Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tell Me Your Secret

Post anonymously and tell me something you wouldn't tell anyone else.

Poem for Poetry Thursday

The Secret

This is a metaphor--imagine
the quickening fury of a rainstorm
and you without an umbrella.
Think of the chaos it causes, scampering about
to lean the lawn chairs against the house.
The barbecue spoiled, the last gasp
of summer fun ruined.
It's the fear of the sun disappearing
into bureaucratic darkness.
You know the feeling: being in debt,
too much month at the end of the money.
This is the secret you carry,
kept alive by all that's unpopular in you,
rejecting wisdom, say,
your dad's voice in your head
telling you not to be "all dollars and no sense,"
that thank-god-it's-Friday-
what-do-I-do-in-between feeling.
It becomes what you protect the most
alongside the house with its collections of things
and those secret journal entries written in longhand,
in the tiniest type you can manage.
The feeling so palpable
you just want to break something,
turn the place upside down
and tell no one.
Fragile as a leaf,
your silence becomes a kind of truth.
When you speak to your lover,
your closest friend
you leave your impoverished heart
out of the conversation.

Happy Poetry Thursday!

I've wanted to write this poem for a while. Through reading posts by other bloggers on other sites, I wanted to write about money as a poem topic. We all have our own unique views of it, but a lot of us are mired in debt. We don't handle money well as a society. And I firmly believe that credit card companies have convinced us all not to use cash and pay exorbitant amounts of interest to buy stuff we don't need. It's hard to resist with advertisements that tell us "Life Takes Visa."


I understand what it means to be in debt, but I also know what it means to see a light at the end of the tunnel (and know it's not an oncoming train!). It's funny how most people would rather talk about their sex lives instead of how much they earn. Money is the last taboo.

So I think this poem qualifies as falling into the realm of the Poetry Thursday prompt. The phrase "too much month at the end of the money" is a saying used by financial expert Dave Ramsey. Also, I post a new poem weekly outside of my office door, usually from By having poetry in the office, I found out a coworkers reads Sharon Olds. Very cool!

Now, I'd also like to try an experiment. Since the poem I wrote is called "The Secret," I want to hear a secret from you. In a separate post, I want you to tell me a secret, but post anonymously. At some point, I'll post anonymously, too. By the end of the weekend, I'd like to have a running list of secrets that I'll post next week.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What’s the coolest site you visit daily?

Besides the usual suspects (and the ones in my “links” list), I thought I’d ask y’all to talk about the coolest blogs/Web sites worth seeing. They can be poetry related or not. Here are a few that I’ve recently discovered:

Poetry Foundation: Everything poetry, from Web journals to poetry news, updated daily.

David Byrne: Just when you thought you were smart, along comes a blog that makes you wish you were smarter.

Overheard in New York: Be careful. You never know who may be listening.

Post Secret: Got a secret? Do tell.

New York Hack: Beware of cabbies carrying cameras—payback’s a b*tch!

Archie McPhee: Looking for bacon strips bandages? Yeah, we’ve got that.

Bidding for Travel: Before you book travel on, stop here for the going rates on bids.

Golden Fiddle: Celeb gossip with a twist of lime.

Podsafe Music Network: If you are podcaster or a wannabe, or just like indie music, this is the spot for you.

And for us newbie bloggers, read 56 Ways to Get Traffic to Your Blog from Problogger's Seth Gordon. Though you’re probably not looking for ad revenue, Problogger is a great resource for technical stuff.

(I plan on trying #14 on some of you … so be afraid. Be very afraid.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

New Poem

What the House Might Say

The Hardwood Floor
My boards ache.
I’ve lost my luster.
I used to be inspired by
the small earth under me,
but you can walk over me
only so many times before
I turn my planks against you.

The Area Rug
Since I moved to the spare bedroom
I long for your stiff pine
against my back.
Your every flaw
creates memories
I hold deep within my fibers.
I miss protecting you.

The Stove
My eyes are crusty, always covered
with the butt of a pan. Once
I was the hot shot around here.
Now the microwave and I
share a difficult companionship.
No one fries anymore.
Why am I here?

The Microwave
Some days,
I’m just not fast enough.
10 seconds, 20 seconds, half-hour—
trying to beat my own best time.
Someone’s always watching me,
but I’m more than a flash in the pan.

Touch my buttons again and
I’ll break your fingers.

The Fan
Can you hear me?
I whisper your name back and forth
across a balmy room.
Dust me.
I need to be cleaned.
I shake my head in disapproval,
reveal my slow-turning

The Telephone
Stop calling me.

The Bathtub
When I feel empty,
I pretend I am a pool,
or an ocean
so vast there is no floor
and no end in sight.
When all else fails
I am the last resort,
the only place left to go.

The Crib
I hear everything:
soft sighs
tucked between
the folds of the sheets.
The mattress imprint
leaves the impression
of a life being lived.

Copyright 2006 January G. O'Neil

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Charlie's Angels

(Since I spent so much time writing yesterday's post, I'm exhausted, which is why this post is what it is today.)

