Tuesday Afternoon

My corner eye thought they were birds,

but leaves, just detached from limb,

flickered and flipped a brief migration,

landed at wind’s discretion.

Soon dappled light will be replaced

by straight shadows clacking in birches,

those be-jangled enthusiasts of fall

and its golden, breezy air.

Then they were leaves,

but no, peep-piping birds fluttered,

re-leafing trees, dropping tenderly

onto bare branches, nestling softly

into needled pines.

Sun is softer now, air sharp,

a languid, restless token.

My paddle board caught the wind, too,

a leaf on the water,

detached from shore,

rippling down the cold lake.

I turned to go back.

What leaf would ever do that?

Holey trinity: Mother, daughters, and the holy nose


I was always bargaining with God in the back seat of the car on the way to church about picking my nose.

This is the last time, I promise, then I’ll never pick my nose again. I really want to go to heaven, so this is the last booger, I swear.

Then it would itch.

Or it was an especially dusty day.

Or I could feel it in there, waiting. God would understand.

My Dad always picked his nose in our pick-up truck on the way to school. I pretended not to see, staring out the window, peripheral vision betraying me.

There were all kinds of hairs in there, I knew. I’d seen those, too. He was 6’6″ tall, so it was difficult not to look anywhere but up his large-nostriled nose.

If I hadn’t picked my nose so much as a kid, then maybe my left nostril would be the same size as my right one.

Now I’ll never know, because I’m not a kid anymore.

Now I have my own kids, and I’m sure they’ve seen me pick my nose a few times. God knows. Okay, many times.

My daughter picks her nose while she reads books. Completely absorbed, absent-minded picking. I’m not sure where they end up. I try not to stare that long.

Upon being introduced to Michigan State University’s mascot at age 4, she promptly picked her nose. Sparty got down on one knee, nose to nose, and brought his felted finger to his fuzzy, oversized nostril in mutual understanding.


Most mammals can’t pick their noses, it’s not physically possible. Imagine a cat trying to do that. Or an elephant.

Or a whale.

It’s impossible to pick your nose while snorkeling and listening to millions of tiny underwater clicks–fish mandibles munching minerals–while feeling the strangest, strongest desire to never exhale carbon dioxide ever again in order to preserve this beautiful, intricate, aquatic dance of astonishing color, light, and texture.

Coral icons, layer upon layer of life, plated with sun-gold.

Is it only hominids who dig for gold? For there is something extremely human about nose picking. The pointer finger neatly fits (but not the thumb). It is completely self-directed. An exercise in free will. Public or private? Long or short? Deep or shallow?

I’ve outgrown my original deal with God. As my daughters and I grow older, there is more reason to believe God delights in creating life, not bargaining with it.

My daughters’ noses were cleared after their first, startling, beautiful breath fresh from my womb.

God took a deep, loving belly breath–in through the nose, out through the mouth–and dust swirled into life. The same dust forged in exploding stars, the same dust we pick from our noses.

Now I know (tapping the side of my nose) that the nose was created not just for fingers, but for aromas–detectors of danger and decay, gateways to otherworldly pleasures and pains, solidifiers of memory, pathways for life’s breath–inhale and exhale.



my Mom’s perfume and favorite, faded pink and purple plaid shirt.


my shoulders drop.


the top of my daughters’ tiny heads, smooth baby scent tinged in tiny, translucent hair.


I close my eyes


my husband’s aftershave, a can he used for more than five years because he loves adventure, not things, people, not self-grooming.


I am still


motorcycle exhaust and 5-year-old me between my Dad’s arms, leaning into every turn without fear, hair flying, elation, alfalfa, and dust filling my nose.


I miss him


asphalt after rain, nettles in spring, pine needled trees on Mt. Adams, strawberries in warm June sun, cookies in the oven.


