My wish for YOU

After my sweet mom died, I made this shadow box for my heartbroken father. (These are paper doves, not stuffed!) Together, Mom and Dad had always enjoyed the sweet sound of mourning doves and kept their bird and squirrel feeders full. Now, my parents live together in a softer place.

The poem is Emily Dickinson’s:

Hope is the thing with feathers

that perches on the soul

and sings a tune

without the words

and never stops at all.


For this coming new year, my wish for all of you is to feel the love, peace, joy and hope in the soft tickles of feathers.

Blessings all,


Hopeful Mama Still Loves Me

Scoot and me are late to school. I don’t like being late because everyone stares and Miss Primrose expects a ‘reasonable excuse for tardiness.’

Scooter pulls out his pocketknife and strolls to the front, his happy eyes aiming at the wood he’s about to shave into invisible.

“Emma June?” Miss Primrose says.

“I’m sorry, Miss Primrose,” I say, glancing at Frank who’s giving me a half smile. “Scooter had himself a bit of an adventure.”

The class giggles and I want to punch them all in the face. What’s wrong with an adventure? At least the ones that don’t make someone carry a grudge. Daddy said Mama still loves me. There’s hope in that.

I try so hard to remember what happened toward the end of the carnival, but everything is jumbled up like bad scrambled eggs. Carla was in better shape than me, but she fell asleep on the ride home when Mama and Beauty had the fight. I remember fading in and out while they argued. I remember upchucking more than once. There’s nobody to tell me what happened except Mama.

So many questions I wanted to ask Daddy that morning when  I woke up to find Mama gone. The only answers were Daddy’s tears. “We’ll work this out. Don’t worry. We’ll work this out,” he had said. And then his words faded as he shuffled away to his bedroom and closed the door.

I don’t know how to help him work things out any more than I know how to make Mama come home. I might as well try picking up shadows.


Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket (1928)


“Short One Paddle for a Row”

I wrote this a while back as a blues song. If only I could hear Taj Mahal bring it to life! Check his “Ain’t nobody’s business but my own.”

I met him once, had my picture taken with him. Wish I could find it for you! But, you know. I’ll find it when I ain’t lookin’. 

I’m ain’t hungry ’cause I got my tunes

Ain’t thirsty, ’cause I’ve paid my dues

Hope you don’t mind me sayin’

But I sure like playin’ these blues, uh huh.

I sure like playing’ these blues.

I got the flow going, but my boat’s kinda slowin’

I’m just one paddle short of a row

You know

I’m just short one paddle for a row.

I ain’t weary ’cause I dreamed all day

Stayed up all night just to here myself play

I’m not sleep deprived

’cause I just arrived

I’m just little tired ’round the edges, but hey!

I got that sultry timing’, just ain’t so good at ryhmin’

I’m just two jiggers short of a lime

But I’m fine.

I’m just two nickels short of a dime.

So if you think you hear me comin’

hit the road and start a thumbin’

just float me down an oar a’fore you go

Cause I’m short one paddle for a row, you know.

I’m just short one paddle for a row.

But I sure like playin’ these blues, uh huh.

I sure like playing’ these blues.


She Mopes Loud!


I tried to ignore the crash from upstairs—the third one now. Reba shook her head, her smile fading. “She still up there caterwauling and hurling things ’cross her room. Poor chil’ don’t never seem to get a leg back up ’fore it drops back down again.”

But Sadie Dubois was damn good at spreading them. Employed at the bordello longer than any of my other girls, Sadie brought in the most money. But last night, she had morphed into a puddle of anguish when her best friend left with Harry Longabaugh. Better known from the wanted posters as “the Sundance Kid,” he had hefted giggling Etta on the back of his mare and trotted away. “Other girls still sleeping?”

“Don’t know ’bout now, but when I went upstairs to check on things, three of them bedrooms was quiet. But that first one on the left? Phew! What a racket.”

“She’ll be fine, Reba.”

“And a hen’s gonna grow teeth. Her waters run deep. ’Sides, you knows well as me that after Sadie’s done with her conniption fit, she gonna keep spewing a pout.”

