Monday, February 28, 2011

A body at rest

I drink delicious nothing
Tumble fearlessly
Into the turbulent blue
Lean in brazenly
To kiss a mount of feathers.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Argument

This is my first sonnet and likely my last! I enjoy sonnets. I love to read them aloud and savor the sounds. I can spend hours taking apart a sonnet and examining each piece. But I learned today that I hate writing sonnets. I find them agonizingly restrictive and I can't seem to adhere to all the rules. I think that life is painful enough without adding sonnet-writing to the mix. :) Anyway, here is my attempt. Better to have tried and failed, right?

The Argument

My kingdom for a clever word to launch
At cunning men that to my ears lay siege,
I struggle for an argument to staunch
The rhetoric that passes through the sieve.
I wade through mire of pomposity
Assailed by beasts of unforgiving bog,
Not unaware of my complicity
In the creation of this verbal fog.
Who shall emerge when reason breaks the day
With rays of sense to penetrate the mist?
Will morning sun illuminate my way
Or light upon a target for their fists?
Perchance the true victor is she or he
Whose placid wisdom must needs wordless be.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Adam's mom just died of cancer. Jenny's mother sits in prison for beating and molesting her children. Jenny will testify against her in court next week. Maggie was up late last night tending to her two-year-old. Jerome works nights at the Wal-Mart to help his dad with the rent. Tommy has a black eye and a fat lip this morning -  someone branded him a "faggot" last week. Suzie's parents practically live at the law firm; she hasn't seen them in days.

We tell them to write. We tell them language is freedom. We omit half the truth. The other half:

Words are but words
Dreams are but dreams
Our words cannot fair the unfair
They can only preach and prattle
and haggle over taxi fare

Or they can scream.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Placed on Hold by the Suicide Hotline

Before my Mami met my Papi and created a brood of big-nosed children with him, she worked as a telephone operator at a hospital in Miami. One night she received a call from a man who wished to speak with someone about his suicidal thoughts. My mother tried to transfer the man to the hospital's suicide hotline. Mami was surprised when the hotline representative placed her on  hold before she could get a word out. They put suicidal people on hold? she thought. She was more stunned when she heard the on-hold music: Peter and Gordon's "A World without Love" was playing on the Muzak station. People called this suicide hotline to be talked out of offing themselves and the hotline not only "experienced high call volumes," it also played a song which featured the refrain, "I don't care what they say / I won't stay in a world without love." Brilliant. :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I don’t know what it is
Except that it is
And I do –
Very much.

I cannot quantify the much
Or illustrate the is
Except to say
It’s a great deal –
I think.

Still, betimes
I thought I did
Only to learn
That I did not –
So much.

And while it is
And I do –
I think –
I must disclose
The difficulty in defending
An indiscernible is. 

I mean this very much.

Monday, February 7, 2011


The first light breaks
The newsboy takes his time
Wind chimes whisper
Of impending crisper clime
The heavens raise their warning
Needlessly this morning
For I know a change is nigh
But which tempest shall I fear?
That which bites my fingertips
And reddens my ears?
Or that wettest of torrents
Which awakes my bones
And thaws my years?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The World is Your Diary Project

I just started a new collective writing project called The World is Your Diary. Please click on the link below and consider following the blog. Each week dozens of people from around the world visit my personal blog. A few join, fewer comment, and most remain anonymous. But in the few months since I started theysaywritingaboutithelps, I have "met" an astonishing number of brilliant writers, artists, critics, comics, and thinkers. It would be a gift to the world if you would all come together at The World is Your Diary to create a shared journal. Anyone can, and everyone should, join. Please visit this diary, your diary, and make this a worldwide experiment with language.

Sunday Confessional

Last week I began a light-hearted new tradition on the blog, the Sunday Confessional. Read here for more info. Today I'd like to confess my feelings about your fashion choices. That of course requires me to admit that I am no fashionista. I often mismatch my clothes and flaunt the fads a year too late. I never 'do' my hair and I'm lucky if I remember to put on underwear, let alone put together a fabulous outfit. But I, like most of us, am nonetheless a critic, and here are my confessions about your style choices:

I silently scorn people who wear

  • Shorts in public (unless you're at the beach or on a hike)
  • Flipflops to church
  • Bras with strapless tops
  • The Snooki hairdo - WTFuck is up with your hair?
  • Cropped pants - Will Utah women ever give up the cropped pants? No one else wears them anymore!
  • Che Guevara shirts (because  most of you have no idea who you're wearing)

I privately admire people who

  • Defiantly keep and show off their body hair (like men who let their chest fur poke out of their shirts)
  • Wear itty-bitty swimsuits at the beach - especially when they are unflattering
  • Never wear makeup
  • Don't mind wearing the same outfit today as yesterday - they only wore it for a couple hours last night...

