On Breasts and Babies

Today, walking down the hall at the Kennestone Women's Center, on my way to get my mammogram, I was afraid. I was afraid because it has been two years since my last one, and I'm supposed to get two a year. So I was scared because this is another way I fail my children. I fail them by not taking care of myself, by testing fate, by setting them up for loss. I was scared and walking down the hall and feeling like a terrible mother, and I passed the Lactation Center, where, through a window, I could see a nurse bent over an infant, weighing and measuring. There was an infant, and I, still bleeding, and feeling a little hormonal and weepy, started crying. I cried for the few periods I have left, for the fewer and farther between, for all the babies I could have had to then fail by not taking better care. I cried out of fear and loss and love. I cried for my breasts and all the hard work they did. I cried for that baby and for the baby's mom, dragging into the Lactation Center, trying to do that unnaturally difficult natural thing. I cried for her failure or her triumph. I cried for my girls and the babies they will one day have and for their breasts, and because their mother is such a failure. I cried for their unborn brothers and sisters, the ones it is almost too late to have. I cried because I was afraid.

And then I went in and got the damned mammogram.


Favorite Outtake

I decided to put an author photo on the back of this next book, since I caught grief about not having one before. This is from the shoot. Photographer: Dongsoo Choi



Rachel at work has been sending me pics of her friend's baby, a French Bulldog, since the puppy was just a few weeks old. All I do is covet, and concoct elaborate schemes to kidnap her. I deserve her. I should have her.


Friday Nostalgia

So it was only 8 years ago; sue me.


Now Available From Snake Nation Press

Sample Poem:


I’d like to tell you it’s because
I sense the priest is a pedophile,
or know the pianist beats
his wife because she stutters.
I want to say the church is too hot,
that the depiction of an angel
holding John the Baptist’s head
like she’s about to drop-kick it
scares me; that I’m woozy
from the god-awful heat
and the blood oozing from the lamb
in stained glass. I’d mention
bad dresses snatched from the backs
of closets, safe mauves, and pantyhose.
I could claim memories
of my own failed marriage, like tiny
glass shards in my fingertips, still hurt
when I press down, though I only
glimpse them in a certain light;
claim I’ve forgotten what it was like
to look at him the way
this bride is looking at this groom,
the way her father looks at her
mother, swept into the vortex
that is past and future all at once,
a shuffle of snapshots--first grade,
the goofy kid at the birthday party,
prom. But it’s because her gown
says This is the ball,
and midnight is a long way off



Doggie Revenge

Today, because I was expecting the windshield repair guys, the cable guy, and prospective renters for our basement apartment, I locked the dogs up in the spare room. With my carpet steam-cleaner.



Oh the Places You Will Go!

...when you Google.

This morning, after Lo got off to the bus stop and I started uploading the pictures, I was considering how much hair we have as a family. I mean, so MUCH hair--between me and Lola and Sadie and Georgia, not to mention the two guys, who have hair to spare. I was thinking about how they could carpet the Taj Mahal with all the hair in this bunch, but I didn't much like that metaphor, so I started searching around to see what kinds of odd things people might do with hair, and I found there's lots: There's embroidery, and jewelry, and dresses, and the list goes on and on. But somehow, hair led to other things, and I wound up finding this, not being hair but heads and such.

The Third by Mary Karr

I didn't forget. I could only find half of this yesterday. So an extra day to celebrate five years. One of my all-time favorite poems:

Viper Rum
--by Mary Karr

All day we had run-ins with jungle snakes.
Above my canoe, a tiny vine serpent
like a single strand of luminous green linguini

moved in a quick, muscular S from black orchid
to unripe mango to strangler fig.
Back at the lodge, a coral snake on the stucco floor

sent an old Girl Scout rhyme slantwise through my head:
“Red by yellow, kill a fellow.
Red by black, friend of Jack.”

The waiter caught it in a Hellman’s mustard jar
and we all stood around the bar
while it swayed hesitant behind the glass.

Once it curled back in on itself
the small knot of fear in my chest unloosed.
Over stew, the archaeologist

told how his friend surprised
in a ceremonial Mayan pot
the fer de lance or Tommygoff,

which never doesn’t bit. “She made
a double tourniquet right off
and only lost the limb,” he said.

Far off, a howler monkey pack started
the whiskey-throated roars
that maybe kept a jaguar back.

