… a poem I wrote after reading about a Michigan funeral home where decomposing bodies alerted people to horrific conditions…
They were wrong.
The dead can speak.
Rotting flesh with pulse,
A maggot’s breath,
They rise and point a finger,
Corpses brush against cardboard.
You cannot do this to us.
You cannot do this to us.
The dead speak the only way they can.
Entrusted bodies to the funeral home
That betrayed them.
I love haiku for its spiritual value. Read my 17 syllables in the current online Haiku Journal. http://haikujournal.org/e-issues/
Click Issue 54, and scroll down…
Every 70-year-old woman has a story about her bladder. Here’s mine, or read it at:
If you’re squeamish about urine, you might not want to read this. Otherwise, proceed. This is the story of my bladder. I am seventy years old. Every woman my age has a bladder story.
I never had chronic bladder problems until I reached my mid-fifties. As a child, of course I had that one humiliating story like most people do. It happened when I was in first grade. The shame was overwhelming.
One day then, when I was six, pee began trickling down my inner thighs while I played dodge ball after school. The knowledge of this horrified me and I tore across the playground and headed for the lavatory – the 1950s word for bathroom. By the time I got there, however, my underpants were soaked. I wasn’t as concerned about losing control of my bladder as much as of someone finding out. I couldn’t risk being laughed at and being made fun of.
Normally, I walked home from school with a group of neighborhood kids but on this particular day I took off up the hill in a trail of embarrassment (before publicized kidnappings, kids did such things). By the time I reached my house my inner thighs were rubbed raw. I dreaded my mother discovering my secret. When she did, I hung my head in shame, even though she didn’t make a big deal about it.
Fast-forward to my early twenties to another incident, one I now see as an omen of what was to come. During a modern dance class at San Francisco State, the routine required us to slide across the floor and jump into the air. Each time I landed, pee squirted into my underpants. It took me by surprise. This had never happened before.
Next up was pregnancy, which wreaked havoc on my bladder. A month before giving birth I spent a good portion of the time on the toilet. I always had to go, even if only a tiny drop came out.
One day, while out doing errands, the urgency hit. I knew I would pee my pants right then and there if I didn’t find a bathroom, and quick. Locating a public restroom was out of the question. I searched for a secluded area and spotted an alleyway that would have to do. Hurrying down it, I collapsed next to a garage, yanked down my underpants and peed, little rivers of urine speading out in all directions. When finished I pulled myself up, held my head high, tried to give the appearance of walking calmly to my car. At least I had the pregnancy excuse.
After giving birth, my bladder returned to normal. All was well until I reached those mid-fifties I spoke of. That was when I started leaking urine. My incontinence – and I hate that word – grew worse and worse. Peeing in the morning when first waking up became my biggest challenge (not that I didn’t wake up several times each night and get up to go) – as I’d run down the hall, praying I’d make it to the bathroom, tugging my underwear down and plopping down on the toilet seat hopefully before the dam broke. Sometimes I made it. Other times I didn’t, cleaning the floor and toilet seat, washing myself off and sprinkling powder on my inner thighs.
You know you have a problem when you scout out the bathroom as soon as you arrive somewhere. Or you make your way to the ladies room in the middle of a movie to avoid waiting in line once it ends. Or you refrain from drinking water before going for a walk with a friend, or choose to wear pants with elastic waistbands so you can get them down more quickly. Inevitably, your favorite times become those you spend at home. That way, you have easy access to the toilet.
All the above rang true for me. I became a slave to my bladder. It determined what I did and didn’t do, where I went and didn’t go, this hurried, frenzied rush to the toilet taking over my life. I decided to see a doctor and was referred to a urogynecologist. She had me keep a chart of every time I went to the bathroom. I kept it near the toilet along with a pencil, prepared for my research. What my research showed was that it was difficult for me to go for more than a half hour without a trip to the toilet. When I reported this to her on my next visit, she had me put my bladder on a schedule in order to retrain it. Eventually I got so I was only going every hour or so. This temporarily boosted my spirits and my confidence returned, except that all bets were off if I drank water before leaving my home. She suggested I combine my new schedule with bladder medications, but I had no luck with them. With grim determination, I tried one pill after the other, but they either didn’t work or they dried me up so much I couldn’t produce enough saliva to push my food down my throat.
