cafenowhere: frog, arms crossed, sitting on a rock (chillin)
The light today is dim, but more colors are emerging as spring trundles on. The raspberry pink blossoms on the neighbor's butterfly bush, his newly planted orange marigolds; in my yard, the twin purples of creeping charlie and bluebells, crayola-yellow dandelions. Yesterday I had JJ fill our various critter feeders, but so far we have no visitors. The world looks strangely still and I wonder if I missed the memo re: impending doom.

Actually, no, I got the memos from both state and federal government. Iowa is hellbent on outdoing the evil of Trump. I'm astonished and super-super grateful we've not lost the marriage equality that stunned so many outside the Midwest when it first passed.

I have some good news that I can't talk about yet. What I *can* talk about feels pointless.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (drink me)
The neighbor's wildflower patch is attracting a panoply of fascinating guests. Most interesting to Tweetie and I have been the sphinx moths. At first, we both noted the stout, striped body of the moth and thought "Hornet!" This summer boasted an unusual number of hornets, much to Tweetie's dismay--she got stung by a wasp when she was younger and has since been near-phobic about flying bugs. But of course the hornets are black and yellow, and they don't hover about butterfly bushes, sucking nectar from flowers.

Because these taupe-and-white weebeasties look halfway between moths and hummingbirds, we called them hummingbird moths for an afternoon. Then I researched and discovered that hummingbird moths don't exist in Iowa. (Seriously, you can bring them into the state in a cage, and they wink out of existence, until you pass the next state line.) In fact, what we visit down the street are sphinx moths, so named because a fanciful person decided that's what the 'pillars look like when disturbed. (I don't get it, either.) Supposedly the moth's wings do give off a humming sound, but we've not heard them. Here's a photo I found online, courtesy of Jerry Oldenettel:

sphinx moth

The moths we've seen have been rather dusty colored, and don't slow down enough for us to see if they have the pink wing coloration described in this brochure, so I can't say for certain they're whitelined sphinx moths, but it seems pretty likely.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (chevy)
On Saturday we went hiking in the Mines of Spain in Dubuque, Iowa. There's something like 2000 mine shafts riddling the city of Dubuque, some covered up, some not. Apparently, the ones that are paved over for roads can cause sinkholes.

We took a quick look at the burial monument of Julien Dubuque, who got permission from the Meskwaki tribe to mine lead in the region, a claim that was later recognized in a grant from the Spanish, as well. Supposedly he got on great with the tribe, but after he died, no one else could maintain good relations. I don't know. There's something suspicious to me about the Eden-esque, good ol' days version of events. There were too many wasps around the monument for us to stay long, which may have contributed to my suspicions. Before we left, I noted the historical marker, which claimed Dubuque was also the site of the first murder and first public hanging. In Iowa, one presumes. Had Cain and Abel hailed from the Midwest, we'd never hear the end of it. (Though it might explain a lot, too.)

We spent most of our time on the Horseshoe Bluffs trail, which we'd visited before. The bluffs didn't look much different. The staghorn sumac was flaming up, the birch was less ragged, and the foliage was thinning. Maybe because of the thinner trees, I was wiling to investigate more of the nooks and crannies in the rock face. We found chunks of dolomite and Tweetie uncovered a rock with a great fossilized imprint. We joked that it was the impression left when a dragon sat on it. I looked for but did not see leadplant, which is a purple wildflower that settlers used to locate potential lead deposits.

A railroad runs right behind the bluffs, and when we heard the train coming, J ran like a little boy to get Tweetie there in time to feel its diesel gusts and see the ties rocking under its great weight. A few cars from Canada, some empty flatcars, open wagons full of metal salvage. Once it passed, we crossed the rails to the Mississippi and poked around for a while. On the rocky beach we found the rusted remains of a quay, which made sense, given the parked barges we saw on the other side and and also down the way. When I walked to the soft sand beach, right up against the grass of the wildlife sanctuary, I found deer tracks. (This is 'bout the only way I experience wildlife on family hikes, as Tweetie tromps like a T-Rex and periodically roars, thus sending all animals fleeing.)

Then we climbed back up onto the trail to check out the wetlands. Last time we were there was droughty, so when we walked over the foot bridge, we looked out over a sea of wild grasses. This time, there was plenty of water, and scads of raccoon prints, as if the critters were making tic marks to keep score in a tadpole-catching competition. And I didn't blame them, as these were the biggest tadpoles I'd ever seen, and they didn't even have legs yet! Which might explain why I saw only one frog: all the others get gobbled up before reaching adulthood.

