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Old guy in ICU today. John. In the bluish shadow of the late afternoon, I'm wiping down his legs, carefully wiping around the towel I'd placed over his privates for um, privacy. 'You can clean that off too', he says in a heh heh heh perverted way. It's not the first time and it certainly won't be the last. We play these games in the hospital. He plays the dirty old man and I play the coy young girl. The old me would have blushed or, rather, burst into flames. But now I'm getting good at these games.

It's not your birthday, I say.
Yes, but it is New Year's Eve he says.
Yes, but I'm not feeling that charitable.
No? You look like a very charitable girl.

Lights go on. Game over. I think I won this round.

'This hasn't been a good year', he says. He continues with the story of his wife's decline. Alzheimer's. How she's now in a nursing home, how it was a rough two years when he tried to take care of her at home. How she starting throwing things at him. Started swearing at him. 'The turning point,' he said, 'was the first time she looked at me with absolute hatred in her eyes.' A happy marriage to that point. Fifty-four years. 'My heart never felt so heavy as it did on that day.' We share silence for a brief time.

We play these games. With each new game we get to wear a different mask. The mask is protection. Without it, everyone would see how we really feel. And that's never pretty.


such a sensitive little girl, they say
the most innocuous comment
can bruise her precious little soul

you must be careful with your words

such an unhappy little girl, they say
and they are right
she herself doesn’t understand the ache she feels
this pain of loss
when she hasn’t even lost anything yet


older now but still so troubled
she laughs when you silly-dance to ali farka toure
and wells up with tears when the dancing stops

she lies face down on the cold tile floor.
you’ve learned not to ask
for she can not explain
instead, you step over her to get to the kitchen
she will get up when she is ready

nights like this, long ago
you might have expected blood and threats
but she is quiet now; retreating within
she does this for you, out of love for you
she never expected you to carry the weight
and is relieved now that you have relinquished it

such a sensitive girl
like a wild bird caught in the house
she doesn’t know how she got here
but she has to get out
and will kill herself trying

when you feel you’re losing her,
at the worst of times
you give her a pen and a stack of blank paper
and then you leave her alone
for it won’t be long ‘til she comes back to you

this wounded little girl
with her big heart and heavy burden

she will crawl all over you
she will creep into the crooks and curves of your body
she will settle wherever you are lacking
(her dark mysterious eyes twinkling mischief)

the return is always worth the trouble
for now

orange peel sweet on his fingers despite repeated washings
orange peel sweet and black smudge from newspaper print
messy like silly putty comic strips kneaded back to plain
he hates it when i ask him to wash his hands before touching me

it doesn't matter really because i love this man
and i'll take him any way i can
he must know that, right?
the power he has over me?


best christmas ever. i’m too lazy to write for real but i want a record here.

i didn’t buy a single christmas gift for anyone — i wanted to stick to my principles this year and not feel guilted into doing the typical christmas mass-giving thing — but i did send my niece a Happy Whateverness ipod because every girl should have music at her fingertips (the down side was charitably loading it up with britney spears, american idol winners and runners-up, and other top-40 bullshit). my folks complied with my request for a simple no-gifts christmas, although they donated some money to zimbabwe relief efforts in my name. that gave the i’m-so-glad-i-don’t-live-in-zimbabwe me the warm and fuzzies.

mom and dad went to mass in the a.m. giving me space for mindless tv-watching and a breakfast/lunch combo of cheetos and heath bars. a long hot bath this afternoon with a margaret atwood book followed by cooling off out back in the desert wind and writing for a few hours. m and d made dinner, all my favorites, and for the first time were sensitive to my food weirdness — like not carving the bird at the dinner table and not talking about the bird and its thighs and wings and drumsticks and everything else that gives me the heebie jeebies.

dinner was followed by deep discussion (each of us explained in great detail what we want done to our bodies following our demise) and me asking my former-catholic-priest father if he really believes in god and him reading, out loud, an essay about the new atheists and fundamentalism, and me confessing how a lot of the time i’m wrong and they’re right (that made them happy and it was no skin off my nose) and how i’m a total instigator (which they already knew of course) and then my dad reading a story he’d written about his reasons for leaving south africa in the seventies and then me asking my dad if, before he dies, he will tell me and my mom if he’d had sex with anyone else before my mom (how can she not know that??) and then dad reading some poetry he’s written and then mom and i agreeing that his happy poems aren’t as good as his sad poems and then m and d going to bed and me following them into their room talking about nothing important and then dad chasing me out because he wanted to change into his pajamas, which are really just boxer shorts and then me asking why he wears tighty whities as underwear and boxer shorts as pajamas and then him saying that 80% of men wear tighty whities and then me saying no they don’t and then him asking how i know and then me stammering and saying ‘i know men’, and then him saying that most men wear boxers as pajamas and then me saying no they don’t and then me thinking about it and saying well honestly i don’t know because most men i’ve known have gone to bed naked and then dad locking himself in the bathroom and mom laughing hysterically. i will miss these times with the old folks. they mean everything to me. and i never would have thought i’d ever say that.

now i’m putting all of my dad’s classical music on my ipod and listening to junior kimbrough and the sad stuff of pj harvey and drinking sprite which i don’t really like and i haven't had a drink for three days now and it’s not so bad and that’s why this was the best christmas ever.


