"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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Writing Process or Why I Love Being a Failure

Check out my guest blog this week at The Storyteller's Inkpot. As part of their Alumni Voices series: The Writing Process, or Why I Love Being a Failure:

On the highest shelf of a storage closet, in the furthest part of my basement, behind a room someone painted purple — for reasons known only to them-- are three boxes . . . .

Monday, October 20, 2014

Whose got the button?

Back cradled in the nook of the chair,
cheered by half light from a high window--
a glow which filters into the low, violet 
colored room squished with art supplies, 
books, and lost things-- like a jelly sandwich 
made by small sticky fingers and a
distracted mother-- a kaleidoscope of jars
and brushes to make color, a kite, a quilting
hoop, unfinished children's mobiles,
paper sandals, a doll holding a miniature
bag marked "cookies," a round cardboard
box with a round lid covered
with pictures of roosters or eggs maybe--
Inside the box, though it smells like
stiff potpourri, there are only buttons.
Buttons which sound like sea shells being
sifted by searching fingers, buttons which
glide over each other like piano keys
tinkling their own shirtless tune. Yes,
I'm looking for a button to replace
the one on this olive drab blouse, an olive
colored button not too big and not too small--
no pretty small then. One is too yellow,
one is too large. Another just right, but the 
metal shines too bright. I'll find one
here in a minute- I always do. But wait.
What do other people do when they lose
a button. Do they have a button box?
A box passed from mother to daughter
for generations uncounted? A box
with buttons from kitchens, weddings
and wars? Babies buttons, glass buttons,
buttons for generals and jeans?
Do they have buttons at all. Or am I 
a lost button kind of person,
while the rest of the world are
lost shirts?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tea with Alice

This weekend I'm going to the Kansas City Ballet's performance of Alice in Wonderland. Alice is a family name, and as a writer Alice in Wonderland is pretty much the Bible for how to enter into that subconscious landscape that connects to every reader; how to create that archetypal character that people in another country two hundred years hence are parading around for a cosplay and everyone knows who they are. 

Tea with Alice happens to be the name of my first complete book of poetry--biographical and generational poems about my family. It's named after the last poem I wrote for the book right after my grandmother, Alice, passed away. In the poem I talk about the time we went to the ballet together and how one day I would like to take my little girl to the ballet just as she took me. 

So when this opportunity came up to see this particular ballet, I felt it was destiny to attend. I'm sure this happens to other poets. We write about what we love, what we hope, what we intend, and then when those things present themselves we have to jump in. Poets are the kind of people who drive five hours to a lavender festival because they just had this feeling it was important. Poets are the kind of people who name their daughters Dorothy, plan to call her dot, and then wear read shoes and polk a dots to the baby's Christening. Poets like tho think about unconnected words are connected and mention it at parties so that everyone laughs at them. So if these things have ever happened to you, you  might be a poet too. You connect actions, words, and images as if they were really all the same thing. Butterfly's might look like two pieces of toast flying around looking for strawberry jam-- that kind of thing.

Well here is one of the last revisions of my poem called Tea with Alice in honor of the ballet. This spring again, I will send my poetry book out to be published. You never know. What might happen.

Tea with Alice

It's pretty easy, GG to believe you’re gone.
You went just like you wanted--
You arrived early and stayed late.
Grandpa has been parked out front,
in the station wagon with wings,
honking the horn for you to hurry

I’m glad you are going home--
You told everyone you were going
to New York  of all places, but
I figure, you wanted your big apple
pie in the sky.

Eat me.

I buy cheese cake for your wake.
There’s only me here, but the cheese
cake label reads, Father’s Table.
Someone else thinks there's
cheesecake in heaven besides me.

When you said you saw children playing,
heard dogs barking when there were none,
I knew you were getting ready to go.
But why sneak out the back?

You went back to your father and mother,
your sisters in Kansas--most I'd never met.
You kept nothing, you ran all the way home.

Next to you is the headstone for your baby sister,
Was she seven when she died right in front of you
struck by a car near the rail road tracks—
Something you never stopped seeing.

Shrink me.

Why did you dash away without goodbye?
Why did you fear death at 99, laugh it off at 100?
Why were your buried alone?
Your soldier’s grave, his white linen
headstone empty where a wife would be?

Or did your fatal mistake make you
a hundred years careful,
a hundred years resistant,
a hundred years sorry not to have
taken your sister’s place?

 It’s like you were forever frozen
standing on the edge of the tracks
in that small Kansas town. Forever
staring at your small lost charge.


