Variety is the Spice of Life

Here I go again taking classes.  This one is Part III of the series on modern women poets taught by Lorraine Mejia-Green through the Story Circle Network.  We read poems by a variety of women and use their works and related assignments for inspiration.  This week features Julia Alvarez and even though I have already read all her novels, etc. and a book of prose poetry, the selected poems are new to me.  It seems I always take a different route from a lot of the others enrolled in the class.  The following show cases draft two of my first assignment:

I keep coming to this part

where I’m happy

95 per cent of the time.

It’s my story

dictated by


“Variety is the Spice of Life.”


Yes, but true.

Four marriages

Lovers-I lost count

Activist in “love” with

Che and other South American


Feminist for forty years

Up to maybe four careers.

Big city apartments


Old houses by the bay

Bricks with arched windows

A tree lined street.

Can I settle?

For what, with whom, where?

Variety is the Spice of Life.

The Blizzard

Looking through the window.

Looking through the window.

The steps climbing up the hill to the barn.

The steps climbing up the hill to the barn.

Outside the office window.

Outside the office window.


My patio which I will have to eventually shovel--afraid to do so today because the wind is so strong.

My patio which I will have to eventually shovel–afraid to do so today because the wind is so strong.

The barn door before I shoveled my way in.

The barn door before I shoveled my way in.

The view out the double barn door.  All this is actually under a roof.  The wind is blowing the snow everywhere.

The view out the double barn door. All this is actually under a roof. The wind is blowing the snow everywhere.


The view from the front door after digging it out twice from reoccurring drifts.

The view from the front door after digging it out twice from reoccurring drifts.

The new assignment arrived for my prose poetry class.  In the last couple of hours I have read poems by Baudelaire and Rimbaud as examples of some of the first prose poems.  While I read them, I listened to “The Unicorn, the Gorgan, and the Manticore” by Menotti, a piece I am supposed to be singing in 1 1/2 months.  Work shut down today because of a massive blizzard.  The wind literally shrieks down the canyon where I live–gusts they say to 70 mph.  It piles up drifts four to six feet high.  Twice today I have donned my boots, gloves, heavy coat, and gone shoveling and to feed the horses.  For the first time since the barn has been there, snow is actually inside, driven by the wind, and the horses are standing in snow drifts that blew under the overhanging roof of the outside runs.  Even getting to the barn door necessitated shoveling through drifts taller than I.  The snow continues, predicted for another twelve hours or so, maybe as much as twenty inches.  Living alone fails to daunt me, but I cannot concentrate well today.  My drive is long and climbs up a steep hill.  Even my four wheel drive truck may not make it.  I keep thinking it may take days for me to shovel out even if, when the snow and wind cease, my neighbor brings over his tractor to help.  A friend, several miles away, remains without electricity.  I filled my wood burning stove with wood and started a fire just in case.  It seems a perfect day to write and cook and practice music.  And here I sit unable to concentrate long enough.  The wind keeps rushing through my brain.

Horses in Heaven

Heaven for horses seems a bit far fetched, especially for someone who lacks certainty about heaven  even for people.  Nevertheless, it remains a comforting concept.  Yesterday, I buried Starry Miracle, less than two, an orphan I bottle fed every 3-4 hours day and night when his  mother, Miracle, died.  He not only survived, he thrived.

Around 4:30 Wednesday, friends went to my place to ride Rosie, a chunky, red roan mare.  They found Star dead.  It appeared he had been playing, jumping, and rearing, and freakily caught his ankle in a space between the pipe gate and fence, broke it and ruptured his femoral artery, then bled to death.  When they called to tell me, disbelief set in.  As a horse owner for many years, I know the common causes of horse deaths, colic mainly, from which Miracle died three days after his birth.  I have inspected fences and corrals for safety many times.  The possibility of such an accident never even entered my mind.

His body stiff, distorted,  his coat, lusterless, bore no resemblance to his burnished copper body, glinting in the sun, following me, nipping if I ignored him.  Often, I thought he thought I was a horse or he a human.

The two surviving horses spent hours standing in the spot where he died, licking the pipe fence from which I had hosed off his blood, smelling the ground, neighing.  They even failed to rush to their hay when I fed them.  Eventually, I opened their gates.  They ran across the rugged canyon land constantly for fifteen minutes, dream horses running in the wind.



