On Calle Juan Uslar in Urbanizacion La Viña, in Valencia, in Venezuela, there was a house. In front of the house was a low stone wall, where lizards liked to hide, and a short lawn with clumps of thick grass. On that lawn were two trees, young trees, their branches rising like fingers and fanning out like water. The leaves were fronds. The flowers, like half moons, were tendrils in pink and white. When I was young, I sat in those trees. Tonight I just want to know their name so I can find a picture and look at them again.

Thought Dispersement

I’m sure there’s a thought I want to disperse, not like steam in a pressure cooker, nothing so needful.

I did have this idea that it’d be nice to hear the occasional clop, clop of hooves on the road rather than the insect whine of cars. But that’s no real thought, just a sound image.

And I remembered, too, the dream I had. My aunt Pat was in the room wearing a long nightgown. She wasn’t old or young. Nothing about her body was significant. I asked her, “If I try to hug you, will my hands pass through you?” She said no. So I hugged her. And then I asked after my mother, if she’d seen her. “Oh, Anne, she comes and goes.” she said.

It wasn’t when I suggested to Nick Lowe that he sign the back of my ticket “Friends forever”, I thought I should give up ever trying to be funny.

It wasn’t when Terry suggested I uncork the bottle of wine and, I thought, there is no cork.

And I wasn’t furrowing my brows thinking about Rilke’s line, “You must change your life”, because a person can’t change their life until they change their mind. That’s evident.

There will be no change tonight. That, too, is evident.

The Walls of my Room

I sit here in this room, the one with the pale yellow walls. It isn’t a color I chose. What’s the point of yellow if it isn’t sunlight or flowers or grain or the curls of my son’s hair?

On the north wall there is a light-up moon and a framed print of a single bed, a small round table with a stack of papers, a chair, and a lighted candle. Penciled in beneath the picture it says, “And let us set for him there a bed, a table and a candlestick. – Kings 4:10.

It is obviously night in those dark colors. But it is also a warm place, a place where there can be no conflict.

Taped to the west wall is a water color painting that Ian made. It is a big picture but I don’t know what it is. It could be the movement of our expanding universe, stilled for a moment. Or it could be rocks on the shore of a deep lake, a shimmer of summertime.

There is a window on this wall. It lets in glowing yellow sunlight in the afternoon. If it’s winter time, the light is white and quick to drop away. What, then, can be grasped in winter? And I noticed today that it is already autumn and winter is coming so soon.

This morning, as I walked down to the creek to see if it had water or if it was still dry, my path was gilded and leaves fell upon my head. I stopped then, smelled the air, and looked up the street. Autumn was everywhere! I tucked it away in my memory and brought it back here, to this chair and this desk and this room.

On the south wall there are cut outs of California, Texas, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. A purple arrow points at them. Tell me Vincent, my son, why these places?

On the wall, next to Vincent’s states, is an oil painting of a road, old asphalt, covered with the shadows of wildly growing trees. The low house on the left, in front of the banana trees, is made of mud and sticks but it’s hard to know that because the pink paint is so bright. If you went inside, the floor would be dirt, swept smooth and air would be cool.

There is no one on the road. There are no children selling oranges, no women hauling water, no men playing dominoes in the shade of those wildly growing trees. They are all inside, napping in their hammocks, while the sun and the clouds float over the purple mountains.

I would like to be there, in the quivering heat, wrapped in ever-tropical bloom. But, for now, my place is here.

On the east wall, Jesus hangs from Blanche’s cross. Tucked in under Jesus’ splayed brass arms is a St. Brigid’s cross fashioned from the foil of silvery gum wrappers. Once, about 10 years ago, after Blanche died, Jesus’ head fell off. I glued it back on. It’s still holding.

Then there is the door, cornered between east and north. It is white. The gold paint on the doorknob has flaked away and it can be seen for what it is– a roughed up mix of  metals, an alloy, with a button lock that is popped so easily.

On the door hangs a braided rope of sweet grass. A long ago friend gave that to me for protection on this journey. His mother collected it from a field somewhere near Edmonton, somewhere in Alberta, somewhere far away from the walls of this room.








There is a cat on me. Her name is Ella. I did not name her because she is not my cat. She is the neighbor’s cat and she comes here for vacation. She is always on vacation.
Ella wears a name tag. It is pink and it reads, “Please don’t feed me! Special diet.” From what I’ve seen, her special diet includes squirrels, sparrows, and mole rats.
My back yard sanctuary is her coliseum.



Blanche only started getting her hair permed when she moved back to the Twin Cities.

When she was living down in Sioux City, she left it to fall against her face in grayish brown wisps. Sometimes she didn’t even comb it before she left in the morning to teach school– the rural school, the one with the black kids.

Once there was a boy who came to school with his hands wrapped in yellowing gauze. Blanche thought it was the harsh discipline of the time. But his mama came that afternoon and said, “No. He stuck his hands in lye because he wanted to be white, white like you.”

And that’s why Blanche left. That’s why she traded her flat, brown, rural hair for a Twin Cities permanent.