Saturday, November 21, 2015



When I was in my twenties I suffered from severe agoraphobia, an affliction I eventually overcame through meditation.  I’m sure there are good therapists out there who help people, but for me personally therapy has always been a crock.  I have yet to find a therapist who has more insight into God, Life, and” What’s it All About Georgie” than me, and I’m no prize in that department.  For me, meditation has been the great  healer.

All that was some 50 years ago, buI I have continued to have little bouts of agoraphobia here and there throughout my life.  During one such episode, a year or two ago, it occurred to me that I could have courage.  I could define myself as someone with courage and act with courage.  I could march out the front door, Arupa the Lioness-hearted facing her demons.  That helped.

Then, very recently, the thought occurred to me that courage is from the French word for heart, and courage can be defined, and often is, as having heart.  So, it is going out into the world, not with bravado, but with heart.  What does that mean?   For starters, this trip to the outside world is not about me, or at least not entirely about me.  What can I be out in the world, even if it is just a trip to the supermarket.  I can smile at people, especially those who seem lonely or sad.  Such smiles have cheered me up many times.  I can be Buddha meeting Buddha wherever I go.  I can appreciate the clouds, the trees, the gray squirrels who dart across the street ahead of us, or sit precariously on a telephone wire.  

There is a world out there that needs to be loved, and, to paraphrase Hillel, if not by me, than who?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Packing Bags (a prose poem)

I sit packing bags for the food pantry - each one gets two cans of sausages, a packet of dried soup, a can of chunky soup or chili or ravioli, a wrapped cookie.  Tomorrow I will add fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, bread and peanut butter.  The work becomes rhythmical:  sausage, packet, soup, cookie.  Over and over again.  I find my mind wandering back 60 years to old Vermont women who sat on their porches stringing beans.  Their job might seem easier, but it wasn't.  To get those beans they had to spade up the ground, plant, weed, water, gather the harvest.  After the beans were strung, came canning day - the house filled with steam.  The care they took that each seal was safe and tight.  The cooled jars were taken down to the cellar and placed on shelves, so their families would have a green vegetable in the dead of winter.  The stores didn't sell vegetables year round back them.

I wonder what they thought while they performed the endless, rhythmical task of stringing beans, what did they remember?

I only know this:  those old women, old women now, we work that people may eat.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Proponents of abortion often speak of their desire that there be no unwanted children.  Some even wave signs, "Every child a wanted child!"  I am not a proponent of abortion, for the same reasons I oppose war and capital punishment.  I do not, however, support government efforts to outlaw abortion and I would do nothing to impede someone who does want an abortion.  It is a personal decision.

I am also an opponent of abortions because I was an unwanted child and, now 70, I am so grateful for the life I've had - the good and the bad.  I am so glad my mother was not able to kill me in utero.  I am curious how many unwanted children grow up to be criminals, addicts or homeless derelicts, how many channel their pain into art, music, or other noteworthy accomplishments, and how many are able, perhaps with the help of a therapist, to make peace with their lonely childhoods and move on to have normal decent lives. I suppose there would be a good bit of overlap in those three groups, as the years go by.   Perhaps some sociologist has done that research but if so, I haven't run across it.

In any case, I am qualified to speak for unwanted children.  My parents were teenagers when I was born.  When I was two my father took off for parts unknown.  When I was three my mother dropped me off at the home of her brother and sister-in-law, who already had five children under the age of seven.  Perhaps she thought I would get lost in the herd and go unnoticed.  It did not work that way.  Through the decades I can still remember lying in bed and hearing my Aunt Florence bellow, "RAISING YOUR SISTER'S BRAT WAS NOT PART OF THE DEAL!"

A few days later, on a sunny but cold day in late fall, my grandmother came and picked me up and took me to her  house.  She told me she would keep me until Edith (my mother) came to get me, but I would be expected to do chores to pay my way.  Edith never came and picked me up, and over the years my grandmother, who thought she was finally through with children and could enjoy old age, got more and more angry. On the day after I graduated from high school, in the early morning, I was given a one way airplane ticket to Oklahoma, where Edith lived, and ushered onto the plane.  I have en extreme phobia about heights and never expected to reach Oklahoma alive but, Lo and Behold, I did.

