Part of me leaked out today

Friday, 8. March, 2019

As I was trying to leave to go to work today, my nose began to gush blood.

I stood in the kitchen with a roll of paper towels, watching my life force drip into the sink.

I stared at the  erythrocytes bright red with oxygenation.

I wondered about my white blood cells. Were they thrashing around trying to find some enemy to defeat, still living and moving in the red gush?  How long until they realized they were no longer part of the organism and gave up?

Were my platelets trying to coagulate, even though there was no reason to do so?

How long does my blood live without me?

I tasted the metal in my throat, looked at the red gathering in all the creases of my hands, frozen by the thought that I am composed of billions of molecules working together somehow.

Blood is a beautiful color.blood red

Spiegel, blutrot (Blood Red Mirror ) by Gerhard Richter

are humans smarter than animals?

Today’s journal prompt was about the ways in which we are smarter than animals, and the ways in which they are smarter than us.

Here are some results from my 7th and 8th graders:


“Better technology.”

“Complicated buildings.”

“Written language.”


“Animals don’t judge each other.”

“My dog knows what I’m saying when I ask him to take a walk. But I don’t know what he is saying when he is barking. Maybe we just don’t understand their language.”

“One thing that is better about animals than humans is disagreements; humans fight and get mad at random pointless stuff and come up with stupid things like racism and sexism, animals don’t.”

Out of the mouths of my awkward angels.

Sugar-Free Salt-Free Wheat-free Vegan Blueberry Yum

My gran made the best blueberry cheesecake. Graham cracker crust, lots of butter, cream cheese, cool whip, canned blueberries, more sugar, pecans. MMMM

Now, my husband and I are both on this diet for different health reasons. Limiting refined sugar, salt, wheat, dairy and egg.

I’ve been working with my dietary restrictions for a long time, so I have gotten pretty good at making food taste good within my limitations.

But this is my best yet. I have outdone myself.

So if you have dietary restrictions, here is my approximation of my Gran’s blueberry dessert.


blueberrygoo1 pint  or more of blueberries

some honey or maple syrup to taste, about 6 tbsp

a cup of cashews

can of coconut milk

3 tbsp coconut oil

some pecans (however many you want)

1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup almond flour

a quarter cup of boiling water

zest and juice of 2 limes  lemons

cardamom or vanilla to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. soak the cashews in boiling water.
  3. mix the oats,  pecans, coconut oil, almond flour, a tablespoon or two of coconut milk, and 1-2 tbsp honey
  4.  rinse blueberries and dump into a baking dish, add a lemon’s worth of juice, a splash of water, 1-2 tbsp of honey, and a sprinkle of cornstarch if you have it
  5.  put the oat stuff on top
  6. bake 30 minutes
  7. put about 1/3 cup of coconut milk in the blender with the soggy cashews. add juice and zest of one lemon or lime
  8. blend til creamy, then stick in fridge.
  9. when the cobbler is cooked, serve hot with the creamy goo on top.

IT’S SO GOOD Y’ALL!  Thanks Gran. Grateful to be able to eat yummies without it making me sick.








Rosenmontag; Art as Protest

I teach middle school, y’all. These kids are full of energy and potential action; they need to be actively taught how to deal with life’s travails, not taught to avoid all discussion of the Big Issues like religion and politics, as my generation was.  The way to do this is NOT to show them footage of horrifying things and shame them for not caring enough.  (I learned this the hard way).  It is to give them ways to engage with tough information, then show them ways to direct their frustrations and energies in constructive rather than chaotic ways.

Karneval/Fastnacht in Germany is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, with some differences. Each year I show the kids highly amusing and disrespectful parade floats that question the justice of certain political actions. ( I left out the really inappropriate ones. ) We talked about roasts, and the political function of having one day when people even as rule-bound as the Germans could say what they wanted, even if it was pretty disrespectful to authority figures,  in the spirit of good fun, and honest artistic expression. ( and not get in trouble.) If you are interested in these floats,gretathunberg google “Rosenmontag Mottowagen”  and you’ll see pictures of them. Some are crass, some are depressing, some are twisted, some are hilarious, and some are all four. Yay German dark humor!

