It’s Valentine’s Day & I’m Seeing Red

So. This is Valentine’s Day. How’s your heart?

Mine is a seething volcano of wtf- is-the-matter-with-otherwise-sensible-people-today, which is probably why I’m breaking a nearly yearlong blog silence to give you some true love in rough fashion.

First, let me establish my stake in this discussion.

I grew up with off and on food scarcity. Another way to convey the reality of that statement might be to illustrate with a story about being eight, playing football outside with the neighborhood kids, and realizing I felt lightheaded and wobbly. We’d had grits for breakfast. As we’d had grits for supper the night before.  I went inside to tell my mother I didn’t feel well, but I passed out instead. When I came to, I was in my mother’s bed and my older sister was feeding me a can of Campbell’s mushroom soup because she insisted on going to the store and getting me something to eat, and the creamed soup was the richest, most caloric thing she could find for the literal pocket change she had to spend. The soup did the trick, and about a third of the way through the can, I was able to sit up a little. By the time I’d finished, I felt much steadier. You wouldn’t think it might work like that, but the sodium alone probably propped me up a bit. When you’ve been hungry for a while, every bite matters.

To further illustrate, I was later a young adult who relied on food stamps to get through two years of underemployment after I was fired from a job on the day my probationary period ended and I was due for a raise and insurance coverage. Why was I fired? Reread the previous sentence. In those days, this was a common practice, and I’m positive nothing much has changed even if some current labor laws look better on paper. Employers still work hard to skirt providing for their employees. Maybe you would like to picture me biking—yes, biking because people with no money often have transportation problems, too—with my backpack of whatever I thought would last and last so I wouldn’t have to go back to the store and endure the humiliation of another cashier’s shaming look when I forked over my fist full of government granted monopoly money. Maybe you’d like to hear the food I “purchased” was all generically branded and wholesome.

But I don’t really want to tell you those stories. You don’t need hardship porn to help you see straight.  Or, if you do, get it elsewhere. Right now I want to talk to you about your very reasonable heart.

Note—I am going to continue to use the “you” voice, but this isn’t really about you. Or maybe it is, which is okay.

By now, you’ve read about Trump’s SNAP food boxes, haven’t you? This is the idea that replaces our already woefully inadequate federal funding of food stamps (EBT cards) with boxes of canned food, powdered milk, and processed starch.

Today, I have watched oh so many posts on social media about how the “real problem” with this idea is that it would be expensive (it would) and distribution costs would strip away fiscal savings (they would).

I’ve read carefully your thoughtful hashings-out. Here are just a few of the fun ideas reasonable people are having today:

  1. “I just think maybe it’s a good idea to do something about making the food stamp program aimed at making healthy choices, expand it, but focus it on fresh veggies and lean meats! What we really need is reform!”
  2. “I understand that kids ask for sugary cereals and stuff, but if you’re on assistance, it’s probably a good idea to help these kids figure out those things are for a time when you can afford to splurge.”
  3. “It would even be good, because kids would learn to make healthy choices!”
  4. “(I buy) cheaper store brands. Soda, candy ice cream etc…while delicious are not NECESSITY…”
  5. “Why should people on food stamps have the option of buying stuff I can’t afford with my own money? I’m careful, so why shouldn’t they be careful, too?”

Remember my stake in this discussion? Here I claim the agency to plant that stake.

  1. No one in power is currently talking about expanding food stamps or about delivering fresh veggies and lean meats to the poor. They are talking about finding ways to reduce what we as a people do to ensure that others of us don’t go hungry, an endeavor we already SUCK at. Stop side-tripping. Stay focused. Because while you’re polishing your Blue Apron for the poor ideas, Trump & Co. are hoping the poor starve, die of diabetes related illnesses, or at least feel too shitty to vote. Stop being irrelevant and oppose this box of scraps for the needy idea head on. Head. On. I was raised, in part, on government commodities and the lasting health and emotional effects of that shitty diet will never end until I do.

And this: Reform is a code word for making things harder for people who already               have it hard. No one cries for reform and then makes things better for the poor.                 Never. You already know that.

