Category Archives: Poetry


Is it “everyday” or “every day”? There’s room for both, in this world.

Like so:

“Miracles happen every day.”

“It was an everyday miracle when ‘Peppers’, the lovable duckling, took his first flight across Farmer Blackthorn’s pond!”


In any case, today’s miracle is that I’m posting a blog entry, after this many days of absence: 98. Squeak!

A partial list of other miracles which happen every day:

-Cakes also happen every day




Two weeks ago, I was traveling down to Indianapolis, midday, on the Megabus. I looked out the window as the day began to fade away, the shadows to lengthen, the dusk-light to dance, et cetera. The sun emerged from behind the clouds. For some reason, I was able to look directly at it without discomfort for a few moments. [No: I have not received new, bionic eyeballs via mail order.] [Which…hold on, I’m Googling “bionic eyeballs”. Hey, we’ve got bionic eyeballs now! Neat! Also: Aaaaaaaaaaaa!]

The sun is Every Day, and also Everyday. I don’t lend it much thought. But for some reason, at that particular moment, the hard fact of THE SUN was borne in upon me like a–well, a solar flare, is what. It’s so big that we can see it with the naked eye, it makes sugar maples grow, it warms my face in the summer, and it’s 93 MILLION MILES AWAY. WHAT IS THAT. WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT.


Recently, NASA was able to capture its first 360 degree image of the sun, via two probes it sent out in 2006. This is apparently a very big deal. For instance, we will no longer be taken by surprise if a “farside active region” decides to launch a “billion-ton cloud of plasma” at us! Yaaaaaay!

Here is the image from the probes:

Here is a NASA artist’s rendering:


I love astronomical artists’ renderings


Here on Earth’s surface, in Chicago, it’s been snowy. Last Tuesday night, Jessica and I watched the snow careen by in the front window like cannonfire.  I grew up in the Midwest; I have seen snow and ice before. I have never seen anything like this.  Our street is like the surface of the moon.

It snowed again yesterday, and then–again–this afternoon, flakes with the density of sawdust, which I brushed off my coat at intervals to keep it from piling up. When I walked down the street after work I couldn’t see three blocks away; instead, there was a wall of white, which only cleared as I approached it and walked through.

I passed these bushes on Logan Boulevard:

“There’s nowhere for it to go,” said a woman I work with, of the new snow. There are still piles as high my waist in plenty of places, impassable street corners, buried cars. I don’t know what the lesson is, when there’s nowhere else for the snow to go.

Everything happens at once.


This poem is a bruiser, but it’s so good, everyone; I’ve gotta.

EVERYONE: You’ve gotta?
ME: Uh-huh.



I hate my heart What is this wild and bad
renunciation I hate my heart Why
does it hurt me even now after so

much raking over after so much ruck
It’s hard to call my heart it speaking of
part of me that is almost all of me

because what is there that is not my heart
Tucked beneath my breathing lungs it beats
it breathes it is my thoughts what thought do I

have that isn’t folded inside my heart
Is there such a thought a heartless thought I
don’t have one When I walk I carry what

My heart on the stick of my body Or
my courage in the sticking place O screw
don’t I have the courage of my good heart

Is this my scarecrow longing for his heart
I’m scared of my heart the old rags and bones
the rage a rage for order pale Ramon

Even though I’ve raked my heart it rages
Beshrew me I know my heart is good Shrew
little sparrow will you come to my hand

O screw I eat crow I crow my heart out
Am I the shrew to it or it to me
To no one but my heart or it to me

Sarah Arvio


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Filed under Math and Science: General, My Roommate, Poetry, Sarah Arvio

America America! Oh Yeah!

Election Day. Our polling place is across the street–a lovely Lutheran church. I’m going to get up early; I’m going to shine my shoes; I’m going to do a soft-shoe routine out the front door; I’m going to stand in line while a bemused Election Day volunteer flips through a binder of registered voters the width of a bowling alley lane, and then I’M GOING TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS.

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Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, Katha Pollitt, My Roommate, Poetry

Bits and Scrumbles

In Milwaukee this weekend, for my friend Katie’s wedding [her beautiful, perfect-tastic, dance-rific wedding. Lo, the dancing! There was some toe-tapping, and I don’t mean maybe].

On Friday afternoon, a group of us are seated in the lobby of the Pfister Hotel, eating lunch and drinking drinks, feeling like real ladies and gentlemen.

Long story short, Robert Duvall walks in.

No: I don’t know, either.