My next step was to take drastic measures as I became increasingly depressed about my limited activity. The event that spurred me into action occurred when walking home from the bus stop on Geary Boulevard one day, which is about four blocks from where I live in San Francisco. I felt the urgency to pee and tried to hold it. When it started raining, I hurried down the street, hoping to reach my place and climb the stairs in time. I know this sounds strange, but it was as if the rain started my own waterworks. By the time I opened the front door, I was drenched in both rain and pee, my pants completely soaked. Okay, I told myself, I surrender.
Shortly thereafter I went to see my urogyneclogist again, confessing that my bladder was ruling every aspect of my life. We decided on urinary incontinence surgery where tissue would be removed from one part of my body to make a sling to support my bladder. It wouldn’t be a permanent solution, she said, but would help with the incontinence for around five years.
I had the operation, stayed in the hospital for a few days and came home to recuperate. For awhile, my outlook brightened. I have to say that it definitely helped although it was by no means a magic cure. I had more bladder control, but still had trouble making it to the toilet in the morning, and still felt it necessary to made a plan of where the closest bathrooms were when going out. The problem, however, wasn’t quite as dire. And just like the urogynecologist predicted, by the time five years elapsed I was back from where I’d started. It seemed so long ago, that time in the distant past when the simple act of peeing was a natural part of my life and not stressing me the hell out. I yearned to go back to that point in time, but it wasn’t going to happen. The worst part of the situation was that it made me feel so very old.
Maybe you are wondering why I didn’t just wear a maxi-pad or buy a box of Depends. Wouldn’t that have solved the problem? That, of course, would be a really big step. Nobody wants to start wearing a pad or using diapers anymore than they want to lean on a cane or order hearing aids, much less get excited about going to the old folks home. Just because I needed something didn’t mean I was ready to give up what I perceived as my independence.
The thing was, I knew that once I went the maxi-pad/diaper route there would be no going back. You don’t stop wearing your bifocals or decide one day you no longer need your cane or suddenly stop using your hearing aids. My woman friend Panda has knee and back problems that keep her homebound a good portion of the time. The simple use of a cane could greatly help her with mobility. When I asked her why she didn’t use one, she looked at me blankly and uttered four simple words: I’m not ready yet.
And so I fought against losing what I perceived as my independence. I didn’t see it the other way around, that wearing a pad or a diaper would give me more independence as I could go out and about with less worry. You have to understand, though, that there were already so many things that I was losing the older I got. My hair was falling out, my mobility became so limited I finally gave into the dreaded hip replacement, and I’d had cataract surgery to remove the gummy plugs from my eyes.
I wasn’t anywhere near wearing diapers, but I did finally give in and wear a maxi-pad. I started with an overnight pad which helped me when I didn’t make it to the bathroom in the morning, and it wasn’t even a week before I started wearing one all the time, asking myself why I hadn’t done this sooner. I felt more confident although I didn’t like how I looked in clothes. I wear tight yoga pants and the bulky pad made me self-conscious, certain that people could see it, that the outline showed through my clothing. Plus, I felt as if I had a little tail wagging behind me when I walked.
The pads brought with them other problems. At times they rode up the back of my underwear and worked themselves free of my pants, landing on the floor. The first time this happened I discovered the pad in my hallway, a quick check of my privates telling me that I was no longer in possession of it. It happened shortly thereafter at the post office. Upon leaving, I spied a pad in the middle of the floor, realizing with dread that it belonged to me. Needless to say, I swiped it up off the floor, bowed my head and flew out the door while never looking back. The third time occurred at my son’s house. I walked into the kitchen to find the dog with it in his mouth.
And then this occurred. One day when I was out and had the strong urge to pee, waiting in the car to pick my grandson up from school, I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it in until I made it inside of the school building. The residential neighborhood offered no deserted alleyways or trees to hide behind while I relieved myself, not that I really considered this.
A week before I’d gone to a pot luck dinner at a friend’s house and I’d left a wooden salad bowl on the floor of the front seat. I looked at it now with sudden interest. Hmm… I glanced out the car windows and no one was about. I inhaled deeply and as a precaution I closed the sunroof just in case anyone was looking down on me with a pair of binoculars from their second-story window – this was actually going through my paranoid mind. I paused, then slid down my pants while lifting my butt, positioning the salad bowl (the toilet bowl) beneath my hips, closing my eyes and letting er rip.
