To Write a Terzanelle: Challenge by Jilly

Our times are so fraught.  Whether at home, on a bus or hanging at the dVerse, I haven’t had a conversation in years that doesn’t circle back to the state of the union and leave everyone distraught.   The huge anger that Donald Trump’s infamous base (has there ever been a more appropriate designation?) clearly feels at being dispossessed, disregarded and dismissed, catapulted him to unprecedented power.   That same anger, with ten times ten better and more bitter cause, permeates the African-American community.   Writing the poem, racism was heavy on my mind.  Reading it aloud to myself afterwards, I realized that the words apply equally to anyone feeling deliberately outcast and disposed.

I realize by using “they” I add to the polarization process.  But, I cannot deny my state of privilege or ignore the implications of that privilege without hypocrisy.  This is one of the conundrums of the evil mess we Americans have wittingly and unwittingly inherited and perpetuated.

All I can do is stand as an ally to social justice, equal rights, and the sisterhood and brotherhood of humankind.  Genetically our only differences lie in that tiny touch of snowflake effect which makes each one of us unique, while all the rest of us nestles into commonality.  Like it or not we are all members of the same pack.  What a waste that some spend all their energy and talent denying the undeniable.

             Death by a Thousand Cuts

The best of times?  Or worst?  I fear the worst,
we brought upon ourselves with our neglect.
Now selfishness and greed have left us cursed.

Too many slights, a thousand cuts unchecked,
too many left behind in hatred’s throe
we brought upon ourselves with our neglect.

The racist slurs felt daily, blow by blow,
unchecked for decades, proved the guilt of all
to many left behind in hatred’s throe.

Unkindness unaddressed will prove our fall.
Endemic selfishness and greed gone wild,
unchecked for decades, proves the guilt of all.

Injustice, once inflicted on a child,
will finally make the child turn and fight
endemic selfishness and greed gone wild.

Power corrupts.  We waste our wealth on might.
The best of times?  Or worst?  I fear the worst
will finally make the child turn and fight.
Our selfishness and greed will leave us cursed.


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Secret Ingredients

Gospel Isosceles posted a lovely prompt at the dVerse Poets Pub encouraging us to write about a secret ingredient.  I had a hard time thinking of a response because I already have a strange poem I wrote several years ago.   I know it’s cheating to post an old poem, but I’m well aware that poets are forever ready to extend a little license.  My poem has a dark twist – or so I thought until my fellow artist and friend Michelle asked me if she could switch the genders in the poem and read it at Thanksgiving dinner !! And she did.  So maybe my twist is too subtle.  Let me know…


A Morel Tale


Wild mushrooms simmer in sauce

brandy, cream, saffron shallots…

She fills a pork loin with apricot and fig

sliding a thin sharp blade into pale flesh

twisting his knife ninety degrees to form a cross,

stuffing dry fruit toward the center

with the blunt end of a wooden spoon.

Sliced the roast will fall in rows

hearts marked out in juicy black or orange,

pretty bull’s eyes ready for an arrow.

                           morel mushroom

The table sparkles, laid for two

hand-rubbed silver, crystal goblets

frosted blue and glass Italian plates

veined in glowing leaves and holding,

in their clear depths, a purple droop

of delicate wisteria.

           morel mushroom

She gathers morels in the morning

quartering the apple orchard,

fingers thrust down knuckle deep in dirt

to break stems off  beneath the soil.

                                     morel mushroom

Morels can fool you, presenting

false faces to less than careful eyes;

cunning as a woman harboring secrets.

     morel mushroom

She will eat the morels,  so will he.

                            morel mushroom

Later they will lie down together

on crisp sun-scented sheets

with time enough to dream

before the first spasm wakes them.



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quadrille prompt by whimseygizmo – cheers!

Monday morning I poured some eggnog in my coffee and set to wrapping Christmas presents. I would rather unfurl poems, but duty calls, days shorten and I have to get theses MAILED!   Still, I was thinking quadrille when I came to some items that demanded a little doggerel as accompaniment. Aha! I thought – two birds, one stone – and rushed upstairs to my faithful keyboard.  Fairly quickly the first one flew together, needing only the slightest tweak to get to forty-four.  The other one fought back, but djarchy'33eventually succumbed.  It all took much longer than I thought, I rushed off to my next chore and the packages are still half-wrapped, un-mailed.  It’s Wednesday not Monday anymore and the crowd has already moved on past cheer to nosh, but as archy said to mehitabel, “wotthehell, wotthehell…”


A Bell for Tom

Every man can use a bell

to peal a chime of cheer

celebrate the rites of life

and welcome a new year


or guide him if while wandering

he’s stumbled, gone astray,

and ring across the puzzling wilds

to point him on his way.



