A Place to Write

I spent a chunk of time over the weekend sorting my receipts and getting everything in order for my upcoming sit-down with my tax guy. One of the things that stood out for me was the number of receipts from a particular coffee shop.

I wouldn’t say the place is my favorite coffee shop of all time, but it’s a good spot, and I have always been able to get work done there. A writer friend introduced me 5 years ago, and I’ve had scores of writing dates there as well as plenty of solo writing time.

I’ll surely find my way back to that place every now and then, but I realized that it can’t be my place anymore, not my go-to coffee spot. It’s much too far from my new apartment for that.

So I need to find another place. I’ve checked out a couple of the spots between my house and the subway, but neither works. Both are very clearly designed for a grab-and-go crowd rather than a sit-for-hours-staring-at-the-blank-page group.

Exploring my new neighborhood is tops on my to-do list for spring, and finding my new go-to coffee shop is definitely part of the reason for that. Curious to see what I’ll find …

It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers! With hundreds of folks participating, there’s more than a little something for everyone … and plenty of room for you to join in!

My week in the sun …

Remember way back when I posted about winning a raffle? Well, I’m finally here!  I had a surprisingly hard time finding folks to join me on this trip.  In the end, my travel companions have been my mom and Miss Mice Maze.  We flew in from three different places and met at the airport in Montego Bay, hopped in the waiting car and drove off to paradise.

Oh, and paradise it has been!  The photos from the website hardly do this place justice, and the pleasure of being here is even better than the beauty.  Getting to spend this week with my mom, getting to strengthen my friendship with Miss Mice Maze … it’s all a present and a half.

Gifts for the Girl

There is a girl inside

There is a girl inside.
She is randy as a wolf.
She will not walk away and leave these bones
to an old woman.

She is a green tree in a forest of kindling.
She is a green girl in a used poet.

She has waited patient as a nun
for the second coming,
when she can greak through gray hairs
into blossom

and her lovers will harvest
honey and thyme
and the woods will be wild
with the damn wonder of it.

                                       — Lucille Clifton


Years ago I co-taught a creative writing class for 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders in an afterschool program.*  We did a lot of different activities with the kids to get them to see that it was ok to play with writing, to think of language as this cool tool they could use in so many different ways.

One of the activities we did was called, “My Wild Me.”  Each child got a small booklet that was mostly blank, but which had descriptive prompts: “My wild me acts like …” “My wild me always …” “My wild me likes to …”  That sort of thing.  We had a lot of fun with it.  I was happy to see that the kids had no problem getting in immediate touch with their wildness, that they had no hesitation about describing themselves as monsters and animals and mythical beings with super powers. 

This Clifton poem always makes me think of that group and that writing exercise.  Sharing a month of Clifton poems has been a wild experience for me.  She touches so many parts of my experience, my heart, me.  Reading and reading and reading through her work to choose poems for this month has been such a vivid pleasure.  I had to resist including the poem that led me to her because I wanted to share less well known pieces.  But thirty days doesn’t give me enough room.  There were so many other poems I would have loved to share.  But this month of reading has been a gift — sometimes beautiful, sometimes funny, sometimes painful, always amazing.

And then I came home from work last night (after that wonderful time of working with the teen theater group, after dinner out with my co-worker and some giddy planning for our Cayman Islands trip) and checked my email.  Checked my email and found a gift I would never have expected: I’ve won a free week at a gorgeous, beyond-my-means villa in my little corner of Jamaica!  No, really.  I entered a raffle — all proceeds go to the scholarship fund for local kids to go to high school — and I won!

My wild me, that girl inside, is dancing and screaming and singing and laughing.  She is shaking her too-fine hair and already feeling the sun on her skin, the sea washing over her toes.

At some point in the next year, I — along with (I hope) my mother and sister — will be staying here:

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I’m still having a hard time knowing this is true, that I have actually won this excellent prize and all the perks that come along with it.

Into my open hands,
like a glistening Blue Morpho
this enormous, beautiful YES lands
lightly, quietly, just so
perfectly. Shock and joy interweave
and accept, happily receive.


*  No, now isn’t the time to examine what a crazy move it was for me — Queen of Not Knowing the First Thing about Working with Children — to have taken on this job.  Now isn’t the time to talk about how completely those children ran over me.  We are only focusing on the good, on the fact that they were lovely kids and — despite having to work with me — they actually produced some lovely writing.

Tongatapu Dreaming

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the life of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

— Lucille Clifton


I was at an all-day training today, the fourth in a series that started in January and will continue through September.  All of us trainees have been brought together because we’re all involved in adult education and job training that’s tied to the healthcare sector.  It’s been quite amazing so far — shown me all kinds of things we don’t know, all kinds of things we need to be thinking about.

Today was a little different.  Today we were joined by about a dozen people doing the same work we’re doing (adult ed and job training that leads to jobs in healthcare) but in Auckland, New Zealand.  Our guests were wonderful.  I know a small amount of facts about New Zealand.  I know a little about the Maori, a little about the geography, a little about … well, maybe just about the Maori and the geography.  It was great getting to hear about the programs they’re running, about the way their healthcare system works, about the communities they work in (all low-income, all majority Pacific islanders — Samoan, Tongan, Maori) …

And that was where my brain stopped: Tongan?  There are people from Tonga living in New Zealand?  Yes.  And from the other Pacific Islands, too.  Sure.  Geographically and economically this makes a lot of sense.

But Tonga.  Tonga is the place I have most wanted to visit for more years than I can remember.  I was a kid, maybe 14 years old, the first time I heard of Tonga.  I saw an article about the island, saw the king riding on his bicycle, and I was sold.  That was the place I needed to go, a place where a king rode around on a bike wearing only shorts and sandals.  That’s a country I could easily feel comfortable in.  I’m not saying Tonga would replace Jamaica.  I’m just saying … Tonga … all things are possible.

But it’s so far away.  So very, very far away.  You have to fly for some crazy amount of time to get there — between 22 and 36 hours, depending on the stopovers — I found trips that meant flying to LA, flying to Singapore, flying to Auckland, flying to Fiji and then, at last, flying to Tonga.  That’s just completely insane for someone like me who doesn’t like to fly.  There are better trips (New York–>LA–>Fiji–>Tonga), but it’s still really, really far.

So I’d kind of let the idea of Tonga become a fantasy I didn’t think I could make happen.  Then I started thinking I could build up my ability to deal with long plane rides (to say nothing of saving up the $3.5K for the plane fare) and plan for a big golden anniversary birthday present tour.  But the cost of the ticket and knowing I’d need to take at least a month off work to make this trip make any kind of sense made me push the idea aside again.

But being at this training got me thinking again.  Getting to know the wonderful women I was sitting with made me see I had to figure out a way to make this trip happen.  Tranquilizers?

Making connections
feather-light, gossamer-thin.
Seeds, maybe. For now, reflections
of dreams that have been
in my heart, my head. I begin
to see a new road, an open door
a chance to let that old dream soar.

On a cold November night … *

Tonight is quite chilly, enough for me to be a bit shivery waiting for the bus home after class, enough for me to pull on my gloves and wish I had a hat.

And that’s ok.  It certainly isn’t COLD or anything, but my body isn’t happy with this.  All I can think of is:


and of how obvious it is that I am supposed to be standing on some beach in Jamaica and not on a Flatbush Avenue corner shivering at a bus stop.  Alas.


* Alternate title: “And I had doubts about AC’s proposal because why?”