Fewer butterflies flecked the path back to the trailhead. Probably for the same reason we were able to spend so much time out there: the heat wave has finally broken, and the days are cool, the nights autumnal.
cafenowhere: frog, arms crossed, sitting on a rock (chillin)
The skies were good for stargazing on two of the four nights of our retreat. We could see the Milky Way, and the first night, I spotted four or five shooting stars, plus what I suspect was the ISS, because as it trucked along its path, it flared really brightly for maybe 15 seconds. I thought it was getting ready to crash to earth. While I was trying to decide whether to run for my life, it dulled down and continued on its way. I'd never seen a satellite do that before, except for artists' renderings in science vids.

A distant owl hooted its way into our raucous, often-raunchy conversations. Busy bats swooped past us on the deck. I appreciate bats, but their sudden, erratic movements startled me every time. The crickets were loud and multitudinous.

midnight crickets
a chirp for each star


I decided to make it a detox weekend for myself, which mostly meant I didn't drink any alcohol. I also ate better than usual, but it was the liquor I was really avoiding, since I wanted my mind clear for writing and revising. My decision was initially met with surprise and disappointment by the other ladies, but they accepted it. (One of these buddies doesn't drink at all, ever, but she knows most-all my vices, so she raised an eyebrow, too.)

My room was on the lower level, which also had the entertainment center, hot tub, and a small bar. I noticed that the bar's open shelf was stocked with pint glasses and other tumblers/cups, so I investigated its other cubbies--just out of appreciation for its fine craftsmanship!--and discovered a quarter-full bottle of Jägermeister. Stop fucking with me, universe. I showed the other ladies, and one of them exclaimed, "How do you just find bottles of liquor?!" like I have 70-proof radar or it falls out of the sky for me.

56 forbidden fruits
herbs and spices


The Midwest is being scorched by a heat wave that has the public schools dismissing two hours early every school day. This is why it is ridiculous to begin the school year in August.

Because I am not entirely human until I've been awake for a couple of hours, and because the retreat is my chance to sleep in late without judgment, I twice ended up taking my walk down the gravel roads at blazing midday. Hence the sunburn and blistered toes (my sneakers are cheap and ill-chosen). But it was fun to watch the roads come alive with grasshoppers at my approach, and to see butterflies tiptoeing on thistles and bees working the giant clover. During one trek, I encountered a city limits sign for the next town. Wikipedia lists the town's population as a whopping 253 souls, but from my visit, I'd guess those 253 are swallows and barns. On one walk back to the house, I found a pretty feather on the side of the road.

turkey feather
tucked into her hair
rare bird
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (chevy)
The first two photos are of the Badlands area of the park. The mounds here looked like sunburned elephants or hippos partially submerged in the earth. The scale is hard to convey, but it was so wondrous, I worried we'd be all Wow'ed out before we even got to the Grand Canyon. An older gentlemen who stopped to chat with us assured us that would not be the case.

petrified forest badlands 2

petrified forest badlands

And here is one of the petrified logs for which the park is named. The interior of the logs can be any number of colors, even rainbowed, depending on elements in the quartz.

petrified forest log
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (chevy)
We have returned from our first summer expedition!

We drove out to Arizona and saw the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, where Tweetie earned her first Junior Ranger badge.

Then we drove on to the Grand Canyon and spent three days/two nights in the park, which was SO worth it. We saw condors and mule deer while exploring the South Rim. We watched a sunset. At dinner one night, an elk sauntered up to the restaurant window and started munching on the lawn. Later, on our way to a night-time program in the amphitheater, we walked among a family of chirping mule deer, who crossed the village streets like it was no big whoop. It was hard to concentrate during the program because the star-viewing was aMAzing, but Tweetie learned enough to earn another Junior Ranger badge.

We ventured outside the park to go horseback riding--a longtime dream of Tweetie's--through a ponderosa and piñon forest. My horse was named Sam. I think it was short for "Sam'thing's always irking me."

