POEM: “Inauguration Day”

wilted daisies
Inauguration Day

on the eve of my mother’s birth
and the swearing in of a new leader

last night i dreamed:
i came upon a strip mall
and stumbled upon the store
my father had built from scratch
all those years ago

i did not dare believe my eyes
though it seemed too real
not to be believed i ran
inside hoping for a glimpse
of the man that ruled my childhood
my hero who taught me chess
gave me his own bike to ride

today i thought i saw another gone
silhouette perched upon the windowsill

he died so long and yet not so long
i longed so to see his familiar face
i could not help but catch a glimpse
his bald(ing) head and bright brown eyes

today my mother opens chocolates
“her president” as her present 
she says as each morsel melts washed 
down with a cup of steaming Lady Grey

i couldn’t quite catch a glimpse of another
dear departed, gold fur and eyes brown
as warm caramel, i couldn’t quite help 
but wonder what else dies and is born today

sometimes we need to coat our tongue with
warm sugar, sweeten our swallowed bitterness

is this a new beginning or another end?





**In my previous post I said I was going to resume regular scheduling in February, but since this poem is topical I decided to post it today. Normally I let poems sit between edits, but obviously that would not work for a timely posting, so (although edited) this poem is more raw than what I normally share. 


CURRENT EVENTS: Books Read in 2020

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Happy New Year! Hopefully, 2021 will be less problematic than 2020. 

In the meantime, I’ll share the books I’ve read in the past year. Due to the recent interesting times, many of them are books I’ve read before. When I want a comfort read, I’ll often reach for old favorites: Cyrano de Bergerac and The Walking Dead graphic novels are among my favorites. Since the list is pretty long (I’ll reach 100 one of these years!), I’m listing them by title. If you would like me to go into detail about any of these books, just leave a comment or contact me on social media. I love discussing books!

If you’d like to read one of these selections yourself, I’ve included links. Many of the reads were ebooks and audiobooks via various platforms, often through local libraries. I’ve always loved digital format, but in the past year it’s been more important than ever. Enjoy the list! Maybe you’ll find something you’ll like too.

BOOKS READ 2020:

1 Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters (audiobook via Librivox.org)

So Marvelously Far (poetry collection) by Nick Gardner

3 The Ugly Side of the Lake (poetry collection) by Jason Baldinger and John Dorsey

4 Triple Threat (poetry collection) by John Dorsey

5 The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (ebook via Overdrive)

6 Our House on the Sand by Elaine Schleiffer (chapbook)

7 The Answer Is Not Here by Lisa M. & Sean Thomas Dougherty (chapbook)

8 Jigsaw Con Life 3 via Beautiful Blasphemy (ebook/ mini chapbook)

9 Siron: a Kaiju Thriller by S.T. Hoover

10 Mothmaw by Faryl (Hoover) (ebook)

11 The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley (audiobook via Audible)

12 Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (ebook via manybooks.net)

13 Resident Evil volume 1: The Umbrella Conspiracy by S.D. Perry (ebook)

14 Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (audiobook via Overdrive)

15 ODD LOTS, SCRAPS & SECOND-HAND, LIKE NEW Poems by Will Wells (trade paperback/poetry)

16 The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (ebook via Overdrive)

17 Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Audible audiobook)

18 Paradise Lost by Milton (NOOK ebook)

19 The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (HOOPLA Digital ebook)

20 Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan (ebook)

