Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Ritual and Bureaucracy In Interesting Times

The last day of work, everyone was on edge. We were expecting to be shut down, but no one knew when. It was late March, and some were worried that they wouldn’t have rent for April. Conversation drifted to filing for unemployment benefits. I couldn’t face the thought. I’m sure everyone hates slogging through a bureaucratic morass, but it’s a particularly weak point for me. I had been self-employed for most of the previous fifteen years, and moved to another state, so I probably wouldn’t even get anything, so going through the process would be a waste of time, which I could use for other pursuits, which could even potentially bring some income . . . But realistically, poetry and homemade masks probably wouldn’t make me much money, so I would have to try.

Over the next weeks we would share a group thread about our efforts to get assistance. Some got it quickly, but massage therapists often work multiple part-time jobs, some as contractors. This income isn’t normally even considered in unemployment claims, but the state was learning a new set of rules for allocating federal money as well as the usual unemployment funds, while record-breaking numbers of people were filing all at once. I was one of them.

I was rejected right away, and appealed promptly. Then I had to wait three weeks for the appeal to be processed. The day came and went, so I started trying to call the unemployment office. I figured, maybe if I called right when the office opened at 7:00 AM, I could get in the queue to wait on hold. After 7:15, I’d get a busy tone, and after 7:25 the circuits were overloaded and there would be nothing at all. I’d go back to bed and start again the next morning. Once I got an answer, and the automated system asked for a PIN. PIN? What PIN? I still don’t know if I ever had one, but the system hung up on me before I could think of a response. I had to call another number to reset it, and that number was overloaded.

Another time I got through, and someone answered the phone, but something weird happened with my phone, and he couldn’t hear me and hung up. (No, I did not have my phone on mute!)

Sometimes a co-worker would text a number. “I got through on this number! Call it right now!” One by one, they got approved. I was close to giving up. How many poems might I have written in the time I had spent pressing redial a hundred times, day after day?

Someone suggested I try some ritual involving trapping an angel in a teacup. It sounded weirdly mean to me, so I decided to make my own ritual. It was inspired by an interview I read in The Sun with Malidoma Some. He spoke of giving gifts to the dead. The gifts to give are water and ash. The reason to give these to the dead is that they in turn use them to assist the living. Water makes things flow. Ash, what’s left after fire, gives resilience and ability to survive adversity.

About 6:40 this morning, I put some water in a teacup and since I hadn’t prepared any ash, I just grabbed the incense burner and took it outside. I named a few of my dead, and offered them my gifts, asking them to help me. These people loved me, after all. Well, some of them never knew me, but I know if my daughters had children, I would love them dearly, it wouldn’t matter if I’d ever met them. I dumped the incense burner and the teacup on the ground. Then I looked up and right in front of my face was a vivid rainbow. It wasn’t raining, I couldn’t see the sun, and it didn’t even seem like the right place for a rainbow that time of day, but there it was. I watched for a minute until it faded, then I went inside and started calling.

I got in on the first try. I waited on hold for under an hour before I talked to a very nice and knowledgeable person who explained that the complications of my case would have precluded my approval without a call, but now that we had talked, I would be approved in a few days and could expect a deposit shortly after that. It was good that I’d called.

“But it’s impossible to reach you . . .”

“Yes, we’re getting a lot of calls—”

“We’re in interesting times, ” I said.

She laughed. “That’s a good way to say it, interesting.”

So if things are inordinately difficult for your right now, consider practicing a little ritual. It might be more powerful than you realize.

bracelets and nail polish

When massage is forbidden, I wear bracelets and nail polish.





I just got a rejection letter from this fine magazine in which the editors said they “admire my bravery with the subject matter” of this poem. I’m taking that as a compliment, but face it, no one’s going to want to publish this, while my friend Laura wants to read it, so here it is.

Little-known fact: a little bit of bladder leakage is common in women after childbirth. You likely know someone with this problem, but you don’t know because she doesn’t talk about it. There is help for this. So ask and don’t stop until you get it.

Pelvic Floor Therapy

I’m working hard to get control
over my watery issues, the therapist
coaching me in lifting, lifting, until
the device gives me a score. I can
barely feel. Everything I think is right
isn’t. I’m learning to sneeze, to squat,
to let go and let flow, and to hold
when it’s time to hold. Lifting, she says.
I’m learning to stand and sit and stand and sit.
And it’s the rain that gets me at last.
It’s jumping over the wide flooded
sidewalk. I fail to hold. It’s shoveling
last year’s soaking dead leaves from the
drainage channel. Let the water flow!
And the snails hidden deep in the leaves,
drowning in the flood that rose up too fast.
Clinging to any flimsy blade of grass adrift
in the water. There is so much water
everywhere, oh the rain. The sky
has let go. Come little snails
onto my shovel, I will land you safely
on the wet grass. Squatting and lifting
a shovel of water, it’s too much,
I lose control. I am wet.

snail on green plant

Photo by Kenneth on

NaPo Day 28, 6 of Keys, Increscent Moon

See the NaPo/GloPo page for more info on the challenge.
The prompt is a card from the Akashic Tarot.

