It’s Here! The Magic Rectangle Available for the Holidays!

Cover image for the book The Magic RectangleHooray! My prose poem collection, The Magic Rectangle, is available now from Folded Word. I just love this cover, designed by Folded Word’s Editor in Chief JS Graustein. I think you’ll like the inside, too—more than 20 prose poems that explore the weird and the divine, the natural and the domestic, and hunger of all kinds. You can read three FREE sample poems by clicking on the order page. Just scroll down to read “Junk Drawer,” “Cassini’s Mistress of the Night,” and “Knife Fight with Coconut: Dénouement.” (Let me know what you think in the comments below!)

But wait, there’s more! We have an awesome pre-sale event going on right now—order before Dec. 10, 2017 and save $$ off the cover price. You can order signed or unsigned copies, in singles or three-packs. (We’ve already broken a press record for most multi-packs sold—thank you, devoted fans!) Signed copies make GREAT holiday gifts, but if you’re local, I can sign it for you anytime at my readings. I will be reading in Evergreen, Colorado, at The Place on Dec. 10, 2017 (27886 Meadow Drive), and at Book Bar in Denver on February 3, 2018. I’ll announce other venues in the near future.

Ordering by Nov. 25 shows your support for small businesses!

Ordering by Nov. 25 shows your support for small businesses!

Another great thing about this pre-sale: My publisher is an artisanal literary press, so you when you order your copies, you’re supporting a small business with sustainable, eco-conscious practices. As they put it, “We strive to make literature a sustainable and accessible art form through ecologically-aware production methods and disability-friendly ebooks.” Their Sustainable Edition of my book, which you get with a pre-sale order, is “printed locally (in Maine) without chemical solvents or plastics.” So you not only support the presses (and me!) by buying direct, you help the environment. And as you can see from the image above, Folded Word’s covers have brighter colors that are protected by a water-based UV coating and their natural papers are eco-friendly. (That makes this nature freak very happy.)

I’m also proud of Folded Word’s devotion to accessibility. Their digital editions are published on the Kindle platform, and can be read anywhere on any app-based device. Text is reflowable with text-to-speech and enhanced typesetting enabled. This edition will be available on December 10, 2017. This is of course offered to those with a Kindle Unlimited membership from Amazon as well.

So there you have it: Great book, great price, great publisher. What more could I ask for? Oh, yeah…readers! So please order your copy today! Remember that Saturday, November 25th is Small Saturday–when we shop to support small businesses like Folded Word. Thank you, as always, for your support. I think you’ll be entertained, moved, and maybe able to see the world from a slightly different slant once you’ve moved around in The Magic Rectangle.




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Call It What It Is. Then END It.

See that little star in the middle? That's you.

See that little star in the middle? That’s you.

We interrupt this blog stream to bring you the latest. We have an explosive problem in America today…not a new one, but one that has been allowed to fester in darkness. Now we have a “president” who adds fertilizer to the problem, which has just boosted its growth. But the first step to killing this weed is to call it what it is. It is not an “alt-right movement.” It is RACISM and it cannot be euphemized into submission. There is no “alt-right”–that’s a name invented by racists to minimize and normalize their deplorable scummy hatred. QUIT USING THE WORD THE CRIMINALS USE TO HIDE THEIR CRIMES.

The media has enabled these losers long enough. But do we or do we not know a jackass when we see one? Who’s in charge here? WE ARE.

But when jackasses get a little attention, they get bolder and stupider. And dangerous. So these cowards marching with torches and flags and other B movie props that make them look like children indulging in a make-believe battle on some vacant lot of their misspent childhood deserve to be laughed at. Quit fearing them — that empowers them. Because the ignorant hate being challenged, pointing and laughing at them might slow them down a bit. Think about how you are filled with self-doubt when someone laughs at you. Even if makes you angry, you pause a moment. And in that moment, we need to educate them.

It is not an easy job but we need all hands on deck. Rule #1: Don’t engage in debate with them. There is no justification for any reason they might throw at you. They are scared and stupid and have no better communication skills than tantrum pitching.

The problem is, their tantrums are lethal. But there are more of us who love truth and justice. They are no match for our truth. But it’s up to us to deliver the victory.

Because they are dumber in groups (like most of us) I think we need a strategy to dilute them as a collective. They thrive on the optics of a mad mob marching in a big block, which the media loves to broadcast, and that perpetuates the cycle because the weaker losers at home watching these clowns think, “That looks badass. I’m going to join them.” And the bigger the crowd, the easier it is for the wimpy ones to disappear among the boisterous. Again, the result is better optics for the racists.

We don’t need a president. WE are America and we know what to do to honor our ideals.

So what if peace-loving people just, you know, got in there between them. What if instead of blocking them, we just walked silently beside them? Muffle their bullshit by spreading them further apart. In this symbolic way, we could accompany them toward the light. As more of us circle each one, they get surrounded by peace-loving people and that breaks up their collective voice.