A feather duster seems, first glance,

utilitarian and drear,

but something might need dusting off

besides the tchotchkes you hold dear.


Consider this a magic wand

you may Flick! and commandeer

whatever’s dormant in your life

to Awake! and make you cheer.

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The Little White Horse

Lately, my husband and I have been reading aloud together The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.   A strange choice for an alpha male you might think.  It came about Little White Horselate one night at the end of a road trip.  We were talking about favorite childhood books and I began telling him the story, describing how many times I’d read it, how much it had meant to me.  Two weeks later the book arrived in the mail with a note saying – let’s read this together…

Elizabeth Goudge  (24 April 1900 – 1 April 1984) was an author I continued to be enchanted by, reading her later books one by one as they continued to appear during my teenage years.  They are full of amazing descriptions of nature that make you long to run outdoors,  Her interiors are just as enchanting, brimming with detailed furnishings and wonderful food from the simplest meals of bread and cheese to sumptuous multi-course meals complete with delectable desserts.  She had a gift for storytelling and the talent to breathe life into even the most minor character.

Reading the Little White Horse aloud to each other has been enlightening.  Elizabeth Goudge’s prose is a close to poetry as one can get without tumbling in head first.  maria and Miss HeliotropeAlliteration, metaphor, meter – you name a poetic technique it and you’ll find  it in her writing.  I realize now how much I learned from reading her books; how attuned I became to the rhythm and cadence of lyrical speech; how many techniques I unconsciously absorbed.  Furthermore, she had an amazing vocabulary – she never flaunted it or used a word gratuitously, but neither did she hold back for fear of losing a reader. (Though I can’t imagine one escaping the magic web she wove, after even the first sentence.)

The other thing I noticed was how deeply she influenced me spiritually.  She was Christian in her orientation, but in a way that tinted her spirituality rather than infecting it.  She used magical realism, myth symbolism and legend to en-lighten  her themes of sacrifice, conversion, discipline, healing, and growth through suffering.  It’s probably Magic+Realism+A+literary+mode+rather+than+defined+genrefrom her stories that I learned to love this genre and employ it in my own work.  I’ve spent a lifetime delving beneath the surface of the metaphors of myth and symbol to discover how they link to human psychology, biology and spirituality.  To this day my favorite novels are fairy tales, legend and myth rewoven and retold by modern authors in the context of today’s culture, knowledge and wisdom.

The Little White Horse is a unicorn – all the covers give it away.  I guessed it from Maria’s first glimpse.  Reading it again now, I realized that when Elizabeth wrote this, in 1946, the year I was born, unicorns were not considered to belong to children.  (The Lion and the Unicorn are the traditional symbols of the United Kingdom – the Lion represents 400px-Royal_Coat_of_Arms_of_the_United_Kingdom_(Both_Realms).svgEngland and the Unicorn, Scotland.  The animals are pictured in the royal coats of arms of both countries.)  Even when I read the book twelve years later, unicorns had not been exploited, diluted and turned into toons by the ad industry to the point of nausea.  At that time unicorns were not cute.  Nothing about Elizabeth’s writing is cute, conventional or sentimental – perhaps that is the best lesson of all.

Happily for me, my husband is also a poet as well as a fellow “Elephant’s child full of elephant2‘satiable curiosity.”  His willingness to explore, try new things, and let go of preconceptions has enriched my life immensely.  Imagine my pleasure when he too succumbed to Elizabeth’s charms.  I wish she could read this tribute and revel in my gratitude.  Perhaps she can…


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However, I began thinking of the fires in California and all the displaced people and animals.  I used to go to Paradise (not Pleasure) as a child visiting my grandmother on her ranch outside of Marysville.  Nana had a friend living there in a nursing home.  We would drive up the valley in “the machine” (as she called all her cars) watching the orchards and fields turn into grasslands, cut with ravines and stands of oak and pine as the land rose beneath us forming the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  It was slightly cooler in Paradise and there was always ice cream after my long wait in the car for the visit to end.  (Nursing homes didn’t allow children in those days.)

