"dazzle gradually"

"Dazzle Gradually" 2017 poems, paintings, new art & photography--a diary, a discipline, a delight. Read over my shoulder as I post my unedited poetry ---you can see it in the raw or get my first book and see how the work evolves with new books rolling out next year.

Polly Alice

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Five pointed stars blossom,
three snakes of seeds file through
one flower floats mid penny slice

Do you want a pickle that bites you back?

Bumps, barbs, spread apart
leaves with bristles,
and stems with spikes

Are you caught in a pickle--preserved

Whether you're pricked
depends on what direction you
rub them from
                                                                 Slices stack up splashed, salted, brined
                                                                 Green and shine.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I'd apologize for my limerick rhyme, but where else can you spout off silly rhymes except in a poem?


Their name
sounds like a sneeze,
but they prevent 'em.
They attract bees,
but don't pinch 'em--
cuz thier prickly in parts.
their splinters do smart,
but 'r roots make a tea,
you can drink-- em!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dear Dad

Hi Dad, it's my first letter from the castle, so I am using
the best parchment and inks from the court stationary shop.
Paris was beautiful and now we are back and settled
into the court just fine.
The first month, the Prince killed two dragons.
The second month, he won four battles.
This past month, he helped organize a meeting
about the magna carta, rid the castle of three
faux gold merchants, and threw out two
clothiers who sold "invisible fabric." He doesn't
fall into traps, that one. I am wondering though,
will he ever learn to pick up his socks?
The weather is lovely, see you at St. Lucias Day.
Your C~ella

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rules in Fairy Tales

Number one, always give food to a hungry beggar women who asks of you.
Number two, always let your greedy older siblings take the best stuff.
Number three, listen to animals that tell you to do things.
Number four, bet all you have on the impossible.
Number five, don't correct people who misunderstand who you are.
Number six, stop to cry.
Number seven, follow directions to the letter.
Number eight, follow directions to the letter.
Number nine, being eaten isn't the end.
Number ten, your presence changes the kingdom.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Today is Quesday... the weekend will never come

Today is Quesday
which rhymes with Tuesday.
You've never heard it before?
Tea Party, 1995
It cuts in behind Friday,
tickles Saturday
makes every hour a chore.
Then side-long steps your
muddy shoes on the rug
and quietly slips out the
door. . .

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I just completed my
Masters of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults
We had a hot party on the hottest day of the year--with Awards for those who dressed as their favorite
children’s book character!

Thanks to Lisa C. who helped with the party and dressed up as a book instead of a character. She won a signed copy of  a Mo Willems book.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview at The Deep Old Desk

The Deep Old Desk published an interview I did this September. I hope you enjoy reading it. It's a rare joy to have friends who are also artists and writers. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


well after the last minute
with sweat in one eye
and sun in the other
I  threw out the last handful
as neat as if a mole dug it
with ringing in one ear
and dirt in the other
I admired the earth
now you know the end cuz
with bugs in the middle
and hail or drought at each end
It was pretty much
but the last seeds weren't scraps
they burst out butternut on the left
zucchini waddling down the front
and pumpkins on the right 
                          s p i r a l i n g  until
                                           vines   they
                                         with          fill-
                                           all       ed   s w  g  o v
                                                 it          n   i           e r 
                                                             i    r             
past                                                          l
ain't that always the way?
chaulking up the loss with one foot
while the other trips over
some wonderful

Monday, August 1, 2011

ADD Ramen Recipe

1. Run water and check temperature. Stop, no it's not a bath.
2. Run water into sauce pot.
2. Pour out water, you have broth ready.
3. Pour broth into sauce pot.
4. Open first package of ramen, break in half, dump in cold broth.
5. Catch little packet of msg before it lands in pot, and throw away.
6. Open second package of ramen, throw in broth.
7. Pull raw ramen back out and break in half, then throw back in. Keep a pattern here.
8. Pull little packet of msg out of broth and throw away.
9. Set sauce pot in stove.
10. Pull out of stove and place on burner.
11. Check that you've turned on right burner at least three times.
12. Cook for three minutes.
*Serve warm with little pieces of hot dogs thrown in.
**Say it's Chinese food.


Can a gumtree call--
ask you to come
sit a spell under,
where two-hundred
marks sapling,
where a Kari
is King?


The  poet  comes
I  hear  the  silence
between   her  words

When earrings talk...