6 of Keys, Increscent Moon

It’s alchemical, isn’t it,
to chisel life from stone,
to bring light from heat and fuel.
One must master the tools
and the elements, must
work and study in diligence
at the right time and ride the cycles
of water and moon, of the comings
and goings. Feel the power growing
as She waxes. It is yours now.
Through the breaking away is revealed
the masterpiece.

wildy on Kevin's dresser

NaPo Day 22, King of Roses

King of Roses, reversed

The King of Roses brings (naturally)
roses, and he carries no weapon
but wears mail because he is, after all,
a man of power and authority.
Healer, lover, warrior, in this
lush garden fecund with blooms
and verging on wild, where ivy climbs
the elegant arches and his chair
sits empty behind him, standing
because he will leave, when so called.

NaPo Day 21 Archangel Michael

Link for more about National Poetry Writing Month.
The prompt is Major Arcana Card 9 of the Akashic Tarot deck. I don’t know if this card resembles in any way common ideas about Michael. For what that’s worth. Also, there’s a lot more to be said about this card, this felt like a good stopping place, and I want to go to bed.

9, Archangel Michael, reversed

Michael of the forest, protector of children,
whose fierce passion will surprise you
if all you know of him is his kind, unlined face
and those luscious locks . . .

wide etheric wings to wrap around you
and hold you safe until you’re big enough
to survive on your own.

Heart like flames rising up
because love is hot.

Oh Michael, do not let the child in me fall.
Catch me. Hold me. Carry me safely home.

NaPo Day 20, 7 of Roses, The Journey

I won’t reach my goal of writing a poem every day this month, but here’s more about NaPo/GloPoWriMo. I’m using the Akashic Tarot for prompts.

7 of Roses, The Journey

It is time to leave the known
and civilized city, the massive
structures with polished stone columns,
and the gentle waters of a safe harbor.
Sailing into the sunset means
something has been completed
but it’s equally a new beginning.
It’s okay if you don’t know
where you’re going. No one
ever does, really. Try not to think
about all the years of your life spent
a thousand miles from any ocean, think
about the power of wind and current.
Instead of thinking about how you could
walk a thousand miles through prairie,
desert, and mountains if you had good boots,
a knife, and a sleeping bag, rather
feel yourself being cradled in a stout vessel
by the loving ocean. It is the nature
of the body to float in water.
Embrace the journey.
Others will take care of the baggage,
and only time will tell
if you have brought too much.

selfie with wildy

NaPo Day 19, Card 20, Wisdom, Will, and Mind

Got overwhelmed a bit, dropped NapWriMo for a while, but I’m back now. The prompt is a Major Arcana card in the Akashic Tarot.

20: Wisdom, Will, and Mind

Fire rises. Water falls.
Light, too, has its laws which must
be followed, in bending, splitting,
moving through space.
The perfect symmetry
of the Celtic knot binds these forces
under the crown (corona)
and we think they’re static,
when we see them at all,
while they shift in and out through
dimensions and space
easier than navigating a parking garage.
Will we ever go back to church?
Will we return to those days
when I drove the car, when I imagined
being on a path ever closer to
mastery? I knew even then that
it was illusion. Drive enough and
eventually you crash. Just
remember, underneath it all
is the triskele, trio of armored
dexter legs: “Whichever way
you throw me, I will stand.”

Photo Aug 21, 8 05 38 AM

We have an abundance of bibles around here.

NaPo Day 7: 6 of Forces, The Waterfall, reversed

6 of Forces, The Waterfall, reversed

On the day John Prine died
I thought, to believe in this livin’
is a hard way to go, and everything
is upside down and the power
is in the wrong place and going
the wrong way and some days
i can feel it in me, stretching
out and up like branches of a tree
but then they collapse and fall
and when the men come to prune
they’re all found to be hollow.
Even to touch another person
with love is forbidden and
I gave away so much to get here,
like Ishtar arriving at the throne
of her sister, Ereshkigal,
Queen of the underworld,

NaPo Day 6: 2 of Forces, The Willow

Each prompt is a card from the Akashic Tarot, published by Hay House. See poetry from other participants at

2 of Forces, The Willow

There’s a tree green with light
and an aqua stream rushing by
but who lives in that castle on the hill?
What little girl looks out her high window
to greet the one tree, one stripe of color
through the rust-gold valley?
What enemy threatens this unpeopled
expanse? What do they do in there
all day? Spin and weave, one supposes,
cook and clean, as they don’t have
good shopping in proximity,
while the men hunt for rabbits and deer.
Is that a life? It’s what you get
in the reach of the Willow, whose roots
always know where to find water
and leaves dance in sunlight, whose
supple branches giggle in the wind.
Don’t fear such peace. There’s power
in it, and (like my mom used to say)
interesting people never get bored.

wildy on white

NaPo Day 5, 1 of Keys, The Architect

Each day’s prompt is a card from the Akashic Tarot deck. Click here for more about NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo.

1 of Keys: The Architect, reversed

The black man standing tall in his power.
He’s the boss here, the Architect, proud
to show his work to the woman beside him.
In front of them a table spread with
the unscrolled plans and a golden cat.
Around them, workers labor, digging
the foundations, building brick walls high,
while monumental statues await placement.
This is the intersection, the union
of vision and manifestation, of the active
and the receptive, the elevation of earth
to touch the sky. It’s time to step into your power.

Flip it, and they no longer have the earth
beneath their feet. Without stability there
could be total collapse. Things fall through.
Where is he pointing? Likely, somewhere
off in the past. Check your foundations.

demure willow

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