It was a tense few moments. I felt so exposed, for lack of a better word, as if the entire world knew what I was up to. What if someone I knew walked up to my car to say hi, catching me in the act? What would I do?
Peeing completed, I wiped myself with a Kleenex from my purse, lifted my butt and carefully placed the salad bowl on the floor, pulling up my pants. Done. I felt bad about pouring my pee into the street, but not bad enough to keep me from opening the car door and pouring it onto the pavement. I was a public health menace, that’s what I was, but I no longer had to pee and the relief was amazing.
This was my first incident with the salad bowl. It was not to be my last. It became my trusty companion for those times when I had no other way out. I’d found a solution, albeit an unconventional one. The salad bowl provided me with the freedom I was searching for, allowing me to go places in my car and not have to hunt down a public bathroom.
A few years have passed since my discovery of the salad bowl and it’s still working for me. I’ve developed a sense of humor about it, having told my close friends, who I was surprised to find out either had their own comparable stories or knew people who did. Sharing my embarrassing secret has created a space where it’s not embarrassing anymore.
I feel sorry for that little girl – me – who fled her classmates on the playground that day so long ago. In our unforgiving culture we’re not supposed to lose control. Control our tempers. Control our finances. Control our relationships. Control our bladders. Shame reigns upon us if we don’t.
These were a lot of fun to write…
She is large blue eyes
Her mouth is a tomato…
Gripping the microphone she reads
Her words are small ugly dolls
Her second poem is called Fluent in Bullshit
Her third poem is called Fuck Feathers
Her fourth poem is called Who is the bae? I am the bae!
Her fifth poem is called Dude, You’re Not Gorgeous
Her sixth poem is called Hashtag Hag
Her seventh poem is called Go Fuck your IPhone
The crowd claps
She throws her shoes at them
She takes off her blouse and swings it over her head
It lands on the greasy floor
Amid the chartreuse chaos
City yellow Urban red
The air is music
She lets her hair down
The clouds are slow white syllables
Her face is a freeway, red artery.
She sees the world through barricades.
Her eyes are heavy.
There’s furniture in her teeth.
She’ll devour you like the government.
That was the time when her hair became a lagoon.
We sailed on it in a slender boat.
A boat shaped like an ear.
The water was affectionate.
The following is a quirky story I wrote about a woman reflecting upon her sex life while she does her laundry at the neighborhood laundromat. I always liked this story but no one seemed to want to publish it. I sent it out to many many literary magazines and received many many rejections. Finally, Queen Mob’s Tea House accepted it. This renewed my faith, showing me that you just have to keep on submitting your work until you find a match.
Dirty socks. There was something erotic about the way the cotton picked up the smell. They reminded Celia of sex.
She threw the dirty socks into the hamper, gathered the towels,wash rags, bathmat, her slacks hung over the back of the rocking chair, a bra slung over a lampshade, and stuffed the laundry down into the wicker hamper with her fists. She grabbed her detergent, her purse and her car keys and was off to the laundromat three blocks away. Once there, she fiddled with the damn change machine, creasing the dollar bills so the finicky slot wouldn’t reject them, but finally cough up quarters she’d fit into the metal hand of the washing machine. She deposited the whites together, darks together, her laundry agitating. She sat down in the sunny window seat and leaned back against the wall. She looked across the street at a child riding a skateboard, a heavyset man walking a dog stuffed inside a red plaid sweater. Celia felt really lonely. She was looking to be filled up like the washing machines, to have someone put money in her slot, to get her agitating.
Her thoughts spun. She’d left Steve behind. She’d walked away after six years of living together. She’d done his dirty laundry how many times? Hundreds? She’d smelled his perspiration rings, sniffed his socks, gulped in the wide expanse of the shirt backs, her muscular wide-backed Steve, big and stocky, good and smelly. She’d enjoyed his dirty laundry, the scent of his cologne. His manhood she found charming. It was the real live Steve she had problems with.
Men baffled Celia. She liked their maleness, their scents, their energy consuming her, but when it came to simple everyday talk, she felt far away from them.
