Story from the Vault: Star

Note: I wrote this long before I ever had an actual daughter.


                  We sit at the fire this night, my daughter and I.  She questions the stars with her gaze, and I am the one who must answer her, who must speak for the stars.  So I will tell her why she hears voices without human bodies, and how the artists always stand apart from the world.

During the time that I was becoming a woman, I spent many nights like this, looking at the moon and its sparkling sisters.  From the dark of lonely sky, a certain star splintered from the rest, and fell dizzily into the fire at which I sat.  I closed my eyes against the brilliance that flickered hotly on my face, and watched my tears melt through squinting eyes, entranced by the brightest light I had ever felt.  The earth and sky pressed together like lovers, and the horizon sealed from end to end.

This star, she spoke with the intensity of a person about to die, who tries to stop the inevitable flood with a dam of words.

“I want you to know the distant pain I feel, being above you and so separate from everything.  Until now, my burning in the sky is the only way you have witnessed my agony.  Sometimes one of us becomes so full of longing, the heat is so great, that we are given the power of speech, and the chance to communicate with the beings we watch over everyday.  I wish I could be a part of your earth.  I see you all jumping and playing and growing and I want to share the pleasures of being human, or animal, or plant.  I would love to have a body, and a name, and relationships with other bodies.  Imagining isn’t enough.  I want to know what it feels like to eat food or to make love.”

“I think I would rather be in your position,” I said, “able to see everything, and not have to be involved.  You see so many stories, watch so many lives wither and bloom, and see things from many different points of view.  And you really do know everything under the sun.”

“That is true,” admitted the star.

“Perhaps you can tell me about myself.” I asked, “Do you know things about me that even I don’t know?”

“Although I dream of being closer to you,” she said, “if I let my secrets become your own, you will find it harder to be close to your own kind.  You will share the curse of distant stars, and be an eternal observer.  Already you have this in you.  I can tell by your eyes that shine trance-like and sparkling, and by the way your arms fold in front of you when you speak to people.  I am afraid I may have already said too much.  Let me impart to you one piece of advice:  Don’t be afraid to be involved in the world around you, and if you ever find yourself an outcast, find a way to express your pain.”

The star began to sizzle and rise above the flames of my fire.  “Wait,” I exclaimed, “How do you express the pain?”

The star did not answer for a long moment, and then said, “We stars burn so feverishly with longing, that together we make pictures in the sky.  Some people on your earth, have read our pictures and made their own stories.  Everyone sees something new, a different picture, and makes up a different story.”

Distracted by her words, I barely noticed that she had long since left me shivering in the cold of early morning.  I looked west of the rising sun, to see if I could discern her from the many pale stars that quivered, each in their own small hole in the sky.

I talked to her many times again, in my head.  I learned to love the addictive power of being an observer, and the understanding of things that came from seeing life at a distance.  Even now I rarely think of my experiences as being my own.  I live my own dreams through others, and tell their stories as if they were my own.  I have few friends; most people are afraid to let me know them, afraid their secrets will become my poems, that their souls will be stolen by my paintbrush, their lives rendered and hung up for public view.  This is what hurts most, but I cannot let go of the sky.

My daughter, you already know the pain of distance, the burning that comes when you are laughed at for being different, and for having an outcast for a mother, for seeing things in your own way.  Some tell you that you are a mad girl, and a mad woman’s daughter.  They say that you cannot possibly know what you know, that your insight was gained by trickery.  But your eyes twinkle with the promise of fulfillment; and when you have learned to express all you have seen through an artist’s craft, you will grow to be my finest poem.

[Originally published in Jittering Microscope #3, 1991]

Video: Ants Love Cat Food

Poor Max the cat. I saw him eating his food and then he suddenly jumped (not at all characteristic for the old guy) and ran away from his dish. I looked closer and understood why. 90 minutes later the dish was empty and I’m still not sure if it was eaten by the cats or if the ants hauled the food away.


Poem from the Vault: In a shell, beside you

In a shell, beside you


this echoing


my fright-filled

clenching hands

around my

legs make me as round

as the egg beside me

on the floor

below four trembling


the sound booms, shaking me,

surrounds my hollow hell

as I face inward.

The egg beside me

trembles contentedly


The booming walls move


and choke my words,

drown out my

burstingly incomplete roundness.

Tears divide my face,

as I fight

the urge to crumble.

The threatening world is

within me

and I cannot be

without it.

Poem from the Vault: Puppet of God

Puppet of God

God’s favorite puppet dresses like a clown

I saw him today on my way into town.

He played the fool, the pimp, and the sage

like a life-lusting monkey let out of his cage.

So I played the role of a vision quester

and for a few moments, he was my court jester.

With a passionate voice he started to sing

his quivering anthem to his listening king.

“I left my family for a gypsy’s life–

put myself under the scar-maker’s knife;

then lost my mind like wind-blown seed

and discovered that words are deceptive indeed.

“By God and nature and fate I was picked

to show all of you how we have been tricked.

You can’t see your strings but sure they are there.

There is no free will as some will declare.

“All children know when they are girls and boys

that their toys play with them, as they play with toys.

A doll is just a model of yourself–

so be content just to sit on your shelf.

“And so our days are hanging by a thread.

We’re only as alive as we are dead.

We’re bound to the earth as well as the sky.

In dreams and wind we are able to fly.

“Pretend I’m a sunflower rooted in soil.

I ache for the sun and toward it I toil.

If I could reach it I would surely burn

but drunk with warmth I continue to yearn.

“The next generation yields more like me,

who dream of the air while drowned in the sea,

So as you walk the mirrored shores

hang on to faith; it alone is yours.”

He delivered his song of paradox

then kissed his knees as he pushed down his socks.

