Ten Books that Matter to Me

I Hate to See that Evening Sun go Down by William Gay
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor
That They May Face the Rising Sun by John McGahern
I am Somebody by Nuala O’Faolain
House of Prayer No. 2 by Mark Richard
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Tóibín
Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews

The Chirr of the Cicada

The great horned owl is running scales in the avocado tree. Dark, it is. Pitch. The mother’s birthday, tomorrow. She’ll doubtless not remember, stuck as she is in the nursing home. Year to year, I forget the exact date, too. Ungrateful child. Speeches to students, setting expectations, parameters, boundaries of respect and care. A hundred small Hass avocados from the fence line. Three for two dollars. A yak bone bracelet sits on my desk, faded, the white of the bone coming through the dyed ochre color. Books to review, payment not received, review anyway.

My book in a rusted cage on my desk. Labor of something—love, hate, pain, memory. Silence. Sit silent. Shushed in the swelter of the day. Patient, to wait, to bide the time, to know there is something behind that next hill, slowly tracking this way. Words on a page, deciphered. Old and new. The faces, familiar, returning warriors from the Peloponnesian War. Short sword for close combat. Next month I’ll buy My Life as a Foreign Country.  Never been to war, me. Ireland a neutral country, unless we’re blowing one another’s brains out for the love of God. Cicadas take over from tired owls and chirr in the vast evening beyond the open window.

Color. Pages of a book scored with hi-liter. YellowPinkPurple. Spare the time to open the short volume of poems, read aloud if needed. These grainy movies from the early part of the last century betray a great deal we are afraid to accept. Stills in the mountains, caches of guns and ammunition wrapped waterproof and sunk in cold lakes. My grandfather was arrested in 1921 for some reason unknown to me. A letter from the clergy brought him into freedom a few days later. Black sheep. Caorach dubh. Years from home. Decades away. Today, I remembered sitting in the smoky kitchen of my old home, the peeling linoleum, the ancient rocking horse in the shed annex behind the kitchen. There, a small window, cracked in the corner, cobwebbed. Ago.


The sky moves, clouds of white cappuccino foam, tinged with a blushing edge from the sun’s setting. My head is pounding from the constant bickering of Facebook messages and unsolicited Tweets from strangers. My plan is to expel myself from social media altogether, to abscond from the interwebs like some old dog ambling down a narrow road to find a place to rest. Safe in my own skin, I think, less panic than I ever want to deal with, that’s my goal. Rather than check-in addictively on phone or laptop, I choose to light a fire, crack the spine of a dusty book from my neglected shelves and pour myself a glass of red wine. The messages tell me we have a new civilization, a new way of connecting, a salesman’s pitch of a world to inhabit. No. No thanks. I’d rather listen to my own creaking bones, my settling body, and flow gently to the sea.


Schoolyearinmysightsday’s Childe

Days to back-to-school meetings: 2

Hours of tennis played: 1.5

Penny Dreadful magazines in mail: 1

Rejections: 1

Cups of coffee: 3

Forms to fill out: 3

Cups of tea: 1

Grocery runs to Trader Joe’s: 1

Hours of sunshine today: 0

Pens on desk: 15


Skywritingfarplanetsday’s Childe

A broken slingshot. No bird struck, no stone in flight. Only the snapped arm thwarting any perceived damage. Behind a screen the shadow of a dead woman washes dishes at a sink. A curious paw print causes me to stop in my tracks and examine my surroundings for a small predator. Crickets stir and ask impossibly complex questions. Overhead, a distant plane writes letters in the sky. A pointless exercise as the sun goes down and wipes any understanding from view. Payment is due. I need help expressing my emotions. Funny, I always thought my maternal grandfather had a decent head of hair on him. Turns out he was balding from his mid-twenties. Can you see where this is going? A red light blinks, announcement of some intent. It goes unanswered. Sometimes, it’s better to turn the page and find out what happens next, and sometimes it’s best to place the bookmark in between those pages and run through some forgotten dance moves, unpracticed since childhood.

2014-07-14 09.20.31


endofsummersmarketsday’s childe

Cups of coffee: 4

Miles on road yesterday: 400

Hours sleep: 7

Pages written: 0

Pages read: 0

Bathrooms cleaned: 1

Farmers Markets worked: 1

Post-its on desk: 4

Days to back-to-school meetings: 5

Days to first day of school: 11

Cash in pocket: $11

2014-08-16 08.12.37

workreturnhorizonsday’s childe

Bottles of Einstök consumed: 3

Glasses of Russian River Pinot Noir: 1

Cups of coffee: 3

Pages written: 0

Reviews of my book posted: 1

Eyeglasses on desk: 3

Empty teacups: 1

Health Insurance costs per month: $985

Types of fruit picked: 5

Days to new school year: 16

Days to first work meetings: 9

mary jesus