I lived with Edith for three months, cooking and cleaning to pay my way, as I did for my grandmother, and then went to the University of Oklahoma in Norman.  In the spring of my Freshman year, I got a brief note in the mail from Edith.  It read, "You will need to find your own accommodations this summer.  The grocery bill went down by $11 a month after you left, and neither your grandmother or I can afford to keep you.""

That note hurt more than all the other acts of rejection I can remember.  A price had been put on my head, and it was less than eleven dollars a month.  Even in 1964 that wasn't much money.

So, I went down the trail of the unwanted child.  I developed phobias, drank, abused drugs, ran out on bills, shoplifted, slept with strangers.  I was a regular poster child for why people shouldn't have unwanted children.  Nevertheless, as the years went by, as I got into my thirties, I got better.  Through meditation I discovered that there is a loving Spirit in this universe who is always with me, helping me to get through whatever challenges life brings me.  I discovered that Spirit, if invited, could teach me how to love and guide me in life decisions.

Over the many years since, I have written poetry books, painted, and did outreach to homeless people, the unwanted children of our harsh age.  I've been a player, and I've had a life, a wonderful life.  For the past 30 years I have been married to one of the greatest guys ever - another artist, who has walked with me every inch of the way.  He has an organic garden and we have a wonderful, loving squnch of a cat named Gladiola.

I would say for the unwanted children of this world:  Don't  kill us.   Give us away.  Maybe even beat us or say that we can never have another bowl of ice cream for the rest of our lives, or make us wear the same ugly dress for three months, or whatever else relieves your stress at unwanted parenthood, but don't kill us.  We are human beings capable of having good lives and good times.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Meditation on God, the Home Van and Everything....

I have not yet grieved the end of the Home Van driveouts - all the amazing experiences, all the people I came to know and love - Jerry, Eva, Private Bill, "Ernest T. Bass," all the volunteers and the donators.  The times we had.  It just ended, like a pebble disappearing into a lake.  I fell apart from long postponed exhaustion and stress.  Took up life on the couch watching reruns.  I don't know much about grieving.  When I was young, people just disappeared.  People believed, back then, in the 40s and 50s, that negative events should not be discussed around children.  It was believed that children would just forget about them and go on chasing butterflies.  If a parent died, his or her children did not attend the funeral.  A friend of the family would take them to a movie.  At some point they would be told, "Mommy went to live with Jesus."  It was like being a character in a TV show, one dimensional.  "Shots rang out, people fell dead," and then you walked off and ate a doughnut.  Nothing had happened, allegedly.  Nothing real.  Nothing was real.  I didn't know how to grieve.  But I can now feel a deep sadness within me.  The Home Van is gone and it took what was left of my middle-age with it.  I am now a tired old woman.  How do I do being an old woman?  Life is like a soap bubble.  And yet it all happened.  Mystics and even many scientists believe that linear time is an illusion.  So maybe it's still happening.

Goodbye Home Van.  Goodby Tent City.  Goodbye old friends.  I remember old Pete's hat - a leather cowboy hat decorated with feathers, spanish moss, and a tiny stuffed teddy bear.  I remember Eva's hallucinations of small children running through the woods.  If they were.  Perhaps, in times of extremity, parallel universes overlap.  Then we give it a label, "alcoholic psychosis"  Or, a glimpse into another world.  Or a little flash of Godness - they happen here and there - many to be wiped out by the shallow beliefs of our little neuron-fueled logic radios, many to be treasured forever in our heart caves.

In a parallel universe, Katey is bringing a cup of hot chocolate to an old man sleeping behind a dumpster on a very cold night.  It can't be much.  He will be out there all night and we will go home.  Still, maybe, just as there are flashes of Godness, in a dark and crazy world, we were flashes of reflections of Godness - and the chocolate is good.  Freeman makes it with double chocolate and real milk and sometimes melts chocolate bars into the brew.  The chocolate is good, and the moments of Godness - the reflections of these - maybe in unending mirrors - maybe that is what's Real, and what our soap bubble world is part of.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Rainy summer afternoons in the land of flowers,
where pink flamingos prance across the grass,
cats lurk beneath the stilted houses of our peaceful street.