For our celebration on Friday (late, I know, but I don’t want to party on Tuesday and try to go back to normal the rest of the week!)  students will present a piece of art , poem, song, or slideshow that illustrate either something they learned about Karneval, or  some injustice they wanted to protest against. Obviously, this is a fine line to walk!   I make it very clear that it must be protesting or highlighting a specific event or action, NOT randomly caricaturing a politician or person you don’t like.

Last year,  a bright, attentive, respectful, cooperative student asked if she could stage a protest against daily reading time.  (15 minutes of silent reading time per day) I told her of course, it was freedom of speech, and so she prepared an excellent little miniature float, mounted on a remote-controlled car, protesting Daily Reading Time. As a result, I negotiated with her class, and we got reading time down to 10 minutes a day 🙂

In case you don’t know, the girl in the Mottowagen pictured is Greta Thunberg, the swedish teenager who has become a spokesperson for the youth environmental movement in Sweden, Germany, England, and other parts of Europe. She is a big deal.  I like to teach my students about how kids are taking leadership roles.


The Nothing.

from facebook, February 15, 2017

After decades of struggle with depression, I have spent the past year coming into a sense of personal peace. I felt for many years that I was standing on a tiny, shrinking island of safety in a boiling tar pit of nothingness. I was unconsciously holding onto my privileged, unrealistic delusions from childhood, and the cognitive dissonance was destroying me. I was trying to escape from everything and everyone, thinking that if I could just stop the stressors, I could be safe from the Nothing. One beautiful day last spring I took a long lunch and went to the botanical garden, thinking “Escape! I am free! Just me and nature. I can have an hour of peace!” But the peace did not come. I realized then that the Nothing was inside me, not outside, and that the only thing to do was hold my breath and step into the tar pit.
Once I stepped off my island I began to understand that it was never an island at all, but a small, cramped, dirty dome of denial, and the tar pit was really an endless sunlit landscape. Stepping into the fear, facing all that reality, was an excruciating process, but it allowed me to see all the heartbreakingly beautiful things as well, all that had been obscured by the Nothing. Now there is so much sunlight and dazzling complexity, and I can rejoice in all the wonders I have yet to learn, rather than fearing what knowledge may do to me.
The root of this peace is just sitting with the awareness that NOTHING is guaranteed, that feeling entitled or taking things for granted are foolish and dangerous delusions, and that the ability to truly feel gratitude is the sweetest grace we can hope for. Once the gratitude takes up residence in your heart instead of the fear, you have way less time for petty bitterness, dissatisfaction, and blame games, because you see that being on the planet at all is a blessing, and that working to help others is the rent we should all be happy to pay for living here.
The quote below by Tim Wise is the truest thing I have read today. I see now that this is why so many black folks I know were not shrieking, useless, privileged panic monkeys like I was when Trump won the election. My friends were not pleased, but they were also definitely not surprised. They see.
“It is long past the time when white men are going to have to learn something that folks of color have always known: nothing is certain and nothing can be taken for granted; life is about change and disruption. And the minute you get comfortable and sleep on the way the world works, is the minute you go under. The privilege of not having to KNOW that — and a long damned time ago — is what has so many white folks shook right now.”


“I smell you.” Meditations on the Simpsons and True Detective.

In an episode of the Simpsons, Lisa is trying to figure out why the bully, Francine, attacks some victims and ignores others. Through a series of experiments she finds that Francine does, in fact, smell fear, and then attacks her nerdy prey as a hawk would.

As a middle school teacher, I can attest to the truth of this. Bullies can smell fear like sharks smell blood in the water.  Bullies are needy humans; what they need, first and foremost, a sense of self-worth, so they don’t have to suck the blood of others to get it.

I can sniff that we are a bit.. off….when myself or my husband or son are coming down with something, as I am sure many moms regularly do.

Humans, like all other complex creatures, are equipped with pheromones that signal to others our basic emotions. Fear, anger, sadness…we rub off on each other.

Trained animals can sniff out people in the early stages of cancer.

Babies separated from their mothers can easily choose their mom’s scent from an array of t-shirts worn by different  (unperfumed) women.

Like other creatures, we are meant to fully experience the emotion, act on it, share it with others, try to resolve the situation, then once it is resolved, or deemed unresolvable, move on to business as usual.  I saw a dog get hit by a car. Not seriously injured, he run off  to the side of the road, shook and ran around in crazy circles for a while  (shake it off, shake it off) and then trotted off at a normal gait. If we don’t practice our ability to de-escalate our feelings like this, we store up the emotions and they get all swirled and confused inside us, sometimes making situations seem worse than they are.

