GloPoWriMo – Day 16

Over the Top

in the middle
of a pandemic.

Be Kind to Yourself.
Order ice cream in your next grocery delivery. Chocolate. Get honey, too. Chocolate sauce. Mix it all together. Eat it. Empty the box of your favorite puzzle, the one of the Norman Rockwell painting, not the barbershop one. The fishing one. Pour all the pieces on your kitchen table. Spend five days putting it together. Don’t start with the edges. Stay up all night playing video games. Live in Tamriel. Forget this planet, just for one night. Then eat more ice cream.

in the middle
of a pandemic

Practice Extreme Self Care.
Breathe. Breathe while you do yoga. Stand in the garden. Breathe. Gaze at the mountains. Breathe. Breathe in the shower. Breathe when you take a bath so long that the rough skin on your heels softens and the bath becomes salty with tears. Breathe. Breathe when you stand in your kitchen, olive oil in one hand, cinnamon in the other, wondering what you are doing with each. Where are you? Breathe. Breathe while you pick the dried flakes of skin on your heels, white scales piling up on the corner of the coffee table, trying not to pick until your feet bleed, breathing because for the first time in three weeks your brain feels normal even if your feet hurt when you walk the next morning.

in the middle


Daily Prompt:  “write a poem of over-the-top compliments,” from Na/GloPoWriMo.

Author’s note: Well, I didn’t even try to complete today’s prompt–my mind latched onto “over-the-top,” which this poem is. I considered writing a found-poem composed of Trump’s over-the-top praise for himself (I’d title it “Perfect”), but I don’t really want to feel angry this morning. The poem I wrote is inspired by this article I read last night by Marnie Hunter, published in CNN, “That uncomfortable coronavirus feeling: It could be grief.

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GloPoWriMo – Song 5

Photo of Cat Littlebird and a Bosmer in the crafting area of the Hollow City.

Lament of the Hollow City

I travelled a city
where everyone has lost
someone. The more the pity
the more the cost.

I sought my sister,
the blacksmith his brother.
She’d been there. I’d missed her.
Hollow eyes seek each other.

I faced the blacksmith,
he turned to his anvil.
“Have you anyone to be with?”
“Stay here, if you will.”

In shared defeat, I find a friend.
We can’t cure grief, but our hearts we can mend.

Daily Prompt: “write your own sad poem, but one that… achieves sadness through simplicity,” from Na/GloPoWriMo.

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NaPoWriMo 2019

Puppy Love 26


Do you ever find yourself acting on an idea whose genesis you can’t trace? Where’d that idea come from?

Maybe you were sitting on your couch, feeling a little sad, missing someone, perhaps, or feeling forlorn. Then, next you know, you feel an impulse blow through you.

“I need to get out!” You say. “I need some fresh air!”

Sometimes, we are the ones who whisper these ideas to you, we spirits in the After who never really leave, who always watch and wait for you to listen.

In this way, Lucas found himself following a notion to take Emery for a run along the boardwalk. Oh, yes! I explicitly whispered, “Emery! Emery wants a run! And it will do you good, too.”


By the time Lucas stopped running, he found himself wondering. What was he doing there? I rode the breeze around him. Emery barked softly.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it, pup?” he said.

Do you know that you can see us in reflected light? I shimmered over the waves, singing Lucas’s name, but only Emery listened.


“You’re not alone here, Emery,” I sang. “You’re not alone!”


Lucas let him off the leash, and Emery raced down to the dock, passing another dog, a stray.


Nougat is a boxer with a tail that’s never been bobbed and ears that have never been clipped. She’s lived on the beach for a few months in a loose pack of strays.

Lucas called over an Irish setter, who’d been following Nougat. But it wasn’t the setter that I’d brought Lucas here to see.

“Out on the dock,” I whispered. “Keep on!”


While Lucas befriended Nougat, the dog I’d led them there to meet appeared: Prissy,  a beautiful, intelligent, friendly border collie with the right spirit to bring healing to a home submerged in grief.


Prissy raised her head and sang, long and low, stirring in me all the memories of life and living in a house full of pups.

Sweet days
with sticks and balls and bones

Sweet nights
with a rug on the floor in a home

What a dog,
every dog,
what a dog

wants: a home,
a stick, a bone.

Her song got inside of us.

“You look so lonely,” Lucas said to Nougat. “Do you like living here on the beach, scrounging for food? Wouldn’t you rather come home with us?”


Of course she wanted that. It was fine with Emery, too, but it wasn’t what he had in mind.

