Cream Cheese

In a compromise with my parents
That age ago
(they wanted near I wanted far
They wanted Catholic I wanted not)
I started college at Marquette University
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin
As far from New Orleans
As my parents would allow
But for them at least it was Jesuit
Though not Springfield,
Which was closer and
Also – importantly - where
One of my mother’s priest-cousins taught
We called him Father Junior

My parents drove me to Marquette
That first year
A drive delayed by Hurricane Betsy
My dad walked downtown from our house
To send the school a telegram
(The first like that they had ever received,
We were told when we finally arrived)
That I would miss freshman orientation
Because of a hurricane
The first night on the road 
We stayed in a motel
VERY exciting, my first time in a motel

At the diner where we ate breakfast
The next morning
After an increasingly confused exchange with the waitress
(Have you ever seen Jack Nicholson’s toast scene
In Five Easy Pieces?)
My dad was served – reluctantly – 
A block of Philadelphia cream cheese
Since he persisted that he wanted cream cheese for breakfast

And so we all three learned
That morning
Something none of us had known before
Only in New Orleans
Did cream cheese
Mean Creole cream cheese
(You might know it as curds and whey
Of Little Miss Muffet fame)
A breakfast favorite

In praise of Mary Oliver – and Skinks

I imagine Mary Oliver
after a nuclear holocaust
writing of her sorrow
that in our arrogance and anger
we destroyed ourselves
and most of our world

I imagine her writing of her fear
for the world and for herself
denying nothing
of her sadly changed expectations

I imagine her ending
But look at the way
this little brown skink
moves unhurried
up the porch wall
stopping and starting again
enjoying its bit of life

Here And There

Woody waits outside
On the porch he made for us
Sitting in the rocking chair
We bought in Ohio
Coming back from Michigan
Not our last time in Michigan
Just last weekend
When we drove there
For Jack’s memorial service
Stopping for the night in Berlin, Ohio
Because we don’t do the fast 10 hour interstate way
But wind our way slowly
Through the every season beauty
Of West Virginia
And Amish country Ohio

We went the slow way
Going up for the memorial service
For Woody’s nephew
Jack loved hunting, and his hungry chickens
As Woody loves gardening, and his Japanese maple trees

We came back the fast way on Monday
Because the assisted living home called
On Monday morning
Mom was having another hypertensive crisis
And they were taking her to the hospital
So I drove us back
Using the interstates and toll roads
Not hurrying, but not stopping for the night either

Mom is fine now
And Woody sits in his rocking chair
Waiting to take my hand
And walk together through our garden


I stare at the prompt,
“Write about uncertainty”
I sit, pen quiet, thinking thoughts
Uncertainty, I think, is my life
Uncertainty, I think, is my only sure possession
Uncertainty, I think, is my only certainty

Just as I pick up my pen to write
My phone buzzes
I have it nearby, on mute
In case it is my mother calling
Or, worse yet, her nursing home

It is my mother
I have to answer
Nothing is wrong
She just forgot this is my workshop time
And wanted to tell me her blood pressure
Is just fine
Nothing wrong today

Uncertainty is my life


I want no cathedral
In my head or soul
Unless it be
The cathedral of nothingness
Lifting unseen spires high 
Into its own nothingness
And within that nothingness
The sanctuary of Infinity
And within that infinity
The altar of Love
And on that love
The chalice of God
And within that god
In womanly orans
Tall and uplifted
As a cathedral spire
Arms bent, spread wide
Fingers cupped
As though to catch and cradle
Anointing oil
Dripping forever
From Sophia’s chalice

Cracked Light

Leonard told us
It’s the cracks
Through which we see the light

I’ve been looking for them
Those cracks in my shell

My problem is this:
Words keep sealing up
Every crack I find

As soon as I find a crack
I name it
As soon as I name it
It is this
It is not any other that
As soon as I name it
The name becomes glue
And seals the crack

On and on 
Around my shell
I search
Whenever I see light
I know there is a crack
What crack?


Oh damn
It’s sealing up again
No more crack

I give up
I rest in the center
And let the shell be

I am flooded
And floating
In many cracked light