Our bodies and emotions are designed for us to live in small, non-anonymous groups. It is really hard to cheat or rip someone off if you live in the same community with them, and have to look them in the face.  It’s hard to lie or bully someone when you have to face them, and face the consequences of your actions.  Our legalistic, anonymous, not-my-problem system makes it a whole lot easier because if the evidence comes down to the words that “he said, she said”, then it is often impossible to make a fair judgment. If compassionate others are there, watching, present, it is much harder for the truth to be obscured.

The trouble is that in our culture,we don’t get very close to each other, and we and are inordinately grossed out by body odors, so we don’t make it our business to sniff people. We don’t want to be involved in other people’s sh*t.

One result of this lack of sniffing is that people have a lot harder time understanding each other. As I have noted before,  words often fail to communicate.  English especially is imprecise; it is very hard to say exactly what you mean, and even harder to get someone to understand it exactly how you meant it. Especially if one or more parties are angry, which causes words to become bombs, whether bombs of truth or bombs of lies with the intent to harm. It is much easier to misunderstand someone if you cannot sniff out their motivation.

And that in turn makes it a whole lot easier to lie to cover your own butt,and to get people to believe your lies.  If you have enough money and social capital to spray rosy perfume all over your actions, people just walk on by like your sh*t doesn’t stink.

The writing prompt in my middle school class one day was ;”Write about a time when lying might be the right thing to do. ”  I was thinking I would get stuff like “when my mom asks if the dress makes her look fat, I say no”

The truth was that nearly every single kid reported about lying to get out of trouble. Some of them wrote about “my friend…”  when I could tell it was a thinly veiled confessional. Even the kids you’d never think.  If the school or the home is set up to where the kid is afraid to tell the truth, because he knows he will be punished for it, then a double standard is prevailing. The kid knows how to pretend to be, in order to not get punished. I see this over and over with seasoned bullies, who quietly needle the nerdy,weird, or minority kid while teacher isn’t looking. In the hall, at lunch, while teacher’s hawklike attention is elsewhere. Then, in the middle of class, the nerdy kid breaks, yelling at his sneaky attacker, and gets in trouble, because he is the one making noise when the teacher turns around, and the bully by then is angelically staring at the board. Over and over we reward lying. We reward keeping the peace. We reward not speaking out.  We reward sneakiness, because we can’t prove anything.

This happens with policemen too. Cops get played by rich folk pinning crimes on lower-class people who make scenes instead of keeping the peace. Cops stuck between rocks and hard places, needing the conviction to keep their job and their reputation. Like in True Detective episode 3, where the crime is pinned variously on lower-class folk; is it the native-american guy? the black-guy with the weird eye? The drunk guy who might be gay? The long-haired teen with the death metal shirt on? Takes a long time to get to the guy who has money to pay these people off, or have them offed.

If you assume the worst from children, or if you assume perfect abstract blanket adherence, rather than a series of mistakes that need forgiveness in order to progress, kids will comply in the only ways they can. Instead of learning how to be an honest, trusting, and trustworthy person, they will learn how to look for loopholes to get ahead and not get caught.

What can we do to help kids not practice being loophole seekers?  To seek truth and to be truthful, rather than “play the system?”

Love them how they are. Encourage the truth, even when it hurts. Help them dispel the idea that anyone can be totally good or totally bad, and help them to see themselves and everyone else as works in progress.

Get close to people. Look them in the face. Smell them. Of all our fallible senses, smelling lies the least.

Smell you later.francine.gif





taking water for granted

March 2, 2019

some of my students were calling each other ghetto yesterday

a flow of words coming through the door

scrutinizing hair and clothing for signs of poverty

then we watched Lion , and they saw the ghettos of Calcutta

they asked why people washing clothes in the river

why that boy wore the same thing every day

and I told them how so many people don’t have running water

hundreds of people bathing, pooping, washing clothes, all in that same river

and my students’ flow of words slowed.


When I got home  the water was out

workers digging through the street up the block

water flowing down my street like a river

I cooked rice with bottled water

and woke up to  no shower and no place to poop

that meme says you value every drop of water

once you’ve had to carry it yourself

but for how long?

