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 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.

NaPoWriMo Day 8: How To Write A Poem

You can write a poem about practically anything:
a dream, a moment in time, an event, like
the time you tried to put a baby bird back in the nest
and it flopped to the ground and died.
The time you helped an injured bird out of the road,
left it in the weeds, and did not euthanize or heal it.
The time you casually told your 13-year-old
a brutal truth and she cried.
Start with an image.
Look for the light radiating out of the words.
Follow the light. Keep adding words.
After a while, themes appear.
Something about the incompatibility of birds and roads?
Is it how attempts at kindness inevitably fall short?
Is it how you have to keep going,
even when it is futile to try?
You might pretend this poem is just striking images,
stories that don’t need meaning, that mean nothing,
attempts to make light through language,
but if you get it right,
the reader will know better.

NaPoWriMo Day 7: Found Key


Mid-century modern design is trendy again.

She found a key in the bottom of her purse.
It must have been there for ages. It came from a motel,
with an old plastic fob the color of metallic gold.
She had to think for a while to guess
that the strange word printed on the fob
was a motel where she’d stayed the last time
she’d been out to the west coast.
The kids were small then, it was so long ago,
and it was embarrassing to have kept the key.
Nonetheless, the proper thing to do would be
to mail it back. They’d have changed the lock
by now, maybe installed a card key system.
Maybe it wasn’t a motel anymore. Maybe
the building had been converted to apartments
or storage units. A flea market, an artist retreat center,
band practice spaces, a produce market, or offices.
It couldn’t be possible that they’d been renting out
that room for ten years, missing a key.
No one there would still remember her,
or that she had failed to return the key.
They definitely did not want this key back.
It would be sensible to toss it in the trash.
But there would be some miniscule satisfaction
in returning it: in a decade of lost keys,
forgotten promises, blown deadlines, delayed
decisions, and work left undone,
there could be one thing
she would finish.

NaPoWriMo Day 6: Absence

Something doesn’t feel right when he’s not here.
Like a strong wind could blow the house away.
Like her feet don’t quite reach the ground.
She tries to do normal things with the kids,
but they don’t know the passwords
or how to operate the devices.
They go to his parents’ house for dinner.
The plates are too big for the food.
Afterwards, they play cards. Everyone laughs
a lot, but the sound is thin, like a stereo
with the bass turned way down.
They go home. It’s not a school night, so
she decides not to nag the kids, and they just stay up.
She takes the laptop to bed and writes
with the light on, sitting on top of the comforter
because she’s not ready to sleep.
Every room is too bright.
There’s a fierce wind outside.
That faint, low hum that only she hears
is louder than usual tonight.
She wonders if he’s on his way home yet.

NaPoWriMo Day 5: Tired Is An Ache

When tired is an ache.
And the cats still won’t come in for dinner,
and no amount of nagging gets the kids
into bed. When the clock keeps advancing,
relentlessly and the sink is full of dishes
again. Baskets of laundry adorn the living room
like stalagmites. Now would be a good time
to get a jump on tomorrow’s headache.
You owe the world one poem. But
oh that bed would welcome you in,
would embrace you like the mother
you never had, part vacuum cleaner,
part gorilla arms, more than part
giant kissy face, warm and wet, part

Then again maybe I’ll just doze off
in this comfy chair . . .

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