I had a boyfriend who worked in a group home for the mentally ill. He told me the worst problem with group homes is that the healthy people are outnumbered, so the ill feed off each other’s sickness, which just makes everyone sicker. The more effective strategy is to surround the sick individual with many healthy people and support their healing. So the ideal group home would have 1 sick person and 5 or 6 therapists.

This sounds repulsive when we consider the sickness of racism. But racism is a disease, and the only way to cure it is germ by germ.

This is almost impossible when you have a racist at the helm of the nation excusing these guys and blaming their victims in the process. So ok, America, time to own this country instead of waiting for leadership to do their part. Don’t we already have enough evidence that we are not going to get any help from this administration? They are the root of the problem, so quit being disappointed that they aren’t fixing it!

We each need to lead this country in our own circles of influence. We don’t need a president. WE are America and we know what to do to honor our ideals.

So pick them off one by one. If they start talking bile and brimstone, check that shit. Don’t let them get away with euphemizing their stupidity. Make a slogan-free zone around your conversation. And if they come to your town to march, make a plan to infiltrate their shit with love. With Jeff Sessions in charge of the Department of Justice, we are not going to get any help. It’s up to us to BE America instead of just thinking we live in America. That means break up the marches by getting our asses in between them.

Think about the logistics of one big block of people confronting another big block of people. No one’s going anywhere until someone pulls out a weapon. What if our weapons were love and reason and just…physical space? Surround each sick individual with a group of healthy ones. Imagine if each racist had 5 or 6 peace-lovers near him saying, “I am going to walk with you because you are sick and need healing.”

Tell me what you think and let’s stay in touch.

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Berlin, the City that Shed Its Skin

As we headed back into Berlin, we were reminded of the special treachery that is driving in this crazy capitol with extremely risk-friendly bicyclists who eschew helmets in the name of freedom. I have to give my husband major props for bravely navigating the madness without incident. My man of steel (nerves)!

At the condo we showered, regrouped, then headed out to the Spy Museum, Joe’s pick for Berlin. From my list of must-sees everyone picked a priority; we hit everything on the list but two items. I’m proud of my planning, but I wish I’d added a full day to our time in Berlin; I hate to leave stuff on the table when circling back can literally take years.

The Spy Museum had kitschy spots, but it covered the history of the Stasi (State Police) in East Germany well. It was nice to see evidence that it wasn’t just my imagination–that Cold War shit was real, and crossing into the DDR was like a spy movie. Exhibit A:

An actual Trabbi (the East German excuse for a car)...hard to believe people waited 20 years for such a POS. This one was a Stasi (the brutal State Police) vehicle, complete with licensing devices. Because communism is paranoid. Well, anything that goes against basic human rights usually is, am I right, Mr. Trump?

An actual Trabbi (the East German excuse for a car)…hard to believe people waited 20 years for such a junker. This one was a Stasi (the brutal State Police) vehicle, complete with licensing devices hidden in the door. Because communism is paranoid. Well, anything that goes against basic human rights usually is. Exhibit B: The current US administration.

The museum also has a cool exhibit on the Enigma decoder that Alan Turing used, and even a mention of the Zodiac Killer. The James Bond exhibit is severely cheesy, but then, all the spy tools from the 1930s-1980s were actually pretty funky. Given today’s high-tech spy gadgets we all willingly carry in our pockets, exposing our whereabouts and inner thoughts to anyone with a computer, those fountain pens and bowties with cameras in them, and microphones hidden in lamps (de rigeur in any Soviet hotel), seem pretty cartoonish. But they were cutting edge back in the day.

Lots to see, no wimps allowed.

After the museum we joined dear friends for dinner. They took us to the most amazing Indian restaurant (Madras) with the mulligatawny soup I will spend the rest of my life trying to replicate. Scott sent me his recipe; I have high hopes.

The next day was Go Time: Lots to see, no wimps allowed. We started at the Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie. When I had last visited, it was tiny. I remember an actual Trabbi with a dummy stuffed in the trunk to show how people smuggled themselves out of the DDR. Historic photos, actual border signs from the late ’60s/early ’70s. That was about it.

Oh my, how that museum had grown. It really helped that after the Wall came down all those Stasi files and more brave attempts and successes were now disclosed. A lot more cars with people stowed away in the seats and side panels, boats used to cross the shallow Baltic, and home-made hot air balloons. Incredible stories, but all true. And of course there was the story of the borders opening a crack, then swung wide. The Wall hammered to bits by jubilant Germans, and then the official dismantling, all those new laws and social shifts. It’s a lot to cover, but it’s largely devoted to the story of the 3 million people who escaped the DDR. So many amazing rescues and brave Fluchthelfer (escsape helpers). It was quite moving. Think of all the petty things we complain about everyday…and how people risked their lives to get what we have.