How do I hold this gratitude

for my hoarded emergency plastic water  bottles

and the bathroom at the coffee shop  up the street past the water main break?

How long will our water systems hold up?

When will they be  just broken aqueducts like the ones in Rome?

water cannot be hoarded as easily as money or power

it is living and wants to flow down or evaporate up

whether floodstage or drought

we can corral but not tame it

it runs us








People need to be seen and heard, y’all

March 1, 2019

Your attention is valuable.  Yes, you. There is someone in your life today who would really value your listening ear or undistracted eye; someone you can learn from.

I met an interesting older gentleman today at the coffee shop.  He talked of his mother, who he calls a queen of Kinloch. She died sixteen years ago.  He was wearing a warm hat and nice glasses. He is gay. He is diabetic and has a number of other ailments. He showed me his medications in his backpack. He said that the doctor said he needed to take better care of himself, and he explained calmly and rationally that if the doctor were to trade places with him for one month, and live homeless, that he might understand why it is harder for a person to take care of himself living on the street.  He said does not like to ask for money.  He said he asks around for odd jobs to do, to earn food. He said he has asked every preacher and pastor and priest he can find for an honorable way to earn money.

He is not used to people looking him in the eye. I looked him in the eye and listened to all he had to say.  I told him that I agreed with him, that if we could have some sort of exchange program, to force people to live the life of a homeless person for one month before returning to luxury and comfort, then people might see that they do actually live in luxury and comfort, even if they are dissatisfied with their small house or crappy job. I told him about a facebook friend of mine from elementary school  recently evicted from her home, and how she and I talked about how everyone (except the super-wealthy)  is just one major health crisis  away from financial disaster.  He listened, surprised to hear me say these things.

Security is the great American Golden Calf, y’all. No one has true financial or bodily security, because we are all mortal; you can’t take it with you. It is the great lie than our money-driven fear-driven security-obsessed culture teaches; that your security is your God-given right. Nope. No sacred text says “certain people deserve and are guaranteed lifelong financial security and health”, but rather, something more along the lines of  “some are lucky, and to whom much is given, much is expected.”

We don’t want to look at unhoused people because they make us doubt our American-advertising-instilled “right” to financial security. Their existence makes us uneasy in the gut. The truth is, he equally as human as I am, despite any mistakes he or I might have made, or the hand of cards we have each been dealt. He knows I cannot save him from his troubles. He wasn’t asking me to. He just wanted me to look him in the eye and value him as a person.

When I first moved to St. Louis, I was not used to homeless people. I was scared of them. When walking, I would cross the street to avoid a conversation. Just seeing an unhoused person made me feel a strange icky mixture of fear, disgust, distress, and shame. I didn’t want to smell them. I wanted to wish them away, to pretend I hadn’t seen them. They disturbed my ideas about the fairness of the world. I wanted to blame them for their misfortune. Gradually I started facing uncomfortable truths. So many hardworking, honest people I know live with health challenges and struggle to pay their bills. Many homeless shelters are closing. A huge percentage of the homeless population consists of thrown-away veterans with PTSD, or people who lost their homes because of a loved one with a health crisis and no insurance. The problem isn’t “them”.  “They” are “us”.

Could he have been lying to me about some of his story? Sure. I don’t care. People lie to themselves and each other all the time. Sometimes without even realizing it.  When you work with middle schoolers, you see how pliable the truth can be; the story changes from telling to telling, the dots get connected differently, blame gets assigned differently, causation gets assigned differently. I have had so many children lie to my face, and all I can do is continue to love them and work with them in the best way I can. Some cultures, especially native american ones, realize how tricksy words can be, painting different realities, morphing into huge misunderstandings. Often what people say is what they WANT to be true.  People often leave out really important parts of the story because they don’t want them to be true. Regardless of the exactness of the details of the story, the truth is clear; people need to be looked in the eye and and treated with respect. That’s easy, y’all. Just look people in the face a minute and give them your patient attention, and see what you can learn.

