Caramel Macchiato and a Kick in the Shins

2015-08-03 08.41.08


7 a.m. I’m standing in line for coffee in the hotel lobby. This is no ordinary lobby. A cathedral ceiling soars to the second story. A couple of birds, I don’t know what kind, little brown birds, sit on the beams watching, every half minute tweeting a critique that I imagine says: look at all those addicts waiting in line for their caffeine fix.


At one end of the room a massive wall of glass frames a panorama captured on canvas, and postcards, and digital film countless times. The window glass is dusty, pocked with dried raindrops. But it does not dampen the view. The scene is like an IMAX film. I feel the vertigo. It sails across the green of Willow Flats to those jagged masterpieces of volcanic activity, the Grand Tetons. I feel the religion emanating like heat from the peaks.


I was raised Catholic. Believing it was the right thing to do, my parents dragged us to church on Sundays without much enthusiasm. Their parents had performed the same tired ritual. One of my great aunts was a nun, but I didn’t know her. I met her once or twice at a family gathering, but I was too young to do anything other than stare at her outfit. Dutifully, my parents sent their first three daughters to Catholic school.


Sadistic nuns administered my elementary school. A little known fact about Catholic nuns: they are mind readers. Anyone whose thoughts veered toward speaking in class had her ponytail yanked to the level of whiplash, or his shoulder tweaked by the Vulcan death grip until he slid off his chair, and under the desk.


Catholic high school, slightly more tolerant, was still strict enough to require pleated skirts of a length that grazed the floor when you kneeled upon it. Walking to class it was not uncommon to discover a girl kneeling in the middle of the hall, a sister bent at the waist to examine the length of a rolled up skirt.


This is my history as I gawk, wide-eyed at the mountains older than any of the nuns that heaped abuse under the guise of discipline, and the direction of young minds toward a healthy fear of Hell and God’s wrath. Seeing the Tetons, and the specks in the distance that I know are elk make me think that maybe there is a god after all. A positive force, not the punitive entity I was taught assembled us out of his image and likeness.


Ahead of me in line is a woman holding a leash. At the end of the leash is a toddler sitting cross-legged on the floor paging through a Good Dog, Carl picture book. Her mother is paging through her Facebook timeline on an iPhone. I look over her shoulder to see photos of breakfast muffins and fettuccine Alfredo, cat memes, a split screen of Donald Trump and an orangutan. What’s missing are the stories of migrants flowing like sea water into Europe. Of children not on leashes drowning in the Adriatic. The mother flicks her thumb and the images fly. She does not click on any link.


I love Carl. He really is a good dog. I would have liked to sit next to the girl-child on the floor, and have her read to me. Instead I read the Tetons taking into consideration their mood. Clouds lift to greater heights unveiling their stoic exterior. Sunlight streams, slowly, as the minutes tick, until the wall of rock is entirely illuminated, and invites us: Come closer!


And then I hear someone order a caramel macchiato. Turns out it’s the mother. Her girl-child, having felt a tug on the leash, stands up without a word, moves a few steps toward the mountain view, plops down, opens the book, and starts again from the beginning.


I wanted to kick the mother in the shins. For a number of reasons. But mostly, because I’m a judgmental asshole. The caramel macchiato was the last straw. Who orders a caramel macchiato at 7 a.m. with twenty people behind her in line? Who orders a caramel macchiato at all? Ever? There is no god. We’re both assholes in a coffee line. She for her lack of awareness, me for my hyper-awareness.


Good and evil, right and wrong, are they equal opportunity, one size fits all? Should they be? To some God exists, to others she’s a speck on the horizon in the form of an elk.


Thanks for reading…













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he gets his ire all up
in her face
yowls at the voices
but she plays it cool
allows him to unwind
she takes his hand
zeroes in on his green eyes
tells him she loves him
crystal clear, and calm ascends
quatrains of reassurance
does he believe her
when she tells him he is her
xi her lucky star that
everything will be all right
nervy that’s what he is
jumps out of his skin
like wild prey on the run
kindness, it’s the only way he’ll
follow her lead
prayer, such as it is to her
goes some distance to
mend just a little of this
vexation at his malady
of his demons it’s her only
recourse or she’ll come


OctPoWriMo – Day 12. Prompt was to write 26 lines using each letter of the alphabet. I didn’t put them in order, but they’re all there. I missed a few days, but I hope to get back in the groove!

Thanks for reading..Poetry5


Blackberry Thorns




a spider’s single white filament
outside the bedroom window
dangles in the breeze
her wedding dress
on that solitary night
slashed by blackberry thorns
the berries liquid
splashed the dress with love
as she fled her loss of self
into the welcoming arms of the moon


OctPoWriMo – Day 8 – Prompt was color… say what you will about it. I’m late to the page today. It was a busy day, but I can’t stop now. It’s like physical exercise (well, it is an exercise) when you find one you like it pulls you in, and soon you reap the benefits.

Thanks for reading!916f5-img_20150928_151453


A Yellow Cab at the Curb


I turned right instead of left
I never could read a map accurately
and this was before the GPS lady
began to startle me out of reverie
with her 400 yard warnings, then 200 before
her final shout to turn left now.

So I turned right and became hopelessly lost
in a town with so few streetlights
I didn’t know whether to be frightened or not
I could see only what my headlights illuminated.

A yellow cab parked at the curb.
I got out and tapped on the glass.
The automatic window purred
Pot smoke curled out in a pleasant paisley pattern.
I handed him an address and said I’d follow.

I followed him through the night
and into the next morning
I followed him for days he in his cab
and me in my rental car
He showed me places I’d never have found
until finally I gave up my car
jumped into his cab and we drove into the night
until I could see where I was going.


OctPoWriMo – Day 7. Prompt: The road less travelled or something you did right or wrong that you would not change. They fit together nicely, I think.

As always,916f5-img_20150928_151453

Thanks for reading!






An Arduous Journey





In yoga class today one of the girls, woman, actually
we’re mostly women of a certain age inquires of the teacher
whether she should internally or externally rotate
her inner thigh.
And I think: what a degree of unprecedented freedom
is expressed in that query.
The same few women ask questions
about internal rotation or using props to alleviate compression
in the neck while upside down in a headstand.
I never ask questions. I do not like to draw attention to myself.
I am content to listen and do.
And anyway the minutiae of muscle rotation eludes me.
What I always think when these questions are posited is
the ease of a life that thinks to wonder how to direct a solitary muscle.
I do not forget that this same woman guided her mother through the arduous journey
to death from cancer. Her suffering, along with her mother’s, was exquisite.
Maybe it’s a distraction for her to conjecture about isolating a muscle
and turning it one way and then another. Maybe it’s a way to circumnavigate grief.
During these moments of muscular instruction I drift off
to the migrants in the vineyards that surround us how far away
from home they journeyed and how little freedom they have to ask any questions at all.
They take instruction and they do it.
There’s little I can do about their plight or the plight of my yoga friends
or my own potential plights other than be kind to them when I take a shortcut through the meticulous rows of wine grapes on my way to my comfortable home.


OctPoWriMo – Day 6. Prompt is freedom or life changes. Morgan suggested we count syllables like in a haiku but I opted to go another route. I write a lot of tanka and some haiku on Twitter where syllables, or at least line length, matter. Hence my desire to branch out.

Anyway…. thanks for reading!  Poetry5