Walking Cross-Town. With Smoke.


The bi-fold doors open.

We spill out of the train into the underground tunnel at Grand Central. It’s Monday morning.

I’m walking briskly in a free lane. Not exactly free. Under foot is a yellow warning strip, with hundreds of half-moons of steel affixed to the two-foot corrugated shoulder on a highway warning of trouble. My eyes bob ahead and down, wary, looking to avoid toppling down eight feet onto the empty tracks. Livin‘ la Vida Loca.

I bear down on a commuter who is ambling along. Buddy, move left. I’m on his heals. Compressed air is released from the lungs, the Jake brake is pulled, the exhaust valves fly open, the big rig vibrates, rattles and slows.

He has thick soles, black lace-up orthopedic shoes. He is limping badly. Vet? Amputee? Back injury? I cannot pass him on my left, commuters are thick.

And then it comes. A memory, smoke grasped… [Read more…]

There is nothing, and there is not one bloody thing.


In September, 2007, Mary-Louise Parker adopted a child from an orphanage in Ethiopia.  The child’s Uncle walked a distance that Parker stated she would complain if she had to travel to in a car. The journey was made with his children, three of which were under 10. The baby was carried on his hip. This excerpt is from a letter written by Parker (“Dear Uncle“) as a tribute to him.  In their first meeting, he said: “I hope that she will be taken care of, go to school and perhaps one day be something, a doctor.”

There are so many reductive adjectives used to describe those materially less fortunate, words the privileged use to anoint them. Words like proud, or graceful…It never rings true. Having seen what I saw when you brought me to the hut where my daughter was born, and introduced me to the people in your village, I felt like I was hovering over every judgment of my reality and yours, unable to land. None of the families I met were intact, everyone had lost children, parents, or a spouse. There was not enough of anything for anyone. The only bounty was in categories of suffering or possible ways to die. I didn’t feel them looking at me with distance, they all smiled and shook my hand.

I hid my embarrassment at how stupid I felt when I entered your hut and was alarmed by the darkness that swallowed me despite it being late morning. Of course I knew there was no electricity, no light would be there except for what might creep in through that ceiling of straw. I knew it, but I couldn’t fathom it until I stood inside with you and stared at an actual nothingness and my eyes adjusted to near black. There is nothing, and there is not one bloody thing. As you pointed at different parts of the hut that were designated for the cows to sleep, or the spot where your family of twelve eats when there is food, or where you slept, I saw spots with absolutely nothing in them. There was an absence of comment on your situation that made you seem twenty feet tall. It’s something I could never know if I hadn’t stood there, with you showing me what life is like on another planet where there is no complaining, or showing disappointment. [Read more…]

Thanksgiving at dawn. House full of sleepers.


Quiet has many moods. When our sons are home, their energy is palpable. Even when they’re upstairs sleeping I can sense them, can feel the house filling with their presence, expanding like a sail billowed with air. I love the dawn stillness of a house full of sleepers, love knowing that within these walls our entire family is contained and safe, reunited, our stable four-sided shape resurrected.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Riding Metro North. The Return.


5:30 am.
A brisk walk to catch the 5:40 train to Grand Central.
28º F. Cold. Can’t touch me.
Running on a four hours sleep. Can’t feel it.
Dark. Spring forward. Fall back. Fall back into darkness, on both ends of the work day.
But today, light beams.
Thanksgiving week.
A scheduled vacation week. And here you are, Day 2 of vacation and off to work again.
And, looking forward to the day.

I find an open two-seater in the Quiet Car.
I lean my head against the window, close my eyes, and replay last night. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Vive la France.



2:45 am.

How quiet it is.
Too soon to wake.
Too late to stop the mind.
A hamster on the wheel, spinning.

Duras: “How quiet it is,” […] “Who’d believe our nights are such an ordeal?”

3:30 am.

In the Quiet Zone.
Ascending to de Botton’s higher consciousness. Or somewhere.

Alain de Botton: “Perhaps late at night or early in the morning (when there are no threats or demands on us), when our bodies and passions are comfortable and quiescent, we have the privilege of being able to access the higher mind …We loosen our hold on our own egos and ascend to a less biased and more universal perspective, casting off a little of the customary anxious self-justification and brittle pride.”

I do feel that ascension. Now if I could only park here.

6:51 a.m.

Father and his daughter walk to train station.  It’s 45° F.  “It’s cold Dad.” I look down at her bare red legs pockmarked with goose bumps: “Why aren’t you wearing nylons?” She snaps back at me: “Really Dad? Nylons. Nobody wears Nylons anymore? That’s creepy.