So I admit
I've always said birds can talk,
I chatter back to squirrels,
try not to break mirrors.
look out where I walk.
I believed in fairies
til I was twenty-five
then knew they were
real again not too
much after.

I write down dreams
like prescriptions with
a large Rx at the top--
take notes whether I
fly time machines, rescue
kittens, or eat poisoned

But on Tuesday, walking through
the fabric store to make
a ten year quilt, my
eye was drawn to
turquoise, orange and red
stones lined up like traffic.
I had just said to myself,
Where do we go next?

"Go West" the earrings
read, and I laughed...
until I saw every plate
on the rack said the same,
"Go West."

Go West?

Now I'll have my
ears to blame, if they
are wrong, because
every footstep chokes
up more prairie dust
while those little
silver slung stones

go West

Night Journey

Sweethearts of RhythmA Dreamscape poem, I scribbled during a poetry workshop I taught last winter. Today is the hottest day of the year, but it was a relief to remember this cold and dreary time of year.

When I heard Marilyn Nelson, and Ron Koertge speak about poetry last month, I was introduced to some new ideas I'd like to try. Here below, I've altered a Sestina, or really not quite followed the directions. Sestinas tend to do what I'd like to try in the future -- a concept rhyme. I had no idea these existed. It's not just a near rhyme or a slant rhyme, it's an antonym, a synonym, or any other type of word you chose, as long as you are consistent.

This may be a new concept that you can't even google yet, but you've heard it here.
Sestina's are a poem form that cause a spiraling motion of reasoning, a forced narrowing just because of it's mathematical form. The first rules are to have six stanzas of six lines. The last word in each line must repeat in each stanza (I've ignored the precise order). I did follow the rule to have each stanza end on a different word. I also followed the rule that my final stanza is only three lines, but does have all six end words tucked inside. Lastly, if you care much about rules, I gave myself two or three extra rules: to make each line as short as possible, one line in each stanza must have only one word, the last word in each stanza is seen again on the end of the first line in the next.

Well you can see it gets tricky. What do rules do? I use them all the time in my free verse. I make up my own rules. Any rule, especially in poetry I think, adds difficulty. But it's more than that. I guess it's like: more difficulty equals more muscle, and more muscle equals more power. I always find even the smallest limitation strengthens the meaning.

Night Journeys  2010

I always dream
about a train,
in the night,
running away
with me.

get off! -- that’s me
it’s not safe on this train!
we are going too fast.
I run away…
to another dream
dark night.

A flight to Paris, at night
second stop, the moon—a dream,
Thank God, no train.
Did I bring the right luggage with me?
Clouds flash faster.

A white van pulls up fast.
A team of dreamers,
here and away,
You are with them, not me.
black inside, with a rolling door like a train.

Destinations, stops-- like a train--
documenting sites, like dreams,
statues of angels, Mary fasting,
No me.
And gray days, no nights.
A new sight to draw you away.
How do you find them anyway?
Steadfast wheels, like a train through the rain.
Nightfall may bring you back to me, to rest, and to dream.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Wandering Jew,
your azure leaves
unfold endlessly-- an
unbroken chain.You
have no end. You
root anywhere.
You grow
a bush
of stem and leaf.
You can go without
water and survive, enter
darkness, and still curl
toward the light.
Wandering, you
may have 

clay pots,
or one thousand.
You've never died, only
uprooted- tell me the secret 
of your tent. How do
you know when to
hammer down
the stakes and
when, again,
it is time 
to take

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dead Head

Photo by Jay Hixson
Trash to Treasure
the sign at the Methodist church off View road
proved true by my overflowing bags.
It's funny that there is even such a word
as trash. There is no such thing. At least,
in nature trash is impossible, imagine
trying to explain to a tree that
trash is something useless,
or telling a sunflower-- five feet tall
with its armored bristles and spikes--
it would politely ignore your lesson.
Even a sunflower stalk
who hangs its dead head
on a frosty morning
knows how many birds
will find use for its treasure
and how many powers
of one seed
will reach

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Mitochondria, what are they?
Do they splash in a watery bay?
By the light of a Nucleus, play?
Mitochondria what are you?
What do you sing? What do you do?
How to you put the spring in each step
of each little cell from down in its depth?
Mitochondria what do you say?
Tell me your secret. Don't go away.
I will shrink small and we will have tea.
Just your little self and mere little me.
I'll learn your language, You'll teach me to run.
Mitochondria, you know, I think it'd be fun.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


You like chocolate?
So do I.
Let's hold hands.
We're friends you and I.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


When the sauce is juicy and not too red, it’s just right.
I slurp noodles off your cold Corning Ware until
it’s like we’re in your old kitchen with the round fridge
gurgling. When I pulled the latch it welcomed me full
with its old lettuce smell and tiny tubs of Promise.