On Monday at the dVerse Poets Pub, Guest Blogger, Imelda Santore, presented us with a finely crafted challenge, encouraging us to write about waiting.  Waiting is one of my most challenging situations.  I dislike it intensely.  It is why I always carry a book.  My idea of Hell is standing in line forever with nothing to read.  I could actually say many things about waiting – it’s a great prompt.  Lends itself to rant, romance and revenge… 

Waiting is a human condition, there’s no waiting in nature – everything is happening, now, in the moment – it is always and forever what is.

People thrived in Paradise, playing, working.  They are homeless now.  Dependent on the charity of strangers.  Waiting for insurance companies to pay out.  Hoping their contracts are worth the precious paper they are written upon.

charred leaves fly upward

like paper goods sent skyward

to outfit the dead

The golden meadows lush with seed, alive with mule deer and turkey flocks are blackened now and sear.  Brushfire burns so hot, so fast the oaks live on.  Green canopies belie charred bark, the blackened ground below, the absent sound of myriad insects buzzing, whirring, clicking, scurrying. 

turkeys cluck and coo

pecking among warm ashes

for flash-fried crickets

Jack pines, lodgepole pines and sequoias seal their pine cones in a layer of thick resin that requires the intense heat of wildfire to melt and release seeds.  Seedlings root easily in the newly bared soil, open now to sun and rain.  They sprout rapidly in nutrient rich ash.

blue ceanothus

beautifies fire-swept wastelands

born of fire she blooms

After Mount St. Helens erupted, her forests lay scattered like pick-up sticks across the slopes.  But life barges back.  Bare days after the fires cooled, rangers in orange Hazmat suits, taking temperature readings of the ground, were buzzed by hungry hummingbirds mistaking them for flowers.

flowers follow fire

avian expectations

sweet nectar and seed

The Amazon River floods periodically, spreading for miles across the jungle floor. Brazil nuts, too hard for boring beetles or determined mammals lie waiting for fish with nutcracker jaws to rupture the recalcitrant hulls and drop an occasional nut to sprout in the rich silt dropped onto nutrient poor soil by the flood.

 nuts too hard to crack

 fall into flooded waters

 strong jaws snap seeds sprout

Posted in Animals, dVerse, Haiku, Memoir, Nature, Poetry, Trees | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

“…the poem which i do not write”

 (title from poem xvii by e.e. cummings)

rumiRumi is a long time favorite of mine.  His love poems speak often of desire, as does the Judeo-Christian Song of Solomon.  Religious apologists say that the use of erotica in these and other sacred writing is an allegorical way of describing an ideal relationship with the divine.   I never really never got it.

Even in childhood, rapturous encounters with beauty and intellectual excitement  aroused my body as well as my mind and spirit.  I had experienced feelings of transcendence during sex.  I groked the concept.  I mean look at Bernini’s bernini-ecstasy-of-st-theresa-7-s1statue of Saint Theresa in ecstasy at being pierced by the angel’s arrow.  I understood how artists and poets could run with the idea, but somehow it still didn’t compute for me as a spiritual equation.

Fast forward  through my life with all its attendant sexual experiences, confusions and life lessons to a moment in my forties.  One summer day, while lying in the shade of a grove of trees on a massage table the masseuse ran her hand along my spine and asked,  “What do you want?  I immediately burst into tears, realizing in that moment that I had never allowed myself to really want anything.  It took a long time to work through that revelation, but it was the beginning of my exploration of desire.

I began reading and writing erotica.  It was fun, enlightening, stimulating and took me several steps further towards self-integration.  Writing erotica is a great practice.  For one thing, it is safe – you can experiment imaginally, without venturing into dangerous real-life situations.  Contrariwise, your poetry can act as an exercise room or sounding board for trying out something you might want to explore in real life.  Your poems can be a way to give yourself permission to try new ways of being and acting sexual.

Fast forward again to an even older more experienced, much more integrated and wiser woman.  I encounter a younger, incredibly sexy man who floods me with desire…


The Naked Man is so good looking

when he walks in the café door

all our panties dampen.

He’s got a pheromone machine inside him

churning out sex appeal.

For that, we forgive him many sins.

…and he feels the same way.  He is a poet (as luck would have it), a narcissist and puer, madly intelligent, well read, full of insatiable curiosity, and adventurous.  He also has a wife and children, whom he’s in the process of abandoning; talks incessantly about Naked Man Cover 01his (rationalized) sexual conquests in philosophical terms and is, in all ways, unsuitable as a lover.

Happily, I knew this all the way through my bones.  (This, in fact, is the definition of wisdom – incorporated knowledge)  But it fascinated and surprised me, how willing and able I was to draw the line at consummation and yet remain in flirtation.

