Tag Archives: #fail


Autumn In The Garden Of The Winter Of Our Discontent

It’s December. October was really the time to put my summer vegetable garden to bed, really. To pull out the dying tomato vines, the bitter overgrown lettuce plants, the fall peas I planted that didn’t really grow in time to produce any peas. But, that didn’t happen. Who can even remember why?

So for the past week I was checking the forecast, hoping for a mild enough, dry December day where I could get to my plot and at the very least plant the bulbs I went on a shopping spree buying. Thursday it was! Low forties, no rain on the forecast, and I was going to steal a chunk of my freelancer’s lunch hour to get in, drop some bulbs, and get out.

Of course, the ground was cold and wet from all the earlier rain, and it soaked right through my gloves, and my jacket kept dragging in the dirt, and gross half-rotted fallen tomatoes were scattered around like tiny boobytraps. But, I persevered!

I just hope I did it right. Five inches down? Three? Oh who can remember! Here’s a photo of my Gypsy Princess hyacinth, Mount Hood daffodil, and Angelique, Sun Parrot, Black Parrot, and Lilac Perfection tulip bulbs all nestled in nice and cozy. (So I can refer back to this later and see where the heck I put them and if they all grew!)

That took long enough that I didn’t really have time to deal with all the dead or going-to-freeze-and-die-soon plants still in the ground, so … I just left them. But I still seemed to have un-picked carrots with healthy green leaves coming out of the soil, so I pulled them all up at once for my final harvest of the season. Pretty great because one of these is actually the biggest carrot I grew all year (maybe it needed five months to fully develop? What the heck variety did I plant?). And just one weird carrot grew a crazy beard of roots. So, that’s cool.


But back indoors, cozy and warm, are these amaryllis bulbs. They’ve been in my apartment, un-potted, for so long that they’ve started to sprout shoots anyway, even with no soil or water. Damn! That must be a good sign, right?



What I Wish I’d Said To The Man Who Offered Me A Prayer

Would you like a prayer for anything today, ma’am? 

No thank you, I said. We wished each other a good day with a smile apiece and I dashed down into the subway station. I believe in saying no to everyone (except those people collecting signatures to get a candidate on a ballot). But, having worked these grueling street gigs before, I never ignore the person or withhold a smile.

On this morning, though, I was almost-late for a client meeting. When I flicked my eyes at the red fabric banners held up between what looked like white PVC pipes, I saw ‘Prayer Station’ in large white letters. Oh boy, I thought to myself, the evangelists are here! If I’d had extra time I would’ve walked to a different subway entrance.

As I caught my breath on the platform, waiting for my train, I wondered whose format was he using: Which church bought the red apron he wore, printed the flyers in his pockets? I smiled imagining the conversation I might have instigated. I’m pretty sure those weren’t going to be neutral, platform-agnostic, open-source-type prayers.

I sat down on the scratched-up wooden station bench, and a lump formed in my throat. It was a lovely thought, the prayer offering. A free magic service. How wonderful and beautiful and healing it could be to offer poems to subway riders. I pictured myself on that hot street corner, poems in hand. Pen ready for service. It’d be no different. A fragment of belief, a flash of communion with the deeper and higher and interconnected world.

And it hit me: A prayer for peace! I would desperately like to suggest he pray for peace in the Middle East. But I missed my chance. Now I felt regretful—was that crazy?

Who knows what these prayers do—they certainly haven’t ended the violence yet—but in a world so raw and rough, can prayers or poems really be superfluous? As a poet, I believe I’m obligated to believe in their magic and necessity. (Or at least in their possibility—even nuns and rabbis wrestle with belief.) So in his way, that young man got me to make my prayer, my wish. And I hope in this moment the feeling of a poem or a prayer grasps you, and you allow it to stay for a moment.

We are human beings, inventors of new forms of beauty and wonder. We conjured the sonnet and the prayer from nothing. That in itself seems worthy of a moment of thanks.

A note: This morning run-in happened in July, when every morning had new and horrible headlines about Israel and the Palestinians. It was a summer of terrible news and feelings of helplessness, and unfortunately, the need for words and deeds is no less urgent this fall. 

Bonus: If you feel hungry for some feelings and don’t see them anywhere inside yourself, let me invite you to check out Poetry’s app, a beautiful little gem to keep in your pocket. When you open it, you hit the Spin button and two wheels spin past each other, matching moods and subjects and generating a list of poems to explore.

Compost is gross. And beautiful.

I wake up on a hot summer morning and emerge from my bedroom. A sickly sweet smell greets me. Ah yes, it’s my food scraps again. They’ve been liquefying slowly, almost imperceptibly, for days, daring me to keep adding watery fruit bits or slimy flower stems to the festering science experiment I keep in a plastic grocery bag dangling on the outside of the cabinet door below my kitchen sink.

I notice some drips on the little floor mat beneath it, and scrounge up another plastic bag for reinforcement. I’ll have to take care of this pronto, but the first step is to get this out of here immediately, so I drop it outside my apartment door and light some incense to mask the stench. I make myself tea and fruit for breakfast.

One of my beautiful garden tomatoes turns out to be in worse shape than I thought, so I have to leave most of it sitting in sad pieces on the counter. I’ve learned to eat around the going-bad part, or the mess the bugs made, but I’ve also learned the hard way not to push my luck. It helps that I now know what I can compost. I grab my bag of rot from outside the door and add the tomato. Okay, I also throw in the half-dozen used teabags I’ve been stockpiling on the counter. (My roommate loves this.) Today must be a productive one, so I pack up my computer and head out, trying not to let the swinging the compost-bound bag at my side touch me.

The garden’s just down the street, but it’s hot, muggy, and mosquito-infested right now, so I skip weighing in the load I’m contributing to the compost bins. (We’re trying to track how much the garden composts.) I head straight for the bins and invert the bags. Something disgusting-looking always gets caught on the bag handles and won’t seem to let go, so there’s a good deal of shaking and weird arm gestures involved. Taking the cleaner outer bag as a kind of glove, I grab handfuls of “greens” and “browns” (fresh or dried out weeds and leaves, usually) from the other bins and cover the truly putrid deposit of moldy avocados, rotten tomatoes, egg shells, and hardened lemons I’ve left.

I enjoy a quick moment of pride and self-satisfaction, knowing I’ve pitched in for my garden community and diverted perfectly useful waste from a landfill. As I walk over to the garbage can to get these awful, empty wet plastic bags out of my life forever, some brownish liquid sneaks down my wrist.