Category Archives: I Struggle to Define Myself

I am hopeless as a painter. I tried once, and got a laughable mess. I take photos, but those are more of what’s real I like to paint pictures of things that can be or should be but maybe not necessarily are. Poetry allows me to do that, to take words – my absolute favorite things (sorry kids and dog), and use them like an artist uses paint, spreading them on my canvas in ways that create an image mirroring what’s in my head. It may not be Van Gogh, and sometimes veer scarily close to Picasso (strange, not genius), but …

Shiba in the Sun

Written October 17, 2001, after losing our chow-sheltie mix Shiba, a part of the family for 14 years.


Ragged bundle of

orange fur

Frighteningly still and silent.



I check for breathing.

Peer over the heap, watch for rise and fall.

One eye opens.

Through the dull covering of

cataractic coat,

the bright brown gleams

and the small puppy winks.

Tail flops once.


“I’m okay. Thanks for asking.”



Stiffly stumbles down the stairs.

Standing hopefully, ears high,

under the table,

hoping for just one Cheerio.

Some sour milk.

Anything but kibbles and bits.


Sharp rebuke …

the ears go flat,

the head falls and eyes

plead silently.

She turns slowly



and flops down,

brown muzzle between

dainty orange paws

and waits.



Doorbell rings. I wait for

click of nails

on hard wood floor,

frantic pace as she

races to protect what’s hers.

Raging barks ¾



destined to inspire terror;

louder and more fierce

as she approaches the intruder,

nothing between

but the fragile wood

of a thick oak door.

I wait …

And hear a soft

fragile “Woof.”

And dim thump of the tail.

“Call me if you need me,”

she seems to say.

“But only if it’s a real



I remember a small fuzzball,

all orange fur and black tongue,

sharp nose the only gift

from a Sheltie mother.

Small when she sat in my hand.

Wild puppy days that lasted too many years.

“Will you ever calm down?”

we cried in despair.

Chewed shoes, shredded dolls,

leapt fences.

We wish for those wild puppy days again.


And yet,

some days,

when the sun shines high and warm,

the sky is blue and cloudless,

after a particularly vivid dream

that has her legs racing,

she jumps up.

Her ears are high, her black tongue ¾

fading and dull (like her eyes) ¾

drips excitement on the deck.

“Where’s the kitty?” I yell.

Her favorite game.

She looks here.     There.

“Where? Where?”

She pounces on the unsuspecting

puddle of black

that is our grumpy feline,

and gets scratched on the nose

for her trouble.

Shaking head,

wounded eyes.

It’s all too much.

She collapses,

and becomes, yet again,

a ragged bundle of orange fur,

frighteningly still and silent.

Scrambled Eggs

Mom, they’re staring at me. 


Muffled word as I stare blearily into the toaster mirror. Hard to believe anything can stare this early in the morning. Before the coffee percolates.

They’re staring at me. She huffs and puffs the words out.

Yawn. Who?

Them. She points down.

I look at her finger. I see only eggs on a goofy blue plate.

She insists on eating her meals from that plate.

All of them.

See? She puts her tiny hands on her non-existent hips and frowns. Pouts. Sighs deeply, aggrieved.

See what? I can’t see anything before the sun rises. Before the life-giving caffeine flows through my system. See what? 

See? They’re staring at me. Another huge sigh threatens to engulf her little 5-year-old body.

There’s nothing staring at you. I try to reason. After all, she’s a smart little thing. Always pointing life’s inconsistencies out to me.

Like her having to take a nap when I’m the one who’s tired.

Sugar cereal is bad for kids but not for moms.

Getting wet in the rain is bad but taking showers is healthy.

Right. Reason and 5-year-old. Not the best of friends.

Moooohhmm. I blink – did I miss something? She sounded like her 16-year-old sister just then.

Now she drops her head a bit, look at me out of her lashes, and gives me that familiar, “what can you do with old people?’ look.

They. Are. Staring. At. Me. With. Their. Big. Yellow. Eyes.

Finally. Clarity. The eggs are staring at her.


My eggs are … 

I heard you. 

How do you reason with that?

If you eat them, they won’t stare at you.

I can’t eat them while they’re staring at me.

Close your eyes while you eat them.


Not again. I look around – is that teenager here somewhere, using her little sister as a ventriloquist’s dummy?

A honk outside. Her ride is here.

Up she jumps, saved from the nasty yellow eyes.

But what about breakfast … my words trail off as she grabs a power bar from her sister’s bottom-drawer stash.

Bye, mommy. Love you.

Blowing kisses. Slamming door. My little girl is gone.

Coffee. I need coffee. I sit heavily on the chair. Another morning melee survived.

… … . .

Tomorrow, she gets scrambled eggs.

Violet Reaction

Purple boots. Purple coat. Purple nails.
“You’re not shy, are you, Mom?”
Purple sneakers. Purple shirt. Purple jeans.
“Mother, please don’t embarrass us at school. Okay?
Purple pen. Purple backpack. Purple sunglasses.
You know, purple is a royal color.
I struggle to define myself.
“Actually, Mom, purple is a PSYCHO color!”
Purple umbrella. Purple curtains. Purple couch.
When I am an old woman…
They chorus in shaky harmony.
I struggle to define myself.
I struggle to separate myself
from the mundane
numbing tasks I face each day.
Struggle to prevent the poems the words the energy the effervescence
from rising on the breeze and flitting away
to grace someone not as deserving
but more able to use them.
So I fight to keep from falling,
from going under.
Last time.
And purple reminds me I am special.
I am unique.
I will not go quietly.
One day, they will understand.
When they are older,
tied down by jobs,
And their laughter will trail off,
and maybe they will be proud of their
outstanding (as in STANDING OUT)