Descending back to earth after three days of the perfect wedding, and bright fall trees, and love, and also small, delicious, pesto-based sandwiches is difficult, even under the most benevolent of circumstances; for instance, if I had been traveling to the Carribean directly after the wedding, I might still have heaved a stony sigh at the hardness of my lot in life. “The Carribean,” I might have said, “what’s so great about the Carribean? Wait, how many degrees is it in Aruba? Well.”

Small things, however, can save you.  As I walked to work this morning, 7:25ish, I approached a cross-section of sidewalk that was bounded on all sides by tape and signage and et cetera. I slowed my steps as I approached. A grizzled workman, standing nearby, caught my eye.

GRIZZLED WORKMAN: It’s all right, miss.
ME: Okay.
GRIZZLED WORKMAN: [Moving his hands towards the ground, with the gesture of a man soothing a spirited horse.] Three days dry.

Hell yeah.


Did you know that Aruba is part of the Netherlands? Isn’t that weird? I think that’s awfully weird.  I didn’t know that.

It must be said, however, that what I don’t know on a given day could span the Andromeda Galaxy.

That’s about right!


It was seventy-something degrees in Chicago today. It was pleasant, but ultimately, days like this knock me off my rocker, come autumn. I’d gotten used to the slow fall of the temperature, the birdsong slipping away. I was starting to settle in. I don’t like to be reminded of the long haul waiting before spring comes again. Sometimes, you don’t want to remember what was.


On a lighter note, this peppermint tea is delicious.

PEPPERMINT TEA: Aren’t I just?


I was trammeled, I thought, by tragedy,
oh what, something long ago, some travail
of my soul or my body, or of both.

The “little tragedies of daily life”
tremoring through me–tremor wasn’t a verb,
tra-la-la wasn’t either, or trial,

though they trailed through my life, didn’t they,
a tracery of tears, a track of woes.
Woes, woes, ten little fingers and toes,

decades of them, this deed, that distortion,
a tort against the treasured harmony.
A twist or a twirl, a tic, a tic-tac-toe,

thrumming on the synapses, drumming out
a threnody of threats and tears, a thought-
torture, love, love, a tiny tortured heart.

My heart, my own little tap-tapping heart,
my tapped-out heart, their testament to me,
a test of wills, or a test of my will,

my willingness, my wish to weather on.
Oh waves, waves, all the ripples and rhythms,
the rituals of walking and reaching,

the verbiage, the verb-thoughts, try this, try that;
the rites of therapy and talking trash,
the tapestry of tears, the truth-trapeze.

But did I want the truth? Try me, I said.
This is, this was, this should never have been;
reason, thought-treason and some truisms.

Sarah Arvio

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Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, Poetry, Sarah Arvio

Long Time Coming

At Walgreens Sunday night.  As my cashier and I wrap up our transaction–and Walgreens transactions are always interesting, not to mention bizarrely personal–an embarrassed look flickers across her face; the look of someone who has been expressly asked to do something which they find painfully stupid. Without meeting my eyes, she picks up a few squares of paper next to her right hand, and slips them into my bag with all the subtlety of a first-time cat burglar–a cat burglar who is feeling a little nervous, out there cat-burgling a mansion for the very first time, and maybe accidentally knocks a crystal lamp onto the floor in the front entry.

When I get home, I see that the squares of paper are perfume samples, as follows:

ME: Uh.


When did Walgreens decide to inveigle its female clientele into purchasing celebrity designer perfumes? When I think Walgreens, I think: “Paper towels.” I think: “Nail polish remover.”

I do not think, “Big date tonight. Time to hit the Walgreens.”

[Well, I might think that.]


For the record, Faith Hill wins it in a walk.


The day of the Chicago marathon, I went to see my friend Jon run. [Alas: we never saw each other. Sometimes the universe does not choose you.] I selected a spot off the nine-mile marker, around Clark and Diversey.

It was early in the morning, and I was a sleepy me. I meandered towards the marathon route, yawning and wishing for a cup of coffee the size of a Christmas ham, when I heard cheering from ahead. When I emerged onto Clark, I saw a group of men sprinting by–clearly the pack leaders, the men who run the entire marathon in 2 hours, and then lap everyone else once more, for fun. One of them gave a jaunty wave to the crowd, and then they vanished, practically leaving a shimmery disturbance in the fabric of time in their wake.

Those guys? Basically those guys.

Two men behind me burst into disbelieving laughter–how do they do that? How do they run that fast? Bwahahaha!  I stopped and watched people stream by for another hour in increasingly enormous waves. A woman across the street held up a sign which read DETERMINATION, and shouted encouragingly at anyone within spitting distance. I could not ascertain whether or not she actually knew anyone who was running.

Twice, people running by sarcastically commented to myself and the people standing around me, on my little patch of Clark Street, on the fact that we were not clapping for them as they ran past. What?