Aaron Spelling died on Friday (R.I.P.). So while watching CNN retrospective clips, Charlie's Angels was part of the montage—my all-time favorite television show. Hearing the music, I was instantly brought back to my childhood running around the backyard, pretending to be "Kelly" (Jaclyn Smith). She was the "classy" one, and apparently the smart one with a successful TV afterlife and popular clothing line at Kmart. It was one of the few shows with independent women in lead roles. (I'm also thinking about "Independent Women" by Destiny's Child.) I guess the music makes me feel empowered.

The music in every scene was a variation on the main score. So when the Angels were in the office talking to Charlie and Bosley, it sounded inquisitive. When they investigated a scene, it sounded riskier. The chase scenes were full orchestra blasts. And the wrap-up scenes were peppy and humorous, usually because one of the cast members made a joke. I think most of the shows ended on an upbeat.

Besides the sexy clothes and formulaic scripts, the one thing I always laugh about is this, and you see this in lots of shows today: whenever an Angel needed something out of her purse, there was never anything in the bag besides the object needed for the scene. So if Farrah Fawcett needed her gun, which was like a hand cannon back then, she'd pull it out and that was it. If I even attempt to pull out my wallet, I have to dig through receipts, my iPod, my cell phone, etc—I’m an accident waiting to happen! But I digress …

Even though the show went downhill once Shelley Hack joined the cast (as if!), the music stayed the same. So thanks, Aaron. The Charlie's Angels' theme song will be my theme song today.

Check out more Sunday Scribblings.


(Thanks to Lynn at Sprigs for the idea.)

5:15 a.m.
Ella (a.k.a. the human alarm clock) wakes me up.

5:16 a.m.
I start breastfeeding.

5:21 a.m.
I switch sides, think about how glad I am that I don’t have to make the two-hour, roundtrip commute today. Mark Cox’s poem The Angelfish pops into my head.

The Angelfish

Every day at five, the beautiful angelfish stops
at this corner of the tank. He is patient
and knows the bartender will come
with his salt shaker of food.

Every so often he glances around to see
if a certain female angelfish has come in.

He thinks about how if I stare at a woman long enough,
she will either blush or not and I will either blush
or not. It strikes him that fish don’t have much weather
to talk about and he wonders if I know my mouth
is opening and closing all the time.

Does he love her? Does she prefer another angelfish
in another section of the huge tank? Will he ever
be happier than this? The bartender sees him now
and smiles and puts his big face up to the glass.

Something dry, the angelfish says, something very dry.

~Mark Cox, from Leaning House Poetry Volume One: A Compact Disc Anthology

5:30 a.m.
Ella’s not going back to sleep so we play in bed for a while. She likes to wiggle herself between us horizontally so her head is in Tim’s back and her feet are a little too close to my face. This wakes Tim up and I let her. Why should I have all the fun?

6:20 a.m.
Diaper check. Ella’s got a bad case of diaper rash. After a change, we go downstairs to the kitchen. Give Tim a few more minutes of rest.

6:55 a.m.
Alex, or as Tim refers to him—Sir Sleep A Lot—wakes up. Yells, “I wanna get out” from his crib.

6:57 a.m.
Ella grabs the spoon as I feed her. Today she’s having yogurt. I try to tell her yogurt is not a finger food but she doesn’t believe me. We move on to toast. Mommy has yogurt.

Meanwhile, Alex sits in bed with Tim while he reads Curious George, a classic that’s terribly dated. If you haven’t read the story in a while, let me refresh your memory. George is a monkey taken from his African home to live with a man in a big yellow hat. (Hmmmm.) Later, there are illustrations of George smoking a pipe, and one in which the beloved protagonist is thrown in jail. How do you explain jail to a two-year old? I told him jail is like Time Out.

7:09 a.m.
Realize mother-in-law is coming over to help watch the kids today. We begin desperate attempt to clean kitchen, living room, and bathroom. The rest, I can live with.

7:24 a.m.
Out of apple and orange juices, I make Kool Aid for the first time in 20 years. I think to myself, does this mean I’m a Kool Aid mom? Too much to deal with before morning tea. I give my happy child fruit punch.

7:44 a.m.
Tim comes out of the bedroom to ask about Nicole Kidman’s upcoming nuptials. Random, but I play along. Apparently Nicole’s getting married in a Catholic church. Apparently, she had her 9 ½-year marriage to Tom Cruise annulled. Apparently, the length of time in the marriage is not a hindrance to annulment. Well, maybe Tom and Nicole never consummated.

7:52 a.m.
Alex likes to fold clothes. To him, it’s not a chore. Personally, I hate folding clothes—the cotton makes my hands dry. But it’s been fun watching him. I explain that shirts are like squares, which we fold into smaller squares. I demonstrate and he follows along. He folds squares into triangles, so proud of his crumpled effort. I’m proud, too. Refold shirt after he spots Wiggles dolls.

8:30 a.m.
Mother-in-law arrives and I feel my spirits take flight. Alex’s greets his “Nona” (Italian for grandmother) at the door.

