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.

Category: NaPoWriMo

NaPoWriMo Day 30: Library of the Obscure

Domestication crept in gradually.
It may have started with books.
Remember when books held magical
stories you couldn’t find anywhere else?
When facts were precious, and libraries
were oases of information? In the house
where I grew up, books in every room.
And then I began to collect them.

In things, too, there is rich history
that no one notices, or cares to.
The antique field organ that could literally
be rolled into a field, worth nothing today.
My scientist father’s collection of slide rules.
The voting machine that elected W.
A map of the world that shows Rhodesia,
Czechoslovakia, two Pakistans, one Germany.
A Rolodex, a Commodore 64 computer,
CDs, records, cassette tapes, 8-tracks.
Film projectors and reels and reels of films.
If I had a house with endless rooms,
it could be a library of the obscure,
a museum of archaic technology,
a gallery of unknown artists.
A place one could wander, looking
at objects with history, stories,
memorials to people who are silent now.
We could fix the broken banjolele
and the flute from the 1930s and
play for the children dancing
in costumes hand dyed in the 1970s.

When the oceans drown the coasts
and the governments wither away,
we will be here on the prairie,
reciting the Latin names of medicinal
wild botanicals, hosting readings from
the collected works of Shakespeare,
preserving food in the way
of George Washington Carver,
keeping our deep humanity alive
with the old stories.

NaPoWriMo Day 28: Nomad

I thought myself a nomad, rootless,
in love with the road, addicted to the new.
I lived on little, shrank my footprint,
claimed no place as home. Felt at home
in no place. I “followed the energy,”
committed to nothing and no one.
The world could end at any moment,
and I didn’t waste time on pursuits
that might not fruit in the foreseeable
future. I caught rides to distant cities
to protest oppression, met people
who held exotic political ideals,
followed them to coops and gatherings,
ate brown rice from my bare hands
when I didn’t have a bowl (“Hand food
is the best food!”), hitchhiked to wilderness
to protest logging of old-growth forest.
I could live here, I sometimes thought,
in the mountains of Idaho,
in Jamaica Plain, Madison, Missoula,
Eugene. But I never really did,
just stopped for a few days or a year,
never signed a lease, never took a job
I couldn’t walk away from tomorrow.
Slept on a pile of pillows, or a friend’s floor,
or a bare mattress scavenged from the street.
Went to bed drunk, too restless to sleep.

NaPoWriMo Day 27: Rainbow Gathering, 1991

It was a beautiful day. I closed my eyes
and warmed my face in the sun.
We were sitting on the ground in a meadow,
surrounded by earthy people
in grimy handwovens and tie-dyes,
and before the meal everyone stood in a circle
and shouted WE LOOOOOOVE YOU as a prayer.
We were young, a handful of friends for a summer
whose names I no longer remember,
who didn’t yet know the value
of carrying a bowl and cup in one’s backpack.
A big pot of brown rice was brought round,
some glopped into every bowl
off a very long-handled spoon.
When he came to us, the wild-haired hippie
with the spoon told us to hold out our hands.
The rice was sticky and still steaming,
barely tolerable to my tender skin.
“Hand food is the best food!” he said,
and went on glopping. I took it into
my mouth. It was the best rice I’d ever eaten:
it tasted of sunshine and mountain air
and strong hearts. Of wet earth
and freshly cut cedars. That day I learned a
rich, deep truth: that the story of Jesus
feeding the multitudes was absolutely real.
And that hand food is the best food.

NaPoWriMo day 22: [They rank those kids.]

I decided to lean into the falling asleep while writing thing I’ve been doing all month, and instead of trying to focus on an idea, type all the words that go traipsing through my mind as I doze off. I don’t know that this result is a poem, but I don’t know that it isn’t. What does it mean? Why don’t you tell me?

They rank those kids. Make them drink
motor oil. Sit down with us on the cold ground.
Is it too long from the church
you like to change my direction?
I’m not sure if he’s changed it
or if he’s changed. You’re giving
him more weapons. It’s in Kansas City
more likely, it’s got a little tin to it.
What happened? I just found this
on a high shelf you probably can’t reach.
You want it? They’re lying to you,
Rachel, your head’s so high. Do you hear the
waterfalls doing that? I hear them.
If you make her a paper airplane.
Nobody gets it, the purple zeitgeist.
Those slams really bother you. Mm hm.
That makes sense because everyone agrees
they’re really happy. Don’t box us in.

Mom, what are those giant airplanes?

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.

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