I don’t know. If you require someone to be standing there clapping for every instant of the 26.2 mile duration, my good people, perhaps you should not be running a marathon. Or, more to the point: Get out of my face, unless I’ve been able consume a coffee the size of a Christmas ham.


Posting will become more frequent, says me. It’s been down the tubes, of late–

YOU: Right down the tubes!

–But there is just stuff and life and life stuff–for instance, I’m in my friend’s wedding in Milwaukee this weekend, and that suitcase isn’t going to pack itself to be taken on Amtrak’s Hiawatha Express, now is it?

SUITCASE: No, I am inanimate!

And rehearsals are gearing up for a special evening of theater in mid-November, regarding which you shall hear more, and perhaps be exhorted to attend, if you live in the greater Chicagoland area–

YOU: Sounds like a plan, Stanley!

So what I’m saying is that I’m around, and all. There are just a lot of carrots in my grocery basket right now.

YOU: No, I don’t think that’s how that goes.

Flocks of Never

We had to throw things away
to sell our house,
make it seem like we lived
sparingly–a minimalist life.
As if anyone lives
with only one blue shirt
in the closet,
one pair of shoes illuminated
by a single light bulb swinging–
40 watts and a string to pull,
frayed twine and a soundless
plastic bell, to turn it on,
to turn it off.

For years, I watched ivy
spread over my neighbor’s house.
Each year the leaves
turned from green to red
to gone. When the leaves
fell, flocks of never
migrating starlings
ate the purple berries,
tugged off the stems.

For years, from my kitchen window,
I watched Siberian snow geese
winter along the Columbia river.
Each day they’d rise
like heavy rain clouds blown by wind–
white plumage like morning sky,
black wings like shadows,
like rain. Sometimes, so early, the sky
still the color of ashy smoke,
thousands of geese would disappear
into a whorl of sudden snow.
In these moments, I’d imagine,
though I never saw anything
like it, the spray of twelve-gauge
buckshot entering the body
of a goose in mid-air,
and its mate, its mate for life,
would honk, drop down,
honk, follow the limp body
to the ground.
And because this is
a love story,
the falling goose,
the following goose,
the strange replaying of this scene,
the replaying of something
that did not happen,
never disturbed me,
the way it does now,
as I stand in my new house,
in my new closet
with no string to pull.
Instead a switch, like all the other
modern rooms, easier I suppose,
to turn the light on, to turn it off.
And strangely, with no geese
at my new kitchen window,
I have traded scenes: the repeated falling
goose for the last moment
in my old closet. Standing in the dark,
even my blue shirt gone,
I pull the string a final time.
I turn the light on to dust
in the corner, turn it off
to the empty dark,
thinking, how the severity of nothing
can fill up a room.
And because I cannot resist
I turn it on and turn it off
again and again, like I did
when I was five, maybe four,
when the simplicity of light
and dark was enough
to stay an afternoon.

Drew Blanchard


Filed under Drew Blanchard, Poetry

It. Is. Time.

Let’s acknowledge that there’s been a bit of a blogging hiatus of late. You’re acknowledging it; I’m acknowledging it; the unnervingly fast centipede I brutally killed last night on the living room floor with my copy of “A Room with a View” is acknowledging it.  [Seriously unnerving, this centipede. An almost human intelligence. It was a dance to the death, let me tell you!]

Having acknowledged it,  let’s ease back into things by taking a look at what CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has up on the ol’ homepage right now in regards to the Large Hadron Collider; just their special way of connecting with the public, updating us on the latest news, and breaking things down simply for Joe Layperson, kicking back to peruse some particle physics of an evening with a bowl of popcorn and a cold beer:



I think the question we’re all asking ourselves right now is this: Why is the link status of beam permits “false”?


I am writing a play right now–the long kind, which I have never writ before–and it is draining the tar out of me, and all of that. This is part of why I have been so long away. I have to think of things people would say to each other, in plays, and then I have to write them down. Once I have done that for a while, the thought of writing ANYTHING ELSE EVER AGAIN looks like this:

PASSERBY: Here. Take this sweet potato, and build it into a Chevy Impala!


You see my dilemma.


That being said: My mother told me a real soul-scooping tale last week, on the telephone, in regards to this very subject; the being tired and the writing and the doing what you have to do and the all of that.

For background: My Ma’s been reading a heap about Mark Twain for a little while now, and oftentimes she’ll share a tale or two with me. This particular evening, when I was bemoaning to her my woeful inability to work all day, come home, and make my brain produce anything which does not resemble the crayon scrawls of a baby bear cub who has been taught to grasp human implements, she mildly related the following.