In Between

Acronym stands alone and credible.






in utter importance it discards the in-between.

free of further verbalization, independent of long vowels and

clunky consonants

that impede the progress of CAPITAL LETTERS.

acronym uses more ink for one loud fact

than all indispensable, indivisible in-betweens put together.

acronym assumes abbreviation is understood,

that ideas need nothing but skeletons.

large letters, quick, efficient, cool, savvy

have left neighborhood letters behind,

small ones that slow CAPITALS down,

inconsequentials that love to be to be pronounced,

that bring assonance and alliteration when spoken openly—given voice.

in-betweens shrivel and die in dark shadows between UPPER CASES—

big letters, suave and slick, with-it and quick,

forget how the word sounds, how the world sounds,

in the smallness at their feet.

acronym leaves behind

the curved bottom of y, the strong back of h,

the inclusiveness of o, the quiet invitation of b

to sit in a comfortable chair

and stay for t


Thank you God for coffee

That gets me through the day

That keeps me nice and regular

(Maybe that I shouldn’t say)

‘Cause if it weren’t for coffee

I don’t know what I’d do

I’d probly chew tobacco

‘Course there’s marijuana too.

Nah, I wouldn’t chew tobacco,

But coffee stains my teeth

I think I’d use the hash

Cause I’d have better breathe.

Who am I to say

What’s right or good or bad?

When pushing comes to shoving

It’s whatever people have

Around them when they need it,

A mental shift in mood.

Mine’s black and strong with cream

It’s psychoactive too.

In other places it’s totally fine

To drag on this or that.

Culture is such a blinder

I’d rather just forget

About stigma (gasp), taboo

Who needs them anyway?

Thank you God for coffee

That gets me through the day.


I go outside

and look.


The yellow yellow locust,

the red red maple,

the brown green oak.

Color sinks into my chest cavity

 and reverberates

sound effection.


After so much time inside

my body calcifies.

It no longer hums

looking at blue screen

instead of blue sky.

The wind moves leaves and trees, reverberates

and reverberates against my skin, my nose and eyes and ears and drums


and in-blows against my chest in thrumming waves, to loosen my over tightened heart strings.

Without reverb, the world is dry sound, strange.

Without sound reflection, life is dampened,

subtle shifts in colors and the murmurs of sparrows muted.

Winter pierces the ear, crystalline.

Spring rises with cacophony

Summer washes languid waves of heat that drown all, but fall,

fall beckons my body to belly breathe in

wet leaves and damp bark exhaling before the winter sleep.

I stop to see Blue Jay flash from pine to pine

Goldfinch alight on fuzzy seeds of grass stalks bent low

a musty moth resting on zinnia petals the color of sunset.

I go outside to reverberate and feel the world around me again and again, past the pain and guilt, to the point where I know what way to walk that day. Quietly. I have nothing to say beyond an apology for myself, for what I have taken without asking, what I have harmed without knowing, what I have stolen from other mothers and daughters in deaf consumption.


I go outside

and am soothed

by sound reflections so quick and close as to be indecipherable as individual delays.

We are not individual delays.

Earth’s reverberations thrum

from deep mantle and thin crust,


from high and low tide,

morning and evening,

acorn and oak,

caterpillar and moth,

child and parent,

seed and sequoia,

string and symphony,

you and me



The crossover
became my move.
Sometime in middle school,
when I went to a summer camp with my friend
whose Dad played Beatles songs the 5 hours it took to get there
(“She loves me, yeah, yeah, yeah”)
Sometime in that week
I used it during a 3 on 3 scrimmage and
the coach, probably a college student,
yelled and cheered, jumped up and down
and ran out on the court and hugged me.
I quietly cried I was so happy
to be hugged by a coach.
So it became my move,
the crossover.
It made people happy,
so i sweat and i teared and i worked
to make others happy.
And those bitter tears?
Those were for disappointing people when i lost.
My relatives and friends who drove hundreds of miles to watch.
Who flew hundreds of miles to watch.
It was too much pressure.
It never occurred to me to play for myself,
to play because i loved it.
I played for others, but I don’t think they knew.
I tried to convince myself I played to glorify God,
but my heart disagreed.
I played for the rush of cheers and hugs,
and they didn’t need to care, really,
because it wasn’t up to them to feed my soul,
but my heart broke, and i became
nothing when college was done.
I had burned myself down
to the bone and i became
no eating, no feeling,
just running and sacrifice.
Just punishment,
It never occurred to me to forgive myself,
to live for something i loved,
and now, 20 years later, it occurs to me
and my heart is broken for that young woman
who wanted, above anything, to make others happy
because it made her happy, too.