The South Side coffee house The Beehive is closing after 28 years in business.

It was 1990 when The Beehive first opened, and Pittsburgh wasn’t yet a haven for independent coffeehouses or craft brewed beer. Starbucks was a rumor in Pittsburgh; craft beer was still called microbrews in 1990.

Very few people in Pittsburgh knew what a beehive was, or how it related to coffee. (If you know, let me know in the comments. I know NOW, of course, but I didn’t have an inkling in 1990.)

I wandered into The Beehive within its first week of opening. I was a Carson Street regular, along with many of my Duquesne classmates and Red Masquer co-conspirators. We became semi-regular customers, occasionally playing pinochle. The Beehive turned me onto good coffee, even better cheesecake, and the pleasure of aimless, late-night caffeine consumption.

The Beehive had manual typewriters. Not for sale, just there, just sitting on tables.

I don’t remember if they supplied paper (scrap paper that came from old handouts, old playbills) or if you had to dig up your own.

But one night, I ventured in and wrote this little gem. A freewrite, if you don’t know, is a writing technique where you just write whatever comes into your head. It’s a way to write just about anything, including poetry. That’s what I did: I stuck some paper in one of the typewriters, and just pounded some keys. It was published… somewhere, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Yawp? I have to dig through my literary magazines to find out where.

Here it is, in its unpolished glory. All typos have been retained.


freewrite with a manual typewriter

ok, i should be alright now
keep it slow and steady, and double up
maybe i shoul write a poem,
but i am scared of my dreams right now
they threate n my and i have never had to be so intense
people are starting to stare
just remember this is how you learned
keep it slow and steady, and
remember to look down once in a while
beatiful people keep walking in
beautiful people i don’t have time for
and my pinky is not functional
he doesn’t mind as long as the rest of me works
my wrists were never so sore
the apostrophe is in the wrong place
(isn’t that always the case?(
and so is the back space key
(i would like to go back to where he was immune)
there is no enter key; i have to keep reaching up
now the fuking i key is sticking

what does immune mean?
how does it apply to people?
why does it #hurt to be a disease?
when immunity dies:
is it because they are stronger
or you are less potent?
is it not the same thing?
why am i writing in questions
why do i keep having to use the fucking i?
(i am going to loose my fingers in the spaces og
of this monster — my oh so delicate fingers)

to jimmy, my editor:
misspelling is half the funof using a fucking
manual typewriter. keep that in mind
and have patience with me. i’m donig
my best under the circumstances.

now the aceq i mean ache is creeping k
into i mean my arms and shoulders
when it gets to my thighs,
i quit …
considering the state of my thighs lately
it shouldn’t take long

he offers me another piece of people, paper i mean
(freudian slip)
i just need another cigarette
i have mved onto the hunt N peck method
minus the dashes
just the index finger thing
hope he doesn’t mind,. i mean.

maybe i’ll get a piece of cheese cake
i am certainly working of caleries on this thing
did you know, on a qwerty typewriter
which this is
you write the word typewriter using only the top line
top and wp
top, too
there is no 1 (you use the L, lower case)
and my ribbone is slipping
take that anyway you want…

Time Knows Its Business

All great stories start the same way…

…Once upon a time,
two young people went to prom.
They didn’t go together, per se, but
they went to the same prom at the same time.

We have a picture to prove it.

Time knows its business.
Time bides.
Time passes.

Love recognizes its home.

That’s why when good couples are asked, “How did you know?”
they shrug, they say simply, “We just knew.”

Steve and Krissy are a good couple.

I can’t speak to Steve’s experience, but I know that Krissy’s road has been long, and it hasn’t always been easy, and at times, it has been unbelievably dark.

Time knows its business, and it grew those two young people who didn’t go to prom together into the couple we celebrate today.

I believe today is a testament to the endurance of faith and the power of love.

Time, and God, and faith
Time and faith and love
not just inside of and between this couple,
but the faith and love of the people they have been surrounded by, the people they have surrounded themselves with.

Time and faith and love
have brought us here today
18 years after that prom
to celebrate the beginning of Steve and Krissy’s new life together.

Your Hands
[by Pablo Neruda]

When your hands go out,
love, toward mine,
what do they bring me flying?
Why did they stop
at my mouth, suddenly,
why do I recognize them
as if then, before,
I had touched them,
as if before they existed
they had passed over
my forehead, my waist?

Their softness came
flying over time,
over the sea, over the smoke,
over the spring,
and when you placed
your hands on my chest,
I recognized those golden
dove wings,
I recognized that clay
and that color of wheat.

All the years of my life
I walked around looking for them.
I went up the stairs,
I crossed the roads,
trains carried me,
waters brought me,
and in the skin of the grapes
I thought I touched you.
The wood suddenly brought me your touch,
the almond announced to me
your secret softness,
until your hands
closed on my chest
and there like two wings
they ended their journey.

To Krissy and Steve, to their home in love. God bless.

In honor of National Poetry Month. This is the toast I gave at my sister’s wedding reception in October 2011.

Copyright for image: lusya / 123RF Stock Photo

Live worship shop

when he said,
‘I almost married her’
I recognized
the look in his eyes

looking back in amazement
knowing you’ve avoided a fatal accident
the car coming down
in flames
behind you instead of
on you

dead bodies litter
our highways
not a few of them
our old selves

grief tatters our pasts



The world is a place that can make you want to cry.