Ulysses S. Grant, she said–

Ulysses S. Grant

Who was a pal of Mark Twain’s [“News to me!”, said I] apparently had throat cancer [“News to me also!”, said I.] He was involved in some sort of business proceeding that musn’t have worked out as planned, since he went bankrupt; though I’m no “financial wizard”, and “I can barely add two numbers together”, I believe I can connect the dots on that one. [Further research into this matter unearthed multiple uses of the word “swindle”, which is a word I bet they used a lot, back there in Reconstruction days!]

Anywho, there he was: Bankrupt and dying of throat cancer. And so what did he do? By gum: He wrote his memoirs, so that his family would be provided for in the wake of his passing.

ULYSSES S. GRANT: I led the Union Army, dammit!

There was nothing they could do for the cancer; my mother told me that he could not so much as drink water without it feeling like he was “drinking molten lead”. And they couldn’t alleviate his pain by spraying codeine and morphine and cocaine [landsakes!] in his throat, because he had to be lucid enough to write.

Thus spake my mother, mildly.

ME: Well, NUTS.


The presidency of Ulysses S. Grant was marred by constant acts of political corruption, up to and including a scandal referred to as the “Whiskey Ring.”

Good people do bad things.


About two weeks ago, I dyed all of my hair a white-blonde. It’s been real interesting, and not a little disorienting. Small children stare at my head when I pass, with the wrinkled brow with which you or I might observe a passing clown at a Big Top Circus, or an alien being intent on world domination [either way].  For some days, people I interact with on a daily basis were unable to look me right in the face when speaking with me; if they looked at me, they would forget who they were talking to.

This is from the night it was done–one of 17 pictures I tried to send people, in a feeble attempt to explain. I don’t know what my face is doing here; I seem to be going for a cross between “In my day,  a lady always wore nylons” and “I didn’t mean to break your window, Mister! Me and the other kids were just playing stickball, honest.”



There are so many, many things coming in the next few months. Starting this week. Great big things. Things to sit with, live through; things to uproot. Things you grapple with maybe once in your life.

But Sunday night I walked from my home to a delicious dinner at Lula’s, and the air was cool, and I wore my favorite sweater.

 Here goes nothin’. 


The Angel of Memory

In these panes, each flaw and bubble is a seed.
The porch door latch, rusted, snaps off
in my fingers. I walk down steps
carved into limestone;
scrub-brush and rosemary hang down the terraces
to the Adriatic’s crumbling foam.

And she is sitting in the untended garden,
the angel of memory, her bare back shines;
at her nape, parted hair lifts wings.
An eddying yellow butterfly perches
on her arm and presses open its double page;

I have forgotten what I came to say.
My shadow lengthens towards her, rapt,
pierced with small stones and grasses,
but she will not turn, looking out
to an old sea, a vast plateau of static.

Sharona Ben-Tov Muir

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Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, My Parents, Poetry, Sharona Ben-Tov Muir


Hey, gang. I’ve been run clean off my feet for a few weeks, so I can’t write for very long; but not writing at all, for the 17th time in a row, seemed like a poor call to me. “This is a poor call,” I said to myself, and also “Stop being a weiner.”

Today I compared the noise my brain’s been making, of late, to the sound a box of paper clips makes when shaken:

[As low as $6.79 a pack when you buy five or more]


Chief among the foot-running-off-of was the ten-minute play festival I just finished up on Sunday night. This is my third summer of writing a play for this particular festival; however, I did not perform in my other plays, and that is another kettle of sea turtles or whatever. Writers can show up to a few rehearsals, stick their oar in hither and yon–“What are you doing? Don’t do that”–and then sashay into opening night whistling Dixie!

PLAYWRIGHT: Just say my lines, you lot!
[Adjusts clasp on ruby necklace]*

Performing is a different matter altogether; it is a haul, if a beloved haul, and I had forgot. On Saturday night, onstage and seated beneath a low table, for our second show of the evening, my neck bent double, and all of this because I had chosen to write a character who was a talking psychic vase, and more–that I had volunteered to play this role myself; let us simply say that the whole matter ceased to resemble a “lark” and began to resemble a “fork in the eye”.

The rest of the time, though, it was SUPER fun!

*These are jokes


I had tremendous bunches of things I wanted to jabber about–whole lists–but that is for next week. For this week, I say good night.

Did you know that the color of a valuable ruby is called “pigeon blood-red”? What is THAT? I don’t understand ANYTHING.

PIGEONS EVERYWHERE: You and me both, sister.



