Quatrains for Potted Plants

Our prayer plant
returned from the dead
several times.
She prays every night.

my stripling avocado trees
grown from the pits
tipped over in transit
and never recovered

the hanging, trailing
house plants of our youth —
no longer a fad,
where do they grow?

What I Do

I practice calligraphy
on a Buddha board
the characters disappear
when the water dries

no grinding ink
no wasted paper
it’s a win/win situation
take my word for it

My Song

out of the fog’s hush, a moonbeam

I filled a canteen with coffee
went out to the concrete dock
under the fir

shelf fungi like ladder rungs
climbed up its trunk

damn! was all I could think
silently gloating in my solitude

Just Like San Simeon Blues

The cancer center housing is in an area famous for its transformation by the high-tech industry from a family neighborhood to soulless acres of high-rises. I became addicted to my daily walks there, hoping to find visually interesting details to capture with my cell phone camera.

One day, I walked a block east from my usual route, and was startled to see steady streams of people entering into a wooded area close to the freeway. Could there be a park in the area? The mature evergreens made a stark contrast to the spindly street trees on other blocks.

Pedestrians in the rest of the neighborhood were relatively scarce, too, on the weekends, even though those high-rises must have housed many thousands of young workers. But here were these ant-like lines of people, purposefully heading towards this green mecca. I followed them in, expecting to see a familiar park info bulletin board. A few yards within the green enclosure, I discovered an REI sign.

I’d stumbled upon the mother ship! I’ve lived in two other cities with REI stores, but this one, with its designed waterways and landscaped forest surroundings, and its soaring wooden architecture inside, was truly fit for an emperor of recreational equipment, inc.

I didn’t linger. Christmas shoppers were thronging the flannel shirt aisles, and I was avoiding exposure to germs for my husband’s sake. I was happy enough that I’d happened upon this faux-rustic capitalist castle, reminiscent of William Randolph Hearst’s.

(a sevenling)

Getting the diagnosis was
unbelievable, sobering,
confusing to the max.

Adjusting to this new reality
is requisite, impossible,
unfinished as of this writing.

Update at 10 (years, we hope).

Flowering (a haibun)

One Saturday, Paul was able to go to the clinic by himself for his daily blood draw and follow-up. Our usual medical team had the weekend off, so it seemed less crucial for me to go, too. He came back buoyed up from meeting the nurse, originally from Japan, who turned out to be an ikebana practitioner, in the same modern school of ikebana I’d studied in.

I came along on Sunday to meet her. She was a ceramicist, landscape architect, flower arranger, expert oncology nurse, as well as a delightful person. She invited me to attend the local ikebana group, but I didn’t have the opportunity to do that during the intense time of the transplant.

in the rabbit-ravaged
tulip bed
some late bloomers

Underground Parking (tanka prose)

We knew we’d have to draw on all our reserves of strength while my husband was undergoing a stem cell transplant. We would be staying 100 miles away from home for 2 months, immersed in a cancer treatment center, surrounded by cancer patients and medical personnel, while his immune system would be destroyed and reconstituted.

Perhaps because his medical complications were few, and relatively minor, we found that what pushed us to the edges of our tolerance was the parking garage under the apartment house for the families of transplant patients. It had been built in the 1960s, when (apparently) cars were smaller. The parking spaces were narrow, and concrete pillars and walls dotted its landscape. On our way out to the hospital for the surgical insertion of Paul’s central line, I couldn’t negotiate the narrow ramp up and out of the depths, and dented and scraped the left side of our hybrid Camry. On our return from the last weekend we were allowed to go home, Paul scraped the other side trying to get into our designated parking space.

We were both thrown into deep despair. The sense of incompetence, diminishment, and vulnerability was intolerable. Our new knowledge, that we were no more exempt from the vagaries of fate and aging than anyone else, had already softened us up for this blow.

dead crow
on our dead-end street
I pause
to admire its blackness
before walking on


A poet friend asks me to take a photo of her
with a younger woman I don’t know.
They hide their faces with Japanese fans
while I fumble with a disintegrating camera.
Stacked cubes appear in the middle of the image.
My beloved partner in the puzzlers’ league appears,
even though she died last month.
She introduces me to a tall, gray-haired woman…

(a cherita)

the butterfly prefers

a slice of orange
to the dense bouquet

the ornamental
roses and filler blossoms
not at all to its taste

(a haiku)

stylized carpet
rams’ horns and pomegranates
hiding in plain sight

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