Nona’s the best. Raised six kids and is in regular rotation to babysit any number of 14 grandkids in the family. Nona’s here on Fridays. I feel weird having someone else take care of my kids on my off day. But after I write out my to-do list, I appreciate the help. She understands because she’s been there.

8:40 a.m.
Tim takes off for work. Since Tim’s the owner/operator of his entrepreneurial venture, he spends Fridays prospecting for new business. This week, he has two promising leads we hope will shake out in his favor.

8:50 a.m.
To-Do List
*Grocery shop
*Clean office
*Help Tim with business marketing plan
*Clean kids’ room

8:52 a.m.
Find myself getting sucked into the Today Show. Phil Collins is the guest. Realize how lame Phil Collins is and resolve to get moving. Turn station to Good Morning America. Mary J. Blige sings her hit Family Affair. Okay, now I’m ready.

Also watch Ford truck commercial with latest American Idol winner, the one voted sexiest bachelor, I think. He’s singing the jingle. Wonder when this Cinderella will turn into a pumpkin and go away.

9:13 a.m.
Shower, brush teeth, curl hair. Make a mental list of poems I have in progress but haven’t completed:
*Being black
*Raising interracial kids
*My name
*My hometown
*The Boston Red Sox

Plan to get to favorite coffee shop this weekend and write.

9:26 a.m.
Get dressed. Notice that I’ve been much happier with the way my clothes are fitting. I think about movie trailer for Beauty Shop. (Paraphrasing.) Queen Latifah looks in the mirror and asks the young girl she’s with, “Does this outfit make my butt look big?” And the young girl says something like, “Yes, it does.” And Latifah answers, “Great. Thanks! That's what I wanted to hear.”

9:30 a.m.
Alex and I take off for the grocery store. Listen to Hoop-De-Do (The Wiggles) on my iPod.

Hoop-De-Do! Hoop-De-Do! I hear a polka and my troubles are through!

Think I’ll make it my theme song today.

10:47 a.m.
Back from store. I drop the orange juice container on the floor and it breaks. Orange mess everywhere. Ella stayed at home and took a nap. She wakes up when I return. How does she know I just got back?

11:10 a.m.
Lunch for Alex and Ella—Spaghetti O’s. Never thought I would feed my kids canned pasta products, but he gets it at day care so I relent. Besides, they like it.

I’m a Beef-a-roni fan.

11:27 a.m.
Realize I didn’t eat breakfast so I decide on an adult lunch: ham and cheese sandwich or leftover shrimp scampi pizza. I go for pizza and salad. Will have sandwich in an hour.

11:28 a.m.
Alex sits down with Nona to read Curious George.

11:40 a.m.
Call my parents in Virginia. We talk often. Today, Dad and I discuss recent terrorist news and political stuff. Mom says they’re going out for lunch this weekend, which makes me smile. I like to think that my parents still go out on dates.

12:06 p.m.
Go outside with kids and Nona. Take pictures. Watch Nona play baseball. Alex pretends he’s Jason Varitek from the Red Sox.

12:30 p.m.
Alex goes down for a nap.

12:31 p.m.
Must not get sucked into soap operas…getting weaker…must resist…must do to-do’s…

2:56 p.m.
Coming out of soap opera haze. Love The Young and the Restless and As the World Turns. Did manage to get laundry and office cleaning off my list.

3:04 p.m.
Meet postman at door. Ask him to mail my Netflix selection You and Me and Everyone We Know. Tim and I watched it last night. His comment “This is like Napoleon Dynamite without interesting characters.” I agreed.

Looking forward to watching the first season of Entourage. I haven’t seen the show yet, but I’m dying to use the phrase, “Let’s hug it out, bitch!” on Tim. Maybe after our next disagreement.

3:25 p.m.
Alex wakes up from nap; within 10 minutes Ella’s down. These kids are on total opposite schedules. Nona and Alex read Curious George.

4:05 p.m.
I realize that Nona will need to leave soon. Looks like rain outside. Sit down to start typing this journal entry. I think about me thinking about writing this blog post. Does that make sense? And what it is really? Is it a time map? A time budget where every moment is accounted for? As my friend, Joseph, would say, this is my life in increments.

Man, this is a lot of work! Documenting my day.

4:55 p.m.
Mother-in-law leaves as a torrential downpour begins. I still feel weird about the day, but thankful I had help. I think about what it must have been like raising six kids, eventually going back to work full time. It if were me, I would have spent most of my downtime crying in the bathroom.

5:07 p.m.
Alex and I read Curious George. Alex seems like he’s bouncing off the walls now that he’s had some rest. We talk about toning it down just a bit. Mommy’s tired and needs to think about dinner.

5:43 p.m.
Time to wake up Ella. Hope this afternoon nap doesn’t screw up her sleep pattern tonight.

6:05 p.m.
Time to start dinner. Take kids into the kitchen, lay out some pots and pans and let them have at it. I take out ingredients for Beef Stroganoff.