The best part for me was the section devoted to the end of East Germany. I remember standing in my friend’s living room in Boulder, Colorado, on Nov. 9, 1989, watching the news with tears streaming down our faces. No one I knew ever thought that would happen in our lifetime and yet we were watching crazy happy Germans partying on top of the Wall, no machine gun fire at all. As Katy had told my girls in Wampen: “That day the world actually got better.”

"The Wall is gone! Berlin is Berlin again!"

“The Wall is gone! Berlin is Berlin again!”

Outside the museum, the curators let the world know how the struggle for freedom and peace was faring with this timely message. Given Putin’s style, I fear it will hang there for a while, but I truly appreciate the effort:

A message for Putin on the Wall Museum. Egomaniacs, you are standing on our last nerve. Oppress the people and it will not end well for you. Just ask Erich Honecker.

A message for Putin on the Wall Museum. Egomaniacs, you are standing on our last nerve. Oppress the people and it will not end well for you. Just ask Erich Honecker.

After a much-needed coffee, we took the Ubahn to the Brandenburger Tor, which had straddled the Wall all those years. I can’t explain how great it felt to walk right through it. The atmosphere was a light and happy one, much different from my somber first time there. Even the sun put on a great show:

The Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) in all her glory.

The Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) in all her glory.

We walked through the gate to view the Reichtstag Building, which is quite impressive.

Dem Deutschen Volke! This is where the Bundestag, the current German parliament, now meets. Note the clouds reflected in the windows. Der Himmel uber Berlin, nah?

Dem Deutschen Volke! This is where the Bundestag, the current German parliament, now meets. Note the clouds reflected in the windows. Der Himmel uber Berlin, nah?

We paid respects at the memorial to the Roma and the Sinti, which was a placid pond surrounded by panels of glass telling the story of these 500,00o who were abused and murdered by the Nazi regime.

Next we walked to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe. Maybe you’ve seen stories of how people have disrespected this monument. Of course nothing could do justice to the victims of the Holocaust–any attempt is going to fall short–but I feel this memorial fails in many significant ways. First, it is set close to a very busy intersection, so it’s not quiet enough to begin with. Additionally, because it’s such a busy corner and because there

 The walls rise around you, perhaps to symbolize the way evil rose up around the victims.

is no fence or meaningful border around it, and no sign that I saw as we approached, you can stumble upon it and not realize you’re at a memorial. It’s a grid of thousands of massive rectangular concrete stones of the same size but varying heights. The shorter stones are around the edges, so as you walk in between them deeper into the center, the walls rise around you, perhaps to symbolize the way evil rose up around the victims. You can glimpse the paths between the stones, but that’s part of the deception–you think you know what’s next, but the ground dips and rises in the middle in subtle slopes that give the impression of rising (false hope), only to sink lower. So maybe it reflects the confusion of hope that may have glimmered and baffled the victims as they struggled to stay afloat in such a cruel and unpredictable reality. Or at least, that’s what I had to come up with on my own, because there is really no guidance at all in what you are experiencing and what it means. Memorial visitors don’t need to be bonked on the head, but with no written or labeled context, a memorial becomes generic, and therefore is no memorial. There seemed to be another part to it, an underground exhibit of sorts, which we stumbled on purely by accident, so there’s something wrong there.

I will say it succeeded in being disorienting in a labyrinth-like way. But what I found really disheartening was the lack of reverence from many of the people walking it. Some people allowed their kids to actually run through the stones. But the worst were the people around the edges, who were sitting on the stones as if they were park benches. The Jewish photographer Shahak Shapira had already commented on this with his photoshopped solution to other horrible behavior, so I guess I naively thought word had gotten around. But the security personnel that patrol it had to frequently remind people they were at a memorial and to please be respectful, shooing them off the stones. I think setting the memorial back from the sidewalk with more green space around it to allow for quiet, and maybe a low fence and significant signage could have served the cause better. There’s no excuse for people behaving like that, but you have to wonder if they even knew they were at a memorial. It really disturbed me that there was no visible reference to what this memorial is actually about. Like the murder of a people for their religion. Kind of central to the story. And if we don’t tell the stories….

I’m not the only one who has had such a reaction. In fact, I found this harsh but pretty accurate critique while looking for pictures online to check my memory of the space. My searching confirmed that nope, there is no fence around it, and the only evidence of signage I found was the sign outside the underground exhibit. So it wasn’t that we didn’t notice a sign where we entered the space; there wasn’t one.

We walked miles and miles that day, and ended the night with dinner in a quiet Italian restaurant on a wide, mostly dead street (pockets of the east side of town are still struggling for that economic miracle, evidently). The next day I met with another friend, then it was off to Wiedenbrück to see my German “mom.” I hated to say goodbye to Berlin. It still has a sassy graffiti habit I admire–the need for self-expression through spray paint had sunk into its colorful soul, evidently. But, thankfully, it had shed that most oppressive concrete overcoat.

Next up: Planet Wiedenbrück






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