Me and Jesus

Listen, I know everyone’s having a crap year, but I am just killing it, writer-style.

In March, I wrote a little poem.  It was for a contest for Poesia, and you had to take a line from another poem and start your poem with that line.  The other poem was Sophie Robinson’s “Art in America.”  I chose the line “Honestly, I am sick of helping Jesus count the days…”

I won the contest.

Afterwards, I was surfing though Pinterest one day looking for pins for my development board for my next project, when I saw an old quote I have always loved.  “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”   This is how I felt about my little Jesus poem.  So, I went back.  I deleted the first line so as not to be a plagiarizer, and then started writing.  And I did not stop, for 12 pages.

But what to do with something too short to be a book and too long to be a regular submission?  Ask Twitter, of course.  Mention that you have just finished a long poem about smoking a joint with Jesus, and see who bites.  And when they do, and they did, send them the poem and wait.

Then, one day, the email.  I have an uncanny ability to know when I’m getting an acceptance.  I can tell before I even open it.  I’m a little bit psychic, which makes it very difficult to surprise me.  I will admit I knew it was an acceptance before I clicked it open, I just didn’t know for what.

Me and Jesus on a Tuesday Afternoon.

That is the title of my poem, which Pen and Anvil Press will soon be offering in their chapbook catalogue.  “Delightful” and “poignant,” she called it.  I would use those words as well.

I rarely love something I write, but I loved this guy.  I wrote it for my aunt Ka, who passed away several years ago, and I hope that if she is in her heaven, she can read it and understand me as the person I am now.  I wrote it because I am a lapsed Catholic, but Jesus is still my homeboy. 

Anyhoo, I have been added to the P&A queue and am awaiting further details.  I have no other information at the moment, just the knowledge that my not-so-little poem is going somewhere special. And plenty of joy over the fact that I LIKE what I wrote.  Genuinely 100% like it. 

So rare, I tell you.


Waiting on Opportunity

Oh anxiety, my old foe.

Today I am thinking about my friend Sahar’s husband, Rob.  For the new reader, they live in Kentucky currently, which I abhor.  They are simply too far away from me and that is unacceptable.  So last year when Sahar told me that Rob had a chance of a new job in Cleveland, I was almost as excited as they were.  That’s an easy weekend trip.  I had my fingers crossed, hoping they would hear something soon.

Again, this was last year.

This summer, he finally got the job.  Sahar is busy scouting out houses in Ohio.  They are very excited.  I am very excited.

Yet, right now all I can think of is how Rob waited A YEAR for this opportunity.

I have two things I’m waiting for right now, and if I had to wait a year, I honestly don’t know if I’d even bother.  I’m not that patient-it’s one of my faults.  I have enough anxiety waiting a couple of weeks.  I can’t imagine an entire year of that.

I’m going to go ahead and risk jinxing myself and tell you about these opportunities that I am waiting on pins and needles about.  First, the nearest opportunity…I entered a poetry contest.  I used to attend a group called Fourth Friday at my local bookstore…usually it was a featured reader followed by some open mics.  It took a lot, I mean A LOT of courage for me to go in the first place, then to keep going, then to read my work there.  Sadly, due to Covid, this is no more.  However, the groups organizer, Rachel, moved it online.  Now it has morphed into her own Facebook live poetry broadcast-a featured reader gets interviewed, they discuss current topics, and the reader shares their work.  The contest remains, judged by the feature, and she usually wraps up by sharing the winner. 

So, I wrote a little something the other day and sent it off on a whim.  As usual, I think it’s crap, but I thought the one I sent in March was crap too…but I won, and I ended up turning it into a micro-chap.  So who knows.  Anyway, this month, the winner will be given a seven-minute slot on her show to share their poem.  Since I am currently trying to hype my poetry book, this would be a truly perfect opportunity for me.  But the anxiety…half “I don’t know if I want all those people to see me” and half “everything I write is crap.”