On the drive back home, we stopped at Meteor Crater, aka Barringer's Crater. To my relief, Tweetie did not say, "Great, Mom, a hole in the ground." (It might've been understandable, after the scale of the Grand Canyon.) She was actually pretty psyched about the crater and told me repeatedly she was so glad we'd stopped there.

As a huge fan of the Pixar movie Cars, Tweetie squealed with glee whenever we ended up on old Route 66, so we enjoyed a few meals on the Mother Road. (Throughout our trip, was an immensely helpful touchstone.)

And then, nearing home, we made a special stop to see [ profile] rose_lemberg and Mati! Having missed Rose so much at WisCon, I was thrilled to hang out with them, and they took us to a great place for dinner. Rose is looking great, y'all. And Mati is a gem.

On the last stretch of the drive home, we pondered questions like "Is infinity odd or even?" And we debated definitions of genre and described our dream genre-combos. JJ also helped me brainstorm for a poetry chapbook all about my personal pantheon of alterna-heroines. So far, I have one poem and six more heroines to profile.

Now that we've mostly caught up on our sleep, we are crossing things off our to-do lists. J is back at work, and I've sent out a couple of poems requested during WisCon. (Sadly, WisCon already feels a world away. I never even got a chance to blog about it! :P ) Tomorrow, we hit the library and stop by the school office to pick up Tweetie's yearbook.

We are off to a running start on our summer, that's for sure!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (sugar in my coffee)
This weekend is our weekend to clean ALL THE THINGS, and in the process I rediscovered some found poetry I did over a year ago. To give my back a break from cleaning and to discard two more sheets of paper, I shall transcribe the worthy poems here.


golden honeycomb
pregnant with
the world


gold spheres
blossom and flourish
disrupt unidirectional rations


baskets and rugs
richly textured
present trajectory and identity


skyscraper deeply influenced by
false starts
and comic enlargements
of ancient monuments

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (chevy)
On our way back from Chicago, we stopped at Starved Rock to seek out a waterfall. The travel guides warned that most of the falls in Illinois dry up in the summertime, but the trail to St. Louis Canyon wasn't long, so we went to look anyway. A helpful sign reminded us this was but a side-trip, not a destination.

return (to what?)

Farther down the trail, another sign offered much different advice.

(get) away (with it)

The "log" leading up to this "cubbyhole" in the canyon is a good-sized tree trunk.

side of st louis canyon

There was actually still water at the waterfall, though it was more like a water trickle.

st louis canyon summer

That pink speck in the lower right corner is a person. The caves along the sides were smooth and inviting.

st louis canyon cave

On the return hike, I spotted this great, bright yellow fungus. Tweetie was exasperated. "MOM!!! Don't stop to take a picture. It's fungus, it's gross!"

bright yellow fungus, starved rock park

She probably thinks I should only take photos like this one.

Tweetie at Museum of Contemporary Art, skyscraper exhibit

That's part of the skyscraper exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hangover)
Still recovering from my women's weekend. My abs ache from laughing, my arms and one leg are sore from a tumble I took, and my head is full of wondrous sights. I feel sorry for anyone who refers to the Midwest as "flyover" country (while reserving the right to punch them in their ignorant face). Most of our travel time was along the Mississippi River, and we stayed at a home with incredible views of the bluffs. At night, I had the best stargazing OF. MY. LIFE. We saw so many shooting stars, we didn't even have to share wishes--not that I could think of anything to wish for, being so relaxed and content. During the day, we saw hummingbirds and vultures and dragonflies, herons and cranes, more birds than I can even name. On one walk, we found a (literal) stone fox beneath a tree in a clearing. I didn't have my camera, so I have no picture. It is better, I think, to have no proof, so we have to re-find it every time we re-visit. I did, however, get a pic of the nightlight (night-lamp?) in my bathroom. Clearly a tale of good and evil.

good eagle bad fish
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)
Tweetie is reading a new series called Dear Dumb Diary. I appreciate the main character even less than I do the guy in the Wimpy Kid books. For one thing, the girl narrating the Dumb Diary books is "looks-ist" and engages in the backbiting Mean Girls subcult I dread. I've told Tweetie I don't like the "heroes" because they're rude and unkind with no self-awareness, but I haven't done anything dumb like forbidden the books. (And I do read with her, on occasion.)

