the conversation over produce in Zupan’s

2 of Force: Ideology by Anders Sandberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License
2 of Force: Ideology by Anders Sandberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

“Over a cup of coffee or sitting on a park bench or/walking the dog, he would recall some incident/from his youth,” Stephen Dobyns, “[Over a Cup of Coffee]”

Maggie stopped to get a cup of coffee at the Zupan’s on Burnside.  That’s when she saw Zinnia, standing in the produce department, picking out cantaloupe.

Zinnia had been her neighbor when she lived on 23rd, a few blocks away.  Maggie turned away quickly, but not quickly enough.

“Maggie!” She heard the familiar sliding tones of Zinnia’s voice.  No getting away from it now.

Maggie turned, smiled automatically.  “Zinnia?”

“How are you?” Zinnia asked.  “Actually, this is odd – I’ve been thinking about you.  You know the old pizza parlor on Thurman?  Where we used to go all the time.  They’ve turned it into a brewpub now, can you believe it?”

“Really?  Huh.”  Maggie remembered now about how it happened.  She and Kyle had been dating only a few months when she introduced Zinnia to Kyle in the hallway of their apartment building.  A few weeks later Kyle had dumped her, and she saw him going out with Zinnia after that.

It still hurt.  She might not have been Kyle’s type, but it still hurt.  It didn’t help that Zinnia was what her mother would have called “a natural beauty,” blonde and skinny and with the kind of face that made you into a model.

“Well-” Maggie looked at her watch.

“And so I was thinking about you the other day,” Zinnia went on.  “I hardly know the girl who moved in after you.  What’ve you been up to?”

Zinnia held the cantaloupe before her her as if it were oracular, as if it could tell the future.  Maggie hesitated.

“I really have to be going,” Maggie said.

“Listen,” Zinnia said.  Her voice dropped to a distinctly conspiratorial whisper.  “I have to tell someone.  I’m seeing women now.”  She stood back, triumphantly.  Waiting for Maggie’s reply.

“Good for you,” Maggie said.  So, apparently Zinnia had dumped Kyle.  That was something, anyway.

“I thought you’d be interested,” Zinnia went on.  “You’re still a writer, right?  You could totally use me for a character.”

“I don’t think so.”  Maggie looked at her watch again, though she didn’t have anything on her schedule until noon, when she was meeting with her writers group at the Powell Books downtown.

The hell with it anyway.  She turned, took her coffee, and walked toward the exit.

Zinnia’s voice trailed after her – “Wait!  Are you on Facebook?”

it could say so much more

via Discover Challenge: Mind the Gap

“In the yellow time of pollen, in the blue time of lilacs,/in the green that would balance on the wide green world,” – Luke Davies, “from Totem Poem [In the yellow time of pollen]”

It may have started life as an ordinary subway tunnel.  The kind of tunnel people use to and from the underground train.  Hurrying to work, rushing to school, heading home at the end of a long day.

The tunnel sees everything:  the missed promotions, the lot job, the failing exam grade.  The tunnel bears the earth overhead on its shoulders, holding a space open for those who walk on foot to the trains.  The tunnel has seen the fallen hopes and the abandoned dreams.  It has seen the lost child and the grieving parent.

Still, all the tunnel does is hold up the earth in a long arc through the center of the Earth.  The echo of voices and rushing train cars carries through the vacancies in the space deep below the soil.  Tunnels predate civilization.  There is a safety below ground, there is a protection from extreme heat, from marauding enemies.  What cannot be seen above ground cannot be looted or massacred or abducted.  This subway tunnel is descended from a long line of subterranean ancestors.  Burrow.  Warrens.  Crawl spaces.  Basements.


It may have started life as a subway tunnel.  An artificial underground passage from surface to train car.  But today it is something more.  It is the archivist of our civilization, the conveyor of our consciousness.


there are social graces

Inspired by “A bug on my window” – Monica, “Look around!” blog.

