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.

NaPoWriMo Days 20/21: Rough Draft/To Be An Artist

I’m not sure these go together. Not entirely sure this is poetry. But I wrote them together over two days, so here it is.

I. Rough Draft

If these poems seem rough to you,
it’s because they are. It’s often eleven
before I pick up the laptop,
after the kids have finished their
homework, selected some pajamas,
put the pajamas on, brushed
their teeth until the top of the hourglass is
empty, plugged in their devices, taken
their last hug of the day, and, finally,
gone to bed. Then talked to each other
out loud for a while, then
quieted to whispers.
Before all that, I’ll have wandered
into the kitchen, examined the contents
of cabinets, the refrigerator, and freezer,
maybe perused a cookbook
and decided to do something I already
know how to make, washed a round of dishes
while I think about how to do it, tidied
some work space, prepared the food,
called everyone to dinner,
threatened to sit down and eat right now,
then waited anyway for everyone else
to come to the table.

Mornings are solitary, leisurely.
Yoga. Hygiene. Feed myself.

Afternoons I give my full attention
to one client at a time.

And every day, pretty much the same.
I do all the stuff. I get things out of the way.
Then when it’s quiet and too late
to make phone calls, too dark to clean house,
the cats are inside, the humans sleeping,
I clear a space on the couch,
sit down, open up the magical device,
and bang out a poem, hoping to have
something decent before
I fall asleep.

II. To Be An Artist

To be an artist, you have to want it
more than anything. You have to want it
more than you don’t want to be laughed at,
more than you don’t want to be told what to do,
more than you want all the other
things you want, more than you want
your children to wear clean clothes
more than you want straight As
understanding friends
organic home-cooked meals from scratch
and all the homeless housed.

You have to want to open more than you want to stay closed.
Want to fly more than you want to stay on the ground.
You have to want people to see your naked self
more than you want them to approve of your taste in clothing.

Want to make people feel all your vivid feelings more than
you want to protect them from feeling your pain.

Want to rip your heart out of your own chest and wave it
dripping in the faces of strangers on the street
more than you want to be intact and insulated and safe.

Whatever the medium—color, sound, words—it’s always the same.
Money, friends, stability—be ready to throw it all away
so that you can be here, now, you, all that you are, nothing more,
nothing less, nothing to hide behind, nothing to ask for,
strip off your costume, rip open your chest
so everyone can see the meat clinging to your ribs
and the glory of your gory, pulsating, squirming, bleeding


NaPoWriMo Day 19: Fires of Spring

Burning hill
The vultures love to ride the rising heat.
They see it shimmer in the air
high above road and prairie.
Brown clouds rising on the horizon.
Haze dulls the air. Bits of ash fall,
and come to rest on every surface.
Miles of blackened ground.
Within days, new green seeps up
from the black; indomitable grass,
life that can’t be arrested, even by fire.
There’s dying back in fall, then still cold
of winter, and now this slow explosion.
Even when I cough and tear,
I love the smoky smell of prairie spring.


Here’s some cool footage of the prairie burningfrom the air.

NaPoWriMo Day 18: A Ruined Book

Where will you be?
the land of the semi-colon . . .
which is like a wall, isn’t it, or maybe a wooden fence;
punctuation growing like fruit from the trees.
Moody, insistent, tart – each one with its own flavor—
why limit oneself to the sweet?
Yes, it can be overwhelming, but don’t give up!
Even the rough jagged peaks have their beauty
and the darkness is only a subset of light
and the vines have their own will
and we’ve become old, haven’t we?
Everything fades. We take what we can get.
A path, something green, and living
or only the remains of those who passed by here long ago.
Dinosaurs. We’re all dinosaurs, some more dead than others.
It’s precarious, this living.
There’s the theoretical, and the concrete, the metaphysical
and the symbol;
and the realness disturbs our struggle to live on paper.
Sometimes it rains.
And finally, this is all we have: rain, a place, a ruined book.