“She’ll buck up when she needs to.” Even with a sordid past, Sadie could pull a charade better than most.

Three years ago, when Sadie was seventeen, she arrived dressed as a boy during a ferocious storm, her aquamarine eyes pleading for entry. I knew then that Sadie could wear a flour sack and still be a looker—curves in all the right places, blond hair that Reba called “thick as good gravy.”

Excerpt from The Last Bordello


A Falling-Out

After a falling-out with a friend I had visited in NYC, I originally wrote this as a song. But, of course, now I don’t remember the tune!


85th and Riverside

City of lights, its slice of the world

where friendships evolve and feeling unfurl

and you sit on the steps of a Brownstone reflecting

On words that were thrown without out you expecting

Your tone was so angry, your words were so cross

I felt myself drifting away

My heart, it was sinking, but the pain it would fade

I just hated to leave you that way.

(Chorus) Pick up the pieces you find, build something solid inside

When hearts collide

Time heals all wounds and friendships recover

the city of lights will go on

And though times get hard, there are others so easy

Just a small fall from grace from beyond

And times as it passes, still gets us back

the hearts are still beating inside

And you know where to find me (you know I won’t hide)

In that nest with my mouth open wide.

Renewal or Regret?

Cono, age eighteen, travels back home to confront his father.



Getting on the train, I’m thankful it’s not crowded. Too many people too close to me is something I’ll never get used to. I find a seat toward the back like I always do. A back up against the wall is a back protected. I need to see what’s going on around me at all times. And like always, when I hop on a train, I hope that my head is still attached when I get to where I’m going; not like our friend, Wort Reynolds who hopped on that train to Clyde Texas, the train that grabbed his head and kept right on going.

         “Ticket please.”

            I turn my eyes from the curved tracks outside my window to the ticket taker. Handing it over, I watch him punch the hole without even looking into my eyes. How many years has he done this, I wonder, and does he like the shoes he’s wearing?

         Home, a place that’s sometimes as hard as cement that you can’t pull your shoes out of. Nevertheless, that’s where I’m heading.

            My ears focus on the sound of the train’s idling, but eager-to-go engines. Where the hell would I be today if I didn’t have those railroad memories chugging along with me, some good and some anything but?

         Just as I’m feeling comfortable that I won’t be crowded, I feel something settling into that worn seat next to me, making itself comfortable but making me anything but. It nudges me. I ignore it and then tell it to go away. It doesn’t listen. The memories want me to pay them a little attention. I know this train is about to pull out. I know this train is taking me to Temple. But my mind and my uninvited seat companion start to take me somewhere else, somewhere I’ve already been before, somewhere I don’t care to go back to. It starts speeding me down the track a lot faster than this train is accustomed and a whole lot faster than I can put a stop to.

         The first memory is safe. It makes me wish, “If only it could have all been this easy.”    

         But past wishes were reserved for the other folks with good seats.    

         Not for me.


Renewal – Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Meta Kraus has a dark side

… and she keeps it hidden in her journal.

Note: Before Meta Duecker existed between the pages of The Last Bordello, she first came alive in a very different way — in my original unpublished novel entitled Naked, She Lies. Both are supreme pianists and well-read. But Meta Kraus? She’s a bit creepy.

Here is her first entry. Following entries tell the backstory. If you like it, I’ll post more.


Entry, March 13, 1910

The Casualty of life is Death

The breath, a last demise

Cessation of a merriment

The living, they despise

Oh how the spell is broken

A life once in repute

From what it is, from what it was

There is no substitute. – M.K.

Distance can be freedom, not a sacrifice. It allows honesty to persevere. Perhaps I feel a twinge of guilt when I wrote in my journal at home. Now, alone on the train, I am free and will write accordingly.

Killing him was easy.

Uncle Dirk always looked at Mama in a way that was inappropriate. Like a vulture waiting for it’s prey to weaken. We were in the kitchen. Having finished eating breakfast moments before. Mama and I were cleaning the dishes when he walked up behind her, his arm around her shoulder.