Miracle, Star’s mother, deceased, July 2010.  Rosie who “adopted” Star after Miracle died, and Cool, the other orphaned horse I raised.

Miracle and Star as a newbornRosie, who "adopted" Star after Miracle died.

This is how you…

In preschool I had a few duties I remember, well maybe not remember—this story is part of family lore so old I cannot remember whether I remember only the lore or the occurrence itself.  At four, one chore involved walking from the house, across the backyard, across the drive, past the rose garden, then on the path between the big white barn and the huge vegetable garden to the chicken house behind the barn.  Each evening I took this trip before dark and shut the hen house door so the raccoons, skunks, and possums could not get in and eat the hens.  One night I forgot.  The night was dark, moonless.  Dad ordered me to the hen house.  He handed me a flashlight.  I refused, terrified.  He tried talking; I refused.  He tried force; I refused.  My mom understood my terror and finally intervened.  She told Dad, “You had better never ever do anything like that again!”  He didn’t.

By twelve, the terror had changed to pleasure.  I knew how to walk through the woods in the dark without a flashlight.  I knew how to walk through the woods in the dark silently so I could hear the animal sounds.  I knew how to walk through the woods in the dark happy and alone, free.  I still like to walk in the dark.

At twelve, I knew how to load a 22 rifle, to shoot raccoons and rabbits on the run, to clean the rifle afterwards.

I knew how to practice the piano for two hours straight.

I knew how to sing in front of a crowd of people.

I knew how to sew blouses, skirts, and dresses all by myself even though my mom could only sew on buttons.

I knew how to make fancy bows for the Christmas presents.

I knew how to fry chicken almost as well as my mom:

-this is how to check for pin feathers

-this is how you fill the paper sack with flour and salt

-this is how you fill the skillet with just the right amount of oil

-this is how you take the pieces out of the sack and put them in the hot


-this is when and how you turn the pieces

-this is how you know when they are done

-this is how you drain the pieces on paper towels so it won’t be too


I have not made or eaten fried chicken in years.

From six until I earned my Ph.D., this is how you make straight A’s in school:

-get organized

-be determined

-fill your soul with drive.

It helps if you are smart.

This is how you meet your parents’ expectations:

-keep your room neat

-keep your room clean

-keep your room perfect

-complete chores on time

-complete chores perfectly

-complete chores cheerfully

-study hard

-complete all homework

-make perfect grades

-dress nicely

-dress modestly, but not too prim

-dress in clean underwear in case you get in a car wreck.

I still get straight A’s.  I still have an overdose of drive.  I still write, play the piano, cook, ride horses, and sing.

It helps if you are smart.

As a rancher years later, I learned how to work cattle without my father’s help:

-this is how you “cut” or “band” yearling bulls

-this is how you give shots

-this is how you brand

-this is how you drive cattle on horseback down a road full of traffic

-this is how you save a  newborn, freezing calf:

-be brave and get it away from its mother

-carry it into the house or pickup truck

-wipe it down with towels

-blow it dry with your hair dryer.

This is how you train a horse to send to the race track:

-teach it to lead as a baby

-handle it every day if possible

-pick up its feet repeatedly

-rub your hands all over its body, especially on sensitive spots

-brush and comb it

-after it is older, rub a saddle blanket all over it and flap it in the wind

-hang plastic bags on its corral

-jump around a lot and desensitize it

-when it is a long yearling, put a saddle on it

-put a bridle or hackamore on it

-get long lines

-string them through the stirrups and teach it to drive in a round pen

-teach it to stand still

-get a flat saddle

-get on and ride

-do not teach it to neck rein

-ride often but for short periods of time.

Today as a teacher:

-this is how you solve for X and Y

-this is how you solve quadratic equations

-this is how you solve exponent problems

-this is how you solve word problems

-this is how you rationalize radicals

-this is how you determine how many grams are in one mole of a

chemical compound

-this is how you balance chemical equations

-this is how you conjugate common Spanish verbs

-this is how you write a sentence in Spanish

-this is how you translate a Mexican folk tale

-this is the date of the Magna Carta, the….

-this is how you write an essay

-this is how you learn new words from the context

-this is how you read for layers of meaning

-this is how…

It helps if you are smart.