At night the kitchen lights reflect in the sliding glass door.
My reflection and I slurp the last sauce off plates
as clean as the moon.

When the spaghetti is gone, I sigh because I miss you.
But I know there will be more nights of spaghetti and
my own children running about with hair like so many noodles.

I chose to be happy, because I sense the Parmesan shakes
with no sign of running out.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

We've pieced together this life
with a mix of threads,
and found the corners didn't meet.
I pulled, you stretched,
we got out the seam ripper.

Next time, I said.
Next time, You said.

We pulled out a hundred threads
but again, it's crooked.
We blamed the machine, Grandma's
old scissors--each other.

I give up, I said.
I don't, You said.

It seems silly now, because when we
started over to cut new pieces,
the pattern was crooked, guilty
from the first.

Now I pin and fold hidden edges,
to finish this quilt. It's ours, and we made it
ourselves. Crooked or not, when we
sleep under it at night, it's warm

and the beautiful threads I added to
tack down the lumps, turn into
paths for stars dancing in a midnight blue
canopy, their tip-tapping path echoes
the beat of a branch
on our windowpane.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Dear Staff,
Do you get tired from holding up all those notes?
Every good boy does fine, and the other one I can't remember.
Was it about boys or mothers? I'm sorry they've overlooked you.
The composer received acclaim, the conductor applause, the
musicians an ovation. You kept holding things together, but
no one seemed to notice. Without you no sounds could hang
together, and where would we rest?  Thank you Staff
for making music possible and for letting us all play the same
note at the same time in our own way with our own instrument.
It's a beautiful sound, and you make it all possible.
Yours Truly,
an admirerer

Donne with Work

My work is hilltop of tall Autumn grass
where I planted an orchard,
a patch of brown straw sticking up where
I expected to pull pits out of peaches,
ripe heads of weeds swaying where
I intended to preserve endless summer.
My tears are the rain on the grass where
I planned to taste sweetness.

I will harvest the grass worth nothing to anyone,
and with the damp reeds and wet strands, I
will weave one basket-- then another.

My work is a bare hilltop
where I will plant an orchard,
a patch of earth where
I will tend new trees,
ripe peaches hanging where
I pruned small branches.
My laughter is the rain on the orchard where
I climb my ladder to the top of each tree.

I will harvest the fruit worth something to everyone,
I will carefully pluck each one, I will set it it in this basket.
I will fill one --then another.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mother's Day

Mother's Day

How does a mother
bend without breaking
hold without shaking
ready, ever waiting

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jazzy Breakfast

Below is a blues song I wrote.  I've been working on different parts of it for almost ten years.  It's come out this way below.  It's dedicated to the sweet baby I lost named Rose, and to my kids who I love so much I can't help singing and dancing.

“Come have some breakfast.” - Jesus

Jazzy Breakfast
Gonna sing to Baby, and here’s how it goes,
Sing it to Baby, and here’s how it goes,
 A song for Baby’s gotta be—gentle and low.

Gonna sing while were cookin’ when the sun comes round,
Stir up something good when Mr. Sun comes around,
Come to breakfast, Baby —the best that ever went down.

It’s gonna taste real good--Oh yeah, it’s gonna taste good.

Let’s reach up to the dawn, and bring it down low,
Reach your hands up high while standing on tiptoe,
We’ll squeeze oranges—freckled and flecked with gold.

Let’s pick Baby’s strawberries from this old ground,
Pick sweet ripe berries from this dark old ground,
We’ll cook enough jam for this entire town.

It’s gonna taste real good--Oh yeah, it’s gonna taste good.

Peel a pat of sunshine now the sun’s raised up,
Take a pat of yellow sun, and melt it in our cup,
We always have enough—when our bread’s buttered sunny side up

Honey for our biscuits makes them nice an’ sweet,
Honey on those biscuits makes them taste so nice and sweet,
We always wear flowers--just to please any bees we meet.