21 ETERNALS by Neil Gaiman (graphic novel via HOOPLA)

22 The Abortion by Richard Brautigan (Audible audiobook)

23 The Walking Dead vol 1: Days Gone Bye by various

24 The Walking Dead vol 2: Miles Behind Us by various

25 The Walking Dead vol 3: Safety Behind Bars by various

26 The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart’s Desire

27 The Walking Dead vol 5: The Best Defense by various

28 Quintessence by William F. Devault (ebook)

29 Meat and Bone by Sandra Feen (paperback)

30 The Walking Dead, Vol. 6: This Sorrowful Life

31 The Walking Dead, Vol. 7:  The Calm Before

32 The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer

33 The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain

34 The Walking Dead, Vol. 10: What We Become

35 A Bullet for Cinderella by John D. Macdonald (ebook read on NOOK app)

36 The Walking Dead, Vol. 11: Fear The Hunters

37 The Walking Dead, Vol. 12: Life Among Them 

38 The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone

39 The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out

40 The Walking Dead, Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves

41 The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World

42 The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear

43 The Walking Dead, Vol. 18: What Comes After

44 The Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to War

45 The Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War, Part 1

46 The Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War, Part 2

47 The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning 

48 The Walking Dead, Vol. 24: Life and Death

49 The Walking Dead, Vol. 25: No Turning Back 

50 The Walking Dead, Vol. 26: Call to Arms

51 Appalachian Frankenstein Vol 2 by John Dorsey (paperback poetry collection)

52 The Poems of Sappho: An Interpretive Rendition into English (ebook via Manybooks.net)

53 The Walking Dead, Vol. 27: The Whisperer War

54 F**K: An Irreverent History of the F-Word by Rufus Lodge (Kindle ebook)

55 The Walking Dead, Vol. 28: A Certain Doom

56 The Walking Dead, Vol. 29: Lines We Cross 

57 Ariel by Sylvia Plath (NOOK ebook)

58 A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca (ebook via Overdrive)

59 The Walking Dead, Vol. 30: New World Order

60 The Walking Dead, Vol. 31: The Rotton Core

61 The Walking Dead, Vol. 32: Rest In Peace

62 The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (ebook via Overdrive)

63 Wonder Woman volume 4: War (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

64 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 1 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

65 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 2 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

66 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 3 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)

67 Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (ebook via Overdrive)

68 The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura (ebook via Overdrive)

69 The Short Stories Volume One by Philip K Dick (ebook via Overdrive)

70 Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick (ebook via Overdrive)

71 Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage (Audible audiobook) 

72 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight / retold in modern prose, with prefaces and notes, by Jessie L. Weston. (NOOK ebook)

73 The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (NOOK ebook)

74 The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (audiobook via Audible)

75 Drop Jaw by Rikki Santer (Trade paperback)

76 Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (NOOK ebook)

77 Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Overdrive)

78 Unbound (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Libby)

79 The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi (ebook via Libby)

80 Revisionary (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Libby)

81 Orpheus and Eurydice: A Lyric Sequence by Gregory Orr (poetry collection ebook via Hoopla Digital)

82 Fort Pitt Tunnel Blues by John Dorsey (free ebook)

83 Wonder Woman: The Circle (graphic novel via Hoopla)

84 A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen by Kari Gunter-Seymour (Trade paperback)

85 Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (ebook via Overdrive app)

86 Dearly: New Poems by Margaret Atwood (ebook via Overdrive app)

87 i saw god cooking children/ paint their bones by john compton (handcrafted chapbook via Blood Pudding Press with Sandra Feen modeling on the cover art)

88 Trekonomics by Manu Saadia by (audiobook)

89 The Circus of His Bones: Poems by Steve Brightman (Trade paperback)

90 13 Ways of Looking at Lou Reed by Steve Brightman

91 The Divine Comedy by Dante: translated by Clive James (Audible audiobook)

*Currently reading/listening to:

Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

Lord Byron’s Don Juan (ebook via Manybooks.net)

An Introduction to Haiku with translations and commentary by Harold G. Henderson

If you’d like to hear about my favorites from this list, a free complementary post appears on my Patreon. Until next time, stay safe and well and read often!

CURRENT EVENTS: New Year’s Resolutions Past and Present

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Every December for the past couple years, I’ve posted my New Year’s resolutions. I do this as a way of holding myself publicly accountable to ensure I stick with them for the next twelve months. Since starting this tradition, this is the first time I’ve failed to accomplish them all.

That sounds bad, and it is–but it’s also understandable. Despite unforeseen complications, a worldwide pandemic, and some personal crises, I accomplished some of my goals–not all. Honestly, I may have been able to if I really pushed myself, but I decided against this for two reasons: my mental health and the quality of my work. I felt that under the hellacious circumstances of this year, if I pushed myself too hard, they both would suffer. I wasn’t willing to make that trade to meet a self-imposed deadline. 

 

My 2020 RESOLUTIONS (and how I fared): 

Submit my short story collection to a publisher

DONE. I did this by the end of January.

Publish my short story collection.

DONE. With much trial and tribulation, after several delays due to printer disruptions and other issues, Venetian Spider Press published my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories. This was the highlight of my entire year.

Market and promote my work

SOME. In a limited capacity, I did. Last year, I promoted my poetry book, Soul Picked Clean, by reading at bookstores and libraries across Northeast Ohio. I had several events each month, sometimes many the same week, and anticipated the same type of schedule for my newest book. Unfortunately, social distancing due to the pandemic forced a different approach. 

I’ve worked hard over the past few years to become more comfortable reading and performing my work in public, but I’m really uncomfortable with a lot of the technology we’ve been forced to use the past nine months. ZOOM has had security issues, and although they are supposedly resolved, I’m reluctant to use their platform because they have not been forthcoming in the past. Unfortunately, almost all the poetry events seem to use that platform. 

However, I was able to work around this issue with some help from very understanding people. Instead of attending a local author fair at the library, I recorded video of my author talks and readings. Instead of attending workshops and cons, I shared on social media. Instead of having a Book Release Party, I organized and participated in a Halloween-themed multi-author event via FaceBook Live. I was invited to read for a December event, and the host kindly let me phone in instead of using ZOOM. Instead of selling my books in person, I offered online deals via social media and PayPal.