“When I look out the window and say green, I mean sea green,/I mean moss green, I mean gray, I mean pale and also/electrically flecked with white and I mean green/in its damp way of glowing off a leaf.” –  Kathryn Nuernberger, “Translations”

Critter On My Window by Cindy Mc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License
Critter On My Window by Cindy Mc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


God gave her a long body and feathery antennae.  Her stretchy-thin legs sense a change in the weather a few seconds into the future.  Here she rests, against the cold-smooth glass of window, the foreground of everyone’s background.

A swath of street, a clump of house, a sprout of tree hover behind her.

Her breath comes through the spiracles in her thorax, her blood cradles the organs, her heart dots the medial line along her back. She carries her ears on her limbs.  She hears you breathing.


“. . . I remember/the Jains, the gentle swoosh/of their brooms on a dirt path/trodden by children and goats, each/thoughtful step taken in peril of/an ant’s life or a fat grub hidden/under a stick.” – Tess Gallagher, “Linoleum”

Terrance had been flying all night.  Pollen dusts his hairy body. This little garden, in need of pollination, would feed him for another night’s flight, its yellow, red and orange flowers open-throated to him.  With his antannae he senses the odor of a female moth, though many miles away.  He has no home but the short-lived cocoon of his larval stage.  He is common; for every ten of his kind in the world there is only one butterfly.

More than ninety percent of nesting birds feed on the plump bodies of his kind.  We won’t speak of bats’ feeding patterns, as Terrance is a sensitive being.  For now, he clings, open-winged, to the window glass view of this little flower garden before taking a run at life for another day.


Agnes had looked like any other of her kind on hatching.  But it wasn’t long before the problem was apparent.  Her antennae were extraordinarily long.

This posed a problem at family gatherings, as she could never find a seat that didn’t disaccommodate one or another of her family members.  If it wasn’t Uncle Gus falling off the table, it was Aunt Grace floundering beneath the countertop.  All because of Agnes’s long long antennae.

To avoid such accidents, she tried to keep her antennae organized.  In her spare time she practiced aligning them perfectly together, like twin feelers, posed in an arcing curve that might float over the heads of nearby family members.  In practice, alone, she got to where they managed well.  But bring them into contact with others of her kind, and they wobbled here and there, distracted by this scent or that, and soon one of the younger family members, nieces or nephews, or even the elderly grands, would topple off, batted by the straying tips of Agnes’s antennae.

It does not help the social graces when you have sense organs on antennae five times as long as your entire body.  When your ears are on your legs, you know instantly what the gossips are hissing about you.

Still, one has to make one’s way in the world.  Agnes finally made do by perching always at the end of the line at family gatherings, on a table extension or a countertop corner.  Her family learned to stay out of her way, especially the nieces and nephews, and the grands grew wily enough to evade Agnes’s faltering appendages.  She liked it when they said it reminded them of the younger days of their clan.

binge watch

“But still he checked each lottery ticket which littered/the empty lot next door, praised their silver latex glitter,/praying to the beautiful unscratched, like little gods.” – Richard Michelson, “More Money Than God”

You drank all the champagne last night but you forgot until you woke up this morning – well, closer to noon – and you saw the six empty champagne bottles lying on the carpet.  The green shag carpet in the basement rec room of your mom’s split-level in the suburbs.  Who was it last night, Margaret and Tanya and Jeremy and Peter, they all came over to celebrate the solstice, at least that’s what they said last night, even though the winter solstice is still a month away.  Thank goodness your mom’s in Baltimore visiting your sister, that’s why you had the place to yourself last night, so that you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone else, and by the time she gets back you’ll have the place back to normal-looking, six champagne bottles in the recycle bin – maybe even off the premises, so she doesn’t get suspicious.

But then your cell phone rings, and it’s a Facetime call, and it’s your mom.  Your mom.  You click the button, “Accept,” and you put on your normal-happy face and drop into your cheerful nothing-going-on-here voice.

“Mom!” you say.  “How’s Baltimore?”

She’s wearing bright purple sweats and a yellow scarf.  “Just went for a jog,” she says.  You see your sister’s fifties-style ranch house kitchen in the background, pink appliances and all.

“Jog?” you say.  “You never jog, Mom.”

“Your sister took me around the track at the high school,” she says.  She pauses.  “Right after we watched the video.”