The second thing that is weighing on me is that I recently sent some poems to the Buffalo News.  I grew up reading the poetry page, and always dreamt of being on it.  For some reason, though, it seemed a far-off hope.  Until the other day when I mustered the courage to send some pieces to the poetry editor.  I emailed him first with a couple questions and he was kind enough to respond, and then I sent off the poems.  Now, I have no idea how long his deliberation process takes, or how lucky I will be to be included, though he does favor folks from the Western New York area.  I also mentioned that I have a book out.  It is my hope that he publishes something, and I get a little local press.

Which is kind of the same thing with Rachel’s show.  I have some people giving me great feedback on my book who are Twitter followers, but it’s not really out there in my community.  It’s harder to market locally due to Covid right now, so anything that can help would be great.

Alas, anxiety.  Mostly, the anxiety of the wait.

I am no longer nervous to share my work like I was back in October when I went to my first Fourth Friday.  These days, I will scream it from the rooftop, if you’re willing to listen.  However, I hate the waiting, and the uncertainty that comes with that.  Usually I log my submissions and forget about them until I hear back, but I am obsessively checking my email for any word from the News.  Not to mention anxiously awaiting 830pm Saturday night when Rachel’s show airs.  (BTW-if you would like to check it out, it can be found on Facebook HERE.  This month’s featured is poet Oli Wiggins.)

So here I am, thinking of Rob, and wondering how he didn’t just lose his damn mind waiting.  I mean, I can barely stand a couple of weeks…a WHOLE YEAR?  Unacceptable.

The only way I can combat it right now is to just try to keep my mind busy.  When it wanders, it wonders.  Can’t have that at the moment.

Anyhoo…wish me luck.  Both opportunities would be huge for me in regards to marketing to my local community.  And I’ll tell you what, that is HARD.  I’m sure there’s a future blog post about it somewhere in my brain, but for now, I will just wait.

National Poetry Month

Getting real sick of every topic I come up with to write about being Coronavirus related, so here’s one that has nothing to do with that whatsoever.

It is National Poetry Month!

Poetry is my first love, writing-wise.  I wrote a poem in 9th grade, found I had a knack for it, and never stopped.  I had my first poem accepted for publication shortly before graduating high school.  But, circumstances being what they were with my serotonin levels, I dropped off writing altogether for a bit and what I did write I didn’t dare show to anyone. Then something happened when I hit 35.  I was sick of keeping all my work to myself, so I sent off a poem on a whim and it got picked up by a journal I enjoy.  That was just the confidence boost I needed to hit the ground running.  You can check out Potatoes for that little guy and everything I have had published since.

Now, I would like to share a couple of poems with you, in honor of Poetry Month. I usually do not do this for a singular reason: a mag will not publish your work if it’s on your blog.  However, I don’t really intend to find homes for these stragglers, and if I do I will just take the photo down.  Why photos, you ask?  Because the formatting on my blog is flippin’ weird and it just doesn’t look right.

Anyway, have some poems.

SIDENOTE:  It is also Autism Awareness month.  The monthly poetry reading I attend has gone virtual, and is taking place via Facebook Live.  This month’s reader is poet and artist, Kristin Maggio-who also happens to be a 13-year-old with autism who was non-verbal until she learned to communicate through her art.  Which I think is pretty amazing.  So, if you’re quarantined and bored on Friday night at 7pm EST, you should check it out: click here!

A Year in Writing

Usually, I’m not big on hyping my accomplishments.  My mother wants me to post every single thing I write to Facebook.  I don’t.  I use Twitter for this.  On Facebook, there’s 400 people who know me personally.  On Twitter, there’s nearly 4k who don’t know me from a doorknob.  I am far more comfortable sharing my stuff with strangers. 

Now, should my real-life people happen upon my works, or should I be proud enough of something to share it to FB, that’s great.  I always receive positive feedback from them, so that’s very appreciated.  I just don’t feel comfortable selling myself to my friends and family, and that’s what it feels like I would be doing if I posted all my blogs and poems and everything on FB.  I never felt comfortable selling myself.  I remember back when I made a profile on some dating website, and found that bragging about myself was not one of my strong qualities.  It took three people and two hours to make a decent-sounding dating profile. 