6:08 p.m.
Next door neighbor comes over to borrow ketchup. My first question: “do you need mustard, too?” Neighbor’s daughter is having a cookout and they’re out of the condiment. Wacky, cool neighbors.

6:50 p.m.
Tim returns home. Needs a few minutes before dinner to close out accounts for the day. Alex greets Tim. Says, “Daddy, I love you so, so much!” Tim reciprocates. Ella leans over from the high chair with a big, open-mouthed kiss. I think she slipped him the tongue! *smile*

7:05 p.m.
Dinner is served. Alex doesn’t want Beef Stroganoff. Won’t touch my green beans. I’m not surprised because he’s been a picky eater the last few weeks. Recently, things have been better so tonight I keep the trend going. I offer a peanut butter sandwich. Problem solved.

7:12 p.m.
Red Sox game delayed because of rain. 7:40 start.

7:30 p.m.
Tim takes Alex and Ella up for a bath. He’s a great father. I mean, he really pitches in. He cooks, he cleans, he changes diapers. He chops. He slices. He juliennes.

I do a 10-minute quick clean in the kitchen and living room.

7:43 p.m.
Red Sox game starts. Sox go for win #7. Wonder if Sox can win the World Series this year but quickly put thoughts of victory out of my mind. Don’t want to jinx our chances (as if I have anything to do with it).

7:50 p.m.
Alex and Ella play rambunctiously on the bed before we settle down to read Curious George. Really, I have other books but this is the one he wants to read. I’m hoping Ella chooses something else for a favorite book.

8:30 p.m.
Alex goes down for the night.

9 p.m.
Ella’s out. My official mommy duties are done for the evening. I picture myself punching a time clock.

Tim and I talk make plans for tomorrow: looking at energy-saving refrigerators, and a new bed for Alex. Tim comments that we’re right back where we started—in bed with our daughter.

The Sox are up 6-0. They’re on autopilot tonight. The Sox have been 6-0 since Gabe Kapler returned to the team. And Alex has been eating dinners over the last 6 nights. Coincidence or just good baseball?

9:27 p.m.
Kiss Tim goodnight. Start typing this post—looks like I’ll be awake long enough to see Al Gore on David Letterman’s The Late Show. Forgot to finish to-do list.

11:41 p.m.
Proof this post.

11:54 p.m.
Post this post.

I *heart* Al Gore.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

The Young Girl

Wandering through the isles of the department store,
a security guard notices her
lingering among the racks of costume jewelry.
He thinks he saw a young black girl stuff something
into her bag. The guard stops her at the double doors
and searches the backpack. Nothing is found,
nothing is explained, yet he looks at her as if
he has seen her face before. She shuffles her feet as
the manager’s name is called over the loud speaker.
The guard squawks into his walkie-talkie:
She fits the description.

Fumbling through my purse, I wonder about her
thin brown body; how many times has she been
stopped, opened up in the fronts of drug stores
and clothing stores. How many times
have buzzers sounded and heavy eyes
fallen on her face.

The manager threatens to call the police.
Her big gold-hooped earrings dangle
under a brown baseball cap, hiding her eyes
from the customers in line.
The lady behind me says
She’s gonna cry. For a moment
the young girl glances up, looks at me,
then looks away. She turns toward the guard
and starts smacking her gum loudly.
A series of rapid pops like a cap gun.
I crack a slight smile. I hope she took it!

Copyright 2006 January Gill O'Neil

Poetry Thursday: the most wonderful day of the week!

This poem was published originally in Callaloo years ago (they never sent my copy of the journal--yes, I'm bitter). But as I look at it, I see how my writing style has changed. I see things I would do differently, words and phrasings I would not use today. But I do like the energy and I remember when I wrote it. For me, poems are like photos, so I can go back and see me as a young girl poet who used any moment, any conversation as a opportunity to write poems.

I think of her often and fondly.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Five-Book Meme

I'm new to the meme thing, so forgive me if this one is old news.

With Poetry Thursday just a few days away, I'm using the meme as a writing prompt to limber up.

Five-Book Meme
1. Take five books off your bookshelf.

2. Book #1 -- first sentence
~ Different Hours, Steven Dunn

3. Book #2 -- last sentence on page 50
~ Money, A Memoir, Liz Perle

4. Book #3 -- second sentence on page 100
~ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris

5. Book #4 -- next to the last sentence on page 150
~ Guerrilla Marketing for Free, Jay Conrad Levinson

6. Book #5 -- final sentence of the book
~Hip Logic, Terrance Hayes

7. Make the five sentences into a paragraph:

Sunsets, incipient storms, the tableaus of melancholy--maybe these are the Saturday night-events to take your best girl to. In September 1958, credit cards arrived uninvited in the mailboxes of some sixty thousand residents of Fresno, California.

"Well, I didn't say it to him," my father said.

But I'm hoping you'll overlook this indiscretion on my part and let me off the hook because this idea is so winning and so simple. If you ever tell my story, say that's the year I was born.

Okay. Interesting. So what's on your bookshelf?

Thanks to The Daily Meme.

