Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Son Registers for Selective Service

There should be a form for mothers, too
So I can explain
I didn't bring him into this world
To go away and kill other mothers' sons
And daughters
And fathers
And sisters
And brothers
And though my claim on him
Shrinks each day
He is not yours
He was not made for this
The new life that danced in my womb
Is the same one filling out your form
And you can't have him

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Obama Odes

The AP has sponsored this and selected 10 American poets to write poems inspired by the new president. I particularly like the ones from Julia Alvarez, David Lehman, Gary Soto, and Alice Walker. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Caught Looking

You ask me why I’m staring.
What am I to say?
That I was searching the squareness of your jaw
For the softness of my baby’s face?
That at times your silhouette startles me
And cuts my breathing into ribbons?
That in my dreams I still hold you
And smell the newness of your downy head?
That your shoulders seem impossible to me?
That when you stride your long limbs across the room
I long for your wobbly, chubby legs?
Should I even try to tell you
That for a mother
There is no embracing without pulling
No rejoicing without grieving?
That to look at you now is to know
That your birth was the beginning
Of your leaving?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Poems for the first 100 days

Here is a nifty blog I found. Each day of Obama's first 100 days, a well-known poet posts a poem about him and/or his new administration on this blog. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Aaaarrrgh! Frustrated Catholics Unite

Are you kidding me?...

The vatican does not make it easy for me to hang in there with the church. I am an Irish Catholic. I don't want to be anything else, but my church is not one that encourages suggestions from its people. The pope is not taking my calls! But I will use my little blog from time to time to scream at Rome when I see fit. I just hope Rome doesn't blacklist me. Tee-hee

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fresh air

Yesterday the air changed
As we stood shoulders touching
At the edge of a clearing
Not to hold our breath
But to finally let it out
And find some relief
For years our air has been too thin
So we gulped it in greedily
And left our sisters to their shallow gasping
We belched out our anger
Like a cannon ball across the skies
And left our brothers to wheeze in our smoke
But a crisp breeze broke through
And unlocked our jaws
And unclenched our teeth
Bent our grim lips into smiles
Softened our elbows into embraces
Opened wide our squint eyes
So we could see once more
A path to a country
Where we can breathe deeply
And make room for others
Without fear of losing
What we think to be ours

Monday, January 19, 2009

Liam, my nephew whom I adore, is turning four!

Today is my favorite nephew's birthday. He always makes me smile, and today he makes me want to rhyme! I am not at all good at regular rhythm and rhyme, but all of the love in the poem still works! Happy Birthday, Liam. You are the coolest four-year-old on the planet. Don't worry: this poem is not your only present. There is a real gift for you to open on its way to you!

You don’t remember
But on your very first birthday
I watched you being born
First there was no Liam
And then there was
And right away
I fell in love
with nephew love...

I knew I would love you
But I didn’t know
That my brother’s boy
Would tug at me so
You bring with you
Good times and great fun
Hugs end in a tackle
And start out with a run.

I love the glint
In your impish eyes
The way your brown sparkles
When I give you a surprise
I love how you growl
The word pancakes with passion
And dance on the couch
With your parents gone and me there laughing.

You wore your Angels hat
To the airport to meet me
You said your favorite team
When you reached up to greet me
And I loved when you settled
Your sweaty curly head
And used my happy shoulder
Instead of a bed.

And now you have come
To the new age of four
A talented dancer
With a wild thing roar
When you swing your big bat
With your baseball mitt hands
You should know
That Aunt Erin
Is your biggest fan!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Anticipating the Inauguration

When I was a teenager, Ronald Reagan was president, and America was riding high on a hot air balloon of patriotism and materialism. Many of us had 1960s generation parents, but we lived during a time when our president told us he was saving us from the moral excesses of that generation, so we watched Dallas and Dynasty and dreamed of becoming a Ewing or a Carrington. My generation grew up with a movie star cowboy president. It was “morning in America,” but the air was pretty thin and smoggy.

I was known as a left-wing weirdo at my high school. Many of the boys, if they cared about politics at all, were young conservatives, Alex P. Keaton clones. Some of the girls in my senior class, when they found out I wanted to be a teacher, would scoff and tell me that I was “too smart for that,” or remind me that I would “never make any real money that way.” “Major in business!” they said as they shook their heads. In spite of this, I enjoyed being a lone liberal; it appealed to my adolescent sense of drama.

I took it for granted--and maybe took some pride in the idea-- that no candidate of my choosing would ever actually win, and Michael Dukakis confirmed that for me in 1988.
George H. W. Bush’s victory indicated to me that the 1980s would never really be over. I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, and I was thrilled and shocked that he actually won. My husband and I were young, struggling parents at that time, and I had hope that the world our son was born into would be a less cynical and more hopeful world than the one I had come of age in.

The 1990s did not exactly pan out like I had envisioned, and then the election of 2000 felt like a kick in the teeth. The re-election of George W. Bush in 2004 truly made me despair for the world we were leaving our children. My oldest son has been going through his adolescence at a time of unnecessary and immoral war, government-sponsored torture, tax cuts for the rich, environmental pillaging, and corporate piracy. It would be much easier for him if he were the kind of kid who didn’t notice or care what was going on in the world around him, but he’s not. He is smart, he cares, and he pays attention. This makes me proud, but it also makes me want to protect him from disappointment.

