Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Poem for My Husband on His Birthday at Summer Solstice

In this photo, my husband Ben sits in the middle between our dear friend, Sergio Troncoso, and me at the 2017 AWP national conference.

Today is his birthday and the summer solstice. In less than two weeks on the Fourth of July, we will have been living together as a couple for 29 years, and on December 27th, we'll be legally married for 25 years. So I wanted to post a poem I'd written for him to celebrate his birthday and the Solstice.

I've written many poems for him, including the title poem of my chapbook of passionate love poems, Skin Hunger. But in today's solstice heat, I thought I'd post the one I wrote about the day after we arrived home from our honeymoon when he ventured out after an overnight ice storm for the newspaper and fell on the ice. It seemed to offer insights into the risky act of marriage itself.


after a back injury is a constant
putting yourself at risk.
I know this fear well
from years of setting nerve-damaged heel
firmly on glazed cement
that may turn banana peel on me
as if in some eternal silent film gag.
For you, it’s all new—
the discovery that solid earth can shift
you from upright to supine
as soon as the water on its surface hardens.
We age by learning
such hard truths, move through life
gingerly testing our footing, or else
by smashing the brittle in our way
and sweeping the shards
from the sidewalk.
It’s not so hard, learning
to balance on the shine.

Published in Heart's Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Poem for Father's Day--"Safe At Last"

This photo is of my youngest brother's Little League baseball team and its coaches, including my stepfather (the small man on the left in the back row).

On Father's Day, it is this man I remember and honor, a man who took on a bunch of traumatized kids when he married my mother and earned his "Dad" the hard way, the man who died in my and my sister's arms with our brothers all around his bed in that town where none of us lived any longer. 

I wrote this poem after his funeral, and it seems appropriate for Father's Day and all of us whose fathers and stepfathers and father-substitutes are no longer with us to celebrate on the day in their honor.


I can’t cry any more,
eyes swollen, lashes stuck together,
so come then, elusive sleep,
wipe the screen behind closed lids
of today’s grief. Show films
scrambled in the projector,
ends and beginnings framed
by the middle, split once
and then again, past still coming,
future remembered, present
dreamed but never known.
Mix the stilted eulogy and the trip to Disneyland.
Let him coach the scrubby little-league team
as we stand on glowing green plastic
artificial grass carpet
under the cobalt blue vinyl canopy,
listening to echoes
of his voice calling to my brother,
“Slide home. Go for it. Home.”

Published in Heart's Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)

Friday, June 16, 2017

For Father's Day, In Praise of Men Who Take On Other Men's Children

When I look back on my life, I realize I’ve been lucky enough to be closely involved with three men who had the ability to take on children who weren’t their own genetic children and love and care for them as fathers. It will be Father’s Day soon, and I want to say a word or two about these kinds of unsung heroes. ...

Read more on my blog today at The Stiletto Gang.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Books of Interest from Writers of Color--GOOD SEEDS by Tom Pecore Weso

Guest Review by Ben Furnish

(Since Ben Furnish is writing a food memoir called Restaurant Therapy himself, he seemed the best reviewer for this new award-winning (National Winner of The Gourmand Award and IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards Silver Medal Winner) book, which memorializes an entire Indigenous way of life through the gathering, preparing, and eating of food.

As always, I encourage readers to support the small and university presses that publish these books, without which we would have few books by writers of color, at all. Order Good Seeds below.) 

Good Seeds: A Menominee Indian Food Memoir by Thomas Pecore Weso (Wisconsin Historical Society Press) is one of those rare books that really does stretch and dissolve boundaries of genre that too often separate literary from culinary and historical writing. 

Weso focuses especially on what he remembers about cooking and eating with his traditional grandparents as he grew up in 20th century northern Wisconsin. As deceptively simple a detail as the uneasy status of oatmeal on his grandmother’s breakfast table, which Weso recounts early in the book, becomes a key in understanding the religious identity and educational background of his grandparents and mother.

Weso’s grandmother, Jennie, encountered oatmeal—and other such fare as pancakes—having attended Catholic schools that served Menominee areas in Wisconsin. In fact Menominee at that time had to choose between the Catholics and the Lutherans for schooling. If they wanted a secular-sponsored rather than religious education, their only choice was to do like Weso’s medicine-man grandfather, Moon, and attend the federal Haskell Institute in Kansas, where “they didn’t care what your religion was, as long as you were there for head count at morning muster.” 

A generation later when Weso’s mother attended Haskell, however, she learned to eat oatmeal there. So Weso remembers oatmeal occasionally served in deference to his mother, but it remained something of an interloper on his grandfather’s menu. But even so, for the Menominee, oatmeal became a savory rather than a sweet dish, and Weso gives the recipe for Menominee-style oatmeal seasoned with pepper.

Although each chapter ends with relevant recipes for its storyline, the chapters’ narratives form the real heart of the book. Each story offers an intrinsically interesting story about his grandparents’ lives, but Weso goes on to place their experiences in the broader spectrum of Menominee experience of the time, and of Wisconsin and American experience more broadly.

"This is one of the most important differences between Native and European traditions," says Weso. "Wild rice grows and is used; it is not a profitable crop. ... Before a culture can take root, the storytellers need to be fed. ... Wild rice made the Menominee life possible."

Among the later chapter subjects are Wisconsin diners and the Menominee tradition of an Indian county fair—which today lives on as a Menominee powwow. While Weso’s guidance in preparing squirrel or beaver will likely remain for me an exercise of the imagination rather than a practical matter of instruction, that fact only rendered it more compelling on the page. Weso also captures something of the feel of this close rural community of Native Americans near the Canadian border—and of colonialism's uninvited cook at work in the family kitchens of of 20th century Native Americans.