What a dog
with a tail and ears and brown eyes

What a dog
with cute feet and just the right size

I like a dog
with long fur

Long ears
and a song

What a dog…


Nougat and I liked his song, but Nougat knew he wasn’t singing about her.


“You’ve caught another dog’s scent, then?” she asked.


He looked up the dock, where Prissy sat.

“She can sing,” he replied.


He trotted up beside her.

“Come meet Lucas,” he said.


And the moment she met him, the moment Lucas met her, we knew, this border collie had found her new home.


But what about Nougat? We can’t leave her behind!

She ran and pounced on Lucas.

“Oh!” he said. “You know the great game of Pounce? Then you belong with us!”

Of course I had my reasons in sending Lucas to the beach with Emery. I hoped he’d find a beautiful dog to bring home.

He surprised me by bringing home two.


The house was full again–six big dogs! And Lucas spent all his time filling supper dishes, bathing dirty dogs, and mopping muddy paw prints.

But through all his efforts, he smiled. He sang.

“So many dogs
So little time!

“So many paws!
Each one divine!”

There are as many ways to heal from grief as there are to grieve. But every healing happens through love.


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Puppy Love 24


Bobie wanted to be there for the next crossing. It’s strange. Memory fades in the After perhaps more quickly than it does in the Today.

We forget how we got here, who, precisely, we were before, and only these visits, occasional or frequent, keep us connected, on our side, to those we’ve left behind.

When the Shepherd of Bones texted that it was Caleb’s time, I called Bobie to me, and we traveled back together.


Caleb had already collapsed when we arrived.

Bobie watched from the ashen hems.


Mochi came, too, to help her pup cross over.


Oh, Caleb! Weren’t you just a pup? You’ll age no more, once you’re with us.


Each time, Grim becomes more and more greedy. I fear one day, he’ll pocket the spirit-ball of light.

“Hand it,” I commanded.

We have an agreement, and if there’s anything that compels Death, it’s a contract.

I took Caleb’s warm spirit. “Soon,” I whispered, “we’ll roam free! We will show you clouds and sunlight and flocks of light-birds to chase!”


I rushed back with Bobie, Mochi, and Caleb’s spirit, releasing it in the moonlight. The old sire, the old dame, and the old pup romped and pounced through the nimbus, and I returned to see if the grieving needed help.

Mr. Bones was watching ice-skating on TV.

“Still here?”

“Can’t get enough,” he said.


Out back, Crackers was the first of the mourners.

“Good dog, Crackers,” I said. “You’ll be joining your litter-brother soon. Don’t worry. It will be a quick crossing, and we’ll all be there to greet you. See those sparks of clouds? That’s them, chasing light-birds!”

But that’s not how to cheer a grieving dog.


Emery joined us.


He sat with Crackers, leaning into him, and spoke in the soft way he has, telling him about time and seasons and space and room.

Together, they walked slowly back to Lucas, surrounded now with all the members of the household.

“I know it seems too soon,” he said to Dustin. “But it’s not really, is it? Didn’t your pa have a great life?”


“My brother’s getting older, too,” he said to Crackers. “And my oldest brother, he’s already passed over. It happens to all of us, and everyone we know.”


It didn’t seem to cheer them up.

But then, Miss Molly barked, “I’m hungry!”

Dustin barked, “Swim! Swim? Swim!”

And Emery lowered his head and softly whispered again about time and space and moonlight and crickets.


“Crickets?” asked Lucas. They listened. The crickets sang. “It’s a nice sound, eh, pups?”

Dustin nosed Lucas’s pocket, where he kept the brush, and Lucas bent down to brush the wiry coat of the white dog.

Chloe remembered her tail, which seemed irresistible at that moment. Miss Molly wondered if Crackers were up for chase.

And Emery, he sighed and smiled. “Life. Space. All one.”


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Puppy Love 22


I’ve observed a few things to help with the grief felt by those left behind. Doing the dishes is one of them.


Does keening help? Lucas seems to think so. But I fear it’s more the animal response to searing pain and not always even palliative. It’s the body’s way of marking the passing.


Tears help, though. That’s what Tanvi tells me.  They cleanse and heal.


Grieving together helps.


When it doesn’t break a family apart, which it can as often as not, it brings a family together.


Pa! You OK, Pa? You play pounce? Emery asked Dustin.


I think not, pup. The pounce has left me.


We each bear our pain in our own ways, and sometimes, those ways find mirrors in the ones we love the most.


If I have sharp knife poke me, then so do Ma and Pa.


And if this poke now, maybe it not poke later.


Ma, you still know how to smile?


Of course, Moon Dog. And I still know how to snuggle, too.