When the 2008 election season came around, the political junky in me came out as I watched every debate and every bit of election coverage I could. This time, though, it was different. I was seeing the election through my son’s eyes. This time, I did something I had never done before: I got involved. My son and I volunteered at our local Obama campaign office. He was motivated by his frustration that he would not be 18 in time to vote, and I was motivated by the desire that this time, maybe things could change. Maybe I could show my kids that we could make a difference. I went from arm chair liberal critic to campaign volunteer. I decided to walk the walk, so that my kids would feel like it was possible to love one’s country by working to change it.

On the night of the election, my oldest son and co-Barack Obama Campaign for Change volunteer went to watch the results at an election-night party at his high school, so I didn’t get to see the look on his face when the words “President-elect Barack Obama” were uttered on television for the first time. When he came home an hour and a half later, he ran down the stairs to the family room with his arms stretched out wide. “WE DID IT!” he shouted, and he grabbed me and hugged me.

WE DID IT. It is especially for that one word, WE, that I am so grateful to Barack Obama. My son deserves a leader he can look up to and he deserves a sense of ownership in the political process that I never, ever felt at his age. I know President-Elect Obama is human. I know he is a politician. I know that he will disappoint me, and I plan on speaking up loudly when he does. But for now, I can only thank him for proving to me that “hope” is not just a political slogan. It is real and tangible, and I saw it written all over my son’s face on election night.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Long Good-bye...

Slate magazine compiled the top 25 Bushisms of all time. After 8 years of this, how will we as a nation ever get used to a president who does not mutilate the English language and does not "misunderestimate" our hunger for eloquence?


Monday, January 12, 2009

Self-indulgent Birthday Poem

I just read that 40 is the new 20
Can I just call bullshit on that?
When I was twenty I was a newlywed
And a college sophomore
And thinking of having babies
And I hear that’s not what 20
Was supposed to be

I just read that 40 is the new 30
Can I call bullshit on that, too?
At 30 I was postpartum with baby number three
And finally finished college
And started my first real job
And I hear that’s not what 30
Was supposed to be

My 40 is the new I don’t know what
I need to lose weight
I have no more babies
I have too many bills
But I am still married
And I love my job
And I have a blog
And moose in my yard
Is that what 40 is supposed to be?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

January Moose

She sits down on the winter ground
Her great shape safeguarding her twins
The mass, the size of her,
Packs down five feet of snow
And presses her body to the slumbering soil

I spent the last three weeks
Trying not to sink
Into the cold, white blanketing ground
To avoid the heft of my own body,
Until I haul myself, heavily wrapped
And slide on the ice to get close enough
To take her picture

I am drawn in
By the pull of her form,
The weight of her,
Joined through the snow to the earth below,
There is purpose in her solidity
Her anatomy knows no shame
The brown of her body
And the brown of the earth
Are one and the same.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Today, my neighbor called to alert me to the presence of a mama moose and her two yearlings that were hanging out in the field across from her house. All three were lying in the snow, so the babies were hard to see, but the mama was quite visible and didn't seem to mind getting her picture taken. We see her often in the spring and summer when we are kayaking along the Little Spokane River--she goes there every year to calf. We have never seen her this late in the year, so I was quite tickled to be able to photograph her in the snow. She looked very serene and self-assured. Moose are often awkward looking; their body parts seem improbably put together. But sitting there in the snow, this moose looked almost graceful. It's amazing what snow can do!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

English 206

When I was nineteen, I took a lower-division creative writing poetry class. I was excited, as I had been writing poetry since I was a kid. I don’t exactly know what I expected, but I do recall that my experience did not quite match whatever expectations I may have had. I had heard good things about the professor, but I think he was past his prime by the time I took his class. At times, he was animated and inspiring when he spoke about poetic language, but more often then not, he was erratic and irritable, and he would forget what he had told us from one moment to the next.

I found that I didn’t quite fit in with all of the students, either. There were a couple of girls who were of the belief that no one’s poetry should be critiqued, because to do so was to critique that person’s feelings and that just wasn’t fair. As a matter of fact, they often met any discussion of their recent drafts with trembling lips and watery eyes. They had a very Stuart Smalley-like approach to poetry class: it should function as a daily affirmation for everyone’s emotions and experiences.

There were other students who wore black all of the time and often came to class barefoot. They seemed to equate the poetic life with a lack of attention to personal hygiene and a need to use the f**k word as often as possible in their work. One girl in the class seemed to write every poem about the size and girth of her various lovers’ private parts, using the word “cockroach” as a double entendre/metaphor as often as possible.

I left the class feeling like I did not belong in the creative writing world. And for the rest of my undergraduate career, I used this feeling as an excuse to not attempt any other poetry or fiction classes. The class was not a total loss, however. I find myself now striving to implement the lessons I learned: make your language as precise as possible, avoid clich├ęs, and write at least one poem a week. 20 years later, I’m still not sure how well I am doing, but I am taking pleasure in doing it.

At the end of that semester, my professor wrote a comment on my final portfolio that pleased me and frustrated me to no end: “You have a strong sense of the language of poetry, but you have yet to find your own authentic poetic voice. Final grade: B.” I was glad that he thought I had a knack for poetic language, but what was a poetic voice? Where could I get one? How did I find it? Did I miss the distribution line at freshman orientation? If my poetic voice wasn’t my own, whose was it? My nearly 40-year-old self thinks it’s ridiculous to expect that any 19-year-old could have found her own poetic voice, but my 19-year-old self would surely disagree!

I have no idea what my professor would think of this blog, but I’m no longer using my experience in his class as an excuse to hold back on my writing. Maybe that’s a first step to finding my voice.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Arbitrary Beginnings

Good bye old year
I will slough you off like dead skin
Break you off like a split end
Pluck you out like unwanted hair
Scrub you off until my hands are raw
And march over that line
Between December and January
Like I really, really mean it.