Last night I remembered, however, that my favorite character in Charlotte's Web was Templeton the Rat, who was selfish, rude, petty, and gluttonous (although redeemable). And my favorite character on Buffy was Spike, who shared all Templeton's traits. And my own character Heidi will never be Miss Congeniality. So, okay, the poison apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I guess the important thing is that, no matter how much we delight in reprehensible characters, we endeavor to behave honorably in real life. And Tweetie does. And so do I.

I've been looking for cooking odds and ends to encourage Tweetie to play and experiment outdoors. She already loves making "earth soup" and building "forts," which resemble tepees to me. We got her a used hand-crank grinder and she's been grinding up seed pods, leaves, flower petals, dry pasta...basically anything we suggest or approve. She also liked the idea of washing out some old bubble tubes to use as "vials." I thought she might like some tongs, but I haven't found any good ones yet. (we'll go to the secondhand shop this weekend) Also, a cheapie kitchen scale.

Any other ideas for cheap, repurposed tools conducive to the budding environmental scientist?  : )

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)
J and I went to see Murder by Death in Des Moines and It. Was. AH-MAZING. Along the way, I deployed poetry cards of stealth. I came home to find my story "The Pearl in the Oyster and the Oyster under Glass" sold to the Fungi anthology coming from Innsmouth Free Press. Last night I woke up to write three related moon ku. And now I am off to Effigy Mounds National Monument to do some research for a story. And probably deploy some more poetry cards.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)

Still a little crunky from the cold, and apt to nap at the slightest provocation, but I'm better. Took it easy last night and lazed in bed this morning. Now I'm drinking my pumpkin pie spice coffee and catching up on important stuff. Like this screen test of James Dean and Richard Davalos for East of Eden. Can I say it puts me in a happy place?

And I'm thinking about the things I''ll probably do today, like laundry. And vacuuming. Possibly recycling. And if my body holds out, I'll attend a friend's poetry reading downtown. Tomorrow, if it's not raining too much, maybe we'll head out to Wilson's Orchard with our tribe and pick some different apples. And a pumpkin.

Speaking of pumpkins, here is a pumpkin pinhole camera solargraph I found on flickr. (by user Crunchy Footsteps)


I can honestly say I never thought of doing that with a pumpkin.

How 'bout you? What does your Saturday have in store?


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (i'm good)
1. My child loves to read and will happily do so for over an hour at a time. This week I took her to the school book fair, and she picked two chapter books and a joke book in less time than it takes me to flip-off an anti-choice billboard.

2. For lunch I had a chile relleno so hot it cleared my sinuses and so good it made me want to punch your mama.

3. The weather here in Iowa has been absolutely GORGEOUS all week long. Cool and bright and dry.

4. I have awesome first readers who are supportive in their comments and inspiring in their own work.

5. Tomorrow our family will go to Wilson's Orchard and pick apples and make PIE!

Anything you're looking forward to this weekend?


ETA: the motherfucking rainbow we saw outside of Hy-Vee. That shit was sick!

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (drink me)

Butterfly bush,
aptly named, flits
and is gone.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (drink me)
An entry that will make no sense to anyone but myself (and my character Heidi, so...yeah, myself). A placeholder of sorts. But you might appreciate the pretty pictures. Especially the drawing of a Melissa Blue butterfly by Vladimir Nabakov.


butterfly scale drawing by Nabokov from NYPL jensen ackles deconstructed in grayscalediagram of the golden mean

lyrics by Pernice Brothers

sometimes it's better not to know,
holding on to something when you should just let go.
true words, spoken in a dream,
swimming to the surface like a last breath, last scream.

push, pull, hurry up and stall,
would you give a little if you can't give it all?
ten years of picking at a seam,
trying to wake the kid, messing up my wet dream.
hey kid, rock and roll, a bulls eye's hung on your soul.

I wish I knew a sure simple way to reach you.
I'd be the king if I could say to you,
"Cut the baby in two..."


