Monthly Archives: May 2013

I’ll be reading from “Strangers in Paradise” on June 9

Thanks to Jannat Bay, a fellow writer and like me, a recent grad of the Artist Trust EDGE program for writers. Jannat’s put together a reading series, SouthSound Writes,for emerging and published authors to share their works. The free series is held on the second Sunday of each month.

When: June 9, 2013 @ 2:00 – 4:00 pm 

Where: Des Moines Library 21620 11th Avenue South, Des Moines, Washington 98198 

Other writers at the June 9th reading are Kristen Millares Young, Anca Szilagyi, Patty Kinney, Claire Thornburgh and Judith Gilles. Other EDGE grads will be reading during the series, too, which I’ll post later.


Summer Reading at the Branigan

Tom Lea WPA mural at the Branigan Library

Tom Lea WPA mural at the Branigan LibraryBranigan Library

Summer days in my home town of Las Cruces, New Mexico were frequently over 100 degrees. The swamp cooler in our old bungalow wheezed, spat and rattled, but never really cooled. The best place to spend a hot afternoon was a few blocks away at the town library, the Branigan. Built in the Thirties as one of the New Deal’s WPA projects, the library had thick adobe walls that kept the heat at bay. Its peaceful interior was stuccoed white, with gleaming terra-cotta tiles and dark brown vigas (exposed beams). Natural light poured in through deep-set leaded windows.

The Branigan was an oasis in the desert, a down-home temple to the power of the written word. A WPA artist, Tom Lea, painted a stately mural on the upper wall across the entrance, depicting a Catholic priest showing New World natives a large open book, religious in nature, no doubt. Everyone in the mural was strikingly calm, noble and civilized. Even as a kid uninterested in New Mexican history, I suspected the conquest of the New World didn’t go down with the aplomb Tom Lea had envisioned.

Miss Caffey was the queen of the library. A tiny woman in old-fashioned dresses and shoes, she wrapped her gray braids around her head like a tiara of hair. She held court behind a high wood desk. She was always kindly, more so if I stayed in the children section of the library. But I’d learned to read before first grade and was a voracious and indiscriminate sampler of text. I was soon bored with kiddy books and drifted through the adult and reference sections of the Branigan.

During one of my hunts, I found an adult novel that I hoped might be torrid and maybe even sexy. In the name of research, to further my education on sex and romance, I took the book to the front desk to check out. Miss Caffey glanced at the title on the cover, frowned, opened a page at random and read. Then she handed it to me and asked me to read a passage aloud. After I did, she asked if I knew what it meant. I nodded, but felt intimidated by her skeptical gaze. I can’t recall if she let me check out the book. I probably abandoned my quest and slunk back to the children’s section.

I’d check out as many books as allowed. I’d troop home, hurl myself on my bed, and read, read, read. Time slowed down and stretched out. I forgot my troubled family, forgot even who I was as the lives of others, fictional others, laid claim on my imagination.

(PS: The Branigan is now a cultural center and on the National and State Registry of Public Buildings.)


On Hope

The great playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner once wrote:

“But hope isn’t a choice, it’s a moral obligation, it’s a human obligation, it’s an obligation to the cells in your body, hope is a function of those cells, it’s a bodily function the same as breathing and eating and sleeping; hope is not naive, hope grapples endlessly with despair, real vivid powerful thunderclap hope, like the soul, is at home in darkness, is divided; but lose your hope and you lose your soul.”


Last Frame – Fire Island

The light in the east gives way to the west, where the
pink and copper golden god slaughters dragon clouds,
and the glory spills onto phosphorus-rich tides.
Across the bay, a light winks in the mansion
of a plumber emulating Gatsby. Here on our dock,
a fat boy casts for smelts against a clotted sky.
Another boy, blond and otter-sleek, proclaims
his boredom to chattering adults. A child’s wagon
on its rusty side begs the child to right it,
race it hurtling to the boardwalk’s edge where
water is so civilized and patiently awaits the night.
A sailboard nudges its appointed slot but will not slip
into bed quite yet. A man in a faded Hawaiian shirt
looks at me and looks away, rejoins the laughter
of the woman he thought he’d chosen for the weekend.
We are waiting, we are waiting. And for what? Some
breath-hold of time, a slip-up of the tide, a meltdown
of this crowd of souls. ‘We won’t come here again,”
I hear a woman say. The hunting has not been good.
Singles carry tote bags and hibachis to the water’s edge.
They squat on folding chairs. If everyone had a wine glass,
they would toast the golden god. And the ferry, too –
may it hurtle us over the tame bay, to lodge our souls
like shards of glass onto the civilized core as the golden
god is fed to his demons, as the night reclaims the sea.
(I wrote this years ago – guess I was sorely disillusioned by a weekend as a guest at a singles vacation rental!)



My husband and I walked in Seattle’s May Day immigration reform march because Jorge invited us. We marched (actually, strolled is a better word) with him, his six-month pregnant wife and their two kids on a (rare) sunny day from Central District to downtown.

The crowd was peaceful, with one jaunty guy and his bullhorn rushing from corner to corner to exhort us into solidarity and action. A better inspiration was the wonderful brass band (the tuba had a sign saying ‘Borders Blow’). Only once, when we funneled through the dark downtown canyons of office buildings, did I remember the Boston Marathon bombings, and found myself scanning sidewalks for suspicious backpacks. Cops on bikes followed and tracked us, and their continous stop-starts reminded me of when I was a kid scouting on my bike.

We wondered if last year’s anarchists would make their May Day appearance. Before the march, the reform crowd gathered at a park and Jorge’s little girl was gathering those weeds that look like tiny daisies. She was dumping them into the lap of a young man wearing an Anonymous mask. Her parents didn’t stop her and I wondered why she kept bringing him flowers. He accepted them without comment. After 15 or so minutes, he removed his Anonymous mask. Maybe it was too hot. Maybe he felt foolish. Aside from some skinny ninja in black, Anonymous was the only “anarchist” I saw.

Later, the 11 o’clock news on local tv carried breathless coverage of an evening confrontation between anarchists and Seattle cops. I’d say the ratio of coverage was 90% anarchists, 10% immigration reform march. Thanks anarchists. Thanks TV. You guys were made for each other.