We began writing poems back and forth.  Eventually, he more or less wandered off , while I kept writing and thinking and contemplating and pondering about how much I enjoyed desire itself.   Gradually I realized that Rumi was talking about desire as being the ultimate God connection not the act of sex.  It is desire not consummation that invigorates mind, soul and body.  Longing itself is infinite; more infinitely delicious than any getting.  Desire outweighs consummation.

Me and Mr. Jones

We perch at our tiny table

sharing cabernet and gimlets, I gaze.

You talk and talk ‑ it all makes sense,

reflects my own musing, mingles

with the perfect pitch of a tenor sax.

But I have walked this path before

in other shoes and I see ghosts

pacing the walls, huddled waiting

in the corner of the red leather couch.

Though flame flickers sweetly between us

turning your white shirt cream, dappling

your beautiful neck with gold,

though your blue eyes turn navy

dilating with desire, eventually

we must go home again.

And then there’s this: fulfillment

nullifies desire, collapses possibilities,

concretizes fantasy, defines the dream.

I prefer the swoops and darts of Eros,

synchronistic meetings, unplanned rendezvous

Karma, tossing her gauntlet over a rainbow

time and time again.

The most wonderful thing about coming into spiritual relationship with desire – longing doesn’t fade.  Once you give up getting, the sky remains more intensely blue, the breeze more intensely present – each touch magnified, every sense amplified.  A poet’s dream…

Posted in Consciousness, Desire, dVerse, Eros, Herstory, Poetry, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Quadrille Night at the dVerse

Hey the challenge on the bar at last night’s poets pub was to write a quadrille. (The Quadrille combines two essential elements – a single word that has to be included in the body of your text. The second is to limit  the poem to 44 words exactly including the given word.) Last night’s word was “spoil” – not a word I enjoy…

It took me a couple of tries to get to what I needed to say:

Plays Well With Others

A sport is a good guy

He’ll take one for the team

give it his all, sweat blood

We like this guy.  He never

messes with the chi, cries over

spilt milk, throws his helmet.

Not a spoilsport, spreading

misery every place he goes.



No one likes the shock of sour milk

glugged straight from the carton

in a dark, late-night kitchen,

but it ain’t spoilt, Batman.  Clean up

that floor and pray you left enough

for Mom’s Sunday morning

melt-in-your-mouth pancakes!

Or we might spoil you.

But I finally did. discovering along the way I have enough ideas constellated around this word to write an entire book about child-rearing.  Happily, I’m a poet and don’t have to. This will do!

     Fatal Flaw

Don’t like that word!

Not meant to.

Stands for  – rotten, ruined

shamed, blamed,

humiliated, judged.

It’s a warning. Meant to help

and heed.  You were always

too sensitive.

Too much, too little,

 never enough. For what?

Life!  Success! Achievement!  WINNING!

I choose happiness.

See?  Spoiled!

Posted in dVerse, Memoir, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Time Out to Write


dairy Hollow

I’ve just returned from spending several days at The Writer’s Colony in Eureka Springs, AK.  I haven’t been on a writing retreat before that was solely for the purpose of writing and didn’t include workshops.  It’s a present you give yourself that makes you smile.  At least that’s how it seemed to me and my husband John and the other writers in residence while we were there.

You are probably thinking a retreat doesn’t count with your partner present.  But at the colony, everyone has their own room complete with desk and coffeepot, refrigerator and enough outlets for all the gear.  Separate rooms make a huge difference.  It’s  psychological, I’m sure – we both have our own studies at home that are farther apart than our rooms at the colony, but there is something about being honored as Writer by yourself, and each other, and the place that makes it different.

Leisure is such a rare luxury anymore.  Having no plans and no commitments stretches out the hours and allows one to gaze out the window and think or rest.  Did I mention that every desk faces a window that looks out on a hillside of trees?   Did I mention the writing-space-at-dairy-hollowinviting covered porches furnished with tables and chairs that offer the same treehouse effect as those magical writing desk windows?  Words present themselves in their own time without interruption or haste.  The long uninterrupted hours leave time for the slow unfolding of a line of poetry, a paragraph of prose.   In between, you can jot and doodle, erase, replace and scratch again– there’s time for it all.

We both spent the day working on our own projects, then met with the other residents for dinner at six, delivered  each weeknight by their excellent chef, Jana Jones.  Her meals were consistently delicious, healthy, varied and abundant.  John and both enjoyed the conversations at dinner so much.  Interesting lively conversations, animated and enthusiastic in which everyone remained engaged, interested and willing to listen.  I’m sure that Chef Jones’ lovingly prepared food contributed to the conviviality of those meals.