Feel free to confess your own sins, whether fashion-related or not, in the comments!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"I Just Wanted to Work"

Last Sunday, after finishing her weekly grocery shopping, my mother's friend Maria* noticed a flyer hanging on a bulletin board near the store exit. "¿Necesitas trabajo?" the sign read. Need a job?

Maria and her husband, Lorenzo, live in Collier County, FL, home of double-digit unemployment and one of the regions in the United States that has been hardest hit by the housing bubble burst. The couple has been unemployed and actively seeking work for over a year.  They have a four-year-old daughter who has mental and physical disabilities. They are behind on their rent, utilities, car, etc. Need a job? Hell yes, thought Maria. She scribbled the phone number down on her Winn Dixie receipt and hurried home to call.

The woman on the other line said her name was Martha. She said Maria could start work on Monday morning cleaning rich people's houses. Easy work, said Martha. Rich folks are pretty clean. Maria had never cleaned houses for a living. But she and Lorenzo were desperate for a paycheck. Where should I report for work? Maria asked. Martha insisted that she would pick Maria up and drive her to the homes. She said that the cleaning ladies always ride together for work.

At six o'clock the next morning, Martha pulled up in a large van. As Maria entered the van she discovered about fifteen other women, mostly of Mexican origin, scrunched together in the back seats. As Maria entered the van, she asked Martha where they were headed. Martha mumbled something about how her clients were very important people and she never revealed their addresses to anyone out of concern for their privacy. Maria felt a bit nervous, but the threat of eviction from her apartment made her more apprehensive than her secretive new boss. She found a spot among the huddled women and braced herself for the ride.

They drove about fifty miles outside of Naples, where Maria lives. When they arrived at the first mansion, Maria was the first woman out of the van. She couldn't wait to stretch her legs. She was staring, mesmerized at the opulent homes around her, when Martha tapped her on the shoulder. You have to leave that in the car, she said. Leave what? Maria asked, perplexed. Your handbag. According to Martha, no handbags, cell phones, or other personal items were allowed in clients' houses. Again, the privacy rule. Maria reluctantly put her purse in the car but hid her cell phone in her jacket pocket when Martha looked away to speak with another employee.

Almost instantly after Martha led the troupe of maids into the gigantic house, Maria found herself alone with Martha. It turns out that the other women were veteran maids and had hurried off to claim the slightly-easier work, leaving Maria with what she would soon discover to be the hardest chore - scrubbing the tile floor.

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with South Florida-style interior design, let me inform you that in most houses, the ENTIRE floor is tiled. Let me also remind you that this was a mansion. An honest-to-goodness mansion. And, as Martha explained to a now-trembling Maria, my mother's poor friend would have to scrub ALL the floors, on hands and knees, with a small brush and a bucket of water. Martha stressed that each tile had to be scrubbed individually, because the homeowner, a wealthy investor, was rather particular about his floors. Work quickly, though, Martha warned. This is only the first house of the day.

After a few hours, Maria needed to use the restroom. Martha told her this was prohibited. She would have to wait until the shift was over - in nine more hours.

Maria received the same response when, two hours later, she asked Martha for a glass of water.

There were no breaks.

There was no lunch time. And the women were not allowed to take food or drink with them into any of the clients' homes.

And how much are we getting paid for this? Maria asked. She wondered why she had not inquired before. Maria realized that she had not asked because it hadn't mattered. She had been desperate for work, for any work.

The other women, mostly undocumented Mexican women, worked without complaint - they were accustomed to poor treatment and low pay. But Maria was not used to this. As a Cuban immigrant, she had legal status. Prior to the economic downturn, she and Lorenzo had both worked in well-paying jobs.

After a few more hours, Maria couldn't take it anymore. She had been scrubbing tiles all day and she needed some water. An irritated Martha led her outside to a garden hose. Maria still did not get to pee, and by now she felt her bladder would explode.

Maria didn't make it through the shift. She pleaded with Martha to take her to a gas station so she could use the bathroom and get a bite to eat. Martha eventually agreed. When they arrived at the gas station, Martha told Maria she had five minutes. A fed-up Maria told her she quit. She called Lorenzo and tearfully told him to pick her up at the BP station, fifty miles from their home.

When Maria related this incident to my mother earlier today, my mom stared at her friend in disbelief. There were so many red flags! And how could you let some stranger pick you up and refuse to tell you where she was taking you and withhold your purse and not let you pee and...

And Maria's answer was simply, I just wanted to work. I just wanted to work again.

*Because this is a true story and I wish to protect the privacy of my mother's friend, all names are pseudonyms. My family has encouraged Maria to contact the police and help put an end to Martha's exploitative scheme.