Living on a Prayer (prompt 30, Hour 24)

My family was never really religious.
We were a mixed family, Catholic and Assembly of God.
Both had strict dogmas that prevented them
from marrying outside their faiths, so, of course,
that is what Mom and Dad wanted to do.
They succeeded. The Catholics won, though. My dad
attended catechism classes so he could marry my mother.
I only learned that recently. They were married at the church,
not in the church. They married in the priest’s rectory,
and only my mother’s brother and his wife attended to witness.

I used to say I was raised miscellaneous protestant. Going to church
was a big effort for my parents. They wanted us to go, yet neither
of them was particularly religious. What is it about the Catholic
church that makes so many young people turn away?
They wouldn’t let us go to Catholic church, but they let us go
to every protestant church any of our friends invited us to.
Vacation Bible School, summer camp, all holidays were spent
going to church with someone else. Until I hit thirteen.

A minister at a non-denominational chapel I had attended
wanted to baptize me. I was afraid to tell my parents until the morning
of the event. They refused to let me go. That cut it for me and churches.
Even when my mother had bouts of going to the Methodist Church or
the Presbyterian Church, I refused. I discovered I had opinions of my own.
Too many of the pastors I talked to couldn’t answer my questions, they
simply said, “You have to accept it on faith.” That is when I knew
those people were no smarter than me, and didn’t have all the answers.

It jaded me. I decided to study everything from anybody.
Later when I married, I converted to Catholicism and had a Catholic
wedding. Years later, I studied Sufism. When I married again, I converted to
Judaism. My husbands felt it was important for me to be like them,
so I played along. I always saw the truth behind all religions, and I studied
every one of them deeply, from their own scriptures. It never bothered me
to convert. I saw the unity behind all the forms. The same truth
illuminates them all. I studied Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism.
There are isms for so-called non-believers, too, like Agnosticism.
Pantheism. Scientology. Rosicrucianism. Universalism.

Today I am happy to let people be what they want to be, believe what they
choose to believe. I accept the annoying southern behavior or assuming
that everyone is a Christian. Every doctor’s nurse I see, every grocery clerk,
even in fast food drive-throughs or bank lines they smile and nod and say
“have a blessed day.” They see my white skin and friendly smile, and assume
I am like them. It used to baffle me why they would do that.
Then I gave up worrying about it. Today I am happy to hear someone say
“I’ll pray for you” or “Praise Jesus”. I don’t actually care, but I always thank them
and say “I need all the prayers I can get.” That usually satisfies them, and
it doesn’t commit me. I say it sincerely. It makes my life simpler, and in truth,
don’t we all need all the blessings we can get?  And so it is. Amen.


A Few Memories (prompt 29, Hour 23)

Born in my parents’ hometown.
April is the month of bluebonnets.Many pictures of Mom in bluebonnet fields,
None of me. My Mamaw lived there, and she loved me.

We were poor. We moved a lot, but it wasn’t hard.
We spent most weekends camping and fishing on the beach.
I am confident and unafraid.
My third grade teacher saw me for the genius I am
And put me in charge of things.
I liked being in charge of things.

Dad drank and smoked. He worked evenings
and weekends. He started taking his frustrations out on me
with his hand, switch or belt. I couldn’t protect the others.
They got it, too. But I was the main target.
It wasn’t tough love, it was meanness born of frustration.
But it hurt the same, regardless of the name.


Music saved me. I was good at it. My heart soared.
I played in the orchestra, I played in the band.
In high school I was a majorette and Drum Major.
Those are high profile jobs in Texas schools.
Life was finally tipping my way!


My sisters are better with remembering
family stories and names. I can meet a stranger briefly
and remember their name a year later. But I can’t remember
who went to the beach that time we had a singalong, or
what everyone ate at Dad’s favorite restaurant on
some anniversary or birthday. Does it really matter?
My sisters and my mother can! That’s enough.


The day I learned to diagram sentences was the day I knew
one day I would write. Mrs. Raley stood there, holding her chalk,
talking about predicate adjectives, and suddenly a veil dropped.
I understood parts of speech and how they depend upon each other.
I still remember how it felt to know that I knew. I knew English.
I really knew it. No one could ever take that away from me.

Wild Life Tale (prompt 27 and 28, Hour 22)

My sister’s first mistake
was to buy a house with her ex-husband.
Her second was to buy that house, with a pool.
We were raised on the coast—fished, swam and surfed.
So sand crabs and jellyfish, sea urchins and sharks
were just part of our growing up.
It’s not like we are squeamish.

When her husband left, she could barely afford the house,
so it fell into what we graciously called lyrical disrepair.
It got serious when her backyard became a zoo.