Words are like fossils

There is a relationship between written words and fossilization.  It is taxidermy of an idea. Words that have ossified can lose their meaning. Words work best when spoken and heard directly. They carry more of the original meaning.  We all know about the game of telephone, which ends up with wild misinterpretations of the original. It is so, to a lesser extent, with almost everything people ever say or write. You could also liken it to making a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy;  or of a cassette. It eventually gets blurry. We all have had misunderstandings over text or email that could have been avoided if someone had been there to hear our tone of voice. Every utterance is not the pure idea; it is the sketch someone managed to make of it, and then what the other person hears is their sketch of the sketch.  I like to play a game in German class where the kids draw crazy creatures, with different animal heads, body parts, etc, keeping the pictures secret and hidden. I then choose a monster and describe it slowly it as a listening activity, and they draw them on their whiteboards. The different images that emerge are either uncannily similar to the original, or wildly different based not only on how much the kid understood , but how well he can draw.  EVERY TRANSLATED DOCUMENT HAS THAT SAME EFFECT. Doubly, triply, quadruply filtered through different points of view and different writing abilities. Imagine how much more so this occurs after a text has been around for 1000 years, and has been translated, beaten and buffeted by societal meanings.  Retelling the stories breathes life into them, but can also change their form. What remains might be a recognizable fossil.  Or it may look more like sedimentary silty mud or polished creek-stone, completely different from the original living idea. 


Robot Birdies and Shapeshifting Buzzards

September 1979

My little birdies cheep so soft that no one else can hear them. They live in a box under my dresser, and when I get them out sometimes there are four but today there are five. I am holding them so carefully so nothing can hurt them while I am checking on them. Rusty comes in and sees me sitting on the carpet by my dresser so he knows what I am doing and he grabs my hands and claps them together  hard and says “ you smooshed them!” But I said “Those are the ROBOT birdies you squooshed, not the real ones!” and we laugh.


May 1980

I was bouncing on Darren’s bed because it is cooler down there in his room and he isn’t home much since he got old enough to drive. But then he comes in and yells at me!  But he isn’t really mad I don’t think and then Russ comes in and I scream “SHARK!” I am so excited because it WORKS ! Keith gets on the boat with me and rows the boat and PROTECTS me while Rusty swims on the carpet and makes “JAWS” sounds and I scream and I am so happy because I am scared but it is the all-fake kind of scared. Rusty don’t wanna be the shark but somebody’s gotta be him.


June 1980

I picked blueberries for mama to put in the pancakes. I only ate three. The small bushes down by the playhouse had a handful of ripe ones and a bunch of purply ones.  They are beautiful and tiny. You have to check them every day so the birds don’t get them. The one behind the prickly cedar had only a few ripe ones, but my favorite big bush up by the road had a bunch. I like the woods so much better than helping mama in the garden, even if she lets me play with the hosepipe.  The okra and tomato plants itch me and the sun cooks me redder than dirt. The blueberry bushes like the shade and so do I.


August 1981

Daddy took me fishing today. I was good at keeping quiet so the the fish wouldn’t hear us. I poked the hook through the worm’s guts all by myself. We ate Vienna Sausages out of the can and saltine crackers and drank Grapico. We fished all day and I never wanted to leave. I caught a golden perch and  I was sad about how little it was but daddy told me how rare golden perches are. When we were speeding back I stuck my hand out of the boat and the water felt like a sharp edge. The wind was so fast it pulled my eyelids back and the water felt like hail and I had to curl up and put my head on daddy’s knee and  I was safe then.


June 1982

My brother can make anything.  I got to stand in his room and watch Russ finish the tiny skeleton model, surrounded by little square bottles of shiny paint.  He used that one-haired brush to paint eyes on the green snake coming out of that skeleton’s eye socket. I know I get to stay longer if I don’t say anything so I just smelled the paint and glue and  listened to his Thomas Dolby tape and I love Europa and the Pirate Twins and I was so happy I felt like crying.The song is sad though and Thomas Dolby keeps saying “we’ll be the Pirate Twins again” over and over but they never are and the song ends that way.


August 1982

I want a cat. Most of the books I make are about cats. I found an old one where I drew the cat marrying a DOG. Can you imagine?? In the next one the girlcat marries boycat and has a bunch of kittens. Last week I went to my friend’s house and laid down  on the ground next to the kittens drinking from their mama, and she looked bored but patient and kind of sleepy, even when they pricked her soft parts with their little teeth and claws. When they were done eating, the mama cat let me touch them. They crawled all over me, and I felt their tiny claws prick my skin just enough to itch. I  put my nose in their fuzzy fur and breathed their smell. I let them tangle in my hair even. It made me feel warm and sleepy like the mama cat. I want a cat but no one else in my family likes them.