With the literary economy to rival poetry, these recipes and commentary document a particularly vivid and essential aspect of daily life and cultural expression in a changing ethnic community.   

Ben Furnish works as an editor/publisher and teacher in Kansas City, is the author of Nostalgia in Jewish American Theater and Film: 1979-2004 (Peter Lang), and is currently writing the food memoir, Restaurant Therapy

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sparking Your Creativity - Today on The Stiletto Gang

Sometimes we work so hard with such packed days that we burn out. This is not uncommon among writers. Unlike the image of the writer out there in the media, it's actually a hard job, full of dailiness and routine for the writing and the business sides, in addition to creativity. And sometimes the demands of the job leave us feeling dry and empty. At those times, it's vitally important for a writer--or any artist--to get back in touch with the creativity trapped inside her.

Today on The Stiletto Gang, I talk about ten ways to do just that.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Plotting vs Pantsing--Today on The Stiletto Gang

Today, you'll find me on The Stiletto Gang discussing writing novels with and without plotting them out ahead. "Plotting vs Pantsing" is a false dichotomy, I find.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Poem for Mother's Day--at The Stiletto Gang

Today, you'll find me blogging at The Stiletto Gang with a bittersweet poem for all who have lost their mothers in one way or another and have difficulties during the big commercial lead-up to Mother's Day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Final poem for National Poetry Month--JOSEPH SLEEPS

For this final poem of the month, I was drawn to a poem from my book, Heart's Migration, a poem that was written when my youngest son was still little. To show how long ago that was, he's now Dean of Humanities at a nearby university, and the George Bush mentioned in the poem is the first President Bush, George H. W. Bush.

Poetry can capture a moment for us so that we can always re-experience its emotions years later. I'm glad I wrote this poem because, even decades later, it brings that long-gone child back more clearly and intensely than any photograph.


his eyelids like a moth’s fringed wings.
Arms flail against the Ninja Turtle sheet
and suddenly-long legs
race time.

Awake, he’s a water-leak detector, a recycling ranger
who bans Styrofoam and asks for beeswax
crayons, a renewable resource.
He wants to adopt the Missouri river,
write the president
to make factories stop polluting.

They’re old friends, he and George Bush.
He writes and scolds
the president, every month or so,
about bombing the children of Iraq
(he made his own sign to carry in protest),
about the plight of the California condor and northern gray wolf,
about more shelters and aid for the homeless.
The lion-shaped bulletin board in his room
is covered with pictures and letters from George,
who must be nice,
even if he is a slow learner.

Joseph is a mystery fan, owns 54 Nancy Drews.
Nancy’s his friend, along with Jo, Meg, and Amy
and poor Beth, of course, whom he still mourns.
He also reads of knights and wizards, superheroes,
and how to win at Nintendo.

The cats and houseplants are his to feed and water,
and the sunflower blooming in the driveway’s border
of weeds. He drew our backyard to scale,
using map symbols, sent off to have it declared
an official wildlife refuge, left a good-night
note on my pillow, written in Egyptian hieroglyphs.

In my life, I have done one good thing.

Published in Heart's Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

National Poetry Month in a Dark Time

It's a dark time in the U.S. right now. There's little doubt about that. Every day, news of several new scandals erupts. Possible Russian agents or assets in power in the White House, entire departments of the federal government essentially wiped out, bans against Muslims, the wholesale rounding up and imprisonment of Latinos, attempts to wipe out health care and health insurance as we know it today (seriously, health insurance that doesn't cover hospitalization???), attempts to wipe out all programs that help the poor, the elderly, children, the disabled, the disenfranchisement of ever more American voters--the list goes on and on. 

Just yesterday, an airline lost almost a billion dollars in share value after it beat up a paying passenger because he refused to leave a seat he'd already paid for to make room for spare airline employees. Then, Eric Trump, the inconvenient, inadvertent truth-teller in a family of pathological liars, told a reporter that the President of the United States sent 59 missiles flying into a Syrian airbase because Ivanka, his much-too-beloved daughter, felt sadness over photos of dead children and told him to do something--and, Eric added, this should prove that his dad, the President, is not beholden to Russia. And finally, on this first full day of Passover, Sean Spicer, the presidential press secretary, said Hitler never used chemical weapons--at least, not against his own people--well, against innocent people--no, he meant against his own innocent people in their homes because he took them off to Holocaust Centers to gas them.

And yesterday was a light day in the dark news department, compared to what has happened lately. Oh, I almost forget in the press of the other dumpster fires, also yesterday, we saw for the first time the FISA warrant obtained against Carter Page, foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump's campaign, stating that the FBI had reasons that the FISA court found credible to believe Page was a Russian spy.

When we have possible Russian spies running our government, determined efforts to destroy said democratic government, and a President who wants to become an actual dictator and is rapidly stripping away our rights and protections against that, we live in dark, dark times. In the words of beloved children's book author, Susan Cooper, "The dark is rising." We have never needed National Poetry Month more. So here is a poem for the dark times.


Creator reminds us daily
through the fragrant winds,
the re-leafing trees,
the dark-of-morning bird chorus,
the taste of rain on upheld faces,
that this world was built in beauty,
made for harmony and wholeness.

We must remember
it is we humans
who break what is shining and whole.
It is our species that creates dark times.
We must learn to live
in tune with creation once more. We must sing
balance back into this bountiful earth.

As we work together
to mend the broken world—
against the forces among our own kind
choosing destruction over grace—
may we keep in our imaginations
the ancestral memory
of this world as it was created to be.

May we will it into existence
again. May we move always toward healing
and wholeness. May we never forget
the force of willed action
and words of power.
May we create a blessed light
in these dark times in which we find ourselves.
May we know
deep inside our bones
that, no matter how broken,
our world is always
worth the labor of mending.

© Linda Rodriguez 2017