Do you think we continue to learn once we’ve left this realm? We do. We learn from you every day. It why we look back, so we can see what lasts, after we’ve left.


It’s love that lasts, and love that draws us back, and love, too, that lets us go again, when we feel the need to roam.


When the sun set on the sad day, Lucas pulled out his violin. He remembered how Mochi always cowered when he played. He didn’t play that badly, did he? He always thought she was teasing him, and he’d play for her again. He knew, wherever she was, she’d hear.


Twister came racing. Was Lucas OK? It sounded like cats were being strangled!


Ah! It was just the terrible music, as bad as ever, too much for this music-lover to stand, even if he was the performer! How was he ever to get any better if he played worse than he could listen to, himself?


I let him practice, while I chipped in with the chores. Always so much to be done in a houseful of dogs!


But now that Otter and Mochi were with me, there was a bit more room in the house. And that hooded grump said he’d be back soon for Crackers and Caleb. What could we do with all this space that would soon open up?

I hopped on the computer and bookmarked a few pages. “Adoption Success Stories”–and no, this wasn’t the Cat and Dog Adoption Center. Let’s not call it a suggestion. Let’s just say that if a certain someone is thinking along certain lines, he should be able to find the information he needs quickly and easily. And if he isn’t thinking about certain lines, maybe this page will get him to do so.


While I put my scheme into place, Emery checked in with the rest of the family.

Granddam? Twister wondered, as he burst out from under the couch. You got pounce?

She did! Her pounce had returned, and she leapt straight up! All four feet off the floor!

We fly!


You are the flyingest, Moon Dog, said Chloe.


Yes, some things help. Doing the dishes and puppies are two of them. And maybe, just possibly, my wild-hair of a scheme might help, too, one of these days!

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Puppy Love 21


We’d been expecting it. And I was sure to be there. But it didn’t make it easier. The visits of the hooded one were always hard to bear.

She’d been the best mom to Crackers.


And to Caleb, too.


She’d taught Dustin well, and she welcomed Chloe into the family.


Mochi’s acquaintance with the hooded one went way back, to her first day here, when he came for Majora, Nibbler, and Babe, all three taken on the same day. And now, he was here for her.


With a start like that, it’s no wonder she had great depth of feeling.


She was no bigger than Lucas’s hand when she first arrived!


She knew Tanvi, though–and how happy they would be to be reunited in the After!


After Tanvi let, she consoled Lucas, becoming his next best friend.


She was always there, watching over her pups, encouraging Otter.


She and Otter were such good friends.


Well, they’ll be together now, too, so they can play on the breeze, like we all do.


“Looks like I’ll be here pretty frequently, then,” the Shepherd said, consulting his log.

“You don’t have to stick to the schedule,” I told him.

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “Some things can’t be fudged.”

Emery was at his hem, trying to grasp his cloak, growling like the fearless Twister he is.


“I’m not exactly corporeal, you know,” the Gray Bones mumbled.


It was too much for the pup.


It was too much for all of us.

Bones prolonged the show.


And then, the flash of light! The quickening of my own spark!


Stay! Stay! I will deliver you to Tanvi!


With reluctance, the hooded one handed over her spark.


“I always leave empty-handed,” he grumbled. “Hardly seems fair!”


“A bargain is a bargain!” I reminded him.

“If ever there’s a time when you’re not here!” He warned.

But there won’t be. I will be here each and every time, and the spark will be delivered to me for the short journey home.

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Captain’s Christmas: Chapter Six


Gran’s laughter echoed across the straight, calling to Sarah. She flew over the dark water, looking for her.

“I’m here, Sarah Two-Pockets! I always will be!”


They flew up to the sky, twirling, laughing, until Gran said, “It’s time for you to go now. I will always be…”


Sarah opened her eyes. She felt warm and happy. What was it that Gran would always be?

Never mind, Sarah thought. The dream must be a good sign.

In the kitchen, she discovered that it really was Christmas–Jacob had hung wreaths and lights, and a stack of brightly wrapped presents waited beside the breakfast table.

She felt too jolly to notice Jacob’s somber mood as he gazed into his tea.


He dished up special Christmas breakfast French toast. It smelled sweet like vanilla and nutmeg.

“Can I have extra butter?” she asked.

He added an extra pat.

“Your mom is coming in a week,” he said, when they sat at the table. “She’ll be here for New Year’s.”

“Is Gran well, then?” Sarah asked.


“No,” he said. “She passed on early this morning.”

“But she was in my dream,” Sarah said.


Jacob listened as she told about the laughter, the soaring over the water, the feeling that Gran was there, with her, though she couldn’t see her.