Twirled he danced and made love to the air,

empty of shame as if no one were there.

His strings were stretched taut and making him shake

so quickly I thought his body would break.

To that man I have one question to ask–

Who will I be if I take off my mask?

[Originally published in Jittering Microscope #2, 1991]

Don’t call me Ma’am

My daughter, husband and I were at a restaurant and the waiter kept calling me “Ma’am” and my daughter as well. We talked about how funny this was, as neither my 8 year old nor I look like a “Ma’am.”

What does a Ma’am look like, you ask? I pulled out my sketchbook and whipped up these quick drawings of Ma’am, Sir and other stereotypes:




Cat Hat

A while ago I posted about how I wanted to make something using yarn the color of my cat, Sketch.

Here’s what I made:


Doesn’t he look thrilled?!

The pattern is Easy Cat Hat (which you can find free on Ravelry) but I took some liberties with the coloration.

Poem from the Vault: Echoes of Stillness

Echoes of Stillness

The path to my childhood

leads to a field, bright with sun,

bread and memory.

Field grasses quiver

and the ground is hot and firm,

yet breathes like skin.

The waiting seems to last


I feel prickly in the oven-heat.

Then the field opens, wide as the horizon.

My wet palms

receive the seeds, the scent of shifting wind.

Seedling becomes flower,

familiar with the gossip of insects.

The grasses speak with new confidence

and soon birth seeds of their own.

The sun bows and peers distantly

through the leaves of the trees,

whose sheltering canopy

flutters, groundward.

I press the leaves in

this book stained with sweaty fingerprints,

and continue

down the road.

[Originally published in Jittering Microscope #6, 1992]

Poem from the Vault: I Took Advice from a Tree

I Took Advice from a Tree


I asked it

–What should I do with my life?

What job shall I try for?

How should I live?–

The tree told me

–Make sure you have a strong foundation

that you have been well nourished by your roots.

Go as high as you can.

Branch out in many areas. Produce good

fruits for future generations. And always

remember that age

can make you stronger, and that

the rain is as vital as the sun—


[Originally published in Jittering Microscope #2, 1991]

Here is a PDF version of this which I made into a kind of children’s book:


Tips to Help Schoolchildren Who Hate Spelling

Are you a parent with a school age child who struggles to maintain a positive attitude about studying spelling words?

Maybe your child’s list contains relatively simple words like “here” or “girl” (like my kid’s did last year). Or maybe your child’s teacher has a higher standard of expectations, and thinks nothing of putting words like “cotyledon” and “multiplication” on the list (like my kid’s does this year).

You’ve heard the whining. You’ve witnessed the falling on the floor, the legs kicking in frustration. You’ve listened to all the procrastination excuses. Now it’s time to get serious about studying, because you don’t want your child to be the only one in class to get “megalith” wrong on the test, right?

Trouble is, your child is recalcitrant. Intractable. Obstreperous. Truculent. Insubordinate. Defiant. Rebellious. Contrary.

So what do you do? Try one of these tips.

1. Ask your child to quiz you. Yes you. Let her read a word from her spelling list out loud, and then you can carefully, slowly spell it back to her, so she can look at each letter to make sure you are getting it right. See what you are doing here? You are making her look carefully at the word while she thinks she’s making Mommy or Daddy do all the hard work of spelling it.

2. If he’s the competive sort, make a game or fun activity out of it. You know your child best. If he likes writing, have him write the words into a story. Maybe bring out the gel pens and black paper and have him practice writing the words in an artful script.

3. Help the child see how many “hidden” words are contained in the longer word. Like how “intractable” contains “in,” “tract” and “able.” This doesn’t work for all words, but when it does, you’ve got a study tip and a word seek game all wrapped into one.

4. When it’s time to quiz the kid, bring in a favorite stuffed animal or puppet to do the dirty work of reciting the word list.

Picture of stuffed animal reading spelling words.

Don’t forget to use a funny, but clear, voice.

P.S. Remember to sprinkle in some encouragement. When he does well, you might tell him you are impressed that he managed to spell a bunch of words that even some adults can’t spell.

If you have any more tips to suggest, please comment.

A Bit of My History

Back in the early 1990s I had a zine called Jittering Microscope. I listed with Factsheet Five and traded zines and writing with people all over the world. I laid the thing out myself with rubber cement and 8 1/2 x 11″ copy paper and wrapped it in an 11 x 17″ cover. For the cover of one issue, “Rumpled Quilt Skin,” I coerced my then boyfriend to lift his shirt and lay down on the Xerox 5090 machine in “photo” mode in order to wrap the zine with his naked chest. For another issue, “The Poser’s Coffeetable”, I photocopied the contents of our coffee table, complete with a Nietzsche book, incense  and Kretek cigarettes.

I don’t think I ever sold more than 40 copies of each issue, but for some reason I got weirded out when a stranger came up to me on the street and asked me when the next issue would be available. I stopped after seven issues and moved onto the next project, which I believe might have been spending ridiculous amounts of time on the Internet via Delphi, in the pre-www years, or playing way too much Civilization. And then I moved to Seattle and forgot about all that stuff for years.

So I was just looking through an old CD-rom and found typed copies of many of the writings I once published in Jittering Microscope and possibly even from my old chapbook, Realism for Idealists. These are some of the same things I used to read out loud at parties and official “poetry readings,” back in the days when I did that sort of thing (and in rare cases actually got paid to do it).

I’ve decided to start republishing these writings on my blog, “warts and all” and I’ll tag them “Jittering Microscope” or “vault”. I’m hoping that doing this will inspire me to write some new poems and stories, because there’s nothing quite like rereading your old stuff to make you think “I can do better.”

P.S. I’ve also posted some of my earlier paintings.