You can look across the street & see a man combing his hair & it can make you want to cry.

Because he is not good looking in any way; he’s balding and kind of fat & slope-shouldered & the comb is not going to change his untucked navy T-shirt or his baggy black pants.

Come to notice, it didn’t do much for his hair, either.

You don’t know if you want to cry because of the way he stands there & watches pretty girls go by, the comb a symbol of hope. Or if you want to cry because of these awful thoughts you are having, but you can’t help it: you are just so sad.

They found the first overdose this weekend. You sit in this bar with a beer between your two hands, wondering at the dedication of the others. If this death will make them stop or only pretend: to be more careful, to vow not to be that dead body.

You look across the street, wanting to cry before you even see: the man is combing his hair again.

sad woman, grey room
Image credit: Nadezhda Bolotina

“sadness” originally appeared in Power of Poem, published by Pittsburgh’s Home of the National Muse, 1999.

Devil’s Dream No. 1

You stand watch at the back door of the lodge.
The mountain disappears in a flurry; a figure comes toward us: he
is what we are waiting for.
A landscape of snowy bridges and walkways is revealed.
The man smiles and shakes hands with everyone. When he
touches you, I feel a spike of fear.
I say, “The devil has the face of the man
to whom I lost my virginity.” You walk off with him
in the snow.
I run out with no gloves or boots. I pursue you
and Jerry, calling your name. I lean over an underpass.
If I can just tell you I love you, you
will have to come back to me.
A man under the bridge turns up his
snow-covered face.

Snow-covered pine branch
Image credit: Peter Vrabel

I want to go back to South Dakota

South Dakota is a weird state of monuments
to dead men and The World’s Only Corn Palace.

We see Mt. Rushmore twice, and I keep
the decal on my windshield to prove it.

It is better in the morning
with the shadows on their faces.

The Badlands are just that: hot and dusty
unbelievably alien and beautiful under turkey buzzards.

We are fine with grit by 8 p.m., driving in darkness
determined to find a hotel, a shower,

a meal we don’t have to cook on the camp stove.
Communication breaks down when your stomach is empty.

I don’t say a word, because it makes me tired,
cranky, gives me a headache. I will sound petulant.

I AM petulant, but you will think
I am blaming you for something in Sioux Falls,

The lady at the Super 8 sends us to a takeout Pizza Hut.
The family restaurant doesn’t serve anything I can eat.

It is full dark, not sunset; we’ve lost an hour,
and the Chinese place is closed.

There isn’t a vegetarian restaurant that serves beer in sight.
It’s not your fault, and I don’t say it is.

When we get back to the corner where we took a left,
I, pizza in my lap and six pack of Miller at my feet, say,

‘Turn right.’ You yell that you don’t want to turn right;
you want to go straight, and wasn’t I listening

in the parking lot. I wasn’t listening in the parking lot;
I was fainting.

I say, ‘I thought we were going back the way we came. Turn right.’
You turn right. We go back to the hotel the way we came.

In the room, we eat pizza and Chex Mix, drink beer,
smoke, watch a biography of Mendel on A&E.

You apologized on the stairs,
which is nice, but I just want to sleep.

Badlands under blue sky.
Image by Scott Sanders.
Published in Power of Poem, limited edition for the smallman street poetry series, 1999.



I go to bed
with a hot water bottle;
I am thinking of rivers,
the trickle of mountain snows,
the word turgid.

I think: open.
I think: flow.

I am sitting, a damned river;
nothing is red anywhere.
The way I know these words
can dry up in the middle of the page
is the way I know my body
can stem secrets
hold them to itself.

The pain in both these things
is equal, is pressure;
makes me grit my teeth,
think: flow.

In the dream
people throw fresh eggs at me;
they break against
my chest, my
outstretched hands.

Originally published in papercut., the University of Pittsburgh’s Undergraduate literary magazine, fall 1998.
Image credit: len4foto

Introduction to Poetry Pages

So, I went through my binder of poetry last week, trying to pick The First Poem for this category.

Poetry Binder
It’s a big binder.

And I couldn’t pick one.

Don’t worry, I’m not teasing you.

I stopped regularly writing poetry as poetry when I was pregnant with Flora. I journaled a lot — I have journaled regularly since I was in sixth grade — but I wasn’t writing poems any longer, and I wasn’t attending workshops, publishing, or doing any readings.

In my 20s, I regularly did all these things: published, read in public, workshopped.

It’s been a long time. The last poetry reading I did was on my birthday in 2004.

One thing that runs as a theme through my poetry is the idea of body; my words of poetry as deeply rooted in my experience as a physical being.

And, er, quite a bit of it is about teh sex, especially sex with certain people who weren’t Dan, sometimes in passing, and sometimes explicitly. That’s going to be awkward I imagine, for my family members who regularly visit this blog (hi, Dad!). I will issue disclaimers. I’ve set this site up to exclude poetry as a category from the blog. Which I think means you have to visit the category to view the content.

Like I said: WIP.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is:

1. I wrote this poetry a long time ago.
2. It’s not necessarily family friendly fare.
3. Some of it contains profanity.
4. A lot of it — most of it — is about the experience of being embodied as a woman.

Your mileage will vary.