Father's Day 2006

Tim really liked my Father's Day poem. So nice to get feedback from someone who loves you.

Here's how we spent the day: at the zoo, on the merry-go-round (despite his expression, Alex LOVED the ride), and with a dip in the pool. Hope your day was time well spent!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: The New Normal

It’s about 5:30 a.m. as I type this. Tim is asleep on one side, Ella sleeps between us, and I’m typing on my laptop. I can hear my son, Alex, cough in his sleep in the next room; he has a summer cold that’s in the beginning stages.

If all this sounds wacky, this is an example of the new normal in the O’Neil household—life with two kids. Most days, I dream of going back to bed. No fancy sheets. No big, fluffy pillows. In fact, if I run my hands across the comforter, I can feel the crumbs from Ella’s morning toast. We do everything here. Some people think the kitchen table is the center of the home. But for us, it’s the bed.

With all of this craziness, our bed has been the wellspring of my creativity. After everyone drifts off, I open the laptop and start typing. Since April, this spot has given more inspiration that anywhere in the house. In fact, I penned this Father’s Day poem last night while watching Law and Order: SVW.

Actually, I have a whole series of pictures of Tim, Alex, and Ella asleep in this bed. (Hmmm, maybe I’ll frame the series and hang it—where else—over the bed!)

We’re in the process of buying a bed for Alex so Ella can have his crib. Tim and I desperately want to reclaim this space for us. Let’s just say that Ella makes things a little inconvenient when Tim and I need couple time. Right now, she looks like a frog lying on its back, arms and legs outstretched and floating. (Note to self: buy Alex a set of Wiggles sheets to make new bed more appealing.)

And then there’s my nightstand, stacked full of books that I’m dying to read: Money: A Memoir by Liz Perle; Different Hours by Stephen Dunn; Gathering Ground, the Cave Canem anthology. So many words travel over and through this spot. The most important words, I love you, begin and end here. In our bed, problems are solved, ideas are hatched, and plans for the future are created, right here, fleshed out night after night in our dreams.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

New Poem

Father's Day

Today we celebrate you,
fathers. You know who you are:
the husbands and the single dads
you are the real deals, the MVPs,
the Hungry Jacks and Manwich men.
Whether you have a full head of hair
or are losing it strand by strand
we celebrate you,
because you value a woman’s opinion
because when the going gets tough,
you stay
because you know how to leave the cave
kill something and drag it back
every day.
Thanks for changing a diaper,
doing the 4 a.m. feeding,
playing catch after a 10-hour workday.
To the fathers, the dads, the pops, and the papis,
those who raise boys to be
brothers, husbands, and fathers,
and young women born to be
sisters, wives, and mothers,
thanks for being super men
even when you feel like Clark Kent,
mild mannered as the paint on the walls.
When you think your opinion doesn’t matter,
it does. When you think we aren’t listening, we are.
For all who say, “one day you’ll thank me for this,”
thank you.

Copyright 2006 January G. O'Neil

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Beav

Three cool things have happened to me recently (forgive the dark images):

1. I received the Beaver Award from the college I work for. It's a departmental award for doing a good job. The beav stayed with us for a month before he/she had to make his dam with another well-deserving coworker.

2. I received a promotion yesterday to senior writer/editor. No more money but the title change is important. This photo (above) is of my workspace at home. I work here one day a week, and usually the pile of the right is usually not that high. But I do love this spot (when it's less cluttered).

3. Last but not least, these are pages to a manuscript, about 43. I got the courage to put the old and new poems together, and in the process I'm learning to accept the fact that this is where I am in my writing career. I'm feeling good about the work, which, in large part, is because of the blog. Also, I'm starting to look at individual poems as submittable pieces to journals and lit mags. Woo hoo!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday



Queen of the queen-sized bed,
she sleeps between us
arms outstretched like a plus sign

Then she rolls to her side,
back facing her true north father
Her fat foot buttressing my jiggly belly

Somehow she latches onto sleep, never fearing
that I could crush the life right out of her
with the body that gave it.

No--her snoring is a mother's aria
filling the room
with her sweet music.


Round midnight
She's gumming for me,
nudging for a swig of warm milk

I let down and she takes me in,
cupping her hands around
my milk-full breast.

And when she falls asleep,
crazy drunk, I pull away--
she continues to suck

as if I am still there.
The next morning,
her jagged little teeth rub me awake.

Under my blouse
my sore, cracked nipple
is a jewel of pain.

Find out more about Poetry Thursday.

Happy Poetry Thursday. I wrote this poem in April for National Poetry Month, but it seemed appropriate to post since I was up with my daughter (a.k.a. the human alarm clock) this morning. If you're a parent and you've had the experience of cosleeping with your child, then you can relate to sleeping with your child's foot in your back all night!

When Ella was 2 weeks old, she had a heart condition that presented itself abruptly and required surgery. That was a scary 24 hours, from symptoms to diagnosis to surgery and ICU. Fortunately, we discovered the problem quickly and she's is perfectly healthy now. I've thought often about writing about it but I think I'll save that post for her first birthday (woo hoo!).

