The Sky is TARDIS Blue

As you know, I’m writing along with the students in my Creative Writing class this semester. Here is this week’s assignment: a sonnet. I decided to try a Terza Rima rhyme scheme this time.


The Sky is TARDIS Blue

The sky above my birth was post-it sized:
a square of snowflakes, cube of clouds,
above a house of books with big insides.

Above the college quad, it opened out
its pages to the scope of human art:
a framing narrative for studied doubt.

Then came a grey-eyed wanderer whose heart
held distant vistas. We carved out a cave
and nestled in. Outside, horizon’s arch

expanded, gaining speed, a quantum wave
where future fields unfurl and plains arise
and roads go ever on and we are brave.

Beyond this earth’s adventures is the sky
that never ends: the heaven where we fly.


Grief is a Lion that Lies in Wait

Today marks one year since the suicide of my dear friend Judy. I love her and I miss her. I post this again, even though I am no longer in the angry stage of grief, as a way of remembering her and encouraging everyone else to remember her as well. Perhaps if you read this and you knew Judy, you can post a happy memory of her in the comments–or share a similar experience of your own. Thank you.


Grief is a Lion that Lies in Wait

Grief, a lion sharpening his claws,
lies purring at my light-foot leaping mind
and memories that squeak and scamper by—
to pounce upon me when I dare to pause.
I hear him growl when I say your name.
I feel his tail lash when I have to speak
about the way you died: the shock, the shame.
When I see your smile, he bares his teeth.

Yet you were gentle, soft, and sweet:
a slender-boned gazelle, a tender mouse,
the nursemaid of the pride, the cubs’ retreat,
a strength for woes, a den made safe for doubts.

O Judy, little lioness of joy:
How could you turn from comfort to destroy?

—Sørina Higgins

The Phoenix and the Dragon in the Year of the Monkey

As you know, I’m writing along with the students in my Creative Writing class this semester. Here is this week’s assignment: A Villanelle.

The Phoenix and the Dragon in the Year of the Monkey

There were two mythic beasts who fell from flight:
A Dragon and a Phoenix, who grew tired
of solitary soaring in the night.

Embracing only mist and chased by moonlight,
they choked upon the smoke of their desires,
then stilled their mythic wings and fell from flight.

The Phoenix cooled to ash; the Dragon’s brightness
burned to stone. Each lay upon a pyre
of solitary, bone-sore selenite.

But seasons turn, and one red stroke of lightning
split the planet, set them each afire,
and raised those mythic beasts in double flight.

Her feathers flared, his scales gleamed at the sight
of beauty and rebirth. By love inspired,
they soared toward dawn and burned the rags of night.

As peace and justice reign, they taste delight,
for now they dance in air, a two-tongued fire,
these wingéd souls who rise again in flight
and soar together on their wedding night.



Matryoshka Mind

As I wrote in my previous post, I’m writing along with my students this semester. Here’s my second piece of “Creative Nonfiction.” As always, your comments are very welcome.

InsideTheBox_053_BLOG1Matryoshka Mind

I am curled in the tiniest of spaces. My knees meet the support of one wall; my vertebrae curve against the other. My toes are folded in a corner and my neck is bowed beneath the top, chin tucked in. No one else can fit in here with me. Nobody at all. I wiggle into a more comfortable fetal compression, drawing the warmth of my small room around me, listening to the friendly quiet. No news can invade.

That is the point of my retreat, after all: To keep out the news. Nothing can penetrate my box, not airwaves, radio waves, or radio bands; not analogue signals or digital transmissions; no wires or fibers or cables or cords; no wireless misery streams into my brain. The agony feed isn’t fed into me.

I know what’s outside my hideaway. That’s why I crawled in and shut the lid. One headline eating another, each bigger than the last. A school shooting. Police displacing homeless migrants. The latest fatal epidemic. Refugees drowning in a far-away sea. Boxes within boxes; wheels within wheels.

Times within times, too: the past is embedded in headlines, as they play variations on the themes of our species. World-wide wars. Famine and child labor. The slave trade and the Middle Passage. Go back, go back, to when religious wars tore Europe, to a time when hangings and drawings-and-quarterings were the norm. Enough. Enough, I say, before I even make it back through the Middle Ages to the millennia before, to ancient empires of crucifixion and gladiatorial games, of human sacrifice and infanticide.

But it’s just news, part of my brain says, inside my safe case. Numbers. Statistics. Strangers.

I remember my favorite writers, in the middle of the 20th century, asking: How is sympathy supposed to work? When my best friend is hurting, I empathize. But humans used to know only their families, then just their clans or tribes. Then larger people groups, then countries. And as communication increases, we knew more and more people at once, and know their pain. Today, they said, the newspaper and the radio broadcast more tragedies than we can comprehend, all day, every day. Are we supposed to feel everyone’s pain in exactly the same way? Is that even possible? Am I responsible to feel the sorrow of every soul? Am I supposed to go mad?

What would they think today, these 20th-century friends, if they were on Twitter? Look how the horrors pour in, at the speed of thought. My phone chimes, and I wince: it’s the BBC, and I’m Pavlov’s dog.

It’s nothing to do with me! I shout. I’m safe in my box, shut away from the noise. I’m a spot on a map, a snail in a shell.

But I am inside a place, a race, a history, and it always has to do with me. The little newspaper facts slowly unfold, the origami of agony, and I see. The shooting was at a school just like mine; it could easily have been mine. My best friend is a medical director, fighting the latest fatal epidemic with sensible policies and community health education. The police are displacing people in a city across the ocean, and I have been to that city, and my sister is marrying into that blood.

And those refugees drowning in a far-away sea? That sister of mine, dancing to the tune of new love, swirling in the colors of travel, planning, visas, dresses, flowers, food: she lives in a place into which refugees stream, day after day. She has a dear friend, a native of that suffering land. The friend just got engaged, too—and as she rejoiced, she heard the news: her family, fleeing from terror in the country next door, refugees at the mercy of governments with quotas and concerns, her family had drowned. Lost in the waters between two lands. Fleeing from one home and seeking another, they were taken by the cold sea without hospitable shores.

Migrants drowned off the coast.

The headline pings into my box. My sister is in my thoughts, and my thoughts are in my tiny box. I may be a dot, inside a box in a town, in a county, in a state, in a country, on a continent, on the globe—but I am the planet; I contain multitudes. I hear the ping, and all people, all headlines, are all enfolded, nested in my Matryoshkan mind.nesting-doll-template-2