That’s when the proprietress brought out the viper rum,
a gallon jug wide-mouthed enough
to fit inside the wrist-thick python

that circled there, flat-faced.
Shot glasses went round. The lid unscrewed
let out some whiff of Caribbean herb

that promised untold mystery unfolding in your head.
The python’s lidless eyes were white, mouth
O-shaped, perfect for a cocktail straw, I thought.

Then naturally, I cast back to those years
I drank, alone nights at the kitchen sink,
bathrobed, my head hatching snakes,

while my baby slept in his upstairs cage
and my marriage choked to death.
I should have wound up in a fetal coil

eyes scalded of sight, staring out
at the warped and vacant world.
What plucked me from that fate

can’t yet be named, but I do reverence to it
every day. So my untouched shot glass still
flipped upside down, I said goodnight. Outside,

the moon was a smoky disk, the path to my hut
loaded with white magnolia petals,
so every step sent out a fragrant mist

that wound up filling my circular
thatched hut—the flowers’ flesh
got mashed in my boot soles.

My hammock cradled me in its knotted web.
All around a thousand radiant wings
Were shimmering. The jungle hummed.

First Day, Fourth Grade

Sadie Blue came in yesterday to go to Six Flags with Biggy, Lola, and Jack, and to see Lo off to school this morning. This was the fastest summer ever.


Another from Mary Karr

All This and More


The Devil’s tour of hell did not include
a factory line where molten lead
spilled into mouths held wide,

no electric drill spiraling screws
into hands and feet, nor giant pliers
to lower you into simmering vats.

Instead, a circle of light
opened on your stuffed armchair,
whose chintz orchids did not boil and change,

and the Devil adjusted
your new spiked antennae
almost delicately, with claws curled

and lacquered black, before he spread
his leather wings to leap
into the acid-green sky.

So your head became a tv hull,
a gargoyle mirror. Your doppelganger
sloppy at the mouth

and swollen at the joints
enacted your days in sinuous
slow motion, your lines delivered

with a mocking sneer. Sometimes
the frame froze, reversed, began
again: the red eyes of a friend

you cursed, your girl child cowered
behind the drapes, parents alive again
and puzzled by this new form. That’s why

you clawed your way back to this life.


This Weekend, I'm Five Years Sober

From now through Sunday, I'm going to post a Mary Karr poem a day. In celebration.

Limbo: Altered States


No sooner does the plane angle up
than I cork off to dream a bomb blast:
A fireball roiling through the cabin in slo-mo,
seat blown loose from its bolts,
I hang weightless a nanosecond
in blue space

then jerk awake to ordered rows.
And there’s the silver liquor cart jangling
its thousand bells, the perfect doses
of juniper gin and oak-flavored scotch
held by a rose-nailed hand.

I don’t miss drinking, don’t miss
driving into shit with more molecular density
than myself, nor the Mission Impossible
reruns I sat before, nor the dead
space inside only alcohol could fill and then
not even. But I miss

the aftermath, the pure simplicity:
mouth parched, head hissing static.
How little I asked of myself then—to suck
the next breath, suffer the next heave, live
till cocktail hour when I could mix
the next sickness.

I locked the bathroom door, sat
on the closed commode, shirtless,
in filmy underpants telling myself that death
could fit my grasp and be staved off
while in the smeary shaving glass,
I practiced the stillness of a soul
awaiting birth.

For the real that swarmed beyond the door
I was pure scorn, dead center of my stone and starless
universe, orbited by no one. Novitiate obliterate, Saint
Absence, Duchess of Naught . . .
A stinging ether folded me in mist.

Sometimes landing the head's pressure’s enormous.
When my plane tilts down, houses grow large, streets
lose their clear geometry. The leafy earth soon fills my portal,
and in the gray graveyard of cars, a stick figure
becomes my son in royal blue cap flapping his arms
as if to rise. Thank god for our place
in this forest of forms, for the gravitas
that draws me back to him, and for how lightly
lightly I touch down.

Friday Nostalgia

Who needs Snakes on a Plane? 1978


Waxing Nostalgic

Biggy's employer is making him take a CAD class, which is seriously cutting into his Gawker reading time, but it's at a school close to the house, so he's been coming home at noon every day this week to wake Jack up and eat lunch with Lola. Today, he called, super excited, to tell me (he meant to tell me yesterday!) that Lo LOVES The Price is Right--the SAME show he used to watch when he was a kid at home in the summer!!


She's Back

Tonight at Publix. Variation on a theme.

About Me

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Writer, teacher, student, mom.

Fresh Flowers Delivered