  1. You expect more out of an eight year old than out of your president. Okay. Got it. Cool.
  2. How much do you love it when people pitch in to tell you what values your kids should learn? That much? Let me explain something to you—the ONLY thing kids are going to learn from a once a month box of canned peas is that they are shit, and you and this country think it’s fine if they get shit, eat shit, know nothing but shittiness. It’s fine, apparently, except that it’s not. Every single soggy pea to slide down a throat will root in in the gut and grow into self-loathing, shame, and anger, full bloom.
  3. Bully for you. But here’s a true thing—I don’t know what you need. Do you know what I need? If you said, “Why, yes, actually…” then you are an asshole. That simple. When you say you want to “encourage responsible spending”, I hear, “make the poor suffer because it’s their fault they’re poor!” When you say, “encourage responsible choices”, I hear, “deny comfort.” Now, I could go on and on about how it’s the rich, not the poor, who are sitting like dragons on vast and stagnant wealth that ought to be plumping up the economy and making your life and your hard work more meaningful, but you’d tune me out and call me a socialist. And then I would say you are insulating yourself from reality and projecting your own feelings of shame and inadequacy onto others to make yourself feel more secure. And then you’d say something about “personal responsibility” as if you were saying abracadabra, only I refuse to disappear. We’d be at this for days. Move on with me.
  4. Being poor means you already make a million degrading choices a day. You do not need to be told that you aren’t worth a candy bar or that a moment of pleasure is out of reach and rightly so. People make bad choices. So what? When it’s your turn to be god, feel free to fix that. Until then, people who have parental delusions about telling others what to eat and how much should take a step back. Sometimes, one delightful, normal mouthful of choice–the right to make that choice, the power to make that choice–can help you make realizations about what else you can do. And sometimes, of course, it’s just a mouthful of chocolate and how dare you think you get to withhold pleasure from someone else because it makes you feel important to do it.

See, I think you’re mistaken, misled, misidentifying your position in all this. I think you make judgments about the poor because the power to make judgments about the poor can feel like a blanket, like a barrier. I think you have been wooed by the idea that there is a huge, discernable line of demarcation between you and food scarcity, between you and poverty, between you and Trump boxes. I think your reasonable judgment calls and fiscally prudent debates about what other people should have the right to purchase and eat is a way to tell yourself a story about how different than them you are, how hard you’ve worked, about the enduring value of that hard work, how it will make all the difference in your life, and you’ll never have to cross that line where people can’t buy deodorant or Bengay or toothpaste (already true) or chocolate or donuts because those aren’t necessities.

I think I get you. You think you know what people who need food stamps should be able to buy. You think you know how they should have “the necessities” and how they should be “encouraged to make responsible choices.”

I also get that you are under the illusion that to be one of the knowers is something earned, deserved, and therefore stable and lasting. I do not and never would wish sudden surprises on any one. But I might encourage some eye opening. In a country where hungry children are offered canned peas and powdered milk—if they are offered anything at all other than a side-eyed look of disgust—you, yes you, are one denied insurance claim away from learning something dreadful about the fragility of lines in the sand.

I ask again, how’s your heart on this Valentine’s Day, 2018? Because from here, it looks small and hard and in peril, unprepared.

Posted in activism, Advice, fragility, free will, friends, hunger, inspiration, love, memories, motherhood, nonfiction, opinions, parenting, politics, poverty, protest, SNAP, Trump, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Overdue Meto-news for May Day

bel air staion wagon

Interview time (click here for the link). Thanks, as usual, to Mike Czyzniejewski, for the gig.  Smokelong Quarterly has turned out another smashing edition with ol’ 55 (here) and is still including an interview for every single piece, every single writer.

This time, as intrepid interviewer, I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Hatch. His flash piece “Missed Connections” is a real get-in-your-headspace piece. Hoping this doesn’t give too much away–like his main character, I’ve lived entire lives at traffic lights, but of a more pedestrian sort since my dashboard lifetimes typically involve living in other peoples’ houses and driving to the end of the continent where I would build a lean-to and become a hermit. You really have to read Kevin’s story (here) for a thoroughly wilder ride.