I just don’t like selling myself.  But I need to learn how, and to break through that fear, if I ever want to consider making it in the writing industry. 

So, here’s me hyping myself.  This year, I have accomplished some serious work in my writing life.  First of all, I composed my chapbook of poetry about mental and chronic illness.  This took a lot of time and introspective thought, and I am proud of the result…though I must admit, I have considered turning it into a full length, too.  Time will tell.

Also in 2019, I had four poems published.  I wrote a children’s book about a teddy bear called Super Joe, and even found someone to illustrate it for me.  And of course, I did NaNoWriMo, which gave me a little novel about a girl who wakes up in a depopulated world and must go on a quest to find people.  Then came December and the gift of FIVE poems being published this month.  The first three come out at Queen Mob’s Tea House today.

I’d like to write about them, as I rarely share about my poems themselves.  Let’s start with…

4th of July.  Probably the one with the most “story,” it tells the tale of me and my brother-from-another-mother, Kevin.  For me, the 4th of July was always “our” holiday, and it is a retrospective look at our lives.  Read if you like tales about friendship.

Inbetween.  This is what I like to call a “filler” poem.  It’s one that I wasn’t particularly thrilled with but someone else read and liked, and I added to the file because why not?  This bad boy is about depression and it’s grasp on people who have it.   A lot of my poems are about that, but I like how this one starts: “I tried to clean my office, but it’s as messy as my head.”  Read if you enjoy reading about serotonin imbalances.

Finally, Broken Watches.  This one is pretty old, actually, but I have always liked it.  It’s about a broken heart, more or less, and the pain of loving someone when you know it won’t work out.  It also features some of my views on the church.  Read if you are a lapsed Catholic with relationship problems.

The other two coming out this month are Dead Nerves and Unfathomable.  Dead Nerves is about neuropathy and ageing.  Unfathomable is about reproductive rights.  That one should be fun to share.  I’m sure it will summon forth at least one old white man with an opinion on my uterus whom I will have to promptly shut down. 

So, in closing, my year in writing has been pretty darn good, in my opinion.  And it’s looking like next year might be good as well, now that I have three projects I am working on that could provide dividends in the future.  We shall see what it brings.  I hope all my writing buddies are having a productive year as well, and good luck to you in the next.

Fancy Doctors

I just discovered that if I have work on a WordPress site, I can reblog it to my site.
I probably should have figured this out earlier.
That said, enjoy some poetry on how mental illness sucks.

Madwomen in the Attic

Fancy Doctor

I’m spiraling and my mother made me

See a strange woman with a spiteful stare

And I used big words like

Trick-o-till-o-mania and she laughs…

She thinks I make things up.

I think she isn’t worth the frame holding the degree on her wall.

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Poetry Month!

It’s National Poetry Month, and as such I wanted to write about poetry.  More specifically, I wanted to write poetry.  There are a couple problems doing that on your blog, however.  For one, if it’s a piece you may want to send out some day, you shouldn’t post it elsewhere.  The second part of the problem is that you never really know when you’re going to want to polish something up and post it.  Also, my current crap WordPress theme does not allow for my poetry to appear as I would like.  So, what I’ve done here is chosen a few poems that were recently penned by me and have some sort of relation to the past week or so of my life.  If I make the decision to rework them, I will remove them, and I formatted them as best as I could given my narrow theme selections.  (Ps, all of the formatting on WordPress has changed, and I don’t like it.)

So, here’s three poems.  Enjoy, and Happy Poetry Month.

Cross Fade

In tight on a point of light/ somewhere in the darkness we create/ with black drapes and paint spills.  Ghost light center stage/ a reminder or warning/ depending on your point of view/ depending on how long you’ve been/ scraping tar and feathers off the floor. Some people have disposable souls/ kept in their pockets like tissues for windy days. Others have masks they discard as the music moves them/ twirling to the edges of my perception. Quiet and watchful as always I/ notice these exceptions/ these disregards/ this lack of loyalty. The slap in my face was deserved; I know how much you took. My silent observations belie my hand/ and this heart disconnects from its fingers/ pouring blood where they used to be paint. I watch you sink, and frown.  What a waste.