         “Regina, I don’t have much work to do today. Are you busy?”

         “I am always busy.” Mama kept on, holding the scouring pad between her two middle fingers and thumb while scrubbing the egg pan.

         “Mama,” I said. “You are scrubbing with your hand chicken.” She and I laughed while Uncle Dirk made some disgruntled noise and walked out the front door.

         “I’m calling Skippy in for the leftovers,” I said, also walking out the front door.

         Outside, I called for my devoted Collie. Instead of Skippy coming to me, it was Uncle Dirk.

         “Surely, you are not still thinking about that silly game. Such childish behavior.”

         “It was my…”

         “I know, your game with your Papa. It’s time to grow up, Meta. You are a young woman and, if you ever want to find a good husband, you need to forget about such nonsense.”

         My insides boiled. My hands shook.

         “Fine,” I said. “I will get rid of her once and for all.” I walked to the chopping block where the axe was imbedded for future use. I knelt down, my back to the tyrant. Pulling the axe out of the stump, I picked it up with my left hand, tucking my right arm where he could not see it. I slammed the axed down and screamed. A yell of pain as well as triumph.


         He ran to me then, saw my two hands still in tact and screamed back, “You are crazy, crazy!”

         I laughed then, my stunt appeasing the horrible sight of him killing my favorite chicken a month ago, cutting her head off in front of me on the very same chopping block.

         He went back into the house then, only to return shortly.

         “Where is Stepper?” Uncle “Dirk” asked.

         “In the barn, of course, why?”

         “I need to take her to the back acreage.”

         “She’s too old and hasn’t’ been feeling well. Leave her be.”

         He smiled at me.

         I watched as he walked to the barn, and then turned my attention back to Skippy, feeding her and gently combing the burrs from her fur.

         I heard the sound of a gunshot coming from the barn. My first thought was that it was over. The guilt of killing his wife, or at the very least, being responsible for it, had finally made him do the right thing.

         But it wasn’t so. In moments, Uncle Dirk came out of the barn, walking toward me, smiling

“Well, Meta, that horse of yours sure was sick. Made him better, I did. He’s up in heaven now with your Papa.”

         I ran from Skippy’s side to the cruel man, pounding my fists into his chest. Tears fell from my eyes.

That is when he started laughing.

         “You didn’t like my joke, did you, Meta. Well, I didn’t like yours either. That old horse doesn’t need a bullet to die. He’ll do it soon enough on his own.”

         No, he did not kill my horse, but the lather I felt was that of a rabid dog. Was he so cruel because he had seen Emil atop of me the night before?

         Later that afternoon, I told Emil my plan. Of course, he is my humble servant and would do anything for me.

         The day turning to dusk, the back acreage was where we found him. As planned, Emil approached my Uncle with the pretense of a discussion about the sell of our land.

            I pulled the butcher knife out from behind my back.

First and Last Impressions


Rummaging through my hoarding stacks of old journals and writings, I found another poem so you can Pillage through my words.

Side View Mirror

In a side view mirror with a dark side view

I’m driving down the highway and I’m thinking of you

I see a reflection

of a past I once knew

in a side view mirror with a dark side view.

And the clean rain falls

as it washes this place

while the moisture softens this hard luck face

But the scenery flies by

leaving nothing but a trace

As the clean rain falls on a tear-stained face.

Yellow stripes and concrete,

tumble weeds and dust

Gulf stream winds

blow back the bangs of lust

Passing cars of those

you think you’ll never meet

Leave a lasting first impression on the cracked leather seat.


If you ask me for money…

… I will give you a ticket to the circus where the lions will tell jokes and laugh when you miss the popcorn intended for your mouth.

…I will give you a ride to the far side of the moon where angels will rub your feel and kiss the tips of your fingers.

… I will serve you a banquet of food with brie and homemade breads, wine with delicacies too much to eat but enough to box fore the passersby on the street whose stomachs still rumble.

… I will give you the information and wisdom I know,

with promises of what I will learn.