First, the pool turned green. Unfortunate algae bloom.
Without chemicals to turn it around.
She thought seriously about turning it into a lily pond
by throwing mud into the bottom and adding fish.
It was so green it was probably seen from space.
So she pondered putting a Japanese bridge across it,
to pretend that it was a pond, so she could ignore it.

The grass got long. Her mower conked out.
Then the frogs moved in. Dozens of loud ones.
So loud she couldn’t sleep. One Saturday, she went out
and gathered a dozen big bulls, thought about eating them,
but walked them to the park and released them into the creek.

Then she noticed the snakes.
One rattler, two garter snakes, and a coral snake.
She solved that problem by giving them the back yard.
Plenty of room to walk the dog in the front, she said,
instead of letting him get a snake bite out in back.
It was a good thing, because next she noticed an armadillo
was a regular guest, with several raccoons. They washed
their food in the shallow end of the pool/pond.
Two supervising owls visited each night, seeking rodents,
but happy with snakes instead.

One night a skunk came by and was startled by the dog.
The beginning of the end. Bedlam ensued. A large
can of tomato juice washed one very distressed retriever
who was sure the shower spray was another skunk.
Took us hours to clean the house.
Traps from the humane society yielded
one skunk, one armadillo and two possums. The city
took them all away. After advice on reptile control, they
suggested that the flies bothering her house would be gone
once the pool was under control again.

A week later providence stepped in.
Her old employer needed her back, at her old job
and her old pay. Suddenly she could afford pool chemicals,
a new lawn mower, and a yard man.
For the first time in five years, she feels respectable.
She doesn’t know or care where the animals have gone..
And, no, zookeeper and naturalist are not on her resume.



Marco (prompt 26, Hour 21)

My cat crept into my heart on little fog feet. I saw him born, but
he knew long before I did that we were meant for each other.
Why shouldn’t cats know in the way humans know
a relationship is lasting? He did.
He showed me love is a gift, not earned.
He gave me the joy of recognition each time I entered a room
He taught me that he loved gravy more than food.
He let me know that he was more important than my computer
simply by stretching out between the keyboard and the screen.
He hunted wild mice fiercely to prove he could provide.
He trusted me. With purity and unquestioning love.
It made me a better person, living up to his belief.

He had nine lives that big grey lug. And he used up eight
before he let me know he was about to go.
He was 21 when he died, as trusting as he had ever been.
His frail old body too weak to move, he could no longer lick.
His fur matted. I knew he didn’t like that.
So with him lying on a pad, too feeble to lift his head,
I brought hot water and a cloth to bathe him.
I could almost see him smile.
Then I swaddled him in towels to keep him warm.
When I returned a few minutes later, his little life was gone.
Born in my bedroom, and died in my bedroom.

He knew when to sit in my lap and comfort me,
and he knew when to give me space. We grew old together.
Maybe that’s why I still think at times I glimpse him
coming through a doorway, or walking into the kitchen.
I half expect him to jump up on the bed and use my arm
for a pillow. He left a hole another animal will not fill.
Maybe that’s why I have his ashes in my closet still.
Only a pet lover will understand.

Patience and Timidity (prompt 25, Hour 20)

Acknowledging  The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot


Read this in the dawning
When the flush of growth sings green;
When hope rises up like sap, and
Bent age is not yet a fiend.
There will be time, they said, though, in truth, you were afraid.
Oh, dare to be brave! Dare to presume!

Pour love into this battered cup
As sparkling as a diamond ring,
As dazzling as arpeggios
When the heart knows but to sing.
Only if you dare, you challenged, for the yellow fog slides in.

Lift up your face once more, dear one,
And see me for what I am, not less,
Wrapped in the magic of your tender words,
Budding like trust within my breast.
Disturb the universe, while there is time! Dare to be brave, for time will not reverse, I said.

I cradle your truth beneath my wings
Whether you bid me leave or stay.
Consider it a gift, my penance
For all I lost, for all we threw away.
You’ve always known you may presume,my Lazarus, so please begin before I’m dead.

Though few look back at the end of life,
To acknowledge the chaos that they made,
I am bold. Forgive, and take this grizzled hand
In peace, content and unafraid.
The moment of your greatness didn’t flicker as you feared. Was it worth it after all?
Or was that not it at all?

Silver Hair Replies (prompt 23 and 24, Hour 19)

I want to burn
Not like a match’s golden flame,
Or fiery pixels in an online warrior’s game.
Not lava red or like a blinding solar flare;
Not glowing embers or a sharp prismatic glare.

I will fill my lungs with uncorrupted light,
Intimidate with radiance as my bones ignite.
I will become an unexpected sight
Pierced by a new light fierce and white
Transcending with angels of the starry night
and burn so bright,
and burn so bright.