Volunteer more

NOT DONE. Pre-pandemic, I volunteered as an usher on a monthly basis for Ohio Shakespeare Festival, and I wanted to contribute to other things too. For example, years ago I had read for Librivox.org and thought if I reorganized my schedule I could do that as well.

I managed to volunteer this year up until the quarantine began at the end of March, but that was it. Instead, I increased my posting schedule on my Patreon (and made the posts free to view during the pandemic) as a way to contribute supplementary reading material during a difficult time. Little did I realize how long that time would be, and I was eventually forced to scale back to my previous posting schedule.

Submit another poetry collection to a publisher.

NOT DONE. I attempted to compile my second poetry collection earlier in the year. I picked out the poems, printed and gathered them into a folder to experiment with physically rearranging them, and made some progress before the proverbial feces hit the fan. I tried to get back on track a couple times throughout the year, but each time other things came up which took priority.

Publish my poetry collection

NOT DONE. See above.

Do things that frighten me. 

SOME. I am very nervous doing online video, especially live video, but in lieu of a book launch or author events, I participated in several live video and/or audio programs, including some new (to me) such as SpoFest Poetry & Prose and (online) Second Sunday Poets. My anxiety soared before each one, but I was able to disregard this while they were in progress by focusing on what I read and on the other participants.

I did not do any events using the ZOOM app, which I’m afraid to use because of their security issues and lack of transparency. However, I was able to participate in events where other people used ZOOM while I phoned in.

 

MY 2021 RESOLUTIONS (and my plans to accomplish them):

Finish compiling my second poetry collection.

I’m already partway to this goal, but I need to regain the momentum I lost this past year. But to do that, I need to regain my peace of mind first, which 2020 has shaken, so I’m giving myself a hiatus in January. Then starting February 1st (at the latest) I will start fresh on my already printed poems. I’ll create a schedule with a firm deadline which I’ll stick to religiously. Pacing is important, so the schedule will be light but strict, that way I can always work ahead as I’m inspired.

Submit my second poetry collection to a publisher.

I’m fond of indie presses, for obvious reasons: both my books have been published by them. Also, I know and respect a lot of people who run their own small presses, so I plan to submit to an indie press. 

Regain my former schedule.

I’ve lost a lot of steam this year, as well as many of my traditional outlets. With the vaccine on the horizon for the general population, I’m hoping things will slowly get back to normal. When social distancing restrictions relax so libraries, bookstores, and other venues resume their former hours, I will return to my previous monthly activities: volunteering at Ohio Shakespeare Festival and attending poetry events. Obviously, this one depends on forces beyond my control, so I’ll have to see what happens.

Do things that scare me.

I promise to be open to opportunities and not resist them simply because I’m afraid. I started this one when I honestly looked at myself and realized the main thing holding me back from my goals was my own fear. Since I first made this resolution several years ago, I’ve never regretted it.

 

REFLECTIONS:

This year has been hellish for a lot of people, myself included, and while I don’t think the New Year will magically make everything better, I do think things will get better. Although I did not accomplish all my goals, I did the best I could under the circumstances. Venetian Spider Press published my second book, and although I wasn’t able to promote it in person, I did promote it and made some sales. Despite social distancing, I kept in touch with my friends and family. 

I know this is a dark time for a lot of people. I really want to end this post on a high note, but I also think it’s important to recognize that; even though you try to focus on the positive, sometimes things just suck. It’s okay to feel bad, and if everything gets too much, it’s okay to seek help. 

I’m not ashamed to say I needed help this year. What tipped me off was when I lost interest in books, in reading poetry, and in writing. I’ve loved books since before I could read. I remember annoying the hell out of my mother by asking her to read every sign on the highway, instructions on boxes, and anything else that would help me learn. So when I lost interest in books, I knew I needed professional help.

If you notice yourself having symptoms of depression (such as loss of interest in things that normally give you joy), please seek help. You’re worth it.

Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you’ll return in January. I’ll start 2021 with a post about the books I read in 2020, so maybe you’ll find your next great read! In the meantime, stay safe and well, and Happy New Year!

POEM: “Intoxication”

image of fallen drunk showered by gold

Intoxication

My broken brain

lets memory fall through

the cracks, the fissures

of forgetfulness, crowded out

by newly made imaginings

.

Drunk on ink

I love to lose control

all sense of time 

and composure

to the images, 

the voices calling out to me

the words I’ve yet 

to press into each page

.

#

Since today is Black Friday, traditionally the beginning of the holiday season, I thought I’d post something a little more lighthearted. Please, if you need to go out this weekend, be careful. Stay safe and well!