So, now I’m on the wrong side of 50 and creepy.  OK, so it wasn’t a focus area. And, it’s not that I haven’t looked at women’s legs. And there you are, a flat stone skipping silently across the water, jumping decades of fashion revolution. [Read more…]

Dear Daddy


Going up Sixth Avenue in a taxi, your grandson said, “Mommy, aren’t there so many amazing things in the world? Aren’t we so lucky to be alive?” That’s you in him, Daddy. He’s so like you, full of extremes and heavy on the dream space. Both kids put their fists up for each other and I know that would make you happy.


My children may never see me hunched over a checkbook and sense my mounting panic, or come home late and find me in the street armed with a shovel as I take the driver of a car by the neck when liquor is smelled on him. They will watch me make much of their victories and hold a grudge until my last breath if someone treats them cruelly. This is your family I am running here. I can’t take credit for more than remembering to point to you when I do something right and for continuing to put one foot in front of the other when I lose heart. We all miss you something fierce, those of us who wouldn’t exist had you not kept walking when an ordinary person would have fallen to his knees. To convey in any existing language how I miss you isn’t possible. It would be like blue trying to describe the ocean.


Most of all to you, Daddy. That’s you in me, the far-off gaze. The poems are you, as are the good deeds and the jars of candy I hide everywhere. You are what makes me indomitable and how I know to keep walking when I feel crippled in every conceivable way.

~ Mary-Louise Parker, ‘Dear Daddy’ from Dear Mr. You

I bought this book yesterday and I’m finding it hard to put down.

“A wonderfully unconventional literary debut from the award-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker. An extraordinary literary work, Dear Mr. You renders the singular arc of a woman’s life through letters Mary-Louise Parker composes to the men, real and hypothetical, who have informed the person she is today.”

See NY Times Book Review: In ‘Dear Mr. You,’ Mary-Louise Parker Writes to Men, With Lust and Rue.  “That Ms. Parker’s book is so seriously good seems like overkill. But it is…”

Which year was the best?


Jane Kenyon and I were married for twenty-three years. For two decades we inhabited the double solitude of my family farmhouse in New Hampshire, writing poems, loving the countryside. She was forty-seven when she died. If anyone had asked us, “Which year was the best, of your lives together?” we could have agreed on an answer: “the one we remember least.”  […] The best moment of our lives was one quiet repeated day of work in our house. Not everyone understood. Visitors, especially from New York, would spend a weekend with us and say as they left: “It’s really pretty here” (“in Vermont,” many added) “with your house, the pond, the hills, but … but … but … what do you do?”

What we did: we got up early in the morning. I brought Jane coffee in bed. She walked the dog as I started writing, then climbed the stairs to work at her own desk on her own poems. We had lunch. We lay down together. We rose and worked at secondary things. I read aloud to Jane; we played scoreless ping-pong; we read the mail; we worked again. We ate supper, talked, read books sitting across from each other in the living room, and went to sleep. If we were lucky the phone didn’t ring all day… Three hundred and thirty days a year we inhabited this old house and the same day’s adventurous routine.

~ Donald Hall, The Third Thing from The Poetry Magazine. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning: “There’s no words”

“Damned is the man who abandons himself”
These six words show
That the worse the situation is
Never, ever should a man consider it is lost.

~ Raimundo A. Sobrinho

Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho, 77, is a Brazilian poet and writer. Born in a rural area of Goiás on 1 August 1938, he moved to São Paulo at the age of 23 where he worked as a gardener and a book seller. In the late 1970s, early 1980s, nearly at the end of the military dictatorship of Brazil, he became homeless, and this lasted for nearly 35 years. During this period he wrote several poems and short stories, but they remained unknown until they were discovered by Shalla Monteiro in April 2011.

Thank you Sawsan

May it all bring you joy, says this opposing, unwanted, huge opportunity


Everything is proof of it—this forced gift of existence—even the tired face of a small-town bus driver in the early morning; it speaks of longing, the endless patience you have when scrutinizing good fortune that has unexpectedly dropped into your lap. And what does life offer in return… the quiet hum inside the bus where you can warm up, a change from the frozen and bleak winter landscape… What does it offer in return? A kiss goodbye from your wife before you head out, and the mildly bitter taste of coffee with cream? The early morning fog and a dead moose on the side of a road? Like an Indian who gets glass beads in exchange for gold, you trade the suffering of existence in return for the smell of baking bread. The feel of a dog’s wet nose against your hand. The look in your children’s eyes. A bird feeder. May it all bring you joy, says this opposing, unwanted, huge opportunity—Life.

~ Inga Ābele, High Tide

Credits: Quotes – the distance between two doors. Photo: AdamsBullDozer with The nose knows (via hundegalskap)


Thank you Jim Borden @ Borden’s Blog