Just Jump! (prompt 22, Hour 18)

Dear one with the silver hair,

Your baby days are past, and all your children gone.
But you are not a shriveled husk, some dried nut whose life is done.
You wear white hair like a badge of glory.
Bravo! Only those who burned in the fire
have lived all the colors that merge into white.
How beautiful you are
even with wrinkles and sagging skin.
Each line is a story someone needs to hear.
Each fold of your neck hides a place where love begins.
Even if you still have devils, they cannot steal your show.
You know their weaknesses, and
You are alive in a way the young can never know.

Freed from the slavery of hormones
you are liberated for the last third of your life,
able to start remembering who you were before
the years when reproduction brought its strife.
That was you in your purest form back then, and now
you have circled back to the dreams that truly matter.
Be bold! Go back to school and learn what you love.
Get out and help the souls who tug at your heart.
Bring your joy to those whose joy has died.
You are powerful, you are limitless, you have time.
Like some brave frail bird you can soar above life
to the edge of infinity, free at last to be
and answer only to the calling of your heart.
Don’t hold back. Don’t be shy. There’s no time like now.
Jump, dear one, jump! Your wings are ready .

Dandelion (prompt 21, Hour 17)

Dandelion. The wishing star of flowers,
ripe with ballerinas standing on their toes
to touch your center. White tutus starched and
standing out to catch the wind, they break free
and sail to where wishes come true,
where their feet can land in the earth,
where they become golden flowers when they age.
What do all those wishers wish?
Wishes are hopes, and we all need hope.
Only you and the ballerinas know.
Bloom on.

Things Unsaid (prompt 20, Hour 16)

I am camouflaged
behind a mound of hair.
In this small car
speeding across town,
I battle the rapids
of roaring rivers and shatter
into millions of diamonds
in their cascading falls,
or elbow the sheer waters
with a spidery grace.

I stalk the Appalachians
as we pass your lab,
eyes fixed on the tall spire
emerging like a ghost
out of frosty air,
like a lost finger
of some sleeping giant,
waiting for a magic spell.

Gazing fierce eyed
past the landscape,
I vault up into the sun
and wheel my silent wings
in tumbling patterns across blue spaces
in cloud fields, caressing
their white-bellied shapes
with a moist, airy palm as I pass.
They weep with joy.

You ask what I’m thinking
(content with your own thoughts)
But you’d never understand:
my heart is a crystal
and my shining colors
exceed your vocabulary.
So I say, Nothing special.

The Universe (prompt 18 and 19, Hour 15)

Physicists claim the universe is shaped
like a soccer ball, and we are inside, with holograms
coating the boundaries,  projecting all possible angles of view,
individual and complete like Indra’s net.
Physicists claim that black holes extrude through the walls of space-time
like scattered spikes that can suck us out
of this universe to be birthed into another
(could we but survive the trip).

Physicists trumpet dark matter and dark energy,
places so black that nothing appears to exist.
Yet neutrinos that no one has seen pour through the gaps
in the known particles each second, for unknown reasons,
without witness, outside the range of sight, unfelt.
Why do they exist? Their only known property is
to bounce back when they are compressed.
Did neutrinos force the Big Bang? Do they drive expansion?

Gloriously, we, whatever we are,
evolved for this world and time,
small bags of water, composed of nothing
but billions of competing colonies of bacteria
made from particles of stardust.

We are animated by a life vibration no one comprehends,
that seems like music in constant motion.
We are eternity knowing itself as separation from oneness.
We have senses to experience this life, so knowledge blooms.
There is light, there is dissonance, there is movement,
there is separation from other things.
This is what it means to live.

We have sensors.

Quivering waves from space fill our ears with sounds
made in the ancient past, taking light years to arrive.
The shock waves of star births and atoms colliding,
of movement and the pulsing of galaxies,
of the slow drumming of black holes.
Even war cries and moans of devastation,
hymns of praise and nursery songs once sung
reverberate indefinitely through space,
creating, always creating.
We are moved to align and vibrate in reply,
like human Chladni plates.

Eyes and brains perceive fractured waves of light bouncing
and give the light names like crimson, gold and sky blue.
We give textures names like rough, smooth, gritty, soft, wet.
Label the tastes of bitter and sweet, sour and salt,
define the objects we start mouthing as infants.
The smells of sweet lilacs and hyacinth, of roses and lemons,
of urine and death, saturate us with emotion
and codify remembered experiences.
The senses define our experiences.
They are our puppet masters.

We were made for this world and this time,
inconsequential individuations of random origin.
We ride this elegant, blue planet whose beauty we uncovered
as we floated through space, and it exists because
competing colonies of bacteria formed from stardust evolved
to coalesce here, and experience shared explosions of sound
and vivid eruptions of colored light in this one location.

This small water planet rampant with life,
made real and unique by our angles of view,
is the unlikely edge of the universe.
We are learning it is our creation.
We are the creating creators and the created creation.
We are uniquely made to know it,
and it will swallow us in the end.

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