*

In the interest of Black Friday, I’m also offering 

(while supplies last) 

BLACK FRIDAY/CYBER SATURDAY ONLINE SPECIAL: 

DIRECT FROM AUTHOR ONLY

https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/authorcatrussell

my poetry collection, Soul Picked Clean

$12 $10 with free shipping within the Continental USA

my short story collection, 

An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories

$29.95 $25 with free shipping within the Continental USA

OR 

BOTH BOOKS for $30 

with free shipping within the Continental USA

autographed upon request

*Don’t forget to include your mailing address in the PayPal note section, as well as any special instructions if you would like an autographed copy.

**Offer good only Friday, November 27-Saturday November 28th, 2020.

My books are also available through Amazon, although this special deal does not apply to Amazon purchases.

POEM: “A Short Series of Haikus Falling Like Autumn Leaves through Fading Sun”

A Short Series of 

Haikus Falling Like Autumn 

Leaves through Fading Sun

.

Not the burning bush but

a flaming tree ignited

by God’s dying breath

.

Golden leaves outstretched

to capture sunlight within

this darkened tunnel

.

Trio of vultures

survey sunken waters from

their damned concrete perch

.

Deer peer from wooded

shadows, play hide and seek with

sleek metal killers

.

Bromfield’s ghost haunts

Malabar Farm’s gift shop from

within printed pulps

.

A roadside market

beckens with the promise

of great hanging gourds

.

The cliff’s deep beauty,

once its origin is known,

falls like a sharp drop

.

Daytime’s pattern strobes

across my retinas as

the highway unfolds

.

A wooly welcome

waits on our concrete driveway

worming its path home

.

Rhythmic heat beneath

cool sheets steam windows viewing 

the summer’s last gasp

.

#

The above string of haikus was inspired by a family daytrip to Mohican State Park, with a series of stops along the way.

.

*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

POEM: “Diana Prince for President”

Photo by Roy Reyna on Pexels.com

Diana Prince for President

No Blue No Matter Who

but someone brave and true

an Independent candidate

her only mandate:

to heal the world.

.

Instead of quick fixes, cures

Instead of ignorance,truth

Instead of violence, peace

Instead of hatred, love

.

No need of accoutrements:

lasso, bracelet, or tiara.

Her character’s unimpeachable.

.

Steve Trevor could be her VP.

POEM: “Autumnal Love”

Autumnal Love”.

evening songs tattoed

across an autumn breeze

.

a golden sky’s nutbrown breath

leaves pepper the air

.

birds prepare to flee the coming freeze

frost’s first exhale boldens the winds

.

the burgundy and orange world 

crunches beneath our feet

.

no wonder we call this season

fall

.

*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

POEM: “Fatal Foam”

Photo by Vova Krasilnikov on Pexels.com

Fatal Foam

.

Worship the sun’s holy rays.

Cleanse yourself in poisoned waters.

Foaming bubbles like a bath

must bleach away your sin,

tickle your chin, bathe your chest.

.

Boat through foaming blights.

Laugh as they burst against you,

your face, your lips, your tongue,

your lungs inhale the corruption.

.

A transformation not to be wished,

this striking contrast, this union of opposites,

as your blood red robes trail behind 

in the sparkling snow white ooze.

.

Put your life on the line for a beautiful moment

a breathtaking snapshot of devotion

hastening your own decay

.

We shake our heads at your tragic folly

tucked snugly into our own burning beds.

.

.

#

*inspired by news of Indian worshipers ritually bathing in the Yamuna river, a river covered with toxic foam from industrial waste.

POEM: “5am Derelict”

grafitti
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

5am Derelict

.

I make the predawn turn

on the way to my husband’s work,

note the same tall building

we pass every time:

window treatments of particle board,

graffitid exterior spray painted

to match the neighborhood palette.

.

I think of the apocalypse:

such a building would well serve

to barricade against a plague

of our own making,

keep out the undesirable

as we shelter ourselves

from those we cannot see.

.

Then I realize, we do that

already.

POEM: “A Bee Sucking Honey”

close up photo of honey comb
Photo by Archana on Pexels.com

A Bee Sucking Honey

 

Leaving is so hard to do.

A million things call me back

from this respite from the drudgery

of my life’s day to day to day.

 

I sip honey words dripped

from fragrant tongues, flutter

from one to the other

as the dial quickly ticks on by.

 

My time is over. I’m called away

back to toil and tedium, but

my feet, stuck in viscous sweet syrup,

slow this unwelcome parting:

 

I am an insect caught in amber,

unable to tear herself away.

 

*

I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately, and the above poem was inspired by my attendance at multiple poetry readings last year. Hopefully, we’ll all be able to attend them again soon. In the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and read often!