As my pediatrician says, it takes a while to get over watching your child go through something like that. They always seem that much more fragile, even if they're good as new.

Still, this is the true jewel of pain I carry around with me every day.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Donald Hall, New Poet Laureate

This has been a long time in the making:

Donald Hall Named Nation's Poet Laureate.

I wonder if the Laureate committee knew I was available to take the post!

Best New Poets

Meridian magazine (UVa) is running an Open Internet Competition for its Best New Poets anthology. Last year, they selected 24 out of 50 poems from the Open Competition; the rest came from lit mag recommendations. To date, they have more than 600 entries.

$8 reading fee for 2 poems. Contest ends tomorrow, June 15.
The online submission process makes it easy to enter.

Yes, I submitted for the heck of it. I need to have poems out there working for me. And, I would be flattered to be considered a Best New Poet.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A-Z Meme

Thanks, BB , for the meme.

Oh hell. Sometimes, you have to give yourself permission to jump on the bandwagon. Permission granted.

accent: None really, but sometimes southern. You can hear it in words such as y’all and Norfolk (Naaw-fuk).

booze: Not nearly enough! I’m not a drinker but I do like a good chocolate martini now and then. And champagne! It's not just for weddings.

chore I hate: Folding laundry. Picking up toys for the millionth time.

dogs/cats: None. I’m allergic to dogs, which is a great sadness to me. My mom never wanted a dog but my dad and I did. She said that once I moved out she would buy one for me, but then I developed an allergy in my 20s. Drat. Denied yet again!

essential electronics: My iPod saved my life. I kid you not.

favorite perfume/cologne: Peony, a discontinued cologne by Banana Republic.

gold/silver: Gold, of course.

hometown: Naaw-fuk, Virginia

insomnia: My daughter tries repeatedly to turn me into an insomniac, but not yet.

job title: Writer/Editor. Poet. Queen of the Universe. Player to Be Named Later.

kids: Alex 2.5 and Ella 10 mos.

living arrangements: A split-level house on a tree-lined street with aforementioned kids and husband. Would like to buy a vacation house in Virginia Beach someday.

most admired trait: At work, I’m known as the person who likes to organize parties. It’s one of those talents that I wasn’t hired for, but my coworkers understand the value of community. At home, I give great hugs.

number of sexual partners: 6, I think.

overnight hospital stays: 2 C-Sections—don’t get me started!

phobia: None. I am fearless. (No, that’s not true. I have a fear of failure.)

quote: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

religion: Lapsed Catholic.

siblings: None. I broke the mold.

time I usually wake up: Ella, the human alarm clock, wakes me up around 4:45 a.m. to eat. That’s fine because I’m up by 5 a.m. to get ready for work.

unusual talent: In this day and age, writing and understanding poetic forms is an ususual talent.

vegetable I refuse to eat: Hmmm. I refuse to eat raw onions. In the words of my son, “that’s yucky.” I do eat cooked onions, however.

worst habit: I like to pull the dead, flaky skin from my lips. There, I said it!

x-rays: X-ray to the soul? Always! Also, due for my first mammogram later this year.

yummy foods I make: Sweet potatoes. Braised chicken. Cupcakes. Fried chicken. Shrimp scampi. Cheesy corn chowder (chowda!). Crabcakes—the key to a good crabcake is to use lumped crabmeat, and take it easy on the breading.

zodiac sign: Aquarius, baby! Born in the year of the cock.

Also ...

Peeves: Litterers. Credit cards and the amount of personal debt people carry and think is acceptable. Living without purpose. Dubya. When my husband uses my bath towel and doesn’t replace it (get your own towel!). Marketing to kids under age 10. Cow logic (following the herd). Being part of the problem instead of the solution.

Passions: Red Sox. Chocolate ice cream. iPod. Law and Order: SVU. Red Sox. Laughter. A damn good crabcake. Friends and family. Tiger lilies. A cup of hot tea with lemon and 6 sugars at the beginning and end of the day. The Chick-fil-a sandwich. Well-written blog posts. Did I mention the Red Sox?

So now you know!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

New Poem


The dark laurel of rain over our heads
means that everyone’s under the weather today.
June in New England, the sky bruised
with rain so hard and unexpected
the weatherman sends his apologies.

I slink into the house, sopping wet.
My husband and I kiss as if
I’ve just come home from shore leave.
I've come home wanting to touch
and be touched, so much wetness

outside. Sometimes I am drawn into child’s play
and dinner and the clothes to protect me
tomorrow, but tonight I uncork the wine,
allow myself to want what the body wants
as the humidity beads and slowly
rolls down the windowpane.

I touch the small of his back
and let my hand glide lower
while he slices red peppers for salad.
Tonight, let’s be careless and sloppy
like drivers testing the speed limit
not watching the ponding in the road.

Copyright 2006 January G. O'Neil

It's coming ...!

That moment when my son says or does something he shouldn't. And I say or do something that I shouldn't. And then BAM! I slap him across the face.

