absorbing it into yourself or cut it out. There is no in-between. There’s no halfway dreaming. It’ll make you crazy. No halfway courage. You can’t simultaneously hold your fears close to your heart and use them to slay the dragon. You’ve gotta let go of something. You choose.

Make that dream explode.


Shallow Thoughts: Routine

Shallow Thoughts: Routine

I don’t think that I am alone when I say that I struggle to gain consistency. I’ll pick up a new habit for a bit, and then fall into old ways. I can exercise for months and then suddenly become a lump. I can follow schedules for years, but then a single vacation will throw me off.

I am of two minds about schedules. On the one hand I know that I need routine, and I even get a little cranky when my routine is disturbed. Mondays and Fridays are particularly difficult for me, because they signal a change in schedule. I have just gotten used to sleeping whenever when I have to get up (relatively) early again. Or by Friday, I have kept the week’s schedule but the promise of “staying up late” is just as exciting as it was when I was a kid.
The cure for this, surely, is to give over to the chaos or use this wisdom to inform my decisions. But surely variety is the spice of life, right?

Shallow Thoughts: Compromise

Shallow Thoughts: Compromise

It takes a lot of work to be in a successful marriage. You should respect boundaries and sacrifice for one another. One of the most difficult parts of my marriage is knowing when a joke is over. Sure, it’s fun for me to distract and play, but knowing when to stop, when not to poke at my partner’s frustrations, that’s tough.

It’s knowing when the joke is over for them. Giving up the gag because the other person is no longer into it. Because making myself laugh while he cries isn’t funny. Laughter is for sharing, not just for me alone.

Shallow Thoughts: The World Keeps Turning

Shallow Thoughts: The World Keeps Turning

It occurred to me, in the middle of one of my more high-anxiety moments this week, that the days are going to keep coming. The future is always right there, waiting to be had. While this can seem a bright and beautiful thing for some, to me it can be terrifying. How will I deal with all of those pressures? How will I handle everything that everyone expects of me? How can I be better?  Read more

Why Pretend?

Why Pretend?

I don’t wear pants because my legs get hot during the day, and I don’t need to shave my legs anymore because I’m an old woman. So I wear short sweatshirt-material house dresses. They always have them in stock at Penney’s, or at least, they have for the last 20 years. This is a style that never goes out of style, probably because me and your grandmother and your spinster aunt all wear them around the house and out to the mailbox and to take the trash to the curb.

Why pretend that I have dark hair anymore? My salt-and-pepper has taken over. When I was younger I used to get it dyed “to tame the grey” that was so wiry when it first came in, now I just let it go. I let the hairdresser lob it off. It’s about the only time I feel pretty, is when I come home from the salon. Sure, I’ll try on some nail polish at the druggists, and I’ll purchase a new lipstick about once a month, but it’s always in the same shade of nearly-nude pink because I’m too shy to really go for the red I want, and it would wipe all over my face anyway.

Why pretend that I care about anything other than looking out the window and watching the world slowly bloom, flower, open, breathe, and then fade again? Sure, the sun rises and sets, and the days get longer and shorter according to the seasons, but I don’t really care about all that. I want to watch the leaves grow and change, watch the bushes push their little buds out into the open air, brave against the late spring snow, and force their spring green way into the world. Anyone who crosses my view while watching this happens is just a distraction that I’d rather be rid of. The only creatures I’m acknowledging today are the robins hopping around the backyard, trying to pull those gigantic earthworms from the soil, and the red-capped woodpeckers.

Why pretend that people interest me anymore? They don’t. Their emotions don’t make sense. There are so many emotions, so many feelings. I don’t want to deal with all the feelings they push upon me, or all the plans they want to talk to me about. Don’t tell me to smile, don’t ask me how my day is going. You don’t really care. Don’t pretend anymore. I’m not pretending. This scowl isn’t my mask, it is my face. I brought my face to the world, just like the poppies opening in my garden, and I’ll let you see it, but you may not want to.
Every garden has its grubs and slugs. The lightning bugs wouldn’t survive without the slugs, and the slugs are eating your pretty red strawberries. They’re just slugging all over them, slimy green trails behind them. Don’t you know that the garden is full of those nasty things? You can’t stay away from them. Just like you can’t hide from the nastiest parts of yourself. Look in the mirror, just like that slug will look into the bowl of beer right before it dives in. It feels so good, it smells so good, and mmm, it’s going to be great to go for a swim in that nasty beery ick.

A short but humorous random-word prompt

A short but humorous random-word prompt


Since hearing the news this morning that Stan would be in Glasgow, she felt breakable, fragile like those glass ornaments they used to hang on the trees, the ones that would explode at the slightest touch.

Stan used to be her boyfriend. Not just boyfriend, he had nearly been her fiancé. That felt like a long time ago, because it was, because they were back in high school then, but he had given her his varsity pin, which was an old tradition in their school from the 50s, it was like giving a girl your ring, and she thought they were going to get married.

Leah didn’t want to feel like this, though. She had a whole vacation ahead of her, it was all planned, and she wasn’t going to go back to those memories like a beggar and try to take some feelings from what wasn’t there. She knew it would only leave her feeling downcast, and she had too much to do to be depressed.

A neighboring patron’s cellphone rang and broke Leah from her reverie like a pistol shot. She yelped and covered her mouth at the sound, looking over at the offender. The boy silenced his phone quickly and arched a curious full eyebrow at her over dark blue eyes. Leah couldn’t help but notice how good his biceps looked in that t-shirt. “Yessir,” she thought, “You have the right to bare arms.”

“Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He said.

“No worries. I’m just a little jumpy is all.” She replied.

“I’ve turned it on silent. Those auto-callers just won’t stop today.”

“Thanks. I suggest the Do Not Call list.”

“Tried it. It doesn’t work. They still get my number anyway. I gotta say, I’m pretty popular with the telemarketing community.”

“Must be your James Earl Jones-quality voice. Have you ever thought about voice acting?” Leah asked with an exaggerated tilt of her head.

“Oh, they’re after me all the time. Morgan Freeman is actually my stand-in, but I’m just so busy pursuing my career as a barista that I can’t make time to be the voice of God in every movie.”

2015 in review

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 460 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 8 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Let’s just say, for having the blog up for such a short time, I’d say we did pretty well for ourselves! Thanks for making this such a success so far, and we look forward to a great new year!

Wednesday Night Words

Wednesday Night Words

We’ve started meeting more regularly to help jumpstart our writing. A difficulty in this has been finding a more permanent meeting home in Nashville. We were so used to having the privacy (and quiet!) of an office conference room that it’s difficult for us to deal with public spaces: the intrusion of servers at restaurants, the inconsiderate talking of other people when we’re trying to write, and especially the judgey looks the neighboring tables give us when we’re all laughing and talking at once and probably being too loud.

Either way, we do get a little bit done. I’m currently in the middle of starting yet another novel, exploring some characters and their motivations.

For those of you who are new here, the word prompts work like this: we each put several random words into a hat, and we draw them out 2 or 3 at a time. We then get several minutes to free-write, incorporating those words, and then move on to the next set. This is a great way to jump-start your writing because the sense of urgency is heightened.

Here’s what I was able to drum up in our last set of word prompts.


Oreo/lace/religion/capture/pair/moving van/polka dots/date/fanfare

Get your ass in here, Mari! Denise yelled down the hallway to her friend, who was about to knock on the door. I’m in the kitchen!

Denise was putting together one of her famous dessert trays. Tonight’s featured: crackers with kraft singles folded into a stack, oreo cookies, and a bunch or two of grapes. All of these were set on a plate that she would then set on the big lace doily on the coffee table in the living room.

Making these crazy hor d’oeuvres plates was almost a religion for Denise. She loved pulling together anything crazy she had in the cupboard and fridge and throwing it on a plate to make it look all fancy. She felt like using the fine china and setting food out for guests captured a mood of a party, rather than just eating crackers from a box standing in the kitchen.

Mari had joined her for dinner, and the two were about to crack open a bottle of wine. Denise pulled a pair of wine glasses from the china cabinet, and dusted the off with her polka-dot apron. She knew they weren’t dirty, they were just a bit dusty from storage.

Mari picked up an oreo and walked to the front window, twisting the cookie open and smiling to herself that the crème was perfectly on one side. She noticed that a moving van was parked outside the house next door.

That wasn’t there earlier today, was it?

What wasn’t?

That truck. Moving in or out?

Oh, they’re moving in. I haven’t met them yet, but I guess I should actually put together something other than kraft singles on triscuit if I want to introduce myself.

Meh, Mari grunted as she shrugged. You don’t have to make a big fanfare about it, do you? What’s wrong with just going over there and introducing yourself?

What? Like this? Denise gestured to her ratty jean shorts and cut-off tee, and the pink and yellow 40s style polka dot apron she wore more for fun than to protect herself from any food crumbs.

I think you look hot, Mari said, grabbing a glass of wine and toasting her friend’s sweaty top knot and bare feet. I’d do you.

I know you would, but I’m not looking for that kind of thing. Denise smiled at her friend and winked.

–Thanks for reading! Sorry about any spelling errors and definitely the punctuation. Again, these are time-restricted, so I don’t spend a lot of time on things like quotation marks. I would love any comments!

Day of the Dead: a Poem

Day of the Dead: a Poem

It’s become a regular thing for us to free-write at our semi-weekly meetings. We often choose several words randomly out of books, usually just by pointing at a page. The words for this poem were [machine, skeleton, breakfast, accident, engine]. Where do poems come from? Who knows, but I’m particularly proud of this one. I did a little bit of editing after the meeting: took out a lot of gerunds (-ing nouns), replacing some adjectives, tidying up some of my punctuation, but overall, the feel and the theme of the poem are the same as when I wrote it. I hope you enjoy it. Please leave your thoughts in the comments!

Day of the Dead

Gears grind

Smoke fills the air

The people scatter

And the fire glows

The coals burn hot

The bellows bow in and out

The man digs his shoulders

The shovel scrapes the earth

Moving amongst the belts and wires

Shadows melt and reappear

While the heat builds, wavers.

Windows high above

Show the night sky, its blue-black

Scrubbed and grey, a few stars peek from behind the smoke

The constellations are skeletons of their former selves

Swirling in the sky and nearly collapsing

Sugar skulls for Day of the Dead,

They lick the ash from the moon as they travel by

On their way west

They will eat a breakfast feast:

Brunch with the saints.

The stars depart as the sun struggles over the cloud-choked horizon

Dragging itself home like an old, accident-prone alley cat

Who can’t quite find its feet—instead takes a tumble before slinking across the sky

And we, the night shift, the machine,

the parts of the machine, the engine and its pistons,

The cogs and the coal,

Stumble to the nearest bar for steak and eggs and a cold High Life beer;

Sold on the dream that we won’t hold, the machine that runs us instead.