I’ve always loved long airplane trips because they cut me off from every responsibility and concern while I am up in the air.  Flying 30,000 feet above the ground with no way to get off or turn back makes it impossible to deal with whatever is happening below – its free time, off the books, a short trip to another dimension….  That’s what time spent at thecute-airplane-clipart-w7daq7d (1) colony feels like.  We could have happily stayed another week, but we drove away replete, refreshed and inspired to insert the spirit of the colony into the context of our daily lives.

I can’t go without touching on the beauty and charm of Eureka Springs, the vibrant historic town surrounding the Colony.  It is home to a vibrant art community.  GEICOMore_GreatCampgroundsForFall_Hero_RF_524369387_600x400Restaurants, galleries and shops abound.  It’s also a destination drive for motorcyclists of Eureka Sprinsevery ilk.  That’s what brought us to the town the first time –amazing roads winding through one of the prettiest states in the entire country.   Only later did we discover it as a Mecca for all the arts.  Someone recommended Lucidity; a conference of poet’s who meet every April in Eureka Springs.  It was at Lucidity I first heard about the Colony.

Next time I need to jump-start a project, or finish it, or work out what happens next, or revise and edit, I’m coming here.  I hope you do too.  Maybe we’ll eat together and talk and read each other poetry…




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dVerse prompt – Metaphor-

A metaphor equates two things not because they are the same but because there is a symbolic resemblance or comparison.

A metaphor can not be taken literally. In many cases I think that the more surprising they are the better they are.

A metaphor can be used not only in poetry but also in other texts and in day to day speech.

What is special in poetry is that the poet has to find unique metaphors. Our day to day language is filled with metaphors that have become idioms, cliches or just part of our day to day language.

Today I would like you to take words and things around you and try to equate them to something symbolic such as an emotion, or the description of a person.

To make them unique fill the imagery with descriptions. For example don’t just say a car but say a rusty yellow 1977 Volkswagen Beetle… Make them as rich and specific as you can.                                                                               ~  



Red rage, viscous as molten lava, began secretly,

buried beneath dust and duff, internally combusting

beneath the heat and pressure of the woodland floor –

too many fallen leaves and branches,

enough to build a shelter or a bookcase, if only

someone – him?  Her?  Had taken up the tools at hand.

But no, the tangled fallout of a dozen storms

lay undisturbed, generating heat until one day

a tiny wisp of smoke drifted up, gasped oxygen,

flamed full-blown into blaze, and burned the forest down.


Posted in dVerse, Metaphor, Poetry | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Women’s Ritual Dances and the Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality-Part Two by Laura Shannon

It is so exciting to read this post because one of the threads in Magdalene A.D., my novel about Mary Magdalene’s life after the death of Jesus, was inspired by, and incorporates and expands on Maria Gimbutas’ ideas about the wisdom embedded in women’s dance. In my book “Mary” is a title bestowed on the teachers of the Dance of the Seven Veils passed down from Miriam, the sister of Moses. The dance steps and movements include information about women’s physical work in the world, the onset of menses, sensuality, birth, menopause, the slowing of old age, the ritual preparation of a body after death, etc. Women learn the dance as little girls and go through seven initiations as they age, to learn new steps appropriate to the progression of their lives.

It was so much fun to work with this idea and it developed so clearly in my mind that I could sense the veils swirling around me as I wrote. (Magdalene’s Middle Eastern dance is more like a belly dance than a Balkan circle dance – hence the veils, but the basic concept is exactly the same.)

I’m thrilled to read Laura Shannon’s account and so happy to share it my readers. She’ll be writing more about this soon, so look for it on her blog. If you want to read my book, you can find it on Amazon.

In the first part of this article, I looked at how Carol P Christ’s Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality are related to traditional women’s ritual dances of the Balkans. After more than thirty years of researching and teaching these dances and the way that they pass on information in encoded symbolic ways, I have come to see them as an educational system, a women’s mystery school.[1] The main message which the dances convey is an ethic of community, partnership, mutual support, and other life-enhancing values aligned with the Nine Touchstones, which can be directly experienced in the dance.

We know from the research of Marija Gimbutas that these values were central to the Old European civilizations which honoured the Goddess, while Yosef Garfinkel and Elizabeth Wayland Barber show that circle dances have their roots in these same early Neolithic cultures of Eastern Europe and the Near East. This leads…

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