Road Trip

When I was a kid, I loved old movies. Abbott and Costello. Martin and Lewis. Hope and Crosby. Mishaps and wrong turns. Laughter and travel. Or maybe it was the whole buddy thing. Bonding over a shared experience. Whatever it was, I always felt like I had escaped something from own life and had a glimpse of something to which I wanted to return.


Road Trip


It wasn’t exactly Martin and Lewis but it felt close.
First leg of our cross country jaunt and almost over.
He secured the final hitch, warning over his shoulder
Remember, you can’t back this baby up. Always
pull through. He patted the Uhaul’s side, handed
the keys to you. We huddled over the map, paper
those days and turn-by-turn, and plotted our start.
Tired from steering the freighter-weight truck, you
aimed for the closet space, forgetting the car
hitched behind until almost too late.

That night we both shivered at the near miss.
I became captain of our ship because my yelp
Don’t! made the near miss a reality. From there
we drove almost without mishap, telling each other
stories of other almost-was and never-had beens,
thank God. We saw this country from marsh to flat,
open lands to crops to open again. At times only we
held the road, sign after sign touting giant rodents
and other unnatural wonders. I hadn’t signed on
for such things but was glad I’d shared them with you.




They are outside a train station, beige with dark green gingerbread trim.
Maybe they are in another country. In Europe. The where is not important.
The tickets matter here. Timetables, tickets and their cost. Yes, that is it.

The station booth sits there under roof, embraced by the train tracks. Open
to the air and all looking to shift body from home to somewhere not here.
They fret, tongues thick in their mouths. Minds lively with fear and random words.

The woman inside cannot decipher their jumbled asking of how much. She only
shakes her head in confusion at each word left in the air in offering. English first,
other tongues — Spanish, German, Italian — linger cryptic in an uncloud.

This is a necessity. This train, black ribbon against such verdant hills, coming
shortly.  Heads together — this man, this woman  — move a few steps away,
shoulders a droop inside their clothing. Another try in other tongues; failure.

His hands know the way. They swoop and rise, dart with fingers fluid and sure.
The attendant smiles and she answers, her own arms, hands, fingers bright
in response. A veil of unknowing flutters groundward at this epiphany.

Mesmerized, the woman watches. She stands beside him, this new knowing
blooming fierce in her. He has an answer but she can only stare. Now,
there is another necessity.  He is hers now — this dark horse of a man —
and the father of all she will bear. One last thing to ask and he does with her

standing  close behind, smiling. Again he speaks, hands like birds,
airy and supple, talking to the woman in the booth.


This weekend much of the world watched a fairy tale in the making. With a twist. It all made me think of the fairy tales I grew up with and the tales I told myself with me as the star.



I’ll confess.
Tell you I’m guilty
of piracy
cannon smoke
a haze as I
stalk decks, blooded
cutlass in hand.

I concede.
Lay before you
my innermost
into high queen

I’ll admit
I’ve fashioned
my wildest wish
into story
into writing
this for you.


I knew I would go to college. In an undetermined time after, I saw myself spending lazy afternoons poking for trinkets at outdoor markets. I loved the black-and-white movies that showed the stars zipping along narrow roads perched on mountain ledges. I saw myself there too.


It is delicious to be anonymous on a foreign city street.
The usual things I didn’t pine for earlier / because I didn’t know I wouldn’t have them.
— lines from Self-Portrait on the Street of an Unnamed Foreign City by Jennifer Grotz

My mother refused to say
‘the projects’
as if by not speaking those words
it would make the world we inhabited not so

Yet before bed, I heard
a voice on television read the latest
socioeconomic news

a child of divorce
from a single parent home
with a distant father

would not likely

graduate from high school
earn a living wage

would (most) likely

if female and black
receive government assistance
live in government housing
have two children before 18

I stood stiff, accused, in the doorway
between kitchen and living room
prickling with shame I had not earned

all I could think was

they don’t know me
I’m going to college

This is where I should rail
nape hot with indignation        voice tight
strangled almost into muteness

but all I can think of

is the alpine water            ice cold, sweet
spilling over my cupped hands
from the ancient fontanelle as I stood
in the darkened Roman street


I write a column, Writing Small, for the writing website DIY MFA. It’s all about short form writing — short stories, poetry, essays — and how to improve your writing overall. I’ve just finished a Writing Small article about what we writers owe their readers.


Ideal Reader

I write to you
about fears, triumphs
my daily fumbles
to use as examples
of what not to do or say
or what can be shared


I write to you
who may be tall or brown
rich or bespectacled
gardener or astronomist
allergic or depressive
who looks like me or not


This is another prompt poem. Today’s NaPoWriMo post provides a list of lines and asks poets “to take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens”.

Here’s my interpretation of their prompt; the NaPoWriMo statements are italicized:



stars cannot rearrange themselves
forget speaking into being
forget the quality of need

the sun cannot rise in the west
despite portents and dreams
despite sacrificing the innocent

a circle cannot have corners
ignore plans laid to build
ignore the standing towers

the clock cannot strike thirteen
until all is finished      for now
noon will come to open doors
and midnight will close them

Simple Thread

With all of this poem-making, it’s hard to know where to start. I took today’s prompt from Writer’s Digest and their 2018 April PAD Challenge: Day 19:

Take the phrase “(blank) Thread;” replace the blank with a word or phrase; make the new phrase the title of your poem; and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “New Thread,” “Old Thread,” “Twitter Thread,” and “Blue Thread.”


Simple Thread

Tell your story without bones
take a hammer to its flesh
then build with the residue

Tell your stories simply
no sleight-of-hand, no cover
let worlds begin   

                                 once upon a time



I’ve just started reading Binti, the first book of the eponymous series by Nnedi Okorafor.  I’m less than 40 pages in and thoroughly hooked. I love how Okorafor describes the title character, Binti. It’s particularly resonant as lonely Binti uses otjize, an oily, jasmine-scented red clay, as an emollient and how it conjures her emotional connection to her desert people, the Himba. She will need that connection as she journeys away from her home and the Earth to travel between the stars.

It reminds me of how we are of the Earth and built from the earth or clay of our ancestors.


She shaped me from Herself
smoothed edges with hands
fine-boned and strong

rounded belly shapely as tandoori
child I was and would be
readied in Her Fire

Her Body’s curing almost
my end         Her Flesh twin
assailant and saviour

i heard Her Voice from within
without Her now, i still hear
vibrant in my bonded flesh


According to Junot Diaz (and ok, a lot of other writers), world-building is important in all fiction writing. Actually, I’d expand that thought to all writing–and life.

Writers or not, we all are world builders. We choose between the couscous or the rice pilaf. We choose friends and lifemates. With every decision, we make our world.

Juan Felipe Herrera unveiled his project, la familia (the family), for his stint as our new U.S. Poet Laureate. La familia (the family) is a collaborative project open to all Americans to help in telling America’s (our) story.

World-building, if you will, and giving us all a part in it.

I’m excited about having a chance to be part of such a big thing. I want to dive in and add my voice to project…BUT I’m also afraid. Afraid my voice is too insignificant, my writing too juvenile. That I’m too…silly, somehow.

So I’ve decided to start on a small scale and locally (or as local as the internet and social media allows) to begin, InCollaboration, my own collaborative poem project with you. I invite you — poet and non-poet — to help me fashion a series of poems.

Together we’ll build a world.


I Often Feel Silly

It grabs on the point of waking
a previous night’s remark
or the moment of my birth.

In the middle of joyful dance
I become ankles, elbows,
geometric angles.

After the echo of our lovemaking,
I cringe. There is no place, no
time, it is not. Even here–

my voice, now,
speaking to you.