This poem was written after the prompt from The challenge is to begin with an unfamiliar poem by another author. Each line of my poem is an answer to a line of the seed poem, in reverse order. The seed poem is “How My Hair Got Wet,” by Greg Fields, published in Flint Hills Review, Issue 22.

NaPoWriMo Day 17: What the Ferals Hate

I open my eyes and it’s dark try to
read the clock through blurry eyes
and the numbers don’t mean anything
anyway. When they hit a certain
configuration, however, I am to
do something, so I stare at them until
understanding comes. Somewhere
between 2:30 and 3:00. I hear
the whoosh of wind outside
and the turbine vent groans
over my head. Now might be
a good time to write that poem
I owe myself, while the basement
door is ajar, and at the thought,
I hear them cry: naked hungry
children down there, saying,
drag us upstairs if you must, but don’t
try to change us to suit your will.
We don’t like your words.
You’d think they’d be happy
just to come into the light,
but no, until I accede
to their demands, they
refuse to cooperate.

NaPoWriMo Day 16: We Three

When one is taller than I and the other isn’t yet,
it’s special to walk a strange city with them,
we three who look alike enough to be
the family we are, but all our own selves
too. One’s dyed her hair blue, the other wears
hers long and brown. We get in the car
and one navigates to a coffee shop.
She likes coffee shops. One orders a fruity drink,
the other has mocha. We eat and drink
and one goes to the bathroom, the other
puts money in the tip jar. One wants help
finishing her mocha. I sip and realize
I just bought my daughter a coffee drink.
(It’s delicious.) We go back to the room
and one plans the day, the other reads a book.
Back in the car, one sits in the front seat beside me,
the other in the usual back. City driving.
We drive around several blocks to find parking.
Navigator wants to give up. Little sis
says, “You can’t give up, or we’ll drive
around like this forever!” I say, “You’re doing
fine, you just don’t have all the information.”
She picks up the phone again, and we get there.
Walking from the parking garage, I tell her
the phone navigator doesn’t work for walking,
but she’s sure it’s fine. She leads us into
a building which is obviously a courthouse,
complete with uniformed officers behind a
desk. We laugh as we walk across the street
to the Visitors’ Center. We like the museum there.
One wants to listen to the story on the phone,
the other wants her picture taken with her face
peeking through a cut-out picture of the
statue on top of the Capitol. We don’t want to go
in the Capitol. One wants to take pictures
of the outside, the other sits under a tree and waits.
One loves the grackles and squirrels, the other
makes friends with every dog that passes.
We get in the car, the girls trade places
from the last ride. She navigates us
to the spectacular 1880s hotel, which is said
to be haunted. I don’t see any ghosts,
just a building like no other, light pouring in
through the round window surrounding
the rectangular doors. Woodwork painted
brown and gold in meticulous detail. The contrasting
brown and white marble floors almost but not
quite too much. One reads the ghost fact sheet
to us, the other takes pictures of all the paintings.
One is taller than I, the other not quite, yet.

NaPoWriMo Day 14: To Whom It May Concern

To whom it may concern,

I would like to discuss this body
which I have been issued. I’m not sure it’s right
for me. It seems to be wearing out earlier
than I’d hoped. The eyes need correction.
There is some question whether
the immune system is functioning as intended,
and I’m having difficulty finding
a qualified technician to fix me.

Please understand, there are many things
I love about this body. I know the shorter
models aren’t trendy these days, but
I’m actually pretty happy with the height.
I wasn’t sure about the hair for a while,
but we’ve pretty much come to an agreement,
haha. Sexual and reproductive functions
have exceeded expectations. I very much enjoy
the flexibility, and when I do regular yoga,
I have moments when I really love this body
and what it can do and how it feels.

But other times, I’m not sure this is the
right body for me. This mild achiness
that has crept up over the years.
Is that normal wear and tear? Or some kind of
malfunction? I admit I have not always
maintained the body fastidiously,
but I haven’t been all that bad.