Thank you Creator for the mercy of rain,
washing clean a hundred shades of green
no artist could create,
cooling down the desperate, sweaty bodies of the poor.

In the woods homeless people naked stand,
scrubbing head-to-toe with bars of soap.
"Thank you Jesus!  Thank you Jesus for the rain."

T-shirts washed and hung from trees
that will not fall on them today.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Meditation on turning 70 while having chronic fatigue syndrome and anxiety attacks

If I could write a poem it
would be about the tattered fragments of myself
I so desperately hold together,
fearing the nakedness of death or madness.

I feel through me a pole of strength,
the kind firemen slide down,
fastened to the earth and then
attenuated toward an unknown sky.

I don't know how to fly.
Afraid of heights and 70 stories high.

One step at a time in this new childhood
of frail,
so much to remember,
one cup of cottage cheese,
one walk outside where cats and trees and sky
are huge, blinding, sudden,
One vitamin,
one now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


I will begin this account with a disclaimer.  I would now find this way of making a living to be unethical, but at the time I was 19 and my ethics were considerably more flexible than they are now.

At 19 I was, unbeknownst to myself and to the medical world in general, experiencing fairly severe PTSD.   The most troubling symptom was agoraphobia - the fear of open spaces.  I could not walk across a street or a parking lot.  I lived in a one room apartment in a little two-story hovel in downtown Norman, Oklahoma.  I could walk downstairs, turn the corner, and get to Grady's Grocery, universally known as Grungie's Grocery.  It was not a fancy establishment but they had food.  If I wanted to go across the street to the laundromat, I had to be drunk.  Only alcohol enabled me to cross an open space (of the medications available to me at the time).  I was too embarassed to seek medical help anyhow.  I'd never heard of agoraphobia and couldn't see myself going to some doctor and saying, "I'm afraid of crossing streets."

How was I supporting myself?  I could get to the laundromat and any other necessary places by being quietly drunk, but that just isn't an effective strategy for holding down, a job, or even getting past the interview.  So I knocked back half a bottle of Boone's Farm (icky-sweet wine, very cheap) and went to the campus newspaper and took out an ad in the paper saying that I could give people major assistance in writing, editing and typing term papers.  As I had hoped, this lead to a steady procession of rich frat boys who wanted me to write term papers for them and were willing to pay top dollar.  They would bring me the books needed to write the paper and I took it from there.

It was an interesting challenge, because my customers also gave me a grade-range to aim for.  Someone who'd never gotten better than a C- could not suddenly show up with A+ paper about Beowulf.  There's  a real trick to honing in on a C, but, as I've always said, "Necessity is the mother of desperation" and I learned to do it.

I still remember, fondly, one particular paper I wrote, for a guy who was dumber than a doorknob.   He needed, the next day, a two-page paper on the symbolic and metaphorical meanings of the black stallion in a particular novel, I forget which one, but it might have been something by D. H. Lawrence.  This genius forgot to bring me the book!  He didn't even know how to go about getting this book and looked blank when I mentioned the concepts of bookstores and libraries.   I asked him if he could remember anything the professor said about this book in class and he scratched up a few factoids.  So I told him I would do the paper but if it turned out to have nothing to do with the book and to pull in an F, it was on him, not me.

After some contemplation, I wrote a paper about the black stallion as a symbol of raging sexuality in a society centered around the concepts of decorum and self-control and was a metaphor for the struggle of young lovers in such a world.   I talked about black as a color associated with darkness (duh), sin and evil.   I made mention of the stallion, as sexual metaphor, being part of a tradition that went back to the ancient Greeks, who expressed man's animal nature in beings like Pan who were half-man and half-goat. I came up with two pages of this bullshit and charged the guy $20 (a lot of money for me back then).  