September 1982.

There was a  wild kitten on the playground but we didn’t see it until it was time to come in. Mrs. Wilkinson said I could stay out longer so I could rescue  the kitten. But she let this kid Billy stay out too. We chased the kitten and got closer and then Billy got too close with his big shoe and all then all I could see was the soft, shiny pink of its skull-skin, its fur was torn off and smeared into the ground. After I  threw up I couldn’t feel it anymore but I could still see it.


October 1984

The deer was already hanging up by its back feet when me and mama  got back from church. Daddy was about to skin it. Its eyes were cloudy,  its fur kinda crumpled, its nose dried out. I thought about how different it would look once the skin was on the smooth fiberglass form, the glass eyes perfectly in place, mascara on its eyelashes, the fur combed, the nose painted a shiny black. It would be beautiful.


October 1984

I wanted to write a story about what I saw but I am still shaky so I will just write in my journal so no one will see it. I was walking in the woods like usual but I went too far. I wasn’t lost exactly. There were weird soft noises, and when I looked up there were all these big dark shapes in the branches hanging like some weird fruit and they were monkeys. So many, dozens or hundreds, and they smelled like dead things. I felt really crazy because I know there are no monkeys in Georgia. I got dizzy. Monkeys??? I moved closer to them and they suddenly  turned into big black buzzards with naked heads. Then I saw the pile of deer bones and flies. This is where daddy brings taxidermy leftovers. I felt a little better. But I was still smooshing down the fear that things would change into other things. This is when I first learned that you can’t trust what you see.cats

Taxidermy of Ideas into Ideology

It looks alive, doesn’t it?

The glassy eyes of the taxidermed hawk stare

no mercy for the mouse he will never devour

both wrapped forever in the limbic heat of attack


The real hawk is merciful when sated

And takes a joyous victory lap.


Once a good idea becomes ideology

the life has gone out of it

It becomes a virus

No longer creating joy or hope

Merely replicating itself.


If we hear a good idea

Then do the good idea

it can grow and change and fly

then die

when it needs to become

Food for scavengers instead of raptors.


Misha’s Ceremony

Chapter 1. (novel in progress) blood moon

Misha examined herself in the looking-glass, frustrated. Her cheekbones were too long and bony, like the rest of her. The powder could not quite cover up her sun-damage. More than ever, she felt like her face was not her own.

Misha was fourteen  today; the Passing Ceremony would happen to her. She was so grateful Karenina was there to help her get ready. Even though Karenina had to manage all the girls, Misha felt that the kindness in Karenina’s hands was a bit more for her than for the others. Probably because Karenina knew the other girls hated Misha. Well, the little ones Misha kept during the day hadn’t learned to hate her yet,  but she couldn’t very well share her secrets and dreams with little girls barely old enough to talk.

Karenina carefully unwrapped  the once-white gown which had been used for each girl in Marana for as long as anyone could remember. She left the room for a moment so Misha could dress in privacy. It had been preserved with aksa, which smelled like pine tar. As she pulled the fabric over her head she was overwhelmed not only with the scent of aksa, but also the perfumes of the hundreds of girls who had worn the dress before her.  Misha’s headache grew worse. She fumbled with the corset strings, which were not quite long enough.

Finally encased in the dress, Misha  flipped back her despised hair. It was the color of pale mud.  Why could she not have shining black hair like everyone else? If she was going to be a freak misbirth, why could she not have been blond like a Selucian?  She tried to smooth her offensive hair under the golden circlet she found with the dress.

Something behind her made Misha whirl in alarm. Karenina stood  in the doorway, staring at her, eyes wide, her hands over her mouth. She was staring at Misha’s naked knees.  Misha felt the ugly red blush move up her throat towards her face. The dress was not decent on her.

“What can I do? “ Misha panicked. She knew the dress could not be altered. She wished that Karenina could speak; usually she could answer just fine with her hands, but this was too difficult to explain.

Then she noticed the bloody stain spreading up the front of the dress. Misha tore off the dress in horror and ran.