It doesn’t seem to fit quite right. It pinches here,
it sags there. Too big and clumsy for the precision
and grace I had hoped for. It does not exhibit
the svelte elegance I feel inside.
At the same time, it’s too small. Has it always
been this way, or have I outgrown it?
It cannot contain my dreams, my fears, my rages.
It’s not big enough to encompass the enormity
of my love, my passions, my hopes. I’m afraid
it won’t last long enough for me to complete
the work I need it for.

Can someone in your organization
help me with this issue? I confess I’m not
honestly sure how this situation can be rectified.
But if there isn’t some kind of upgrade available,
I’m left wondering if perhaps I haven’t
made some grave error, and this bodily existence
isn’t for me.

NaPoWriMo Day 12: Mars Square Venus

He drives. He always drives. It’s one of the
unspoken agreements they have. When she
takes her things to the car, she places her
purse and jacket in the passenger seat.
Sometimes they say the same things, without
even knowing. Then sometimes it feels like
he doesn’t even get her. She doesn’t get him.
It’s been twenty-five years and why
is prepackaged dead food always better
than homemade leftovers.
She could pack a picnic lunch
but he won’t eat it. One cat wants to go out,
and the other won’t come in.
They pick up the kids from school,
where heavy equipment and piles of dirt
and temporary fencing block all the entrances.
Every time she comes here, she has to find
a new way in. On the road, they play a game.
Each person gets to choose a song.
She chooses “Straight Outta Vagina”
by Pussy Riot. He chooses “The Power of Pussy”
by Bongwater. It reminds her of when she saw
that band, before they met, so long ago she’s
not sure she remembers what it felt like.
There are wind turbines.
“I saw a train today carrying turbine blades,”
she says. He says, “It takes more power
to make those than they’ll ever produce.
They only last ten years.” Through the window,
she watches the slow spin. She thinks
about vast fields of defunct wind turbines.
“They look cool though,” she says. He says,
“They look cool though,” not having heard her.
She imagines hanging on a blade, spinning,
flipped upside down at the top but then
coming down, still too far from the ground
to let go. Alone, she concludes, she’d never make it.
She’d need another person to survive,
someone strong and committed and willing
to do anything to reach out for her.

NaPoWriMo Day 11: Detritus of Days

When April still feels like February.
When shorter nights only mean less rest,
and the still-needed layers of winter clothes
are a hateful shroud. When your children
desperately need encouragement
and you can’t find it in yourself to lie.
You’re living in the shadow of a hill,
where the sun breaks late, glares, and
passes too soon. When the detritus of days
closes around you, try to remember
that sunlight slanting over dust on
clutter has its own beauty. It’s not enough,
but it might get you through another day.


NaPoWriMo Day 10: On the Table of the Healer Crone

The first flowers of spring are the tiniest—
henbit, veronica–and the humblest—
dandelion, crabapple. There is magic in you
and it wants to come out. The bees are hungry.
White cat waiting silently when you come home:
glance at the sky for a second as you open the door,
and she will be inside already when you get there.
The river is always where it is,
always flowing, whether you go to watch it
or not. So what if you and the disease have
evolved together, turning and circling round
in a long helical dance? Who says you need
all that heavy equipment to build up the school?
Just put yourself on the table of the healer crone,
where ancient song repeats endlessly
in golden light. This place, this moment,
this magic has always been here,
waiting for you to arrive.

NaPoWriMo Day 9: Clock Dream

A white clock. Ticking,
which was a bad sign.
I didn’t know that it was a bomb,
but I didn’t know it wasn’t.
Probably it was.

I took it up to my dorm room,
past the annoying frat guys.
What to do, what to do.

I wrestled open a window.
There was a river outside.
If I could throw the clock far enough,
over all those people,
the water might be the safest place
for the bomb to explode.
Not great, even so.

I visualize the successful throw.
When I do it, the clock lands in the water,
but in shallows near the edge,
where a man is standing with a boy.
He moves toward the object, now in flames.

Oh no.

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