“She said she would always be,” said Sarah, “but I don’t know what. Why would I dream of her, Great Uncle Jacob? And what will she always be?”

He sat quietly for a good few moments.

“It happens, sometimes,” he said at last, “that when someone passes, their spirit pays a visit to all those they love the best. Your grandmother loved you dearly, Sarah, and I have a feeling that what she will always be will be beside you, with you. She will always be.”


Sarah wondered if that meant that she was not really gone. If she closed her eyes, she could feel her grandmother’s hand in hers. When she opened her eyes, she heard Gran’s voice.

“Gran loves Christmas,” Sarah said.


She wasn’t sure how to feel. Mostly, she felt that this was a different day, a special day, somehow. It had a texture to it, like someone held a blanket over the sun, and all the busy noise of life quieted down somehow.


After she washed the dishes, she heard tiny mewing. Two kittens crawled out from behind the pile of pillows on the floor.


“Look, Jacob!” she said. “It’s kittens! Where’d they come from?”

“Those are Pippa’s kittens,” Jacob said. “Walley’s the father.”

“Were they just born?”

“No,” he said. “They were born before you came.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” She thought it would have been more fun to play with kittens all those days leading up to Christmas.

“Twasn’t my secret to tell!” he replied. “It’s up to the mama cat to decide when she will share her babies with us.”

“Maybe that’s why Pippa was so grumpy with me!” Sarah said.

“Could be,” said Jacob. “A mama will do anything to protect her young.”

“But they’re old enough now, aren’t they, Pippa?” Sarah pet the panther on the head, and she didn’t even growl. She purred, and her ears stayed up, and her tail hardly twitched.


“They haven’t names yet,” said Jacob. “What would you like to call them?”

“Sweetie and Cubby,” said Sarah, “because they are sweet panther cubs!”


She followed Cubby into the parlor.

“Do you think I could have one, Uncle Jacob?” she asked. It was Christmas, after all, and she had just lost her Gran.


“The kittens belong here,” he said, “where they have a big conservatory to roam and lots of skylights to let in the sunshine.”

She grew very quiet.

“But I’ll tell you what,” he continued, “you choose one to belong to, and then every time you come to visit, we will all know that you are that cat’s girl.”


She chose Cubby. Cubby seemed to trust her already.

“I do have good news for you, though,” said Jacob. “Your mom says you can take Senator Jones with you.”

The senator howled when he heard his name.

“Hear that, Big Dog?” Sarah asked. “We belong to each other now!”


“Presents now, or presents later?” Jacob asked.

Later. The morning still had that hushed feeling to it, and Sarah didn’t think she would find excitement in unwrapping the shiny red paper. Maybe when night pressed against the windows, and the lights and candles shone, she would feel the joy Christmas usually brings.

“Let me give you this one, now,” said Jacob, handing her an unwrapped volume of Little Men.

While she read, he played carols, sometimes singing along in his gruff baritone.


It was a different kind of Christmas, without Mom and Gran, with so many cats and kittens and Senator Jones, with Great Uncle Jacob who talked to her as if she were capable of understanding everything and as if she didn’t have a timid heart that might break at the slightest sorrow.


She supposed that captains had to be strong, for out on the straight, sometimes the wind kicked up, and the frightened hearts jumped under deck. But captains steered onward, even when they were the only ones left, and the waves crashed over the bow.


Jacob made grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and he played more of that concert-style music while she ate.

“What’s that music called?” she shouted in to the parlor.

“Beethoven!” he shouted back.

It sounded like captain’s music, brave and bold and sometimes saucy and sometimes sorrowful and often stormy and then calm. It sounded like she felt in her heart right then, over-packed with everything: happiness, sleepiness, gratitude, even a creeping touch of excitement, sadness, homesickness, loneliness, and even joy.

How could so many feelings fit inside her heart?

She didn’t know–but the music knew, and it said to her that everything was all right, for this was life.


In the slanting rays of the late afternoon sun, Senator Jones raced the captain through the meadows behind the conservatory.

She ran after him, hearing again her grandmother’s laughter.

“I’m coming, Big Dog!” she shouted. “I’ll be with you always! I’ll always be!”

We all have one Christmas we always remember. For Sarah, this was it. Throughout her life, whether she sat near the tree, surrounded by her children, or her children’s children, or whether she sat alone with a cup of tea, she remembered this morning, her grandmother’s laughter, her great uncle’s piano, and the boundless friendship of a good dog. With this magic, even a little girl could be brave, and bravery like this can last us through life.


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