Jun. 28th, 2011 11:11 am
cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)

For [ profile] dawtheminstrel , who's been thinking about first lines lately, a small poem by Suzanne Buffam, from her collection, The Irrationalist:
On First Lines

The first line should pry up
a little corner of the soul

as the first ray of daylight
pries open the sleeper's lids.
All I have lately is bits and pieces. I think maybe I'm background processing, because these pieces don't even want to be cobbled into poems. I'm not complaining, just sayin'. ;)


I read a small collection of prose poems titled How to Take Yourself Apart / How to Make Yourself Anew, by Aaron Burch. I liked the whole book, even when it repeated itself, because each new piece added a worthwhile crease in its obsessive map. One piece stood out for me, because it resonated with my experience of translating poetry from Spanish to English. This excerpt comes from the How To section of the book:
How to...Draw diagrams of explanation. Use detail, be intricate; don't let uncertainty excuse lack of specificity. Once complete, destroy, dismantle, disassemble. Erase, rip, cut, break it into pieces. Copy each small piece onto your body...Tie yourself in knots.
I found this picture of Jensen Ackles on tumblr and thought it was interesting that I immediately recognized him, despite the alterations. (Actually, my exact thoughts were more like, "He's pretty even in pieces!" and "Gawd, how is he even real?!")
black and white photo of jensen ackles, disassembled, rearranged, measured
I  downloaded the image because it reminds me of how my main character Heidi sees people, the way she takes other people's pictures and chops, crops, magnifies, outlines, rearranges faces until they make sense to her.
On a walk with Tweetie last week, we spotted two black-winged damselflies with electric-blue bodies. They're called Ebony Jewelwings. Doesn't that sound like a character from a kid's fantasy show? Supposedly another name for damselflies is "devil's darning needles." Of course anything remotely exciting in nature gets slammed with a satanic association: the devil beats his wife; dust devil; devil's claw...
I like to imagine the damselfly singing: "Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste..."
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)

 Memorized Poems

The following poem is the second poem I ever memorized. Although, if you ask me on a different day, I might say it was the first. Thing is, I must've watched Superman II before I could read SE Hinton's The Outsiders (1967) which is where I discovered this poem. I think it's telling that the poems I first felt compelled to memorize were not ones I read in a collection--because I was reading poem collections, too; I was reading everything--but poems that erupted into other genres, that were portrayed as so important, they could disrupt the status quo. I really respond to street art, guerrilla art, mixed media, and collage, so it's probably no surprise that I was captivated by the genre-busting nature of my Day 1 and 2 poems.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost (1923)
Nature's first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf's a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay.
I have a resistance to Frost's poetry, partly because it appeared in all our school anthologies, but more because Frost frustrates me, like the kid that wrecks the grading curve or the colleague who blows the sales quota out of the water. The rhymes are so simple, almost juvenile. The lines are so brief and neat, how can they hold anything of import?  And yet, he's gone from "look at this pretty bud" to "we're doomed, we've always been doomed, it's all for naught," all without a quiver of sentimentality. Sweet Tom Hardy. What. the. fuck.
By the way, my book icon is from the movie version of The Outsiders. The main character and his buddy are on the run after killing a kid in a brawl and they hide out in an abandoned church. They buy a convenience store copy of Gone With the Wind and spend their days reading that. Two greasers in an old church reading about new South versus old South class structure. More genre busting.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (drink me)

Every day this month, I will post a poem to celebrate National Poetry Month. There will be rhyming, nonrhyming, classic, contemporary, formal, experimental, nursery rhymes, protests, songs, lyrics, translated, speculative, sad, romantic, silly, and any other kinds of poems I can think of. Feel free to comment with any poems these entries might elicit. The more poetry, the better, always--but especially now.
Memorized Poems

This is the first poem I ever memorized. Not surprisingly, I discovered it in a movie, Superman II (1980). My family adored science fiction and fantasy (wild unicorns, represent!), and movies were an easy way to share the geeky goodness. My love of words and moving pictures, of beauty in bursts of action, started very early indeed.


by Joyce Kilmer (1913)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
I can see now, academically, that this is a terrible poem. The tree's mouth is where? And her arms? But then her hair is...? And the rhyme scheme and the sappy ending. Never mind. I still love this poem and I recite it to Tweetie when she can't sleep or she isn't feeling well. To me, the poem perfectly demonstrates that humans' instinctive response to beauty is to immortalize and emulate it through craft, even knowing our efforts will never quite capture the glorious experience of inspiration. 
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (drink me)
fog drops
on bare branches
moss crenellated
on birch
blank scrying glasses
ramparts soft to touch
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Yummy!)
In the garden: white mantles,
the procession half-hidden
by tall grass.

What more could the thorns
ask for?

Peeling smiles,
the occasional face,
in wet delight.

Soft ripping,
the tug of muscles,


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)

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