“What video?  You mean NetFlix?” you ask.  Your mom has just recently signed up for streaming NetFlix and you’ve already caught a season or two of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” on the TV upstairs.

“The video.  The party video,” she says, pleasantly enough.

Your head is spinning.  Is it the champagne hangover making you groggy?

“Mom, what party?”

“You know.  Jeremy, Tanya, Peter, and . . . what was that other girl’s name?”  In the background, your sister says, “Margaret,” all echo-y in the kitchen.

You pause.  She’s not supposed to know about that.  She’s not supposed to know about the champagne and all.  She’s in Baltimore, for chrissakes.

“How did you -” you manage to say.

“Nanny cam, sweetie.  They put them on the Internet these days.”

It sinks in.  You glance around the rec room, searching.  Where is the damned camera?

“Just thought I’d let you know.  You’ll probably want to tell your friends you’ll be busy for the rest of the week.”

“And if I don’t?” The words are out before you’ve even thought about them.

“Well, there are new videos going up on YouTube every day,” she says sweetly.  “Your sister’s going to show me how just as soon as we’re done here.”

“We’re done, Mom,” you say wearily.

“I thought so.  Love you!”

As your mom’s face winks out, you silently curse your sister for being more net-savvy than you – she always was – and your mom for being the all-around sneak that she is.

By the time you’ve washed up the dishes an hour later, you’ve got a plan ready for the rest of the week.  It takes less time than you expect to set up a new subscription to Amazon Prime, and your mom’s Amazon account still has the same password from when you lived at home full-time in high school.  Binge-watching premium movies is a great way to spend the week, and you’ll look innocent enough on any hidden camera in the house.  Interstellar.  The Hunger Games.  The latest Mission: Impossible movie.

And she may not even see the bill for a month or two, who knows?


it was just a lost coin

“And add the halfpence to the pence/And prayer to shivering prayer, until” – William Butler Yeats, “September 1913”

Abby found the ten pence coin in the street.  She had gone outside to play on her mother’s orders.  “Screen time’s up – out you go,” her mother had said.  Reluctantly Abby turned off reruns of “I Love Lucy” and got on her jacket, then went outside to sit on the front steps.

It was a small coin, the ten pence.  She might never have seen it if the crowned lion on the face hadn’t growled.

Yes, growled.  At first she didn’t recognize the sound; was it a bit of machinery from around the corner?  But no, the sound was definitely coming from the street in front of her.  Was it something below the street, then?  She got up and went to the curb to look.  There was no traffic, it was a quiet Friday afternoon – Veteran’s Day, so she’d gotten the day off of school – and besides, on their small cul-de-sac they didn’t get many cars except the neighbors’.

Abby’s mom did at-home payroll for an IT company, and she didn’t like Abby hanging around inside the house, much as Abby loved to curl up in the big chair in the living room and read when she wasn’t watching old TV shows on TiVO.  Abby had gotten used to poking around outside for things to do, although it didn’t make her enjoy time being outside any better.  Just because you’re used to a thing doesn’t mean you get any pleasure out of it.

It didn’t help that it was November in Seattle, a time after the end of Daylight Saving Time, when it got dark at five in the afternoon and most days were gray and dreary.  But this day was unseasonably sunny and even a little warmer than usual.

At the curb Abby looked down, and right there on the dark pavement, nestled next to the iron-cast storm drain with its painted fish logo (“This drain goes straight to Puget Sound”), was the coin.  Looking closer, she could make out the stamped outline of the lion, paws akimbo, crown on its head.

What was that rhyme?  “Find a penny, pick it up – all the day you’ll have good luck.” The verse ran through her head as she crouched down.

Well.  This wasn’t a penny.  But it was something.  Was it real?  Maybe it was play money.

She picked up the coin and ran her thumb over the lion’s outline.  The text around the lion said, “Ten Pence.”

Then she remembered the growling she’d heard.  Had she imagined it?  There was not a sound now, not a peep.

Make a wish.  She should make a wish.