I said this: would you give me back my hope
if I suffered hard enough, if I tried.
That hip-swinging hallelujah of hope,

that hip-hip-hooray we were talking about,
raying outward from the hip or the heart,
holistic, holy–those were all high things–

hyper-radical and hyper-real,
that gospel of helix and radiance.
Hail me, hail me, here I am alive,

falling from the lips of the lioness,
lambent and loved, gamboling like a lamb,
having gambled all my griefs and lost them.

Game of the gods, gamine of the cards,
inhaler of hashish and helium.
Here was the hub of the halo again,

the hub or nub of the halo or heart,
and the trope of turning to say hello;
we always said it “helio-hello”.

Hello to the little girl and lambkin,
garrulous, hilarious, all grown up,
nibbling on nothing and feeling okay,

and sweetly holding hands with the harpist,
turning toward the sun, turning toward the sound
–my warp of the world, my harp of the heart–

sounding like myself, as I always sound,
snappy and stylish and too sonorous,
a little savage and a little sweet.

Sarah Arvio


Filed under Poetry, Sarah Arvio

Can’t Stop Thinking About Antarctica

So I’m on a bad, bad, B-A-D run at the moment, baking-wise.  I’m about at the point where I’m going to take a look at the Yellow Pages for someone who exorcises oven-ghosts. Let’s be upfront: The sugar cookies I just pulled outta there look like deflated igneous rocks.


One of these things is not like the other!


 For some time now, I’ve been mentally mulling over writing something [in the playwriting sense] to do with Antarctica. The day has finally come where it’s time to put pen to paper, and I’ve been researching in bits and pieces. Apparently, I’m required to read a book from 1922 entitled

 “The Worst Journey in the World”  

By a man named  

Apsley Cherry-Garrard 


Cherry-Garrard accompanied Robert Scott on an Antarctic expedition called the Terra Nova Expedition from 1910-1913. In 1911,  he and two other team members ventured out on a trip to collect Emperor penguin eggs. Long story short: They were trapped by a blizzard, their tent blew away, and CHERRY-GARRARD SHATTERED THE MAJORITY OF HIS TEETH BECAUSE THEY WERE CHATTERING SO HARD IN THE COLD.


The National Library of New Zealand has pictures of the Terra Nova expedition on the “Manuscripts and Pictorial” section of their website [here].

 Below: Two pictures. [The captions from the National Library website are included.]


Henry Robertson Bowers, Dr. Wilson, and Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard before leaving for Cape Crozier, Antarctica, 27 June 1911


Dr. Wilson, Henry Robertson Bowers, and Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard eating a meal on their return from winter trip to Cape Crozier, 1 August 1911 


 Look at them, in that first picture; they didn’t know.

After, they knew.

Look at the set of Cherry-Garrard’s mouth; look at his hands, gripping his bread. You cannot see his teeth. He is thinking: I have to eat. Is he thinking about what happened to him out there? I do not know. Sometimes, in the wake of the big and terrible, we are only thinking: At least I am warm. At least there is tea.

Later, the depths of what happened get mentally plumbed; or they should. We none of us think enough about what there is to learn after we come in from a blizzard.


Well, Happy August!  

I go back to work tomorrow. My summer break, it is over. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

READER: For the love.


Spring Ice Storm

 The forecast had not predicted it,
and its beginning, a calming, rumbled dusk 

and pleasant lightning, she welcomed as harbinger
of rain. Then as night came she heard the world 

relapse, slide backward into winter’s insistent
tick and hiss. In the morning, she woke to a powerless 

house, the baseboards cold, the sky blank,
mercury hardfallen as the ice and fixed 

even at noon. The woodpile on the porch dwindled
to its last layer, she had not replenished it 

for a month and could see beyond it windblown ice
in the shed where the axe angled Excalibur-like, 

frozen in the wood. Still, she didn’t worry
beyond the fate of the daffodils, green-sheathed, 

the forsythia and quince already bloomed out–
knowing this couldn’t last. But by afternoon 

she did begin feeding the fire in the cast-iron
stove ordinary things she thought she could replace, 

watching through the small window of isinglass
the fast-burning wooden spoons, picture frames, 

then the phone book and stack of old almanacs–
forgotten predictions and phases of the moon– 

before resorting to a brittle wicker rocker,
quick as dried grass to catch, bedframes and slats, 

ladderback chairs, the labor of breaking them up
against the porch railing its own warming. 

Feverlike, the freeze broke after two days,
and she woke to a melting steady as the rain 

had been. The fire she had tended more carefully
than the household it had consumed she could now 

let go out, and she was surprised at how little
she mourned the rooms heat-scoured, readied for spring. 

Claudia Emerson


Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, Claudia Emerson, Poetry