It’s going to taste real good—Oh yeah, it’s gonna taste good.

Baby’s ready for some swinging in the old oak tree,
Ready for a swing in the old  swingin’ tree,
We’ll practice letting go-- letting Baby fly fast and free.

Baby’s hungry for a story that’s nice an’ long,
Hungry for a story that is deep, wide and long,
We’ll tell it tall as a mountain--sweeter than our song.

It’s gonna sound real good--Oh yeah, it’s gonna sound good.

Gonna sing to Baby, and here’s how it goes,
Sing it to Baby, and here’s how it goes,
 A song for Baby--has gotta gentle and low.

Gonna sing ‘til Baby falls into a dream,
Sing as our Baby sails off to a dream,
Sing the last silver high note ‘til the moon pours out its cream.

It’s gonna sound real good--Oh yeah, it’s gonna sound good.

Easter Basket 2011

Maundy Thursday you surprise me
with an old fashioned foot washing. 
I forgot we used to be Brethren--
The three of us on the couch,
feet hanging over the paisley,
while you kneel with the laundry tub.
The kids are as happy as waiting for
the teacup ride at Disney Land.

Like little sponges they've absorbed it,
from us, calling out at each egg they find.
Ninety-three exclamations of pure joy
in one little Easter hunt on Campbell street.

This may be the first year I dunk the eggs
in their color without caring--
An egg is an egg is an egg is an egg.  I'm
tired and my heart is as cold and dry as these
yokes will be waiting in the fridge.

Is there a mayo for hearts?  Something to
change my dry, hard boiled soul back
into something Michael Angelo could paint
the Sistine Chapel with?  Maybe everything
we ever create will end up censored
by fig leaves too, but some day I know

they will be rubbed out as nonsense,
and underneath will be the work we meant
all along.  The naked truth proving we were
never the one reaching out after all.
It was God the whole time.

This year as we lay exhausted in Paradise
let's promise to hold hands, to jump right
into the picture and find our place
in a Divine Comedy where the only way
back is forward, through the last funnel,
and into a new light.

So here is a basket with chocolate eggs and small
fire crackers, so we can blow open
those doors stuck closed for so long.
Peace or pieces-- we'll take at least one.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Palmer's Sunday

Within one circle of the sun
you drew first blood.
You inked knees with
hallowed green.
The grass is dead
under your wings.
I have two monkeys
in your tree.
They beg a pilgrimage
from light to night light.
Thank you swing set for
bringing my angels
back to earth again.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Chaulky ochre in a field of gray
A flame of sulfur on a soggy day
Hopeful, helpful, but just a start
Forsythia, please do your part,
March ahead of spring to come
Photo from Reeds Creek Nursery
Send color soon or I'm undone

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Almost Rainbow

I thought I missed Lent.  It's been gray and gloomy for awhile right? 
Snow storms past,  green points up. Twigs were veined red
with fuzzy tips. Easter's a few days away, cause chocolate cakes the aisles? 
No.  It's Ash Wednesday, the first of a long, forty day lent.  I'm crying into my soup. 
Forty more days-- plus weekends?  Or something entirely too long to count, 
too complicated to figure.  No. Gray mourning, ashes, dust I won't take you this time
I won't.  I will press you into my marble mortar, and pestle you into fine mist. 
I'll spray my black soil with your goodness, so it can't be Lent. I'll allow saints days,
maybe a palm or two, and I will sprout past sorrow on shoots and leaves
until I've climbed a ladder with wings, and looking down I'll wave to gray clouds. 
A pinkish halo, almost a rainbow, will point me to Easter dawned with all its fresh light.  
I'll glide slowly down on its rosy hips, back to my old life, but now a new pale shade
of green.  So we'll skip it.  Lent is just hell, if you know what I mean.


