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October 2015

#FridayPoetry: Moving Away

Broom of Anger

Moving Away


I am moving away but now stand still,

searching these trees for a sign that I am well.

A flicker in the low-angled light—

a red-armpitted, ermine-robed woodpecker

bouncing slender branches 

of the white lilac tree.


I am used to the one-footed Stellar’s jay, 

who ambles from one feeder to the next,

and visits only when the starlings and chickadees are away

as if his pride makes him solitary.


I often imagine the space where his bone ends in air,

wonder if birds feel phantom limb.

To touch that place, to append him with my own flesh—

My environmental erotics.


Chickadees flock the feeders year-round,

black-capped like my pen. I somersault with them,

my mouth and nose a beak, feel them preen my skin under feathers.


The house finches warble and take turns. 

Sometimes, they pinch the vines of my hanging baskets,

but the vines aren’t for nest-building. It’s a game:

They grab slender vines between beaks and flick. 

They seem to laugh, a joke only house finches get.


Today, searching trees for a sign that I am well,

the foot-high, red-shafted northern flicker

rubbed his long black beak on the bark,

and yelled at the sky, 

as if it set him down in the wrong place.


The bird guide says, Very common.


This poem appears in my collection, Broom of Anger.



What I'm Reading: A Case of Two Cities

A Case of Two Cities (Inspector Chen Cao #4)A Case of Two Cities by Qiu Xiaolong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently reconnected with Qui Xiaolong after stumbling upon this book in a seaside bookstore. He and I worked together in the English department at St. Louis Community College in the 1990s, and I served as a "BETA reader" for his first book, Death of a Red Heroine, before that became a thing to do. As with that book, I appreciate very much the meshing of poetry and mystery in this one, which is unique in the crime genre. While A Case of Two Cities isn't a plot-driven page-turner, that's not why you should read it anyway. China is a compelling character of its own, and Qui offers a vivid, insider's glimpse into the country's transitional struggles. Inspector Chen's abiding hope that his honor and persistence will prevail within a corrupt and highly political system makes him by turns both sympathetic and tragic, his character compelling. And most notably, Qui's writing is some of the finest in the genre. His masterful send-up of a classic T.S. Eliot poem left me breathless, and the meditative subtleties of the writing often made me pause to savor the lines.

View all my reviews

#FridayPoetry: August

Broom of Anger



This summer,

the hottest day of the year,

I met my neighbor on the sidewalk.

The scarf on her head hid no hair.

She told me my errant cat

climbed through the dog door

to sit with her through long days.

We talked of tulip bulbs 

and chemo.

I had just returned 

from a cold movie theater.

When we hugged,

my hands on her hot skin felt cool. 

The heat of the day made us part,

she to her living room A/C.


I have not seen her in months.

Her house sits on a hill,

the windows an empty stage.

A Mylar balloon has pledged 

Get Well for weeks,

the message now deflated.


The front garden has gone to seed,

the dandelions triumphant,

a bag of mulch unopened.

What was she going to do 

with the empty whiskey barrel, 

turned now on its side?

There’s no one left

to keep the weeds at bay.


This poem appears in my collection, Broom of Anger.



Cat in the Flock - Only 99 Cents!

BRAG medallion ebook AT IN THE FLOCK

In celebration of its sequel releasing the day after Thanksgiving, we're offering Cat in the Flock at a deep discount: It's only 99 cents on ebook.

Head here for the trailer, reviews, and all the buy links, both U.S. and abroad.

Please share, tell your friends, give it as a gift. The Dreamslippers and I thank you.


Pre-Order Now! Dreamslippers Series Book Two

Framed and Burning _ 1.96MB

I have a special offer going right now: You can pre-order Framed and Burning on ebook for $1 off. Once the book releases on November 27, the regular price will be set at $3.99. 