Now let me just say that I love my son and daughter dearly. And he's been particularly good lately. But there will come a time when he'll push my buttons and I'll lose it.

I have been thinking about this topic lately. My father slapped me when I was 16. He had been drinking, and I probably said something I shouldn't have, and BAM. I'm not sure if he remembers, but like Stanley Kunitz's poem "The Portrait," I can still feel my cheek burning.

Recently, I heard Anne Lamott on NPR talk about this subject in an essay she wrote for Salon magazine called "My son, the stranger", on how her 16-year-old son pushed her buttons and she slapped him. (Note: requires that you watch an ad before entering the site. My advice: click on the link, go make some tea, and then come back!)

Sometimes words fail. And as a writer, I have difficulty reconciling the fact that I won't have the right words to express how I feel, and I may take action. My hope is that as I get older, I'll get wiser and find better coping mechanisms. But that's not often the case according to my married friends with older children. Once the kids can communicate, they let you know, in no uncertain terms, what they want. I can already see signs of that in Alex as he tries to get his way. He'll need to assert himself in order to break away from his parents, and then move out of the house!

Thank goodness I have a few years to get it right. Also, I'm happy to report that Lamott and her son have been able to make a joke out of the whole thing. No permanent damage done. Maybe by giving voice to our darkest thoughts, we can disarm the need to act.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Sunday Scribblings

"... a riddle, inside a mystery, wrapped in an enigma."
~Winston Churchill

This is my first Sunday Scribbling, but it seems appropriate that today is the day. This afternoon, I saw An Inconvenient Truth, the new Al Gore film about global warming.


My vision of heaven is a place where all of life's mysteries are answered: Who shot JFK, did Marilyn Monroe die of a drug overdose, and why Al Gore lost the 2000 presidential election. More to the point: How did George W. Bush get elected president? Twice?

Like most Americans, I am environmentally unconscious. I recycle because I have to, but I don't do anything really to help preserve our natural resources. Recently in my office, my coworkers and I have talked about how acceptable it seems these days that people are constantly throwing cigarette butts, coffee cups, and trash out of their cars. We think litterers should be arrested and made to do five hours of community service cleaning trash off of highways. At the very least, they should be OUTED by taking pictures of their license plates and put on a blog for all the world to see.

But I digress. An Inconvenient Truth effectively makes the point that we can't take for granted those things we think are always going to be around forever--glaciers, forests, the atmosphere. If we (if I ) keep sleepwalking through this life, the damage that we have done to the planet will be irrevocable.

The film takes Gore's PowerPoint presentation and amplifies it for the broader audience. It also splices the lecture with segments about Al Gore, the man. I learned more about his life than I did when he was in Congress, the White House, and running for president. It also softens his image, showing off his true passions. I can't think of a man or woman born to be president more than Al Gore, but maybe this was his true calling--to lead the charge for saving the earth. But honestly: it is a mystery to me why we didn't see this side of Gore in the 2000 election?

Gore's story reminds me that life is not about the past or the future, but it's about the ride. Something always pops up which tests our fortitude. It's how we handle the mystery that shapes our character.

How we handle the environment will shape the planet for generations to come.

Friday, June 09, 2006


The college I work for is now on the summer schedule, so I'm off on Fridays until mid-August (woo hoo!). I'm sitting here with my two kids thinking how thankful I am not to have to make the hour-long commute in all this rain.

So today's plan is to print out some recent poems and revise, revise, revise! Once my husband is home (and the Red Sox take the field), I'll look at my stuff and see how much work my poems need. Revision is always the toughest part of the process for me. Also, I need to start sending out to journals, both print and online. I think it's important to submit, because you always need your poems out there working for you, kind of like investments.

Thanks so much, everyone, for all of the great feedback on my poetry. Recently, I was turned down for a Mass Cultural Council Artist Grant (b*st*rds), but I'm not bitter. *smile* I'm taking my newfound courage and putting it back into the submission process. And I hope to write three new poems this weekend, just because.

Sesame Street is on in the background, and the characters are reciting the alphabet. And with each letter that comes up, my 2 1/2-year-old son associates words with the letters:

A for Alex
D for Daddy
E for Ella
J for Jan
M for Mommy and Me

So cute!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

A True Story

Once a friend in Arizona
bought a cactus plant,
heart shaped, with a yellow bud
tilted elegantly to the side

like a woman’s good Sunday hat.
She placed the gray clay pot
on her coffee table,
and after a few days she noticed

that the plant started to move.
Concerned, she called a flower shop
asking the florist,
“How can I get it to stop?”

The florist shrieked “get out of
the house!” He called the police,
the fire department, a pet store—
A man in a beekeeper’s garb

(all the town could afford)
roped off the house and the yard,
placed the plant in the middle of the lawn
and split it wide like a watermelon

to find a nest of scorpions writhing
in the afternoon sun.
Displaced, motherless,
those hothouse babies

hidden under the cactus’ tough sharp spines,
waved their feelers,
bowed their heads,
as if they were guilty of something.

Copyright 2006 January G. O'Neil

Check out Poetry Thursday.