Unbreakable, my skin/ tough like Teflon but soft/ in places where light shines through/ I feel tissue-paper-thin as/ I bend in the wind. My arms like lead and my/ head on fire I remember when/ my skin gave way to/ prickles of blood on white and/ I felt my senses swirl away from me/ reaching for a steady hand/ when all that catches me / is air.


I want to write madly/ fingers flying over a keyboard as I / feel my senses bleed onto word documents but this darkness paralyzes me/ leaving me broken and bruised again.  I lick my wounds and stare/ at my black behemoth of a computer that/ sits in judgement over / my lack of output.  She shakes her head/ this ghost in the machine/ and scolds me for giving up, for taking time…I cringe.  My heart is beating but my pulse/ is weak and I feel / lost somehow in the tangle of wires/ that connects me to the world outside.  I want to sit on my throne and/ pen my words with the rapid fire click-clack of keys/ or the scratching and scrawling of pen on paper/ but I can’t raise my head toward the light.  I can’t grip the pencil between my tired fingers.  Instead I sit in shame while she judges me again/ laughing at my weakness like so many schoolchildren/ and I am left wanting once again.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Kill Your Darlings

Once upon a time, I wrote most of a book.  I was fueled by the outrage I felt towards my government’s behavior in the early 2000’s.  I had just come of voting age, 7 months too late to vote for Al Gore and furious that we had a chimpanzee in the White House.  I was naïve and yet to be jaded by the country I had been taught to adore.  I focused my frustrations into a pre-apocalyptic tale of friendship and justice that I never titled but always referred to as The Ten.  It was about a group of freedom fighters running a grassroots organization built to topple a dictatorship.  When Obama was elected in ’08, I fell off writing it, as my frustrations dissipated for a time.  I considered picking it back up when “this fuckin’ guy” was elected,  but it seemed practically prophetic at that point.  I knew what I had to do.  I had to kill it.

It’s ironic that the first time I ever killed a character, I did it in The Ten.  His name was Matthew, christened after a childhood friend that I have long since lost, and I loved him.  He was an army vet who had fled and went into hiding after being ordered to kill innocents in cold blood.  He fell in love with a girl named Juliet, who also dies, but Matthew’s death takes place in the first chapter.  He dies in a field in his best friend Jordan’s arms, risking life and limb to cross the NY-Canada border to bring her blueprints for the fall of the enemy.  He is shot at the border, but limps and drags himself to her camp, to save them all.

I didn’t know I would kill Matthew at first.  I wrote the first chapter long after most of the book, when I realized that starting it with a mysterious bleeding man was better than just “Once upon a time…”  I actually mourned Matthew, as I described the other characters reactions to his passing.

Now, I mourn not only Matthew, but the whole book.  It’s never going to work, and I know that.   I’m ok with that.  I moved onto another book, one that is timeless, and thus can never be ruined by the progress of politics.  Still, I think of that as the first truly substantial thing I worked on.  I write poetry all the time, and I have completed a few plays, but I put more hours in on The Ten than anything else (save maybe my current project, should I finish it.)  I loved The Ten.  I wish I could finish it.  I would love to see how these characters that I crafted so particularly brave a new world.  But I guess I’ll never quite know.

I’m not great at killing my work, but I’ve gotten better over the years.  Recently I was compiling old poems and reworking the ones that didn’t suck, and trust me when I tell you it was a low number.  From the hundreds and hundreds of poems on my hard drive, I like roughly ten of them, and that leads me to do a lot of poetic slaughter.

A month or two ago, I deleted my LiveJournal.  I started writing it in 2001, and kept writing in it until 2014.  It was my first blog.  It was my first foray into the internet, really.  I loved it.  I wrote religiously about my life in it.  I painstakingly copied each entry into a word document, and then I deleted it.

