Friday, September 19, 2014

The Land of Totuaba

I'm excited that my memoir essay of camping in Baja California with my bipolar rocket scientist father and family is now published online at Halfway Down the Stairs. This issue of the journal has a rich selection of poetry and prose, and I'm honored to have had my story selected.

"The Land of Totuaba" is an excerpt from my memoir of an unusual childhood with a father who blew up rockets for a living and in a port town in southern California. The manuscript, Rocket Lessons, is still in my trunk, waiting to become my second prose book. My then-agent advised me to hang onto it and simply write my first book! The ways of the publishing industry are unfathomable to outsiders.

Here's a poem from Rocket Lessons that my agent made me take out of the memoir, which then found its way into my new book Gods of Water and Air, which has a whole San Pedro section.

Our New Neighbor

A knobbed mob of water, the Pacific rang
my doorbell in the night and ran.

When I got up, she let fighting cats stand in
and pranked me with the cannery's whistle.

With a sob and a whoosh, she dangled trinkets
over our back fence and showed me her green silk

underwear. A crazy lady in a frilly robe,
the sea was our new neighbor.

Dockside cranes pulled at her flanks,
hauling up surprises. Automobiles,

fish, furniture and anchors trailing seaweed
sputtered out of her. A constant breeze

chopped her green speech and sudden
surges mangled fishing boats and surfers.

Our crazy neighbor lulled me to slide
into her curls, to roll on soft swells.

Neighborly, she pulled me in-
to her doom bed and closed a cold lid.

Then the father who had thrown me in
fished me out. From that day, the air burned.

When I rode her treeless hills and looked back to land
through her glistening I felt

the family's undertow, that was the sinking
lull and downward sea drag.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Permission to be a poet

It's something only you can give yourself: a space to create, sweet as ripe cherries. To find it, buy it with love for your creative self, wrap it in ethereal sheets of time, and then unwrap it as though you deserve every crinkle of the delicate paper and every silky ribbon of ink. You give yourself permission to NOT write a word. Not even think. To drift, a poet in poet time with the willingness to do absolutely nothing if that's what comes. To think about writing without necessarily saying anything is permission. Here's a poem about it from my book Gods of Water and Air.

I had a beautiful bowl of cherries
to paint, stems perfectly arranged, the jade
bowl offsetting the pale red fruit.
I ate them. Such is the fate
of so much art. But only the serious kind.
At least this artist won’t starve.
Looking at a half bowl of cherries
I still want to create. Maybe a painting
of the pits in another bowl, so much life
gone by. Or perhaps a poem about the greed
of the painter for sensuous delight, story
of artists and their models through the ages
and also the story of the art
that was never made
while they became their own
works of art. Jade bowl. Stems.
Hungers ripe and aching.
Summer’s half moon warmth.
Tender flesh. (Note to self:
They were so ripe and cold.
Put cherries on the grocery list.
The dark ones this time.)

I'm offering a 10% discount off the Amazon price of Gods of Water and Air during September. Write to me if you want one!