Celia waited for her laundry, rummaging through old newspapers. She wondered if either of the men folding their clothes were meant for her. Could they fill her up? She was sure they couldn’t.
She picked up the pink pages and acted interested in current movies. She waited twenty minutes and went to check on her laundry. One of the loads had a light on that read: Unbalanced Load.
Was this supposed to be some kind of message about her life? She opened the lid and balanced the bathmat. She slammed the lid and the machine started its spin cycle. She dragged the other clothes out of the washers and threw them into dryers, stuck quarters in each, turned the knob and watched her clothes fly in a circle of colors, flopping around, limbs dancing. She felt giddy.
Giddy and angry. That was her all right. She was happy and sad, depressed and elated, clear and confused. She was an unbalanced load, needing someone to come and unbunch her and straighten her out. To figure out her loneliness, show her true love without the difficulties of reality stepping in with its big foot of pain and mess.
Steve made emotional messes and left them for her to clean up. He failed to relate, as her therapist said. He analyzed a problem, never communicating so they could have good sex afterward.
The clothes dryers mesmerized her. The circling heat slapped her clothes dry. She would fold them, put them away so she could wear them all over again. Trek back to the laundromat and stand here again. The circling colors matched her own spinning thoughts, the endless tumbling that kept her feet from planting themselves on the ground. Celia was an unbalanced load.
She watched the dryers, the clothes taking on an odd sexual look. They tossed and tumbled, thrown together, encircled by heat, pant legs slapping, clothes entwined until the dryer stopped, clothes on top of each other in an exhausted heap, a pile of burning zippers and unbuttoned blouses, her bra twisted, the metal hooks burning her fingers as she dragged it out and unwound it, trying to make sense out of its shape.
Celia scooped her clothes out of the tumblers and placed them in the laundry basket. She wheeled it over to the folding table. A bachelor stuffed his clothes into a pillowcase, a teenager outside smoking a cigarette. Celia halved her bathmat. She shoved it into the bottom of her hamper.
Evening awaited her. She folded her underwear, a menstrual stain like a Rorschach test on a pair of her white cotton panties. Should she take them to her therapist, have them read for clues? She caught herself smiling. Her arm circled her hamper as she made her way out to her car.
A short poem for Freddie Gray after all charges were dropped. In today’s world, it is almost impossible to hold police accountable for violence against POC.
The following two poems were published in I am Not a Silent Poet.
Isn’t it funny how Sean Spicer showed up at the Emmys last night? I mean,
I’m always up for a good joke and it was a big surprise. I’ll have to give it that.
Did you see Melissa McCarthy’s face? Did you see the faces of the people in the audience?
So nice that someone can make fun of themselves. I guess I’ll have to forget that
he was the mouthpiece for Donald J.Trump. That’s all in the past. Now we can feel sorry
for Sean Spicer. After all, he was discarded like so many others. And you know what?
Even George W is looking good these days. Well, maybe not really.
I think if we’re going to be fair we need to give equal time to Steve Bannon. Why wasn’t
he featured at the Emmys? Maybe because no Melissa McCarthy played him, but I still
think it was a good opportunity. It could have gotten a lot of laughs. He could have – let’s
see, what could he have done? Tap danced? Sang a song? Blackface?
What I’m getting at here is that sometimes it’s good to laugh and sometimes it’s good not to.
You have to choose when something is funny and when it isn’t. Is Sean Spicer endearing
now? Is he relatable because he’s been ousted and is now seen as a quasi-victim? Or, the
bigger question: can we forgive? Maybe we should forgive everyone who has hurt us.
Or maybe we shouldn’t. I think it’s important to remember that we have choices. We can
laugh at something for its shock and surprise. That doesn’t mean we condone that person’s past actions. Or we can sit staunchly and not forgive. And not forget. It’s all about where our heart is at on that particular day.
As she approached the conflict, hoping for a major breakthrough, she remembered all the times
when she walked down hallways and embraced the unknown. There were times when she scrapped her plans. There were times when she whispered to herself to go back. And there were times when she warriored forward.
The protests in St. Louis remind us that grief is not allowed.
You will be crushed if you attempt to have a voice.
Today on the front page someone has slept with the wrong person. The drinking water is still bad. Opioid crisis. Russian probe. Colin Kaepernick is a good guy.
Inappropriate, or funny?