If only I’d had held her hand tighter
If only I’d left the school house later
If I’d stayed after to ask a question
If only they had stayed after
if she had stayed . . .

And for a hundred years you stayed longer
Didn’t you, GG? 100 years of questions.
But no answer ever brought back the girl
who insisted, absolutely insisted—
you each name the cat two names,
and the baby could pick one too-

Tiger Ray Furry Paws Love

She was the one who made you laugh
when she tucked a glass bottle in her shoes
to make them fit better.

Drink me.

But there was nothing left of that bottle
for Alice to drink. Nothing that would shrink
the pain down to size to make a heart mend.
Coffee—Black, no sugar.

A silly girl,
who ran in traffic
on the way home from school.
I told her not to run.

And oh, how you ran away
to your mother. A mother, who whether
she ever forgave you, in your mind,
could never love you the same
Who could forgive the loss of her daughter
the one you were responsible for.
I was responsible.

Why did you forbid a funeral?
Did you feel her funeral counted for yours?
Were you Humpty Dumpty
who no one could put together again?
Were you half alive forever after?

And now I know how you felt.
I am halved at your secret parting.
You left your seat at this mad tea party.
You stole away before breakfast
and left your tea here, still hot.
And my heart shrieks like the tea kettle
who has been forgotten on the stove
until I am out of water, and my throat
runs dry.

*  *  *

I have your coat here. It is hot outside--
July hot enough to bend the stalks
of sunflowers. Here is your heavy coat
without your shoulders to hold it up.
This coat took me everywhere I ever went—
dance class, art class, the theatre, the ballet
It bows empty now you are gone.

So I will keep this heavy woolen mantle.
And when I am old and small, I will put it on.
I will hold another dear girl’s
hand in my paper one. I will lead her
to the ballet, we will sit on red velvet,

our faces lit by the light of shell colored satin.
We will hum with the music of an orchestra,
every part in tune. The music will tie the chords
of our hearts back together, mend
the fibers of our being.

I, in your heavy coat, will share
all the threads of my life with her—
I’ll spin out all this old coat’s yarns
to make her a new one until my back
carries only a shawl-full of threads,
until I am spun out . . .

I will grow still smaller,
while she will grow ever larger,
he will stand on legs more powerful
than a ballerina’s, and she will repeat
this pattern, adding her own part,

until all the velvet cushions of the theatres
are worn thin, until there is no one left
to dance—

Until all hatters close their shops,
and there are no more left to buy.
‘til all the tea is drunk,

and all the seas run dry.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Downward barking dog

The dog has pulled me face down
in the mud and grass. I'm okay,
and now he seems kind of sorry.
I want to tell him that just because
some man with white hair and a hat
beat him long ago, before he was rescued,
by the heartland hound people--that
Not All white haired men are bad,
and just because some boy on a bicycle threw
rocks at him once, not all people on bicycles
are bad. But somehow he is certain
everyone in a hat or with white hair
or with a bicycle must be his enemy.
I have no idea how to change his mind.
I mean whenever I see a reasonably middle
aged, middle sized man with medium colored
hair, I want to run him over, key his car,
let the air out of his tires.
But I don't do it. I just tell myself that
not all men are bad just because one was.
Not all people with a certain eye color are
bad just because two eyes once were.
Not all people with chins are bad, just
because someone with a serious chin
had a lot of cheek--
Not all people of a certain religion are bad
just because someone who claimed
to have one, didn't--
You see the pattern, and no matter
how many Venn diagrams I draw,
I will still be lying face down
in the mud with my dog,
barking at strangers
until we mend. The only problem,
dogs don't understand Venn diagrams
and I'm not so great at them

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Two Kinds of Blue

I've never been so shocked
her face in two kinds of blue
her eyes darkly set to mine--
Apparition, grandmother,
you know better than I
why I am two kinds of blue,
and your color proves
like some kind of Shiva
goddess who with one hand
palm down
and the other regenerates
palm up
that I am only a seed
a seed born in fire
who when the husk appears to die
when it's wrinkled skin hangs on
the shadowed shell tips
back to the earth
slips and falls
then the secret germ
bursts forth!
How can it be?
How can it be
on the inside
roots down deep
until you don't remember
what it looked like before,
roots down deep
until you can only see
blossoms for miles
stalk to the sky?
Then blue will be memory
fire will meet fire
and then, grandmother
we'll see a face
of a different color.
Then, grandmother
we two, yes
we too
will smile.