For Grandma

They say all flowers are wild somewhere.

Where were we?

Where were we, Grandma, when you said this?


Your voice comes to me

unpretentious and content

from the back seat of the car.

Waves of blooms and stems beckoned to us–

what colors were they?–

along the Texas roadside as we traveled

to see a place you had once been planted.


Your face opened to everyone

in the clapboard church

fed with scripture and small sandwiches.

You reached out to grasp their hands

knowing something about everyone’s roots

well enough to ask after them

and make their faces light with remembering.


You knew, like you knew the deep quiet

of the Tennessee forest floor

you led our childhood feet into

thickets laden with some flower

I’d never seen before or since

its perfume as deep as its red blossom and broad leaves.

What was its name?


You knew like you recognized the person in me

who would adore

the plastic canvas, colored yarn, and real needle you brought me

and the box of sequins, glitter, and fabric scraps under the Christmas tree,

and later, your mother’s thimbles and sewing basket.

All seeds that would grow in me like weeds.


They say all flowers are wild somewhere.


You knew wild.

You let the big black and yellow spiders

weave their homes into the sides of yours.

You returned leftovers to the earth

through compost and wandering raccoons.


You knew somewhere.

You had camped in it, driven by it, sent a postcard from it,

marked it on the map.


And you knew flowers

that the most surprising ones are

the ones we pot on the stoop,

cut to bring to the kitchen table,

propagate and plant in gardens year after year

home after home.

These, too, keep their secret connection

to their other selves—

their ancestors, their untamed sisters

rooting into and springing out of the wild places

which belong to them.



South Again

Another poem for you, dear reader, in yet another place.

I got back to the U.S. not even a week ago, and while I have so much writing building up in my brain, I also have a powerful to-do list as I restart life in the South.

It seemed so fitting, then, that a poem I submitted many weeks ago to Scalawag Magazine (tagline: “Reckoning with the South”) was posted just yesterday. Hopefully these lines will hold you over until I can get my act together and write more.

May the summer setting in around you fill you with an abundance of breath of life.

Click HERE for poetry.

Glad to Be Awake for This

It had been raining for days, or maybe weeks. After a long day of work and a dentist’s appointment for a cracked filling, I trudged up the hill to pick up several bags of rice. The cat had tipped a vase of wilted flowers onto my partner’s laptop, so this was my last ditch attempt to dry the thing out and bring it back to life. The unpredictable wind made sure my umbrella was either reduced to half its size where I held it at a 90-degree angle in front of my body, or it was turned helplessly inside out. I threw myself through the doors of our corner grocery store and stood there for a moment, dripping and panting. I gave a bedraggled smile to the woman behind the counter and said in my bad Spanish, Continue reading

The Return

The healing is in the return… – Sharon Salzberg

The sky is dark, but dozens of lampposts line the wide-open lot on the edge of Madrid, and their orange glow is filtering up through the windows of this borrowed apartment. I left the windows open in hopes of catching a breeze of cool September air from outside to help me sleep, but I only feel more awake. Exhausted, but awake. In the blue, almost-dark of this studio, I see the white body of my travel companion slink out from his hiding place underneath the bed, and I smile. Continue reading

A Well Spell for After a Dry Time

Are you ready?
If you are unsure, here are some clues:
   You may be experiencing a hunger pang above the stomach,
      a heartbeat lurching forward,
      a tug at the corner of your eye
      accompanied by a whisper saying,
      “Psst! Hey kid, what’s that over there?”
      an unheard song settling in around the ears
      like a ringed spacecraft whirring as it lands in the fog.
Are you ready?
Don't put it off
Let it wake you in the quiet hours of the morning--
(whatever time of day that visits you)
let it get you out of bed. 
Let the flashlight of your mind’s eye click on.
Hear the crackle of grass underfoot
as you approach the well you just knew to be spent dry.
Put your hands on the stone wall around it
--don’t drop your light!—-
Remember this place?
Is it a solid circle in your history? Is it new to you?
Can you feel the handprints of others
   who have passed by?
Don’t linger too long at the edge, dear,
this is no moment for overthinking.
Just lean over and feel the cool air of the unknown
   breathing up to meet you—
   to get inside of you.
Now is the moment for feeling the quiver in your gut
   and wiggling your foot over the abyss.
Let your toes find the top rung of the ladder leaning nearby.
Steady. Now—
rung by rung, ease on down.
The dim light of the known world in a spot above you will remain
   even when it grows smaller.
You don’t need that flashlight here, you can feel your way,
   step by step, learning
      the pictures your mind plays out on the dark walls…
      the vibrations of your movements on the thing holding you up…
      the hum at the edges of the echoes of your breath…
      the scent of the wet earth stories closer and closer…
      the taste of the thrill in your own tongue…
      the still presence of the things you just know
        without knowing how you know…
until your foot hits water.
First, make a cup of your hands and take a drink
   that goes all the way down.
That’s enough for now.
You don’t get to stay here in this underworld of dreams,
   though you may now be falling in love with
     the visions you see on the walls around you,
     the way the rippling water plays with
         the quiet music living in this chamber.
   though you may be tempted to gulp down the lot of it—
     suddenly realizing how parched you’ve been…
Now. Steady.
--Don't drop your light!--
Find the bucket.
Yeah, the one you threw down here—
   however long ago that was when you
      cut the rope and cursed
         and listened for it to clatter to the bottom empty.
         It did clatter…didn’t it?
         You were so sure there was nothing left...
Find the bucket in one piece, hold on tight, and start your climb.
Watch the circle of the shared world grow to meet you again.
When you reach the opening, find a length of new rope,
   and wind it at the crank.
   This, too, is part of the trip.
Tie your bucket to the end.
See it swing like a bell
   announcing where you’ve been
   and that here, again, you have a true and useful wealth to share.

It’s Not Too Late to Be an April Fool

I’m no prankster. I’m no good at lying and I’m too prone to guilt and anxiety to be very good at playing tricks on people. I’m much more likely to be the fool.

But this year I realized what an important holiday April Fool’s Day can be.

This year on April 1st, I stood in a circle with a bunch of strangers in a bare room in the Lavapiés neighborhood in Madrid.

“Now,” said our bespectacled leader in his British accent. “Introduce yourself to the circle, and tell everyone how stupid you are. Say your name, and these words: ‘and I am very stupid.’” We nodded gravely and began.

“My name is Sarah. And I am very stupid.”

“Yes,” said the leader. “We can see that.” Continue reading

Of Scrambled Brains and Runaway Trains

This blog post is late. Now, I doubt any of you have been sitting by your computers with your pocket watch out, clucking your tongue, BUT JUST IN CASE YOU HAVE, I want you to know that this tardiness is not for lack of writing. It’s not for lack of sitting still and being quiet and searching and asking unseen helpers for guidance.

But, as I mentioned before, I think the current political/media climate is doing something to our brains. At least I know it’s doing something to mine. Continue reading

A Spell for Unclogging the Works

I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few weeks about unfinished business. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing an essay about being on the other side of the anguish I used to feel at having nothing to show for myself except the shoeboxes of poems written on scraps of paper, shelves of completed journals, 100 pages of an unfinished novel, a one-woman show only ever roughly shown to a couple of friends, another one-woman show that would never see the light of day, 250 pages of a memoir I couldn’t bring myself to edit, and gawd knows how many little essays and short stories that would never be loved by anyone but me.

I’m not writing that essay today. Today I’m remembering how it feels to wander around feeling like my inner gears are all gummed up. Continue reading