A few days later he called me and said the paper got a B-. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Fond Memories from Planet Child

When I was around nine my grandmother sent me down to the local grocery store to get a large, empty cardboard box for some project she was working on. The woman behind the counter went into the back and came out with a great big box with the word KOTEX stamped on all three sides in bright red ink and 84 point type.  I thought I was going to die of embarrassment.  I came up with the bright idea that if I put the box over my head, nobody would know it was me.  That meant, of course, that I couldn't see anything, but my house was a few blocks away along a route I was thoroughly familiar with.  I thought that by shuffling my feet, so as to know of unexpected obstacles on the pavement, listening for the sound of other pedestrians and stepping to one side, and keeping both my arms stretched out full length in order to be aware of any other obstacles, I could make it home anonymously.  I must not have been the sharpest blade in the drawer, to feel that this was an effective strategy, but it made sense to me at the time.  I did make it home under the box.  Everybody who didn't actually get to see Kathy Emond,  the little fat kid with the orthopaedic shoes, walking down the street under a Kotex box, got to hear about it.  I provided just about everybody in town with their laugh for the day.  I didn't run into anything either, but was in some danger of being run down by drivers laughing so hard they lost control of their cars.  Fortunately, traffic in North Bennington was a car about every ten or 15 minutes, so I was good there also, and eventually lived it down.

Then there was my brief membership in the The Bad Girls Club.  My best friend Carole and I had read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  We realized that we were tired of being good girls and decided to form the Bad Girls Club.  We drew up a document stating that each member of the club (all two of us) had to tell one lie every day, steal one thing every day, and curse on a daily basis.  The lying part was hard.  We ruled out lies that would get other people into trouble, like, "I saw Dickie Shaw smoking a cigarette behind his father's garage."  We weren't that bad.  We also had to rule out lies that could result in being caught and experiencing the inevitable retribution.  We were left with things like, "I saw my first robin out in the field this morning."  Still, there was a tiny, wicked thrill.  Stealing wasn't easy either.  All I can remember of that is my one big heist.  I stole a homemade rhubarb pie from my grandmother's kitchen and took it to my treehouse and ate the whole thing.  Shortly thereafter, I broke out into giant red hives all over my little thieving carcass.  My grandmother, who could put two and two together very easily in this case, was ecstatic.  She stripped me naked and made me lean over the kitchen table, whereupon she slapped a cold baking soda compress over every inch of me, while laughing nonstop, inbetween recitations of Bible verses about the fruits of transgression.  Carol and I ended up abandoning the club, although we would still curse once in awhile. 

In high school I was accepted into an advanced placement class at Bennington College.  One day I went to class only to find a note on the door that the professor was ill and class was cancelled.   I should have gone back to school and spent the hour in study hall, but it was a beautiful spring day and I realized that - Shazam! - I could be one of those thugs who cut school - a capitol offense.  I wandered down the streets of North Bennington, the sun on my back, my hair blowing in the breeze.  One big problem, in the first twenty minutes of this halcyon experience I met four grownups, all known to me and my grandmother, who said, "Why aren't you in school??"  I went straight to school then, but I didn't dare go to study hall because I had no explanation for the missing 20 minutes of criminal behavior.  So I spent the rest of the hour in the girls bathroom with my feet drawn up so the stall would appear to be unoccupied.  Man, it was hard to be bad in North Bennington, Vermont, you just couldn't catch a break.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I love you tiny world of me

where secrets lurk like ladybugs
on undersides of leaves.
fears, failures, bad habits,
uncivilized thoughts,
unseemly desires.

I used to think of Richard Nixon
sitting on the edge of his bed
early in the morning,
wondering how he got caught up
in such turmoil, such contradictions,
how did his soul get encased in Nixon?

The endpoint of meditation is to know
i am not my thoughts,
i am not my feelings,
i am not my body,
i am not anything that changes,
i am not anything that ends.

