A Yankee's Musing

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Just some musings

Finally it is above 32 degrees today, and I hear there is lots of sunshine. Of course I am here, in my office, no windows, no sense of the world beyond these four walls. Before me are two stacks of papers, writings by my students. They were to capture a moment in their lives, a defining moment, either with a person or an event. In writing about that moment, they need to visualize it, and help the reader enter that moment through their imagination. This was an exercise to help them understand more fully what Momaday was saying when he spoke of how words are magic, the foundation of good storytelling.

The students, both classes, took on this challenge, many at first with reluctance, but all finally in powerful silence that reverberated. So now I have the privilege to read these moments and in doing so, gain a real sense of the individual behind the words. Powerful for me still, after 46 years of teaching I am in awe. And then suddenly, about five minutes ago, I stopped responding to each of them even though I am only half-way through. Clearly I will not finish them for classes tomorrow. But that's not what is aching in my chest right now, gathering pressure behind my eyes, blurring my vision, making me breathe each breath slowly, precisely.

It is this, these two classes are the last here in Brooklyn, NY. The last at the crossroads of the world where I learn more than I ever could give. My hands start shaking on the keyboard saying this---I will miss the voices I will never meet after this semester. I am retiring after 46 years of teaching...oh, I will always teach in some form or another, some place or another, but not here. I will never hear about a child, her mother, and grandmother, Palestinians picking olives from what is left of their trees on land that has been severed on the West Bank, once theirs, now guarded by automatic weapons that press against a grandmother's bosom and an Israeli soldier's hostility that says, "Give me what you've picked or I will kill you," and the old woman refuses. I will never hear about a child who hides beneath a stack of unburied dead bodies in a cemetery just across the boarder from Sierra Leone. She hides there three days before escaping the genocide that erased her entire family.

There are things, so many things, I read and see in the news. But my students bring fresh eyes, an open mind, and an aching heart to these stories: I see faces so like those who have names. My perspective has changed. I have learned not to make assumptions and judgments. I have learned from my students. Will I be the same without them? Will, upon my return to a world so very separate from the rest, in the White Mountains, lose more than I will gain? I hope not. But I do know my patience with bigotry, anything that begins with "they" or "them" will send me into the red zone. I hope I can quiet my anger.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Thoughts on a Frigid Snowy Day in New York City 2015

                                   Thoughts on a Frigid Snowy Day in New York City 2015


Icy branches crackle

low tones muffle

eyes half-lidded

a single snow track

etched by city soot

boxes half full

bags of shredded paper

eastern standard time


I once met a child named Richard

whose superhero friends lurked just

 outside the classroom door

sometimes under his desk

often in his back pocket which he’d slap when

 he needed their special powers.

I came to know each one’s weakness

a simple hug chased them away behind

his eyes then he saw me again

for the first time.

I once met a woman named Inez

who believed she couldn’t read

 because a tumor lurked somewhere within

 the folds of her brain so deep

no doctors could find it

eradicate it as it grew to

 swallow her ability to make

sense of words on paper.

She had resigned herself to be

a non-reading adult condemned

to pretend forever.

If I close my eyes real tight

and let my thoughts drift across

the horizon of my life

moments become snapshots

naming our particular intersection

with no streetlights to warn us

when to stop-go- yield.

We paused  noticed  shared

before moving on.


like stones in a riverbed

constantly changing shape









Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Back On

Been a long time since I posted on this blog. I couldn't seem to access it, and as a result, it was left alone. I apologize. I think I am all set now. Big news, I am retiring at the end of this academic year. Sad and exciting at the same time. Sad because I will miss these LIU undergraduate and graduate students enormously. They are wonderful and make me think and learn with them. I have learned many things, but perhaps the biggest thing is geography/cultures. I am so fortunate now when I look at a world map, or hear a place named in the news, and immediately a face of a student comes to mind. With that face comes a host of memories, things I learned about that student's life experiences, culture, ideals, religion, hopes, struggles, dreams. They have widened my life to know about how diverse, yet how wonderful the human race really is.

I am excited about retiring because I do not have to feel helpless in fighting the changes of LIU Brooklyn from an academic institution that cares about its students and will support them in their struggles, to a business model run like a corporation--bottom line, net income. I am also glad because I can write more, finish my novel, kayak more islands and hopefully with the whales, work on my cabins, and volunteer in wildlife rehabilitation.

And so, I am back. Are you all still out there? I sure hope so.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

After Hearing Joy Harjo

What happens when an ancestral weave has no new threads?

Does it just lie there welcoming aging’s dust?

Is it forgotten within the spiral of time?

Does its stories die?


Monday, December 10, 2012

Names May Be Misleading


Red hawk

sacred to some native tribes

symbol of farsightedness

silhouetted against a grey skyline

on top of a Central Park plane tree

overlooking the 96th x CPW subway station

majestic and still

hanging from its talons a pigeon




the red hawk unconcerned

the passerbys beneath the drama unaware

perhaps it is Pale Male

or one of his heirs

favored by city dwellers

a symbol of the natural wildness snuggled

within concrete barriers

eroded by nature’s sheer force

of Superstorm Sandy

another named phenomena

erased human error

nonbelievers of climate change

the ocean surge reminds us

that innocuous naming

does not contain

natural power

we are mere


Friday, June 29, 2012



It’s the trek outside in the rain or cold to the outhouse, or the pump for water, or the woodshed for another armful of split hard wood for the stove. It’s the cold pine floorboards on my bare feet in the morning and the ravens screeching for food, the chipmunks eyeing the back screen door expectantly while I get the cats fed first. It’s the harsh simplicity of life that burrows into my soul and reminds me there is nothing so important in life that exists beyond the bare essentials: food, shelter, water, love. Each moment unadorned is the difference between analog and digital H-D. I drink in the nourishing silence and wonder why it is not a priority out there, beyond the trees, where the road turns to cement and noise covers the chaos of life muted.


June 26, 2012


I am not a poet

or a wordsmith

what I write is clear never obtuse

no hidden innuendos

lurking within the white space

although I sometimes use it for effect

or maybe because I don’t quite dare

to say what could be there

or should be

or might be

but isn’t

I’m not a poet

or a wordsmith

although at times I want to be

to show the imperceptible scars

that hides deep within

the folds of my cortex

holes peppered there

bruising spread like footprints

healing but not quite

while my positive attitude

mutes my flaws

protects them

silences their whisperings

to my ears only

I am not a poet

or a wordsmith

my language is a necessity

not a privilege

in my childhood

my youth

my home

words were dangerous

evoked blows

hammered silence

I learned to keep language

to monosyllables

bland to push no buttons

so you see

I cannot be a poet

for a poet loves language

I keep it simple

direct and usually safe

but what is not said is like an ocean

rising as the climate changes

melting glaciers

beneath which lies a wealth of meaning

do not be fooled by my pauses

my searching for the right word

complicated and hyphenated by MS

I am not a poet

or a wordsmith

not am I wise

I am a woman

with many layers folded

over wounds and scars that took

a lifetime of survival

a journey comforted by

nature and wild things

a place where nature takes its course

despite human tampering

or outright purposeful devastation

I am not afraid of death

the beginning and end of a circle

that continues

so you see

I cannot be a poet

or a wordsmith

for I only speak for me.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

if secrets are not spoken, will they silence a woman forever?

she holds her life source close
like a seed
nourished by pine fed duff
able to root anywhere

she holds her belongs safe
in a knapsack
slung on her back
journals and black pens
survival gear

she carries her seeds of life
on the tip of a black gel pen
strokes the pages chock-full
seals the covers
rarely shared

are secrets lies?