Yes, it’s saved for me and only me, and I have been working my way through it trying to see if there is anything salvageable.   So far I’ve picked out a few rants that are useful for my current project, but that’s about it.  Mostly it’s quotes and quizzes and tales about my adventures with my friends.  It is, however, a snapshot of my 20’s, and for that I am pleased I preserved it.  But it couldn’t live forever.

Like Matthew couldn’t live forever, or his lover Juliet, or a million other characters that will eventually die because we all do.  The beauty is that if you don’t kill them off yourself, they can live forever in someone’s mind.  However, sometimes, you have to say goodbye to something.  You have to end something to start something new.  Matthew died to save his friends.  My LiveJournal died to feed my manuscript.  My poems become mulch to create new ones.  Life goes on, even when you’re destroying everything.

grayscale photo of explosion on the beach
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Poetic Justice

In the past few months I have been submitting a lot of my poems to various small presses and the like, hoping to find homes for them.  I have had some successes (see Potatoes) as well as a steady stream of rejections.  I have also been working on developing a small book of poetry.  Poetry is my first true love when if comes to writing, as I love the way you can express something in this form.

This past week the Pushcart nominations came out, which is a prize for poets featured in small presses.  A few writers I follow on Twitter were nominated, and I am thrilled for them.  I always thought when I was younger that poetry was dying, but I see a resurgence now that I am trying to publish that bolsters me and shows me how wrong I had been.  To be nominated for a Pushcart would be an honor that I hope one day to achieve and the poets that are up for it deserve it.  Except one.

Of course, she’s not nominated anymore.

Shortly after people shared their joy at being nominated, Twitter turned sour when poet Rachel McKibben’s tweeted that stanzas of a poem she had written were lifted by another poet, and that poem was nominated for a Pushcart prize.  The poet (who I will not name because she doesn’t deserve it) even had her reimagination of McKibben’s words tattooed on her arm.  The poet wrote to McKibben to tell her of the infringement, using words like “lift” and “paraphrase” as though they don’t also mean “steal.”  It then came out that McKibben is not the only poet she has lifted from; there are at least two others.  Since this news broke, the poet in question has been dropped by every press she was associated with.

When I was younger, I had a poetry community on Blurty, an old blogging platform.  There were a good number of people in the community, and we posted our poetry for sharing and workshopping.  One day a poet contacted me and said my poem was on another blog with another name.  I immediately contacted the person, threatened legal action (though I’m sure I had no recourse) and they took it down, but never wrote back to me.  I wondered then how many people they had stolen from.  I’m flattered, really, but I also want to fight you.

I had a friend once who liked poetry and always wanted to read mine.  Then one day I asked if I could read some of hers.  She had hand-copied at least two poems into her notebook and signed her name on them that I had read in Teen magazine when they had a poetry page.  One I even had cut out of the magazine and put in a scrapbook, so I was able to verify that she had in fact copied it, word for word.  I never lent her my book again after that.

Plagiarism is not a joke.  You don’t get to take something just because you like it, or because it resonates with you.  Changing it a little is not making it your own.  Writers have a job to do and when you steal our words, you steal our purpose.  If you can’t write your own material, you’re not a writer, you’re an impostor, and there is no room for that in what we do.

I don’t know what possessed this poet to do what she did.  I don’t know why someone stole my poem, or why my friend thought copying others work made it her own.  I don’t understand this because I was born a writer, I’m not someone who wants to be one.  I have no choice.  It’s in my blood, just like theater (which has been nipping at my heels lately, but that’s a whole other blog post) and gardening and loving my family.  I can choose whether or not I write but if I don’t, it gnaws at me like the need for a cigarette, gripping me until I give in.  I am constantly terrified of plagiarism.  Hell, I’m even afraid I’ll write something original that is too close to someone else’s originality.  I never want my words stolen; every writer deserves the credit for what they pen.  It is unfortunate that there are people out there that don’t understand that.  Create your own art; don’t steal from someone else.