The Philosophy of Taxidermy

Taxidermy can be beautiful. The essence of taxidermy is  preservation of something that is dead, such that it should look alive, and remind us of the life it once had. My father was a literal taxidermist. He mounted the finest deer heads in Troup County Georgia. I took pride in helping him comb the soft fur, applying eyeliner and mascara to their beautiful glass eyes, applying the shiny topcoat to the nose to make it appear dewy and alive. Eating the meat and thanking the creature for giving its beautiful wild life.

Almost everything we do is an attempt to stop time, in order to apprehend meaning.  Ask Keats. Ask any artist or poet.

It seems  that there are two ways of doing this.  One is open to flow and change, embracing, glad of memory.  The other is frozen by fear of change, idealizing what never was.

There is good taxidermy, which reminds us truly of the beautiful essence of  living things. All good art, music, and writing are the good kind of taxidermy.cropped-deer-patriarchy.jpg

And there is the bad kind of taxidermy. That which freezes a living thing in a position of awkward, stilted deadness.  Or preserves a thing which need not be preserved. During the excruciatingly slow death of tribalism, people try to ossify values that made sense before but no longer apply in a sped-up world.

An A.D.D Teacher’s Prayer

Please God don’t let it all be pointless

I want to understand as much as I can

beyond the vanishing point of despair.

Help me find some bridges

When I am out to sea, staring at the stars,

my boat drifting farther out.

Help me to participate in life

wrestling with my angel serotonin

Help my addled brain decide what matters

So I can act on it

Transform the idea that my mood is morality

That my flawed organization is sin.

Help me not be overcome by the din

of the hundreds in the cafeteria struggling to be heard

of the  hundreds in the hall struggling to prove their worth

of dozens in my classroom struggling for attention

The noise of all those wills I am obligated to guide and manage and control

When all I want is to give all my attention to one beautiful soul at a time

And take them seriously and show them they matter

Instead of always employing the eyes in the back of my head

My attention splintered, my light scattered

Help me not feel heartbroken

When they don’t want to learn what I have to teach

Because they are caught in their Maslow’s needs

Transmute my triggers of being misunderstood and voiceless

Into  love and light

Let me help the misunderstood and voiceless

Give me the art, the  will, the joy, the call to action

To help them engage

with empathy and understanding

Some days I feel like a true leader of my classes;

they hear, they learn, they grow.

Other days, when my mood fails,

I fail,

And all I want is to climb under the porch like a dying animal

so I can’t hurt anyone and they can’t hurt me.

Help me God  to accept and manage my inconsistencies

Instead of pretending that I should be “100% on” all the time.

Help me to be a conduit for realness and  joy and connection.

Let me use what I have learned about

The fragmented realities that are common trauma

Transmute my struggles

Into some sort of plenty for others

So that my petty fragile suffering just been more than just

A stupid waste.

Transmute my ick into fertile soil

So I can help others transmute theirs

Please God I pray

I want to give without getting depleted

Help me to be both strong and kind

Help me to face the bones of reality

Beyond the reflection of my own glass darkly

Help me see the truth

Communicate the truth

I pray

Make me a clear channel for your love.

Give me a strong backbone and a soft heart

To help them live into the unknown without fear.


Art By Howard Finster. Cover Art for Talking Heads album Little Creatures.

Stuff I heard Jesus say to me

An agent of sorrow

is what people need

to outgrow youth’s anger

of happiness decreed


You traveled down into

abysses of shame

and built  fortress walls

of issues to blame


You sealed off your heart

with a great rolling stone

you strengthened the barricade

to “lighten your load”


honey you listened

but still don’t see light

your eyes are still blinded

by perfectionist might


Give up. Give in.

Let them eat your remains.

You are less than you think

and more all the same


Let the reins drop.

face up to the end.

Count on what’s beautiful

then you’ll begin.


You cannot change life

with catalogs of woes

life is a movement

it’s power that flows.


Don’t give up your power

just use it for good

don’t pick that flower

just leave it to bloom.


Live moving forward

don’t let thorns remain

tidy your shoes

from guilt and from pain.


You carry your own heart

you need nothing more

your gifts can be heartfelt

and leave you less poor


Breathe in your essence

of gold and of strength

let go the bindings

that strip you at length.


