I lived in the long shadows
of the Wasatch Mountains
the first 22 years of my life.
The fault lines always
bubbled below the surface
bounced somewhere beneath,
like a moth trapped under a glass.
On a spring day in middle school,
rumor ran rampant —
a major earthquake would happen
the next afternoon.
Predicted not by scientists,
but by conspiracy theorists.
Those who typically foresee
natural disasters and the end of the world.
“The Big One” never arrived.
When I moved to Nevada,
the first fissure felt
was my mistake-of-a-marriage —
dissolved and crumbled,
thin layers of heart’s crust
pulled away, delicate as snake skin.
I was several months pregnant
and awoke during the gray hours.
The pictures on my wall rattled,
ever so slightly,
and I peered out the window
to the eerily empty street
where only lights on the lampposts
indicated any signs of life.
My bed swayed
just enough to rock me back to sleep.
The next morning,
I figured it may have been a dream,
because no one in my family felt it.
But the news confirmed I was correct.
A fault in the California desert,
hundreds of miles away,
cracked and shifted
during the night.
No one was injured.
No one was deceased.
Broken jars of spaghetti sauce,
fallen from store shelves,
the only casualties.
And my baby girl
leapt in my womb,
elbowing her way to comfort,
lacking amniotic fluid,
fighting for her life.
The summer the Idaho potato fields
lay spread out before us
and the world was ours for the taking,
we met the tall one in the mall parking lot.
There were no smart phones or Google maps.
We didn’t even have a paper map.
Talking Heads was on the radio
and it was the summer before our senior year.
I should have had sights set on the dark-headed boy,
with the slight lisp and sincere eyes.
Instead, my focus was
the broken-hearted, harder to crack veneer.
He’d been my mission since day one.
We spent inordinate amounts of time
in his basement that trip:
listening to music,
making each other laugh,
cuddling on his water bed.
We didn’t know where his parents were,
and we didn’t ask.
Even though it was innocuous,
it felt like we were pushing boundaries.
Doing something daring.
We went ice blocking down Simplot hill,
a vast swath of property in the midst of Boise
with a mansion perched atop.
A city conquered.
Security must have been lax,
because the more we slid down the hill
with our hair flying behind us,
and the more trees we climbed,
the freer we felt.
No sign of a reprimand.
The river flowed around us seamlessly.
Our inner-tubes bobbed along,
like Halloween party apples in a bucket.
But there was an unspoken surface tension,
that I mistook as the thrill of being on the river.
Your first kiss
should have been with someone better,
someone who didn’t claim to be “rebounding.”
Knowing the situation now,
the pictures speak volumes.
I often think about the innocence
of being oblivious
and frequently wish that was
a more recurrent state of mine.
In the mid-1980s,
my mom professed her
crush on George Michael.
Being quite young,
I was certain
my middle-aged, Mormon mother
was going to leave
the suburbs of Utah,
her three children and my dad,
move to England,
and set up house
with George Michael.
I suppose she would have
been in a relationship with Andrew Ridgeley
of Wham as well)?
Knowing there are others
who feel this way,
think this way,
and want the crush of madness
to stop, is what wakes me up most mornings.
I don’t have news alerts turned on —
I don’t like being reminded
about what’s coming next.
Yet I read voraciously,
like it’s my job.
The words of reporters and authors
are my lifeline.
They say “the struggle is real”,
and many days, I know it has just begun.
I am glad I didn’t turn 40 in 2016.
Last year was filled with death,
Taking on another decade
would have overwhelmed instantly.
My heart felt stretched in January,
again in April,
and by November’s end,
my lungs headed for collapse.
Put a star on the wall for me.
I was one of the casualties
of the soon-to-be prophesied “American carnage”.
I rose up, bandaged,
a resurrected, bettered zombie
of my former self —
and this one isn’t putting up with any shit.
Forty is the new 1984.
“I say there is no darkness/but ignorance.” — William Shakespeare
for the first time in more than a decade,
I dislodged The Riverside Shakespeare, Second Edition
from it’s prominent place
on my bedside table,
and blew a collection of dust from its cover.
Its primary use over the last few years has been:
to prop up my oil diffuser,
make a stand for the Kleenex box,
and create a handy shelf for my smaller book of “Shakespearean Insults”.
I had a love/hate relationship with this behemoth
all through college.
The love part came
during the late nights of reading
“Macbeth” and “Twelfth Night”
while taking copious notes
in ragged college-ruled binders,
while dreaming up ideas for my next
The hate part came when I had to lug the
15-pound volume across campus,
up several flights of stairs to the classroom.
(I’m sure I have curvature of the spine to this day.)
I’m re-reading “As You Like It” for the one-hundredth time,
as I will be seeing the play at the Utah Shakespeare Festival
in a few weeks.
I have a stand-alone, sparse copy of “As You Like It”,
but something from the bowels of The Riverside Shakespeare
called to me.
As I cracked its well-worn binding
and leafed through its vellum-like pages,
all the notes and underlining
came back in a flood.
I used a silver gel pen
and the markings are thin and precise.
Hanging on Will’s words (and play on words) was a hobby of mine.
Only two Shakespeare classes were required for my major:
one tragedy, one comedy.
I took at least three additional,
including an independent study course
on the plays no one wants to read. (“Troilus and Cressida” anyone?)
Delving into Shakespeare’s meanings and teaching them in a concise way
was an expertise of my professor who had her own volumes of knowledge.
I’d been to her home previously,
where guests were greeted in her entryway by a suit of armor.
Her house was a living testament to the finer parts of the Middle Ages.
Reading Shakespeare plays is a difficult fete.
Understanding them is not easy — especially if you haven’t seen the play.
But in the end;
we know Macbeth’s wife cannot get out the damned spot,
we know Romeo & Juliet are destined to die,
we know Puck lurks merrily in the woods creating mischief.
However; I figured out more about myself from Shakespeare
than from any other classes I took in college.
In many ways,
even though Shakespeare’s era was more than 400 years ago,
I feel an indelible connection
to his snark, his wayward characters, and those he makes lovable.
Yet, all the while,
it reminds me of a period in my own life less than 20 years ago,
which was also riddled with
and in the end, the brightest light.
The summer after we moved into the red house on Polk Avenue with the weepingest weeping willow tree, I took over lawn mowing duties from my father. Being the eldest, I slipped right in to the feeling that yard work should somehow be my responsibility. I’ve always had a fear of anything with a whirring blade (table saw, garbage disposal, lawn mower). I knew a kid once who accidentally lost two of his toes, but isn’t that what one deserves for mowing the lawn while barefoot? Despite that underlying, nagging fear; I felt a sense of calm in making perfect paths of clipped grass. If my father was upset that I mangled two sprinkler heads during that time period, he never mentioned it directly to me, but likely muttered heavily about it under his breath.
We had an above-ground pool in the backyard at the house with maroon siding. Our excitement was palpable at the time, though I’m certain now my sister would call this type of backyard adornment “white trash”. Anytime the water temperature was above 68 degrees, which was indicative by a tiny thermometer, my sisters and I warranted it worthy of a swim. I would skim off the water skeeters and the leaves fallen from the nearby tree and once we were in suits and had our fluffy towels, we played games and did somersaults into the shallow depth. We swam almost daily during the summer of 1992.
I sometimes secretly (or not so secretly) miss the days when my friends and I would go to the video rental store and browse the shelves. We would wander the aisles looking at new releases and cult classics. It often took hours to find a movie that wasn’t “all rented out” AND all of us wanted to watch. My friends had certain fall-back movies they always deemed worthy of renting; one of those titles was “Groundhog Day”. I love Bill Murray, but never cared for Andie McDowell. Something about her acting struck me as disingenuous. I can’t imagine waking up to the same day every day. That movie still gives me anxiety.
My freshman year coincided with a centennial celebration for the high school. While the castle-like, art-deco building had only been around for fifty years, the high school itself had existed for ten decades. The innocence of that year — of painting the football field for homecoming, of having a street named after the school, of spending late nights watching “Saturday Night Live”, of having a new crush almost every month — produces in me a sense of happiness and longing for the days of yesteryear.
I long for 1991 —
before Bill Clinton
stained a navy dress
in the Oval Office,
and a narcissist had taken
the oath to become President.
<Hand on the Bible,
it didn’t catch fire
as his hand touched the leather.>
I wanna listen to Jesus Jones
“Right here, right now/
There is no other place that I want to be…”
And E.M.F.’s semi-snarky,
I want to sit at the coffee shop
across the street from my art-deco high school
and eat chocolate chocolate chip muffins
without gaining a pound.
I would even do calisthenics on the football field
while Coach Parrish barks his orders
if it means I can go back to 1991.
Give me my R.E.M. t-shirt.
My Depeche Mode S&M poster.
My locker mirror.
The three-mile walk to a friend’s house.
Cleaning our above-ground backyard pool —
always a little more chilly than was suitable for a swim.
Take me away from the misogyny.
The Russia investigation.
The deregulation of the EPA.
The Mitch Turtle McConnell.
The de-funding of Planned Parenthood.
The world as it currently exists.
I recall a summer evening,
when I was much younger.
I’d gone to bed
before the darkness had settled;
a hazy shaft of yellow
seeping through the Strawberry Shortcake curtains
in my bedroom.
The cozy of medium time
between sunset and crickets chirping
their chorus into the black
of Utah sky.
During my adolescent years,
I would sit fingers-crossed
waiting for the phone to ring,
Frequently, weekends especially,
we would play kick-the-can
at the end of VanBuren Street.
There was a stress-mixed-excitement
darting amongst backyards
and peering through bushes.
A tingly fear of being caught.
My lungs filled with crisp air
as I dashed towards the aluminum cylinder
and struck it so it would cling along the pavement.
About age 14,
we would often roll out sleeping bags
on Nancy’s east facing deck
overlooking the expansive green yard,
and just above the “no dump” hill.
After the giggling and chatter
about latest crushes ceased,
the warmth of gray
would lull us to sleep.
Now the bright lights
drown out starry skies
and I rarely hear crickets,
bring back a compilation
of my best memories.