Tonight my parents and I watched a movie they rented from Netflix. My mother is going deaf so every few minutes she would ask What did she say? or What did he say?

Eventually there was a steamy sex scene, which is always a fun thing to watch with one’s parents, and my mom asked Did she say ‘I don’t want you inside me'?.

My father replied, No, she said ‘I want you inside me.’

At which point I decided it was a good time to introduce my parents to the amazing technology of closed captioning.

looking through old photos tonight. years and years. birth. death. family. family no more. old loves. childhood friends. old houses. all of it. i start to cry with some, laugh with others. oh it gets the old soul stirring. but surely never enough to jump off a cliff. emotions come and go. let it come, feel it hit, let it go. this is life. i feel the enormity of it. and the simplicity. it feels good to have lived -- sorrow, joy, and all. i wouldn't change a thing. sweet dreams tonight.


I'm flying to Arizona in a few days to spend Christmas with my parents. "Oh, you're going home? How nice!" -- that from a coworker after hearing about my plans. I was quick to respond with no, that's not my home. "Oh right, Canada is home," she said. And I thought, no, Canada isn't home either. So now I'm wondering where or what my home is. Is it a geographical location? A place with the most memories? A place where I spent the most time? Where I know the most people? I'd gotten used to moving around a lot, never placing roots. Now here I am, in the same place after ten consecutive years. Is this home? Maybe home is not a place, but the people I love. So if home is the people that I love, and some people that I love have left, does that mean I have no home? Maybe home is where my dog is.

Listening to the voicemail my mother left this afternoon, I began to cry. She had called to ask if there were any special shampoos or hand lotions that she could buy so that I didn't have to bring all of my stuff with me. And she reminded me that I didn't have to bring the charger for my battery-operated toothbrush because I could use her charger.

It hit me then, listening to that message, that in a few days I really am going home.
an ache to be known
to be understood without having to find words

one man's trash . . .

goosebumps and tired eyes
clenched teeth and dry lips
like a BB through a tin can,
I am what's left behind.


Day was day. I, like the Incredible Hulk, with my temper — my eyeballs shake back and forth when I get really mad, and I can’t get any words out. Today I hated everyone and everything, which means that the problem with the world, today, was MY perception of it. Great now that I have the insight to recognize what’s really going on; I can’t place blame on anyone else. Insight = responsibility. Boo hiss. I just want to fight. Throw some punches. Kick. Wrestle. Rastle even. I want to kick and punch, to expend all of my negative energy, until meek and mild is left behind. I wonder what it’s like to be meek and mild. I most certainly will never know.


"Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and disconsolate rearrangers of things — anxious malcontents afflicted, apparently at birth, with a presentiment of loss."

Joan Didion


in the quiet of a cold, empty house you come across something you shouldn’t have. there are some truths one should never know. as you have done it to someone else, it has now been done to you. and you realize how sick you really are. sick evil twisted. a hater a demon a mistake. all of the games, all of the manipulation. you lose in the end. alone. lonely. solo. so lo.

it will take many more nights like these, in the quiet of a cold, empty house for you to learn your lesson. maybe.

instead of fighting it, fighting yourself you resolve to do one thing right: you will wake up in the morning.


Sad today. Lay offs at work. Not me, this time, but a friend. I think it's all a big conspiracy. Everyone's jumping on the "bad economy" bandwagon and using it as an excuse to get rid of people, or to threaten people. If I have to hear "well at least you still have a job" from management one more time I'm going to scream. I'm going to have to shut my mouth and stop talking to people in positions of authority, because, well, I shouldn't be talking to people in positions of authority.

I'll stop. It's pointless. I feel beaten down tonight. Beaten down by the reality of the times. And by the reality that I'm 33 years old and I'm not a little girl anymore. Grow up. Settle down. Move on. Won't someone please remind me that dreams do come true, and that it's never all that bad, and that if you wish for something hard enough, well, dreams do come true. Aren't we supposed to believe in miracles, especially around this time of year? I'm not complaining because I have it bad -- really, I'm very fortunate.


My journey thus far has been punctuated with short-lived infatuations, like sprinkles on a cake. These obsessions might make me seem a fool, but how can something be foolish if for a moment one believes in something wholeheartedly, with an ultimate passion? Crazy or not isn't it better to experience rapture than bland indifference? If I were to permanently live in this state of otherness, that might be something to question, because certainly one can't be happy/high/driven/infatuated all of the time. But for a little bit, why not?

Something I think of often, when I question myself, is John Keats' "I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of imagination. What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth - whether it existed before or not."

These things are difficult to explain.


Yesterday, I overheard a conversation between my coworker K. and her little old man patient. She had spent the last half hour with this guy and he had been quiet and normal. Then she left him alone in her room for a few seconds.

Here’s what I heard:

K - What are you doing out of bed?

Patient - I had to pee. I kept telling you I had to pee.

K - You didn’t tell me you had to pee. Where did you pee?

P - I peed in the sink.

K - You peed in my sink??

P - No, I peed in the cup and then poured it in the sink.

K - You peed in my coffee cup?? I’ve had that coffee cup for seventeen years!!


i try to sleep but i think of you instead. i try to read but i think of you instead. i try to get high but i think of you instead. i try to remember that i'm happy but i think of you instead. i try to find peace but i think of you instead. instead of having you i'm solo. so lo. lo.