It was a little tarnished.  One edge had a dent, as if it had been run over or caught in a clencher like a vise.  If the coin was once lucky, had the luck been bent out of it by its prior collisions with everyday life?  Perhaps as a coin wore out it became less lucky.  Or perhaps the opposite was true – the more marks and blemishes, the better.  She thought of the story of Aladdin’s lamp and how old and battered the lamp looked, leading Aladdin’s wife to give it away to the villainous lamp collector-magician.  . . . or maybe that was Ali Baba with the lamp?  No, definitely Aladdin.

Abby closed her hand around the coin and felt its cool steeliness smooth her palm.  Lucky or no, it was a treasure, a ten pence coin that had turned up in front of her house.  A ten pence coin that had growled at her, no less!  She was positive of that.

But what would she wish for?  Like Aladdin, she felt stymied by the possibilities.  A million dollars.  A new house.  A pony. – Didn’t every girl her age want a pony?  Well, no, not a pony – a horse.  A brilliantly fast chestnut mare, who would run to Abby when she called and take her anywhere she wanted.  Who would love her as much as Abby loved the horse.

That was ridiculous.  As her mother said every time Abby brought it up, “Where would we put a horse?  You don’t keep an animal like that in suburbia!”  And Abby would imagine the horse, her horse, in their back yard under the chinaberry tree, and she knew her mother was right.  Her back yard was no place for a horse.

Huh.  Abby walked slowly back to the front porch.  She sat down on the steps, still holding the coin tucked inside her fist.  She had to think about this.

Well, a wish was as good as a prayer.  Her grandmother was always asking Abby to pray for everyone who needed it – those who were sick, those who had lost loved ones, those who had had some family tragedy.  Her mother would say that her grandmother had a taste for drama.  It was probably a good thing that her grandmother was back in Michigan and her mother and Abby were out here in Washington.

A wish was as good as a prayer.  Abby decided to close her eyes and make that wish.  She would wish for what she really wanted, what she truly sincerely wanted, not just something that everyone thought you should wish for.

When she opened her eyes, nothing had happened.  It was perhaps a little later in the day, the sun turning paler and the light coming across the yard next door.

But the coin had disappeared.

Years later Abby would think about that coin, would wonder idly where it might have gone next.

When she got old enough she moved to Colorado and took a degree in horse management, and then afterward she found a job with a ranching co-op near Fairplay.  Her horse, a chestnut mare that ran brilliantly fast and came to Abby when she called her, was named Lyric.


fishing greens

Boulder Mountain Cutthroat by slashvee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License
Boulder Mountain Cutthroat by slashvee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

“obsessed by their elusiveness/what’s out there/what you can yank in with a careful line” – Florence Kassen Mayers, “Fishing Blues”

She pulls on her long waterproof waders as though she were slipping into the music of a belly flop.  The hooks and carefully tied flies are in the tackle box, the hot coffee in the steel thermos, her waterproof billed cap tight on her head.  It’s time to feel the run of the river, the blue purpose of steelhead, the green intelligence of fishy eyes.


it’s only words

All Day in The Park by Nico Time is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License
All Day in The Park by Nico Time is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

“Words can bang around in your head/Forever, if you let them and you give them room.” – John Koethe, “Ninety-Fifth Street”

If I’d have known that Felicity was going to rent a bright pink VW bug, and take me to that sliver of a park next to the railroad tracks, I might have had second thoughts.  She was always doing something outrageous, and a part of me was no doubt hoping for an adventure.  Still, of all my friends, she was the most dangerous, and I should have remembered that before climbing into the rented car and flying along that unfamiliar highway.

She would tell you it all turned out fine.  Felicity would say, “What’s the big deal?  So, we hopped into an alternate universe and did a few things that were . . . somewhat illegal, sure.  So what?  Everyone’s better off now anyway.”

Suffice to say that when we got there and she stopped the car, when she persuaded me to take a ride in that phony red phone booth-portal, pink cherry blossoms swirling about us, I had no idea we were reversing the events of the past few days.  When we got back and I saw what had happened, I knew that Felicity and I were the only ones on the planet that remembered how the election had turned out. – Before, that is.

They say the end justifies the means.  Does it?