The hallway is narrow

the kitchen is bright

your lifetime is gift time

it isn’t a fight.


surrender is all

make your soul like a dove

the fighting must end

if you throw down the glove


take careful stock

of material things

so you know what you give

and can then give it wings.


Breathe child breathe

today doesn’t end it

it’s one golden moment

you don’t have to spend it


You know what you’ve come from

you know where you’ve been

you know what your soul is

now step in it again.


If you cling, it gets taxidermed

cold, hard, and dead

let spirit flow through you

it’s not in your head.


You didn’t invent this

its been going for years

but culture has squashed it

with objects and fears.


Cling only to truth, girl

and love as it unfolds

you can’t use your terror

in well-lit abodes


These teachings they teach you

in one ear out another

but love is what’s acted

in, through, and under.







Serpents, Spelunking, and Gas Station Cappuccino


I drank it with you, that blast of sensory overload. High fructose corn syrup, chemically-induced hazelnut flavor, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil for creamer. But oh, it was the most delicious coffee, because it was with you.

Nervous systems charged, we drove to the trailhead, hacked through the briars, and descended into the silky-damp of the cave. As we went deeper, it got darker. The only light was your headlamp. You turned it off at one point, impish, to see if I would freak out, but somehow it made the dark more velvety. My anxiety did not kick in. This part of earth’s womb is always warm yet cool, perpetually 57 degrees. Change is slow here. I touched rocks worn soft by years of dripping water, becoming slowly coated with mud, silky-smooth as clay slip. Colorless, eyeless salamanders darted under us as they sensed our hugeness.  I felt in my eardrums some rustling overhead, maybe bats.

You turned the lamp back on and we went forward. We came to a bottleneck so narrow that it might tear parts of me off.  I was afraid I would be trapped forever. I froze. My blood beat in my ears and my chest felt glued together. But you scoffed and cajoled and pulled me through with your wiry strength. On the other side of the squeeze, the cave opened out again, and we sat on the cave floor, trembling, covered with rose-petal soft mud. Breathing. We turned off the lamp again and sat watching glowworms, winking here and there, visible only if you waited still long enough.

The water dripped patiently into pools not growing in size. I illusioned the stalagmites growing the slightest bit as we were standing there. This dripping was not chinese water torture, but a painless, sweet process distilling the calcium into its next location. The wetness here was the cleanest I’d smelled, since stinky bacteria seem to prefer a bit of light in their darkness. In one of the ponds glided a perfectly white eyeless creature. An eel? A fish? It was slightly pearlescent and beautiful for no reason, as even its mate could not see its beauty.

Then we got up and moved foward until we reached the tightest of tight spots, our goal, the inner sanctum. We knew it because people had marked it; this was where the grand cave paintings were, ancient masterpieces (or graffiti) still unmolested by modern graffiti. We’d heard of it but no one so far had managed to get a good photo. It seemed like sacrilege to try to photograph it. Like you had to make the journey to earn the privilege to see it, then burn the image onto your mind, no cheats allowed.

But the opening.

I could not fit through that birth canal. My boobs would not fit. My ass would not fit. My heart constricted in sorrow. I choke-joked that you should take your narrow lil T and A on through that hole, and I’d wait here.

Laughing, you squeezed through the hole. My darkness was complete.


You screamed and I was unprepared because I was supposed to be the scared one but you were the one afraid of snakes. I was the one who wasn’t afraid of snakes. Why wasn’t I afraid of snakes? I was scared of everything else, of all the things you were brave about.  NO FAIR NO FAIR NO FAIR

You were panicking and the snakes might be biting you and all I could think was NO! I AM SUPPOSED TO BE THE ONE WHO GETS TO PANIC!

I had to get through that hole even if it tore pieces of me off.

I wrestled with the earth then and she gave a little but I gave more and I knew I would bleed but I had to get through and and I knew somehow that she wouldn’t take all my blood and that she would let me back out

Then I saw you, your face a mask of panic, lit strangely by the headlamp, and my heart filled with something.  Light slowly glinted off the shiny backs of the beautiful tangled swarm of serpents. Somehow I picked you up out of the nest of snakes and held you tight like a child, listening to your crazed heartbeat, and time slowed to a crawl.

When time started back up, the snakes slithered rapidly away in all directions.

We breathed.  The sun trickled golden through tree roots and cracks above us, dappled patterns illuminating the inner sanctum.