whether we are sitting on a throne,
or sitting on death row,
it just happens until it's too late to unhappen,
and there we are,
beloved children of life.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Children who grow up with serious family violence often enter adult life as persons who have very little integrity.  In my own case, by the time I reached junior high I was skilled in lying, stealing, forgery and lock-picking.  I depended on these skills for my survival, so I was very, very good at them and was only caught once.  I took a dime from my grandmother's purse.  I couldn't bear being the only kid who didn't get to stop at Pano's Drugstore on the way home from school.   My grandmother, who had supported two children, two foster children, and an alcoholic husband through the Great Depression by taking in washings, always knew to the penny how much money she had.  After realizing a dime was missing, she went down to Pano's Drugstore and asked if I had been in there and if I had bought anything.  Mr. Pano told her I had been in yesterday and enjoyed a coke and an ice cream cone.  I don't remember what punishment she meted out for that.  Corporal punishment was not considered child abuse in the 1950s.  There were trips to the woodshed, and being made to go and cut a lilac switch.  Generally, the number of blows administered were set in advance, and ranged somewhere between three and ten, according to the severity of the offense committed.  That sort of thing went on at my house, but it didn't stop at that.  There is what I once heard referred to as 'the humiliation of violence.'  That phrase always brings to mind being knocked to the floor and kicked repeatedly with my grandmother's gardening boots.  I was nothing.  Integrity was a luxury that did not exist in my world.

A child who graduates from high school with lying, stealing, forgery and lock-picking on her resume, slides quickly in the direction of drinking, drugging and promiscuity.  Magic substances blot out pain.  There is what passes for love and is, at least, touch - soft touches that have nothing to do with boots or lilacs.  There was no voice in my head saying, "You are better than this."  In my experience, I wasn't better than anything.

The down side does emerge.  Being a drunken, semi-employed slut isn't much fun in the long run, and becomes in its own right a threat to personal survival.  Personal survival is what it's all about in a violent family.  That is the priority that rules everything.  So I needed to find a way out of the morass.

My half-assed attempt to get a college diploma included taking a class in Shakespeare.  Reading Hamlet, I came across this line that Hamlet delivered to Gertrude, his shameless mother who was rolling around in the bed of her recently deceased husband's brother.  Gertrude was sort of like me.  She would do anything for a good time.  Hamlet says to Gertrude, "Assume a virtue if you have it not."
This line resounded through my entire being like the Voice of God speaking from the heavens.  

I had attended Sunday School throughout my childhood so I at least knew what virtues were. In fact, when I was in the third grade I ran across the Bible verse, "Be ye perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect."  I set a goal to become perfect, and even held to it for awhile.  It was a survival strategy.  I thought if I was perfect she would stop beating me.  But it didn't work so it was discarded.

Now, miraculously, the idea of practicing virtues had come back to me.  I went out and bought a notebook and made a list of virtues.  I then made a list of goals.  I would never again steal anything.  I would try as hard as I could to never tell lies other than ones like, "You look wonderful with that new haircut."  I would put money into a savings account.  Even if it was a dollar a week.  I would clean my little hovel of an apartment.  I would start going to church.  I would take notice of what good and virtuous people did and imitate them. 

Over the years, I developed integrity and a new and much better self-image.  I became the type of person who doesn't lie and steal because she's better than that.  Hamlet gave very good advice.

Now, as I work with homeless people, I often hear them being judged harshly for their behavior.  "They drink.  They do drugs.  They walk down streets at night looking for unlocked cars and take change from the drink holder.  They have babies they can't afford."  And so on and so forth. 'If only they would behave decently they wouldn't be homeless".  Many good people have these opinions.  They take personal credit for their goodness.   They don't realize that on the Merry-go-Round of Life they were blessed to get the brass rings marked "Goodness,"  "Integrity,"  and "Self Respect.

Many homeless people are amazingly good, kind, and decent despite the multitude of problems and traumas they have had to survive.  Those who aren't - I really understand.  I can now thank God for giving me those years of being dishonest and drunk and crazy.  I have many faults, but being a pious, judgmental prick will never be one of them.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Pikus are poems three lines long:  three syllables, one syllable, four syllables, and are written in honor of PI Day, which comes once in a hundred years.  The following Pikus were inspired by seeing a flock of crows flying above St. Patricks Catholic Church, perhaps waiting for their share of the Knights of Columbus fish fry, as well as performing their metaphysical duties, like all of God's creatures:

Old crow caws
Repent!  Repent!

Black angel
God now, God now.

Old crow he
no night alone.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Childhood Memories of Susan

(Note:  Susan Mary Emond Leonard was my sister, four years younger than me.  She grew up in Bennington, Vermont in a foster home, and I grew up five miles away in North Bennington, in my grandmother's house.  For  most of those years we were not allowed to see or communicate with each other.)

