Nine Days of Vinegar

Is the sting of me
The buzz of me
The me of me gone?
Have I worn off?

I’m not sure why, but I keep thinking of vinegar when I think of you.
Maybe because I started a batch of drinking vinegar a week ago.
The jar on my counter
vinegar and raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.

At first, the concoction the color of a dehydrated person’s piss.
Seven days later, a deep ruby red
the berries degrading, becoming something different than how they began.
Two elements, graced by time and science, combining
to make something unexpected, good and palatable.

Or is vinegar on my mind because I busied myself with a how-to-make kombucha workshop this past week?
I wanted to tell you about it.
I would have told you about it
and how my friend and I misbehaved the entire class, how we laughed at the questions the men asked, the two of them so earnest, their wives so pleased.

I would have told you how I went back to the hardware store and had them recut the glass for the front door.
How I got two panes just in case I broke the first when I tried to place it back in the frame.
I would have said to, ‘standby for pictures,’ of the completed repair, of my sloppy solo work.

I would have told you I read at an open mic, my first.
I recited the poems I wrote about you, about us.
When I read the last line of the last one I sent you, some people in the audience inhaled. Some said, ‘damnnn.’
I wanted to invite you and told my friend as much.
She said, ‘Not yet, not this time. It’s too soon.’

Too soon for what? For me to miss you less? For my love to fade?

What day is that, when it’s not ‘too soon?’ One week and two days since we backed off and away, that day feels like an eighth day the Almighty forgot to create.

It’s been nine days of vinegar. Nights you kept me awake.

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Things I wish someone had told me

Sticking with the 500-words a day, here’s a list in no certain order of things I wish someone had either told me or I had figured out on my own earlier than I did. These ‘things’ may well not apply to all!

1. Store tubes of toothpaste and icy-hot, pain-relief ointments away from one another in the medicine cabinet. The latter does not make for a pleasant brushing experience.

2. Dogs do not appreciate nor respond well to being the subject of an experimental, ‘Let’s see what happens if I make them kiss.’

3. Getting drunk at the circus is a bad idea.

4. If someone you’re meeting for the first time has a scratchy, gravelly voice, don’t assume they have a cold or have been screaming ‘PULL,’ while shooting skeet all day. It could be that their unique vocals are the spoils of surviving throat cancer.

5. Children are not stupid. They know the difference between a back massager and a vibrator from an early age.

6. Do not approach or attempt to move a cat without first providing it some sort of visible warning or alert.

7. Your gut is your true north star. It does not lie and should not be ignored. When you have no one to ask, trust your gut. It will guide you. (Doesn’t mean you’ll like what you hear.)

8. Everyone is as insecure as you are.

9. Not everyone likes dogs.

10. Seminal fluid in the eye stings. It is mother nature’s pepper spray.

11. Pass on gerbils as pets, especially the white ones. The day will come and you won’t know when, but the gerbils who have lived in peace in your kids room for years will have a death-to-the-end cage match. Your child will forever be haunted by images of bloody gerbils that look like Stephen King’s, ‘Carrie’ onstage at the prom.

12. Don’t lend money to a model, no matter how good looking they are or how pretty they say you are.

13. Sometimes that dish of potpourri is just that, an eye-catching assortment of miscellaneous forest and woodpile gatherings, not a fragrant snack mix.

14. You can drive on ‘E’ longer than you probably think you can (but shouldn’t).

15. Not all bowls of mashed potatoes are what they seem. Sometimes they are mashed turnips.

16. When contemplating marriage or any long-term commitment with a partner, ask yourself if you could tolerate their most annoying habit x 500. If you can honestly answer, ‘Yes,’ proceed. If not, well…

17. Pick up your dry cleaning in a timely manner. They do not mess around and will give your things away whether it’s silk or not.

18. Don’t worry so much. Breathe and check for perspective before you freak out or lose faith. This applies to what others think – chances are they’re not thinking about you anyway.

19. Orange tabby cats look a lot a like. If yours goes missing, be sure the one you find is really yours. They are a wiley, needy bunch.

20. No one completes you but you.

21. There are no such things as comfortable shoes at an all-day trade show in Las Vegas.

22. When you flip off someone behind their back, make sure they are not facing a reflective surface.

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This cat (Sir Victor, rest his soul) looks like 25 other tabby cats.

The Baldest Hour of Want o’Clock

I want to write all the things for you
Search for all the songs
Carefully mine all the lyrics
All the verses
All the passages.
Package them, deliver them all at once
Trot them out once a day
For all the days.

I want to stop stealing what is not mine
Accumulating you piece by piece
Adding to a stockpile that doesn’t grow.
Each day at the baldest hour of want o’clock, the grains slip.
A sieve, the finest holes through the ventricles all the way to China.
A carpenter ant through my belly
Around the stalactites that intersect my breastplate
Around the bunion on my right foot out the tips of my toes.

I want to bury all the hatchets
Mend all the holes
Remove all the blinds
Dust all the shelves with only my bare hands.
Finish off the cornichons and toss all the olives
Stacked, treading oil in the jar
Trapped in an underwater chicken fight.

I want to add not subtract
Yet I most definitely do not want to divide.
Canned beef stew an actor’s fake vomit sprayed over the walls
A dog’s breakfast that you can’t eat but are served for years
seated in a folding chair at a folding table, the surface covered in spots of paint
Splatters of pink white blue yellow
Red
Memories so pure and true and good
You’d eat the folding table you really would –
Screw by screw nut by nut
Each plastic-coated aluminum leg including the hinges –
If each swallow would erase every lapse.

That’s not how it works.
At least not from where I sit
In a wooden chair at the laminate-topped table that I got to keep.

It’s not possible to nibble around the good times
and gobble swill smoke and chew the rest.
Something’s got to give and it’s me
I’ve got to go.

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Sometimes, it’s gorillas

I’m pretty sure my daughter’s friend thinks I’m whacky. But, maybe not. Maybe she gets me. More likely, she doesn’t think that at all because she’s not thinking about me.

The three of us are in the car. My daughter in the passenger seat; her friend in the back. I dare glance at the youngest of my two children. I take in her face, her features suspended between child and young woman. I note how her eyelashes nearly brush the inside lenses of her sunglasses.

She allows my gaze for a couple seconds before turning to me with a scalding, ‘What?” followed by a withering, “Why are you looking at me?” and finally, “Why are you talking about gorillas?”

I’m talking about gorillas, I tell her, because they’re interesting. Because we have things in common with gorillas; with other people and it pays to take notice sometimes. To think of things other than manicures and makeup and boys; switching to her dad’s house and lunches out with friends. (She’s right. I also spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about these same things.)

I’m talking about gorillas because her 13-year-old best friend in the backseat has a younger brother who is autistic and non-verbal. And I want to share a story I heard a couple evenings ago that I think she will appreciate.

As I deliver my preamble, I’m struck by how unpredictable and confusing entry-level teenagers can be. Interactions with them remind me of the time I found a raccoon in my front yard. I was surprised and happy to see this unexpected guest. How lovely and delightful! I remember thinking, “Surely this is some sort of mystical visit. Wait. Maybe it’s a dead relative come to visit in animal form!” I had to get closer.  Continue reading “Sometimes, it’s gorillas”