New Poem

The Unsaid

I know it’s just
and circumstance
that brings us together,
but you strike
a chord in me
like pressing a key
on a dull piano.

Copyright 2006 January G. O'Neil

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Kramerbooks & Afterwords

A friend sent me this photo of Kramerbooks & Afterwords, a book store/cafe/24-hour sanctuary that we used to frequent back when I lived in Washington D.C. many moons ago.

Shortly after college, I moved to our nation's capitol with a group of really close friends. This was probably the most special time in my life. Yes, I'm happy with my life now, but this period is forever preserved in my memory as perfect. I was 24, and still believed that everything was possible, like becoming U.S. Poet Laureate. *smile*

Kramer's was (is?) a small, independent bookstore, so when I walked in I was overwhelmed by paperbacks. Rows and rows of glossy paperbacks that I'd buy just because I liked the covers. And in back, there was a restaurant that served okay food and desserts. We'd never go there for dinner, but they were good for nachos and a slice of cheesecake. We'd sit for hours drinking coffee and tea, and then walk around the monuments at midnight--just because we could! (I was in great shape then, because I wasn't really trying. It was just fun.)

We did a lot of dreaming at Kramer's. That was our spot to celebrate and commiserate. It didn't matter that we were poor--you know, that 20-something-I'm-poor-but-will-spend-my-income-on-stupid-stuff-poor. We'd go there at 11:30 p.m. Saturday nights so we could get early editions of the Sunday Washington Post and look for our dream jobs. We'd talk about dating and not dating, travel, and how everyone else seemed to have it all wrong except us.

I haven't Googled them yet but I believe Kramer's is still in existence at DuPpont Circle, at least I hope it is. And I'm happy to say that I will be meeting these same friends for lunch in a few hours. I think we still see ourselves as those same 20-somethings who planned on taking life by the balls and making it scream for mercy. And while I don't think that everything is possible, I do believe that anything is possible.

Thanks for sending along the photo, "Suck Patch!" (You know who you are!)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I *heart* Oprah

It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon. Ella and I are sitting on the bed, and we’re watching a DVD from Oprah’s 20th Anniversary Special. It so happens that we’re watching the segments on Oprah’s weight struggles.

Earlier in the day, I dragged myself out of bed and went to the gym for the first time in two months. I don’t have a scale in the house (don’t believe in them), but was happy to see that I’m still at my pre-pregnancy weight. Also, I was thrilled to see that I hadn’t ballooned out, yet I am *painfully* aware that my belly will not get flat on it’s own.

But that’s why appreciate Oprah. She puts everything out there—weight issues and all. And while managing her appearance is important to her, it doesn’t define her or diminish her accomplishments. On the DVD, she shows clips from her talk show and splices in her commentary. Oprah makes this point, which is I think is so valuable for women to hear:

“Taking care of yourself only happens when you truly feel that you are worthy of being taken care of.”

In other words: know your worth.

Every day I look into my children’s eyes to remind myself that I am worthy. I deserve this life. I’m not perfect, and every day is a struggle to maintain balance. But it comes down to taking time for myself and valuing what’s important, which hasn’t been easy as of late. Alex is going through a “NO” phase (grrrrrh!), and Tim and I are trying to get his entrepreneurial venture into second gear while I work full time.

It took Oprah almost 50 years to make the connection between worth and weight. I’m nearly 40 (yikes!), drawing strength from wherever I can get it. Lately, my strength has come from this amazing, wonderful, fabulous, intelligent community of bloggers. But I have to stop now because my beautiful 10-month old needs a hug. She’s climbing on my lap as I type.

She gives me the best kisses—open mouthed and sloppy!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

I tend not to talk about my poems because I think the words should speak for themselves. But this one is a revision of an imitation poem exercise written last year; the Poetry Thursday prompt, reading poems aloud, helped me revise it.

If you have the opportunity, I recommend recording yourself reading so you get a feel for enjambment and inflection. For me, that's the hardest part of the revision process, getting the line breaks just right.

I have yet to read this one to my husband ... maybe tonight!

What Mommy Wants

I want a pair of Candies'.
Make them cheap and tacky.
High-heeled wooden stilettos
(stiletto, from the Italian word for dagger),
white-leather-upper with silver studs along the sides.
Open toed pumps, with just enough wiggle room
for my toes painted "No, I'm Not a Waitress" red.
I want a pair of Candies'.
Make my legs curvy and dangerous.
I want to strut down the street
in a pair of Daisy Dukes and a halter top
past O'Buster's fruit stand,
past Coffee Time donut shop with its real cream bismarcks
and apple cider crullers, past the construction site
and morning commuters at the train station.
I want the hard hats on break
to drop their coffees and shout
"nice gams!"
I want women to take one look at me and think
here comes trouble.
I want to be a tawdry wench,
the kind of woman mothers warn their sons about,
the kind that makes a priest give up religion.
I want my husband to strip me naked
bend me over
leaving on just my Candies'
as if he were cheating on his wife
and getting away with it.

Copyright 2006 January G. O'Neil


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