Susan wanted a small, perky nose.  She thought wearing a clothespin on her nose and breathing through her mouth would eventually bring about that transformation.  I only know that because I saw her on a street in Bennington, one day, wearing her clothespin.  She was embarrassed, and I didn't help anything by telling her it wasn't going to work.  She was around 12 and I was 16.  Maybe I needed to seem more wise than she.  It was the first time I had seen her since she was around eight years old.  I was 12 then and had spent the evening in Bennington at a grade school science fair.  I got back to the car before the others.  It was the time of day when dusk is turning into darkness and the car was parked across the street from Susan's house, on the steep hill that was Jefferson Street.  I looked up at her house and found myself looking into a lit up second story window.  There was Barbara Dunham, her foster mother, tucking her into bed and kissing her good night.

It was strange to realize that I was seeing my sister.  All my friends lived with their brothers and sisters.  I felt blank and empty in the face of this fact:  I saw my sister at night through a window, by chance, after years of not seeing her at all.

The last time I saw Susan in a normal way, she was four and I was eight and she was visiting me and our grandmother in North Bennington.  I took her to a little street carnival that was happening in a park a few blocks from our house.  On the way home we held hands and talked about how we would live together when we were grownups and be each other's best friend.  This was the last time she would ever come to North Bennington and the last visit we would ever have, but we didn't know that.  A few days later my grandmother got a letter from Barbara Dunham.  After the visit Susan went home and told Barbara that she wanted to live with us and had a major tantrum when Barbara said that wouldn't be possible.  Barbara said that Susan would no longer be allowed to visit us and I would not be welcome in their home either.  She felt that it was better that we have no contact at all.  She had that power over our lives and she used it.

The  next Christmas rolled around and there was no visit from Susan, but we did get a glimpse of her.  My grandmother and I were in Bennington shopping and we passed by the church Susan and the Dunhams attended.  There was a sign outside advertising a children's Christmas pageant.  We slipped in the front door and stood in the back, in the shadows.  We finally made out Susan, among a flock of diminutive angels.

Susan and I did not grow up and live together.  The tides of life carried us far apart from one another.  Also, somewhere along the line, Susan started hating me, as she herself told me, years later.  She hated me because she had to live in a foster home and I got to live with relatives.  She imagined that I was surrounded by loving family members, as in a 1950s sitcom like Life With Father or Leave it to Beaver.
I wrote a book about my childhood and shared it with her.  I expected that this would lead to understanding and acceptance on her part.  It didn't.  I got an angry phone call telling me that I had destroyed her cherished childhood fantasies.  Maybe that is a terrible thing to do.  I don't know.  I can't remember that I ever had cherished childhood fantasies.  I just wanted to live along enough to grow up.

Susan and I didn't do well together as grownups.  We had missed too much.  A childhood spent together, learning to know each other, working through our differences, sharing important experiences - in the absence of all that we had turned into strangers who didn't have much in common except a few memories.  I was always doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing and finding out only too late that I had been misinterpreted or had tread on sacred ground wearing boots.  She finally admitted that she didn't really enjoy getting visits from me.  But we did talk on the phone several times a month.  That she seemed to enjoy.

Nevertheless, I admire Susan enormously.  She was a person of great courage.  Life brought her a lot of tough times and she fought her way through all of them except the last one - cancer.  That defeated her.  I cherish my few memories of her - the clothespin experiment, the little girl being put to bed, the tiny Methodist angel, the very young mother struggling to make ends meet.  I love you Susan, wherever you are. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Learning to Color Outside the Lines

In the third grade I kept a diary.  One entry was preceeded by a Bible verse:  "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect."  Underneath I recorded my intention that from that moment on I was going to be perfect.  I would color inside the lines, always be places on time, do my chores cheerfully, treat grownups with respect and courtesy, get straight As in school et al.  I actually succeeded pretty well at most of those goals - I had a lot riding on it and I was a stubborn kid.  But no one can be perfect.  Nevertheless, the sincerity of my intention was recorded in a letter to God, requesting that He take me back to Heaven, so that I would no longer be driving my grandmother into an early grave, as she frequently mentioned me doing.