It was a pure pleasure to get to know Kevin a little through this interview.

First of all, his story worked on my longstanding love of all things old car.

Little known: nearly into my twenties I subscribed to Classic Cars magazinbel air nighte and spent copious time talking my friends into haunting classic car shows and tracking down the occasional creepy want ad—not because I had the means to buy a car (didn’t have one at all) but because I loved them. Hence the aging illustrations you see here—I obsessively painted old cars for about a year and a half between 17 and, well, a year and a half later. Pop fiction side, my favorite Stephen King novel was not The Stand or The Shining, but Christine. The end of that book has never  not worked horrors on me.

So Kevin’s story became an instant classic in my catalog of things I keep track of. And his thoughts about the story process and meanderings in general are thoughtful and genuine. The interview is worthwhile on its own.

I know I’ve said it before, but I won’t stop saying it, so here it is again: I love talking to writers. What I learn from them is always something different, but this time I remembered that we can afford to be real with each other and to allow ourselves to care about  reality, and story, and each other as artists. I hope Kevin stays in touch. He’s going to do writing I want to read.

In case you missed it, let’s make it obvious and easy:

Kevin’s story: here

My interview with Kevin: here

Smokelong Issue #55: here

Kevin’s blog: here

And I have to say, that this story appeared in Issue 55? Perfection. (yes, click the link, very yes)

bel air blue

Posted in art, cars, creative process, creative writing, fiction, flash fiction, Interviews, Smokelong Quarterly, Uncategorized, writers, writing, writing community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

For Frida, Who Brought the Wag & the Love

Years ago I wrote a post, While I Write, My Dog Waits for Me, all about our faithful Frida Beano who came to us unexpectedly and changed our lives:

“Funny thing, after being assured that we were unable to have children, three months after settling down to spoil our mutt-mixed babydog, we discovered we were going to have a baby, a for real, of our own, baby-baby. I have always credited Frida with opening some door in the universe through which our child traveled to find us.”

Of course, time has passed, more time–busy with the now-big kiddo and the writing, the teaching, the scrambling to make life happen–than I realized. She had slowed over the years, but I have, too. Everything seemed about right with all of us until Friday night.

Goodbyes have rained down hard these last months.

We had our girl for nearly 14 years. Realistically, I knew we wouldn’t have her with us forever, but the moment, the actual parting isn’t about realism, but about the wound, the rift, the hollow.

When there is no puzzle I can solve, no work my hands can do to fix what’s broken–I have to sit down with it and cope the way I know to cope. This is for Frida and for the towhee who is explaining all the ways the world feels wrong without her. I know, bird, I know.

Frida Runs into the Backyard One More Time 

in a picture I tried to paint but lost courage/and stacked the pastels in their drawer/slammed, reopened, arranged correctly, closed again gently

From outside, a towhee calls you, coming closer/closer to the porch, to the sliding glass door, all afternoon, expectant/startling and resettling, then sounding again from the back of the deck chair/where she would see you before you would see her

This ritual of surprise insists/the familiar repeat itself—the towhee whistles that you will, any minute/this minute, again, now, again if she sings again

a series of whoots, her name for you, Suddenly, Clod Thrower/or possibly Explosion/but the last syllable of your name was bird laughter, even  when I/was the one calling

Frida Runs in the Yard

Our Dear Old Love



Posted in dogs, family, fragility, Grief, grieving, poem, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Hanging On, Finishing & Fixing

This gallery contains 7 photos.

I see you, long ago Illustrator. Maybe things were pretty bleak then, too. Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Art



I remember making this precisely to be used on Meto-pen. It’s still exactly what I mean.

As uncomfortable as it makes me, I have to admit that the election of our 45th president kicked my ass sideways.

I’ve lost some time on the blog to swirling anxiety, anger, and exhaustion brought about by insomnia—a condition that was itself further complicated by scream-o-licious nightmares when I could sleep. I never realized politics could feel so personally threatening, until, of course, the values on which we underwrite our lives were suddenly invalidated by a hijacked election and replaced with an ugly changling that handcuffed small children and raided hospitals to look for illegal human beings.