Because their mothers were silent,
the babes rounded out a volume of time
telling a thread of loves around
the wooden spool of their dislikes 

distrusting carefully so not to break
the constant circling string,

and no matter how wildly we wave
our tears to show we need mending,

they will never understand their power,
but wrap ceaselessly and unending,

because to join two parts together
the snip of the scissors is the first thing.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mother Envy

Mother Envy

I think I would make a good man.
If I were a man I’d shave every morning,
and get a shower too. I’d wear Old Spice and
always smell good in a blue collared shirt
I’d wear my pants with a smart leather belt.
My socks would pull clean to my calf and I’d wear size
10 1/2 shoes that always fit.
I’d drink coffee and eat oatmeal with wheat germ.
I’d ride my car to work, an old beat up one.
I’d fill up the car with gas, staring at the other customers
under my thick heavy eyebrows. 
I’d frown at the cashier and say “pump number five”
in a deep gruff voice.
I’d work all day and when I took pit breaks I’d never
have to wait for the bathroom. I’d never have PMS, MS,
or post MS.
People would do what I say if the buck stopped
at my metal desk.
I’d walk to lunch, and eat something out of a bag.
I’d go home to a hot dinner on the table. 
I’d say grace.  My napkin would always be clean.
I’d tickle the kids, then watch television
and drink a light beer.  My pajamas would
be where I left them, my bed would be made.

While my car is modeled on my figure,
with a big trunk for strollers,
While my tiny eyebrows make every statement
into a question? And my tiny voice is too high
to register.  While no day begins or ends
the same as another.  I am a mother.
I can at least promise I will speak softly
and carry a big purse.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Secret Recipe

I serve the angel hair pasta
layered in portabella and cream
with bruschetta caprese.  Their glee
shakes my "garden of eden" chandelier
like so much sprinkled cheese.
Noodles spin and twirl a dance
while children laugh, and no one cares
if the "artisan sour dough" came from Wal-mart
in the far back corner-- on the stale shelf--
where I rescued it for $1.09 from
two ladies thinking about day-old
powdered doughnuts.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Things They Carried

I haven't read Tim O'Brian's book yet--which is titled the same as this post, but I like the idea.  I think their are at least three kinds of writers or at least ways we lay the foundation of our writing.  I am an object person.  Objects begin my stories, guide me through the process, and save the day: a medallion, a paintbrush, a loaf of bread, a basket.  And what better to admire an object than to write a poem.  I may avoid literal clutter by my magpie tendency to hoard fictional objects in my own private nest.  To me these objects say more about the characters and the action than anything else.  I'm not sure this is a common attribute.  I image most best-selling writers are either action or plot driven, but Alexander McCall Smith has a series that inspires me deeply-- and it is object driven.  Yes, Mma Ramotswe is the main character, but she is defined by her love for her "tiny white van," and the tea pot in which she makes bush tea.  Her assistant is defined by her large glasses, and her shoes sometimes speak aloud to her in a Hans-Christian-Anderson-type of way. 

To me objects are full of emotion, they inspire actions, hold back story, hint at destiny, and serve in place for boring adjectives or verbs.  Objects can by archetypes and can be understood by anyone and convey their own unique connotation for every reader.  Possibly this is why I've been sticking with list poems lately.  Or possibly because sorting items into groups is my way of cataloging a world in which my feet rarely have ever touched down.

Things they carried
1.  An old drum and flute we donated to a high school student in NW Minneapolis.  Her mother cried when we gave it to them. 
2.  Your kingergarten report card, a flawless record on yellow brittle paper.
3.  The newspaper article about when you won the kite contest in gradeschool, and the kite I bought at the beach when I was seventeen.
4.  The old Morgana the Sorceress costume from the 70's which I somehow turned into a peacock blue prom dress.
5.  A tiny blue and white porcelain tea set from China, cracked by my brother when he was three and reglued with my pink glue.
6.  The wind chimes you bought me on Main street promising that one day we would have a porch to hang them from.
7.  The watch held inside a glasses case.  Spectacles bought in Seattle by my grandmother bought before sailing to Japan in 1947.
8.  Tiny pointed shoes from India marked with the year 1972 given to me in a box from Aunt Polly, as she emptied all her treasures one at a time.
9.  The snapshot of our wedding flowers inside my wallet, still bright and true because it was before digital photography and the onset of fading photos.
10.  A tiny ivory quill with a carved elephant on top no bigger than my pinky nail.  Something I found when I was four years old, in a sand pile on the edge of the forest by my neighbors huge back yard under a barb wire fence.
These things we carried from place to place.  Some through twelve moves, and twelve schools on my part and a handful of each on yours.  We carried them in boxes and bags, in the back of trucks, moving vans, trucks, and cars, over at least three moves in February over the ice and some in the heat of June and we saved them and saved them.  And they are still here with us and may yet prove to be of some important purpose.  And we may wrap them up again and move them over mountains or an ocean or two, but some things we carry with us,
 I guess that is just what we must do.