"You are driving me into an early grave" is a statement most of the children of North Bennington had hurled at them from time to time, from harried mothers.  No one in North Bennington was in therapy.  If someone became a raving lunatic and ran down the middle of the street in their underwear, screaming, that person would be hauled off to the state mental hospital.  Everyone who fell short of that was still walking the streets, raising children, teaching school, standing behind the counter at the store et al.  It was a treacherous world. 

The early grave accusation had some extra punch at my house, because it was often followed by my grandmother sinking on to the couch, clasping her bony chest, and croaking, "Go get me my pills.  Hurry!"  I was indeed a murderer in the making.

My grandmother lived to be almost 80, back in a day and a time when that was considered an unusually long life.  I went on to try, during the 1960s, to be as imperfect as I possibly could.  I have had a long and interesting life that has not ostensibly been ruled by attempts to be perfect.  Nevertheless, when I really look at my life, I find underlying it all an enormous glacier of would-be-perfection that never stops whispering to me or silently tying my muscles into knots.  Some part of me is still trying to color inside the lines, to get it right, to meet other people's expectations.  I have even managed to aquire a massively bogus reputation as the "Angel of the Homeless", or  "Mother Theresa of Gainesville" because I volunteer in the homeless community.  The desire to help homeless people is very real, but the giant dog and pony show I created to out-service all those other do-gooders out there (not a conscious goal) may have been from a child who was trying to be perfect.  It doesn't matter.  Most human projects are the result of mixed and ambivalent goals, ranging from the altruistic to other, hidden, agendas.  The Home Van has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life and I would never trade it in for purity of motives.

A few years ago I took up painting.  My early paintings are really, really bad because everything was perfectly colored inside the lines.  Coloring books from WalMart would be more interesting as art than those early paintings.  Finally, the epiphany came - forget the f***king lines - be wild!  As I continue to paint, as I turn in my pink slip to the Mother Theresa Employment Agency (except for a small food pantry - I still need that connection to my homeless friends), as I walk into a scary world outside the lines, I find myself needing to trust God.  For me, God is outside the lines.  And blessed be!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Allness, The Isness

webbed feet across a field of stones,
a fall of water, a tin tub,
a tuba, a tumescence,
a time when larks fall from the sky,
cries of the dying gathered in
barrels full of marmalade she made
that summer of the bitter oranges.

Lamb of God who taketh away the
bins of the world, have mercy on these
bins of sins.
Bless us Brother Broccoli,
Bless us Sister Stone,
Bless us old men who live alone,

for we have walked ten thousand miles
through stars, giraffes, and pocket combs,
 we're going home,
we're going home.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Southern poetry is sold

from backs of pickup trucks on country roads.
Hand-lettered signs for miles say

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Heavell and Hen

God I howl
for friends who are dead,
for friends who are dying,
for children of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine,
for all children.,
for polar bears drowning
who have no ice,
for blizzards, tornadoes, flood,
for those who die in cars
on interstate highways to the sky
that day, some days, any day.
For those addicted to pills, to booze,
to heroin and crack,
for all those who can't find the road home.

Help us keep looking for the road home,
help us keep looking for the road home,
help us keep looking for the road home.

Beloved God you have named the road home.
Friends who are dead,
friends who are dying,
children of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine,
all children,
all polar bears,
blizzards, tornadoes,
all cars,
all highways,
pills, booze, heroin, crack,
all the road home,
all the road home,
(and yes)
rainbows and unicorns,
all the road home.
as our hearts are purified,
as our spirits grow strong,
all the road home.

Friday, January 9, 2015


You've been a mean year.
Mudslides, floods, blizzards,
heat waves, earthquakes, tsunamis,
so many gone we loved so much
when you arrived.
Robin Williams left us
one lonely morning when
no-one else was home.
Bill Cosby, the only dad
some of us ever had,
is lost behind a cloud of allegation,
dark fog that rise will never
above the sound of fading laughter.
The year of the One Percent
I just don't get, I wonder so
how many pairs of diamond-crusted pants
I could put on one leg at a time?
Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden,
Michael Brown,
Iraq, Afghanistan.

And still I see
a full moon rise
above the live oaks,
above the collards and the broccoli.

It all means what the stars are singing,
lullabies we can't quite hear.