Framed and Burning is the much-anticipated second book in the Dreamslippers Series. The Dreamslippers are a family of private investigators who have the ability to "slip" into your dreams. In Framed and Burning, someone sets fire to Mick Travers’ art studio, killing his assistant, and Mick won't give an alibi. His dreamslipping sister--the eccentric Amazing Grace--is convinced he's innocent, but her granddaughter and the police aren't so sure. Was it really Mick, or is something even darker behind the fire? 

You can pre-order across multiple platforms and devices--just follow these links.



For even more options, including non-U.S. links, check out this page.

Still looking for a reason to pre-order? Here's the prologue:

Brickell Lofts, Miami

December 5, 2013

10:37 pm


Donnie Hines was passed out drunk in a corner of his studio when the flames made their way to the painting he’d finished that night.

It was a true work of art, and he knew it. Not just good, but great. He knew it even as the whiskey—a diabetic, he had no business drinking that much, and he knew, that, too—made his tongue thick in his mouth and his eyelids droop. When he could no longer hold a paintbrush, he’d sat back in a metal folding chair and realized he had finally done it. He had captured, perfectly, the fractal shapes he’d been chasing his whole life. Ever since his father took him to the Cleveland Science Center when he was ten, he’d seen them in his imagination. That day a scientist showed the crowd how fractals could be found everywhere: in mountains and rivers and seashells. Never-ending patterns that repeated themselves in an ongoing feedback loop, they were the most beautiful things Donnie had ever seen. For the past thirty years, he’d been trying to capture them on canvas.

And in the end, all he needed for inspiration was a bowl of broccoli. 

Not just any ordinary broccoli, either. This was special. “Romanesco broccoli,” the woman at the market stall called it. Lime green, its florets spiraling into fractal shapes. He bought a bag of it, had it sitting in a bowl on an old Formica table. Mick, whose studio Donnie shared, kept threatening to cook it up for lunch. But he agreed it was special. “Froccoli,” Mick called it.

Donnie had worked feverishly that night as a way to stamp down the loss he felt. Working always helped, always freed him from feelings he couldn’t sort through. But in the end, his masterpiece at last finished, it was the drinking that had won out. A bottle of Bushmill’s, three-quarters empty, sat on the floor by the cot where he slept.

Donnie hadn’t even signed the painting.

But it didn’t matter. The fire that devoured Donnie’s masterpiece knew no names and took no prisoners. The paint still wet, it went up in a shimmer of orange, igniting the wooden two-by-four easel behind it. 

Next Mick’s paintings caught fire. An angry slash of black on a field of red curled easily into charred shreds. A thick decoupage of mixed media first melted, its bits of metal and rock sliding down before the canvas disappeared in flames. One painting, then another, some finished, some not, went up in flames.

The fire leapt to a stack of framed paintings leaning against the wall like oversized dominoes, first eating their stretched cloth and then attacking their hardier wooden frames. Bottles of turpentine, paint thinner, and oil paint fed the flames, as did the men’s bottles of whiskey, wine, and gin, all of them exploding, their glass shattering. 

Donnie did not stir. 

Perhaps he was already dead. 

Or maybe he dreamed in his sleep as the fire raged, smoke pouring in behind the curtain surrounding his cot, enveloping his passed-out form and invading his lungs. Those who knew him would expect him to dream of the fractals that were his singular obsession, how they would keep repeating into infinity, so small his eye wouldn’t be able to see them. 

First his skin fried. The flames licked across the surface of his body, the top layer quickly peeling off. Then the fire attacked the thicker layer underneath, causing it to shrink and split. As it split, Donnie’s own body fat leaked out, feeding the fire, another kind of fuel.

Maybe in his dream, he was eating the broccoli. Maybe since the florets were made of the energy of fractals, they kept repeating inside him. He could feel them spiraling through his gut. Soon he could only watch as they emerged from his belly, bursting out of the core of his body, rippling in space, turning him inside out. He was a vibrating, swirling entity of math and matter. His body dissolved. 

But as Donnie died, maybe he still existed—in a larger way, his spirit flowing as part of the energy that is everything in the universe at once, the largest supernova and the smallest quark and everything in between. 

Maybe Donnie’s true masterpiece was this: He became a fractal, never ending.