Once, I published a piece about the need for art during the darkest of times (and published it again at Sparrow & Raven in response to the election). My personal credo went into that piece, offering my view that art is a reclamation of energy from the negative fodder we too often find ourselves wading through. 

Lately, while I’ve contemplated the probability that our still wet Ignorant Elect will usher in the nuclear end of us all, I have had difficulty making good on my own convictions.

But I remain in a state of conviction: Art is the beacon, the revolution, the necessary element in all other composites.  We must be Robin Hood and steal the dark to create light.

Here, in order to shed some of that light, I celebrate the small achievements of many months allowed to slip by, both during my blog hiatus & during this season of our national flirtation with authoritarianism.   

Most enjoyably, my long, long story, “The Big Tent of Sky”, appeared in Issue 8 of Tahoma Literary Review. My favorite part of this experience, aside from working with the lovely editors (Joe Ponepinto at the helm) and earning a very healthy paycheck, was the experience of submitting a recording for their TLRSoundCloud page. While I couldn’t record the whole piece, I made it through parts 1-6 of 15. Like I said, it is a long story.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of recording a sound file for my flash piece, “Southwestern Baptism”, when it appeared in the fabulous Adroit Journal. That was fun, too, but I did what most of us do: muddled through with my phone’s mic app, tinny little thing that it is.

For the longer piece in TLR, I was fortunate enough to be able to use a real mic and an Apple computer loaned out by a generous person who understands such things. The difference in the experience—and the quality of the sound—cannot be overstated.

On the no-sound side but also recently-ish, The Carolina Quarterly picked up a story of mine called “Rot-eye”. 

There are other bits of Meto-news, which I have managed to dutifully record on my Published Works page, despite my Red Dawn Blues.

I will continue to post now that the membrane of Nope is broken. It should be an interesting year in this fracked up world, especially as everything is backlit by art—my real job, even when I don’t say much about it out loud.

And be sure to head over to Sparrow&Raven to catch our free Friday Flight prompts, as well as to sign up for our Stehekin Ranch retreat coming up in June. We only have a few spots left, so grab a pal you’d like to share a cabin with and let’s do it. There is more art to come at Meto-pen, I promise.



via SparrowandRaven/facebook




Posted in activism, art, audio file, blogs, creative process, creative writing, fiction, flash fiction, SoundCloud, Tahoma Literary Review, Uncategorized, writers, writing, writing community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Adventure: Sparrow & Raven


That’s my girl flying high, feeling the power. I’m more drawn to words, words, words.

It’s time to embark on a new adventure. Robyn Lynn, of RobynLynnwriter, and I have teamed up to offer writing help, instant inspiration, monthly jolts of creative juice, and/or, big fun on the road. Our new website is beautiful and the journey is beauty in action.

Since we started this business, and it’s not even officially a week old yet, I’ve fielded several questions more than once, so I thought I’d address those:

coffee-cups_00367940  Why start a writing business? True story: writers need day jobs, and both of us do this kind of work already. I teach and work with individuals, and Robyn has long promoted the idea of the connection between nature and writing, exploring new places to soak up the wild world and write. By combining what we do, we hope to give ourselves more ground to focus what we love in areas of professional strength. We also hope to gain more time to invest in the community of writers at large, as well as better ways to inclusively expand that community. And, by the way, inclusive means for everybody. If someone has a story to tell, we aren’t going to be parsing who gets to be a “real” writer. If you’re a living, breathing person and you’re writing, that feels pretty damn real to us. Also, and this is huge, we want to extend safety and welcome to our friends in the LGBTQI community to come work with us and travel with us.

Why did you call it Sparrow and Raven? Ravens are Robyn’s bird. She is of ravens; she befriends crows and ravens wherever she goes, or maybe I should say, they befriend her. Once, after we just met, I dreamt of her as a raven/dragon—black feathers and black wings, and a long spiked tale that trailed behind her. It was a wonderfully weird and vivid dream and probably the origin of why I have long referred to her as “Raven” any time I (barely) disguise her in my writing.

For me, sparrows have been lifelong loves. Flitting, nervous, industrious. When I was in college back in the 90s, with no money, no food, no nothing, I’d split whatever I had with the sparrows who lived in a mulberry tree just off my balcony. It was a scrabbling time, and they were good friends, reminders that life exists in the moment. Years later, I sat on a different porch nursing my two month old daughter, surrounded by sparrows, and felt their busy reminder to be right where I was. Now, this business is right where I want to beirish-road-kingston-meme-fixed.

What’s your goal? My goal is to grow, personally and profess
ionally, and to keep excellent company while I do that. We’re in the building phase of our endeavor, so expect updates and evolution. Join as a member, download one or some of our prompts, take a look at our beautiful inspirational images just because, let me work with you on a project, or take a class with us! And most of all, I want you to come with us on some fantastic adventure. The writing and the connection to people who care about your writing will strengthen and sustain you. My goal is to be part of that process for anyone who’s looking for a writing community to get them started, move them along, or keep them going. I’m expecting this to be a lot of good, hard work, and I’m looking forward to it because it’s work I love to do.

bread-meme-twoWhat about metonymical pen
? This is still my personal space. I will always come he
re to write from the feelings and experiences most germane to me at a given time. This has been a year of losses for my family, of scary political and social harshness, but also a time of personal development and interesting development in my writing and in my partner’s work as a writer as well. That’s all coming to a blog post right here at metonymical pen very soon. I will go on being delighted to share whatever developments come next in all the metonymical corners of my life. This blog is going to be this blog, not part of Sparrow&Raven, though of course I won’t keep any Sparrowish secrets from you.

I’m excited in case you can’t tell. And once this (let’s be honest) terrifying election is over, I want to get out and spread the  happy around everywhere I can!  Come over to Sparrow&Raven and tell me what you think. Both Robyn and I want to hear from you all.


Posted in Advice, blogs, celebration, conference, creative process, creative writing, creativity, Encouragement, fiction, friends, inspiration, journey, LGBTQ, LGBTQI, love, metonym, nature, process, Prompts, Robyn Lynn, travel, Uncategorized, wild spaces, writers, writing, writing community, Writing prompts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Good Talk

You said, “I have something I was thinking about telling you, but I wish I knew how you’ll take it.”

Your truth wasn’t something I had to “take”. I love you, actual you, real you, all of you. Knowing more of your truth, more of your reality gives me more of you to love, and I’m grateful for that.

You said, “I thought you might have this image of me, and I’d ruin it.”

Nobody is entitled to hold an image of you over the real you. That nobody includes me. And I would never want you to be anything other than absolutely who you are, because I totally love you. And truly, my image of you has always been of a happy you. Anything beyond that remains blurry and terrific. Terrific blurs and I love all that, too, because whatever and whoever is in that blur? That’s what’s making you happy.

You said, “I hate keeping secrets, but it seemed safer.”

Secrets should be made of crushes and birthday presents. Have lots of all that good stuff. Let me giggle and crush on cute people and wrap presents with you. Identity is a big, hard secret, and I don’t want anything in your way in this world. I want you to be you.

And there was hugging and good food and the blurs began to seem less blurry and more terrific than ever.

About the erasure below: I constructed this for all my MFA people during the last of our time together. I had this heart absolutely bursting with love for everyone I was with, there, in that moment, specifically, on the shores of Puget Sound. But to me, this poem stands for love, all love, all acceptance, and embrace. To me, this piece celebrates how good it is to know your people as they are, and love them deeply, and want them to know it.
from Henry van Dyke’s Out of Doors in the Holy Land:
erasure pnw (1).jpg

I grant you a wandering on the shores of Puget Sound/Have hundreds of secrets/sing to all the roads by which we meet/My friends/love is no sin.

Sending love, celebrations, and safe harbor to my LGBTQI family and friends. Happy National Coming Out Day!

Posted in awareness, celebration, erasure, family, friends, joy, LGBTQ, LGBTQI, love, National Coming Out Day, poem, Uncategorized, wandering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment